« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
doctrine and motto of which were, that the Sacraments, and not preaching, are the means of grace-that to be baptized by a successor of the apostles was the chief condition of salvation. Having accomplished this service for their generation, and garnished the Tracts with sundry Catena Patrum, the Oxford Divines considered their duty to defend the Faith to be fully discharged. But the Church could not remain for another generation undisturbed by the long and heavy surges of thought which were moving the minds of the best thinkers of Europe. The daring speculations, and the still more daring criticisms of Germany, attracted the attention of one Churchman after another, till at last they compelled regard from the University men at Oxford. When lo! these cautious and cold-blooded Englishmen, these believing but unreasoning theologians, these practised and well drilled logicians, these writers of Latin verses and critics of Greek Plays, find themselves easy victims of the new theories. Paley is almost surrendered for Strauss. By a single bound, as it were, they pass from Burnet and Pearson to Bunsen and the Tübingen Doctors, and the all-comprehensive Church of England is required at their bidding to enlarge once more the borders of her tent, that she may shelter under her elastic charity clergymen who are near to denying that a miracle is possible, and who contend that the supernatural in Christianity is an element which is comparatively unimportant. Surely the Oxford of 1835 would hardly recognize the Oxford of 1860. The sufficient and satisfactory solution of this strange phenomenon is furnished in the fact that the Church of England has not demanded, and therefore the University of Oxford has not furnished, a free, a scientific, a thorough, and therefore a progressive Theology and Biblical Literature. The consequence is, that the ripeness of the culture at Oxford, and the perfection of its training, has prepared some of her best scholars to be the easier dupes of theories which a manlier exercise in theological reasoning, and a more thorough study of the new exegesis, would have enabled them to reject and confute.
This volume contains seven essays, entitled as follows: The Education of the World, by Frederick Temple, D.D.; Bunsen's Biblical Researches, by Rowland Williams, D.D.; On the Study of the Evidences of Christianity, by Baden Powell, M. A.,
F.R.S.; The National Church, by Henry Bristow Wilson, B.D.; On the Mosaic Cosmogony, by C. W. Goodwin, M. A.; Tendencies of Religious Thought in England, 1688-1750, by Mark Pattison, B.D.; On the Interpretation of Scripture, by Benjamin Jowett, M. A.
The authors inform us that they are each "responsible for their respective articles only," and that "they have written in entire independence of each other and without concert or comparison." The only explanation which they give of the purpose for which they were written, and the principles which they desire to propagate, is in these words: "The volume, it is hoped, will be received as an attempt to illustrate the advantage derivable to the cause of religious and moral truth from a free handling, in a becoming spirit, of subjects peculiarly liable to suffer by the repetition of conventional language, and from traditional methods of treatment."
The Essays are very unequal in their merit, and we add, also, very unequal in demerit, some of them being liable to objection only from the absence of a distinct recognition of that truth which, if presented in its proper proportions, and with proper earnestness, would make the article not only harmless, but just and true. This is the case with the essay on the Education of the World, by Temple, which abounds in fresh and beautiful conceptions, and is only marred by the defect of not distinctly recognizing and asserting the absolute necessity and the potent agency of frequent direct interpositions in a supernatural way, in order to make the education of the world effective for moral and religious ends.
The last essay, by Jowett, which is, perhaps, the best of the volume, also errs chiefly by defect. So many needful things are said, and well said, so many important principles are distinctly recognized, and earnestly enforced, that we regret that the author has not subjected to a better theological discipline his rare gifts for a vivid and just interpetration of the Scriptures. Surely, had he done this, he could not have been content to believe the Scriptures to be so indefinite in their positive results, nor so little binding on our faith, as many remarks which he has dropped would lead us to believe.
The essay on Bunsen is open to the gravest objections. When we say that the author fully indorses Bunsen's hasty assumptions,
his crude theories in respect to the history and chronology of the Old Testament, the results of which would disarrange the whole of its History, annihilate its Prophecy, and destroy entirely its Messianic character, and with scarcely a critical objection or reserved misgiving, commits himself to the whole of Bunsen's destructive eclecticism and disorganizing rearrangement of the Hebrew Scripture, we have said enough in its dispraise.
The essay on the Evidences, by Baden Powell, after a long and somewhat rambling discourse on the various opinions concerning the possibility of miracles, their value as evidences of a divine communication, and the evidence by which they are proved to the mind of the believer, in which there is much interesting but somewhat inexact information, concludes as follows: "The 'reason of the hope that is in us,' is not restricted to external signs, nor to any one kind of evidence, but consists of such assurance as may be most satisfactory to each earnest individual inquirer's own mind: and the true acceptance of the entire revealed manifestation of Christianity will be most worthily and satisfactorily based on that assurance of 'faith' by which, the apostle affirms we stand,' (2 Cor. II, 24), and which, in accordance with his emphatic declaration, 'must rest not in the wisdom of men but in the power of God,' (1 Cor. II, 5)." This is so vaguely expressed that at the first aspect it might seem to be a conclusion in which nothing is concluded, but on a nearer view it shows itself to be identical with that which Hume reaches in his famous essay on Miracles, with this difference, that the Faith of which Hume speaks in scoffing irony, Powell regards as a mystical work of supernatural power. But the fatal similarity between Hume and Powell is, that both contend with equal earnestness that Reason and Faith have no common relations, that on grounds of science a miracle is impossible and incredible, and can only be admitted on grounds of faith. It is singular that this zealot for the preëminent authority of science should laud in such extravagant terms "Mr. Darwin's masterly volume 'On the Origin of Species' by the law of 'natural selection'-which now substantiates on undeniable grounds the very principle so long denounced by the first naturalists,-the origination of new species by natural causes; a work which must soon bring about an entire revolution of opinion in favor of the grand principle of the self-evolving powers of nature.”
The essay on the National Church is an ingenious, we do not quite like to say Jesuitical, attempt to show that a National Church has striking advantages over the Independent or Congregational communions, among which this is preeminent, that it admits of almost every possible variety of belief among its ministers. He contends, by much detail, that the Church of England presents no obstacles in its Articles to allowing an almost indefinite comprehension of all sorts of creeds. "Speculative doctrines should be left to philosophical schools. A national church must be concerned with the ethical development of its members, and the wrong of supposing it to be otherwise is participated by those of the clericalty who consider the Church of Christ to be founded, as a society, on the possession of an abstractively true and supernaturally communicated speculation concerning God, rather than upon the manifestation of a divine life in man." "Jesus Christ has not revealed his religion as a theology of the intellect, nor as an historical faith; and it is a stifling of the true Christian life, both in the individual and in the church, to require of many men a unanimity in speculative doctrine which is unattainable, and a uniformity of historical belief, which can never exist."
We forbear to characterize the remaining essays, for the reason that any brief criticism or separate extracts must fail to do justice either to their merits or defects. We sympathize with the freedom and love of truth which the writers of all of them seem to manifest; we commiserate the narrow spirit and the traditional jealousy of new speculations and new expositions, with which they seem to be environed, and by which they are grievously hampered and embarrassed. But we cannot but protest against the destructive spirit which seems to animate them all,-with unequal measure, it is true,-toward every form of positive truth, and their utter incapacity to express or to defend what they would substitute in place of what they discard and reject. It is sad that men so accomplished as these writers should know only what they reject and deny, and therefore be able only to combat and assail what is held and affirmed by others, without being able to displace it by what they themselves positively receive. Negative Theologians are always vague and indefinite, and such, each in different degrees, are these writers, and all their well chosen phraseology, their abundant illustrations and their happy utterances of secondary truths, cannot conceal the poverty and
the impotence of their own Faith. The Church of England and the scholars of England have long and bigotedly resisted the demands which two generations have, been making upon them to bestir themselves in order to stand abreast with the great thought-movements of the age. It would not be strange if they should rue their indolent neglect and their luxurious sloth in seeing many of their finest minds led astray by the dazzling theories which break upon them in such novel bewildering glare, now that they have been forced to begin to think without those able and competent guides which the Church and the Universities should have long ago trained for the defense of the truth.
We must confess our surprise that an American scholar so accomplished as the editor of this volume should have prefixed no word of caution to a book that, with all its ability and merits, suffers under such capital defects. Baptized Infidelity is rife enough among us already, without needing any additional stimulus from works like this, of which the positive assertions of truth are so vague and so few, and the positive denials are so numerous, and so bold, and, we add, so unsupported by argument. If our Theological men receive such books as these as their guides, they will not only risk the chance of making shipwreck of their faith, but they will be likely to befool their understandings, and to render obtuse their power to discriminate truth from error. To lose one's cherished Faith, is bad enough; to throw away with it a manly habit of reasoning and interpretation, aggravates the folly, if not the sin.
LOGIC IN THEOLOGY.*-The time is fresh within the recollection of many of our readers when a new work from the pen of Isaac Taylor was greeted with a cordial welcome by a multitude of admiring readers on this side the Atlantic. He has shared his popularity somewhat with the many sensation writers for the religious public, and with other numerous religious authors of unquestioned merit and attractions, but his peculiar merits are neither superseded nor eclipsed by any. There
* Logic in Theology, and other Essays. By ISAAC TAYLOR. With a sketch of the life of the author and a catalogue of his writings. New York: William Gowans. 1860. 12mo. pp. 297. [For sale in New Haven by E. P. and R. J. Judd. Price $1.]