« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
asleep. He does not know that the world is older by a hundred years; that the wars of the Manhattoes are ended, and that the tactics of Peter the Headstrong are obsolete.
But this is not the worst. In sending forth the Church to battle with Science and Criticism for the external evidences of her faith, our author not only strips her of all her defensive armor, which has rendered her impregnable in days gone by, but he evokes against her a host of merciless foes.
There can be no eclecticism in Christianity. We must prove everything or accept nothing. Either the whole Bible or none -or as Infidelity eagerly takes up the strain," the Bible is one, and it is too late now to propose to divide it."* Thus while the Church is rendered helpless, all the jots and tittles of the traditionary faith are endued with individual power to overthrow her, unless she can compel them every one into her service. Shorn of thy locks, the Philistines be upon thee, Samson!
The argument from the external evidences must be minute and exhaustive, and, till this be established, Christianity must be held in suspense. The ground of our faith being gone, since we are unable any longer to plead its intrinsic truth and sound morality in its defense, we must lay aside for the present our hope and confidence in God, turn away from the delusive sources of our spiritual peace and comfort, gird up our loins and prepare to toil through a wilderness of dry investigation. Nor dare we begin to rear the structure of our faith until the whole wilderness has been explored-until every legitimate question of evidence is settled. A single error in history, chronology, or physical science coming to light in an unsuspected quarter would vitiate the entire argument.†
Now, aside from the fact that such exhaustive research is impossible and preposterous, the very nature of the evidence in question forbids its being linked together in this way. The argument is cumulative, not catenary. The discovery of errors in interpretation, or in the manuscripts themselves, is not the breaking of a chain, but simply the invalidation of certain spu
*Westminster Review, October, 1860. Art. on Neo-Christianity.
rious notions of the popular belief. And the detecting and exposing of such errors is but the confirmation of the truth that is left. It is a pertinent fact that some who have devoted themselves to minute investigation of the external evidences, with the hope of substantiating a powerful argument against the Christian faith, have ended in becoming the warmest adherents and champions of that system which they designed to overthrow.
But why these idle strictures at the present day? Does not Mr. Mansel know that many points, which he thus arbitrarily would have settled at once, must, from their nature, remain moot-points forever, as they have been in times past; and that our faith and piety are not affected by whatever opinions we may honestly entertain concerning them? What would our author say of Luther, who rejected the epistle of James from the Canon ?---of Coleridge, who rejected the Christopædia prefixed to the third gospel and incorporated with the first?— of those who doubt the authenticity of the epistle to the Hebrews or the book of Revelation? The fact is, no one can look into these questions of biblical criticism without finding many points concerning which the mind must be held in suspense. One man finds difficulty in straitening out the genealogies; another cannot harmonize the gospels to his satisfaction; another cannot make the words of scripture square with modern science. But all this does not militate against piety nor faith, nor the true interests of Christianity in any respect. The great doctrines of the Bible still retain their authority and power; its precepts are still binding on our daily lives; its encouragements are as inspiring, its warnings as portentous to the soul. Suppose that the conjectures of Mr. Horner and M. Boucher de Perthes be true, and that the human race, instead of dating its origin with Archbishop Usher on Friday, October 28th, B. C. 4004, date back ten thousand years or more into the Tertiary period-or suppose that Mr. Darwin could substantiate his unscientific theory concerning the origin of species, and that men were really developed originally out of the lower forms of animal life; would not the law of Love be just as binding on the soul? Suppose the fragmentary origin of the Pentateuch put beyond
dispute; is the Sermon on the Mount thereby invalidated? Suppose ruthless criticism to sweep through the whole of the Old Testament, eliminating large portions of its contents, is not the character of Christ as lovely?-are not his words as true?-are not all the essential doctrines of Christianity as potent and authoritative as ever?
We see, then, the impregnability of our position—what we could afford to grant without compromising at all the strength and dignity of our faith; and how idle are the fears and apprehension of those who, like Mr. Mansel, think that, in order to preserve our faith, Reason must be silenced.
It is fortunate that we are not shut up to the disagreeable alternatives which Mr. Mansel's book presents. Most readers of these Bampton Lectures would prefer to believe either that their fundamental principles are unsound or the reasoning itself illogical, rather than adopt the preposterous, but inevitable, conclusions to which they lead. It is singular that a volume so burdened with fallacies, and so fraught with evil to the cause which it professes to support, should have emanated from an acute and disciplined logician like Mr. Mansel; and it is especially remarkable that such a work should be received with encomiums by the religious public of England and America. The book is a libel on the good sense and sound judgment of the Church; and its practical consequences will be felt in the obloquy which such expedients cannot fail to bring upon the cause of Christ.
We have dwelt thus at length on the position of the Bampton lecturer because, after all, he is but the representative of a large class of Christian scholars, both in England and America. Not that others would endeavor to substantiate their position by precisely the same arguments, but that they manifest the same groundless fears for Christianity, the same want of confidence in its truth and permanency, and the same desire to defend it by seeking to limit thought, to forbid inquiry, or to beg the questions at issue between the Church and Science. This is seen in the tone of our religious press in certain quarters towards such books as Darwin's Origin of Species, or the Oxford Essays and Reviews-not in the fact that such books are rebuked and condemned, but in the spirit and method of
the criticism. It is one thing to criticize a scientific work in a scientific way, and another thing to attempt to put it down by branding it heretical, or by setting up against it some all-begging theory of Inspiration. The latter course, we regret to say, has been pursued by many timorous, narrow-minded Christians, and has reflected seriously upon the dignity and honor of the Church. The farce of the Pope and Galileo is reenacted in this nineteenth century.
With regard to the doctrine of Inspiration it is pertinent to observe that, although we do not hold to anything like that view, which the Christian Examiner charges upon the Orthodox,* and although we do not ground the truth or authority of Christianity upon any theory of Inspiration whatever, we do still believe the doctrine, nor do we see how any intelligent person, with a full view of all the facts in the case, can reject it. Look, for example, at the Old Testament-that part of the Bible which has suffered most at the hands of ignorant criticism-and compare the spirit that pervades it with that of other writings. In uninspired history we always make a large allowance wherever secondary motives would be likely to vitiate the candor of the historian. An Englishman's history of Great Britain is regarded with somewhat of distrust at all points where the national honor is called in question. A Frenchman's account of the disreputable history of France is expected to be unscrupulously partial and eulogistic. This is a fact in spite of all the strictures which modern criticism lays upon the candor and impartiality of historians. Much more would we expect to find the grounds of such distrust in the writings of those chroniclers of earlier days, whose business it was with unctuous words to magnify the virtues of their sovereigns and to conceal their crimes. Especially would this remark apply to the records of Eastern nations, where the habit of preposterous sycophaney and self-glorification has ever been a characteristic of the popular mind. But in the Old Testament we have the history of an Eastern people-a race proverbially conceited and bigoted, whose history was written by their own
* Christian Examiner, Nov. 1860. Art. Old Faith and New Knowledge.
countrymen, and is, in fact, the only record which their language has preserved; a history which is but one continued mortifying account of the sins of the people and their rulers, and of the punishments inflicted upon them by an offended God; a history, than which all literature does not show one more scathing in its rebukes of wickedness in high places, more galling to national pride. Can we account for this on any other hypothesis than that of the inspiration of its writers? Compare the simple, unassuming Hebrew record with the proud, absurd traditions with which the history of Greece and Rome abound; and remember that the former is the record of a people of Eastern imagination and conceit, while the latter are those of nations comparatively cold blooded and reflective. Consider this, too, that the Cosmogonies and early records of the Greeks, Egyp tians, and Chaldeans, contain scarcely a trace of scientific truth, while those of the Hebrews exhibit a marvelous harmony with the modern developments of science; and remember that the Egyptians, the Chaldeans, and the Greeks were the scientific nations of antiquity, while the Hebrews were an illiterate people, with not even a rudimentary knowledge of science.* And all this is not a tithe of the argument which forces on our minds the conclusion, that the writers of the Bible, writing such books, in such a spirit, there and then, must have been inspired of God.
But this doctrine thus forced upon our minds is no substantiation of the truth or the authority of the Bible; nor can it render illegitimate any inquiry into the character of the sacred books. On the contrary, unless the truth of the Bible be first and independently proven, the doctrine of Inspiration cannot be held at all; and so long as legitimate inquiries can be raised, directly involving the character of the sacred writers for veracity and faithfulness, so long must detailed theories of the method and degree of inspiration be suspicious and debatable. It is not as a doctrine subsidiary to the truth or sacred character of the Bible, that we hold to the idea of inspiration, but as an inevitable inference of the mind from the seen and felt truth of the sacred writings; and we believe that as scholar
*The Genesis of the Earth and of Man, Editor's Preface.