Изображения страниц

ship is enabled more perfectly to understand the circumstances under which these writings were given to the world, and to judge them by the criteria which pertain to their respective ages, this general view of Inspiration will be confirmed and minutely unfolded.

More than this, at the present stage of the controversy, we do not feel warranted in saying. In the general statement of the doctrine of Inspiration probably all scholars will concur, but beyond this the views of individuals may vary according to their knowledge of the limitations which biblical criticism and scientific inquiry throw around the subject. This at any rate is evident, that to undertake to put down scientific or critical inquiry by urging against it any view of the doctrine in question, is impertinent and unfair-it amounts to nothing more than a weak begging of the points at issue.

Is it asked, then, in passing, what is the use of the doctrine of Inspiration? We ask, in return, why is it that the great moral lessons of Shakespeare sink deep into our hearts and abide there, giving wisdom and impulse to the soul, while the intense truisms of Mr. Tupper simply nauseate and disgust the moral sense? Why is it that we are the docile pupils of the one and the intolerant critics of the other? Is it not true that the genius of Shakespeare commands respect, and that our appreciation of his genius is a powerful motive to a reverent study of his works? Just so, in a far higher sense, with the Bible. Belief in the inspiration of its writers invests the book with new dignity and charm, and presents to our minds more powerful motives to a humble, devout, and child-like study of its contents. As a motive, then, to patient study of the Bible, not only in its moral aspect, but on all points of science, history and criticism, do we maintain the doctrine of Inspiration; and we do earnestly repudiate the conduct of those men who, by fictitious statements of this doctrine, seek to forestall such inquiry, and thus heap dishonor and embarrassment upon the cause of truth.

From this suicidal conservatism we turn to contemplate a radicalism equally extreme and dangerous. We have been astonished to behold in certain quarters and among men professedly

Christian, a sort of recklessness in the discussion of scientific subjects utterly inconsistent with a true spirit of inquiry, and indeed with sober judgment and practical good sense. Sometimes this spirit shows itself in a wanton concession of points by no means settled, and which, from their very nature, must long remain debatable; sometimes, in an unwarranted assumption of such points, and in a willingness to accept mere inferences from them as facts; sometimes in a perverse skepticism, in blind destructiveness, or in open malice within the Church itself; until at last it merges into avowed hostility to everything Christian, and the profane desire to exalt an infidel science upon the ruins of the Christian faith. So broad and ill-defined is the penumbra of Orthodoxy in the Church and of Theology in general, that it is difficult to draw the lines between these various shades of thought and feeling. Still the spirit in question may be detected largely, in various intensity, in some of the older branches of the Church, and traced through all the gradations of "Broad Churchism," "Liberal Christianity," and the "New Theology," until it is concentrated in positive Infidelity.

Now this radicalism may be considered as merely a reaction from the narrow-minded and bigoted conservatism which we have noticed; but it is, if anything, more pernicious both to science and theology. Doubtless, a reactionary movement has been provoked by the stolid indifference and antipathy of a large body within the Church to critical and scientific inquiry; and where the attempt has been made to silence such inquiry by Church authority, nothing short of rebellion and open war could be expected. But the parties in this unnatural conflict should remember that their conduct concerns not only themselves but also, in a higher degree, the world around them. It is well to arouse the Church from her indifference to scientific inquiry; to show her the momentous bearing which such inquiry has upon her traditionary belief; to make her sensible of the advantage which must accrue to her from the developments of a genuine science; and to forestall the perversion of science by an unscrupulous Infidelity; but to assume the spirit and method of Infidelity in doing this, is treason against the very

cause which we are seeking to support. It is well to insist on the recognition of all facts which science and biblical criticism have established, and to demand that they be allowed to exert their legitimate influence upon the popular mind: but to assume the truth of points still on probation in the minds of careful scholars, and to alarm the Church with startling inferences from these, is unreasonable and false. And yet, so bitter is the enmity excited in parties within the Church, and to such violent extremes have they been driven by their mutual antagonism, that Infidelity finds much of her work already done by the hands of the Defenders of the Faith.

Here again the Church of England and the University of Oxford furnish us with an example to our purpose in that volume of Essays and Reviews, which Dr. Hedge has given to the American public under the title of "Recent Inquiries in Theology."

We are familiar

The lashes of criticism have fallen heavily upon this unassuming book. Indeed, were we to credit some of our religious journals, the book is nothing less than an infernal machine, filled with dangerous combustibles and explosive matter ready to fly out and to consume whoever opens it. But we do not take quite such a horrible view of the case. with such discussions as this volume presents. Questions concerning the integrity and authenticity of portions of the sacred records, concerning the evidences of Christianity, concerning biblical interpretation, concerning the cosmogony, &c., &c., have been ventilated for many years in our New England schools of theology, and still longer in Germany; they have found their way into nearly all our modern commentaries, and from these into other literature, and have exerted a material influence upon the popular faith. Moreover, we have invariably found that such questions of natural science and of biblical criticism as are here brought forward, when discussed in a liberal and candid spirit, tend not to weaken but to confirm our faith in a just interpretation of the word of God. While, therefore, the Oxford Essayists appear to us carelessly to surrender and assume some points that are by no means settled and to draw unwarrantable inferences from some that are, still the great objection, in our minds, to their volume lies rather

in the spirit and method of its discussions than in the character of the questions discussed or in the views-some of them, at least—which the writers entertain concerning them.

Any person glancing through these essays would conclude that their tendency was rather to subvert established notions than to replace them by other and better. From one end to the other the book presents an array of facts, difficulties, and questions, which stand in seeming antagonism to the popular belief. The harmonies of science and the Bible are ignored; the discrepancies, real or apparent, between the two are thrust into our faces without a hint at the possibility of reconciliation. In this respect the tendency of the volume is infidel, and as such it is hailed by Infidelity with undisguised delight.

It may be said in extenuation of the course, which the writers of these essays have adopted, that they were goaded into it by the conduct of their brethren in the Church. Living, as we do, in a society and under a Church organization where public opinion is liberal, where inquiry in all directions is not merely tolerated but stimulated, we are not apt to make allowance for the obstacles which are thrown in the way of some inquirers after truth. We forget that in the Church of England, as truly as in that of Rome, the genius of Conservatism presides. Divine truth is cut and dried, and packed away in thirty-nine articles. All that successive generations have to do is to accept it as dispensed from Sabbath to Sabbath, asking no questions for conscience' sake. To doubt is heresy. To inquire is treason. Theology, as Mr. Mansel observes, is not a progressive science. Can we wonder if some sturdy minds rebel, and in no gentle manner set themselves against a spirit so stagnant and illiberal? This may account for the deliberate exposure of inconsistencies between the traditionary belief and the results of scientific investigation, which Dr. Temple and his associates have attempted; but it does not justify its spirit nor its method. These gentlemen ought to have considered that their influence pertained not to the Church alone, but to the world around them, and that they, as Churchmen, stood committed as defenders of the faith against an unscrupulous Infidelity. Not only should they have asked them

selves whether such a work of demolition was likely to secure the desired effect within the Church, but how it would be regarded by the world; what inferences would be drawn from it; what advantage would be taken of it by the crafty opponents of truth. And these questions were especially important in view of the fact that Infidelity is engaged at present in the special work of arraying the developments of science and criticism in seeming opposition to the truths of Revelation.

Doubtless, the Oxford Essays and Reviews will accomplish all that the writers intended. They will open the eyes of the Church to the progress of natural science and biblical criticism within the last half century; they will arouse more conservative Churchmen to a sense of the demands and exigencies of the present age; but will they not do vastly more? Will they not awaken fear, mistrust, and opposition? Will they not, in fact, create a schism in the Church and drive the timid and cautious to a still more positive and blind conservatism? Judging from the tone of a portion of the Anglican religious press, such is already the result.

It may be said that all this apprehension, fear, and opposition is the inevitable friction of reform. But is it so? The history of religious controversy does indeed present a shameful succession of intolerance, dissension, schism, and strife. Instead of simple love of truth, we see prejudice, pride of opinion, partisanship and rivalry; instead of calm discussion, we see provocation and retaliation, spite and the passion for victory. But is this right? Is it Christian? Have not the uniform consequences of polemics taught us that such a spirit must inevitably excite mistrust and opposition, and lead to error rather than to truth? When shall we apply the lessons of the past? When shall dispassionate inquiry begin? When shall the progress of truth become temperate and normal, and the education of the world be that serene development which Dr. Temple has described?

It would have taken no great insight to foretell the influence of such a work as the Oxford Essays both on the Church and on the world. A little reflection would have shown that such an array of facts in seeming opposition to the common

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »