Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

a criticism which sets to work with the irrational postulate that all bona fide miracle is impossible. This meagre and tattered fragment of Holy Scripture is worth little or nothing for religious purposes. The Old Testament of Wellhausen or Kuenen, and the New Testament as it issues from the hands of F. C. Baur and his pupils, can make scant provision for the building up of saints or the conversion of sinners. Souls are not to be won to a new life by a mass of literary material which, however interesting from a critic's point of view, is believed by its exponents to be largely composed of legends and forgeries.

In no respect does the New Reformation display its real character more clearly than when it essays to handle the Person of our Adorable Lord. He must not, it urges, be put alone on any non-natural pinnacle b.' He must cease to be distinguished by anything that raises Him above His brethren ; He must submit in all respects, though at the cost of the narratives which tell us anything trustworthy about Him, to the conditions and laws of the natural world. He must be stripped of His miraculous Birth, of His Resurrection from the grave, of that equality with the Father which He could claim, without violence, as His own. The ‘New Reformation’ leaves us in its Jesus of Nazareth, an uncrowned and ignorant Galilean peasant, in whom nevertheless, through all human and necessary imperfections, it still strangely professes to recognise “the natural leader of its inmost lifed.' If the question be asked how it can detect so much in him as this, it replies that ' history, led by the blind and yet divine instinct of the race, has lifted this life from the mass of lives’; so that 'in it we Europeans see certain ethical and spiritual essentials concentrated and embodied, as we see the essentials of poetry and art and knowledge, concentrated and embodied in other livese.' But can we Europeans' hope to continue to see even as much as this if the New Reformation' takes us altogether under its charge and guidance ? Will men

b Nineteenth Century, March, 1889, p. 480.

Preface to the Thirteenth Edition.

xxiii

not ask whether a Christ who is not Divine and who did not rise from the dead, has any moral right to speak of himself in the terms which are constantly employed by the Christ of the Gospels ? And whether, if the altogether human and erring Christ who is offered to the world by the ' New Reformation were to use the language of the Son of Mary, he would not be speedily judged by the moral sense of mankind to be neither humble nor veracious ? And, if everything is to be eliminated from the Gospels which is necessary in order to accommodate them to the very prosaic level assigned to its Christ by the 'scientific' criticism, how much of the Gospels will be left ?

It must be the force of early associations rather than any seriously rational judgment which leads the latest advocate of the 'New Reformation' to denounce, as 'merely wasteful and impatient,' the 'modern European who persists in ignoring the practical value of the exquisite Christian inheritance' which is still offered him by the destructive critics. The 'modern European 'may surely ask what there is to waste.' He asks, but in vain, whether anything is known as certain about the origin and the purpose of this life, about the life after death, about à remedy and pardon for sin, about the Awful Being Whom Christendom has hitherto named God, but for whom the New Reformation’ can find no name f. He asks, in despair, upon what, amid the revolt against miracle in which the ‘New Reformation' is chiefly employed, he may hope to fall back as upon that which may illuminate his understanding and invigorate his will. And he is told of a 'vast heritage of feeling which goes back after all, through all the overgrowths of dream and speculation, to that strongest of all the forces of human life, the love of man for man, the trust of the lower soul in the higher, the hope and the faith which the leader and the hero kindles amid the masses 8.'

If this is all that the 'exquisite Christian inheritance of the • New Reformation' has to offer, the majority of men will say that they could dispense with it, or that they could discover all that is worth having in it for themselves elsewhere. When there is no longer any relic of a claim to bridge over the awful chasm which sin has opened between earth and heaven, or to satisfy any one of the deeper needs of the human soul, it is better, in the interests of the honest use of language, to drop the phraseology of Christian faith. Other names had better be assigned to a 'Reformation' which reforms Christianity out of existence, and to an exquisite Christian heritage' which consists only of such 'feeling' as exists in rich abundance beyond the frontiers of Christendom. Meanwhile the destructive criticism, though against its will, does Christian Faith a service. It clears away the brushwood which in many well-meaning but confused souls, obscures the interval between an infidel premiss and its real conclusion: and it exhibits the naked truth that between the Adoration of our Lord Jesus Christ as God, and the rejection of Him altogether, there is no reasonable standingground. When this alternative is once presented to a religious and well-ordered mind, there are profound moral instincts-not to speak of a higher assistance which comes from heaven—that may be trusted to solve the problem. “Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy Countenance upon us.'

3 AMEN COURT, St. Paul's,

Easter Eve, 1889.

PREFACE

TO THE FOURTEENTH EDITION.

The publication of Dr. James Martineau's work on the 'Seat of Authority in Religion,'' is not without significance in its bearing on the strongest grounds for maintaining the solemn Truth which is the subject of these lectures. Dr. Martineau occupies, it is needless to say, a unique position among those who, while still clinging to the Christian name, reject the very heart of the Christian Creed. His great and varied accomplishments, his high character, and his advanced age, combine to command the attention of many among his countrymen who are wholly unable to sympathize with the negative side of his religious position. His Types of Ethical Theory, and his Study of Religion, although undesignedly illustrating the fact that no portion of truth, whether of Nature or Revelation, can be abandoned without more or less impairing the presentation of such truth as is still retained, do undoubtedly, as a whole, place those who have the interests of morality and religion at heart under real obligations to the gifted writer. To read him, is inevitably and often to wish that cum talis sit, noster esset.

Dr. Martineau's work on the Seat of Authority in Religion' is here referred to only with reference to a single feature of it, namely, his way of dealing with the New Testament. The last teacher in the Unitarian body who by his character and general eminence at all suggests comparison with Dr. Martineau is Channing Channing took the Gospel narrative as it stands as simply as any churchman. He had no doubt that the Gospels were received in the Apostolic age as the works of the writers whose names they bear. He repudiates the theory that St. Paul or any other Apostle substituted for the religion taught by Jesus Christ a new and essentially distinct religion. He has no quarrel with the miracles of the New Testament; he has not a shadow of a doubt as to the truth of our Lord's Resurrection from the dead. He rejects, as a matter of course, the teaching of the Church on the subject of our Lord's Divinity ; but then he takes the traditional Socinian interpretations of the New Testament, generally, for granted, and holds that the Church has missed the true sense of the great passages to which she appeals as warrants of the Nicene doctrine, either by straining their sense or overlaying them with glosses derived from later and external sources.

The New Socinianism differs from that of Channing in two respects. It is nearer to the church in its exegesis ; it is much further from her in its general attitude towards the authority of the New Testament. Both results are decidedly traceable to the influence of the Tübingen criticism on the more highly educated members of the Unitarian body; and the first symptom of it, at least in England, was afforded by the publication, in 1867, of the late Mr. J. J. Tayler's 'Attempt to ascertain the Character of the Fourth Gospel'.' Mr. Tayler differed from his Unitarian predecessors, alike in what he affirmed and in what he denied. He denied that St. John wrote the Fourth Gospel ; but he affirmed that the Fourth Gospel taught a Divine Incarnation. If he accepted the Tübingen arguments against the Apostolic origin of the Gospel, he abandoned as no longer tenable the traditional Socinian interpretation of it. 'Did we know Him [Our Lord] through the Fourth Gospel alone, we could not doubt that the author of that work regarded Him as something more than human,--an Incarnation of the Eternal Word. This idea is so clearly expressed throughout, that

« ПредишнаНапред »