« ПредишнаНапред »
is certain that their original force and instances at the time of their first delivgrace is far more keenly appreciated now ery, shut up within the gross, carnal, than it was when they were overlaid matter-of-fact interpretation of those who with fanciful allegories and scholastic said, “How can this man give us his perversions. The spirit of the time, the flesh to eat?” or “ It is because we
Zeit-Geist," as Matthew Arnold says, have taken no bread." In short, when
has turned the rays of his lantern” full it was perceived, in the noble language upon them, and in the fierce light" that of Burke,* that the Bible was not a dead beats upon their structure through this code, or collection of rigid dogmas, process, if some parts have faded away, but, an infinite variety of a most venif the relation of all the parts to each erable and most multifarious literature, other has been greatly altered, yet there from that moment it became as impossican be no question that by its influence, ble in the nature of things that the eduwhich has penetrated, more or less, cated portion of mankind should ever all modern theology, the meaning, and cease to take an interest in the Old and with the meaning the grandeur and the New Testament, as it would be that they beauty, of the Sacred Volume has been should cease to take an interest in brought out with a fulness which was un- Homer, or Shakespeare, or Dante, or known to Hume and Voltaire, because Scott. The Sacred Books, which were it had been equally unknown to Aquinas once regarded as the stars were regarded and Augustine. Whole systems of false by ancient astronomers, spangles set in doctrine or false practice, whole fabrics the sky, or floating masses of nebulous of barbarous phraseology, have received light, or a galaxy of milky spots, have their death-blow as the Ithuriel of mod- now been resolved by the telescope of ern criticism has transfixed with his spear scholarship into their component parts. here a spurious text, there an untenable Lord Macaulay would not deny that asinterpretation, here a wrong translation, tronomy has undergone a total revoluthere a mistaken punctuation.
tion through Copernicus, Galileo, and Or again, with regard to our in- Newton-a revolution which has imcreased knowledge of the dates and mensely extended its grandeur and its authorship of particular books, much, usefulness. Erasmus, Lowth, Herder, and no doubt, remains obscure; but this Ewald have effected for Biblical knowlpartial ignorance is as the fulness of edge a revolution no less complete and knowledge compared with the total no less beneficent. There has been, as blank which prevailed in the Church it were, a triple chain of singular, one for a thousand years or more. All may almost say providential, coincithe instruction, inward and outward, dences. The same critical process which which we have acquired from our dis- has opened our eyes to the beauty and covery of the successive dates, and there. the wisdom of the sacred records has, with of the successive phases, of St. by revealing to us the large infusion of Paul's Epistles, was lost almost untii the the poetic element, enabled us to distinbeginning of this century, but has now guish between the temporary and the become the starting-point of fresh in- essential, between the parabolical and the quiry and fresh delight in every histori- historical ; and thus, at the moment cal or theological treatise. The disentan- when science and ethnology are pointing glement of the Psalter, the Pentateuch, out difficulties, which on a literal and and the Book of Isaiah from the artifi- mechanical view of the Biblical records cial and fallacious monotony in which, are insuperable, a door of escape has regardless of times and circumstances, a been opened by the disclosure of a blind tradition had involved them, gives higher aspect of the Scriptures, which a significance to the several portions of would be equally true and valuable, were the respective books which no one who there no scientific difficulty in existence. has once grasped it will ever willingly Except in the lowest and most barbaabandon. The Parables, as has been of rous classes of society the invectives late well described, have by their very na- and the scofts of the last century have ture an immortality of application which could never have been perceived had * Burke's Works, x. 21, Speech on Acts of they been always, as they were in many Uniformity.
ceased. They have been extinguished, doctrine of the Double Procession, which not by the fires of the Inquisition or the was sufficient to tear asunder the Eastanathemas of Convocations or General ern and Western Churches; to give the Assemblies, but by the steady growth of chief practical occasion for the terrible the same reverential, rational apprecia- anathemas of the Athanasian Creed ; to tion of the divine processes for the reve- precipitate the fall of the Empire of lation of great truths, as has shut the Constantinople; and therefore to sow mouths of the defamers of Milton and the original seed of the present formicovered with shame the despisers of dable Eastern Question. This controShakespeare.
versy has in later days, with very few III. Leaving the grounds of hope exceptions, fallen into entire obscurity. furnished to us by the original docu. But in those cases where it has occupied ments of our faith, let us turn to those the attention of modern theologians, its which are supplied from the study of sting has been taken out by the process, its doctrines and institutions. And here simple as it would seem, but to which I will name two bridges, as it were, by resort had never been had before, of in. which the passage to a brighter prospect ducing the combatants to express their may be effected. One is the increasing conflicting opinions by other phrases consciousness of the importance of defi- than those which had been the basis of nition. It was said by a famous theolo- the original antagonism. This, and this gian of Oxford thirty years ago that only, is the permanent interest which at
without definition controversy is either tached to a recent Conference at Bonn, hopeless or useless." He has not, in his between certain theologians of the Greek, subsequent career, applied this maxim, Latin, and English Churches. What as we might fairly have expected from was then done with much satisfaction, his subtle intellect, to the clearing away at least to those more immediately conof obstructions and frivolities. But the cerned, might be applied with still more maxim is true, not only in the negative advantage to many other like phrases sense in which he pronounced it, but in which have acted as mischievous a part the more important sense of the pacify- in the disintegration and disunion of ing and enlightening tendency neces- Christendom. Another instance shall sarily implied in all attempts to arrive be given from a Church nearer home. at the clear meaning of the words em- In the Gorham controversy, which in ployed. It was a sagacious remark 1850 threatened to rend the Church of which I heard not long ago from a England from its summit to its base, Scottish minister on the shores of Ar- and which produced the widest theologyleshire, that the vehemence of theolo- gical panic of any within our time, the gical controversy has been chiefly in whole question hinged on the word "reproportion to the emptiness of the phrases generation;" and yet, as Bishop Thirlused. So long as an expression is employ- wall showed in one of those charges, ed merely as a party watchword, without which I would recommend to all theoloinquiring what it means, it acts like a gical students, of whatever Church, who magical speil; it excites enthusiasm ; it wish to see the value of severe discrimispreads like an infectious malady; it nation and judicial serenity on the sucterrifies the weak; it acts as a stimulant cessive controversies of our time, it never to the vacant brain. But the moment occurred to the disputants that there was that we attempt to trace its origin, to an ambiguity in the word itself-it never discover in what other words it can be occurred to either of them to define or expressed, the enthusiasm cools, the explain what either of them intended to panic subsides, the contagion ceases to express by it.* What is there said with be catching, the dram ceases to intoxi- withering irony of " regeneration" is true cate, the cloud disperses, and the clear of the larger number of theological sky appears. This pregnant reflection phrases by which truth has been veiled might be aptly illustrated by examples and charity stifled. Differences and diffiin the history of the Scottish Churches. culties will remain. But the bitterness But I will confine myself to two instances of the fight is chiefly concerning words; drawn from other countries, One is that of which I have before spoken, the * Bishop Thirlwall's Charges, i. 156.
New Series. – Vol. XXVI., No. I
the fight itself is what the apostle de- formable to common-sense and order. nounced as "a" battle of words.* Ex- These are comparatively innocent and plain these-define these—the party col- unexciting propositions. The distractlapses, the bitterness exhales, the fear is ing thought lay in the conviction that one cast out.
or other was absolutely perfect, and was Another ground of hope is the grow- alone essential to the Christian religion. ing sense of the doctrine of proportion. It is for the rectification of this misIt is a doctrine which has dawned slowly placed exclusiveness that we owe a deep and painfully on the theological mind of debt of gratitude to such men as Hooker Christendom. “In God's matters," said in England and Leighton in Scotland. Samuel Rutherford, “ there is not, as in There is much to be said for Presbytegrammar, the positive and comparative rianism ; there is much to be said for degrees; there is not a true, a more true, Episcopacy. But there is much more to and a most true.” “Every pin of the ta- be said for the secondary, temporary, bernacle," said Ebenezer Erskine, in his accidental character of both, when comamazement at the indifference which pared with the general principles to Whitfield displayed towards the Solemn which they each minister, and in the League and Covenant, “is precious." | light of these principles we shall view What Rutherford and Erskine thus terse- more justly and calmly the real merits ly and quaintly expressed is but the as and demerits both of bishops and of sumption on which has rested the vast presbyters, than is possible for those basis of the Rabbinical theology of Juda- who, like your Scottish or my English daism, and the Scholastic Theology, ancestors, upheld the constitution of whether of Catholic or Protestant Chur- either Church as in all times and under ches. But to the better spirits of all circumstances irrevocably indispenChristendom there has penetrated the sable. What is true with regard to those conviction that these maxims are not two leading distinctions is still more aponly not sound, but are unsound to the plicable to all debates on Patronage, Ecvery core. “There is a true, a more true, clesiastical Courts, Vestments, Postures. and a most true.” “ Every pin of the There is a difference, there is, if we tabernacle is not equally precious.” choose so to express it, a right and a Richard Hooker and Richard Baxter wrong, in each case. The appointment had already begun to perceive that reli- by a multitude may be preferable gion was no exception to the truth, ex to the appointment by a single indivipressed by a yet greater genius than dual; the appointment by a responeither, in the magnificent lines of " Troi- sible layman may be preferable to lus and Cressida," which tells us how the appointment by a synod; a black essential it is in all things to
gown may, in certain circumstances, be
superior to a white one, or a white one “ Observe degree, priority, and place,
to a red one. Insistence, course, proportion, season, form,
But far more important Office, and custom, in all line of order." that any of these positions is the persua
sion that, at most, all of these things, the This, if not the ultimate, at any rate is nomination, the jurisdiction, the dress, the proximate, solution of some of the the attitude of ministers, are but means difficulties which have threatened, or towards an end-very distant means towhich still threaten, the peace of Churches wards a very distant end. And in meaand the growth of religion.
sure as we appreciate this due proporTake the vexed question of Church tion, scandals will diminish, and the government. The main source of the Church of the future will leap forward gall which once poisoned, and still in
on its course, bounding like a ship that some measure poisons, the relations has thrown over its super-charge of between Episcopal and Presbyterian cargo, or quelled an intestine mutiny. Churches, was not the position that one Or take a yet graver question-the or other form was to be found in the mode of regarding those physical wonBible, or in antiquity, or was more con- ders which are called miracles. There
is no doubt an increasing difficulty on L Tim. vi. 4.
this subject-a difficulty enhanced by + Lectures on the Church of Scotland. the incredulity which now besets edu
cated sections of mankind, and by the the preternatural is present or absent, credulity which has taken hold with a the true supernatural may and will refresh tenacity on the half-educated. It main unshaken. is a question on which neither science IV. And what is the true supernanor religion, I venture to think, has yet tural? What are those essentials in relispoken the last word. It is a complex gion which have been the purifying salt problem, imperatively demanding that of Christianity hitherto, and will be the careful definition of which I spoke be- illuminating light hereafter; which, raisfore, and the calm survey of the extra- ing us above our natural state, point to ordinary incidents not only of biblical a destiny above this material world but of ecclesiastical history, whether this commonplace existence? The great Catholic or Protestant. On the true as advance which, on the whole, theology pects of such physical portents as have has made in these latter centuries, and been connected with the history of reli- which it may be expected still more to gion, there is much to be argued. But make in the centuries which are to come on these arguments I do not enter. The is this, that the essential, the supernapoint on which I would desire to fix tural elements of religion are recognised your attention is this : that whatever to be those which are moral and spiriview we take of these “ signs and won- tual. These are its chief recommendaders," their relative proportion as grounds tions to the reason of mankind. Without of argument has altogether changed. them, it would have long ago perished. There is a well-known saying, like other So far as it has lost sight of these, it has famous axioms of Christian life, erro- dwindled and faded. With these, it may neously ascribed to St. Augustine-"We overcome the world. Other opportunibelieve the miracles for the sake of the ties will occur in which I shall hope to Gospels, not the Gospels for the sake of draw out at length both the means by the miracles.” Fill your minds with which these spiritual elements of Christhis principle, view it in all its conse- tianity may be carried on from generaquences, observe how many maxims tion to generation, and also the characboth of the Bible and of philosophy con- teristics which distinguish them from like form to it, and you will find yourselves elements in inferior religions.* It is in a position which will enable you to enough to have indicated that in the treat with equanimity half the perplexi- supremacy of these, and in their supreties of this subject. However valuable macy alone, lies the hope of the future. the record of extraordinary incidents To love whatever is truly lovable, to demay be in other respects, however im- test whatever is truly detestable, to be. pressively they may be used to convey lieve that the glory and divinity of goodthe truths of which they are confessedly ness is indestructible, and that there the symbols, they have, in the eyes of has been, is, and will be a constant enthe very men whom we most desire to largement and elevation of our concepconvince, become stumbling blocks and tions of it-furnishes a basis of religion not supports. External evidence has which, whilst preserving all the best parts with most thinking men receded to the of the sacred records and of Christian background, internal evidence has come worship and practice, is a guarantee at to the front. Let us learn by experience once for its perpetuity and for its growth to use with moderation arguments Observe also that in proportion to our which, at least for the present, have lost insistence the moral greatness of their force. Let us acknowledge that Christianity as its chief evidence and there are greater iniracles, more convinc- chief essence, there accrues an external cing miracles, than those which appeal weight of authority denied to the lower only to sense of astonishmeni. and narrower, but granted to the higher “The greatest of miracles," as a vener and wider, views of religion. When we able statesman has observed, is the char- look over the long annals of ecclesiastiacter of Christ. The world was converted, in the first instance, not by appeals to physical, but to moral prodigies. lege Church and in the Parish Church of
* In the two sermons preached in the Col. Let us recognise that the preternatural is St. Andrews on the following Sunday, March not the supernatural, and that, whether 18th.
cal history, we shall often find that it is ligion"* is in fact Christianity in its not within the close range of the so- larger and wider aspect. The hope of called orthodox, but from the outlying immortality, which beyond any other becamp of the so-called heretic or infidel
, lief of man carries us out of the world of that the champions of the true faith have sense, was eagerly defended by Voltaire come. Not from the logic of Calvin, or and Rousseau, no less than by Butler the rhetoric of Bossuet, but from the and Paley. The serious view of duty, great scholars and philosophers of the the admiration of the heroic and the close of the last century and the begin- generous and the just, the belief in the ning of this, have been drawn the best transcendent value of the spiritual and portraitures of Christianity and its the unseen, are cherished possessions of Founder. A clearer glimpse into the the philosophers of our generation, no nature of the Deity was granted to less than of the missionaries and saints Spinoza,* the excommunicated Jew of of the generation that is past. The GoAmsterdam, than to the combined forces liath of the nineteenth century, as was of Episcopacy and Presbytery in the once well observed by a Professor f of Synod of Dordrecht. When we cast our your own, is not on the opposite side of eyes over the volumes which, perhaps, of the valley-he is in our midst; he is on all others, give us at once the clearest our side: he is not to be slain by sling and prospect of the progress of humanity, stone, but he is—if we did but know'it and the saddest retrospect of the mis- -our friend, our ally, our champion. If takes of theology-Mr. Lecky's History there is a constantly increasing tenof European Morals and of Rationalism dency, as Mr. Lecky says, I to identify —when we read there of the eradication the Bible and conscience, this is in other of deeply-rooted beliefs which, under words, as he himself well states the case, the guidance of ecclesiastics and eccle- a tendency to place Christianity in a siastical rulers, were supposed to be position "in which we have the strongest essential to the existence of religion- evidence of the triumph of the concepwitchcraft, persecution, intolerance, pro- tions of its Founder," a position in hibition of commercial intercourse-if which by the nature of the case the for one moment our faith is staggered doubters will be constantly diminishing by seeing that these beneficent changes and the intelligent believers constantly were brought about by States in defiance increasing. of Churches, by philosophers in defiance It is indeed one hope not only for the of divines, it is revived when we perceive solution, but for the pacific solution of that the end towards which those various our theological problems, that in this, agencies worked is the same as that de- more than in any previous age, in our sired by the best of the theologians; country more than in most countries, that what Mr. Lecky calls the seculari- the critical and the conservative oversation of politics is in fact the Christiani- lap, interweave, and shade off into each sation of theology. That view of man, other—" Ionians and Dorians on both of the universe, and of God which by a sides." The intelligent High Churchrecent able writer is called “Natural Re- man, the moderate Free Churchman,
melts almost imperceptibly into the in* This statement would be justified by a quiring scholar. The generous Puritan comparison of the best sayings of Spinoza or Nonconformist is more than one with the best sayings of the Synod of Dort.
third a Latitudinarian, perhaps even half The former are still read with admiration and instruction, even by those who widely differ
a Churchman. Few philosophers have from Spinoza's general teaching. The latter so entirely parted with the natural feelare but little known, even to those who most ings of the human heart, or the natural firmly agree with the theory propounded by aspirations of the human mind, as to be the Synod.
It may also be well to record, over against indifferent to the sane or insane directhe anathemas which have been levelled at his name, the epithet by which his humbler ac- * See a series of most instructive articles quaintances called him immediately after his in Macmillan's Magazine, on “Natural Relideath, “The blessed Spinoza,” and the de- gion," between February, 1875, and April, scription given of him by Schleiermacher, 1877.
'He was a man full of religion and of the | Professor Campbell. Holy Ghost."
History of Rationalism, i. 384, ii, 247, 385.