Our SAVIOUR CHRIST is indeed set before us in Scripture as our great Exemplar; and St. Paul calls upon us to be followers, or rather imitators, (mimtai), of himself; even as he was of CHRIST. But this walking by example, did not supersede the walking by precept; neither was it to endure, (GOD forbid!) (as Dr. Temple emphatically says it was), (pp. 26: 28-9,) only for about a hundred years: still less was "Example," (the second Teacher of the Human Race,) straightway to find itself supplanted by "the Spirit or Conscience" of Man,—"the third great Teacher, and the last." What need to say that until His Second Coming to judge the world, we shall have no Teacher but CHRIST,—no other way proposed to us to walk in, but that which the Gospel discloses?
Neither is it true that the world has been old enough, for the last 1800 years, to be taught by "seeing the lives of Saints," (a sentiment worthy of the weakest of Romanists!) "better than by hearing the words of Prophets." (pp. 28-9.) The Church of CHRIST will for ever listen to the blessed accents of that "goodly fellowship," until she beholds Him by whose Spirit they spake, coming again to judgment. True that the object with which she will all along inform her children, will ever be that they may become conformed to the model of her Divine LORD. But "sound doctrine,"—embodied in a "form of sound words,"—constitutes that parakatathk, or "deposit," which is her proudest inheritance and her greatest treasure: and impatience of it is a note of evil men, and of a season at which Prophecy points her awful finger.... "Lawlessness," (anomia,) is discoursed of by the SPIRIT with a mysterious earnestness which it seems to me impossible to survey without mingled awe and terror lest one may become oneself involved in the threatened condemnation. I allude of course especially to what St. Paul says in his second Epistle to the Thessalonians; the language of which, to be understood, must be studied in the original.
Conscience has her office, doubtless; and a most important one it is. Conscience is the very candle of the LORD within us. But, (as I have elsewhere shewn,) it were base treason to speak of conscience as Essayists and Reviewers speak of it. With them, it is indeed impossible to argue. They must first withdraw from the cause which they have betrayed; cease to profess the teaching which they disbelieve; resign their commission in a Church to whose Doctrine and Discipline they openly proclaim themselves to be opposed. I will not argue with them, while they presume to write B.D. and D.D. after their names,—hold Chaplaincies,—preside over Schools and Colleges,—profess to lecture in Divinity,—officiate at the altars of the Church of England,—by virtue of their sacred office, and by virtue of that only, are instructors of youth. They cannot, (if they are in the full enjoyment of their faculties,) they cannot imagine, for a moment, that, as honest men, they can remain where they are! They must either recal their words or resign their stations!
But speaking to others, it will abundantly suffice to point out that such principles as the present Essay advocates are incompatible with the profession of Christianity in any country, and in any age. If the spirit or conscience of Man is to legislate "without appeal except to himself;" (p. 31;) if men are to "refuse to be bound" (p. 44.) by the Creeds of the Church; if the very Bible is not to be looked upon as "an outer law:" (p. 45:)—how is sentence ever to be pronounced with authority? how are men to know what they have to believe? how are we to enjoy the guidance of any "outer law" at all? I do not ask these questions as a clergyman; neither am I addressing those exclusively who have been admitted to the Christian priesthood. Common sense, ordinary piety, natural reverence, seem to cry out, and ask,—If the Church have no "authority in controversies of Faith;" if the three Creeds ought not "thoroughly to be received and believed;" if the Bible is not "an outer Law;"—where is Authority in things Divine to be sought for? What can be worthy of credit? Where are we to look for external guidance on this side the grave?... Surely, surely, common sense is outraged when she hears it insisted that the written Bible is a Revelation speaking NOT "from without," but "from within!" (pp. 36 and 45.) Surely it must be admitted that it were mere atheism to pretend that Man's "spirit or conscience, without appeal except to himself," shall henceforth be the governing principle of Mankind!
Let me in conclusion do this writer an act of justice, (for which he will not perhaps altogether thank me,) even while with shame and sorrow I now dismiss his Essay. Unpardonable as he is for having written thus; and wholly without excuse for having suffered nine editions of his blasphemous allegory to go forth to the world without apology, explanation, or retractation of any kind,—although he labours under a weight of competent censure without a parallel, I believe, in the annals of the English Church: notwithstanding all this, I am bound to say that if the unbelievers of this generation think they have an ally in the man, Frederick Temple,—they are very much mistaken. That so pure a heart, and earnest a spirit, will never work itself free of its present bondage,—I should be sorry indeed to think. (But O the mischief which the head-master of Rugby School will have done in the meantime!) His misfortune (or rather fault) it has been, that he has really never studied Divinity; nor, in fact, knows anything at all about it,—as a volume of his, lately published, sufficiently shews. Apart from his opinions (!), he is a thoroughly amiable man; and—(with the same proviso!)—an excellent schoolmaster; but when he ventures upon the province of Theology, he shews himself something infinitely worse than a very bad Divine.
* * * * *
II. On turning the first page of the review which follows, "by ROWLAND WILLIAMS, D.D. Vice-Principal and Professor of Hebrew, St. David's College, Lampeter; Vicar of Broad Chalke, Wilts,"—we are made sensible that we are in company of a writer considerably in advance of Dr. Temple, though altogether of the same school. In fact, if Dr. Williams had not been Vice-Principal of a Theological College, and a Doctor of Divinity, one would have supposed him to be a complete infidel,—who found it convenient to vent his own unbelief in a highly laudatory review of the principles of the late Baron Bunsen. Hear him:—"When Bunsen asks 'How long shall we bear this fiction of an external Revelation,'—that is, of one violating the heart and conscience, instead of expressing itself through them;—or when he says, 'All this is delusion for those who believe it; but what is it in the mouths of those who teach it?'—Or when he exclaims, 'Oh the fools! who, if they do see the imminent perils of this age, think to ward them off by narrow-minded persecution'!—and when he repeats, 'Is it not time, in truth, to withdraw the veil from our misery? to tear off the mask from hypocrisy, and destroy that sham which is undermining all real ground under our feet? to point out the dangers which surround, nay, threaten already to engulf us?'—there will be some who think his language too vehement for good taste. Others will think burning words needed by the disease of our time. These will not quarrel on points of taste with a man who in our darkest perplexity has reared again the banner of Truth, and uttered thoughts which gave courage to the weak and sight to the blind. If Protestant Europe is to escape those shadows of the twelfth century which with ominous recurrence are closing around us, to Baron Bunsen will belong a foremost place among the champions of light and right." (pp. 92-3.)
But even the Prussian infidel is not advanced enough for the Vicar of Broad Chalke. Bunsen, it seems, was weak enough to believe that the prophet Jonah was a real personage. This evokes the following singular burst of critical indignation from the Reverend author of the present Essay:—"It provokes a smile on serious topics,"—(a kind of impropriety which the Vice-Principal of Lampeter will not commit except under protest and with an apology!)—"to observe the zeal with which our critic vindicates the personality of Jonah, and the originality of his hymn, (the latter being generally thought doubtful), while he proceeds to explain that the narrative of our book in which the hymn is imbedded, contains a late legend founded on misconception. One can imagine the cheers which the opening of such an essay might evoke in some of our circles, changing into indignation (!) as the distinguished foreigner developed his views. After this he might speak more gently of mythical theories." (p. 77.)
For the most part, however, the Vicar of Broad Chalke is able to cite the opinions of Bunsen with admiration and approval. They are both agreed that the Deluge "was but a prolonged play of the forces of fire and water rendering the primval regions of North Asia uninhabitable, and urging the nations to new abodes." (Of what nature this "prolonged play" was, is however left unexplained: while "the forces of fire and water rendering primval regions uninhabitable," and "urging nations to new abodes," has altogether a Herodotean sound.) "We learn approximately its antiquity, and infer limitation in its range from finding it recorded in the traditions of Iran and Palestine, (or of Japheth and Shem), but unknown to the Egyptians and Mongolians." (p. 56.) (A delightful method truly of attaining historical precision in a matter of this nature!) ... "In the half ideal, half traditional notices of the beginnings of our race compiled in Genesis, we are bid notice the combination of documents and the recurrence of barely consistent Genealogies." (Ibid.) Praise is at hand for "the firmness with which Bunsen relegates the long lives of the first patriarchs to the domain of legend, or of symbolical cycle." (p. 57.) "The historical portion begins with Abraham." (Ibid.)—After this admission, it is instructive to observe how the learned writer deals with the narrative. The Exode was "a struggle conducted by human means." (p. 59.) "Thus, as the pestilence of the Book of Kings becomes in Chronicles the more visible angel, so the avenger who slew the firstborn may have been the Bedouin host, (!) akin nearly to Jethro, and more remotely to Israel." (Ibid.) (It is really hardly worth stopping to point out that by 'Kings' the Reverend writer means 'the second Book of Samuel:' and to remind the reader that the Angel is mentioned as expressly in Samuel as in Chronicles. Also, to ask what 'the Bedouin host' could have been doing in Egypt previous to the Exode?) "The passage of the Red Sea may be interpreted with the latitude of poetry." (Ibid.) "Moses would gladly have founded a free religious society, ... but the rudeness or hardness of his people's heart compelled him to a sacerdotal system and formal tablets of stone." (p. 62.) Nay, Abraham's intended sacrifice of Isaac was an act of obedience to "the fierce ritual of Syria, with the awe of a Divine voice:" (p. 61:) while the Divine command, in conformity with which Abraham spared to slay his son, is resolved into an allegory. "He trusted that the FATHER, whose voice from Heaven he heard at heart, was better pleased with mercy than with sacrifice, and this trust was his righteousness." (p. 61.) Dr. Williams straightway shews us how we may tread in the steps of faithful Abraham. The perpetual response of our hearts, (he says,) to principles of Reason and Right of our own tracing, is a truer sign of faith than deference to a supposed external authority. (p. 61.) ... According to this writer, therefore, Genesis and Exodus are pure fable!
The whole of Scripture, in the hands of this Doctor of Divinity, undergoes corresponding treatment. They who "twist Prophecy into harmony with the details of Gospel history, fall into inextricable contradictions." (pp. 64-5.) "The Book of Isaiah, as composed of elements of different eras," can only be accepted with a "modified theory of authorship and of prediction." (p. 68.) In the prophecy of Zechariah are "three distinct styles and aspects of affairs." (Ibid.) "The cursing Psalms," (!!!) he informs us, were not "evangelically inspired;" (p. 63;) and yet we are constrained to remember that the cixth Psalm (specially alluded to) is evangelically interpreted by St. Peter. The true translation of Psalm xxii. 17, (learnedly discussed, long since, by Bishop Pearson,) is not "they pierced My hands and My feet,"—but "like a lion;" (notwithstanding that Pearson has shewn that the substitution of vau for yod in this place is one of the eighteen instances where the Scribes have tampered with the text; and notwithstanding that this modern corruption of the Hebrew, as every one must see, makes the place almost nonsense.)—Is. vii. 14 does not refer to the miraculous birth of CHRIST, (p. 69,) (although St. Matthew is express in his assertion that it does.) There is, it seems, an elder and a later Isaiah, (p. 71.) The famous liiird chapter does not refer to CHRIST; but either to Jeremiah or to "the collective Israel,"—(p. 73,) (although it is at least seven times quoted, and expressly applied to our SAVIOUR, in the New Testament.) Daniel, we are assured, belongs to different ages; and it is "certain, beyond fair doubt ... that those portions of the book, supposed to be specially predictive, are ... a history of past occurrences." (p. 69.) That "the book contains no predictions, except by analogy and type, can hardly be gainsaid." (pp. 76-7.) ... (If any of us had dogmatized as to Truth as these men do as to error, (remarks Dr. Pusey,) what scorn we should be held up to!) ... The Reverend author insolently adds,—"It is time for divines to recognize these things, since with their opportunities of study, the current error is as discreditable to them, as for the well-meaning crowd, who are taught to identify it with their creed, it is a matter of grave compassion." (p. 77.) "When so vast an induction on the destructive side has been gone through, it avails little that some passages may be doubtful; one perhaps in Zechariah, and one in Isaiah, capable of being made directly Messianic; and a chapter possibly in Deuteronomy foreshadowing the final fall of Jerusalem. Even these few cases, the remnant of so much confident rhetoric, tend to melt, if they are not already melted, in the crucible of searching enquiry." (pp. 69-70.) ... Our Doctor of Divinity, having reduced the prophecies "capable of being made" Messianic, to two,—breaks out into a strain of refined banter which is altogether his own, and which we presume is intended to stand in the place of argument. "If our German, [viz. Bunsen,] had ignored all that the masters of philology have proved on these subjects, his countrymen would have raised a storm of ridicule, at which he must have drowned himself in the Neckar." (p. 70.) A catastrophe so fatal to the cause of true Religion and sound learning may well point a paragraph!... But we must write gravely.
The absolute worthlessness of unsupported dicta such as these, ought to be apparent to all. It is useless to reason with a madman. We desiderate nothing so much as "searching enquiry," (p. 69,) but we are presented instead with something worse than random assertion. If the writer would state a single case, with its evidence,—we should know how to deal with him. We should examine his arguments seriatim; and either refute them, or admit their validity. From such "free handling," the cause of sacred Truth can never suffer. But when, in place of argument and evidence, we have merely bluster,—what is to be said? Pity and disregard are the only reply we can bestow; or our answers must be as brief as the calumny which provokes them. "How," (asks the Regius Professor of Hebrew,) "can such an undigested heap of errors receive a systematic answer in brief space, or in any one treatise or volume?"
"If any sincere Christian now asks, is not then our SAVIOUR spoken of in Isaiah; let him open his New Testament, and ask therewith John the Baptist, whether he was Elias? If he finds the Baptist answering I am not, yet our LORD testifies that in spirit and power this was Elias; a little reflexion will shew how the historical representation in Isaiah liii. is of some suffering prophet or remnant, yet the truth and patience, the grief and triumph, have their highest fulfilment in Him who said, 'FATHER, not My will but Thine.'" (p. 74.) I have transcribed this passage to illustrate the miserable sophistry of the author. It is foretold by Malachi that before the great and terrible day of the LORD, Elijah is to come back to Earth. John Baptist came in his "spirit and power," but was not Elijah himself. How does it follow from this that Isaiah may have prophesied merely of qualities and not of a person? The only logical inference from his words would surely be, that Elijah is yet to come!—Dr. Williams adds,—"We must not distort the prophets to prove the Divine WORD incarnate, and then from the Incarnation reason back to the sense of prophecy." (p. 74.) Was not then the Divine WORD incarnate?
The theory of one who writes like an open unbeliever concerning Divine things is really not worth developing: and yet, as I am examining an Essay which seems to be entirely built upon such a theory, it may be desirable, in this instance, that the deformity of the writer should be uncovered: especially since Dr. Williams writes such very dark English, that, until some of his sentences are translated, they are barely intelligible.
Anticipating that his doctrines may "alarm those who think that, apart from Omniscience belonging to the Jews, (!) the proper conclusion of reason is Atheism;"—(in other words, that the rejection of a belief in the inspiration of Prophecy will eventually conduct a man to the rejection of GOD Himself;) the Reverend writer declares that "it is not inconsistent with the idea that ALMIGHTY GOD has been pleased to educate men and nations, employing imagination no less than conscience, and suffering His lessons to play freely within the limits of humanity and its shortcomings." (p. 77.) (In other words, that what Scripture emphatically declares, and what men have for thousands of years believed to be inspired predictions of future events, are none other than the effusions of a lively imagination, or the suggestions of a well-informed conscience.) "The prophetical disquisitions," (p. 77,) therefore, are subject to error of every imaginable description; and possess no higher attributes than belong to any ordinary human work by "a master's hand." (p. 77.) "The Sacred Writers acknowledge themselves men of like passions with ourselves, and we are promised illumination from the Spirit which dwelt in them." (p. 78.) We may not think of the Sacred Writers as "passionless machines, and call Luther and Milton 'uninspired.'" (Ibid.) "The great result is to vindicate the work of the Eternal Spirit; that abiding influence which underlies all others, and in which converge all images of old time and means of grace now: temple, Scripture, finger, and Hand of GOD; and again, preaching, sacraments, waters which comfort, and flame which burns." (p. 78.) It follows,—"If such a Spirit did not dwell in the Church, the Bible would not be inspired, for the Bible is, before all things, the written voice of the congregation." (p. 78.) Offended Reason, (for Piety has no place here,) has not time to reclaim against so preposterous a statement; for it follows immediately,—"Bold as such a theory of Inspiration (!) may sound, it was the earliest creed of the Church, and it is the only one to which the facts of Scripture answer." (p. 78.) ... What reply can be offered to such an outrageous statement, but flat contradiction? What more effectual refutation of such a 'theory' (?) concerning Scripture, than simply to state it?
Let this miserable but conceited man yet further map out the nature of his own delusion respecting Prophecy. He applauds the wisdom of one who "accepts freely the belief of scholars, and yet does not despair of Hebrew Prophecy as a witness to the Kingdom of God:" (p. 70:) (that is, of one who, like Bunsen, altogether disbelieves in prophecy as prophecy, and yet is bent on finding something of an Evangelical character in the prophetic writings.) "The way of doing so left open to him, was to shew pervading the Prophets those deep truths which lie at the heart of Christianity, and to trace the growth of such ideas, the belief in a righteous GOD, and the nearness of Man to GOD, the power of prayer, and the victory of self-sacrificing patience, ever expanding in men's hearts, until the fulness of time came, and the ideal of the Divine thought was fulfilled in the Son of Man." (p. 70.) In other words, CHRIST was nothing more than the fullest development and impersonation of the best thoughts and feelings of the (so-called) prophets! He "fulfilled in His own person the highest aspiration of Hebrew seers and of mankind, thereby lifting the ancient words, so to speak, into a new and higher power; and therefore was recognized as having eminently the unction of a prophet whose words die not,—of a priest in a temple not made with hands,—and of a king in the realm of thought, delivering his people from a bondage of moral evil, worse than Egypt or Babylon." (pp. 74-5.) "A notion of foresight by vision of particulars, or a kind of clairvoyance," (p. 70,)—(such is this Doctor of Divinity's notion of the gift of prophecy!)—he deems inadmissible. "Literal prognostication," (p. 65,) is his abhorrence. He would eliminate the Messianic passages altogether. (pp. 65-6.) That Prophecy was miraculous, was a dream of the Fathers, (p. 66.) Even the notion that Prophecy is "a natural gift, consistent with fallibility," (p. 70,) Dr. Williams rejects as an unwarrantable addition to the "moral and metaphysical basis of Prophecy." (p. 70.) Bunsen was for admitting that addition. "One would wish," (says the Vicar of Broad Chalke,) "he might have intended only the power of seeing the ideal in the actual, or of tracing the Divine Government in the movements of men. He seems to mean more than presentiment or sagacity: and this element in his system requires proof." (pp. 70-1.) ... This, from a Doctor of Divinity! a Professor of Hebrew! the Vice-Principal of a Theological College! a shepherd of souls!
We are left to infer that "the Fall of Adam represents ideally the circumscription of our spirits in limits of flesh and time:" (p. 88:) that CHRIST is "the moral Saviour of mankind;" (p. 80;) and that Salvation from evil is to be attained by the conformity of our souls to a "religious idea" which was "brought to perfection" in CHRIST. (p. 80.) This "religious idea" "is the thought of the Eternal." (Ibid.) In other words, "Salvation from evil" is "through sharing the SAVIOUR's Spirit." (p. 87.)—We are further left to infer that "Justification by faith means the peace of mind, or sense of Divine approval, which comes of trust in a righteous GOD:" (p. 80:) that "Regeneration is a correspondent giving of insight, or an awakening of forces of the soul: Resurrection, a spiritual quickening: Salvation, our deliverance, not from the life-giving GOD, but from evil and darkness." (p. 81.) ... And this from a Clergyman who has just subscribed, "willingly and ex animo," the three Articles in the 36th Canon!... After such specimens of Divinity, we are scarcely surprised to find that the fires of Hell geenna "may serve as images of distracted remorse:" (p. 81:) that "Heaven is not a place, so much as a fulfilment of the love of GOD." (pp. 81-2.) The very Incarnation, (which he calls "the embodiment of the Eternal Mind,") (p. 82.) is spoken of as if it were a myth. "It becomes with our author as purely spiritual as it was with St. Paul. The Son of David by birth is the SON of GOD by the spirit of holiness. What is flesh, is born of flesh; and what is spirit, is born of Spirit." (p. 82.) Rom. i. 1-3 is quoted in support of this, which I cannot but regard as blasphemy: for if it does not mean that our SAVIOUR was not, in a true and literal sense, the SON of GOD at all, it is hard to see what it can mean.—As for the following account of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, it shall only be said that it sounds like a denial of the Catholic doctrine altogether. "Being, becoming, and animating; or substance, thinking, and conscious life, are expressions of a Triad which may be also represented as will, wisdom, and love; as light, radiance, and warmth; as fountain, stream, and united flow; as mind, thought, and consciousness; as person, word, and life; as FATHER, SON, and SPIRIT." (p. 88.)
The nebulous is a striking peculiarity of the style of the Vicar of Broad Chalke. He informs us that "in virtue of the identity of Thought with Being the primitive Trinity represented neither three originant principles nor three transient phases, but three eternal subsistences in one Divine Mind.... The Divine Consciousness or Wisdom, consubstantial with the Eternal Will, becoming personal in the Son of Man, is the express image of the FATHER; and JESUS actually, but also Mankind ideally, is the SON of GOD." (pp. 88-9.) Since this has "almost a Brahmanical sound" (p. 89.) even to the Vicar of Broad Chalke, we are content to pass it by in mute astonishment. He proceeds: "Both spiritual affection and metaphysical reasoning forbid us to confine Revelations like those of CHRIST to the first half century of our era; but shew at least affinities of our faith existing in men's minds, anterior to Christianity, and renewed with deep echo from living hearts in many a generation." (p. 82.) Was our SAVIOUR then a fabulous personage,—a virtuous principle,—and not a Man?... "Again. We find the evidences of our canonical books and of the patristic authors nearest to them, are sufficient to prove illustration in outward act of principles perpetually true, but not adequate to guarantee narratives inherently incredible or precepts evidently wrong." (pp. 82-3.) Are then the sacred "narratives" "inherently incredible?" or the Divine "precepts" "evidently wrong?"—These are, we presume, among the "traditional fictions about our Canon" (p. 83.) at which the Theological Professor sneers. "Hence we are obliged to assume in ourselves a verifying faculty,"—(p. 83,) and so, Dr. Williams and Dr. Temple shake hands. An instance of the exercise of this faculty is immediately subjoined. "The verse 'And no man hath ascended up to Heaven, but he that came down,' is intelligible as a free comment near the end of the first century; but has no meaning in our Lord's mouth at a time when the Ascension had not been heard of." (p. 84.)—"The Apocalypse" in like manner, to "cease to be a riddle," must be "taken as a series of poetical visions which represent the outpouring of the vials of wrath upon the City where our LORD was slain." (p. 84.) ... (Is it possible that a Minister of the Gospel of CHRIST can speak thus concerning the Divine record?) ... "The second of the Petrine Epistles, having alike external and internal evidence against its genuineness, is necessarily surrendered as a whole." (p. 84.) (Can a man solemnly sign the vith Article, and yet so write?)—"A philosophical view [of the doctrine of the Trinity] recommends itself as easiest to believe." (p. 87.) The "view" expressed in the Athanasian Creed is we presume that which is stigmatized as "one felt to be so irrational, that it calls in the aid of terror." (p. 87.) The Reverend writer does not name the Athanasian Creed, indeed. It is not the general fashion of Essayists and Reviewers,—from Dr. Temple to Professor Jowett,—to speak plainly. But common sense asks,—If Dr. Williams does not allude to the Creed in question, what does he allude to? And common honesty adds,—How is such an allusion to that formula consistent with subscription to Art. viii.?
The Sacrament of Baptism, (he says,) has "degenerated into a magical form," (p. 86,) since it has "become twisted into a false analogy with circumcision,"—(twisted, at all events, by St. Paul!)—and it is merely an "Augustinian notion" that "a curse is inherited by Infants."—How, one humbly asks, does the Reverend writer reconcile it to his conscience not only to have signed the ixth Article, but to employ the Baptismal Service, and to teach the little ones of the flock their Catechism?
On reaching the last page of the present Essay, one is irresistibly led to remark that if a single word could convey an adequate notion of the author's manner, that word would be Insolence. When Dr. Williams would express difference of opinion, he has recourse to violence and bluster: when he would patronize, he is sure to make himself unspeakably offensive. But he seldom agrees with anybody, even with disciples of the same school with himself,—as Messrs. Bunsen and Arnold, Coleridge and Francis Newman. Professor Mansel is "a mere gladiator hitting in the dark," whose "blows fall heaviest on what it was his duty to defend." (p. 67.) Dr. Pusey receives a menacing intimation of what his Commentary must not be. Davison's reasoning labours under the inconvenient defect of an unproved minor premiss. (p. 66.) The majestic memory of Bp. Pearson is insulted by this vulgar man, and the fairness of his citations are impeached. (p. 72.)—Bp. Butler is declared to have turned aside from an unwelcome idea (!), literature not being his strong point (!) (p. 65.)—Justin, (p. 64,)—Augustine, (p. 65,)—Jerome, (pp. 65, 71,)—Anselm, (p. 67,)—all come in for a share of the Vice-Principal of Lampeter's contempt. Even the Apologist of Essays and Reviews is constrained to admit that "anything more" unbecoming "than some of Dr. Williams's remarks we have never read, in writings professing to be written seriously."
But faults of mind and manner, however gross, do but disqualify a writer for being the associate of men of taste and good breeding; and blemishes of style are, at least, venial. Not so easily to be excused is the deplorable spectacle of a Minister of the Gospel, a Doctor of Divinity and Vice-Principal of a Theological College, lending all his critical powers, (which yet seem to be of the most indifferent description,) in order to undermine the authority of GOD'S Word. He has been asked,—"Do you unfeignedly believe all the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament?" and he has answered,—"I do believe them." He has been asked, "Will you be ready, with all diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to GOD'S Word?" and he has made reply,—"I will, the LORD being my helper." He has solemnly declared his trust that he was "inwardly moved by the HOLY GHOST to take upon himself this office and ministration."—Yet this is the man who explains away Miracles, denies Prophecy, and idealizes Scripture; the man who disparages the formul he uses daily, mutilates the Canon, and evacuates the most solemn doctrines of the Church!
I have now said as much as I think necessary concerning Dr. Williams's Essay. The entire refutation of such a tissue of groundless assertions and unfounded statements, and unscholarlike criticisms, and unphilosophical views,—would fill many volumes. It is to be feared also that, to him, the result would not be convincing after all. To have stated in brief outline, as I have already done, the leading positions to which he commits himself, ought to suffice. The mere exhibition of such principles (?) ought to be their own abundant refutation.... GOD give the unhappy author repentance of his errors!—And will not men believe that in the pages of the present Essay is to be seen the lawful development, and inevitable result of the opinions advocated in every other part of the present volume? I perceive scarcely any essential difference between the views of any of these seven writers. All are moving along the same fatal road; and are simply at different stages of the journey. But they conduct themselves wondrous differently in their progress, certainly; Dr. Williams being immeasurably the most offensive of the seven,—the only one who, besides seeming blasphemous, can truly be called vulgar.
* * * * *
III. The third Essay in the present volume is by "the REV. BADEN POWELL, M.A., F.R.S., Savilian Professor of Geometry in the University of Oxford,"—a gentleman with whose labours I shall deal briefly and gently for two reasons. His assertions admit of summary refutation; and he has already, (alas!) passed beyond the limit of earthly Criticism. I desire to add concerning him, that in the private relations of life he was a friendly and amiable person.
The solemn circumstance already adverted to, would have kept me silent altogether. When a writer is no longer able to defend himself, it is ungenerous to attack him: and at a time when he knows far more wonders than are dreamed of by any one on the Earth's surface, it seems unbecoming to stand reasoning over his grave about an "antecedent probability." But I am addressing not the dead, but the living,—to whom, in the pages of 'Essays and Reviews,' Professor Powell "being dead yet speaketh."
He entitles his contribution,—"On the Study of the Evidences of Christianity:" but, as often happens with performances of the like nature, the title of his Essay gives a wrong notion of its contents. It ought to have been called "The Validity of THE EVIDENCE FROM MIRACLES considered," or rather "denied."
There is nothing new in the present attack on the Miracles of Scripture. The author disposes of them by a single assertion. "What is alleged," (he says,) "is a case of the supernatural. But no testimony can reach to the supernatural." (p. 107.) The inference is obvious.—Again: "an event may be so incredible intrinsically as to set aside any degree of testimony." (p. 106.) Such an event he declares a Miracle to be; and explains that "from the nature of our antecedent convictions, the probability of some kind of mistake or deception somewhere, though we know not where, is greater than the probability of the event really happening in the way, and from the causes assigned." (pp. 106-7.) This merely amounts to asserting that the antecedent improbability of Miracles is so great as to make them incredible. The writer does not attempt to establish this point. "The present discussion," (he says,) "is not intended to be of a controversial kind; it is purely contemplative and theoretical." (p. 100.) And yet, he cannot suppose that the Universal Church will surrender its convictions and reverse its deliberate judgment, at the merely "contemplative and theoretical" suggestions of an individual, however respectable he may happen to be. Against his mere assertion, we claim a right to set the result of Bp. Butler's careful investigation of the same subject:—"That there certainly is no such presumption against Miracles, as to render them in any wise incredible: that, on the contrary, our being able to discern reasons for them, gives a positive credibility to the history of them, in cases where those reasons hold: and that it is by no means certain that there is any peculiar presumption at all, from analogy, even in the lowest degree, against Miracles, as distinguished from other extraordinary phenomena."
Professor Powell's objection against Miracles is, in fact, practically that of the infidel Hume; who asserted "that no testimony for any kind of Miracle can ever possibly amount to a probability, much less to a proof." He argued that Miracles, being contrary to general experience, are incapable of proof. He maintained also, (with Spinoza,) that Miracles, being contrary to the established laws of Nature, imply, in the very character of them, a palpable contradiction. This latter position seems to be identical with that adopted by Professor Powell.
In a certain place, this author finds fault with "the too frequent assumption ... of the part of the ... Advocate, when the character to be sustained should be rather that of the unbiassed Judge." (p. 95.) But what are we to think of the judicial fairness of one who is not only Advocate and Judge in his own cause; but who even turns the Witnesses out of Court; and will listen to no evidence,—on the plea that it cannot be trustworthy; or at least, that it shall be unavailing?—"I express myself with caution," (says Bp. Butler, with reference to arguments against the credibility of Revelation,) "lest I should be mistaken to vilify Reason; which is indeed the only faculty we have wherewith to judge concerning anything, even Revelation itself: or be misunderstood to assert that a supposed revelation cannot be proved false, from internal characters. For it may contain clear immoralities, or contradictions; and either of these would prove it false. Nor will I take upon me to affirm, that nothing else can possibly render any supposed revelation incredible. Yet still the observation is, I think, true beyond doubt; that objections against Christianity, as distinguished from objections against its evidence, are frivolous."
That a certain occurrence or phenomenon "is due to supernatural causes," Professor Powell maintains is "entirely dependent on the previous belief and assumptions of the parties." (p. 107.) He forgets that he grounds his own denial of the possibility of a Miracle, on nothing stronger than "the nature of" his own "antecedent convictions." Thus, the question becomes merely a personal one between Mr. Baden Powell and the Apostles of CHRIST. The reasonableness of the "antecedent convictions" in the one case have to be set against the reasonableness of the "antecedent convictions" in the other. Either party, (according to this view,) has its own "previous belief and assumptions;" which, in the one case, are known to have produced conviction; in the other, they are unhappily found to have resulted in a rejection of Miracles. But then it happens, unfortunately, that in the case of the Apostles and others, conviction of the truth of our LORD'S Miracles was based on knowledge, and experience of a matter of fact: in the case of Professor Powell, disbelief is founded on certain "antecedent convictions" only: namely, "the inconceivableness of imagined interruptions of natural Order, or supposed suspensions of the Laws of matter." (p. 110.) He is never tired of repeating that "in an age of physical research like the present, all highly cultivated minds and duly advanced intellects (!) have imbibed, more or less, the lessons of the Inductive Philosophy; and have, at least in some measure, learned to appreciate the grand foundation conception of universal Law:" (p. 133:) that "the entire range of the Inductive Philosophy is at once based upon, and in every instance tends to confirm, by immense accumulation of evidence, the grand truth of the universal Order and constancy of natural causes, as a primary law of belief; so strongly entertained and fixed in the mind of every truly inductive inquirer, that he cannot even conceive the possibility of its failure." (p. 109.)
I gladly avail myself of a page from the writings of a thoughtful writer of our own, who, half a century ago, reviewed the very errors which are being so industriously reproduced among ourselves at this day,—certainly not with more ability than of old:—"Let us examine a little farther into the weight of the argument derived from the supposed immutability of the Laws of Nature. It has constantly been the theme of modern Unbelievers, that the course of Nature is fixed, eternal, unalterable; and that nothing which is supposed to violate it can possibly take place. Now, we may readily allow, that the course of Nature is unalterable by human power; nay, even by the power of any created being whatsoever. But the question is,—Are these Laws unalterable by Him who made them? Proof of this is requisite, before the argument from the immutability of the Laws of Nature can have the least force. We may safely assert, however, that proof of this is absolutely impossible.—'Facts,' it may be said, 'daily passing before us, warrant us in supposing its laws to be unchangeable.' Perhaps so. But if a thousand or more facts have occurred, since the Creation of the World, in which those Laws appear to have been over-ruled, or suspended, is such a conclusion then warrantable? Even if there had never been a single instance of a Miracle recorded, since the Creation; yet the conclusion would not be just or logical, that no such thing is possible. But with such a multiplicity of instances to the contrary as are already on record, it is no better than a shameless assertion, in direct opposition to the evidence of men's senses and experience. Nay, more; the argument is atheistical. For, either GOD made and ordained these Laws of Nature; and may, consequently, at His pleasure, unmake or suspend them: or else, these laws are self-framed, and Nature is independent of the GOD of Nature; which is saying, in other words, that the material Universe is not governed by any Supreme Intelligence.
"This latter opinion appears, indeed, to be the tenet of all who resort to arguments of this kind, in opposition to the credibility of Miracles. Thus it is said, [by Hume,] that every effect must have a cause; and that, therefore, a Miracle must have a cause in Nature; otherwise, it cannot be effected.—But, is not the Will of GOD, without any other agency, or predisposing cause, sufficient for the purpose? When GOD created the World out of nothing, what pre-existing cause was there, except His own omnipotent Will to produce the effect? Why then is not the same Will sufficient to work Miracles?
"'But,' says another Sophist, [Spinoza,]—'GOD is the Author of the Laws of Nature; so that whatever opposes those Laws, is necessarily repugnant to the Divine nature: if, therefore, we believe that GOD may act in a manner contrary to those laws, we, in effect, believe that He may do what is contrary to His own nature; which is absurd and impossible.'
"The reasoning turns upon the supposition that GOD is actuated by an absolute necessity of His Nature, and not by his Will: or, rather, that He hath neither Will, nor Intellect. Otherwise, it were easy to perceive, that in suspending the operation of His own Laws, GOD cannot be charged with doing anything contradictory to His own nature; since He may justly be supposed to have as good reasons for departing from those Laws, as for framing them: and as we know not why He framed them in such a manner, and no otherwise; so He may have the best and wisest reasons for the suspension of them, which it is not for us to call in question. To speak of the Supreme Being as actuated by a kind of physical necessity, and not by His Will, is to confound the GOD of Nature with Nature itself; which is the very essence of Atheism, and never can be reconciled with any just notions of the Deity, as a Being of intellectual and moral perfections."
It is by no means inconceivable, therefore, that the great Cause of Creation, and first Author of Law should interfere at any given time in the established Order of Nature. Moreover, it is irrational, on sufficient testimony, to disbelieve that He has sometimes so interposed. To deny that this is conceivable, is to make GOD inferior to His own decree; to pronounce it incredible that the Lawgiver should be superior to His own Laws. "The universal subordination of causation," (p. 134,) we as freely admit as the Professor himself: but then we contend that everything else must be subordinate to the First great Cause of all. Worse than unphilosophical is it to argue as the Professor presumes to do, concerning the MOST HIGH; but unphilosophical in the strictest sense it is. For it is to reason about Him, (the finite concerning the Infinite!) as if we understood Him; we, who can barely decipher a little part of His works! A few more remarks on this subject will be found in my viith Sermon.
We are anxious to know if the whole of the case is really before us. A few more extracts from Professor Powell's Essay seem necessary to do full justice to his view of the matter:—"All moral evidence must essentially have respect to the parties to be convinced. 'Signs' might be adapted peculiarly to the state of moral or intellectual progress of one age, or one class of persons, and not be suited to that of others.... And it is to the entire difference in the ideas, prepossessions, modes, and grounds of belief in those times, that we may trace the reason why Miracles, which would be incredible now, were not so in the age, and under the circumstances, in which they are stated to have occurred." (p. 117.) ... "An evidential appeal which in a long past age was convincing, as made to the state of knowledge in that age, might have not only no effect, but even an injurious tendency, if urged in the present, and referring to what is at variance with existing scientific conceptions; just as the arguments of the present age would have been unintelligible to a former."
"In a period of advanced physical knowledge, the reference to what was believed in past times, if at variance with principles now acknowledged, could afford little ground of appeal: in fact, would damage the argument rather than assist it." (p. 126.)
"It becomes imperatively necessary, that such views should be suggested as may be really suitable to better informed minds, and may meet the increasing demands of an age pretending at least to greater enlightenment." (p. 126.)
There is nothing in the additional suggestions thus thrown out which in reality affects the question at issue. Certain antecedent considerations were before insisted on, which (it was said) "must be paramount to all attestation." (p. 107.) These have been disposed of. The writer now tells us that he does not question "the honesty or veracity of the testimony, or the reality of the impressions on the minds of the witnesses." (p. 106.) It remains to inquire therefore to what natural causes, events which were once thought miraculous, may reasonably be referred; since the so-called Miracles of the imperfectly-informed age of our LORD and His Apostles will not endure the scrutiny of the present age of scientific enlightenment.
But this, unless it be a proposal to open the whole question afresh,—to examine the Miracles themselves,—to consider them one by one,—to inquire into their exact nature,—and to investigate their attendant circumstances,—is unmeaning. For we cannot, as reasonable men, dismiss a vast body of august events, differing so considerably one from another, with a vague inuendo that there was probably "some kind of mistake or deception somewhere, though we do not know where:" (p. 106:) a hint that natural events may have been regarded as supernatural by an unscientific age, (which I believe was Schleiermacher's view:) and so forth. The two miraculous Draughts of fishes,—the Stater found in the fish's mouth,—the stilling of the Storm,—might perhaps, by a little rhetorical sophistry, in unscrupulous hands, be so disposed of. But the Creative Power displayed on the two occasions of a miraculous feeding of thousands,—the giving of sight to a man born blind,—the calling of Lazarus out of the grave where he had been for four days buried;—these are transactions which resist every attempt of the enemy to explain away, as unscientific misconceptions. They may be powerless to produce conviction in some now, as they were powerless to produce conviction in some then: but they cannot be set aside by an insinuation. There could not have been any mistake when the Five Thousand were fed with five loaves, and twelve baskets full were gathered up; or when the Four Thousand were fed with seven loaves, and fragments enough to fill seven baskets remained over. There was no room for deception in the case of the man born blind; for that case immediately underwent a judicial scrutiny. Lazarus bound hand and foot with grave-clothes required that the bystanders should "loose him and let him go:" but from that moment, neither supposed scientific necessity, nor antecedent considerations, nor the ordinary course of Nature, nor any other creature, will avail to bind him any more!
This may suffice on the subject of Professor Powell's Essay. On the great question itself, I have said something in my Seventh Sermon, to which the reader is requested to refer.—The performance now under consideration abounds in incorrect statements, while it revives not a few exploded objections; but I have considered the only points in it which are material.
Thus the author assumes "that, unlike the essential Doctrines of Christianity, 'the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,' those external accessories, [Miracles, for example,] constitute a subject which of necessity is perpetually taking somewhat at least of a new form, with the successive phases of opinion and knowledge." (p. 94.) But, (waiving for the moment the impossibility of severing the Doctrines of the Gospel from the miraculous evidence that our LORD was a Teacher sent from Heaven), it requires no ability to perceive that although "opinion" should alter daily, and "knowledge" increase ever so much, yet, events professing to be miraculous, being plain matters of fact, are to-day exactly what and where they were many centuries ago. Physical Science may pretend (with Paulus) to explain them on natural principles, truly; and while she does so, the world is sure to give her a patient, even an indulgent hearing. But then she must let it be known what she proposes to explain, and how she proposes to explain it. She must be so indulgent also, as to listen while we, in turn, shew her on what grounds we find it impossible to accept her Theory. "The inevitable progress of research," (says this author,) "must, within a longer or shorter period, unravel all that seems most marvellous; and what is at present least understood will become as familiarly known to the Science of the future, as those points which a few centuries ago, were involved in equal obscurity, but are now thoroughly understood." (p. 109.) Such a vaticination as regards Miracles, is, to say the least, premature; and until it can appeal to incipient accomplishment, it must be regarded as nugatory also. I am not aware, that as yet one single Miracle has been struck off the list; yet Miracles have now been before the world a long time, and they have not wanted enemies either.
To begin Divinity with a discussion of the "Evidences," we do indeed hold to be a beginning at the wrong end. At the same time, all of Professor Powell's opening remarks, in which he insinuates that the Church would bar, or would stifle discussion concerning the evidences of Religion, are obviously untrue. No scrutiny of Christian Miracles, however rigid, is stopped by the admonition that such narratives "ought to be held sacred, and exempt from the unhallowed criticism of human Reason." (p. 110.) We do not, by any means, "treat all objections as profane, and discard exceptions unanswered as shocking and immoral." (p. 100.) Neither does the Church think herself "omniscient and infallible;" (p. 96;) though she holds Omniscience to be an attribute of GOD; and Infallibility, of the Bible. But she deprecates in the strongest manner vague insinuations and unsupported doubts of the reality of her LORD'S Miracles, sown broad-cast over the land; and she is at a loss to understand how the "difficulties" of any, can be in this manner "removed;" (p. 96;) except by a process analogous to that which would cure a malady by taking away the life of the patient. We are not in fact at all disposed to admit that "Miracles, which in the estimation of a former age were among the chief supports of Christianity, are at present among the main difficulties, and hindrances to its acceptance," (p. 140,)—although Professor Powell and Dr. Temple say so.
This Essay in fact is full of incorrect, or objectionable statements. Thus Professor Powell asserts that since "evidential arguments are avowedly addressed to the intellect, it is especially preposterous to shift the ground, and charge the rejection of them on moral motives." (p. 100.) And yet it is worthy of notice that our LORD Himself assures us that the reception of Truth depends on our moral, rather than on our intellectual condition. "How can ye believe," (He said to the Jews,) "which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from GOD only?"
This writer reasons also with singular laxity and inaccuracy. After quoting the dictum that "on a certain amount of testimony we might believe any statement, however improbable," (pp. 140-1,) he scornfully adds;—"So that if a number of respectable witnesses were to concur in asseverating that on a certain occasion they had seen two and two make five, we should be bound to believe them!" (p. 141.) Does he fail to perceive, (1) that mathematical truths do not come within the province of probable reasoning, and (2) are not dependent on testimony?... Again, "The case of the antecedent argument of Miracles is very clear, however little some are inclined to perceive it. In Nature and from Nature, by Science and by Reason, we neither have nor can possibly have any evidence of a Deity working by Miracles;—for that, we must go out of Nature, and beyond Science." (pp. 141-2.) Very true. We must go to Scripture. We must have recourse to testimony. This is precisely what we are maintaining.... But,—"Testimony, after all, is but a second-hand assurance; it is but a blind guide; testimony can avail nothing against Reason." (p. 141.) True. But this, if it is intended as an argument against the reasonableness of admitting the truth of Miracles, is a mere petitio principii.... Again. "It is not the mere fact but the cause or explanation of it, which is the point at issue." (p. 141.) Admitting then, as the learned author here does, that when CHRIST said "Lazarus, come forth," "he that was dead," (though he had been buried four days,) "came forth, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes;"—admitting these "facts," I say,—what other "cause," or "explanation" does the reverend gentleman propose to assign but the supernatural power of the Divine Speaker?
Far graver exception, however, must be taken against certain parts of Professor Powell's labours, which betray an animus fatally indicative of the tendency of such Essays and Reviews as these. Witness his assertion that "it is now acknowledged that 'Creation' is only another name for our ignorance of the mode of production;" (p. 139;) and that a recent work on the Origin of Species "substantiates on undeniable grounds the very principle so long denounced by the first naturalists,—the origination of new species by natural causes;" (p. 139;) and that the said work "must soon bring about an entire revolution of opinion in favour of the grand principle of the self-evolving powers of Nature." (p. 139.)
One object of the present Essay is to insist that since Miracles belong to the world of matter, "we must recognize the due claims of Science to decide" upon them. We are reminded that "beyond the domain of physical causation and the possible conceptions of intellect or knowledge, there lies open the boundless region of spiritual things, which is the sole dominion of Faith:" (p. 127:) and that "Advancing knowledge, while it asserts the dominion of Science in physical things, confirms that of Faith in spiritual." (p. 127.) It is proposed that "we thus neither impugn the generalizations of Philosophy, nor allow them to invade the dominion of Faith; and admit that what is not a subject for a problem, may hold its place in a Creed." (p. 127.)
But the fatal consequences of this plausible fallacy become apparent the instant we turn the leaf, and read that "the more knowledge advances, the more it has been, and will be acknowledged, that Christianity, as a real religion, must be viewed apart from connexion with physical things." (p. 128.) That "the first dissociation of the spiritual from the physical was rendered necessary by the palpable contradictions disclosed by astronomical discovery with the letter of Scripture. Another still wider and more material step has been effected by the discoveries of Geology. More recently, the antiquity of the Human Race, and the development of Species, and the rejection of the idea of 'Creation' (!) have caused new advances in the same direction." (p. 129.) ... From this it is evident, not only that the object of Science in thus taking the Miracles of Scripture into her own keeping, is (like an unnatural step-dame) to slay them; but that downright Atheism is to be the attitude in which men are expected to survey that "boundless region of spiritual things" which is yet proclaimed to be "the sole dominion of Faith!"
Faith, on the other hand, does not object to the constant visits of Science to any part of her treasure. She does but insist that all discussion shall be conducted according to the rules of right Reason. Vague insinuations about "a progressing Age," (p. 131,)—"new modes of speculation," (p. 130,)—"the advance of Opinion," (p. 131,)—and so forth, are as little to the purpose, apart from specific objections, as sneers at "the one-sided dogmas of an obsolete school, coupled with awful denunciations of heterodoxy on all who refuse to listen to them," (p. 131,) are unsuited to the gravity of the occasion. Faith insists moreover that a divorce between the miraculous parts of Scripture, and the context wherein they stand, is simply impossible. The unbeliever who boldly says, "I disbelieve the Bible,"—however much we may deplore his blindness and pity his misery,—is yet intelligible in his unbelief. But the man who proposes to believe the narrative of the Exode of Israel from Egypt, (for instance,) apart from the supernatural character of the events which are related to have attended it; who believes the history of the Gospels, (holding the Evangelists to have been veracious writers,) yet rejects the Divine nature of the Miracles which the Gospels relate; and proposes, after eliminating from the historical narrative everything which claims to be miraculous, to make what remains of that historical narrative, the strength and stay of his soul in life and in death:—that man we boldly affirm to be one who cannot have studied the Bible with that ordinary attention which would entitle him to dogmatize concerning its contents: or else, whose logical faculty must be so hopelessly defective that discussions of this class are evidently not his proper province.
Finally, we are presented in this Essay with the same offensive assumption of intellectual superiority on the part of the writer, which disfigures the entire volume. "It becomes imperatively necessary that views should be suggested really suitable to better informed minds." (p. 126.) "Points which may be seen to involve the greatest difficulty to more profound inquirers, are often such as do not occasion the least perplexity to ordinary minds, but are allowed to pass without hesitation." (p. 125.) (And this, from one of those "profound inquirers," one of "those who have reflected most deeply," (p. 126,) who yet cannot get beyond a resuscitation of Hume and Spinoza's exploded objections to the truth of Miracles!)—Butler's unanswerable arguments, (for the allusion is evidently to him,) are spoken of as "a few trite and commonplace generalities as to the moral government of the World and the belief in the Divine Omnipotence; or as to the validity of human testimony; or the limits of human experience." (p. 133.) And yet the author is for ever informing us that his hostility to Miracles "is essentially built upon those grander conceptions of the order of Nature, those comprehensive primary elements of all physical knowledge, those ultimate ideas of universal causation, which can only be familiar to those thoroughly versed in cosmical philosophy in its widest sense." (p. 133.) "All highly cultivated minds, and duly advanced intellects," are supposed to find their exponent in Professor Baden Powell. All other thinkers have "minds of a less comprehensive capacity," "accustomed to reason on more contracted views." (p. 133. See also p. 131, top.) Is this the modesty of real Science? the language of a true Philosopher and Divine?
Finally, after all that has gone before we are not much astonished, but we are considerably shocked, to read as follows:—"The Divine Omnipotence is entirely an inference from the language of the Bible, adopted on the assumption of a belief in Revelation. That 'with GOD nothing is impossible' is the very declaration of Scripture; yet on this, the whole belief in Miracles is built." Now, it happens that 'the whole belief in Miracles' is built on nothing of the kind: but the point is immaterial. By no means immaterial, however, is the intimation that the Divine attribute of Omnipotence is a mere inference from the language of Revelation,—the very belief in which is also a mere "assumption." If belief in Holy Scripture is to be treated as an assumption,—without at all complaining of the unreasonableness of one who so speaks,—we yet desire that he would say it very plainly; and let us know at least with whom we have to do, and what we are expected to prove. We do not complain, if any one calls upon us to shew that a belief in the Bible cannot be called an assumption; but it makes us very sad: and when the challenge comes from a Minister of the Church, we are unable to forbear the remark that there is something altogether immoral in the entire proceeding. On the other hand, to find ourselves involved in an argument on questions of Divinity with one who believes nothing, is in a manner absurd; and provokes a feeling of resentment as well as of pity.... What need to add that life is not long enough for such processes of proof? "He that cometh unto GOD must believe that He is!" We cannot be for ever laying the foundation. The building must begin, at last, to grow. And when it has grown up, and is compact as well as beautiful, it cannot be necessary to pull it all down again once or twice in every century in order to ascertain whether the strong foundations be still there!
* * * * *
IV. The next performance is mainly directed against faith in the Church, as a society of Divine origin. "The Rev. HENRY BRISTOW WILSON, B.D., Vicar of Great Staughton, Hunts," claims that a National Church shall be regarded as a purely secular Institution,—the spontaneous development of the State. "If all priests and ministers of religion could at one moment be swept from the face of the Earth, they would soon be reproduced." The Church is concerned with Ethics, not with Divinity. It should therefore be "free from dogmatic tests, and similar intellectual bondage:" (p. 168:) hampered by no traditional Doctrines; pledged to no Creeds: but, on the contrary, should be subject to periodical doctrinal re-adjustments. "Doctrinal limitations" (i.e. the Creeds) "are not essential to" the Church. "Upon larger knowledge of Christian history, upon a more thorough acquaintance with the mental constitution of man, upon an understanding of the obstacles they present to a true Catholicity (!), they may be cast off." (p. 167.) "In order to the possibility of recruiting any national Ministry from the whole of the nation, ... no needless intellectual or speculative obstacles should be interposed." (p. 196. So at p. 198.)
To all this, the answer is very obvious. Viewed as an historical fact, the Church is not of human origin. The Church is a Divine Institution. That a Priest of the Church, charged with a cure of souls, should desire her annihilation,—the reversal of the facts of her past History,—her reconstruction on an unheard-of basis, without even Creeds as terms of communion with her,—and so forth; all this may suggest some very painful doubts as to the objector's honesty in continuing to employ the formularies of that Church, and in professing to teach her doctrines;—but it can hardly be supposed to have any effect whatever on the question at issue.
Foreseeing this, Mr. Wilson begins by asserting,—(for to insinuate is not for so advanced a disciple of "the negative Theology,") (p. 151,)—"the fact of a very wide-spread alienation, both of educated and uneducated persons, from the Christianity which is ordinarily presented in our Churches and Chapels." (p. 150.) "A self-satisfied Sacerdotalism, confident in a supernaturally transmitted illumination," may amuse itself in trying to "keep peace within the walls of emptied Churches:" (p. 150:) but the day for "traditional Christianity" (p. 149.) has gone by. We may no longer ignore "a great extent of dissatisfaction on the part of the Clergy at some portion, at least, of formularies of the Church of England,"—especially at the use of "one unhappy creed." (p. 150.) There has been "a spontaneous recoil" from some of the old doctrines: a distrust of the old arguments: and a misgiving concerning Scripture itself. "In the presence of difficulties of this kind, ... it is vain to seek to check open discussion." (p. 151.)
Why then does not this man proceed openly to discuss? is the obvious rejoinder. Instead of vaguely hinting that either the Reason or the Moral sense is shocked by what people hear "in our Churches and Chapels,"—why has not this writer, first, the honesty to withdraw from the Ministry of the Church of England; and next, the courage to indicate the particular doctrines which offend? To say that "the ordinances of public worship and religious instruction provided for the people of England" are not "really adapted to the wants of their nature as it is," (p. 150,) is a very vague and unworthy style of urging an objection. Why does not the reverend writer explain wherein the Doctrine and Discipline of the English Church are not really adapted to the actual wants of Man's nature?
Let every unbeliever however be allowed to state his difficulties in his own way. Mr. Wilson's difficulties certainly take a very peculiar shape. The increased Geographical knowledge of the present generation has evidently disturbed his faith. "In our own boyhood, the World as known to the ancients was nearly all which was known to ourselves (!). We have recently become acquainted,—intimate,—with the teeming regions of the far East, and with empires, pagan or even atheistic, of which the origin runs far back beyond the historic records of Juda or of the West, and which were more populous than all Christendom now is, for many ages before the Christian era." (p. 162.) Such a statement is soon made; but it ought to have been substantiated. I take the liberty of doubting its accuracy.
But granting even that the heathen world "for many ages before the Christian era" was more populous than all Christendom now is:—what then? This fact "suggests questions to those who on Sundays hear the reading and exposition of the Scriptures as they were expounded to our forefathers, and on Monday peruse the news of a World of which our forefathers little dreamed." (pp. 152-3.)—And pray, (we calmly inquire,) Why are the Scriptures to be read or expounded after a novel fashion, even though our geographical knowledge has made a considerable advance? To this, we are favoured with no answer. The "questions" suggested are, we presume, the same which are contained in the following sentence. "In what relation does the Gospel stand to these millions? Is there any trace on the face of its records that it even contemplated their existence? We are told, that to know and believe in JESUS CHRIST is in some sense necessary to Salvation. It has not been given to these. Are they,—will they be, hereafter,—the worse off for their ignorance?" (p. 153.) ... "As to the necessity of faith in a SAVIOUR to these peoples when they could never have had it, no one, upon reflection, can believe in any such thing. Doubtless they will be equitably dealt with." (p. 153.)
These last seven words, (which scarcely seem of a piece with the rest of the sentence,) we confess have always seemed a sufficient answer to the badly-expressed speculative difficulty which immediately precedes; a difficulty, be it observed, which does not depend at all on the popular advancement of Geographical knowledge; for it was urged with the self-same force anciently, as now; and was met by Bp. Butler, almost in the self-same words, upwards of a hundred years ago. But Mr. Wilson to our surprise and sorrow proceeds:—"We cannot be content to wrap this question up and leave it for a mystery, as to what shall become of those myriads upon myriads of non-Christian races. First, if our traditions tell us, that they are involved in the curse and perdition of Adam, and may justly be punished hereafter individually for his transgression, not having been extricated from it by saving faith,—we are disposed to think that our traditions cannot herein fairly declare to us the words and inferences from Scripture; but if on examination it should turn out that they have,—we must say, that the authors of the Scriptural books have, in those matters, represented to us their own inadequate conceptions, and not the mind of the SPIRIT of GOD." (pp. 153-4.)
I forbear to dwell upon the grievous spectacle with which we are thus presented. Here is a Clergyman of the Church of England deliberately proposing the following dilemma:—Either the Prayer Book is incorrect in its most important doctrinal inferences from Holy Scripture; or else, the Authors of Holy Scripture itself are incorrect in their statements. The morality of one who declares that he finds himself placed between the horns of this dilemma, and yet retains his office as a public teacher in the Church of England,—it is painful to contemplate. But this is only ad hominem. The Reverend writer's difficulty remains.
And it seems sufficient to reply:—It is not we who "wrap up the question," but GOD. As a mystery we find it; and as a mystery, we not only "can," but must be content to "leave it." Further, it is not "our traditions," but Holy Scripture itself which tells us that "by one man Sin entered into the World, and Death by Sin; and so Death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:"—that "in Adam all died:"—that "we were by nature the children of wrath, even as others:" and the like. Scripture, on the other hand, as unequivocally assures us that GOD is good, or rather that He is very Goodness. We are convinced, (in Mr. Wilson's words,) "that all shall be equitably dealt with according to their opportunities." (p. 154.) Moreover, he would be a rash Divine who should venture to adopt the opinion so strenuously disclaimed by Bp. Butler, "that none can have the benefit of the general Redemption, but such as have the advantage of being made acquainted with it in the present life." ... How, in the meantime, speculative difficulties concerning the hereafter of the unevangelized Heathen are affected by the fact that our population now "peruse the news of a World of which our forefathers little dreamed," (pp. 152-3,)—it is hard to see. Equally unable am I also to understand how the discovery that a larger number of persons are the subjects of this speculative difficulty than used once to be supposed, can constitute any reason why Scripture should not still be read and expounded on Sunday "as it used to be expounded to our forefathers."
We have been so particular, because whenever any of these writers condescend to be argumentative, we are eager to bear them company. No wish at all have we, in the abstract, to stifle inquiry; no objection whatever have we to the principle of free discussion. And yet, as a clergyman, I cannot discuss such questions as these with a Minister of the Church of England, except under protest. I deny that these are in any sense open questions. To dispute concerning them,—ei m thesin diaphylattn,—one of the disputants must first, at least, resign his commission. It is simply dishonest in a man to hold a commission in the Church of England, under solemn vows, and yet to deny her doctrines. An Officer in the Army who should pursue a similar line of action, would be dismissed the Service,—or worse.—Under protest, then, we follow the Rev. H. B. Wilson, B.D.
Next come three other specimens "of the modern questionings of traditional Christianity," "whereby observers are rendered dissatisfied with old modes of speaking:" (p. 156:) viz. (1) St. Paul "speaks of the Gospel 'which was preached to every nation (sic) under heaven,' when it has never yet been preached to the half." (2) "Then, again, it has often been appealed to as an evidence of the supernatural origin of Christianity, and as an instance of supernatural assistance vouchsafed to it in the first centuries, that it so soon overspread the world:" (p. 155:) whereas "it requires no learning to be aware that neither then nor subsequently have the Christians amounted to a fourth part of the people of the Earth." (Ibid.) (3) So again, "it has been customary to argue that, priori, a supernatural Revelation was to be expected at the time when JESUS CHRIST was manifested upon the Earth, by reason of the exhaustion of all natural or unassisted human efforts for the amelioration of mankind;" (pp. 155-6;) whereas "our recently enlarged Ethnographical information shews such an argument to be altogether inapplicable to the case." "It would be more like the realities of things, as we can now behold them, to say that the Christian Revelation was given to the Western World, because it deserved it better and was more prepared for it than the East." (p. 156.)—The remedy for the first of these difficulties (says Mr. Wilson,) is, "candidly to acknowledge that the words of the New Testament which speak of the preaching of the Gospel to the whole world, were limited to the understanding of the times when they were spoken." The suggestions of our own moral instincts are rather to be followed, "than the express declarations of Scripture writers, who had no such knowledge as is given to ourselves of the amplitude of the World." (p. 157.)
For my own part, I see not how Mr. Wilson's proposed remedy meets the case; unless he means to say that in the time of St. Paul the Gospel had been literally preached to the whole World as far as the World was then known. If not, it is clear that recourse must be had to some other expedient. Instead then of the "candid acknowledgment" required of us by the learned writer, may we be allowed to suggest to him the more prosaic expedient (1st) of making sure that he quotes Scripture accurately; and (2nd) that he understands it?... It happens that St. Paul does not use the words "every nation under heaven" as Mr. Wilson inadvertently supposes. The Apostle's phrase, pas t ktisei, in Colossians i. 23, (as in St. Mark xvi. 15), means 'to the whole Creation,' or 'every creature;' (the article is doubtful;) in other words, he announces the universality of the Gospel, as contrasted with the Law; and he explains that it had been preached to the Heathen as well as to the Jews. Our increased knowledge therefore has nothing whatever to do with the question; and the supposed difficulty disappears. The two which remain, being (according to the same writer,) merely incorrect inferences of Biblical critics, need not, it is presumed, be regarded as insurmountable either.
Following Mr. Wilson through his successive vagaries of religious (?) thought, we come upon a succession of strange statements; the object of which seems to be to cast a slur on Doctrine generally.—The doctrine of Justification by faith "is not met with ... in the Apostolic writings, except those of St. Paul." (p. 160.) [A minute exception truly!].—"Then, on the other hand, it is maintained by a large body of Theologians, as by the learned Jesuit Petavius and many others, that the doctrine afterwards developed into the Nicene and Athanasian, is not to be found explicitly in the earliest fathers, nor even in Scripture, although provable by it." (p. 160.) [Would it not have been fair, however, to state what appears to have been the design of Petavius therein? and should it not have been added that our own Bishop Bull in his immortal "Defensio Fidei Nicn" established the very reverse "out of the writings of the Catholic Doctors who flourished within the first three centuries of the Christian Church?"] "The nearer we come to the original sources of the History, the less definite do we find the statements of Doctrines, and even of the facts from which the Doctrines were afterwards inferred." (p. 160.) "In the patristic writings, theoretics assume continually an increasingly disproportionate value. Even within the compass of our New Testament, there is to be found already a wonderful contrast between the words of our LORD and such a discourse as the Epistle to the Hebrews." (pp. 160-1.) [What a curious discovery, by the way, that an argumentative Epistle should differ in style from an historical Gospel!] "Our LORD'S Discourses," (continues this writer,) "have almost all of them a direct Moral bearing." (p. 161.) [The case of St. John's Gospel immediately recurs to our memory. And it seems to have occurred to Mr. Wilson's also. He says:—] "This character of His words is certainly more obvious in the first three Gospels than in the fourth; and the remarkable unison of those Gospels, when they recite the LORD'S words, notwithstanding their discrepancies in some matters of fact, compels us to think, that they embody more exact traditions of what He actually said than the fourth does." (p. 161.) [In other words, the authenticity of St. John's Gospel is to be suspected rather than the worthlessness of the speculations of the Vicar of Great Staughton!]
The object of three pages which follow (pp. 162-5.) seems to be to shew that in the Apostolic Age, Immorality of life was more severely dealt with, even than erroneousness of Doctrine. Except because the writer is eager to depreciate the value of orthodoxy of belief, and to cast a slur on doctrinal standards generally,—it is hard to see why he should write thus. Let him be reminded however that our SAVIOUR makes Faith itself a moral, not an intellectual habit; and, (if it be not an uncivil remark,) what but an immoral spectacle does a Clergyman present who openly inculcates distrust of these very Doctrines which he has in the most solemn manner pledged himself to uphold and maintain?
And thus we come back to the theme originally proposed. "A national Church," we are informed, "need not, historically speaking, be Christian (!); nor, if it be Christian, need it be tied down to particular forms which have been prevalent at certain times in Christendom (!). That which is essential to a National Church is, that it should undertake to assist the spiritual progress of the nation and of the individuals of which it is composed, in their several states and stages. Not even a Christian Church should expect all those who are brought under its influence to be, as a matter of fact, of one and the same standard; but should endeavour to raise each according to his capacities, and should give no occasion for a reaction against itself, nor provoke the individualist element into separation." (p. 173.) Of what sort the Ministers of such a "chartered libertine" are to prove, may be anticipated. "Thought and speech, which are free among all other classes," must be free also "among those who hold the office of leaders and teachers of the rest in the highest things." The Ministers of the Church ought not "to be bound to cover up, but to open; and having, it is presumed, possession of the key of knowledge, ought not to stand at the door with it, permitting no one to enter unless by force. A National Church may also find itself in this position, which, perhaps, is our own." (p. 174.)—What a charming picture of the duties and the method of that class to which the Vicar of Great Staughton himself belongs!... The writer proceeds to set an example of that freedom of inquiry which he vindicates as the privilege of his Order; and without which he is apprehensive of being left isolated between "the fanatical religionist," (p. 174,) (i.e. the man who believes the truths he teaches,) and "the negative theologian," (i.e. those who, "impatient of old fetters, follow free thought heedlessly wherever it may lead them.") (Ibid.) "The freedom of opinion," (he says,) "which belongs to the English citizen should be conceded to the English Churchman; and the freedom which is already practically enjoyed by the members of the congregation, cannot without injustice be denied to its ministers." (p. 180.) Let us see how the Reverend Gentleman exercises the license which he claims:—
The phrase "Word of GOD," (he says,) is unauthorized and begs the question. The epithet "Canonical" "may mean either books ruled and determined by the Church, or regulation books; and the employment of it in the Article hesitates between these two significations." (p. 176.) The declaration of the sixth Article simply implies "the Word of GOD is contained in Scripture; whence it does not follow that it is co-extensive with it." (p. 170.) "Under the terms of the Sixth Article one may accept literally, or allegorically, or as parable, or poetry, or legend, the story of a serpent-tempter, of an ass speaking with man's voice, of an arresting the earth's motion, of a reversal of its motion, of waters standing in a solid heap, of witches, and a variety of apparitions. So under the terms of the Sixth Article, every one is free in judgment as to the primeval institution of the Sabbath, the universality of the Deluge, the confusion of tongues, the corporeal taking up of Elijah into Heaven, the nature of Angels, the reality of demoniacal possession, the personality of Satan, and the miraculous particulars of many events." (p. 177.) "Good men," we are assured; (the Inspired Writers being the good men intended;) "may err in facts, be weak in memory, mingle imaginations with memory, be feeble in inferences, confound illustration with argument, be varying in judgment and opinion." (p. 179.) [A "free handling" this, of the work of the HOLY GHOST, truly!... It would, I suppose, be deemed very unreasonable to wish that a catalogue of facts misstated,—of slips of memory,—of imaginary details,—of feeble inferences,—of instances of logical confusion,—and so forth, had been subjoined by the Reverend writer. I will only observe concerning his method that such "frank criticism of Scripture" (p. 174.) as this, is dogmatism of the most disreputable kind: insinuating what it does not state; assuming what it ought to prove; asserting in the general what it may be defied to substantiate in particular.] It follows,—"But the spirit of absolute Truth cannot err or contradict Himself; if He speak immediately, even in small things, accessories, or accidents." (p. 179.) To this we entirely agree. Where then are the "errors?" and where the "contradictions?"
We cannot "suppose Him to suggest contradictory accounts:" [not contradictory, of course; because contradictories cannot both be true:] "or accounts only to be reconciled in the way of hypothesis and conjecture."—(Ibid.) Why not?
"To suppose a supernatural influence to cause the record of that which can only issue in a puzzle, is to lower indefinitely our conception of the Divine dealings in respect of a special Revelation." (Ibid.)—Why more of a lowering puzzle in GOD'S Word than in GOD'S Works?
Mr. Wilson proceeds:—"It may be attributed to the defect of our understandings, that we should be unable altogether to reconcile the aspects of the SAVIOUR as presented to us in the first three Gospels, and in the writings of St. Paul and St. John. At any rate, there were current in the primitive Church very distinct Christologies."—(Ibid.) Queer language this for a plain man! I, for my own part, have never yet discovered the difficulty which is here hinted at; but which has been prudently left unexplained.
It follows:—"But neither to any defect in our capacities, nor to any reasonable presumption of a hidden wise design, nor to any partial spiritual endowments in the narrators, can we attribute the difficulty, if not impossibility, of reconciling the genealogies of St. Matthew and St. Luke; or the chronology of the Holy Week; or the accounts of the Resurrection: nor to any mystery in the subject-matter can be referred the uncertainty in which the New Testament writings leave us, as to the descent of JESUS CHRIST according to the flesh, whether by His mother He were of the tribe of Judah or of the tribe of Levi."—(pp. 179-180.) I, for my part, can declare that I have found the reconcilement in the three subjects first alluded to, as complete as could be either expected or desired. The last part of the sentence discovers nothing so much as the writer's ignorance of the subject on which he presumes to dogmatize.
Presently, we read,—"It may be worth while to consider how far a liberty of opinion is conceded by our existing Laws, Civil and Ecclesiastical."—(p. 180.) "As far as opinion privately entertained is concerned, the liberty of the English Clergyman appears already to be complete. For no Ecclesiastical person can be obliged to answer interrogations as to his opinions; nor be troubled for that which he has not actually expressed; nor be made responsible for inferences which other people may draw from his expressions." (Ibid.)—Surely such language needs only to be cited to awaken indignation in every honest bosom! "With most men educated, not in the schools of Jesuitism, but in the sound and honest moral training of an English Education, the mere entering on the record such a plea as this, must destroy the whole case. If the position of the religious instructor is to be maintained only by his holding one thing as true, and teaching another thing as to be received,—in the name of the GOD of Truth, either let all teaching cease, or let the fraudulent instructor abdicate willingly his office, before the moral indignation of an as yet uncorrupted people thrust him ignominiously from his abused seat!"