The remarks just quoted serve to introduce a series of views on subscription to the Articles, which, if they were presented to me without any intimation of the quarter from which they proceed, I should not have hesitated to denounce as simply dishonest.... The Statute 13 Eliz. c. 12, is next discussed with the same unhappy licentiousness; and the declaration that "the meshes are too open for modern refinements." (p. 185.) ... I desire not to speak with undue severity of a fellow-creature: but I protest that I cannot read the Review under consideration without a profound conviction that, (speaking for myself,) I have to do with one whom in the common concerns of life I would not trust. The aptitude here displayed for playing tricks with plain language, is calculated to sap the foundations of human intercourse, and to destroy confidence. If plain words may mean anything, or may mean nothing,—then, farewell to all good faith in the intercourse of daily life. If Articles "for the avoiding of Diversities of Opinions, and for the establishing of Consent touching true Religion,"—such Articles especially as the IInd., "Of the WORD or SON of GOD, which was made very Man;" and the Vth., "Of the HOLY GHOST," (which the Rev. Mr. Wilson calls "humanifying of the Divine Word," and "the Divine Personalities,") (p. 186,)—may be signed by one who, even in signing, resolves to "pass by the side of them," (p. 186, line 6,)—then is it better at once to admit that no Logic can be supposed to be available with such a writer; that he places himself outside the reach of fair argumentation; and must not be astonished if he shall find himself regarded by his peers simply in the light of an untrustworthy and impracticable person.
The last stage of all in this deplorable paper is an application to Holy Scripture itself of the tricks which the Vicar of Great Staughton has already played, so much to his own satisfaction, with the Articles. "We may say that the value of the historical parts of the Bible may consist, rather in their significance, in the ideas which they awaken, than in the scenes themselves which they depict." (p. 199.) To a plain English understanding, (unperplexed with the dreams of Strauss, and other unbelievers of the same stamp,) such a statement conveys scarcely an intelligible notion. But we are not left long in doubt.
"The application of Ideology to the interpretation of Scripture, to the doctrines of Christianity, to the formularies of the Church, may undoubtedly be carried to an excess; may be pushed so far as to leave in the sacred records no historical residue whatever.... An example of the critical Ideology carried to excess, is that of Strauss; which resolves into an ideal the whole of the historical and doctrinal person of JESUS.... But it by no means follows, because Strauss has substituted a mere shadow for the JESUS of the Evangelists, that there are not traits in the scriptural person of Jesus, which are better explained by referring them to an ideal than an historical origin: and without falling into fanciful exegetics, there are parts of Scripture more usefully interpreted ideologically than in any other manner,—as for instance, the history of the Temptation of JESUS by Satan, and accounts of demoniacal possessions." (pp. 200-201.) "Some may consider the descent of all Mankind from Adam and Eve as an undoubted historical fact; others may rather perceive in that relation a form of narrative into which in early ages tradition would easily throw itself spontaneously.... Among a particular people, this historical representation became the concrete expression of a great moral truth,—of the brotherhood of all human beings.... The force, grandeur, and reality of these ideas are not a whit impaired in the abstract, nor indeed the truth of the concrete history (!) as their representation, even though mankind should have been placed upon the earth in many pairs at once, or in distinct centres of creation. For the brotherhood of men really depends," &c., &c. (p. 201.) "Let us suppose one to be uncertain whether our LORD were born of the house and lineage of David, or of the tribe of Levi; and even to be driven to conclude that the genealogies of Him have little historic value; nevertheless, in idea, JESUS is both Son of David and Son of Aaron, both Prince of Peace, and High Priest of our profession; as He is, under another idea, though not literally, 'without father and without mother.' And He is none the less Son of David, Priest Aaronical, or Royal Priest Melchizedecan, in idea and spiritually, even if it be unproved whether He were any of them in historic fact.—In like manner it need not trouble us, if in consistency, we should have to suppose both an ideal origin, and to apply an ideal meaning, to the birth in the city of David, (!) and to other circumstances of the Infancy. (!) So again, the Incarnification of the divine Immanuel remains, although the angelic appearances which herald it in the narratives of the Evangelists may be of ideal origin, according to the conceptions of former days." (pp. 202-3.) "And," lastly,—"liberty must be left to all as to the extent in which they apply this principle!" (p. 201.)
To such dreamy nonsense, what "Answer" can we return? Such speculations would be a fair subject for ridicule and merriment, if the subject were not so unspeakably solemn,—the issues so vast, and terribly momentous. We find ourselves introduced into a new world,—of which the denizens talk like madmen, and in a jargon of their own. And yet, that jargon is no sooner understood, than the true character of our new companions becomes painfully evident.... He who believes the plain words of Holy Writ, finds himself called "the literalist." He who resolves Scripture into a dream, and the LORD who redeemed him into "a mere shadow," (p. 200) is dignified with the title of "an idealist." "Neither" (we are assured) "should condemn the other. They are fed with the same truths; the literalist unconsciously, the idealist with reflection. Neither can justly say of the other that he undervalues the Sacred Writings, or that he holds them as inspired less properly than himself." (p. 200.) "The ideologian," (who is the same person as the "idealist;" for the gentleman, at this place, changes his name;) "is evidently in possession of a principle which will enable him to stand in charitable relation to persons of very different opinions from his own." (p. 202.) "Relations which may repose on doubtful grounds as matter of history, and, as history, be incapable of being ascertained or verified, may yet be equally suggestive of true ideas with facts absolutely certain. The spiritual significance is the same of the Transfiguration, of opening blind eyes, of causing the tongue of the stammerer to speak plainly, of feeding multitudes with bread in the wilderness, of cleansing leprosy; whatever links may be deficient in the traditional records of particular events." (Ibid.) ... I will but modestly inquire,—What would be said of us, if we were so to expound Holy Scripture in defence of Christianity?
But it is time to dismiss this tissue of worthless as well as most mischievous writing;—even to exhibit which, in the words of its misguided author, ought to be its own sufficient exposure. Do men really expect us to "answer" such groundless assertions, and vague speculations as those which go before? A Faith without Creeds: a Clergy without authority or fixed opinions: a Bible without historical truth:—how can such things, for a moment, be supposed to be? What answer do we render to the sick man who sees unsubstantial goblins on the solid tapestried wall; and mistakes for shadowy apparitions of the night, the forms of flesh and blood which are ministering to his life's necessities? If the Temptation, and the Transfiguration, and the Miracles of CHRIST be not true history, but ideological allegories,—then why not His Nativity and His Crucifixion,—His Death and His Burial,—His Resurrection and His Ascension into Heaven likewise? "Liberty" (we have been expressly told,) "must be left to all, as to the extent in which they apply the principle" (p. 201.)—Where then is Ideology to begin,—or rather, where is ideology to end? "Why then is Strauss to be blamed for using that universal liberty, and 'resolving into an ideal the whole of the historical and doctrinal person of JESUS?' Why is Strauss' resolution 'an excess?' or where and by what authority, short of his extreme view, would Mr. Wilson himself stop? or at what point of the process? and by what right could he, consistently with his own canon, call on any other speculator, to stay the ideologizing process?"
"Discrepancies in narratives, scientific difficulties, defects in evidence, do not disturb the ideologist as they do the literalist." (p. 203.) No, truly. Nothing troubles him; simply because he believes nothing! The very Sacraments of the Gospel are not secure from his unhallowed touch. "The same principle" (?) is declared to be "capable of application" to them also. "Within these concrete conceptions there lie hid the truer ideas of the virtual presence of the LORD JESUS everywhere that He is preached, remembered, and represented." (p. 204.) ... Do we ever deal thus with any other book of History? And yet, on what possible principle is the Bible to be thus trifled with, and Thucydides to be spared?—I protest, if the historical personages of either Testament may be resolved at will into abstract qualities, and the historical transactions of either Testament may be supposed to represent ideas and notions only,—then, I see not why the Vicar of Great Staughton himself may not prove to be a mythical personage also. Why need Henry Bristow Wilson, B.D.,—who, (as "literalists" say,) in 1841 was one of the 'Four Tutors' who procured the condemnation of Tract No. 90, on the ground that it 'evaded rather than explained the Thirty-nine Articles;' and who, in 1861 writes that "Subscription to the Articles may be thought even inoperative upon the conscience by reason of its vagueness;" (p. 181.)—why need this author be supposed to be a man at all? Why should he not be interpreted "ideologically;" and resolved into the principle of disgraceful Inconsistency of conduct, and "variation of opinion at different periods of life?"
* * * * *
V. In the present crusade against the Bible and the Faith of Christian men, the task of destroying confidence in the first chapter of Genesis has been undertaken by MR. C. W. GOODWIN, M.A. He requires us to "regard it as the speculation of some Hebrew Descartes or Newton, promulgated in all good faith as the best and most probable account that could be then given of GOD'S Universe." (p. 252.)
Mr. Goodwin remarks with scorn, that "we are asked to believe that a vision of Creation was presented to him by Divine power, for the purpose of enabling him to inform the world of what he had seen; which vision inevitably led him to give a description which has misled the world for centuries, and in which the truth can now only with difficulty be recognized." (p. 247.) He puts "pen to paper," therefore, (he says,) in order to induce the world to a "frank recognition of the erroneous views of nature which the Bible contains." (p. 211.) The importance of the inquiry, he vindicates in the following modest terms:—"Physical Science goes on unconcernedly pursuing its own paths. Theology, (the Science whose object is the dealing of GOD with Man as a moral being,) maintains but a shivering existence, shouldered and jostled by the sturdy growths of modern thought, and bemoaning itself for the hostility it encounters." (p. 211.)—A few remarks at once suggest themselves.
I cannot help thinking that if any person of ordinary intelligence, unacquainted with the Bible, were to be left to obtain his notion of its contents from "Essays and Reviews," infidel publications generally, and (absit invidia verbo!) from not a few of the Sermons which have been preached and printed in either University of late years,—the notion so obtained would be singularly at variance with the known facts of the case. Would not a man infallibly carry away an impression that the Bible is a book abounding in statements concerning matters of Physical Science which are flatly contradicted by the ascertained phenomena of Nature? Would he not be led to expect that it contained every here and there a theoretical Excursus on certain Astronomical or Physiological subjects? and to anticipate, above all, an occasional chapter on Geology? Great would be his astonishment, surely, at finding that one single chapter comprises nearly the whole of the statements which modern philosophy finds so very hateful; and that chapter, the first chapter in the Bible.
But the surprise would grow considerably when the conditions of the problem came to be a little more fully stated. Has then the actual history of the World's Creation been ascertained from some other independent and infallible source? No! Are Geologists as yet so much as agreed even about a theory of the Creation? No! Can it be proved that any part of the Mosaic account is false? Certainly not! Then why all this hostile dogmatism?—To witness the violence of the partisans of Geological discovery, and the arrogance of their pretensions, one would suppose that some Divine Creed of theirs had been impugned: that a revelation had been made to them from Heaven, which the profane and unbelieving world was reluctant to accept. Whereas, these are Christian men, impatient, as it seems, to tear the first leaf out of their Bible: or rather, to throw discredit on the entire volume, by establishing the untrustworthiness of the earliest page!
One single additional consideration completes the strangeness of the picture. If our account of the Six Days of Creation were a sybilline leaf of unknown origin, it would not be unreasonable to treat its revelations as little worth. But since the author of it is confessedly Moses,—the great Hebrew prophet, who lived from B.C. 1571 to 1451, who enjoyed the vision of the Most High; nay, who conversed with GOD face to face, was with Him in the Mount for thrice forty days, and received from Him the whole details of the Sacred Law;—since this first chapter of Genesis is known to have formed a part of the Church's unbroken heritage from that time onward, and therefore must be acknowledged to be an integral part of the volume of Scripture which, (as our LORD says,) ou dynatai lythnai,—"cannot be broken, diluted, loosened, explained away;"—since, further, this account of Creation is observed to occur in the most conspicuous place of the most conspicuous of those books which are designated by an Apostle by the epithet theopneustos, or, "given by inspiration," "filled with the breath," or "Spirit of GOD;" and when it is considered that our SAVIOUR and His Apostles refer to the primval history contained in the first two chapters about thirty times:—when, (I say,) all this is duly weighed, surely too strong a prim facie case has been made out on behalf of the first chapter of Genesis, that its authority should be imperilled by the random statements of every fresh individual who sees fit to master the elements of Geology; and on the strength of that qualification presumes to sit in judgment on the Hebrew Scriptures,—of which, confessedly, he does not understand so much as the alphabet!
It is even amusing to see how vain a little mind can become of a little knowledge. Mr. Goodwin remarks,—"The school-books of the present day, while they teach the child that the Earth moves, yet assure him that it is a little less than six thousand years old, and that it was made in six days." (p. 210.) (I am puzzled to reconcile this statement with the author's declaration that "no well-instructed person now doubts the great antiquity of the Earth any more than its motion." (Ibid.) Would it not have been fairer to have named at least one of the school-books which perpetuate so wicked a heresy?) "On the other hand, Geologists of all religious creeds are agreed that the Earth has existed for an immense series of years,—to be counted by millions rather than by thousands; and that indubitably more than six days elapsed from its first Creation to the appearance of Man upon its surface. By this broad discrepancy between old and new doctrine is the modern mind startled, as were the men of the sixteenth century when told that the earth moved." (p. 210.)
But begging pardon of our philosopher, if all he means is that more than six days elapsed between the Creation of "Heaven and Earth," (noticed in ver. 1,) and the Creation of Man, (spoke of from ver. 26 to 28,)—he means to say mighty little; and need not fear to encounter contradiction from any "well-instructed person." True, that an ignorant man could not have suspected anything of the kind from reading the first chapter of Genesis: but this is surely nobody's fault but his own. An ignorant man might in like manner be of opinion that the Sun and Moon are the two largest objects in creation; and there is not a word in this same chapter calculated to undeceive him. Again, he might think that the Sun rises and sets; and the common language of the Observatory would confirm him hopelessly in his mistake. All this however is no one's fault but his own. The ancient Fathers of the Church, behind-hand as they were in Physical Science, yet knew enough to anticipate "the hypothesis of the Geologist; and two of the Christian Fathers, Augustine and Theodoret, are referred to as having actually held that a wide interval elapsed between the first act of Creation, mentioned in the Mosaic account, and the commencement of the Six Days' work." (p. 231.) Mr. Goodwin therefore has got no further, so far, than Augustine and Theodoret got, 1400 years since, without the aid of Geology.
But we must hasten on. The business of the Essayist, as we have said, is to undermine our confidence in the Bible, by exposing the ignorance of the author of the first chapter. "Modern theologians," (he remarks, with unaffected displeasure,) "have directed their attention to the possibility of reconciling the Mosaic narrative with those geological facts which are admitted to be beyond dispute." (p. 210.)—And pray, (we modestly ask,) is not such a proceeding obvious? A "frank recognition of the erroneous views of Nature which the Bible contains," (p. 211,) we shall be prepared to yield when those "erroneous views" have been demonstrated to exist,—but not till then. Mr. Goodwin must really remember that although, in his opinion, the "Mosaic Cosmogony," (for so he phrases it,) is "not an authentic utterance of Divine knowledge, but a human utterance," (p. 253,) the World thinks differently. The learned and wise and good of all ages, including the present, are happily agreed that the first chapter of Genesis is part of the Word of GOD.
After what is evidently intended to be a showy sketch of the past history of our planet,—"we pass" (says Mr. Goodwin) "to the account of the Creation contained in the Hebrew record. And it must be observed that in reality two distinct accounts are given us in the book of Genesis; one, being comprised in the first chapter and the first three verses of the second; the other, commencing at the fourth verse of the second chapter and continuing till the end. This is so philologically certain that it were useless to ignore it." (p. 217.) Really we read such statements with a kind of astonishment which almost swallows up sorrow. Do they arise, (to quote Mr. Goodwin's own language,) "from our modern habits of thought, and from the modesty of assertion which the spirit of true science has taught us?" (p. 252.) Convinced that my unsupported denial would have no more weight than Mr. Goodwin's ought to have, I have referred the dictum just quoted to the highest Hebrew authority available, and have been assured that it is utterly without foundation.
After such experience of Mr. Goodwin's philological "certainties," what amount of attention does he expect his dicta to command in a Science which, starting from "a region of uncertainty, where Philosophy is reduced to mere guesses and possibilities, and pronounces nothing definite," (p. 213,) has to travel through "a prolonged period, beginning and ending we know not when;" (p. 214;) reaches another period, "the duration of which no one presumes to define;" (Ibid.;) and again another, during which "nothing can be asserted positively:" (p. 215:) after which comes "a kind of artificial break?" (Ibid.)
For my own part, I freely confess that Mr. Goodwin's final admission that "the advent of Man may be considered as inaugurating a new and distinct epoch, that in which we now are, and during the whole of which the physical conditions of existence cannot have been very materially different from what they are now;" (p. 216;) and that "thus much is clear, that Man's existence on Earth is brief, compared with the ages during which unreasoning creatures were the sole possessors of the globe:" (p. 217:)—these statements, I say, contain as much as one desires to see admitted. For really, since the fossil Flora, and the various races of animated creatures which Geologists have classified with so much industry and skill, confessedly belong to a period of immemorial antiquity; and, with very rare exceptions indeed, represent extinct species,—I, as an interpreter of Scripture, am not at all concerned with them. Moses asserts nothing at all about them, one way or the other. What Revelation says, is, that nearly 6000 years ago, after a mighty catastrophe,—unexplained alike in its cause, its nature, and its duration,—the Creator of the Universe instituted upon the surface of this Earth of ours that order of things which has continued ever since; and which is observed at this instant to prevail: that He was pleased to parcel out His transcendent operations, and to spread them over Six Days; and that He ceased from the work of Creation on the Seventh Day. All extant species, whether of the vegetable or the animal Kingdom, including Man himself, belong to the week in question. And this statement, as it has never yet been found untrue, so am I unable to anticipate by what possible evidence it can ever be set aside as false.
In my IInd Sermon, I have ventured to review the Mosaic record sufficiently in detail, to render it superfluous that I should retrace any portion of it here. The reader is requested to read at least so much of what has been offered as is contained from p. 28 to p. 32. My business at present is with Mr. Goodwin.
And in limine I have to remind him that he has really no right first to give, in his own words, his own notion of the history of Creation; and then to insist on making the Revelation of the same transaction ridiculous by giving it also in words of his own, which become in effect a weak parody of the original. What is there in Genesis about "the air or wind fluttering over the waters of the deep?" (p. 219.) Is this meant for the august announcement that "the SPIRIT of GOD moved upon the face of the waters?"—"On the third day, ... we wish to call attention to the fact that trees and plants destined for food are those which are particularly singled out as the earliest productions of the earth." (p. 220.) The reverse is the fact; as a glance at Gen. i. 11. will shew.—"The formation of the stars" on the fourth day, "is mentioned in the most cursory manner." (p. 221.) But who is not aware that "the formation of the stars" is nowhere mentioned in this chapter at all?
"Light and the measurement of time," (proceeds Mr. Goodwin,) "are represented as existing before the manifestation of the Sun." (p. 219.) Half of this statement is true; the other half is false. The former idea, he adds, is "repugnant to our modern knowledge." (p. 219.) Is then Mr. Goodwin really so weak as to imagine that our Sun is the sole source of Light in Creation? Whence then the light of the so-called fixed Stars? But I shall be told that Mr. Goodwin speaks of our system only, and of our Earth in particular. Then pray, whence that glory which on a certain night on a mountain in Galilee, caused the face of our REDEEMER to shine as the Sun and His raiment to emit a dazzling lustre? "We may boldly affirm," (he says,) "that those for whom [Gen. i. 3-5] was penned could have taken it in no other sense than that light existed before and independently of the sun." (p. 219.) We may indeed. And I as boldly affirm that I take the passage in that sense myself: moreover that I hold the statement which Mr. Goodwin treats so scornfully, to be the very truth which, in the deep counsels of GOD, this passage was designed to convey to mankind; even that "the King of Kings, and LORD of Lords, who only hath immortality, dwelleth in the Light which no man can approach unto."
"The work of the second day of Creation is to erect the vault of Heaven (Heb. Rakia; Gr. sterema Lat. Firmamentum,) which is represented as supporting an ocean of water above it. The waters are said to be divided, so that some are below, and some above the vault.... No quibbling about the derivation of the word Rakia, which is literally 'something beaten out,' can affect the explicit description of the Mosaic writer contained in the words 'the waters that are above the firmament,' or avail to shew that he was aware that the sky is but transparent space." (pp. 219, 220.) "The allotted receptacle [of Sun and Moon] was not made until the Second Day, nor were they set in it until the fourth." (p. 221.) Surely I cannot be the only reader to whom the impertinence of this is as offensive, as its shallowness is ridiculous! In spite of Mr. Goodwin's uplifted finger, and menacing cry,—"No quibbling!" I proceed with my inquiry.
For first; Why does Mr. Goodwin parody the words of Inspiration? The account as given by Moses is,—"And GOD said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters." But surely, to make the "open firmament of Heaven" in which every winged fowl may fly, is not "to erect the vault of Heaven,"—"a permanent solid vault,"—"supporting an ocean of water!"
The Hebrew word here used to denote "firmament," on which Mr. Goodwin's indictment turns, ("rakia,") is derived from a verb which means to "beat." Now, what is beaten, or hammered out, while (if it be a metal) it acquires extension, acquires also solidity. The Septuagint translators seem to have fastened upon the latter notion, and accordingly represented it by sterema; for which, the earliest Latin translators of the Old Testament coined an equivalent,—firmamentum. But that Moses by the word "rakia" intended rather to denote the expanse overhead, than to predicate solidity for the sky, I suspect will be readily admitted by all. True that in the poetical book of Job, we read that the sky is "strong, as a molten looking-glass:" but then we meet more frequently with passages of a different tendency. God is said to "stretch out the heavens like a curtain," "and spread them out as a tent to dwell in:" to "bind up the waters in His thick clouds," and "in a garment," &c., &c. It is only needful to look out the word in the dictionary of Gesenius to see that spreading out, (as of thin plates of metal by a hammer,) is the only notion which properly belongs to the word. Accordingly, the earliest modern Latin translation from the Hebrew, (that of Pagninus,) renders the word expansio. And so the word has stood for centuries in the margin of our English Bible.
The actual fact of the case,—the truth concerning the physical phenomenon alluded to,—comes in, and surely may be allowed to have some little weight. Since expansion is a real attribute of the atmosphere which divides the waters above from the waters below,—and solidity is not,—it seems to me only fair, seeing that the force of the expression is thought doubtful, to assign to it the meaning which is open to fewest objections.
But "the Hebrews," (says Mr. Goodwin,) "understood the sky, firmament, or heaven to be a permanent solid vault, as it appears to the ordinary observer." This, he adds, is "evident enough from various expressions made use of concerning it. It is said to have pillars, foundations, doors, and windows,"—(p. 220.) Now, I really do not think Mr. Goodwin's inference by any means so "evident" as he asserts. If Heaven has "pillars" in the poetical book of Job, so has the Earth. The "foundations" spoken of in 2 Sam. xxii. 8, seem rather to belong to Earth than to Heaven,—as a reference to the parallel place in Ps. xviii. 7 will shew. Is Mr. Goodwin so little of a poet, as to be staggered by the phrase "windows of Heaven," when it occurs in the figurative language of an ancient people, and in a poetical book?
For the foregoing reasons, I distrust Mr. Goodwin's inference that "the Hebrews understood the sky to be a solid vault, furnished with pillars, foundations, doors, and windows." But whether they did, or did not, it is to be hoped that he is enough of a logician to perceive that the popular notions of God's ancient people on this subject, are not the thing in question. The only FACT we have to do with is clearly this,—that Moses has in this place employed the word "rakia:" and the only QUESTION which can be moved about it, is (as evidently) the following,—whether he was, or was not, to blame in employing that word; for as to the meaning which he, individually, attached to the phenomenon of which "rakia" is the name, it cannot be pretended that any one living knows anything at all about the matter. A Greek, Latin, or French astronomer who should speak of Heaven, would not therefore be assumed to mean that it is hollow; although koilon, 'coelum,' 'ciel,' etymologically imply no less.
Now I contend that Moses employed the word "rakia" with exactly the same propriety, neither more nor less, as when a Divine now-a-days employs the English word "firmament." It does not follow that the man who speaks of "the spacious firmament on high," is under so considerable a delusion as to suspect that the firmament is a firm thing; nor does it follow that Moses thought that "rakia" was a solid substance either,—even if solidity was the prevailing etymological notion in the word, and even if the Hebrews were no better philosophers than Mr. Goodwin would have us believe. The Essayist's objection is therefore worthless. GOD was content that Moses should employ the ordinary language of his day,—accommodate himself to the forms of speech then prevalent,—coin no new words. What is there unreasonable in the circumstance? What possible ground does it furnish for a supposition that the etymological force of the word,—or even that the popular physical theory of which that word may, or may not, have once been the connotation,—denoted the sense in which Moses employed it? Is it to be supposed that when a physician speaks of a "jovial temperament," he insinuates his approval of an exploded system of medicine? Do astronomers maintain that the Sun has a disk, or the Earth an axis? that the former leaves its place in the heavens when it suffers 'eclipse?' or that the latter has a superior latitude, from East to West? To give the most familiar instance of all,—Do scientific men believe that the sun rises, and sets?—And yet all say that it does, until this hour!... Why is Moses to be judged by a less favourable standard than anybody else,—than Shakspeare, than Hooker, even than Mr. Goodwin? The first, in an exquisite passage, bids Jessica,—
"Look how the floor of heav'n Is thick inlayed with patens of bright gold."
Did Shakspeare expect his beautiful language would be tortured into a shape which would convict him of talking nonsense?—But this is poetry. Then take Hooker's prose:—
"If the frame of that heavenly arch erected over our heads should loosen and dissolve itself; ... if the Moon should wander from her beaten way," &c.
Did Hooker suppose that heaven is "an arch," which could be "loosened and dissolved?" or that "the way" of the moon is "beaten?"—But this is a highly poetical passage, written three centuries ago.—Let an unexceptionable witness then be called; and so, let the question be brought to definite issue. I, for my part, am quite content that it shall be the philosopher in person. The present Essayist shall be heard discoursing about Creation, and shall be convicted out of his own mouth. Mr. Goodwin begins his paper by a kind of cosmogony of his own, which he prefaces with the following apology:—"It will be necessary for our purpose to go over the oft-trodden ground, which must be done with rapid steps. Nor let the reader object to be reminded of some of the most elementary facts of his knowledge. The human race has been ages in arriving at conclusions now familiar to every child." (p. 212.) After this preamble, he begins his "elementary facts," as follows:—
"This Earth, apparently so still and stedfast, lying in majestic repose beneath the therial vault,"—(p. 212.)
But we remonstrate immediately. "The therial vault!" Do you then understand the sky, firmament, or heaven to be "a permanent solid vault, as it appears to the ordinary observer?" (p. 220.)
"The Sun which seems to leap up each morning from the east, and traversing the skyey bridge,"—(p. 212.)
"The skyey bridge!" And pray in what part of the universe do you discover a "skyey bridge?" Is not this calculated "to convey to ordinary apprehensions an impression at variance with facts?" (p. 231.)
"The Moon which occupies a position in the visible heavens only second to the Sun, and far beyond that of every other celestial body in conspicuousness,"—(p. 212.)
Nay, but really Mr. Philosopher, while you remind us "of some of the most elementary facts of our knowledge," (p. 212,) you write (except in the matter of the "leaping Sun" and the "skyey bridge,")—exactly as Moses does in the first chapter of Genesis! What else does that great Prophet say but that "the Moon occupies a position in the visible heavens only second to the Sun, and far beyond that of every other celestial body in conspicuousness?" (p. 212.)
Enough, it is presumed, has been offered in reply to Mr. Goodwin, and his notions of "Mosaic Cosmogony." He writes with the flippancy of a youth in his teens, who having just mastered the elements of natural science, is impatient to acquaint the world with his achievement. His powers of dogmatism are unbounded; but he betrays his ignorance at every step. The Divine decree, "Let us make Man in Our image, after Our likeness," he explains by remarking that "the Pentateuch abounds in passages shewing that the Hebrews contemplated the Divine being in the visible form of a man." (!!!) (p. 221.) A foot-note contains the following oracular dictum,—"See particularly the narrative in Genesis xviii." What can be said to such an ignoramus as this? Hear him dogmatizing in another subject-matter:—"The common arrangement of the Bible in chapters is of comparatively modern origin, and is admitted on all hands to have no authority or philological worth whatever. In many cases the division is most preposterous." (p. 222.) That the division of chapters is occasionally infelicitous, is true: but is Mr. Goodwin weak enough to think that he could divide them better? The division into chapters and verses again is not so modern as Mr. Goodwin fancies. Dr. M'Caul, (in a pamphlet on the Translation of the Bible,) shews reason for suspecting that some of the divisions of the Old Testament Scriptures are as old as the time of Ezra.
To return, and for the last time, to Mr. Goodwin's Essay.—His object is, (with how much of success I have already sufficiently shewn,) (1) To fasten the charge of absurdity and ignorance on the ancient Prophet who is confessedly the author of the Book of Genesis: (2) To prove that a literal interpretation of Gen. i., "will not bear a moment's serious discussion." (p. 230.) I look through his pages in vain for the wished-for proof. He has many strong assertions. He puts them forth with not a little insolence. But he proves nothing! At p. 226, however, I read as follows:—"Dr. Buckland appears to assume that when it is said that the Heaven and the Earth were created in the beginning, it is to be understood that they were created in their present form and state of completeness, the heaven raised above the earth as we see it, or seem to see it now." (pp. 226-7.)
But Dr. Buckland "appears to assume" nothing of the kind. His words are,—"The first verse of Genesis seems explicitly to assert the creation of the Universe: the Heaven, including the sidereal systems,—and the Earth, ... the subsequent scene of the operations of the six days about to be described." (pp. 224-5.)
"This," continues Mr. Goodwin, "is the fallacy of his argument." (p. 227.)
But if this is "the fallacy of his argument," we have already seen that it is a fallacy which rests not with Dr. Buckland, but with Mr. Goodwin. He proceeds:—
"The circumstantial description of the framing of the Heaven out of the waters proves that the words 'Heaven and Earth,' in the first verse, must be taken proleptically."—(p. 227.)
But we may as well stop the torrent of long words, by simply pointing out that "the heavens," (hashamaim,) spoken of in Gen. i. 1, are quite distinct from "the firmament," (rakia,) spoken of in ver. 6. The word is altogether different, and the sense is evidently altogether different also; although Mr. Goodwin seeks to identify the two. And further, we take leave to remind our modern philosopher that no "circumstantial description of the framing of the heaven out of the waters," is to be found either in ver. 6, or elsewhere. And this must suffice.
The entire subject shall be dismissed with a very few remarks.—Mr. Goodwin delights in pointing out the incorrectness of "the sense in which the Mosaic narrative was taken by those who first heard it:" (p. 223:) and in asserting "that this meaning is prim facie one wholly adverse to the present astronomical and geological views of the Universe." (p. 223.) But we take leave to remind this would-be philosopher that "the idea which entered into the minds of those to whom the account was first given," (p. 230,) is not the question with which we have to do when we are invited to a "frank recognition of the erroneous views of Nature which the Bible contains." (p. 211.) "It is manifest,"—(in this I cordially agree with Mr. Goodwin,)—"that the whole account is given from a different point of view from that which we now unavoidably take:" (p. 223:) and, (I beg leave to add,) that point of view is somewhere in Heaven,—not here on Earth! The "Mosaic Cosmogony," as Mr. Goodwin phrases it, (fond, like all other smatterers in Science, of long words,) is a Revelation: and the same HOLY GHOST who gave it, speaking by the mouth of St. John, not obscurely intimates that it is mystical, like the rest of Holy Scripture,—that is, that it was fashioned not without a reference to the Gospel. But we are touching on a high subject now, of which Mr. Goodwin does not understand so much as the Grammar. He is thinking of the structure of the globe: we are thinking of the structure of the Bible. But to return to Earth, we inform the Essayist that it is simply unphilosophical, even absurd, for him to insist on what shall be implied by certain words employed by Moses,—(of which he judges by their etymology;) and further to assume what erroneous physical theories those words must have been connected with, by his countrymen, and so forth; and straightway to hold up the greatest of the ancient prophets to ridicule, as if those notions and those theories were all his!
"After all," (as Dr. Buckland remarked, long since,) "it should be recollected that the question is not respecting the correctness of the Mosaic narrative, but of our interpretation of it:" (p. 231:)—"a proposition," (proceeds Mr. Goodwin,) "which can hardly be sufficiently reprobated." But I make no question which of these two writers is most entitled to reprobation. For the view which will be found advocated in Sermon II., (which is substantially Dr. Buckland's,) (p. 24 to p. 32,) it shall but be said that it recommends itself to our acceptance by the strong fact that it takes no liberty with the sacred narrative, whatever; and receives the Revelation of GOD in all its strangeness, (which it cannot be a great mistake to do;) without trying to reconcile it with supposed discoveries, (wherein we may fail altogether.) I defy anybody to shew that it is impossible that GOD may have disposed of the actual order of the Universe, as in the first chapter of Genesis He is related to have done; and probability can clearly have no place in such a speculation. I would only just remind the thoughtful student of Scripture, and indeed of Nature also, that the singular analogy which Geologists think they discover between successive periods of Creation, and the Mosaic record of the first Six Days, is no difficulty to those who hesitate to identify those Days with the irregular Periods of indefinite extent. Rather was it to have been expected, I think, that such an analogy would be found to subsist between His past and His present working, when, 6,000 years ago, GOD arranged the actual system of things in Six Days.—Neither need we feel perplexed if Hugh Miller was right in the conclusion at which, he says, he had been "compelled to arrive;" viz. that "not a few" of the extant species of animals "enjoyed life in their present haunts" "for many long ages ere Man was ushered into being;" "and that for thousands of years anterior to even their appearance many of the existing molluscs lived in our seas." (p. 229.) I find it nowhere asserted by Moses that the severance was so complete, and decisively marked, between previous cycles of Creation and that cycle which culminated in the creation of Man, that no single species of the pr-Adamic period was reproduced by the Omnipotent, to serve as a connecting link, as it were, between the Old world and the New,—an identifying note of the Intelligence which was equally at work on this last, as on all those former occasions. On the other hand, I do find it asserted by Geologists that between the successive pr-Adamic cycles such connecting links are discoverable; and this fact makes me behold in the circumstance supposed fatal to the view here advocated, the strongest possible confirmation of its accuracy. At the same time, it is admitted that in every department of animated and vegetable life, the severance between the last (or Mosaic) cycle of Creation, and all those cycles which preceded it, is very broadly marked.
Mr. Goodwin's method contrasts sadly with that of the several writers he adduces,—whether Naturalists or Divines. Those men, believing in the truth of GOD'S Word, have piously endeavoured, (with whatever success,) to shew that the discoveries of Geology are not inconsistent with the revelations of Genesis. But he, with singular bad taste, (to use no stronger language,) makes no secret of the animosity with which he regards the inspired record; and even finds "the spectacle of able, and we doubt not conscientious writers engaging in attempting the impossible,—painful and humiliating." He says, "they evidently do not breathe freely over their work; but shuffle and stumble over their difficulties in a piteous manner." (p. 250.) He asserts dogmatically that "the interpretation proposed by Buckland to be given to the Mosaic description, will not bear a moment's serious discussion:" (p. 230:) while Hugh Miller "proposes to give an entirely mythical or enigmatical sense to the Mosaic narrative." (p. 236.) He is clamorous that we should admit the teaching of Scripture to be "to some extent erroneous." (p. 251.) He "recognizes in it, not an authentic utterance of Divine Knowledge, but a human utterance." (p. 253.) "Why should we hesitate," (he asks,) "to recognize the fallibility of the Hebrew writers?" (p. 251.)
With one general reflexion, I pass on to the next Essay.—The Works of GOD, the more severely they have been questioned, have hitherto been considered to bear a more and more decisive testimony to the Wisdom and the Goodness of their Author. The animal and the vegetable kingdoms have been made Man's instructors for ages past; and ever since the microscope has revealed so many unsuspected wonders, the argument from contrivance and design, Creative Power and infinite Wisdom, has been pressed with increasing cogency. The Heavens, from the beginning, have been felt to "declare the glory of GOD." One department only of Nature, alone, has all along remained unexplored. Singular to relate, the Records of Creation, (as the phenomena of Geology may I suppose be properly called,)—though the most obvious phenomena of all,—have been throughout neglected. It was not till the other day that they were invited to give up their weighty secrets; and lo, they have confessed them, willingly and at once. The study of Geology does but date from yesterday; and already it aspires to the rank of a glorious Science. Evidence has been at once furnished that our Earth has been the scene of successive cycles of Creation; and the crust of the globe we inhabit is found to contain evidence of a degree of antiquity which altogether defies conjecture. The truth is, that Man, standing on a globe where his deepest excavations bear the same relation to the diameter which the scratch of a pin invisible to the naked eye, bears to an ordinary globe;—learns that his powers of interrogating Nature break down marvellous soon: yet Nature is observed to keep from him no secrets which he has the ability to ask her to give up.
In the meantime, the attitude assumed by certain pretenders to Physical Science at these discoveries, cannot fail to strike any thoughtful person as extraordinary. Those witnesses of GOD'S work in Creation, which have been dumb for ages only because no man ever thought of interrogating them, are now regarded in the light of depositaries of a mighty secret; which, because GOD knew that it would be fatal to the credit of His written Word, He had bribed them to keep back, as long as, by shuffling and equivocation, they found concealment practicable. It seems to be fancied, however, that that fatal secret the determination of Man has wrung from their unwilling lips, at last; and lo, on confronting GOD with these witnesses, He is convicted even by His own creatures of having spoken falsely in His Word.—Such, I say, is the tone assumed of late by a certain school of pretenders to Physical Science.
What need to declare that to the well-informed eye of Faith,—(and surely Faith is here the perfection of Reason! for Faith, remember, is the correlative not of Reason, but of Sight;)—the phenomenon presented is of a widely different character. Faith, or rather Reason, looks upon GOD'S Works as a kind of complement of His Word. He who gave the one, gave the other also. Moreover, He knew that He had given it. So far from ministering to unbelief, or even furnishing grounds for perplexity, the record of His Works was intended, according to His gracious design, to supply what was lacking to our knowledge in the record of His Word.... "Behold My footprints, (He seems to say,) across the long tract of the ages! I could not give you this evidence in My written Word. The record would have been out of place, and out of time. It would have been unintelligible also. But what I knew would be inexpedient in the page of Revelation, I have given you abundantly in the page of Nature. I have spared your globe from combustion, which would have effaced those footprints,—in order that the characters might be plainly decipherable to the end of Time.... O fools and blind, to have occupied a world so brimful of wonders for wellnigh 6000 years, and only now to have begun to open your eyes to the structure of the earth whereon ye live, and move, and have your being! Yea, and the thousandth part of the natural wonders by which ye are surrounded has not been so much as dreamed of, by any of you, yet!... O learn to be the humbler, the more ye know; and when ye gaze along the mighty vista of departed ages, and scan the traces of what I was doing before I created Man,—multiply that problem by the stars which are scattered in number numberless over all the vault of Heaven; and learn to confess that it behoves the creature of an hour to bow his head at the discovery of his own littleness and blindness; and that his words concerning the Ancient of Days had need to be at once very wary, and very few!"
* * * * *
VI. By far the ablest of these seven Essays is from the pen of the "REV. MARK PATTISON, B.D., Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford." It purports to be an Essay on the "TENDENCIES OF RELIGIOUS THOUGHT IN ENGLAND, 1688-1750;" but it can hardly be said to correspond with that description. In the concluding paragraph, the learned writer gives to his work a different name. It is declared to be "The past History of the Theory of Belief in the Church of England." But neither the title at the head, nor the title at the tail of the Essay, gives any adequate notion of the Author's purpose.
Had we met with this production, isolated, in the pages of a Review, we should have probably passed it by as the work of a clever man, who, after amusing himself to some extent with the Theological literature of the last century, had desired to preserve some record of his reading; and had here thrown his random jottings into connected form. There is a racy freshness in a few of Mr. Pattison's sketches, (as in his account of Bentley's controversy with Collins,) which forcibly suggests the image of an artist whose pencil cannot rest amid scenery which stimulates his imagination. To be candid, we are inclined to suspect that, in the first instance, something of this sort was in reality all that the learned author had in view. But we are reluctantly precluded from putting so friendly a construction on these seventy-six pages. Not only does Mr. Pattison's Essay stand between Mr. Goodwin's open endeavour to destroy confidence in the writings of Moses, and Professor Jowett's laborious insinuations that the Bible is only an ordinary book; but it claims a common purpose and intention with both those writers. Mr. Pattison's avowed object is "to illustrate the advantage derivable to the cause of religious and moral truth, from a free handling, in a becoming spirit, of subjects peculiarly liable to suffer by the repetition of conventional language, and from traditional methods of treatment." We proceed therefore to examine his labours by the aid of the clue which he has himself supplied. For when nine editions of a book appear in quick succession, prefaced by a description of the spirit in which "it is hoped that the volume will he received,"—it seems a pity that the author should not be judged by the standard of his own choosing.
We are surprised then to find how slightly Mr. Pattison's Essay fulfils its avowed purpose. The learned author does not, in fact, directly "handle" the class of subjects referred to, at all: or if he does, it is achieved in a couple of pages. And yet it is not difficult to point out the part which his Essay performs in the general scheme of this guilty volume. With whatever absence of "concert or comparison" the authors may have severally written, the fatal effect of their combined endeavours is not more apparent than the part sustained by each Essay singly in promoting it.
While Mr. Goodwin demolishes the Law, and Dr. Williams disbelieves the Prophets; while Professor Powell denies the truth of Miracles, and Professor Jowett evacuates the authority of Holy Scripture altogether—while Dr. Temple substitutes the inner light of Conscience for an external Revelation; and Mr. Wilson teaches men how they may turn the substance of Holy Scripture into a shadow, evade the plain force of language, and play fast and loose with those safeguards which it has been ever thought that words supply;—Mr. Pattison, reviewing the last century and a half of our own Theological history, labours hard to produce an impression that, here also "all is vanity and vexation of spirit." He calls off our attention from the Bible, and bids us contemplate the unlovely aspect of the English "religious world" from the Revolution of 1688 down to the publication of the 'Tracts for the Times,' in 1833. "Be content for a while, (he seems to say,) to disregard the prize; and observe the combatants instead. Listen to the historian of moral and religious progress," while he depicts "decay of religion, licentiousness of morals, public corruption, profaneness of language, a day of rebuke and blasphemy." Come attend to me; and I will draw the likeness of "an age destitute of depth or earnestness; an age whose poetry was without romance, whose philosophy was without insight, and whose public men were without character; an age of 'light without love,' whose 'very merits were of the earth, earthy.'" (p. 254.) "If we would understand our own position in the Church, and that of the Church in the age; if we would hold any clue through the maze of religious pretension which surrounds us; we cannot neglect those immediate agencies in the production of the present, which had their origin towards the beginning of the eighteenth century." (p. 256.) Let us then "trace the descent of religious thought, and the practical working of the religious ideas," (p. 255,) through some of the phases they have more recently assumed. You shall see the Apostles tried on a charge "of giving false witness in the case of the Resurrection of JESUS;" (p. 303;) and pronounced "not guilty," by one whose "name once commanded universal homage among us;" but who now, (!) with South (!!) and Barrow, (!!!) "excites perhaps only a smile of pity." (p. 265.) You shall be shewn Bentley in his attack on Collins the freethinker, enjoying "rare sport,"—"rat-hunting in an old rick;" and "laying about him in high glee, braining an authority at every blow." (p. 308.) "Coarse, arrogant, and abusive, with all Bentley's worst faults of style and temper, this masterly critique is decisive." (p. 307.) And yet, you are not to rejoice! "The 'Discourse of Freethinking' was a small tract published in 1713 by Anthony Collins, a gentleman whose high personal character and general respectability seemed to give a weight to his words, which assuredly they do not carry of themselves." (p. 307.) [Why, the man ought to have been an Essayist and Reviewer!] ... "By 'freethinking'" he does but "mean liberty of thought,—the right of bringing all received opinions whatsoever to the touchstone of reason:" (p. 307:) [a liberty which has evidently disappeared from English Literature: a right which no man dares any longer exercise under pain of excommunication!] "Collins was not a sharper, and would have disdained practices to which Bentley stooped for the sake of a professorship." (p. 310.) [O high-minded Collins!] "The dirt endeavoured to be thrown on Collins will cleave to the hand that throws it." (p. 309.) [O dirty Bentley!] And though "Collins's mistakes, mistranslations, misconceptions, and distortions are so monstrous, that it is difficult for us now, forgetful how low classical learning had sunk, to believe that they are mistakes, and not wilful errors," (p. 308,)—yet "Addison, the pride of Oxford, had done no better. In his 'Essay on the Evidences of Christianity,' Addison 'assigns as grounds for his religious belief, stories as absurd as that of the Cock-lane ghost, and forgeries as rank as Ireland's 'Vortigern;' puts faith in the lie about the thundering legion; is convinced that Tiberius moved the Senate to admit JESUS among the gods; and pronounces the letter of Agbarus, King of Edessa, to be a record of great authority.'" (p. 307, quoting Macaulay's Essays.) All this and much more you shall see. Remember that it is the history of your immediate forefathers which you will be contemplating,—the morality of the professors of religion during the last century,—"the past history of the theory of Belief in the Church of England!" (p. 329.)
The curtain falls; and now, pray how do you like it? I invite you, in conclusion, to "take the religious literature of the present day, as a whole; and endeavour to make out clearly on what basis Revelation is supposed by it to rest; whether on Authority, on the Inward Light, on Reason, on self-evidencing Scripture, or on the combination of the four, or some of them, and in what proportions." (p. 329.) ... After this, you are at liberty to proceed to read 'Jowett on Inspiration,'—with what appetite you may!
Such is the impression which Mr. Pattison's Essay is calculated to leave behind. That he had no wicked intention in writing it, no one who knows him could for an instant suppose: but the effect of what he has done is certainly to set his reader adrift on a dreary sea of doubt. Discomfort and dissatisfaction, confusion and dismay, are the prevailing sentiments with which a religious mind, unfortified with learning, will rise from the perusal of the present Essay: while the irreligious man will study it with a sneer of ill-concealed satisfaction. The marks of Mr. Pattison's own better knowledge, (sufficiently evident to the quick eye of one who is aware of the writer's high theological attainments;)—the indications of a truer individual judgment, (discoverable throughout by one who knows the author's private worth, and is himself happily in possession of the clue by which to escape from this tangled labyrinth:)—these escape the common reader. To him, all is dreary doubt.
I must perforce deal with Mr. Pattison's labours in a very summary manner. The chief complaint I have to make against him is that he has altogether omitted what, to you and to me, is the most important feature of the century which he professes to describe,—namely, the vast amount of lofty Churchmanship, the unbroken Catholic tradition, which, with no small amount of general short-coming, is to be traced throughout the eighteenth century. To insinuate that the return to Catholic principles began with the publication of the 'Tracts for the Times,' (p. 259,) in 1833, is simply to insinuate what is not true. But Mr. Pattison does more than 'insinuate.' He states it openly. "In constructing Caten Patrum," (he says,) "the Anglican closes his list with Waterland or Brett, and leaps at once to 1833." (p. 255.)—Now, since Waterland died in 1740 and Brett in 1743, it is clear that, (according to Mr. Pattison,) a hundred years and upwards have to be cleared per saltum: during which the lamp of Religion in these kingdoms had gone fairly out. But how stands the truth? At least four "Caten Patrum" are given in the "Tracts for the Times;" not one of which is closed with Waterland or Brett. On the contrary, in the two former Caten (beginning with Jewel and Hooker) the names of these supposed 'ultimi Romanorum' occur little more than half way!... "Les faits," therefore, (as usual with 'Essayists and Reviewers,')—"les faits sont contraires."—It would be enough to cite Bethell's 'General View of the Doctrine of Regeneration in Baptism,' which appeared in 1822; and Hugh James Rose's 'Discourses on the Commission and Duties of the Clergy,' which were preached in 1826. But the case against Mr. Pattison, as I shall presently shew, is abundantly stronger.
In short, to exclude from sight, as this author so laboriously endeavours to do, the Catholic element of the last century and the early part of the present, is extremely unfair. There had never failed in the Church of England a succession of illustrious men, who transmitted the Divine fire unimpaired, down to yesterday. Quenched in some places, the flame burned up brightly and beautifully in others. As for the 'Tracts for the Times,' they speedily assumed a party character: and by the time that ninety-seven of them had appeared, the series was discontinued by the desire of the Diocesan,—who was yet the friend of its authors. The Tracts do not all, by any means, represent Anglican (i.e. Catholic) Theology. They were written by a very few men; while the greatest of those who had materially promoted the Catholic movement out of which they sprang, (not which they occasioned,) were dissatisfied with them; would not write in them; kept aloof; and foresaw and foretold what would be the issue of such teaching. And yet, 'Tracts for the Times' did more good than evil, I suppose, on the whole.
The truth is, that in every age, (and the last century forms no exception to the rule,) the history of the Church on Earth has been a warfare. Mr. Pattison says contemptuously,—"The current phrases of 'the bulwarks of our faith,' 'dangerous to Christianity,' are but instances of the habitual position in which we assume ourselves to stand. Even more philosophic minds cannot get rid of the idea that Theology is polemical." (p. 301.) And pray, whom have we to thank, but such writers as Mr. Pattison, that it is so? I am one of the many who at this hour are (unwillingly) neglecting constructive tasks in order to be destructive with Mr. Pattison and his colleagues! So long as Infidelity abounds, our service must be a warfare. 'The Prince of Peace' foretold as much, when He prophesied to His Disciples that it would be found that He had "brought on earth, a sword." As much was typically adumbrated, I suspect, (begging Mr. Jowett's pardon,) when, at the rebuilding of the walls of the Holy City, "they which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded." May I not add that the unique position which the Church of England has occupied, ever since her great Reformation in respect both of Doctrine and of Discipline three centuries ago,—is of a nature which must inevitably subject her to constant storms? An object of envy to 'Protestant Europe,'—and of hatred to Rome;—exposed to the hostility of the State, (which would trample her under foot, if it dared,)—and viewed with ill-concealed animosity by Dissenters of every class;—admitting into her Ministry men of very diverse views,—and restraining them by scarcely any discipline;—allowing perfect freedom, aye, licentiousness of discussion,—and tolerating the expression of almost any opinions,—except those of Essayists and Reviewers:—how shall the Church of England fail to adopt 'the bulwarks of the faith' for one of her current phrases? how not, many a time, deem 'dangerous to Christianity' the speculations of her sons?... Nay, polemics must prevail; if only because, in a certain place, the Divine Speaker already quoted foretells the partial, (if not the entire,) obscuration even of true Doctrine, in that pathetic exclamation of His,—"When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find the faith upon the Earth?" ... In the face of all this, it is to confuse and mystify the ordinary reader to draw such a picture of the last century as Mr. Pattison has drawn here. As dismal a view might be easily taken of the first, of the second, of the third, of the fourth, of the fifth century. What Mr. Newman once designated as "ancient, holy, and happy times," might very easily indeed be so exhibited as to seem times of confusion and discord, blasphemy and rebuke. A discouraging picture might be drawn, (I suppose,) of every age of the Church's history. But in, and by itself, it would never be quite a true picture. For to the eye of Faith there is ever to be descried, amid the hurly-burly of the storm, the Ark of CHRIST'S Church floating peacefully over the troubled waters, and making steadily for that Heavenly haven "where it would be." ... Yes, there is ever some blessed trace discoverable, that this Life of ours is watched over by One whose Name is Love; whether we con the chequered page of History, Ecclesiastical or Civil; or summon to our aid the story of our own narrow experience. From the fierce and fiery opposition, Good is ever found to have resulted; and that Good was abiding. Out of the weary conflict ever has issued Peace; and that Peace was of the kind which 'passeth all understanding;' a Peace which the world cannot give,—no, nor take away. There are abundant traces that in all that has happened to the Church of CHRIST, from first to last, there has been a purpose and a plan!... No one knows this better than Mr. Pattison. No man in Oxford could have drawn out what I have been saying into a convincing reality, better than he, had he yielded to the instincts of a good heart, and directed his fine abilities to their lawful scope.
The character of the last dismal century, Mr. Pattison has drawn with sufficient vividness: but that century armed the Church, (as we shall be presently reminded,) on the side of the "Evidences of Religion;" and if it taught her the insufficiency of such a method, the eighteenth century did its work. Above all, it produced Bishop Butler.—The previous century, (the seventeenth,) witnessed the supremacy of fanaticism. It saw the monarchy laid prostrate, and the Church trampled under foot, and the use of the Liturgy prohibited by Act of Parliament. The "Sufferings of the Clergy" fill a folio volume. But this was the century which produced our great Caroline Divines! From Bp. Andrewes to Bp. Pearson,—what a galaxy of names! Moreover, on the side of the Romish controversy, the seventeenth century supplied the Church's armoury for ever,—Stillingfleet, who died in the year 1699, in a manner closing the strife.—The sixteenth century witnessed the Reformation of Religion, with all its inevitably attendant evils; an unsettled faith,—gross public and private injustice,—an illiterate parochial clergy:—yet how goodly a body of sound Divinity did the controversies of that age call forth! The same century witnessed the rise of Puritanism; but then, it produced Richard Hooker!—What was the character of the century which immediately preceded the Reformation,—the fifteenth?... A tangled web of good and evil has been the Church's history from the very first. The counterpart of what we read of in Eusebius and Socrates is to be witnessed among ourselves at the present day, and will doubtless be witnessed to the end! But then, in days of deepest discouragement, faithful men have never been found wanting to the English Church, (no, nor GOD helping her, ever will!) who, like the late Hugh James Rose, "when hearts were failing, bade us stir up the gift that was in us, and betake ourselves to our true Mother." Mean wilee, such names as George Herbert and Nicholas Farrar, Ken and Nelson, Leighton and Bishop Wilson, shine through the gloom like a constellation of quiet stars; to which the pilgrim lifts his weary eye, and feels that he is looking up to Heaven!
When the spirit of the Age comes into collision with the spirit of the Gospel, the result is sometimes (as in the earliest centuries,) portentous;—sometimes, (as in the last,) simply deplorable and grievous. The battle which seems to be at present waging is of a different nature. Physical Science has undertaken the perilous task of hardening herself against the GOD of Nature. We shall probably see this unnatural strife prolonged for many years to come;—to be succeeded by some fresh form of irreligion. Somewhat thus, I apprehend, will it be to the end: and the men of every age will in those conflicts find their best probation; and it will still be the office of the Creator, in this way to separate the Light from the Darkness,—until the dawn of the everlasting Morning!
It is not proposed to enter into the Rationalism of the last century, therefore; or to inquire into the causes of the barren lifeless shape into which Theology then, for the most part, threw itself. I have never made that department of Ecclesiastical History my study: and who does not turn away from what is joyless and dreary, to greener meadows, and more fertile fields? It shall only be remarked that when the Credibility of Religion is the thing generally denied, Evidences will of necessity be the form which much of the Theological writing of the Day will assume. Let it not be imagined for an instant that one is the apologist of what Mr. Pattison has characterized as "an age of Light without Love." (p. 254.) But I insist that the theological picture of the last century is incomplete, until attention has been called to the many redeeming features which it presents, and which are all of a re-assuring kind.
Thus, in the department of sacred scholarship, who can forgot that our learned John Mill, in 1707, gave to the world that famous edition of the New Testament which bears his name, after thirty years of patient toil? Who can forget our obligations in Hebrew, to Kennicott? (1718-1783.) Humphrey Hody's great work on the Text, and older Versions of Holy Scripture, was published in 1705.—Bingham's immortal 'Origines' began to appear in 1708; and William Cave lived till 1714.
In the same connexion should be mentioned Bp. Gibson, who died in 1748, and Humphrey Prideaux, whose 'Connexion' is dated 1715. Pococke died on the eve of the commencement of the last century (1691); but so great a name casts a bright beam through the darkness which Mr. Pattison describes so forcibly. Archbishop Wake died in 1737. Warton, the author of 'Anglia Sacra,' died at the age of 35 in 1695.
Survey next the field of Divinity, properly so called; and in the face of Mr. Pattison's rash statement that "we have no classical Theology since 1660," (p. 265,) take notice that Bp. Bull, one of the greatest Divines which the Church of CHRIST ever bred, did not begin to write until 1669, and lived to the year 1709. This was the man, remember, who received the thanks of the whole Gallican Church for his 'Judicium Ecclesi Catholic,' (i.e. his learned assertion of our SAVIOUR'S GODhead;)—the man whose writings would have won him the reverence and affection of Athanasius and Augustine and Basil, had he lived in their day; for he had a mind like theirs. Bp. Pearson did not die till 1686. Bp. Beveridge wrote till his death in 1707. Fell, the learned editor of Cyprian, died in 1686: Stillingfleet lived till 1699. Wall's History of Infant Baptism appeared in 1705. Wheatly, who led the way in liturgical inquiry, was alive till 1742; and Bp. Patrick was a prolific writer till his death in 1707. May we not also claim the excellent and learned Grabe as altogether one of ourselves?
Such names do not require special comment. They are their own best eulogium, and present a high title to their country's gratitude. The name of Prebendary Lowth, (the author of an excellent commentary on the prophets,) reminds us that there was living till 1732 one who fully appreciated the calling of an Interpreter of God's Word. Bishop Lowth his son, in his great work, (1753,) recovered the forgotten principle of Hebrew poetry. To convince ourselves what a spirit existed in some quarters, (notwithstanding the general spread of the very opinions which 'Essayists and Reviewers' have been so industriously reproducing in our own day,) it is only necessary to transcribe the title-page of S. Parker's excellent 'Bibliotheca Biblica,' a Commentary on the Pentateuch, 1720-1735; 'gathered out of the genuine writings of Fathers, Ecclesiastical Historians, and Acts of Councils down to the year of our LORD 451, being that of the fourth General Council; and lower, as occasion may require.'—That learned man designed to achieve a Commentary on the whole Bible on the same laborious plan; but his labours and his life, (at the age of 50,) were brought to an end in 1730.—Dr. Waterland, born in 1683, and Dr. Jackson, born in 1686,—two great names!—died respectively in 1740 and 1763.—In 1778, appeared Dr. Townson's admirable 'Discourses on the Gospels.' The author lived till 1792. Pious Bp. Horne (1730-1792) has left the best evidence of his ability as a Divine in the Introduction to his Commentary on the Psalms. Jones of Nayland is found to have lived till 1800. Bp. Horsley, a great champion of orthodoxy of belief, as well as an excellent commentator, critic, and Sermon writer, lived till 1806. Not seven years have elapsed since there was to be seen among ourselves a venerable Divine, who was declared in 1838, by the chief promoter of the 'Tracts for the Times,' to have "been reserved to report to a forgetful generation what was the Theology of their Fathers." Martin Joseph Routh, died in 1854, after completing a century of years. In 1832 appeared his 'Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Opuscula.' His 'Reliqu Sacr' had appeared in 1814. The work was undertaken so far back as 1788. The last volume appeared in 1848, and concluded with a Catena of authorities on the great question which was denied by the unbelievers of the last century, and is denied by the 'Essayists and Reviewers' of this. Here then was one who had borne steady witness in the Church of England to what is her genuine Catholic teaching from a period dating long before the birth of any one who was concerned with the 'Tracts for the Times.'
More ancient names present themselves as furnishing exceptions to Mr. Pattison's dreary sentence. From Abp. Potter and Leslie, down to Abp. Laurence and Van Mildert,—how many might yet be specified! We have not hitherto mentioned Abp. Leighton, who died in 1684: Hickes, Johnson, and Brett, who survived respectively till 1715, 1725, and 1743: the truly apostolic Wilson, Bishop of Sodor and Man (1663-1755,)—a name, by the way, which deserves far more distinct and emphatic notice than can here be bestowed upon it; and Nelson, the pious author of 'Fasts and Festivals,' who died in 1715. We had good Iz. Walton, till 1683, and holy Ken till 1711. Richard Hele, author of 'Select Offices,' (which appeared in 1717,) is a name not forgotten in Heaven certainly, though little known on Earth; while Kettlewell and Scandret begin a Catena of which good Bishop Jolly would be only one of the later links. Meanwhile, the reader is requested to take notice that there were many other excellent Divines of the period under consideration, (as Long and Horbery;) men who made no great figure indeed, but who were evidently persons of great piety and sound judgment; while their learning puts that of 'Essayists and Reviewers' altogether to the blush.
But I have reserved for the last, a truly noble name,—which Mr. Pattison, (with singular bad taste, to say no worse,) mentions only to disparage. I allude to Dr. Joseph Butler, Bishop of Durham; whose 'Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature,'—remains, at the end of a century, unanswerable as an Apology,—unrivalled as a text-book,—unexhausted as a mine of suggestive thought. It may be convenient for an 'Essayist and Reviewer' to declare that "the merit of the Analogy lies in its want of originality." (p. 286.) There was not much originality perhaps in the remark that an apple falls to the ground. Whatever the faults of the Analogy, that work, under GOD, saved the Church. However "depressing to the soul" (p. 293.) of Mr. Pattison, it is nevertheless a book which will invigorate Faith, and brighten Hope, and comfort Charity herself,—long after the spot where he and I shall sleep has been forgotten: long after our very names will be hard to find.
Let me turn from this illustrious individual, to one whose very name is perhaps unknown. One loves to think that there are at all times plenty of good men, who are doing GOD'S work in the world, in quiet corners; but whose names do not perhaps rise to the surface and emerge into notice, throughout the whole of a long life. Conversely, how many must there be, the blessing of whose example and influence has extended down from the surface, (where perhaps it was acknowledged and appreciated by all,) until it made itself felt by the humblest units of a lowly country parish!... The obscure village of Finmere, (in Oxfordshire,) was so happy as to enjoy for its Rector, from 1734 to 1771, the Rev. Thomas Long, M.A.,—"a man," (says the Register,) "of the most exemplary piety and charity." He presented to the church twelve acres of land, "charging it with a yearly payment of fifteen shillings to the Clerk, as a recompense to him for attending on the Fasts and Festivals; and ordering sixpence to be deducted from the payment, for each time the Clerk failed to attend on those days,—unless let by sickness." About ten years ago, there was found in the hands of a labouring man at Finmere, a solitary copy of a printed "Lecture," by this individual, "addressed to the young persons" of the village, (1762,) which begins as follows:—"I have usually, once every three years, gone through a course of Lectures upon the Catechism; but considering my age and great infirmities, it is not very probable I should continue this practice any longer. I am willing therefore, as a small monument of my care and affection for you, to print the last of these Lectures," &c.... What heart so dull as not to admit that men like this, (and there were many of them!) are quite good enough to redeem an age from indiscriminate opprobrium and unmitigated contempt?
Shall we omit, after this enumeration, to notice the singular fact that Discipline still lingered on,—even the discipline of public penance,—until within the memory of aged persons yet living? Merchants in the city of London wore mourning during Lent, within the present century. It is only within the last thirty years that formul expressive of reliance on the Divine blessing have been expunged from bills-of-lading, and similar printed documents. In the beginning of the period discoursed of by Mr. Pattison, (viz. in the year 1714,) the excellent Robert Nelson, in "An Address to Persons of Quality and Estate," proposed as objects for the generosity of the affluent, such institutions as the following:—"the creating of Charity Schools,"—of "Parochial Libraries in the meanly endowed Cures throughout England,"—of "a superior School for training up Schoolmasters and Schoolmistresses,"—and of "Colleges or Seminaries for the Candidates of Holy Orders." He suggested that there should be "Houses of Hospitality for entertaining Strangers;" "Suffragan Bishops, both at home and in the Western Plantations;" "Colleges for receiving Converts from Popery." Some of Nelson's suggestions read like vaticinations. He points out the need of Ladies' Colleges,—of a Hospital for Incurables,—of Ragged Schools, (for what else is a school "for the distressed children called the Black-guard?"),—and of Houses of Mercy for the reception of penitent fallen women.—Is it right to speak of a century which could freely contemplate such works as these and carry into execution many of them, without some allusion to the leaven which was at work beneath the dry crust of Society? the living Catholic energy which neither the average dulness of the pulpit could quench, nor the lifeless morality which had been popularly substituted for Divinity could destroy?
We are abundantly prepared therefore for Mr. Pattison's admission that "public opinion was throughout on the side of the defenders of Christianity:" (p. 313:)—that, "however a loose kind of Deism might be the tone of fashionable circles, it is clear that distinct disbelief of Christianity was by no means the general state of the public mind. The leaders of the Low-Church and Whig party were quite aware of this. Notwithstanding the universal complaints of the High-Church party of the prevalence of infidelity, it is obvious that this mode of thinking was confined to a very small section of society." (p. 313.)
And surely it should not escape us that the peculiar form which unbelief assumed during the period under discussion, resulted in a benefit to the Church. "The eighteenth century," (says our author,) "enforced the truths of Natural Morality with a solidity of argument and variety of proof which they have not received since the Stoical epoch, if then." (p. 296.) "The career of the Evidential School, its success and its failure, has enriched the history of Doctrine," not indeed "with a complete refutation of that method as an instrument of theological investigation," (p. 297,) (witness the immortal 'Analogy' of Bishop Butler!)—but, certainly with very precious experience. That age has bequeathed to the Church a vast body of controversial writing which she could ill afford to part with at the present day.
So far, we have little to complain of in Mr. Pattison's Essay, except on the side of omission. But for the fatal circumstance of the company in which the learned writer comes abroad, and the avowed purpose with which he is found there, a charitable construction might have been put upon most of the present performance. The following sentences, on the other hand, are not excusable.
"In the present day when a godless orthodoxy threatens, as in the fifteenth century, to extinguish religious thought (!) altogether, and nothing is allowed in the Church of England but the formul of past thinkings, which have long lost all sense of any kind, (!) it may seem out of season to be bringing forward a misapplication of common-sense in a bygone age," (p. 297.)
The "orthodoxy" of the fifteenth century is something new to us. So is the prospect "in the present day," of an "extinction of religious thought,"—the result of "godless orthodoxy." The fault, or the misfortune of the Church of England then, is, that she retains "the formul of past thinkings, which have long lost all sense of any kind." (p. 297.) If this does not mean the English Book of Common Prayer, what does it mean? And if it means the English Prayer-Book, how can Mr. Pattison retain his commission in the Church of England, and exclusively employ a Book which he presumes so to characterize?
But this is ad hominem. The learned writer proceeds:—"There are times and circumstances when religious ideas will be greatly benefited by being submitted to the rough and ready tests by which busy men try what comes in their way; by being made to stand their trial, and be fully canvassed, coram populo. As Poetry is not for the critics, so Religion is not for the Theologians." (p. 297.)
No doubt. But does Mr. Pattison then really mean to tell us that the proper tribunal before which the Creeds, (for example,) of the Catholic Church,—our Communion and Baptismal offices,—the structure of our Calendar, and so forth,—should "stand their trial, and be freely canvassed," is, "coram populo?" A "rough and ready test," this, of Truth, I grant; aye, a very "rough" one. But was it ever,—can it ever be,—a fair test? Let us hear Mr. Pattison out, on the subject of Religion:—
"When it is stiffened into phrases, and these phrases are declared to be objects of reverence but not of intelligence, it is on the way to become a useless encumbrance; the rubbish of the past; blocking the road. Theology then retires into the position it occupies in the Church of Rome at present, an unmeaning frostwork of dogma, out of all relation to the actual history of Man." (pp. 297-8.)
It cannot be necessary to discuss such sentiments. With Mr. Pattison personally, I will not condescend to discuss them,—until he has divested himself of that "useless encumbrance," and ceased to employ daily "that rubbish of the past," which yet the two letters he subjoins to his name indicate, in the most solemn manner, his reverence for; and which alone make him Reverendus.
But speaking to others,—speaking to you, my friends,—let me point out that "the tendencies of irreligious thought in England, 1860-1861," are indeed in a direction where the Prayer-Book is found to be effectually "blocking up the road." (pp. 297-8.) Mr. Pattison is simply dreaming,—haunted by the phantoms of his own brain, and talking the language of the den,—when he complains that "the Philosophy, now petrified into tradition, may once have been a vital Faith; but now that" it is "withdrawn from public life," has ceased to be a "social influence." (p. 298.) And when he would exalt the last century at the expence of the present, (pp. 298-9,) he shews nothing so much as the morbid state of his own imagination,—the disordered condition of his own mind. He has blinded himself; and he will not or he cannot see in the healthier tone of our popular Divinity,—in the increased attention to the study of Holy Scripture,—in the impulse which Liturgical inquiries have received since Wheatly's useful volume appeared;—or again, in the immense number of Schools and Churches which have been recently built,—in the marvellous change for the better which has come over the Clergy of the Church of England within the present century,—in the vast development of our Colonial Episcopate within the last few years,—in the rapid increase of Institutions connected more or less directly with the Church,—and I will add, in the conspicuous loyalty of the nation;—a practical refutation of his own injurious insinuations; a blessed earnest that God has not forsaken us; and that we shall yet be a blessing to the World! The people of England, I am persuaded, are in the main very sincerely attached to their Prayer-Book. To them, it is not "a useless encumbrance, the rubbish of the past, blocking the road." Nay, there is a "rough and ready test" of what is the current temper of the age in things religious, to which I appeal with infinite satisfaction. I mean, the general burst of execration with which "Essays and Reviews" have been received, from one end of the kingdom to the other. The censure of all the Bishops, and of both Houses of Convocation; re-echoed, as it has been, through all ranks of the community, is a great fact;—a fact which I cordially recommend to Mr. Pattison's attention, when he would philosophize on the religious tendencies of his countrymen.