« НазадПродовжити »
the palm. For there is a fine breeding which is not superficial, and is far more valuable than outward graces of manner ; it is the breeding of men, who, though they spoke through their noses and cut their hair ungracefully short, yet refrained from those habits of slitting the noses and cutting off the ears of their enemies—which were persistently practised by the Cavalier apostles of 'sweetness and light.'
As anything like a full and complete review of this bulky and erudite work is manifestly impracticable within the space at our command, it will be necessary to give the reader some general idea of its scope and purpose, and then to select one or more prominent features in it for illustrative criticism. The first part, in six chapters, relates to the general subject of Miracles, covering much the same ground, and expanding the positions assumed in his Essay on Miracles, by Hume, and by Prof. Baden Powell in his contribution to Essays and Reviews. There is nothing absolutely new in the work before us, under this head, except the learning and research employed to enforce the old theses of sceptical rationalism. The propositions laid down by the Scottish philosopher were briefly these : That it is not contrary to experience that testimony, nowever honestly given, should be false ; but it is contrary to universal experience that miraclesthat is interferences with the uniform order of nature-should be true ; consequently no amount of testimony can prove a miracle so as to overcome its antecedent improbability. The author of Supernatural Religion occupies precisely the same ground with Hume ; but he has all the advantages in his favour of later scientific knowledge and trenchant literary criticism. The uniformity of nature has received fresh form and emphasis during the last thirty years, and this fact alone, supplemented by the destructive distillation of the sacred writings in German alembics, has given new vigour to the school of doubt. We
do not propose to enter upon this branch of the subject because it would lead us too far from what is pre-eminently the distinctive feature of the work under consideration. Still it may not be amiss to suggest a few general reflections upon the primary argument. The first point which strikes one is the very important question involved in the phrase unirersal experience.' Our author certainly cannot mean by it the experience of all ages, or even of all competent observers in any one age, if we except the last eight or ten centuries of the Christian
So far from contending that miracles were contradictory to 'universal experience in Apostolic times, he is at considerable pains to prove that they were looked upon as so certainly matters of fact as to surprise no one. If the works of Jesus did not at once convince the unbelieving Jew, it was not because he disputed the reality of the miracles, but because, being matters at that day of universal experience,' they were not striking and exceptional enough to form a stable basis for belief in the Saviour's divine mission. It is therefore conceded that, during the life of Christ, “universal experience' attested precisely the reverse of Hume's postulate. Is it fair to project the experiences of the eighteenth or nineteenth century into the first, and characterize it as universal, simply because it was Hume's and is ours? The more reasonable method would certainly seem to be that which treats any particular age in the light of its own experience, and declines to gauge its marvels or even its credulity by modern standards. The ridicule cast upon Jewish superstition may have some justification; but surely the men of early times were far more competent to judge of phenomena passing before them than we can be after a lapse of nearly two millenniums, with only a fragmentary and uncritical record of the facts before us. There is another consideration of no little importance in this connection. The mental and spiritual life of the world has had its 'epochs, like the material earth upon which we live and move. The anthropomorphic views of Deity in patriarchal times, subjected now to much uncalled for ridicule of an irreverent sort, formed an early link in the spiritual progress of the race, to be followed out not merely in Scripture, but in the poetry and philosophy of India,
Greece and Rome. It dous certainly appear strange that. notwithstanding the universal application of developinent to an extent which seems somewhat like a craze, writers will persist in applying nineteenth century criticism to facts or statements recorded in the first Christian age. And this is the more remarkable, because long before Mr. Darwin formulated his theory of species, evolution was applied to religion, notably in that treatise edited by Lessing, on the 'Education of the Race,' which was rather feebly reproduced by Dr. Temple, now Bishop of Exeter, in the first of the ` Essays and Reviews.' Instead of wondering that miracles ceased to be performed, as reason assumed the reins snatched from the wavering grasp of imagination, we ought to expect from analogy that miracles would be real and potent in that stage of human progress where they filled a fitting and salntary place in the Divine order. Let the collected books, which together form what we have learned to call "The Book,' have had what origin they may, they certainly represent the development of religion in humanity as clearly and as orderly in progress, as the material story registered in the stony work of nature lying in ponderous tomes beneath our feet. Throughout the New Testament, and it seems to us one of the clearest proofs of the Divine mission of Christ, there are constant references to the blind backwardness of the past, and the lament. able unpreparedness of the present. From the Sermon on the Mount, until the last recorded utterance of the Saviour, we detect an under-current of grief at the need for signs and wonders—the necessity for appeals to a morbid love of the marvellous, rather than to a rational recognition of Divine truth for its own sake. Whence came that ineffable disdain for wonder-working, which runs subtilely, yet distinctly, through the record of that unique and marvellous career, unless from abore ? Nor is it only in the recorded words of the Master that we trace the same reluctant concession to the needs of imperfect spiritual development. As He is represented (John xvi. 12.) as telling His disciples of many things He had to say to them, they were still unable to bear, with the promise of the Spirit to guide them step by step into highertruths, not yet comprehensible ; so St. Paul, whose allusion to
‘milk for babes 'need hardly be recalled, but for the striking illustration it gives of what may be termed the undercurrent of the Gospel : ' And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat ; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.' (1 Cor. iii. 1, 2.) Christ and the great Apostle of the Gentiles recognised fully the conditions of success with the age in which they lived, and the great superiority of the Saviour over His disciples is shown not less in the absence of dogmatism and the ever-living presence of Divine tenderness to the superstitious fetters which bound the reason in swaddlingclothes, than in the higher and more salient features of His life and teaching. It was the age of miracles, and they were deemed, at all events, the inevitable concomitants of authoritative teaching ; and so, though not always taken to be conclusive proofs, they were necessary a ljuncts to the work which Jesus had to do. With Him, it was, as we have said, a yielding to human weakness and imperfect development, against which He, ever and anon, rebelled in spirit. Knowing what was in man, our Lord knew the conditions of the undertaking before Aim, and He performed miracles merely because they were necessary to that initial success in an imaginative age, by means of which alone faith could pass through the mists of credulity and superstition until it firmly grasped the hand of reason in the ages yet to come. It was a step, in fact, in the spiritual education of the race, now no longer required, but none the less salutary and requisite at so early a stage in human progress.
At all events, it seems irrational now to appraise the value of New Testament miracles by the light of modern science or the testimony of modern experience. The wonders of healing mercy wrought by our Lord in an age of miracles must be judged by the standard of that time, and not by any light, or any supposed deduction from experience in ages so far removed from the feelings, the sympathies, the prejudices or the demands which faith made upon spiritual claims to authority in those siinple times when the sacred feet of Jesus trod the streets of Jerusalem, and were nailed to the cross of Calvary
In the second part of the work, an ex- roborate the universally received account haustive criticism of the first three or of the Lord's life, ministry, death and Synoptic Gospels, as they are usually resurrection, as it was obtained from termed, appears. The writer's object is eye witnesses.' It requires but a very to show from the silence of all the early slight reference to the statc of that age, writings of the Church, that these Gos- to see the eminent propriety of such a pels, at least in their present form, were course. Where a particular Gospel had unknown before the end of the first cen- gained special authority or currency as tury, or perhaps well on in the early part that according to the Hebrews is said of the second. Considering that this to have secured amongst the Ebionites, poi Tisati of Supernatural Religion occu- copies would, of course, be made in the pies no less than three hundred and painfully slow and laborious way necesfifty pages, closely printed, it will mani. sary before the invention of printing. festly be out of the question to attempt But where a disciple had peculiar facilia comprehensive survey of what consists ties for learning the facts from eyein great part of verbal or textual com- witnesses,' instead of copying other narparisons between primitive Christian ratives, he woull naturally compile one literature and the passages in the Gospels himself ; and thus each original Gospel to which reference is apparently made. would form the fruitful nucleus from Still some idea of the scope of the work which in time a progeny of copies would may be given by particular examples. issue. Thus every fresh manuscript First of all, however, it may be well to i would be an independent means of prooffer a few preliminary observations, pagating the story and the faith transsuggested by an attentive perusal of this mitted from the Apostles. Now that part. It appears to us that the author there should be omissions in some of has overlooked some important facts, these accounts supplied in others, is which should receive due weight in a ju- very natural. We may even go further, dicial view of the question. In order to and concede the probability that in establish the fact that there are many Oriental versions of the history there other Gospels of equal authority with would be much imaginative colouring; those which remain, the notable words and such appears to have been the ease are quoted from the prologue of the with the Ebionitish Gospel, which, with Third Gospel in the received Canon : many others, perished according to the * Forasmuch as many have taken in hand principle of natural selection-'the surto set forth in order a declaration of vival of the fittest.' those things which are most snrely be- Our author, strange to say, takes no lieved among us,' &c., 'it seemed good account of the marvellous agreement beto me also' to write out in order the tween the Christian writings which sacred narrative for the benefit of Theo- quote sayings of our Lord, and the same philus. (Luke i, 1-4.) Now whilst we sayings as they are recorded in our erfreely admit that the words of the Evan- tant Gospels. Considering that in the gelist exclude all notion of verbal or early centuries, writers were eminently even plenary inspiration in any sense, uncritical, and quoted from a variety of because no writer consciously under the accounts written by individuals widely direct and unerring guidance of the diverse in memory, ability, temperament Divine Spirit could have used such and methods of treatment, and separated larguage, it is not difficult to gather by distance, at a time when steam, elecmuch more from this opening dedication tricity and printing were unknown, the than our author cares to find there. The concord of tradition and patristic literawriter of the Gospel, whether St. Luke ture with the Gospel story, as it now or another, does not write to correct, stands in the New Testament Canon, is but merely to confirm by repetition the one of the most striking proofs that we facts'even as they delivered them unto have in substance now, what the writer us, which from the beginning were eye- of the third Gospel says was most witnesses, and ministers of the word.' surely believed' amongst the contempoAnd the reason why he added another raries of the Apostles from the begin. to the many Gospels, was not because ning. That there should be some they erred by excess or defect, but that variations in statement was inevitable, 'having had a perfect understanding of considering the circumstances under all things from the first,' he might cor- which the various accounts were com
piled; but this substantial harmony as to the salient facts and maxims of the Gospel is certainly as noteworthy as it is marked and indisputable. That no particular narrative was held in special reverence, or deemed of paramount authority throughout the churches, when each church or Christian community appealed to the one it happened to possess, was a matter of course, and would sufficiently account for the reference made pot so much to books, as directly to sayings or acts of Christ. There is no analogy, it may be remarked, between the case of quotations from the Old Testament and references to the Gospel History. The former had long since been crystallized into permament form. Wherever there were two or three Jews collected there was a copy of the Law, the Hagiographa and the Prophets, every letter of which was guarded with jealous and almost superstitious care. The stress which the author lays upon this point seems forced, not to say misplaced.
And now let us descend to one or two comparisons instituted in the work before us, selecting the earliest example cited. It is unnecessary to enter into the dispute about the date of Clement of Rome It may not be amiss, however, to note that our author, as usual, strives to post-date even Clement's First Epistle to Corinthians. Whether the writer were the person of the same name mentioned in one of the canonical Epistles (Philippians iv. 3) or not, there seems to be no reasonable doubt that he was a contemporary of the Apostle Paul; at all events, the two epistles must have been written somewhere between A. D. 75 and A. D. 100. The very fact that they were originally included in the Canon, if it proves nothing else, attests their ancient origin. As it is admitted that Clement's works have suffered from interpolation, the allusion to the blessed Judith' after the 'blessed Paul,'although urged by Hitzig and Volkmar, of the Rationalistic school, proves nothing. Now in chap. xiii. of the First Epistle, although, as our author remarks, Clement nowhere refers to our Gospels by name, the substance is there. In Supernatural Religion, the passages are presented in parallel columns with the corresponding texts from Matthew and Luke. As the reader
be posed to be acquainted with the latter, we may briefly cite the words of Clement : Especially remembering the words of
the Lord Jesus which he spake teaching gentleness and long-suffering : Be pitiful (or merciful) that ye may be pitied ; forgive, that it may be forgiven to you ; as ye do, so shall it be done to you; as ye give, so shall it be given to you; as ye judge, so shall it be judged to you; as ye show kindness, shall kindness be shown to you ; with what measure yo mete, with the same shall it be measured to you.' Now it is quite true the form of the exhortations differs from this of Matthew or Luke; but there is no discordance in meaning whatever. Clement had probably never seen one of our Gospels, and had learned what he knew of the Sermon of the Mount from other sources. If our author, or the acute German critics, upon whose labours he draws so extensively, could have discovered any material discrepancy, whether dogmatical or historical, something certainly could be made of it. But from Clement down to Eusebius there are substantially the same history, the same moral and doctrinal teaching, the same story of miracle, culminating in the resurrection and ascension of our Lord. As against the theory of verbal inspiration of precisely four Gospals amongst so many, the argument may be conclusive ; but as against the universal concord of all the writers, whether they were eye-witnesses, or received the facts at second-hand, it does appear to us that this method of mere textual criticism is futile. The crucial question is, can any material difference of opinion bé proved, or even gathered by inference, between those who described the career of Jesus and his teaching during the first three centuries, whether they wrote in Syria, Asia Minor, Africa or Italy? If not, it is surely fair to conclude that the Gospel history is, as it now stands in the New Testament, substantially the same which was 'most surely believed' among Christians in the primitive age of the Saviour, His Apostles, and their early disciples. An objector may certainly be at liberty to protest against hearing any testimony in favour of a supernatural history if he pleases, and there the matter must rest; but to impugn the evident fact that the testimony was given with singular unanimity on all essential points, without urging any proof of material variance, is surely an uutenable position. After a careful perusal of Supernatural Religion, both
earlier edition and now, once more, in dred and fifty pages (pp. 550-697), are its present form, we cannot call to mind occupied with a searching examination a single instance in which the author has of the fourth Gospel, ascribed to St. adduced one doubt as to the facts re- John. Here the same plan is followed, corded in the Gospels, or one serious but with important modifications, arisdivergence of opinion in matters of ing from the application of twosubsidiary Christian faith and morals, as they were tests. There are other writings, ascribed enunciated from the mouth of our Lord to the beloved disciple-three Epistles himself. It is true that in the Shepherd and the Apocalypse. The last, at all or Pastor of Hermas, in Papias of Hiera- events, the author is inclined to admit polis, and other writers afflicted with to be St. John's, and he, therefore, enOrientalism, we find marvellous supple- ters upon an elaborate comparison mentary additions ; but nowhere, whe- between the language, the prevailing ther the writers be Syrian, Greek, conceptions, the dogmatic views, and the Alexandrian or Roman, is there any conflicting hopes and aspirations exhibdiscord as regards the main facts or ited in the Gospel and the Revelatina the cardinal principles of primitive respectively. He urges, that it is imposChristianity.
sible that the same writer, even at widely We had intended to refer specially to separated intervals in his career, could the Ignatian controversy, but our space have composed both works. His style, will not admit of it. Those who desire no less than the sympathies in them to examine it will find all material in being essentially and irreconcilably dithese volumes used in connection with verse. The other test has also much Dr. (now Bishop) Lightfoot's papers in force. The author points out that in the Contemporary Review (1875), and in the Gospel there are plain misconcepthe latest edition of Canon Westcott's tions which could hardly have been pos'History of the Canon of the New Testa- sible with a Jew, born and reared in Palesment, during the first Four Centuries.' tine. There are explanations offered of Any intention of entering into minute Jewish customs, not always correct, criticism of this elaborate work has al- which the Apostle St. John would not ready been disclaimed; and having thus, have written ; and finally, there is s by a single example, disclosed the au- total discordance in the views John is thor's method, we must pass to his con- known to have held in opposition to clusions so far as the Synoptic Gospels are Paul, but in unison with James and Peconcerned. Having examined each of the ter, of which traces are to be found in writers, orthodox and heretical, whose the Epistles of the great Apostle of the works are extant, either in fragmentary Gentiles, and in the introductory chapor complete form, he thus sums up : ters of the Apocalypse. The conclusion "After having exhausted the literature here is, that whilst there is not one parand the testimony bearing on the point ticle of evidence during a century and a we have not found a single distinct half after the events recorded in the trace of any one of those Gospels during fourth Gospel, that it was composed by the first century and a half after the the son of Zebedee, there is, on the death of Jesus.' It is admitted that contrary, the strongest reason for bePapias, a very inexact man, and much lieving that he did not write it.' This prone to colouring his facts, states that inference we content ourselves with Matthew wrote a Gospel in Hebrew, simply stating ; to another, for reasons which contained the discourses of Jesus ; already given, we demur : Enough has but it is urged that this description does been said to show that the testimony of not answer to the extant Gospel which the fourth Gospel is of no value towards passes under the Evangelist’s name, and establishing the truth of miracles and further, that the latter is an original the reality of Divine Revelation.' work written in Greek, and not, by any The remainder of this work forming possibility, a translation from the He- the third volume in the English edition, brew. Papias also declares that Mark deals with the Acts of the Apostles, the 6 wrote down from the casual preaching Epistles and the Apocalypse, followed by of Peter, the sayings and doings of Jesus, a concluding part devoted specially to but without orderly irrangement, and the Resurrection and Ascension. So far our author argues that this could not as the Acts are concerned, it will be nebe our second Gospel. Nearly one hun- cessary to confine this notice to a brief