Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

On pp. 66, 67, we read,

“We can have faith only in God. . . . We are now obliged to confront the following alternative: Either the Christ of Schenkel is a mere man like other men, remarkable, perhaps the most remarkable of all, but only within the bounds of human nature, — and hence we dare not have faith in him; ...or we can have faith in him, and hence he is not a mere man.”

This is hardly satisfactory. Schenkel may bave missed his aim; but what does it amount to, to say we can have faith only in God? There is a sense in which we do have faith in men. The point is, Was Jesus human, and no more? If he was, our faith in God is yet like the rock. Our author, however, seems to be just in his strictures upon Schenkel for his arbitrary treatment of the Gospels. “What suits Schenkel's portrait is genuine; what does not suit it, is not genuine.”

The third discourse is devoted to the discussion of the authenticity of the Gospels. The Gospels and the miracles are so intimately connected, that they stand or fall together; but, for the sake of the argument, the author, in this discourse, assumes that the miraculous element in the narrative is no hindrance to our acceptance of the books, and then proceeds to unfold the evidence of their genuineness. On p. 80 we are told that the gospel era was an historical one; and we are thus reminded. of a sentence in a letter of Dr. Arnold * to Bunsen (or from him, for the note is ambiguous): "Strauss writes about history and myths, without appearing to have studied the question; but, having heard that some pretended histories are mythical, he borrows this notion as an engine to help him out of Christianity. But the idea of men writing mythic histories between the time of Livy and Tacitus, and of St. Paul mistaking such for realities !” On p. 82, the author says, –

“ Since the history in question was such as to involve the hatred of the whole world when it was professed, and might lead to disgrace and even to death, people were apt to inquire carefully beforehand upon what ground it rested.”

* Life and Correspondence, vol. ii. p. 63, note.

But the argument from the early martyrdoms is less convincing than it was once thought to be; and if we may credit the extraordinary accounts, in Renan's “ Apostles," of recent martyrs in Persia, the argument is almost worthless. The argument from the admitted genuineness of the four Pauline Epistles (Romans, 1st and 2d Corinthians, and Galatians), out of which the essential features of the Gospels may be independently gathered, seems to us the strongest that can be brought to the defence of the latter. Full of interest is the account (pp. 90 seq., cf. pp. 14 seq.) of the gradual though reluctant retreat of the Tübingen writers, inch by inch, as it were, from the second into the first cen. tury for the assignment of the dates of the Gospels. The argument for the genuineness of the fourth Gospel is, in our judgment, a masterpiece for clearness and simplicity. The comparison, on p. 112, of the four Gospels to four portraits of the same person by different artists, instead of to four photographs from the same plate, seems to us as reasonable as it is beautiful.

The fourth discourse (that on miracles) we found in some respects the most interesting in the book, though at certain points rather unsatisfactory. On pp. 117, 118, the author declares, but in our judgment fails to show clearly, that a denial of the fact of miracles — we had almost said, even of the moral possibility of miracles — involves a denial of God and of Christianity. The conviction grows upon us daily, that, in order to lay such stress on miracles, we must lay a yet greater stress on the fact of sin. This, indeed, the author does on pp. 144 seq. Sin implies a personal God; and a personal God is what the deniers of miracles are too apt to reject. Witness the Pantheists and Positivists. Even Deism tends in the same direction, by removing God far from his 'creation, and leaving his creatures to their own devices. It is no easy thing, as Professor Fisher has shown in his essay on the subject, to give a correct idea or definition of a miracle, so as to avoid confounding it, on the one hand, with superhuman, yet quite natural, events, -as the courses of the sun, the phenomena of vegetation, &c.; and, on the other hand, with such violations of natural laws as would convict the Divine Agent of fickleness or want of foresight. Perhaps the best definition ever given of a miracle is that of Pascal: * "An effect which exceeds the natural force of the means employed for it;" provided we keep in mind the will of God, which is concerned in every miracle. The author seems to have been successful in stating the true idea of a miracle, so as to avoid the difficulties just hinted at; yet we again venture to offer some criticisms on certain illustrations and incidental statements and phrases. The case cited on p. 120 appears irrelative. Franke, the founder of the Orphan House at Halle, was one day in urgent need of money for the purposes of the Institution. He goes to his closet and prays; and, as he comes from his chamber, a letter is handed him with the required sum. A most wonderful coincidence, indeed, but hardly a miracle; for, besides the fact, that with no great violence to probability it might be explained as a mere coincidence, an objector might with reason press the consideration, that the letter must have left the sender's hands before the prayer was offered, even if not before the emergency arose. To seek escape from this difficulty by suggesting that the sending was providentially ordered in view of the foreseen prayer, is to embarrass an already difficult subject with vexed questions touching the relations of Divine foreknowledge and will to human freedom.

On p. 123, in criticising Renan's test miracle, the author, in our judgment, errs in saying, “ No more can be demanded of us than to prove them [miracles] as we prove every other historical fact, by unsuspected witnesses, who can and will tell the truth.” This last is the very point at issue: we may justly look more narrowly into the testimony to alleged events, when these are miraculous, and may consider whether the honest witnesses may not have been under a misapprehension, or have been deceived. On p. 129, the author says that the visions of the Maid of Orleans, and the voices she heard, are to be explained as illusions, the result of disease or unnatural excitement. But why so? Is not the evidence as

* Thoughts, chap. xxiii.

good as for Paul's vision of Jesus on the way to Damascus ? The author says that Paul distinguished between a vision and real sight, and adds (p. 130),

“When the Apostle Paul, in order to prove his apostolic worth, appeals to the fact that he too had seen the Lord, as the other apostles had, his sight must have been just such a sight as theirs, — consequently a real, and not a visionary one, — or the reasoning would amount to nothing."

Of the two alternatives, one might prefer the latter; for Paul was not always severely logical. But how gross all this is! The author's argument requires him to make Paul see Jesus with the eye of flesh; this Jesus, then, must have a body of flesh (for how can a fleshly eye see spirit ?): therefore flesh and blood can inherit the spiritual world! On p. 133 we are asked, “What became of the body of Jesus?" i.e., if it did not rise. But an objector might ask, with at least as much emphasis, What became of the body, in case of the resurrection ? If we credit Luke's narrative, it was material enough, — we write with becoming reverence and seriousness, and because these thoughts have sadly bewildered us, - it was material enough to partake of fish and honey-comb. Did it, then, ascend into some material heaven?

We are much perplexed by the author's use of the expression "final cause" on pp. 137, 140 seq., 143; also on p. 118. The context seems to require the idea of a blind, unintelligent cause; but a final cause implies an eye that, at least in design, sees the end from the beginning.

These criticisms have been made thus freely, in deprecation of the tendency among some to push injudiciously the argument from miracles. Miracles are the grossest testimony to religion; and a faith which rests on them, even if it be possible to call it so, is of the lowest sort. Beautiful are the closing words of the author:

“ The final, thorough, heart-winning proof of the truth of the Christian faith must be set forth by our lives. I will close by reminding all of you, that the best defence of the life of Jesus is the life of a Christian in whom Jesus lives. Let us all work together in this defence."

ART. III. — BUNSEN.

A Memoir of Baron Bunsen, late Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy

Extraordinary of his Majesty Frederic William IV. at the Court of St. James. Chiefly drawn from Family Papers, by his Widow, FRANCES, BARONESS BUNSEN. In two volumes. London: Long

mans, Green, & Co., 1868. It is not often that the words “Envoy Extraordinary” have any meaning; but, as we pause to remember how this man's life was passed, we feel that for once they are not misapplied., Carl Christian Bunsen, the sole child of his father's old age, lived to hold as a statesman, for thirty-four years, the highest diplomatic honors of his country; to become an authority the while in letters, archæology, philology, and art; at the same time that the severest historical researches, and immense labors in Biblical criticism, seemed to be taken up,- as other men took up their daily game of billiards, or drank their morning cup of coffee. Truly does his wife say of the protracted labors of the last agonized months, “But these were not to be called work : it was no trouble to him to pour out the ripened fruit of his well-stored mind;” and the constant activity of that cultured and inquisitive spirit was never better illustrated than when, for the last time, he called Kamphausen, who was his assistant in the “ Bibelwerk," and said to him, with closed eyes, “ Dear Kamphausen, I am not able to confer with you to-day. Work on alone, and be ready. But listen to me: I have made out the question about Obadiah; he lived in the time of Jehoshaphat, — that is clear;” and then he corrected a word in Kamphausen's last translation.

These volumes err, as all recently written biographies do : err, in attempting to give the Life through the Letters. What a man thinks, wishes, and fancies he effects, is one thing. What other men think of him, wish for him, or give him credit for achieving, is another. Never did any author require a sharp outline of his actual experience from an outside observer, if Bunsen did not. It has yet to be eliminated VOL. LXXXV. - NEW SERIES, VOL. VI. NO. II.

13

« НазадПродовжити »