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Within the last forty years, infidelity has assumed a disguise which some beings who believe and tremble, have, no doubt, lauded as very clever and ingenious. In Protestant Germany and the neighbouring countries, it has put on the gown and the ruff; its children and servants have been saluted as summe venerandi, and they have sat down in the dignity and influence of university chairs and parish pulpits. They are, therefore, decked with the name of Christian ; they are held to be the children of the Reformation, they are professionally of the Lutheran or of the Calvinistic communion ; they are pastors and professors of divinity, profound scholars, able critics, and distinguished authors.
The outline of their scheme is this :--That the moral contents of the Bible are a Revelation from God, in the same sense in which all intellectual proficiency and practical improvements are gifts of Divine Providence.—That the book of Genesis is a collection of the earliest traditions concerning the origin and primeval history of the human race, containing some facts, but mingled with much allegory, mythology, and fable.—That the institutions of the Israelitish nation were the admirable inventions of Moses and his coadjutors, the claim of a divine origin having been cleverly assumed, and ably sustained, to obtain the credit and obedience of a barbarous people. That the prophets were the bards and patriotic leaders of their country, warmed with the love of virtue, roused by the inspiration of genius, using the name of the Lord to arouse torpid and selfish minds, and having no other insight into futurity than the conjectures which were suggested by profound political views, and by access to the secrets of camps and cabinets. That Jesus was one of the best and wisest of men, possessing peculiar genius and an elevation of soul far above his age and nation.-That, seeing his countrymen sunk in ignorance and superstition, and apprised of the depravity of the idolatrous nations, he formed the grand conception of a pure, simple, and rational religion, founded on the Unity of the Godhead, enjoining universal virtue, having as few positive doctrines and outward institutions as possible, and, therefore, adapted to all times and all countries.—That, in order to accomplish his purpose the more readily and safely, he entered into a temporary compromise with the popular opinions and phraseology, assuming to be the Messiah whom the nation expected, and applying to himself various passages of the prophets, such as were calculated to excite the highest veneration. That, by superior natural science, and by dexterously availing himself of fortunate coincidences, he impressed the bulk of the people with the belief of his possessing supernatural powers,-an artifice very excusable on account of its benevolent and virtuous motive.—That, by the envy, revenge, and selfish policy of the Jewish ecclesiastical leaders, he was condemned to die; that he was fastened to a cross, but (in consequence, perhaps, of previous management by some friends in power) was not mortally hurt; that he was taken down in a swoon, and laid in a cool and secluded recess within a rock, where, by the skill and care of his friends, animation was restored. That, when recovered, he concerted measures with his confidential adherents for carrying on his noble and generous views; that, from a secure retirement, known to only a very few of his most intimate disciples, he directed their operations; and that, in a personal interview near Damascus, he had the admirable address to conciliate Saul of Tarsus, and persuade him to join the cause with all the weight of his talents. That he probably lived many years in this happy retirement, and, before his death, had the pleasure of knowing that his moral system was extensively received both by Jews and by men of other nations. That this religion, though a human contrivance, is the best and most useful for the general happiness of mankind, and therefore ought to be supported and taught, at least, till the prevalence of philosophical morality shall render it no longer needful.
Such a system as this is held boldly and throughout by some, and by others in various degrees of approximation. They go under the denominations of Rationalists, Neologists, and Antisupernaturalists; and we have been informed that other terms are employed to express, like the nomenclature of a West Indian population, the differing shades and hues of this belief or non-belief. We may remark, by the way, that the former of these appellations is very unhappy, and ought to be strenuously protested against. It implies a concession which we regard as false and injurious; it dishonours the inestimable gift of God, which distinguishes from the brutes, and on which alone accountableness and religion can rest; it pays a most unfair compliment to persons who are far from deserving it, but who are eager to avail themselves of it; and it encourages the idea, that those who hold what we believe to be the genuine doctrines of Christianity, are the maintainers of a system which will not stand the test of thorough investigation.
Were any rational and impartial inquirer to go through the Neological scheme with due scrutiny, he would be able to demonstrate its utter incongruity with the facts that are acknowledged,-its irreconcileableness with the records on which it is built, and whose authenticity and sincerity it affirms. He would shew that, by the multitudes of most singular and
opportune conjunctures of extraordinary though natural phenomena, which it lays down for its positions, and without which it cannot be sustained for a moment, it admits a series of fortuitous events whose occurrence and combination are infinitely less credible than the simple miracles declared in the Scriptures; and finally, that it is overthrown by the external evi. dences in favour of a Divine revelation, as treated by many well-known authors.
The most celebrated supporters of this system, in some or other of its gradations, are believed to be, or to have been, Paulus, Eichhorn, Eckermann, Gesenius, the Author of the Hebrew Lexicon, Gabler, Wegscheider, Brerschneider, Van Hemert of Amsterdam, Schiller the late dramatist and historian; and to these, we fear we must add Heinrichs, Niemeyer, and Schleiermacher, the Author of A Critical Essay on the Gospel of St. Luke, which has been translated into English, and of which we hope shortly to take further notice. These writers have certainly rendered useful services to the cause of Bible-learning. In numerous Dissertations, Essays, and Commentaries, they have contributed stores of Oriental and Rabbinical attainments to the illustration of history, allusions, and phraseology, in both the Old and the New Testaments. It is especially worthy of observation, that, in their bringing out of the grammatical sense of the Christian Scriptures, they frequently state certain opinions and persuasions as entertained by the Apostles, which are no other than the GREAT DOCTRINES of religion, as held by the orthodox churches of ancient and modern times. These are, the ascribing to Christ of those attributes which are peculiar to Deity; the assertion of an expiatory design in the sufferings and death of Christ; the referring of all events to the decrees and providence of God; the reality and necessity of Divine influence in order to true holiness in principle and action; the existence and temptations of wicked spirits ; and the immediate happiness or misery of the human soul on its separation from the body. It is to be observed, that, in making these statements, the Rationalist interpreters are most careful to avoid the declaration of their own belief; they appear to keep ever in view the character under which they write, that of mere narrators of what were the opinions of other men, in a distant
age. But it is obvious, that this very character, this confinement to the bare constraing of the text and the cold assertion of its meaning, this very indifference (whether real or affected) to that meaning, and all united with the admitted skill of the writers, in all the critical requisites, renders their testimony of great value. Nor should we forget one consideration more: that, if these interpreters bad followed their own evident bias, they
would have given a sense to each passage, of a very different character from that which they have done. As, when Porphyry and Julian, and the malignant Jew who wrote the Toldoth Jesu, admit the reality of our Lord's miracles, but satisfy themselves by referring them to magic as the cause, we feel the value of their testimony, but are unmoved by their arguing ; so, in this case, we accept the depositions of enemies to evangelical doctrines, that those doctrines were believed and taught by the Apostles, while our feelings towards the authors of the depositions are those, not of approbation, but of strong censure and deep pity. · The Latin writings of Koppe and his continuators, of the younger Rosenmüller, Schleusner, and Kuinöl, have been the chief instruments in making Englishmen, to a limited degree, acquainted with the existence and opinions of this school of spurious theology; and the intercourse of our Bible Societies has brought, more effectively than any other method was likely to have done, before the mind of Christians in general, an exhibition of the evil itself and of the means by which Divine Providence is, we trust, counteracting it. But the Latin works of the authors just mentioned, (of whom the latter two are narrators, not supporters, of the system, and E. F. C. Rosenmüller appears, by the more recent publications of his Scholia, to bave relinquished it,) and of some who are less extensively known among us, do not amount to a complete exhibition of the case.
It is in the vernacular writings of the authors referred to, that we must seek for the full exposition of their opinions and the application of those opinions; and it is in the vernacular writings also of some of their countrymen, that we can obtain their best confutation. It is our earnest wish, that the lovers of truth and of really free and rational inquiry, would do all in their power to promote the study of the German language in our own country; we are persuaded that it would be found the best way of making the poison inefficient and the antidote successful.
Mr. Rose, the Author of the Sermons now on our table, possesses this advantage. He has not only studied German books, but has travelled and resided among the people, and has probably been aided by some of them in the collection of passages and references. Nevertheless, the complaint has been strongly urged, both in Germany and in this country, that he has given prominence to a great number of obscure writers who are deservedly forgotten in their own land, while he has omitted the mention of authors who possess the weight of character, ability, and popularity, on the better side. He says himself:
* In truth, I have only expressed what has been said to me by every
intelligent German with whom I have conversed on the subject; and it is a source of pleasure and consolation to remember (consider) that a remedy for such evils cannot long be wanted, in a country so filled with all that is amiable in character and distinguished in learning.'
His Translator remarks:
• The Author has travelled in Germany: but is it possible that all his Notes can be his own production ? Has no German divine, of sentiments like his own, lent him now and then a helping hand? One may almost think so, from the extensive knowledge which he shews of our theological literature; while, on the other hand, many excellent men and their works, (for instance, Griesbach, Knapp, Morus, Keil, Jerusalem, and many others,) are mentioned either not at all, or not in relation to their writings on this class of subjects.'
German Translation, p. vi. Another charge which the same person makes (p. vii. and in several of the Notes), but which could scarcely attach to the communications of a native, is, that Mr. Rose has not always given a faithful representation of the opinions which he impugns. If it be so, we are persuaded that the failure, on his part, has not been intentional. In his Notes, also, the Translator loudly complains of Mr. R.'s prejudices, and charges him with a want of competent knowledge on the matters which he has undertaken to discuss.
Indeed, many passages in Mr. Rose's book contain symptoms of partial and inaccurate information, of haste in the drawing up, or of inconsequential reasoning. He has rendered service to the serious inquirer by presenting important facts and many just observations ; but we fear that the utility of them will be essentially diminished, by defects which run tlırough the whole work; by a want of perception of the primary causes of the awful mischief which he has portrayed, and a total failure in his prescription for a cure. He boldly affirms, that the evil is to be imputed entirely to the absence of all • control over religious speculation in the German churches.' He seems to take it as granted and indisputable, that no such evil exists, or can exist, in the Church of England by law established; and he complacently attributes this blessing to the
controlling form of our peculiar system of church-government, ' and the binding power of the articles which guide our faith,
and the liturgy which directs our devotion.' (p. 12.) This appears to be the grand theme of gratulation ever uppermost in his mind. Again and again, he urges the absolute necessity • of some check and restraint over the human mind,'—' a power
of control over the speculations of ministers,'—' a clear and distinct declaration of faith, to which strict adherence must be