Page images

ANSWER. I. We started in the endeavor to account for the “world.We have done so. If it is now proposed that we account for God, it is manifest, that a new question is propounded to us, wholly distinct from the one with which we started, and which we have been discussing.

We started to find the “first one.” It is simply unreason to speak of another “first” anterior to that, or to require a unity more complete than the “one.” We sought to find the key which should unlock the mystery of creation. It is absurd to ask us to unlock the key. We aimed to find the principle which should give us a rational view of all things. The principle that does this, stands within its own light, and needs not to be made to appear reasonable by the light of any other principle. That which explains all things, is, by the very supposition, as by the necessity of the case, the final statement. That being, the recognition of whose existence makes the perception of all other existence a rational conception, is the primal mystery. The primal mystery, explaining all others, is explained by none. But the objector may put his statement into another shape and deny that a reasonable principle has been given, that the affirmation which we have reached has any light of its own to stand in.

To this, in Reply, II. We affirm that it is reasonable, and that it does stand in the light of its own perfect reasonableness, commending itself, not to the intellect alone, but to every department of the soul, and eliciting a thrill of acknowledgment from every fibre of man's being.

This assertion is not of a nature that admits à priori dem. onstration; but it can be illustrated and proved in an endless fulness and perfection of detail. Such illustration, however, must for the present, be omitted.

We are willing to rest, here, our demonstration of the truth laid down on p. 406, “ X,that the sole, original, alsolute power is SPIRITUAL AND PERSONAL; and delay the conclusion of this Essay, merely to observe, that the result now reached, the great facts of the visible, and of the "intelligible” universe harmonize. Everywhere behold material forces subjected to ordinances of wisdom; working in com

[ocr errors]

bination for intelligible and rational ends. Whether we contemplate the structure of our own bodies, or of the world; meditate upon atoms, or upon suns; upon those invisible seeds, finer than minutest particles of impalpable powder, which no secret depth and no distance can escape, or on that stellar dust which clouds the blueness of the heavens by night, that inconceivable system of solar and planetary orbs to which our own is imagined to belong, and of which the earth, with her sister spheres, constitutes but an infinitessimal and utterly insignificant part, whether we sink or soar, we behold everywhere the same subjection of material force to reasonable aims. This glorious vision crowns our metaphysic dream with new fulness of assurance; and we rejoice to find the same eternal one revealed in the universe without, as in the mind. Outward facts, as well as inner processes, hold us fast in the conclusion, that the highest and truest conception of the original power of the universe, is that of a spiritual power involving and using all material forces. And so, we pronounce firmly, confidently, but with eager inquiry, and intense longing, the GREAT NAME—GOD!




PROBABLY no theological work of equal bulk has ever been published in America, which combines so many outward attractions as are presented in this work of Prof. Norton. The paper is firm and pure, the type clear and elegant, there is a liberal width of margin, and every page is significant of * affluence.

The editorial labor performed on the work is distinguished by its obvious

1 A Translation of the Gospels, with Notes. By Andrews Norton. In two volumes. 8vo. pp. 443 and 565. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.

fidelity. We have seldom noticed more evidence of scrupulous and conscientious care, than is evinced by the Editors in their preparation of the second volume. The first volume contains Prof. Norton's Translation of the Gospels, and the second his Notes upon the Translation. These Notes were not left, by their author, in a finished state. The Editors have endeavored to supply the deficiency, by a cautious use of manuscript notes of Prof. Norton's oral exposition of the Gospels, given in the years 1826–1830, while he was Professor of Sacred Literature in the Divinity School of Harvard University ; also by extracts from the author's published works, such as the Statement of Reasons for not believing the Doctrines of Trinitarians; also by an occasional reference to a Course of Lectures left by the Professor in manuscript. Such a compilation must, of course, have a fragmentary appearance. Many of the criticisms lack the pertinence and the pith which would have been given them, had they been prepared expressly for the purpose to which they are now applied. The Editors deserve high commendation for the degree of unity and completeness which they have given to the volume, compiled under these various disadvantages.

The Translation of the Gospels is written in that pure, chaste style which is always expected from Mr. Norton. In many instances, it gives the meaning of the original more accurately than we find it in King James's Version. In our opinion, however, it is often less correct than our received translation ; and still more frequently its deviations from the style of that venerable text seem to be needless, and are, consequently, unpleasant. We are often pained as we miss some beautiful word or phrase, sacred in its associations and fascinating by its artlessness, and find, as a substitute for it, something which, at the best, is no better than what it has displaced, and which appears, in the comparison, rigid or forced. There are turns of expression for which our language is indebted to our English Bible, and which are now indispensable to the perfection of the language itself. We can never feel at home in reading any Translation which exchanges these simple idioms for novel and stiff phrases. We doubt whether a lover of the good old English literature can read a page of Prof. Norton's Translation, without admiring the Professor's exact terminology, and at the same time feeling an occasional wish that he had not sacrificed it to the equally exact, but far more charming, terminology of our familiar Version. As innovation is not always improvement, so, in many instances, a needless innovation is, on the whole, a serious damage. An inferior Version, however, may not be altogether useless ; as it directs especial attention to the superior, and illustrates its neglected excellences.

A reader unused to the comments of the German philologists, will be rather startled at the unauthorized liberties which Prof. Norton takes with the evangelical record, and at the coolness with which he devises methods for its emendation. We will succinctly state his mode of explaining the account of the Saviour's temptation in the wilderness. Prof. Norton supposes that certain men who had been excited by our Saviour's miracles, and by the declarations of John the Baptist to look upon him as their Messiah,”


were ready to profess themselves his followers, with the hope of sharing in the good things which his followers might expect.” In order to convince these men of the opposition between his office and character, and the office and character of the Messiah expected of the Jews,” our Saviour represented himself as tempted, by Satan, to do the very things which the Jews had expected that their Messiah would do, or at least might do, according to their conceptions concerning him. It was a popular notion of the Jews, that temptations to sin proceeded from Satan; and our Lord, in using language founded on this idea, meant to give them the strongest impression which they were capable of receiving, of the moral evil, the opposition to God's purposes, which would characterize such actions as were in accordance with their conceptions of the expected Messiah." Our Lord's words respecting his temptation by Satan, were spoken to the excited and erring Jews, “ before those who afterwards became his apostles had joined him," "and we have no reason to think that any one of them was present at the delivery of this discourse. The words of Jesus were imperfectly repeated by those who heard them, without a distinct comprehension of their design. The striking representation which he had given, was adapted to fix itself in their minds, and was repeated without being understood.

“ Had the occasion of his words been preserved, the narrative of it, in the style of the evangelists, might have been somewhat in this manner :

• And some came to him, saying, Master, we believe that thou art he who was to come. We will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

. And they said, When wilt thou manifest thyself in thy kingdom, and be exlated, thou and thy followers ?

• And he spoke a parable unto them, saying, The Son of Man was in the wilderness, praying to God and fasting ; and Satan came to him to tempt him, and said, Lo! thou art hungry; since thou art the Son of God [that is, the Messiah], command these stones to become loaves of bread.'

“ The announcement of our Saviour that he was speaking a parable, escaped the attention or memory of his hearers, and the evangelists recorded the narrative as a veritable history, because it was so reported, directly or indirectly, to them by those who heard but misunderstood the Saviour's recital.” Vol. II. pp. 31–54.

But if we allow such conjectural emendations of even an uninspired history, what confidence can we place in it? And if we allow them in an inspired narrative, of what worth is the inspiration? What is the character of that teacher who makes his illustrations so much stronger than his statements of the truth to be illustrated, that the shadow only is retained in the mind, and the substance is permanently lost ? If we may thus explain away one simple narrative, why may we not explain away the whole record ?

We are well aware of the answer which will be given to these queries by the advocates of Prof. Norton's interpretation. It will be said that the disciples of our Lord did misunderstand him often and grossly : see Vol. II. Appendix, Note E. pp. 519–565. But were these errors permanent ?

When the Holy Ghost brought all things to the remembrance of the disciples, did these errors remain ?

It will be again replied, that the errors were not essential. Prof. Norton affirms : “ As regards the apostles, we believe that their minds were enlightened by the Spirit of God, and by direct miraculous communications from him, in regard to the essential truths of Christianity. But we have no warrant to believe, nor is there any probable argument to show, that this Divine illumination was further extended.” Vol. II.


549. But are not all truths intimately connected ; and if, on subjects like the existence and agency of fallen spirits, and the coming of Christ to judge the world (see Vol. II. pp. 195, 196), the writers of the New Testament lapsed into incorrigible errors (Vol. II. pp. 559—561), must not these mistakes affect their views of other still more important themes ? And if the narrators of our Lord's conversations cannot be trusted, how can we trust the authors of the Epistles? If from imagined internal evidence merely, we have a right to expunge Matt. 12: 40 (see Vol. II. pp. 123, 124) from the actual conversation of our Lord, what confidence can we place in any doctrinal statements of Paul or John, when they happen to oppose our antecedent convictions, or our sense of propriety? Besides, what are the essential truths of religion ? Are the doctrines of entire depravity, regeneration by the Divine Spirit, the atonement, the divinity of Christ, essential ? Are the instructions which the apostles gave on these subjects, as clearly, as definitely in favor of Prof. Norton's views, as he would have desired ? Are they perfect instructions ? Were they supernaturally revealed ?

These volumes of Prof. Norton, learned as they are, and exhibiting such a classical finish of style, afford a new proof, that any interpreter who does not believe in the plenary inspiration of the Bible, will err in his comments upon it. He will not regard its assertions as sufficiently important to justify that laborious study which is sometimes requisite to unfold their mutual consistency. He will adopt plausible interpretations, which are inconsistent with the claims of a volume written by holy men as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Prof. Norton was a sedate, sober, and acute philologist; but, under his criticisms, the spirit and living energy of many passages in the Gospels, seem to evaporate. His Translation and Notes may be read with profit, if they be read with care ; he suggests many rich and beautiful thoughts ; but, in our opinion, he fails to exhibit the profounder meaning of the evangelists, and to unfold the deeper wealth of our Lord's instructions. When we reflect on his valuable services in defending the genuineness of the Gospels, and the reality of the miracles recorded in them, we regret so much the more that he failed to develop that great system of doctrines which gives to the Bible its peculiar value, its essential glory.

« PreviousContinue »