Page images

the faith once delivered to the saints. In this respect, Germany with all her errors stands far in advance both of England and America. She is the land emphatically of Protestant theology. Not only is she entitled to the first rank in what regards the outward apparatus of the science, as most are now willing to admit; her primacy is equally clear in all that pertains to its true inward life and substance. We need her help not only in philology and history, but in the settlement and defence also of all christian doctrines. The theology of Germany, for years past, has been more wakeful, more profoundly earnest, more vigorously active, than that of all the world besides. The theology of this country, with all its pretension and cant, is for the most part mere schoolboy pedantry in comparison. This scientific activity may not save the German Church; at least not without help, under a different form, from some other quarter; but it cannot fail to prove at last of high consequence for the christian world. It belongs to the inmost power of Protestantism, and forms in some sense what must be considered the central stream of its life. The dangers which attend it are to be surmounted by its own resources, and not by refusing to look them in the face. If our remedy for error is to be found in mere outward authority, a faith that owns no fellowship whatever with science, it were better for us to fall back at once fully and wholly into the arms of Romanism. Admit this principle, and Protestantism stands convicted of falsehood from the start. It has no right to exist. Say that Protestantism bas no power to take care of itself in following out its own law, but needs to be overruled and controlled in its course by a purely foreign authority, saying to it, Thus far shalt thou go but no farther; and we have the whole question of its legitimacy conclusively settled. It is for this reason, and in this view, that the problem of Protestantism may be said to be specially involved in the course of theological science at pres: ent in Germany. For whatever may be needed to make the

rch complete in the end, it is clear that all other interests must be ruled sooner or later by the authority of ideas; theory must underlie all scid life and practice; and the heart of any movement is found consequently, where its theoretic or ideal character is made most actively the subject of thought. The question whether Protestantism has a right to exist, turns after all not so much on the practical working of Episcopacy in Great Britain, or of Puritanism in America, as it does on the results of theology in Germany. If the idea of the Reformation, its original and proper theory, be found unequal to the test to which it is here subjected, it is vain to imagine that it can command the VOL. II.-NO. II.


faith and homage of the world lastingly on any other ground. Let it appear that Protestant theology, under its most free and active character, not only calls forth such terrible errors as have appeared in Germany, but has no power also at the same time to overcome them by a still more vigorous vindication of the truth, and the Roman controversy, as we take it, is fairly brought to an end. If Protestantism cannot think itself out to its last consequences without landing us in rationalism and pantheism, we need no other argument to set aside its claims from the beginning. It is proved at once to be a failure under its more respectable forms, as well as under those that are openly antichristian and false; and we are bound to save ourselves from its bad authority, not by allowing it wilfully only to a certain point, but by abjuring it altogether. It is in this view, we say, that Protestantism universally, whether the fact be perceived or not, has a deep and vital interest in the theological activity of mod. ern Germany, notwithstanding its errors and heresies, more than in the thinking of any other part of the christian world. Let us be willing all round to do justice to its claims, and not affect to be independent of its co-operation and help. If we can go beyond its measure, well; but this we can never do, by superciliously ignoring or overlooking the whole field of inquiry here offered to our view. The questions with which this German theology is occupied, are questions that lie in the way of all true theological science, and challenge the respect of all really earnest and thoughưful minds. Nor is it easy to speak in too high terms of the learning and intellectual power, with which they are discussed. If theology exist as a science at all, at the present time, it is in Germany. We are made to smile accordingly, when we hear a single English work, like that of Wilberforce, referred to as the great production of the age in the department to which it belongs, without the least regard apparently to this fact. All who are acquainted with the later German theology, know that the age abounds with great productions in this form. It would be easy to name many theologians not only of equal but of superior learning, and many works also of far more thorough and complete execution, which must be allowed largely to divide at least the theological credit of the age with Wilberforco on the Incarnation.

We have no wish however to disparage the merits of this book. It is in truth worthy of high admiration and respect. It deserves to be welcomed as a work of thorough independent learning, which may well be taken to form something of an epoch in the bistory at least of English theology. We only wish that it may be widely read and studied, both in England and in this coun. try; for we are sure that it is suited to the wants of our reigning Christianity, whether theoretically or practically considered, and that it cannot fail to operate auspiciously, where it gains attention, in favor of truth and piety. Unfortunately it is not as well fitted as it might be for common popular use. The subject itself of which it treats, is one that lies out of the range of ordinary thought; but there is a serious fault besides, as regards popularity, in the author's method and style. It is fashionable to speak of the darkness and vagueness of German writers; and we are willing to allow that a good many of them are well entitled to such reproach ; but we must say we have found it more of an effort to keep the clue of thought steadily in this English book, than to read understandingly some of the hardest German ones that come in our way. Wilberforce is for us decidedly a more misty writer than Dorner, for instance, or Rothe, or Daub, or even Kant himself in his Criticism of the Understanding The difficulty with these writers generally is in the arduous character of their thought, and in this alone; whereas in the work before us it lies often to a very considerable extent in the representation of the thought. The plan of the book, as a whole, is not sufficiently clear; it is put together somewhat clumsily and awkwardly in its several parts; a sort of continual haziness surrounds the progress of its argument; the language is often careless, and lacks throughout the transparency and vivacity that are needed for full popular effect. The work, with all its merits, is decidedly heavy and hard to read. We are sorry for this; as it may prove a bar in some measure to its favorable reception, where it might otherwise have found free passport and exerted a happy influence on the side of truth. The theme with which it is occupied is one of the very highest interest, lying at the foundation of all sound theology, and carrying with it claims to attention, particularly for the present age, beyond perhaps any other that could well be named. It is handled here too, so far as actual substance is concerned, in a truly learned and masterly manner; so as to be every way worthy of coming into respectful audience and consideration with all who take pleasure in divinity, whether in the Episcopal Church or on the outside of it. AC the same time, as we have had too much opportunity to know, the theme, with all its vast significance, is for a large part of our reigning religious thought by no means palatable; for the reason precisely that it runs counter to many of its traditional preju. dices, and is felt to involve practical consequences in the end, which it has become a sort of settled maxim with it to resist tooth

[ocr errors]



and nail in defiance of all examination. The age, however tolerant it may be in other directions, has no toleration at all generally for the idea of the Church or for the mystery of the Sacraments; and is but too ready to turn away with impatient disgust from any theological inquiry that leads this way. With all its professed love for liberty and light, it is apt here to resent everything like free investigation, and to shrink from science as though its presence were only suited to give pain. In such circumstances, it is to be regretted that the work before us should not have every outward advantage along with it, to assist it in commanding for its great subject the homage, which this has a right to claim, but at the same time so little power with too many to enforce. We are apprehensive that it is not reaching any such circulation, nor gaining any such earnest attention, as may be counted at all commensurate with its deserts. It seems to be received only with a sort of half-complaisance at best even in the Episcopal Church ; while almost no notice whatever is taken of it among other denominations; for the simple reason perhaps that it is felt to move in a foreign sphere of thought, with which only churchmen, in the Episcopal sense, are regarded as having any sympathy or concern.

With all the prejudices of the age however towards the subject here brought into view, it is clear enough that this belongs notwishstanding to the proper religious life of the age itself, and that it is forcing itself more and more from all sides, in spite of prejudice, upon its consideration and regard. It is not uncommon, nor unnatural, for an idea or tendency to be at once resisted and responded to, in this way, by the life of an age, whose inmost necessity perhaps it comes both to interpret and fulfil. A new spirit of thought plainly is beginning to prevail in regard to Christ's person. Even in New England, theology may be seen gradually waking to an interest, which a few years since was wanting altogether, in what may be called the Christological Mystery, with more or less apprehension of its living concrete relations to the constitution of the world and the course of history. Questions which not long ago were considered fully settled, and laid away as shelf abstractions, on the hypostatical union and its practical results, are now, whether men choose to be pleased with it or not, asserting their right to be re-studied, and settled over again, with something of the same sort of interest that is given to immediately present realities of corresponding moment in the sphere of nature. It is coming to be widely felt. that theology needs a regeneration, as well as our christian life generally, and that this must turn on a clearer and more power

ful apprehension of what is comprehended in the person of Christ himself, as the true centre and fountain at the same time of all truth and grace besides. Christology is acquiring, in this way, new significance, as a world of truth within itself, from whose bosom only, fairly entered in the first place by faith, it can ever be possible to understand either the nature of God or the nature of man. In all such tendencies and indications, come from what quarter they may, we unfeignedly rejoice. They carry in them a promise of good for the future; while they serve to reveal also the ephemeral character of what is different or contrary in the present. The fashion of our present reigning theology, with all its affected self-sufficiency, is evidently doomed to pass away. The mind of the christian world is coming 10 regard it more and more with misgiving and distrust; and on all sides the persuasion gains ground that the Christological Question, embracing the true idea of the Church and its relation to the Saviour's living person, is in truth the great question of the age, and carries in itself a power by which all the interests of religion are to be moulded bereafter into new shape.

We propose no formal analysis of Wilberforce on the Incarnation, nor any examination of its several parts in detail. Our object is rather to call attention to what we conceive to be the immense practical significance of the general subject with which it is occupied; which may be best done perhaps, by singling out some of the leading aspects under which it is here made to challenge our regard, and holding them up to separate contemplation, without any particular respect to the author's plan. These will be found to agree substantially with views which are presented in our own book entitled The Mystical Presence; and we shall be glad certainly if the high authority by which they are now endorsed in this very able and learned English work, may serve to win for them in any quarter, a more earnest consideration than they have yet been able to engage under a simply American garb.

1. The Mediation of Christ holds primarily and fundamentally in the constitution of his person. With our current theology this is not admitted. The Mediatorial office is taken to be a sort of outward investiture, for which it was necessary indeed that Christ should have certain previous qualifications, but which is to be regarded still in this view as holding out of his person and beyond it; like the work assigned to Moses for instance, when he was selected and appointed to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, and to give them the Law at Mount Sinai. I'wo parties, God and man, are thought of as in a state of variance, and


« PreviousContinue »