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Saviour Jesus Christ, from the Latin of St. Bonaventure, newly translated for the use of members of the Church of England.” The whole object of this work is to teach people to turn the history of our blessed Redeemer into poetry and romance, a process which Mr. Oakeley calls Meditation. There was a time when clergymen of the Church of England would have turned with horror from such an employment. But there is no limit to the consequences of indulging in a habit of tampering with truth and when people have sufficiently confused their minds to relish this allegorical and mystical mode of interpretation, and regard the Old Testament as no better than Jewish history, till they have made it Christian by their allegories and meditations, it is not in the least surprising that they should proceed to the New Testament; rather it would be wonderful if they did not. For, as Mr. Maitland has observed, one of the injurious effects which flows from this allegorical mode of interpretation is this—" It leads men to tamper with the Word of God, and either by addition, suppression, or some tortuous proceeding or other, to make it agree with their imagination."* And, in like manner, this taste for writing legends prepares the mind for treating the Bible in the same manner, and what the next step will be, it is not very difficult to prognosticate“When Lives of Saints take the place of romances and fairy tales," as the author of the Life of St. Gilbert speaks, (though with little consciousness that this is what he and his friends are labouring to effect,) one can readily guess the result likely to follow from the publication of myths and Legends. Most truly does the same author state the manner (though apparently without a thought of the application which may be made of his words) in which this is brought about.
“ They who consider the Saints in a dreamy way, will hardly be able to do more than dream that there has been upon earth One, who was and is Man-God, for the lives of Saints are shadows of His, and help to interpret His actions who is incomprehensible. They who look upon the Saints as mere personages in religious romance, will be apt to look on Christianity as a beautiful philosophy."-St. Gilbert,
Mr. Oakeley's translation of Bonaventure's Life of Christ proves, how soon men become hardened to the evil of their proceedings when once they suffer themselves to trifle with truth. One would have thought that the feelings of reverence, which his party have so long claimed to possess almost exclusively, would have made him withdraw his hand, when he was tempted to give to English readers a work which pretends to supply what God has thought proper to conceal. But no. He is aware of the difficulty. He states it. He labours in his introduction to remove it. This is his defence.
“ But let the reader who may be inclined to object boldness to our Saint's devout speculations, consider well with himself, first, whether he have himself ever meditated, strictly speaking, upon points in the Sacred History ; i. e. proposed some event in our Lord's Life on earth, say his Nativity, or His Teinptation, or His Passion, as an object of direct, and, as far as might be, undistracted contemplation for a certain period of time? If that period have been as short as five or ten minutes only, let him farther reflect whether he have not brought the solemn transaction home to his mind by the help of innumerable particulars, and even collateral incidents, for the proof of
* Ib. p. 10.
which he would find it hard indeed to lay his hand upon any text of Holy Scripture. If the subject of his meditation were the Nativity, for instance, whence, I ask, did he derive the particulars of his idea (for definite idea be must have formed) of the Blessed Virgin, or of St. Joseph ? He conceives, again, of the holy parents, that, at the moment to which his contemplations relate, they are sitting, or standing, or kneeling; where does Scripture say so? And when this is urged, he answers almost impatiently ; * Of course not; Scripture cannot descend to such minutiæ. The Blessed Virgin must have been in some posture, why not in this! This is the most natural and reasonable. Why may I not please to imagine that she knelt to the Divine Infant when she first beheld Him, and that He smiled on her with a look of uninfantine intelligence ? Scripture says that she was humble, and that He, though her Son, was also her God. May I not put these statements together, and draw my own inference from them ? You cannot prove me wrong, nor suggest any alternative which is not equally unauthorized, and more improbable. And, at last, what great harm, though I be mistaken? I do no violence to the sacred text; I am guilty of no irreverence towards the holy Persons in question, for reverence towards them is the very basis of my supposition; and, for myself, I rise from such meditation, as I trust, holier and better than I went to it; more indifferent to the world, more dissatisfied with myself, and fuller of love to God and my brethren.”-pp. vi. vii.
And so, because you cannot prove me wrong, I am at liberty to make whatever additions to the word of God appear to me not incongruous with the original story of the Evangelists. It is useless to attempt to reason with persons who have reduced their understandings to such a pitiable state. It is more to the purpose to lay before the reader the passage in this translation of the Life of Christ, which Mr. Oakeley is here covertly defending. Observing only, that Bonaventure does not pretend that his account of the Nativity is altogether a flight of his own imagination. Here follow his words in Mr. Oakeley's translation “ for the use of members of the Church of England.”
“ And now let me earnestly entreat you to attend diligently to all which I am going to relate ; the rather, because I had it from a devout and holy man of our Order, of undoubted credit, to whom I believe it to have been supernaturally imparted.
“ When the expected hour of the birth of the Son of God was come, on Sunday, towards midnight, the holy Virgin, rising from her seat, went and rested herself against a pillar she found there : Joseph, in the meantime, sate pensive and sorrowful; perhaps, because he could not prepare the necessary accommodation for her. But at length he too arose, and, taking what hay he could find in the manger, diligently spread it at our Lady's feet, and then retired to another part of the building. Then the Son of the Eternal God, coming forth from His Mother's womb, was, without hurt or pain to her, transferred in an instant from thence to the humble hed of hay which was prepared for Him at her feet. His holy Mother, hastily stooping down, took him up in her arms, and tenderly embracing Him, laid Him in her lap; then, through instinct of the Holy Ghost, she began to bathe Him in her sacred milk, with which she was most amply supplied from heaven ; this done, she took the veil off her head, and wrapping Him in it, carefully laid Him in the manger. Here the ox and the ass, kneeling down, and laying their heads over the manger, gently breathed upon Him, as if endowed with reason, and sensible, that through the incle. mency of the season, and His poor attire, the blessed Infant stood in need of their assistance to warm and cherish him. Then the holy Virgin, throwing herself on her knees, adored Him, and returning thanks to God, said, "My Lord and heavenly Father, I give thee most hearty thanks, that Thou hast vouchsafed of Thy bounty to give me Thine Only Son; and I praise and worship Thee, O Eternal God, together with Thee, O Son of the Living God, and mine.'
" Joseph likewise worshipped Him at the same time; after which he stripped the ass of his saddle, and separating the pillion from it, placed it near the manger for the blessed Virgin io sit on; but she, seating herself with her face towards the manger, made use of that homely cushion only for support. In this posture our Lady remained some time immoveable, gazing on the manger, her looks and affections all absorbed in her dearest Son."-pp. 23, 24.
There was a time when such a daring, such a loathsome fiction would have been regarded with horror by every respectable clergyman in the Church of England. But Mr. Oakeley defends it.
“ The Blessed Virgin must have been in some posture, why not in this? This is the most natural and reasonable. Why may I not please to imagine that she knelt to the Divine Infant when she first beheld Him, and ihat He smiled on her with a look of uninfantine intelligence ?”—Introduction, p. vii.
Why not? Why may I not imagine what I please, and publish to the world whatever I please to imagine ? Why not, certainly? And are such gross and disgusting liberties with the Word of God, with the only record of that stupendous mystery on which the whole lope of human salvation depends, matters left to the taste and caprice of every one that pleases to indulge an unchastised imagination ? Bonaventure, however, as the reader will observe, gives this part of his story as a report from one of his brother Franciscans, “ of undoubted credit,” to whom he says, “I believe it have been supernaturally imparted.” Nothing, however, is more worthy of notice than Mr. Oakeley's question “What great harm, though I be mistaken ?” As to the lawfulness of such proceedings, it seems to be not worth considering. Provided he does not see any“ great harm ” done by such licentious abuse of his imagination, he is satisfied. Mr. Oakeley adds, “ I do no violence to the sacred text." One would like to know what he would consider “violence." But certainly to represent Christ as smiling on his mother “with a look of uninfantine intelligence, the moment after his nativity, seems plainly to contradict the doctrine of Holy Scripture regarding the infancy of the Lord, just as much as the language translated from Bonaventure, in his first chapter, contradicts the doctrine of the incarnation.*
Another remarkable passage is the account of the ministering of the angels after the Lord's temptation in the wilderness, and Mr. Oakeley's defence of it:
“ As soon as Satan has been repulsed, the Angels flock in numbers to our Lord Jesus Christ, and prostrate on the ground adore Him, saying, ' Hail
, Lord Jesus, our Lord and our God.' And our Lord humbly and benignly raises them, inclining His head, as the Son of Man, who was made a little lower than the Angels. The Angels say to Him, “ Lord, Thou hast fasted long; what wilt Thou that we prepare for Thee ? To whom He replies, • Go to My dearest Mother, and if she have anything at hand, bear it to Me; for of no food do I partake so gladly as of that which she prepares.' Then two of the number set out, and in a moment are with her. They respectfully salute her, and having acquitted themselves of their embassy, bring a mess of pottage, which she had got ready for herself and St. Joseph, and a piece of bread, with a linen cloth, and other necessaries ; perbaps, too, our Lady procured, if she could, a small fish or two. Then they return, bearing the repast in their hands; and spreading it on the ground, pronounce in due form the solemn words of benediction. Here consider Him attentively in each of
* The passage
referred to is this—"Now you may piously imagine, how the Son of God, on undertaking this laborious mission of obedience, inclined and recommended Himself to the Father, and that in the same instant His soul was created and infused into the womb of His mother ; perfect man, according to all the lineaments of the body, but very minute ; so that, though He afterwards grew in the womb, as naturally as other children, yet his soul was infused, and his body perfectly formed from the first,” pp. 12, 13. Is this notion of the perfect formation of Christ's body from the instant of the Incarnation, reconcileable with the Catholic Doctrine of the Incarnation? It is remarkable that the words here printed in italics are not found in the translation published by the Roman Catholics in Dublin.
his actions. How composedly He sits on the ground, and with what studious regard to every minute propriety He comports Himself, and how temperately He partakes of the food. The Angels stand around, ministering to their Lord. One serves Him with bread, another with wine, another prepares the fish, and others sing some of the songs of Sion, and rejoice with gladness and festivity before Him.”—Pp. 96, 97.
Fearful must be the state of the church if any great number of the clergy can approve of translating such horrible impiety “ for the use of the members of the Church of England.” Mr. Oakeley has not only translated and published it; he has defended it, and here is his defence
“ Scripture says, that, after our Lord's Temptation in the Wilderness,' Angels came and ministered unto Him.' If we are to conceire of their ministry, we must also conceive of the way in which they ministered ; surely it is profitable, with all reverence to do so. On first thoughts, I suppose, we should all say that these ministra. tions were spiritual alone. Yet this seems an unreal view, considering that our Lord came in the likeness of sinful flesh, all but its sin ; that he was tempted like unto us, and that the Sacred History has just before recorded for our instruction, that He was an hungered.' Our Saint, pondering these words, and again reading elsewhere in Scripture of the employment of Angels in the carrying of food to God's elect, devises a sweet conception, that such was one mode in which these blessed comforters ministered to our Lord. But farther, whence did they seek this food ? Our author carries them, in the same strain of devotional poetry, to the little dwelling at Nazareth, and introduces into the scene our Lord's Blessed Mother (who had for the twenty and nine years before ministered to her Divine Son with devout reverence and affection) as the associate of the Angels in this work of earthly consolation towards Him, who, though He were not of the earth earthy, but the Lord from heaven,’yet vouchsafed for our sakes to empty Himself' for a time, of the exclusive prerogatives of His Divine Nature. This instance has been selected as well for other reasons, as because it is one of the strongest which occur in the following pages, of addition to Scripture, and presumes an interpretation of the sacred text for which our minds are, I think, not at once prepared."—Introduction, PP. Xv. xvi.
So that, acknowledging the violence done to the sacred text, both by addition and interpretation, Mr. Oakeley deliberately undertakes to defend Bonaventure for writing, and himself for translating, such profane fiction. How is it possible for any persons to allow their imaginations such unbridled licence for any length of time, and retain any distinct perception in their minds of what is true and what is fiction? Is it not certain, that they will gradually come to regard the truth as fiction ? Disguise it with whatever sophistry he may, no argument Mr. Oakeley can adduce can shake one's conviction that this system of turning the gospel into a romance and a myth, must tend to the subversion of Christianity itself. At present it serves the purposes of superstition ; by-and-by it will be proved how direct is its tendency to promote infidelity itself, and infidelity the most incurable and hopeless. For the worst species of infidelity is that which begins in lowering the standard of Scripture as an inspired record. He who takes such liberties as these can have little idea what inspiration means; and in after times, every thought of retracing the steps which led to infidelity, and of searching the Scriptures as the oracle of truth, must be met by the recollection that Christians consider their sacred record merely as a text to found romance and poetry upon. And with that will come the suspicion, that truth may have been treated with equal freedom by the Evangelists themselves, and the gospel itself be no better than a romance, a legend, a myth, a meditation.
SOME NOTICES OF THE EARLY COLONIAL CHURCH.
(Continued from p. 252.) On Mr. Neill's removal, in 1758, from Dover, to the less laborious mission of Oxford, in the same province (Pensilvania), Mr. Charles Inglis was recommended to the Society as his successor.
He had, during the last three years, conducted the free-school at Lancaster to the satisfaction of all, and thus had become favourably known to the clergy of the neighbourhood, who now testified of him “ as a young gentleman of unblemished character, discreet in his behaviour, and free from even the suspicion of anything unbecoming. With these high testimonials he canie to England, was admitted by the Bishop of London to holy orders, and re-embarked for his humble mission, to which a salary of 501. a-year was attached. Such was the modest commencement of a career, which was destined to be marked by various fortunes, and distinguished by services of the highest value to the church.
Mr. Inglis, after a long and dangerous voyage, arrived at Dover on the 1st of July, 1759, and at this distance of eighty-six years, it is impossible not to remember with thankfulness that the son is still administering with unimpaired vigour and energy that same important diocese where, under the father's spiritual superintendence, the church was first perfectly organized in the British colonies. So long a period of service (still, let us hope, to be considerably extended) to the colonial church, deserves, surely, special notice and remembrance. Mr. Inglis, on coming to his mission, found the situation unhealthy from the neighbourhood of low, marshy lands. There were within it three churches, but that at Dover was in a most ruinous condition. He soon, however, contrived to restore it, and to build a fourth on the borders of Maryland. The mission comprised the whole county of Kent, thirtythree miles in length and ten in breadth, with a population of 7000, of which a third belonged to the communion of the church.*
In 1763, he informed the Society of the flourishing state of his mission as evidenced by the erection and restoration of churches, the crowds who attended divine service, the return of dissenters to the church, and the revival of a spirit of piety in many persons. His own health, he described as much affected by the dampness of the situation, as well as by the excessive fatigue of having to attend stations distant severally fourteen, seventeen, and eighteen miles from his own residence.t
In 1765, Mr. Inglis obtained the sanction of the Society to accept the appointment of assistant to Dr. Auchmuty, and catechist to the negroes at New York. During the six years of his ministration at Dover he had baptized —
* Journal, xv. 279. VOL. XXVII.-April, 1845.
† Ibid. vol. xvi. p. 68.