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REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS. Art. I.- Essays on some of the Difficulties in the Writings of St. Paul, and in other Parts of the New Testament. By Richard Whately, D. D. Principal of St. Alban's Hall, Oxford, and late Fellow of Oriel College. London: Fellowes. 1823. Price 9s. 8vo.
Having introduced Dr. Whately's Essays on the Peculiarities of the Christian Religion to the favourable notice of our readers, we now proceed to an analysis of the able work before us, with undiminished, yea, rather with increased and increasing admiration of the learned Principal of St. Alban's Hall. His energies have gathered strength from the “ Difficulties" of his subjects; and whilst discussing some of the most mysterious points of theology, which have been the fruitful source of unseemly warmth and furious invective, (for when combatants fight in the dark, what their blows lose in precision they gain often in violence), he has afforded us an edifying example of the gentleness of the wisdom that is from above, united with an honest love of truth, and a Christian earnestness in contending for the faith. He is profound without obscurity; zealous without enthusiasm ; fearless, yet not rash; religious, yet not methodistical ; evangelical, yet not Calvinistic; learned, yet not pedantic; original without heresy, and decided in his views, without the bitterness which is wont to characterize the haughty maintainers of the dogmata of Calvin. We “ wish him good luck in the name of the Lord,” and we hope to enjoy repeated opportunities of paying our respects to him; and whilst we sincerely congratulate the University of Oxford in the possession of such a preacher as Dr. Whately, we beg leave to remind the excellent Principal of St. Alban's Hall of the enviable position which he commands in that venerable seat of sound learning, and how infinite are his obligations to use the talents with which he is blessed, for the perpetual inculcation of orthodox theology upon the waxen minds of those fortunate students, who may have the VOL. XI. NO. XII.
ind the excech a preacherte the Universiespects to
world. The good tidings, ted by the receptider verseness of our plemorable prophecies or for it is a signaust the testim
opportunily and the taste to hear the pastoral addresses of our late Fellow of Oriel.
The work upon our table contains nine Essays upon the following very important and interesting topics :—“1. On the love of truth. 2. On the difficulties and the value of St. Paul's writings generally. 3. On election. 4. On perseverance and assurance. 5. On the abolition of the Mosaic law. 6. On imputed righteousness. 7. On apparent contradictions in Scripture. 8. On the mode of conveying moral precepts in the New Testament. 9. On the influence of the Holy Spirit."
The corruption of human nature, and the perverseness of our hearts, are fearfully manifested by the reception which has been given to the “good tidings," published by our Redeemer to a ruined world. That reception, indeed, is amongst the testimonies to the truth of our holy faith, for it is a signal fulfilment of one of the memorable prophecies of its divine Founder; yet, who can contemplate the heresies, the schisms, the discord, the violence, the clamours, the invectives, the enmities, the factions, of those multifold sects, who “ name the name of Christ," without alternate feelings of commiseration and of shame? “ Quis talia fando temperet a lacrymis ?” Instead of construing the word of God with attention to the known and admitted canons of honest interpretation; instead of receiving the engrafted word with the meekness and the docility of children ; we torture the oracles of heaven till they speak our preconceived notions; we discard what we cannot misconstrue; we warp the rule of faith to meet our crude prejudices; and we arm ourselves with the ingenuity of a special pleader, that we may make what we list of the word of the Most High ; and the end of our intellectual tricks is to convert all truth into nothing. How, then, are these evils to be remedied ? By an honest love of the truth. Here, therefore, our excellent Essayist lays the sure foundation of his superstructure. Ancient philosophers, poets, and politicians, never so much as dreamt of inquiring into the truth of the popular religions, because they well knew that there was no evidence for the existing superstitions : “ truth, and belief in the truth, seem, in this matter, to have scarcely entered their minds."
Pilate accordingly seems to have been perplexed by our Lord's reply, stating that he had come into the world for the purpose of bearing “ witness to the truth.” . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . “ What is truth ?" he replied; as much as to say, “ What has truth to do with the present business? I wish for information as to your claims and objects;—what sovereignty is it that you pretend to, or aim at; and you tell me about Truth; what is that to the purpose?"-Pp. 6, 7.
It is the honourable distinction of Christianity, on the other hand, that she appeals to incontrovertible evidence, and challenges the most
rigid investigation of her claims to the venerable character of truth. We are to “prove all things," and to hold fast only that which is right. “Do Christians, then, in this respect, shew themselves worthy of their peculiar advantages ?”
The professors of such a religion ought not merely to believe it in sincerity, but to adhere scrupulously to 'Iruth in the means employed on every occasion, as well as in the ends proposed, and to follow fearlessly wherever Truth may lead.-P. 9.
Hence, then, arises the necessity of self-examination as to this point. Accordingly our learned author lays down some directions to guide us in this inquiry, and points out the several modes of self-deceit by which men are misled in their convictions. He first endeavours, however, to answer some objections, which have been raised against the habit of cultivating this love of truth for its own sake, “ with a steady thorough.going adherence to it” in all inquiries, for which we are compelled to refer our readers to the pages under review.
We are not ignorant of the reception with which our author's lucubrations will be greeted by ninety-nine men out of a hundred, who flatter themselves that they have already sought for truth with success ; “ for every one must, of course, be convinced of the truth of his opinion, if it be properly called his opinion.” Yea, any man may believe any thing that he is willing and inclined to believe: there is no power more mighty than the force of prejudice.
It makes all the difference, therefore, whether we begin or end with the inquiry as to the truth of our doctrines. To express the same maxim in other words, it is one thing to wish to have Truth on our side, and another thing to wish sincerely to be on the side of Truth. There is no genuine love of truth implied in the former. Truth is a powerful auxiliary, such as every one wishes to have on his side ; every one is rejoiced to find, and therefore seldom fails to find, that the principles he is disposed to adopt,- the notions he is inclined to defend, may be maintained as true. A determination to “obcy the Truth,” and to follow wherever she may lead, is not so common. In this consists the genuine love of truth; and this can be realized in practice, only by postponing all other questions to that which ought ever to come foremost," What is Truth?”' The minds of most men are preoccupied by some feeling or other which influences their judgment, either on the side of truth, or of error, as it may happen, and enlists their learning and ability on the side, whatever it may be, which they are predisposed to adopt. — Pp. 23, 24.
Dr. Whately, therefore, points out the prejudices which stand in the way of truth; they are said to be " an aversion to doubt;" “ the desire of originality, heightened sometimes into the love of paradox;" “excessive deference for authority;" and “the tendency to look, in the first instance, to the expedient."
“ This is the sin," writes our Essayist, speaking of the last-mentioned obstacle to truth, “ which most easily besets those who are engaged in the instruction of others; and it besets them the more easily, inasmuch as the consciousness of falsehood, even if it exist in the outset, will very soon wear away. He who does not begin by preaching what he thoroughly believes, will speedily end by believing what he preaches. His habit of discriminating the true from the false, the well-established from the doubtful, will soon decay for want of assiduous exercise; and thus inured to the sacrifice of complete sincerity to supposed utility, and accustomed to support true conclusions by any premises that offer, he will soon lose, through this faulty practice, even the power of distinguishing what conclusions are true.”—Pp. 30, 31.
Dr. Whately concludes his first Essay with some cautionary maxims against the temptations to be swayed by the expedient rather than by a love of the truth. He wisely admonishes his readers never to advance an argument, or to acquiesce in any when advanced by another, which they know or suspect to be unsound or fallacious, “ however true the conclusion may be to which it leads; however convincing the argument may be to those it is addressed to; and however important it may be that they should be convinced.” He earnestly warns us not to countenance any erroneous notion, “however seemingly beneficial in its results;" nor" to suppress any clearlyrevealed gospel truth, through apprehension of ill consequences ;" nor, lastly, to entertain any dread of the progress of any truth.
We must not imitate the bigotted papists who imprisoned Galileo; and step forward, Bible in hand, (like the profane Israelites carrying the ark of God into the field of battle,) to check the inquiries of the geologist, the astronomer, or the political economist, from an apprehension that the cause of religion can be endangered by them. Any theory on whatever subject, that is really sound, can never be inimical to a religion founded on truth; and any that is unsound may be refuted by arguments drawn from observation and experience, without calling in the aid of revelation. If we give way to a dread of danger from the inculcation of any scriptural doctrine, or from the progress of any physical or moral science, we manifest a want of faith in God's power, or in his will, to maintain his own cause. . . . The part of a lover of Truth is to follow her at all hazards, after the example of Him, who came into the world that He might bear witness of the Truth.”—Pp. 36, 37.
Our author's Essay “On the difficulties and the value of St. Paul's writings generally,” has infinitely delighted us. There is, indeed, as he has well observed, a striking analogy between the treatment to which St. Paul was himself exposed during his ministry, and that which his works have met with since. Persecuted by the Jews; vexed by the perverseness of his own converts ; driven from city to city by the implacable fury of his enemies ; derided by the scoffs of infidels, and misrepresented by the arrogant wilfulness of false brethren; “ assaulted by the populace, punished by the magistrates, scourged, beat, stoned, left for dead;"* he is a remarkable type, if we may be allowed so to speak, of the fate which awaited the writings which he left behind him.
No part of the Scriptures of the New Testament has been so unjustly neglected by some Christians, and so much perverted by others over and above the especial hatred of them by infidels, and by some description of heretics. Still may
• Paley's Horæ Paulinæ, p. 338.
St. Paul be said to stand, in his works, as he did in person while on earth, in the front of the battle; to bear the chief brunt of assailants from the enemies' side, and to be treacherously stabbed by false friends on his own; degraded and vilified by one class of heretics, perverted and misinterpreted by another, and too often most unduly neglected by those who are regarded as orthodox. And still do his works stand, and ever will stand as a mighty bulwark of the true Christian faith ; he, after having himself “ fought the good fight, and finished his course," has left behind him a monument in his works, whereby “he being dead yet speaketh ;" a monument which his master will guard (even till that day when it's author shall receive the “crown of glory laid up for him,'') from being overthrown by the assaults of enemies, and from mouldering into decay through the negligence of friends.-Pp. 46, 47.
Our author has ably refuted the mischievous error of those writers, who have confined their attention to the histories composed by the evangelists, or to the discourses of our blessed Redeemer, as their principal storehouse of divinity, to the disparagement of the Apostolic Epistles. The four Gospels do not contain an account of the Christian religion, but “ memoirs of the life of its Founder, who came into the world not to make a revelation, so much as to be the subject of a revelation.” So it is with the Acts of the Apostles; the design of which work was, not to teach Christianity, but to give a history of its propagation. Our Lord's discourses, it should be remembered, never were meant to teach the whole truth, as afterwards revealed to his disciples ; for the most important events connected with the Christian revelation had not then taken place. The mysteries of the gospel-scheme, the vicarious death of Christ, the true nature of redemption and of faith, " and all the circumstances of the Messiah's spiritual kingdom (which did not exist during his ministry on earth), his Apostles themselves could not collect, even after his departure," till inspired by the Holy Ghost, whose office it was to lead them into all truth.
Those, therefore, who neglect their inspired preaching, and will learn nothing of Christianity except what they find in the discourses of Jesus, confident that they alone contain the whole truth, are wilfully preferring an imperfect to a more complete revelation, and setting their own judgment above that of the Apostles. —P. 55.
Hence it is manifest, that our chief source of instruction, as to the doctrines of the Gospel, must be the Apostolic Epistles ; " the most precious part of which treasure we have from the pen of St. Paul” (p. 59); from the study of which we must not permit ourselves to be seduced by any fear of misinterpreting their contents. That his writings are sometimes “ hard to be understood,” is a reason why we should read them more diligently, and explain them more assiduously. Doubtless, his words have been wrested to purposes of destruction; but so have the other Scriptures; and the dangerous effects of his doctrines may be admitted as a valid reason for their suppression, when men shall resolve to perish with famine rather than hazard the