Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

and there are very cogent reasons, therefore, why he should procure and read the whole book.

Mr. Norton will also perceive, that widely as I suppose myself to differ from him in regard to some points of theology, and perhaps even of criticism, but certainly of exegesis, yet I am not disposed in any measure to underrate his efforts on the common ground in which we are agreed. He has achieved a service which was very important in the present state of criticism and of skepticism.

As I have but a very moderate appetite for heresy-hunting, so I have not endeavoured to record every expression in Mr. Norton's book, which indicates a mode of thinking different from that which is generally called, and which I believe to be, orthodox. I fear that Mr. Norton rejects altogether the idea of inspiration in respect to the Gospels. I hope it is not so ; but he sometimes speaks in such a way, that the belief of this is forced upon me. He tells us of things “erroneously referred by Mark';" that “ Luke confounded the discourse;" that he “ did not sufficiently discriminate” certain things; that he “misplaced” the words of John on a certain occasion ; that he

misplaced ” another discourse of the Saviour ; that he “misapprehended” his meaning on another occasion ; that Luke i. ï. has a “fabulous hue,” and that “fiction and miracle are blended” there. On p. clxx. he gives an account, in a Note, of the manner in which Paul became informed of the truths of Christianity, in which he does not even advert to the fact repeatedly asserted by Paul, that the Saviour had appeared to him and had instructed him, and that on this very ground no apostle could claim a precedence over him. From a few things of this nature in the work before us, I am reluctantly obliged to believe, that the author does not admit the idea of inspiration in respect to the Gospels. He evidently views them as credible books, and worthy of all acceptation ; with the exception of some few passages which he deems to be spurious, but which I shall not particularize, since they have already been noted in the preceeding pages.

It is a matter of sincere regret to me, that such passages as the above should be found in a work the tone and temper of which, at large, are truly worthy of imitation. The author seems to have set out with the full design not to give unnecessary offence to any class of his readers, and to present to the public a specimen of writing similar in its tone and manner to that of

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Lardner. He should have full credit for this. And if now and then he has expressed himself without a recollection of this his general design, it would be foolish in the reader to reject the mass of good there is in the book, because of the few things of this kind which he may deem to be blemishes. I indulge the hope, that when this book comes to a second edition, (and if it meet its just deserts it certainly will), the author will sacrifice even the few remnants of his peculiar theology, which now and then gleam upon us, to the hope and prospect of the greater good which may be evidently achieved by his book in case they are omitted. To his own individual sentiments he of course must have a right, which none but his Maker can lawfully call in question. But it is not necessary that he should insist on the declaration of them in this valuable book, and especially it is unnecessary to declare them on a point, where, if he believes as I fear he does, the conviction that the Gospels are genuine would add little or nothing to the obligation which the world at large would feel, to admit them as their Lex Suprema in all cases of moral action.

I should decline the task, if it were in any way assigned to me, of undertaking to shew, that minds of a certain cast might or might not truly and sincerely believe in the Gospels, and receive them as the rule of faith and practice, although they rejected the idea that these Gospels were composed by writers under the influence of divine inspiration. I suppose it might be rendered probable to an enlightened mind, that the actual admission of the essential truths of the Gospel, as a rule of faith and practice, would belong to the substance of faith ; a belief as to the manner in which the books had originated which presented these truths, would certainly be only a secondary ingredient in faith, when placed at its bighest just estimation. Mr. Norton may say, perhaps, and it seems probable to me that he would say, that he admits the first, while he doubts about the last. But still, with all the respect that I cheerfully accord to the serious manner in which he presents and views the Gospels, I cannot help entertaining the most serious doubts, whether general skepticism, or rather practical infidelity, would not at last be the result of inculcating principles such as he holds, in regard to the authority, or rather I should say, perhaps, the origin of our sacred books. I do not take upon myself to determine, how minds like Mr. Norton's might decide respecting the authority of the Gospels, when they had been trained and chastened in the school of moral philosophy and in all the discipline of a theological school ; but it is unnecessary to decide this, because the proportion of men in our community who are thus trained is so small. One thing, however, we may safely aver, viz., that any rere conviction of the genuineness of the gospels—any mere intellectual admission that they are correct and credible accounts of the life and doctrines of the Saviourcan and will never move the mass of men to yield to their authority. Does not Mr. Norton see, that this last point is so necessary, that all the rest being gained, nothing important is gained unless this follow as a sequent to the others ? But taking men as they are, with all that worldly spirit and all those desires of carnal indulgence which they possess and which they are for the most part heartily set upon gratifying, is there (humanly speaking) any chance to make real practical con verts to Christianity, when the Scriptures are divested of divine authority, and made to extend no further than fallible human authority can go ? The hope of converting a sinful world on such grounds, does appear to me absolutely desperate. Without undertaking positively to decide, what a few minds trained like that of Mr. Norton might possibly admit, and how they might be influenced, can I hesitate to believe, that when the divine authority of the Gospels is given up, all is given up which gives them (if I may so speak) any chance of success in a world like this?

Mr. Norton needs not to be informed, that theoretical believers are not such as the apostle James thinks ought to be ranked among Christians, whose faith is well-anchored. Important as his own book is, therefore, (and he must see that I deem it to be a performance of great merit in many respects, and deserving of very general attention), yet the community might go where his performance would carry them, and not be any thing more than theoretical believers. What is the next and the ultimate appeal then? Mr. Norton does not even pretend to be an authority. And if his readers should lay down his book, with a conviction that his positions are well sustained, and still be juclined to ask, as many of them doubtless will ask : Why am I obliged to receive the gospels as my rule of faith and practice? what other answer can be given on Mr. Norton's ground, than that they have the honest opinion of fallible men respecting the life and doctrines of Jesus Christ, and therefore they ought to adopt it? If now such readers should rejoin and say to Mr. Norton ; We have indeed their opiniou or their account of these matters ; but inasmuch as you admit that they have “misapprehended” some things, “confounded” others, “misplaced” some, and “not sufficiently discriminated” in respect to others; while you even admit that they have “ blended fable and fiction together;" how can we, who are not, like you, well-read critics, and have no knowledge of the original Scriptures, in any way distinguish between the cases which

you thus present to our view, and those where you admit that mere and simple facts and truths are stated ?-if, I say, such questions should be asked, (and they certainly will be), then will Mr. Norton tell us what answer is to be given that will “stop the mouths of such gainsayers ?” I know of none. Where Mr. Norton doubts, he can be appealed to in many ways which are closed up with regard to such individuals as I have just described. But when they doubt, even after reading his book, whether to give their practical assent to Christianity, how are they to be made to feel the awful responsibility under which they place themselves by rejecting the word of the living God?

But I am not writing against Mr. Norton's theology, nor composing a polemical essay against skepticism. I will therefore desist. The importance of the subject; the attitude in which Mr. Norton's remarks have placed it; and the obligation which lies upon every conscientious reviewer not to conceal things in a work the tendency of which he believes will be exceedingly hazardous; have induced me to say thus much. I am sure Mr. Norton, with his desires of canvassing all subjects, and with his strenuous sentiments as it respects liberty to speak our opinions, will neither misconstrue nor take amiss what I have now said.

I have only to add, that the book is printed throughout with great correctness and elegance. A small number of mistakes in the typographical execution, an attentive perusal of the whole has discovered; but they are too trilling to deserve mention. The press at Cambridge has few rivals indeed in this country, as to the correctness with which it executes its publications.

ARTICLE II.

THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH, HEAD OVER ALL THINGS ; IL

LUSTRATED BY ANALOGIES BETWEEN NATURE, PROVIDENCE, AND GRACE.

By W. S. Tyler, Professor of Languages, Amherst College.

The Head of the church is likewise “head over all things" - sovereign alike in the kingdom of nature, the kingdom of providence, and the kingdom of grace. He is “ God over all—the God of nature, of providence, and of grace. This is evidently a doctrine of revelation, directly asserted in many passages,* and clearly iinplied in the whole tenor of Scripture.

It is my present design to show, that reason teaches the same doctrine—that a rational and candid examination and comparison of the kingdoms of nature, providence and grace will lead us to the conclusion, that they have the same head. My arguments will be drawn from Analogy, “that powerful engine, which” as has been well said, “ in the mind of a Newton, discovered to us the laws of all other worlds, and in that of Columbus, put us in full possession of our own;" and which, it might have been added, in the mind of a Butler disclosed to us the indissoluble ties, that pervade the economy of the natural and the spiritual worlds." The analogies which run through nature, providence and grace, are such, as if not to establish the proposition, yet to create a strong presumption, that they have the same head, and are in fact but different provinces of the same empire— distinct departments of the same government.

The principle involved in this argument is so fully elucidated and so powerfully enforced by Butler in his “ Analogy,” as to be familiar to the memory, and convincing to the judgment, of every reader of that important work. He has left little for those, who come after him, to do, but to gather new instances of analogy and thus furnish fresh illustrations of the principle and additional confirmations of the argument. This field of investigation, which Butler merely opened to our view, is as boundless as the universe ; its treasures and wonders will be

* Eph. 1: 22. Rom. 9: 5.

« AnteriorContinuar »