صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

all the writings of the followers of Christ within the space of ninety years from the date of the Resurrection. I do not myself think that any of these writings were composed as late as A. D. 120; but I wish to preclude all dispute. This book I resume, as read and yet unread-read and familiar to my mind in all parts, but which is yet to be perused as a whole, or rather, a work, cujus particulas et sententiolas omnes et singulas recogniturus sum, but the component integers of which, and their conspiration, I have yet to study. I take up this work with the purpose to read it for the first time as I should read any other work-as far at least as I can or dare. For I neither can, nor dare, throw off a strong and awful prepossession in its favour, certain as I am that a large part of the light and life, in and by which I see, love, and embrace the truths and the strengths co-organised into a living body of faith and knowledge in the four preceding classes, has been directly or indirectly derived to me from this sacred volume, and unable to determine what I do not owe to its influences. But even on this account, and because it has these inalienable claims on my reverence and gratitude, I will not leave it in the power of unbelievers to say, that the Bible is for me only what the Koran is for the deaf Turk, and the Vedas for the feeble and acquiescent Hindoo. No; I will retire up into the mountain, and hold secret commune with my Bible above the contagious blastments of prejudice, and the fog-blight of selfish superstition. For fear hath torment. And what though my reason be to the power and splendour of the Scriptures but as the reflected and secondary shine of the moon compared with the solar radiance; yet the sun endures the occasional co-presence of the unsteady orb, and leaving it visible seems to sanction the comparison. There is a Light higher than all, even the Word that was in the beginning; the Light, of which light itself is but the shechinah and cloudy tabernacle; the Word that is light for every man, and life for as many as give heed to it. If between this Word and the written Letter I shall any where seem to myself to find a discrepance, I will not conclude that such there actually is; nor, on the other hand, will I fall under the condemnation of them that would lie for God, but seek as I may, be thankful for what I have-and wait." (pp. 8-10.)

"The doctrine in question requires me to believe, that not only what finds me, but that all that exists in the sacred volume, and which I am bound to find therein, was not alone inspired by--that is, composed by-men under the actuating influence of the Holy Spirit, but likewise dictated by an Infallible Intelligence; that the writers, each and all, were divinely informed as well as inspired. Now here all evasion, all excuse, is cut off. An Infallible Intelligence extends to all things, physical no less than spiritual. It may convey the truth in any one of the three possible languages-that of Sense, as objects appear to the beholder on this earth; or that of Science, which supposes the beholder placed in the centre; or that of Philosophy, which resolves both into a supersensual reality. But whichever be chosen-and it is obvious that the incompatibility exists only between the first and second, both of them being indifferent, and of equal value to the third-it must be employed consistently; for an Infallible Intelligence must intend to be intelligible, and not to deceive. And, moreover, whichever of these three languages be chosen, it must be translatable into Truth. For this is the very essence of the doctrine, that one and the same intelligence is speaking in the unity of a Person; which unity is no more broken by the diversity of the pipes through which it makes itself audible, than is a tune by the different instruments on which it is played by a consummate musician, equally perfect in all. One instrument may be more capacious than another, but as far as its compass extends, and in what it sounds forth, it will be true to the conception of the master. I can conceive no softenings here which would not nullify the doctrine, and convert it to a cloud for each man's fancy to shift and shape at will. And this doctrine, I confess, plants the vineyard of the Word with thorns for me, and places snares in its pathways. These may be delusions of an evil spirit; but ere I so harshly question the seeming angel of light--my reason, I mean, and moral sense in conjunction with my clearest knowledgeI must inquire on what authority this doctrine rests. (pp. 13–15.)

Let it be observed-for it is the key-note of all these writers --that man, the human soul, in its ordinary state, is made the ultimate arbiter and judge of this great question. Mr. Coleridge says, "There is a light higher than all;" "the Word that is light for every man, and life for as many as give heed to it." And between this "Word" and "the written Letter," he supposes the case of an apparent discrepancy.

Mr. Coleridge's position, then-and we fear that it is now the position taken up by many, and even by some among the clergy, -his position is, that the Divine inspiration " of all that exists in the sacred volume," is not credible, and is not, in Scripture itself, asserted. He will venerate the Scriptures as a whole; he will receive as the word of God such passages as declare that God himself made such communications to a prophet, and commanded them to be written down. But, for all the rest, when he supposes an unbeliever remarking, that, among the advocates of the Bible," the principal arguments are grounded on the position, that the Bible throughout was dictated by Omniscience, and is therefore in all its parts true and obligatory;" he adds, mournfully, "What could I reply to all this? I could neither deny the fact, nor evade the conclusion,-namely, that such is at present the popular belief."

The Bible, then, is given up as "the word of God." Mr. Coleridge contrasts the two positions; "The Bible contains the religion revealed by God," and, "Whatever is contained in the Bible is religion, and was revealed by God." The first is his faith; the second, that which he rejects.

And why does he adopt this practical, though mild and covert, infidelity? For the same reason which gives rise to almost every heresy. Man's faculties are limited; he never sees the whole of a question. To use M. Adolphe Monod's beautiful explanation-"Truth appears in its infinite extent to God alone;-to man, it presents itself partially, and consequently under varying aspects to different minds." And yet, while getting a view of no more than a mere corner of the building, man insists upon dogmatizing on the character of the whole. Nearly every preacher of error insists on reducing us to a choice between his proposition, which is usually an imperfect one, and some other, equally imperfect. And thus, Mr. Coleridge demands that we shall adopt his view of the non-inspiration of Scripture, except in a few especial passages; or else shall accept a palpable caricature, sketched by himself, of what he considers the popular view. Thus he supposes the question, "Why should I not believe the Scriptures throughout dictated, in word and thought, by an infallible Intelligence?" And instantly replies,

[ocr errors]

Why should I not? Because the doctrine in question petrifies at once the whole body of Holy Writ with all its harmonics and symmetrical gradations, the flexile and the rigid,-the supporting hard and the clothing soft, -the blood which is the life, the intelligencing nerves, and the rudely woven, but soft and springy, cellular substance, in which all are embedded and lightly bound together. This breathing organism, this glorious panhar

monicon, which I had seen stand on its feet as a man, and with a man's voice given to it, the doctrine in question turns at once into a colossal Memnon's head, a hollow passage for a voice, a voice that mocks the voices of many men, and speaks in their names, and yet is but one voice, and the same ;-and no man uttered it, and never in a human heart was it conceived." (pp. 33, 34.)

"Let me be once persuaded that all these heart-awakening utterances of human hearts-of men of like faculties and passions with myself,-mourning, rejoicing, suffering, triumphing-are but as a Divina Commedia of a superhuman-O bear with me, if I say-Ventriloquist ;-that the royal Harper, to whom I have so often submitted myself as a many-stringed instrument for his fire-tipt fingers to traverse, while every several nerve of emotion, passion, thought, that thrills the flesh and blood of our common humanity, responded to the touch, that this sweet Psalmist of Israel was himself as mere an instrument as his harp, an automaton poet, mourner, and supplicant ;—all is gone, all sympathy, at least, and all example. I listen in awe and fear, but likewise in perplexity and confusion of spirit." (pp. 37, 38.).

Thus the wretched alternative which Mr. Coleridge offers to us, is this;-either to believe the books of the Bible to be written by human beings like ourselves, and with whom we can sympathise; and then they are fallible and even faulty productions:

-or else to assert them to be wholly Divine words spoken through human lips, as sound passes through an organ-pipe; and, then, they may be Divine. To one of these two bare and naked propositions he strives to confine us. But we refuse to be confined to either. Why are we to accept any such poor wretched theory, merely because a clever but erratic dreamer like Coleridge insists upon it, that there is no other choice for us? Is he able to solve any of the kindred questions in this off-hand way, that he assumes thus to decide this? Can he tell us, for instance, how the human brain acts upon the hand or the foot, and that with the speed of light; so that the runner, leaping from a rocky height, rules every step of his feet, on which his life depends, by a series of rapid but decisive acts of the will, dictating every motion, even the slightest? Or, to pass on to a more nearly connected case, can he define and describe the inspiration and miraculous powers of the first Apostles? how far they were guided by Divine power, and how far and in what way human frailty mingled even with their official and authoritative doings?

He can answer none of these questions. They are beyond the reach of the human mind, yet with what self-sufficient rashness does Mr. Coleridge offer us this choice of his own invention : --either to confess the inspired writers to be erring and fallible men even in their writings; or else to avow that they were mere organ-pipes, through which the utterance of the Spirit passed. We reject both, and hold a view of the case widely different from either.

What that view is, cannot with justice be set forth in the short space that now remains to us. The parallel we have already suggested will sufficiently indicate it. Our Lord said to his Apostles, on one occasion: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." And in a few

weeks after this, Peter said to Sapphira: "Behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down at his feet, and yielded up the ghost."

The power given, then, was a reality; an awful fact. And yet these Apostles were not changed from men into gods. "When Peter was come to Antioch," says St. Paul, "I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed."

Is this perplexing and confounding? It was not so to the disciples of those days. They were at no loss to tell when an Apostle spake with authority, and when he spake merely as one of themselves. Is it not obvious to every one who will reflect for a moment, that if there had been any obscurity or doubt on these points, the settlement of a Canon of Scripture would have been absolutely impossible. Mr. Coleridge's view, could it have found any credence at that period, would have left us no “New Testament;" but a mixed heap of true and false, Peter and Papias, John and Hermas,-amidst which no man could have found the path to heaven.

Mr. Coleridge finds, in the word of God, what Peter warned him he would find there,-"some things hard to be understood;" and thence he argues that all the word cannot be Divine. It was in a similar spirit, and with the same rashness and imperfection of view, that all the great heresies of the carly ages were broached and promulgated. Unable to grasp more than a portion of the subject, men insisted on raising their half-ideas to the rank of articles of faith. It was thus that the great question of the Divine and human nature of our Lord Jesus Christ was frequently handled. Men could not grasp the truth; and yet they insisted on putting forth theories, and forming parties. One, regarding Christ as God, could not conceive of His being also man. Another, assured that he was man, could not believe him to be also God. The poet's vivid picture,—

"As much, when in the cradle laid,

Almighty Ruler of the sky,

As when the six days' work he made,

Filled all the morning stars with joy”

seemed to them incredible, and they rejected it, as Mr. Colcridge rejects the similar idea of the joint humanity and divinity of Holy Scripture.

We have but opened the subject, and yet we must conclude. We have, however, given our readers something like a fair view of the real drift and tenor of the work, which we take to be probably the most poisonous production of the present day.

We assign it this guilty pre-eminence, because its author enjoys a certain reputation, both as a poet and a philosopher, and also as a Christian. It is generally believed that he died a Christian death, that is, the death of a penitent and believing man. And of this we have no wish even to hint a doubt. His faith

may have been almost as sincere and as saving as that of Cowper's lace-maker,

"Who knew, and knew no more, her Bible true;
A truth the brilliant Frenchman never knew;
And in that charter read, with sparkling eyes,
Her title to a mansion in the skies."

We may, with some hesitation and reserve, hope that Coleridge "believed his Bible true." And yet we must lament deeply, and condemn utterly, this his posthumous work, the general drift of which is, to unsettle the minds of his admirers and followers, on the all-important question of the inspiration of the Scriptures; and to leave them with no more than a vague belief, that the Bible is generally a venerable and admirable book, but that nobody is bound to receive it, in the aggregate, as THE WORD OF GOD.

We repeat our regret that it is impossible in a single article to do more than touch the surface of this great argument; but it may be possible, on other occasions, to carry the consideration of this vital subject some steps further.

The Doctrine of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, in its relation to Mankind and the Church. By ROBERT ISAAC WILBERFORCE, A.M., Archdeacon of the East Riding. Murray, 1848.

THE "Incarnation,"-that act of the Deity, whereby the human and divine natures were united, and yet kept distinct, in the Person of Christ-presents a subject, which should not be approached without caution by human reasoners. It is a revealed mystery, not in the sense merely of some of the truths spoken of by St. Paul, which were made known for ages but not understood, till cleared up in the Gospel-such as the call of the Gentiles; but in the sense of a truth mysterious in itself, and which must always be inscrutable to our finite faculties such as the doctrine of the Trinity. To pry curiously into such a mystery,— to draw from it deductions, not inevitable,-and to make those deductions binding on men's faith equally with the mystery itself -is a proceeding fraught with danger, and one which that man will be slow to adopt, who feels it to be his true wisdom to sit as a little child at the feet of the Great Teacher, and not to venture, without absolute necessity, beyond the precincts of express Revelation.

It is remarkable, how uniformly our most celebrated divines have exhibited such childlike wisdom, with regard to this mysterious subject.

We look in vain for a Treatise on it, amongst the volumes produced by our greatest writers.

« السابقةمتابعة »