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NOTE ON BUNSEN'S BIBLICAL RESEARCHES.
SINCE the Essay on Bunsen's “ Biblical Researches " was in type, two more parts of the “ Bible for the People” have reached England. One includes a translation of Isaiah, but does not separate the distinguishable portions in the manner of Ewald, or with the freedom which the translator's criticisms would justify. The other part comprehends numerous dissertations on the Pentateuch, entering largely on questions of its origin, materials, and interpretation. There seems not an entire consistency of detail in these dissertations, and in the views deducible from the author's “ Egypt;" but the same spirit, and breadth of treatment, pervade both. The analysis of the Levitical laws, by which the Mosaic germs are distinguished from subsequent accretions, is of the highest interest. The ten plagues of Egypt are somewhat rationalistically handled, as having a true historical basis, but as explicable by natural phenomena, indigenous to Egypt in all ages. The author's tone upon the technical definition of miracles, as distinct from great marvels and wonders, has acquired a firmer freedom, and would be represented by some among ourselves as “painfully sceptical.” But even those who hesitate to follow the author in his details must be struck by the brilliant suggestiveness of his researches, which tend more and more, in proportion as they are developed, to justify the presentiment of their creating a new epoch in the science of biblical criticism.
ON THE STUDY OF THE EVIDENCES
By BADEN POWELL, M. A., F.R. S., &c.
NHE investigation of that important and extensive
subject which includes what have been usually designated as “The Evidences of Revelation," has prescriptively occupied a considerable space in the field of theological literature, especially as cultivated in England. There is scarcely one, perhaps, of our more eminent divines, who has not, in a greater or less degree, distinguished himself in this department; and scarcely an aspirant for theological distinction who has not thought it one of the surest paths to that eminence, combining so many and varied motives of ambition, to come forward as a champion in this
At the present day, it might be supposed the discussion of such a subject, taken up as it has been successively in all its conceivable different bearings, must be nearly exhausted. It must, however, be borne in mind that, unlike the essential doctrines of Christianity, — “the same yesterday, to-day, and forever," — these external accessories constitute a subject which of necessity is perpetually taking somewhat, at least, of a new form with the successive phases of opinion and knowledge. And it thus becomes not an unsatisfactory nor unimportant object, from time to
time, to review the condition in which the discussion stands, and to comment on the peculiar features which at any particular epoch it most prominently presents, as indicative of strength or weakness, — of the advance and security of the cause, -if, in accordance with the real progress of enlightenment, its advocates have had the wisdom to rescind what better information showed defective, and to substitute views in accordance with higher knowledge ; or, on the other hand, inevitable symptoms of weakness and inefficiency, if such salutary cautions have been neglected. To offer some general remarks of this kind on the existing state of these discussions will be the object of the present essay.
Before proceeding to the main question, we may, however, properly premise a brief reflection on the spirit and temper in which it should be discussed. In writings on these subjects, it must be confessed, we too often find indications of a polemical acrimony on questions where a calm discussion of arguments would be more becoming, as well as more consistent with the proposed object; the too frequent assumption of the part of the special partisan and ingenious advocate, when the character to be sustained should be rather that of the unbiased judge ; too much of hasty and captious objection on the one hand, or of settled and inveterate prejudice on the other; too strong a tendency not fairly to appreciate, or even to keep out of sight, the broader features of the main question, in the eagerness to single out particular salient points for attack; too ready a disposition to triumph in lesser details, rather than steadily to grasp more comprehensive principles, and leave minor difficulties to await their solution, or to regard this or that particular argument as if the entire credit of the cause were staked
it. And if, on the one side, there is often a just complaint, that objections are urged in a manner and tone offensive to religious feeling and conscientious prepossessions, which are, at least, entitled to respectful consideration : so, on the other, there is too often evinced a want of sympathy with the difficulties which many so seriously feel in admitting the alleged evidences, and which many habitual believers do not appreciate, perhaps because they have never thought or inquired deeply on the subject; or, what is more, have believed it wrong and impious to do so.
Any appeal to argument must imply perfect freedom of conviction. It is a palpable absurdity to put reasons before a man, and yet wish to compel him to adopt them, or to anathematize him if he find them unconvincing ; to repudiate him as an unbeliever, because he is careful to find satisfactory grounds for his belief; or to denounce him as a sceptic, because he is scrupulous to discriminate the truth; to assert that his honest doubts evince a moral obliquity ; in a word, that he is no judge of his own mind; while it is obviously implied that his instructor is so; or, in other words, is omniscient and infallible. When serious difficulties have been felt and acknowledged on any important subject, and a writer undertakes the task of endeavoring to obviate them, it is but a fair demand, that if the reader be one of those who do not feel the difficulties, or do not need or appreciate any further argument to enlighten or support his belief, he should not cavil at the introduction of topics which may be valuable to others, though needless or distasteful to himself. Such persons are in no way called upon to enter into the discussion ; but they are unfair if they accuse those who do so of agitating questions of whose existence they have been unconscious, and of unsettling men's minds because their own prepossessions have been long settled, and they do not perceive the difficulties of others, which it is the very aim of such discussion to remove.
Perhaps most of the various parties who have at all engaged in the discussion of these subjects are agreed in admitting a wide distinction between the influences of feeling and those of reason, the impressions of conscience and the deductions of intellect, the dictations of moral and religious sense and the conclusions from evidence, in reference especially to the questions agitated as to the grounds of belief in divine revelation. Indeed, when we take into account the nature of the objects considered, the distinction is manifest and undeniable; when a reference is made to matters of external fact (insisted on as such), it is obvious that reason and intellect can alone be the proper judges of the evidence of such facts. When, on the other hand, the question may be as to points of moral or religious doctrine, it is equally clear, other and higher grounds of judgment and conviction must be appealed to.
In the questions now under consideration, both classes of arguments are usually involved. It is the professed principle of at least a large section of those who discuss the subject, that the question is materially connected with the truth and evidence of certain external alleged historical facts; while, again, all will admit that the most essential and vital portion of the inquiry refers to matters of a higher, of a more internal, moral, and spiritual kind.