« السابقةمتابعة »
rating, but because no such dicta, even though gradually affecting legal enactments, availed materially against barbarous fears and passions. We are willing, for the sake of our common humanity, to suppose that when Augustus sentenced a slave to crucifixion for killing and eating a quail, it was “an extreine example;" but the Emperor may probably have often discussed the "lex naturæ," and ought to have given heed to its dictates.
Manifold as were the corruptions which disfigured Chris. tianity, even at the worst of times and in the darkest ages, the marked power which it possessed of leavening masses of barbarians, and, comparatively speaking, humanizing them, strikingly exhibits its superior claims to consideration as the moral agent, and approves it as a system proceeding originally from God. What that power would have been, had it not been contaminated by human passions and infirmities, and had it confined itself to inculcating the precepts taught by its Divine Founder, imagination would vainly seek to realize. Mr. Lecky has done it but scant justice in the estimate which he has formed of it as a moral agent. He refuses, moreover, altogether to consider its claim to a divine origin, and treats it exactly on the same footing that he does the Stoic and Epicurean philosophies. He thus practically removes God from the immediate government of the world, by his virtual disbelief in miracles, and his protest against the idea that the source and origin of morality sprang either from the nature or will of God. We conceive, too, that a great fallacy lurks in what he is pleased to term the theological estimate of sin, and can only term his statements upon the subject a parody. A reference to the New Testament, and to the prayer of our blessed Lord, “I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest save them from the evil,” should have dispelled, upon the authority of the Divine Founder of Christianity, the absurdity that the fantastic practices of ascetics are a reasonable and consistent course of conduct for Christians to pursue if they would avoid occasions of sinning.
Into the question of the relative merits of the intuitive and utilitarian schools of morals, to which Mr. Lecky has devoted no inconsiderable share of his labours, we do not care to enter here. The question is interesting and important, but could not be fitly argued in a brief criticism. Judicent alii. Our general opinion of the book is, that it will be most unsatisfactory to every one who believes Christianity to be much more than a cunningly-devised fable. It has created considerable sensation on its first appearance, but we doubt its attaining lasting popularity.
Short Lectures on the Sunday Gospels, from Advent to Easter. By the Rev. Ashton Oxenden. London: Hatchards. 1869.-We give a cordial welcome to this little volume. The plan and execution are both excellent. It will furnish a most useful manual for heads of families anxious that their children and servants may enter with profit into this important part of our Church service. The exposition attached to each Gospel is not too long for family worship, and is, in all cases, simple and devout. Mr. Oxenden mentions, in his Preface, that he has availed himself of all the aid he could obtain from various writers : he has combined this with valuable thoughts of his own, and the result has been an admirable short and plain commentary, such as we have attempted to describe.
Light and Truth; or, Bible Thoughts and Themes—The Gospels. By Horatius Bonar, D.D. London: Nisbet, 1869.—We have much pleasure in bestowing similar commendation on this work of Dr. Bonar's to that which we have awarded to Mr. Oxenden's volume. It consists of eighty-six very brief meditations on select passages from the Gospels, which not improbably may have originally been notes of sermons. We have found them full of interesting thought, and very edifying. The essential truths of vital Christianity are presented in a lively manner, well calculated to win attention, and many judicious and solemn warnings against different phases of error are interspersed. The volume will be found very useful, either for family worship or private perusal. In days when, under the plea of promoting Christian union, such foolish and mischievous endeavours are being unscrupulously used to bring about concord between what is sweet and what is bitter, between light and darkness, between Christ and Belial,—we rejoice in being able to unite in a joint commendation these two publications, where the wisdom which is from above, having first wrought in the minds of the authors purity, displays itself in unity in all essential truth. The Christian reader who takes pleasure in the writings of the excellent bishop elect of Montreal, would feel himself as much refreshed with those of the minister of the Free Kirk, and would recognise in both, disciples of the same Master, followers of the same Lord, preaching to him the same Saviour, and teaching him the same blessed truths which are profitable through faith unto salvation.
(1) Spiritual Liberty: a Sermon preached before the University of Oxford, on Whitsunday, 1869. By Archibald Campbell, Archbishop of Canterbury. Oxford: Parker. 1869.—(2) The Spirit of Truth the Holy Spirit : à Sermon preached before the University of Cambridge, on Whitsunday, 1869. By Connop Thirlwall, D.D., Bishop of St. David's. London: Rivingtons. 1869.-Fuller, in his “ Church History,” says it matters not whether a learned writer be of “ Cambridge or Oxford, so God hath the glory, the Church and State the benefit, of their learned endeavours.” With similar impartial interest we bring under the notice of our readers these two sermons, preached before their respective Universities by two of the most eminent prelates of our time. The circumstances under which they were delivered would doubtless be of peculiar interest to the preachers revisiting the scenes of their own early triumphs, and beholding around them the flower of our English youth filled with the same honourable aspirations which actuated them in the earlier period of their career. We may reasonably suppose that, over and above the solemn responsibilities devolving upon them as Fathers of the Church, a large amount of sympathy with the peculiar trials and temptations of their hearers would influence them. But, apart from all such considerations, the sermons them. selves well deserve notice in our pages, as important and timely utterances, from men of high intellectual vigour and extensive learning, upon topics of the utmost moment—vexed questions of the day.
The Archbishop, after asserting the general application of his text, 2 Cor. ii. 17, proceeds to show that the liberty into which the Spirit of God introduces true Christians is threefold—liberty from ceremonial bondage, liberty from the bondage of endless questionings, liberty from allowed sin. We extract an eloquent passage from the second of these divisions :
“ There is no reasonable liberty for the soul, and mind, and character of him whose feet are still stumbling, while he gropes darkly after the first elements of religious truth, when by the help God gives him he ought to be rising to the full energy of a manly Christian life, and walking through Christ in the light of God's presence. The ship's crew are not free agents who, driven hither and thither without compass in a trackless ocean, at the mercy of every varying wind, cannot make the haven where they would be. And what is his liberty of thought who has never settled with himself the first principles which lie at the very root of all thought on moral and religious questions? What can he think in that highest range of all the subjects which can engage the soul's contemplation, who has never settled with himself whether he really have a soul, or whether what he calls his soul be but the result of the organism of his body? How can he rise to higher regions of thought, in which he is invited to contemplate the spiritual and the infinite, who is still hesitating as to whether there be any God other than the living principle which pervades and animates material and finite pature P What thoughts can he have higher than man, who is still doubting whether there be any God Almighty other than the spirit of humanity; who cannot feel sure that anything deserves his. worship except the world's imperfect heroes, or, at best, some one of those gentler spirits of the softer sex, who in the midst of weakness and much failure are powerful to diffuse the softening influence of what, after all, is but a very imperfectly humanizing civilization? What moral code worth listening to can be the subject of his meditations who is in uncertainty as to whether there be such a thing as sin apart from misfortune or malformation? O man, what are thy thoughts worth as to the issues, on which hang the destiny of nations, and of separate human souls, who art still questioning whether thou art really at all better than the beasts that perish, and feelest not any stirrings of divine element within thee? who hast not the power to look forward
with any confidence that thou wilt last beyond the few uncertain troubled years of thy swiftly-ending earthly being? And what canst thou know of the true, the just, the pure, and the holy, who hast never recognised any echoes of a voice divine; who art unconvinced that man has ever been addressed by a word of God, or even confusest thyself with wearying speculations as to what this word is, and where it is to be found, when it is near thee, in thine hands, before thine eyes, sounding in thine ears, appealing to thy conscience, if thou wert not so depressed and dulled by thy grovelling speculations ? Dost thou deny that there can be such a thing as communion with God either through His word or prayer? Is it not miserable that thou hast cast away the help to lofty speculation which Christ has secured for thee through direct access to Him who is infinite ? Ah, friends, they lose great helps to highest thought who are always in their thoughts turning back and stooping to the beggarly elements of a disputation on first principles.
“ Nay, I believe we may say this also, that a great deal of what would palm itself off in these days as earnest thinking on subtle questions is no thought at all, but the mere parrot-like repetition of the formulæ of a heathen Pyrrhonism, from which all the great Greek and Roman thinkers had entirely emancipated their souls. And is it not a miserable fate for a man living in days of Christian civilization to straiten his free energies by encasing himself in the cast-off clothes of the heathen ? Does not experience teach us that what is called free thinking is often the very opposite of thought? He is thinking freely who is enabled, by God's Spirit guiding him, to rise in the range of his thoughts to the contemplation of the ideal of all truth and goodness. But he is in bondage and unable to think who never gets beyond the repetition of some hackneyed infidel objections, culled at second hand, which tell him in fact that he is himself little better than a human brute, and that there is nothing higher than himself to rise to. Ah, friends, they do Jose a great help who think not of the liberty to rise to the highest regions of the moral and the spiritual, wherewith, in the ministration of the Holy Ghost, Christ has endowed His people; and call not to mind the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, “If ye continue in My word, ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.''
The Bishop of St. David's, taking for his text John xvi. 13, and connecting it with the Collect of the day, undertakes to explain with what limitations the breadth of the promise of “guiding into all truth” is to be accepted. He asserts it to be, not "an illumination of the speculative intellect, but a quickening and guiding of the moral sense for practical purposes.” We have not space to follow his argument; but quote a passage upon the question of Infallibility, which occurs in connection with what he terms the moral suicide of the Church of Laodicea, which is singularly able and well-timed:
“But it does not appear that, having wandered far away from the truth, and having led multitudes astray, she had said, 'I am infallible.' It was reserved for the Angel of another Church to advance that pretension, as the ground of an absolute dominion over the reason and conscience of mankind.
“A charge was brought against Manes and Montanus, and other old heresiarchs, that they pretended the Paraclete had become incarnate in their persons. Impartial inquiry, however, has shown that their language was misunderstood or misrepresented, and that the privilege of which they boasted, however groundlessly and presumptuously, was not of such a kind as to dishonour the Majesty of the Holy Ghost. Can so much be said of pretensions which not only imprison Him in a human mind, but inseparably annex the exercise of His very highest function, as the Spirit of Truth, to an official succession of men ? Manes and Montanus might have given some colour to their claims, by the eminent sanctity- at least austerity- of their lives. That would not have established the fact, but it would have made it possible to conceive that the Holy Spirit might vouchsafe to dwell in vessels so fitted for His reception. But it is hard to say whether it derogates more from His dignity, to suppose that He freely chooses to pour the most precious of His Charismata through the most polluted channels, or that He is constrained to do so by some magical spell; that He always stands ready to await the result of the most corrupt worldly intrigues, and to set His seal to their success : giving the clearest light of His truth to those whom He leaves in the grossest moral darkness : enabling them to decide the subtlest questions of metaphysical theology with unerring tact, while they stumble against what St. Paul calls ‘sound doctrine,' in the first rudiments of godly life. It would be unjust to reproach the Church of Rome with the misfortune of having been not unfrequently governed by some of the worst of men. But when we recollect the character which she claims for them all, we cannot lament that a fiction which so degrades and blasphemes the Holy Ghost, and divorces orthodoxy from morality at the very fountain-head of both, should so often have been put to a crucial test. Her apologists are anxious, as in a question of life or death, to vindicate Liberius from the charge of Arianism, and Honorius from the suspicion of having favoured Monothelite error. They seem unconcerned when Borgia is placed upon the altar and condemns Savonarola to the stake.
“These reflections are, unhappily, not foreign to questions which are now agitating our own Church. But there is one practical inference which seems indisputable. That claim to personal infallibility, which has been advanced of late with growing boldness, and may perhaps be affirmed by a new definition of the Council which is to supplement the decrees of Trent, is either rightful or wrongful. If it is valid, it is the duty of our Church, and of every other now separate from Rome, to humble themselves before her in the dust, and to seek to be admitted as reconciled penitents within her pale. But as long as we repudiate this claim, it seems hardly consistent with either reason or charity to encourage the delusion of those who maintain it by importunate sighings and strivings after a union, which to them can only mean unconditional submission. And when we mourn over the old division between the East and the West, are we sure that we have not rather reason to be deeply thankful for a Providential mercy, which preserved the Universal Church from a more oppressive spiritual despotism than any branch of it has yet suffered.” (pp. 18--20.)
We must, however, be permitted to regret that Bishop Thirlwall should have, we trust inadvertently, given currency to the notion that, “under the influence of a remorseless theology, the almost saintly Cowper was haunted by the delusion that he was the victim of a horrible decree, predestinated to glorify God by his eternal reprobation.” The subject of Cowper's malady has been so often discussed in our pages, that we do not care to re-open it. It was well remarked in our volume so far back as 1805, that if religion was the cause of it, “the methodistical taint must have been communicated to him before he was born, for his malady was evidently interwoven in