Page images
PDF
EPUB

his retrospective vision must have embraced all the intervening events.

The above remarks are not intended to beg the question, by assuming the truth of all which Christ and his Apostles asserted concerning Himself; but only to show that this is inextricably involved with the truth of the Mosaic records, so that we must make up our minds either to retain both or renounce both. Now, then, what shall be our mode of procedure in determining which of these two alternatives we will embrace? Shall we wait until scholars and critics have decided satisfactorily all the questions, arithmetical, chronological, geological, geographical, genealogical, philological, bearing on this subject, before we believe that Jesus Christ is the infallible Son of God? or shall we seek proofs of this momentous doctrine first, and then, if we find them, let all others fall into their right place, according to their natural relations with this central truth? For God's sake, and for our soul's sake, let us take the latter coursel and if the evidences of Christianity, historical and spiritual, are such as to force from us Thomas's acknowledgment of his risen Saviour, "My Lord and my God!" we need not be afraid to teach as he did, that "Noe entered into the ark," and "the flood came." (Matt. xxiv. 38, 39.) That Moses met at the bush “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Luke. xx. 37.) That "Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness." (John. iii. 14.) That he wrote of Christ, (v. 46;) and gave the law, (vii. 19;)that the fathers did eat manna in the wilderness," (vi. 49 ;) and believing in the truth of these events, on Christ's own authority, we need not fear but that the work of critics on the Pentateuch will in the end tend to substantiate them. Meanwhile let us, still following the leading of Christ, “begin at Moses,” and expound to our scholars "in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself," " that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Him,” (Luke xxiv. 27, 44); not forgetting to warn them, that “if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one (the greatest One of all) be risen from the dead.(Luke xvi. 31.)

H. L.

Reviews.

The GOSPEL NARRATIVE VINDICATED; or, the Roman Census (Luke il.

1-5) explained ; and with reference to the Birth-day of our Lord, for the first time established on independent historical grounds. By Johannes ron

Gumpach. Samuel Bagster & Sons. pp. 16. A VINDICATION OF Bishop COLENSO—("Good WORDS" for February and

March,)-in Twelve Letters. Strahan & Co. CONSIDERATIONS ON THE PENTATEUCH. By Isaac Taylor. (Second Edition.)

Jackson, Walford, & Hodder. Bishop COLENSO HONESTLY ANSWERED. Tuo Sermons by the Rev. John

Christien. Elliot Stock.

We have placed this assemblage of treatises at the head of this article together, because they have a common relation to a subject of high interest which is now occupying a large portion of public attention; namely, the trustworthiness of the Sacred Books considered as a History. The first of these relates to the New Testament, the remaining three to the attacks lately made on the Old by a dignitary of the English Church.

In the present instance, questions of chronology, of arithmetic, and of science, have formed the bases upon which the assailants have grounded their weapons

of attack. Now, at the threshold of the enquiry, it naturally occurs to us to ask, whether this is the first and only occasion upon which similar doubts have arisen, and similar rash and presumptuous conclusions been formed. Upon looking back we shall only find another illustration of the old adage, that “there is nothing new under the sun :" and another proof of the vanity and weakness of man, when in the feebleness of his vision, the narrowness of his comprehension, and the scantiness of his information, he sits in judgment upon the word, the works, or the ways of God.

In questions of chronology relating to events of comparatively modern occurrence, doubts have sometimes arisen, notwithstanding the abundance of contemporary events, which serve as landmarks to determine the place of each other; but in reference to some of the events of ancient history, there has been nothing reliable, except that the occurrence of a simultaneous eclipse of one of the great lights of heaven, has enabled the historian to call in the aid of the astronomer to carry back his calculations so as to identify the period of the terrestrial event by the celestial phenomenon. It can easily be imagined how these difficulties of chronology increase, as we pass further backwards into the darkness of remote ages. And in all the domains of history, there are none so ancient as some of those recorded in the Old Testament.

In careful researches for the purpose of settling the chronology of the Old Testament, perhaps no one has surpassed Archbishop Usher, whose conclusions are generally received up to the present time. Yet perhaps there never lived a man with more unsbaken faith in the sacred oracles, not simply as a true history, but as a divine revelation, which he made the foundation of his hope for the future life, as well as the rule of his conduct in this life; a rule in his view so sacred, that the last prayer of the venerable old man was, “Lord! pardon my sins of omission.”

We have alluded to chronology, because the first pamphlet on our list is a reply to some objections that have been made to an incidental historical statement of the Evangelist Luke, which is stated to be incorrect, because it seems to be inconsistent with a statement of Josephus. Mr. Gumpach's object is to shew that both statements are correct, and that one is not inconsistent with the other.

And here the question occurs, why, when a writer of the Bible makes a statement of a certain fact, and a writer of profane history makes a different representation of the same fact, it is always to be assumed that the latter is right, and that the former is wrong? In the ordinary matters of life, such a partial and unjust assumption at the commencement of an investigation, would be held to indicate the wish of the heart, rather than the conclusion of the judgment.

If from chronology we pass to science, here we find the enemy posted in an apparently formidable vantage ground. Here we think a more threatening danger has already occurred than can ever recur again ; the storm has passed over, and left the Bible scathless. We allude to the discovery, publication, and final establishment of the Copernican system of astronomy, Here, too, we had not only an exact science as an instrument, but the data on which it rested its calculations were as incontestable as those of Dr.Colenso are inaccurate, absurd, or untrue, and its conclusions are now universally received. These do not agree with some of those incidental expressions of Scripture, which in mercy to an infantile condition of human intelligence) described the ordinary phenomena of the heavens only as they appear, and not as they are. If an opposite rule had been chosen, and the phenomena of the solar system had been described by Moses, not as they appear, but as they are, in all the rigidness of naked truth: if the earth had been described as going round the sun in an orbit the breadth of which was 190 millions of miles, (translated into the equivalent number of days' journeys,) and that the earth turned completely round on its own axis once in every twentyfour hours, who can conceive of the enormous stumbling blocks that would have been thus placed gratuitously in the way of the credence of a perverse and unbelieving people like the Children of Israel! It was in wisdom and mercy, that the Bible was not intended to be a guide in natural history or science, only in religion and morals: that it was to discourse authoritatively, not on the relations of man to the material universe, but on the higher and more important relations of man to God, to himself, to his race and to an eternal future.

Copernicus was a native of Poland, and a devout member of the Romish church. He dedicated his great work to Pope Paul III., who condemned it. In his own province, and in the last week of his life, his friend Gyvius, the bishop of Culm, wrote to him, “Men curse thy name in the streets, the priests excommunicate thee from their pulpits, and the university hearing that thy book was about to appear, has declared its intention to break the printing presses of the publisher, and to destroy the work to which thy life has been devoted.” And these were no idle threats. The students of the university thrice attempted to invade the printing office unsuccessfully; and then the madmen of the city attempted to set fire to it. The printers performed their work with one hand, whilst they held a pistol in the other. A compositor, gained over by the enemy, delivered into their hands the manuscript of the book, and it was burned in the public square. Happily the impression had first been completed. The closing hours of the great astronomer had arrived, and the torpor of death was beginning to steal over his faculties, when a horseman galloped up to the door in breathless haste, to bring a volume, the leaves of which were still damp. This was the chef d'ouvre of Copernicus. The dying man raised himself in his bed, grasped the book with his feeble hand, and glanced at its contents with his expiring eye-a smile lighted up his features—the book fell from his grasp; and clasping his hands together he exclaimed, “Lord, let thy servant now depart in peace.” Hardly had he uttered these words before his spirit fled, and the philosopher, philanthropist, and yet the humble and devout Christian, had passed from the erring judgments of men, to that of the all-wise Creator.

Sir Isaac Newton, a disciple of Copernicus, who went far beyond his master in expounding the laws which regulated the facts his predecessor had established, was so far from seeing any inconsistency between a scientific and a biblical faith, that he not only adopted the Bible as the word of God, but in that unwavering faith became a commentator upon its revelations, and an expounder of its prophecies.

We can now look back upon the lessons of history, and wonder that men, and especially that the church, should, like Uzziah, have been so ready to tremble for the ark of God. The supposed difficulties arising from the modern schools of geology may be safely left to settle themselves. Geology, so far as it is a science, is one only of observation, not of calculation like astronomy, nor of experiment like chemistry. None of its conclusions can therefore ever assume the formidable aspect which were once supposed to belong to the Copernican system.

But our space is filling up, and therefore we pause in a line of thought which might be much extended, and upon which we have often rested with complacency in our meditative hours. For although we intend not to write any review, nor even analysis of the works placed at the head of this article, it is our duty to say something about publications of great interest at the present time.

We can recommend the pamphlet of J. v. Gumpach, although we much doubt the assertion of his title-page, that he has been the first to establish the truth of St. Luke's statement. We have some recollection of a paper written years since in an American quarterly, on the same subject, and with a similar object.

With a reverential bow to the mitre, as becomes a dutiful Episcopalian, the veteran philosopher and venerable Christian sage, Isaac Taylor, has added to his previous contributions to the highest class of our intellectual and religious literature, this grave, thoughtful, but fragmentary treatise.

Isaac Taylor hardly stoops to the details of an attack upon the ancient books of the Hebrews-so pretentious and so pompously introduced, as though it were some new discovery made among the interesting Zulu converts, for the enlightenment of Europe from the shores of Africa. With all these difficulties he has been long familiar, at least for fifteen, and probably for forty years. These, then, he leaves, not to be solved, but hereafter to be used in an opposite sense to that of Colenso. But in the warning tones of one who sees clearly what is before him, and who remembers his own experience, and the still more bitter experience of others, he reproves the tendencies of the book in question, and foretells where it will lead both the author and his disciples, from one maze of scepticism to another, until they become involved in the cold and barren darkness of an unpractical theism.

Then, in a paragraph, too long for us to quote, he turns upon the assailant his own weapons :

"Several of the exceptions to the Mosaic history upon which Dr. Colenso insists, and which he goes about to establish by his inapplicable calculations, are precisely of the kind which a mind of more grasp and comprehension would seize upon as the most significant evidences of the truthfulness of that history, and especially as indications of its contemporaneousness."

“Let the suit be carried down into the open court of secular historic criticism, and then it will become manifest that the pleas of the plaintiff (or several of them) are convertible in an opposite sense, and may be laid hold of by the counsel for the defence." And in the following pages this is clearly made to appear.

But the most popular, if not the most effective, answer to the unfortunate volumes of Colenso that we have yet seen, will be found in the ironical Defence of Colenso, published in twelve letters in the February and March numbers of that very able periodical edited by Dr. Norman MacLeod, entitled “Good Words." This Defence is humorously grounded on the assumption that these works are a literary forgery; that they are utterly inconsistent with the character, functions, and position of a Christian bishop, and must therefore be attributed to some pseudo Colenso, who has for some unworthy purposes borrowed that name and designation.

These letters are attributed to the able Professor of the Lancashire College, who has contributed so many excellent articles to the “Edinburgh Review.” But whether this be so or not, we warmly commend them to the careful perusal of all, but especially to the juvenile class of our readers. Our limited space prevents us from adding copious extracts.

The sermons of Mr. Christien offer solutions of some of the arithmetical puzzles of Bishop Colenso. That one, however, which would get over the alleged difficulty of the increase of the descendants of Jacob to 600,000 men, by a new translation of the Hebrew word " thousand,” into “ family,” or " household,” we think untenable. It leads us out of one set of difficulties into another equally formidable. For if the numbers in our translation be much reduced, how shall we account for the anxiety of Pharaoh to destroy all the male infants, to prevent their further increase : his express language to justify so barbarous an edict, “Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we," spoken of an assemblage of unarmed slaves : and his gathering of all his chariots, all his horsemen, all his army, and probably also a collection, en masse, of a large portion of the people of

« PreviousContinue »