« AnteriorContinuar »
judge says, that as “a critic he is extremely valuable on account of his extensive studies, and his freedom from bias, except that he shows a too great fondness for novelty.” This eulogy needed this qualification ; for the Dean's fondness for novelty has led him to propound fanciful interpretations of Scripture, as, for instance, where he argues for the literal interpretation of the article in the Apostles' Creed, the Descent into Hell, from the passage in 1 Peter iii. 18, 19, 20. He has addressed himself manfully to the difficulties in the New Testament; though, in trying to remove them, he has surrendered the full and accepted inspiration of the Scriptures. His theories and criticisms remind us of the more moderate and conservative of Schliermacher's disciples. Take, , for example, his theory to explain the fact that the three Gospels are so much alike in matter and form, while they differ in some details. He believes, and we quote his own words, “ that there was a common substratum of Apostolic teaching never formally adopted by all, and subject to all the varieties of diction and arrangement addition and omission, incident to transmission through many individual minds and into many different societies,” and this “substratum has been the original source of the common part of the Gospels.” This theory starts more difficulties than it can remove. One interesting feature in his character is his generous sympathy with those outside the pale of his own church. He has fraternized with Dissenters, and asserted that “to call them schismatics is the height of folly and pedantry." He has suggested that Christians of all denominations should be invited to the celebration of the Lord's Supper; and he has the temerity to argue that“ the Church Catholic has no right to enforce episcopal government as the one essentially requisite." Truly, it is refreshing to meet with such sentiments so out-spokenly expressed in a man of his peculiar cloth and position. Archbishop Trench is so well known as an accomplished theologian, poet, and philologist, that little need be said of him here. Though one with the Evangelicals in his views of the Atonement, he differs from them in being no Calvinist. When young, he was intimate with Archdeacon Hare, Maurice, and John Sterling, and thus became impregnated with the broad-school sentiments.
Another Church dignitary and eloquent and voluminous author must be dismissed with a few words— Dean Stanley. He has in his lectures on the Jewish Church brought us face to face with the olden worthies, and made us to feel that they were not mythical but real flesh and blood characters, “Men of like passions with ourselves.” So far he has done incalculable good by bringing the Old Testament home “to men's business and bosoms;" but the faults of the work rise out of its very excellence. The Dean took up the pen with the intention of treating the Bible as an historical
book, and, faithful to his chosen mission, he has graphically portrayed the human side in the growth of God's Church, while the divine side has been kept too much in the background, so as to raise the suspicion that he purposely avoids committing himself to the full acceptance of much of the confessedly miraculous in Christianity.
We now come to Maurice and Kingsley, pronounced Broad Churchmen, who must be leashed together; for doctrinally they have so much in common that someone has called them “ the Siamese Twins of Theology.” It will be found that their system rests upon identically the same philosophical basis, viz., Neo-Platonism. Sir Thomas Browne has said that “heresies perish not with their authors, but, like the river Arethusa, though they lose their currents in one place, they rise up again in another." Thus the strange and uncouth views about the Deity and the universe, which used to be propounded in the schools of Alexandria, and which, in modified form, re-appeared in the German Mystics, have, of late years come to the surface once more, in Coleridge and bis disciples, Maurice, and Kingsley, and others. If we were not obliged to be economical of space it would be still “disedifying,” as the nuns say, to trace the pedigree of Maurice's system from Plotinus, its true father, down to Coleridge, whose disciple Maurice avows himself to be; suffice it to say, if Coleridge was a Trinitarian at all he was a philosophical one merely. Borrowing from Neo-Platonism; he called God the Father, Mind, or absolute Being; the Son he denominated Reason, Nous or the word; the Holy Spirit, an active energy, Psyche. This doctrine forms the very core of the Theology of the Maurice-Kingsley school. The Son was from all eternity the emanation from the Father, and in the Son the true archetype and real substance of all existences was created. These Archetypal entities, when time began, came to have a phenominal existence upon earth, not by true creation, but by emanation. Thus Christ is the ground of all personality, the root of humanity. From all eternity men were created in him; Christ is in all, as “the Light which lighteneth every man that cometh into the world.” The reason, as contra-distinguished from the
" understanding, which enables a man intuitively to ascend to the realization of pure truth, is a flash of this Divine Light, and this reason is competent to sit in judgment upon the Scriptures. As all men are created in Christ, so is Christ from eternity, the redeemer and justifier of mankind. “By his incarnation the Son of God, did but manifest that identity which had of old subsisted between himself and man, exhibit the ideal perfection of man in his own person, and by his example show men how to triumph over selfishness and evil.” The Jewish sacrifices were but types and signs of the slaying and offering up of the carnal nature to God.
Christ himself suffered but sympathetically with man's sins, he did not at all expiate them. The resurrection of each man takes place immediately upon his death. There is no day of general judgment; heaven and hell are not localities, but states and conditions. There can be no punitive inflictions in the next life; a man's hell will be his own selfishness. Sin is selfishness, and the only devil the system admits of is self-will personified. And the Divine Father seeks, not by any agency or economy ab extra, but by the subjective law of love to do away with evil in us and in all. All pain and sorrow have for their purpose the reclamation of the sufferer, and when he relinquishes his selfishness God is satisfied. The Church and the world are different aspects of the same object; all men are in Christ the sons of God, not by any bestowal of grace, but naturally; the Church is the world conscious of its relation to God in Christ, and asserting its indefeasible rights; the world is the Church as yet unconscious of its relation and privileges.
We have striven by the indication of such characteristics as the foregoing to make somewhat intelligible the strange amalgam of Judaism, heathenism, and Christianity in the system of Maurice and Co. To bring these qualities of the system together in this concrete form is sufficient to show their inconsistency and absurdity, and thus to refute them. We need hardly say that both Maurice and Kingsley are men of genius, advocates of social reforms, and extensive writers of pure and vigorous English. Their broadest and most repellant views are not paraded in their books, but covertly expressed and mixed with much practical truth. A few sentences are all we can spare to indicate Professor Jowett's whereabouts in the theological world. We adopt the sentiments and words of a recent writer of admitted competency. “We do not think that we can give a more correct general idea of Jowett's works, than by saying that he seems to have attempted, as far as is compatible with any sort of faith in a personal God and the Christian Revelation, to adapt the principles of the Vestiges of Creation, and to apply a theory analagous to the one contained in that work to the course of man's progress as a moral and religious being. The author of the Vestiges endeavoured so to trace the continuity of development in the physical and organic world, as to leave no place for creative epochs or acts. So Professor Jowett would break down the limits which define the divine dispensations. He would have one continuity of religious development. Looking backward along the perspective which he gives of man's advancement, we see civilized humanity dwindling down and degraded into a universal condition of dark and groping savagism. How far removed from the condition of the ape it is not possible to say. Looking forward into the future, the theology of the New Testament is left far bebind. The principles of the Gospel gradually grow up as a sort of underwood beneath the shadow of Mosaic superstition. Thus this theological Darwin contends that we have far outgrown the teachings of Christ and Paul, and bave now, of course, to learn of such great lights as himself, and confreres, who make man's reason superior to the truth, and ring in the apotheosis of human intellect.”
In leaving the Establishment we turn to the great body of Nonconformists, including the Baptists and Pædo-Baptists. Here, of late years, have been movements which indicate, at no very remote date, the existence of two schools, the old, hard, and dry orthodox, and the liberal and advanced school. A classification might even now be made. The representatives of the strictly orthodox section, the men who abide by the old methods of treating theological questions, and allow of scarcely any modification of doctrinal statement, are Dr. Angus, Mr. Binney, Dr. Lindsey Alexander, and Mr. Spurgeon. To Dr. Angus thousands of thoughtful and enquiring minds, whose opportunities for the study of Biblical subjects are as limited as their means, are under great obligation for that valuable compend of evidences, facts, and doctrines, The Bible Hand Book. Of Mr. Binney it is more difficult to speak in discriminating terms. This venerable minister is one of the ablest and most influential theologians among the Nonconformists. He does not represent the advanced, but the most hard-headed and independent section of the old fashioned evangelical school; the two terms to characterise his mental character should be logical and analytical. There is a “rude vigour,” and a
” large-heartedness and manliness of enunciation in these robust thinkings of his. He accepts the whole body of orthodox belief in its essentials, and “contends with endless iteration that the essence of the Gospel is in the redemptive work of Christ, as distinct from, and indeed in addition to the instructions of Christ as teacher and prophet;" and distinct, too, from his life and sufferings as our example. His words are, 66 What is made known for the obedience of faith is neither the true reading of the teaching of nature, nor higher truths in relation to God, not included in it, but is something done, something accomplished, accomplished by the gracious interposition and the mighty power of God in the “ redemption of the world by Jesus Christ. And this being so, then the super-natural element is neither in the subjective illumination of the prophet, nor in the outward display of an authenticating sign, but in the fact itself, which is revealed and made known as the ground and substance of the message.” Mr. Binney's works are in the sphere of positive and didactic theology, yet they often, in their methods of treatment, enter the domains of apologetical and polemical theology. His handling of theological sciolists
, and the irrational theorising of the rationalists is most trenchant. He shows how closely he watches the movements of the theological
world, and he takes advantage of events to enforce and apply the truth as it is in Jesus.
Dr. L. Alexander, in a variety of important works, has shown how competent he is to defend the “Faith once delivered to the saints.” In Edinburgh, his public ministry, in his magnificent chapel, is a great power for good. Students and cultured persons delight in his ministry. He is Principal of the Congregational College in Scotland, and is among the foremost men in the Nonconformist Churches of the United Kingdom. In an elaborate treatise in the Encyclopædia Britannica, on Systematic Theology, there is a calm, yet powerful, statement of Calvanistic Theology. His Calvanism is more clearly marked than that of Dr. Angus or Mr. Binney. He says, “ Christ has died for all men. This great end being secured, salvation is placed within the reach of all men to whom the gospel comes. As all men are kept from accepting the benefits of Christ's death by their wilful obduracy; it is only as God moves them to avail themselves of his propitiation that any are saved : and as God is not pleased thus to move all, the remedy, though of universal sufficiency, becomes of limited efficiency. And Christ must be considered as having had for the elect a special regard in what he did for the salvation of man, and consequently to have died for them in a sense in which he did not die for all men.” And in his chapter on Soteriology, or the doctrine of salvation, Dr. Alexander says, “God's choice of his people is from all eternity. The Divine election is of persons, not communities, and that the call and choice is direct and irresistable, and all such will be kept so that they shall never wholly or finally fall from a state of grace. The doctrine of imputed righteousness is thus speciously stated; “In justification the Holy Spirit acts by the operating faith in Christ in the sinner's mind, and thereby uniting him with Christ; faith being that whereby,' to use Owen's words, the Lord Christ and believers actually coalesce into one mystical person.”” Being thus one with Christ, what he did and secured in his public character, becomes theirs by God's gracious donation ; and as he, having been put to death in the flesh, has been justified in the Spirit they too are held to have died in his death, and to be justified in his justification.
To harmonise this teaching with human instincts and reason, with man's freedom and responsibility, and to make it consistent with Bible teaching and the revelations of divine character, is a most formidable undertaking.
The constituency of which Mr. Spurgeon is representative is large in number, if low in mental calibre. There, however, is the extraordinary phenomenon of a man for twenty years not only sustaining but increasing his great influence and popularity, still originating, organising, and vigorously working benevolent