Imágenes de páginas


[ocr errors]

of information respecting his partly completed edition of the Scriptures, he prudently resolved upon printing a new and different

The Testament commenced in Cologne, was in quarto, and furnished with marginal glosses, so an octavo edition without glosses was struck off. Early in 1626 several thousands of copies of both editions found their way into England. The quarto edition was soon seized, but the octavo being undescribed, had been in circulation some time before it was discovered.

Now began the tug of war! Had the obstructive Romish party been beleaguered troops-and the copies of the New Testament so many hand-grenades thrown in amongst them, they could not have manifested more alarm. The translation was attacked through the press and from the pulpit. King Henry commanded it to be burnt. The Bishop of London, and the Primate of all England, fulminated against it, and issued mandates for the collection and surrender of copies. Finally, these were bought up and burnt in Antwerp, London and Oxford, and even “diplomacy was invoked to restrain the printers." But it was all in vain. “The Night was far spent, the Day was at band.” By 1530, six editions, three of them surreptitious, were dispersed, and Tyndale could feel that so far bis work was indestructible. But in the words of Westcott,

so fierce and systematic was the prosecution both now and afterwards, that of these six editions, numbering perhaps 15,000 copies, there remains of the first one fragment only, which was found about thirty years ago, attached to another tract; of the second, one copy, wanting the title-page, and another very imperfect; and of the other, two or three copies, which are not satisfactorily identified."

We have not space to follow out in detail the life of Tyndale until his martyrdom in 1526; and, indeed, had we a whole number of the Ambassador to expatiate over, we should none the less be restrained by the shortness of our tether. For our purpose was not to review the life of Tyndale, but simply to glance at those toils and struggles which resulted in conferring the boon of a vernacular version of the Scriptures upon the English people, and thus to show how the darkness of the middle ages was gradually dispersed. As for Tyndale, it only remains to be said that his master passion was strong in him up to death. Betrayal and martyrdom found him still seeking to revise and circulate the Scriptures with unabated zeal, and his prayer when fastened to the stake “ witnessed equally to his loyalty and faith :" “ Lord ! open the King of England's eyes.” There are some men who lead such subjective secluded lives, that it needs a psychologist to employ all his skill of mental analysis to tell you really what they were; and there are other men like Tyndale, whose characters it is superfluous to describe after you have narrated what they did. But, that Tyndale was something more than an ardently good man, being also a scholar, whose very thoughts and words are to-day influencing the thousands of bible-readerslet the following passage from the valuable work of Canon Westcott (than whom no man is more competent to speak on any point relating to the internal history of the Bible) be cited in proof.

“ Not only did Tyndale contribute to it [the English version] directly the substantial basis of half the Old Testament (in all probability) and of the whole of the New, but he established a standard of Biblical translation which others followed. It is even of less moment that by far the greater part of his translation remains intact in our present Bibles,* than that his spirit animates the whole. He toiled faithfully himself, and where he failed, he left to those who should come after the secret of success. The achievement was not for one but for many; but he fixed the type according to which the later labourers worked. This influence decided that our Bible should be popular and not literary; speaking in a simple dialect, and that so by its simplicity it should be endowed with permanence. He felt by a happy instinct the potential affinity between Hebrew and English idioms, and enriched our language and thought for ever, with characteristics of the Semetic mind.”

BICKERSTAFFE. * About nine-tenths of the authorized version of the first Epistle of St. Jobn, and five-sixths of the Epistle to the Ephesians (which is extremely difficult) are retained from Tyndale.



HAT species of heresy, denominated Rationalism, is generally

considered to have taken its rise in the Reformation. It is not, however, to be identified with the Reformation, for it has no essential connection with any of the fundamental principles of Protestantism. It is, rather, the result of the Reformation only in the sense of its being an abuse of the liberty of thougbt which was then asserted. The Romish Church had dominated for centuries over the thought of Western Europe, and had enforced with fire and sword its own authority, as the sole arbiter and exponent of truth. The Reformation directed its energies against this domination, and successfully asserted the liberty of free inquiry and the right of private judgment in matters of religion. The leaders of this great movement asserted the Scriptures in opposition to Romish authority, as the ultimate test of religious

opinion. But when Luther and Melancthon were gone; when the creeds of Protestantism had settled down into dogmatic forms; when the evangelical and spiritual excitement which carried on the Reform movement to its triumph began to subside, then Protestantism-no longer absorbed in a life and death struggle with the Popish hierarchy-became involved in numerous internal controversies. The principle of private judgment was pushed to extremes. Reason, let loose from centuries of pupilage, ran off in the joy of recovered liberty into the wildest vagaries. But these vagaries of reason resulted not from the evangelical impulse of the Reformation, but from its decline. The minds of men in receding from faith fell back upon reason. Then it began to be thought that reason having been used against the dogmas of Popery, might also be used against the creeds of Protestantism. Protestantism had rejected the infallible authority of Rome, and set up the Scriptures in its place. But, since it was the business of reason to authenticate and interpret the Scriptures, it came to be thought that reason, and not the Bible, must be regarded as the ultimate arbiter of religious truth. It was thus that that form of religious thought, designated Rationalism, originated.

The fundamental principle of Rationalism is the supremacy of reason in matters of religion. In this ground-principle the Rationalists are all agreed; but this unity does not long continue. They differ as to the particular form of reason which is the final ground of certitude; one class make it personal reason, or the reason of the individual ; while others, seeing the diverse conclusions resulting from the decisions of personal reason, invent and substitute a higher reason. This higher reason, being purely imaginary, those who believe in it may ascribe to it what attributes they choose. Hence, they have represented it as universally diffused, impersonal, and infallible. But supposing this impersonal reason to exist, it is clear that, if its infallible dictates are apprehended at all, it must be by the individual reason; and since the individual reason, as a matter of fact, is liable to such varying conclusions, it is evident that Rationalism could result in nothing but a brood of conflicting theories.

The Rationalists, adopting one or other of the views of reason to which we have referred, proceed to apply their principle to the determination of truth, both in nature and revelation. Although the great problems they attempt to solve are chiefly theological, yet they may for the sake of clearness be divided into two classes : the Philosophical and the Theological.

Philosophical Rationalism has been chiefly developed in the schools of the continent, and may be regarded as generally constructive in its aim, its efforts being directed to the evolvement of a system based on the investigations of reason into the nature and

laws of the universe. From this effort resulted the system of Spinoza, which, from its apparent completeness, has exercised great influence over philosophical speculation, and is generally regarded as containing the germs of most of the forms in which philosophical Rationalism has been developed. Spinoza assumes à self-existent substance as the substratum of all existence. To this substance he ascribes two attributes, which he calls extension and thought. Matter and mind are not distinct substances, but only modes of the one eternal substance, corresponding to the attributes, extension and thought. Corporeal and Intellectual existence is thus reduced to modes of the Eternal Unity, and is said to constitute the “objective and subjective of which God is the identity.” More recent writers, taking their stand upon one or other of the two branches of Spinoza's system, and labouring, we suppose after simplification, have succeeded in making confusion worse confounded. One class, attaching themselves to the material branch of this theory, have absorbed the intellectual in the corporeal, and produced Material Pantheism ; while another class, taking their stand upon thought, have absorbed all material and objective existence in the subjective, and produced Ideal Pantheism. Others, again, declaring the objective and subjective to be alike merely phenominal, have taken refuge in the “ Philosophy of the Absolute.” Finally, another class, sick of this jargon of words, and despairing of any practical results from these speculators, have denied the possibility of metaphysical science, and betaken themselves to the Positive Philosophy. But, indeed, it is impossible for us to trace these speculations through their devious windings, or to understand the systems of abstruse logomachy which have grown out of them. True, they are represented as constituting both a philosophy and a faith, but a common sense Englishman would have great difficulty in discovering them to be either one or the other.

Theological Rationalism is that form of rationalism developed in the Church. It may be described as destructive in its tendency, since its main design and effect is to expunge the supernatural element from the orthodox creed. The class of thinkers now referred to, nourished, as they are, under the shadow of the church, living upon her revenues and occupying her pulpits, do not explicitly deny the Divine authority of Scripture, but they adopt a method of exegesis by which all its supernatural features are obliterated and marred. We accept the Bible, they in effect say; it is a very important book; it contains important truth which the people require to know, but it needs to be stript of its Jewish garb and its miraculous stories ; in short, it needs to be explained. But when it is explained, on the principles of rationalism, we have in effect no Bible left. Its essential and fundamental principles have evaporated in the process. All it contains is reduced to what may be called a natural development of human thought, envolved in the progress of the ages. We look upon the bible as a direct revelation from God, but rationalism explains it to be a revelation only in the same sense that the discoveries of science are a revelation. Whatever is true in the bible is allowed to be Divine, but, whatever is true in philosophy is Divine also. We look upon the truth in the bible as having been given by inspiration, but inspiration is explained away into enthusiasm, or the intuitions of the higher reason.

We regard the bible as containing important historical fact, but when rationalism has explained it, the history of the bible is for the most part but a mythical conglomeration. Christ himself was either a myth, the personification of the ideas and aspirations of his age ; or, if a real person, he was no more than a pure-minded enthusiast; or, at best, a lofty religious genius in whom was developed the highest manifestation of reason. He performed no miracles; but by the grandeur of his character, so powerfully impressed the minds of bis followers that, by some unique psychological process they invented and attributed to him the miracles of the Gospels. He uttered no prophesies beyond the effect of his natural foresight, and the redemption he accomplished was simply the work of a great religious teacher and reformer. We

We do not say that these are the precise views of each individual rationalist; their varieties, indeed, are legion; but this is the manner in which they deface the great features of revelation, and the result to which it is reduced, when rationalism as a whole has finished its explanation. There can be no doubt that the rationalistic spirit, in one form or other, has taken a considerable hold upon the working classes of this country; and in considering its operations among them we shall endeavour to view it under three aspects; its media of introduction, its form of development, and its moral tendency.

1. In considering the manner in which rationalism has been introduced, it will be proper not to overlook the influence exerted by the English deists of the eighteenth century. English deism was one form of the reaction against Puritanism, and its object was to build up a system of national religion which should impose an impassible barrier against the Puritan doctrines. It possessed considerable advantages on account of the political and social influence of some of its leaders, but it lacked the power to adapt itself to the masses of the people. The influence, however, which it failed to gain among the people it gained in literary society, and that, at a time when literature in England was cultivated to a very high degree. The literary circles were scarcely touched by the great Methodist revival, but they were powerfully affected by the turbid stream which flowed from the new fountain of deistic

« AnteriorContinuar »