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II. On turning the first page of the review which follows, follows, “by Rowland Williams, D.D. Vice-Principal and Professor of Hebrew, St. David’s College, Lampeter; Vicar of Broad Chalke, Wilts,”—we are made sensible that we are in company of a writer considerably in advance of Dr. Temple, though altogether of the same school. In fact, if Dr. Williams had not been Vice-Principal of a Theological College, and a Doctor of Divinity, one would have supposed him to be a complete infidel,—who found it convenient to vent his own unbelief in a highly laudatory review of the principles of the late Baron Bunsen. Hear him:—“When Bunsen asks ‘How long shall we bear this fiction of an external Revelation,’—that is, of one violating the heart and conscience, instead of expressing itself through them;—or when he says, ‘All this is delusion for those who believe it; but what is it in the mouths of those who teach it?’—Or when he exclaims, ‘Oh the fools! who, if they do see the imminent perils of this age, think to ward them off by narrow-minded persecution’!—and when he repeats, ‘Is it not time, in truth, to withdraw the veil from our misery? to tear off the mask from hypocrisy, and destroy that sham which is undermining all real ground under our feet? to point out the dangers xxxiwhich surround, nay, threaten already to engulf us?’—there will be some who think his language too vehement for good taste. Others will think burning words needed by the disease of our time. These will not quarrel on points of taste with a man who in our darkest perplexity has reared again the banner of Truth, and uttered thoughts which gave courage to the weak and sight to the blind. If Protestant Europe is to escape those shadows of the twelfth century which with ominous recurrence are closing around us, to Baron Bunsen will belong a foremost place among the champions of light and right.” (pp. 92-3.)
But even the Prussian infidel is not advanced enough for the Vicar of Broad Chalke. Bunsen, it seems, was weak enough to believe that the prophet Jonah was a real personage. This evokes the following singular burst of critical indignation from the Reverend author of the present Essay:—“It provokes a smile on serious topics,”—(a kind of impropriety which the Vice-Principal of Lampeter will not commit except under protest and with an apology!)—“to observe the zeal with which our critic vindicates the personality of Jonah, and the originality of his hymn, (the latter being generally thought doubtful), while he proceeds to explain that the narrative of our book in which the hymn is imbedded, contains a late legend founded on misconception. One can imagine the cheers which the opening of such an essay might evoke in some of our circles, changing into indignation (!) as the distinguished foreigner developed his views. After this he might speak more gently of mythical theories.” (p. 77.)
For the most part, however, the Vicar of Broad Chalk() is able
to cite the opinions of Bunsen with xxxiiadmiration and approval. They are both agreed that the Deluge
“was but a prolonged play of the forces of fire and water rendering the primæval
regions of North Asia uninhabitable, and urging the nations to new abodes.” (Of
what nature this “prolonged play” was, is however left unexplained: while
“the forces of fire and water
rendering primæval regions uninhabitable,” and “urging nations to new abodes,” has altogether a
sound.) “We learn approximately its antiquity, and infer limitation in its range
from finding it recorded in the traditions of Iran and Palestine, (or of Japheth
and Shem), but unknown to the Egyptians and Mongolians.” (p. 56.) (A delightful
method truly of attaining historical precision in a
matter of this nature!) . . . . “In the half ideal, half
traditional notices of the beginnings of our race compiled in Genesis, we
are bid notice the combination of documents and the recurrence of barely
consistent Genealogies.” (Ibid.) Praise is at hand for “the firmness
with which Bunsen relegates the long lives of the first patriarchs to the domain
of legend, or of symbolical cycle.” (p. 57.) “The historical portion begins with
Abraham.” (Ibid.)——After this admission, it is instructive to observe how the
learned writer deals with the narrative. The Exode was “a struggle conducted by human means.” (p. 59.) “Thus, as the
pestilence of the Book of Kings becomes in Chronicles the more visible angel, so
the avenger who slew the firstborn may have been the Bedouin host, (!) akin
nearly to Jethro, and more remotely to Israel.” (Ibid.) (It
is really hardly worth stopping to point out that by ‘Kings’ the Reverend writer
means ‘the second Book of Samuel:’ and to remind the reader that
the Angel is mentioned as expressly
xxxiiiin Samuel as in Chronicles5151 “And when the Angel stretched
out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord . . . said
to the Angel that destroyed the people,” &c. “And the Angel of the Lord was by
the threshing-place of Araunah the Jebusite.”—2 Sam. xxiv. 16.
“The Angel of the Lord stood by the threshing-floor of Oman the Jebusite. And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the Angel of the Lord stand between the Earth and the Heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem.”—1 Chron. xxi. 15, 16.. Also, to ask what ‘the Bedouin host’ could have been doing in Egypt previous to the Exode?) “The passage of the Red Sea may be interpreted with the latitude of poetry.” (Ibid.) “Moses would gladly have founded a free religious society, . . . but the rudeness or hardness of his people’s heart compelled him to a sacerdotal system and formal tablets of stone.” (p. 62.) Nay, Abraham’s intended sacrifice of Isaac was an act of obedience to “the fierce ritual of Syria, with the awe of a Divine voice:” (p. 61:) while the Divine command, in conformity with which Abraham spared to slay his son, is resolved into an allegory. “He trusted that the Father) whose voice from Heaven he heard at heart, was better pleased with mercy than with sacrifice, and this trust was his righteousness.” (p. 61.) Dr. Williams straightway shews us how we may tread in the steps of faithful Abraham. The perpetual response of our hearts, (he says,) to principles of Reason and Right of our own tracing, is a truer sign of faith than deference to a supposed external authority. (p. 61.) . . . According to this writer, therefore, Genesis and Exodus are pure fable!
The whole of Scripture, in the hands of this Doctor of Divinity, undergoes corresponding treatment. They who “twist Prophecy into harmony with the details xxxivof Gospel history, fall into inextricable contradictions.” (pp. 64-6.) “The Book of Isaiah, as composed of elements of different eras,” can only be accepted with a “modified theory of authorship and of prediction.” (p. 68.) In the prophecy of Zechariah are “three distinct styles and aspects of affairs.” (Ibid.) “The cursing Psalms,” (!!!) he informs us, were not “evangelically inspired;” (p. 63;) and yet we are constrained to remember that the cixth Psalm (specially alluded to) is evangelically interpreted by St. Peter5252 Acts i. 20.. The true translation of Psalm xxii. 17, (learnedly discussed, long since, by Bishop Pearson,) is not “they pierced My hands and My feet,”—but “like a lion;” (notwithstanding that Pearson has shewn that the substitution of vau for yod in this place is one of the eighteen instances where the Scribes have tampered with the text5353 On the Creed, Art. iv. p. 244, notes (u) and (x).; and notwithstanding that this modern corruption of the Hebrew, as every one must see, makes the place almost nonsense5454 “It would take no great space,” (says Dr. Pusey,) “to shew that the rendering ‘as a lion,’ is unmeaning, without authority, against authority; while the rendering ‘they pierced’ is borne out alike by authority and language.”.)—Is. vii. 14 does not refer to the miraculous birth of Christ, (p. 69,) (although St. Matthew is express in his assertion that it does.) There is, it seems, an elder and a later Isaiah. (p. 71.) The famous liiird chapter does not refer to Christ; but either to Jeremiah or to “the collective Israel,”—(p. 73,) (although it is at least seven times quoted, and expressly applied to our Saviour) in the New Testament5555 Ver. 1,—St. John xil. 38. Rom. x. 16. Ver. 4,—St. Matth. viii. 17. Ver. 4 to 11,—1 St. Pet. ii. 24, 25. Ver. 7 and 8,—Acts viii. 32. Ver. 12,—St. Mark xv. 28. St. Luke xxii. 37..) Daniel, we are xxxvassured, belongs to different ages; and it is “certain, beyond fair doubt . . . that those portions of the book, supposed to be specially predictive, are . . a history of past occurrences.” (p. 69.) That “the book contains no predictions, except by analogy and type, can hardly be gainsaid.” (pp. 76-7.) . . . . (If any of us had dogmatized as to Truth as these men do as to error, (remarks Dr. Pusey,) what scorn we should be held up to!) . . . . The Reverend author insolently adds,—“It is time for divines to recognize these things, since with their opportunities of study, the current error is as discreditable to them, as for the well-meaning crowd, who are taught to identify it with their creed, it is a matter of grave compassion.” (p. 77.) “When so vast an induction on the destructive side has been gone through, it avails little that some passages may be doubtful; one perhaps in Zechariah, and one in Isaiah, capable of being made directly Messianic; and a chapter possibly in Deuteronomy foreshadowing the final fall of Jerusalem. Even these few cases, the remnant of so much confident rhetoric, tend to melt, if they are not already melted, in the crucible of searching enquiry.” (pp. 69-70.) . . . . . Our Doctor of Divinity, having reduced the prophecies “capable of being made” Messianic, to two,—breaks out into a strain of refined banter which is altogether his own, and. which we presume is intended to stand in the place of argument. “If our German, [viz. Bunsen,] had ignored all that the masters of philology have proved on these subjects, his countrymen would have raised a storm of ridicule, at which he must have drowned himself in the Neckar.” (p. 70.) A catastrophe so fatal to xxxvithe cause of true Religion and sound learning may well point a paragraph! . . . . But we must write gravely.
The absolute worthlessness of unsupported dicta such as these, ought to be apparent to all. It is useless to reason with a madman. We desiderate nothing so much as “searching enquiry,” (p. 69,) but we are presented instead with something worse than random assertion. If the writer would state a single case, with its evidence,—we should know how to deal with him. We should examine his arguments seriatim; and either refute them, or admit their validity. From such “free handling,” the cause of sacred Truth can never suffer. But when, in place of argument and evidence, we have merely bluster,—what is to be. said? Pity and disregard are the only reply we can bestow; or our answers must be as brief as the calumny which provokes them. “how,” (asks the Regius Professor of Hebrew,) “can such an undigested heap of errors receive a systematic answer in brief space, or in any one treatise or volume?”
“If any sincere Christian now asks, is not then our Saviour a spoken of in Isaiah; let him open his New Testament, and ask therewith John the Baptist, whether he was Elias? If he finds the Baptist answering I am not, yet our Lord testifies that in spirit and power this was Elias; a little reflexion will shew how the historical representation in Isaiah liii. is of some suffering prophet or remnant, yet the truth and patience, the grief and triumph, have their highest fulfilment in Him who said, ‘Father, not My will but Thine.’” (p. 74.) I have transcribed this passage to illustrate the miserable sophistry of the author. It is foretold by Malachi that before the great and terrible day of the Lord, Elijah is to come back to xxxviiEarth5656 Mal. iv. 5.. John Baptist came in his “spirit and power5757 St. Luke i. 17.,” but was not Elijah himself. How does it follow from this that Isaiah may have prophesied merely of qualities and not of a person? The only logical inference from his words would surely be, that Elijah is yet to come5858 As the Fathers generally teach. See Brown’s Ordo Sæclorum, pp. 702-3, &c., &c.!—Dr. Williams adds,—“We must not distort the prophets to prove the Divine Word incarnate, and then from the Incarnation reason back to the sense of prophecy.” (p. 74.) Was not then the Divine Word incarnate?
The theory of one who writes like an open unbeliever concerning Divine things is really not worth developing: and yet, as I am examining an Essay which seems to be entirely built upon such a theory, it may be desirable, in this instance, that the deformity of the writer should be uncovered: especially since Dr. Williams writes such very dark English, that, until some of his sentences are translated, they are barely intelligible.
Anticipating that his doctrines may “alarm those who think that, apart from Omniscience belonging to the Jews, (!) the proper conclusion of reason is Atheism;”—(in other words, that the rejection of a belief in the inspiration of Prophecy will eventually conduct a man to the rejection of God Himself;) the Reverend writer declares that “it is not inconsistent with the idea that Almighty God has been pleased to educate men and nations, employing imagination no less than conscience, and suffering His lessons to play freely within the limits of humanity and its shortcomings.” (p. 77.) (In other words, that what Scripture xxxviiiemphatically declares, and what men have for thousands of years believed to be inspired predictions of future events, are none other than the effusions of a lively imagination, or the suggestions of a well-informed conscience.) “The prophetical disquisitions,” (p. 77,) therefore, are subject to error of every imaginable description; and possess no higher attributes than belong to any ordinary human work by “a master’s hand.” (p. 77.) “The Sacred Writers acknowledge themselves men of like passions with ourselves, and we are promised illumination from the Spirit which dwelt in them.” (p. 78.) We may not think of the Sacred Writers as “passionless machines, and call Luther and Milton ‘uninspired.’” (Ibid.) “The great result is to vindicate the work of the Eternal Spirit; that abiding influence which underlies all others, and in which converge all images of old time and means of grace now: temple, Scripture, finger, and Hand of God; and again, preaching, sacraments, waters which comfort, and flame which burns.” (p. 78.) It follows,—“If such a Spirit did not dwell in the Church, the Bible would not be inspired, for the Bible is, before all things, the written voice of the congregation.” (p. 78.) Offended Reason, (for Piety has no place here,) has not time to reclaim against so preposterous a statement; for it follows immediately,—“Bold as such a theory of Inspiration (!) may sound, it was the earliest creed of the Church, and it is the only one to which the facts of Scripture answer.” (p. 78.) . . . What reply can be offered to such an outrageous statement, but flat contradiction? What more effectual refutation of such a ‘theory’ (?) concerning Scripture, than simply to state it?xxxix
Let this miserable but conceited man yet further map out the nature of his own delusion respecting Prophecy. He applauds the wisdom of one who cc “accepts freely the belief of scholars, and yet does not despair of Hebrew Prophecy as a witness to the Kingdom of God:” (p. 70:) (that is, of one who, like Bunsen, altogether disbelieves in prophecy as prophecy, and yet is bent on finding something of an Evangelical character in the prophetic writings.) “The way of doing so left open to him, was to shew pervading the Prophets those deep truths which lie at the heart of Christianity, and td trace the growth of such ideas, the belief in a righteous God) and the nearness of Man to God, the power of prayer, and the victory of self-sacrificing patience, ever expanding in men’s hearts, until the fulness of time came, and the ideal of the Divine thought was fulfilled in the Son of Man.” (p. 70.) In other words, Christ was nothing more than the fullest development and impersonation of the best thoughts and feelings of the (so-called) prophets! He “fulfilled in His own person the highest aspiration of Hebrew seers and of mankind, thereby lifting the ancient words, so to speak, into a new and higher power; and therefore was recognized as having eminently the unction of a prophet whose words die not,—of a priest in a temple not made with hands,—and of a king in the realm of thought, delivering his people from a bondage of moral evil, worse than Egypt or Babylon.” (pp. 74-5.) “A notion of foresight by vision of particulars, or a kind of clairvoyance,” (p. 70,)—(such is this Doctor of Divinity’s notion of the gift of prophecy!)—he deems inadmissible. “Literal prognostication,” (p. 65,) is his abhorrence. He would eliminate the Messianic passages xlaltogether. (pp. 65-6.) That Prophecy was miraculous, was a dream of the Fathers. (p. 66.) Even the notion that Prophecy is “a natural gift, consistent with fallibility,” (p. 70,) Dr. Williams rejects as an unwarrantable addition to the “moral and metaphysical basis of Prophecy.” (p. 70.) Bunsen was for admitting that addition. “One would wish,” (says the Vicar of Broad Chalke,) “he might have intended only the power of seeing the ideal in the actual, or of tracing the Divine Government in the movements of men. He seems to mean more than presentiment or sagacity: and this element in his system requires proof.” (pp. 70-1.) . . . This, from a Doctor of Divinity! a Professor of Hebrew! the Vice-Principal of a Theological College a shepherd of souls!
We are left to infer that “the Fall of Adam represents ideally the circumscription of our spirits in limits of flesh and time:” (p. 88:) that Christ is “the moral Saviour of mankind;” (p. 80;) and that Salvation from evil is to be attained by the conformity of our souls to a “religious idea” which was “brought to perfection” in Christ. (p. 80.) This “religious idea” “is the thought of the Eternal.” (Ibid.) In other words, “Salvation from evil” is “through sharing the Saviour’s Spirit.” (p. 87.)—We are further left to infer that “Justification by faith means the peace of mind, or sense of Divine approval, which comes of trust in a righteous God:” (p. 80:) that “Regeneration is a correspondent giving of insight, or an awakening of forces of the soul: Resurrection, a spiritual quickening: Salvation, our deliverance, not from the life-giving God, but from evil and darkness.” (p. 81.) . . . And this from a Clergyman who has just subscribed, “willingly and ex animo,” the three xliArticles in the 36th Canon . . . After such specimens of Divinity, we are scarcely surprised to find that the fires of Hell (γέεννα) “may serve as images of distracted remorse:” (p. 81:) that “Heaven is not a place5959 And yet,—“I go to prepare a place for you!”—St. John xiv. 2., so much as a fulfilment of the love of God.” (pp. 81-2.) The very Incarnation, (which he calls “the embodiment of the Eternal Mind,”) (p. 82.) is spoken of as if it were a myth. “It becomes with our author as purely spiritual as it was with St. Paul. The Son of David by birth is the Son of God by the spirit of holiness. What is flesh, is born of flesh; and what is spirit, is born of Spirit.” (p. 82.) Rom. i. 1-3 is quoted in support of this, which I cannot but regard as blasphemy: for if it does not mean that our Saviour was not, in a true and literal sense, the Son of God at all, it is hard to see what it can mean.—As for the following account of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, it shall only be said that it sounds like a denial of the Catholic doctrine altogether. “Being, becoming, and animating; or substance, thinking, and conscious life, are expressions of a Triad which may be also represented as will, wisdom, and love; as light, radiance, and warmth; as fountain, stream, and united flow; as mind, thought, and consciousness; as person, word, and life; as Father, Son,, and Spirit.” (p. 88.)
The nebulous is a striking peculiarity of the style of the Vicar of Broad Chalke6060 See, for example, p. 60, (lower half) p. 62, (middle,) &c.. He informs us that “in virtue of the identity of Thought with Being the primitive Trinity represented neither three originant principles nor three transient phases, but three eternal subsistencies in one Divine Mind. . . . The Divine Consciousness or Wisdom, consubstantial with the xliiEternal Will, becoming personal in the Son of Man, is the express image of the Father; and Jesus actually, but also Mankind ideally, is the Son of God.” (pp. 88-9.) Since this has “almost a Brahmanical sound” (p. 89.) even to the Vicar of Broad Chalke, we are content to pass it by in mute astonishment. He proceeds: “Both spiritual affection and metaphysical reasoning forbid us to confine Revelations like those of Christ to the first half century of our era; but shew at least affinities of our faith existing in men’s minds, anterior to Christianity, and renewed with deep echo from living hearts in many a generation.” (p. 82.) Was our Saviour, then a fabulous personage,—a virtuous principle,—and not a Man? . . . “Again. We find the evidences of our canonical books and of the patristic authors nearest to them, are sufficient to prove illustration in outward act of principles perpetually true, but not adequate to guarantee narratives inherently incredible or precepts evidently wrong.” (pp. 82-3.) Are then the sacred “narratives” “inherently incredible?” or the Divine “precepts” “evidently wrong?”—These are, we presume, among the “traditional fictions about our Canon” (p. 83.) at which the Theological Professor sneers. “Hence we are obliged to assume in ourselves a verifying faculty,”—(p. 83,) and so, Dr. Williams and Dr. Temple shake hands6161 Comp. p. 45.. An instance of the exercise of this faculty is immediately subjoined. “The verse ‘And no man hath ascended up to Heaven, but he that came down,’ is intelligible as a free comment near the end of the first century; but has no meaning in our Lord’s mouth at a time when the Ascension had not been heard of.” (p. 84.)—“The Apocalypse” xliiiin like manner, to “cease to be a riddle,” must be “taken as a series of poetical visions which represent the outpouring of the vials of wrath upon the City where our Lord was slain.” (p. 84.) . . . (Is it possible that a Minister of the Gospel of Christ can speak thus concerning the Divine record?) . . . “The second of the Petrine Epistles, having alike external and internal evidence against its genuineness, is necessarily surrendered as a whole.” (p. 84.) (Can a man solemnly sign the vith Article, and yet so write?)—“A philosophical view [of the doctrine of the Trinity] recommends itself as easiest to believe.” (p. 87.) The “view” expressed in the Athanasian Creed is we presume that which is stigmatized as “one felt to be so irrational, that it calls in the aid of terror.” (p. 87.) The Reverend writer does not name the Athanasian Creed, indeed. It is not the general fashion of Essayists and Reviewers,—from Dr. Temple to Professor Jowett,—to speak plainly. But common sense asks,—If Dr. Williams does not allude to the Creed in question, what does he allude to? And common honesty adds,—How is such an allusion to that formula consistent with subscription to Art. viii.?
The Sacrament of Baptism, (he says,) has “degenerated into a magical form,” (p. 86,) since it has “become twisted into a false analogy with circumcision,”—(twisted, at all events, by St. Paul6262 Col. ii. 11, 12. Rom. ii. 29. Phil. iii. 3, &c.!)—and it is merely an “Augustinian notion” that “a curse is inherited by Infants.”—How, one humbly asks, does the Reverend writer reconcile it to his conscience not only to have signed the ixth Article, but to employ the Baptismal Service, and to teach the little ones of the flock their Catechism?xliv
On reaching the last page of the present Essay, one is irresistibly led to remark that if a single word could convey an adequate notion of the author’s manner, that word would be Insolence. When. Dr. Williams would express difference of opinion, he has recourse to violence and bluster: when he would patronize, he is sure to make himself unspeakably offensive. But he seldom agrees with anybody, even with disciples of the same school with himself,—as Messrs. Bunsen and Arnold, Coleridge and Francis Newman. Professor Mansel is “a mere gladiator hitting in the dark,” whose “blows fall heaviest on what it was his duty to defend.” (p. 67.) Dr. Pusey receives a menacing intimation of what his Commentary must not be. Davison’s reasoning labours under the inconvenient defect of an unproved minor premiss. (p. 66.) The majestic memory of Bp. Pearson is insulted by this vulgar man, and the fairness of his citations are impeached. (p. 72.)—Bp. Butler is declared to have turned aside from an unwelcome idea (!), literature not being his strong point (!) (p. 65.)—Justin, (p. 64,)—Augustine, (p. 65,)—Jerome, (pp. 65, 71,)—Anselm, (p. 67,)—all come in for a share of the Vice-Principal of Lampeter’s contempt. Even the Apologist of Essays and Reviews is constrained to admit that “anything more” unbecoming “than some of Dr. Williams’s remarks we have never read, in writings professing to be written seriously6363 Edinburgh Review, (Ap. 1861,) p. 429..”
But faults of mind and manner, however gross, do but disqualify a writer for being the associate of men of taste and good breeding and blemishes of style are, at least, venial. Not so easily to be excused is the deplorable spectacle of a Minister of the Gospel, xlva Doctor of Divinity and Vice-Principal of a Theological College, lending all his critical powers, (which yet seem to be of the most indifferent description,) in order to undermine the authority of God’s Word. He has been asked,—“Do you unfeignedly believe all the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament?” and he has answered,—“I do believe them.” He has been asked, “Will you be ready, with all diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word?” and he has made reply,—“I will, the Lord being my helper.” He has solemnly declared his trust that he was “inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon himself this office and ministration.”—Yet this is the man who explains away Miracles, denies Prophecy, and idealizes Scripture; the man who disparages the formulæ he uses daily, mutilates the Canon, and evacuates the most solemn doctrines of the Church I
I have now said as much as I think necessary concerning Dr. Williams’s Essay. The entire refutation of such a tissue of groundless assertions and unfounded statements, and unscholarlike criticisms, and unphilosophical views,—would fill many volumes. It is to be feared also that, to him, the result would not be convincing after all. To have stated in brief outline, as I have already clone, the leading positions to which he commits himself, ought to suffice. The mere exhibition of such principles (?) ought to be their own abundant refutation. . . . God give the unhappy author repentance of his errors!—And will not men believe that in the pages of the present Essay is to be seen the lawful development, and inevitable result of the opinions advocated in every other part of the present volume? I perceive scarcely any essential difference between the views of any of these seven writers. All xlviare moving the same fatal road; and are simply at different stages of the journey. But they conduct themselves wondrous differently in their progress, certainly; Dr. Williams being immeasurably the most offensive of the seven,—the only one who, besides seeming blasphemous, can truly be called vulgar.
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