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IV. The next performance is mainly directed against faith in the Church, as a society of Divine origin. “The Rev. Henry Bristow Wilson, B.D., Vicar of Great Staughton, Hunts,” claims that a National Church shall be regarded as a purely secular Institution,—the spontaneous development of the State. “If all priests and ministers of religion could at one moment be swept from the face of the Earth, they would soon be reproduced7676 p. 169.—“Priests have neither been, as some would represent, a set of deliberate conspirators against the free thoughts of mankind; nor, on the other hand,” &c. lbid.—How partial becomes the judgment, when we have to discuss the merits of our own order!.” The Church is concerned with Ethics, not with Divinity. It should therefore be “free from dogmatic tests, and similar intellectual bondage:” (p. 168:) hampered by no traditional Doctrines; pledged to no Creeds: but, on the contrary, should be subject to periodical doctrinal lxvre-adjustments. “Doctrinal limitations” (i. e. the Creeds) “are not essential to” the Church. “Upon larger knowledge of Christian history, upon a more thorough acquaintance with the mental constitution of man, upon an understanding of the obstacles they present to a true Catholicity (!), they may be cast off.” (p. 167.) “In order to the possibility of recruiting any national Ministry from the whole of the nation, . . . . no needless intellectual or speculative obstacles should be interposed.” (p. 196. So at p. 198.)
To all this, the answer is very obvious. Viewed as an historical fact, the Church is not of human origin. The Church a a Divine Institution. That a Priest of the Church, charged with a cure of souls, should desire her annihilation,—the reversal of the facts of her past History,—her reconstruction on an unheard-of basis, without even Creeds as terms of communion with her,—and so forth; all this may suggest some very painful doubts as to the objector’s honesty in continuing to employ the formularies of that Church, and in professing to teach her doctrines;—but it can hardly be supposed to have any effect whatever on the question at issue.
Foreseeing this, Mr. Wilson begins by asserting,—(for to insinuate is not for so advanced a disciple of “the negative Theology,”) (p. 151,)—“the fact of a very wide-spread alienation, both of educated and uneducated persons, from the Christianity which is ordinarily presented in our Churches and Chapels.” (p. 150.) “A self-satisfied Sacerdotalism, confident in a supernaturally transmitted illumination,” may amuse itself in trying to “keep peace within the walls of emptied Churches:” (p. 150:) but the day for “traditional Christianity” (p. 149.) has gone by. lxviWe may no longer ignore “a great extent of dissatisfaction on the part of the Clergy at some portion, at least, of formularies of the Church of England,”—especially at the use of “one unhappy creed.” (p. 150.) There has been “a spontaneous recoil” from some of the old doctrines: a distrust of the old arguments: and a misgiving concerning Scripture itself. “In the presence of difficulties of this kind, . . . it is vain to seek to check open discussion.” (p. 151.)
Why then does not this man proceed openly to discuss? is the obvious rejoinder. Instead of vaguely hinting that either the Reason or the Moral sense is shocked by what people hear “in our Churches and Chapels,”—why has not this writer, first, the honesty to withdraw from the Ministry of the Church of England and next, the courage to indicate the particular doctrines which offend? To say that “the ordinances of public worship and religious instruction provided for the people of England” are not “really adapted to the wants of their nature as it is,” (p. 150,) is a very vague and unworthy style of urging an objection. Why does not the reverend writer explain wherein the Doctrine and Discipline of the English Church are not really adapted to the actual wants of Man’s nature?
Let every unbeliever however be allowed to state his difficulties in his own way. Mr. Wilson’s difficulties certainly take a very peculiar shape. The increased Geographical knowledge of the present generation has evidently disturbed his faith. “In our own boyhood, the World as known to the ancients was nearly all which was known to ourselves (!). We have recently become acquainted,—intimate,—with the teeming regions of the far East, and with empires, lxviipagan or even atheistic, of which the origin runs far back beyond the historic records of Judæa or of the West, and which were more populous than all Christendom now is, for many ages before the Christian era.” (p. 152.) Such a statement is soon made; but it ought to have been substantiated. I take the liberty of doubting its accuracy.
But granting even that the heathen world “for many ages before the Christian era” was more populous than all Christendom now is:—what then? This fact “suggests questions to those who on Sundays hear the reading and exposition of the Scriptures as they were expounded to our forefathers, and on Monday peruse the news of a World of which our forefathers little dreamed.” (pp, 152-3.)—And pray, (we calmly inquire,) Why are the Scriptures to be read or expounded after a novel fashion, even though our geographical knowledge has made a considerable advance? To this, we are favoured with no answer. The “questions” suggested are, we presume, the same which are contained in the following sentence. “In what relation does the Gospel stand to these millions7777 Ans. Clearly in the relation of a blessing which has by all means to be communicated to them.? Is there any trace on the face of its records that it even contemplated their existence7878 Ans. Certainly there is. Those which most obviously present themselves are such as the following:—St. Matth. ix. 37, 38: xxviii. 19, 20. St. Luke xxiv. 47. Acts 38, 39, &c.? We are told, that to know and believe in Jesus Christ is in some sense necessary to Salvation. It has not been given to these. Are they,—will they be, hereafter,—the worse off for their ignorance?” (p. 153.) . . . “As to the necessity of faith in a Saviour to these peoples lxviiiwhen they could never have had it, no one, upon reflection, can believe in any such thing. Doubtless they will be equitably dealt with.” (p. 153.)
These last seven words, (which scarcely seem of a piece with the rest of the sentence,) we confess have always seemed a sufficient answer to the badly-expressed speculative difficulty which immediately precedes; a difficulty, be it observed, which does not depend at all on the popular advancement of Geographical knowledge; for it was urged with the self-same force anciently, as now; and was met by Bp. Butler, almost in the self-same words7979 Analogy, P. II. n. c. vi., upwards of a hundred years ago. But Mr. Wilson to our surprise and sorrow proceeds:—“We cannot be content to wrap this question up and leave it for a mystery, as to what shall become of those myriads upon myriads of non-Christian races. First, if our traditions tell us, that they are involved in the curse and perdition of Adam, and may justly be punished hereafter individually for his transgression, not having been extricated from it by saving faith,—we are disposed to think that our traditions cannot herein fairly declare to us the words and inferences from Scripture; but if on examination it should turn out that they have,—we must say, that the authors of the Scriptural books have, in those matters, represented to us their own inadequate conceptions, and not the mind of the Spirit of God” (pp. 153-4.)
I forbear to dwell upon the grievous spectacle with which we are thus presented. Here is a Clergyman of the Church of England deliberately proposing the following dilemma:—Either the Prayer Book is incorrect in its most important doctrinal inferences from lxixHoly Scripture; or else, the Authors of Holy Scripture itself are incorrect in their statements. The morality of one who declares that he finds himself placed between the horns of this dilemma, and yet retains his office as a public teacher in the Church of England,—it is painful to contemplate. But this is only ad hominem. The Reverend writer’s difficulty remains.
And it seems sufficient to reply:—It is not we who “wrap up the question,” but God. As a mystery we find it; and as a mystery, we not only “can,” but must be content to “leave it.” Further, it is not “our traditions,” but Holy Scripture itself which tells us that “by one man Sin entered into the World, and Death by Sin; and so Death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned8080 Rom. v. 12.:”—that “in Adam all died8181 1 Cor. xv. 22.:”—that “we were by nature the children of wrath, even as others8282 Eph. ii. 3.:” and the like. Scripture, on the other hand, as unequivocally assures us that God is good, or rather that He is very Goodness. We are convinced, (in Mr. Wilson’s words,) “that all shall be equitably dealt with according to their opportunities.” (p. 154.) Moreover, he would be a rash Divine who should venture to adopt the opinion so strenuously disclaimed by Bp. Butler, “that none can have the benefit of the general Redemption, but such as have the advantage of being made acquainted with it in the present life8383 Analogy, P. II. c. v. note (d)..” . . . . How, in the meantime, speculative difficulties concerning the hereafter of the unevangelized Heathen are affected by the fact that our population now “peruse the news of a World of which our forefathers little dreamed,” (pp. 152-3,)—it is hard to see. Equally lxxunable am I also to understand how the discovery that a larger number of persons are the subjects of this speculative difficulty than used once to be supposed, can constitute any reason why Scripture should not still be read and expounded on Sunday “as it used to be expounded to our forefathers.”
We have been so particular, because whenever any of these writers condescend to be argumentative, we are eager to bear them company. No wish at all have we, in the abstract, to stifle inquiry; no objection whatever have we to the principle of free discussion. And yet, as a clergyman, I cannot discuss such questions as these with a Minister of the Church of England, except under protest. I deny that these are in any sense open questions. To dispute concerning them,—εἰ μὴ θέσιν διαφυλάττων,—one of the disputants must first, at least, resign his commission. It is simply dishonest in a man to hold a commission in the Church of England, under solemn vows, and yet to deny her doctrines. An Officer in the Army who should pursue a similar line of action, would be dismissed the Service,—or worse.—Under protest, then, we follow the Rev. H. B. Wilson, B.D.
Next come three other specimens “of the modern questionings of traditional Christianity,” “whereby observers are rendered dissatisfied with old modes of speaking:” (p. 156:) viz. (1) St. Paul “speaks of the Gospel which was preached to every nation (sic) under heaven,’ when it has never yet been preached to the half8484 Col. i. 23.—p. 155..” (2) “Then, again, it has often been appealed to as an evidence of the supernatural origin of Christianity, and as an instance of supernatural assistance vouchsafed to it in the first centuries, that it so soon overspread the world:” (p. 155:) whereas “it requires no learning to be aware that neither then nor subsequently have the Christians amounted to a fourth part of the people of the Earth.” (Ibid.) (3) So again, “it has been customary to argue that, à priori, a supernatural Revelation was to be expected at the time when Jesus Christ was manifested upon the Earth, by reason of the exhaustion of all natural or unassisted human efforts for the amelioration of mankind;” (pp. 155-6;) whereas “our recently enlarged Ethnographical information shews such an argument to be altogether inapplicable to the case.” “It would be more like the realities of things, as we can now behold them, to say that the Christian Revelation was given to the Western World, because it deserved it better and was more prepared for it than the East.” (p. 156.)—The remedy for the first of these difficulties (says Mr. Wilson,) is, “candidly to acknowledge that the words of the New Testament which speak of the preaching of the Gospel to the whole world, were limited to the understanding of the times when they were spoken.” The suggestions of our own moral instincts are rather to be followed, “than the express declarations of Scripture writers, who had no such knowledge as is given to ourselves of the amplitude of the World.” (p. 157.)
For my own part, I see not how Mr. Wilson’s proposed remedy meets the case unless he means to say that in the time of St. Paul the Gospel had been literally preached to the whole World as far as the World was then known. If not, it is clear that recourse must be had to some other expedient. Instead then of the “candid acknowledgment” required of us by the learned writer, may we be allowed to suggest to him the more prosaic expedient (1st) of making lxxiisure that he quotes Scripture accurately; and (2nd) that he understands it? . . . It happens that St. Paul does not use the words “every nation under heaven,” as Mr. Wilson inadvertently supposes. The Apostle’s phrase, πάσῃ τῇ κτίσει, in Colossians i. 23, (as in St. Mark xvi. 15), means ‘to the whole Creation,’ or ‘every creature;’ (the article is doubtful;) in other words, he announces the universality of the Gospel, as contrasted with the Law; and he explains that it had been preached to the Heathen as well as to the Jews. Our increased knowledge therefore has nothing whatever to do with the question; and the supposed difficulty disappears. The two which remain, being (according to the same writer,) merely incorrect inferences of Biblical critics, need not, it is presumed, be regarded as insurmountable either.
Following Mr. Wilson through his successive vagaries of religious
(?) thought, we come upon a succession of strange statements; the object of which
seems to be to cast a slur on Doctrine generally.—The doctrine of Justification by faith “is not met with . . . . in the Apostolic
writings, except those of St. Paul.” (p. 160.) [A minute
exception truly!].—“Then, on the other hand, it is maintained by a large body
of Theologians, as by the learned Jesuit Petavius and many others, that the doctrine
afterwards developed into the Nicene and Athanasian, is not to be found explicitly
in the earliest fathers, nor even in Scripture, although provable by it.” (p. 160.)
[Would it not have been fair, however, to state what appears to have been the design
of Petavius therein8585 See Nelson’s
Life of Bp. Bull,
p. 215.? and should it not have been added that our own Bishop Bull
in his immortal “Defensio Fidei Nicænæ” established the very reverse “out of the
writings of the Catholic Doctors lxxiiiwho flourished within the first three centuries of the Christian
Church8686 See Nelson’s Life of Bp. Bull,
p. 242.?”] “The nearer we come to the original sources of the History, the less
definite do we find the statements of Doctrines, and even of the facts from which
the Doctrines were afterwards inferred.” (p. 160.) “In the patristic writings, theoretics assume continually an increasingly
disproportionate value. Even within
the compass of our New Testament, there is to be found already a wonderful contrast
between the words of our Lord and
such a discourse as the
Epistle to the Hebrews.” (pp. 160-1.) [What a curious discovery, by the way, that
an argumentative Epistle should differ in style from an historical Gospel!] “Our
Lord’s Discourses,” (continues this writer,) “have almost
all of them a direct Moral bearing.” (p. 161.) [The
case of St. John’s Gospel immediately recurs to our memory. And it seems to have
occurred to Mr. Wilson’s also. He says;—] “This character of His words is certainly more obvious in the
first three Gospels than in the fourth; and the remarkable unison of those Gospels,
when they recite the Lord’s words, notwithstanding their discrepancies
in some matters of fact, compels us to think, that they embody more exact
traditions of what He actually said than the fourth does.”
(p. 161.) [In other words, the authenticity of St. John’s Gospel8787 “The horizon which his
view embraced was much narrower than St.
Paul’s,”—who had enlarged his mind by foreign travel. (p. 168.)
In a note, we are informed that at any rate his Gospel cannot, by external evidence, be attached to the person (!) of St. John as its author.” “Many persons,” (it is added,) “shrink from a bonâ fide examination of the ‘Gospel question,’ because they imagine, that unless the four Gospels are received as . . . entirely the composition of the persons whose names they bear, mid without any admixture of legendary matter or embellishment in their narratives, the only alternative is to suppose a fraudulent design in those who did compose them.” (p. 161.) . . . . May one who has not shrunk from ‘the Gospel question’ be permitted to regret that the Reverend writer has not specified the charges which he thus vaguely brings against the Gospels? What, pray, is the legendary matter; and which are the embellishments?
In the same page we read of “the first, or genuine, epistle of St. Peter.” Is not his second epistle genuine, then? is lxxivto be suspected rather than the worthlessness of the speculations of the Vicar of Great Staughton!]
The object of three pages which follow (pp. 162-5.) seems to be to shew that in the Apostolic Age, Immorality of life was more severely dealt with, even than erroneousness of Doctrine. Except because the writer is eager to depreciate the value of orthodoxy of belief, and to cast a slur on doctrinal standards generally,—it is hard to see why he should write thus. Let him be reminded however that our Saviour makes Faith itself a moral, not an intellectual habit8888 See above, p. lviii.; and, (if it be not an uncivil remark,) what but an immoral spectacle does a Clergyman present who openly inculcates distrust of these very Doctrines which he has in the most solemn manner pledged himself to uphold and maintain?
And thus we come back to the theme originally proposed. “A national Church,” we are informed, “need not, historically speaking, be Christian (!); nor, if it be Christian, need it be tied down to particular forms which have been prevalent at certain times in Christendom (!). That which is essential to a National Church is, that it should undertake to assist the spiritual progress of the nation and of the individuals of which it is composed, in their several states and stages. Not even a Christian Church lxxvshould expect all those who are brought under its influence to be, as a matter of fact, of one and the same standard; but should endeavour to raise each according to his capacities, and should give no occasion for a reaction against itself; nor provoke the individualist element into separation.” (p. 173.) Of what sort the Ministers of such a “chartered libertine” are to prove, may be anticipated. “Thought and speech, which are free among all other classes,” must be free also “among those who hold the office of leaders and teachers of the rest in the highest things.” The Ministers of the Church ought not “to be bound to cover up, but to open; and having, it is presumed, possession of the key of knowledge, ought not to stand at the door with it, permitting no one to enter unless by force. A National Church may also find itself in this position, which, perhaps, is our own.” (p. 174.)—What a charming picture of the duties and the method of that class to which the Vicar of Great Stoughton himself belongs! . . . The writer proceeds to set nu example of that freedom of inquiry which he vindicates as the privilege of his Order; and without which he is apprehensive of being left isolated between “the fanatical religionist,” (p. 174,) (i. e. the man who believes the truths he teaches,) and “the negative theologian,” (i. e. those who, “impatient of old fetters, follow free thought heedlessly wherever it may lead them.” (Ibid.) “The freedom of opinion8989 “Pleas for ‘liberty of conscience’ and ‘freedom of opinion,’” (as an excellent writer has recently pointed out,) “can have neither place nor pretext, while there is liberty, for all who choose, to decline joining the Church of England; and freedom, for all who choose, to leave her.”—Rev. C. Forster’s ’Spinoza Redivivus,’ (1861,) p. 6.,” (he says,) lxxvi“which belongs to the English citizen should be conceded to the English Churchman; and the freedom which is already practically enjoyed by the members of the congregation, cannot without injustice be denied to its ministers.” (p. 180.) Let us see how the Reverend Gentleman exercises the license which he claims:—
The phrase “Word of God,” (he says,) is unauthorized and begs the question. The epithet “Canonical” “may mean either books ruled and determined by the Church, or regulation books; and the employment of it in the Article hesitates between these two significations.” (p. 175.) The declaration of the sixth Article simply implies “the Word of God is contained in Scripture; whence it does not follow that it is coextensive with it.” (p. 176.) “Under the terms of the Sixth Article one may accept literally, or allegorically, or as parable, or poetry, or legend, the story of a serpent-tempter, of an ass speaking with man’s voice, of an arresting the earth’s motion, of a reversal of its motion9090 In what part of the Bible, (one begs respectfully to inquire,) is one called upon to “accept the story of an arresting of the Earth’s motion, or of a reversal of its motion?” . . . Would it not be as well to be truthful in one’s references to the Bible?, of waters standing in a solid heap, of witches, and a variety of apparitions. So under the terms of the Sixth Article, every one is free in judgment as to the primæval institution of the Sabbath, the universality of the Deluge, the confusion of tongues, the corporeal taking up of Elijah into Heaven, the nature of Angels, the reality of demoniacal possession, the personality of Satan, and the miraculous particulars of many events.” (p. 177.) “Good men,” we are assured; (the Inspired Writers being the good men lxxvii intended;) “may err in facts, be weak in memory, mingle imaginations with memory, be feeble in inferences, confound illustration with argument, be varying in judgment and opinion.” (p. 179.) [A “free handling” this, of the work of the Holy Ghost, truly! . . . . It would, I suppose, be deemed very unreasonable to wish that a catalogue of facts misstated,—of slips of memory,—of imaginary details,—of feeble inferences,—of instances of logical confusion,—and so forth, had been subjoined by the Reverend writer. I will only observe concerning his method that such “frank criticism of Scripture” (p. 174.) as this, is dogmatism of the most disreputable kind: insinuating what it does not state; assuming what it ought to prove; asserting in the general what it may be defied to substantiate in particular.] It follows,—“But the spirit of absolute Truth cannot err or contradict Himself; if he speak immediately, even in small things, accessories, or accidents.” (p. 179.) To this we entirely agree. Where then are the “errors?” and where the “contradictions?”
We cannot “suppose Him to suggest contradictory accounts:” [not contradictory, of course; because contradictories cannot both be true:] “or accounts only to be reconciled in the way of hypothesis and conjecture.”—(Ibid.) Why not9191 See below, p. 68.?
“To suppose a supernatural influence to cause the record of that which can only issue in a puzzle, is to lower indefinitely our conception of the Divine dealings in respect of a special Revelation.” (Ibid.)—Why more of a lowering puzzle in God’s Word than in God’s Works9292 See Butler’s Analogy, P. II. c. iii.?
Mr. Wilson proceeds:—“It may be attributed to lxxviiithe defect of our understandings, that we should beunable altogether to reconcile the aspects of the Saviour as presented to us in the first three Gospels, and in the writings of St. Paul and St. John. At any rate, there were current in the primitive Church very distinct Christologies.”—(Ibid.) Queer language this for a plain man! I, for my own part, have never yet discovered the difficulty which is here hinted at; but which has been prudently left unexplained.
It follows:—“But neither to any defect in our capacities, nor to any reasonable presumption of a hidden wise design, nor to any partial spiritual endowments in the narrators, can we attribute the difficulty, if not impossibility, of reconciling the genealogies of St. Matthew and St. Luke i or the chronology of the Holy Week; or the accounts of the Resurrection: nor to any mystery in the subject-matter can be referred the uncertainty in which the New Testament writings leave us, as to the descent of Jesus Christ according to the flesh, whether by His mother He were of the tribe of Judith or of the tribe of Levi.”—(pp. 179-180.) I, for my part, can declare that I have found the reconcilement in the three subjects first alluded to, as complete as could be either expected or desired. The last part of the sentence discovers nothing so much as the writer’s ignorance of the subject on which he presumes to dogmatize.
Presently, we read,—“It may be worth while to consider how far a liberty of opinion is conceded by our existing Laws, Civil and Ecclesiastical.”—(p. 180.) “As far as opinion privately entertained is concerned, the liberty of the English Clergyman appears already to be complete. For no Ecclesiastical person can be lxxixobliged to answer interrogations as to his opinions; nor be troubled for that which he has not actually expressed; nor be made responsible for inferences which other people may draw from his expressions.” (Ibid.)—Surely such language needs only to be cited to awaken indignation in every honest bosom! “With most men educated, not in the schools of Jesuitism, but in the sound and honest moral training of an English Education, the mere entering on the record such a plea as this, must destroy the whole case. If the position of the religious instructor is to be maintained only by his holding one thing as true, and teaching another thing as to be received,—in the name of the God of Truth, either let all teaching cease, or let the fraudulent instructor abdicate willingly his office, before the moral indignation of an as yet uncorrupted people thrust him ignominiously from his abused seat9393 Quarterly Review, Jan. 1861, p. 275.!”
The remarks just quoted serve to introduce a series of views on subscription to the Articles, which, if they were presented to me without any intimation of the quarter from which they proceed, I should not have hesitated to denounce as simply dishonest9494 Take a few as a specimen:—“A great restraint is supposed to be imposed upon the Clergy by reason of their subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles. Yet it is more difficult than might be expected, to define what is the extent of the legal obligation of those who sign them; and in this case, the strictly legal obligation is the measure of the moral one. Subscription may be thought even to be inoperative upon the conscience by reason of its vagueness. For the act of subscription is enjoined, but its effect or meaning nowhere plainly laid down; and it does not seem to amount to more than an acceptance of the Articles of the Church as the formal law to which the subscriber is in some sense subject. What that subjection amounts to, must be gathered elsewhere; for it does not appear on the face of the subscription itself.”—(p. 181. See down to page 185.) Can equivocation such as this be read without a sense of humiliation and shame, as well as of disgust and abhorrence? . . . . lxxxThe Statute 13 Eliz. c. 12, is next discussed with the same unhappy licentiousness; and the declaration that “the meshes are too open for modern refinements.” (p. 185.) . . . . I desire not to speak with undue severity of a fellow-creature: but I protest that I cannot read the Review under consideration without a profound conviction that, (speaking for myself,) I have to do with one whom in the common concerns of life I would not trust. The aptitude here displayed9595 p. 180 to p. 190. for playing tricks with plain language, is calculated to sap the foundations of human intercourse, and to destroy confidence. If plain words may mean anything, or may mean nothing,—then, farewell to all good faith in the intercourse of daily life. If Articles “for the avoiding of Diversities of Opinions, and for the establishing of Consent touching true Religion9696 Heading of the XXXIX Articles.,”—such Articles especially as the IInd., “Of the Word or Son of God, which was made very Man;” and the Vth., “Of the Holy Ghost,” (which the Rev. Mr. Wilson calls “humanifying of the Divine Word,” and “the Divine Personalities,”) (p. 1860—may be signed by one who, even in signing, resolves to “pass by the side of them,” (p. 186, line 60—then is it better at once to admit that no Logic can be supposed to be available with such a writer; that he places himself outside the reach of fair argumentation; and must not be astonished if he shall find himself regarded by his peers simply in the light of an untrustworthy and impracticable person.
The last stage of all in this deplorable paper is an lxxxiapplication to Holy Scripture itself of the tricks which the Vicar of Great Staughton has already played, so much to his own satisfaction, with the Articles. “We may say that the value of the historical parts of the Bible may consist, rather in their significance, in the ideas which they awaken, than in the scenes themselves which they depict.” (p. 199.) To a plain English understanding, (unperplexed with the dreams of Strauss, and other unbelievers of the same stamp,) such a statement conveys scarcely an intelligible notion. But we are not left long in doubt.
“The application of Ideology to the interpretation of Scripture, to the doctrines of Christianity, to the formularies of the Church, may undoubtedly be carried to an excess; may be pushed so far as to leave in the sacred records no historical residue whatever. . . . . An example of the critical Ideology carried to excess, is that of Strauss; which resolves into an ideal the whole of the historical and doctrinal person of Jesus. . . . . But it by no means follows, because Strauss has substituted a mere shadow for the Jesus of the Evangelists, that there are not traits in the scriptural person of Jesus, which are better explained by referring them to an ideal than an historical origin: and without falling into fanciful exegetics, them are parts of Scripture more usefully interpreted ideologically than in any other manner,—as for instance, the history of the Temptation of Jesus by Satan, and accounts of demoniacal possessions.” (pp. 200-201.) “Some may consider the descent of all Mankind from Adam and Eve as an undoubted historical fact; others may rather perceive in that relation a form of narrative into which in early ages tradition would easily throw itself spontaneously. . . . . Among a particular lxxxiipeople, this historical representation became the concrete expression of a great moral truth,—of the brotherhood of all human beings The force, grandeur, and reality of these ideas are not a whit impaired in the abstract, nor indeed the truth of the concrete history (!) as their representation, even though mankind should have been placed upon the earth in many pairs at once, or in distinct centres of creation. For the brotherhood of men really depends,” &c., &c. (p. 201.) “Let us suppose one to be uncertain whether our Lord were born of the house and lineage of David, or of the tribe of Levi; and even to be driven to conclude that the genealogies of Him have little historic value; nevertheless, in idea, Jesus is both Son of David and Son of Aaron, both Prince of Peace, and High Priest of our profession as He is, under another idea, though not literally, ‘without father and without mother.’ And He is none the less Son of David, Priest Aaronical, or Royal Priest Melchizedecan, in idea and spiritually, even if it be unproved whether He were any of them in historic fact.—In like manner it need not trouble us, if in consistency, we should have to suppose both an ideal origin, and to apply an ideal meaning, to the birth in the city of David, (!) and to other circumstances of the Infancy. (!) So again, the Incarnification of the divine Immanuel remains, although the angelic appearances which herald it in the narratives of the Evangelists may be of ideal origin, according to the conceptions of former days.” (pp. 202-3.) “And,” lastly,—“liberty must be left to all as to the extent in which they apply this principle!” (p. 201.)
To such dreamy nonsense, what “Answer” can we return9797 The reader is referred to some remarks on Ideology towards the close
of Sermon VII., p. 243 to p. 251.? Such speculations would be a fair subject lxxxiiifor ridicule and merriment, if the subject were not so unspeakably
solemn,—the issues so vast, and terribly momentous. We find ourselves introduced
into a new world,—of which the denizens talk like madmen, and in a jargon of their
own. And yet, that jargon is no sooner understood, than the true character of our
new companions becomes painfully evident9898 “Unhappily, together with his
inauguration of Multitudinism, Constantine also inaugurated a principle essentially
at variance with it, the principle of doctrinal limitation.” (p. 166.) . . . “The opportunity of reverting to the freedom of the
Apostolic, and immediately succeeding periods, was finally lost for many ages by
the sanction given by Constantine to the decisions of Nicæa.”
(Ibid.) “At all events, a principle at variance with a true
Multitudinism was then recognised.” (Ibid.)
How does it happen, by the way, that one writing B.D. after his name, however bitter his animosity against the Nicene Creed may be, is not aware that Creeds are co-eval with Christianity? Thus we find the Creed of Carthage in the works of Cyprian, (A.D. 225,) and Tertullian, (A.D. 210, 203): that of Lyons in the works of Remus, (A.D. 180.) [see Heurtley’s Harmonia Symbolica, pp. 7-20.] We recognize fragments of the Creed in Ignatius, (A.D. 90.) We hear St. Paul himself saying—ὑποτύπωσιν ἔχε ὑγιαινόντων λόγων ὧν (i.e. the words themselves!) παρ᾽ ἐμοῦ ἤκουσας . . . . τὴν καλὴν παραθήκην φύλαξον—2 Tim. i. 13, 14. A few more words on this subject will be found in the notice of Mr. Jowett’s Essay. . . . . He who believes the plain words of Holy Writ, finds himself called “the literalist.” He who resolves Scripture into a dream, and the Lord who redeemed him into “a mere shadow,” (p. 200) is dignified with the title of “an idealist.” “Neither” (we are assured) “should condemn the other. They are fed with the same truths; the literalist unconsciously, the idealist with reflection. Neither can justly say of the other that he undervalues the Sacred Writings, or that he holds them as inspired less properly than himself.” (p. 200.) “The ideologian,” (who is the same person as the lxxxiv“idealist;” for the gentleman, at this place, changes his name;) “is evidently in possession of a principle which will enable him to stand in charitable relation to persons of very different opinions from his own.” (p. 202.) “Relations which may repose on doubtful grounds as matter of history, and, as history, be incapable of being ascertained or verified, may yet be equally suggestive of true ideas with facts absolutely certain. The spiritual significance is the same of the Transfiguration, of opening blind eyes, of causing the tongue of the stammerer to speak plainly, of feeding multitudes with bread in the wilderness, of cleansing leprosy; whatever links may be deficient in the traditional records of particular events.” (Ibid.) . . . . I will but modestly inquire,—What would be said of us, if we were so to expound Holy Scripture in defence of Christianity?
But it is time to dismiss this tissue of worthless as well as most mischievous writing;—even to exhibit which, in the words of its misguided author, ought to be its own sufficient exposure. Do men really expect us to “answer “such groundless assertions, and vague speculations as those which go before? A Faith without Creeds: a Clergy without authority or fixed opinions: a Bible without historical truth:—how can such things, for a moment, be supposed to be9999 It is really impossible to argue with a man who informs us that “previous to the time of the divided Kingdom, the Jewish History presents little which is thoroughly reliable:” (p. 170:)—that “the greater probability seems on the side of the supposition, that the Priesthood, with its distinct offices and charge, was constituted by Royalty, and that the higher pretensions of the priests were not advanced till the reign of Josiah:” (Ibid.:)—that, “The negative Theologian” demands “some positive elements in Christianity, on grounds more sure to him than the assumption of an objective ‘faith once delivered to the saints,’ which he cannot identify with the Creed of any Church as yet known to him:” (pp. 174-5:)—a man who can remark concerning the Bible, that,—“Those who are able to do so, ought to lead the less educated to distinguish between the different kinds of words which it contains, between the dark patches of human passion and error which form a partial crust upon it, and the bright centre of spiritual truth within.” (p. 177.)? What lxxxvanswer do we render to the sick man who sees unsubstantial goblins on the solid tapestried wall and mistakes for shadowy apparitions of the night, the forms of flesh and blood which are ministering to his life’s necessities? If the Temptation, and the Transfiguration, and the Miracles of Christ be not true history, but ideological allegories,—then why not His Nativity and His Crucifixion,—His Death and His Burial,—His Resurrection and His Ascension into Heaven likewise? “Liberty” (we have been expressly told,) “must be left to all, as to the extent in which they apply the principle.” (p. 201.)—Where then is Ideology to begin,—or rather, where is ideology to end? “Why then is Strauss to be blamed for using that universal liberty, and ‘resolving into an ideal the whole of the historical and doctrinal person of Jesus? Why is Strauss’ resolution ‘an excess?’ or where and by what authority, short of his extreme view, would Mr. Wilson himself stop? or at what point of the process? and by what right could he, consistently with his own canon, call on any other speculator, to stay the ideologizing process100100 Quarterly Review, (Jan. 1851,) No. 217, p. 259.?”
“Discrepancies in narratives, scientific difficulties, defects in evidence, do not disturb the ideologist as they do the literalist.” (p. 203.) No, truly. Nothing troubles him simply because he believes nothing! lxxxviThe very Sacraments of the Gospel are not secure from his unhallowed touch. “The same principle” (?) is declared to be “capable of application” to them also. “Within these concrete conceptions there he hid the truer ideas of the virtual presence of the Lord Jesus everywhere that He is preached, remembered, and represented.” (p. 204.) . . . Do we ever deal thus with any other book of History? And yet, on what possible principle is the Bible to be thus trifled with, and Thucydicles to be spared?—I protest, if the historical personages of either Testament may be resolved at will into abstract qualities, and the historical transactions of either Testament may be supposed to represent ideas and notions only,—then, I see not why the Vicar of Great Staughton himself may not prove to be a mythical personage also. Why need Henry Bristow Wilson, B.D.,—who, (as “literalists” say,) in 1841 was one of the ‘Four Tutors’ who procured the condemnation of Tract No. 90, on the ground that it ‘evaded rather than explained the Thirty-nine Articles;’ and who, in 1861 writes that “Subscription to the Articles may be thought even inoperative upon the conscience by reason of its vagueness;” (p. 181)—why need this author be supposed to be a man at all? Why should he not be interpreted “ideologically;” and resolved into the principle of disgraceful Inconsistency of conduct, and “variation of opinion at different periods of life?”
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