페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

something which by degrees wears away the absolute part, and prepares the way for a reconstruction of human life in some fresh form. One system, again, may be absolute as contrasted with another of the same age, from having in it a strong basis of this kind, which the other may not have. Such would be the relative positions of the Hebrew and the Greek mind. With these contrasts of character, he conceives that the peculiarities of geographical and physical position wonderfully correspond. The absolute is attached to rocks and mountains; the free element to plains, valleys, and rivers. The one is central, the other divisional; the one narrow and confined, the other widespreading and expansive.

In the working of all these different elements upon one another, and in the gradual evolution of their results, he sees a 'drama,' which he believes, by one of his usual mysterious analogies, to follow, in a great degree, the rules of the inventive drama of human art, and to divide itself naturally and rationally into five acts. This certainly looks fanciful enough to dispose the serious reader to close the book at once. Yet it is not, after all, so senseless a notion as it would be, if taken in the literal sense, that the course of the world's history follows the laws of the drama. Rather the drama follows a law of action and reaction, which is found to operate with more or less completeness in almost every great movement amongst mankind. There is an impulse toward some end, which is resisted, and that which must be done seems frustrated. Then a fresh effort rallies all forces to bear upon the object, and fresh complications and difficulties arise, over which, in the end, the primary principle triumphs, or finds in them its sublime and tragical catastrophe.

These attractions belong to that 'ebb and flow' on which Wordsworth loved to meditate, and in which he saw the working of a mysterious and all-pervading power. And if we cannot say that they are always distinctly limited to impulse, resistance, attempt to solve the difficulty, renewed complication, and final catastrophe, yet, from the manner in which conflicting causes usually act and react amongst the elements of human society, it is reasonable to assume that they may be usually contemplated in some such form. The fivefold division may be the best to set before the mind that which is capable of several other modes of representation; we may at least adopt it as an arbitrary arrangement, with the expectation of finding it not less suitable to the reality than such arrangements commonly are. At the same time it must not be forgotten, that a writer who is determined to have his drama complete, and not only his several acts duly distinguished, but in them to have every principle ‘polarjsed by its opposite,' and acting in certain geographical directions

ness in almosth is found to the drama follod's histor whan impulse every great neperate with m

therefoand yet too ture. He ising where to

of progression to correspond with its tendencies, will most certainly have to square his facts a little to his hypothesis, and to give prominence occasionally to that which suits his particular view, rather than to that which is most important in the real relations of history. And one who is determined to give no one religion the exclusive privilege of divine authority, will have to make the most of certain facts indicating the imperfections of Christians, as objections to Christianity. Mr. Smith, we suppose, would not, indeed, object to be called a Christian, and would even claim the title, but in such a sense that he is still under the necessity of negativing every form of Christianity, except the Unitarian, between which and Mahometanism he seems to hesitate, in determining where to seek the basis of his Church of the future. He is too Pantheistic for any positive creed, and yet too rational to dispense with all belief; and must, therefore, fly about over the waters of the deluge, if he can afford it, till some ground appears where he can rest his foot. The better creature, after all, is that which prefers the ark afloat to a mountain under water, which may prove, when it is found, to be far off from the true Life of the World.

Yet this strange observer has seen a vast amount of truth that escapes many eyes, and has stated much of the history of Revelation, in terms which bear a strong testimony to what he does not himself acknowledge. It is very difficult, indeed, to make out his conception of divine action, so vivid at times, and seemingly so full of reality, and yet at other times so lost in uncertainty and in equivocal results. Whether the Church's belief of a twofold order of divine dealings with man, the authoritative and the merely impulsive, the covenanted and the uncovenanted, does not give a clearer and fairer solution of the questions of history, is an alternative that may be sa'ely left with any truly candid and well-informed inquirer. Mr. Smith has his place, indeed, for prophecy; for the Divine nature, according to him, is possessed of foreknowledge; but he dissociates this from the authority which it implies in the system where it is displayed. Let it be remarked once for all, that he has not brought forward anything to show that foreknowledge has been manifested anywhere save in the central line of God's dispensations, the whole of which is acknowledged as authoritative by the Church.

• What is most worthy of our consideration in treating of prophets is, that there was a graduated scale of prophecy, higher and lower, greater and lesser portions of the Spirit. A certain portion of the spirit of Moses was taken from him, and given to the seventy Elders. Elisha prayed for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah; and when Elijah was ordered to do a work, be seems to have been entitled to transfer the order to one of his subordinates, who did it for him. There are greater and lesser prophetstruer and falser prophets--some prophets particularly true, others not to

be depended on and others, at the bottom of the scale, positively false. The series is like the musical scale: there are greater and lesser concords, and there are also discords, and the whole form a complete series. In the time of Ahab, we are told that there were in all about four hundred prophets in Israel, and they all promised bim the victory in the name of the Lord. But there was one, a diamond amongst the pebbles, whom the king hated. because he always prophesied evil-a most disrespectable prophet, not received at court, and therefore not invited with the rest of the four hundred. At the request of Jeboshaphat, the King of Judah, however, he was sent for; and when he came, he prophesied ironically, confirming the word of the other prophets. Afterwards he recanted, and seriously told the king that the Lord had sent a lying spirit into the four hundred to deceive them, and persuade him to go up to battle and fall; for which response of the oracle he received a blow upon the cheek. The Lord creates pebbles as well as diamonds, and seeming diamonds as well as true ones. Nor were they the prophets of Israel only wbo prophesied falsely, but the prophets of Judah also. “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means."_" The prophet is a fool; the snare of a fowler in all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God.”—“Hearken not unto them who prophesy unto you." " Regard not their visions nor their dreams." "I have not sent them; they prophesy out of their own hearts." And yet the Spirit does not hesitate to accept the responsibility of all the gamut of prophecy, from the highest concord to the lowest discord; for He not only declares that He sends the lying spirits to deceive the prophets collectively, but when any individual prophet is deceived, the highest authority declares, “I, the Lord, have deceived him, and will stretch forth my hand against bim, and destroy him ;" for he has not the final spirit of instruction, and therefore “I have not sent him ;” but merely an ephemeral spirit of expediency, whose mission is for a season, and therefore “ I have sent him," but will not establish him. And such a spirit all prophets, more or less, have; for every man who comes with a mission of doubtful meaning and mystery, receives darkness and not light, as Jeremiah says was the case with him, from the spirit who sends him.'--Pp. 69–71. · This may be Mr. Smith's theory of the Scripture records of prophecy, but it is not, as he seems to represent it, the Scriptural view of prophecy. There is, indeed, in that view, a graduated scale of prophecy, but there are true prophets, and Jeremiah is one of them, the whole of whose utterances are held to be true and divinely sanctioned. With any other who does not bear any such divine commission, the Spirit deals as He will, giving a revelation, it may be, at certain times, but not * establishing him,' like Samuel, to be a prophet of the Lord.' As for the old prophet of Bethel, when he lied, it was of his own mind, and not at all by the spirit of prophecy. Nor are we led to suppose that the prophesying of the four hundred whom Micaiah withstood, was ordinarily of any value whatsoever. We hear of no spirit at all coming to them, save a lying spirit, which is here, we might almost say blasphemously, confounded with the Spirit of God.. Indeed, it is a necessary consequence of Mr. Smith's theory that he must sometimes say, what to an orthodox reader has a most revolting sound, and what must lower the tone of any mind that can think it without

herewe might all coming of any value

revulsion. If there has been any divine utterance on earth which can really be distinguished as such, this theory is wrong. Its God is a God that cannot speak, and that imparts, 'not light but darkness,' not in the way of dispensation, and in an improper sense of the word, but literally and in his ordinary manifestations. We common Christians think it more reverent, more philosophical, and more intelligible, to ascribe absolute perfection to the Almighty, and to His acts toward man, and to believe that He permits imperfection and even contradiction in His works, yet always overrules the acts of every finite will to His own all-wise purpose. Certainly there is no proof to the contrary adduced in the work before us; rather the evident shifts to which the author is put, when he would bring down revealed truth to a level with human imaginations, serve to establish the fact that truth differs not only in measure and degree, but in kind and in its essential conditions, from the semblances of revelation which are found in erroneous systems of religion. At the same time what is acknowledged is good against the destructive hypothesis, as a fact which requires to be accounted for, and the most rational account of which may be that of a divine reality and a divine truth.

These restrictions are not, perhaps, adhered to by modern Jews, because it is supposed they are not now required; but they are sufficient to prove the fact of an interdict upon Israelitish art, for they forbid the exercise of artistic talent in its most exalted forms.

'But this restriction was not absolute, neither does it apply to all the arts, for this would have reduced the people to barbarism. In poetry and music the Hebrews not only enjoyed great latitude, but their religion was adapted for enriching these noble arts with the most sublime and beautiful imagery and melody. The sacred music of the Hebrews is, no doubt, the source of that of the whole Christian world. Our own sublimest songs and strains may be traced back to the Temple and the Tabernacle. There is nothing more elevated in the whole world of poetry than the Hebrew Psalmody. Modern poetry only reaches the sublime, by using the imagery of the ancient model. “Who shall ascend unto the bill of the Lord, and who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart, who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully; he shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob! Lift up your heads, O ye gates! and be ye lifted mp, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? Jehovah strong and mighty, Jehovah mighty in battle." The grandeur of such a pæan as this so greatly surpasses that of all pagan songs in honour of gods or heroes, or the pretty juvenilities of amorous passion, employed in the worship of Divine Humanities, amongst the heathen, that it could not fail to give an elevation of mind to the sages of Israel of a very peculiar character, amid the surrounding poetry of the nations. And nothing has ever yet surpassed it. The richest subjects for modern oratorios are still to be found in the history of Israel, and the richest phraseology in the writings of the Hebrews. They stood on the summit of the mountain. They sang the praises of the Eternal One, The

bighest idea is that one, and we have not yet discovered a phraseology or an imagery more perfect than theirs to describe His perfections, or exalt our ideas of His greatness. Mingled as it is with great and self-evident imperfections from which our feelings revolt-such as curses uttered against enemies, and fearful representations of God as a man of war delighting in battle-perfectly intelligible and beautiful in the estimation of the ancients, but requiring translation into a higher meaning to give satisfaction to modern feelings—there is, notwithstanding, nothing of our own that we can substitute in preference; for the Psalmody of the Hebrews occupies the throne of music, and even its very defects must be treated with reverence, until its final translation be effected by a successor as higbly commissioned and authoritative as itself. It comes from the Mount, and only another mountain, elevated still higher, on the tops of all mountains, can ever supersede the native mountain of sacred music.' -Pp. 80-82.

There is nothing said in the Psalms of the Lord as a 'Man of War,' from which our feelings need revolt. While there is evil to war against, war there must be, and God will have His servants fight withal, and will fight for them.

• However strong the faith of Reformers that God was with them, the faith of the Catholics was equally strong, and justified by facts, that He was on the side of the absolute, conservative principle. God is universal. He is on both sides of every debateable question. He is both in the desert and in the field; for wherever there is a portion of truth He is there; and He cannot forsake it, nor leave it utterly desolate. Now, no cause is without a portion of truth; hence the moral necessity for fluctuation, and the ebbing and flowing of success and failure in all great controversies.' — Pp. 461, 462.

• There were sincere and good men in all parties, Catholic and Protestant, in the great struggle of the Reformation-men actuated by strong faith and the martyr spirit, and therefore men who were justified by their faith according to the standard doctrine of Protestantism, when unexplained by a critical restriction. But as Protestant divines could never agree about this critical restriction, and as we have seen that there is none to the doctrine of Justification by Faith in the Bible, the most charitable meaning that can be put upon the doctrine is this : that whensoever a man believes that he is doing right, he is justified in his conduct. This justifies all sincere men and parties, and God himself assumes the responsibility of the government of the world. “He bears our sins in his own body."'--Pp. 475, 476.

There is something rather more revolting to a religious mind in this justification of human aberrations, than in the assertion of God's right to war against and exterminate evil, and the consent of His saints to that work, fearful as it is. Surely even the Old Testament view of the great battle-field of the world is more intelligible and more rational than the notion that men are simply set to fight for principles one by one, and that there is no divine system which combines all principles of truth, which is the thing they ought to fight for. If fighting were wrong, God could be on neither side, except in defence. Doubtless there is a truth, even in this view, but it is distorted and exaggerated in a far higher degree than that of the Jewish com

« 이전계속 »