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9.—The Women of Methodism: Its Three Foundresses. By ABEL STEVENS, LL.D. 12 mo. New York: Carlton & Porter. 1866.
No people understand the power of a popular denominational literature better than our Methodist brethren ; or are more enthusiastic in building the sepulchres of their prophets. It is one secret of their almost unexampled esprit de corps. And, in truth, they are fortunate in the subjects of their hagiology-its simple, fervid, selfdenying, romantic missionary zeal. It is unquestionable that there was very much of this in the early movements of that church. As the years lengthen which throw that primitive devotion more remotely into the past, it is taking on a yet mellower hue of Christian purity; the ivy and the mosses are softly covering the rough and jagged rents of the real historic genesis. Sở, when a writer of the acknowledged skill and refined sensibility of Dr. Stevens puts his facile pen to these materials, we can not fail to have a book suffused all over with the sunset tints of a Protestant saiutliness.
This book is written at the instance of the American Methodist Ladies' Centenary Association, and forms a part of the jubilation of the current year by that religious society, being a companion volume to the last on our list. It includes sketches of Susanna Wesley, the Countess of Huntingdon, and Barbara Heck, who are thus elevated to the honors of the first three, with notices of many of their companions in the evangelical revival thus celebrated. It will be seen that the Methodist moveinent originally took in the Calvinistic element as no small part of its propulsive force. The power of this mainly survives in the British Dissenting churches. We need say no more about the volume than that it is as attractive as a good religious novel, while it not only is “founded on fact” (a very loose phrase as currently employed) but is fact in an unusually high and pure region of Christian experience. 10.- A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Genesis.
With a New Translation. By J. G. MURPHY, D. D., T. C. D., Professor of Hebrew, Belfast. With a Preface by J. P. THOMPSON, D. D., New York City. 8vo. pp. 535. Andover : Warren F. Draper. Boston: Gould & Lincoln. New York: Hurd & Houghton. 1866.
DR. MURPHY is a native of County Down, village of Comber, near Belfast, a scholar of Trinity College, Dublin, and a member of the Presbyterian church. In 1847, he received his present position of Professor of Hebrew in the Assembly's College, Belfast. He is the
VOL. VI.-NO. XXXII.
author of a Hebrew Grammar, translator of Keit on Kings, and has a Commentary on Exodus nearly ready for publication.
The author controls his exegesis by very strict rules of interpretation, and a very close adhesion to the text, his Hebrew standard being that of Van der Hooght. His views on inspiration are clear and strong.
“By the inspiration of the Almighty, the human author is made to perceive certain things divine and human, to select such as are to be revealed, and to record these with fidelity, in the natural order, and to the
The result is a writing given by inspiration of God, with all the peculiarities of man, and all the authority of God.” Introd. p. 12.
A leading and most profitable thought with Prof. Murphy, and underlying his whole work, is that he should explain the text according to the obvious intent of the author and the light of his times, so far as these can be had. “ The usage of the time and place of the writer determines the meaning ; not that of any other time; not modern usage.” “The very first rule on which the interpreter is bound to proceed is to assign to each word the meaning it commonly bore in the time of the writer.” This so obviously just rule for interpreting any ancient document cuts off a vast amount of philosophizing and speculating and heresy-making over the Scriptures. It rejects summarily and deservedly the theory of some that an ancient writing may mean all that we can get into its words, instead of all that we can get out of them by a proper use of the lexicons and grammars, contemporaneous history and common surroundings of the author. This safe and leading principle of a good interpreter of either a sacred or secular document he enforces by another and more specific rule : “ The usage of common life determines the meaning of a word or phrase ; not that of philosophy.” So he saves inspiration, while he escapes a score of wordy contests with science, leaving the savans an unbounded field.
So between the creation of the heavens and the earth “in the beginning,” and the creation of man, he says the Hebrew warrants an indefinite space of time. The geologist, therefore, can have all the ages
he wishes for his rocks and fossils to grow icto hard facts. The Bible is not in the way at all. Prof. Agassiz wants twenty-four thousand
to make a breadth of sixteen miles of coral reef on the Florida shores, and “ hundreds of thousands of years to build that prolongation of the peninsula of Florida which is entirely made up of coral reefs.” Animal Structure, Lecture III. Very well. Hebraists and biblicists give him and those slow building insects all the cycles of time they ask. And it is high time that sacred scholarship and verent science unite understandingly and cordially
to unfold, eachf or itself, and yet harmoniously, the true revelation of the Great God. Indeed, substantially, we think they have already done so.
Of the extent of the Deluge, Dr. W. remarks : “The land is to be understood of the portion of the earth's surface known to man. This, with an unknown margin beyond it, was covered with waters. But this is all that the Scripture warrants us to assert.” Of Noah's flood in New England or Oregon or Australia we can say nothing, because Moses knew nothing of their localities, and therefore can not be supposed to have referred to them. He meant only to affirm that the waters prevailed over the land so far as
man had wandered or the regions become known. “The whole work was manifestly the Lord's doing, from first to last.” Speculation, therefore, is not called on to raise or solve hypothetic difficulties, while candid science may well be trusted to dispose of all evident physical facts. A miracle does not require explanation. We confess to a peculiar satisfaction in this Commentary for this thing, that the author does not feel called on to go, in his exegesis, beyond the text and the light of the times when it was written.
He resolves the book of Genesis into eleven divisions, according to topics. Concerning the "document theory" of the book he says: “Whether these primary documents were originally composed by Moses, or came into his hands from earlier sacred writers, and were by him revised and combined into his great work, we are not informed. The latter of the above suppositions is not inconsistent with Moses being reckoned the responsible author of the whole collection.”
In fitting up the chaotic material for the home of vegetable and animal and human life, he lays the highest claim to a divine and creating power. “Chemical forces, as the prime agents, are not to be thought of here, as they are totally inadequate to the production of the results in question."
The style of the writing is peculiarly good, being simple, clear, and quite free from scholastic words and hybrid English, such as we find in Bengel. We quote an illustrative passage from the comments on the first verse of Genesis :
“This simple sentence denies atheism ; for it assumes the being of God. It denies polytheism, and among its various forms, the doctrine of two eternal principles, the one good, and the other evil; for it confesses the one Eternal Creator. It denies materialism; for it asserts the creation of matter. It denies pantheism; for it assumes the existence of God before all things, and apart from them. It denies fatalism; for it involves the freedom of the Eternal Being."
That is good English, strikingly reminding us of Webster.
We notice some changes, not all of them agreeable, in the spelling of proper names : Amorah for Gomorrah ; Perath for Euphrates, following exactly the Hebrew ; Habel for Abel, and Henok for Enoch, as if they were Englishmen. Some idea of the theology of the volume may be had from the remarks on the sin of Adam as our "head.”
“The first man was potentially the race, and so long as he stands alone, actually the whole race for the time. His acts, then, are those not merely of the individual, but of the race. If the first of a race fall, before he has any offspring, the race is fallen. The guilt, the depravity, the penalty, all belong to the race. This is a great mystery.". p. 126.
This Commentary is in noble contrast with the most of the popular German Commentaries, so destructive, irreverent, and rationalizing ; and it impresses us more deeply than ever with the idea that an experimental Christian alone is fit to expound the Word of God. We hail this volume as leading a return to an older and better method of unfolding the Bible. The mechanical part of the work is well executed by its enterprising publisher ; being a comfort to the eyes.
11. Massachusetts Ecclesiastical Law. By EDWARD BUCK, of the
Suffolk Bar. 12mo. pp. 310. Boston: Gould & Lincoln. 1866.
We are surprised that some one has not undertaken this work before. The issues growing out of our early church and state relations, the cases carried up by our church polities to the courts, and our statutes affecting parishes and churches, were scattered through our law books and ecclesiastical literature for nearly two hundred and fifty years. There was great need to gather and digest them. Mr. Buck has shown much diligence in this commendable undertaking, and is entitled to the gratitude of those interested. For a first work of the kind it is perhaps as well prepared as could be expected. We should have been pleased with more of the legal precision in its style that pertains to law books. It contains, too, much matter that is foreign to the title, and no way auxiliary to the exposition of the subject in hand. As on pp. 79—80 we have the creed of the Universalists, and the sources of information indicated for knowing the creed of the Unitarians; the Barnes and Beecher trials in the Presbyterian church are spread out on pp. 99– seq. ; then come full references to information on the interdenominational conflicts of the Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Universalists and Romanists; with critiques referred to on leading Protestant divines. This is all good, but it stands in the way of the reader of Massachusetts Ecclesiastical Law, because it is out of place in such a book. So, closing the chapter of laws concerning meeting-houses, we have references to discussions on their architecture and ventilation. Such lack of order in selecting material for the volume, under the title, gives an impression of possible looseness in matters truly relevant and most important.
We notice also an unfortunate mingling of the opinions of single and even ex-parte councils with ecclesiastical laws proper and court decisions. In some instances, opinions ex-parte, adverse to mutual councils preceding, and on questions yet undecided, are thus lifted up to a place among statutes, and judicial conclusions, and are even called "gemi-judicial.”
We miss more than anything else, in this volume, that clear discrimination between legal authority and the opinion of council ; and this we were warrranted in expecting, in a work bearing a professional title, and from a professional pen, and in the exact department of civil law.
In simple fact Mr. Buck has a part of another book in this one, and which ought soon to be compiled and issued: A Digest of Important Congregational Councils, Mutual and Ex Parte. There have been a hundred or so of such councils, and we ought now to have our Congregational House and Publisher and Bookstore for this and other denominational issues.
Few books are more suggestive than this one of the progress we have been making in civil legislation and ecclesiastical management, and we close it with the full persuasion that our own church polity, as a system, is far from finished. For one wishing to read up on any legal branch of it, this work would be a great help, specially for its many
references to authorities and sources of information.
12.- Social Life of the Chinese : with some account of their Reli
gious, Governmental, Educational, and Business Customs and Opinions. By Rev. Justus DOOLITTLE. With one hundred and fifty Illustrations. 2 Vols. 12mo. New York; Harper & Brothers, 1866. [Boston: A. Williams & Co.]
How a people live who number one third of the population of the earth, would be a matter of great interest, even if they had less claim to the honors of civilization than this monosyllabic, baldheaded race. It is extremely difficult to get into any very close rapport with such outside barbarians, to realize that they are, in any literal sense, our brethren : yet this is unquestionably the fact, and if we do not go to them to get acquainted, they are coming to us in large enough immigration to make it quite necessary for us to try at