페이지 이미지

Questions proposed.

145 the universe, * _a doctrine which had never been really discovered or fully comprehended by the wisest philosophers and most renowned teachers of antiquity,—preserving this religion in the midst of the grossest idolatries in surrounding nations, and in spite of occasional lapses of its own people into those idolatries,-governed by a code of laws which professed to rule them by a system of temporal rewards and punishments alone, and which, therefore, in case of failure, must have been speedily discovered and branded as an imposture-keeping up a system of most burdensome ceremonies, and never, even in long years of captivity amongst foreign nations, losing sight of the pure Theism which was the basis of their belief, and bearing testimony to the real existence, and to the miracles, of Him whom they nevertheless rejected ?

Ånd can such an investigator, we further ask, find an instance in modern times of a nation, conquered and reconquered, scattered among all the nations of the old world, losing, in great measure, the use of its very language as a living tongue, and yet kept strictly separate from all those nations among whom it lives ; and kept separate, not by habits, not by language, not by way of life, but by religion,—and by a religion the most important and essential part of which, (sacrifices in the Temple, they cannot practise? So that, while it is the only nation in the world kept apart from others by religion, it is the only nation which could be prevented from exercising that religion while they were still its known and permitted votaries! And, it may be added, can a nation be found (whose history is only a tenth-part as remarkable) who possess books in which that history was clearly and minutely predicted centuries before,-books foretelling their rejection of the promised benefactor and redeemer of their race, and which they nevertheless preserve with scrupulous veneration ?

Now, if Mr. Greg can ascribe all this to a series of lucky coincidences, a series extending, even on the lowest computation, over four or five thousand years, what right has he to complain of the credulity of those who believe in the Bible narratives ? But, with respect to the prophetic writings, Mr. Greg does not admit that the Old Testament prophecies were really applicable to

* To those who are aware of the generally admitted fact, that the Hebrews used the plural number to denote magnitude, Mr. Greg's criticism on the word Elohim, used for God in the Book of Genesis, will present no difficulty. Mr. Greg thinks it an acknowledgment by the narrator, that he who made the heavens and the earth was only one out of many Gods! Supposing Elohim is always to be rendered “gods," the declaration of Moses, [Deut. vi. 4,] “ The Lord our gods is one Lord,” is to mean, “one out of many !” The form used by kings and governors among ourselves, might have suggested some other explanation.

+ See “ Evidences of Christianity” -Jews; published by Parker. Also, Grave's Lectures.


Christ, or that they were meant by the prophets to apply to Him. How was it, then, we may ask, that the apostles convinced so many thousands by an appeal to those prophecies ?-thousands even of men accustomed to attribute superhuman works to demoniacal agency, but who yielded to the evidence of prophecy, in opposition to all their ancient prejudices, to their hopes, and to their worldly interests ?

But we must offer a few illustrations of the more special objections contained in this work.

Mr. Greg is offended at the mode in which our sacred records represent God as revealing Himself to mankind. He rejects the idea that the Almighty should hold intercourse with His creatures, or manifest His presence under some appearance which their senses are able to appreciate; as by some form of light or fire, or by angelic natures clothed in human shape, as those of the angels who visited Abraham. And, in the same spirit, he rejects the notion that God, who is everywhere, should appoint a place where His servants might from time to time have access to Him—"a place to set His name there”—where His presence might be felt and acknowledged, even by a half-civilized and gross-minded people, unable to fix their minds on moral or intellectual attributes but through the medium of sensible objects. These circumstances, together with the manner in which the divine Being is spoken of,—the way in which human passions are figuratively attributed to Him,-and a local residence assigned Him, are introduced by Mr. Greg into his table of incongruities, as not to be reconciled with the high and noble attributes elsewhere ascribed to Him, and, as a proof that it was not the true God who was so revealed, not the God of the prophets, but of the priests." He cannot conceive, for instance, that a worshipper of the true God, as David or Solomon, should seek “ to build Him an house," and yet be fully persuaded that “the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him." There is, however, no real inconsistency between the two statements; David and Solomon desired to build an house for that manifestation of God's presence among them, which had been at various periods of their history granted to their nation, while they were well aware that He who created the heavens and the earth could not literally dwell in a temple made with hands. And Mr. Greg would have been justly indignant had Solomon left it to be supposed otherwise. He is, however, revolted by the idea of a local, a family, and a national deity, as attributed to the Most High. He cannot conceive that God should have revealed himself to one tribe of people on the earth, among whom his worship, though corrupted and impure, has been preserved,—to Abraham as his family God, “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;" and

Alleged Polytheism of the Jews.

147 afterwards to his descendants, as the God of their nation. Our author, in short, is offended that the Almighty should be represented throughout the Jewish history as descending to man, instead of raising man at once to himself. Must all the ways of God approve themselves to human judgment !

Mr. Greg and Mr. Newman have both, in common with many German writers, their “ Elohistic" and their “Jehovistic” theory. They suppose that, because different terms were used on different occasions by the Old Testament writers to express the name of God, these writers held views of the Supreme Being inconsistent with each other; that the one view enibodied, as we have said, the idea of the prophets, the other that of the priests—the latter being a false representation of Him. Now the fact seems to be, that the word Elohim expressed the more abstract and general idea of God, and the word Jehovah represented Him in his connexion with the Jews as a nation, since it was by this name that the Almighty had revealed Himself to them by Moses, and chosen them. “I appeared unto Abraham and Isaac and Jacob by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah was I not known unto them.” And when Moses was commanded to go with a message to the children of Israel, he was to say, that “I am," (Jehovah, He that is,) had sent him.

Mr. Greg alludes to the fact of the Jews having been Polytheists, as a contradiction to the supposed purity of their worship. If by Polytheism Mr. Greg means a belief in Beings superior to Man, then were they certainly Polytheists, even those of them who fully believed that “the Lord was the God ;” and so are those of us who believe in the existence of evil spirits, as well as the ignorant among us, who put faith in fairies, &c. But by Polytheism is generally understood paying allegiance to such beings, or worshipping them in connexion with, or to the neglect of, the one true God. And it is in this sense, of course, that Paley denies the name of Polytheists to the Israelites in the passage quoted by Mr. Greg, and speaks of them as “ adhering to the unity when all other nations slid into Polytheism;" and that Dean Milner uses the espression Monotheism in regard to them, viz., as worshippers of the true God—the Maker of the universe. It was, then, in perfect consistency with the command, “ Thou shalt have none other Gods but me,” (though this involves a difficulty to Mr. Greg,) that Jacob and others are represented in the sacred narratives as being allowed to “ choose whom they would serve."

Man's worship, indeed, where the knowledge of the one true God has been brought before his mind at all, seems always to have been left as a matter of choice. His religion is not forced upon hiin by demonstration. His will is left free to reject or

receive the revelation offered to him. This responsibility might suggest an awful subject of thought to those who stand in the former position.

We confine our comments on Mr. Greg's treatise meanwhile to that comparatively small part of it which properly relates to the subject of this Article. The criticisms contained in the book itself extend over a much wider field, including the New Testament as well as the Old, the doctrine of Miracles, and the Future Life. Respecting the author's treatment of the last of these subjects, we may however remark, that, if " faith” consist in a confident trust, without any ground, he surely is not wanting in such faith. He rejects the proof, and yet keeps by the doctrine. Nay, he believes it not only “ without the countenance," but “ in spite of the hostility of logic,” (p. 303). He is full of cheering confidence that all existing evils will work out ultimate good. Yet this hope is built on-confessedly nothing rational. The Christian's hope we, at least, consider to be built on some definite reasons. Our author, moreover, is animated by the prospect that all our sufferings may “work together for good," not to ourselves indeed, but to some future generation, or to some other order of Beings; though Ulysses and his companions did not, it seems, feel much satisfaction in the thought that their flesh would furnish a dainty meal to the giant.

Enough, we think, has been said in this Article, by way of specimen, to illustrate, to fair and reasonable minds, the sort of objections to the Old Testament, which are now passing current in some quarters of our literature, together with certain of the principles by which they may be judged. We have seen in how great a degree these objections consist of bold and unsupported assertions, or of arguments which the thoughtful and intelligent writers, whose works we have selected for criticism, would deride on any other subject. These writers have indirectly added to the evidence, that the objections of religious scepticism to the records of the Sacred history, like the shadowy forms of twilight, acquire a mysterious power chiefly when viewed from a distance, and lose their terrors when closely examined and proved to be futile.

And as for those who, according to the proverb, are “ deaf on one ear,”—who attend to all the objections against the receiving of a certain system, and utterly disregard all the objections against rejecting it—whose mode, in short, of weighing evidences is to calculate carefully the amount of the weights in one scale, and to think not at all of those in the opposite – persons of that habit of mind are not likely to be enlightened by any prolonged discussion. They would look at our arguments, like Lord Nelson at the battle of Copenhagen, with the blind eye.

[blocks in formation]

ART. V.-1. Elliott's Poems. London, 1833. 2. Poems of Robert Nicoll. Third Edition. Edinburgh, 1843. 3. Life and Poems of John Bethune. London, 1841. 4. Memoirs of Alexander Bethune. By W. M'COMBIE. Aber

deen, 1845. 5. Rhymes and Recollections of a Handloom Weaver. By Wil

LIAM Thom of Inverury. Second Edition. London, 1845. 6. The Purgatory of Suicides. By THOMAS COOPER. London,

1845. 7. The Book of Scottish Song. By ALEXANDER WHITELAW.

Edinburgh, 1848.

Four faces among the portraits of modern men, great or small, strike us as supremely beautiful; not merely in expression, but in the form and proportion and harmony of features : Shakspeare, Raffaelle, Goëthe, Burns. One would expect it to be so; for the mind makes the body, not the body the mind; and the inward beauty seldom fails to express itself in the outward, as a visible sign of the invisible grace or disgrace of the wearer. Not that it is so always. A Paul, Apostle of the Gentiles, may be ordained to be “ in presence weak, in speech contemptible," hampered by some thorn in the flesh-to interfere apparently with the success of his mission, perhaps for the same wise purpose of Providence which sent Socrates to the Athenians, the worshippers of physical beauty, in the ugliest of human bodies, that they, or rather those of them to whom eyes to see had been given, might learn that soul is after all independent of matter, and not its creature and its slave. But, in the generality of cases, physiognomy is a sound and faithful science, and tells us, if not, alas ! what the man might have been, still what he has become. Yet even this former problem, what he might have been, may often be solved for us by youthful portraits, before sin and sorrow and weakness have had their will upon the features; and, therefore, when we spoke of these four beautiful faces, we alluded, in each case, to the earliest portraits of each genius which we could recollect. Placing them side by side, we must be allowed to demand for that of Robert Burns an honourable station among them. Of Shakspeare's we do not speak, for it seems to us to combine in itself the elements of all the other three ; but of the rest, we question whether Burns's be not, after all, if not the noblest, still the most loveable—the most like what we should wish that of a teacher of men to be. Raffaelle—the most striking portrait of him, perhaps, is the fullface pencil sketch by his own hand in the Taylor Gallery at Oxford-though without a taint of littleness or effeminacy, is

« 이전계속 »