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The Epistles of the New Testament.
441 his alarmed appeal to the people of Lycaonia, where he was taken for the god of eloquence, to his Oration before the critics and judges of the Areopagus, or to his pleading at the bar of Felix and Agrippa—or whether we survey his letter to the Church in Rome in its fulness, profundity, and compacted system-or his Epistle to Corinth, so varied and magnificent in argument, so earnest and so persuasive in remonstrance and vindication-or the missive sent to Galatia, so vivid and startling in its surprise, indignation, and sorrow-or that to Ephesus, so opulent in thought, and exalted in sentiment, as if to compensate for the costly books of magic which had been given to the flames—or that to Philippi, so warm and exuberant in its congratulations to the first European city where the Gospel had been proclaimed -or that to Colosse, exposing the insidious assaults of a specious philosophy, which corrupted the purity and marred the simplicity of the Gospel-or his twin communications to Thessalonica, calm, affectionate, and consolatory—or those to Timothy and Titus, replete with the sage and cordial advices of paternal kindness, and long and varied experience-or the brief note to Philemon concerning a dishonest and fugitive slave, who had been 'unexpectedly brought to “the knowledge of the truth," -or, the epistolary tractate addressed to the Hebrews, with its powerful demonstration of the superior glory and the unchanging permanence and spirituality of the New Dispensation --to whichever of these compositions we turn, we are struck with the same lofty genius and fervid eloquence, the same elevated and self-denying temperament, the same throbbings of a noble and yearning heart, the same masses of thought, luminous and many-tinted, like the cloud which glows under the reflected splendours of the setting sun, the same vigorous mental grasp which, amidst numerous digressions, is ever tracing truths up to first principles—all these the results of a master mind into which nature and grace had poured in royal profusion their rarest and richest endowments.
Similar in character are the other and catholic epistles of the New Testament—the epistle of James, so severe, lofty, and individualizing in its tone, so like the personal teaching of Jesus, as seen in the Sermon on the Mount—the two epistles of Peter, the very image of himself in warm impulse and aspiration, and so full of Jewish allusion and associations, quite in keeping with the spirit of Him who was “the Apostle of the Circumcision," -the three Epistles of John, so redolent of love, “ the bond of perfectness, and ever recurring to the necessity of a holy life as the true accompaniment and realisation of an orthodox creed ; and lastly, the brief chapter of Jude, a volcanic denunciation of Antinomian licentiousness and fruitless formalism. Many questions with regard to these writings fall to be discussed in a book of “ Introduction,”—questions essential to the proof of their genuineness and the interpretation of their contents. Among such questions are the following,—the time, place, origin, and circumstances of their composition, the purpose their author had in view, and the character, history, and condition of the people to whom they were addressed. These topics are well and profoundly discussed in the second and third volumes of Dr. Davidson's work. We might instance as excellent specimens of critical argument, the proof that the Epistle to the Ephesians was not an encyclical letter, as Usher and others have supposed -the laboured reply to Schleiermacher's assault on the pastoral epistles, and the triumphant vindication, first, of the Pauline authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and secondly, of the canonicity and genuineness of the Apocalypse. We think, at the same time, that Dr. Davidson, like Olshausen, speaks too doubtingly of the Second Epistle of Peter, even though it was placed of old among the avtideyoueva, and we cannot feel the force of the reasoning by which he denies to Jude the rank and prerogative of an apostle. As to the first point, we hold with Hug, Guerike, and Thiersch, that the evidence is clearly on the side of a Petrine origin, and as to the second, we own that we cannot find conclusive argument in minor and hypothetical statements against the apostleship of Jude, “ brother of James.” The last question has no doubt several difficulties from which it is not easily disentangled.
We might now have adduced a few specimens to verify and illustrate our remarks. In simplicity of narrative what can vie with the account of our Lord's birth, life, death, and resurrection? As, when we gaze into a mirror we are not conscious of the reflecting surface that intervenes, so we feel in reading the gospels as if neither words nor language came between us and the scenes described. The personality of the evangelists themselves is concealed from our view in the shades of that glory which covers their pages. They never attempt to eulogize the Christ-no sentiment of admiration escapes them. They paint without labour a perfection which never had abode on earth but once, and that perfection is not dimly sketched in some abstract and shadowy ideal, but is embodied in the actual man of Nazareth. They exhibit the perfect man, living, acting, speaking, loving, sorrowing, praying, suffering, and dying. What gleams of beauty, what strokes of nature, what touches of pathos in those parables ! And these miracles are told without an exclamation of surprise, so familiar were the annalists with them. Sometimes they call them“ wonders” signs," but
the wonder-worker names them simply "works,”*—to him they were without effort. And in the Epistles what specimens have we not of almost every form of composition,—description, narrative, argument, oratory—bold invective and sudden apostrophe—antithesis and climax—the brief words of anger—the sad regrets of disappointed hope—the soft breathings of affection—the vehement outburst of self-vindication—the long and effective argument, often ending in an anthen—logic swelling into lyrics—the terse deliverance of ethical maxims, and the cordial greeting and kind remembrance of former friends. No wonder that Longinus adds Paul of Tarsus to a list of names, “ which were the crown of all eloquence and Grecian genius.” There are some passages in the Epistles to the Corinthians which have all the vehement and thrilling penetration of Demosthenes, and other sections in the same books, which, in elevation, imagery, and music, have no parallel, even in the Platonic dialogues.
We will not venture, in our limited space, upon the debated ground of the Apocalypse; not that we have not our own opinion pretty well fixed in opposition to extreme “ praeterist,” “futurist," and "continuist" interpreters. At all events, the great truth of this prose-poem is, that Christianity shall triumph over every antagonist, and gain, in spite of all opposition, an ultimate, glorious, and lasting victory. It is, in short, a pictorial sermon upon a very old text,—the seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent. This truth is presented in the changing lights and aspects of a gorgeous panorama, and clothed in the drapery of the old Hebrew oracles. The imagery of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, is reproduced in new combinations, to symbolize and picture out the history, malignity, overthrow, and downfal of the enemies of the truth. Amidst the numerous expositions of this solemn and stirring prophecy, how few of them rest on a scientific basis, or take a comprehensive, consistent, and self-adjusting view of the vision as an organic whole. How many interpreters merely throw the shadow of their own times on the bright scenes and hieroglyphs of the mystic scroll. We cannot, however, refrain from saying, that much interesting matter will be found on this subject in Dr. Davidson's third volume, 120 pages of which are occupied with Apocalyptic discussions. The reader will find also no little information in the works of Luecke and Hengstenberg on this portion of Scripture. We only add, that Dr. Davidson's theory of the contents and structure of the Apocalypse, is more vulnerable on some points than he seems to imagine, and that he might perhaps have pronounced upon other hypotheses with less dogmatic and resolute depreciation.
* John xiv. 11.
Our sketch of the Literature of the New Testament has necessarily omitted many points, which, in other circumstances, might have been discussed. Works like those of Dr. Davidson open up a wide field for inspection and review. It would have occupied too much space to have entered into the question of the dates of the different books, and at what probable periods they were collected so as to form the Canon. Nor could we glance at the resemblances or contrasts with one another which the various treatises occasionally present—the similarity of Jude to Second Peter being so marked, and the supposed antithesis of James to Paul being
so notorious, and yet so easily harmonized. We think it might be made exceedingly probable, that so far from James having had the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith alone in his mind, he wrote his epistle at a date considerably earlier than that of the Epistle to Rome, or to the Churches in Galatia.
Every thing about Scripture as well as in it commends it to our intelligence and faith. Our hope and prayer is, that we may always have among us enlightenment without sceptical levity, learning without erudite perversion, and thorough research without its self-created difficulties and consequent aberrations. The Literature of the New Testament will then be subservient to its theology—the bright setting of the brighter jewel. If the life of Him depicted in these gospels were felt in vigorous pulsation among our Churches, and if they walked under the influence of the faith enforced—the truth illustrated, and the immortality portrayed in these Epistles, then would be the world's jubilee “ days of heaven upon earth.”
Arctic Searching Expeditions.
Art. VI.-1. Arctic Searching Expedition : a Journal of a Boat
Voyage through Rupert's Land and the Arctic Sea, in search of the Discovery Ships under command of Sir John Franklin. With an Appendix on the Physical Geography of North America. By Sir John RICHARDSON, C.B., F.R.S., Inspector of Naval Hospitals and Fleets. 2 vols., with Plates and
Charts, pp. 840. London, 1851. 2. Voyage of the Prince Albert in search of Sir John Franklin ;
a Narrative of Every-day Life in the Arctic Seas. By W.
PARKER Snow. London, 1851. Pp. 416. 3. A Narrative of Arctic Discovery, from the earliest period to
the present time, with the details of the measures adopted by Her Majesty's Government for the relief of the Expedition under Sir John Franklin. By John J. SHILLINGLAW. London,
1850. 8vo. Pp. 348. 4. Sir John Franklin and the Arctic Regions, &c.
By P. L. SIMMONDS. London, 1851. Pp. 376. 5. An Arctic Voyage to Baffin's Bay and Lancaster Sound in
search of Friends with Sir John Franklin. By ROBERT ANSTRUTHER GOODSIR, late President of the Royal Medical
Society of Edinburgh. London, 1850. Pp. 152. 6. A Series of Ten Coloured Views taken during the Arctic Ex
pedition of Her Majesty's ships Enterprise and Investigator, under the command of CAPT. SIR JAMES C. Ross, Kt., F.R.S., in search of Capt. Sir John Franklin, Kt., K.C.H., drawn by Lieut. W. H. BROWNE, R.N., late of H.M.S. Enterprise, with a Summary of the Arctic Expedition in search of Sir John
Franklin. London, 1850. 7. Voyages of Discovery and Research within the Arctic Regions,
from the year 1818 to the present time. By Sir JOHN BAR
ROW, Bart., F.R.S., An. æt. 82. London, 1846. Pp. 530. 8. Observations on a Work entitled “Voyages, 8c., within the Arc
tic Regions : by Sir John BARROW, Bart., ætat. 82.” Being a Refutation of the Numerous Misrepresentations contained in
that volume. By Sir John Ross, C.B., &c., Capt., R.N. 1846. 9. The Franklin Expedition ; or Considerations on Measures for
the Discovery and Relief of our Absent Adventurers in the Arctic Regions. By the Rev. W. SCORESBY, D.D., F.R.S.,
London and Edinburgh, &c., &c. London, 1850. Pp. 98. 10. Log-Book of the Felix Discovery Vessel, commanded by REAR
ADMIRAL ŠIR John Ross, C.B., in MSS. 11. Report of the Committee of the Lords Commissioners of the
Admiralty, to inquire into, and report on, the recent Arctic Expeditions in search of Sir John Franklin. London, 1851. Fol. Pp. 200.