« VorigeDoorgaan »
onset of battle. But on the other hand, he may easily carry his discretion in this respect a great deal too far. If the enemy whom the general is to meet are furnished with a new sort of arms, have acquired some new military tactics which are formidable, or posted themselves on vantage ground unknown to his own army, then he would be rash indeed not to inform bis soldiers of all this, and not to instruct them how they are to cope with and overcome these new or formidable means of attack or resistance.
Such, in some respects, I deem the situation of our community to be. The progress of German literature, and of that part of it which is neological, cannot now be prevented. If it is impeded here and there, it will burst out in other places. There are among us literary men enough, and men rather inclined to skepticism, to think and act for themselves in the choice and purchase of books. There are learning and talent enough displayed in many—very many—of the German neological works, to excite curiosity highly, and at least to command literary respect. It is not within the power, then, of the sober, believing, religious part of the community, to put a stop to the reading and diffusion of such works. And this being most plainly the state of the case, I think we have no way left but to prepare for the worst, and to take the vantage ground if we can in the contest, by shewing those who would attack the cause of settled belief in the Scriptures, that neither their attacks are unprovided for by us, nor their weapons or tactics unknown to us.
Let us not dream of a black list, an index expurgatorius, of books, in this free country and Protestant land, from access to which our youth or others are prohibited. Some parents have tried the experiment of shutting up their children from all intercourse with others, in order to keep them from being contaminated. The result has nearly always been, that when they did go out at last into the world, being strangers in point of experience to all its temptations and allurements, they fell an easy prey to them, and were undone for life. So in the case before us; particularly, I would say, in regard to young men who are now in a course of education for the ministry. If we keep them, either in Seminaries or under private tuition, from all acquaintance with what neology has done or is now doing in respect to the Scriptures either of the Old Testament or the New, when they go out into the world they will meet with those who have drunk in the new doctrines. They will be attacked by them;
attacked with the learning and skill which Eichhorn and others of the like cast have furnished, ready to their band; and they will, from the necessity of the case, be shocked and confounded by the assault, if not overthrown. Besides this too, many sensible inquirers among the laity, who have heard conversation on topics involved in such a controversy, or read something concerning them, will be naturally led to inquire of their pastor what all this means. If he is ignorant of it, or cannot in any becoming and satisfactory manner solve their doubts or quiet their apprehensions, then their difficulties will be increased, and in all probability will end in a state of skepticism.
Semper paratus, then, should be the maxim of the young theologian, at a time like this. And if this be so, then I would ask, whether there is any way so good, for those who direct the studies of young men that are candidates for the ministry, as prudently and cautiously to make known to them the substance of neological doctrine, whether critical or theological, and instruct them how to answer the objections which it raises. What! Shall we spend weeks and months in combating the infidels and skeptics of early ages or of past generations ; must Hume and Collins and Shaftsbury and Tolland and Tindal be met and refuted, at all points and with great care, although they have mostly argued on grounds that are merely a priori, and shall the far more powerful and subtle skeptics of the present day, whose appeal is professedly to antiquity and criticism, be passed by in silence, or studiously excluded from the circle of our consideration ? Believe this who may, I cannot accede to it. Every age has its own peculiarities, its own dangers, its own corruptions, and its own weapons of assault upon the Scriptures. It is not meet that we should live so much out of the age to which we belong, and be conversant only with times that are forever gone by.
I have made these remarks in order to show, that the work of Mr. Norton is not in any measure to be deemed superfluous, because we have the works of Lardner, Paley, and others of a similar character in English, or the works of Schmidt, Less, Kleuker, etc., in German and Latin. Mr. Norton has, in the Preface to his work, given us reasons why he entered de novo upon the investigations which led to it-reasons which I think ought to satisfy every one who is acquainted with the present state of sacred criticism and literature.
In order that the readers of this Periodical may obtain some definite view of the positions which have been taken by leading Neologists in respect to the genuineness of the Gospels
, it is proper that some extracts from Eichhorn's Introduction to the New Testament should here be presented. Complaint cannot be made that this class of writers are unfairly dealt with in our statements respecting them, when they are left to speak for themselves. I cannot do better here, than to introduce an extract from Mr. Norton's introductory Statement of the Case, viz. of the matter in dispute, or the subject which he has undertaken to discuss. The passages with double commas at the beginning and end are translations by him from Eichhorn; the remainder consists of his own remarks, intermixed for the sake of illustration and in order to secure accuracy of statement.
“ Justin Martyr,” says Eichhorn,“ who was born A. D. 89, and died A. D. 163, a Samaritan, a native of Flavia Neapolis, early became converted from a heathen philosopher to a zealous Christian, and was one of the earliest Christian writers. He nowhere quotes the life and sayings of Jesus according to our present four Gospels
, which he was not acquainted with. This is a very important circumstance in regard to the history of the Gospels ; as he had devoted many years to travel, and resided a long time in Italy and Asia Minor."
On the whole, it is concluded by Eichhorn and others, that our four Gospels, in their present form, were not in use,
and were not known, till the end of the second century. Previously to that time, it is supposed, that other gospels were in circulation, allied to those which we possess, but not the same. “ If we will not," says
Eichhorn,“ be influenced by mere assertions and unsupported tradition, but by the only sure evidence of history, we must conclude that before our present Gospels, other decidedly different gospels were in circulation, and were used during the first two centuries in the instruction of Christians.” Eichhorn, however, does not deny that the canonical Gospels are, in a certain sense, the works of the authors to whom they have been ascribed. He expressly defends the genuineness of that of John; and with regard to the three others, he says: “According to the uniform tradition of the Church, the first three Gospels proceeded from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This tradition is not to be called in question, unless there are strong reasons against it; and where are such reasons to be found ?" He contends, however, that the Gospels have been grossly corrupted. His statements respecting this subject are connected with his account of the supposed common origin of the first three of our present Gospels, and of the gospels which he believes to have been in use before those we now possess. This account is as follows:
There was very early in existence a short historical sketch of the life of Christ, which may be called the Original Gospel. This was, probably, provided for ihe use of those assistants of the apostles in ihe work of teaching Christianity, who had not themselves seen the actions and heard the discourses of Christ. It was however but'a rough sketch, a brief and imperfect account, without historical plan or methodical arrangement. In this respect it was, according to Eichhorn, very different from our four Gospels.
These present no rough sketch, such as we must suppose the first essay upon the life of Jesus to have been ; but, on the contrary, are works written with art and labor, and contain portions of his life, of which no mention was made in the first preaching of Christianity.” This Original Gospel was the basis both of the earlier gospels used during the first two centuries, and of the first three of our present Gospels, namely, those of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, by which those earlier gospels were finally superseded. The earlier gospels retained more or less of the rudeness and incompleteness of the Original Gospel.
" But they very soon fell into the hands of those who undertook to supply their defects and incompleteness, both in the general compass of the history, and in the narration of particular events. Not content with a life of Jesus, which, like the gospel of the Hebrews, and those of Marcion and Tatian, commenced with his public appearance, there were those who early prefixed to the Memoirs used by Justin Martyr, and to the gospel of Cerinthus, an account of his descent, his birth, and the period of his youth. In like manner, wc find, upon comparing together, in parallel passages, the remaining fragments of these gospels, that they were receiving continual accessions. The voice from heaven at the baptism of Jesus, was originally stated to have been: Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee ; as it is quoted by Justin Martyr in two places. Clement of Alexandria found the same, in a gospel of which we have no particular description, with the addition of the word, beloved': Thou art my beloved son ; this day have I begotten thee. Other gospels represented the voice as having been : Thou art my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased ; as it is given in the catholic Gospels, namely, in Mark 1: 11. In the gospel of the Ebionites, according to Epiphanius, both accounts of the voice from heaven were united : Thou art my beloved son, with whom I am well pleas. ed; and again ; This day have I begotten thee. By these continual accessions, the original text of the life of Jesus was lost in a mass of additions, so that its words appeared among them but as insulated fragments. Of this any one may satisfy himself from the account of the baptism of Jesus, which was compiled out of various gospels. The necessary consequence was, that at last truth and falsehood, authentic and fabulous narratives, or such, at least, as through long tradition had become disfigured and falsified, were brought together Vol. XI. No. 30.
promiscuously. The longer these narratives passed from mouth to mouth, the more uncertain and disfigured they would become. At last, at the end of the second and the beginning of the third century, in order, as far as might be, to preserve the true accounts concern. ing the life of Jesus, and to deliver them to posterity as free from error as possible, the Church, out of the many gospels which were extant, selected four, which had the greatest marks of credibility, and the necessary completeness for common use. There are no traces of our present Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, before the end of the second and the beginning of the third century. Irenaeus, about the year 202, first speaks decisively of four gospels; and imagines all sorts of reasons for this particular number; and Clement of Alexandria, about the year 216, labored to collect divers accounts concerning the origin of these four Gospels, in order to prove that these alone should be acknowledged as authentic. From these facts, it is evident, that first, about the end of the second and the beginning of the third century, the Church labored to establish the universal authority of these four Gospels, which were in existence before, if not altogether in their present form, yet in most respects such as we now have them, and to procure their general reception in the Church, with the suppression of all other gospels then extant.
“ Posterity would indeed have been under much greater obligations, if, together with the Gospel of John, the Church had established, by public authority, only the first rough sketch of the life of Je. sus, which was given to the earliest missionaries to authenticate their preaching; aster separating it from all its additions and augmentations. But this was no longer possible ; for there was no copy extant free from all additions, and the critical operation of separating this accessory matter was too difficult for those times.”
“Many ancient writers of the church,” Eichhorn subjoins in a note, “ doubted the genuireness of many parts of our Gospels ; but were prevented from coming to a decision by want of critical skill;"
I trust the readers of this Miscellany will not find fault with the length of this extract. Many of them, who have often heard of German Neology, and now and then met with some fragments of it here and there introduced and discussed, may not have had the opportunity of reading a brief erpose written by the neological Coryphaeus of the past generation. The extracts just made present them with such a view ; and the remarks which are subjoined here and there by Mr. Norton, exbibit a candid and correct account of the case as it actually stands.
The chief aim of the text or leading part of Mr. Norton's