« VorigeDoorgaan »
FORGED SANSCRIT REFERENCE TO NOAH.
For the Christian Observer. In the review, in the Christian Observer, of Mr. Deane's work on the Worship of Serpents, reference was made to the mythology of India, as illustrating some particulars in the Inspired Narrative. This doubtless is true generally of heathen mythology, both ancient and modern, and not least so of the mythology of India ; but it ought to be known that the Hindoos have, in many instances, imposed so artfully and mendaciously upon Europeans, in regard to their literature and religion, that great caution is requisite in quoting them as authority for any story which it might suit their purpose to pervert. Sir William Jones detected a most unblushing but ingenious attempt to impose upon him a forged Sanscrit book on oaths, with the ink scarcely dry upon it. But the following story is more to the present purpose. In Lord Teignmouth's Life of Sir William Jones, p. 367, occurs the following passage: “The third volume of the Asiatic Researches, published in 1792, contains a very learned and elaborate treatise by Lieutenant Wilford, on Egypt und the Nile, from the ancient Books of the Hindoos. It refers to a passage in a Sanscrit book, so clearly descriptive of Noah, under the name of Satyvrata, or Satyavarman, that it is impossible to doubt their identity. Of the passage thus referred to, Sir William Jones, in a note annexed to the dissertation, has given a translation minutely exact.”
Lord Teignmouth goes on to quote the passage, which I need not copy. It is an account of Noah's drunkenness, and the conduct of his three sons on that occasion. Upon it, Sir William Jones, as quoted by Lord Teignmouth, proceeds to comment as follows: “ You will probably think that even the conciseness and simplicity of this narrative are excelled by the Mosaic relation of the same adventure ; but whatever may be our opinion of the old Indian style, this extract most clearly proves that the Satyavrata or Satyavarman of the Parans was the same person, as has been asserted in a former publication, with the Noah of Scripture.” Sir William Jones goes on to shew that the identity of the stories did not prove that Moses borrowed it from the Egyptians, and he concludes with learned comments upon the subject.
This story, like many others, has been adduced again and again, by writers and preachers, as a remarkable Heathen illustration of Scripture; and, in proof of its authenticity, it might fairly be argued that Jones and Wilford were neither of them men likely to be imposed upon. But imposed upon they were, and before Lord Teignmouth's book was published he discovered that the whole passage was a forgery. He gives, in the preface, the following account of the fraud :-“Captain Wilford has had the morti. fication and regret to discover that he was imposed upon by a learned Hindoo who assisted his investigations; that the Purana, in which he actually and carefully read the passage which he communicated to Sir William Jones as an extract from it, does not contain it; and that it was interpolated, by the dexterous introduction of a forged sheet discoloured and prepared for the purpose of deception, and which, having served this purpose, was afterwards withdrawn." Captain Wilford took the utmost pains to make his discovery of the fraud public; but many have seen the passage who never heard of the explanation. It was only by Captain Wilford's apparently over-minute care in looking again for what he had once actually seen and read, that the forgery was discovered. With such stories on record, we ought to be careful in examining the authorities on which Maurice, and a score other writers, relied, in adducing what they considered Oriental proofs or illustrations of Sacred Writ. Missionaries also, and Christian travellers, and those of our countrymen in India who take an interest in religious
questions, and especially in whatever casts light upon the word of God, should be on their guard not to lay a trap for themselves, by an overanxiety before the natives to collect and treasure up whatever may seem to bear upon their object. Whatever they amass indirectly, and by their own researches, will be thus greatly increased in value, because its authenticity will be above suspicion ; but such is the general mendacity of the native character, that little or no reliance is to be placed upon any uncorroborated statement which they make, where there is the slightest temptation of fear or favour to pervert the truth.
It is painful to notice these and other instances in which the great enemy of souls has endeavoured to invalidate the evidence for the word of God, by inventing fictions to disturb the minds of the ignorant and the unwary. Persons of these descriptions, when they hear of what are most unjustly called pious frauds—such as that, for instance, which foisted into Longinus an allusion to the sublimity of the Almighty fiat,“ Let there be light, and there was light;” or of frauds claiming no such epithet as pious—such as that above alluded to—are apt to feel distressed, as if there might be other frauds and forgeries affecting the Sacred Word itself, or some important portion of the evidence for its inspiration. Now, it ought to be a source of repose to such persons to know that Christian scholars, who have examined closely into these matters, are fully satisfied that there is not a single scrap of imposition which affects, directly or indirectly, the Bible, or the proofs of its Divine origin ; that there is not the most superficial crust, not, so to speak, the slightest film, of dubiousness in any thing relating to any concern of faith or practice ; that there are no various readings or decrepancies of any kind which penetrate even the surface: and the zeal with which the erudite friends of religion are on the watch to detect and expose any false argument, however specious, that is made to bear upon questions of Revelation, is a pledge to their less learned neighbours that if any thing important had been doubtful they would not have failed to have heard of it, even if there had been no enemy to take advantage of it. This honesty of purpose is itself a powerful argument. Had Sir W. Jones, or Colonel Wilford, or Lord Teignmouth, passed over the above matter in silence, lest the detection of this fraud should lead to the suspicion of others which might eventually shake the faith of the weak in Revelation itself, it had argued a doubt as to whether the word of God did not need every false buttress that might happen to have encumbered it; but no Christian feels that in detecting a fallacy, or putting down a false argument, he is doing otherwise than clearing from the dust and rubbish of human invention that sacred word which is impregnably founded upon the Rock of Ages.
ON PROFESSOR BURTON'S TRACT ON THE OBSERVANCE
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. Permit me to call the attention of your readers to a tract on “The proper Observance of Sunday," written by Dr. Burton, the Regius Professor of Divinity in Oxford. With a few exceptions, this tract is so valuable and useful that it is with reluctance I venture to lay before you some extracts which appear to me, to say the least, open to misconstruction. I am induced to do so from the great importance of a careful revision of publications intended for popular reading, especially when coming before the world with the recommendation of so highly respectable a name as that of Dr. Burton. The tract is characterised by a simplicity both of thought and style most necessary, but not always found, in publications intended for the poor. Take, as an instance, a passage on what the writer properly calls “the two great doctrines of the Gospel, the death and resurrection of Christ.”
“ You will, therefore, remember to praise God on the Sunday for the creation of the world, and for the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. When you praise him as Creator of the world, you will thank him for having made you, for having given you all the comforts which you enjoy, and for having ordered one day in seven to be a day of rest. But you will chiefly bless God for having raised Jesus Christ from the dead. You know that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came down from heaven, took our nature upon him by being born of the Virgin Mary, and suffered death upon the cross. He did all this that he might save us from the punishment due unto our sins. If Jesus Christ had not died, we had no power of rising again from the grave, or of entering into heaven. God was angry with us, as the children of Adam : our first parents brought sin and death into the world ; and we are all born under the wrath and displeasure of God. Jesus Christ offered to die for us, if God would be reconciled to us, and restore to us the power of living for ever. God accepted the atonement which Christ offered. The Son of God, who had never done any sin, was put to death as a sinner : and when he rose again from the dead, he shewed that the wrath of God was satisfied, that our redemption was accomplished, and that it is possible for us to rise again to everlasting life. Like as Christ rose again from the dead, so we shall all rise again at the last day : but we had no promise of rising again, if Christ had not died, and opened to us a way from the grave into heaven." p. 12.
The high .value which a variety of such passages as these stamp upon the tract, is my inducement to trouble you with a few remarks on what appear to me blemishes of more or less importance. Some confusion of sentiment may, I think, be discerned in the statement that follows the extract just given. “ If you believe that Christ died and rose again for our salvation, God will accept your faith ; and if you repent of your sins, your faith in Christ will be reckoned to you for righteousness, and will obtain your pardon.” But I am more surprised at the incautious manner in which, in page 11, our “ giving to God a few hours on the Sunday" is spoken of, as though “ by so doing we may make our peace with God, and obtain forgiveness of our sins, and be made fit to enter into heaven.” Great care is taken in other parts of the tract to guard against its being thought that the observance of the Lord's-day can be admitted as a commutation for the neglect of other duties, or for the commission of any sin (see page 18); and therefore, in all fairness, the want of caution now complained of should be imputed to the fact of our often expressing ourselves with the least precision on points the best ascertained to our own minds.
I would notice, further, what appears to me unguarded language in p. 9: “ You must do something to make your peace with God, or you will not enter into heaven." It is not that there is no sense in which this expression is true, but that there is a sense in which it is not true, that leads me to advert to it; and in the same restricted manner I would object to what is afterwards said, in the same page, that " if they are not always doing what will bring them nearer to heaven, there is no need for them to do that which will keep them further from it.” The intention of the writer manifestly is, to prevent the supposition that he is absurdly requiring what he has characterised in the preceding part of the sentence as “ being always on our knees.” But the doing of things directly calculated to " bring us nearer to heaven," needs not have been so opposed to "doing that which will keep us further from it,” as to imply that there is a class of actions of a neutral character; whereas, whatsoever we do, we are taught on the highest authority, must be done to the glory of God. And as we are thus always to be in the fulfilment of our duty, we are always, I conceive, to be “ doing what will bring us nearer to heaven,” whether the employment be of a directly religious, or of a merely secular, or even recreative nature.
I have now an observation to offer on what is said in page 19, of the manner of bestowing the vacant hours of Sunday, after the public services of the day have been duly attended. I heartily concur with the Professor in saying, as in p. 17, “ I am not one of those who would tell you that you are to shut yourselves up upon the Sunday, and to make it a mournful and melancholy day. I like to see people cheerful and happy. There is something very pleasant in seeing the labourers and their families dressed in their best clothes, and enjoying the rest which God has given them on the Sunday." But in what follows there seems to me a want of caution : “ Friends and neighbours may meet at each other's houses in the evening, and they may talk and laugh together without doing any thing wrong." And immediately afterwards; “ The younger people may amuse themselves in many ways, without committing sin.” I shall best exhibit my objection to these passages, by measuring them against two others on the same point in page 19. “ Do not go and offend God on the Sunday evening, by doing something which is wicked. I would advise you to stay as much as you can in your own houses. There is no harm in visiting a friend or a neighbour : but where many persons meet together, there is more danger of their enticing each other into sin.” And again : “ If you wish to keep yourselves from temptation, stoy in your own houses.”—Without minutely weighing words, are not the general impressions conveyed in page 17, and page 19, as just quoted, almost of an opposite nature ? Especially, is not the picture in the former case one of almost obstreperous hilarity; and certainly of youth engaged in many amusements, in a way that is scarcely in accordance with the exhortations of the preceding page, where the young are urged to Sunday seriousness with a power of address, that, had I not trespassed so largely on your valuable room, would justify a lengthened quotation ?
I have but the very trifling remark to add, that, without wishing to assert that the wearied labourer is called upon to rise at his work-day hour on the Sunday morning, I am not aware that the licence of a longer night, at the expense of some of the hours of Sunday, needs have been almost inculcated, as in pages 5 and 6. Being myself concerned in Sunday-school teaching, I see, in the late attendance of some of the children, one evil of late Sunday morning hours among parents; and though I am not anxious to fulminate any very self-denying ordinance in opposition to the Professor's benevolent Sunday morning latitudinarianism (not being absolutely without fault myself), I am not quite sure but that it would have sufficed to leave the labourer to his own devices on the point in question, without the special recommendation, ex cathedrá, of special indulgence.
I have trespassed too long, to enter on an inquiry into what may fitly be done in families to invest the Christian Sabbath, throughout the day, with its proper character of cheerfulness, particularly in reference to children and servants ; but the topic may draw the attention of some of your cor. respondents, and they may be induced to lend their aid, and discuss a subject that can only gain by being freely examined. MOROSUS*.
• We are unwilling to add to the particulars so temperately pointed out by our correspondent; but it appears to us that the passage which he has first quoted as highly valuable, might be improved; and popular tracts for the young and the ignorant ought to be especially simple, and free even from speculative peculiarities; and those
A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE
AND OF THE
For the Christian Observer. In the Protestant States of Germany, as in other Protestant kingdoms, the great revival of practical piety which took place in the time of Luther, and other celebrated Reformers, gradually gave place to a general increase of formality and decay of vital godliness. It pleased God, however, in the seventeenth century, to bless the German Protestant Church with a remarkable revival of true religion ;-an event of which the following is an accurate though condensed account. This account is penned, not merely with a view to shew in what various ways attempts to promote vital religion may, in correspondence with those of the Pietists, be made in other Christian countries; but especially to shew what efforts were once, and may again, by the blessing of God, be successful in promoting a revival of religion at those important fountains of Christian (too often Anti-Christian) knowledge to churches and kingdoms, the Universities of Christendom.
Dr. Gerhard, professor of divinity at Jena, and John Arndt, general superintendant of the churches in the principality of Lunenburgh, by their writings endeavoured to revive practical godliness in Germany, where they saw great reason to lament a prevailing contempt or neglect of true piety. Arndt's celebrated treatise, entitled “ True Christianity," was translated into different languages. He also published the “Garden of Paradise.” Many souls were awakened and converted. Much opposition, however, to Arndt's spiritual views of religion soon arose. Lucas Osiander, of Tubingen, wrote against himn; but Varenius took up the pen in his defence, as did some other divines.
Professor Meisner, of Wittenberg, lamenting the prevalent love of controversy and aversion to heartfelt piety, formed a design to open a Collegium Pietatis for students in that university, in which he intended to explain the methods of effecting reform both in church and state. This appears from his Pia Desideria, published after his death.
Conradus Horneius; Dr. Kester, Superintendant at Cobourg; and Dr. Mengeringius, Superintendant of Halle; underwent great opposition for correcting abuses and promoting piety. Professor Maysart, of Erfurt, was opposed by the learned, for testifying against the corrupt state of the universities. Professor Schmidius, of Strasburgh; Gesenius, Superintendant General of Hanover; and Glassius, of Saxe Gotha; also exerted them. selves to effect a salutary reform. John Valentine Andreæ, of Wurtemberg, a man of superior judgment and piety, had a deep insight into the diseased condition of the Lutheran Church, and studied to apply the remedy. Theophilus Grosgebauer, deacon of the church of Rostock, left at his death, in 1661, a treatise—“The Watchman's Voice"-in which he explained the causes of the unsuccessfulness of God's word and sacraments in promoting the conversion of souls in the Reformed Church.
circulated by Churchmen, among the members of our own Church, need not travel in their doctrinal statements beyond the ample range of our own formularies. In which of those formularies, or in what passage of Scripture, does Dr. Burton read that if Christ had not died we should not have risen again from the grave, or have “lived for ever?” Should we then have been annihilated ? And is there not also a difference between Professor Burton's statement, that “ Christ offered to die for us if God would be reconciled to us, and restore to us the power of living for ever,” and those statements of Scripture which say that it was expressly because “ God loved the world” that he gave his Son to die for it? Is there not also a harshness in speaking of “the wrath of God being satisfied ?"