« VorigeDoorgaan »
they can point out no one, though this is already the fourteenth year since the death of Maximilla.”
I make no remark upon this very curious passage, but we cannot fail to be reminded by it of certain modern Montanists.
UNAUTHORIZED APPLICATIONS OF TEXTS TO OUR LORD.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. I have long been desirous of knowing on what ground that part of the eighth chapter of the Book of Proverbs where Wisdom is described, is considered to be applicable to Jesus Christ. If it be the only safe method of interpreting Scripture to apply no other passages to our blessed Saviour than those which are applied to him in the New Testament, then we must exclude the usual application of this passage, since no portion of it is quoted in reference to him by any New-Testament writer. That Jesus Christ is declared to be “made of God unto us wisdom," and that“ in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” is true; but these declarations are not quotations from the eighth of the Proverbs: the mere occurrence in them of the term wisdom is no proof of reference to that passage, and such a mode of interpretation would give room for a most dangerous and unwarrantable latitude in the exposition of Scripture doctrines. That several of the Christian Fathers applied the passage to Jesus Christ, is admitted; and that many of the moderns have done the same, is also true. But the question still arises, On what ground have either the ancients or the moderns made the application ? It would be easy to mention some respectable names among our English divines who have denied that it so applies; but this, as well as the others, would be deciding the question by mere human authority, rather than by Scripture evidence. Some commentators find Jesus Christ in every verse of the book of Canticles: that such persons should find him in the eighth chapter of Proverbs, is, therefore, no way surprising; but whether these writers proceed in either case on principles of sober interpretation, may well be questioned. When a door is once opened to gratuitous and mystical applications of the Sacred Writings, it is impossible to say where we shall stop. We shall come at length (as a learned writer observes) to that wantonness of interpretation which is displayed by most of the Jewish commentators, and by many among the Christian Fathers. We know what harm was done to Christianity by the allegories of Origen and the subtleties of Aquinas, as well as to the Old Testament by Talmuds and Rabbinical commentaries. When the rein is given to the imagination, and judgment is not allowed its proper controul, an interpreter may invent as many senses as he pleases. There have been Jewish commentators who have boasted that they could discover seventy Midrashim, or mystical meanings, in one sentence. Some limit to fanciful interpretation is therefore absolutely necessary; and the only limit in which we can confide, is the limit assigned by the authority of Christ and his Apostles.
• We doubt whether the somewbat vague and declamatory charges of Eusebius will satisfy our correspondent R. L., but we recommend him to peruse the Bishop of Lincoln's very satisfactory and impartial remarks upon the character and doctrines of Montanus, in his work upon Tertullian, one of his disciples. We fear that it is impossible to shew that Montanus was exposed to obloquy merely for being a “scriptural Christian.” How can his assumption of being the Paraclete be got over, or justified ?
LITURGICAL REVISION AND MODERN DISSENT.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. So much has been said of late about alterations in the Liturgy of the Established Church, and the desire for some revision seems so general, that I trust a short allusion to the motives which ought to influence any changes will not be useless.
Two reasons are generally advanced for proposing any alterations : First, to satisfy scruples entertained by some conscientious members of the Established Church : Secondly, to conciliate modern Protestant Dissenters, and induce them to effect a union with us.
Every member of the Church will readily allow the first of these reasons its full weight: for although in many cases scruples arise because the Liturgy is not considered as a whole, still, even such scruples, in a Christian and charitable point of view, deserve attention. We ought to bear with the weak-nor ever cast a stumbling-block in a brother's way ;-and if his conscience be offended by some expressions in our Baptismal or Burial Service, because he has not considered the spirit which runs through the whole Book of Common Prayer, surely it is well worth consideration whether these expressions may not be so altered as that, while that spirit remains the same, the terms in which it is expressed may be less liable to perversion.
But, looking to the second reason, I must confess that I think it ought to have no weight whatever ; not because a union between the Established Church and those Dissenters whose doctrine is in most points (church government excepted) the same with hers, is not desirable—it is highly desirable--but because I well believe it never will be effected by any other concession than the abolition of the Establishment, of Episcopal government, and the—not revision, but—abolition of the Prayer-Book.
Those who draw their conclusions of the possibility of effecting so desirable a coalition from the conduct and feelings of the Puritans in the days of Elizabeth towards the Church, have fallen into a common error,—that of regarding modern Dissent as the child of Puritanism of the olden time. Those Puritans would, I believe, to a man, have joined the Establishment, if they might have had toleration in one or two trifling matters--the cross in Baptism, the ring in marriage, the surplice, and kneeling at the Lord's Supper ;-but not so their modern supposed descendants.- [To substantiate this remark, our correspondent has favoured us with an extract from a recent Dissenting Address, which is sweeping and bitter enough; but not more so than numerous other passages, which we could produce from modern Dissenting publications. We see no benefit in deforming our pages with such quotations: nor are they necessary to prove, what every person who has attended to the question abundantly knows, that modern “ Dissenters upon principle” would equally oppose the Church of England, as being a national establishment, however pure they might consider its doctrines, scriptural its ritual, or exemplary its members. We trust, however, that a large portion of the Dissenters by no means take up the question in this abstract view; but, on the contrary, wish well to the Church of England, as an instrument of much spiritual benefit to the nation; and are kept from joining her communion only by minor causes, and not by such impassable barriers as those attempted to be interposed by some of their popular writers. We do not, however, under all the circumstances, entertain much expectation of a general comprehension in the present day, such as might have been effected a century and a half ago.]
W. D. V,
THE THEBAN LEGION.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. The vale of the Rhone, in the environs of St. Maurice and Martigny, is one of the interesting spots so frequently visited in Switzerland. The snowy pinnacles of the Dent de Midi; the various other Alpine elevations; the beautiful water-fall, rushing down the rocks like a liquid avalanche; the ex. tensive forests mantling the mountains; the rolling and impetuous Rhone —these, and a thousand nameless beauties, give an impression to the scene which none who have a heart to feel the beauties of nature can fail to experience. But of the many Christian travellers who have gazed on these works of the Creator, few, comparatively, appear to have recalled to memory that it was amidst these scenes that is said to have occurred one of the most remarkable examples of martyrdom with which ecclesiastical history has made us acquainted. It was here that the Theban Legion, consisting of more than six thousand Christian soldiers, died voluntarily for Christ their Master. The Roman army, under Maximian, was on its march for Gaul. At Octodurum (Martigny) the emperor commanded a festival celebration in honour of the gods, and the Christian soldiers were called on to participate. Far was it from Christian firmness in those days to yield to the most distant appearance of idolatrous worship. The Theban Legion retired to a strong position, under the command of Mauritius, its chieftain, in order to avoid the sacrifice to idols. Maximian, in consequence, inficted a decimation of the whole legion. Gladly, calmly, triumphantly, did each tenth soldier present his breast to the sword. The survivors remaining faithful to their Saviour, a second decimation was ordered; and this second band of martyrs shewed themselves as unshaken in their fidelity to their Redeemer as their deceased brethren. In this second execution, Mauritius their leader was sacrificed. At length, Maximian, seeing that their constancy was invincible, ordered the execution of the whole of the remainder of the legion; all of whom, unresistingly, calmly, firmly, patiently, died in their ranks, faithful martyrs to Him who had died for them on Calvary.
The feelings excited by recently visiting the scene of this deed of Christian chivalry suggested the following lines.
THE THEBAN LEGION. Days of the Alps return!
'T was not the rebel shout Ye meaner thoughts, retire !
Which rolled through all your host : Burn, rock and mountain-valley, burn, Those lightning spears the panic rout As once with martyr fire !
Of Roman foes might boast. 'Tis not thy torrent force,
For Christ, the Martyr King,
Here flowed the blood-red tide;
Here soldier-like ye died.
Twice thro' each tenth heart ploughed Where vines entwine the bower,
The fatal sword its path; The forest's clime, the snow's domain, And last, the whole bright phalanx bowed Or Mont Blanc's thunder tower.
Its legion strength in death. But, thousands of the brave,
No cry along your line,
No coward sbriek was there :
“ For Christ to die we dare.” 'T was not the crimson flow
Soldiers ! your fight is done-
Long past your victor day.
Ne'er past your victor lay.
Christian, maintain thy field;
What, though a fiercer foe Thy contest, too, will cease :
Than Rome, tyrannic frown! With 'Christ to lead, with Christ to shield, Heaven's power shall lay that foeman low: Soon Victory! triumph! peace!
On! onward to thy crown! As the history of the Theban Legion is questioned by some authors, perhaps some of your readers, who have leisure for such inquiries, will favour us with their opinion of its authenticity.
REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.
THE BISHOP OF CALCUTTA'S ORDINATION SERMON.
The Apostolical Commission : a Sermon, delivered at the Cathedral Church
of St. John, by Daniel, Bishop of CALCUTTA, at an Ordination holden on Sunday, January 6, 1833, being the Feast of the Epiphany. Calcutta :
printed at Bishop's College Press. The number of single sermons issued from the press is so great, that it is only on special occasions that we can undertake to review any of them; and such a special occasion is presented by the very interesting discourse now before us. The name of Bishop Wilson would of itself be a claim to attention, upon the part of every friend of our beloved Church and of our common Christianity; and the present publication, the first-fruit of his zealous labours in his fearfully momentous diocese, powerfully enforces that claim from its own intrinsic value. It cannot but be gratifying, to the large circle of those who knew and esteemed him highly for his work's sake in England, to learn the spirit in which he has commenced his arduous labours in that distant scene of his Lord's vineyard to which in the providence of God he has been summoned. The conductors and the readers of the Christian Observer have also a superadded interest in their much beloved and respected friend; and it were but just that the pages to which he has so often contributed the edifying labours of his pen when at home, should in part supply the interstice caused by his absence by a transcript of his monitions from abroad. We may add, that as his Lordship's sermon is printed in Calcutta, and a few copies only, we believe, have reached this country, a somewhat extended notice of so able and seasonable a dis. course is doubly appropriate.
Before, however, we open the pages of our friend, we must interpose a few of our own upon the subject of that important post which he occupies, and which at this moment is a subject of great public interest, on account of the discussions upon it which have arisen out of the renewal of the East India Company's Charter.
It might have been thought, that in a nation professing Christianity, and adopting that view of its discipline which involves diocesan episcopacy, the first object, wherever it established a Colony, would be, to send out an adequate supply of the ministers of Christ to superintend its spiritual interests ; and wherever it had sent out ministers, to place over them a bishop, to maintain godly discipline, and to discharge the important offices of ordination, confirmation, and pastoral controul. Connected with this primary object would be the duty of extending the pale of the church of Christ among surrounding nations, who sat in darkness and the shadow of death.
Such is the theory; but what has been the fact? Unhappily, quite the reverse of the theory. Many settlements have been formed in which a single chaplain was the only clergyman : in some, even this solitary official appendage was wanting ; in few has a regular ecclesiastical establishment been instituted ; and in none has it been adequate to the wants of the European and nominally Christian population, to say nothing of the mis. sionary exertions which were due to the surrounding heathen.
The guilt of England in this respect has been peculiarly great; for, in proportion to the extent of her capabilities, and the purity of her faith, no Christian nation has done so little to perpetuate and extend the Gospel in her foreign dependencies. Popish countries, wherever they formed a settlement, sent out a priest, and established in minute detail the forms of the corrupt worship of the Church of Rome : nor were efforts usually wanting, as we see in the instance of the Spanish and Portuguese colonies, to propagate Christianity, as received by the settlers, among their aboriginal neighbours. Our own ancestors also, in the seventeenth century, felt the force of this solemn obligation, as we find in the case of the American charters alluded to in a former page : and even the East India Company's original charter was granted expressly with a view to the introduction of Christianity among the natives of the East;-a stipulation so solemnly laid down, that we scruple not to say that the Company forfeited its privileges the moment it neglected this great duty, as much as a tenant who rents an estate upon a repairing lease loses his holding upon allowing the premises to fall into decay.
But, in point of fact, most of the colonies of England have long far outgrown the means of spiritual instruction ; and it is only of late years that the defect has begun to be supplied. North America, in what are now the United States, was in a state of great religious destitution; and had it not been for the voluntary labours of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel--in which the nation, in its public capacity, had no sharethe Church of England had scarcely been known, even by name, in many parts of its American possessions. The same remark does not strictly apply at present to what are now our North American possessions, as we have bishops and the form of a church establishment, and the legislature at home has annually voted a sum of money to the Society just mentioned to assist its labours in that part of our mighty empire. But that sum, though considerable, was at best very inadequate, and it is now greatly diminished, and is in a state of rapid evanescence : nor indeed can, or ought, any sufficient aid to be rendered from home to supply those constantly enlarging spiritual wants of a colony which should be foreseen and provided for in its first formation, and interwoven with all its arrangements, so as to “ grow with its growth and strengthen with its strength."
In the West Indies we had a parochial clergy, but not sufficient for the wants, or what ought to have been the wants, of the White population; and as for the Slaves and People of Colour, they were almost universally left to find their way to heaven in the best manner they could, without the aid of their nominally Christian masters; with regard to whom it is only of late years that a colonial bishop was thought necessary, to confirm their children, or to ordain ministers to preside over them in the Lord.
In India, after much opposition, the scaffolding, rather than the edifice, of an ecclesiastical episcopal establishment was formed at the last renewal of the East India Company's Charter; but it was miserably stinted, and it was not till after the rapid succession of deaths among the first prelates of India that the addition of two suffragan bishops has been effected ; and this not without as arduous a struggle as if the inevitable destruction of India had been a necessary consequence. Even now the supply of chaplains is very inadequate to the wants of the scattered handfuls of Europeans in that vast