« VorigeDoorgaan »
REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.
Essays on some of the Peculiarities of the Christian Religion. By RICHARD WHATELY, D. D. Principal of St. Alban's Hall, Oxford, and late Fellow of Oriel College. Oxford. Svo. pp. xvi. and 285.
Essays on some of the Difficulties in the Writings of St. Paul, and in other Parts of the New Testament. By the Same. London: 1830. 8vo. pp. xxiv. and 360. A View of the Scripture Revelations concerning a future State; laid before his Parishioners. By a COUNTRY PASTOR. London: 1829. 12mo. pp. 322.
THE name of Dr. Whately does not need to be introduced to our readers. We reviewed his Bampton Lectures, on the Use and Abuse of Party Feeling in Religion, in our volume for 1823; and offered an opinion, that after the publication of that volume he would stand justly eminent for skill in moral anatomy. We have no reason now to retract this sentiment. But his publica tions have since become too numerous, and have extended over too wide afield, to be fully noticed in our pages. Some of the works, however, the titles of which are above specified, have already been adverted to by some of our correspondents; having given rise to animadversion in respect to a few of the topics discussed in them. Indeed, not a few of our readers may be disposed to think that the volumes before us not only trace peculiarities in the Christian system, and point out difficulties in the writings of Saint Paul, but may furnish occasion for other writers to detect difficulties and peculiarities in the system of Dr. Whately.
But, however this may be, it must be allowed by all, that Dr. Whately is an ingenious and independent thinker, and a powerful reasoner;
that his mind is well stored on a vast variety of subjects; and that it is impossible for him to write any thing which will not contain much from which every reader may derive instruction. He is also distinguished by remarkable honesty (for we must do him the justice to believe him honest, much as we differ from many of his opinions) in his search after truth, and equal courage in avowing his conclusions: while, at the same time, his style of writing and mode of illustration put the reader at once in possession of his meaning, and are hardly surpassed in perspicuity and force, except by Dr. Paley. In one respect, indeed, he differs from that celebrated writer,-that, his publications being more various, and succeeding each other with greater rapidity, he does not enter so far into detail upon each subject, and therefore does not cast so broad and strong a light on every object which he touches. There is a defect, also, to which bold and original reasoners are peculiarly liable, and from which we do not think that Dr. Whately is by any means exempt: for the very clearness of their conceptions on any subject often tempts them to think that they see the whole of it, and hinders them from suspecting, that there is any thing still behind, which has not been observed. To say nothing at present of our author's theological lucubrations, we might refer for an example to his elements of logic. Logic, according to him, is a method of analysing that mental process which must invariably take place in all correct reasoning: and the principle on which his whole system of logic is built, is thus stated by himself: "In every instance in which we reason, in the strict sense of the word (that is, make use of arguments, whether for the sake of refuting an adversary, or
of conveying instruction, or of satisfying our own minds on any point); whatever may be the subject we are engaged on, a certain process takes place in the mind, which is one and the same in all cases, provided it be correctly conducted." That method or process he has most ably developed and analysed. Yet it is certain that a vast portion of the subjects on which men reason-nay, a portion on which more reasoning is expended than on any other-is altogether omitted in this theory: for there is no class of subjects on which men make use of arguments, for the sake of satisfying their own minds or those of others on any point, more constantly than the calculation of probabilities founded on presumptive evidence. A merchant reasons upon the probable success of an adventure, and embarks in it or declines it accordingly and the greater number of the actions of human life are governed by this sort of calculations, in which the mind is swayed and determined either way by a balance of conflicting probabilities. Now logic, if it profess to analyse that mental
which must invariably take place in all correct reasoning, ought to teach us the principles on which we may decide rightly, safely, or wisely on such subjects: and yet this whole field of inquiry is left untouched, because the problems it raises cannot be solved by the Aristotelic method of syllogism; which, in fact, applies only to methods of demonstration, not of uncertainty.
We pass now to one of the essays in the volumes before us. There is an exceedingly valuable one, on Truth, the first in the volume on the Difficulties of St. Paul, which it is very satisfactory to peruse; because it is pleasing to see right principles inculcated on a subject too much neglected in practice, and often misstated even in theory. The essay opens with representing truth as the distinguishing characteristic of our religion; not only as it alone is true, but that no other form of re
ligion, except indeed the Mohammedan, which is stolen from it, even pretends to truth; and the illustration. of that position by a reference to the writings of the ancients, is well worthy of attention. So, too, are all the author's remarks on the duty of a strict adherence to truth by those who profess it, and on the subterfuges by which that strict duty is too often eluded. We quote the following excellent paragraph from this essay.
"One who would cherish in himself an attachment to truth, must never allow himself either to advance any argument, or to admit and acquiesce in any when advanced by another, which he knows or suspects to be unsound or fallacious ; however true the conclusion may be to which it leads, however convincing the argument may be to those it is addressed to,and however important it may be that they should be convinced. It springs from, and it will foster and increase a want of veneration for truth; it is an affront put on the Spirit of Truth;' it is a hiring of the idolatrous Syrians to fight the battles of the Lord God of Israel. And it is on this ground that we should adhere to the most scrupulous fairness of statement and argument: he who believes that sophistry will always in the end prove injurious to the cause supported by it, is probably right in that belief; but if it be for that reason that he abstains from it,if he avoid fallacy, wholly, or partly, through fear of detection,-it is plain he is no sincere votary of truth.” Difficulties, pp. 41, 42.
At the same time, there is one view of truth, in its connexion with our holy religion, and that too the most important view of it, which passes unnoticed, or at least is not prominently brought forward, in this essay. The Christian religion is not only true; it is not merely the only true religion: it is The Truth in a still higher sense than this; for it embodies the great and only truth which is able to save the soul. It is in this sense that Saint Paul speaks of it, when he says to the Thessalonians, "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:" where it is not merely an honest disposition to abide by that which is true, that is meant, but a cordial acceptance of
that revealed truth which the Gospel discloses, and an entire reliance upon it, as constituting the only solid hope of a sinner. It is in this sense that our Saviour declared before Pilate, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth: Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice:" where he not only affirms that his revelation is true, and capable of being substantiated by evidence, but that the reality of his spiritual kingdom, however overlooked and unacknowledged by the world, is yet a truth of sufficient moment to bring him down from heaven for the purpose of establishing, ratifying, and revealing it. Therefore, the Truth, as that phrase is used in the New Testament, is not only a claim on behalf of the Christian faith, in opposition to false religions, which do not even pretend to be true; but it always carries with it an assertion of that cardinal doctrine of Revelation, according to which the mercy and justice of God are shewn to harmonize with each other, and the very truth of his nature is pledged for the pardon of repenting sinners. It prefers a claim, therefore, not only to an honest purpose of heart to follow truth whereever it leads, a purpose which would be satisfied by contending for natural truths; as the Newtonian system, for instance; or political truths; or truth in any other department of knowledge, all which are exceedingly valuable and important;-but The Truth, when it is another name for the Gospel, as is often the case in the New Testament, appeals to that hunger and thirst after righteousness, that earnest conviction of the necessity of discovering some method for an acceptable return to God, that search after spiritual truth, or, in other words, after the certainty of the Divine salvation, which will not allow a conscious sinner to rest till he has found it. It is therefore
called, not Truth only, but "the" Truth; and the habit of mind which is necessary to apprehend it, is not
mere honesty of purpose, but a further principle, which St. Paul describes at large under the complex phrase of "the love of the truth, that they might be saved." He who values, not truth in general only, but "the truth," in this sense, will not only acquiesce in it when it is discerned, but will be unsatisfied and miserable when he falls short of it. Yet this is a view of the truth which is not contemplated in Dr. Whately's essay, though it is entitled "On the Love of Truth," and enters into the connexion of truth with religion. The love of truth is an abstract quality, without which the love of this truth cannot exist: but it may itself exist where the truth of the Gospel is not loved, because it is neither known nor desired.
After an essay on the Importance of studying the Writings of Saint Paul, the author proceeds to the Doctrine of Election. On this subject he concurs with those who hold the election of nations to be arbitrary, but that of individuals contingent; while he understands the term to mean an election to helps and privileges, not to rewards. We quote his own reasoning upon it.
"Were the Israelites, who were evidently God's Called, Elect, or Chosen, Holy and Peculiar people, were they, I say, thus chosen arbitrarily, or not? Moses clearly and repeatedly states that this selection of them was arbitrary. He often reminds them that they were not thus singled out from the midst of other nations for their own righteousness, since they were a stiff-necked people, but of God's free goodness, who will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and will be gracious to whom he will be gracious;' and because He had a favour unto them.' And with respect to their fathers, though Abraham indeed was tried, and found faithful and obedient, there was certainly an arbitrary choice made of Jacob in preference to his elder brother Esau ; which, indeed, is one of the cases referred to by the Apostle, who remarks, that, while the children were yet in the womb, and had done neither good nor evil,' it was declared by the oracle of God, that "the elder should serve the younger.' Nor again (it should be observed) could that selection of the children of Jacob have been decreed with reference to their fore
seen faith and obedience; since we know how eminently deficient they were in those qualifications stubborn and rebellious, continually falling into idolatry and other sins,-forgetting what great things God had wrought for them, and undervaluing their high privilege.
"The Divine election then under the old dispensation was, it is manifest, entirely arbitrary; but, in the second place, who were the objects of it? Evidently, the whole nation without any exception. They were all brought out of Egypt by a mighty hand, and miraculously delivered from their enemies, and received the Divine commandments through Moses, who uniformly addressed them,—not some, but all,—as God's chosen, holy, and peculiar people.
"But, lastly, what was the nature of this election of the Israelites? To what were they thus chosen by their Almighty Ruler? Were they elected absolutely and infallibly to enter the promised land, and to triumph over their enemies, and to live in security, wealth, and enjoyment? Manifestly not. They were elected to the privilege of having these blessings placed within their reach, on the condition of their obeying the law which God had given them; but those who refused this obedience, were not only excluded from the promised blessings, but were the objects of God's especial judgments." Difficulties, pp. 107-110.
It is not our practice to discuss minutely the deep and interminable questions involved in the above extract; and we can be well content to leave our fellow-Christians, of different sentiments on the subject, in possession of their respective theories, and their particular mode of interpretation, so far as they do
not conflict either with the attributes
of God or the responsibility of man. Dr. Whately writes like a person acquainted with the views of his opponents, which is not always the case with those who maintain his
side of the argument, though at the same time he disposes of them rather summarily.
On an often-agitated passage in Exodus Dr. Whately observes:
"The hardening of Pharaoh's heart, again, which is mentioned in Scripture, is often triumphantly appealed to, as a recorded instance in which (according to the hasty interpretation sometimes adopted) God made the king of Egypt, what we call hard-hearted; that is, cruel and remorseless; on purpose to display his almighty power upon him: whereas a very
moderate attention to the context would plainly evince that this (whether true or false) is very far from being revealed in Scripture; but, that on the contrary, the hardening (or as some more properly translate, the strengthening) of Pharaoh's heart, must mean a judicial blindness of intellect. as to his own interest, and a vain and absurd self-confidence, which induced him to hold out against Omnipotence. For it is remarkable that the cruelties he had practised, had all of them taken place before any mention is made of God's hardening his heart. The tyrant who had subjected to grievous slavery and attempted to extirpate the Israelites, could scarcely, after that, be made cruel; but the most unrelenting miscreant would have let them go, through mere selfish prudence, had he not been supernaturally infatuated, when he saw that they were a snare unto him,' and that Egypt was destroyed' through the mighty plagues inflicted on their account."
Difficulties, pp. 124, 125.
To us this explanation appears defective. We believe that most persons will, upon reflection, allow been a perverseness of disposition, the σκληροκαρδια of the Jews to have rather than dulness of understand
ing. It was not because the Israelites could not comprehend the original appointment, recorded in Genesis, that Moses allowed them to put away their wives, but because
they were a perverse, rebellious, and, as they are often called, a stiffnecked people, who would not easily bend to the yoke of authority, nor could be brought to render a willing obedience to a prescribed command. So also the hardness of Pharaoh's heart we take to have consisted neither in mere blindness to his own interests, nor in unfeeling cruelty, but in reckless obstinacy, and in a determination not to be driven out of his settled plan by a subject, but to persevere in it at all hazards: and this obstinacy of purpose the
course of the Divine dispensations of that sentence, but that, the law may be said to have confirmed, by calling it into repeated exercise. The word heart, indeed, in Scripture is not applied to the understanding only, but to the mind and affections: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart :" "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness."
Another subject treated of by Dr. Whately in this volume, is the doctrine of imputed righteousness.
The advocates of this doctrine do not mean that the precise works of Jesus Christ are ascribed to believers as if they had performed them; the works themselves being personal, and incapable of being transferred, or rendered the works of another. But they mean that the righteousness of Christ, which is a quality of his perfect character, and of which his works were at once a result and an evidence, is imputed to them in such a sense as if it were theirs: and of this doctrine they are far from conceding that it "is made to rest on a particular interpretation of one-single text, Rom. v. 19, 'As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.' (Difficulties, pp. 195, 196.) They believe it to be stated even more distinctly in other passages of Scripture. Thus in Rom. iii. 22 we find the righteousness of God described as by faith of Jesus Christ given or imputed unto all, and thence as resting upon all, them that believe. Again: "David" (we are taught, Rom. iv. 6) "describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works." What righteous ness, then, does he impute to them? Not their own certainly; for by the supposition they are unrighteous. It must consequently be a righteousness which is not intrinsically theirs, even the righteousness of Christ. So too, when it is said, Rom. x. 4, that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth," what can be the scope CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 352.
having pointed to Jesus Christ as its fulfilment, every one who believes in him has a righteousness which without him he could not attain? Christ has accomplished the end of the law, and thus wrought out a righteousness capable of being imputed to every believer. Once more: in Phil. iii. 9 St. Paul speaks of himself as disclaiming altogether his own righteousness which was of the law, and yet as possessing nevertheless, or at least desiring to possess, another righteousness, namely, the righteousness which is of God by faith. The same truth is intimated when white robes are given to the saints, in the Book of the Revelation; and these robes are expressly stated to be the righteousness of the saints: by which emblem it is clearly implied that the righteousness in which they must appear is not their own, but given. Various other passages like those just cited occur in the Epistles of the New Testament, where we should most especially look for statements of the complete scheme of the Gospel, because till the ascension of our Saviour the mystery of salvation was not finished.
The doctrine, indeed, appears to us to lie at the foundation of the Christian scheme, and not to be justly liable to any Antinomian perversion. Dr. Whately, it is true, descants on the advantage which he thinks it gives to that heresy, as follows:
When we find Christ spoken of as suffering for us and in our stead, so that by his stripes we are healed,' though we cannot comprehend, indeed, this act of mysterious mercy, we do comprehend that there is now, therefore, no condemnabut that his suffering in our stead exempts tion for them that are in Christ Jesus,' his faithful followers from suffering in their own persons. But when men are told that the righteousness of Christ's life is imputed to believers, and considered as their merit, they are startled at the want of correspondence of this doctrine with the former, and its apparent inconsistency with the injunctions laid upon us to
bring forth the fruits of the Spirit' unto everlasting salvation, because God work
eth in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure,' while we are also told 2 G