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logians; nor does the time yet appear to have arrived for entire abandonment of reserve, and an open appeal to the educated reason on such subjects among the public at large. Hence the necessity for alluding to the great hindrance created by religious establishment in repressing the free discussion of religious questions; an influence which it is difficult entirely to avoid, but which, under the management of party or political indifferentism, cannot be too earnestly deprecated as directly tending to eternalise decrepitude, to encourage hypocrisy, and to frustrate every good which Protestantism and Christianity are suited to accomplish. Men hold independent enquiry to be less safe as well as far more arduous than the comfortable assurance obtained by clustering together in blind submission to the transmitted tenets of some religious association, as if truth were generally and necessarily on the side of the majority instead of being very rarely so;— "argumentum pessimi turba est."
It is difficult to speak patiently of the continuing adherence to a system historically proved to be so injurious to the best interests of the human soul; a system which in the name of religion paralyses all that is healthy and noble in religion; a system formed in the superstitious spirit of the dark ages, and so utterly inconsistent with the active intelligence of the present, that no reasonable being can seriously expect it to last, however unable to divine how or from what quarter amendment is to come. It is necessary to arrive at a distinct recognition of the fact that no one who consistently cultivates his reason and honestly declares the inferences obtained by it, can possibly be a "sound" and loyal member of a church, although especially qualified to promote the interests of an educational establishment by the very attributes disqualifying him as a churchman. It may be said, Why should not a national establishment be rational? why should religious asssociations inevitably assume hierarchical forms? Abstractedly there could be little difficulty in modifying the terms of subscription, or even substituting the principle of progressive improvement alone suited to imperfect human nature for that of dogmatical stagnation in national establishments. But then how expect a body of men to confess themselves in error whose whole existence has been a continuous protestation before heaven and earth that they are inevitably and infallibly right? How anticipate self-reformation from those whose very first feeling is one of antipathy to reform, and who, if an honest voice is heard among them refusing "to tell lies in the name of the Lord," decry it as "a stain upon their church"? Or how expect the laity to sanction innovations in creed and worship, while implicitly believing what they have been so incessantly and pcrseveringly told, that all piety and morality and even safety depend on maintaining these institutions intact?
To the feeling engendered by such influences the operations of criticism will appear as destructive; but destruction reaches only injurious superfluities, leaving all that is vitally important to thrive the better for their removal. In the conviction that such a removal is salutary as well as inevitable, the ostensibly destructive agencies of the last century have been unreservedly hailed as a matter for congratulation in the following treatise; its object will, however, be found to be not a mere recital of negations, but after admitting to the fullest extent the objections of modern scepticism, to raise and in some measure answer the obvious question—What resources of Biblical interpretation or of general religious faith have we still to rely on? A man unconsciously in a state of bankruptcy is not the richer for his ignorance; and it is useless to postpone the question of reparation when decay and demolition have already done their work.
Mr. Mansel, who, in his Bampton Lectures,1 disparages philosophy in order to restore the credit of dogmatic faith, urges a preliminary objection to appeals to criticism, on the obviously illogical ground that "to construct a complete criticism of any 'revelation' it is necessary that the critic should be in possession of a complete philosophy of the Infinite; and such a philosophy being impossible, it is not by means of philosophical criticism that the claims of a supposed revelation can be adequately tested." And yet, though argumentative criticism be unreliable when used against the revelation, it is, it seems, to be considered as indisputably conclusive when appealed to in its favour. Only, instead of attributing overmuch to what are called
1 Lecture viii.
internal evidences, such as the conscientious disapproval of those Bible anomalies and immoralities which Mr. Mansel terms "moral miracles," due weight ought to be allowed to the improperly discredited external arguments as to authenticity, genuineness, etc., by which, according to this writer, our moral aversion is to be out-argued and overborne, and the truth of the revelation established in defiance of the reclamations of conscience. For so soon as we have proved (or think we have proved) the revelation to be real, then it becomes only an additional argument in its favour that it contains irrational monstrosities; the coloured rays of objection vanish in the white focus of contented acquiescence, and we bow to the God of Absolute Decree, without feeling any uncomfortable shock at instances of divine favour ostensibly shewn to immoral acts and persons (p. 161). But Mr. Mansel shuns the arena of critical discussion; he affords no help whatever in estimating the sufficiency of the literary and historical evidence proffered to make good the deficiency of the moral. He puts the argument menacingly and bluntly in the form of a dilemma; either Christ was an impostor, or else he was what he said he was—namely, the Son of God. But this is no fair or conclusive statement, since there remain other possible alternatives. It may still be asked—Did Christ really say what is attributed to him? and if he did, are his words meant to be understood in the ordinary English sense? These are the questions (neglected or only cursorily alluded to by Mr. Mansel)
to which the Tubingen School undertakes to give an answer.
But the position of the school were unintelligible without some knowledge of its antecedents. An endeavour has therefore been here made to supply this preliminary desideratum, adverting more especially to those points of error or omission in the preceding theology which gave immediate occasion to its labours. In following out the processes of destruction and reconstruction historically, it became necessary to treat many points which are still discussed, or perhaps only beginning to be discussed, in England, as having been already conclusively settled during the course of the last century in Germany,—a country unquestionably far in advance of our own in illustrating the natural developments of philosophical criticism. A combination of the general independence of the great German reformer with the profounder knowledge of modern times has there, almost unknown to English readers, created a truly historical criticism of the New Testament, and converted what in Luther were only hasty utterances of casual and personal antipathy or preference into reliable judgments, which only the recklessness of fanaticism can pretend to ignore.
It should be observed that the Tubingen School here meant is not the old, but the new school of Baur, Schwegler, Zeller, etc.; which, as representing the progressive spirit of true Protestantism and of sound learning, must be the basis of all future research in relation to the New Testa