Page images

cepts, learned diligently and systematically in that special school which he opened and called the Christian Church.

When we complain of our common-school system, that it only teaches arithmetic, and spelling, and grammar, and therefore, being very narrow in its scope as compared with the teaching of nature and life, ought to be abandoned, then, and then only, may we reasonably talk of abandoning Christianity, because it is the common-school of babes and children in the knowledge of God, adapted to human nature and mortal circumstances.

Christianity recognizes natural religion fully, and without the least jealousy. Nay, if the image gives any comfort to its exclusive friends, she stands upon it as a dwarf on a giant's shoulders. But natural religionists are proud enough to think they can do without revelation. They think the giant is tall enough without the dwarf. But where would natural religion be but for the whispers this dwarf has dropped into the giant's ears? All that natural religion now knows, and in the pride of which she abjures revealed religion, — all that is definite, satisfactory or binding, she has really learned from the Church of Christ. And, when told this, her answer is, "Be it so; but, having learned it, why should we still keep our Teacher?" Why should the climber of Mont Blanc not dismiss his guides, and fling down his ladders, at the top of the first precipice? Because there are other precipices before him. And those who think they have learned Christianity out, and got to the very top of the eminence occupied by the Master and Saviour, will in due time discover their mortifying mistake. We verily believe that, to desert the Divine Guide whom God has sent to lead us safely through this new and unexplored country, is to invoke the loss of our way, to plunge into darkness and cold, and probably ruin. Christ is the way, and he will continue such to the most advanced disciples, who will only feel his moral and spiritual superiority more the closer they come to him, the more nearly they imitate him. The greater our spiritual sensibility, the finer for us the revelations of his character, and the fuller for us the measure of his inspiration. We should

believe that branch of the Church destined to wither, that severed its connection with the true vine; and the sooner it withered the better, for its fruit could be only ashes, and its seed barrenness.

Let us not think meanly of the revelation with which God has lighted up the once gloomy and unattractive halls of natural faith. Look reverently upon that grandest monument of time and history, the Christian Church, founded on the living corner-stone. Honor, support, and uphold those venerable and significant forms, which only the precipitate and prosaic could long undervalue, the Lord's Supper and Baptism, which have been the very wings by which the Holy Dove has made its difficult way down the centuries, - rites which are to the gospel what marriage and legitimacy are to society, true sacraments, to maintain which every Christian. should lend his enlightened and grateful support. Let those who despise the forms that hold civil society together, the legal instrument, the proper official signature, the prescribed seal,- forms by which we hold our property, - deride the conventional character, the temporary importance, the superstitious value, put on the sacred rites of the Christian Church. They have a significance, a value, and a providential destiny which scoffers and scorners will finally learn to respect; and nothing claiming to be a Church of Christ will, we predict, long continue to bear that name, or even to desire it, which has outgrown faith in these symbols. Let us not neglect or misunderstand the relation which the simple forms have to the holy spirit of our religion, nor think ourselves wiser than he who built the Church on his own broken body.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

DR. FURNESS has added to his series of original and striking studies of the Gospels, by a trauslation of remarkable felicity and skill from a writer of kindred spirit, but of views often quite different from his own.* The work of Dr. Schenkel, which has received this high testimony to its excellence and value, represents a style of moderate and pious liberalism, more familiar, we apprehend, to the German mind than to ours. It is also distinguished by a limitation and precision of aim, implying a certain modesty of judgment, and helping to keep the subject itself free of dogmatic assumptions and false expectations. It states frankly, at the outset, that we have not the materials for a Life of Jesus, only for a Portrait. Renan has failed in his representation of the character, in aiming at too great completeness in the history. Of that character we have a "clearer image" in Mark than in either of the other Gospels, and along with it a more fresh and almost a first-hand narrative: the writer refers,. with much confidence, to the Urmarcus, or original Gospel, differing considerably from the present form, as the real first authority for the portrait he seeks. Matthew and Luke represent successive stages of a "literary reconstruction" of the narrative, in which the primitive outline is already somewhat disguised; while there is an "insurmountable difficulty" in accepting the fourth Gospel in any sense at all that makes it of much value as an historical authority. In fact, the most prominent critical feature in the work is the extremely positive, clear, and decisive argument - decisive, we mean, as to the writer's own conviction against the genuineness of that Gospel; together with his protest against the "bigoted sophistry" which attempts to foreclose the argument by an appeal to religious prejudice.

These points indicate the writer's general position, which is maintained with good ability and the best of temper; also with an easy, ample, and familiar scholarship, too rare in popular works of this

The Character of Jesus Portrayed; a Biblical Essay. With an Appendix. By Dr. DANIEL SCHENKEL, Professor of Theology, Heidelberg. Translated from the German edition. With Introduction and Notes, by W. H. FURNESS, D.D. Boston: Little, Brown, & Co. 2 vols. pp. 279, 859.

not to

nature among us, which Dr. Furness has done a great service by placing within our easy reach. The undogmatic character of the book will prevent its being acceptable to either extreme wing of the religious public; while the evident check of a devout say ecclesiastical — spirit and motive upon the freedom of its criticism lays it open, here and there, to the charge of feebleness and indecision. In its treatment of the cardinal question of miracles, it is, perhaps, better adapted to German habits of thought than ours. With an evident purpose not to deal in denials, and to accept the record for precisely as much as it can be fairly interpreted to mean, it shows as evident a reluctance (as Dr. Furness has remarked) to admit, fairly and squarely, any thing which is strictly a miracle proper, and can be explained into nothing else. Thus it accepts, without scruple and with but slight reserve, the works of healing, vindicating them by a very interesting discussion of the physiological truths or doctrines they imply; stories of control over the elements of nature, and the like, it treats undisguisedly as "legend" and "myth," holding them to belong to a later period of belief, as they are found mainly in later portions of the narrative; accounts of the raising of the dead are unauthentic, or a mistake; the resurrection of Jesus himself, it holds, existed only in the pious imagination of his disciples. In all these points he is met with distinct and steady protest by his translator, who rejoices, in each instance, to accept the narrative as it stands, the more marvellous, the better illustration of that "nature" whose highest type he sees in the life of Jesus. We wish he were more explicit in conveying and vindicating his conception of this phrase, which, to his own mind, is so large, living, and glorious as to include with ease what most of us are obliged to remand to the vaster domain of the "supernatural." As examples of the difference we have mentioned, in the case of the daughter of Jairus, Dr. Schenkel takes for literal fact the words of Jesus, "The maid is not dead, but sleepeth;" and the raising of Lazarus is barely alluded to, as if obviously unauthentic, and out of place in the narrative: while, in each of these instances, Dr. Furness finds an illustration, particularly vivid and dear to him, of his conception both of the character of Jesus and of the nature of his works. So frequent, indeed, is this difference and protest, that the book itself is a singular illustration of that harmony of spirit and motive, which, on a higher plane of thought, brings together minds that must be ranked, we think, plainly on opposite sides of the line of division in sharpest prominence now.

Considering the book as a systematic recast of the gospel narrative, it has overmuch the air of a paraphrase, with comments for edification. This was perhaps inevitable, if it would avoid the opposite qualities of Strauss and of Renan, of being a mere criticism upon the text, or else a free, imaginative construction. For the student, who seeks positive results as stepping-stones, and is content to make absolutely sure of a little ground, hoping that the rest will be firmer by and by, the more valuable portions will be those discussions which deal with definite points of criticism. But the main motive of the book is a practical and pious one: indeed, the definiteness of its theological view is in marked contrast with its vagueness of scientific handling. The reality of the Christian faith, and of the redeeming work of Christ, make the central thought, to be illustrated by a generous exposition of these earliest documents of that faith. In this, as well as in its style of speculation and its wealth of erudition, it is again in curious contrast with the limited range, the set ethical purpose, the official temper, the secular and assertatory style, of "Ecce Homo." We take these two books, thus discriminated, as studies of high value. Perhaps the value we attach to the first we take partly on the credit of the translator, who has given it an immensely added value of his own, both in the literary form under which he has presented it, and by blending with it the ripest results. of his own long-continued, congenial, and devoted study. J. H. A.

[ocr errors]

ATHANASE COQUEREL, the younger, deprived of his parochial charge in Paris by the bigotry and terror of re-actionary Calvinism, is doing good service in giving to the world the views of the Liberal faith, in a form that the people can understand and enjoy. His new work "On the First Historical Transformations of Christianity expresses the substance of a great deal of reading and thought. In successive chapters, it sets forth the Christianity before Christ; the actual teaching of Jesus; the Jewish interpretation of the gospel; the Hellenist interpretation of the gospel; how it was modified by Paul; how it was modified by Peter; how it was modified by John; the changes made in it by the Roman spirit; the Christianity of the early Fathers, Greek and Latin, Catholic and heretic; the Christianity of Constantine: and the conclusion of all is, that these modifi

* Des Premières Transformations Historiques du Christianisme. Par ATHANASE COQUEREL, Fils. Paris. 18mo. pp. 198.

« PreviousContinue »