Page images
PDF
EPUB

The present series of discourses covers a wide field ; which includes a most interesting portion of the Divine Word. The period which Dr. Bayley has chosen as the theme of his sermons, includes the earliest and most renowned in the history of the monarchy of Israel. Saul, David, and Solomon were the only kings who reigned over Israel as one people. It was in the reign of the fourth king that the ten tribes revolted, and that the people were divided into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The reigns of the first three kings supplies many subjects of singular and absorbing interest. Of these there are some that afford the New Church expositor opportunity of showing the value of a spiritual interpretation, without which they are little adapted for conveying lessons of moral or religious instruction. By being enabled to show that the regal and even the priestly function is distinct and separable from the person who exercises it, the New Church preacher can remove the difficulties which even sincere and conscientious Christians feel regarding some of the acts, and even the characters of men who seem to be especial favourites of Heaven. Some of these difficulties, and serious ones too, are connected with the two kings whose reigns were the most glorious, and who are the most eminent regal types of the Lord Himself. Samuel and Daniel were men of unblemished character, and were noble examples of the true Prophet, and equally eminent types of Him to whom all the prophets pointed. A series of discourses which shows the wisdoni of the Word, as seen in the spiritual sense of the histories of the five great representative characters we have named, must give the reader a general idea of the historical scriptures, from the time of the judges to that of the captivity. Dr. Bayley does not, and in the limits of a single volume could not, give an explanation of all the particulars of the sacred narratives.

He has selected salient points, and, as consistent with the character of sermons, has treated his subjects in a practical manner. The explanations he has given of them and the lessons he has drawn from them are excellent. We trust the book will be not only extensively read but circulated by the members of the Church, as it cannot fail to produce a favourable and practically good impression on those who are without, as well as to prove instructive and edifying to those who are within. As our disposable space prevents suitable extracts, we intend on an early occasion to print one of the discourses.

Miscellaneous.

RELIGION AND SCIENCE.

As is often the case at the meetings of the “Church Congress,” the “Relation of Religion and Science” formed one of the subjects which, at the last meeting of this assembly, gave rise to a lengthened discussion. Several carefully written papers were read, and speeches afterwards made by members of the assembly. The subject was introduced by the Rev. J. H. Titcomb, Vicar of St. Stephens, South Lambeth, who proposed to himself the questions, Will the future development of science and of other branches of learning bring the Bible and scientific research into greater unity ? Or must we expect their present aspects of separation to be still more deepened and diversified ? The questions acknowledge the antagonism between modern science and theological beliefs and teachings ; and the answers do not, to our minds, offer an inadequate solution of the difficulties which beset the subject. The writer predicts three effects as likely to follow from the present state of science. The first of these is hesitation, before acknowledging any of the allegations of scientific scepticism. The sciences are in a transitional state, and examples are given of changes of opinion and modifications of previous theories, which have resulted from extended investigations and a larger induction of facts. But these scarcely affect the main discrepancies between scientific discovery and Biblical interpretation, although it is undoubtedly true that “that was a fine saying of the ancients, God is patient because He is eternal.' It is an attribute of truth also. Truth, when attacked by error, can well afford to wait ; because, during the progress of ages, all mistaken deductions naturally become corrected through a larger accumulation of facts.” The consolation of this saying extends quite as much to scientific as to religious truth, indeed to all holders of truth of whatever order and however persecuted.

The second effect predicted is verification,—by which the author means that we have clear prospective evidences of increased verifications of Scripture. Under this head the writer looks forward to increased verifications of the cosmogony of Moses, and obtains comfort from very questionable approaches to some modified literal expositions. In the verifications of the literal accuracy of some of the incidents of Scriptural history of a later date he is more successful, but the question of the relation of this history to the spiritual life—that is, the question of exposition, is untouched by these verifications. They assure the natural man of the basis of literal fact on which the Word rests, but they do not satisfy the yearnings of the spiritual man for the manna of heavenly wisdom that is stored within them, nor do they bring us to the real ground of the sought-for reconciliation.

A more direct effort is made to reach this ground in the third effect, which is that of modification, -by which he says, “I mean that we may possibly have to meet the coniing discoveries of science by modifying old lines of Biblical criticism and belief. The necessity for such modification is not far to seek. Several conclusions of science are given, which are opposed to the popular exposition of the Bible. These the writer treats as theories not adequately established. “ Yet," he says, “ it becomes us, as sincere inquirers after truth, not to be too self-confident. We should consider rather whether, in view of the possibility of such an event, we may not have (as in the case of the sun's revolution round the earth) to modify some of our old lines of Biblical criticism and belief. If there be no à priori reason against such modifications, the acknowledgment of our willingness to make them would certainly be useful. Narrow dogmatism, based on the mere opinions of our forefathers, is doing much more mischief to religion than some of us are willing to allow ; alienating us from many sincere inquirers after philosophic truth, and unnecessarily forcing them into an attitude of hostility to revelation.

Let us, therefore, be neither despairing nor defiant. Let the task of modern theology be to convince philosophers that although revelation reposes on a scientific basis of belief, yet its appointed mission is to teach men spiritual rather than physical truths. As for the secrets of science, they are discoverable

by human reason ; whereas revelation is the communication of truths which had otherwise been unknown to reason.”

If, as the author admits, the appointed mission of revelation is " to teach men spiritual rather than physical truth,” then the “scientific basis” on which it rests must be the basis of spiritual and not physical science. But this basis the author makes no effort to discover. He does not even recognise its existence. His hopes cluster around a reconciliation of the letter of Scripture with the ascertained facts of natural science; and in the endeavour to secure this reconciliation the most trivial intimations likely to aid its accomplishment are eagerly seized upon and offered as proof. When will the teachers and expounders of the Word

open their eyes to see that the reconciliation of Scripture and science needs something more than a modification of their present modes of interpretation? It needs a deeper insight into the true nature and internal structure of the Word ; the acknowledgment of its spiritual sense, and the willingness to see its teachings in its relation to the spiritual nature of man.

THE ATONEMENT.

a

The Glasgow Daily Herald of December 1 contains a review of a volume on the Doctrine of the Atonement as taught by the Apostles,” by Dr. G. Smeaton. It is the second volume on the subject, the first being occupied with our Lord's own sayings. We have not seen either of these volumes, but some of the sentiments expressed in the review are deserving of notice as showing the tendency of thought outside the circle of clerical teachers. Never,” says the reviewer, was there a time when men were more earnestly yearning, and even agonizing, for some clear guidance out of the difficulties that gather around this matter--some solid highway where they had sure footing, instead of floundering through quagmires, covered over with legal fictions, and concealing, they say, depths of utter moral darkness, or worse. But Professor Smeaton's book has no help for such men at all. He has, indeed, read largely on the subject, though there are some lines of inquiry which he seems to have entirely overlooked. But his thinking would appear to have been all done in connection with some little clique who have got into a corner, quite out of the great current of human life and thought, and who are eddying round and round, one after the other, and persuading themselves that this is the true law and only understanding of the mystery. We could hardly imagine a book more profoundly obtuse and insensible to the real difficulties which perplex not a few men as honest and sincere and anxious to get at the truth as Professor Smeaton can be—men who want to know the mind of the Spirit,' and who, when they are offered instead a scholastic metaphysic, cannot help feeling that they asked for bread and you gave them a stone."

Dr. Smeaton in his treatment of the subject is not historically correct. “ The Fathers never once speak of substitution, or imputation, or vicarious sacrifice, or forensic justification. But because they use the familiar words of Scripture as to Christ being our ransom and a sacrifice for us, he claims them as being entirely penetrated with the ideas of substitutionary suffering to appease divine wrath. Does Dr. Smeaton not know that Mr. Maurice or Dr. Campbell would adopt that scriptural language as freely as Clement or Tertullian ?--and yet they have no faith in such forensic notions. He is not very slow to impute something like dishonesty to other competent scholars when they interpret some favourite text differently from what his school are wont to do; but when he himself finds a Greek Father, in a discussion on Christ's person, dropping a rhetorical expression to the effect that Jesus gave His body for our body, and His soul for our soul,' and when he can see in that a clear assertion of the doctrine of substitution and vicarious atonement, we are somewhat astonished to find him blaming any one for putting nineteenth-century notions into simple patristic discourses. The truth is, that the Greek Fathers, treating of quite other matters, taught no clear doctrine of atonement, while certainly taking the fact for granted ; and Dr. Smeaton virtually confesses that the Latins are still more meagre in their utterances.

What then is the doctrine so laboriously presented in this volume? It is thus given by the reviewer :-“By the union of certain empirical views of sacrifice and

a

[ocr errors]

fictions of law, he has framed a theory, or rather adopted a somewhat extreme form of the Puritan theory of Atonement to this effect :- That God loved His creatures even when they were yet sinners, but only became the Father of those who were reconciled to Him, and when they were reconciled ; that He never intended to save any but the elect; that for this purpose He sent His Son in order to reconcile Himself to the elect, and appease His own anger at them; that, further, He imputed our sins to Jesus, and regarded Him as the greatest of all sinners, and, indeed, the sum of all guiltiness, and therefore cursed Him with curses due for our sin, and had pleasure, nay delight, in the agonies bodily and mental which He thus inflicted, not merely in the spirit which endured them so meekly ; and, finally, that, being thus satisfied and pacified, God receives us into His favour, and Christ who was once our sin becomes now our righteousness,' &c. All this may be true. It is rather confounding and bewildering, no doubt; but that may be all owing to our want of “enlightened reason.' It may be consistent with the unity of God that He should curse Himself in order to appease Himself, and have pleasure in the agonies which He inflicts upon Himself, for we suppose that Professor Smeaton believes, as we do, in one God, and that Christ is God. All this may be the truth, but our author, instead of deducing it from the Bible by a careful exegesis, has simply applied it to the Bible as the key to his exegesis, and with domineering dogmatism forces the lock, in one case even when Scripture itself had given him an entirely different key."

The case here 'referred to is Isaiah liii. placed in the light of Matthew viii. 17.

Clearly, this last is the key to the prophet's words, at least as Matthew understood them. According to the evangelist, Jesus 'took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses’ when He pitied the suffering people and healed their diseases. Through His deep human sympathy their sins and sorrows wounded His heart, and wakened His compassion, and led to His healing their infirmities and pardoning their offences. There is nothing here about substitution, or imputation, or being accursed of God. On the contrary, the prophet explicitly repudiates such an idea as being the view of sinful men; and to import such notions into this passage, after what Matthew has said, is simply to let scholastic theology domineer over the evangelist and the prophet too. We have here, then, one key to the meaning of the Lord's sufferings. It may not fit all the wards, but this sympathy is surely an element which the careful student of Scripture will not cast away, seeing it is put into his hand by an apostle.

[ocr errors]

THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY.

The times are confessedly trying to the ministers of all denominations. The demands of their congregations are higher and more exacting than at any former period, and they are steadily rising. The ritualistic clergy seek to meet these demands by inflated claims of priestly authority, and gaudy displays of useless ceremonies. The dissenting clergy combine an improved mode of conducting public worship with an increased vigour in their pulpit ministrations. The churches, however, are awakening to the fact that it is not by noise or empty declamation that the world is to be converted to God, but by an intelligent putting forth of the truth, and a faithful exposition of the Word of God. The Christian minister must be a Christian teacher. It is an indispensable qualification for his office that he should have some religious truth to teach, since the presentation of truth is the means whereby the Divine Spirit works regeneration in the human soul.” One of the great wants of the age, therefore, is a well educated ministry. The minister must be well assured in his own mind of the truth he is called to teach, and prepared by a suitable training to teach the truth effectively and usefully. “Year by year,” writes the editor of the English Independent, “ the congregations gathered in all English places of worship are growing in general intelligence and culture, and the ministers must keep well ahead of them. To say that an ignorant and uninformed ministry would be death to congregationalism is to say little. If the congregational ministry becomes relatively less educated, less thoughtful, less profound, it will decline.”.

With the utmost cultivation, however, the congregational minister must find

his position one of extreme difficulty. He is supposed to recognise as the basis of his instructions a system of doctrine which is fast becoming obsolete in the minds of his hearers ; and is slowly losing its hold also on his own mind. He is in uncertainty, therefore, as to cardinal and essential truths, and is apt to deal in mere platitudes. His teaching is feeble and vacillating, and he seeks to conceal the want of clear and vigorous thought under the verbiage of skilfully arranged words and high sounding sentences. One consequence of this is there is growing up a large class of people who listen to all sermons with impatience. They say that pulpit argument has become a synonym for unsound rhetoric. Wendell Phillips said that even the preachers of Boston--that famous city of divines--did not often tempt the brains of their hearers to violate that portion of the Decalogue which forbids the doing of any work on the sabbath-day. Some people talk of getting rid of the ministry, and look for the day when the press shall supersede the pulpit. These are generally persons who are alienated from the old faith and have become restless and discontented. In this state of mind they “make the preacher the scapegoat as a rather safer way of finding fault with the religious system under whose sanction he speaks !”

The ministers of the New Church have a great advantage in the possession of a system of doctrine adapted to the wants of the age, suited to restore faith in the Word, and to promote an elevated and extended Christian culture. But they must not, on this account, neglect the wise culture and careful preparation which is needed to qualify thern for the efficient discharge of the duties of their office. It was quaintly said hy a working man in one of our Lancashire societies, “New Church doctrines are the most beautiful of all doctrines when they are properly taught from the pulpit, but they hear spoiling the worst of any." The New Church preacher has to deal with the deep things of the Spirit of God, with the interior truths of the Word, and with the mysteries of regeneration. He needs to lead his flock gently and wisely into the knowledge and love of these things, and to do this effectively he must neglect no aid to be obtained from an adequate acquaintance with the best modes of presenting them to the minds of his hearers.

liarities, and gives a brief summary of Two small but interesting publica- his scientific discoveries and of the tions have recently issued from the press, contents of his several philosophical intended to call increased public atten- publications. The second lecture purtion to the name and writings of our sues the same course in regard to his great author. They are entitled, “Swed- theological writings and opinions. The enborg the philosopher and theologian,' two form a closely printed tract of thirty by Mr. R. R. Rodgers ; and “Sweden- pages. There is a freshness and piquborg and his teachings,” by Mr. T. Moss. ancy in the style which renders their Both have been given as popular perusal as attractive and interesting as lectures, and retain the form in which a novel.

The illustrations--notably they were delivered. Both also are put the political-appear to have been forth by publishers who have issued selected with a view to the feelings and them on their own responsibility and sentiments of the audience to which from the desire to give publicity to the they were delivered, and will not in all subject on which they treat. Mr.

cases be accepted by readers of SwedenMoss' lecture is brief, and does not enter borg. They do not, however, affect the therefore so fully into the subject as general character of the lectures, which the two lectures by Mr. Rodgers. It is is well calculated to convey a favourable written, however, with perspicuity and and useful knowledge of the author and force, and is calculated to leave a his many and varied writings and favourable impression on the mind of opinions. the hearer or reader. Mr. Rodgers Mr. Isaac Pitman, so long and enters more fully into the life of Sweden- honourably known for his life's labours borg and the character of his writings. in connection with phonography, is the His first lecture is on Swedenborg the publisher of Mr. Rodgers' lectures. He philosopher. In this lecture he traces has undertaken the work at his own the biography of Swedenborg, expounds cost, and has set his heart on circulating his general character and mental pecu- 50,000 copies. To accomplish this, he

SWEDENBORG.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »