« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
man stumbles at expressions which in their literal and obvious (though perhaps only superficial) sense appear to him objectionable. But none of these obstacles avail to exclude those who by whatever means are able to persuade themselves that the real sense of such passages is identical with the opinions which they hold in common with their more scrupulous brethren on those very points. And thus an inequality of comprehension and exclusion is produced which renders the test not only inoperative, but absolutely misleading."
With all this is coupled the admission, with a rare candour, which does Dr. Stanley great honour—that amongst Baptists and Independents there is substantial unity without any subscription :
"With neither Baptists nor Independents is subscription in any form required nor is even verbal assent demanded to any recognised standard of faith. At Ordination the candidate makes a confession of his faith in his own words. In ordinary cases the ordaining miuisters have a personal knowledge of the candidate, and have had opportunities of satisfying themselves of his substantial agreement with what may be understood as orthodox sentiments. In any special cases the ordaining ministers would seek a private interview with the candidate. and by conversation with him learn his opinions on important points of doctrine.. Beyond this no measures are adopted or felt to be either desirable or necessary for preserving uniformity of doctrine, excepting only that the trust deeds of most of their places of worship contain a reference to leading points of doctrine to which the minister may be required to express his assent. In practice this is merely a provision against any decided departure from the faith as commonly received amongst us, the trustees of the property having it in their power to refuse the use of the building to any minister whose teaching was contrary to the doctrines contained in the deed. Such cases, however, are extremely rare. Notwithstanding this absence of tests, there is amongst Independents a marked uniformity of opinion on all important points, with of course some diversity in minor matters."
In the course of the author's remarks on security without subscription, he instances Keble’s “ Christian Year,” and Bunyan's “ Pilgrim's Progress," as books which carry with them a wide consent without any subscription. We see no force in the argument, for the cases he has in view are by no means parallel ; and surely no honest Churchman would be satisfied with such an assent to the Prayer-book as many Dissenters give to the “ Christian Year,” while reading its hymns with intense pleasure; or even as Dr. Stanley would give to Bunyan's “Pilgrim," with all his admiration of the Baptist minister's allegory. But we cannot help pointing to the passage as very noticeable, when we remember that the writer is a Churchman, and a minister of an Establishment whick remains unaltered since the time of Bunyan:-having submitted to that very Act of Uniformity, the object of which was not only to shut out such men as Bunyan, but all who had spiritual tendencies in his direction. If there be any large participation in the Canon's sentiments, the continuance of the Church of England in its present condition and with its present laws must be reckoned one of the greatest moral anomalies in a world full of such things. Indeed were it not that so many kept company with it, so great an anomaly would be utterly im. possible.
In reviewing the efforts to relax the terms of subscription, the author makes a remark to which we would call attention. Speaking of the Toleration and Comprehension Bill of 1689, he observes, the first was carried and the second lost; adding, “not a single High Churchman raised his voice against the clause which relieved the Clergy from the necessity of subscribing the articles. It was lost in the House of Commons, chiefly through the opposition of the Dissenters." The authority cited is Macaulay's “England," iii., 91, 100. . turning to Macaulay, we find the historian, in his usual eloquent style, giving, at large, the story of the two bills. The object of the latter, he informs us, was to dispense with the necessity of subscribing the articles, and also to enable Presbyterian ministers to enter the Church without re-ordination in the usual form, and further to permit, except in a few cases, the disuse of the surplice, the cross in Baptism, Godfathers and Godmothers, and kneeling at the Eucharist. It further informs us, that the Bill went smoothly through the first stages, but in the Committee a strong body of Churchmen were obstinately determined “not to give up a single word or form." But, he adds, “it is remarkable that these very persons were by no means disposed to contend for the doctrinal articles of the Church.” He then points out the want of sympathy with the doctrinal articles of the Church, wbich the Anglican or Laudian party hud manifested, and proceeds with the sentence which Dr. Stanley quotes. That sentence, taken by itself, may misleud, for it may convey the idea that the High Church party did not oppose the Comprehension Bill, whereas they did oppose it most strenuously. Not the slightest relaxation would they allow in respect to ceremonies, though they cared not one jot for the articles. To the doctrinal articles many of the Dissenters did not object, and as Macaulay justly observes, “ Had the bill become law, the only people in the kingdom who would have been under the necessity of signing the articles would have been the Dissenting preachers."
With difficulty the Bill was carried in the House of Lords, and then lost in the Commons, “through the opposition of the Dissenters,” Dr. Stanley says. What Macaulay states is, that the time had gone by for comprehension ; that parties qutside the establishment were found whom no compromise could effectually conciliate; and then goes on to ascribe all kinds of sinister and unworthy motives to thie Dissenting ministers of that day, such as the good salaries, the handsome presents they received from their flocks, the marriages they contracted with rich citizens' daughters, and the influence they acquired by a sectarian position. The passage struck us years ago, as most ungenerous and unjust: prejudiced in spirit to a great degree, and unfounded in faet. The authorities his lordship cites, are the satirists of the age, with the exception of Hawkins' “Life of Johnson," and Wilson's "Antiquities of Dissenting Churehes;"
from the first of which we learn that some Dissenting ministers were men of influence, and from the second that a few of them married women of property. It would be very easy to substantiate by abundant proof, a statement of things amongst the Dissenting ministers of that day, very different, indeed, from what our rhetorical historian has supplied.
Lord Macaulay then adds, “There was consequently a division in the Whig party. One section of that party was for relieving the Dissenters from the Test Act, and giving up the Comprehension Bill, and postponing, to a more convenient time, the consideration of the Test Act. The effect of this division among the friends of religious liberty was, that the High Churchmen, though a minority in the House of Commons, and not a majority in the House of Lords, were able to oppose with success, both the reforms which they dreaded. The Comprehension Bill was not passed, and the Test Act was not repealed.” This statement leaves on the mind a rather different impression from Dr. Stanley's, as to the opinions of High Churchmen, and also falls short of attributing the loss of the Bill in the House of Commons to the opposition of the Dissenters. Lathbury, the historian of the Convocation, much more correctly observes, “many Dissenters wished for a Comprehension with the Church. A bill on the subject had passed the House of Lords, but the Commons considered the question as more suitable for a Convocation. The Lords therefore concurred in an address to the throne to that effect." A commission was issued. Convocation met. The High Church party were inexorable, and the scheme of comprehension failed. While the matter was before Convocation, some ordinations amongst the Presbyterians, and a book by Baxter created a stir, which strengthened the party, who were resolved to concede nothing, and this appears to be the only ground for charging Dissenters with hindering comprehension. That circumstance, however, did not occur till the matter had been dropped in the House of Commons, and was, at the best, a mere subterfuge. It is from no interest which we feel in any scheme for incorporating Nonconformity in the Establishment, that we have this entered on the historical question, but simply to prevent the facts of the case in 1089 from being misunderstood.
The reading of the pamphlet gives rise to many reflections, which we cannot expand. First, there are stronger things said about subscription by the Reverend Canon, than any Nonconformist could say without being accused of bitterness. Secondly, how persons adopting these views of the contradictions and inconsistencies of the formularies, can solemnly give their “unfeigned assent and consent" to the Prayerbook, puzzles us--after reading this pamphlet--more than ever. Thirdly, it is very remarkable that a few individual opinions about the signification of subscribing should be regarded as if authoritative and paramount, though quite opposed to the intentions of the framers of the Act;-for when just afterwards in the House of Lords it was proposed, that “assent and consent” should only be taken to mean practice and obedience, it was indignantly rejected by the Commons as “having neither law nor justice in it." Fourthly, the remedy,-the substitution of something more general than subscription to the Articles, and the declaration of unfeigned assent and consent, — would not meet the difficulties. All that Canon Stanley can say is, it would " lessen" them. But surely to lessen a difficulty, to a conscientious man, in this case, will only leave him practically where he was before. He asks, "Is it not, with my difficulties, wrong to conform ?" To lessen his difficulties, and not entirely remove them, is only to strive to show him it is less wrong than he supposed. Is that satisfactory ? Dr. Stanley adduces the use of the Authorized Version of the Bible as not implying full belief in it; very true. But any clergymen may alter here and there the version, as he preaches from it, correct wbat he considers its mistakes, and remove its obscurities. Dr. Stanley does so. Is the same liberty to be conceded with regard to the use of the Liturgy? Certainly not. There is to be conformity to the services as strict as ever. It appears to us that such a proposal as that revived in this letter, is very far from meeting the case. If a man cannot give his “assent and consent” to the baptismal and burial services, how can he use them ? His withholding assent and consent is because he does not regard them as Scriptural and true; but if not Scriptural and true to him, how can he use them ? How can he solemnly utter before God as Scriptural and true what he would not declare to be so before men ? A relaxation of the terms of subscription without liturgical reform, which at present Dr. Stanley does not advocate, would be quite insufficient. And we may add, there will probably be as much opposition on the part of High Churchmen to the one as the other.
In conclusion, this frank and well-written letter calls attention to a great ecclesiastical evil without going far enough to promote its removal. However, the more the evil is insisted on by such men as Dr. Stanley, the more hope there is of something being done to remove so great scandal from the National Church.
The Song of Solomon. In speaking or writing on the subject of poetical literature, individuals usually confine themselves to those works which have obtained for themselves the title of classics. Among the authors of such works are found those who, by common consent, have been dignified by the appellation of the fathers of the respective departments in which they
excelled, or which they were supposed to have founded. Thus, among the Greeks, Homer is styled the father of Epic poetry; Æschylus, of dramatic; Simonides, of elegiac; and Archilochus, of satiric. That these honours are oftentimes unfairly bestowed, is very certain. In the earlier literature of the Hebrews, are found specimens of elegiac and dramatic composition, of a date long anterior to the time in which the supposed, and accredited, founders of their respective departments flourished. As an illustration of the latter kind-the dramatic—the Song of Songs of the poet-king, Solomon, may be cited. To this production, regarded simply in the light of a literary composition, and leaving out of view entirely, for the time, its sacred and canonical character, we wish to direct the attention of our readers. And we do so the more willingly, as it has of late been so often assailed by some who have laid claim to mature scholarship.
In a merely literary point of view, the Song of Solomon is an extremely interesting production. It is the offspring of a royal pen. It dates back nearly a century beyond the time of Homer. It is probably the earliest specimen of dramatic composition in existence. Its author lived nearly five hundred years before Æschylus, the father of the Grecian drama; and was probably contemporary with Hesiod, the earliest profane writer whose works have come down to our day. These facts invest the poem with an interest which belongs to few other literary productions. If to this we add the interest attaching to it from its canonical character, few works can compare with it in either intrinsic or relative value.
Few books, however, have been less studied, and few legs understood or appreciated. And it may be added, few have suffered more from a translation into a foreign language. The design of the poem has, by many, been strangely misconceived. Some have supposed it merely a description of love. Others, going to the opposite extreme, have spiritualized every incident, and made it the representative of some relation subsisting between God and His people.
As already intimated, it is not the design of the writer of this paper to discuss here the character of the poem in a theological point of view; or to attempt a confirmation or refutation of either of the foregoing theories in regard to it. He simply wishes to point out some of its beauties, as they are represented to the eye of the student of Oriental literature. The poem
is dramatic in its character. The principal personages, or dramatic personæ, are a king, called SHELOMOH, and a rustic shepherdess, called SHULAMITH, who becomes his bride. Like the Grecian dramas in later times, a choir of virgins is introduced to enliven the scene, called THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM. The brothers of the shepherdess appear, near the close of the piece, and each speak once. Other personages are introduced, but do not speak. The whole poem is