Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

velopment of its powers and resources, in a manly growth, and a just consummation,-what great results may assuredly be expected, not only in a religious, but a literary point of view? We may, indeed, be mistaken in the judgment we have formed in reference to this matter, but it really has seemed to us that the literature of the world has more to expect from the successful prosecution of the missionary enterprise, than from any other source whatever. We know of no other cause—we can think of no other, which is likely to produce so great results, even in a literary point of view.

In conclusion, therefore, we come boldly and earnestly to literary men, and bespeak their favour for the cause of missions. The most of our readers, we know, sympathize deeply with this cause from higher considerations than those here suggested. They love it, they value it, as philanthropists and Christians. They long to see the multiform cruelties of the dark places of the earth removed, their idolatries purged, their superstitions and their crimes for ever done away. They yearn for the debased souls of the poor heathen, and wait to see them enlightened, elevated, purified, sanctified, and made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.

But we address ourselves, in these concluding remarks to mere literary men, and would urge the subject on literary and scientific grounds. In view of what missionaries have already accomplished for the cause of learning, and the greater things which they may be expected to accomplish, we ask such men to dismiss their prejudices, if they have any, and to regard, henceforth, with interest and favour the mighty enterprise in which missionaries are engaged. We ask the literati of our country to follow, with their eye, the hundreds of learned, educated men, who are already abroad in different parts of the earth. Watch their movements, read their letters and journals, note their discoveries and advances in the different departments of useful learning. Listen to the accounts,-not of unprincipled libertines who sometimes wander among them, who cannot endure the strictness of their discipline, and to whose ungodly lives their holy example is a constant reproof, but to the accounts of enlightened, virtuous, honourable men, who have themselves witnessed the results of their labours; and the more

you become acquainted with missionaries in this way, the more you will honour them. The more you know of their work in its actual progress and results, the more you will be interested in it, and the more earnestly you will desire to see it consummated.

ART. VI.--Ecce Homo. A Survey of the Life and Work of

Jesus Christ. Boston: Roberts Brothers. 1866. Preface Supplementary to Ecce Homo. Most of our readers hardly need to be told that, in the domain of religious literature, Ecce Homo has been, at least in Britain and America, quite the sensation book of the season, having already gone through its twelfth edition in England. It is rare that any work on Christianity has for the time commanded more general attention or elicited more general comment and criticism, friendly or adverse, in most of the accredited organs of religious opinion. This fact, rather than any novelty in its topics or special power in treating them, has laid a necessity upon us of examining its contents. We confess to some surprise at the sensation the book has made. We attribute it more to the boldness of its pretensions and the brilliancy of its rhetoric, than to any intrinsic power. We detect in the author some culture, some freshness, sparkle, and polish of style; little depth or breadth, as a thinker, an exegete, a scholar, a philosopher, or a theologian. Some of our reasons for this judgment will soon appear. The truths it contains are among the rudiments taught in Christian training and nurture, in the Sabbath-school and the nurseries. Its errors are for the most part too stale or too shallow to invest the book with any special intrinsic importance. The elementary truths concerning the person and work of Christ which it disowns or ignores, and which every Christian child knows, are far more momentous than all that it sets forth without them.

The extraordinary reception given to this book arises, we apprehend, from some extraordinary state of the public mind in Protestant Christendom. Some prevailing excitement or distemper in society will often give books an immense ephemeral popularity, that have no elements of permanent acceptance or influence. Dr. Bellamy once preached a sermon during a thunder-storm which, owing to that circumstance, produced such an impression upon the people, that they requested a copy for publication. He told them he would grant it, “if they would print the thunder and lightning with it."

Many a theological or political pamphlet has exercised prodigious influence when addressed to an excited state of the public mind, which had not vitality enough to outlive that excitement. The scientific skepticism of our day, the rationalism in the church which leans towards infidelity, the timid ignorance of many real Christians, have done much towards giving this book its abnormal prominence. Some weak believers have accounted it quite an addition to their armour, offensive and defensive. They have evidently been in a state to be thankful for the smallest favours, not suspecting that they lose more than they gain by every such vindication, not of Christianity, but of something else in its name. Sceptics and destructives look with interest to see, if indeed it does build up or guard what they have been fain to destroy. Meanwhile, intelligent Christians look with amazement and alarm on the wide acceptance and popularity of a work which undertakes to commend the religion of Jesus Christ, by ignoring its most essential or distinctive elements.

There are two aspects in which such an exposition of the Life and Work of Christ may be viewed, one referring to our judgment of the intrinsic merits of the book itself—the other to the proper estimate of the author's position or tendencies. The former may be in itself very defective, erratic, even fatally heretical. The latter, in regard to his internal stand-point and religious tendencies, as manifested by such a production, must be estimated, not by this alone, but by his antecedents taken in connection with it. Two men are moving; one downward, from the heights of truth to the abyss of error, the other upward, from the slough of error to the summit of truth. They

both meet midway between the top and bottom. They are at the same point. But one is moving downward, the other upward—can there be a doubt that he who is struggling upward towards the goal of truth, is vastly nearer to it in his inner soul than he who has met him while gliding away from it? So two men may publish the same book, considerably above average Socinianism or vulgar Rationalism, but equally below the standard of scriptural doctrine and fundamental Christian truth. But the one is struggling up out of the toils of rationalistic and sceptical fallacies in which he has been trained, or long entangled. The other is falling away from the truth as it is in Jesus, to which he had formerly clung. Can there be a doubt which is the truer and sounder man, closer to Christ, and further from perdition?

Although the author still keeps his own secret, he is reputed to be a man of Socinian antecedents, struggling upward towards a higher conception of Christ and his religion than bald Unitarianism often reaches.* There is much in the whole tone and structure of the book to favour such an hypothesis. It is written as if by a man feeling that he has detected truths once unseen or unrecognized by himself, and now endeavouring to commend them to those in whose sight Christ and his gospel had borne very

much the character of myths or impostures, at all events of being destitute of Divine inspiration and authority. He is apparently setting forth the transcendent excellence of Christ's character and teaching, and the proofs of superhuman power thence arising, to those who deny or overlook them. But in

* The following is going the rounds of the newspapers :

The Author of · Ecce Homo.'—The Bookseller for July 31st has the shrewd conjecture that the author of Ecce Homo is Mr. Richard Holt Hutton, one of the editors of the London Spectator. We believe,' the writer says, “that we shall not be very far from the mark when we guess that he will probably be found in the editorial chair of a London newspaper, and that he formerly edited a review which we regret to say is now discontinued. In early life the gentleman in question was a Unitarian, closely connected with a celebrated literary family of that denomination; later in life his views became more advanced, while his faith contracted; but more recently he has attached himself to the Church of England, and will be frequently seen attending the ministry of the Rev. F. D. Maurice. If this guess prove correct, many of our readers will have no difficulty in recognizing the writer of Ecce Homo by the above description.'- Presbyterian."

VOL. XXXVIII.-NO. IV. 80

his whole procedure he seems to us to effect his purpose more by lowering Christianity to men than by lifting men up to Christianity. And in doing this, with large pretension, he gives us the thin shadow of morality for the glorious gospel of the blessed God; and besides negative errors of omission, falls into gross blunders and crudities of interpretation, by putting the fictions of his own imagination in place of the simple nar. ratives of the evangelists.

We extract from his Preface Supplementary, which appears to have been issued in reply to criticisms upon the original book, the following synopsis of his main doctrine regarding Christ, as found in the Gospel by Mark, substantially repeated by Matthew and Luke, and, to some extent, by Johnthe only books of Scripture which the author treats as of authority, and these only partially so, in the premises.

“1. Christ assumed a position of authority, different from that assumed by ordinary teachers: Mark i. 22.

2. He claimed to be the Messiah: viii. 29, 30; xii. 6; xiv. 62.

3. Under this title he claimed an inexpressible personal rank and dignity: xij. 36, 37; xiii. 6, 7.

4. He claimed the right to revise and give a free interpretation to the Mosaic Law: ii. 27; x. 4.

5. He claimed the power of forgiving sins: ii. 10.

6. He commanded a number of men to attach themselves to his

person, ii. 14; x. 21; to the society thus formed he gave special rules of life, x. 43, 44; made his name a bond of union among them, ix. 37–41; and contemplated the continuance of the society under the same conditions after his departure: xiii. 13.

7. He was believed by his followers to work miracles. 8. These miracles were principally miracles of healing.

9. The society he founded was gathered, in the first instance, from the Jews: vii. 27; but it was intended ultimately to embrace the Gentiles also: xiii. 10.

10. Though he assumed the character of King and Messiah, he declined to undertake the ordinary functions of kings: xii. 14.

11. He required from his disciples personal devotion, and

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »