Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

supposes the existence and power of devils; and, secondly, because Jesus nowhere explains this mode of cure to his disciples as medical. On the contrary, he seems to acquiesce in and sanction the general notions of the day.”

The journey to Emmaus was a matter which engaged the attention of the theologians at this time. Lessing had asked, “ How could he whose feet bad been nailed to the cross, on the third evening after his crucifixion, walk to Emmaus ?" Dr. Paulus enters into the inquiry at considerable length. The chapter is too long and too critical for insertion in these pages, but it is highly interesting to the biblical student-and it puts the reader in possession of Dr. Paulus's method of investigation. He was accustomed invariably, when any difficulty, inconsistency or apparent contradiction, was to be accounted for or explained, to return again and again to the first position, and never to admit an inference before the primary fact had been fully proved. In this particular instance he annihilates the objection itself, by showing, first, that it was not customary to nail the feet of the crucified; and, secondly, that there is no sufficient evidence that the feet of Jesus were nailed. The twenty-second Psalm having been interpreted as prophetic of Jesus, the exact fulfilment of the prophecy was a necessary consequence, and was therefore readily assumed.

Dr. Paulus's life was devoted to biblical study, and exposition, The results of his learned and indefatigable researches are given to the public in his numerous works : it being his constant habit to write on the different subjects of religious inquiry which, from time to time, came under his consideration. In 1800 he published his “ Commentary on the Gospels,” and in 1828 his “ Life of Jesus.” A rationalistic interpretation of portions of the Scriptures had already been given by other theologians, so that the way was in a measure prepared ; but Dr. Paulus was the first who attempted to give a complete and systematic Rationalistic explanation of the Gospel histories of the life of Jesus as recorded by the Evangelists.

His inquiries led him to the opinion that the Gospels furnish satisfactory internal evidence, that they were written at a date not far removed from the events which they record. In this he dissented from the then predominating opinion amongst the freethinking German theologians,—that the Synoptics were the fragmentary production of a later age.—It was consequently impossible for Dr. Paulus to admit that the Gospel narratives belong to the class of myths, poetical fictions, or legends : no sufficient period, according to his view, having intervened between the events, and the record of them, to allow of the formation of Mythi. On the contrary, he maintains that the record is based upon historical truth—that it is a history of facts, intermingled indeed with the notions of the writers, and of the age in which they lived. The primary duty of the biblical inquirer therefore is, to distinguish between fact and opinion-between that which actually occurred, and the witness's or writer's impression and explanation of the causes of the occurrences. The New Testament was written at a time when every extraordinary event, every phenomenon, of which the causes were not understood, was attributed to supernatural intervention. Consequently in the accounts given by the Evangelists, fact and judgment are found intimately interwoven with each other, and it is the task of the historical investigator to separate them to distinguish the one from the other—to disengage the kernel from its shell. This is to be done, by endeavouring to realize the scene of action, as it appeared to the eye-witnesses of that age, to view the circumstances from the same point from which they were contemplated by the narrator. Thus he may hope to discover what may have been those natural operating causes which the individuals present, and the historian -habituated to refer all extraordinary occurrences to immediate divine agency–did not notice or take account of.

Rationalism represents the evangelical account of the life of Jesus as a chronologically connected detail of actual occurrences -whilst at the same time it divests the history altogether of its supernatural character and contents.* The whole history, and each separate event, admit of a natural rational explanation. Jesus is not the Son of God” in the orthodox sense-he is not even a being endowed with more than human powers, he is a wise and virtuous man. His acts of mercy are not miraclesthey are deeds of benevolence which accidental circumstances favoured and allowed, or they are medical cures which his knowledge and skill enabled him to perform.

The age of Rationalism forms an epoch in the history of religious opinion; but it is now on the decline in Germany. It found acceptance for a while, and was supported by some of the ablest theologians of the day—yet, after a full and fair examination, it is shown to be inadequate to furnish the desired explanation of the Evangelical writings. Dr. Paulus may almost be said to have outlived the system which he so learnedly and so conscientiously advocated; but the influence of his truthful life will live in coming generations; and the services he has rendered to the cause of truth in advancing theological science, and in promoting freedom of inquiry, will be as permanent as they are invaluable. For many years he has ceased to give public lectures, but his intellects still retain their wonted vigour, and his energies and his pen are still devoted to the improvement and illumination of his fellow beings. In the beautiful words of his admired friend Goethe,

* [We may observe that Rationalism, in this peculiar sense, has long been considered untenable, and is now fast declining in Germany.-Ed.]

- Like as a star

That maketh not haste
That taketh not rest
Is he ever fulfilling
His God-given Hest.”

E. R. B.

ART. II.—JOSEPH BLANCO WHITE.

The love of Truth is the highest form of the love of God. The religious affections may mislead, or they may arise from causes of a physical nature,—but a pure devotion to Truth is the submission of all that is in Man to the eternal Source of Thought,the sublime reliance of the Soul, unbribed by interest or passion, upon whatever it believes to have proceeded from that infinite Intelligence who is the Fountain of our spirits. There is no surrender to God so complete, as that which is made by him who worships the Father in spirit and in truth,-whose God is Reality,—who uses no artificial means to keep up fluctuating and fluttering feelings that have no basis in his Reason, but casts all idols out of his heart, and like Abraham, stripped of his household gods, goes forth in faith to meet the untried future, knowing only that the great God has shown him of his spirit, and that to trust in Truth is to take refuge with the Father of Lights.

The love of God in the form of the love of Truth ensures the most genuine products of the devotional Spirit;—the hope of progress, which is the root of all true humility ;-the practical fidelity of the Conscience;—and, what results from these, the trusting and childlike quiet of the heart. Christ himself has connected the sentiment of Immortality, of indefinite progress for the soul, with the worship that identifies God with Truth : “ whosoever shall drink of this water, it shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Immortality necessarily suggests ideas of Progress; and to love and obey the Truth are the only means by which our feeble Reason can approach to the Thoughts of God. These too are the sources of Fidelity in temptation; of sublime peace in life and death. Who steers his course so direct towards arduous Duty as he who believes that he has no safe guide but Principle,-and, when this is clear, puts away from him, as false and unfilial, all deceitful reasonings about uncertain consequences,—and feels that in following a moral Truth he is committing himself to the Love of an All-wise God? Who in the hour of agitation or death is so free from alarm of soul, as he whose peace with Heaven depends not on the vehemence of his belief in abstract propositions, or the chance temperature of unstable feelings, but on the sincerity with which his inward being cleaves to a spiritual God? Our Lord Jesus Christ, whose Comforter and God was the Spirit of Truth, and who described it as his Mission in the world, “to bear witness to the Truth that he knew," is the one example of perfect fidelity in difficult Duty, and of heavenly peace of soul in all times of trial. In the midst of a Religion of prescription, and of Authority, and of Ritual, and of Enthusiasm, and of all other substitutes for the inner communion of the Soul with God, he alone, who trusted to the Truth to make him free, was established on the Rock, and could meet every crisis of his life with the strength of one supported by God, “ not my will, but thine be done,”—and close his martyr death with the childlike trust, “ Father, into thy hands I commend my Spirit."

Whosoever has not the spirit of Christ is none of his. And there is no spirit so worthy to be called “the spirit of Christ” as this practical trust, this committal of ourselves to the convictions of our Reason and the monitions of our Conscience,-identifying them with God who is their Source. There are causes connected with the individual mind, and altogether independent of the undue influences of Society that render unfailing Devotion to Truth the most arduous form of the true worship of God, causes arising out of the infirmities and even the tenderness of our nature, the surrender of the mind to the prejudices of Education; the natural sloth of the Intellect; and the lingering residency of the Affections amid the sentiments and images where Faith first found a home. And Society which, alas, is but collective Man, with all the faults of the individual reduced to system, and sanctioned by numbers,—Society lashes us in the direction of the very tendencies which it ought to restrain, and adds the whole weight of its bribes and terrors to the difficulties which our own souls present, in the spiritual work of seeking and worshipping God under the form of Truth. That tyranny of the Imagination which in spiritual things fastens upon the mature mind the images of childhood ; that sloth of the Intellect which falls away from the toil of conceiving God, and forfeits its filial inheritance of growing access to the Parent Light; and that contraction of the affections which clings to the familiar and the known without inquiring whether it is the true, and the pure, and the holy, and the lovely,—these, which are in reality the infirmities of our nature, Society has exalted into religious virtues of the highest order, and lent itself to the pernicious work of consecrating our weaknesses before God, by punishing as impiety, to the utmost of its power, every attempt to gain new light on the subject of Religion, to draw deeper water from the wells of Christ, and to think freshly of the Almighty. So totally has that portion of Society which deems itself eminently Christian given up all thoughts of improvement in the knowledge of Religion, that the very supposition that there is any thing to be added to their knowledge of God and of

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »