Abbildungen der Seite

require of the minister, a candid and cheerful admission of all the proved results of science and reasoning. We demand of the critic, that he should respect and spare those primal intuitions which are indestructible in the universal heart. They would then beneficially check and confirm each other, and promote a common truth. Unfortunately, the minister is too often bigoted to his own narrow views, and the critic is reckless and rash. Each wants the very quality necessary to give his specific function its full power and healthful influence.

We are far from asserting, that the critic whose views we now propose to examine, is wholly wanting in the corrective influence to which we have alluded. His very interesting preface indicates a mind not slightly imbued with tender, reverential and even conservative feeling. But it is difficult, perhaps impossible, for one mind in the same effort to combine all the conditions that must unite in a perfect treatment of so vast a subject; and we shall not, we conceive, be far from the truth in our general estimate of his work, if we say, that its most valuable and suggestive materials are what he has wrought out in an honest and fearless exercise of the critic's duty, and that the deficiencies which some readers will most painfully feel in it, are such as result from his failure to appreciate, and touch with sufficient tenderness, those delicate and sensitive fibres of sentiment by which the common heart clings to the great objects of its devout reverence and immortal trust.

Of the three conclusions which the author tells us in his preface (p. viii.), that he has chiefly endeavoured to make clear'-first, that the tenet of the inspiration of the Scriptures is baseless and untenable under any form or modification which leaves to it a dogmatic value;' secondly, 'that the Gospels are not textually faithful records of the sayings and actions of Jesus, but ascribe to him words which he never uttered, and deeds which he never did ;' thirdly, that the apostles only partially comprehended, and imperfectly transmitted, the teaching of their Great Master,'--the first, we presume, will no longer be contested by any one who has studied with even moderate attention the history and probable sources of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, or is at all acquainted with the

[ocr errors]

present state of sacred criticism and exegesis. The two last are only different statements of one and the same general fact; and with regard to them too, it may be admitted, that to some extent they represent the real conditions of the case, although as the author has put it, from the want of certain fixed principles at the bottom of his inquiry, he leaves the reader in considerable uncertainty, what he is to retain as genuine Christianity, and what he must reject as perversion or mistake.

Before proceeding to discuss the work more in detail we will notice one or two things which may occur to the instructed reader, as wants and omissions affecting its character for a full and fair and complete treatment of the subject. We observe, that the authorities quoted by Mr. Greg in favour of his conclusions, are nearly all on one side of the question. We do not believe, that if he had consulted writers on the other side more generally than he appears to have done, it would have modified to any great extent most of his leading positions. Possibly it might have strengthened them. But it would certainly have rescued his book from an air of partiality and onesidedness, which many will now not hesitate to charge upon it, and which they will give as their reason for turning a deaf ear to the many just and true and unheeded things which he has said, and which it is so important that people should be made to hear and understand. A more serious deficiency is the want of a deeper and sounder religious psychology as the basis of the whole inquiry. To this we ascribe the absence of any general pervading principle into which the results of particular investigations may run, and the failure of any clearly marked criterion by which to discriminate Religion as such, from mere Science and Reason and the general products of social development. Throughout Mr. Greg's investigations we miss a distinct apprehension of the true prophetic element in man and its specific function; and this radical oversight confuses, as we think, his

1 notions of religious inspiration, and has kept him from always rightly estimating the records of its effects in Scripture. He is often very near the truth, but just when it seems within his grasp, he lets it go again, and falls into language to which we find ourselves wholly unable to subscribe. He speaks of Christ and the prophets in terms

which do not distinguish them sufficiently from mere men of genius-whose superiority to their kind is simply owing to their great intellectual gifts. We have a certain generic affinity indicated, but the specific difference is wanting. And as he makes a far-seeing intellect the peculiar distinction of the prophet, so he resolves the belief of those who follow a prophet, into a submission of the understanding to evidence produced,-a logical process rather than a spiritual change. Either therefore he uses the terms intellect and genius with a breadth and vagueness which ordinary usage does not justify; or we must declare, that his whole conception of the matter appears to us erroneous. But he is not uniformly consistent with

. himself; for there are passages, especially towards the end of his work, where he decidedly repudiates logic as the basis of religious belief.

We must substantiate our charge by instances. In p. 151, our author describes the genuine Gospel as a summary of those grand philosophic and spiritual

' truths which have commanded the assent of all disciplined and comprehensive minds, and which could not have escaped an intellect so just, wide, penetrating and profound, as that of our Great Teacher.' In another passage, (p. 226,) he puts Christ by iraplication in the same class, not only with David, Isaiah, Luther, and Pascal, but also with Plato, Shakspeare, Bacon, and Newton, as endowed like them with a 'cerebral organisation of more than ordinary magnitude and power,'' which gives birth to new ideas and grander conceptions of the truths vital to humanity.' Again, in p. 233, he expresses his belief, that Christianity does not contain ‘any thing which a genius like Christ's, brought up and nourished as his had been, might not have disentangled for itself.' Now, if we rightly understand these passages, they imply that Christ's religion was the product of great reasoning powers exercised on the phenomena of existence. Indeed, in one place, p. 229, he tells us, in so many words, that he regards Christ's views of God and duty as the elaboration of his own mind. It is to this view that we object, as putting Christ out of the prophetic into the philosophic character. Mr. Greg seems to us much nearer the truth



[ocr errors]



in a very beautiful passage, which we rejoice to extract, because it does equal credit to the discriminating soundness of his judgment and his religious tenderness of heart.

“ It is difficult, without exhausting superlatives, even to unexpressive and wearisome satiety, to do justice to our intense love, reverence, and admiration for the character and teaching of Jesus. We regard him not as the perfection of the intellectual or philosophic mind, but as the perfection of the spiritual character, as surpassing all men of all times in the closeness and depth of his communion with the Father. In reading his sayings, we feel that we are holding converse with the wisest, purest, holiest Being that ever clothed thought in the poor language of humanity. In studying his life, we feel that we are following the footsteps of the highest ideal yet presented to us upon earth."--P. 228.

This passage for its earnest eloquence deserves a place by the side of those in which men like Chubb and Rousseau, who pass in the world for unbelievers, have rendered the highest, because the most unbiassed, homage to the moral loveliness of the character of Christ ;* and we value it the more, because it contains an element of profoundest truth, which, had it been fully brought out and allowed to pervade his whole inquiry, would have given Mr. Greg's work far more completeness and self-consistency than it now possesses.

There are, as it appears to us, certain primary intuitions which cleave to the inmost essence of the human soul, out of which grow its highest trusts in things spiritual and eternal, on grounds which no reasoning can either supply or subvert. These are the points of living contact between the soul and its ever-present Creator—the channels through which, when the divine consciousness is strongly awakened, a religious inspiration is infused into its affections and spiritual faculties. These points of contact with the divine, we believe to be wholly wanting in no mind; but it is the distinction of the prophetic mind, to possess them in peculiar strength and vividness, and to recognise them for what they are, witnesses of direct communion with the Parent Spirit of the Universe. When the influence emanating from them, fills and pervades the mind, we then witness the prophetic spirit in its energy; and it commands and captivates other minds, not by strength of reasoning or a demonstration of outward power, but by the response which it meets from kindred elements equally existing, though less developed, in them. The prophetic element is identical with the religious consciousness; and to the extent that it exists, it must be predicated of all men.

* We do not by this comparison mean to insinuate, that Mr. Greg in our judgment is not a Christian. In his preface, p. ix., he declares emphatically his wish to be considered such ; and we do not see the use of forcing religious minds into an unwilling antagonism to the great communion of faith, by our arbitrary exclusion of them. For ourselves, we rejoice to acknowledge as Christian disciples, as we believe our blessed Lord himself would, all who deeply sympathise with his heavenly spirit, and desire to follow him in working with God to do good.

He whom we call emphatically a prophet, at once possesses the gift in a very eminent degree, and exercises it with very powerful effect on the spiritual condition of his fellow-men. This prophetic faculty, if we apprehend it rightly, is something very different from intellect, imagination, or practical wisdom. It underlies them all. It is never produced or elaborated. It always pre-exists. It may be found in union with various gradations of mental and moral advancement. It is not wholly incompatible with some intermixture of craft, ferocity, and selfishness, and with a general dullness of intellectual faculty. But there must always be such an amount of mental development, as meets the practical demands of the sphere in which it is called to act: and from the intimate coalescence that naturally springs up between the religious affections and the moral sentiments, the prophetic character will then assume its highest form and mightiest influence, when the profoundest sense of God co-exists with the purest, gentlest heart, and the most virtuous life. In this perfect union of moral and spiritual elements, both developed in their utmost strength, far more than in mere intellectual superiority, we recognise the pre-eminent distinction of Christ-and in the measure that they approach it—of other prophets that have gone before or followed him. We see no evidence from the New Testament-and every other means of judging is denied us-that Christ was intellectually above the general standard of his age and nation. On all points unconnected with the great mission which he came to fulfil, he appears to have entertained the popular beliefs, and even to have shared -a matter not in the least affecting his moral and

« ZurückWeiter »