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The following lectures were planned, as my contribution against that tide of scepticism, which the publication of the “Essays and Reviews” let loose upon the young and uninstructed. Not that those Essays contained anything formidable in themselves. Human inventiveness in things spiritual or unspiritual is very
limited. It would be difficult probably to invent a new heresy. Objectors of old were as acute or more acute than those now; so that the ground was well-nigh exhausted. The unbelieving school of Geologians had done their worst. Chronology had been pressed to the utmost long ago. The differences of human form and of language lay on the surface. The Jews had tried what pseudo-criticism could do against the prophecies as to our Lord and His Church. German rationalism had been deterred from no theory in regard to Holy Scripture, either by its untenableness or its irreverence. The Essays contained nothing to which the older of us had not been inured for some forty years. Their writers asserted little distinctly, attempted to prove less, but threw doubts on every thing. They took for granted that the ancient faith had been overthrown; and their Essays were mostly a long trumpet-note of victories, won (they assumed,) without any cost to them, over the faith in Germany. They ignored the fact, that every deeper tendency of
thought or each more solid learning had, at least, done away with something shallow, something more adverse to faith. They practically ignored all criticism which was not subservient to unbelief. Yet the Essayists, Clergymen (with one exception), staked their characters, although not their positions, on the issue, that the old faith was no longer tenable ; that it was dead and buried and the stone on the grave's mouth fast sealed. Their teaching was said to be “bold.” Too "bold” alas ! it was towards Almighty God; but, from whatever cause, its authors shrank, for the most part, from stating explicitly as their own, the unbelief which they suggested to others. They undermined men's faith, without denying it themselves in such definite terms as would materially risk their offices or positions. This, however escaped notice; and the shock was given, not by the things which were said, (for the same had been said more clearly in publications avowedly infidel,) but that the faith was attacked by those, who, from their position, were expected to be its defenders. Regarded as, (what the Essays were, after a time, understood to be,) a challenge to the Church of England to admit their misbelief as allowable denial of truth, it has not befallen me to read another book so cowardly. Had the writers ventured, in plain terms “, to deny half the truths, as
a “First then to ascertain the real meaning of the passages extracted, and I must say that this is no easy task. If the author had studied to express his sentiments with ambiguity, I doubt if he could have been more successful.” Dr. Lushington on Dr. Williams, Judgment, p. 18. “I turn to Mr. Wilson's own words. It is indeed to be regretted that Mr. Wilson in his Essay has frequently expressed himself in language so ambiguous as to admit of opposite constructions.” Dr. Lushington, Ib. p. 33. “This sentence is
to the Bible or the Faith, which they suggested to
open to diverse interpretations, and some of its terms are self-contradictory." Ib. p. 34. “Mr. W's use of these contradictory terms, 'supernaturally communicated speculation,' together with his imputing blame to those of the Clergy who would base the Church of Christ, as a society, upon the possession of this “supernaturally communicated speculation,' rather than upon the manifestation of the divine life in man' might leave upon some readers the impression that Mr. W. doubted whether the Holy Soriptures had been supernaturally communicated, and that he doubted whether the doctrines, as distinguished from the moral teaching of Chrsitianity, were the necessary basis of the Church. Without saying this impression of this passage is false, I cannot say that is necessarily the true, especially considering this is a criminal case.—As a criminal charge, this Article cannot be supported." p. 34, 5. “The drift of all the reasoning contained in these passages is to prove that subscription to the xxxix Articles does not impose on the Clergy the obligation of honestly believing them to be true and binding on their consciences." Ib. 38.
“What is meant by 'passing by the side of the first five Articles, and “as to the humanifying of the Divine word and the Divine personalities, without directly contradicting impugning or refusing assent to them ?' The Clergy are bound by the King's declaration to take the Articles in their literal and grammatical sense; the first five Articles are the most important of all. Is it consistent with their literal and grammatical sense to 'pass by' them? I think not. Is it consistent with the declaration that they are agreeable to the Word of God ?' If so, why pass by? Is it consistent with the declaration 'I do willingly and ex animo subscribe, &c?' I think not. And yet, according to Mr. W., the clerk is to 'pass by' these articles without directly contradicting, impugning or refusing assent to them.' In my opinion, this is not possible. I think that the substance of what Mr. W. has written is this; to suggest modes, by which the Articles subscribed may be evaded, contrary to the King's declaration and the terms of subscription." Ib. p. 39, 40. Of the other writers, the Rev. Prof. Powell was soon removed from human judgment to the Judgment-seat of God. Mr. Pattison contented himself with shewing the weakness of Evidence-writers of the last century, without hinting on what grounds men's faith in