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Unexhausted Resources of Christian Evidence. 81

Art. IV.- Unexhausted Resources of Christian Eridence.*

WHAT
THAT Professor Rogers happily designated, some years ago,

"the Eclipse of Faith,” is still very visibly advancing. We have no fears, of course, that the eclipse will ever become complete, and it is not of the nature of such phenonema to be permanent. Such obscurations in the moral world, like those of the heavenly bodies, are often only partial, and are always only transient. But the fears which an eclipse of faith excites are better grounded than those imaginary terrors which used to be created by eclipses of the sun and moon. They are only too real—they are anything but superstitious. Unbelief is the poison of souls. It is the negation of the first and most indispensable condition of all religious life. “He

“ that cometh to God must believe," as indispensably as to have the sensation of light one must have eyes, or to have the sensation of sound one must have ears. In every form, even the mildest, unbelief is a canker-worm at the very root of piety. Like a plague, it slays innumerable souls while it lasts, and though it passes away again, its victim-souls continue dead and lost

. It has a special malignity, indeed, which belongs to no other form of human evil. It is the only sin of man which, in its own nature, involves a rejection and denial of the Divine Saviour and His salvation. Hence the deep concern which the spread of such a virulent mischief cannot fail to excite in every Christian heart, and the gathering alarm which keeps pace with the growing symptoms of its diffusion

And such symptoms are only too abundant at the present time. Witness the recent publication of such works as the new edition of Strauss's “Leben Jesu," in which he addresses himself with an air of confidence, as if assured of a wide-spread sympathy, to the whole German people ; and the two forms of Renan's “Vie de Jesus,” which have been spread in thousands and tens of thousands of copies among all classes, educated and uneducated, in France. Witness among ourselves the now open infidelity of the Westminster Review, and the less extreme, but still decided, Rationalism of other periodical journals, which all circulate freely in our

and activity.

This

paper formed part of an inaugural lecture, delivered by Professor Lorimer on the 4th of October last, at the opening of the New College Hall of the English Presbyterian Church, in Queen Square House, Guildford-street, London. -Ed. B. & F.E.R.

VOL. XIV,-NO. LI.

G

lending libraries and reading-rooms. Witness the existence among us of an infidel association, recently alluded to in terms of deep regret by Lord Brougham at York, "for the purpose of directing an organized assault upon the Christian faith," and which, he tells us, is busy “distributing infidel tracts, conducting a periodical work, and holding meetings for debate, both in the southern counties and even as far north as Edinburgh.” But these open and declared assailants of Christianity are not the most dangerous propagators of unbelief. Lord Brougham also referred to others among us, “whose attacks are not plain and open, but covert and insidious, casting doubts and raising suspicions without such a direct assault as the religion itself might meet and repel —nay, sometimes proceeding from persons who avow their belief, but would reduce the subject of it to such dimensions as leave it unstable and incapable of defence.” We all know whom these allusions point to. They plainly refer to a state of things in the Church of England which is without all previous example in its history, and which is now filling with astonishment and alarm not only an immense proportion of its own ministry and members, but all of every denomination throughout the land who are concerned for the honour of God's Word, and the interests of fundamental Christian truth. Why the very foundations of the faith have been tampered with and challenged by eminent ministers of that Church, and not only so, but it has hitherto been found impossible to apply the discipline of the Church to any of these offenders. The authors of " Essays and Reviews" have been able to make good, in the court of last appeal, their legal right to remain in the National Church; and the faithfulness of the two Houses of Convocation in condemning the inculpated volume, has only served to draw upon them a bitter and contemptuous censure and warning from the Lord Chancellor, speaking from the woolsack. Meanwhile, a colonial bishop, who has offended in a similar sense, is waiting to be rescued from the hands of his own metropolitan by the same court of appeal which has thrown its shield of protection over Dr. Williams and Mr. Wilson; and men begin to fear that even a bishop will be allowed to teach that the Pentateuch is a book of fables, and that Jesus Christ himself was too little of a scholar and critic to know it, and yet have a right to remain a bishop of the Church of England notwithstanding

These are only a few of the sad symptoms of the spread of unbelief in various degrees and forms, both without and within the Church. But these few must suffice for the

present; and for the present, too, we must waive all reference

a

Development of Apologetics.

83

to the various causes which have been at work to produce this remarkable outbreak of an evil which is never, indeed, wholly absent from society, and never can be expected to be 80, but which has only of late begun to show itself to any formidable extent within the enclosure of the orthodox Churches of Britain. For the question which we mainly propose to consider at present is the very interesting and important one-whether the advance of Christian apologetics is keeping pace with the advance of unbelief-whether the Christian evidences are being developed in new forins and degrees of power to meet the new forms and developments of Infidelity and Rationalism-whether, in a word, Christianity is prving herself to have resources of evidence still fresh and unexhausted to meet and to overcome all the assaults of her enemies, and to enable her to maintain her position as firmly as ever at the very head of the world's civilization? We hear many predictions from her adversaries that the day of her downfall and ruin is at hand. Is it then come to this, that we have now grave reason to tremble for the ark of God? or have we not, on the contrary, good grounds to feel assured, in view of the fresh resources which the Christian argument is developing and bringing forward into the field of conflict, that the ark is safe even in the midst of enemies, ever increasing in number and in boastfulness? There exist, we are persuaded, good grounds for this assurance; and to indicate some of these, in the way of hints and suggestions, rather than of full and adequate exposition, is the object of the present paper.

Our readers are all aware that in the evidential school of Paley, including such recent writers as Chalmers, Taylor, Miall, and others, it has been usual to lay the main stress of the Christian argument upon the external rather than the internal evidences-i.l., rather upon the attestations borne to Christianity from without, than upon the self-attesting, self-evidencing power of Christianity and the Christian documents from within. The internal evidences were regarded rather as auxiliaries to the main proof, than as the main proof itself. Even the character of Christ was ranked by Paley as a mere auxiliary evidence, as though the radiant presence of the sun himself in the heavens were not the best and the allsufficing proof of his existence and glory. Under such an estimate and arrangement, it was natural that the external evidences should be more studied and elaborated than the internal—the former being regarded as the supreme Christian bulwark and defence. But within the last twenty years a great change has taken place in this respect, corresponding to a remarkable change which has occurred in the tactics and method of unbelief. It was Hume's famous “Essay on Miracles” that gave form and arrangement to the Evidences of Paley. It is the “Leben Jesu” of Strauss that has given a new direction and development to the apologetics of our own age. Between Hume and Paley the question of the Christian miracles was one of external testimony-Hume denying the sufficiency of the testimony; Paley maintaining its sufficiency and redundancy. Strauss holds a miracle to be impossible in its very nature and idea, and, therefore, incapable of proof by any amount of testimony whatever. Disregarding, therefore, all testimonies external to the New Testament, he carries the war into the Christian documents themselves. His method is critical. His aim is to show that the four Gospels contain the evidences of their own untruth and unreality ; he magnifies their differences into contradictions; he makes no account of the innumerable points of main importance on which they agree by reason of the numerous small points on which he alleges them irreconcileably to differ; and he resolves the whole Evangelical history into a mythology, upon the alleged showing and evidence of the Gospels themselves. Such a critique of the Christian documents, it is plain, could only be met by another critique more true and just. The controversy was thus fairly removed from the external to the internal field, and the special work of the Christian apologist now came to be to show that the New Testament is its own best evidence, instead of being its own sufficient confutation. The internal evidences have thus come to be developed more largely during the last quarter of a century than at any previous period.

The external evidences remain, of course, as logically strong and impregnable as before. We have no sympathy with those writers of the Coleridge and Maurice School, who speak disparagingly of Paley and his successors. A historical religion cannot dispense with historical evidences additional to its own documents-i.e., with ancient collateral testimonies to its foundation-facts and primary documents. The absence of such evidences would be almost an insuperable objection to its historic truth; the presence and validity of such historical vouchers are nearly indispensable conditions of rational conviction ; and the service done by writers like Paley and Chalmers, in marshalling and handling such proofs to the greatest advantage, is a service which can never lose anything of its value and importance. Still, we think, it is a great improvement in apologetic tactics that the internal evidences should now be regarded and used as the chief weapon of defence, and the main strength of the Christian position. It is the method

Master-principle of Modern Unbelief.

85

which corresponds best with our Lord's sublime claim to be the Light of the world, which if he is, as we assuredly believe him to be, he cannot but shine, and be perfectly visible in his own light. It is the method, too, which our age specially needs; for nothing now, it would seem, will be able to convince unbelief that Christ was a miraculous person intervening in history, unless Christ is able to compel that conviction by his own superhuman and super-earthly greatness and glory. But whether this tactical change be deemed an improvement or not, it is certain that a great development of the resources of the Christian argument in this direction has been lately going on, and is likely to go on with increasing speed.

The fundamental principle of modern unbelief in its most recent form—the philosophical dogma which lies at the root of all its hostile criticism both of the Christian system and its canonical documents—is the principle, the dogma, that all miracle or supernatural intervention is impossible and inconceivable, and therefore wholly incapable of proof; a miracle can never be real; a narrative interwoven with miracle can never be regarded as true history, rationally or scientifically. Such is the fundamental axiom of Strauss and Baur, of Rénan and Baden Powell. How, then, have the Christian advocates of our time been meeting and confronting this master-principle of modern unbelief? They have sometimes confronted it as a philosophical dogma with philosophical reasonings, claiming to be as purely scientific as those by which its upholders have tried to maintain it; and they have been able to do this with great force of argument. Witness the Essay on Miracles by Professor Mansel, of Oxford, in the “ Aids to Faith," where he replies to the essay of Powell, and the “ Treatise on the Supernatural in relation to the Natural,” by Professor M‘Cosh, of Belfast ;

both of which works corroborations of their reasonings are produced from the writings of such philosophers as Dr. Thomas Brown and John Stuart Mill, who wrote purely in the interest of mental science. But we do not refer further to philosophical reasonings of that kind, valuable as they are as auxiliaries in this high debate. What we wish to bring prominently into view is this —that the Christian advocates of our time are more and more confronting this false philosophical dogma with the actual and admitted phenomena or constituents of Christianity itself, as carrying in themselves, in their own inherent character and qualities, the evidence at once of the falsity of the dogma, and the reality and truth of the Christian revelation. There are four distinct constituents or actual elements of Christianity of which this argumenta

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