Page images
PDF
EPUB

subject and well-balanced judgment, be accepted implicitly without careful sifting. At the same time, textual criticism has given us abundant assured results. The matters still open to doubt are comprised within narrow limits. They are noted in the New Version. And, in spite of them, we are quite sure that the Greek Text as adopted by the Revisers contains practically the very words of the Evangelists and Apostles.

The new rendering of the text is much more open to difference of opinion than is the accuracy of the text itself. For we may conceive a perfect restoration of the words of the original. But a perfect reproduction of their meaning in another language, especially one far removed in time and circumstances, is impossible. In every translation some part of the original meaning must be sacrificed. And there will always be difference of opinion as to which elements of it can be sacrificed with least loss on the whole.

But, in spite of this necessary imperfection, the new rendering is very good, and gives the actual meaning of the sacred writers far better than does the Authorised Version. More correct English equivalents have been found for many Greek words. The truths embodied in certain important words, and the associations of thought which gathered round these words during the centuries of the Old Covenant, have been in good part reproduced by the retention, to a greater extent than before, of one Greek for one English word. Greek grammatical forms are better represented. And, frequently, the emphasis of the original has been restored by a rearrangement of the order of the English words. Against these indisputable gains must be placed, I am compelled to believe, a few deteriorations; a few passages in which the New Version gives a

sense further from the original sense than that given in the Old Version, and others in which without any gain uncouth English is used. But these deteriorations are few, and for the most part small. The improvements are innumerable and great.

Two special and important results I anticipate from the Revision of the Bible. It will do very much to fill up the chasm existing till lately between theological scholarship and popular theology. Quotations in proof of important and sometimes erroneous doctrines have been current in religious circles, and even sometimes heard from the pulpit, which all Biblical scholars know to be incorrect. Yet it has been by no means pleasant to disturb confidence in the Authorised Version, or to set up one's own judgment as decisive in matters which the English reader could not test for himself. Consequently, for the more part scholars have preferred to allow the errors to go uncorrected. On the other hand, a sense of theological insecurity has been created in many minds by an indefinite notion that the Old Version was not to be implicitly trusted. To say that it is incorrect, has been a frequent refuge when hard pressed in argument, to many who had no means of judging whether it was correct or not. All this is now past. Wherever no doubt is noted in the margin, and no dissent of the American Committee is recorded, the New Version may be accepted with complete confidence in matters of any importance as a final decision. And numerous as are the notes of doubt or dissent, the unquestioned parts of the New Version teach every Christian doctrine which bears in any way upon our heart and life. Thus, to a degree unknown before, every servant of Christ hears from the same

Master the same words of command and encouragement.

Again, the Revised Version will render great help to the consecutive study of the New Testament, and especially of the Epistles. For every inaccuracy tends to break the connexion of thought and thus to obscure the argument. Now I hold firmly that consecutive study of Holy Scripture is the only safe method of theological research. For unless we can trace a writer's argument we cannot be sure that we understand his meaning. And, when once we can follow their line of thought, the writers of the New Testament become our most trustworthy and our richest theological teachers. By bringing us nearer to them, the Revised Version has rendered an inestimable service.

I cannot but believe that the Bible has not yet found its due place as our chief theological textbook. Like all Churches, we have had our traditional theology: and for its purity and clearness we thank God. But while clinging tenaciously to those doctrines of which our fathers and we have felt the saving power, we shall do well to be ever comparing our theological beliefs with the teaching of the Apostles. Only thus shall we be saved from those human accretions which always tend to accumulate in human thought even around the truth of God. Therefore, as a stimulant and means for careful and consecutive Bible study, we may hope that the New Version will help to purify and deepen popular theology.

I still think that in a few years, after the Revised Old Testament has been published, the Committee ought to have an opportunity of reconsidering such of its decisions as were far from unanimous. That their work now contains blemishes which might be removed, almost every one admits;

greatly as men differ as to which are the blemishes. Out of the present confusion of conflicting opinions there will probably arise in the course of a few years a general concensus on certain points. Intercourse with others and the practical use of the New Version will mature or modify the Revisers' own opinions. And the importance of having a Bible as little as possible open to objection makes it desirable to give a place in the Revised Version to the results of such mature thought.

Whatever may be the future of the New Version, it is an enrichment to the sacred literature of our race such as twenty years ago not the most sanguine would have dared to hope for. And it is the most splendid existing proof of the essential oneness of Anglo-Saxon Protestantism, and of the earnest love of the English-speaking race for the Book of God.

Since writing my last paper the second and concluding volume of Westcott and Hort's Critical Greek Testament has been published. Its chief feature is the attention paid to the evidence afforded by MSS themselves of their own general correctness and consequent worth as witnesses of the original words of the New Testament. This is discovered by a careful comparison of MSS. in passages not open to doubt. The correctness and great importance of this method of examination are evident at first sight.

But I must say that, so far as I now see, some of the judgments on particular readings seem to me to contradict the Editors' own principles. And I find that some readings (e.g., Luke xxii. 19, 20; xxiv. 3, 6, 12, 40, 52), needlessly, as I thought, marked as doubtful in the New Version, are, to my surprise, confidently called interpola

tions by these learned Editors. We have also here and there (see note on Acts xx. 28) something like conjectural emendation of a kind which, if admitted, would, I fear, shake our confidence in the whole science of New Testament Textual Criticism.

But whatever judgment we may form about details, the work as a whole is one of the most valuable furnished to Biblical scholarship

during the present generation. And for this embodiment of nearly thirty years' toil we heartily thank the Editors, and thank God.

The more important readings in the Greek Testament of Drs. Westcott and Hort and the Revised Version of the Epistles I shall discuss in detail in my CoмMENTARY ON THE EPISTLES TO THE CORINTHIANS, which will, I hope, be published next summer.

[ocr errors]

SELECT LITERARY

The Unreasonableness of Unbelief. An Address to the Students of the Wesleyan Theological Institution, Headingley, at the opening of the Session, Sept. 13th, 1881, by the Rev. J. S. Banks.-A Theological Inaugural. At the outset Mr. Banks tells us that in his use of the terms, 'doubt' and 'unbelief' are not two names for one thing. On the contrary, they are mutually exclusive. Where there is doubt, he says, unbelief does not yet exist; and where there is unbelief, doubt has already ceased. Genuine doubt can only be a resting-place on the way either to faith or unbelief. Many of those who call themselves sceptics or doubters are really unbelievers. Their denial is as positive and definite as our affirmation.' Evidently, therefore, a believer is one who accepts the truth, which here means the teaching of the Bible; and the unbeliever is one who rejects and denies that truth. Whether all will approve the distinction so sharply drawn is not the question. Whoever reads this inaugural must remember that here the distinction is observed. To do otherwise, and then to find fault with the arguments, would be to repeat the follies of superficial reviewers.

Doubt may be taken as equivalent to defect of faith,' the want of a full assurance. It is compatible with earnest faith,' and in itself is no more necessarily sinful than are physical or mental imperfection. Doubt may be a means of greater good'; but it is not thereby intimated that doubt is a good thing in itself.' Its good lies in the fact that it marks a transition from heedlessness or ignorance to knowledge or faith.

Mr. Banks sets down as a poetical exaggeration the words of Mr. Tennyson: There lives more faith in honest doubt, Believe me, than in half the creeds.' We are not

NOTICES.

by any means disposed to champion the Poet Laureate, especially now that he himself seems driven to Despair.' Nevertheless, there may be more of true living faith in one who honestly doubts, than is to be found in many of those who avow their orthodoxy, and would enforce it on others. But Mr. Banks is right. Doubt is not necessarily good; it is not necessarily sinful. 'Honest doubt' is always full of promise; for If any man is willing to do the will of God, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.'

[ocr errors]

Mr. Banks usefully and effectively dwells upon both the unreasonableness and the unseasonableness of unbelief. Its objections and its requirements are both out of place and out of time. Our space will not allow us to bring out all the points of an address which, we doubt not, was most effective in its delivery, and which will be read by many with both interest and profit. We will select one or two.

Unbelievers and impatient doubters call for a creed stripped of all mystery' -a kind of creed which anti-christian credulity can never compile. Unbelief only deepens the gloom and exaggerates the mystery. If its creed be true, then the most profound mystery of all is that it should be possible for there to be the idea of a creed. But these impatient or defiant ones say, 'If the evidence of revealed truth were like the evidence for the objects of sense, or the conclusions of physical science, we would receive it.' Be it so. We take such objectors on their own ground. Granted that there is mystery in Bible teaching, nevertheless we may distinguish between things that differ. To prove the origin and authority of the Bible by evidence may be a long and tedious process. That which con

[ocr errors]

But

cerns a man far more is to be assured that what the Bible teaches is true. then we seem to be falling into the prohibited circle.' The Book is true, for it is Divine; and it is Divine, for it says So. This circle, however, we avoid. Again we distinguish. Of those things which the Bible affirms, some are mysterious, beyond our ken, beyond our comprehension. For these there is no warrant but that of Inspiration, and no mode of acceptance save that of simple faith. But there are other things affirmed by the Bible which are not mysteries in any such sense. They are plain, every-day facts which lie within the range of our own consciousness, as do the midnight darkness and the midday sun. We need

no one to prove them true. Our warrant is the testimony of our own experience. We know them, not as we know the distance of the sun, or his size, or his weight; but as we know that it is light when he has risen, or that it is dark when he is absent. And these facts, these truths, these dogmas, which thus come within the range of individual and scientific demonstration, are exactly those which most intimately concern the well-being of man. They are the truths which make the Gospel what it is; and, apart from these, the mysteries would be of small importance to our race. Men are sinners and live in sin. No arguments from without are needed here. The conscience speaks in every man. The sinner needs help from without if he is to conquer evil, and rise to the nobility of a perfect nature and a blameless life. He needs no sage to assure him of what his daily struggles convince him. There is help for the best and for the worst; or, what is more to the point, there is help for him, the self-condemned and self-despairing one; and that help is in Christ. Why stay to prove it? Nay, rather, let him try it. His own consciousness will attest the truth, even as it tells him that fire burns, that the sun warms, or that the air refreshes him. For all the practical purposes of salvation and of Christian life the Gospel is within the range of the most rigidly scientific test. Only each man must perform the experiment for himself. Afterwards, having by means of consciousness proved the divinity of the remedy, he will find it easy to accept whatever of mystery remains in the creed. Wherever and so far as he can test it now, he finds it true. For the rest, he will trust until he can test.

Two cautions, Mr. Banks rightly enforces. Personal sincerity only affects the moral worth of the individual. It

does not prove the correctness of his views.' Sincerity concerns the morals; truth concerns the intellect. They are wholly diverse. As between the soul and its Father-God, sincerity is everything in presence of atonement. As between man and man, truth is everything even in the presence of sincerity. For Headingley students, and for Christian Ministers everywhere, the two must needs be united in holy wedlock. As a necessary result, 'Every Preacher must construct his own apologetics, as he must construct his own theology and philosophy. Instead of being a pale reflection of somebody else, you must preach and argue and defend from your own standpoint.' These are bold counsels, coming from a theological tutor to theological novices, presenting themselves for their first lessons in this divinest of the sciences. But the counsels are safe, if the Bible be the unquestioned authority for facts, and the Spirit of God the one supremely trusted Guide and Teacher. Yes, construct your own theology. Study it out, feel it out, work it out to the end, evermore pausing here and there to see to it that each conclusion consists and harmonises with the all-essential fact of the One Divine Atoning Sacrifice and Saviour. We say heartily with Mr. Banks: Let the pulpits of England be filled by such Preachers, and the Christian faith will have nothing to fear.'

A Voice from the Sea. By Ruth Elliott. My First Class, and other Stories. By Ruth Elliott.

Davy's Friend, and other Stories. By Jennie Perrett.

Bernard Palissy, the Huguenot Potter. By Annie E. Keeling. London: Wesleyan Conference Office.-All who sympathise with our merchant seamen will be glad to see a reprint of Ruth Elliott's powerful protest against unseaworthy vessels. The story is graphic and well told.

My First Class cannot fail to encourage and stimulate the young Sunday-school teacher. The other stories and papers are admirably suited to interest and profit the child-reader.

Mrs. Perrett's stories, with the exception of the first, depart somewhat from the beaten track of children's literature. Her little book would form a welcome variety in a child's library.

Miss Keeling tells, in charmingly graceful style, the story of Palissy's struggles and success. This little book cannot fail to be appreciated by many readers older than those for whom it is primarily intended.

The Christian's Plea against Modern Unbelief: a Handbook of Christian Eridence. By R. A. Redford, M.A., LL.B., Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, New College, London. Hodder and Stoughton.-This latest addition to the publications issued under the auspices of the Christian Evidence Society is of great value. The author has supplied the want indicated in his modest preface, and prepared a Handbook which 'puts together the arguments for Christianity, more especially those which meet modern doubt, in a systematic and complete form.' The ground traversed is necessarily very wide; but the author's extensive reading and research are apparent in every chapter, while his skill in touching the weak points in the arguments or statements of sceptics is very conspicuous. This book is invaluable for the student who seeks to acquire an exact acquaintance with the various phases of opposition to Christianity, and will serve as an admirable book of reference to the Minister who, amid his pastoral duties, meets with those whose minds have been unsettled by enemies of the Word of God, through the blatant trumpeting of their own theories. Written in the calm, dispassionate spirit which befits the honest critic, and with a clearness of statement which marks the presence of conviction of the truth, there is no needless concession to sceptical writers, but a steady adherence to the positions of orthodoxy, refreshing in these times of mental unrest. The book is enriched by apt quotations, but is not a mere compilation of the opinions of others. Professor Redford exercises an independent judgment, and his summaries at the conclusion of the different sections are masterly in expression and force. Where his limits forbid his own elaboration of any important subject, he names the works in which the argument is fully wrought out, thus helping the enquirer.

There is, however, one chapter with the treatment of which we are not fully satisfied, that on Inspiration. He objects to Dean Alford's definition of plenary inspiration as too vague, and would have us merge all theories as to the mode of inspiration in the larger question of the authority of the Sacred Writings. Dean Alford is not as precise and full in his definition as could be desired; but though we have no objection to the constituents of inspiration enumerated by Professor Redford, we cannot help thinking he is as vague as the Dean whom he condemns. His own definition is defective. The reader rises from the perusal of this

chapter uncertain, so far as anything therein advanced extends, how far the sacred writers were guarded from error.

Any evil effect resulting from this chapter is, however, greatly lessened by the powerful reasoning of the chapters on Miracles, Prophecy, and the Authority of the Canon; and we would fain hope that in any future edition the defect pointed out will be supplied.

A unique feature in the work is the chapter on the Literature of Apologetics: it is most valuable to the student, as it contains lists of the best works in English, French, and German, written both for and against Christianity.

Methodism in Rossendale: with some Notices of the Rise of the United Societies, and of Contemporary Erents. By William Jessop. Manchester: Tubbs, Brook, and Chrystal. London: Simpkin, Marshall and Co. This is one of the most interesting and valuable, as well as one of the best written histories of local Methodism, which has yet appeared. The topographical and historical setting is very pleasing and effective, and the word-portraits of local worthies are charming. On this account we regret that the chapter on The Rise of Methodism, which traverses such very beaten ground, and the extended details as to contemporary events, were not published separately, as they too much overlay the main subject of the book.

Letters of the Rer. Samuel Rutherford. Carefully revised and edited by Rer. T. Smith, DD. With a Preface by Rer. Alexander Duff, D.D. Edinburgh: Oliphant, Anderson, and Ferrier. - We warmly welcome a new and complete edition of these justly famous Letters. Their intense devotion, their sparkling, yet homely genius, and their deep historical interest, place them in the foremost rank of Christian correspondence. They are a little too ecstatic, and their very intensity and pungency unfit them (like Young's Night Thoughts) for continuous reading. They should be taken in moderate quantities, like a confection or a condiment. Their bitter and bewildered Calvinism is a sad drawback. They prove that Rutherford hated Arminianism and Arminians, toleration and its advocates, quite as fiercely as he hated Popery and prelacy, Papists and prelates. He is by no means a clear or consistent reasoner. He sets the will of God above His love and justice, in order to justify the reprobation of souls before they are brought into existence. (P. 149.) He sees the glaring absurdity and iniquity

« PreviousContinue »