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course is pursued with each of the other “conventional notions," three of which we propose to examine. Categorical statements are not in our author's habit of writing. We long sometimes for an answer which shall be so definite and distinct as to admit of being understood in only one way. Orthodoxy receives such very hard measure that its indictment ought to be as clear as it is forcible. Its defence ought also to be heard. Admitting for a moment the first notion, which Mr. Maurice regards as conventional, let us ask what he means by saying that the New Testament is not the proclamation of a certain religion? If he means that it is not merely a regulative, preceptive arrangement, like the law of Moses, we heartily agree with him. The power of the Gospel lies in this, that it is not the declaration only of God's will, but the actual manifestation of His righteousness and character. But then it is the declaration of His will, and is binding upon us. Our common use of the word means no more than that, though much more is really implied in it. Yet even in this limited use of it, we are free to confess that we think too much stress has been laid upon that legal aspect of the Gospel, against which Mr. Maurice rebels ; but, on the other hand, we think his re-action from it is somewhat excessive. It has been repeated, is now generally repeated, even to weariness, that the Gospel presents us with a life, not with a philosophy; but it should be remembered that the manifestation of the life is light, and the presence of light is the increase of responsibility and of obligation. That by which we feel bound is our religion, and connected with this religion, resulting from the Gospel teaching, are certain explanations of moral mysteries, which, spite of Mr. Maurice's assertion to the contrary, we do find in the Epistles, so that the New Testament implicitly gives us both religion and philosophy, or history and mysteries. No doubt "a religion must always be affected by the local habits, by the individual temperaments, of those who profess it,” but for this the Gospel provides by making obligation spring only out of relations previously recognized by faith. Christianity is a fact and a principle. As the first, it is the ground of all spiritual relations; as the second, it is, when grasped, the explanation and justification of them.
We feel that there is great truth in very much which Mr. Maurice says respecting the miraculous element in the Gospel history; but we cannot help feeling that his charge against orthodoxy for holding a false conventional notion is scarcely proved. He complains that miracles are regarded as strange exceptional acts, breaking through the order of nature; that they were intended to make the mission of Christ credible; that they are supernatural testimonials and certificates to Him as a super
natural being. The effects resulting from this belief he thinks most evil, principally this, that it has alienated scientific men from the Bible; it has led them to distrust its supposed arbitrary author. Miracles, according to our author, are not arguments to convince the understanding, but an unveiling to the whole man of the nature and the character of the Son of Man, the King; they are the signs of his kingdom, not the putting forth of strange, novel, unwonted powers as reasons why he should be listened to. They explain the nature of Christ's operations, and the end for which He came; they do not violate law, they fulfil it : our so-called order of nature is disorder, and the King brings back the original, higher, true order of nature, by destroying sin, disease, death, and the tyranny of evil spirits. They are not addressed to minds unprepared to receive them by faith, unsusceptible through the lack of spiritual sympathy ; to such they are mere prodigies. But if they were only evidences of a divine mission, unconnected with the nature and character of that mission, the displays of them ought to have been most startling where the unbelief was most obstinate. We cannot conceive of there being any one, however he may usually differ from Mr. Maurice, who will dispute the truth of these statements respecting the purposes which miracles were intended to fulfil. All will acknowledge that they bore testimony to the character of God, and revealed His will respecting sin and its consequent ills; but most will recognize in them a testimony also to the power of Jesus. “If ye believe not me, believe the works; that ye may know, and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him.” Miracles we understand to be the result of the immediate action of the Divine will, in contrast to its mediate and ordinary action. In this sense they are supernatural, and so bear witness that he who possesses the power of working miracles is divinely aided. They doubtless, who regard only this aspect of miracles, are in danger of regarding only the corresponding aspect of God, in worshipping him as mere force; and orthodoxy, if it does this, draws upon itself the burden of accepting as evidence that which is more difficult of belief than that to which it bears testimony. As to the farther charge that orthodoxy “exhibits to us a Christ who breaks through the order of the universe by strange and irregular acts of power,” we admit at once that we believe that, though we should prefer to state the belief in our own words. He did transgress laws, the laws we know, the only laws we know anything about. It is no answer to say that he obeyed laws which were more fundamental, less capable of any suspension or modification than these we know. If this means anything, it means that the laws which science recognizes he did suspend, he did modify. Nor does it apply to this particular
nrice can is assertioid orthod have
case to say that “the tendency has been apparent in human creatures at all times to make themselves the measures of the universe, to deduce laws from appearances, to mould the lawgiver after their conceptions.” The clause we have italicised expresses exactly what science is doing and can only do; and the laws so deduced Jesus suspended, modified, and transgressed. This is the objection of science to them, that they thwart or turn aside the natural course of things—viz., the observed course; and they are not in agreement with any known system of law. If Mr. Maurice can prove that they are, the objection of science ceases; but his asscrtion that they are will not do, and it is harlly fair of him to scold orthodoxy.for not continuing to assert what, after all, he and his school have written on the subject, is still only a beautiful conjecture. We use the word not as expressing our own opinion, but the view which such a man as Renan would take of it; to those who, like him, believe that the whole universe is under the dominion of law, and that law is the expression of the perfect and immutable character of God, iniracles which are special, direct exercises of will, must be inconceivable, because inconsistent. But those who do not trouble themselves with, or are not disturbed by, philosophical difficulties, will find all that Mr. Maurice writes, by way of exposition on the miracles, most instructive and suggestive. To him they are the unveiling of the true, divinely-redeemed world; in them he sees the will of God in exercise healing the sick, raising the dead, and purifying the sinful. We feel the power of such thoughts; but they do not help us to reconcile the oppositions of science and Scripture. We feel assured they are in a very slender degree an answer to the arguments of either Hume or Baden Powell.
The last part of this introductory essay is devoted to the subject of inspiration and authenticity. Mr. Maurice objects that orthodoxy has placed the external evidences first, whereas it should have examined what the books had to say first. He asserts that the credentials of the messenger may be postponed to the contents of his message,—that the consequence of looking at the authenticity of the Gospels first has been to keep the attention of men there, and to lead to the opinion that the New Testament is itself only a book of evidence. We question if Mr. Maurice is quite in a position that enables him to deal fully with this important matter. He has first to tell us how he regards Christianity, whether as a traditional external revelation or spiritual and individual. If the former, then surely the veracity of the messengers who convey the message is all important, is essential. If it be so then the so-called conventional notion of orthodoxy is only the necessary corollary. But the fact is Mr. Maurice has his conventional notions too; he has an assumption which he makes on an authority we sometimes fancy prior to St. John and not canonical. An impartial objector might well say to him, “Why should I take your assumption rather than the conventional notions of orthodoxy ? You ask me to start not with a natural Jesus but with a supernatural Word of God. Why?” Because (he replies in effect) because, “If we habitually think of the Word of God as a living person, and that the eternal life which was with the Father has been manifested, the first three Gospels will become clear to us in the light of these principles.” That is to say, if we can believe St. John's Gospel we can believe the others. But how are we to believe St. John's Gospel ? He says, " the theology of the fourth Gospel will be the key to the history of the other three." Doubtless, to him who has the key; but what shall they do who have neither lock nor key? That is to say, who believe, on what appears to them to be good evidence, that the three first Gospels are mere legendary accounts of Jesus with a leaven of later theology, and that the fourth Gospel is “ the full development of that later theology, with a human history artificially and awkwardly grafted upon it." This is substantially Mr. Maurice's own question, and we are sorry he has not given us a distinct answer to it. He recognizes its importance; he says all other battles are child's play to this. But he says we have thrown away our weapons and are not fitted for the encounter. “For we say that St. John uses the expression Word of God in a sense which may be convenient for a system of Divinity, but which has nothing to do with our habitual language—with our common life. In these the book shall mean the Word of God—shall be the Word of God; and, therefore, we cannot hear the Person, the Word, speaking out of the book.” It is difficult to see how this method would work if applied to a mind like Renan's utterly disturbed by critical doubt. He surely would not believe in a person speaking out of a book which he did not consider authentic, or the facts of which were inconsistent and incoherent. He would naturally ask why he should be called upon to believe in this person except on the evidence of the book, and he would not be satisfied to be told that the discovery of difficulties in Luke's chronology and genealogy has “ been of great use in forcing us to seek more for the sense and purpose of the Divine narratives.” A critic of the " Tracts for Priests and People," writing in reference to Mr. Maurice's treatment of the evidences, has said, “The personal life of God in the world, of which his sense is so deep, seems to guarantee for him the particular Divine acts and manifestations enumerated in the Scriptures or the formularies of the Church; and his one standing appeal to us is,— Believe in Him who is signified, and you will believe the signs. Yet it is plain that no prior apprehension of God would enable us to divine, before they came, the forms in which his agency would express itself; or, after they have come and been reported, to separate the threads of reality from those of fiction in a narrative of mixed tissue. For knowledge of the divine events, taken one by one, we are not less dependent upon human attestation, than for the biography of an emperor or an apostle, and it is in vain to treat them as if they were deducible from the primary spiritual truth, and sure to stand or fall with it.” The reviewer then goes on to point out occasional inconsistencies in Mr. Maurice's method, which we have not observed, stating that his premises are sometimes historical, and at others purely spiritual. It is difficult to find out what his premises are. The“ theology of consciousness” he has striven to overthrow in former works, and yet his independence of the text of Scripture renders his beliefs and arguments subjective. So far as we can judge he finds his revelation of God in Christ in the Book, but the author of that revelation he must base upon something within himself. Maurice's best friends must feel that this refusal of his to examine the bases of his belief endangers the whole super-structure of his creed; it most certainly unfits him to meet the scepticism and unbelief of the present day. We cannot, therefore, regard this work as of much value as an answer to Renan's difficulties. They are partly critical, and partly arise from his utter unbelief in supernatural manifestations; the first Mr. Maurice refuses to notice, the second he fails, as we have shown, to shake. But because we think this, we do not say that the book is not of great worth, and that it will do nothing towards reconciling to the Gospels minds somewhat alienated by doubt. Our Lord Himself did not produce conviction and faith in those who could recognize no divine spirit; “but as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God." We believe there are many, very many, who believe in an historical Christ, but who have never yet felt his presence in the Scriptures, and who, induced by Mr. Maurice's writings, will seek to yield their hearts to Him-will seek for His Spirit, and will find their doubts melt away beneath His influence. It is, therefore, in spite of all our differences with this writer, that we rejoice in his growing popularity. He is an earnest and a good man; we are persuaded his earnestness and goodness will do much to help others to faith in a living Saviour.