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young literary adventurer, (De Wette,) that he has endeavoured to bring Judaism into disrepute, my answer is, This is no more than Paul himself has laboured to do. (Pref. to Beiträge.)
In his book de morte Christi expiatorid, (on the atonement of Christ,) he represents Christ as disappointed that the Jews would not hearken to him as moral teacher simply ; which was the first character he assumed. Christ then assumed the character of a prophet, and asserted his divine mission, in order that the Jews might be induced to listen to him. Finding that they would not do this, and that they were determined to destroy him, in order not to lose the whole object of his mission, and to convert necessity into an occasion of giving himself credit, he gave out, thát his death itself would be expiatory.
Yet De Wette holds a most exalted rank, in Germany I doubt whether Germany can boast of an oriental scholar, or a literary man, who has more admirers than De Wette.
What shall we say now of De Wette? That he is not a Christian? He would look with astonishment, on any man who should think of such an accusation ; and tax him with a great degree of illiberality and superstition.
You are doubtless inclined, before this time, to say, 66 What is all this to us? We do not avow, or defend such opinions." True, I answer; at present, you do not. А short time since, they did not. But as soon as their numbers increased, so that they began to be fearless of consequences; and their antagonists urged the laws of exegesis upon them, they abandoned the ground of defending the divine authenticity of the Bible, at once. A few years since, the state of theological questions in Germany, in many respects, was similar to what it now is here. At present, the leading German critics, (rejecting accommodation, and casting off all ideas of the divine origin of the Scriptures,) are disputing with great zeal the questions, Whether a miracle be possible? Whether God and nature are one and the same thing? (Schelling, a divine, is at the head of a great party, which maintains that they are the same.) And whether the Jews ever expected a Messiah? Some time ago, many of their critics maintained, that no Messiah was predicted in the Old Testament; but now, they question
even whether the Jews had any expectation of one. would seem, now, that they have come nearly to the end of questions on theology. At least I cannot well devise, what is to come next.
It does seem to me, that it needs only a thorough acquaintance with German reasoners and critics, (a thing which is fast coming in,) to induce young men to go with them, who set out with the maxim, that 6 to believe with Mr. Belsham is no crime.” No man can read these writers, without finding a great deal of excellent matter in them, well arranged, and of real utility. I venture to add, that no man can study them thoroughly, and afterwards take up Priestley, Belsham, Carpenter, Yates, Lindsey, or other recent, English Unitarian writers, as critics, with any pleasure. Iought, perhaps, to except Cappe, who appears to bave studied diligently his Bible. He was evidently a lover of Biblical study. But the incomparably greater acquisitions of the German critics, in every department of stady, spread a charm over their writings, for the lover of discussion and literature, that is not often found in productions of this nature. I must add, that much as I differ in sentiment from them, and fundarnentally subversive of Christianity as I believe their views to be, I am under great obligations to them for the instructions they have given me; and specially for affording me so much satisfaction, that we need nothing more than the simple rules of exegesis, and a candid, believing heart, to see in the Scriptures, with overpowering evidence, all the substantial and important doctrines, which have commonly been denominated orthodox.
Such has been the impression on me, from reading German writers. And with such impressions, I can never regret the time that I have spent in studying them. Abler advocates than they, for the fashicnable philosophy of the day, which is endeavouring to explain away the peculiar doctrines of the Scriptures, I do not expect to find.
Si Pergama dextrâ Defendi possent, etiam hâc defensa fuissent. Able however as they are, my mind returns from the study of them with an impression more deep, radical, and satisfactory than ever before, that the doctrines, common
jy denominated evangelical or orthodox, are the doctrines of the Scriptures, and are the truth of God. My views as to the exegesis of particular texts, in some cases,
have been changed by the study of philology and interpretation. I should not rely for the provf of doctrines now, on some texts which I once thought contained such proof. But my impressions of the real truth and importance of evangelical doctrines, I can truly say, are greatly strengthened.
Before you pronounce sentence upon the German Expositors and Critics, to whom I have referred above, I trust you will give them a hearing. I should rejoice to find that you are engaged in the study of them. For a mind capable of reasoning and thinking as yours, must necessarily, as it seems to me, come to the same conclusions with Eichhorn, and Paulus, and Henke, and Eckermann, and Herder, and other distinguished men of the new German School; or embrace with us the sentiments, which are commonly denominated orthodox. I cannot refrain from adding, that I do most earnestly hope, and pray for the latter.
You may be ready, perhaps, to express your surprise, that I should commend the study of such writers, as those whom I have quoted. I am well aware, indeed, that the serious mind revolts, at the glaring impiety of such comments, as those which I have produced. But after all, if a man were to judge and condemn these very writers, by a few selections of this nature, it would be hasty. On points which are not concerned with the special doctrines of Christianity ; in illustrating critical and literary history, philology, natural history, and grammatical exegesis—in a word every thing literary or scientifical that pertains to the Bible; who can enter into competition with recent German writers? But it should be understood, that there are writers on these subjects, in Germany, who are what is denominated orthodox, as well as those of a different character, such as I have just mentioned. The lover of acute, thorough-going, radical discussion, will lose much, if he does not cultivate an acquaintance with both these class. es of writers.
I know indeed, that you are an advocate for unlimited research. For myself, I have long practised upon this
principle. And I cannot but think the cautious fears of inany of those, with whom I agree in sentiment, in respect to the limits of study, though honourable to the spirit of piety which they cherish, and indicative of real interest and concern for the prosperity of the church, are not well founded. The fundamental principle of Protestantism is that the Bible is the only rule of faith, and practice. To know what the Bible teaches then, is the great object of all religious knowledge. To understand this, (as to acquire everything else,) study, and diligence are necessary. Men are not inspired now, as the apostles and primitive Christians were, to understand all truth. Men are imperfect, and have imperfect knowledge. No one sect, party, or body of men, can claim absolute perfection of knowlcdge or virtue.' And as a great many points of inquiry, (interesting and important ones too,) may be managed by men of sobriety, in the use of only their natural intellect, and their resources of learning ; the man who loves the book of God, and desires the most extensive acquaintance with it which he can possibly make, will not neglect their works, nor any other source of knowledge within his power. It was a noble maxim of a heathen, "Fas est et ab hoste doceri;" we may receive instruction from an enemy. Christians too often forget this; and permit antipathy to particular sentiments, to exclude them from all the profit, which might be derived from a more enlarged acquaintance with the writings of opponents. Believing as I do, that many, who are arrayed against the sentiments that I espouse, are not destitute of sense, or of learning, and are not to be despised; I am inclined always to see how they vindicate their cause. If I am not convinced by their arguments, I am rendered better satisfied with my own, and more able to defend them by such an investigation. But if I could not practise upon the noble maxim, Fas est et ab hoste doceri; I would at least apply another one to vindicate the study of the German writers, and justify myself, for even recommending it, in proper cases. I would say, (as was said in a different connexion, and for a different object,) Egyptii sunt, spoliemus ; They Egy let us take their spoils. Shall I not accept the good which they proffer me ; and proffer me in a more scientific manner, and well digested, lucid, establish
ed form, than I can elsewhere find? Without hesitation, I
I cannot help viewing the subject in another light. Every student in theology, every Christian minister ought to be established in the truth, and able to convince gainsayers.” How can he do this, If he does not know what these gainsayers allege? Is he to engage in war against the foes of truth, without knowing the weapons by which his enemies are to assail him ? It is a mistaken system of education indeed, which teaches him thưs; which thrusts out a young man upon the church, unacquainted with the nature of its enemies' assaults, and liable of course, to become the victim of the first powerful attack that is made upon him. Without any doubt, private Christians should have little or nothing to do with all this ground of dispute ; but it is a shame for a minister of the gospel, who has the opportunity, not to seize every advantage in his power, to render himself as able as possible, to defend the cause which he has espoused. I
may venture to add a better authority still, to confirm these reasonings. An inspired Apostle has directed Christians to prove all things ;" but to “hold fast that which is good.” How does he comply with the spirit of this direction, who never examines any views that differ from his own; but settles down with the full conviction that he is right, and that all who differ from him are wrong? As no man, now, is inspired; and no man therefore, is free from some error; does it not become those who are to be a set for the defence of the truth” to examine, as far as it may be in their power, the dissentient views of others, who have called themselves Christians, and who lay claim to an extensive understanding of the word of God ? Such an examination will enlarge their views, and reuder them more able to oppose error, and defend truth.
Such are my reasons for pursuing the study of German writers, and commending the study of them. Truth has nothing to fear from examination. If the sentiments that I espouse will not stand the test of investigation, then I will abandon them. I never shall willingly embrace any sentiments, except on such a condition. But in respect to the study of the more liberal (so called) German writers, I