« PoprzedniaDalej »
alleged against us,' and then he proceeds to defend them virtually on the principle that 'the end justifies the means.' Our impulse is to cry, How are the mighty fallen!' for we do not think that the John Henry Newman of 1835 would have gone so far as this.
But what shall we say of the language which Dr. Newman uses about a theory with which he was much enamoured for a time, the theory of a via media, or third term between Romanism and popular Protestantism? We are constrained to say this, that whilst true in the letter, it is not true in the sense which the argument demands; which renders Dr. Newman's treatment of it practically beside the mark. But we have forgotten that our readers probably have not, as we have, Dr. Newman's 'Preface' before them. Here is (a part
of) what he says :—
'I cannot allow to the Church of England itself what is true of much of its teaching and many of its teachers, for that teaching and those teachers, who are so effective, know nothing of the via media.
'However, this innate persuasiveness, as he considered it, of the via media, was in truth the writer's chief stay in the controversy. He did not set much by patristical literature or by history. He frankly allows that his theory had never been realised, and that for 1800 years the true Gospel, as regards his special aspect of it, had never been preached to the world. "The doctrines in question," he says, in the mouth of an objector, are in one sense entirely new, as Christianity was when first preached. Protestantism and Popery are real religions. furnished the mould in which nations have been cast; but the via media, viewed as an integral system, has scarcely had existence, except on paper.” He adds, "It cannot be denied there is force in those representations, though I would not adopt them to their full extent ”—(pp. 16, 17.)
'As to the ante-Nicene period, made so much of by Anglican divines, he limits himself to the task of ascertaining "what is the nearest approximation to that primitive truth which Ignatius and Polycarp enjoyed, and which the 19th century has virtually lost?"—(p. 7.) It was almost enough for him that the Fathers did not contradict him, and that he was not obliged absolutely to part company with them; for, as matters stood, he felt the Anglican hypothesis could shoot up and thrive in the gaps between the trees which were the pride of the Eden of primitive truth, neither choking nor choked by their foliage. And he hoped to be able to retain Origen and Cyprian, though he held by Laud '—(p. 24.)
Now it may be very true that the idea of the via media, in the precise form in which the present writer conceived it, never had an existence until it issued from his teeming brain; i.e., there never was a religious system or branch of the Church professing to govern itself upon the principle there announced. In that sense Dr. Newman's statement is strictly accurate. But he must know that the Caroline divines meant, not this, but something very different; and we appeal to his own candour, whether he did not himself mean something far more reasonable, and far more available as an argument, when he originally put forth this treatise as an Anglican. He is wanting to take the mere shell of his former argument; to take his old self (in fact) at a disadvantage; and we must make it our business to see fair play.
It is sufficiently evident that a system professing to mediate be
tween two other and widely different systems cannot so act, and therefore cannot acquire the name of via media, until after those other systems have come into existence to be mediated between. But that does not prove that the mediating system was not actually in existence long before either of the others. It may acquire new relations and a new justification from the new divergence of other systems. It may even express, under a new name, the new raison d'être which circumstances have given it; but it need not vary its principles in the least from what they were. It may remain primitive in essential truth, while becoming via media by the force of events merely.
That is, as every student knows, the claim that was made on behalf of the Anglican Church; made, we do not at this moment say, successfully or the reverse; but made deliberately and honestly by the Caroline divines; and, assuredly, it is not invalidated by the fact that the claim was not made before the circumstances that made it needful occurred!
It has sometimes been said that the via media theory has broken down. If so, that has been because too much was asked of it. But in any case it has not always been remembered that the Anglican position neither rests upon a theory nor is affected by its collapse. A dispassionate examination of the remains of primitive antiquity will show a substantial identity between it and the Anglican position, not, indeed, in external worship, nor in matters of discipline, which have varied infinitely from time to time since then, but in fundamental principles, i.e., in such matters as touch the life of a Church. We must content ourselves in this and in the former instance with merely indicating our line of argument, the necessary space to work it out being wanting to us. Nor can we even touch upon the many other questions raised by Dr. Newman, as he endeavours, with more or less success, to disprove his former conclusions. Generally they show plainly enough that it is not always true that 'second thoughts are best;' and we do not know that any mode could have been taken to exhibit the original argument to greater advantage than to put it side by side with these later glosses.
Christian Evidences viewed in relation to Modern Thought.
It would be a very interesting preliminary inquiry to an argument of this kind, whether the lapse of time rightfully affects the worth and validity of Christian or any other evidences, and, if so, to what extent? It is an inquiry which the present lecturer has not apparently deemed it needful to enter upon. But the reply which an apologist would probably deem it sufficient to make, would be that evidence is purely relative in its nature, and must therefore vary accordingly with the class of minds to which it may be from time to time in relation. Given an African Negro, a Brahmin from the schools of Benares, and a German professor, all equally ignorant of Christianity, and it will probably be conceded that they will each ask different questions
about it, and demand a widely different class of evidence to its truth. We may even go so far as to lay down that not merely each age, but each generation has its peculiarities of mental temperament, which will lead the individual to accept one class of apologetic arguments, and to reject another as insufficient. Who does not know, e.g. how the idea of forensic or legal justification is ingrained into the theology of the early part of the present century? Is there a single writer who would maintain it now? We doubt it. Two generations at most have sufficed for a complete revolution of thought on the part of a considerable and rather active school of theological writers.
It would seem, therefore, that while the formal validity of apologetic arguments may remain untouched, their worth and value to a particular generation may entirely disappear, because of a certain gradual and almost impalpable change in the religious conceptions to which they were originally adapted. They are like entrenchments which have been turned. They have been valuable before, they may be valuable again, but for the present need they are unadapted. For every defensive work of our ancestors the enemy has devised a counter work. For the argument from prophecy he has the 'organic or dynamic view' of Kuenen and his school; to arguments founded on the inspiration of the Scripture he replies by applying his critical solvent to book after book, until a mere heap of fragments lies under his hands; he disposes of the Resurrection by means of the "Vision Theory," which is the latest addition to the agnostic equipment; in short, we have a rationalistic parry for every thrust. A time will un
questionably come when the essential unlikelihood of many of these cavils will be clearly recognised, and then the old polemic may come back into use; at present, they convince, and it is the part of the Christian apologist to convince his own contemporaries.
Of the abstract lawfulness upon religious grounds, therefore, of the course taken by Prebendary Row, there can be little doubt.
Nor can there, we imagine, be much hesitation as to the great value of the detailed argument with which we are presented in these Lectures. In one word, the writer offers here the historical proof. 'The essence of the Christian revelation,' he says, 'consists, not in a body of formulated dogmatic truth, but in a personal history.' Throwing aside details, which, however important, are separable, he takes his stand argumentatively upon the single fact of the Incarnation of the Divine Son, and, further, upon the series of facts which can, by a process of historical inquiry, be shown to have resulted from that original and causal fact, in every age, until the present day. It is obvious that the present lecturer is not the first by a great many to have formulated this line of argument, or even to have drawn it out into some degree of detail. To give but one instance, if our memory serves us (for it is years since we have seen the book), one of the chapters of Archbishop Whately's Evidences of Christianity is substantially the same as the one before us.
But the difference is this, that by the displacement of defensive arguments which were formerly put first, this particular argument has
gradually come to the front, and instead of being a subordinate branch of the argument has become the principal one; and demands, what it has in these lectures received as it has never received before, a complete and elaborate treatment in all respects worthy of the weight it has now to bear, and of the prominent position among Christian Evidences which it has now to assume.
This thesis then is what, pro hac vice, the Lecturer undertakes to defend; and only this. He puts aside for the moment even the questions of the inspiration of the record, postulating for the Gospels and Epistles merely ordinary historical accuracy, of the Divine Nature, of the Atonement, and other truths of the first order :
'In determining the extent of the position which must be occupied by the defender of Christianity, it is of the highest importance that we should keep clearly in view the distinction which exists between revelation on the one hand, and inspiration and theology on the other. this point great confusion of thought has prevailed; and the result has been that the line of our defence has become dangerously extended. The wide extent of the position, to the defence of which the Christian advocate is supposed to be committed, forms one of the strongholds of popular unbelief. It is also undeniable that theology has in former ages claimed, as its legitimate domains, whole provinces of thought, from which it has had to beat a retreat before the steady advance of scientific knowledge. It will probably have to retire further still before it occupies its rightful position. Such retreats have been attended with disastrous results; and with the experience of the past before us, I must claim the right-it is in fact our duty-to separate the defence of Christianity from every question which is not vitally connected with the Christian position, and to confine it to the historic facts, which form the foundation on which the Church has been erected, and the inner life of Christianity, as a great moral and spiritual power, is based. The consideration of the inferences deducible from these facts is the proper function, not of the Christian advocate, but of the scientific theologian'—(p. 14.)
And he confines his defence to this one point, the establishment of the historical truth and supernatural power of the Incarnation and Life of Christ.
It follows that the entire series of lectures are occupied more or less remotely with a single position. But that one is of altogether incalculable importance. If the defence should have failed there, it may as well fail everywhere. Whereas if it be established it affords a fundamental TO σr and logical justification for the theological inferences which go to make up the body of Christian doctrine. We should observe that the lecturer appears to have somewhat transgressed the limits he had laid down for his argument, when he virtually implies the whole body of the Jewish theosophic conceptions antecedently to the appearance of Jesus, in order to reach at one step the conclusion that the Divine Creator is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that it was the Divine Son who was thus manifested in the Person of Jesus Christ. The truth is, that the conditions of the argument require that we should reach this conclusion a parte post, but not a a parte ante, on pain of a charge of petitio principii, i.e. implying the thing to be proved.
There seems to us a weighty objection to making theology, as Mr. Row does on pp. 16-20, a purely human science, viz. that it at once, and by one blow, destroys inspiration. If you reduce revelation, that is to say, to a certain number of historical facts, and suppose those facts to have been thrown down upon the world-arena for the human intellect to make what it could out of them (and this is the lecturer's absolutely fundamental_position), then the function of inspiration has utterly vanished. Inspiration is not at all indispensable for the correct recording of current events, however marvellous. Contemporary historical testimony is perfectly adequate for that if the witnesses be fairly honest and unprejudiced. It is, indeed, the very highest form, speaking from the standpoint of historical criticism, of witness to facts. It is not clear how the value of a witness to a particular fact could be increased to later ages by his inspiration; because the distant spectator wants to be assured of the inspiration of the particular witness in question, and must have an independent attestation of that. There is nothing in the result (ie. the correct report) to guarantee inspiration ipso facto, or even necessarily to require it. How would the reports of two witnesses, the one correct with inspiration, the other correct without it, differ from each other?
It appears to us, on the contrary, that the function of inspiration comes in just where Mr. Row is disposed to deny it, i.e. in the way of commentary upon the facts and for the purpose of constructing a theology. A body of writers may conceivably report correctly, without the help of inspiration, the facts of which they were witnesses; they can hardly draw out an entire system of dogmatic inferences without such help; or, at all events, they will need it much more. The human mind requires to have facts set in their proper connexion and grouping, to begin with, and to be itself started on the right lines of inference. That is exactly what the Epistles do with, or, rather, for, the great facts of religion. Mr. Row is apparently shut up to admitting that the great outlines (at all events) of theology are of the essence of revelation, or of denying the inspiration of the Epistles of S. Paul, upon which he grounds so large a part of the later portion (Lect. vi. with Supplement) of his argument.
This point is not one, however, that it is safe to push too far. That there is a human element in theology no wise divine would wish to deny. It would seem to have been part of the Divine purpose in revelation to bring truth after truth above the horizon of the Church's consciousness, as the faithful grew more and more able to appreciate them. We should be the last to deny that the sanctified intellect has had, and still has, a providentially ordained part in the evolution of Divine truth; a fact upon which, indeed, rests the prophetical office of the Church. It may well be that otherwise the various Divine truths, difficult and transcendental as they are, might have failed to enter into the consciousness of the race, and to be wrought into its fibre; that only by the solitary study of unnumbered obscure religious, and by the persevering catechizing and teaching of the venturous missionary, and by the heated debate and sharp