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however, many well-intentioned but restless people, who are ever directing attention to the presence of the evil, as not only justifying, but requiring, a separation, but who forget that, precisely as they are successful in persuading earnest Christians to secede, in the same measure are they enfeebling the cause of truth within the Church, and aiding by their unreasonable action the very evil against which they so zealously protest.
The mere presence of doctrinal corruption does not justify secession. In the Seven Asiatic Churches there was much of this element; in some instances glaringly so; and He whose eyes are as a flame of fire, saw it clearly, and reproved it; but He did not enjoin His people to withdraw from these organi. sations; nor is it until a Church has cast out the Gospel, and closed its pulpits against those who would faithfully preach it, that the command is given, “ Come out of her, my people.”
If it be admitted that corruption in the body of a Church justifies secession, then where is this to end ? Evidently the object aimed at is a pure communion, and this is unattainable. A body of Christians may reduce themselves to a condition of extreme numerical weakness, in the hope that the residuum shall be one of unmixed spirituality. Much real gold has been rejected during the process; but not so the alloy ; that at the best is only partially eliminated, and when in the new combination its presence is detected, then there ensues a new disruption; and the disintegrating process must go on until the loose concrete is resolved into its units.
(To be continued.)
FAIRBAIRN'S REVELATION OF LAW IN SCRIPTURE. The Revelation of Law in Scripture : considered with respect both to its own Nature, and to its relative Place in successive Dispensations. The Third Series of the “ Cunningham Lectures." By Patrick Fairbairn, D.D., Author of " Typology of Scripture," 8c. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. London: Hamilton & Co. 1869.
HOWEVER many and great may be, and in our judgment are, the adyantages of Established Churches, the volume before us affords sufficient evidence that they do not possess a monopoly of able theologians. The reputation of Dr. Fairbairn was sufficiently established to justify his appointment as Cunningham Lecturer, and we have no hesitation in expressing our conviction that the Third Series of the Cunningham Lectures has neither disappointed the expectations of the Trustees, nor detracted from the reputation of a Community which can exhibit names so illustrious as those which adorn the annals of the Free Church of Scotland.
Dr. Fairbairn, in his introductory Lecture, takes occasion to remark upon the partial and inadequate notions which are prevalent in the present day, regarding the place and authority of Law in the Divine administration.
With reference to the order of events in the natural world, Dr. Fairbairn obseryes, very justly, that
"A two-fold disturbance has arisen—the one from men 'of science pressing, not so much ascertained facts, as plausible inferences or speculations built on them, to unfavourable conclusions against Scripture; the other from theologians themselves, overstepping in their interpretations of Scripture, and finding in it revelations of law, or supposed indications of order, in the natural sphere, which it was never intended to give.” (p. 2.)
The Lecturer shows that the true remedy for this disturbance is to be found in a just appreciation of the true position occupied by Revelation with regard to the constitution of nature and its relation to the Creator; and he contrasts the relation of the Bible, and its true religion, to the pursuits of science, with that ascription of natural events to insensate causes and unintelligent powers which is one of the distinctive characteristics of the false religions of polytheism. Dr. Fairbairn's remarks on this portion of his subject are judiciously summed up by a few remarks on the three following characteristics, which he observes in the teaching of the Bible, respecting the relation of God to the natural world; viz. :-(1) the proper personality of God, as distinct from, and independent of, the visible creation; (2) the pre-supposition of, rather than the direct interference with, the limits of natural science in the revelations of the Bible; and (3) the full and free scope which they allow to the operation of cause and effect, not merely as bearing on simply natural results, but also as connected with spiritual relations.
Dr. Fairbairn's observations on this third characteristic of Bible teaching with respect to the natural world, are well worthy of serious consideration, not only on the part of those who are disposed to cavil at the alleged inconsistencies of revelation, but also of those who, by the use of unguarded expressions, and sometimes by the indulgence of a presumptuous expectation of such interpositions of providence as Scripture nowhere sanctions, have encompassed the doctrine of a special providence with difficulties of their own creation. His remarks are as follows :
“So also the common subject of grace,-the ordinary believer ob
tains no warrant, as such, to set at naught the settled laws and ordinances of nature, no right to expect aught but mischief if he should contravene their action, or fail to adapt himself to their mode of operation; and at every step in his course toward the final goal of his calling, reason, knowledge, cultivation, wise discretion, and persevering diligence have their parts to play in securing his safety and progress, as well as the Divine help and internal agency of the Spirit. . . . . And even as regards the things done for the believer in the outer field of Providence, and in answer to humble prayer, there may be no need (for aught we know to the contrary) for miraculous interference in the ordinary sense of the term, but only for wise direction, for timely and fitting adjustment. It may even be, as Isaac Taylor has said, the great miracle of Providence, that no miracles are needed to accomplish its purposes ;' that the materials of the machinery of Providence are all of ordinary quality, while their combination displays nothing less than infinite skill; and, at all events, within this field alone of Divine foresight and gracious interventions through natural agencies, there is in the hand of God 'a hidden treasury of boons sufficient for the incitement of prayer and the reward of humble faith.'” (pp. 15, 16.)
In the latter part of his introductory Lecture, Dr. Fairbairn, turning from the physical to the moral and religious sphere, briefly reviews the opinions respecting law entertained by the advocates of (1) Materialism, (2) Pantheistic Idealism, (3) Christian Idealism (if we may be allowed the use of such a misnomer), (4) Neonomianism, i.e. the law of principles rather than of precepts, and (5) Antinomianism ; as preparing the way for his enquiry into the perpetual and universal obligation of the moral law, as substantially the same under the Old and New Testament dispensations, and as summed up in the Decalogue.
The subject of the Second Lecture is the relation of man to moral law. In this Lecture, Dr. Fairbairn vindicates the views adopted by the sounder class of our writers on Christian ethics, with reference to the eternal and unchanging character of the relation in which the soul of man stands to God. He shows that, so far from being exposed to the charge of novelty, these views have been maintained from the earliest period of the Christian dispensation ;—that although, strictly speaking, man originally “stood in law rather than under law,” nevertheless that the law given to bim at his creation, and written by his Maker in his heart, was substantially identical with that subsequently given to Moses and written in two tables of stone.
The third of this series of Lectures is devoted to a consideration of the progressive character of Divine Revelation. In this Lecture, Dr. Fairbairn refers to the analogous character of God's providential administration with reference alike to the life-plan of individuals, and to the history of nations; and whilst Vol. 68.–No. 380.
admitting to the full the existence of much that is dark and mysterious (and which must ever continue to be so, whilst we continue to see and to know only in part) in this progressive plan for the regeneration of the world, he shows that, the principle of progression being once admitted, the earlier dispensations were, in the fullest sense of the words, “times of preparation” for a clearer revelation of the Divine will, and that they bore just those marks of relative imperfection which the admission of that principle at once requires and explains.
In the Fourth Lecture, Dr. Fairbairn exhibits the character of the law as set forth in the Decalogue, as essentially “the law of love,” and briefly reviews the details of its injunctions and prohibitions as regarded in this light. He then proceeds to treat, at some length, of the judicial and ceremonial portions of the Mosaic Law. As regards the former portion, i.e. the Judicial Statutes and Directions, he vindicates from prevailing misconception the humanity and moderation of that code of laws as exhibited in very many of its provisions. We will take, by way of illustration, the law of the Goel, or “avenger," as the word is translated in our English version.
“To the mere English reader,” Dr. Fairbairn observes, “in modern times, this is apt to convey a somewhat wrong idea ; for, in its proper import, Goel means, not avenger, but redeemer (as in Job xix. 25), and Goel haddam is strictly redeemer of blood,' one to whom belonged the right and duty of recovering the blood of the murdered kinsman, of vindicating, in the only way practicable, its wronged cause, and obtaining for it justice. In him the blood of the dead, as it were, rose to life again and claimed its due. In other cases, it fell to the Goel to redeem the property of his relative, which had become alienated and lost by debt; to redeem his person from bondage, if through poverty he had been necessitated to go into servitude; even to redeem his family, when by dying childless it was like to become extinct in Israel, by marrying his widow and raising up a seed to him. It thus appears that a humane and brotherly feeling lay at the root of this Goel-relationship." (pp. 106, 107.)
Dr. Fairbairn then proceeds to examine the particular obligation which devolved upon the Goel as the vindicator of the blood of his slain kinsman, and shows that the Mosaic Law, so far from affording encouragement to the indulgence of a revengeful and bloodthirsty disposition, restrained and regulated the excesses of Asiatic usages, and reduced the position of the Goel to that of “the recognized and rightful prosecutor of the shedder of blood.” He notices, moreover, the peculiar facilities wbich were afforded by the vast deserts of Arabia for the escape of criminals, and the necessity of some such check as that which the institution of the office of the Goel provided against the
commission of the crime of murder; and he states, on the testimony of those who have been thoroughly conversant with the regions in question (amongst whom he mentions Burckhardt and Layard), that “nothing has contributed so much as this in. stitution (even in its most objectionable Arab form) to prevent the warlike tribes of the East from exterminating one another."
In like manner, with regard to the appointment of the cities of refuge, and to the laws of slavery and of divorce, Dr. Fairbairn shows that, so far from affording encouragement to the spirit of cruelty, of oppression, or of licentiousness, the object proposed in the Mosaic Code was to restrain that spirit by im. posing the utmost restrictions upon its exercise, which a people of such “hardness of heart” were able to endure.
With regard to the laws regulating and controlling the relaxation of the bond of marriage, Dr. Fairbairn takes occasion to correct a mistranslation of Deut. xxiv. 1, which (as Rosenmüller and others had already observed), so far from commanding the husband, under the circumstances stated, to write a bill of divorce and put away his wife, imposes the observance of very strict regulations and conditions in accordance with which alone such divorce could be permitted ; and consequently, instead of affording a divine sanction to the prevailing laxity of oriental manners, restricts the hitherto uncontrolled power of divorce within narrower and clearly defined limits.
In his consideration of the nature and intent of the Rites and Ceremonies of the Levitical Law, Dr. Fairbairn argues the inferior place which this code occupied, from the fact that it was not until the covenant had been formally ratified and sealed with blood, that the law of Ritual, in its distinctive form, came into existence.
He then directs the attention of his readers to the teaching element contained in this law as an auxiliary to that of the Two Tables—to its mediating design and to its practical efficacy as implanting in the minds of the Israelites a deeper and more constraining sense of the obligations of duty; and he concludes his Fourth Lecture with a quotation from Mr. Maurice's “Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy,” in which he says, “The distinction between these li.e. the moral) command. ments and the mere statutes of the Jewish people has strongly commended itself to the conscience of modern nations, not because they have denied the latter to have a Divine origin, but because they have felt that the same wisdom which adapted & certain class of commandments to the peculiarities of one locality and age, must intend a different one for another. The ten commandments have no such limitation.”
In his Fifth Lecture, Dr. Fairbairn examines the evidence afforded by the writings both of the Old and the New Testa