« PoprzedniaDalej »
and of the amount of authority which each derives from the other; and in proportion, further, to the comparative paucity of those whose previous course of study enables them to speak with any degree of confidence on many points of critical and exegetical interpretation involved in this inquiry, it behoves the few thus qualified to avail themselves of every legitimate opportunity to contribute their quota, whether it be great or small, towards the right solution of a question of the highest degree of interest, and, as regards its bearing on the controversies of our own day, one of paramount importance.
With a view to afford our readers some idea of the value of Mr. Leathes' contribution to this cause, as contained in the volume under review, we will select, by way of illustration, the manner in which the author deals with one of the most re., markable of the strange theories which have been imported into this country from Germany, and one to which the attention of the readers of the Christian Observer has been recently directed. We refer to the notion, which has been extensively adopted abroad, and which in recent times has found favour with a considerable number of the critics of the new school amongst ourselves, that the last twenty-seven chapters of the prophecies commonly ascribed to Isaiah were composed, not by the prophet himself, but by a much later author, who has received the appellation of “the second Isaiah," or the yet stranger designation of "the great Unknown.”
The first argument adduced by Mr. Leathes against the sub-captivity or post-captivity date of these chapters is derived from the fact, that the composition is allowed on all sides to be “ worthy of the best days of the Jewish literature." We will lay before our readers, in the author's own words, some of the reasons which, in his judgment, are decisive against the date assigned to a composition of such acknowledged “poetic grace, majesty of diction, and sublimity of thought.”
“ It so happens,” Mr. Leathes writes (p. 179), “as a matter of fact, that we are well acquainted with the character of the nation during the captivity and after it. We know the prophets who flourished during that period; their writings have been preserved to us, and we are able to estimate their intellectual stature, and to form an adequate idea of their literary capacity. Nor is it, on the surface of things, at all probable, in the first place, that a prophet should arise at the period of the nation's deepest dejection, capable of producing poetical compositions and prophecies, such as those of the last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah. Has any writer or poet of the first order ever been known to arise in the era of a nation's decadence? Is it not a fact, that such writers are the ornament, either of a nation's earliest growth, or else of its maturity ? It seems to require the concentrated energy of a people's national life, to produce a national author of the first rank."
The next argument urged by Mr. Leathes is the high degree of improbability that a writer, confessedly of the first rank, should be consigned to utter oblivion,--that, at a period when the national genealogies were carefully preserved, the author of Isaiah xl.-Ixvi. should not have left the vestige of a name behind him; and should be indebted to writers of the nineteenth century after Christ for one worthy perhaps of their shadowy theories, but wholly out of keeping with all that is recorded of the sixth century before Christ — “the great Unknown.”
This improbability is greatly increased by the consideration that there is no adequate reason which can be assigned in support of the supposition that the author of these prophecies either wrote anonymously, or was unknown to the men of his own age. On the contrary, whatever were the means employed, it can scarcely be doubted by those who are conversant with Jewish history, either that abundant opportunity existed of discriminating between true prophets and false, or that it was both the duty and the practice of those to whom an alleged message from God was delivered, to trace that message to a duly accredited messenger.
Having very briefly, but, as we think, very conclusively, established the unsuitableness of the enquiry, “Who hath believed our report ?” to the circumstances of a contemporary of Ezra and Zerubbabel announcing the return, already imminent, from the Babylonish captivity, and the still greater unsuitableness of the representation of Jehovah's “servant" to one who, on the assumed conditions, must have been “some prominent actor in the history of the time,” Mr. Leathes proceeds to establish the true Messianic interpretation of Isaiah liü. as applicable to Him in whose person and work alone the required conditions of the prophecy were combined, viz., that He should be greater than kings, and yet humbled even to death; and that, as the result of His vicarious satisfaction, atonement should be made, not for the iniquity of the Jewish race only, but for the transgressions of the many nations and kings to whom the closing words of the preceding chapter refer, i.e., in other words, of the entire universe, "The Lord hath laid (or caused to meet) in (or on) Him the iniquity of us all.”
Whilst fully sensible of the Messianic value of chapters xl.-lxvi., whether wrongly or rightly ascribed to Isaiah, Mr. Leathes is as fully persuaded of the great importance, as bearing upon the supernatural character of Scripture, of the arguments which he believes to be conclusive of the integrity of the writings which bear that prophet's name. He has, therefore, in an extremely interesting and valuable Note, appended to the Boyle Lectures, not only examined seriatim the reasons assigned by the Dean of Westminster against that integrity, but he has also presented, in the course of his reply to Dr. Stanley's third objection, which is grounded on the alleged differences of language between the earlier and later prophecies, an amount of positive evidence on the other side, not only neutralizing the vague and indefinite assertions of certain German philologists, but sufficient, in our opinion, to present a strong prima facie case in support of the identity of authorship.*
We refrain from adducing other quotations from these Lectures, our object being to afford our readers such a general idea of the nature of the work as may induce those who have the leisure and inclination for such pursuits, to examine it for themselves.
We are unwilling, however, to conclude this notice of a book so deserving the attention of Biblical students, without quoting the concluding passage of the Note to which we have already referred, in which Mr. Leathes, after referring to Isaiah vi. as affording an illustration of his statement that the writings of the so-called first Isaiah present us with phenomena as inex. plicable, on merely natural principles, as those of the so-called second Isaiah, continues thus :
“I have not mentioned this because I believe it to be the only passage in the early chapters of Isaiah referring to distant events, or to these events,” (i.e. to the Babylonian Desolation and the succeeding Consolation,) "but because, to understand this chapter thus, seems to me to throw great light upon it. As a matter of fact, the real title of the prophets to the name they bear, and their real claim to professing, in a supernatural manner, the power of prediction, does not rest upon the establishment of this or that fulfilled prophecy, but upon the cast and tenour of their writings as a whole. Let any man read the second chapter of Isaiah, for example, and
* So far from overstating, it appears of praise. Now the only other place in to us that Mr. Leathes has rather which the word occurs in this sense is understated, the evidence arising out of Ps. xcviii. 4, where, as in the six the occurrence of words peculiar, or places in Isaiah, it occurs in conjuncalmost peculiar, to Isaiah in both parts tion with the same word ranan, and in of his prophecies; 6.9., with regard to close connexion with such other verbal the word pazah (or pazach) Mr. Leathes coincidences with the prophecies of observes that this word, which he Isaiah as render it, in the highest derenders “broke forth," occurs “once gree, probable, either that Isaiah was the in xiv. 7, and five times in later chap- author of the Psalm, or that one of the ters; once only in Psalms, and once in two writers borrowed from the other. Micah, besides." This statement is Much might be added under the head perfectly correct, but in no wise pre- of similarity of style and expression sents the full force of the argument between the earlier and later proinasmuch as Micah uses the word in phecies of Isaiah, with regard to the ordinary sense of breaking, with which, by way of illustration, we may reference to the bones, whereas Isaiah refer to the very striking and characin each of the six cases in which the teristic use of anadiplosis or iteration, word occurs, uses it, in conjunction which may be traced throughout the with some of the derivatives of ranan, whole of these prophecies. in the sense of breaking forth into a shout
say whether or not there is prediction there ; let him say whether or not that has been fulfilled,—whether or not it remains still to be fulfilled. To my mind, the superhuman and Divine character of these writings is stamped upon them in ineffaceable letters. I read it there broad and deep; but start with the denial of its existence, and who shall prove it to exist ?”
THE SLAVE TRADE OF EAST AFRICA. Exactly one hundred years have passed since Granville Sharpe gave to the world the result of his enquiries into the law of England on the toleration of slavery in this kingdom. The basis of this investigation was, it may be remembered, the opinion given in 1729, by the then Attorney and SolicitorGenerals, Yorke and Talbot, that a slave, by coming to England, did not become free, and might be legally compelled to return with his master to the plantations. Granville Sharpe, after a careful examination of the subject, concluded “ that the sentiment of Lord Chief Justice Holt, that as soon as a negro comes into England he becomes free, might safely be preferred to all contrary opinions.”
Soon afterwards, the action brought on behalf of the negro Somerset, afforded an opportunity of testing the correctness of this opinion, and for the establishment, as a rule of law, of Lord Chief Justice Holt's now well-known sentiment.
Least prominent in the contest which led to this result, though its real mainspring, stands the figure of Granville Sharpe, the prosecutor, who, though poor and immersed in the duties of a toilsome daily occupation, supplied the money, the leisure, the perseverance, and the learning required for this great controversy, and yet had carefully concealed his own connection with it, fearful lest so humble a name should weaken a cause so momentous.
With no special education, and but little leisure, the Ordnance clerk had, by unflinching industry and toil, proved himself on a par, if not superior, in one main branch of English law, to some of our most eminent judges of that period; such at least is the dictum of the late Sir J. Stephen.. One hundred years have passed away, a century marked by events as important as any that have transpired in the world's history, and among them no landmark stands out more conspicuously than the monument which records the History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade. To Granville Sharpe belongs the honour of having first aroused in the English mind a sense of the enjoyment of a free
dom so perfect, so ennobling, so gracious, as to cover and enfranchise all who share with Englishmen the privilege of
anch English soil. of God to Africa, and who
When, in the mercy of God to Africa, a few earnest men were found whose hearts bled for her wrongs, and whose hands were strong to redress those wrongs, foremost as leaders stood Granville Sharpe, Clarkson, and William Wilberforce. To the first was committed the presidency of the Society formed for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, and to Wilberforce was assigned the general superintendence and Parliamentary management of the cause. The century whose commencement we have marked has passed away, and we witness the result of these men's labours; truly they have laboured, and we have entered into their labours. They contemplated but the overthrow of a gigantic evil, the curse of Africa's sons; we see that curse removed, and in place of the slaver and the slave barracoon, we see, looking from the very spot where John Newton lamented his captivity in the service of Satan, a Freetown, many of whose inhabitants, once slaves, or the children of slaves, are now free men in Christ Jesus. Nay, more; we see the Gospel carried into the old haunts of the slavers; and as the sailor makes for the bar of Lagos, that last haunt of the slave trade, his landmark for the harbour is the spire of an English church, one of three erected there by the Church Missionary Society. Still further on we find a native Christian church in Abbeokuta, and at various places on the Niger native churches, their spiritual father himself once a slave, now a bishop of our own beloved Church. The century may well close with words taken from an evening paper which, writing in May last, pronounces the African slave trade to be a thing of the past, adding that the British cruiser is not the only obstacle to the trade, but the want of purchasers has rendered the trade useless and unprofitable, and never to be resuscitated. .
It may be well, in directing the attention of our readers to the slave trade at present carried on, with all the horrors of the old trade, upon the East Coast of Africa, to call to remembrance the circumstances under which the battle of the West Coast slave trade was fought and won. The disappointments and failures in that conflict may not be familiar to all, and many of our readers may be surprised to learn that twenty long years of labour and sorrow were consumed ere Mr. Wilberforce's efforts for the abolition of the slave trade were crowned with success. In 1789, he first proposed the abolition of the slave trade in the House of Commons, and it was not until April, 1791, that the question was brought directly to an issue. The two years that had elapsed since his successful speech in 1789, had sufficed to change the current of popular feeling; and some indication of