« PreviousContinue »
opposed the popular notions of the Jews respecting the divine origin and authority of the Levitical law and the authorship of the Pentateuch, In this way Mr. Norton regards himself as vindicating the character of Christ; and full credit must be given to him, not only for purity of intention in the matter, but also for devout attachment to Christianity. His whole work is a monument to that attachment. It would, still farther, be unfair to Mr. Norton to suppose that he was influenced in his objections to Judaism, as represented in the Pentateuch, by the philosophy which repudiates miraculous interference. In this very note, he more than once indignantly protests against such philosophy. He not only considers Moses to have been supernaturally endowed, but he admits the claim of Jewish history to miracles wrought among the Israelites subsequently to the time of Moses. His concessions on this head are made in much too sceptical a spirit for our taste; but we have pleasure in pointing out the wide difference existing between his speculations and those which are based upon the principle of treating every alleged departure from natural law as necessarily fabulous.
It is not our intention to enter upon an examination of the objections urged by Mr. Norton against the character and Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. They possess no novelty; and although some of them present considerable difficulties, we are surprised that others, the reply to which is so obvious and satisfactory, should have been insisted upon by him. We cannot resist the conclusion that his strong desire to make out a case, has injuriously interfered with the discrimination in the exercise of which his matter should have been chosen. His discussion is especially deficient, inasmuch as it does not afford an adequate representation of the views and arguments by which an opposite theory to his may be supported. There is not only much more to be said on the other side than he has taken notice of, but that which he has passed by is often more conclusive than that which he has attended to. There is another general objection which we have to his mode of treating his subject. He regards the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch as involving far greater responsibility than justly belongs to it. There is a marked difference between the allowances he makes as to the principles which should regulate our interpretation of the other books of the Old Testament, and the strictness he requires in the use of these books. Much that he says, in consistency with that strictness, can only press against those who hold the theory of the inspiration of the writings themselves. That theory we do not hold, and can therefore admit into our estimate of the case a degree of ignorance and mistake and imperfection, by which some of its most formidable difficulties may be reasonably explained. Believing though we do that Moses was substantially the author of the Pentateuch, we do not believe what is there written to be free from great incorrectness. Believing though we do that the religious system there described was the system revealed by God to the Israelites, we do not consider the form in which it is made known to us to be divine, but human.
As to Mr. Norton's grand position, that Judaism in its true and original form was something entirely different from the Judaism which the law of Moses, as we have received it, exhibits to us,-it is, in our judgment, altogether untenable. We cannot discover the slightest foundation for it, in fact. It seems to us a pure hypothesis, arising solely from the moral objections entertained by its author to the only kind of Judaism of which we have any account. The original revelation thus imagined to exist, is nowhere to be found. It is not even pretended to be pointed out. We think it quite beneath the office of either a historical or theological critic to put forward so mere a supposition in order to serve the important purposes to which it is here applied. Those purposes it cannot serve. No one who sympathizes with Mr. Norton in his moral objections to Judaism as we have it, can be expected to retain a faith in the divine origin of the Jewish religion, on the ground that that religion was an unknown something which might be worthy of the character of God. The theory would be entirely useless for the conviction of such an objector. He would say, and reasonably say, Let me at least understand what it is in favour of which you ask my belief, before I yield my assent to it—I cannot take merely upon credit the religious truth for whose sake your demand of faith is made from me.
The nearest approach to any thing like proof of the existence of a Mosaic system different from the ritual one, is contained in those passages quoted by Mr. Norton from the Prophets, in which moral goodness is set above ceremonial obedience. They are, however, very far from amounting to such proof. They detail no religious system different from that with which we are acquainted. They are, in our opinion, reconcileable with that system ; but if they were not so—if, as Mr. Norton argues, they were designed to oppose such a system,-they most obviously imply its existence. Whatever their intention be, their very construction goes full to the point, that the Judaism of the period at which they were written bore the same general character as that described in the Levitical law.
Mr. Norton, as we have already said, bases his belief of the divine origin of the Jewish religion upon his faith in Christianity. In consistency with his theory, he supposes that what our Saviour sanctioned was not the written law as it existed in his time, but a revelation which was superseded by that law. The criticism by which this supposition is defended is the weakest part of his production. To affirm, as he does, that Christ accommodated himself to the prejudices of the Jews, and that when he said, “Moses wrote concerning me," either he meant, “ Moses as you suppose wrote concerning me,” or the word wrote was inaccurately inserted by the evangelist instead of the word taught, will not at all meet the wants of the case. The references of Christ which bear upon the question related solely to the writings of the Old Testament. If he did not refer to them, he referred to nothing with which we are acquainted. There is no known system in favour of which the accommodation attributed to him could have been made. He never distinguished or hinted at a distinction between two different kinds of Judaism, one of which was contained in the Scriptures, and the other revealed elsewhere. He distinguished between the imperfection of Judaism and his own purer revelation ; but whether we understand him, as Mr. Norton does, to have cast absolute discredit upon Judaism, or, as he is generally understood, to have simply proposed the better truth to which Judaism was preparatory, there is not a shadow of evidence that he kept in his view a Jewish religion involving no necessity for such distinction. If the latter were the case, so far from thinking,
with Mr. Norton, that our Saviour would have been restrained by any prudential considerations from contrasting the corrupted Judaism exhibited in the Scriptures, with the true Judaism which accorded with his own doctrines, we are persuaded that the presentation of such a contrast would have been much less offensive to his countrymen than the plan he actually adopted. They would have been more likely to yield to the authority of their law in its original form, than to the personal authority which he asserted for himself. He did contrast their vain traditions with the written commands of God; and the only reason to be given why he did not contrast writings which he believed to be false, with divine communications into whose place those writings had stepped, is, that he had no knowledge of such communications. They enter not into his statements or allusions; and till they can be pointed out as plainly recognized by him, we must consider them as a pure invention. The argument from the divinity of Christianity to the divinity of Judaism, can never be rationally brought to bear upon a Mosaic religion of which Christianity makes no mention.
The work of Moses STUART on The Critical History and Defence of the Old Testament Canon, is intended to be a reply to Mr. Norton's speculations. Every thing proceeding from Mr. Stuart must possess considerable value ; but of this treatise, taken as a whole, we are not able to speak in terms of high commendation. It is a slovenly production, and presents a marked contrast, in style of composition and order of arrangement, to the lucid dissertation against which it is directed. It cannot with any propriety be considered as an answer to what Mr. Norton has advanced. It is mainly employed in shewing, that at the time of our Saviour, and for a long period previously, the books which compose our canon of the Old Testament were regarded by the Jews as genuine and sacred. This, we suppose, Mr. Norton would not deny. The conclusion drawn by Mr. Stuart from the undisputed fact just mentioned is, that the sanction given to the Jewish Scriptures by Jesus Christ necessitates us, as Christians, to accept the Old Testament in the same character as the Jews attributed to it. We do not agree with him to the full extent of this conclusion ; but we do think that the process of reasoning by which it is supported bears very forcibly against Mr. Norton's theory. Other arguments calculated to shake that theory are also introduced in the course of the discussion; and much of the information given is indirectly applicable to points important to the controversy which ought to have been more fully set forth. Though Mr. Stuart has not fairly met the objections of his opponent, and though he has frequently failed to do justice to his own views, we are persuaded that he has presented a case with the substantial truth of which Mr. Norton's notions cannot be reconciled.
The cardinal fault of Mr. Stuart's discussion is his continually insisting upon the inspiration of the books of the Old Testament. The doctrine of inspiration is not only a conclusion to which he invariably endeavours to bring his reader, but he puts it forth as the great means of overbearing the difficulties presented to him in the course of his investigation. He thus cuts the knots which he fails to untie. Resting the reception of the Jewish Scriptures, as he does, upon the character assigned to them by the Christian revelation, the grand point he had to establish on this question of inspiration is, that Christianity lays down the doctrine for which he contends. Unless he proves that, he proves nothing. That he does not prove. There is but one passage of the New Testament which can with any fairness be alleged as containing such proof. We refer, of course, to 2 Tim. iii. 16, rendered in our Common Version—" All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine," &c. The translation we prefer deprives this passage of its application to the point in hand. We render it, “ All scripture given by inspiration of God is also profitable for doctrine,” &c. Of this rendering Mr. Stuart takes no notice. He does, however, make a concession which ought to have led him to the adoption of our view of the case. He thus expounds the passage: “Every scripture, Fãou ypady, i.e. every constituent part or portion of the Scriptures, as the omission of the article of course implies (not nãoa ni ypadr, all the scripture, spoken of as merely a collective unity), is inspired of God." Now if tãra ypady does not mean all the scripture, but every scripture, we submit that those words must be immediately connected with DE ÓMVEVOTOS to indicate what kind of scripture or writing it is to which the apostle refers, i. e, inspired writing. The phrase rãra ypadpri cannot apply to the Old Testament Scriptures as such, except in their form of “ a collective unity.” “Every constituent part or portion of the Scriptures,” is most certainly an interpretation which this phrase will not bear. We repeat, then, that there is no evidence of the doctrine of inspiration, in its application to the whole collection of books comprised in the Old Testament, being enforced upon us by Christianity. Without such evidence, that doctrine falls to the ground. But that is not all, as far as Mr. Stuart is concerned. He admits of interpolations, errors and discrepancies, as existing to a great extent in the Jewish Scriptures. How these are to be reconciled with the inspiration of those books, he does not tell us. We believe that no such reconciliation can be effected. Either the argument for inspi. ration covers the whole collection of books as a whole, or it must be brought separately to bear upon all its different parts. Mr. Stuart does not attempt to bring it to bear upon the separate parts of the collection. It is sufficiently clear, from what he has said, that such an attempt would in his hands be a miserable failure. On the other hand, no argument for the inspiration of the canon as a whole can succeed, when it is allowed that there are various portions of that canon whose historical truth is more than doubtful, and which are inconsistent with each other. Mr. Stuart's theory of inspiration is opposed to his own facts. There is another remark which we have to make before we dismiss this question of inspiration. Mr. Stuart never informs us what he means by inspiration. He intimates, in one place, that he is no believer in “ plenary verbal inspiration;" and, in another place, he rejects the Jewish notion, as delivered by Philo, that the person inspired was entirely passive under the divine influence exerted upon him. We think him inconsistent in both these respects. The inspiration which attaches to a collection of books must be erbal inspiration; we can conceive of no other that answers to the case. If, moreover, an argument drawn from the mode in which the Jews regarded their Scriptures be fairly applicable to the regulation of our faith in the same Scriptures, it must go to the point, that the faith they held is the faith we ought to hold. We are bound on that ground to accept, not any kind of inspiration we please, but that particular kind which they accepted. These inconsistencies we, how. ever, pass by with a bare allusion to them. What we wish especially to observe here is, that Mr. Stuart has carefully abstained from defin. ing the inspiration upon which he himself so imperatively insists. He tells us what he does not believe upon the point, but he neglects to tell us what he does believe. He thus leaves the whole subject in doubt and confusion. We are persuaded that whatever theory he chose to adopt, might be shewn not to square with much contained in his book ; but as the matter at present stands, the most important principle to the enforcement of which that book is directed, is left unexplained.
One striking characteristic of Mr. Stuart's work is the irritation it displays toward the class of theologians to which Mr. Norton belongs. Of " the more liberal among the class of liberals” who reject all that is supernatural in Christianity, he can speak not only with calmness, but in terms of respect. It is in a very different spirit, however, that he treats those whose liberal views of religion are united with a strong attachment to the gospel in its form of a miraculous revelation. He can scarcely refer to them without losing his temper. He plainly intimates that he would much prefer their being unbelievers, to their retaining their present position within the Christian pale. His own dogmatic theology is so much more valuable to him than faith in the divinity of the system from which he derives that theology, that he would be willing to see such faith sàcrificed to the interest of his particular views. This state of mind has led him far astray both from truth and charity. It has caused him so to shape his argument, as, if possible, to force upon those who differ from him an entire renunciation of Christianity. He has done considerable injury to his cause by this means. His defences of some things contained in the Old Testament are so far strained in favour of popular prejudice, as frequently to fix upon him the character of a one-sided advocate. He suffers truthful investigation often to give place to mere special-pleading. In this way he may increase his reputation among the orthodox masses, but he will repel those honest thinkers whom it ought to be his chief purpose to convince. We are not, however, inclined to attribute the irritation of which we have spoken, solely to Mr. Stuart's zeal for orthodoxy. It arises quite as much from the evident sympathy he himself has with more liberal principles of scriptural interpretation than those by which orthodoxy is commonly supported. He is, in this respect, much superior to the class to which he belongs; and his secret consciousness of a nearer approach to the views of his opponents than is distinctive of those with whom he acts, originates a more bitter feeling toward his heterodox brethren than would otherwise exist. This is not seldom the case with others as well as with him.
Though reluctantly compelled to make these somewhat severe reflections upon his conduct, we have yet great pleasure in calling special attention to the liberality to which we have just alluded. It constitutes the great value of his book. The advice he gives as to the manner in which the Old Testament should be used by Christians will be eminently beneficial to the party among whom his influence extends. A few