ページの画像
PDF
ePub

they are to the control of man, and liable therefore always to perversion and overthrow, must often obstruct, or utterly forbid the progress of the Gospel, if it were inextricably connected with them; or unless it were held to be separable from them and of far higher importance than any, even the best of them.

“But surely such institutions, at the best, are only means to the end; and the end must be greater than the means, always. Such institutions moreover, inasmuch as they have a local imitation, and are more or less intimately interwoven with whatever belongs to the civil and social existence of the people among whom they are found and as they are administered, from year to year, by men—not inspired, they are liable to sway, on this side and on that ; and do in fact partake of the dangerous heavings by which all human affairs are so often brought into jeopardy. It cannot therefore be wise to put our Christianity, without reserve, on board even the fairest and bestnavigated ecclcsiastical institution that has ever braved the storms.

“What are the lessons which history teaches us on this point? What has come of the experiment to entrust a visible universal church with the spiritual welfare of the human race? How has the church of Rome acquitted herself of this usurped trust? The foulest corruptions, the most extraordinary blasphemies, the most atrocious crimes, and the darkest errors, doctrinal and moral, and all perpetual through a long course of ages, these have been the fruits of the theory which would lodge an irresponsible and absolute power over Christianity with fallible man."-pp. 183, 184, 185.

It is obvious, that the only principle upon which a real union can exist, among Christians of different churches, is the sincere recognition of the truth, that the spiritual essence of Christianity is of primary importance, whilst its forms are but of secondary consideration. As "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” so churches were made for religion, and not religion for churches. What Burke somewhere says, of routine politicians, that they come in time to consider the substance of public business as of not much more importance than the forms under which it is carried on, is equally true of routine Christians ; they do not reflect, or at least, they do not sufficiently reflect, upon the immense difference between the forms of religion and religion itself. Yet that difference is not less than infinite! Let us hope that more just ideas upon this subject will lead before long to a better course of action. Certainly, the urgency of the case, far from diminishing, becomes greater every day. To say nothing of the heathen abroad, who can look at the condition of the dense and constantly increasing masses that crowd our manufacturing towns, without perceiving that the utmost exertion, and the most harmonious co-operation, will not be more than enough to meet the appalling exigency ?

Mr. Taylor very properly contends, in his valuable remarks on Christian ethics, that the union of Christians ought to take a public and visible form, and we trust that this will ultimately be the case. But in the meanwhile, it is well to recollect, (and this should console us under some unfavourable appearances,) that much real union may exist without that visible manifestation of it, which is nevertheless most desirable. The different sections of the church may be extending the common principles of Christianity in their separate spheres of action, when there is but little recognized co-operation. In this way, perhaps, the last result will be brought about ; each party prosecuting its particular

work, and all blending at length, by the influence of a common attraction, and the power of kindred sympathies. If some Christians expect too much from the visible apparatus of endowed systems, in promoting Christianity, others are, perhaps, as likely to overrate the influence of certain forms in retarding it : and both should expect more than they do from the native force of the truth itself, which they propose to disseminate, and from that divine blessing which is constantly found to attend all the diversified modes of its exhibition. Yet this should not prevent us from constantly watching against every thing in our system, or in our spirit, which would tend to prevent that co-operation with Christians of other communions, which is so much to be desired.

Here we must reluctantly pause, our limits precluding enlargement, but great as is the pleasure this work has afforded us, we must not quite forget the duty of pointing out what appear to be defects. We intimated our doubt, a few pages back, whether, in a matter of some importance, we had rightly apprehended Mr. Taylor's meaning; and we cannot but complain of many ambiguities of expression, as well as faults of arrangement, which may be easily corrected in a future edition. Sometimes an ordinary thought is rendered obscure by mere singularity of diction ; and a valuable idea is disguised by needless verbiage. We demur also to the frequent use of figurative language, when precision would have been far better consulted by plainness : as when, for example, we are said to be affected (p. 104) “by motives which act upon us in the way of counterpoise, or of mutual correction; and the product of which is a joint product of forces, moving in different, if not opposite directions.” It is but seldom that analogies borrowed from mechanics are successful in illustrating moral truth; but in all cases we would have the truth stated plainly at the outset, and not involved in the possible confusion of the metaphor. Instead of proceeding at once to his main point, Mr. Taylor often wearies his readers, and encumbers his pages, with introductions and digressions, at best uncalled for, and tending only to perplex the topic they were designed to enforce. We have sometimes found it difficult to make out the continuity of thought in successive paragraphs, some of which appear to have been written at different times, their connexion with each other not being very clearly marked. Few modern writers can express themselves with more perspicuity and beauty than Mr. Taylor, when he pleases to do so; and we are persuaded, that if he would revise his pages, reducing whatever is redundant, and adopting, in some cases, a more perspicuous arrangement, so that the course of his thought should be obviously direct and consecutive, his works would be increasingly useful and effective. Ours is an age of business, and often, too, of excitement and strife: authors will not be read, nor speakers listened to, who do not take pains to express their thoughts in the clearest language, and compress them within reasonable limits.

Our differences, however, with Mr. Taylor, are slight in the extreme, compared with the points in which we coincide with him, and we congratulate him sincerely upon the zeal which he manifests in this, and his other works, in support of the great cause of evangelical truth. Every writer is entitled to praise who endeavours to place the characteristic principles of Christianity before the public mind, in a manner so clear and definitive, and so free from sectarian technicalities, as to guard them against the cavils which a sceptical and worldly age is ever ready to urge against a purely spiritual system. To this object Mr. Taylor has worthily devoted talents and attainments of no common order, through a series of years, and he has now obtained a high reputation and extensive influence among Christians of every name. In his success we rejoice, and trust it will not be long before the public are favoured with other communications from his pen. “The field is the world,” and whoever brings a single new spot of the moral waste under cultivation, adds to the glory of the Lord of the harvest, and deserves himself to be accounted a public benefactor.

We have dwelt at somewhat greater length than we intended, upon the leading topics of this interesting volume, but no apology can be necessary forendeavouring to fix the attention of our readers upon subjects of such high importance. Notwithstanding the controversies to which we have alluded, we think there is a discernible tendency in the minds of religious men, both on the continent and in England, to something like unity of opinion as to the essential points of Christian doctrine, if not of Christian discipline. Whatever may tend to promote this, in our own country especially, we should hail with the greatest satisfaction, not on its own account merely, but because the prevailing religious opinions of England are sure to be intensely operative in the remotest parts of the world. The influence of Great Britain, and of the AngloSaxon race generally, extending as it does over immense colonies, and rising nations that were once colonies, and a vast and ever-growing empire in the East, is constantly on the increase. In every age, one country seems for a time, like Babylon of old, and Rome at a later period, to have attained an admitted supremacy over surrounding states ; and to have sunk, or preserved its position, as it subserved, or failed to subserve, the moral ends for which it was so elevated, by that inscrutable Providence to which nations and individuals are alike amenable. Great Britain is at present beyond all doubt, and all comparison, the ascendant power ; and most happy should we be if any line written by us should contribute, however slightly, to induce in the public mind a deeper feeling of responsibility in this respect. The religious duty which presses upon us, of making our influence a blessing to mankind, is of the most solemn and imperative character; and we think it of the utmost importance, even in a national point of view, that British Christians should think less than ever of their inferior topics of contention, and consecrate their unrivalled resources to the great object of extending the pure truth of Christianity throughout the world.

The Illustrated Commentary on the Old and New Testament, chiefly

explanatory of the Manners and Customs mentioned in Scripture, and also of the History, Geography, Natural History, and Antiquities ; being a republication of the Notes of the Pictorial Bible, of a size which will range with the Authorized Editions of the Sacred Text; with many hundred Woodcuts, from the best and most authentic

sources. 5 vols. royal 12mo, double columns. Knight & Co. 1840. IMPORTANT as are those commentaries which throw light on the philological and doctrinal difficulties of the sacred Scripture, which elucidate the meaning of words, establish the most correct readings, disentangle grammatical perplexities, show the logical connection of one passage with another, point out the inadequacy or inaccuracy of translations, and suggest other and more proper renderings of particular words or phrases, they are scarcely more important, and certainly not more interesting than those which illustrate the history, geography, or antiquities of the Bible. Not seldom a passage will be quite obscure, or even absolutely unintelligible for want of such illustrations ; still more frequently (even if understood without them) will they be destitute of their proper fulness of meaning and vividness of impression. In a thousand instances, a passage shall appear in quite a new light, and be invested with a previously unperceived beauty and force, from a knowledge of some obscure Oriental custom, or some unknown trait of Oriental character. The observation applies with equal force to a knowledge of the facts connected with the scenery, natural productions, and geography, of the Scriptures. Without such knowledge there are numberless allusions which are either partially or not at all understood ; numberless metaphors and other tropes, the true beauty and power of which must be in a great measure or wholly lost. Further, without some knowledge of geography not only is there a less vivid conception than there ought to be, of the events of history, and not only do they, on that very account, make a far less deep and permanent impression on the memory, but there can be no accurate knowledge of them at all. We all know, familiarly enough, how much less confused is our notion of a series of events, when we have a clear conception of the localities in which they have transpired, and of the peculiarities of scenery by which those localities are marked.

But on the value of commentaries, embodying instructive and interesting matter on these points, we need not insist, as it is universally admitted. In spite of that very and universal admission, however, the value of such works has not been sufficiently appreciated, considering the light they throw upon the sacred volume. Nor, until lately, has the full value of the aid which on such subjects may be derived from the arts been fully understood. In the latter respect, we believe the Biblical

student, in common with every lover of general literature, is under great obligations to the spirited and enterprising publisher of these volumes. By his extensive patronage of the art of wood-engraving, in his so many extensive works of the pictorial kind, he has succeeded in bringing the products of that branch of art to a degree of excellence that could hardly have been hoped for, and at a price which was still less within the limits of reasonable expectation.

Of all the works which aim at the illustrations of Scripture, by the illustration of manners, customs, antiquities, and natural history, we hold this to be at once the cheapest and the most valuable. Not only are the engravings very numerous and appropriate, and many of them highly spirited, but the notes by which they are accompanied, are equally valuable. The editor is himself one who has travelled in the east, and has evidently been a diligent observer. He writes, too, with great clearness, impartiality, and judgment, and is both acute and honest in detecting and repelling the objections of infidelity. Nor is the work, though principally occupied, as the title states, with customs, manners, and antiquities, entirely confined to such matters. Many verbal criticisms occur, here and there, of great value ; many acute remarks on various readings and kindred subjects; and many reflections equally instructive and ingenious. But we feel that it is needless to say any thing more on the intrinsic value of these notes, or the accompanying illustrations, as they have already been the subject of remark in a preceding volume of this work, at the time of their original appearance in the Pictorial Bible. They are now reprinted without the text, in a form at once cheap and elegant, in an exceedingly neat clear type, and on good paper, and we sincerely trust that they may have an extensive circulation. We subjoin one or two of the “notes” as a specimen, and though it is difficult to select where there is such a mass of excellent matter, we do not think we can do better than subjoin the remarks on the “ Manna” that fell in the wilderness, and on the preposterous and futile attempts which have been made to get rid of that stupendous miracle. The writer fairly and honestly shows, that, let men adopt what hypothesis they will—even if we allow that a substance the same as “manna” is still produced naturally, at certain seasons, and in a certain region-still that the whole cannot be met without admitting so much to be miraculous, that it is hardly worth while to contend about the remainer.

“Exodus 16th chapter, 15th verse, They said one to another, It is manna ; for they wist not what it was. This passage in our translation is incorrect and contradictory; for how could the Hebrews be ignorant what it was, if they at once declared it to be manna? Josephus says expressly, that man is a particle of interrogation, and so the Septuagint understands it. Hence Dr. Boothroyd consistently and properly renders the clause, . They said one to another, what is it? (manhu?) for they knew not what it was.'

“We shall abstain from perplexing our readers with a statement of the various

« 前へ次へ »