Page images
PDF
EPUB

The next step is an exhortation to general confession, and the absolution subsequent upon such confession ; which it will be advisable to follow up with such admonitions and exhortations as may tend to preserve the patient in that holy frame of mind, to which, by God's blessing, he has been brought.

A variety of appropriate prayers for special occasions are supplied by Mr. Thompson, together with a selection of psalms and ejaculations. He has also recommended some useful and excellent books for the instruction and consolation of the sick; and compiled an excellent office, to be used, in case of death, with the friends of the deceased : and another for those who have recovered from sickness. We have, however, one subject of complaint ; and whether it has arisen from design, or from oversight, we are sure that it will meet with due consideration whenever a second edition of this Manual, in other respects so entirely complete, shall be called for. How comes it, then, that we have not a single sentence respecting the "Communion of the sick ?” The subject is confessedly a difficult one; but our Author is not the man to be affrighted by difficulties. He grasps his subject with a comprehensive mind : and where advice is given, it is sure to be founded on deep thought, sound reasoning, and just discrimination. With the enlightened views which he has taken of the Lord's Supper generally, in his twenty-eighth Outline, he can have been at no loss for some solid direction respecting its administration to the sick. We cannot forbear quoting, by the way, his note on the distribution of communion-money, which is calculated to produce a most beneficial effect.

If there be any, who, in the most terrible sense of the words, are in danger of "eating and drinking their own damnation," it must be those who come merely with the view to receive the alms of the altar. I should have taken some notice of this subject in the Outline, did I not think it better respectfully to recommend to those into whose hands this volume may fall, an immediate abolition of this dangerous snare of souls. Where the communion money is distributed at the altar, it is scarcely possible but there should be some communicants guilty of this fatal sin; but even where it is divided among the poor at large, it is too often regarded as a premium for attendance

or for absence—bad enough, either way. I have myself witnessed the evil effects of this system; and, in consequence, I have long since applied the alms of the altar to THE SICK ONLY, who must require them, and who cannot understand them in any other light than as a seasonable relief. If I may be allowed to extend a note which some may deem already too prolix, and others wholly impertinent, I will add that I have found the greatest benefits result from the application of this money, not directly to the sick, but to the purchase of such articles as a medical adviser, or obvious circumstances, might suggest. It will astonish those who have not tried the experiment, how much real good of this nature a small sum will effect.Note, pp. 304, 305.

From the visitation of the sick, Mr. Thompson proceeds to the subject of general visitation, and provides for the instruction of the ignorant, the careless, and the wilful; of unbelievers; of the presumptuous, self-righteous, or over-confident; and of the melancholy and despondent. We have little choice for selection, where all is equally good ; and, moreover, our limits warn us to bring our remarks to a close. The Second Part of the work consists of fifty-six Outlines of Sermons, one for every Sunday in the year, together with Christmasday and Good Friday, and two on occasional subjects; and of a list of theological works, arranged under appropriate heads.

We were favoured with an outline of a sermon, on the same plan with those in

Pastoralia,” for insertion in our last number, to which, therefore, we refer our readers. Those in the work itself are so connected, as to form, in conjunction with the scheme of pastoral visitation, a single outline of doctrinal and practical divinity; and, also, to explain difficulties, and improve occasions arising out of the seasons and services of the Church. Many of the Outlines, also, contain ample matter for the construction of a series of discourses, or for a renewed treatment of the subject, in a different point of view, at a future opportunity. With respect to the list of books, it will suffice to remark, that they exhibit a valuable storehouse of theology, both for the student and the divine.

We cannot lay aside our pen, without offering our sincere thanks to Mr. Thompson, for his highly useful publication. The brief sketch which we have given of its contents, will, we trust, be amply sufficient to recommend it to the notice of our clerical friends. They will find in it a most serviceable companion in the discharge of their duties, whether private or public, in the closet or among their flock; and we sincerely hope that it will shortly find its way, not into the library, but into the pocket, of every parish priest.

Art. III.-- Jewish History vindicated from the Unscriptural View of

it displayed in the History of the Jews, forming a Portion of the Family Library; in a Sermon, preached before the University of Oxford, at St. Mary's, Feb. 28, 1830. By GODFREY FAUSSETT, D.D. the Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity. Second Edition. Oxford: Parker. London: Rivingtons. 1830. Pp. 46.

ALTHOUGH the Neologian leaven of modern rationalism and liberalism has lately made its inauspicious appearance in our Universities, it is at least a favourable omen that it has not yet leavened the whole lump; but that one of her sons has stood forth in the sacred cause of the Gospel, to rebut the insinuation, that Oxford has “ceased to be jealous of the orthodoxy of her teachers.” This is as it should be. If the Professor of Poetry has thought it expedient to treat the Sacred Volume much in the same way that he would have regarded the mythologies of Homer, or the credulity of Herodotus, it was but right that the Professor of Divinity should uphold the genuine truths of inspiration, and draw the line of demarcation between prophecy and poetry, between the decrees of God, and the accidental course of human affairs. By what judicial infatuation the former can have been impelled to publish his obnoxious History of the Jews, we are at a loss to imagine; and the attempted justification of his views, in the Preface to his third volume, is still more unaccountable. By the statements therein made, he has immersed himself deeper in the mire; and “ in the lowest depth” seems to have found “ a lower depth still opening to devour him," in which his struggle to escape has involved him beyond the hopes of redemption.

The shock which the publication of such a history, by such a man, holding such an appointment, has given to all who are interested in the welfare of pure and undefiled religion, has been sensibly felt. Loud, indeed, has been the voice of indignation against so reckless a violation of propriety; and fathers of families are justly incensed at the obtrusion of the venom of scepticism into the unsuspecting hearts of their offspring. We feel it our duty to join in the general cry, and demand the removal of the pestilence from our homes and our little ones, before the contagion has spread abroad the seeds of a religious mortality. With this view, we shall lay before our readers, without note or comment, a copious extract from the able exposition of the pernicious tendency of these volumes, contained in the Sermon of Dr. Faussett.

To charge the author with infidelity, strictly so called, or to suppose him actuated by any motives hostile to revelation, would, I am well convinced, be as truly unjust, as it would be obviously uncharitable and unnecessary. But notwithstanding a profession of reverence for divine truth, (the sincerity of which I am by no means disposed to question,) and various instances, in which the particulars of the sacred story have been unobjectionably stated, it is not too much to assert, that a spirit of cavil and irreverence pervades the work; that its general tendency at least is sceptical. It evinces a constant disposition to discuss the probability of miracles; to dispense with the Divine agency, wherever a secondary cause can with any probability be suggested; to obliterate, as far as may be, the prominent features of distinction between God's peculiar people and the general mass of mankind; to humanize, if I may so express it, a history, which is utterly incredible and inconsistent on human principles. The inspired Scriptures are habitually treated as if they were a mere portion of oriental literature : there is almost as little ceremony used in questioning the accuracy of the narrative, in insinuating the liability to error, or in adopting what may appear a preferable solution, as if the works of some profane historian were the subject of discussion, rather than the word of the living God. In short, to adopt an unhappy phrase from the book itself, a “rational latitude of exposition” is professedly employed, which, as practically explained by the conduct of the work, is far too closely analogous to the unhallowed speculations of German rationalism.

The author should appear to have engaged in his undertaking, labouring under the baneful influence of three principal errors; under preconceived views, either wholly or partially unfounded, on three points most intimately connected with the religious tendencies of his work. First, an exaggerated notion of the

[blocks in formation]

ܙܕ

of them may

degree in which it is justifiable, I would rather say in which it is even possible, to separate the political history of the Jews from theological considerations ; secondly, a low and inadequate view of Divine inspiration ;--and, lastly, a vague idea of the accommodation of religious truths to the progress of civilization ; that treacherous theory, by the infatuated reliance on which, the neologist followers of Semler involved themselves in the most revolting impieties, and which, in the case before us, has evidently betrayed an English divine into palpable contradictions of God's revealed word.

I. First, then, a political history of the Jews, in the ordinary sense of the expression, and treated according to ordinary rules, is a direct and glaring impossibility.

The early history of the Hebrew nation is one unbroken series of Divine interpositions. Their whole career is conducted in defiance of obstacles insurmountable to human apprehension, or by human means. Their rescue from the power of Egypt; their protracted existence in the barren wilderness; their conquest of the more warlike and powerful possessors of their promised land; their primary consent, and permanent submission, to the unprecedented burdens of their law; and their eventual preservation from heathenism, notwithstanding their own backsliding reluctance, and the contagion of seductive example; unquestionably demanded that miraculous aid, which we know to have been administered. Exclude the agency of heaven, and their whole story is obscure, and inconsistent, and incredible ;- —cause and effect have no intelligible relation or proportion to each other ;-admit it, and consistency is at once restored. If the Israelites yield to disobedience or idolatry, the meanest of their neighbours, Moabites, Midianites, Amalekites, even the subject and tributary Canaanites, can rise in arins to their discomfiture and degradation. Let them serve the Lord faithfully, and “one

“chase a thousand,” and “the daughter of Zion may shake her head” at the countless hosts of "the great king, the king of Assyria.”

To shrink therefore from the admission of preternatural agency in a narrative, which thus of necessity presupposes it, is just as unphilosophical and unreasonable, as to admit with unhesitating credulity the prodigies of profane history, amid the ordinary transactions of ordinary men. And he who, in the vain hope of more closely adapting his relation to the comprehension of his readers, obscures the lustre, or weakens the effect of the miracles of Scripture, is in truth only rendering it the more incomprehensible ; and besides bis responsibility in a religious point of view, is obviously compromising his own fidelity as an historian of the Jews.

There is yet another and a very serious impediment to a satisfactory history of the Hebrew nation, politically treated. The historical Scriptures have no claim to the character of national annals, recording a regular series of political occurrences ;-they are rather a compendious statement of those events, often wholly insulated and unconnected, which are best calculated to illustrate the attributes of God, as sensibly displayed in the government of his peculiar people ;reduced into their present form by a succession of inspired prophets, from more abundant materials, from chronicles since lost, to which, however, perpetual reference is made; and selected, we may be assured, entirely for their religious value.

These considerations, it is imagined, will in some measure illustrate and account for (excuse they never can) the prevailing disposition evinced in the work before us, to subject the miracles of Scripture to doubt and discussion, and disparaging insinuation ; to attribute them in part, or even wholly, to natural causes; sometimes to pass them by unheeded, and to lose sight of the wisdom and power of God, through an undue regard to the policy and resources of frail and fallible man.

A lengthened discussion of the circumstances attending the passage of the Red Sea, and of the various attempts which have been made to explain it on natural principles, terminates in a feeble and qualified admission of the mira

any mira

culous account.-When the bitter waters of Marah were made sweet by the branch of a tree, it is added, “whether from the natural virtue of the plant seems uncertain."—When the fire raged in the camp of the Israelites, as a punishment for their rebellious complaining, it is insinuated that the tents were made of “ dry and combustible materials," as if forsooth the fire of the Lord would have been checked in its fury, had they been drenched with water like the sacrifice of Elijah ;-and the cautious expression, “it was ascribed to the anger of the Lord,” throws still farther doubt on its real origin. If the quails produce a pestilence, “it has been suggested that quails feed on helebore and other poisonous plants, and may thus become most pernicious and deadly food." The manna (though Moses declares it to have fallen on the camp with the dew) is decided to have distilled from the tamarisk. The supply indeed is allowed to be in part miraculous. But so favourable an account is afterwards given of the situation of the Israelites in the most fruitful and habitable part” of the wilderness, where “their own labours and traffic with the caravans which crossed this region would supply most of their wants,” that the reader might readily suppose, that the manna, now no more mentioned, is no longer required; much less culous preservation of their shoes and garments, to which not the slightest allusion is made either here, or in any other passage. In the victory over the Amalekites, all miraculous agency is unreservedly dispensed with, and the valour of the Israelites is considered to have been encouraged or depressed, accordingly as they beheld the arms of Moses elevated or lowered. What can be more precisely in the same spirit, than, as if in utter forgetfulness of the most explicit promises and declared judgments of God, to represent that, “while, from the sacred reverence in which the lineage of David and Solomon were held, the throne of Judah passed quietly from son to son, the race of Jeroboam, having no hereditary greatness in their favour, was speedily cut off from the succession, and adventurer after adventurer contested the kingdom of Israel.”

Not to multiply separate instances of this sadly irreverent predilection for secondary causes and human agency, I will merely remark in concluding this portion of the argument, that it is most perniciously conspicuous in what relates to the character and conduct of Moses himself. So much is said of “the great lawgiver,” his "great mind," " his wise originality,” “his forming his people, ”

creating his commonwealth ;" of what the wretched condition of the Hebrews would have been “had Moses never lived ;" of what he effected “ by his single genius ;”, that there is imminent hazard lest the inexperienced reader should insensibly learn to attribute more to “the wisdom of the Egyptians," than to that “wisdom which is from above;" and practically to lose sight of the almighty Conductor and all-wise Lawgiver of the Israelites, in the unlimited admiration of this more than rival of Numa, Solon, or Lycurgus.

II. After the examples which have been adduced, of the mode in which the miraculous facts of sacred history are brought down to the profane level of a rationalized interpretation, it will scarcely be imagined that the view of inspiration which these pages exhibit, includes any very high reverence for its dignity or authority. A brief consideration of some of its more prominent features is all that will be required.

Not to contend for that plenary inspiration, that direct suggestion of every word on every occasion, which, adopted in its strict and unqualified sense, tends rather to the gratuitous embarrassment of the advocate of revealed truth; yet assuredly, if we have the highest authority for believing that Scripture is “ the word of God,” and that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” it is plain (I here adopt the language of a living ornament of our Church) “that the sacred historians wrote under the influence of the Holy Ghost; which, though it did not disclose to them by immediate revelation those things that might be collected from the common sources of intelligence, undoubtedly directed them in the selection of their materials; and enlightened them to judge of the truth and importance of those accounts from which they borrowed their information.”

in the work which we are considering, the sacred Scriptures are placed

and

« PreviousContinue »