Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

regular descent of a celestial being, visible to the whole city, cannot for an instant be supposed."-p. 95.

"Yet concealment, or at least, less frequent publicity, seems now to have been his object, for, when some of those insane persons, demoniacs as they were called, openly addressed him by the title of Son of God, Jesus enjoins their silence."-p. 97. On a subsequent page, he says, he has no scruple in avowing his opinion on "the subject of demoniacs to be that of Joseph Mede, Lardner, Dr. Mead, Paley, and all the learned modern writers. It was a kind of insanity, not unlikely to be prevalent among a people peculiarly subject to leprosy and other cutaneous diseases; and nothing was more probable than that lunacy should take the turn and speak the language of the prevalent superstition of the times."

Speaking of the unpardonable sin, he says, "It was an offence which argued such total obtuseness of moral perception, such utter incapacity of feeling in comprehending the beauty either of the conduct or the doctrines of Jesus, as to leave no hope that they would ever be reclaimed from their rancorous hostility to his religion, or be qualified for admission into the pale and benefits of the new faith.”—p.

101.

Speaking of the difficulty of ascertaining the chronological order of the events of the latter period of the Saviour's life, he says, "However embarrassing this fact to those who require something more than historical credibility in the evangelical narratives, to those who are content with a lower and more rational view of their authority, it throws not the least suspicion on their truth."-p. 122.

"As he [Christ] was speaking, a rolling sound was heard in the heavens, which the unbelieving part of the multitude heard only as an accidental burst of thunder; to others, however, it seemed an audible, a distinct, or according to those who adhere to the strict letter, the articulate voice of an angel, proclaiming the divine sanction to the presage of his future glory."-p. 124. It was on the occasion here referred to, it will be remembered, that our Saviour said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.

"The same convulsion would displace the stones which covered the ancient tombs, and lay open many of the innumerable sepulchres which perforated the hills on every side of the city, and expose the dead to public view. To the awe-struck and depressed minds of the followers of Jesus,

no doubt, were confined those visionary appearances of the spirits of their deceased brethren, which are obscurely intimated in the rapid narratives of the evangelists."-p. 143. The evangelist says, "The graves were opened, and many bodies of saints which slept, arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." Here is a distinct assertion not of the appearance of spirits, but of the resurrection of bodies. Mr. Milman seems to take up with the off-cast garments, of that class of rationalists, which has been driven from the field in Germany, by the contempt and ridicule of both orthodox and unbelieving interpreters. We know no German writer of note, who within the last ten years, has ventured to publish such comments as the above. We thought that the age of Paulus and Wegscheider, was forgotten.

This same method of perverting the sacred narrative is continued through the whole of this portion of the work. Speaking of the women who visited the sepulchre on the morning of the resurrection, he says, "To their minds, thus highly excited, and bewildered with astonishment, with terror, and with grief, appeared what is described by the evangelist as a vision of angels."—p. 147.

Of the occurrence at Philippi we have the following account; the conversion of Lydia having been mentioned, our author proceeds: "Perhaps the influence or example of so many of her own sex, worked upon the mind of a female of different character and occupation. She may have been an impostor, but more probably was a young girl of excited temperament, whose disordered imagination was employed by men of more artful character for their own sordid purposes. The enthusiasm of this divining' damsel now took another turn. Impressed with the language and manner of Paul, she suddenly deserted her old employers, and, throwing herself into the train of the apostle, proclaimed, with the same exalted fervour, his divine mission and the superiority of his religion."-p. 177.

(

The history of the sons of Sceva is thus disposed of: "Those whom this science or trade of exorcism (according as it was practised by the credulous or the crafty) employed for their purposes, were those unhappy beings of disordered imaginations, possessed, according to the belief of the times, with evil spirits. One of these, on whom they were trying this experiment, had probably before been strongly

VOL. XIV.NO, II.

34

impressed with the teaching of Paul and the religion which he preached; and, irritated by the interference of persons whom he might know to be hostile to the Christian party, assaulted them with great violence, and drove them naked and wounded out of the house."—p. 182.

After reading the numerous extracts we have given from this history, most persons will not be surprised that the English reviewer should pronounce it, "essentially an infidel production." The correctness of this position depends on the meaning of the terms. If we take the ground of that reviewer, that the Bible is either inspired and authoritative, or a fiction and a forgery; then indeed his sentence is just. But this is doing Mr. Milman injustice. An infidel, in the ordinary sense of the term, is a man who denies any supernatural revelation in Christianity. This our author never does, he not only avows his belief of the supernatural origin of Christianity, but admits that it was authenticated by supernatural evidence. He belongs therefore to that class of writers, who suppose that the life of the Saviour and the account of his doctrines, have been recorded by uninspired, fallible historians. It is the denial of inspiration and the adoption of the latitudinarian doctrine of accommodation, which gives to the early part of his history so much the appearance of open infidelity.

It may be said that there is little difference, as to their evil consequences, between the principles which Mr. Milman has adopted, and those of avowed infidels. It is certainly true that very few of those who stand on the ground occupied by our author, do in fact believe any more of the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, than was received by the more respectable of the English Deists. The unity of God, the immortality of the soul, and future retribution, which Mr. Milman calls the first principles of Christianity, have been admitted by many who do not believe in the divine mission of Christ. It is indeed an advantage to have these doctrines confirmed by an express revelation, and so far, there is an important difference between the two cases. But as to those doctrines which are properly peculiar to the Bible, there is no security for one of them being held by those who deny the infallible authority of the sacred writers, and who suppose that both Christ and his apostles so far accommodated themselves to the language and opinions of the age in which they lived, as to adopt and sanction erroneous and superstitious doctrines. There is not one whit more evi

dence that the sacred writers taught the doctrines of the Trinity, of atonement, of the resurrection of the body and of a future judgment, than that they taught the existence and agency of good and evil angels. And if the latter is rejected as mere accommodation to prevailing opinions, the rest may in like manner be discarded. Without, therefore, pretending to say how far Mr. Milman has gone in unbelief, we have no hesitation in saying that his principles are subversive of the gospel.

We have confined our attention to the religious character of this history, because this is the point of most importance and most appropriate for our pages. The literary merits of the work are such as would be expected by those acquainted with Mr. Milman's previous productions. It is a work of great research, and learning. The narrative is glowing, and the style, though laboured, formal, and not always accurate, is elevated and impressive. The philosophy of the book we estimate at a very low rate. The effort to trace all events and all forms of opinions to their causes, which is one of the most prominent characteristics of the history, we think is in a great degree unsuccessful. There is nothing very profound or original in Mr. Milman's disquisitions; but his genius and power as a writer have secured the production of a work in which the reader's interest is sustained from the beginning to the end.

Of Dr. Murdock's notes, of which the title page makes mention, we have little to say. We question whether all together they would fill half a page; and, what we confess is to us a matter of surprise and regret, they have no reference to the objectionable portions of the work. In a single instance, (the only one which we have noticed,) when Mr. Milman had traced the peculiarities of Augustine's theology to his early Manicheism, Dr. Murdock ventures to ask in a note, Is this capable of proof? Mr. Milman quotes Acts xiii. 2, as the record of the investiture of Paul and Barnabas with the apostolic office;" Dr. Murdock corrects him with a quotation from Doddridge. Mr. Milman calls the council of Jerusalem, "a full assembly of the apostles." Dr. Murdock adds, "and elders, with the whole church." Now surely if these little matters, relating to church government, were worthy of notice, some correction, or some indication of dissent might be expected, and even demanded of a Christian minister, when the author manifests the loose and dangerous principles with which his work abounds.

As to our brethren engaged in conducting the contemporary journal, to which we referred in the beginning of this review, we cherish the hope that their favourable judgment of this work, was formed without due consideration. We are not prepared to believe that any portion of our New School brethren are willing to sanction any such near approach to infidelity as this History of Christianity.

ART. V.-Mission to England in behalf of the American Colonization Society. By Rev. R. R. Gurley. Washington.

THE Occasion of sending the Rev. Mr. Gurley on a mission to England, was the appearance of a work of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, on the slave trade and its remedy. The high standing and reputation of this gentleman, and the leading part which he took in all that related to the suppression of the slave trade, and in West India emancipation, were adapted to give his work a more than common interest. From the candid statements of the author, it appears, that after an expenditure of more than fifteen millions of pounds sterling, for the suppression of the slave trade, and an incalculable loss of human life, this traffic had been increasing rather than diminishing. The remedy proposed for this enormous evil, seemed to be so coincident with the views and principles which had been for twenty years pursued by the American Colonization Society, that the managers and agents of that society thought that it would be highly desirable to endeavour to agree upon some plan of mutual co-operation with the " African Civilization Society," which had just been organized, to carry into effect the scheme recommended by Sir T. F. Buxton.

The subject was brought before a public meeting in the city of New York, in which several speeches were delivered, and several resolutions adopted, all expressing the strongest approbation of the English plan of African civilization. And immediately after this meeting, the Board of the New York City Colonization Society adopted resolutions, in which they earnestly recommended to the Executive Committee of the American Colonization Society, to

« ÎnapoiContinuați »