Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

tains no warrant, as such, to set at naught the settled laws and ordinances of nature, no right to expect aught but mischief if he should contravene their action, or fail to adapt himself to their mode of operation; and at every step in his course toward the final goal of his calling, reason, knowledge, cultivation, wise discretion, and persevering diligence have their parts to play in securing his safety and progress, as well as the Divine help and internal agency of the

Spirit And even as regards the things done for the believer in

the outer field of Providence, and in answer to humble prayer, there may be no need (for aught we know to the contrary) for miraculous interference in the ordinary sense of the term, but only for wise direction, for timely and fitting adjustment. It may even be, as Isaac Taylor has said, 'the great miracle of Providence, that no miracles are needed to accomplish its purposes ;' that 'the materials of the machinery of Providence are all of ordinary quality, while their combination displays nothing less than infinite skill;' and, at all events, within this field alone of Divine foresight and gracious interventions through natural agencies, there is in the hand of God 'a hidden treasury of boons sufficient for the incitement of prayer and the reward of humble faith.'" (pp. 15, 16.)

In the latter part of his introductory Lecture, Dr. Fairbairn, turning from the physical to the moral and religious sphere, briefly reviews the opinions respecting law entertained by the advocates of (1) Materialism, (2) Pantheistic Idealism, (3) Christian Idealism (if we may be allowed the use of such a misnomer), (4) Neonomianism, i.e. the law of principles rather than of precepts, and (5) Antinomianism; as preparing the way for his enquiry into the perpetual and universal obligation of the moral law, as substantially the same under the Old and New Testament dispensations, and as summed up in the Decalogue.

The subject of the Second Lecture is the relation of man to moral law. In this Lecture, Dr. Fairbairn vindicates the views adopted by the sounder class of our writers on Christian ethics, with reference to the eternal and unchanging character of the relation in which the soul of man stands to God. He shows that, so far from being exposed to the charge of novelty, these views have been maintained from the earliest period of the Christian dispensation ;—that although, strictly speaking, man originally "stood in law rather than under law," nevertheless that the law given to him at his creation, and written by his Maker in his heart, was substantially identical with that subsequently given to Moses and written in two tables of stone.

The third of this series of Lectures is devoted to a consideration of the progressive character of Divine Revelation. In this Lecture, Dr. Fairbairn refers to the analogous character of God's providential administration with reference alike to the life-plan of individuals, and to the history of nations; and whilst

Vol. 68.—No. 380. 4 H

admitting to the full the existence of much that is dark and mysterious (and which must ever continue to be so, whilst we continue to see and to know only in part) in this progressive plan for the regeneration of the world, he shows that, the principle of progression being once admitted, the earlier dispensations were, in the fullest sense of the words, "times of preparation" for a clearer revelation of the Divine will, and that they bore just those marks of relative imperfection which the admission of that principle at once requires and explains.

In the Fourth Lecture, Dr. Fairbairn exhibits the character of the law as set forth in the Decalogue, as essentially "the law of love," and briefly reviews the details of its injunctions and prohibitions as regarded in this light. He then proceeds to treat, at some length, of the judicial and ceremonial portions of the Mosaic Law. As regards the former portion, i.e. the Judicial Statutes and Directions, he vindicates from prevailing misconception the humanity and moderation of that code of laws as exhibited in very many of its provisions. We will take, by way of illustration, the law of the Goel, or "avenger," as the word is translated in our English version.

"To the mere English reader," Dr. Fairbairn observes, "in modern times, this is apt to convey a somewhat wrong idea; for, in its proper import, Goel means, not avenger, but redeemer (as in Job xix. 25), and Goel haddam is strictly 'redeemer of blood,' one to whom belonged the right and duty of recovering the blood of the murdered kinsman, of vindicating, in the only way practicable, its wronged cause, and obtaining for it justice. In him the blood of the dead, as it were, rose to life again and claimed its due. In other cases, it fell to the Goel to redeem the property of his relative, which had become alienated and lost by debt; to redeem his person from bondage, if through poverty he had been necessitated to go into servitude; even to redeem his family, when by dying childless it was like to become extinct in Israel, by marrying his widow and raising up a seed to him. It thus appears that a humane and brotherly feeling lay at the root of this Goel-relationship." (pp. 106, 107.)

Dr. Fairbairn then proceeds to examine the particular obligation which devolved upon the Goel as the vindicator of the blood of his slain kinsman, and shows that the Mosaic Law, so far from affording encouragement to the indulgence of a revengeful and bloodthirsty disposition, restrained and regulated the excesses of Asiatic usages, and reduced the position of the Goel to that of "the recoguized and rightful prosecutor of the shedder of blood." He notices, moreover, the peculiar facilities which were afforded by tho vast deserts of Arabia for the escape of criminals, and the necessity of some such check as that which the institution of the office of the Goel provided against the commission of the crime of murder; and he states, on the testimony of those who have been thoroughly conversant with the regions in question (amongst whom he mentions Burckhardt and Layard), that "nothing has contributed so much as this institution (even in its most objectionable Arab form) to prevent the warlike tribes of the East from exterminating one another."

In like manner, with regard to the appointment of the cities of refuge, and to the laws of slavery and of divorce, Dr. Fairbairn shows that, so far from affording encouragement to the spirit of cruelty, of oppression, or of licentiousness, the object proposed in the Mosaic Code was to restrain that spirit by imposing the utmost restrictions upon its exercise, which a people of such "hardness of heart" were able to endure.

With regard to the laws regulating and controlling the relaxation of the bond of marriage, Dr. Fairbairn takes occasion to correct a mistranslation of Deut. xxiv. 1, which (as Rosenmiiller and others had already observed), so far from commanding the husband, under the circumstances stated, to write a bill of divorce and put away his wife, imposes the observance of very strict regulations and conditions in accordance with which alone such divorce could be permitted; and consequently, instead of affording a divine sanction to the prevailing laxity of oriental manners, restricts the hitherto uncontrolled power of divorce within narrower and clearly defined limits.

In his consideration of the nature and intent of the Rites and Ceremonies of the Levitical Law, Dr. Fairbairn argues the inferior place which this code occupied, from the fact that it was not until the covenant had been formally ratified and sealed with blood, that the law of Ritual, in its distinctive form, came into existence.

He then directs the attention of his readers to the teaching element contained in this law as an auxiliary to that of the Two Tables—to its mediating design—and to its practical efficacy as implanting in the minds of the Israelites a deeper and more constraining sense of the obligations of duty; and he concludes his Fourth Lecture with a quotation from Mr. Maurice's "Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy," in which he says, "The distinction between these (i.e. the moral) commandments and the mere statutes of the Jewish people has strongly commended itself to the conscience of modern nations, not because they have denied the latter to have a Divine origin, but because they have felt that the same wisdom which adapted a certain class of commandments to the peculiarities of one locality and age, must intend a different one for another. The ten commandments have no such limitation."

In his Fifth Lecture, Dr. Fairbairn examines the evidence afforded by the writings both of the Old and the New Testament, as to the position and calling of Israel under the law. He repudiates, as it is almost needless to observe, those modes of explanation which "would resolve everything in the covenant with Israel into merely outward and carnal elements;" and he asserts, in terms which seem to us to require some quali6cation, that "the history of Israel knows nothing of law except in connection with promise and blessing."

We entirely accord with Dr. Fairbairn's estimate of the false conceptions entertained by the later Jews as to the nature and intent of the law, and as to their ignorance of its depth and spirituality. We are disposed, however, to prefer the explanation of Calvin to that of Dr. Fairbairn, of St. Paul's declaration, that as "touching the righteousness which is in the law" he was "blameless," and to regard the apostle as distinguishing between blamelessness before men, and blamelessness before God, rather than as surveying "his earlier life from a Pharisaic point of view."

We think, too, that both in this and the following Lecture, Dr. Fairbairn somewhat underrates that advance in the estimate of moral goodness and of acceptable worship of which the Psalms and Prophets appear to us to afford conclusive evidence. For whilst we agree with him that there was no authority given to any, throughout the continuance of the Levitical dispensation, to unsettle its worship, or to prescribe new conditions to its worshippers, we think that the later writings of that dispensation contain indications, which it is impossible to gainsay or resist, of a much deeper insight into the spirituality of the law's requirements, and a more just and adequate appreciation of the conditions of acceptable worship than those which characterize, as a whole, the earlier writings of the same dispensation.*

Dr. Fairbairn's Seventh Lecture, in which he treats of the relation of law to Christ's work on earth, is well deserving of a careful perusal, and admirably adapted, in our judgment, to meet some of the most prevalent and most dangerous of the errors of modern schools of thought.

We do not altogether agree with Dr. Fairbairn's remarks

• The difference between Dr. Fair- similar testimony to the advance made bairn and ourselveB is, probably, rather in the prophetical writings. We think, apparent than real, inasmuch as we find however, that Dr. Fairbairn has, unhim, in the Sixth Lecture, speaking of intentionally, failed to represent Dean the "defects" of the old economy as not Stanley's views on this subject with being "perfectly remedied throughout his usual accuracy, inasmuch as the the whole course of the Dispensation" Dean expressly includes in his refe(p. 103); and again, in p. 190 of the rence to "the prophetical teaching of same Lecture, he refers to the "fresh Scripture" the earliest as well as the advance in the Divine administration latest writers, "extending from Moses, towards men," which was made in the the first, to John, the last, of the Prodidactic and devotional writings of the phots." (See Lectures on the Jewish Old Testament. See also p. 204, for a Church, p. 443, 1st Series.)

upon the reserve manifested by our Lord in regard to external rites and ceremonies; nor do we think them quite consistent either with our Lord's own declaration, that it behoved Him "to fulfil all righteousness," or with the author's own observations respecting the fulfilment of the law in the person and work of Christ. Thus, e.g., the statement (p. 217) that "we read of no act of bodily lustration in His public history," seems to us inconsistent with the fact of His baptism in the Jordan. Again, the statement that, "though He did not abstain from the stated feasts of the Temple, when it was safe and practicable for Him to be present, yetwe hear of no special offerings for Himself or the disciples on such occasions" (ib.), conveys to our minds a different impression from that which we gather from the records of the Evangelists, and more especially from the fact that our Lord'spresence at the Temple, even on occasion of theFeast of the Dedication, is expressly recorded by St. John. And once more, Dr. Fairbairn's statement that, "even as regards the ordinary services and offerings of the Temple, He claimed a rightful exemption, on the ground of his essentially divine standing, from the tribute money, the half-shekel contribution, by which they were maintained" (ib.), seems to us calculated to convey an erroneous impression. For, (1) it is not the motive or the necessity which constrained our Lord to submit to the enactments of the Levitical Law, which is the subject of discourse; but the simple consideration, whether He did or did not comply with its requirements; and, on this point, as we have already observed, the records of the Evangelists lead us to conclusions somewhat different from those of Dr. Fairbairn; and (2), as regards the particular instance to which Dr. Fairbairn alludes, the very fact that our Lord, though a Son in and over His own house, nevertheless yielded compliance to the demand made of Him, and wrought a special miracle for the purpose,—seems to us to indicate, not His repudiation of any portion, however subordinate, of that law under which He condescended to be made, but His firm and undeviating resolution to fulfil its minutest requirements.

Having thus briefly indicated a few points on which we are unable entirely to agree with Dr. Fairbairn, we recur with unfeigned satisfaction to subjects of far greater importance, in regard to which we can with confidence commend the Cunningham Lectures to the careful consideration of our readers. We would gladly, had our space allowed, have transcribed a passage of singular force and beauty (pp. 220-2), in which Dr. Fairbairn contrasts the attendant circumstances of the promulgation of the new law on the Mount of the Beatitudes, with those of the promulgation of the old law from the rugged heights of Sinai. Whilst fully sensible of the fulness and the

« ZurückWeiter »