« ZurückWeiter »
know not on what ground) the sanction of the Divine Founder of the Church, is "the satisfying ourselves, by the reasoning faculty to which He appealed, of the truth of any and every doctrine which it" (the Church) "propounds as necessary to our salvation." The rule which we, as members of the Eeformed Church established in this land, and still more as disciples of Him who said, " Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life," lay down, with a view to the attainment of the same end, is,—having first satisfied ourselves that the Bible is indeed God's message to man, to enquire diligently what is written in the book, and to receive with implicit faith, whether it approve itself or not to our own "reasoning faculty," all that we find therein, assured that "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." Whilst recognizing, as fully as Bishop Hinds, the duty, incumbent alike upon the layman and the clergyman, which is contained in the Apostle's precept, "Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh ye a reason of the hope that is in you;" we dare not overlook another precept, addressed more immediately to one who was appointed to "labour in the word and doctrine" of the Lord, "Keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings,and oppositions of science, falsely so called, which some professing have erred concerning the faith." Thus only, as we believe, shall we be enabled to recognize the perfect harmony which subsists between the works and the word of God. Thus only, we are persuaded, shall we be prepared to render obedience to that precept, both portions of which proceed from the same source and conduce to the same end: "Prove all things, hold fast that which is good."
LEATHES' BOYLE LECTURES FOE 1868.
The Witness of the Old Testament to Christ: being the Boyle Lectures for 1868. By the Rev. Stanley Leathes, M.A., Professor of Hebrew, King's College, London; and PreacherAssistant, St. James's, Piccadilly. Riving tons, London, Oxford, and Cambridge. 1868.
The object proposed by the illustrious founder of the Boyle Lectures was the defence of tbe Christian religion against the assaults of "notorious infidels," not the discussion of controversies amongst Christians themselves. Although unable to concur in Mr. Leathes' opinion that the interest in three of the kinds of infidelity specified in the will of Robert Boyle, amongst which he includes atheism,* "has died out," we entirely agree with him in the two following points: (1) that, in the case of all endowments of this nature, where the object of the founder is undoubtedly better attained by an adherence to the spirit rather than to the letter of his directions, such deviation from the literal terms of the endowment is both lawful and expedient; and (2) that, had the pious and learned author of "Some Considerations on the Style of the Holy Scriptures" been able to foresee the nature of the assaults which have recently been made upon that volume in the house of its professed friends, he would have desired that the attention of the Boyle Lecturer should be specially directed to those modern forms of infidelity which are by so much the more dangerous, in proportion as they are more subtle and disguised, than those which were prevalent in his own days.
As regards the vital connexion between the Old Testament and the New, we do not think that Mr. Leathes has in any way overstated his case. Whilst entirely coinciding with the justice of Paley's remarks as to the inconclusiveness of any attacka made upon Christianity "through the sides of Judaism," so far as regards the stand-point of the assailants, their difficulty in dealing with the direct evidence derived from miracles, from prophecy, and from the contents of the writings of the New Testament, being in nowise diminished on the supposition of the detection of any inaccuracies or inconsistencies in the Old, we think that Paley has failed to discern with his ordinary acuteness the relation in which the Old Testament stands to the New, and consequently that he does not insist with sufficient force upon the intimate and inseparable connexion which subsists between the two portions of Holy Scripture, or rather upon their essential unity as parts of one and the same revelation to mankind of the mind and will of God.
It is to this connexion that the attention of Biblical students has been specially directed of late, as the result of that "free handling" of the Bible which has been going on for many years in Germany, and which, as Mr. Leathes observes, "has at last been naturalized, and bids fair to flourish on our own shores." We trust that the strong national dislike of Englishmen to the vain disputations of science falsely so called, and
• With reference to the advocates words; and to undertake to explain of natural selection and progressive the origin of all forms of life by anodevelopment, a modern writer obsorves, ther and a totally different hypothesis." —" The new method is to discard the See the Darwinian Theory of Developbelief in a Creator, to rejeot the om- ment examined by a Cambridge Omniscience and omnipotence of a Maker duate, p. 356, quoted by Dr. Fairbairn of all things, to charge us who believe in his Revelation of Law in Scripture, in it with endeavouring to conceal our p. 18, note, ignorance by an imposing form of
Vol. 68.-N0. 382. 5 G
the more powerful influence of that supreme reverence for tha unadulterated Word of God, which the authority of Rome long strove, and still ineffectually strives, to extinguish within our land, may raise so effectual a barrier against the wider diffusion of this refined form of infidelity, that, like those phases of unbelief which it has now superseded, it may, ere long, be consigned to the same oblivion.
Much weight is due, in our judgment, to those considerations which have induced Mr. Leathes to deal, in these Lectures, with the criticism of the Old Testament rather than with that of the New. Whatever may be the amount of attention directed to the study of the Old Testament Scriptures on the Continent, it is impossible to deny that, notwithstanding the marked improvement which has been made in this department during the last twenty years, Hebrew scholarship in England is for the most part, even amongst theological students, at a very low ebb.
We would not, in any degree, underrate the value and importance of the Septuagint Translation of the Old Testament. The very considerable, though far from exclusive, use which is made in the New Testament Scriptures of that version, stamps it with a degree of authority, and entitles it to an amount of reverence, which can be challenged in behalf of no other. When tried, however, by this single test, the most cursory reference to any complete list of citations from the Old Testament contained in the New, will suffice to show that, whatever its value as an aid, the translation of the LXX can never serve as a substitute for the original Hebrew, even in this one department of Biblical criticism. We need go no further than the first three quotations from the Old Testament Scriptures which occur in the New, in order to establish our position. The first quotation, St. Matt. i. 23, compared with Is. vii. 14, will show that the evangelist, with two slight alterations, adopts the version of the LXX. The second citation, St. Matt. ii. 6, compared with Micah v. 2, will suffice to illustrate that class of quotations which agrees, precisely, neither with tho Hebrew nor with the LXX, and with regard to which it is equally, or nearly equally, important to consult both ; whilst the third quotation, viz. St. Matt. ii. 15, compared with Hoseaxi. 1, will suffice to illustrate a third class, consisting of those cases in which the translation of the LXX not only differs very considerably from that of the New Testament writer, whilst the latter accords exactly with the Hebrew, but in which the translation of the LXX would have been quite inapplicable to the purpose for which the citation is made. _ In proportion, therefore, to the importance of a just appreciation of the connection between the Old and New Testaments,
and of the amount of authority which each derives from the other; and in proportion, further, to the comparative paucity of those whose previous course of study enables them to speak with any degree of confidence on many points of critical and exegetical interpretation involved in this inquiry, it behoves the few thus qualified to avail themselves of every legitimate opportunity to contribute their quota, whether it be great or small, towards the right solution of a question of the highest degree of interest, and, as regards its bearing on the controversies of our own day, one of paramount importance.
With a view to afford our readers some idea of the value of Mr. Leathes' contribution to this cause, as contained in the volume under review, we will select, by way of illustration, the manner in which the author deals with one of the most remarkable of the strange theories which have been imported into this country from Germany, and one to which the attention of the readers of the Christian Observer has been recently directed. We refer to the notion, which has been extensively adopted abroad, and which in recent times has found favour with a considerable number of the critics of the new school amongst ourselves, that the last twenty-seven chapters of the prophecies commonly ascribed to Isaiah were composed, not by the prophet himself, but by a much later author, who has received the appellation of "the second Isaiah," or the yet stranger designation of "the great Unknown."
The first argument adduced by Mr. Leathes against the sub-captivity or post-captivity date of these chapters is derived from the fact, that the composition is allowed on all sides to be "worthy of the best days of the Jewish literature." We will lay before our readers, in the author's own words, some of the reasons which, in his judgment, are decisive against the date assigned to a composition of such acknowledged "poetic grace, majesty of diction, and sublimity of thought."
"It so happens," Mr. Leathes writes (p. 179), "as a matter of fact, that we are well acquainted with the character of the nation during the captivity and after it. We know the prophets who flourished during that period; their writings have been preserved to us, and we are able to estimate their intellectual stature, and to form an adequate idea of their literary capacity. Nor is it, on the surface of things, at all probable, in the first place, that a prophet should arise at the period of the nation's deepest dejection, capable of producing poetical compositions and prophecies, such as those of the last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah. Has any writer or poet of the first order ever been known to arise in the era of a nation's decadence? Is it not a fact, that such writers are the ornament, either of a nation's earliest growth, or else of its maturity? It seems to require the concentrated energy of a people's national life, to produce a national author of the first rank."
The next argument urged by Mr. Leathes is the high degree of improbability that a writer, confessedly of the first rank, should be consigned to utter oblivion,—that, at a period when the national genealogies were carefully preserved, the author of Isaiah xl.—lxvi. should not have left the vestige of a name behind him; and should be indebted to writers of the nineteenth century after Christ for one worthy perhaps of their shadowy theories, but wholly out of keeping with all that is recorded of the sixth century before Christ —" the great Unknown."
This improbability is greatly increased by the consideration that there is no adequate reason which can be assigned in support of the supposition that the author of these prophecies either wrote anonymously, or was unknown to the men of his own age. On the contrary, whatever were the means employed, it can scarcely be doubted by those who are conversant with Jewish history, either that abundant opportunity existed of discriminating between true prophets and false, or that it was both the duty and the practice of those to whom an alleged message from God was delivered, to trace that message to a duly accredited messenger.
Having very briefly, but, as we think, very conclusively, established the unsuitableness of the enquiry, "Who hath believed our report?" to the circumstances of a contemporary of Ezra and Zerubbabel announcing the return, already imminent from the Babylonish captivity, and the still greater unsuitableness of the representation of Jehovah's "servant" to one who, cw the assumed conditions, must have been "some prominent actor in the history of the time," Mr. Leathes proceeds to establish the true Messianic interpretation of Isaiah liii. a8 applicable to Him in whose person and work alone the required conditions of the prophecy were combined, viz., that He should be greater than kings, and yet humbled even to death; and that, as the result of His vicarious satisfaction, atonement should be made, not for the iniquity of the Jewish race only, but for the transgressions of the many nations and kings to whom the closing words of the preceding chapter refer, i.e., in other words, of the entire universe,—" The Lord hath laid (or caused to meet) in (or on) Him the iniquity of us all."
Whilst fully sensible of the Messianic value of chapters xl.—lxvi., whether wrongly or rightly ascribed to Isaiah, Mr. Leathes is as fully persuaded of the great importance, as bearing upon the supernatural character of Scripture, of the arguments which he believes to be conclusive of the integrity of the writings which bear that prophet's name. He has, therefore, in an extremely interesting and valuable Note, appended to the Boyle Lectures, not only examined seriatim the reasons