« PreviousContinue »
cism upon these latter, and to make light of the rest. We love a bold and original thinker too well, not to extend some indulgence to the vagaries and extravagances which we have come to regard as inseparable from this kind. Such intellects are gracious gifts of the Most High, to be received with due thankfulness by a world not over-rich in that line, and needing all the varied lights which the Fountain and Father of all intelligence may see fit to shed on the unsolved problems of its perplexed life.
• But this light is of too meteorous and flashy a nature to be trusted with safety. Well, then, view it as a meteor and enjoy it as such. Do not regard the author as a teacher at all, nor the book as a doctrine. It does not claim to be that. Regard it as a book of confessions; as a piece of beautiful egotism, than which nothing is more charming when it is sincere and without vanity or littleness. Viewed in this light, too, the book possesses great merit. A more sincere one was never written. A true record of a true soul; the rarest of all literary phenomena! There occur to us, in the whole history of literature, but two or three instances of the kind. Montaigne is one, and Jean Paul, perhaps, is another. Augustine and Rousseau are not in this category. The first was possessed, and viewed all things, himself among the rest, in the light of one masterthought which colored all his revelations. The other was not a true soul. Goethe's autobiography would belong here, were there not in it, as in all his writings, something incommensurable that defies classification. As a book of confessions then, these volumes offer, to those who can find nothing else in them, the peculiar interest of a marked individuality, which belongs to works of this kind.
It is folly to expect all things from all men. Moderation is good, and caution is good, and a correct syntax is good; we prize them all, and, if it lay with us, no book or discourse should lack these virtues. But the dulness and mediocrity, which often accompany them, are not good ; they are sore trials. If it lay with us, they should altogether cease from the earth. Nevertheless, we are willing to bear with them for sweet charity's sake; knowing that all things are not to be expected of all men. So, when there appears among us a great and original writer, fresh from the Father of lights, with new and rare gifts, an eye that looks crea
tion through, a heart that clasps creation round, and a voice of melody that surprises us out of our long sleep, piercing through all the folds of custom and indifference that were wrapped about our spirits, when such an one comes and spreads for us an entertainment like that which these Essays provide, we will take what he brings and give God thanks, "asking no questions for conscience sake;" and not lose the good which we have, in fretting for that which we have not; knowing that all things are not to be expected of all men. Nor is it a mere transient entertainment, which these authors provide. They do
They do great service to the cause of truth; were it only by the stimulus which they give to inquiry, and the opportunity which they furnish, of settling anew, on new and higher grounds, the ancient faith. Whether they fight against the truth or for it, every way the truth is preached; and we “therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” We rejoice that this spirit has been sent among us to live and work in our midst. We rejoice in being his contemporaries. We rejoice in the indications we perceive, of a growing appreciation of his works abroad. We believe that they are destined to carry far into coming time their lofty cheer and spirit-stirring notes of courage and of hope. We dare to predict for them a duration coetaneous with the language in which they are composed.
They are books, the world “will not willingly let die." We do not think they will ever have an extensive circulation. Popular books they can never be. They will number but few readers at any one period; but every period will renew that number, and so long as there are lovers of fine discourse and generous sentiment in the world, they will find their own.
Art. VIII. — RELIGION.
What is religion? 'Tis a chain that binds
'Tis Jacob's ladder, by which angels come
It is the fount which gushed when Moses' rod
O may I always feel the heavenly fire,
Art. IX. — DOCTRINAL PREACHING.*
We had supposed that every argument bearing on the Trinity, as well as every mode in which it could be treated, had been exhausted. But Mr. Burnap has presented the subject in a new form, and his work contains many, to us, new and valuable suggestions. The object of the Lectures is, to explain the meaning of the principal passages, on which reliance has been placed in the Trinitarian controversy. It is one of their merits that they are precisely what they profess to be. They are not exhortations, nor discussions of moral questions, but expository lectures. The question, to which the author closely adheres, is: what do the Scriptures teach respecting the nature of God, of Christ, and the Holy Spirit ? All the texts of any importance relating to these topics are brought forward under appropriate heads, and their true sense exhibited. It is a thorough Scriptural and critical discussion of the subject. And here we may say, that it is a work for which the author is peculiarly well qualified both by his habits of mind and by his attainments. He has, before this, given evidence that he is one of the best theological scholars which the country possesses, and he is at the same time a clear thinker and vigorous writer. Hence his criticisms, while they are evidently the results of elaborate study, are presented in a way which fit them for the general reader. The Lectures have the learning which enriches, without the pedantry which so otten deforms, critical works on the Scriptures. We are not prepared to vouch for the correctness of every one of the criticisms which may be found in the book. This is not our purpose in giving an account of it, nor is there any occasion for it. There are some passages of Scripture so obscure that scarcely two theologians shall be found to agree as to their precise meaning, and it is obviously out of the question to expect, that a volume devoted solely to the exposition of contested texts, should contain nothing but what would meet with the assent of the whole Christian world. And for any useful purpose this is not needed. Such books are not read as authoritative creeds demanding our belief, but as aids in our endeavors to ascertain the true meaning of Scripture. It is on this ground that we heartily recommend these Lectures. Any one who wishes to examine thoroughly the doctrine of the Trinity, and to understand the real strength of the Scripture foundation on which its advocates claim that it rests, will do well to read them with care and attention. If he do not always agree with the conclusions to which the author comes, he will rarely fail of having new and valuable trains of thought suggested by his remarks.
* 1. Expository Lectures, on the Principal Passages of the Scriptures, which relate to the Doctrine of the Trinity. By GEORGE W. BURNAP, Pastor of the First Independent Church of Baltimore. Boston: James Munroe & Co. 1845. 12mo. pp. 348.
2. Lectures on Christian Doctrine. By ANDREW P. PEABODY, Pastor of the South Church, Portsmouth, N. H. Second Edition. With an Introductory Lecture on the Scriptures. Boston: James Munroe & Co. 1844. 12mo. pp. 222.
It is not possible to give an analysis of a work like this in a review. The subjects of the Lectures will give the best general idea of its contents. Their titles are, 1. Introductory. 3. Trinity and Unity. 3. First Chapter of John. 4. Prophecies of the Old Testament. 5. First Chapter of Hebrews. 6. The Book of Revelation. 7. Incarnation. 8. God in Christ. 9. Two Natures of Christ. 10. The Holy Ghost. 11. The Atonement. 12. What is Saving Faith in Christ. 13. Origin of the Trinity. 14. Baptism and the Church.
We give two or three extracts, for the purpose of indicating the nature of the work. They show in different lights Mr. Burnap's ability both as an interpreter and a controversialist. After stating at much length and with great force his reasons for rejecting the Trinitarian explanation of the first chapter of John, and for adopting his own, he sums up the conclusion to which he arrives, in the following exposition of the first eighteen verses.
" I take then the whole passage to mean this. The word which God spake by Christ, the revelation which he made of himself, through him, is nothing new, but is a part of a series of revelations running back to the very beginning of all things. The same Almighty Power, and Perfect Wisdom, which were displayed in the miracles and doctrines of Christ, were first manifested in the works of the physical creation : ‘By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth,' The next manifestation was in the creation of the soul of man, to which he imparted, in a fainter degree than that in which they exist in himself, some of his own attributes: 'The inspiration of the Almighty hath given him understanding.' 'In him, or rather it, was life, and that life was the light of men. But the light shone in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.' The revelation which God made of himself in the material world, and in the soul of man, was not understood, and the world fell into idolatry. The next revelation that God made of himself, was to the Jewish nation, by which he took a particular people and made them his own, brought them into an especial relation to himself. After a long interval, he visited his own people by another revelation, but they did not recognize him in it. He sent John the Baptist, to announce the coming of his last and greatest revelation to man; and at length in Christ himself, that Light, which had ever been shining, burst out with greater brilliancy; that Life, which had ever been the source of intellectual energy to men, received a more perfect development; that Word, which had been sounding in the ears of mortals since the beginning of time, from the works of God, from the heavens above and from the earth beneath, received a more full and articulate annunciation." pp. 61, 62.
In the fifth Lecture, Mr. Burnap thus speaks of the Trinitarian exposition of the first chapter of Hebrews.
“It will not be a difficult task, I think, to show the utter inconsistency and unsatisfactoriness of this explanation. The very first verse explodes it all. God, who in times past spake to the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son.' God here, of course, means the entire Deity, vol. XXXIX. -4th S. VOL. III. NO. I.