Page images
PDF
EPUB

1851.]

Confounding of the Law and Gospel.

71

Legis vel ad præsumptionem vel ad desperationem adducit. It fails us in our greatest extremity, in the trying hours of life, when the oppressive consciousness of our unspeakable deficiencies fills the soul with alarm; it makes us ashamed in the decisive hour of death, and as the last and bitterest fruit of false doctrine will perish with us before the bar of an infinitely holy God.

If we compare the view of justification advanced by Wegscheider, which has been quoted, and the declarations of Kant, that by an imitation of Christ's example, and by forming in ourselves the ideal of humanity, which is acceptable to God, we are to be justified, we find no essential difference in the two systems. They know of no other justification than that by the law. Both are natural legal systems, and of both is it true, in the language of Melanchthon: "Non videt ratio aliam justitiam, quam justitiam legis."

And from the fundamental error, that justification is incomplete without good works, must necessarily spring an entire confounding of the proper office of the law and the Gospel. The highly important and essential difference between them is either falsely represented, or alike rejected by both. Both parties agree, that the object of the coming of Christ into the world was, as a new moral lawgiver, to prescribe a higher and more perfect moral law than Moses, and present in his own person a perfect example of its fulfilment, by imitation of which, men may be justified before God. They both regard him as a masterly teacher of a moral system, freed from the Mosaic ceremonial. They consider the gospel as differing from the law only in this respect, that the law requires external works; the gospel, besides, internal affections, a distinction which though sufficiently refuted by the tenth commandment, still Kant and his followers repeat. What is this, as Melanchthon says, but to teach the law and destroy the gospel, and confound the proper office of both? How full and clear was the voice of the Reformers as to the office of both! Says Melanchthon: "The office of the gospel is to receive good gifts from God, that of the law to offer our own. They divided the uses of the law into three parts; the civil, (usus politicus,) to bring man to an external reverence; the pedagogic, to bring him to Christ; and the didactic use for the regenerate, and partakers of Christ by faith. Of this last use, Melanchthon says: "The law is to be taught even to the regenerate, that as their knowledge and penitence for the sin that dwelleth in them increases, so may also their faith increase. The law is to teach us these good works, which God has prepared for us to walk in. We are not to invent such, but to be governed by his

word." And again he says very forcibly: Hæc particula gratis facit discrimen legis et evangelii. Luther, in his sermon on the office of law and gospel, says: "The gospel does not tell man what God requires of him, but what he has done for him; it bids him believe and be sure that God will forgive him his sins, and receive him as his child." The whole sermon is worthy of an attentive study.

We have thus seen the remarkable agreement of the two systems, in their doctrine of justification. They both teach sinful man to trust in himself, in the works of his own hands, and in his inward righteousness. They would begin and end, as we have proved from their own words, the salvation of man in his sinful self. Both maintain that man, by virtue of the natural light of reason, and by the power of his free will, can attain to the favor of God and to eternal life.

It was against soul-destroying errors like these, that the Reformers, with the Bible in their hands and in their hearts, raised up a standard; and though the world and the rulers of its darkness set themselves against them, yet they boldly and loudly confessed the old Bible faith in Jesus Christ, the crucified, the Saviour of the lost, the eternal Son of God, whose power and glory are only surpassed by the greatness of that love which moved him to veil the splendor of his divinity in the form of a servant; the divine becoming human, that the human might become divine, and be restored to pure and holy fellowship with God. They declared that every thing that man put in his place must be rejected; and the word of God sounding forth in its power and greatness, penetrated the humbled hearts of thousands, and brought them in faith and love to the feet of Jesus, where alone the soul can find peace, sanctification and eternal life. They have bequeathed their faith, as their most precious legacy, to us. Their confessions have ever been the bulwark of Protestantism, the inviolable Magna Charta of its freedom. While these are preserved, like the ancient Palladium, the church is safe.

Are these the boasted advances of our age in Theology, that after three centuries, we should relapse into the same errors from which we were then happily relieved by these great hearted men? Shall we extinguish the Sun of Righteousness, that we may be enlightened by the ignes fatui of Reason? Truly the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God! The wise of this world receive not the wisdom of God; nay, they despise it as foolishness. They are forever erecting their children's houses, which fall down as fast as they are set up, while his foundation, other than which no man can lay, standeth sure and immovable. God often leaves his enemies now, as he

1851.]

French Philosophical Works.

73

did of old, to turn their swords against each other, and thus destroys them by themselves. I would mention only the systems of Kant, Fichte and Schelling. How remarkable that just at a time when human reason is so highly extolled, and the divine word so greatly despised, these systems are in conflict with each, and some have already fallen! Did the preservation of God's truth in the world depend upon human faithfulness, we might well despair. But a divine power sustains it; it conquers by its own irresistible might. When most depressed, as all history shows, it has often risen and crushed its adversaries. We must be then indeed of little faith, if we despair of its final triumph. The grass of human doctrine withereth; the flower of human wisdom fadeth, but the word of the Lord endureth forever.1

ARTICLE VI.

REVIEW OF RECENT FRENCH WORKS IN METAPHYSICAL SCIENCE.

Histoire de la Philosophie Allemande depuis Kant jusqu'a Hegel. Par J. Willm, Inspecteur de l'Académie de Strasbourg. Ouvrage couronné par l'Institut (Académie des Sciences, Morales et Politiques.) 4 Tom. 8vo. pp. 528, 630, 466, 648. Paris. 1846-1849. De la Philosophie Allemande. Rapport à l'Académie des Sciences, Morales et Politiques, précédé d'une Introduction sur les doctrines de Kant, de Fichte, de Schelling, et de Hegel. Par M. De Rémusat, Membre de l'Institut. 8vo. pp. CLVIII. 210. Paris. 1845.

IN 1836, the Academy of Moral and Political Science of the French Institute, at the suggestion of the Philosophical section, proposed a critical examination of German philosophy, as a subject of competition. The result is contained in the above works.

The competitors were to adhere to the following conditions: 1. By extended analysis to render an account of the principal German

1 Verbum Dei manet in æternum. This was the motto of the Elector of Saxony, and his servants wore its initial letters embroidered in their garments. See a sermon of Sartorius, delivered at the Commemoration of the Third Centennial Anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, on The Glory of the Augsburg Confession.

[blocks in formation]

systems, from Kant to the present time. 2. To give special attention to the system of Kant, with which all the others are connected. 3. To give a critical estimate of the German philosophy; to discuss the principles on which it is founded, the methods it employs, the results it has attained; to seek out what of error and what of truth have met together in it, and to discriminate what, in the last result, may legitimately remain in one form or another of the philosophical movement in modern Germany.

In 1838, six memoirs were presented. They were adjudged insufficient, and the proposals were renewed, with a limit of two years. Seven competitors then offered their works; the section "jujea ce concours fort et brillant;" but no one essay was thought sufficiently complete to fulfil the conditions of the programme. The final judgment was prorogued till 1844; and then three memoirs survived, which are the subject of the Report of De Rémusat.

This report is admirably drawn up; it is a kind of model of what such reports should be; and it is such a document as perhaps only a Frenchman could produce. It is eminently candid, and also strict; there is an air of courteous authority about it which is as it should be; it goes into the subject matter just about enough, and it gives a full account of the memoirs themselves, in all their parts. Honorable mention is made of M. Fortuné Guiran, the author of one of the essays; but the prize is decreed to M. Willm, as having given the most satisfactory exposition of the whole subject. His work is described as solid, faithful and conscientious; executed with care rather than with art; the style is simple, just, and for the most part clear; he shows, however, the traces of familiarity with German idioms, and sometimes has too many words, and too many strange words, though the latter fault is natural to one who is trying to transfer German philosophy into the French tongue. Parts of his work are specially signalized as of unusual ability and novelty that, for example, upon the philosophy of Hegel. The report concludes, of course, with an assertion of the claims of the French philosophy as com pared with the German. The results of the latter, it is said, inspire distrust; they are contrary to that truth which it is the object of philosophy to methodize, and not to annul. Neither in its method, nor in its results, neither as a matter of science nor as a matter of truth can the French philosophy fully accept the German philosophy. "Germany has been unfaithful to that wise and sure method inaugurated by Descartes," whom all philosophic Frenchmen delight to honor. To explain ourselves clearly, and in technical terms, in that

1851.]

Work of Willm.

75

psychological method which does not indissolubly connect ontology with psychology; and in the autological doctrines which are not constantly based upon psychology, we cannot recognize the philosophical method of modern times; we do not recognize the fundamental condition of science. "The French philosophy may be enlightened by the lights of the German, and enriched by its ideas, but it ought to remain indissolubly faithful to the fundamental beliefs of human reason, and to the method of Descartes." Such is the constant refrain of the French, ever since Cousin took up the word. What they really mean by their "psychological method," as distinguished from the German method, it is not so easy to ascertain. As distinguished from the method of the materialistic philosophy, it has indeed a sense; but what its significancy is as definitely exhibiting the scientific peculiarity and honor of their school, as contrasted with the Germans, we have endeavored in vain to discover in the repeated eulogies of it by Cousin and his zealous adherents. Nor does the exposition which M. De Rémusat gives of it in his preface, aid us much, especially when he assures us that Plato had this psychological point of view; and that the science of man (i. e. psychological science) is the science of reason.

The introduction to this report gives us a kind of sketch of the leading opinions of the chief German philosophers. It is written with clearness; but its criticisms are too general, and its appreciation of the real questions and problems of the German schools, is insufficient. And yet it is perhaps the best general and succinct exposition of these systems which is readily accessible.

The work of M. Willm, inspector of the Academy of Strasburg, and corresponding member of the Institute, is comprised in four large volumes; and it is undoubtedly the most complete, and faithful and candid exposition of German philosophy, to be found outside of that speculative country. The author is not himself a great philosopher, but he is able to understand and describe the systems of great philosophers. He is not remarkable for acuteness, and he is often too vague and general in his criticisms; but in respect to learning, to impartiality, and to general philosophical ability, he is well fitted for the great task which he has here undertaken. It has been the work of years of laborious research. It was begun before the prize of the Academy was instituted, and his last volume was published five years after the award had been decreed to himself.

This work is not only the most important and able in the French literature, upon the subject of German philosophy, but it is also the

« PreviousContinue »