Page images
PDF
EPUB

individual, and imperfectly in all the rest : it rather loves to distribute its riches among a multiplicity of examplars which reciprocally complete each other, - in the alternate appearance and suppression of a series of individuals.” – Strauss, Vol. ill., p. 437.

In brief, according to Strauss, the whole human race, the totality of mankind, is Christ; the idea is thus realized on a magnificent scale.

"And is this no true realization of the idea? is not the idea of the unity of the divine and human natures a real one in a far higher sense, when I regard the whole race of mankind as its realization, than when I single out one man as such a realization ? is not an incarnation of God from eternily a truer one than an incarnation limited to a particular point of time?” - Strauss, Vol. 111., p. 437.

We are reluctant to transfer to these pages the development of this wild and truly German theory. The language is at once disgusting and impious ; but it is important to place the whole subject before our readers, and we must not shrink from the duty.

“Humanity is the union of the two natures, — God become man, the infinite manifesting itself in the finite, and the finite spirit remembering its infinitude; it is the child of the visible Mother and the invisible Father, Nature and Spirit; it is the worker of miracles, in so far as in the course of human history the spirit more and more completely subjugates nature, both within and around man, until it lies before him as the inert matter on which he exercises his active power; it is the sinless existence, for the course of its development is a blameless one, pollution cleaves to the individual only, and does not touch the race or its history. It is Humanity that dies, rises, and ascends to heaven; for from the negation of its phenomenal life there ever proceeds a higher spiritual life; from the suppression of its mortality as a personal, national, and terrestrial spirit, arises its union with the infinite spirit of the heavens. By faith in this Christ, especially in his death and resurrection, man is justified before God: that is, by the kindling within him of the idea of Hu. manity, the individual man participates in the divinely human life of the species. Now the main element of that idea is, that the negation of the merely natural and sensual life, which is itself the negation of the spirit (the negation of negation, therefore), is the sole way to true spiritual life.

" This alone is the absolute sense of Christology : that it is annexed to the person and history of one individual, is a neces. sary result of the historical form which Christology has taken.” — Strauss, Vol. 111., p. 438.

And this is the idea which is to thrust Jesus of Nazareth out of the hearts and memories of men, — this the religious belief which is to supplant the one founded on the four Gospels !

But how is belief in these doctrines to be reconciled with the character and office of a Christian clergyman ? This is the final question, and Strauss admits that it is a very difficult one.

“ The real state of the case is this. The church refers her Christology to an individual who existed historically at a certain period : the speculative theologian to an idea which only attains existence in the totality of individuals ; by the church the evangelical narratives are received as history : by the critical theologian they are regarded for the most part as mere mythi. If he would continue to impart instruction to the church, four ways are open to him." - Strauss, Vol. III., pp. 441, 442.

First, he may attempt "10 elevate the church to his own point of view, and for it, also, to resolve the historical into the ideal ; — an attempt which must necessarily fail.” Secondly, he may himself adopt the point of view of the church, and “ descend from the sphere of the ideal into the region of the popular conception.” This expedient, Strauss thinks, is commonly understood and judged too narrowly. “ It is evidence of an uncultivated mind to denounce as a hypocrite a theologian who preaches, for example, on the resurrection of Christ; since, though he may not believe in the reality of that event as a single sensible fact, he may, nevertheless, hold 10 be true the representation of the process of spiritual life which the resurrection of Christ affords.” Strictly speaking, however, this identity of the substantial truth exists only in the consciousness of the theologian, and not of the people to whom he speaks. It is admitted, therefore, that “ he must appear in the eyes of the church a hypocrite," and that “ he would ultimately appear a hypocrite to himself also.” A third course remains, which we will present in the critic's own language, as it throws some light on his notions of honesty and disinterestedness.

“ It avails nothing to say, he has only to descend from the pul. pit, and mount the professor's chair, where he will not be under the necessity of withholding his scientific opinions from such as are destined to science ; for if he, whom the course of his own intellectual culture has obliged to renounce the ministerial office, should by his instructions lead many to the same point, and thug render them also incapable of that office, the original evil would only be multiplied. On the other hand, it could not be held good for the church, that all those who pursue criticism and speculation to the results above presented should depart from their posi. tion as teachers. For no clergyman would any longer meddle with such inquiries, if he thus ran the risk of being led to results which would oblige him to abandon the ministerial office ; criticism and philosophy would fall into the hands of those who are not professed theologians, and to the theologian nothing would remain but the faith, which then could not possibly long resist the attacks of the critical and speculative laity. But where truth is concerned, the possible consequences have no weight; hence the above remark ought not to be made. Thus much, however, may be maintained in relation to the real question : he whom his theological studies have led to an intellectual position, respecting which he must believe, that he has attained the truth, that he has penetrated into the deepest mysteries of theology, cannot feel either inclined or bound just at this point in his career to abandon theology: on the contrary, such a step would be unnatural, nay, impossible.Strauss, Vol. III., pp. 443, 444.

The fourth expedient, according to our simple apprehension, does not differ materially from the second. The clergyman is to adhere to the forms of the popular conception, “ but on every opportunity he will exbibit their spiritual significance, which to him constitutes their sole truth.”

“ Thus, to abide by the example already chosen, at the festival of Easter, he will indeed set out from the sensible fact of the resurrection of Christ, but he will dwell chiefly on the being buried and rising again with Christ, which the Apostle himself has strenuously inculcated.” — Strauss, Vol. 111., p. 444.

But the same difficulty returns, that the opinions of the preacher and his hearers do not actually coincide, and their fundamental beliefs are entirely unlike.

“At least, the community will not receive both as identical ; and thus, here, again, in every excess or diminution which the more or less spontaneous relation of the teacher to critical theology, together with the variety in the degrees of culture of the community, introduces, -- the danger is incurred that the community may discover this difference, and the preacher appear to it, and consequently to himself, a hypocrite.

“ In this difficulty, the theologian may find himself driven, either directly to state his opinions, and attempt to elevate the people to his ideas ; or, since this attempt must necessarily fail, carefully to adapt himself to the conception of the community; or, lastly, since, even on this plan, he may easily betray himself, in the end to leave the ministerial profession.” — Strauss, Vol. III., p. 445.

We heartily adopt this conclusion ; let him leave the ministerial profession. If he will not abandon proselytism to this gloomy form of unbelief, let him not do his work treacherous. ly under the name and garb of the very religion which he assails. There are halls and lecture-rooms for his use, and audiences may easily be collected on the secular days of the week. Let not the church be desecrated by his presence, let not the Sabbath be profaned by impious or hypocritical services. The pulpit and the Sabbath — the Lord's day are emphatically Christian institutions ; they were consecrated in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, they are devoted to the use of those who believe that he was the Son of God, and that he was crucified and rose again. It is dishonest, it is criminal, it is base, for his enemies to seize upon them, and use them for the purpose of discrediting the story of his life, and casting the reproach of falsehood and imposture upon his name. If these lines should be seen by any one who holds the opinions here commented upon, and still retains the name and office of a Christian clergyman, we adjure him by his own notions of honesty and fairness, by his respect for goodness and truth, by his regard for millions of his fellow-beings whose dearest hopes and final consolations his course now tends to destroy, by his sense of reverence for the Infinite One whom he still professes to adore, instantly to quit the post he has no right to hold, and to leave the ministerial profession.

namecasting these puro

ART. VII. - The Life of Martin Luther, gathered from

his own Writings. By M. Michelet, Author of The History of France, &c. Translated by G. H. Smith, F. G. s. New York : D. Appleton & Co. 1846. 12mo. pp. 314.

We often hear those who visit Niagara, where every one feels it incumbent on himself to be a geologist for the time, indulging in solemn speculations concerning the probable effect of removing the great barrier which now holds back the waters ; doubting whether it might not let down the great lakes, in sudden and unwelcome inundation, upon the region below. Some of that large class who delight to prophesy evil expound, to the consternation of their hearers, that the time is not far off when the rocky ridge will give way, the natives of the upper counties share the fate of the antediluvians, and after a drowning overflow, the stream, no longer dashing from its mountain heights, will ever after creep, humbled and slavelike, in a lowly channel far beneath its present bed. After listening to these fearful predictions, one is greatly comforted to remember, that nature fortunately has no delight in these wild exhibitions of power; she accomplishes her purposes by regular and steady action, being con- v scious, perhaps, that, if it is nothing to her, it may make a serious difference to us, whether these changes are brought about in a thousand years or a single day. Sometimes a part of Table Rock thunders down into the startled abyss, and the ice and frost prepare their wedges to split off a new fragment at a future day ; sometimes the waters dislodge a vast cliff in their channel, and bear it with them in savage triumph to the depths below. But it is not often that any decided change is made in the aspect of the fall; there is no revolutionary alteration at which “ the deep utters his voice and lifts up his hands on high.”

Very much the same is true of the great moral and social changes which are continually taking place in the world. There are powers and influences in constant operation, wearing away the form and fashion of existing things ; their action goes on by night and by day, never suspended for an hour ; and it is by this incessant exertion, and by imperceptible advances, that great evils are worn away, usurpations and abuses

« PreviousContinue »