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THE

CHRISTIAN REMEMBRANCER.

SEPTEMBER, 1840.

REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.

ART. I.-Propædia Prophetica. A View of the Use and Design of the Old Testament: followed by two Dissertations,—1. On the Causes of the rapid Propagation of the Gospel among the Heathen.-2. On the Credibility of the Facts related in the New Testament. By WILLIAM ROWE LYALL, M.A., Archdeacon of Colchester; Co-Dean of Bocking; and Rector of Hadleigh, Suffolk. London: Rivingtons. 1840. 8vo. Pp. xi. 492.

THIS is the work of a hard, patient, original, and powerful thinker; and it will compel others to think too, if they have any tolerable capacity of thought. It forms a very valuable addition to that vast mass of our theological literature, which constitutes the defence of Christianity against the assaults of the gainsayer and the scorner. Our champion, however, seems to be so fully aware of his strength,—or, rather, of the strength of his cause, as to be entirely free from all temptation to railing. He calls no names. He never gets into a passion with the adversary. He has all the sedateness of conscious power. Nay,-it may, perhaps, be thought, at first sight, that he has occasionally carried the spirit of candour and concession to a somewhat rash and hazardous extremity. So far is he from being intent on seizing any unfair or questionable advantage, that he sometimes appears almost willing to throw away the advantages which righteously belong to him. He goes forth in the temper of one who is prepared to say to his antagonist, "I really feel strong enough to fight you with one hand, and so I do not much care if you tie up the other;" but this, without the slightest semblance of arrogance or bullying.

The whole volume may justly be regarded as a commentary on the text, "The Law was our Schoolmaster,—or our Guardian, (πaidaywyòs), -to bring us unto Christ:" and a very difficult text it has always appeared to us; as, we presume, it must appear to every one who reflects upon the very partial success of this heaven-appointed monitor and conductor, with those who were, more especially, consigned to his custody and guidance. In the judgment of the author, however, without this preliminary tuition, the success must have been absolutely nothing.

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He contends, if we rightly comprehend him, that, in the absence of a preparatory course of training, the mind of Jew or Gentile must, universally, have been in a state of utter incapacity for the reception of the Gospel. Miracles alone, he seems to think, can never irresistibly establish the truth of any doctrine; more especially, if the doctrine be altogether alien from the habits of thought and feeling predominant in the communities to which the miracles appeal. They may stagger and bewilder the beholder; but still they may leave him in some doubt as to the authority by which the wonders are performed. The witness may be satisfied that the laws of nature have been suspended; but he cannot be altogether certain whether this suspension is the work of a beneficent or a malignant agency, of a deceiving spirit, or of the Father of all spirits. At all events, the miracle will degenerate into a mere prodigy, unless it be addressed to persons who are under the firm and habitual persuasion that none but the Supreme Deity himself can effect, or authorise, an interruption of the ordinary course of things: and this persuasion implies a much more enlightened faith, and a much wider compass of knowledge, than can reasonably be expected from those who, as yet, have been unvisited by the light of revelation. There is no necessary connexion between a preternatural phenomenon, and a moral or religious truth. And, in order to establish any connexion whatever between them, the mind of the hearer or beholder must have undergone a discipline which should make him a fit recipient of the impression to be produced. And, here it is that prophecy steps in, to invest the miraculous agency with an influence and power which, otherwise, could never have belonged to it. Prophecy unfulfilled, excites attention, and raises expectation, and makes the mind familiar with the prospect of some mighty change. Prophecy fulfilled, wherever the fulfilment can be at all successfully made out, puts an end to all question. It satisfies the inquirer that the wonders exhibited by the claimant of a divine commission, were no idle or ambiguous prodigies, but that the authority by which they were performed, could be no other than that of God himself; unerring prescience being an incommunicable attribute of the Deity.

This appears to be the outline of the author's argument. They who are desirous of seeing that outline filled up, must consult the work itself; to which no justice could possibly be done, without a much more copious abstract than our limits would allow. We believe the views of the author to be substantially correct; but, our impression is, that they stand in need of more cautious limitation than he has thought it necessary to apply. It has always, indeed, been our opinion, that the influence of miracles alone upon human belief and practice, is by no means of a nature so certain and so overpowering as a superficial consideration might lead us to imagine; but we are hardly prepared to assent to the sweeping proposition, that, "Without a preparatory dispensation, the divine authority of a doctrinal revelation could never be legitimately established; and that, without some antecedent communication of the divine will, the establishment of the gospel, humanly speaking, would have been, in the strictest sense of the words, an absolute impossibility." (pp. 233, 234.) It appears to us that a miracle might easily be imagined of so stupendous a nature as to bear down all resistance, and to carry the world before it. For instance; let us, for

a moment, suppose it to have been agreeable to the designs of the Almighty, that the authority of the Messiah should be established immediately on his appearance among the Jews; and that Jesus Christ, accordingly, had stood up before them, and declared that, in the course of the next hour, fire should be rained from heaven, and utterly consume their temple; or, that the earth should open and swallow it up; and that this would be the signal for the abolition of the temple worship, and the establishment of a new economy; and that the heaviest displeasure of God would rest on all who should lift up hand or voice against the change; and then, let us imagine that, before the hour had expired, the sacred pile had disappeared from before their eyes ;-is it conceivable that incredulity itself could have stood out against a prodigy like this? Or, again-let us imagine St. Paul standing in the Forum at Rome, and proclaiming, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, that, before the sun had set, the Capitol should sink into the ground; and that, from that moment, the worship of the Pantheon must cease, and that the people must turn from idols to the service of the one living God, and of Jesus, whom he had sent; and that, if this thing did not come to pass according to his word, then the Lord had not spoken by him;-is it credible that any doubt of the divine mission of the apostle could have survived, if the multitudes had afterwards seen, with their own eyes, the declining sun shine on the vacant space whereon the Capitol had stood? And, in either of the above cases, would the sure word of prophecy have been absolutely needed to demolish every remnant of unbelief? Would even the want of a preparatory dispensation have been fatal to the success of a miracle like this? Or, is it possible that Jews or Greeks could still have taken refuge in the persuasion, that, after all, the calamity they had witnessed was not the work of the supreme God himself, but the infliction of some malignant power, permitted by Him to chastise them for their iniquities?

It may be very true, as above observed, that there is no necessary connexion whatever between a wonder, such as we have here figured to ourselves, and any scheme of moral and religious doctrine which the performer of the wonder might have to propose. But, then, would not the immediate fulfilment of his words subdue the minds of almost every witness to obedience, and prepare them on the spot for the reception of any truth which he might be commissioned to announce? And would not a connexion be thus instantly established between the miracle which had been exhibited, and the doctrine which was to be received? The author before us, perhaps, will answer-No; for he has actually put a case somewhat similar to the latter of our two imaginary ones. "Suppose," he says, "that Jesus Christ, instead of appearing among the people of Judea, had suddenly opened his commission at Rome, or among a people who were strangers to the promises of God-to whom the name of a Messiah was unknown; who had never heard such words as atonement, salvation, kingdom of heaven, resurrection, faith, sin, repentance, and other phrases, the exact meaning of which was quite peculiar to the Jews, and under which those specific ideas were signified, without which the truths of the gospel could hardly have been made intelligible." And, further, "suppose that, when the apostles propounded their high and difficult doctrines,-the divine nature of Christ, his vicarious

sufferings, his intercession at the right hand of God, of salvation through faith in his name,-they had been left unprovided with any proofs, except the miraculous facts which they had witnessed, and their own confident belief. It would seem idle," he contends, "to inquire how they could have obtained credit in such a case; for one does not see how it would have been possible that they should have been understood." (Pp. 234, 235.) Why, it really seems to us that, as it was, these were the precise difficulties with which the apostles actually had to contend; and this, not only at Rome, but in every city of the Gentiles. And yet we find that the Gospel was despised and rejected of the Jews, while it, eventually, took possession of the Gentile world!

To all this, however, the Archdeacon will, doubtless, reply, that the Gentile world was not left without preparation. The Jews, he tells us, were dispersed throughout every region of the Roman empire. In some cities their quarters were spacious, and their multitudes immense. And, it is scarcely credible, that their long-continued intercourse with the heathen should have failed to diffuse a knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures. And, that such diffusion was extensively effected, is manifested by the circumstance, that, about the time of the Messiah's advent, the heathen world was, more or less, agitated by a general expectation of the appearance of some extraordinary person, who should mightily influence the destinies of mankind. Now, the existence of such an expectation at that period, is notorious and undeniable: and nothing is more probable than the hypothesis, that the expectation had its origin in the wide dispersion of God's ancient people, and in a partial acquaintance with the oracles committed to their keeping. But then, it must be remembered that, after all, the expectation was extremely vague and indistinct. There wandered about the world a notion, that the East should become predominant, and should produce a conqueror fated to establish an almost universal empire. And this was precisely the sort of expectation which was most likely to be awakened by the Jewish interpretation of those prophecies which related to the kingdom of their promised Deliverer and Prince. But we are not aware of any sufficient ground for believing that the Gentiles ever became at all familiar with the spiritual sense of those predictions. Indeed, it would be difficult to imagine by what channel the spiritual sense should have found its way into the heathen mind, seeing that their only teachers and expounders were rooted and grounded" in the one hope and belief that their Messiah was to make the Jews the masters of the world. That the Hebrew Scriptures were generally and carefully studied by the heathen for themselves, is, to the last degree, improbable. And, even if they were so studied, it is equally improbable that, without a competent guide, the Gentile readers should be conducted to that high and heavenly meaning, which escaped the most holy and most learned among the masters of Israel themselves. We, accordingly, suspect that the atonement, the resurrection, the salvation of God, the kingdom of heaven, the divine nature and vicarious sufferings of the Messiah, &c. &c., were still " strange matters" in the ears even of those among the heathen who were deepest in their knowledge of the Jewish books-the libri sacerdotum-as strange as if there had been no antecedent dispensation to train them for the event which they surmised to be at hand.

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They had been taught to expect they scarcely knew what; at most, but little more than a mighty, and probably a beneficial, revolution in the affairs of mankind. But, what are the grounds for supposing that the knowledge which had then, as it were, transpired from the sacred volume, had prepared them to hear of a dominion, of which the warfare should be in this world, and the triumphs in the next?

These considerations have led us to doubt whether the influences of the preparatory tuition have not been somewhat overrated in the present work; or, to speak more cautiously and reverentially, whether human sagacity and knowledge can ever be sufficient to estimate those influences correctly. Nothing can well be more obscure than their operation upon the mind of the Gentile world. So far as we can perceive, their actual effect must have been extremely limited, in heralding the Lord of life throughout the empire of idolatry; or, in assisting to make intelligible the awful and mysterious preaching of his apostles. And we are, consequently, disposed to ascribe to the miraculous attestation of the spiritual doctrines, an efficacy more potent than that which has been attributed to it by the author now before us.

The case of the Jews is, in some respects, more difficult and inexplicable than that of the Gentiles. Their advantage over the heathen was "much every way: and chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God." And yet, with the exception of those who embraced the Gospel at its first promulgation, the Jews have been the most inveterate of all enemies to the cross of Christ. If any men on earth had the means of knowledge, those men were the sons of Israel; and yet was their zeal for God "not according to knowledge." This, surely, was "the Lord's doing; and it is marvellous in our eyes." To certain portions of the prophetic volume, their minds were widely and intently open. With regard to others, "there was no speculation in their eyes. The blindness which thus happened unto them in part, is, perhaps, among the most astounding facts in the history of man. They have been proof alike against miracle and prediction. Some secondary causes may, doubtless, be pointed out, as helping to draw this impenetrable veil over their hearts. But the darkness, after all, must principally have been the effect of a judicial infatuation; at least, we know of no other hypothesis fully adequate to the explanation of the phenoinenon. This, however, is a subject too vast, and too perplexing, for a brief and fugitive disquisition.

But, although, with unfeigned diffidence, we have ventured to express some qualified dissent from the views and reasonings of the Archdeacon, we should be sorry to have it suspected that we were insensible of the value of his work. He has, in our judgment, fully succeeded in showing that prophecy has been too much overlooked by those who have laboured to set forth the evidences of Christianity. Prophecy and miracle are, obviously, the two main pillars on which the fabric of proof may be said to rest. And the weight is more equally distributed between them, than may be usually imagined. Indeed, the whole of the prophetic apparatus may be considered as, itself, one grand miracle, -a miracle, perhaps, of all others the most overpowering, when once the accomplishment of prophecy is clearly established to the satisfaction of the inquirer. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the work of the

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