Page images

taste, he has turned all these great gifts to their proper ends, His house has always been the rendezvous of genius and merit; it has been his pride and pleasure at once to surround himself with all that was distinguished, and to pursue obscure and struggling talent with judicious and searching benevolence. Few great men ever led so spotless, so useful, or, we believe, so serene a life;—and his reward is to have secured the attachment and respect of all, and at last to have attained that rare and proud position-given to few to reach, and the loftiest that a citizen can aspire to-of standing independent of and above all party, a sort of consulting physician to the Queen and country.


The Life and Epistles of St. Paul. By the Rev. W. J. Conybeare, M.A., late Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge; and the Rev. J. S. Howson, M.A., Principal of the Collegiate Institution, Liverpool. 2 Vols. 4to. Longmans,


The Epistles of St. Paul to the Corinthians: with Critical Notes and Dissertations. By Arthur Penrhyn, Stanley, M.A., Canon of Canterbury, late Fellow and Tutor of University College, Oxford, &c. 2 Vols. 8vo. Murray, 1855.

The Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, Galatians, Romans: with Critical Notes and Dissertations. By Benjamin Jowett, M.A., Fellow and Tutor of Balliol College, Oxford. 2 Vols. 8vo. Murray, 1855.

THESE treatises, bearing on their title-pages the names of our two ecclesiastical universities, give happy signs of a new era in English theology. They show how effectually we have escaped from the morbid religious phenomena represented by Simeon at Cambridge, and the counter-irritants applied by John Henry Newman at Oxford; and come as the returning breath of nature to those who have witnessed the fevers of "Evangelical" conversion or the consumptive asceticism of "Anglican" piety. On looking back, from the position now attained, it seems wonderful that we could ever, with St. Paul's writings in our hands, have been betrayed into either of these

opposite extravagances: for anything more absolutely foreign to his breadth and universality than the Genevan dogma, or more at variance with his free spirituality than the sacramental system, it is impossible to conceive. But it is the peculiar fate of sacred writings, that the last thing elicited from them is their own real meaning. The very greatness of their authority puts the reader's faculties into a false attitude; creates an eagerness,-an inflexible intensity,-that defeats its own end; and, in particular, gives undue ascendency to the uppermost want and feeling that may be craving satisfaction. Hence the tendency of Scriptural interpretation to proceed by action and reaction; an easy ethical Arminianism being succeeded by a severe Calvinism, and the reliance on individual grace giving way before the advance of sacerdotal and Church ideas. When the opposite errors have spent themselves, the requisite repose of mind will be recovered for reading just the thought that lies upon the page: here and there an eye will be found, neither strained with pre-occupying visions, nor scared by sceptic shadows, but clear for the apprehension of reality, as God has shaped it for our perception. At length, we have reached this crisis of promise; and critics are found who, instead of interrogating St. Paul on all sorts of modern questions, listen to him on his own; and draw from him, not a fancied verdict on the sixteenth century, but a faithful picture of the first.

And for this historical purpose, the writings of the great Gentile apostle are of paramount value, and justly occupy the inquirer's first researches. The most considerable of them are of unimpeachable authenticity. They are the very earliest Christian writings we possess. They are the productions of a man more clearly known to us than any of the first missionaries of the gospel. They are letters: abounding in disclosures of personal feelings, of biographical incident, of changing moods of thought, of outward and inward conflict. They are addressed to young communities, scattered over a vast area, and composed of differing elements; and exhibit the whole fermentation of their new life, the scruples, the heart-burnings, the noble inspirations, the grievous factions, of the apostolic age. The Gospels and the Book of Acts treat no doubt of a prior period, but proceed from a posterior, of whose state of mind, whose retrospective theories concerning the ministry of Christ, it is of primary importance to the criticism of the evangelists that we should be informed: and on these points. the Pauline epistles are the indispensable groundwork of all our knowledge or conjecture. In them we catch the Christian doctrine and tradition at an earlier stage than any other canonical book represents throughout. Although the narra

tives of the New Testament doubtless abound in material drawn faithfully from a more primitive time, they are certainly not free from the touch and tincture of the post-Pauline age. How powerful an instrument the apostle's letters may become for either confirming or checking the historical records, may be readily conceived by every reader of Paley's "Horæ Paulinæ." In fine, if it be a just principle, in historical criticism, to proceed from the more known to the less known,-to begin from a date that yields contemporary documents, and work thence into the subjacent and superjacent strata of events, the elucidation of Christian antiquity must take its commencement from the Epistles of St. Paul.

Except in its general similarity of subject, the first of the three works mentioned at the head of this article admits of no comparison with the other two. It is rather an illustrated guide-book to the apostle's world of place and time, than a personal introduction to himself. The authors are highly accomplished and scholarly men, and could not fail, in dealing with an historical theme, to bring together and group with conscientious skill, a vast store of archæological and topographical detail; to weigh chronological difficulties with patient care; to translate with philological precision, and due aim at accuracy of text. They have accordingly produced a truly interesting and instructive book:-so instructive indeed that by far the greater part of its information would, probably, have been quite new to St. Paul himself. His life seems to us to be injudiciously overlaid with what is wholly foreign to it, and for the sake of picturesque effect to be set upon a stage quite invisible to him. He was not "Principal of a Collegiate Institution," accustomed to examine boys in Attic or Latian geography; was not familiar with Thucydides or Grote; was indiffent to the Amphictryonic Council; and, in the vicinity of Salamis and Marathon, probably read the past no more than a Brahmin would in travelling over Edge Hill or Marston Moor. The world of each man must be measured from his own spiritual centre, and will take in much less in one direction, much more in another, than is spread beneath his eye. He cannot be reached by geographical approaches. You may determine the elements of his orbit, and yet miss him after all. It is an illusory process to paint the ancient world as it would look to an Hellenic gentleman then, or a university scholar now; and then think how St. Paul would feel in passing through it to convert it. The indirect influence of this kind of conception seems to us apparent both in Mr. Conybeare's translation, and Mr. Howson's narrative and descriptions. The outward scene and conditions of the apostle's career are

elaborately displayed; but more with the modern academic than with the old Hebrew tone of colouring; and the English version, scrupulous and delicate as it is, has, to our taste, a general flavour quite different from the original Greek. Unconsciously entangled in the classifications and symbols of the Protestant theology, the authors are detained outside the real genius and feeling of the apostle.

Of a far higher order are the other two works,-produced, we infer from their numerous correspondences of both form and substance, not without concert between the authors. Indeed the same explanation of the merits of Lachmann's text (printed without translation by Mr. Stanley, and with the adapted authorised version by Mr. Jowett) is made to serve for both. So clearly and compendiously is this explanation drawn, that in the next edition of Lachmann, Mr. Jowett's introduction might usefully be annexed to the great critic's rather tangled and awkward preface. Of the superior fidelity of this recension, we think no habitual reader of the Greek Scriptures can reasonably doubt; and the recognition of its authority fulfils a prior condition of all scientific theology. The text being chosen on grounds purely critical, the notes are written in a spirit purely exegetical: they aim, simply and with rare selfabnegation, to bring out, by every happy change of light and turn of reflective sympathy, the great apostle's real thought and feeling. How very far this faithful historic purpose in itself raises the interpreter above the crowd of erudite and commenting divines, can scarcely be understood till it has formed a new generation, and fixed itself as a distinct intellectual type. It is not, however, an affair of mere will and disposition; but, like most of the higher exercises of veracity, comes into operation only as the last result of mental tact and affluence. With the most honest intentions towards St. Paul, a critic without psychological insight and dialectic pliancy, without power of melting down his modern abstractions, and redistributing them in the moulds of the old realistic thought, -a critic without entrance into the passionate depths of human nature,―a critic pre-occupied by Catholic or Protestant assumptions, and untrained to imagine the questions and interests of the first age,-cannot surrender himself to the natural impression of the apostle's language. The disciple and the master are, in such case, at cross-purposes with one another: the questions put are not the questions answered: the interlocutors do not really meet, but wind in a maze about each other's loci, not to end till the unconscious interpreter has set his phantasies within the shadow of inspiration. No such blind chace is possible to our authors. They have achieved the conditions

of fidelity; and bring to a task, in which the truthful and sagacious spirit of Locke had already fixed the standard high, the ampler resources of modern learning, and more practised habit of historic combination. In the distribution of their work, the difference of natural genius between the two authors has perhaps been consulted, and is, at all events, distinctly expressed. Mr. Stanley's aptitude for reproducing the image of the past, his apprehensive sympathy with the concrete and individual elements of the world, fitly engage themselves with the composite forms of Corinthian society, and the most personal, various, and objective of the apostle's letters. For the more speculative Epistles to the Galatians and the Romans, there was need of Mr. Jowett's philosophical depth and subtlety. The strictness with which he restrains these seductive gifts to the proper business of the interpreter is not less admirable than their occasional happy application. Instead of being employed to force upon the apostle a logical precision foreign to his habit, they are chiefly engaged in detecting. and wiping out false niceties of distinction drawn by later theology, and throwing back each doctrinal statement into its original degree of indeterminateness. It is not in the notes, which are wholly occupied in recovering St. Paul's own thought,—but in the interposed disquisitions, which avowedly deal with the theology of to-day, that a certain breadth and balance of statement, and delicate ease in manoeuvering the forms and antitheses of abstract thought, and fine appreciation of human experience, make us feel the double presence of metaphysical power and historical tact. The author, accordingly, appears to us not only to have seized the great apostle's attitude of mind more happily than any preceding English critic, but also to have separated the essence from the accidents of the Pauline Christianity, and disengaged its divine elements for transfusion into the organism of our immediate life. Mr. Stanley appears to have more difficulty in unreservedly adhering to the purely historical view, and clerically flutters, without clear occasion, on the outskirts of "edification; "the critic in his notes, the preacher in his paraphrase; conceding in act more readily in name, and apologising for finding human ingredients in the apostles and their doctrines, as if it were he, and not God, that would have them there. This tendency to blur the lines which he himself draws between the temporary and the permanent in the Scriptures with which he deals, is the only fault we can find with Mr. Stanley; whose associate, clinging less to the past, in effect preserves more for the present. To learn the external scene of the apostle's career, we would refer our readers to Messrs. Conybeare and How

« PreviousContinue »