Page images

at last has found one true expositor. To make his argument all the easier, Mr. Maurice is pleased to set up a man of straw-a sham representative of the theology he condemns. Let us pause for a moment to recommend this system to all popular controversialists; no chain of reasoning, however cogent, can equal the force of a bold and consistent assumption. Let your first step, oh man of arguments! be, not to disclose your own sentiments, but to determine your opponent's. When you begin your speech, however visible may be the denial, or energetic the protesting gestures of your hapless adversary, who must wait till you are done, fix his creed for him, in the first place, without hesitation or timidity, and then-you are but a very poor novice in the art if you cannot destroy what you yourself have constructed. With this grand principle for his guide, Mr. Maurice takes the field against universal Christendom, and kindly explains to us what is our own idea, and what the old-fashioned opinion of our pious forefathers, respecting the scheme of salvation. We have been holding the heathen principle of sacrifice,' says Mr. Maurice. On one side is an offended God- a somewhat grander Jupiter, with all his thunderbolts suspended over us, and his arm raised to exterminate the world. On the other side, sullen, gloomy, half terrified, half defiant, trying hard to buy Him off, are we, His revolted subjects; and midway between stands a grand inexplainable Personage, whom we, by some inexplainable means, have persuaded to conspire with us to buy a reluctant pardon from the angry Jove above. This is heathen enough, certainly; but so far as we can perceive, it would not be much of a gospel even to the worshippers of Vishnu; and we are puzzled to understand how Mr. Maurice, being a good man, as universal consent allows, can either be so blind or so uncandid as to set up this poor distortion as the belief of any mind which has ever thought twice, or even once, upon the subject. If there did happen to be, at this present speaking, any intelligent creature in the civilised world who had not heard a better account of it, Mr. Maurice's latest work would exhibit to such a one

nothing of any recognised or believed gospel, except this monstrous Frankenstein and his own elegant production-the one very ugly, the other very pretty to look at, admirable foils for each other-the latter believed in, at least, by Mr. Maurice, the former by no sane creature, even in this perverse and distorted world.

It is not our vocation to preach the gospel which lies between these antipodes; how our most wonderful and glorious Lord verily bought, ransomed, purchased us; yet how this infinite and extraordinary price could be suggested only by the everlasting love of the Father, who alone knew what could be substituted for the forfeited life of His sinful creatures, is a two-fold truth, in the strength of which, generations of the saints of God, the truest, stoutest, noblest hearts among men, have been content to live and die. "The theory of a propitiation not set forth by God, but devised to influence his mind," says Mr. Maurice, "changes all the rela tions of the Creator and creature." We ask seriously-sadly-who, save Mr. Maurice, ever knew of such a theory? From what dangerous pulpit has Christian man in Christian country ever heard such a doctrine? Is there a written creed in the world which contains it; or whence came the monstrous idea? That such a hope might lurk, with other unspeakable spectres, in guilty hearts and consciences, no man who knows himself will refuse to believe; but when we try to buy off the Judge before whose face we tremble, which of us goes to Christ to help us in such an endeavour? Have we not, every soul of us, an instinctive certainty, that of all helpers He is the last to apply to for this kind of assistance? Do penances, go pilgrimages, endow hospitals, build churches, take self-torture, voluntary poverty, mortification and pain, for your saviours-but so long as your plan is to influence and change the mind of God, we promise you, you will have no desire to ask His Son to help you in your purpose. We will not pause to inquire where Mr. Maurice may have found this extraordinary doctrine, which he presents with so much confidence as the ordinary creed of Christianity in these

days; we only give it our unhesitat- no grand event close at hand throws ing and unqualified denial. What its shadow over them; they are ordiindividual Pharisees may believe in the bottom of their hearts is no rule to us; but we are persuaded that no written creed in existence, and no uttered preaching, knows anything of "a propitiation not set forth by God, but devised to influence His mind." Calvinism, that bête noir of the popular English understanding, wots of no such invention. We frankly avow that we never saw the monster till we saw it in the pages of Mr. Maurice; and we would fain put some questions to him on the subject before leaving it. Who "devised" this "propitiation to influence the mind of God?" Who persuaded God's Son to lend Himself to it? If the belief is popular, there must be some popular explanation of these difficulties. We dare not say that Mr. Maurice states anything which he does not believe to be true, for Mr. Maurice is a good man; but we would fain know something of the preachers, and of the interpretation of this other gospel, which it is his vocation to overthrow, and which we promise him for our own part, we should not believe, were it, as St. Paul says, preached by an angel from heaven.

So much for the man of straw. Mr. Maurice's own pretty and graceful gospel stands in elegant opposition to this mercantile bargain between God and man. There is but one fact in the history of mankind which our author forgets or passes over, and that is a tolerably momentous one, as we suppose a very clamorous fact, which lies at the bottom of all rites and ordinances-no less an event than the Fall. Eden and its strange sweet morning of innocence - its inexperienced blessed creatures, so wise, so ignorant, so human-its sudden tempest, and tragical revolution-the sudden change of that first bride and bridegroom into the sorrow-stricken, awed, and trembling people who went forth from the beautiful gate of Paradise to the dreary world and its probation,-these have no place in the concise volume wherein Mr. Maurice traces the after history of their descendants. In this book the curtain rises abruptly upon the sons of this first pair. That their position is at all peculiar, solemn, or important, we are not led to suppose;

nary human men, whose father and mother have been culpably negligent of their education. Adam has never told these boys of that grand and loving Visitant who walked with him in the cool of the garden, and taught the humble holy creature, made in His own image, such lore of heaven as he was fit to know. Eve has never held these brethren's hands, and bade them hush to hear of the Seed of the woman who was to bruise the serpent's head. In that first primitive tent, or bower, or cave, there has been no talk between the father and mother of what befell before these children came to comfort the great sorrow of the parent hearts. No: the father has never taught the wondering boys how their inheritance was lost; the mother has never thrilled their swelling hearts with that mysterious promise of regaining it, which her own eager hope had snatched at, when she said, "I have gotten a man from the Lord." Cain and Abel might almost as well have been without parents for any instruction they have had; and as a natural consequence, it follows that the lads are as little impressed by the great events which so closely preceded their entrance into the world, as any two rustics in Kent or Devon who live at a distance of six thousand years from the Creation and the Fall.

But yet there have been some faint elements of education. Mr. Maurice thinks there have. "No doubt their parents have told them that they have a Lord, and that He sees them, and is ordering their ways. Surely it is He who is making them feel His presence, urging them to confess Him. How shall they confess Him? What is the simplest of all possible methods in which they can manifest their subjection? Ask yourselves. Is it speech? Is it some vehement phrase of thanksgiving, some passionate petition? These may come in time, but they cannot come first; they are not the most childlike way of testifying homage-not the one which ordinary human experience would lead us to look for, when One has revealed Himself to us, whom we perceive but dimly, yet with whom we feel we have to do. Acts go before words. The shepherd

True, we

the slaying of his lamb?
are not told in so many words that he
did slay the lamb; but neither is
Abel's sacrifice in any way separated
from the other Old Testament sacri-
fices, in every one of which a victim
dies. If, then, we accept Mr. Maurice's
hypothesis, that the origin of sacrifice
is only in the desire of man to confess
his dependence on God, and is nothing
more than the "simplest of all possible
methods in which he can manifest his
subjection," we must give a decision
in the matter of these two brothers
entirely contrary to the decision
given by God.
We must approve

takes the sheep; he desires to present it to this Ruler, who must be near him, whom he must find some way of acknowledging. The tiller of the ground takes the fruits of the earth; he would present these." Thus we have the first suggestion of the doctrine of sacrifice-a suggestion, as it appears, entirely natural, human, and proceeding from man, and in which Mr. Maurice begins his first grand practical contradiction of his own assertion, stated in his preface, that his system, like the system of the Bible, is "to ground everything upon the name of God," and to show everything as proceeding from God. He of the natural grace and fitness goes on to say, however, "Whatever of Cain's beautiful offering. We he (man) discovers on that subject, or must lift up our voice against the on any other, he receives. It is wis- cruel, revolting, and inhuman sacridom which is imparted to him-light fice of Abel. Mr. Maurice does not which comes to him from the Source hesitate to say that "the Bible would of light. I do not see what one can not be a true book if it did not exhibit say different, or more in the other to us the difference" between these case." (The other case is, "Why one two types of offerers-how "some have mode of tillage, or one mode of fold- been the better for their prayers, and ing sheep occurs to him rather than some very much the worse." Availanother.") "There, too, the suggestion ing ourselves of the same license, we of the mode in which the service is add that the Bible would not be a performed is welcomed as divine; yet true book if it did not assign some it is felt to be natural and reasonable." distinct, clear, and sufficient reason So that is all God has to do with the for these sacrifices, of which Abel's is matter. The principle of sacrifice, the first example in the sacred record. and the mode of it, He suggests only as He suggests a better mode of tillage. This is quite a new and peculiar method of proving that everything proceeds from God.

But, acknowledging that God has nothing to do with it save in this faraway mode, it is very true that a child's impulse of gratitude or affection is to offer some of its little cherished possessions to its benefactors-perfectly true-so that one can understand the "childlike" sentiment of Cain in his offering. But what would Mr. Maurice think of the Nero in petticoats, who slaughtered a butterfly in his honour? Would that be childlike? Would it be anything but monstrous, horrid, cruel-the promise of a butcher and not of a saint? Yet we are obliged to admit that by all scriptural analogy this is but a type of what Abel must have done. He brought the firstlings of his flock-the very flower and sweetest blossom of animal lifeand offered it as his sacrifice. Was it Abel's gentle nature that prompted

We will not linger upon our author's explanation of the disappointment of Cain, because he leaves the individual subject to explain by our own experience what this disappointment was: "the Cain-spirit in us all," he says, "is that we supposed God to be an arbitrary being, whom we, by our sacrifices and prayers, were to conciliate. Was not this the false notion that lay at the root of all our discontent, of all the evil thoughts and acts that sprung out of it? We did not begin with trust, but with distrust; we did not worship God because we believed in Him, but because we dreaded Him; because we desired His presence, but because we wished to persuade Him not to come near us. And does not this experience, brethren, enable us to understand the nature of that true and better sacrifice which Abel offered? Must not all its worth have arisen from this, that he was weak, and that he cast himself upon One whom he knew to be strong; that he was ignorant, and that he trusted in

One who he was sure must be wise; that he had the sense of death, and that he turned to One whence life must have come; that he had the sense of wrong, and that he fled to One who must be right? Was not his sacrifice the mute expression of this helplessness, dependence, confidence? And was not the acceptance of it the pledge that the Creator is goodness and truth, and that all creatures have goodness and truth so far as they disclaim them in themselves and seek them in Him?"

All very well said, true and good; but we are still standing by the slain lamb -the innocent, spotless, harmless creature can nothing but its brief agony express these lofty sentiments? What has all this filial and reverent devotion to do with the shed blood-the sight most abhorrent to humanity? Could Abel's "helplessness, dependence, confidence," be expressed in no other way? Or was this a merely arbitrary sign of these inward and spiritual emotions? We are left, in our ignorance, to marvel at our leisure. Mr. Maurice thinks he has explained it all so clearly that he is justified in saying, "If this be the case, we have had a glimpse into the nature of sacrifice, and into its connection with the nature of every human creature, which we may hope will expand into brighter and clearer vision." Amen for Mr. Maurice; but for ourselves we have not had the slightest glimpse into the nature of sacrifice. We have had descriptions, true and faithful, of two different moods of mind-of a man approaching God with humility and tender confidence, and of another man, who comes sullenly because he dares not stay away; but we have not the slightest comprehension what was the use of Abel's lamb. It remains an utter enigma to us, bewildering and inexplainable. We cannot understand how any human creature could express his emotions of gratitude or confidence by destroying one of the gentlest lives which confided in his care. If there is no better explanation than this, we can only turn with disgust from the altars of the old world; there is no meaning in them.

And now there marches another figure upon the record. Noah, a pa

triarch, the second father of the world, a man whose years extended to within fifty of a millennium. Mr. Maurice is very kind to Noah; he who is of Lincoln's Inn and the nineteenth century, patronises him of the Flood. If you had asked this simple-hearted old giant to explain to you what his sacrifice meant- -"to tell you what these visible things signified to him, he could have given you no answer," says Mr. Maurice. And again-"The man who came out of the ark, and builded an altar to the Lord, must have felt that he was representing all human beings-that he was not speaking what was in himself, so much as offering the homage of the restored universe. The simple mind of a patriarch could not take in so vast a thought as this; what need that he should take it in?" What need, indeed, when there was a coming man-a critical expositor, like Mr. Maurice-fated to appear ever so many ages after, to explain to us the inexplainable thoughts for which poor old savage Noah could find no expression? We are irresistibly reminded, as we read, of a famous critic in another department. "Ah, sir," said this redoubtable gentleman, as he looked upon a sketch of a deceased painter, an unhappy disinherited son of Fame, " Ah, sir,

was a great

colourist, and he never knew it!" The patriarch, like the painter, was unconscious of what was in him—a dumb inglorious Milton, full of inarticulate greatness. Yet one could suppose that that same mountain-head of Ararat, with the great world appearing around, in the water and out of the water, and the rainbow arch overhead, was about as fit a scene, not only to inspire grand ideas, but even the grand simple language of nature in which to express them, as the shady groves of Lincoln's Inn, or even the classic cloisters of Somerset House; and that the man whom the Apostle describes as emphatically a preacher of righteousness -a man in whose youth the first of men was still living to tell his wonderful experiences-one who for many a troublous year contended with a world of giants, the sole representative of God's church and truth among them, might possibly have been quite as competent to understand his own deeds, and interpret his own

thoughts, as the Rev. Frederick Denison Maurice, a Cambridge scholar, and chaplain of Lincoln's Inn. We believe they may be an "unchancy' audience, these same learned benchers, but not quite so hard to manage either as the sons of Cain and Lamech, the primeval Titans of the world; and we confess it seems to us somewhat ludicrous to see how this reverend gentleman patronises Noah, who, to say the least of it, is Mr. Maurice's grandfather as well as our own, and deserves some little filial reverence at his descendant's hands.

But, what need that he should take it in?" continues Mr. Maurice. "It was true; if he could not comprehend it, he yet could speak out the marvel and the awe of his heart to Him who knew all. What was Noah's sacrifice but this ?—as childlike as that of the man who first gazed on the strange world and could not interpret it; who first saw death, and wanted to be told what it signified; who first felt sin, and would fly from it. As childlike as his; perhaps more childlike, because the oppression of ages, and of the sin which had been done in them, of the deaths which had been died in them, was greater than that which the other could experience and, therefore, the need of casting it on some one who could bear it was greater; and because the sense of deliverance and redemption and restoration—the assurance that the righteous God was a deliverer, redeemer, restorer must have been such as none could have had who had not seen how all the powers of the world were used for the punishment of those who had braved Him instead of believing in Him; and how, nevertheless, the order stood fast, and came forth fresher and fairer out of the ruin. In what words was it possible to express a sense of man's greatness-the king over the mightiest animals-and of man's littleness in the presence of the elements which had been let loose upon him; of the intimate inseparable union between man and man; of the bitter strifes which tore them asunder; of the awful nearness of men to their Maker; of their estrangement from Him? How could he and his sons say, 'We confess that Thou hast made us rulers; help us to govern: we

know that the world can crush us; help us not to fear it, but Thee. We are sure that we have rebelled against Thee; we bless Thee that Thou upholdest us, and unitest us to Thee?' The altar, the clean beasts, the fire, and the man presenting the animals to Him whom he cannot see, in the fire as one of the mightiest ministers of His will-these were the signs which supplied the want of language, or translated the language of earth into that of heaven."

Now it appears to us that this is one of the most marvellous instances on record of an appearance of reasoning in which there is neither argument nor consequence. It is very probable that all these thoughts were in Noah's mind when he stood at the opened door of the ark, and saw before him a recovered world; but states of mind are not the whole and sole materials of which philosophy and history are made, and we come back in hopeless darkness to Noah's altar and its heap of victims. This libation of blood, these slain beasts, whose lives have been miraculously preserved only to perish here, how do they express man's greatness and man's littleness, the union between man and man, the strifes between man and man, their nearness and yet estrangement from their Maker?-how? In what manner do these slain creatures express the prayer of Noah and his sons? How are these the signs which supply the want of language? Mr. Maurice is a great deal more arbitrary than those he condemns so easily: it is so, he says, but he gives us no light to show us why or how instead, he gives us a great many admirable descriptions of the various phases of individual human experience, a great many inculcations of the necessity of yielding our will to God, of coming to Him with trust and confidence, in every word of which we are only too glad to concur; but still we come back to our premises. This altar and its shed blood-this offering, made, not mildly, after the gentlest sweetest fashion, but violently by fire and knife, and the agonies of death-what is the meaning of it? This is no expression of your states of mind; at least you have only said it is so you have not advanced a single argument which convinces us:

« PreviousContinue »