Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

In stating the evidence on which we rest our faith of the being of a God,' Dr. Ranken assigns the first place to the following singular argument : “ That it is desirable to believe • that there is a God.' It ‘gratifies the natural religious feel•ings or affections,' he says, as food is grateful to the appe• ţite of hunger.' Does Dr. Ranken mean to say, that its being desirable to believe a thing, forms an argument for its truth? It is very desirable to a wicked man, to believe in the doctrine of anniħilation : is this an argument for the doctrine? To the sinner, it is not and cannot be desirable, to believe that there is a God. He says in his heart, it is the language of his wishes, • There is no God.' Is this an argument against the Divine existence ? Dr. R. probably means that it is for the good of society that such a belief should prevail; but there are some prejudices and vulgar errors which have had a beneficial influence. The argument is every way unsolid, and it is not wanted.

Equally weak is the argument for the unity of God,' which is attempted to be rested on the uniformity in the structure of the globe itself, in the suitableness of its surface and soils for vegetable and for animal residence, in the position of its strata, the utility of its minerals. We cannot conceive how these marks of the Divine wisdom can be made to substantiate the unity of the Deity.

The section on the Divine Justice' is very unsatisfactory. There is a reference to Paley's chapter on Rights, and that on Property, which contain absolutely not a word bearing on the subject. Dr. Ranken commences the section with affirming, that. Justice seems to consist both in sentimentand judgement. We leave our readers to make what sense they can out of these words. He goes on to remark, that .justice decides on rights; • it discriminates betwixt those which belong to ourselves and • to others.' What illustration does this supply, or even tend to, of the Divine Justice? Honesty is certainly a branch or modification of that justice which is man's duty; but it is giving a very imperfect and unsuitable idea of the Divine attribute, to represent it as consisting in dealing justly, and rendering to every one his due. What is due to the creature, but the punishment of his offences ? The Divine Justice relates to his cha- ' racter as the Moral Governor of the Universe ; and when it is concluded that the Judge of all the earth will do right, the punitive justice is distinctly recognised, which necessitates the punishment of the guilty. To confound the justice or integrity of a tradesman with the justice which belongs to a magistrate, would be to blend together under one term, very distinct ideas;

and the confusion is still greater when this loose generalization is extended to the justice of the Supreme Governor.

In the account of the Canon of Scripture, there is not much to object to, except the very small selection of writers which is given as having illustrated the various books of Scripture. In the account of Matthew's Gospel, there occurs a sentence which, as it stands, is not clearly intelligible. The labours of

the learned,' says Dr. R., have fully obviated the objection ' arising from the supposed want of the first two chapters." He means, their alleged absence from the non-existent copies of the Gospel used by the Ebionites. He then adds :

• If there had been any ground for the objection, it would not have escaped the attention of the translators of our present English version. They lived in an age celebrated for substantial learning, and were themselves the most learned of that age. They were engaged in it three years, fifty of them studying both individually and collectively : and they not only consulted the most ancient and modern versions and manuscripts themselves, but invited communications on the subject to be made to them, from every quarter of the kingdom.'

p. 281.

We notice this passage, not so much on account of its being a very incorrect representation of the fact, as for its being a puerile attempt to settle a question by authority, which has in fact been set to rest upon far higher evidence. Whether the objection did or did not escape the attention of King James's Translators, we have no means of ascertaining, as we are not aware that they have left their opinion on record. But whatever their opinion was, it would be of extremely small importance in the present advanced state of Biblical criticism. It is well known, that their orders were, to follow, as far as the original would admit, the Bishop's Bible, making it the basis of the text; and that, in common with all the previous English translations, was derived chiefly from the ancient versions. They consequently admitted into the present Authorized Version, many readings, and some whole sentences, which are now, on the authority of the best Manuscripts, rejected by all competent critics. Does Dr. R. really imagine that the long agitated question relating to 1 John v. 7. is to be satisfactorily adjusted by a reference to the probable opinion of King James's Translators ? The Dr. may very possibly set a low estimate on the labours of Kennicott and De Rossi, of Wetstein and Griesbach; but we must caution him against leading his pupils to suppose, that the genuineness and authenticity of any portion of the New Testament rest in any degree on the opinion of King James's Translators. Vol. XX. N. S.

D

In section 5 of Chap. iv. the Author has occasion to explain the various phrases which occur in the Scriptures, to express the idea of atonement; and he remarks, that the word atonement occurs only once in the New Testament, while reconciliation is a more common phrase.' It should have been mentioned, that the word in the original, which our Tranşlators have injudiciously rendered atonement in that single instance, (Rom. v. 11.) is the same as is elsewhere more properly rendered reconciliation, (e. g. Rom. xi. 15. 2 Cor. v. 18. 19.) We are happy to find' Dr. Ranken maintaining the universal sufficiency of the atonement.

• The remedy,' he remarks, is provided and offered, but not generally accepted. The atonement is complete, and its virtue or merit is sufficient for the salvation of the whole human race; but by very many it is neglected and scorned. The prophet Isaiah complains of the comparatively small number who accept of salvation :-"'Who hath believed our report ?” Jesus turns away the attention from the speculative question" Are there few that be saved?"-to the practical duty of every man to secure his own salvation : « Enter ye in at the strait gate." At the same time he declares most positively, “ He that believeth not is condemned :" “ If ye believe not that I am he," the Messias, the Son of God, ye shall die in your

sins." The same conclusion is evident from reason and fact. Men cannot profit by any doctrine unless they study, and know, and receive it. The gospel--which is addressed to all in the Bible, and by preaching-is read, is heard, is listened to, is regarded by comparatively few. “ Many are called, but few chosen." They do not choose themselves to employ the means of salvation; they will not use the remedies which God hath prescribed, and consequently are not chosen and saved by him.' p. 492.

Lest any of our readers should be led by this last sentence to imagine that the Author is a favourer of the Arminian scheme of conditional Predestination, we must do him the justice to transcribe his remarks on that subject, which we think highly judicious. His theological views in general appear to us correct and Scriptural.

Why may we not rest satisfied with the belief of both the factsthat God hath decreed all things, and, at the same time, that man acts as freely as if nothing were either foreknown or decreed? Reason infers, that a wise being would first devise and fix a plan, before he would begin to execute it. The Scriptures assure us, that this was the order of the divine procedure; that God “ordained all things after the counsel of his own will.” This, the divine decree, is one fact. We must believe it, if we either listen to common sense or to Scripture. Of the other we are conscious, that we are free. But we are ignorant of the vinculum, connection, or the mode of reconciling their operation. The same observations are applicable to the doctrine of divine grace and our freedom of will. If we believe the word of God, we cannot deny, that “ by grace we are saved, through faith ; and that not of ourselves, for it also is the gift of God.” “Work out your own salvation with fear and tremb ling; for it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.' At the same time that we act under the influence of divine grace, we are insensible of its immediate operation, and can only know the nature of the cause by its effects. We act as if we were under no influence, but that of our own dispositions and faculties; we think, and deliberate, and resolve, and live, as if we were altogether independent and free. It seems as natural to do the will of God, as if it were our ordinary meat and drink. Here again are two facts, the connection of which we cannot explain, but the truth of which we cannot deny. We believe that “ the grace of God works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure ;' and we believe, that we are free agents. Why should we not in this case, as in many others in nature and in ordinary life, rely on the facts, though we cannot explain them? We do not understand the nature and influence of the magnet ; yet we believe its influence in giving the mariner's compass a polar direction; and we trust our most valuable property and lives to that direction. We know not the nature and mode of digestion, by which our food is converted into bodily nourishment and substance ; but we take our food regularly, and have no doubt that we thereby maintain our health and strength, and will continue by the moderate use of it to prolong our lives.

On the whole, we must acknowledge, that these are obscure and difficult subjects ; that our safest ground, in thinking and treating of them, is to adhere as much as possible to the language and general spirit of the Scriptures ; and as even in so doing we are liable to differ in our opinion, to exercise candour and mutual forbearance."

pp. 619, 20. • God knew that man would become sinful, yet he created • him.' This fact, it is impossible to deny, without denying at the same time the omniscience, and by consequence the perfection of God. The whole subject, therefore,' Dr. Ranken justly remarks,' resolves itself into this question :

Why God made beings capable of disobedience and of all • its awful consequences.

« This launches us again into the mare magnum of the origin of evil, without either a chart, a rudder, or compass to steer our way. We never can certainly know the reasons why God made man such as he is, more than we can know why he has made this globe, or the universe. We can only assign the general reason, and we believe it the true one, that it was to manifest the glory of his nature.' p. 622,

On the whole, Dr. Ranken appears to greater advantage as a divine than as a philosopher: a better believer than he is a reasoner, more orthodox than logical, he has contrived to compile an indifferent system of pretty sound divinity.

Art. III. 1. Quentin Durward. By the Author of Waverley, &c.

3 Vols. 12mo. Edinburgh. 1823. 2. Peveril of the Peak. By the Author of Waverley. 4 Vols. 12mo.

1822. W

E have suffered Peveril of the Peak to give us the slip,

and we cannot say that we feel much regret for the failure of promptitude which renders it now inexpedient to assign a distinct article to that clever but unequal production. The person and court of the Second Charles, are drawn with the force and distinctness which almost invariably characterise the delineations of this powerful artist, who still pursues his course with unabated vigour. Chiffinch, Buckingham, and even the inferior dependants of nobility, from Jerningham to the French cook, sustain their parts with vivacity and skill. Old Sir Geoffrey and his lady, the Countess of Derby and her son, Lance Outram and mistress Deborah, are spirited sketches, rather than finished limnings. The hero Peveril is a bold, determined, high-minded youth ; and the character of Alice Bridgenorth, though we see but little of her, is interestingly managed. The cool, ambitious, vindictive, unprincipled Ganlesse, alias Christian, is finished with a master hand; and his mysterious daughter, with her elfin form and aspect, fiery temperament, and unfortunate love, flits and dances through the piece like a being from another sphere. Sir Jeffrey Hudson is not much to our taste. The scenery and action have all the richness, precision, and vivacity of the former productions. Castles, inns, mansions, palaces, heaths, gardens, forests, roads, parks, streets, scuffles, broils, trials, imprisonments, and hair-breadth 'scapes, make up the various and ever-moving pantomime, and carry on the attention with unabated excitement until the happy, but hurried denouement.

The principal character, that, at least, which is to us the most interesting, and which, we have no doubt, was so considered by the Author, will, however, demand from us a few words before we proceed to a brief analysis of the more recent production. Major Bridgenorth and his companions are designed as the representatives of the Puritans of that day; and though we are willing to believe that they were, on the whole, intended by the Author as favourable delineations, yet we are sorry to trace in them the continuance of a feeling, hostile—the Writer would say, to cant and hypocrisy, but we must say—to real piety, when attended by certain peculiarities of faith and conduct which happen to be distasteful to those on whom religion sits more loosely. The major is represented such, at least, was the impression produced on our minds—

« ForrigeFortsett »