« AnteriorContinuar »
terms of the prophecy as once more becoming distinct, just when the language of tradition, as to the Millennium and the general judgment, rendered it necessary that it should be distinct, in order to be consistent. So clearly are the events of the Apostolic age noticed in this spurious prophecy, that even Mr. Butt could not overlook the circumstance, that its author has introduced much matter "common only to him and to the writers of the New Testament, and far above every notion of the Jews in the days of Herod." "In fact," he adds, "it would be difficult to point out a single article of the Christian faith which is not written with a sunbeam in the book of Enoch" (p. 16). He has very successfully shewn the close correspondence there is between this book and many passages in the New Testament, particularly the Apocalypse. We might insist upon several remarkable passages, besides those to which Mr. Butt has referred. For instance: "The Son of woman shall sit on the throne of His glory" (Enoch lxix. 9), is a passage which must have been written by one who had seen the corresponding words in Matt. xix. 28, and who was acquainted with the fact of the miraculous conception of the Messiah. Mr. Butt's inference is, however, singularly illogical, that "this man [the author of the Book of Enoch] had his wisdom by inspiration of God." (see p. 10.) The plain conclusion is, that he wrote after the events which he professes to predict; and after the NewTestament writers had finished their testimony, that is, after the close of the first century.
We have allowed our criticism to extend to a considerable length, because we deem it of no slight importance to ascertain a point which involves the credibility of an inspired epistle, and which has led many tender consciences to a rejection of one of the apostolic writings. We confess that, after reading with
care the Archbishop of Cashel's elaborate preliminary discourse, we felt great anxiety on the subject, which was not relieved till we had closely examined the work edited by his Grace, and convinced ourselves of its spuriousness. But we hope we have succeeded in placing this matter in so clear a light, that no serious mind will be again harassed with the difficulties involved in the dangerous concession, that St. Jude quoted an Apocryphal book in terms which could be properly applied to none but a genuine work: the book supposed to have been cited being also of a very exceptionable character. The learned Scaliger, after citing the only fragment of Enoch which was extant in his day, thought it his duty to subjoin the following remark:-"I have quoted all this from the first book of the spurious Enoch: whether these things cost the Jews more labour to forge, or myself more patience to transcribe, I cannot pretend to decide; so much have I found to excite my regrets, to weary my mind, and to call forth my blushes*." To this testimony we heartily subscribe. In its profane pretensions to be a revelation from God, in the inflation and pomposity of its style, the vanity of its allusions, the absurdity of its legends, and the grossness, and even obscenity, of some of its descriptions, the Book of Enoch cannot, perhaps, be paralleled by any pseudepigraphic composition which was ever palmed upon a credulous age. That there should exist any advocates for the inspiration of such a work, must be truly distressing to every devotional mind; and that they should be found among the clergy of our Established Church, will be regretted by none more than the
"Hæc hactenus ex primo libro Enoch commentitio: quæ omnia plusne otii Judæis, ut confingerent, an mihi patientiæ ut describerem, superfuerit, equidem statuere non possum; tot enim sunt in illis quorum piget, tædet, pudetque. "-Josep. Scaligeri Animadv. in Chronolog. Eusebii, p. 245. edit. Lugd. Bat. 1606.
learned prelate whose work has undesignedly contributed to furnish arguments for a conclusion so full of danger and impiety. The Archbishop of Cashel is himself correct upon this point: he denies in the most positive terms the inspiration of the Book of Enoch, but we think that he speaks of its contents in language far too palliative, and calculated to mislead the reader. "In perusing," his Grace observes, "the present relic of a remote age and country, should the reader discover much to condemn, still, unless he be too fastidious, he will find more to approve; if he sometimes frown, he may oftener smile ;...fable and fiction may occasionally prove both amusing and instructive, and can then ONLY be deemed injurious, when pressed into the service of vice and infidelity." (p. xlvii.) But, surely, "fable" is MOST injurious of all, when it solemnly assumes the dress of fact; when it pretends to the high character of a revelation from God; and when it so boldly fixes itself upon the basis of the Inspired Volume, as to have succeeded in imposing grossly upon early fathers of the church, and upon some modern divines. We are greatly indebted to Dr. Laurence for a translation of a longlost book, which enables us to bring these pretensions to the rigid test of modern criticism, and thus fully to expose their weakness and impudence. We may, however, perhaps regret, that his translation was not made in a language accessible only to scholars; for there is much truth in the remark of Fabricius (who was, perhaps, more conversant with this subject than any other man), that versions of apocry phal pieces into vernacular tongues are objectionable, as leading the unlearned to imagine that "their authority is equal to that of the sacred Scriptures *." Within little
The whole passage is worthy of at tentive perusal."Scripseram olim me non videre quam utilitatem versiones Germanicae scriptorum ejusmodi [sc. Apo.
more than a century, no fewer than three forgeries of the most glaring character have been foisted into the rank of inspired writings, and that too by persons whose office in the church of Christ ought to have rendered them jealously watchful against the slightest contamination of the sacred fountains. In 1713, the Rev. M. Macé maintained the genuineness of that apocryphal fiction which pretends to be the "TESTAMENTS OF THE TWELVE PATRIARCHS," and presented it to his countrymen in a French translation. In 1815, Mr. Frere (recently supported by the Rev. Mr. Irving), set up a similar claim for the prophecies of the spurious Ezra, in which, it was imagined the events of the passing day are clearly discoverable. In the present year, the Rev. Mr. Oxlee and the Rev. Mr. Butt have not scrupled to advance, the silly forgery of the false ENOCH to a place among the sacred records. There is something extremely awful in such delusions; there is great danger of unreflecting minds being thus led to suspect the integrity of the sacred oracles themselves; and it is the duty of those who have ability and leisure for the task to expose the folly of such claims. It may be easily shewn that these three apocryphal books were all coined in the very same age; namely, in the second century. We have proved this of the book under our review; and, had our limits permitted, we could have adduced evidence of the same fact as regards the spurious book of EZRA. [IV. Esdras of the Vulgate]. Dr. Laurence published in 1820 a Latin and English version
cryphorum] possint afferre, cum lectores Græce et Latine imperiti, criticesque et antiquitatis ignari, si ad illorum lectionem accedant, plus damni quam fructus ex illis possint accipere, et per imperitiam adduci ut illorum auctoritatem SACRIS SCRIPTORIBUS supparem existiment.....Confirmor in hâc sententiâ, quando video interpretes magno
studio etiam pro AUCTORITATE et FIDE talium scriptorum contendentes." J. A. Fabricii. Codex Pseudep. Vet. Test., Tom. II. pp. 55, 56. edit. Hamburgi, 1741.
of that book, from the Ethiopic; with valuable "Remarks." We need not say that so ripe a scholar as the Archbishop of Cashel, is not found in the ranks of those who claim inspiration for the false Ezra, -a book which even the Church of Rome has excluded from its canon, and which the Church of England does not allow to be publicly read. Dr. Laurence maintains, indeed, from the very prophecies which Mr. Irving considers to be now fulfilling, that it was written about the year before Christ 26. It bears, however, some decisive marks of not having been written till long after the commencement of the Christian era; but we must not pursue the subject in the present article.
One remark only shall be added. Dr. Laurence asserts, that the Book of Enoch contains decisive evidence to the Divinity of the Messiah, as a doctrine recognized by the Jews themselves, "BEFORE the possible predominance of the Christian creed." (p. xl.) This statement has been incautiously quoted at considerable length by the Rev. T. H. Horne; a writer whose invaluable "Introduction to the Scriptures" we can never refer to without gratitude and respect. (Vol. i. pp. 638-640. Fifth edit). But this evidence to that important doctrine becomes altogether nugatory, as to its date, if there be any truth in the reasons we have alleged for placing the Book of Enoch in the second century after Christ; nor can it even be received as any record at all of independent Jewish opinions, because this book was clearly written by one of the Hebrew nation professing the Christian faith. Besides which, we agree with Mr. Oxlee, that "the evidence contained in this work favours the Arian rather than the Trinitarian hypothesis" (p. 117). (p. 117). A similar remark may be applied to Dr. Lau. rence's and Mr. Horne's incautious citation of another Apocryphal work "the Ascension of Isaiah"-for the same purpose. That spurious piece represents the Son and the
Spirit as both offering worship to a still more exalted Being. (see Ascen. Isai. ix. 40.) This may serve to shew how dangerous it is to adopt the two-edged principle, that passages from Apocryphal writings can fairly be cited in evidence of the doctrines admitted generally by the church in those early periods; whereas they can prove nothing more than the individual sentiments of the Apocryphal authors,-witnesses whose testimony will always be received with that cautious suspicion which attaches to all spurious or unaccredited productions.
But enough of Apocryphal figments. We bless God that "we have a more sure word of prophecy, unto which we do well to take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts."
The Last Days: a Discourse on the
Evil Character of these our Times,
IT can be no secret, even to the most incurious idlers of the day, that we have among us a class of society, very considerable in talent, numerical strength, affluence, and activity, gathered under the name of the religious world, as distinguished from that wider and indiscriminate community, from which, as from a source of pollution, it professes to have withdrawn. As no party whatever holds on its course without exposure to scorn on the one side, and to flattery on the other, while bystanders alone contemplate it with unbiassed feelings; it is at once foreseen, that the body we have described must pursue its way, not merely under exposure to the like danger, but under far greater
degrees of such danger than will in ordinary cases be encountered. The reason is, that when religionor what is called so by the courtesy of mankind-mixes itself with human quarrels, our passions are the more keenly excited, and the result will be inevitably seen in the ultraism of the parties more directly implicated; the opposition will be more fierce, the adulation more extravagant. At the same time, in every form of strife will be found whatever solecism may be detected in the assertion-bystanders, who, although they are classed, willing or unwilling, with a party, and freely own their predilections to certain principles, yet do not mingle in the party contentions of their associates, but rather keep at a measured distance; discerning, with sufficient clearness, what is evil on both sides, and able to make a distinction between a righteous cause, and the irascibility and selfishness of some of its defenders.
It is, consequently, worse than foolish to deny the confusion of good and evil existing in the religious world; composed as it must be of the discordant materials of our fallen nature. Its numbers suppose a vast variety of character; its degree of affluence is not favourable to purity and disinterestedness; its activity may be a temptation to mistake a busy meddling with sacred things, for religion itself; and its talent is not necessarily consecrated by an alliance with Divine philosophy. But making even an enemy's al. lowance for the evils likely to be admitted by these several inlets, it is but honest, on the other hand, to make a calculation of the good it will probably contain; and this, if for no other reason, yet from the acknowledged fact, that a noble army of patriots, clerical and lay, patrician and plebeian, and, in the purest sense, Christian and spiritual persons, are classed by the public as belonging to this select world; and who are themselves neither assuming nor disclaiming the impu
tation by whatever friend or foe it may be affixed.
Against these men and their comrades of all arms, Mr. Irving has brought up the whole strength of his artillery. It is the principal aim of his large octavo, to criminate the religious community, as exhibiting within its sphere the peculiar sins of the last days; nay, as in some measure taking the lead in the iniquities of iniquitous times. There are, it is true, some clauses tending, in a certain degree, to neutralize his general accusation. He gives the guilty party occasional credit for good intentions, and undesigned error. He suggests a few assumptions in favour of those who are still heavily fettered, and consigned to his condemned cell-but there is not the slightest hope of his prisoners' reprieve or pardon.
It may be well to notice here, in explanation and self-defence, that we ourselves are implicated in Mr. Irving's extended indictment; as contributing, in his view, to the periodical diffusion of evil among our countrymen, in the character of religious journalists. Mr. Irving speaks of "the unholy scriptures of periodical publications; which have filled the veins of men, not with life blood, but with garbage; and filled their heads with the smoke of man's opinions, and not with light of wisdom." (p. 341.) He was pleased however, on a former occasion, honourably to exempt us from the common herd of periodical critics who review books without reading them, and we hope, even if we should " contend earnestly" with him in some matters on the present occasion, we shall not give him just cause to withdraw his candid construction. His displeasure against our fraternity ought to make us the more cautious and self-observant, in examining his accusatory performance. It may tend to furnish some common ground for mutual explanation between him and ourselves, if we can shew that, to a certain extent, we have preceded him in pointing
out the defects of the very persons found assenting and consenting selected for his own animadversions. to the sentiments and manners of The difference, as we trust, is to be the worldly circles. They ought found in our wish and endeavour to to be repudiated by both parties. separate the sound from the morbid Their hand is not, indeed, against portion of a body of men confounded every man; but we could almost by the world under one common wish that every man's hand was name, and all of whom he appears to against them."-To these ominous, regard as almost entirely and incur- we must not say prophetic, sounds, ably distempered. The reader is we might add the information, that requested to consult, among nume hard measure was dealt out to the rous other references, our volume for conductors of this journal, for 1808, p. 736; where, one-and-twen- having thus spoken their fears of ty years since, we anticipated Mr. what was coming, and their repreIrving in the following ominous hension of what had already apparagraphs:-"We are afraid lest peared; and if all our supporters a generation should rise up, who and subscribers had followed the should retain, indeed, the general example of certain among them, doctrine of their fathers; should we might have arrived at the digadopt, when encircled by their most nity of a literary martyrdom. As pious friends, all the religious lan- it was, we were looked upon by guage, and even the objectionable our friends, as confessors; and by phraseology, found among the body: another party, if not as traitors, yet but being nevertheless corrupted by as steering very near the gulphs of that increase of wealth and luxury treachery, and likely to be absorbed which is ever undermining the in their vortices and whirlpools. virtue of both church and state, The vessel, however, yet rides on should learn to combine with a the deep and we look back to what more than sufficiently methodistical was, we confess, a stormy season, creed, and even with a few old-fa- with gratitude for her safety, and shioned strictnesses, a generally lax, certainly without any feelings of worldly, and self-indulgent practice. rivalry towards any gallant bark, It is to this species of religion that which might have been launched, the principles of the Christian Ob- or docked for repairs, about the server stand more particularly op- same period; although commanded posed. What we dislike above all by another captain, manned by things, is an association of abundant another crew, and sent to sea to profession with scanty performance; cruise in our own latitudes. a junction of exact notions on general doctrine, with an indifferent judgment as to particular points of duty and of conduct; grand ideas of the power and providence of God, and the all-sufficient work of Christ, combined with a temper peevish, angry, and ill-subdued, or with a life little distinguished by good works; a magnificent and most promising faith, and works ridiculously disproportionate to it. Some men of this inconsistent character contrive to be popular in all quarters: in one set of company, they are had in honour for being of the sound evangelical party; in another, they are approved because they are CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 332.
After this preliminary reference to our own particular share in the investigation, it may be well to remind both our respected author and also those who resent any approach to their consciences in the shape of suspicion and reproof, that it is no new thing for religious persons to prefer very serious charges against their compatriots of all classes; and by no means to the exclusion of that same religious world, which from the early days of the Reformation has stained the Christian name, and saddened the hearts of genuine professors of the faith of the Gospel, by shewing to 3 U