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ART. 1.—THE PROPHETS AND KINGS OF THE
The Prophets and Kings of the Old Testament. A Series
of Discourses preached in the Chapel of Lincoln's Inn. By Frederick Denison Maurice. 1853.
This book is strongly marked with the usual characteristics of Mr. Maurice's writings, though less we think in it, than in any of his former publications, are the eminent qualities of his mind encumbered by the weaknesses that grow out of his position. We are less painfully struck by the inconsistencies between the theology that is native to his mind, and the theology that accidentally has become dear and hallowed to him, between the theology of freedom and the theology of authority. He approaches the Prophets more as an historian than as a theologian, and seeks only to see with their eyes into the spirit of their times, that from their vivid view of the presence and action of God in human affairs he may give reality to English religion, and make God a living God to the men of his own day. For this is the high aim that pervades and directs all Mr. Maurice's religious writings. He always comes to the Scriptures in a spirit of intense realism, that in their manifestations of man and God he may find divine types of permanent human relationships. The boldness, the earnestness and freedom, with which this is done is often afterwards embarrassed by attempts to bring these
CHRISTIAN TEACHER.-—No. 59.
universal lessons into harmony with the Church theory of the Bible; and here it is sometimes impossible to escape the painful feeling that he uses his great power of illustration, his readiness in producing analogies between the natural and the supernatural, to hide or evade a difficulty. Thus it is impossible to be certain whether or not he believes Saul to have been under the power of any supernatural inspiration-for the assumption that he is so, which pervades all his treatment of his history, is quietly put by by a side stroke in the following passage,-a passage of the richest truth and beauty :
“ There are moments, you may all hare noticed them, in the mind of the dullest and most prosaic man, when unknown springs seem to be opened in him, when either some new and powerful affection, or quite as often the sense of a vocation, fills him with thoughts and causes him to utter words which are quite alien from his ordinary habits, and yet which you are sure he cannot have been taught by any other person—they have in them such a pledge and savour of originality. You say involuntarily, 'He seemed for the moment quite inspired, he became another man.' Are you not also half inclined to say, 'Now, for the first time, the man has come forth ? Hitherto a cold barren nature, or a formal education, has choked up the life that was in him; now it is bursting through artificial dams, through mud barriers. Now we can see what is in him.' Soon perhaps he sinks back into what he was before. There are no more traces of that splendour than of a sunset after the shades of night have closed in; but it has been ; it has brought something to light which you could never have dreamed of but for that momentary appearance ; you feel as if you had a right to think of the man, to measure his capacity, by that which spake forth in him at that instant more than by all the rest of his existence.”
In the same way he speaks as if the Wisdom of Solomon was naturally derived, and then saves his credit by declaring all wisdom to be supernatural.
“ But was not Solomon's wisdom supernatural ? Are we justified in using language to describe it which connects it with that of the ordinary king and student? I use the Bible language. Throughout the Book of Proverbs you will find Solomon speaking of that which belongs not to himself, but to every ruler of a land, to every teacher of God's secrets. He assumes all wisdom to be supernatural; to be supernatural not because it comes in sudden gusts, in some oracular afflatus, but in proportion as it is toilsome, selfdistrusting, open to correction, ready to receive hints and illumination from any source. No subject is too mean for it to be exercised upon ; the moment a man treats aught as unworthy of him, the eye within him is growing dim, he has become a scorner, and is in the way to become an atheist.”
The Book is an attempt to collect, and present in pulpit addresses, the great central thoughts, the leading lessons, contained in the lives and writings of the Kings and Prophets of the Old Testament. We shall confine our present notice to his treatment of a few of the Prophecies.
He nowhere gives distinctly his view of the power and mission of the Prophets, nor of the manner in which God acted upon their minds, and fitted them for his purposes. This he leaves to be collected from his actual treatment of their writings, and the resulting impression is, though with some uncertainty and exceptions, that he mainly regards the Prophet as one who looked into the human affairs that were surrounding him with an eye made true and clear by a constant sense of God. In the Book of Joel, the earliest of the Prophets, whose writings he speaks of as a clear type of the ancient prophetical discourse, he apparently recognizes only a man of deep spiritual insight announcing to his nation the necessary judgments of a holy God, leading finally to the restorations and the mercies which could not be separated from the triumph of the Theocracy.
“That which Joel anticipates is the punishment of all these robbers of men and invaders of boundaries ; some very sweeping and tremendous punishment which would resemble in its results the great battle which Jehoshaphat fought with the Moabites and Ammonites, or which (since the word Jehoshaphat bore that signification) would be a great judgment of God upon the nations. What nation should execute this punishment, the prophet does not declare. Only he is sure that it will be a great day of decision, very fearful to all who are engaged in it. He is sure that the righteous sentence of God upon those who have been committing unrighteous and unbrotherly acts will be seen in it. He is sure that the thieves will be forced to disgorge some of their unlawful prey. He is sure lastly that Jerusalem and Mount Zion will be brought through the conflict, 'Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation.'” We agree with Mr. Maurice in thinking that Joel presents a clear type of the great characteristics of Hebrew Prophecy. The interest and value of the Book are indeed by no means of the highest : there are many prophesyings of deeper import, of loftier inspiration, more rich in religious instruction, of mightier power to communicate the intuition and fervour of the prophet's soul, but none in which the nature of the prophetic mission is more distinctly marked-more clearly separated from all admixture with that mechanical theory of Prophecy which has taken such obstinate hold on the English mind, which reduces to nothing the spiritual vitality of the Prophet himself, makes him a mere instrument in God's hands through which to give His spirit the form and sound of human words, and degrades these highest inspirations of the Almighty in the understanding heart of man to the level of the responses of a Heathen Oracle. In Joel we have manifestly no soothsayer, no seer swept away upon the visions of the future, and detached by the nature of his inward experiences from intimate association and fellowship with the world around him, no dealer in authoritative predictions, in mysterious disclosures of historical facts whilst as yet they-lie waiting for their hour in the unwrapped folds of the dark mantle of time—but we have simply a mighty preacher of Righteousness, a man in living communion with his God, impressed to the depths of his being with the belief that the Almighty reigneth upon the earth, incapable therefore of contemplating the overwhelming events of Providence with the worldling's selfish prudence, or with the Atheist's stoic wisdom, incapable that is of adroitly dealing with mere external facts without penetrating to the intent of God which is expressed in them, which they carry and convey as surely as the sun carries the blessing of His light, and the cloud the blessing of His rain. We have in Joel a man so little absorbed or ensphered in the future, as if that was his place and the realm of his power, that he is looking with the most piercing insight into what is passing on the earth, going direct to the heart of present and visible things, but with this difference from all others who deal intently with the Present, that as he is searching only for its spiritual significance, looking only for the mind of God clothed in the garment of its events,-he cannot find that mind of