網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

THE

ECLECTIC REVIEW,

FOR NOVEMBER, 1825.

Art. I. 1. A Vindication of the Proceedings of the Edinburgh Bible Society, relative to the Apocrypha, against the Aspersions of the Eclectic Review; in a Letter to the Members of the Committee of the Parent Institution. 8vo. pp. 36. London. 1825.

2. The Christian Guardian, Oct. 1825. Art. Gorham on the Apocryphal Controversy, in Reply to the Eclectic Review.

IT is not without reluctance that we again call the attention

of our readers to the Apocrypha question, more especially because, in returning to it, we shall have occasion to speak of ourselves. We owe it, however, to the Edinburgh Bible Society, to notice the present plausible and, upon the whole, temperate apology for their proceedings; and we wish to make one more effort to place the question in its true light.

The subject divides itself into two parts: first, the propriety of what has been done; and secondly, the rule by which the future proceedings of the Bible Society should be governed. The Committee of the Parent Society were accused of violating their original contract with the public, of acting in direct infringement on their own laws, of violating integrity of conscience, of doing evil that good may come. Now, whatever decision the Committee may come to on the pending question, these accusations we cannot but regard as alike groundless and uncourteous. Without laying claim to any professional zeal ⚫ in defence of the Bible Society'-an imputation which sounds too much like an encomium for us to quarrel with it--we assuredly did feel ourselves called upon to vindicate the conduct of the Committee,-and this without having had the slightest communication with any member of the Committee on the subject. It was our object to shew, and our readers will judge with what success-that they had not broken their faith with the public; that the fundamental law of the Institution left the Committee entirely at liberty with respect to foreign VOL. XXIV. N.S. 2 M

6

versions; that the rules were framed without any reference to the case which has arisen; and that whatever may have been taken for granted by the country subscribers,' the rules do not prohibit the including of the Apocrypha in the foreign versions printed or circulated by the Bible Society. Of the intention of those who framed those rules, we could only speak conjecturally. We are now, indeed, told, that

It is unanimously declared by the survivors, the Rev. J. Pratt, the Rev. Dr. Bogue, the Rev. J. Townsend, the Rev. J. Hughes, and Mr. Z. Macauley, that the rules were expressly framed with the view of excluding the Apocrypha. Mr. Hughes does not indeed so perfectly recollect whether foreign operations were contemplated in framing the rule so as to exclude the Apocrypha. But this circumstance does not weaken our confidence in the memory and opinion of his able coadjutors.'

Surely, a rule cannot be so very clear or explicit, which requires to be interpreted by the memory of those who assisted in framing it. The Committee are bound by their rules, but not by the recollections of any of their members. That it was the intention of the founders of the Bible Society, to exclude the Apocrypha from the English Bible, we have not the smallest doubt, because on no other terms would the Presbyterians of Scotland or the Protestant, Dissenters of England have given it their support. But even this intention is not expressed in the rule; and if it had been, it is our firm belief,. that umbrage would have been given, and that unanimity would by no means have been secured among the earliest patrons and supporters of the Society. This understood condi tion, then, this tacit compact, is all that the Committee can be charged with violating. But the question is, How far did this understanding extend? Did it relate to foreign versions, and that under all circumstances? On this point, here are conflicting views of the rule, and differing recollections about the intention of the rule, which could not exist if the case were clear, or the rule explicit. If the Committee have erred in judgement, let it be shewn. This is a matter of opinion. But to charge them, in the terms of the Edinburgh Statement, with a direct violation of the original contract of the Society with its members, is, we repeat it, a gross misrepresentation, implicating the integrity of the Parent Committee. As such, we indignantly deprecated it. No accusation could be more adapted to inflame the public mind, or to raise a clamour against the Society. And the circulating of this charge all over the country, as was done by the Edinburgh Committee, we must still maintain, wore the appearance of conduct dictated by strong irritation and vindictive feeling. Nor were we

[ocr errors]

singular in this opinion. It was entertained by many individuals who differed from us on the question at issue. For the venerable Vice-president of the Edinburgh Society who lent his name to the document, we entertain the most unfeigned respect; but we entertain an equal respect for the individuals implicated in the accusations put forward under his sanction; and while we readily allow, that his name stands too high to be injured by the breath of slander,' we must take the liberty of thinking that it stood higher before it was affixed to that document. Sensibility is sometimes not a little eccentric. While this' Member of the Bible Society' is so much offended at what he calls the attack made on the Edinburgh Committee, he surely forgets the attack which was made by them on the London Committee. But when he charges the Eclectic Reviewer with descending to personalities, he himself defames. No particular individual of the Edinburgh Committee was, in the most distant manner, personally referred to.

Seeing, however, that different views have been taken of the latitude allowed by the rules of the Bible Society, while we think that the Committee have, up to this time, been fully justified in acting according to the discretion with which they conceived themselves to be invested, it is now highly necessary that the rule for their future proceedings should be distinctly and definitively laid down. What this rule should be, is the real question to be determined. The old rule left the giving or withholding of the Apocrypha to the discretion of the Committee. The alteration proposed, would deprive them of any liberty in this respect. To have a full and fair view of the question, it will be necessary to determine; first, whether it be lawful to circulate the Apocrypha with the canonical Scriptures; secondly, whether it be necessary; thirdly, whether it be expedient.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1. Is it lawful? The Vindicator puts the question thus: • Can any fancied ideas of expediency justify the British and Foreign Bible Society in lending its sanction to a canon of Scripture, whose pretensions it knows to be false?" If they be fancied ideas' of expediency, the question is easily answered; but we must, for the present, assume, that a strong apparent necessity exists for the concurrence which is so warmly deprecated. This fancied expediency' has for its object, the spiritual illumination of millions of our fellow creatures who are destitute of the word of life. It is a part of the misrepresentation which, unhappily, has been employed by the objectors to the Apocrypha, to give to this object the name of expediency and yet, they are well aware, that the only motive for giving the Apocrypha at all, by which the Committee have

[ocr errors]

been actuated, is, to promote the more extensive circulation of the Inspired Scriptures. But, we are not to do evil that good may come.' No Christian man will maintain the contrary. But what is meant by doing evil? If doing that which is criminal be intended, (which is the meaning of the Apostle,) it is completely begging the question, to apply the words to the practice under consideration. Let it be proved to be criminal, and the controversy is at an end, and we shall be, we trust, among the foremost to write our recantation. But there is a sense in which smaller evils must be tolerated for the sake of the greater good. It is an evil to break the Sabbath; but works of necessity and mercy are held to be a good so much greater as to sanction a departure from its strict observance. It was an evil, to give way to the prejudices of the Jews so far as St. Paul did, by circumcising Timothy; but the greater good prevailed over it in the mind of the Apostle: to the Jews he became a Jew, that he might gain the Jews. But we can add nothing to the force and conclusiveness of the Rev. Mr. Simeon's reasoning on this point, who participates in the strange inconsistency ascribed by Mr. Gorham to the Eclectic Reviewer; namely, that of having decided objections to the Apocrypha, in any shape, while he vindicates the toleration of the foreign versions which include it among the Holy Scriptures. We say again, that the circulation of the Apocrypha incorporated, in any shape, with the Holy Scriptures, is a great evil,-one at which we would on no account connive, but for the sake of the greater good of circulating the Bible among those who will not otherwise receive it. Of course, though a great evil, we do not and cannot allow it to be a crime. believe, on the contrary, that this compliance with the prejudices of the continental churches, is fully borne out by Scriptural principles; that it is not doing evil, but doing good, to give away the Bible even with the Apocrypha, and that, as both the design and the issue, good will come.

[ocr errors]

We

In combating the notion that we have a right to require from foreign churches an agreement with ourselves on the subject of the Canon, we remarked, that the import of the term canonical is a disputed point; that it has been too hastily assumed to be synonymous with inspired; that the inspiration of all the books of the hagiographa is by no means so clear as to warrant our demanding an unqualified assent on this point from · all Christian men.' This statement, we regret to say, has been met by Mr. Gorham, not with argument, but with rudeness and gross misrepresentation. He terms it an indecorous ' attack on the canon of Holy Scripture, and an attempt to undermine the integrity of the sacred volume.' But before we

[ocr errors]

proceed to substantiate our original remark, we would wish it to be borne in mind, that our opinion on this subject, whether right or wrong, does not in the least affect the general argnment. The whole of our reasoning takes it for granted, that our Canon of Scripture is genuine and complete; and, in the most explicit manner, we have expressed our repugnance to the incorporation of the Apocryphal with the Canonical books. Mr. Gorham wishes to divert the minds of his readers from the main argument; and, for this purpose, he fastens on the proposition above referred to, and affects a pious horror at a statement which he cannot controvert. The Eclectic Reviewer does not stand at his bar; but we should regret that any opinion of ours should be made the subject of debate, instead of the simple question, What have we a right to require of foreign churches as the terms of our co-operation in the circulation of the Holy Scriptures? The Parent Committee have acted as they have done, without entertaining a doubt as to the inspiration of the whole Protestant canon. Their conduct and their future practice, not ours, are the matter of debate; and the propriety of their conduct cannot be prejudiced by any heterodox notion which we may maintain.

[ocr errors]

Hoping that this may be distinctly understood, we proceed now to explain ourselves further on the point referred to.

Our leading position was, that the question of the Canon comes within the range of human opinion.' This, Mr. Gorham affects to deny ; and yet, the absurdity of the contrary opinion is self-evident. In order, however, to give colour to his denial, he is guilty of a most disingenuous artifice.

[ocr errors]

'It is a great mistake,' he says, to imagine that the inspiration of Scripture is a matter which falls more within the range "of human opinion and private judgement," than does the interpretation of Scripture. It cannot be more binding upon the conscience to admit the Divine authority of a doctrine, than to allow the Divine origin of the Book containing that doctrine.'

Here Mr. Gorham attempts to shift the question from the genuineness of the Canon to the inspiration of Scripture itself; and he does this for the unworthy purpose of insinuating that the Eclectic Reviewer has thrown doubts on the Divine origin of the Bible. Is it possible that this can be any other than a wilful misrepresentation? The inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, the Reviewer holds as firmly as Mr. Gorham does; and this he knows. The only question is, whether the character of inspiration applies to all the books of the Old Testament, the only books respecting which a doubt can be entertained, being of an historical or ethical kind, and not a single

« 上一頁繼續 »