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His face was seamed with furrows; which shall not expend its force for his hair was rapidly turning gray. He many generations. had laid a great offering upon the
Having seen the truth, he prayed alcar of love, and as yet God seemed daily for strength to abide by it; and to have forgotten the answering to his torn and bleeding heart strength blessing.
was borne upon invisible wings. Oh! Again and again, in his solitary if all eyes could be opened to the night-rides and his lonely hours of fountains of heavenly love and wisdom watching by sick-beds, he had gone ordained from the beginning of the over in his own mind the course he world for the succor of all those who, had pursued, and always with the tried and tempted and trampled upon same result. Not only the teaching in the cause of Truth, look upward of his social, but also of his profes- co the God of Truth for support and sional life, went to show him the fear. comfort, how many faint hearts wou'd ful penalties with which God visits grow strong !-how would the world's any infraction of that primal law of heroes be encouraged and multiplied ! human life on which rests the union Through the clouds which comof the sexes. He saw vice and im- passed the Doctor about, there came morality, disease and death, spring- at times celestial shinings. The haring everywhere from marriages unblest monies of heaven were wafted downby love.
If abstinence were abused ward to his ear, and, however his as contrary to the laws of health, he heart might sink in its solitary and unknew how much more suffering is loved way, that great principle of visited upon the world as the penalty LOVE for which he suffered, winged of unholy indulgence Moreover, with divine and celestial glory, de. abstinence can injure but one ; but scended and filled his soul with its from a single act of license may spring serene, enraptured peace. a stream of corruption and impurity And so he waited.
C. F. Corbin.
The Quarterly meeting has confirmed the certain statements described as the "errors of action of the Monthly meeting in the case of Dr. Colenso,” and avowed that its signataries John J. Merritt. We hope to obtain a full solemnly renounced all Christian communion account of the matter for publication. with him until he repented of having pro
The third number of The Cretan is on our pounded the doctrines complained of. Earl table. It presents the usual variety of able Nelson assured the Primate that those who and interesting articles. Among others is an had signed the document did not presume to account of the recent Cretan fair in Boston, judge Dr. Colenso, but they took this step che net proceeds of which were nearly $21,000. because they had heard of his having been We congratulate the managers on the success deposed by a legal court of the church and of their arduous undertaking. We hope this excommunicated. The Archbishop, in the fair may be followed by others in the principal course of a brief reply, said he had repeatedly cities, if the success of this is any guarantee expressed his belief that Dr. Colenso was in for future ones.
grievous error, and he thought he had been The opponents of Dr. Colenso have no idea spiritually deposed from his functions. of giving up the fight. At the close of last port from a committee of the Upper House month a deputation from the English Church of Convocation would be before the public in Union waited upon the Archbishop of Canter- a few days, and, in the cpinion of the Archbury and presented a declaration signed by up. bishop, it will give more satisfaction to the wards of twenty thousand communicants of the public than anything which has yet been Church of England. The document set forth done.
VOL. 111.- SEPTEMBER, 1868.- NO. 33.
THE FOUR GOSPELS.
ARTICLE XVII. THE Marvellous Narratives.
(III. - Objections to the Mythical Interpretation.)
important general arguments in favor of the mythical interpretation as applied to the wonderful and miraculous stories of the New Testament, and we concluded that the miracles in general of the Bible, both of the Old and the New Testament, should be classed as myths, with the similar stories in all other religious records, sacred books and primitive histories.” We now propose to state with equal brevity, but with all possible justice, the most weighty objections that have been brought against the foregoing view, and to give what appears to us to be the proper and, in general, we think, the sufficient answers to the same ; thus beginning, with the present article, Division III. of the general subject of the marvellous narratives of the Gospels.
(a.) Various trivial and inferior objections have been brought against the mythical interpretation, which are scarcely worth any notice. The most important of such arguments that have fallen under our notice may be stated and answered in a paragraph. For example, it has been argued that myths are to be understood figuratively ; but the sacred historians intended their narratives to be understood literally ; therefore they cannot contain myths. This view is of course refuted by the literal intention and the literal acceptation of the Grecian myths, down to the days of Plato. The very idea of
the myth includes simple and unquestioning credence in both narrator and hearer. Again, it is contended that myths are “ heathenish ;” but the Bible is Christian, and therefore contains no myths. This simply begs the question, the very point being whether the Bible is or is not to be classed in this respect with all other primitive religious records. Precisely what is meant by the terin heathenish in this connection we are at a loss to understand ; but what. ever may be meant by it, it may be sufficient to say that a myth is allowed to be the evolution of an idea or mental experience into a narrative form; and if this is “heathenish ” in itself, Bunyan's Allegory is a heathen production. Again, it is objected that the miracles of the Gospel are of a high and worthy moral character, whereas the myths of pagan religions are of a low, trivial or degraded tone. Undoubtedly, this, in the main,* is to be granted. But how. ever much this difference may be enlarged or exaggerated, it can only prove that the Gospel miracles might be true more easily than pagan fables, but not at all that they are true. They are made less improbable by so inuch as they are less grotesque ; i. e., we may be so much the less exacting in the scrutiny of evidence. But that the consideration in question removes all improbability is plainly a mistake, since the stories are still left affected with the improbability arising from being contrary to the observed order (miraculous); still less can it make them positively probable, as many have asserted ; and, in general, the argument can have little application to our reasoning, because we have grounded the improbability of the Gospel stories and of all similar stories equally upon their marvellous or miraculous character, with no reference at all to their dignity or lack of dignity, or to any moral trait. In their miraculous or supernatural character, pagan and Christian fables agree: it is that which is essential to them as fables or myths ; that they should differ in unessentials, according to differences in national character and geographical situation, is to be expected : and it is especially to be expected that the myths of a monotheistic people should excel in dignity and moral elevation. Again, it has been urged that the miracles were never doubted or denied at the time : that, on the contrary, it is implied that they were admitted as facts on all hands, by foes as well as friends. But- - as is stated by those who make the above argument when they wish to account for the very small effect of the miraculous works of Jesus,- the Jews believed that such works could be done through the agency of evil spirits (Mt. xii., 24), and it is well known that a
* We confess we never could see especial dignity in the transmutation of water into wine, in the finding the money in the mouth of the fish, or in the cursing of the fig tree.
† A French writer, M. Amepre, criticises some of the miracles of St. Columban,-on which Grote makes the following just remark :-“In the eyes of M. Ampère, the recital of the biographer of St. Columban appears puerile : in the eyes of that biographer, the criticisms of M. Ampère would have appeared impious, when it is once conceded that phenomena are disreputable under two denominations, the natural and the miraculous, it must be left to the feelings of each individual to determine what, and what is not, a suitable occasion for a miracle.
No common standard of judgment can be imposed : for no reasonings derived from science or philosophy are available, inasmuch as in this case the very point in dispute is, whether the scientific point of view be admissable.” (Hist. Vol. I, p. 473, Amer. Ed.)
similar credulity pervaded the populace in the Roman empire. Even Tacitus was not proof against it. It descended undiminished to the Christian Fathers, who freely admitted in general the wonders of the pagan religion, but ascribed them to the agency of demons, and charged the heathen with worshipping satanic powers.
The belief finally reached its culmination in the horrors of witchcraft, which have ceased only in our present century.
Among the people in the time of Jesus, the professed supernatural passed almost unquestioned. Passing over these, and other equally futile objections, let us
(6.) A point deserving of serious attention and extended answer, so far as this can be given in our present brief treatment. It has been much insisted upon, that in the days of Jesus, the mythopoeic time had passed among the Jews : that they were a decaying people whose mental productiveness had long ago vanished or declined to a low and feeble state ; that their myths, then believed, were already the legacies of a hoary antiquity ; that, moreover, they were possessed of the art of writing, and that myths may indeed grow, but do not germinate and begin in an age of writing and written records. This, we repeat, is a respectable objection, deserving of consideration. It has been replied that mythical narratives might exist in a writing age, provided only that they were some time entrusted to oral transmission, and that the existence of written documents on other subjects proves nothing, if only the Gospels were orally diffused to a sufficient extent and for a sufficient time. It seems clear that the art of writing and a cultivated historical sense are not necessarily simultaneous. Even in Greece and Rome the historic idea was understood very imperfectly. The Hebrews never attained it : “their latest historical works, such as the books of the Maccabees, and even the writings of Josephus, are not free from marvellous and extravagant tales.” But it may be objected that this is to assume that which is the very question at issue, viz. : whether the marvellous or miraculous is the unhistorical ; that it is not contended that & writing age will necessarily have such a historical sense as will prevent the belief in myths, but that it will have passed beyond the time for the formation of myths; and that — as has been actually argued — the existence of the miraculous in the later and undeniably historical records, and in a writing age, is just that which proves it to be not mythical but historical, since, under such conditions, the mythical might be believed but not formed. Now, to the argument, in whatever form stated, that the Gospels can contain no myths because the mythopoeic time among the Hebrews had passed, this is our answer :- It is admitted that myths may be tenaciously held and fervently believed, in an age of writing, and were so held among the Greeks and Romans, andmif, as we believe, the Old Testament must be allowed to contain untrue miraculous stories—among the Jews also ; now, we do not hesitate to declare that where the ability to believe in myths still exists, there the ability to make them also exists ; it may not be active ; in a late period, and when science is taking its place by the side of art, it will not be active; but it will and must exist, latent and slumbering, and cannot be wholly destroyed by the invention of writing or by an imperfect historical sense, as long as these leave the belief still vital and warm. It is the growth of the scientific idea striking at belief in these stories, that destroys the power to make them : the first effect is to destroy all expectation of, and belief in, the supernatural in the present: but history is full of examples showing that until scientific development roots out also all belief in these wonders in the past, the ability to evolve them will still continue and will break forth and form new legends upon any adequate ex. citement or agitation, especially of a religious or spiritual nature. That this must be so, is evident from the inner connection of belief and production : vivid and fertile imagination is as necessary to credulity as to invention. Credulity is the negative or passive form of imagination, its receptive state, when it will realize intensely whatever extravagance may be presented to it, but will have no creative energy. Mythical credulity is the passive form in which mythical imagination still lingers after reason and observation have laid at rest its productive activity : and where it lingers in any shape or form, there its activity will always be possible, and liable to be called forth proportionately to the vitality and fervor of that credence which is its passive form, if the needed excitement, and especially religious excitement, shall occur. Men produce myths for the pleasure they find in believing them : the capacity to believe is the fundamental capacity, and invention, or more properly evolution, arises unconsciously to satisfy it in proportion as credence is implicit and exacting, in proportion as present life is the stage for the play of rampant imagination, when reason sleeps and fancy alone rends the veil of sense, when men see but do not observe, and riot in the constant presence of the supernatural. For the very reason that credulity is the fundamental and dominating fact in mythical fertility, it is the fact or capacity which remains long after the other elements of mythical production have disappeared, and with them the production ceased. The ability to evolve myths may, and always does, run out long be fore the myths already circulating are given up by the popular heart. Exciting circumstances may cease, the moderation of middle life comes on, and a people in such a condition, and gradually absolved more and more in practical affairs, as well as attaining some proficiency in scientific pursuits, may, and will, be content for a season to rest upon the glory of their old legends and add no new
They may look upon their venerable myths as a sacred store which it would be equally sacrilege to lessen or increase. Buc when mythical credulity invests the past with wonders, it may upon occasion transfer its exercise to the present, because the scientific idea has not taken full possession of the mind. Our point is, that a tenacious and vital belief in an old body of myths is proof of the mythopoeic ability. It is inactive, and tending to disappear altogether ; but it can never be quite destroyed as long as the belief continues. When the old myths are still clung to fondly and proudly, there they make a part of the people's life, there the feelings are not dead which find expression in thein, there is still the mythic element,