Page images

and said it in such a manner that the people exclaimed, "Never man spake like this man."

This chapter we have quoted cannot be said to concern great moral questions. It is local in its application, and the whole coloring is local.

In a moment of exceeding pity and sorrow for his race, he seems to see all the universe in sympathy with their fate, and speaks like David who saw the Lord "riding upon the wings of the wind," and "touching the hills till they smoked," like the prophets of his nation,-like those of similar habits of thought and expression in other countries, the parallelism of whose utterances with his it has been our purpose to indicate. The basis of all this remarkable prediction, however, is truth. He began calmly, and all that was necessary to be said for their safety, for warning and instruction, was said; and there was no misunderstanding on those points.

[ocr errors]

Why should we not use the same liberality in the judgment of this exalted being which we bestow upon the poetic and religious seers of our own day? Why should we consider him either as a conscious and amiable deceiver, according to M. Renan, or as self-deluded?

It is the talk of our day that we should read the Bible as we do any other book. That is precisely what many of our advanced thinkers do not do. They manifest a literalness in their spirit of interpretation, which, in the department of belle-lettres or philosophy, would, even according to their own judgment, set them down as dullards or bigots. Onehalf the fine taste, delicate perception, and generous freedom which they make use of in the sphere of æsthetics, or among the venerable religions of the pagans, would bring out the Jewish Scriptures in letters of light, wherein the Son of man should stand, the central figure, the culmination of the past, and the beautiful hope of the future.

It would be a fine thing if we could find a man of high culture, original thought, pure philanthropy, and of a tender religious nature without traditional prejudice, who had never seen the Bible, and mark how he would read it, and what he would say of it. We know as a fact, indeed, that the poet whom


we have quoted, Carolina Coronado, born a Roman Catholic, had never seen the Scriptures until the time of her marriage. She read them with the delighted surprise and naïveté of the child, and the earnestness and faith of the woman. This instance would not of course serve us in our argument, as her whole education was Christian, and she was already biassed in favor of the gospel narratives. It brings us back, however, to the subject, from which we have wandered somewhat. If some large-minded critic would spring up in Spain, and give us the results of a pure philosophical investigation, blended with the fervor of the Spanish imagination, working upon a soil where it is more at home than we, it would be a great addition to religious thought. It would, at least, be a valuable antidote to that Teutonic nicety of dissection which is not satisfied until it has cut every thing to pieces before it; but which, fortunately for the Christian world and its own perpetuity, knows how to fit the parts together again so well that it can start afresh on its career. Who knows but the Spanish race, so naturally devout, so pervaded with the ancient love of liberty, and now actually shaking off its civil and ecclesiastical fetters, may produce a class of thinkers who will freshen and enlarge the speculations of the religious world; and, with some measure of the oriental vision, look deeper into the mysteries of divine truth?



INVESTIGATION, if it could be carried far enough, would probably show that no people has been without its belief in some bygone golden age, and its longings for the return of the Saturnian days in a future more or less remote. Such beliefs and expectations are, no doubt, more fully developed in the primitive races, among indigenous people, or those of whose immigration neither history nor tradition offer any sign, and still more especially among the nations of the East. Yet to the

stern and legal Roman also came thoughts of early times, than which no Hebrew's dream was more extravagant, or told a more generous tale of earth's spontaneous fruitage and the mingling of gods with men. And England, though still young, has her mythology hardly less beautiful than the ancient Greeks, her "tales of Arthur and his table round," which may give hope to many a simple soul in darksome mine or by the roaring loom, and whisper of a time when there shall be justice in the land in ears that have been dull to all of Bright's or Gladstone's eloquence.

The general notion of future prosperity and glory is oftenest the child of national or social egotism. The notion of special instrumentality and of a specific helper comes with the felt need, in the midst of adversity, in the failure of ordinary expedients. The general notion, on the contrary, seems to live most happily, and to flourish best, in the house of joy, in the prosperous times of the State. We did not hear so much about "Manifest Destiny" after the beginning of the late Rebellion as we did before. Now we hear more of it than ever. But there is an education by antagonism as well. Men hope the most when they have least reason to hope. Facts are suggestive of their opposites, and Hope may be the daughter of Despair. We know that when men are freezing, they dream of blazing hearths; and that when starving, they talk of feasts and spread imaginary tables. Adversity is the very nurse of prophecy in some form or other. In the troublous times which intervened between the death of Julius Cæsar and the end of the second triumvirate, prophets abounded as at no other time in the history of the Roman State. When Augustus had attained the position of sole emperor, he caused the books of more than two thousand of these prophets to be collected, and consigned them to the flames. It was three or four years later that Virgil sang,

"Jam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna:
Jam nova progenies cælo demittitur alto."

In times of adversity, also, it would appear the hopes grow more extravagant; and then expression becomes more con


Except in such vague and general desires for the welfare of their country as we find in the citizens of every nation in every time, we find nothing among the Hebrews in the shape of Messianic hopes before the time of David. But these desires are simply patriotic and have no special character. "The book of Genesis," says Westcott, "connects the promise of redemption with the narrative of the fall;" and refers us to the third chapter, fifteenth verse. But this is a road which leads to the absurdities of Tertullian and Justin Martyr. The promises introduced into the patriarchal covenant would prove little, were they shown to be Messianic beyond all doubt. For the Pentateuch was not written in the time of Abraham its books, as well as the other sacred writings, were burned or dispersed during the captivity, and again during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes; and it is known that they were very carelessly transcribed.* In view of these vicissitudes, it would not do to stake too much on isolated passages manifestly premature, as we should be obliged to consider these, allowing them to be Messianic. In such case, we should refer them. to the time of transcription or compilation, rather than to the time of Abraham. The later Jews rejected the Messianic application of these passages (Gen. xii., xviii., and xxii.) as manifestly too liberal. But their opinion does not avail us, embittered as they were against foreign nations by their terrible adversities. The verdict of the impartial modern critic is worth much more; and Dr. Noyes, with many others, has decided against their Messianic character.

But a promise similar to the above-named is reiterated in the covenant form with David in Psalm lxxxix., "I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David, my servant. Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations." The same promise receives the prophetic form in the well-known passage in Psalm lxxii., supposed to be addressed to Solomon. We may call these passages Messianic, as referring to a universal dominion to be brought about by the instrumentality of a specific Messiah.

*Josephus's account of the Septuagint.



But the idea of such a Messiah came much later. Without allegorizing, it is impossible to find a reference to him in these psalms. It may be a question whether the promises in the patriarchal covenant are not shadows backward cast from these, which we regard as representative of the simplest form of the Hebrew's Messianic hopes. A slight expansion of this notion of universal dominion involves the conversion of the nations which should thus be subjugated. And so we find the earlier stages of the Messianic theory marked by a dogma that "the theocracy would eventually be consummated in a universal diffusion of the worship of Jehovah." "All the nations of the earth shall remember and turn unto the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before thee." But this apparent liberality was sadly modified in the thought of after times. The enemies of Jehovah were still to be subjugated and to witness the glory of his people, and then were to be immediately destroyed. Nations which had not been openly hostile were to be the vine-dressers and husbandmen of their conquerors.

Under the prosperous reigns of David and his son Solomon, all of the Hebrew tribes were for the first and last time united into one people. Thus, the theocracy received the highest development of which it was capable. An ancient oracle had foretold the sovereignty of the Lion of Judah. And, now, after long interruption, that sovereignty was revived in the person of the shepherd king, whom tradition declared to be the lineal descendant from the patriarch of his tribe. I will not stop here to say how fully he must have realized an ideal already dimly floating through the Hebrew's brain, how truly he must have seemed to them a man after God's own heart, since he so solemnly fulfilled the longings of their greatest prophet, whose subjective notions of God they had elevated into facts of objective revelation. The temple worship could not desire a truer friend; the State, a more brave defender.

And then came the reign of Solomon. If the success of David in establishing unity and infusing patriotism had given form to a hope already slumbering in the most ambitious and

« PreviousContinue »