« ForrigeFortsæt »
cultus, were not brought forward in Germany until about ten or twelve years ago; whereas, my doctrine was expressly insisted on in 1800; that is, forty years earlier than any of these German writers had turned their thoughts in that direction.
Had I, then, really all that originality on this subject which for many years I secretly claimed? Substantially I had, because this great distinction between the modern (or Christian) idea of "a religion" and the ancient (or Pagan) idea of "a religion," I had nowhere openly seen expressed in words. To myself exclusively I was indebted for it. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that this conception must have been long ago germinating in the world, and perhaps bearing fruit. This is past all denial, since, about thirteen or fourteen years ago, I read in some journal (a French journal, I think) this statement: namely, that some oriental people-Turks, according to my present impression, but it might have been Arabs - make an old traditional distinction (so said the French journal) between what they call "religions of the book" and all other religions. The religions of the book, according to them, are three, all equally founded upon written and producible documents, namely: first, the Judaic system, resting upon the Pentateuch, or more truly, I should imagine, upon the Law and the Prophets; secondly, the Christian system, resting upon the Old and New Testaments; thirdly, the Mahometan system, resting confessedly upon the Koran. The very meaning, therefore, of styling these systems, by way of honorable distinction, religions of the book, is, not that accidentally they had written vouchers for their
creed, whereas the others had only oral vouchers, but that they severally offer to men's acceptance a large body of philosophic truth, such as requires and presupposes a book. Whereas the various religions contradistinguished from these three-namely, the whole body of Pagan idolatries - are mere forms of adoration addressed to many different divinities; and the brief reason why they are essentially opposed to religions of the book is, not that they have not, but logically that they cannot have, books or documents, inasmuch as they have no truths to deliver. They do not profess to teach anything whatsoever. What they profess, as their justifying distinction, is, to adore a certain deity, or a certain collective Pantheon, according to certain old authorized forms-authorized, that is to say, by fixed, ancient, and oftentimes local traditions.
What was the great practical inference from the new distinction which I offered? It was this: that Christianity (which included Judaism as its own germinal principle, and Islamism as its own adaptation to a barbarous and imperfect civilization) carried along with itself its own authentication; since, whilst other religions introduced men simply to ceremonies and usages, which could furnish no aliment or material for their intellect, Christianity provided an eternal palæstra or place of exercise for the human understanding vitalized by human affections: for every problem whatever, interesting to the human intellect, provided only that it bears a moral aspect, immediately passes into the field of religious speculation. Religion had thus become the great organ of human culture. Lady Carbery advanced half-way
to meet me in these new views, finding my credentials as a theologian in my earnestness and my sincerity. She herself was painfully and sorrowfully in earnest. She had come at this early age of seven or eight and twenty, to the most bitter sense of hollowness, and (in a philosophic sense) of treachery as under-lying all things that stood round her; and she sought escape, if escape there were, through religion. Religion was to be sought in the Bible. But was the Bible intelligible at the first glance? Far from it. Search the Scriptures, was the cry in Protestant lands amongst all people, however much at war with each other. But I often told her that this was a vain pretence, without some knowledge of Greek. Or perhaps not always and absolutely a pretence; because, undoubtedly, it is true that oftentimes mere ignorant simplicity may, by bringing into direct collision passages that are reciprocally illustrative, restrain an error or illuminate a truth. And a reason, which I have since given in print (a reason additional to Bentley's), for neglecting the thirty thousand various readings collected by the diligence of the New Testament collators, applied also to this case, namely: That, first, the transcendent nature, and, secondly, the recurrent nature, of Scriptural truths cause them to surmount verbal disturbances. A doctrine, for instance, which is sowed broadcast over the Scriptures, and recurs, on an average, three times in every chapter, cannot be affected by the casual inaccuracy of a phrase, since the phrase is continually varied. And, therefore, I would not deny the possibility of an effectual searching by very unlearned persons. Our author
ized translators of the Bible in the Shakspearian age were not in any exquisite sense learned men; they were very able men, and in a better sense able than if they had been philologically profound scholars, which at that time, from the imperfect culture of philology, they could not easily have been; men they were whom religious feeling guided correctly in choosing their expressions, and with whom the state of the language in some respects coöperated, by furnishing a diction more homely, fervent, and pathetic, than would now be available. For their apostolic functions English was the language most in demand. But in polemic or controversial cases Greek is indispensable. And of this Lady Carbery was sufficiently convinced by my own demur on the word metanoia. If I were right, how profoundly wrong must those have been whom my new explanation superseded. She resolved, therefore, immediately on my suggesting it, that she would learn Greek; or, at least, that limited form of Greek which was required for the New Testament. In the language of Terence, dictum factum - no sooner said than done. On the very next morning we all rode in to Stamford, our nearest town for such a purpose, and astounded the bookseller's apprentice by ordering four copies of the Clarendon Press Greek Testament, three copies of Parkhurst's Greek and English Lexicon, and three copies of some grammar, but what I have now forgotten. The books were to come down by the mail-coach without delay. Consequently, we were soon at work. Lady Massey and my sister, not being sustained by the same interest as Lady Carbery, eventually relaxed in their atten
tion. But Lady Carbery was quite in earnest, and very soon became expert in the original language of the New Testament.
I wished much that she should have gone on to the study of Herodotus. And I described to her the situation of the vivacious and mercurial Athenian, in the early period of Pericles, as repeating in its main features, for the great advantage of that Grecian Froissart, the situation of Adam during his earliest hours in Paradise, himself being the describer to the affable archangel. The same genial climate there was; the same luxuriation of nature in her early prime; the same ignorance of his own origin in the tenant of this lovely scenery; and the same eager desire to learn it.* The very truth, and mere facts of history, reaching Herodotus through such a haze of remote abstraction, and suffering a sort of refraction at each translation from atmosphere to atmosphere, whilst continually the uninteresting parts dropped away as the whole moved onwards,
"About me round I saw
Hill, dale, and shady woods, and sunny plains,
But who I was or where, or from what cause,
Knew not."-Paradise Lost, Book viii.
The who, the where (in any extended sense, that is, as regarded the external relations of his own country), and the from what cause — all these were precisely what the Grecian did not know, and first learned from Herodotus.