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Mosaic Law, — the Law, upon whose authority alone they founded their claim to the possession of certain cities, and depended even for a maintenance ? And if the people were not yet in possession of the Law, what mean those words in 2 Kings, xvii. 13, and following: “Yet the Lord testified against Israel by all the prophets, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the Law, which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets ” ? Again in xviii. 12, it is assigned as the cause of the captivity of the Ten Tribes, that “they obeyed not the voice of the Lord their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded.” And again in x. 31, it is said of one of the kings of Israel, that he “ took no beed to walk in the Law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart;" but would he be expected to walk by a Law, that had never been given him ?*
Such are some of the most satisfactory testimonies we have to the existence of the Mosaic Law among the Ten Tribes, during the whole period of their separate national existence. Now, copies of this Law, which had come down from the time of the Separation, must have gone with them into their captivity. Some of these must have been in the hands of that Israelitish priest, who was sent to Samaria by the king of Assyria, to teach the inhabitants the manner of the God of Israel ; for, it appears, the first settlers there were idolaters, and wished to be instructed in the worship of Jehovah. And it is, doubtless, the copies of the Pentateuch thus introduced among the Samaritans, which were the originals of all the successive transcripts down to the present day.
In a future number, we shall resume and complete our argument.
* We may also add, that the prophets Hosea and Amos, whose writings are included within our canon of Scripture, in all probability lived among the Ten Tribes; and we find them both often appealing to the Mosaic Law, to give authority to their instructions.
If no record had been made of the life of Jesus ; and if no authentic tradition had supplied, though the most authentic could have but poorly supplied, the want of a record; there could have been no Christianity, properly so called, at this day, among men. There could have been no believers in Christ, no disciples of Christ, and, therefore, no Christians, properly so called, if no account of Jesus the Christ had come down to us, and we had in no way heard that such a being ever lived, labored, and died. Many might have cherished some dim and natural apprehensions of a future life, some faint shadow of what is now the full Christian hope of immortality. Many might have exhibited in their conduct some image of the Christian virtues, which are never foreign to our nature. But the faith and hope and love, which look to Jesus as their author and finisher, could not have been. The conviction, and support, and solace, and motive, and guidance, which flow so copiously and so directly from the words, and works, and cross of Christ, and which are, therefore, peculiarly Christian, could not have been. Our proper Christian faith is consequently founded on what was written ” concerning Christ. Without some history of Christ, there could have been no belief in Christ, and no proper Christianity.
This seems evident enough ; even self-evident. And yet we sometimes hear the phrase “ historical Christianity ” used in a tone of disparagement, as if it were unworthy of Christianity to be deduced from history, and as if they who held it as historical were in great darkness, without any just idea of its real character and dignity. It is an extraordinary thing, that any of those who would fain be called Christians themselves, should level a reproach or sneer against “historical Christianity,” as if they or others could be Christians without it; and we might be content with calling it extraordinary, and pass it by as not needing further comment, were it not that an examination into the meaning of this reproach involves some highly interesting topics, to which it is well for us to give our attentive thoughts.
That the language and tone referred to has some meaning, is to be taken for granted. That it has little or no meaning from the lips of some, who speak as echoes, is probable; but it must
that it is a poor
have some meaning from those who are not accustomed to speak without meaning, and who may be regarded as the original voices. Now what is that meaning ? It may mean nothing more than this;
and insufficient Christianity, which rests and ends in history, and in believing that such and such things took place, without applying the spirit of those things to the heart and conduct. By historical Christianity may be intended merely an outside, formal, literal Christianity, which stops at the outside, and terminates in forms and professions, and is satisfied with the letter, with reading and assenting, and reaches not the soul. If this is all that is meant, no real Christian, no Christian who intelligently receives, and feels, and endeavors to act his religion, will refuse his assent to the low estimate which is put on historical Christianity. It is not to be doubted, that a man is but a nominal and shadowy Christian, who, though he may daily and reverently read his chapters of the New Testament, and never think of questioning a single fact or word, yet is not touched nor quickened by the sacred influences of what he reads and believes, but is bound to the world, and lives like a heathen. There can be but one rational sentiment concerning Christianity like this. And yet, why term it historical Christianity? Why throw, by such a use of words, an undeserved aspersion upon that history, through which alone we know any. thing of Christ? If an unintended slight, it is at any rate an unnecessary one. If formal Christianity is meant to be depreciated, why call it historical? Why not call it formal? If a merely verbal and external, if a heartless and lifeless Christianity is meant, why not employ these or similar epithets to signify what is meant, instead of hazarding grave misapprehension, by selecting the epithet “historical." " These are written,” says the Evangelist John, “ that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, ye might have life through his name." The history is good, for its object is good, even the best that can be conceived. Its object is not mere belief, barren assent, but the “ life” which is the natural growth and product of that belief, and which only comes through and by the means of that belief. It is vital, and not formal or nominal Christianity, which is the true and declared end of the Christian history; and, therefore, it is a wrong done to that history, and to the holiness of its purpose and end, to speak of historical Christianity in a spirit of disre
spect, or use the epithet “historical” in this connexion in a bad sense.
But the tone of disparagement to which I have reference may bear another meaning. It may mean that the historical portion of Christianity is of little value compared with the moral portion ; that its facts are vastly inferior in importance to its precepts; that it is of no consequence whether we give credence to the former or not, provided we obey the latter; that it is a religion which is to be proved by its internal and spiritual merits, of which our reason and feelings are to be judges, and not by the accuracy and probability of its history, or genuineness of its records, which are matters of entirely subordinate moment, on which no valid argument can be rested, and which we may, without blame, leave altogether out of the account.
In sentiments of this sort, there is just truth enough to constitute a verisimilitude, and no more. There is a gleam of truth in them, while all the rest is smoke and darkness. It is true that the moral and spiritual part of Christianity, or, in other words, the “life” which is through the name of Christ, is superior to the historical part, as the object of individual attainment and application. Yet what is this but saying that the end is the end, and the means are not the end ? Does it amount to anything more? Indeed, is not the moral and spir itual part of Christianity the only portion which can be adopted by the soul, to be made a part of itself? Why, then, is any comparison drawn between that portion and any other ? Is it not about as wise to assert that a wealthy and beautiful city is superior to the road which leads to it, as to say that the spirit of Christianity is superior to its history? There are no proper points on which such a comparison may be grounded. The city is not to be exalted by disparaging the road; for the city is not a road, nor the road a city, but they belong, and are essential to each other. And if one will still persist in asserting that the city is superior to the road, it might be sufficient for another to say in reply, that without the road he never could have seen the city, to ascertain whether it was superior or not, wealthy and beautiful or not. And here lies the fallacy, as it seems to us, in the not unusual dispute respecting the comparative importance of the external and internal evidences of Christianity. They are both important in the highest degree, and are best to be studied in their due and inseparable relation to
each other. If one should say, “the internal evidence is enough for me ; it reaches my heart; I care not for the external evidence, or the history; they concern not my moral nature ;" the answer might well be, “yes, my friend, but without that history you would have had nothing brought to your heart; you would not have known what the internal evidence was. If you are satisfied with the internal evidence, and have no learning or time for the investigation of the external, or are willing to take its completeness for granted, be it so; but do not set up your feeling, or resolve, or deficiency, as the rule for other men, or the general rule on the subject; and do not undervalue the inquiries and labors of those, who by their care of the external, have contributed to preserve that very internal which you profess so highly to value, and which they, doubtless, have always valued as highly as you do.”
Historical Christianity, then, is not to be depreciated, or spoken of in a tone of disparagement, for no other reason than that the history of Christ has its own place and office, and is not nor can be that spirit of Christ, which is to be incorporated into our character, and obeyed by our life. Letter is not spirit ; but it is, nevertheless, the vehicle and clothing of spirit. The portraiture of Christ in the Gospels is not the Christian life, which that portraiture was intended to form ; but without the portraiture the life could not have been conceived. The
copying and printing by which those Gospels have been preserved and distributed, and the historical and critical studies by which they have been and must continue to be defended as true accounts, and kept in their pureness or restored to it, are not, all put together, the virtue, the piety, the heavenly-mindedness, which are essential to the true disciple of Christ; but they are indispensable in presenting the Master to the view of the disciple, and bringing the disciple to the feet of his Master. And it
may be further remarked, that as it was the inexpressible value entertained by the evangelist John for the "life" which was through the name of Jesus, that induced him to write his history, so it has usually been a similar motive which has warmed the breasts of others in studying and defending that history critically, minutely, laboriously. I will not receive, therefore, from any one, the depreciation of historical Christianity, as a sign of his more than common attachment to vital Christianity, or progress in it: nor do I think that they who
3D S. VOL. X. NO. II. 22