1 JULY 1905, Page 28


The Modern Pilgrimage from Theology to Religion. By R. L. Bremner. (A. Constable and Co. 69.)—Mr. Bremner's pilgrim may get away from theology, but we doubt whether he will reach religion. It is a bad start to be told that theology is "a vain and barren attempt of man to vulgarise the unutterable," and that in one aspect, styled "Literalism," it is "a blasphemous imper- tinence." Surely this is not language to be used by and for taquirers, though it rises to the mouth when we see the placing side by side of Jesus Christ and Goethe as "supreme souls" and "world men." We are sorry to speak thus of a book in which there -is much eloquence, many really fine passages. It is only too true that grievous errors and weaknesses, much narrowness and blindness, are to be found in theologians. Yet we cannot believe that the world could have done without them. A very great thinker doubted whether faith that "had its centre everywhere," nor cared to "fix itself to form," might not fail. It is always possible to make for an esoteric circle something that resembles the desired object. But where is the Gospel that can be preached with effect to the poor ? You begin by taking away their Creed ; what are you going to give them in its place ? In this lieu our main objection to Mr. Bremner's teething. Of detailed criticism we will give but one example. "No MS., even of the New Testament, or any part of it, exists which was written until the fourth century after Christ." Has Mr. Bremner ever heard of the Oxyrhynchus papyri ? "No part of it," he says, and we must hold him strictly to his words. In Drs. Grenfell and Hunt's second volume is an account of a fragment of St. John's Gospel—, the manuscript originally contained, they think, the Whole Gospel —of which they say : "it may be assigned with safety to the period between 200 and (fl" The eldest MS. of Horace is of the ninth century ; the 01 .Iast of the Annals of Tacibus of the eleventh ; of the plays of Euripides there are no manuscripts older than 1000, though earlier fragments may be found. Putting aside the papyri fragments, the oldest codex of the Ihad contains eight hundred lines, and is no earlier than 500; the next contains three thousand eight hundred and seventy-three, and is a century later. But it is useless to multiply instances. Few remains of antiquity are so favourably situated in this respect as is the New Testament.