20 JANUARY 1866, Page 17


[SECOND Norms.] A WELL known critic has praised Dr. Stanley's writings on the ground that they tend to " edification," and there is no doubt

that most of the public re-echo Mr. Arnold's eulogy, for • to' many readers a main charm of the Dean of Westminster's histori- cal works is their semi-didactic character. Nor if Dr. Stanley be considered simply in the light of a preacher who takes history for his text, can any objection be raised to the moral lessons which he draws. They are generally appropriate, they are often striking, and they always breathe a free and noble spirit of catholic charity. Indeed it would be hard to find a more impressive sermon than that contained in the chapter of the Jewish Church which treats of the. Psalter. Asa matter of private taste, we could wish such inquiries as whether "Thou, oh Christian ! who hearest these things in the Psalms, hart ever felt them, or felt anything like them," omitted, and could dispense with being told of certain noble sentiments that they were " well said by Protestant divine, well said by Catholic prelate," yet when every objection is allowed for all that the most captious criticism can suggest, the essay on the Psalter remains one of the most eloquent of modern discourses. Dr. Stanley, however, though he is a great preacher, has a valid claim to be considered in the much higher character of an historian, and looked at in this light his weakest point appears to us exactly that feature in his writings which attracts the greatest amount of popular admiration, for his very ingenuity in finding out moral les- sons leads him occasionally, though without doubt absolutely unin- tentionally and unconsciously, to pay more attention to the moral to be drawn than to the historical facts which need investigation. This carious kind of bias, arising, it may be suspected, from the author's eminence as a preacher, affects his historical works. injuriously in several ways.

it is, for example, allowable for a rhetorician to quote expres- sions in a sense different from that which the words originally bore, if this sense adds force to the point which he wishes to make, but an historian ought not to use this laxity of quotation ; and when the Dean of Westminster writes, " ' Let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David '—such is the spirit in which we should endeavour to handle the story of the founder of the mon- archy," he quotes St. Peter rather in the spirit of a rhetorician than of an historical inquirer. It is, again, the inherent defect of that means of writing history which aims at narrating the events of past ages with a constant eye to the instruction of modern times, that the persons who adopt it cannot leave past transactions to • Lectures on the latish Church. Part II. By Dr. A. P. Stanley, Dean of West• valuate:. Loudon : John Murray.

tell their own tale, but must constantly point their moral, and in the endeavour to find profitable instruction are apt to overlook the lesson which, if any lesson must be drawn, eventa naturally suggest. Dr. Stanley, for example, writes as follows of the crucifixion of the sons of Saul :—

" It was in the course of David's reign that-a three months' (mine fell on the country ; a question arose as to the latent national crime which could have called forth this visitation. This, according to the oracle; was Saul's massacre of the Gibeonites. The crime consisted in the departure from the solemn duty of keeping faith with idolators and heretics—a duty which even in-Christian times has often bean repu- diated, but which even in those hard times David faithfully acknowledged. This is the better aide of this dark event."

This " better" side is not the aspect which the transaction most naturally presents to the eyes of ordinary observers. An historian writing without a moral object might perhaps have told of the dark event without comment, but a writer who commented at all ought to have drawn attention to other darker sides of this crucifixion, and could, if he had done so, have hardly avoided an investigation into the nature of the " oracle." Here, however, we come across what is to our minds the worst result of the didac- tic spirit in which Dr. Stanley writes. He is induced by it to leave unanswered ma,ny of the most difficult questions which Jewish history suggests. It is not that he cannot honestly laid boldly state the opinions which he has formed, even when these opinions are certain to be the subject of unjust and bigoted attacks. A writer who dares tell the English religious world that a large portion of the so-called writings of Isaiah are the composition of an unknown author of a later age, and who points out that there are distinct inconsistencies in the accounts of the early history of David, need not fear that any candid critic will accuse him of a desire to evade difficult inquiries, or to court popularity by suppressing unpopular truths. But it is neverthe- less true that while the Dean of Westminster avows his conviction -" that the books of Scripture only suffer from being subjected to requirements which we have ceased to apply to the books of com- mon literature," and is clearly prepared to act on his conviction, he yet occasionally handles historical questions in the spirit rather tof a preacher than an historian, and thus does not in practice treat the history of the Jews exactly as he would treat the history of the English. An illustration will best show our meaning. Dr. Stanley thus writes of Ecclesiastes :— " The Preacher represented in it is no doubt Solomon, but the writer was in some Jewish traditions supposed to be main}., in some Hezekiah, and many distinguished scholars have supposed, from the character of the language compared with that of the Proverbs, and from the general' allusions, that it must be of a later date-still. We have a splendid sanction of the same kind of personification in the Book of Wisdom. But however this may be, there can be no doubt that Ecclesiastes embodies the sentiments which were believed to have proceeded from Solomon at the close of his life, and therefore must be taken as the Hebrew or .Scriptural representation of his last lessons to the world."

Now let it be supposed for a moment that Dr. Stanley had occasion to write concerning the Eikon Basilike, he would-scarcely write of it in the following manner :—" The King represented is no doubt Charles I., but the writer was supposed by many dis- tinguished scholars to be Dr. Gauden's, but however this may be, there can be no doubt that the Eikon Basilike embodies the senti- ments which were believed to have proceeded from Charles I. at the close of his life, and therefore must be taken as the English representation of his last lessons to the world." Dr. Stanley would not so write of the Eikon Beelike, and if any historian were to do so, all readers would feel that he was not treating properly one of the curious questions of English history. And we cannot see why the inquiry into the authorship of Eccle- siastes should not be treated in exactly the same manner as the inquiry into the authorship of the Bacon Basilike, and the reason why Dr. Stanley treats it differently is because even he cannot quite divest himself of the habit of turning to the Bible as a great storehouse of texts for sermons. The same tendency to view mainly the moral aspect of the Biblical narrative is manifest when the Dean of Westminster meets with questions of more importance than the authorship of Ecclesiastes. The life of Elisha -positively teems with miracles. " His works," writes Dr. Stanley, " stand alone in the Bible in their likeness to the acts of mediaeval saints. There alone in the sacred history the gulf between Biblical and ecclesiastical miracles almost disappears." The fact is as Dr. Stanley states it. It suggests various

questions. How do these miracles affect the credibility of the history? Does their appearance throw any light on the .age of the documents in which they are recorded ? Are these Biblical and mediaeval miracles to stand on the same footing ? Many answers to such questions may be conceived, and for our- selves, we may suspect that modern critics are too apt to assume

that a narrative is false because miraculous details have clustered round it, or form part even of its essence. But an historian ought to meet the diffieulties of his subject. If he rejects some portions of a narrative and retains others, or if he accepts the whole of a history which contains supernatural facts, he ought to make: alear to himself and his readers what is the principle on which he proceeds. Dr_ Stanleydoes not do this. He paints the pictureof Malta's life, and places the prophet's miraculous actions in the shadowy background of the sketch.

Na fact of later Jewish history is so important as the discovery of the Book of the Law, and it is one of Dr. Stanley's great merits to have brought distinctly before the mind of English readers the immense significance of this event, and the strangeness of the fact "that David, Solomon, Am, and Jehoshaphat had lived in constant and unconscious violation of the ordinances which came home with such force to Josiah." Yet though the importance of the discovery of the Law is dwelt upon, and though the different sug- gestions as to what really took place are referred to by Dr. Stanley, he bestows less attention upon this most important historical event than it deserves, for it is at least a question worthy of consideration whether our views of early Jewish history may not be coloured and distorted because we see them throughthe mediumof opinions preva- lent in the latest age of the Jewish monarchy. We receive from the Dean of Westminster an admirable description of Josiah's reforma- tion, and some striking reflections about the higher purpose of the second Law, but we do not receive even an attempt to answer the maims inquiries suggested by that reformation and that second Law.

The Dean of Westminster has perhaps done more than any liv- ing author to excite the interest of the English public in inquiries into Biblical history. None but a man of great boldness and free- dom of mind could have ventured to force on general attention conclusions which, though well ascertained by impartial examina- tion, are yet opposed to some of the time-honoured prejudices of Englishmen, and no man except one endowed with a rare degree of what may be called historical imagination could have presented the dry results of Biblical criticism in a form fitted to interest even the dullest readers. It is because of our consciousness of the great services which Dr. Stanley has rendered to all students of the Bible, that we have ventured freely to criticize almost the sole defect of his works. It is, moreover, the more necessary to note this fault, because it is so often praised as a special excellence, but it is just to add that it is less apparent in the second than in the first volume of the histories, and that in the proposed third volume, on the history of the Jewish Church after the Captiiity, it may very probably altogether disappear. In this, the last of his seriesof lectures, the Dean of Westminster will deal with the theme peculiarly suited to his genius ; and if he should, as all who could admire great histori- cal works must ardently desire, tell the history of the Maccabees, he will accomplish the important task of making Englishmen realize the fact that the deeds of some of the greatest Hebrew heroes have not been told by " inspired " authors, whilst he will add to his own great reputation that kind of fame which can only be gained by the explorers of an almost untrodden province of history.