21 JULY 1866, Page 15



THERE is nothing more difficult than to get a fresh impression of writings with which we have long been familiar, an impres- sion freed from the old trains of association connected with them in our minds, and determined as much as possible not by what we have ourselves heard about them, but by the living circumstances amidst which they were written. It is the object of every good editor of such writings, the drift of which has been hackneyed by didactic use and choked with the dust of modern edification, to restore us as much as possible to the point of view of the writer, so that we may attach to his words the freshness and originality which they had for him when they issued from his own mind ; and this Mr. Llewelyn Davies has effected, we think, for two of the most powerful and condensed of St. Paul's theological epistles,—the authenticity of which has been doubted by the Tiibingen school of critics for the slenderest reason, the same sort of reason which it would be easy to give in proof that Mr. Gladstone's speeches are not products of the same mind as Mr. Gladstone's other writings, nay, even that some of his speeches cannot be due to the same speaker with others that are equally confidently attributed to him. Mr. Davies has also added a valuable essay to his edition on the traces of foreign elements in the theology of these epistles, that is, on the slight references they con- tain to ideas afterwards known as those of the Gnostics,—especially the Pleroma, or Fulness of the Godhead, the " principalities and powers, world-rulers of the darkness," and to special ascetical practices believed by some of the Gnostics to be essential to Gnosis, or knowledge of God. Mr. Davies shows, we think with complete success, that the amount of familiarity implied with the forms of Gnostical conception in St. Paul was just that which would have been appropriate to the time and scenes of his ministry, and not appropriate to the later and fuller growth of the Gnostic systems, and that his treatment of them is charac- teristically his own,—claiming all thoughts or even words that were truly expressive of divine wisdom in them for the reve- lation he spread, but at the same time guarding strictly against any of the associated superstitious tendencies. Nothing is more striking than the complete difference of manner and tone between even the germinal Gnostic teachings cited by Mr. Davies from apocryphal books of the Old Testament, from Philo, and from the Zend Avesta, and the most nearly allied thoughts of St. Paul and St. John. The comparison makes us feel the difference between God's unveiling of his own mind and the stretching of the human intellect in search of similar truths, more strongly than it would be possible for us to conceive a priori that such a difference could exist. For why should not the intellects that stretched most eagerly after this sort of wisdom have received more of it in proportion to the sincerity and eagerness of their craving ? If we are right in saying that all men are taught by God in some proportion to their desire to receive His teaching, it would be impossible not to believe that many of the Gnostic thinkers and ascetics had some such light. Yet, as a matter of fact, the line between the most moderate of the Gnostics, say between the Jew Philo, and St. John or St. Paul, is marked with far more clearness and breadth, than that between the most wild and arrogant of the Gnostic teachers and the most calm and moderate of them. In the one case it is a difference in kind, in the other only of degree.

In illustration of the value of Mr. Davies's notes, which are never loaded with superfluous edification,' or any other varieties of the talky-talky in which commentators abound, we may give the following, on the celebrated words of St. Paul (Ephesians v. 13), " But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light, for whatsoever doth make manifest is light" (ray dap rd (pavgpoiogvor rj1Wg icrriv). Mr. Davies remarks on this very justly that there is no justification for translating 9argpoiiral as a passive and oarepotoporov as a middle voice, and he translates, "But all deeds when convicted are made manifest by light, for all that is made manifest is light," and defends his translation thus :— " It cannot be doubted that payEpoi,,cceysy is passive. As regards the The Epistles of Bt. Paul to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and Philemon, with Introductions and Notes, and an Essay on the Traces of Foreign Elements in the Theo- logy of these Epistles. By the Rev. J. Llewelyn Davies, M.A. London : Macmillan. sense of this verse, we must remember the first words of the passage, You are now light in the Lord.' It is physically true whatever is brought out into a blaze of light becomes itself by reflection a source of light. And in the sphere of moral or spiritual action, there is a re- markable affinity between the openness of broad daylight and purity or innocence. Dark deeds are done in secret (xpucti): drag them into the light, and they cannot stand it. Thus a debased soul brought into open daylight, and not rushing from it, is naturally purified ; that which was darkness, whilst in the dark, becomes light in the daylight. There is something of this feeling expressed in two sayings of Luther's : 'I have often need, in my tribulations to talk even with a child, in order to expel such thoughts as the devil possesses me with.' When I am assailed with heavy tribulations, I rush out among my pigs, rather than remain alone by myself.' Shame is one of the influences by which the light conquers a soul from darkness."

This seems to us just the sort of note needed to make St. Paul intelligible and impressive, and there are plenty of such notes in Mr. Davies's edition.

But the greatest advantage of such an edition as this of any of St. Paul's Epistles, is probably not even the help it gives in dis- criminating his mode of spiritual thought from that of compara- tively ambitious writers amongst his own contemporaries, but rather the freshness with which it brings home to us the great chasm between his letters and the religious letters of modern days, written under the influence of ages of Christian teaching and thought. If a modern writer, Evangelical, or High Church, or Broad Church, writes a letter to the Church to which he belongs, the chances are he either gives an account of his own religious "experiences," as if St. Paul should have written, " Timotheus and I engaged in prayer yesterday with the brethren of Caesar's household, and we were plentifully blessed with very gracious dews ; " or he discusses drily the advantage of certain forms of ritual observance, as if St. Paul had written, " I have it greatly at heart, my dear brethren, that both for the sake of the half-instructed and ignorant, and also to cherish the spirit of reverential humility in our own souls, we should show more outward respect than has been usual amongst us towards God's holy altar, and that we should not shrink from the sacrifices necessary to make it altogether beautiful and worthy of His presence when we lavish, as we do, care so much less deserved on our own domestic arrangements ;" or, finally, he discusses the metaphysical basis of his own faith, as if St. Paul had written to the Ephesians, " I believe that if we all interpret truly the religious consciousness which God has given us, we shall find that the principle of sacrifice is deeply rooted in the soul, and that we are even unable to conceive the Highest and Holiest Being without attributing to Him the law of sacrifice.' Now nothing seems to us more striking than the difference between this (now) natural style of epistolary address,—either narrowly and oppressively personal, or drily didactic, or painfully analytic,— and the absolute occupation of St. Paul throughout all his epistles,—wherever he is not striving to sweep away some practical mischief, and reproaching his converts with actual unfaithfulness to their Lord,—with the divine facts that had been revealed in him. He has not to seek out a subject. He has not to examine into and uproot secret doubts. He has not to struggle with " the spirit of his age,"—itself far more tainted with the worst kind of doubt than ours,—before he can get his faith into good order. He simply fixes his eye on the facts that fill his whole nature, and tries to show those to whom he writes what great facts theY are, how they show that love is the ground of creation ; that all human life is bound together in the living organism of one divihe head ; that the clear recognition of the true life of humanity should be enough to give us power to yield to its divine impulse upon us ; that we do not need to save our- selves, since there is Another and greater than ourselves who will save us, if we only do not fight against His spirit when it is revealed in us :— " On this account we also, since the day we heard of it, do not cease to pray for you and to ask that you may have the full knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthily of the Lord unto all acceptableness, in every good work bearing fruit and increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all power according to the might of his glory unto all patience and long- suffering, with joy giving thanks to the Father who has enabled us to take our portion of the inheritance of the saints in the light, who has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have our redemption, the remission of our sins,—who is the image of the invisible God, firstborn of all creation, inasmuch as in him were created all things in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, all things have been created through him and unto him, and he is before all, and all things are held together in him, and he is the head of the body, the Church,—who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that he in all things might have priority, inasmuch as in him all the Fulness was pleased to dwell, and by him to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him, whether things on earth or things in the heavens ; and you who were once alienated and enemies

in mind in wicked works, now he has reconciled in the body of his flesh through his death, to present you holy and blameless and without re- proach before him, if you abide in the faith grounded and settled and not moved away from the hope of the Gospel which you heard, which has been preached in all the creation under heaven, of which I, Paul, was made a minister."

Surely any one must feel who reads that how clearly and certainly St. Paul apprehended the truth as it was revealed in him, how little he was troubled with the impulse to dig up its root and see if it were sound, how strongly he felt faith to be identical with life, and life with faith. These things always strike us afresh when we read a new version of any of his epistles without those numbered verses which make the words seem rather an immemorial institution than the fresh express ion of a living mind. What a depth of calm living apprehension of spiritual facts there is in such words as these thrown incidentally into a short letter against a morality of ascetic practices as a means of purifying the soul.— " If you have died with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, have you rules laid down for you, 'Handle not, taste not, touch not' (things which are all meant to perish in using), according to the prescriptions and teaching& of men ? Which rules have indeed a show of wisdom in voluntary religion and humility and unsparing usage of the body, but are not of any value to the satisfy- ing of the flesh. If, then, you have risen together with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God ; mind things above, not things on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God : when Christ shall be manifested, who is our life, then shall you also with him be manifested in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry, on account of which the anger of God comes upon the children of dis- obedience. In which things you also walked once, when you lived in them."

Everything which helps us to see St. Paul with a truer and fresher eye is a contribution of no ordinary value to the theology of the day. Mr. Davies's version of these epistles, with his manly and admirable notes, will help many to do so, and we think that most of his readers will feel the intellectual, and more than intellec- tual, obligations which we have felt to him while studying his book.