27 JULY 1867, Page 16


THE APOSTOLIC FATHERS.* This is the first volume of a series of translations, which is to comprise all the extant works of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, except- ing the longer writings of Origen. The magnitude of the scheme says much for the enterprise of the publishers, and, it may be added, for the capacity of the public which they supply. The study of theology must be pursued with far more zeal than is com- monly supposed, if nearly twenty volumes of translations, gener- ally the most unprofitable kind of literary work, are likely to meet with a remunerative sale. Without forming an exaggerated esti- mate of the merits of early Christian literature, we can heartily wish success to this undertaking. If, as we imagine to be the case, it finds its principal support elsewhere than among the Anglican clergy, it is likely to be especially useful. The Church of England claims the great Latin and Greek Doctors as Fathers of her own, but it is the fault, in a great degree the involuntary fault, of the theology of the Presbyterian and the Dissenting communities that it has -lost its connection with the Christian thought of the past. It cannot fail to gain breadth and largeness of view when this defect is remedied ; nor could anything more conduce to this end than the study of a large body of divinity which may be said wholly to ignore the controversies with which it is apt to be engrossed.

The editors do their best to make their work complete. They have admitted into this volume every writing that can lay claim to belong to the Apostolic age, and some that are undoubtedly spurious. The Apocryphal Gospels are reserved for a later volume.

With regard to the difficult questions which arise as to the date and authorship of some of these documents, they very wisely do nothing more than state the commonly received belief of antiquity, and give some of the least questioned results of modern criticism. It is an unhappy characteristic of controversies which even indirectly involve theological considerations that they are interminable. There are but few of the secular re- mains of antiquity about which scholars are not generally agreed, but it seems idle to hope for a like unanimity about religious documents. All that can be done under these circumstances is to give the reader an opportunity of forming a judgment for himself. This, as far as internal evidence is concerned, he may often be at least as well qualified to do as is the professed scholar. The Ignatian Epistles supply an instance in point. They are supposed to bear on certain questions of ecclesiastical government, and they have, accordingly, been made the subject of the bitterest and most unprofitable debate. The editors have done well in giving, first, a simple statement of the leading facts of this controversy, and then a translation of each of the three forms in which the Epistles are known to exist. An intelligent reader who can contrive to put away sectarian prepossessions will be able, with this help, to get as near the truth as there is now any hope of getting.

The translation we have found, wherever we have compared it with the original, to be carefully and accurately executed. In point of style it hardly satisfies us. It was the obvious duty of the translators to imitate, so far as was possible, the dignity and simplicity of our Authorized Version of the Scriptures. They would thus have done something to lessen the wide gall which separates these writings from the really Apostolic books. This, we think, they have failed to do. We give from the beginning of the first Epistle of Clement a specimen of their work, side by side with the parallel passage from Archbishop Wake's transla- tion :—

• Ante.Nicene Christian Library. Edited by the Rev. Alexander Roberts, D.D., and James Donaldson, LL.D. Vol. 1.—The Apostolic Fathers. Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark. 1867. The advantage in point of style is clearly with the older version.

The best executed portion of the volume is, we think, the translation of the " Shepherd " of Hernias. We should fancy that it has been, what every good translation must be, a labour of love with its author, Mr. Crombie. His pains have not been ill bestowed. The English reader possesses now, for the first time, a true representation of the original, and, though he will probably pronounce it to be excessively tedious, he will find in it many points of interest. He will see, not without surprise, what manner of book it was which was so widely popular for three centuries, which great Fathers pronounced to be inspired, and which, if not included in the Canon, was publicly read in the Churches and bound up with the sacred volume itself. It has been compared, of course, with the Pilgrim's Progress, for little other reason but that both works may be described as allegories. Of the peculiar excellencies of Bunyan's great work, of its grace and beauty and pathos, of the singular skill of construction and un- ceasing human interest which make it so fascinating to those who have but the dimmest conception of its spiritual meaning, the " Shepherd " does not present a trace. Christian, Faithful, Greatheart, the Sisters of the House Beautiful, the Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains are figures of romance, and we almost resent the interpretation which changes them into anything else ; but Hermas's allegories are of the barest and baldest kind. There is no skilfully woven web of incident to veil the didactic purpose. A supernatural machinery of the simplest and slightest kind serves to introduce discourses on various ethical and theological subjects, and, as far as much of the work is concerned, would not be missed, were it to disappear. In the first book, Of Visions, a woman, in whom Hernias is taught to recognize the Church, lectures him on his shortcomings, and on the construction of the society of which she is the emblem. At the end of the book the Shepherd is introduced, " a man of glorious aspect, dressed like a shepherd, with a white goat's skin, a wallet on his shoulders, and a rod in his hand." The second book, Of Commandments, consists of the homilies which he del ivers to Hernias. The third book, Of Similitudes, contains the images which he uses to instruct his pupil about his righteousness, repentance, the comparative evil and punishment of various sins, and the like subjects. There is nothing like a continued allegory ; the identity of the speaker and of the listener supplies the merest thread of connection between various emblems. Of these the best sustained is the eighth similitude, " of the large willow tree overshadowing plains and mountains, under whose shade had assembled all those who were called by the name of the Lord." Of this tree, " which is the law of God that was given to the whole world," the angel cuts off a branch and gives to every man. As he brings it back green or withered, or in every variety of condition between these two extremes, so he has his reward.

Tedious as the whole book undoubtedly is, it contains many isolated points of interest. Its great antiquity, and there is good reason for placing its date as early as that of any writing not canonical, gives it a special value. It is curious to note the early cropping up of questions which were afterwards to convulse the Church. The doctrine about sin after baptism is laid down with precision (p. 355). There is to be one opportunity of repentance for such sin, and no more. Very stern language is held about the Lapsi, i.e., those who fell away in time of perse- cution. " The Lord bath sworn by His Son that those who denied ROBERTS AND DONALDSON.

" Owing, dear brethren, to the sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to ourselves, we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respect- ing which you consulted us ; and especially to that shameful and de- testable sedition, utterly abhorrent to the elect of God, which a few rash and self - confident persons have kindled to such a pitch of frenzy that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be universally loved, has suffered grievous injury. For who ever dwelt even for a short time among you, and did not find your faith to be as fruitful of virtue as it was firmly established ? who did not admire the sobriety and moderation of your godliness in Christ? who did not proclaim the magnificence of your hospitality ? and who did not rejoice over your perfect and well grounded knowledge?" WAKE.

"The sudden and unexpected dangers and calamities that have fallen upon us have, we fear, made us more slow in our considerations of those things which you inquired of us, as also of that wicked and detestable sedition, so unbecoming the elect of God, which a few heady and self-willed men have fermented to such a degree of madness that your venerable and renowned name, so worthy of all men to be beloved, is greatly blas- phemed thereby. For who that has ever been among you has not experimented the firmness of your faith and its fruitfulness in all good works, and admired the temper and moderation of your religion in Christ, and published abroad the munificence of your hospitality, and thought you happy in your perfect and certain knowledge of the Gospel?"

their Lord have abandoned their life in despair." The doctrine about divorce is decided. A man must put away a vicious wife, but he may not marry another (p. 353). Of an ascetic tone of thought there is but little trace. We extract a passage about

fasting, which may serve as a specimen of the translators' style "I see the Shepherd sitting down beside me, and saying, Why have you come hither so early in the morning?'—' Because, Sir,' I answered, I have a station.'—' 'What is a station ?' he asked.—' I am fasting, Sir,' I replied.—' What is this fasting,' he continued, ' which you are observ- ing ?'—' As I have been accustomed, Sir,' I reply, 'so I fast.'—' You do not know,' he says, how to fast unto the Lord : this useless fasting which you observe to Him is of no value.'—' Why, Sir,' I answered, do you say this ?'—' I say to you,' he continued, 'that the fasting which you observe is not a fasting. But I will teach you what is true and acceptable fasting to the Lord. Listen,' he continued. 'God does not desire such an empty fasting. For fasting to God in this way you will do nothing for a righteous life ; but offer to God a fasting of the follow- ing kind : Do no evil in your life, and serve the Lord with a pure heart ; keep His commandments, walking in His precepts, and let no evil desire arise in your heart, and believe in God ' " (p. 381).

The language held about probation and punishment (p. 388, et seq.) is specially worthy of note, as differing from the hard nega-

tive dogmatism into which Protestantism has been driven by Romish extravagances. The existence of distinct clerical order is very plainly recognized. What do our Presbyterian friends say to this (p. 336) ?—" The square white stones which fitted exactly into each other are apostles, bishops, teachers, and deacons, who have lived in godly purity, and have acted as bishops and teachers and deacons chastely and reverently to the elect of God?" . We can do nothing more on the present occasion than mention the companion volume to that which is the subject of this notice, containing translations of Justin Martyr and Athenagoras.