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THE REPUBLIC OF Plato. Translated into English, with an Analysis
and Notes, by JOHN LLEWELIN Davies, M.A., and DAVID JAMES VAUGHAN, M.A. Third Edition. London and Cambridge: Mac
millan & Co. Our indignation at the malignant wickedness, often causes us to over-estimate the ultimate importance of, unjust criticism. We cannot too often remember what Lord Macaulay calls “that fine apothegm of Bentley,” that "no man was ever written down except by himself.” The works of Plato are a splendid example of the impotence of time, or opposition, to crush a true book. The works of some great men have been kept alive by their biographers, as in Dr. Johnson's case. Of Plato's life we do not possess sufficient facts to enable us to realise his personality, much less to interest us in him as a man; nor are there any extraneous accessories which have contributed to his fame. We must conclude that it is the inherent worth of his works alone which has preserved them for twenty-three centuries, and which now necessitates their production in a translated and popular form. The edition of Plato's masterpiece, “The Republic,” which Messrs. Macmillan have just issued as one of their excellent and portable “Golden Treasury Series,” is the result of the joint labours of two well-known scholars, J. Llewelyn Davies, M.A., and David James Vaughan, M.A., late Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge. Their names will at once suggest the fidelity and accuracy with which they have translated into English, and the careful industry with which the volume has been prepared and furnished with its copious “notes”; and the value of its condensed yet interesting “introduction,” and discriminating and clear "analysis.” It is convenient in size, chaste in appearance, and in all respects admirable and commendable for what is outside and what is within.
POSSIBILITIES OF CREATION; OR, WHAT THE WORLD MIGHT HAVE
BEEN.—A BOOK OF FANCIES. London: Simpkin and Marshall. This book is a remarkable one, and its object is noble. Its speciality is that its author deals “ with things as they might have been, instead of discussing them exclusively as they are.” In order to make us appreciate more highly the wonderful power and benevolence of God, he indicates, with great learning and skill, what the phenomena of Nature might have been under the direction of a malevolent tormentor or arbitrary despot. The wonderful wisdom of the Creator is shown in a variety of instances, in which it is demonstrated that the powers of no single element in nature, as Dr. Faraday says, “could be modified without destroying the harmonies and involving in one common ruin the economy of the World.” His love of speculation conducts the author over ground where any other than a first-class
man would be, or have the appearance of being, irreverent, or even impious. But a skill which is splendid, a delicacy which is always keen, and a judgment which is never at fault, enable him to steer clear of such charges, and even suspicions, and to pursue his original, bold, and impressive arguments to their full limits without even the faintest obscuration of the pure, humble, and Christian spirit which prompts them. The style, or rather, we should say, the styles of the book-for it has many—are most fascinating. Pages of light and playful speculation give place to close reasoning and calm narration, and these again are succeeded by those in which is a brilliant and sustained eloquence which is equal to the best efforts of the greatest masters. Facts, some amusing, others striking, and many the result of much research, are plentifully scattered over the leaves, so that there is something to satisfy all tastes. We believe the work is calculated to do a large measure of service. The author, whose name does not transpire, is evidently a man of ripe scholarship, refined feeling, and conspicuous ability. We shall be disappointed if his wonderful and excellent book does not make a powerful impression.
MICAH, THE PRIEST-MAKER. A Handbook on Ritualism. By T.
BINNEY. London: Jackson, Walford, and Hodder. The ritualistic section of what is called the Church of England is, perhaps, for the present hour the most influential, and that in a way unintentional on its own part. It does not aim to awaken thought, nor is its ministry potent in this direction. But during the past few months it has set the best minds of England a-thinking. Whilst there is sad lack of suggestiveness in its pulpit, its upholsterings, tailorings, millineries, jewelleries, and theatricals, have, by their glaring incongruity with the Christianity of the Gospel, broken the mental monotony of the Protestant world, and set its preachers and writers to work. Sermons, tracts, pamphlets, volumes are flowing from the press, and force their way to the table of reviewers. Whilst many of these productions are so one-sided, unphilosophic, and acrimonious, as to render them utterly unworthy of notice, there are others that reflect the highest credit on the intellect, catholic spirit, and literary ability of their authors. At the head of these we place the volume before us. Mr. Binney treats the subject as an able philosopher, an impartial judge, an unbigoted Christian, and an accomplished author. It is the book on the subject. We have seen nothing as good, and we expect nothing better.
A HOMIL Y
The “Letter” and the “Spirit” in the
Ministry of Christianity.
“Able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the spirit, for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”—2 Cor. ii. 6.
HIS chapter teaches that the grand subject of all
true religious teaching in these last ages of the
Testament." The New Testament means God's revelation through Christ, in contradistinction to his revelation through Moses. These two forms of divine communication are, in the context, brought into comparison, and several points of contrast emerge into prominence.* Though both are admitted to be "glorious," the latter is shown to be more glorious ” for many reasons. The one is the dispensation of "righteousness," the other of "condemnation;" the one is permanent, remaining unchanged amid the revolution of ages; the other is “done away,” and the one so opens the spiritual faculties that the mind can look at it “ with open face;' the other, through the prejudices of the Jewish people was concealed by a "veil." Judaism was enwrapped in haziness, Christianity comes out in sunshine.
* See HOMILIST, vol. ii., second series, p. 421. VOL. XX.
Now, this Christianity is the grand subject of all true modern ministries, the one primary text of religious discourses the world over and the
ages through. I say
Christianity-not naturalism. Had man retained his primitive innocence nature would have been that grand text. All sermons would have been drawn from the budding earth and the sparkling skies; from the murmuring brook and the booming billow ; the beasts of the forests and the fowls of heaven. Men would have seen in nature what they see not now-true ideas of God—and found there the food of souls:all the parts of material nature would have been regarded as embodiments of divine thought and symbols of eternal truths. But since the Fall men cannot reach the spiritual significance of nature; and if they could, it would not be what they required to meet their spiritual exigencies and improve their spiritual condition. I say, moreover, Christianity-not Judaism. Judaism, it is true, came to meet man's fallen condition; it worked on for centuries, rendered high services, and became efête. Do I disparage this grand old institution? Far from it. It was here flaming as Truth's grand torch through many an age ; it broke the moral darkness of successive generations, and lighted great multitudes " which no man can number” into the calm heavens of eternity. But it had its day, and is no more ; it is “done away." On the great plains of human history it lies as a shell—a shell whose germ of truth burst it asunder, and expanded into a loftier and more enduring form :Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us.”
Christianity, then, and not either naturalism or Judaism, is now the grand subject of all true religious ministry. We are ministers of the “New Testament." The text leads us to consider the twofold ministry of this subject and their twofold results.
I. THE TWOFOLD MINISTRY. There is the ministry of the “ letter" and the ministry of the “spirit.” What does this mean ? Not, I think, the two different dispensations of the
truth, the Mosaic and the Christian. Although the chapter contains a comparison between these, the text does not. On the contrary, the New Testament only is the subject of the text. Besides, it would scarcely be fair to denominate Judaism a “letter.” There was spirit in every part. Every rite symbolized a thought, every sentence a sentiment. Spirit, like the sap of a young and healthy tree in spring, filled the trunk, and throbbed from root to stem. Was there no spirit in the revelations of Sinai? Were Moses and Elias, David, Isaiah, and all the Hebrew prophets, passionless men of the sa letter ?" No, they were men of enthusiasm ; the spirit of eternal truth glowed in them as truly and as intensely, if not as clearly, as in any of the apostles of Christ.
Nor does it mean, I think, a double interpretation of the Scripture. There are some interpreters who seek a mystic, as well as a literal, meaning in every utterance. The attaching of a plurality of meanings to the same Scripture utterance is a lamentable practice, and one of the saddest of the many profanations of ignorant pietism. It is an insult to reason, and an outrage on the grammar and the design of God's book. What, then, does “spirit and letter” mean here? Simply, the world and the thought, the sentence and the sentiment. Christianity has “letter” and “spirit.” If it had no "letter," it would be unrevealed to men :-a thought shut up
in the mind of God; and if it had mere “letter,” and no “spirit,” it would be hollow sound, empty jargon. All essences, principles, spirits, are invisible to us; they are only revealed through letters or forms. The spirit of a nation expresses itself in its institutions; the spirit of the creation expresses itself in its phenomena ; the spirit of Jesus, in his wonderful biography. By "letter," therefore, I understand the form of a thing in contradistinction to its essence, the word in contradistinction to its meaning, the institution in contradistinction to its genius. The text, therefore, refers to two distinct methods of teaching Christianity. Let us notice each of these.
First. The technical. Who are the technical teachers of