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Hooykaas,* in vindication of the character of Jesus, is one very generally adopted. It is thought that St. Paul fell below himself here ; that he was so carried away by the necessity of vindicating the resurrection of Jesus, which to him was the great basis of his belief in the immortality of the soul, that he speaks from the point of view of the popular conception of heaven, as a place where the faithful are compensated for the ills they have suffered on earth. It is to be noticed, however, that we cannot say that this
an "unguarded exclamation which slipped in an evil moment from the pen of Paul." It is the underlying idea of his whole argument.
“ If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, then are we of all men most miserable.
Why stand we in jeopardy every hour? If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me if the dead rise not? Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die.” It is clear, then, that St. Paul deliberately thought he had made a great mistake in life, if the sweet dream of rejoining his blessed Lord beyond the vail were a dream alone, and the final verdict upon humanity be that of the Patriarch Job,“ Dust thou art, and unto dust thou must return."
But in thus thinking, does the apostle descend from that pure, spiritual region where he habitually lived, to an altogether lower and grosser religious atmosphere? Is it that he forgets his "system, which absolutely excluded the idea of reward”-a system which was not to him a mere fabric of the intellect, but the
very life of his soul-a system which had been beaten out by those agonising spiritual experiences which only great-souled men feel in all their intensity? Is he now more selfish and calculating than when he addressed the Roman Church in an ecstasy of passionate self-forgetfulness: "I say the truth in Christ; I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh"? That depends upon how we interpret his words. Many liberal theologians and many evangelicals understand him to say that this life, to himself and his fellow-Christians, was so very miserable that it would be unendurable if it were not for the hope of another
* See Modern Revier, Vl. II. p. 718.
and a better; that the pleasures of sin are in themselves sweeter than those of purity and goodness, but that, in the latter case, the glories of the future world come in and abundantly turn the scale. Now, of course, the logical result of all this is to make religion a'purely utilitarian matter, and this is so entirely foreign to the spirit of St. Paul that I cannot conceive how he can have so far forgotten himself as deliberately to argue from this selfish point of view.
Is it not rather that this great question of immortality is in his mind intimately associated with his whole theory of a spiritual world? If immortality be a delusion, he argues, then the spiritual life is a delusion, God is a delusion, and Jesus lived and died in vain. If the soul perishes with the body, then it is a growth of the material world, having no real and essential existence. Then the carnal life is the only true life-the spiritual life is but its shadow. Better surely to live in what is real and substantial than in what is shadowy and fanciful. Better to take one's stand on the solid realities of earth than to dwell in the illusions of a feigned spirit world. If there be no immortality Christians are indeed wretched, for the sweet ecstasies of devotion which have filled their hearts have been inspired by a baseless beliefthe belief that this world is under the government of a wise and holy God, and that righteousness is in its essence different from iniquity. What pain, what agony is to be compared with the misery of those whose fair ideal is thus ruthlessly shattered ? “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”
Looking, then, at the question as St. Paul viewed it, we shall find that the words which give so much offence are by no means discordant with his system.
To him it seemed that if there be a spiritual world at all, then immortality is simply a necessity. It is one of a series of truths so closely linked together that the falsity of one involves the falsity of all. He is naturally very zealous to maintain his theory of life and of salvation. He sees before him nothing but despair if it could be proved untrue. Is this at all to be wondered at? Does it show an obscurity of mental vision or a want of elevation of spirit ? Remember that the apostle
? has himself staked the labour of his life upon the existence of a spiritual world and the great truths involved therein. He has felt himself inspired with a glorious message to mankindviz., that man's true life consists in living in the spirit, in living for what is good and pure and holy: that through Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified on Calvary, can he alone thus live; that by Him he is brought again into unison with God, is enabled to die to the mere carnal existence, and to rise to newness of life. The apostle was carried away by these truths. For them he willingly spent his life. Difficulties and dangers were faced with gladness, persecutions borne with cheerfulness, through his firm faith in the reality of the life of the spirit. And though he looks forward with ecstasy to the time when the soul shall be freed from its earthly trammels and from its continual warring with the flesh, he does not regard it as a reward for labours undergone. He feels that the mere living this spiritual life here on earth is its own best reward, because he is developing his true being. His love to Christ is so strong, his sympathy with his brethren so intense, that if it were possible to secure their happiness, he would even face annihilation, and worse, and yet not, by any means, feel that he had been the most miserable of men.
He would be content, individually, to deny himself the consolation of immortality, if it would only commend the truth of Jesus Christ to mankind. But what if there be no such thing as immortality? Then his great idea has lost all ground of reality. Then the spiritual life is not man's true life. He has been striving with all the might of his passionate soul to cast a glamour over men.
He has been erecting his great superstructure upon a shifting quicksand. Well, therefore, might he say that if all his glorious visions of future perfection, all his bright hopes of a sinless life with Jesus, were visions and hopes, and nothing more, the Christian, woefully deceived and utterly heartbroken, would be the most miserable of men.
It will be said :—“But the spiritual life is not founded on a belief in personal immortality. Universal experience shows that it is in itself a very real thing; the compulsion of our moral nature is actually felt, the happiness of a good conscience is an incontrovertible experience, while immortality is a transcendental idea of which we have no empirical knowledge. St. Paul, therefore, was wrong when he thus based his system, which is true and can be proved, on a metaphysical foundation which, to say the least, can never be proved.” But the point at issue is not whether or not the apostle was intellectually right. Personally I think he was. I think that if our intuition of immortality be false, then our moral intuitions are very likely to be false also. What I am endeavouring to maintain, however, is that St. Paul was morally right; that in the utterance under discussion he gives no countenance to a grossly selfish ethical theory; that he is perfectly consistent with himself, and does not fall below his usual lofty spiritual tone. Dr. Hooykaas says, truly enough, that there is a vast difference between working for an extrinsic reward and working for a reward which is inherent in the task itself. And it was this latter which was all the apostle wished for even in the passage before us. “To see of the travail of his soul”— that was his aim, that was his reward. Is it the mark of a man of a low and mercenary spirit, to be miserable and despairing when he finds his life has been all a mistake? Do we reproach St. Paul because he felt he would be utterly wretched if the cares and dangers which were already furrowing his brow and blanching his hair had been undergone for nought? Do we think that he ought to have bad a light heart in the reflection that he had been encircling his followers with a halo of mystical illusion; that while he had foolishly conceived he was pouring upon them the full-flooded splendour of the eternal glory, they had simply been receiving the exhalations of earth tinted with the glowing colour of his fervid imagination? Surely not. Is it not rather an evidence of his moral intensity that at the very suspicion of the overturning of his system-a system which he knew by a blessed experience to be able to save the soul-he should be blinded with grief, overwhelmed with despair? Surely it was only natural, it was only right, that he should say to his followers if he felt his faith in God and Christ waning : I have been deceived; I have lost my clue. Not Jesus of Nazareth, but Epicurus, seems to have solved the painful riddle of the earth.' The worldlings, after all, are right.
Follow me no longer. Obey the behests of your own hearts, and enjoy the sweets of a mere earthly existence. If there be no other than this visible world for which you are to live, I have no message for you."
A CONTROVERSY ON THE TALMUD.
N interesting and instructive controversy on the Talmud
has recently taken place in Holland between Professor Oort, of Leiden, and Rabbi Tal, of Amsterdam. The former had contributed an article to a popular Dutch journal (Eigen
Haard, 1880, No. 1), in illustration of a picture by de Haan, in which he gave a short account of the Talmud, with specimens of Talmudic reasoning. Rabbi Tal, disliking the tone of this article, and detecting certain inaccuracies in it, made a violent attack upon Dr. Oort, which led to the prolonged controversy to which we allude. *
Rabbi Tal's main thesis is that the ethical system of the Talmud is identical with that of the Gospel, and that any discredit thrown upon the former necessarily falls upon the latter also, and his most important contribution to the controversy is contained in his elaborate survey of Matthew V., with citations of Talmudic parallels to every verse. Many interesting or beautiful passages have been gathered by Rabbi Tal into his collection, and together with a number of familiar citations, we find others that are probably not generally known to Christians. We have, for instance, the following touching legend: On the night before the crossing of the Red Sea “ the angels wished to raise a song of triumph over the deliverance God was about to send to Israel. But the Eternal said, • What! so many of My creatures are to be drowned in the sea, and you will raise a song ! The following is cited in connection with Matt. v. 21—26: “ The first temple was wasted because Israel was corrupted by idolatry, murder, and inchastity. But why was the second temple destroyed ? Did not men live after the laws of God, fulfil their religious duties, and even give alms to the poor? Why, then? Because, in spite of all this not love dwelt in their hearts, but hate. This shows us that to cherish hate against one's brother is reckoned as great a misdeed as idolatry, murder, and inchastity.” Of alleged verbal coincidences, perhaps the most remarkable is “ that he who makes peace is called a son of God.” But when taken in the mass Rabbi Tal's quotations appear to be very far from vindicating his thesis : That the main lines of all developed systems of religious ethics niust have much in common ; that all alike will insist on honesty, on the forgiveness of private irjuries, on chastity, and so forth, may be taken for granted. But when we inquire into the spirit in which these general principles were applied and
* Rabbi Tal in Israel's Niewsbode, Jan. 30, Feb. 6, 13, 1880; and in a pamphlet, Een blik in Talmud en Evangelie, Amsterdam, 1881 ; Dr. Oort in de Gids, 1880, No.4; and in a pampblet, Evangelie en Talmud, uit het oogpunt der zedelijkheid vergeleken (Gospel and Talmud compared from the ethical standpoint). Leiden, 1881.