XX. — FROM THE DIVINE ORACLES TO THE HIGHER CRITICISM.
By ANDREW DICKSON WHITE, LL. D. (Yale), Ph. D. (Jena),
FORMERLY PRESIDENT OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY.
III. THE CONTINUED GROWTH OF SCIENTIFIC INTERPRETATION.
THE science of biblical criticism was, as we have seen, first developed mainly in Germany and Holland. Many considerations there, as elsewhere, combined to deter men from opening new paths to truth: not even in those countries were these the paths to preferment; but there at least the sturdy Teutonic love of truth for truth's sake found no such obstacles as in other parts of Europe. Fair investigation of biblical subjects had not there been extirpated, as in Italy and Spain; nor had it been forced into channels which led nowhither, as in France and southern Germany; nor were men who might otherwise have pursued it dazzled and drawn away from it by the multitude of splendid prizes for plausibility, for sophistry, or for silence displayed before the ecclesiastical vision in England. In the frugal homes of North German and Dutch professors and pastors high thinking on these great subjects went steadily on, and the "liberty of teaching," which is the glory of the northern Continental universities, while it did not secure honest thinkers against vexations, did at least protect them against the persecutions which, in other countries, would have thwarted their studies, and starved their families.
In England the admission of the new current of thought was apparently impossible. The traditional system of biblical interpretation seemed established on British soil forever. It was knit into the whole fabric of thought and observance; it was protected by the most justly esteemed hierarchy the world has ever seen; it was intrenched behind the bishops' palaces, the cathedral stalls, the professors' chairs, the country parsonages — all these, as a rule, the seats of high endeavor and beautiful culture. The older thought held a controlling voice in the senate of the nation, it was dear to the hearts of all classes, it was superbly endowed, every strong thinker seemed to hold a brief for it, or to be in receipt of its retaining fee.
While there was inevitably much alloy of worldly wisdom in the opposition to the new current, no just thinker can deny far higher motives to many, perhaps to most, of the ecclesiastics who were resolute against it. The evangelical movement incarnate in the Wesleys had not spent its strength; the movement initiated by Pusey, Newman, Keble, and their compeers was in full force.