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In the following pages I wish to show that the true attitude of Christians towards the Bible is not that which, by many antagonists of the Christian faith, it is assumed to be. It is no part of the Christian faith to maintain that every word of the Bible was dictated supernaturally, or is equally valuable, or free from all error, or on the loftiest levels of morality as finally revealed. There are myriads of faithful Christians who would at once declare their inability to accept any such doctrine. To them Christianity is entirely unburdened by the numberless difficulties of all kinds—psychological, chronological, historical, scientific, religious, and moral—which would be necessarily involved in the defence of such an hypothesis. I shall make the defence of Christianity infinitely more simple and more secure if I show that such views form no part of the faith. I do not deny that such a doctrine of inspiration has often been popularly expressed in the loose, inaccurate rhetoric of Fathers and teachers; and often by men who show, in more serious passages, that it does not represent their true and accurate conviction. But no such view has ever formed any part of the Catholic creeds of Christendom.
In order, then, to support the faith of all who are now shaken by assaults on the Bible, I wish to illustrate what the Bible is, what the Bible is not. That my statements will be attacked can make no difference in my duty; that many readers, and especially those who have been left by their teachers in an ignorance which takes itself for knowledge, will at first disagree with much that I say, is certain. I hold it to be no less certain that the opinions here maintained will become those of the whole Christian world; and I hold this because they are in accordance with a general drift of evidence which is daily acquiring more and more the volume and majesty of an ocean tide.
ADVANCING KNOWLEDGE 17
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main:
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
But westward, look, the land is bright!1
I need only add two remarks.
First, I do not deviate in the smallest particular from the definite teaching of the Church of England,2 or of the Catholic Church in general, on the subject here handled. I repudiate no single proposition respecting Scripture on which real Christian doctrine ever insisted.
1 A. H. Clough.
* Our Christian liberty on this question was legally vindicated by Dr. Lushington and Lord Westbury in the 'Essays and Reviews Case,' 1862-63. 'In the first hearing of the case, before the Court of Arches, Dr. Lushington said: "Provided that the Articles and Formularies are not contravened, the law lays down no limits of construction, no rule of interpretation, of the Scriptures."'
At the final trial, on appeal before the Privy Council, Lord Westbury pronounced the freedom of the English people and clergy yet more emphatically. He said:'We are confined . . . to the question whether in them [the Articles] the Church has affirmed that any part of the Book of Scripture was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and is the Word of God.
'Certainly this doctrine is not involved in the statements of the 6th Article, that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation. But inasmuch as it does so from the revelations of the Holy Spirit, the Bible may be denominated "holy" and be said to be "the Word of God," "God's Word written," or "Holy Writ;" terms which cannot be affirmed to be distinctly predicated of every statement and representation contained in every part of the Old and New Testaments.
'The framers of the Articles have not used the word "inspiration" as applied to the Holy Scriptures, nor have they laid down anything I shall not state one single view which is untenable by Christian men in any great division either of the Eastern or the Western Church. For every assertion which I make I can produce the authority of divines of unimpeachable soundness, whose right to be regarded as orthodox has never been challenged, and some of whom are among the acknowledged Fathers and canonized Saints of the Church of God.
Secondly, I may be liable to the careless and ignorant taunt that I have been 'attacking the Bible.' The guilt of such a falsehood must rest on those who make it. St. Paul, in answer to the charge that he had been nullifying the Law of Moses, replied,' Do we then make void the Law through faith? Nay, we establish the Law.' The spirit of that reply is applicable to all that I shall here say of the
as to the nature, extent, or limits of that operation of the Holy Spirit.'
In a letter to the Times quoting these judgments, Mr. Pitzroy adds: 'It may be worth stating, in illustration of this, that at the Westminster Assembly of 1643 it actually was proposed to make such use of the word "inspiration" and to lay down something "as to the nature, extent, or limits of the operation of the Holy Spirit." It was there suggested to add the enumeration of the books of the New Testament to those of the Old, and to conclude with these words: "All which books, as they are commonly received, we do receive, and acknowledge them to be by the inspiration of God, and in that regard to be of most certain credit and highest authority." The rejection of this amendment shows that even at that date English Churchmen did not feel justified in closing their own or their children's ears to the voice of God in nature and in human reason.'
I may also refer to Sir J. F. Stephen's speech in the Court of Arches, in which there is a catena of evidence on this subject; to Paley's Evidences, vol. iii. ch. iii.; Alford, Greek New Testament, i. 19; Maurice, The Bible and Science, p. 172; and to multitudes of high authorities which will be quoted in the following pages.
Bible.1 I have attacked nothing which is tenable, least of all the Bible, which year by year grows to me more inestimably precious, and which on the contrary I best defend by saving it from the wounds wherewith it has been wounded in the house of its friends. The Bible furnished the main training of my youth; it is the chief blessing and most indefeasible consolation of my advancing age. I have devoted to its elucidation the labour of the best years of my life. At my ordination I vowed that I would be 'diligent in reading of the Holy Scripture, and of such studies as help to the knowledge of the same;' and that vow to the best of my ability I have endeavoured to fulfil. But there is a style of defence which is more perilous and less faithful than the worst attack. It was the object of Rabbis and Pharisees to maintain, to expand, to deify the Mosaic Law; 'to construct,' as they phrased it, 'a hedge about the Law.'2 They treated our Lord as One who ' attacked' their law.3 How did He Himself view what they regarded
1 'Critical investigations concern really not the fact of revelation, but its mode, or form, or course; upon faith and practice they have no bearing whatever,'-. Prof. Driver, Cont. Rev. Feb. 1896.
2 Pirke Aboth, L i., 'Make a fence for the Law;' iii. 20, Aqiba said: 'Tradition is a fence to the Torah;' 'Make a mishmereth to my mishmereth,' Lev. xviii. 30; see Taylor, Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, pp. 25, 68.
* The Rabbis said that the Law had existed 974 generations before the world was created, Shabbath, f. 88. 2; Aboth<P Rabbi Nathan, 31. 'On account of the Law the whole of the world was created,' Tse-enah Urc-enah (Hershon, Talm. Miscellany, p. 316). For specimens of the exaltation of the Torah by the Jews see Weber, Syst. d. altsynag. Palast. Theol. 1-60; Wildeboer, The Origin of the Old Testament Canon (E.T.), pp. 94-98. They called the Law 'the jewel of jewels;' 'Whoever asserts that Moses wrote so much as one verse out of his own knowledge is a contemner of the Word of God,' Sanhedrin, f. 99. a.
as His ' attack' of it 1 He said,'Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil.' What did He think of their defence of it? After exposing the futility and falsehood of their 'traditions of the elders,' He indignantly quoted the denunciation of Isaiah: 'In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.' Resorting —as priests and Pharisees have so constantly done—to the syllogism of violence, they crucified the Lord of Glory.
Similarly they cursed, persecuted, slandered, and tried to murder St. Paul, on the plea that he taught men to ignore the Divine sanctity of the Levitic ordinances. But St. Paul's answer was that he was commissioned to cut away from the Law its alien accretions and its dead or perishing rudiments, that he might perpetuate its eternal holiness and justice. 'The Gospel itself,' said the holy and learned Neander, 'rests on an immovable rock, while human systems of theology are everywhere undergoing a purifying process.'
I place, then, in the forefront of this book the declaration of my most solemn reverence and love for the Holy Scriptures, and of my heartfelt acceptance of every message of God contained therein. It is because I thus deeply reverence the Bible, and because I thus absolutely accept the Word of God which it contains, that I refuse to be guilty of the blasphemy of confusing the words of men with the Word of God, or the inferences of ignorant teachers with the messages of God. I say with the fervid Chillingworth, 'Take away this presumptuous imposing of the senses of men on the Word of God; of the special senses of men on the general words of God, and laying them on men's conscience together, under the equal penalty of death and damnation. This deifying our own inter