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CHRIST AND THE LAW 21
pretations and tyrannous enforcing them upon others; this restraining of the Word of God from that latitude and generality, and the understanding of men from that liberty wherein Christ and the Apostles left them, is and hath been the only fountain of all the schisms in the Church, and that which makes them immortal; the common incendiary of Christendom which tears in pieces not the coat but the members of Christ, ridente Turca nee dolente Judaeo. Take away this persecuting, burning, cursing, damning of men for not subscribing to the words of men as the words of God; require of Christians only to believe Christ, and to call no man master but Him only.'1
I desire to base the claims of Scripture on true grounds, and not on false prerogatives supported by a specious and repellent casuistry.
In thus doing I follow the initiative of the greatest of our English divines; notably of one of the wisest of them all—Richard Hooker. After pointing out that there are concerning the sufficiency of Scripture two opinions, each extremely opposite to the other, and each repugnant to the truth—that of Rome, which teaches Scripture to be insufficient without tradition; and that of the Puritans, which held that no act of life and no triviality of Church order was lawful without direct Scripture authority—he concludes the second book of his 'Ecclesiastical Polity' with these words:
'Whatsoever is spoken of God, or things appertaining to God, otherwise than truth is, though it seem an honour, it is an injury. And as incredible praises given unto men do often abate and impair the credit of their deserved commendation, so we must likewise take great heed, lest, in attributing to Scripture more than it can have, the in
1 Religion of Protestants, ch. iv.
credibility of that do cause even those things which it hath most abundantly to be less reverently esteemed.'1
The underlying error which has led to so much pernicious misinterpretation of Scripture has been the violation of the laws of human language by the extension of general phrases to applications which they were never intended to include. The necessity of balance and correlation was freely recognised by some even of the early Christian writers as a principle of ordinary common sense,2 but no one has set it forth more powerfully than S. T. Coleridge in his 'Confessions of an Enquiring Spirit':
'Add to all these, the strange—in all other writings unexampled—practice of bringing together into logical dependency detached sentences from books composed at the distance of centuries, nay sometimes a millennium from each other, under different dispensations, and for different objects. Accommodations, incidental allusions to popular notions, traditions, apologues—fancies and anachronisms—these, detached from their context and contrary to the intention of the sacred writers, first raised into independent theses, and then brought together to produce or sanction some new credendum. ... By this strange mosaic, Scripture texts have been worked up into passable likenesses of Purgatory, Popery, the Inquisition, and other monstrous abuses.'
1 'The attempt to attach a name of special sanctity to all the contents of the Bible ends in the degradation of that name itself.' —Mackennal.
2 See passages (quoted by Prof. Sanday, Inspiration, pp. 42, 43), such as Tert. De exhort. cast. 3. Jerome (Prol. in Philem.) quotes a remarkable passage of Origen, and (referring to such verses as 2 Tim. iv. 13; Gal. v. 12; Phil. i. 22, &c.) fully admits the principle that 'inspiration' admits of many degrees, and cannot be regarded as unum tenorem Spiritus Saudi.
To me, then, the Scriptures, not in every line and word of them, but in their total and final revelation, are and ever will be 'Holy Scriptures,'' Sacred Writings,' 'Sacred Books,' 'the Divine Word,' 'the Divine Scriptures,' 'the Scriptures of God,' as they were called by Theophilus of Antioch, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Gaius; they are still and ever will be Scriptura Divina, Divinum instrumentum, Divina litteratura, as they were called by Tertullian; Divini fontes, Divina magisteria, praecepta Divina, Sancta traditio, as Cyprian styled them.1 They are still and ever will be as a whole the Sancta et adorabilia Scripturarum verba which they were to Lucius of Thebeste (a.d. 256). But became they are and ever will be thus to me, and because they themselves have taught me the indefeasible majesty of Truth, I should shudder to maintain for them the false claims which they never make for themselves as a whole, but which have been foisted upon them by ignorance and superstition to the immense diminution of their sacred authority, and to the deep injury of the Church and of mankind.2
1 See the original passages referred to by Prof. Sanday, Inspiration, p. 29.
8 The present Archbishop of Canterbury, in a letter to Archbishop Tait, says:' What can be a grosser superstition than the cry of literal inspiration T But because that has a regular footing it is to be treated as a good man's mistake, while the courage to speak the truth about the first chapter of the Book of Genesis is a wanton piece of wickedness' (Life of Archbishop Tait, i. 292).
THE BIBLE IS NOT ONE HOMOGENEOUS BOOK, BUT
'Primam esse historire legem ne quid falsi dicere andeat; deinde ne quid veri non audeat.'—C1C. De Nat. iii. 15. 'God's orthodoxy is truth.'—K1koslbt.
Throughout these chapters I would ask the reader to bear in mind what is the belief of all Christians respecting the Bible. There is not a Church, nor a branch of the Church, which does not reverence Holy Scripture. All Churches admit that therein God reveals Himself to man; that, as a whole, the Bible stands unapproachable in human literature; that its final truths have a unique claim upon our acceptance; that in it alone is revealed the doctrine of man's salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. There are also many Christians who hold that every word of it * is supernaturally dictated and infallibly true. That opinion is untenable. It has not been held always, nor everywhere, nor by all; there is not the least merit involved in its acceptance; it is not helpful to the religious life of the individual or of nations; it has, on the contrary, been prolific of terrible disasters. The acceptance of it may be due, not to faith, but to a faithless materialism and a petri'A DIVINE LIBRARY'
fled tradition; the rejection of it is not a sign of unbelief, but a duty to truth, and to the God of Truth.
No student can historically understand the Bible until he is ready to lay aside all prior considerations, and examine it analytically, arriving by induction at a real/ knowledge as to its claims and character.
1. First of all, we must never lose sight of the fact that the Bible is not a single nor even a homogeneous book. The Bible is, strictly speaking, not a book but a library.1 It is not a single book, but a collection of sixty-six books. To thirty-nine of these we give the collective title of the Old Testament, and to the remaining twenty-seven the title of the New Testament. They constitute, as Edmund Burke said, 'an infinite collection of the most varied and the most venerable literature.'
These books were commonly referred to as 'the writing' (Scripture) or ' the writings' (Scriptures),2 to which names were frequently added the epithets 'sacred' or 'holy.' They were called 'sacred' because they dealt with the relations of God to man, and contained revelations of His will. They were called 'holy' because their ultimate end was to promote the cause of holiness. We trace in the Old Testament nothing which approaches to a conception of 'the Bible' as such; or even of the 'Law' as a recog-j nised document, till the discovery of some volume—which many have conjectured to have been part of the Book of
1 'And the same things were related both in the public archives, and in the records that concern Nehemiah: and how he, founding a library, gathered together the books about the kings and prophets, and the books of David, and letters of kings about sacred gifts.' 2 Mace. ii. 13. See p. 32, n. 2.
! So in Sanskrit the word for 'revelation' is Sruti, from Sruta, 'heard.' Max Muller, Sacred Books of the East, i. p. xiii.