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triumph will be the issue of processes of rule and judgment already begun. There are days of the Son of Man as well as a supreme day. And the kingdom of God is as truly among us, as it is a treasure of blessing to be shed down upon us out of heaven. And we are more responsible, and are to have a more active agency, in bringing on this union of earth and heaven than most of us imagine.
A Conference was recently held in this city, in which several ministers of note took part. The object was to reaffirm the truth of the inspiration of the Scriptures, as against the subtle forms in which it is now denied. With almost all that was said we are are in full sympathy. Our readers need not to be assured that we reverence the Bible as the Word of God, and seek to test all our opinions upon the topics we discuss by its teachings The papers read at this Conference treated the subject after a popular rather than a critical method. One who sought relief from the difficulties raised by modern criticism would hardly have been satisfied. There are some perplexities about this whole subject which cannot be removed by the affirmation and reaffirmation of the theory of verbal inspiration. In some respects that theory has been misleading, in crowding out of sight, and measurably dispensing with, the fact of inspiration as an individual possession of the Christian. The believer is not inspired to infallibly teach, as were the apostles. But the Spirit has been given to him to guide him into all truth and to shew him things to come. And God, in His providence, has been teaching us that He does not mean that even the Bible shall supersede this diviue gift, or make it unnecessary. He has not, for example, caused to be preserved for our use an infallible manuscript We are compelled to decide upon the true text in many places by a collation of differing manuscripts and versions. Positive certainity in many cases is excluded. The essential doctrines of the faith are not affected. But the activities of sanctified intellect—spiritual discernment—are brought into exercise. Thus the Holy Spirit in the Christian and in the Church must enable us to discern the meaning of the same Spirit as expressed in the Scriptures. It is possible to so assert the authority of the letter as to quench within ourselves the Spirit which giveth life. Some of the addresses at this Conference were not free from this fault. God never meant that His children should transfer the homage due to Him alone even to His own book. And this is why He has not preserved the book free from all mistake or admixture. We do not mean that His Word, as contained therein, has any element of uncertainty. But we cannot always be sure of the precise form in which the Word was given. To illustrate some of the results of this bondage to the letter, suppressing that spiritual sense which judgeth all things, we may refer to the great strength which has been given to a principal denomination of Christians, and the power which it has wielded over the
minds of men, by its use of this passage, " He that be-, lieveth and is baptized shall be saved: he that believeth not shall be damned." And yet it very doubtful whether this passage is entitled to rank with Scripture. With respect to the last twelve verses ofSt. Mark's gospel, of which it is one, the revised version states, " The two oldest Greek manuscripts, and some other authorities, omit from verse 9 to the end. Some other authorities have a different ending to the gospel." Dean Alford's note is "The twelve verses which follow are wanting in our two oldest MSS., the Vatican and the Sinaitic; and the passage is stated by the early Fathers not to have existed in the majority of their MSS. Internal evidence also is against St. Mark having been the writer. On the other hand, many ancient MSS. do contain it, and it is cited by some of the primitive Fathers." If this passage holds, it seems to make baptism an essential condition of salvation. This is an instance where the sanction of God's Word has been given to that which may be a human interpolation* Even the English words "damned" and "damnation" (John v. 19) have been constantly uttered as if the seal of the Holy Spirit had been put upon themWho can say what differences would have been made in our eschatology if the word had been softened from the first into "judgment," as is now done by the revisers? Dr. A. Harnack in the Contemporary Review of last year, in speaking of the Diatessaron of Tatian (an ancient harmony of the four gospels) says that it is highly probable that the phrase in Matt. xvi. 18, "On this rock will I build my church" did not occur in the original gospel. It seems to have been a human interpolation to support a human theory of the church. All such instances give point to the remarks of Dr. A. A. Hodge in one of his Popular Lectures on Theology (pg. 171)—"WhenT read the Bible I confess I am never absolutely convinced by one text. It is a habit of the mind perhaps, because the thought will arise, How do you know that text is sure? How do you know there is no error in the transcript? How do you know there is not some error in the interpretation? I do not believe God ever meant us to believe in a great doctrine upon a single text."
It is thus manifest that God has not permitted the Bible to come down to us in such a way as to preclude the use of our own sanctified judgment, or to depreciate the office of His indwelling Spirit given to show us all things. He would have us eager to discern and to listen to His voice. He would not have us honor His written word less, but His inward voice more. This is necessary for our spiritual life and culture. It cannot foster presumption. For the Spirit of God will come to the front in a man only as all self-confidence and self-seeking are put aside. But we may be sure that no Christian life can grow strong and intelligent, except as there is the consciousness of the indwelling Christ, giving us the spirit of moderation and of a sound mind, and enabling us to discern His truth, even where the form in which it is conveyed to us may be marred by human hands.
NOTES ON CURRENT TOPICS.
Ingersoll'8 Reply To Dr. Field.—The reply of Robert G. Ingersoll to Dr. Field's open letter is given in the November number of the North American Review. It gives one pain to reflect how this accomplished man, reared in a Christian household, has grown blind to the true beauty of Christianity, and to the divine glory of Him who came down from Heaven to reveal the grace and truth of God to men. The coloring he gives, for example, to the incident of the death of Ananias and Sapphira illustrates how entirely incapable he is of appreciating the circumstances under which that tragic event in the history of the infant church took place, and the important lesson it was meant to convey. And yet one cannot help feeling that there is some truth in the remark made by Mrs. Frances Willard in the last Homilelic Review that, "whether they perceive it or not, it is chiefly ecclesiasticism and not Christianity that Robert Ingersoll and Elizabeth Cady Stanton have, been fighting." Only for her phrase "ecclesiasticism" we should substitute "ecclesiastical dogma." We believe that, had it not been for the church's harsh doctrine of an avenging God whose justice cannot be satisfied with anything less than the sinners' endless torment, this son of a pious ancestry would never have been driven to his denials of God and contempt of His word. It is apparent all through his reply to Dr. Field that this is the bite-noir of his disordered fancy respecting things divine. And from his standpoint we can hardly wonder at the distorted shapes that everything in Christianity assumes. The man is to be pitied as well as blamed.
The weakness of Dr. Field's letter lies in the fact that, as an adherent of the Westminster statements on this awful subject, he constantly conceals these harsh points, and shows himself to be much more considerate and humane than his professed creed. His opponent does not fail to see the weakness of this position, and assails it with the thrusts of his invective and reproach in a way diffl cult to parry. In reply to Dr Field's inquiry as to what consolation Ingersoll's agnostic creed Could furnish to a weeping mother, bereaved of an only son, he quotes to such a mother, in reply to