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Inspiration and Interpretation - Seven Sermons Preached Before the University of Oxford
by John Burgon
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1. And first, it is obvious, to any one reading the xxixth and xxxth chapters of the last Book of Moses, that they contain another Covenant, beside that of Horeb. This is expressly stated in the first verse of the xxixth chapter:—"These are the words of the Covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the Covenant which He made with them in Horeb[541]." Not to stand too stiffly thereupon, however[542], let it be at least freely allowed that even if we choose to regard this chapter and the next as a renewal only of the Covenant made in Horeb, it is a distinct renewal;—both in respect of time and of place. Of time,—for whereas the Covenant of Sinai belongs to the first of the forty years of wandering, the Covenant of Moab belongs to the last. Of place,—for whereas the other was made at the furthest limit of the people's wanderings, this belongs to their nearest approach to Canaan.—And I confidently ask, After such an announcement, and at a moment like that,—the forty years of typical wandering ended, and the earthly type of the heavenly inheritance full in view, Jordan alone intercepting the vision of their Rest;—shall we wonder, if here and there a ray of coming glory shall be found to flash through the language of the dying patriarch? if some traces shall be discernible, even in the language of Moses, of the dayspring of the Gospel of CHRIST?

2. We find that it contains not a few sayings in support of such a presumption. The 10th verse opens the covenant, and in the following solemn language:—"Ye stand, this day, all of you, before the LORD your GOD: the Captains of your tribes, your Elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel;—your little ones, your wives, and the stranger that is in thy camp,—from the hewer of thy wood, to the drawer of thy water." And what was the intention of this solemn standing before the LORD? Even—"that thou shouldest enter into Covenant with the LORD thy GOD, and enter into His oath, which the LORD thy GOD maketh with thee this day."—The purport of the Covenant thus to be made, was, that GOD might establish Israel that day for a people unto Himself, and that He might be unto them a GOD,—(an expression elsewhere appropriated by the Great Apostle to the Christian Church[543],)—as He had ... sworn unto their fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. So that we have here the renewal of the Evangelical Covenant made with Abraham, and renewed to Isaac and Jacob,—which is clearly distinguished in Scripture from the Legal Covenant, made with their children 430 years after; and which is declared ineffectual to disannul the earlier one, confirmed before by GOD, and pointing entirely to CHRIST[544]. That earlier Evangelical Covenant then, it was, which was renewed in the land of Moab;—in the course of renewing which, the words of the text occur.

3. And that it was indeed the Evangelical, (not the Legal Covenant,) which is here spoken of, is abundantly confirmed by the subsequent language of the passage: for Moses proceeds,—"Neither with you only do I make this Covenant and this oath; but with him that standeth here this day with us before the LORD our GOD, and also with him that is not here with us this day[545]:" meaning, (as the ancient Targum expounds the place,) "with every generation that shall rise up unto the world's end." It was the same Covenant, therefore, which is made with ourselves; "for the promise is unto" us, and to our "children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our GOD shall call[546]:" "not according to the Covenant which GOD made with the Fathers of Israel in the day that He took them by the hand to bring them out of the Land of Egypt[547]."

Yet more remarkably perhaps is this established by the language of the ensuing chapter: for GOD therein promises that Circumcision of the heart whereby men should be enabled to love the LORD their GOD with all their heart and with all their soul. Now this seems clearly to intimate not legal but Evangelical obedience,—the result of the free outpouring of the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD; of which, in the Law, (properly so called,) we find no promise whatever. Here then we discover another anticipation of something which belongs to the times of the Gospel.

And this Evangelical complexion is to be recognized in the entire contents of the xxixth and xxxth chapters. They contain no single mention of ceremonial rites or observances,—of which the Law is, for the most part, full. But free obedience and perfect love are inculcated as the condition of blessedness: while hearty repentance is made the sole condition of forgiveness of sin.

In connexion with this, I may call your attention to a curious coincidence,—if indeed it be not something more. On the sincere repentance of the people, it is promised "that then the LORD thy GOD will turn thy captivity;" which the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases,—"His WORD will receive with delight thy repentance:" while the Septuagint even more remarkably renders the words—"will heal thy sins;" that is,—"will be thy JESUS." Moses proceeds,—"and gather thee from all the nations whither the LORD thy GOD hath called thee." And what is this but one of the very places, if it be not the very place, to which St. John alludes when he declares that Caiaphas prophesied that JESUS should die for that nation; and not for that nation only; but that He should gather together in one, the children of GOD that were scattered abroad[548]?

4. Nor is it, finally, a little remarkable that, by the general consent of the Hebrew Doctors, this xxxth chapter has ever been held to have reference to the times of MESSIAH. The restoration spoken, is referred by them to the restoration to be effected by CHRIST: while the promises it contains are connected with those prophetic intimations which clearly point to the days of the Gospel[549]. So much, then, for the evidence, apart from Revelation, which the general complexion of the place in Deuteronomy affords to the reasonableness of the meaning affixed to it by the voice of the later Scriptures. Before we proceed to examine a little in detail the words of the text, we may be surely allowed to remind ourselves of the Testimony which St. Paul bears to the Evangelical character of what is here delivered. He asserts, in the most direct and emphatic manner, that it is the Righteousness which is by Faith which here speaks[550]. He is contrasting the spirit of the Law, with that of the Gospel. He is setting the requirements of the one against those of the other. To exhibit the former,—he quotes from Leviticus. To enable us to judge of the latter,—he quotes this very place in Deuteronomy. Having shewn the justification under the Law,—which is by entire fulfilment of every enjoined work;—the Apostle describes the Righteousness of the Gospel,—which is by Faith in CHRIST. And he discovers its voice in the present chapter: nay, he calls our attention to its language; and, lest the intention of it should escape us, he proceeds to supply us, not only with an interpretation of it, but with a paraphrase as well.

Enough has been said, I trust, to render this proceeding on the part of the Apostle no matter of surprise Let us see whether the particulars of his interpretation are altogether novel and unprecedented either.—The words of Moses which we have to consider, it will be remembered, are these:—The "commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in Heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to Heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it and do it? Neither is it beyond the Sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the Sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it[551]."

Now, that all this denotes something close at hand and easy,—in place of something supposed to be remote and difficult,—is obvious. The whole of the earlier part of it, St. Paul affirms to be tantamount to the following injunction,—"Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into Heaven, to bring CHRIST down; or who descend into the abyss, to bring CHRIST up from the dead." Concerning which words of caution, we have to remark that there seems to have been no intention whatever on the part of the Apostle, to warn his readers against requiring a renewed Revelation of CHRIST in the flesh, or a second Resurrection of the Eternal SON from the dead. He is illustrating the nature of Legal and Evangelical Righteousness, by the language of the Jewish Law. He contrasts the two, in their respective requirements; finding the voice of both in the writings of Moses: of the former,—in connexion with the covenant of Sinai; of the latter,—in connexion with the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the former Covenant. With characteristic fire and earnestness, glancing, as usual, at every side of the question before him,—having, a little way back, explained himself, without explanation, when he inserted that remarkable parenthetical clause, telos gar nomou CHRISTOS[552],—"for CHRIST is the object of the Law;"—in order now to shew how thoroughly this is the case,—how full the Law is of Him, in whom alone it finds its perfect scope, end, and completion,—he explains that the very phrase "Who shall ascend up into Heaven?" pointed to nothing less than the Incarnation of CHRIST: that, "Who shall go over the Sea?" contained a wondrous far-sighted allusion,—(not the less real because unsuspected,)—even to the Resurrection of our LORD from death. So true is it, "that both in the Old and New Testament Everlasting Life is offered to Mankind by CHRIST, who is the only Mediator between GOD and Man, being both GOD and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises[553]."

Moses then here warns the ancient people of GOD against an evil heart of unbelief. "Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend up into Heaven?" for such words on the part of Man would imply disbelief in the doctrine that the SON of GOD should hereafter take upon Him human flesh. (Since "no man hath ascended up to Heaven, but He that came down from Heaven, even the Son of Man which is in Heaven[554].") "Neither say, Who shall descend into the deep?" for such words on human lips must imply disbelief in MESSIAH'S Descent into Hell, and Resurrection from the Dead.—The mystery of Redemption might not be impatiently demanded; but must be looked for in faith, until the fulness of time should come, and the whole mystery of godliness should be revealed to the wondering eyes of Men and Angels[555].

We shall perhaps be asked, whether it is credible that Moses can have had any conception that such a meaning as St. Paul here ascribes to his words, did really underlie them? To which we answer, first, that it is by no means incredible[556]. And next, that whether Moses knew the full meaning of the language he was commissioned to deliver, or not,—seems, (as already explained[557],) to be an entirely separate question: the only question before us, being, whether his language contained that meaning, or not.... To what extent the Prophets,—who, (we know,) studied their own prophecies[558],—were ever permitted to fathom their depth, is a mere matter of speculation[559]; delightful indeed, but in the present case quite irrelevant. In the meantime, we know for certain that Moses prophesied of CHRIST[560].

And next, if it be said that really this is only a proverbial expression,—a Hebrew phrase to denote something passing difficult, and hard of attainment:—(as when, in the Book of Proverbs, it is asked,—"Who hath ascended up into Heaven, or who hath descended[561]?")—we answer, we see no ground whatever for supposing that in the place just quoted, it is a proverb, and no more,—although from its use in the Talmud, the expression would certainly appear to have become, at last, proverbial[562]. If a proverb, however, it seems to have been a sacred one; nor can any place be appealed to where it occurs, nearly of the antiquity of this, in the writings of Moses. To pretend therefore to explain away a certain mode of expression, in the place where it first stands on record,—and where it is declared to have a deep and mysterious meaning,—simply because, subsequently, it was (to all appearance) used without any such pregnancy of signification,—is, manifestly illogical.

Nay, there is good ground for presuming, that the very place last quoted, contains a reference to the Eternal SON: for Agur proceeds to ask,—"What is His Name, and what is His Son's Name, if thou canst tell[563]?" ... But the reference is far more obvious when the same expressions occur in the Book of Baruch. "Who hath gone up into Heaven, and taken her, and brought her down from the clouds? Who hath gone over the sea, and found her[564]?" For Wisdom is there spoken of; and Wisdom, as we remember, is one of the names of CHRIST,—the name by which He is discoursed of, in the Book of Proverbs.

The uninspired evidence which completes the connexion of this place of Deuteronomy with the second Person in the Blessed Trinity, is the traditional interpretation assigned to it by the Hebrew Commentators. The Targum of Jerusalem expounds the latter clause as follows:—"Neither is the Law beyond the Great Sea, that thou shouldest say, O that we had one like Jonas the prophet that might go down to the bottom of the Great Sea, and bring it to us." So that the very Jewish Doctors themselves here become our instructors; and teach us that a greater than Jonas must be here,—even while they guide our eyes to that especial type of our SAVIOUR CHRIST in His Descent into Hell, and Rising again from the dead. I say, the very Jewish Doctors themselves here contribute their testimony; and yield a most unsuspicious witness to the inspired exegesis of the Apostle: for, "as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly,"—so, (they clearly mean to say), so should it be with the man whom Moses here indicateth: and so,—(these are the words of CHRIST Himself),—so was "the Son of Man three days and three nights in the heart of the Earth[565]."

You will of course notice the facility with which the Jews themselves, interpreting their own Scriptures, have here exchanged the notions of going "over the sea,"—("beyond the sea," as it is in the Hebrew,)—and "going down to the bottom" of the sea. St. Paul seems, in this place, to have "accommodated" the words of Moses: but we cannot fail to perceive that the Hebrew text must cry aloud for such supposed "accommodation;" yea, cry aloud, even in the uncircumcised ears of the Jewish people; that their own Commentators, as if divinely guided by the good hand of GOD, should bear their own independent witness to the correctness of the Apostolic interpretation.

Nor may I fail to call your attention to the term employed by St. Paul to denote the Sea:—a term, surely divinely chosen. He had just before, (in the 6th and 7th verses,) employed the Version of the LXX: he was about to use it again in the 8th verse: but in this, (the 7th,) he departs from it. Instead of,—Tis diaperasei hmin eis to peran ts thalasss; he writes,—Tis katabsetai eis ten abysson. The term abyssos,—which is applicable to the deep places of the Earth, and to the depth of the Sea, with equal propriety;—(being a more indifferent term even than our own expression "the deep");—affords a memorable example of the fulness and pregnancy of language on inspired lips. Adhering to the letter of the text he quotes, the Apostle, by changing the word expressive of that literal sense, embraces the whole spiritual breadth and fulness of the passage:—reminding us of Him, by the blood of whose covenant were sent forth the prisoners of hope out of the pit wherein is no water[566],—even before he names Him; our SAVIOUR CHRIST!

I must also remind you, that there are many expressions used by our LORD, or used concerning Him by His Apostles, which help to shew, that, to have come down from Heaven,—and to have been brought up from the deep of the Earth again,—may be regarded as the mysterious summary of the SAVIOUR'S Mission[567].—"No man hath ascended up to Heaven," (saith our LORD,) "but He that came down from Heaven[568]." "I am the living Bread which came down from Heaven.... Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before[569]?" In another place,—"I came forth from the FATHER and am come into the World: again I leave the World, and go to the FATHER[570]."—But the most remarkable place remains: "Now, that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lowest parts of the Earth? He that descended, is the same also that ascended up far above all Heavens[571]." I say, this brief summary,—given by CHRIST Himself, or by those who had seen Him,—of the mystery of His manifestation in the flesh,—throws light on the language of the Hebrew lawgiver. It shews that the language of Moses to Israel, in the plains of Moab, fairly embraced the two great truths which Faith even now can but be exhorted to lay fast hold upon, and to appropriate:—"If thou shalt confess with thy mouth that JESUS is the LORD,"—that is, confess that the man Jesus is the uncreated, Incarnate JEHOVAH; "and believe with thy heart that GOD raised Him up from the dead,—thou shalt be saved." ... Such is the form which the exhortation now assumes. More darkly, of old time,—(as was fitting,)—was the same thing spoken: and, because reference was then made to an event not yet accomplished, the impatience of Unbelief is there repressed,—rather than the ardour of Faith stimulated. "Say not in thy heart who shall ascend into Heaven? or, who shall go down into the deep place?" ... But shall we deal so faithlessly with the Divine Oracles of the Old Testament, as to deny them the deeper meaning assigned to them in the New, because they speak darkly? Let us, from a review of all that has been humbly offered,—let us at least admit that there is good independent ground for believing that when Moses spake of ascending into Heaven,—it was with reference to the future coming of CHRIST:—when he made mention of descending into the Deep,—the Resurrection of the SAVIOUR of the World was, in reality, the thing he spake of.—Let us allow that here, at least, there is nothing in the language of the New Testament, which, when studied by the light of unassisted Reason, does not appear to have been fully included, contemplated, intended by the language of the Old:—that the accommodation has not been arbitrary;—say rather, that here at least there has been no accommodation at all!

But I am impatient to leave this low rationalistic ground, and take my stand again, on the vantage ground of Faith. The position, I trust, has been established, that even in the case of words which seem least promising,—least likely to enfold the deeply mysterious meaning claimed for them by an Apostle,—the result of patient inquiry and research is to shew that such a meaning really does exist there, to the fullest extent. We have discovered, from mere grounds of Reason, apart from Revelation, that what St. Paul has cited in this place from Deuteronomy, may very well contain all that he says it contains. But, were nothing of the kind discoverable;—were it a most hopeless endeavour to reconcile the meaning evolved by the inspired Apostle, with the text he professes to interpret,—the claims of the sacred exegesis would remain wholly unimpaired. We should still say that this, because it is an inspired Commentary, is entitled to our fullest acceptance. We have, anyhow, the HOLY SPIRIT interpreting Himself. He surely must be the best judge of His own Divine meaning. He does but enrich the Treasury of Truth, even by His apparent departures from the original Hebrew verity. Shall not the HOLY GHOST, the Comforter, be allowed to speak comfort to His people in whatever way seemeth best to Himself? Is it not lawful for Him to do what He will with His own? Is thine eye evil, because He is very good?

Yes, it cannot be too emphatically insisted on, that the success which may attend investigations of this nature, is not to be admitted for a moment as the measure of the soundness of the principle on which they proceed. The reasoning whereby Newton shewed that the diamond is a combustible substance would have been no whit invalidated had the diamond resisted to this hour every chemical attempt to reduce it to carbon. We do not,—(what need to say?)—we do not discourage the endeavour to enucleate the deep Christian significancy of passages for which Inspired writers claim such sublime meaning. Rather do we think that Human Reason could not find a worthier field for the employment of her powers[572], than this. But we are strenuous to insist that the full and sufficient, and only irrefragable proof that a mighty Christian meaning does actually underlie the unpromising utterance of one of GOD'S ancient Saints, is,—that an Inspired Writer declares it to exist there.

There is no accommodation therefore, when an inspired writer adduces Scripture. Human language will sometimes require to be "accommodated:" Divine language, never! May not the HOLY SPIRIT lay His finger on whatever parts of His ancient utterance He sees fit? may He not invert clauses, and (in order to bring out His meaning better) even alter words? If He tells thee that the prophetic allusion of Isaiah to "our griefs" and "our sorrows" comprehends "our infirmities" and "our sicknesses" in its span[573],—is it for thee to discredit His assertion? If He is pleased to intimate that the providential arrangement whereby CHRIST, though born at Bethlehem, grew up at Nazareth,—had for its object the fulfilment of many a detached and seemingly disconnected prophecy[574],—shall the unexpectedness of His disclosure excite ridicule in such an one as thyself? When He tells thee that besides the immediate scope of certain well-known words of Hosea and of Jeremiah, there was the ulterior aim He indicates; if behind Israel after the flesh, He shews thee the Anointed SON[575],—if behind those captive Jews of the tribe of Benjamin whom Nebuzar-Adan led past their mother's grave on their way to Babylon, He points to the slaughtered infant of Bethlehem; assuring thee that when He spake by the mouth of Jeremiah concerning the nearer event that remoter one was full before Him also; and that the solemn and affecting utterance of the Prophet was divinely intended by Himself to cover both[576];—wilt thou, when He discourses to thee thus, presume to talk to Him of "accommodation?" Is it not enough for thee to have cavilled at the first page of the Old Testament on "scientific" grounds? Must thou, for Theological considerations, dispute the first page of the New Testament also?

Scripture then, whether in its Historical or its more obviously prophetic parts, has this depth of meaning for which I have been contending. We must perforce believe it, for it is a matter of express Revelation. We cannot pretend to deny the probability,—much less the possibility of it; for we really can know nothing of the matter except from an attentive study of Scripture itself. And the witness of Scripture, as we have seen, is ample, emphatic, and express.—Our LORD, being indignantly asked by the Jews if He heard what the children, crying in the Temple, said of Him,—made answer by quoting the 2nd verse of the viiith Psalm: "Yea, have ye never read, 'Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise'[577]?"—Pray was this "accommodation," or what was it? It was deemed a sufficient answer, at all events, by the Anointed JEHOVAH; whatever men may think!... When the Sadducees, disbelieving in the Resurrection of the Body, assailed our LORD with a speculative difficulty, He told them that they erred because they did not understand the Scriptures. "Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the LORD, the GOD of Abraham, and the GOD of Isaac, and the GOD of Jacob. For He is not a GOD of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him[578]." How, by the popular method,—how, by any of the new lights which have lately been let in on Holy Scripture,—was the Resurrection of the dead to have been proved by the words which the SECOND PERSON in the Trinity spake to Moses "in the Bush?" And yet we behold that same Divine Personage in the days of His humiliation, proposing from those words, uttered by Himself 1500 years before, to establish the doctrine in dispute!... Only once more. "In the last day, that great day of the Feast [of Tabernacles,] JESUS stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. He that believeth on Me,—as the Scripture hath said, 'Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water[579]!'"—But where does the Scripture say that? You will look a long while to find it. You will never find it at all if you adhere to the method which of late has been declared to be the method most in fashion. You will never even understand what our Blessed LORD means, unless you attend to the hint which immediately follows,—and which the Divine Author of the Gospel would not surfer us to be without,—namely, that, "This spake He of the SPIRIT, which they that believe on Him should receive:"—by which is meant, that as many of the Prophets as discoursed in dark phrase of that free outpouring of the SPIRIT which was to mark MESSIAH'S Reign, did, in effect, say the thing which He here attributes to them.

Inspired Reasoning, wherever found, may fitly obtain a few words of distinct notice here; but I shall perhaps speak more becomingly, as well as prove more intelligible, if,—(without further allusion to the sayings of that Almighty One "in whom are hid all the treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge[580];" sayings which it seems a species of impiety to approach except in adoration;)—I confine my remarks to the logical processes observable in the inspired writings of some of His servants, the Evangelists and Apostles of THE LAMB.

The difficulty which has been occasionally felt in respect of the argumentative parts of St. Paul's Epistles, is considerable, and may not be overlooked. His definitions, his inferences, his entire method of handling Scripture, gives offence to a certain class of minds. His reasoning seems inconsequential. There appears to be a want of logical order and consistency in much that he delivers. But,—can it require to be stated?—the fault is entirely our own. "The radical fallacy of any attempt to analyze the reasoning of Scripture by the ordinary Laws of Logic" requires to be pointed out. And the root of it all is our assumption that an inspired Apostle must perforce argue like any other uninspired man.

But, in the first place, it is to be recollected that he did not collect the meaning and bearing of the Old Testament Scriptures from induction, and study only. He was,—by the hypothesis,—an inspired Writer. The same HOLY SPIRIT who taught the authors of the Old Testament what to deliver, taught him, in turn, how to explain their words. By direct Revelation, he perceived the intention of a text, and at once bore witness to it. Thus St. Paul says of our LORD,—"He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying,—'I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren, in the midst of the Church will I sing praise unto Thee.' And again,—'I will put my trust in Him.' And again,—'Behold I and the children which GOD hath given Me[581].'" Now, "the Apostles quoted such places as these from the Psalms and Isaiah, not as they were gathered by any certain reason, but as revealed to them by the HOLY SPIRIT, to be principally spoken of CHRIST. This understanding the mysteries of GOD in the Old Testament, being a special gift of the HOLY GHOST[582],—of the truth of which interpretations, the same SPIRIT, without any necessary demonstration thereof, bore witness also to their auditors and converts; and by miracles manifested the persons thus expounding them herein to be infallible[583]."

To quote the language of a thoughtful writer of more recent date,—"Inspired teaching,—explain it how we may,—seems comparatively indifferent to (what seems to us so peculiarly important) close logical connexion, and the intellectual symmetry of doctrines.... The necessity of confuting gainsayers, at times forced one of the greatest of CHRIST'S inspired servants, St. Paul, to prosecute continuous argument; yet even with him, how abrupt are the transitions, how intricate the connexion, how much is conveyed by assumptions such as Inspiration alone can make, without any violation of the canons of reasoning,—FOR WITH IT ALONE ASSERTION IS ARGUMENT.... The same may be said of some passages of St. John, supposed to have been similarly occasioned. Inspiration has ever left to human Reason the filling up of its outlines, the careful connexion of its more isolated truths. The two are, as the lightning of Heaven, brilliant, penetrating, far-flashing, abrupt,—compared with the feebler but continuous illumination of some earthly beacon[584]."

"In a train of inspired Seasoning," (as the same writer elsewhere remarks,) "each new premiss may have been supernaturally communicated; and thus, in point of fact, the inspired reasoner but connects the different threads of the Divine Counsels; exemplifies how 'deep answereth to deep' in the mysteries of Revelation; and presents, in one connected train of argument, those words of GOD which had been uttered 'at sundry times and in divers manners[585]'"

To conclude.—There is no such thing as inconsequential Reasoning to be met with in the writings of St. Paul[586]—no such thing as arbitrary Accommodation of the Old Testament Scriptures, in the New:—though not a few have thought it; and the language of many more writers, Papist as well as Protestant, is calculated to convey the same mischievous impression[587]. The hypothesis is as unworthy of ourselves,—with our boasted critical resources and many appliances of varied learning,—as it is derogatory to the Sacred Oracles to which it is applied. It is a deadly blow, aimed at the very Inspiration of Scripture itself; for it pretends to discover a human element only, where we have a right to expect a Divine one: an irresponsible dictum, when we listened for the voice of the SPIRIT; the hand of man, where we depended on finding the very Finger of GOD! We come to the blessed pages, for Divinity, and we are put off with Rhetoric. We come for bread, and the critics we speak of offer us a stone.

I will not detain you any longer. No apology can be needed for the subject which has been engaging our attention[588]. Those who watch "the signs of the times" attentively, will bear me witness that unbelief is one fearful note of the coming age. The self-same principle, working in different classes of minds, produces results diametrically different: but it is still the same principle which is at work. Unbelief is no less the cause why so many have forsaken the Church of their Fathers, to run after the blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits of the Church of Rome,—than it is the parent of that shallow Rationalism which unhappily is now so popular among us.... Intimations of what is to be hereafter, may be every now and then detected. At intervals, hoarse sounds, from a distance, are known to smite upon the listening ear; signals of the coming danger,—sure harbingers of the approaching storm.—Holy Scripture is the stronghold against which the Enemy will make his assault, assuredly: nor can we employ ourselves better than by building one another up in reverence for its Inspired Oracles: opposing to the crafts of the Evil One the simplicity of a child-like faith; and resolutely refusing to see less than GOD, in GOD'S Word!

This must be the preacher's apology for disputing where he would rather adore; for discussing the Revelations of Scripture, instead of feeding upon them; especially at this holy Season when the Apostle's exhortation finds an echo in all our services:—the mouth, engaged in the constant confession that JESUS is the LORD,—the heart, filled with the thought of Him, who as at this time died for our sins, and rose again for our Justification.

GOD grant us grace,—at this and every other time,—so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve Him in pureness of living and truth: through the merits of the same His SON, JESUS CHRIST our LORD!

FOOTNOTES:

[526] Preached at St. Mary-the-Virgin, April 27, 1851.

[527] See above, pp. 55-7.

[528] 2 St. Pet. i. 21.

[529] See above, pp. 53-4.

[530] See above, pp. 157-160.

[531] Harm. Apost. Diss. Post., cap. xi. 3.

[532] See above, pp. 152-7.

[533] Consider again the Divine exposition, (in 1 St. John v. 6,) of St. John xix. 34.

[534] See Dr. Mill's Christian Advocate's publication for 1844, The Historical Character of the circumstances of our LORD's Nativity vindicated against some recent mythical interpreters,—especially p. 402 to p. 434.

[535] Cf. Phil. iii. 7-9.

[536] Consider St. John vi. 46, and all similar places.

[537] On the words, H de ek pistes dikaiosyn hout legei,—Theodoret remarks:—Anti tou, peri de ts ek pistes dikaiosyns, houts legei ou gar h dikaiosyn tauta legei, alla dia Mses, ho tn holn Theos, peri tou nomou tauta eirke didaskn Ioudaious hs dicha ponn tn tn prakten didaskalian edexanto.—Theodoret, Cat., p. 374.

[538] Our E. V., following the translations since Cranmer's, here inserts the word "again,"—which is certainly not implied by the Greek.

[539] The expression is, of course, wholly dissimilar from that in Ps. cvii. 23,—hoi katabainontes eis thalassan en ploiois, k. t. l.

[540] I cannot forbear transcribing the following passage in an elaborate apology which has recently appeared for Essays and Reviews:—"Among the many proposals which are floating about for Essays and Counter-essays to vindicate the Doctrines supposed to be combated in this volume, let us be allowed to suggest this one:—'The Nature of Biblical Inspiration, as tested by a careful examination of the Septuagint Version with special reference to the sanction given to it by the Apostles, and to its variations, by way of addition or omission, from the revised Text of the Canonical Scriptures.' The conclusions of such an investigation would be worth a hundred eager declarations on one side or the other, and would be absolutely decisive of the chief questions at issue." (Edinburgh Review, April, 1861, p. 483.).... Now I scruple not to affirm that a well-informed, and faithful student of the Scriptures would covet no better portion for himself than liberty to accept, in the most public manner possible, such a challenge as the foregoing.

[541] See the valuable exposition of the text, by Bp. Bull, in the Appendix (K),—to which I am very largely indebted.

[542] Opposed to Bp. Bull in his opinion, on this matter, seem Ainsworth, Patrick, Parker (Biblioth. Bibl.), Cornelius Lapide, the Critici Sacri, &c. I cannot but think that the truth is with the first-named Commentator.

[543] See 2 Cor. vi. 16, (quoting Lev. xxvi. 12), where see Wordsworth's note. Heb. viii. 6-13, especially ver. 10, (quoting Jer. xxxi. 33. Comp. Jer. xxiv. 7: xxx. 22: xxxi. 1: xxxii. 38.) Compare Rom. ix. 25, 26, (also 1 St. Pet. ii. 10,) with Hos. ii. 23: i. 10. See also Ezek. xi. 20: xiv. 11: xxxvi. 28: xxxvii. 27; and Zech. viii. 8: xiii. 9. Lastly, consider Rev. xxi. 3; where "the types of the itinerant Tabernacle in the Wilderness, the figurative ritual and festal joys of the Feast of Tabernacles, celebrated in the literal Jerusalem, are consummated in the Heavenly Jerusalem." (Wordsworth.) See also Rev. vii. 15, with the annotation of the same Commentator.

[544] prokekyrmenn ... eis Christon. Gal. iii. 17.

[545] Deut. xxix. 14, 15.

[546] Acts ii. 39: Compare iii. 25.

[547] Jer. xxxi. 32. Consider verses 33-4 quoted in Heb. x. 16, 17. See above, note (t, [our 544]).

[548] St. John xi. 49-52.

[549] "Diligenter observandum est, ex consensu Hebrorum, caput hoc ad regnum CHRISTI pertinere. Unde etiam Bachai dicit, hoc loco promissionem esse quod sub Rege MESSIAH omnibus qui de federe sunt, circumcisio cordis contingat, citans Joelem, ii. 28."—Fagius, (in the Critici Sacri,) on Deut. xxx. 11.

[550] "Apostolus dicit hoc esse verbum fidei, quod ad Novum Testamentum pertinet. Qu ergo scripta sunt in libro legis hujus in figur dicta sunt, pertinentia ad Novum Testamentum."—Augustinus, in Nic. Lyra, ad loc.

[551] Deut. xxx. 11-14.

[552] Rom. x. 4.

[553] Art. vii.

[554] St. John iii. 13.

[555] 1 Tim. iii. 16.

[556] The reader is invited to consider Acts ii. 24 to 31,—attending particularly to what St. Peter says in ver. 30-1. "Even without this key," (says Dr. M'Caul,) "the Rabbis interpreted Psalm xvi. of the Resurrection."

[557] See above, pp. 171-2.

[558] St. Pet. i. 11.

[559] "Though I think it clear that the Prophets did not understand the full meaning of their predictions; it is another question how far they thought they did, and in what sense they understood them."—Butler's Analogy, P. II. ch. vii.

[560] See Acts xxvi. 22, 23: xxviii. 23. St. John i. 46: v. 46. St. Luke xxiv. 27, &c.

[561] Prov. xxx. 4.

[562] e.g. "Si quis dixerit mulieri, Si adscenderis in firmamentum, aut descenderis in abyssum, eris mihi desponsata,—hc conditio frustranea est."—Nasir ix. 2, apud Wetstein, (in Rom. x. 6.)

[563] "The whole passage (Prov. xxx. 2-5,) may be thus paraphrased:—With my limited understanding I cannot attain the knowledge of GOD; for to know GOD, is to know Him who is omnipresent, filling Heaven and Earth; it is to know Him who is omnipotent, ruling over the winds and the waters, the most unstable of all elements; it is to know Him who created all things; it is to know His Name, and the name of His SON. But this knowledge can be attained only by Revelation: and he that would attain to it even from Revelation, must not pass over any one word as insignificant, for every word is purified like silver: neither must he add to Revelation, or he will be sure to go astray."—From the Appendix (pp. 46-7) to a Sermon by Dr. M'Caul, on The Eternal Sonship of the Messiah, 1838. (Interesting and precious as this paraphrase is, I humbly suspect that the words in italics contain a vast deal more than the learned writer indicates.)

[564] Baruch iii. 29.

[565] St. Matth. xii. 20.

[566] Zech. ix. 11.

[567] Consider Ps. cxxxix. 7. Amos ix. 2, 3.

[568] St. John iii. 13.

[569] Ibid. vi. 33, 38, 51, 62.

[570] Ibid. xvi. 28.

[571] Ephes. iv. 9, 10.

[572] See above, pp. 176-7.

[573] St. Matth. viii. 17.

[574] St. Matth. ii. 23. See above, p. 149.

[575] Ibid. ii. 15.

[576] St. Matth. ii. 18.

[577] Ibid. xxi. 16.

[578] St. Luke xx. 37.

[579] St. John vii. 37, 38.

[580] Col. ii. 3.

[581] Heb. ii. 12, 13; quoting Ps. xxi. 23 and Is. viii. 17.

[582] 1 Cor. xii., xiii., xiv.

[583] Pseudo-Fell's Paraphrase and Annotations on the New Testament, (Jacobson's ed.), in loc.

[584] Professor Archer Butler, quoted in Professor Lee's Discourses on Inspiration, pp. 415-6.

[585] Ibid., p. 586.

[586] See above, pp. 132-7

[587] See the Appendix, (L).

[588] In the earlier part of the present Sermon many passages have been re-written. What follows stands exactly as it was preached in 1851.



SERMON VII.[589]

* * * * *

THE MARVELS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE,—MORAL AND PHYSICAL.—JAEL'S DEED DEFENDED.—MIRACLES VINDICATED.

* * * * *

ST. MARK xii. 24.

Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God.

On a certain occasion, the Son of Man was asked what was thought a hard question by those who, in His day, professed "the negative Theology[590]." There was a moral and there was physical marvel to be solved. Both difficulties were met by a single sentence. The Sadducean judgment had gone astray from the Truth, (planasthe our SAVIOUR said,) from a twofold cause: (1) The men did not understand those very Scriptures to which they appealed so confidently: and, (2) They had an unworthy notion of GOD'S power.—There are plenty of Sadducees at the present day among ourselves. They are as fond as ever of finding difficulties in the self-same Scriptures. They are to be met, I am persuaded, exactly as of old; by shewing that their error is still the fruit of their ignorance of Scripture; the consequence of their unworthy conceptions of GOD. I propose to illustrate this on the present occasion. My subject, (one certainly not unsuited to the day,) is the Marvels of Scripture,—whether Moral or Physical. I would fain have discussed them apart; but I shall not have another opportunity. I must handle the whole subject therefore within the limits of a single Sermon: and by consequence I must be extremely brief.

Now, I venture to assume that whatever, from its extraordinary character, perplexes us in Scripture, is a difficulty only to ourselves; that moral Marvels and physical Miracles, alike, would cease to create any difficulty if we knew more about GOD. The Morality of the Life to come, I do believe will prove none other than the Morality of the life which now is; and so I presume that it may be their Divine Author's will, that the physical Laws of the Universe shall be eternal likewise. And yet, as no thoughtful man will probably be found to say that he thinks he knows as much about the nature of these last now, as he expects to know hereafter,—so it is to be presumed that a sublimer, and therefore a juster view of the relation in which the Creature stands to the CREATOR, will disclose to us much which, at present, we should be little prepared to admit, if it were speculatively presented to us, ("as in a glass, darkly,") respecting the Moral Government of GOD.

I. In the very fore-front, however, of what I have to say concerning those phenomena which are generally cited as the Moral Marvels of Holy Scripture, I must freely declare my opinion that nothing is wanted but that the whole of the historical evidence should be before us, in every case, in order that we might cease to look upon them as marvels at all. But so it is, that Scripture is severely brief: takes no pains to conciliate our good opinion: seems to care nothing either for our applause or our censure. Scripture, in short, has been made an instrument of Man's probation[591]. It is for us to search curiously into the record; to take an enlarged view of times and manners; and finally, in the exercise of a generous Faith, to decide whether the difficulty is such as ought to occasion us any real distress. I proceed, in this spirit, to consider, as briefly as possible, the history of Jael; simply because I have heard stronger things said against her, than against any of the Worthies of old time who are mentioned with distinct approbation in the Book of Life.

1. Now, if you choose to consider Jael as one who lured a weary and unsuspecting soldier into her tent,—shewed him hospitality,—and when he was asleep, murdered him in cold blood,—you certainly cannot help recoiling from the inspired decision that, "Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be." But I take the liberty of saying that this is quite the wrong way to read her story. You must begin it from the other end.

GOD pronounces this woman blessed, and distinctly commends her for her deed. From this point you must start; remembering that no action CAN be immoral which GOD praises. The Divine sentence, instead of creating a difficulty, is, on the contrary, exactly the thing which removes it[592]. To weigh the story apart from this, (which is the prime consideration of all,) is like condemning the immorality of an executioner without caring to hear that he is but carrying out the sentence of the Lawgiver. Furnished with the clue of GOD'S approbation of Jael's deed, we retrace our steps, and reconsider the narrative. If all were still dark and hopeless, we might be sure that there are circumstances withheld, which if known would have made GOD'S justice clear as the light. But, as a matter of fact, it generally happens that, when we "know the Scriptures," the difficulty in great measure disappears; and I am going to shew that it is so on the present occasion.

I find that when the people of GOD were on their way out of Egypt into Canaan, they were indebted to one family (the Kenites) for kindness and help[593]. The head of that family was Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, high-priest of Midian,—in which land the LORD, from the burning bush, had commissioned the future Lawgiver of Israel to redeem His people from the bondage of Egypt. Jethro met them in the Arabian desert; became their guide[594] till they reached the promised Land; and with them entered the borders of their future possession. It was a covenant between the two races that they should share the goodness of JEHOVAH. Accordingly, the Kenites made their settlement amid the Royal tribe of Judah; and it is easy to foresee how close a bond would spring up between the alien family and their avowed protectors, when, to the memory of past dangers shared together, was superadded the consciousness of present blessings;—especially in an age when the law of hospitality was held most sacred. How strong the bond became, the sequel of the story convincingly shews[595]. The children of Israel, at the end of a hundred and fifty years, find themselves cruelly oppressed by the most powerful of the Kings of the conquered but not extirpated race. GOD promises deliverance: and Deborah is raised up to organize the resistance against Jabin, "the captain of whose host was Sisera." Now, while Heber the Kenite is gone with the rest to the battle,—(for he had pitched his tent, remember, by Kedesh; and it was from Kedesh[596] that Deborah "sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam;")—while Heber, the husband, I say, is gone to the battle, and Jael the wife is left alone, distracted with anxiety, in the tent;—when, weak and unprotected woman as she is, she beholds the Captain of the hateful oppressor of GOD'S people hastening to her tent, slumbering at her feet, and unexpectedly within her power:—will you pretend that she, a Midianitess, is to blame if she yields to the strong impulse which prompts her to compass the man's downfall, as speedily as she may? "There was peace between Jabin the King of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite[597]," you will remind me. True: (between Jabin,—not between Sisera, by the way:) without this, the whole incident would not have happened. Sisera presumed on the peaceful relations which existed between his lord and Heber; and supposed that the sympathy of one alien race for another was to outweigh every other consideration. Yet, how stood the case? Heber had thrown in his lot, irrevocably, with the people of GOD; while Jabin had already utterly violated the conditions of peace. For twenty weary years, had Jael and her family shared the hardships of that sacred line which Jabin had "mightily oppressed." All her life long[598], the highways have been unoccupied; and travellers have had to walk through by-ways; and the villages have been deserted by their inhabitants. Archers have infested the very places of drawing water[599]. Meanwile, a sure word has gone forth from the Prophetess who dwells under the palm-tree between Ramah and Bethel on Mount Ephraim[600], to the effect that GOD will give a mighty victory this day to His people[601]. Moreover, Deborah, (to whom the children of Israel go up for judgment,) has foretold that the LORD will "sell Sisera into the hand of a woman[602]". How can you marvel at the rest!... With a faith strong and undoubting as Rahab's, Jael,—weak woman as she is,—seizes the wooden tent-pin and the mallet, (the only weapons which are within her reach!); and, (somewhat as David afterwards employed a stone and a sling for the slaughter of the Philistine,) with these vile instruments, at one blow, she smites to the earth the enemy of God's people.... O, it was not because she was treacherous, or because she was cruel! Treachery and cruelty were not the vices to which a dweller in tents (and she a woman!) was prone, when a thirsty soldier begged a draught of water; and most assuredly, had she been either, she would not,—she could not, have won praise from God! (Witness GOD'S wrath against David in the matter of Uriah, because he had no pity[603]; as well as dying Jacob's denunciations against Simeon and Levi because "instruments of cruelty" were "in their habitations[604].") O no! It was because she beheld in the slumbering captain at once the enemy of her own afflicted race,—and of GOD'S oppressed people,—and above all of GOD Himself. That was why "she put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workman's hammer!" ... The fight, you are requested to remember, had been a tremendous fight; and the battle, as she thought, was yet raging. Reuben, and Dan, and Asher had kept aloof from the encounter;—the first, in his rich pasture-land east of the Jordan, abiding "among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks;" the two others, intent on their maritime pursuits. Only some of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh[605], had been found willing to throw in their lot with the two northern tribes of Zebulun, and Naphtali,—who had "jeoparded their lives unto the death." And the battle which these had fought had been the LORD'S; and as many as had taken part with them, were considered to have come "to the help of the LORD." Such then was the quarrel which Jael had made her own; and such the spirit in which she had done her wild deed of unassisted prowess!

To appreciate her constancy and courage, you may not overlook how fearful were the odds against the cause she was espousing: on the oppressor's side, nine hundred chariots of iron; whereas, "was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?" It had been so terrific a day, that if the LORD had not been on their side,—if the stars in their courses had not fought for Israel,—how could Sisera have possibly been overcome? But the very river was employed to sweep the enemies of Israel away,—"that ancient river, the river Kishon!" ... Now I boldly ask you, if the Angel of the LORD may curse bitterly the inhabitants of Meroz, "because they came not to the help of the LORD,"—(pray mark that phrase; for it shows exactly in what light the conflict was regarded!)—"to the help of the LORD against the mighty;" shall we wonder if, by the Spirit of GOD, Deborah the prophetess proclaims "blessed above women in the tent" Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite to be;—the undaunted one by whose right hand the captain of all that mighty host had been slain? Find me another "woman in the tent" who may be compared with her! ... Or rather, (for that is the only question,) shall these words embolden us to impeach the morality of Holy Writ?... I am sure there is not one of you all who really thinks it. She was—was she not?—a courageous, a faithful, and (according to her light,) a strictly virtuous woman. She was content to risk all, "as seeing Him who is invisible:" and to believe that "they that be with us are more than they that be with them[606]." From the unmistakeable evidence of her uncompromising boldness in a good cause, her unwavering faith, her readiness to cast in her lot with the people of GOD,—no one but a hypocrite will turn away to criticize the details of her deed by the Gospel standard of Grace and Truth. "He asked for water, and she gave him milk." What would you have had her do? It is by no means certain that she foresaw the deed which was to follow, and which cannot, (from the nature of the case,) have been the result of a preconcerted plan. The impulse to terminate the tyranny of Canaan, and the sufferings of her adopted people, as well as to decide the fortune of that critical day, by slaying one whom she regarded as the enemy of GOD Himself, may have seized her while she stood in the door of the tent,—weighing Sisera's petition against Deborah's prophecy. Be this as it may,—would you have had the woman connive at Sisera's escape,—the enemy of GOD'S people, when GOD Himself had unexpectedly put him into her power?

It will assist us to understand this story, that we should bear in mind how it fared with Ahab, King of Israel, in the matter of Ben-hadad, King of Syria, as recorded in the xxth chapter of the First Book of Kings. "Thus saith the LORD," (was the Divine sentence,) "Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people[607]." It is quite evident that as the enemy of GOD, in the strictest sense, each fresh oppressor of Israel was regarded; and that, as the enemy of the LORD GOD of Israel, Sisera was summarily slain by the Kenite's wife.

Be so good as to remember also, that forgiveness of enemies is strictly a Christian duty. You have no right to expect to find the brightest jewels of the kingdom of Heaven glittering on the swarthy brow of an Arabian wife in the days of the Judges. "Grace and Truth came by JESUS CHRIST[608]." You cannot expect to find the wife of Heber the Kenite more truthful than Sarah, and Rebekah, and Rachel,—or even than Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and David: neither should you be so unreasonable as to expect that the GOD of Truth will award praise and blame to His creatures by a higher standard of Morality than He has seen fit, at any given period, to allow. A perfectly enlightened conscience, no doubt, will never consent to lie. A Christian woman in Jael's place, ought not, of course, to be guilty of Jael's deed. But you are forgetting the time of the world in which your lot is thrown. I say nothing of the circumstances of terror under which she acted,—she was forced to act. How could she tell that Sisera would not awake ere she should strike the blow,—or at least before she could achieve his death? What if a company of Jabin's host should come up to the tent-door, the instant she had done the deed, and inquire after Sisera? Suppose the issue of that day's encounter should prove disastrous, what would be her own and Heber's fate?... Feel a little for the poor wife,—for the lonely, helpless "woman in the tent,"—not entirely for the fierce soldier against whom you have heard the LORD'S decree of death!... O ye, who, living in the full blaze of Gospel light, in cold blood can reject the doctrine of the Atonement, and deny the LORD who bought you, and teach that the Bible is "like any other book;" who can make light of its Inspiration, and evacuate its Prophecy, and idealize its Miracles; who with your lips can profess the Church's doctrines, and with your pens can deny them;—go ye and prate of Morality, and Honesty, and Truth! We shall heed mighty little your opinion of Jael's conduct, and of the Divine Commendation which it met with. I believe that, instead of suspecting the morality of the Bible in this instance, there is hardly an honest Christian heart among us, but cries out, on the contrary,—"So let all Thine enemies perish, O LORD! But let them that love Him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might."

2. There is no time to consider, as I fain would, any other story; that of Jacob for example. It is quite amazing to hear the presumptuous speeches concerning that great Saint, in which good men sometimes permit themselves: as if the sum total of Jacob's history were this:—that he once obtained an ungenerous advantage over his Brother, and then shamefully deceived his blind and aged Father. Whereas those were the two great blots in an otherwise holy life! actions which were followed by severe, aye lifelong punishment.—But I must not enter on Jacob's history,—even to shew you that a careless reader overlooks certain circumstances which go a very long way indeed to excuse the actions just alluded to. I prefer reminding you that since, at Bethel, GOD blessed the exile's slumbers with a glorious vision, and most comfortable promise, on his first setting out for Haran; and again at Jabbok, as well as at Mahanaim, blessed him with a vision of Angels, and a renewal of the blessing, on his return; from this point, as before, it will be our wisdom to reason; and we shall reason backwards. Had Scripture been quite silent in all other respects, such proofs of the Divine approval ought to be enough to convince a believing heart that the only thing wanting must be fuller details,—more evidence,—in order to shew us that the Patriarch deserved the SPIRIT'S praise. But in truth, in Jacob's case, the details are abundant and the evidence decisive.

3. Of all the other (so called) difficulties which occur to my memory,—as the extinction of the Canaanites, (who yet were not extinguished,)—the Sacrifice of Isaac, (who yet was not sacrificed,)—the life of David;—I have only to say that before you can pretend to have an opinion upon the subject you must be sure that you "know the Scriptures:" else, I make bold to say, you will inevitably err in your cogitations concerning them. Thus, men are heard to insinuate astonishment that the King who so basely compassed Uriah's death should have been "a man after GOD'S own heart:" whereas the Hebrew original, (as they would know, if they knew the Scriptures,) conveys nothing of the kind; while the murder of Uriah is found to have drawn down upon David unmitigated wrath and terrible punishment from the right Hand of Him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.

II. Turn we now, briefly, to the physical Marvels which are described in the Bible; and chiefly those which occur in the Old Testament.

I am about to speak of Miracles in general; but it may be convenient to say a few words first about certain mighty transactions which eclipse, by their vastness or their strangeness, most isolated events. Thus, as the Nativity, Temptation, Transfiguration, Resurrection, Ascension, of our LORD, together with the Coming of the HOLY GHOST, eclipse in a manner the other Miracles of the New Testament,—so the Temptation of our first Parents, the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and the fate of Lot's wife, the burning bush, the Plagues which prepared the way for the Exode, the crossing of the Red Sea, the Manna, and the brazen Serpent; Balaam's ass, and the fate of the walls of Jericho; the history of Jonah, and of Daniel among the lions:—events like these stand out from the Old Testament narrative and challenge astonishment.

Of all these latter events, viewed as difficulties,—(for it is as difficulties in the way of Revelation that we are now expected to look on Miracles,)—you are requested to observe that they enjoy, one and all, the confirmation of express citation in the New Testament. I am saying that either St. Paul, or St. Peter, or St. James, or (above all) our Blessed LORD Himself, appeal to, or else explain, every one of these marvellous passages in Old Testament History. And this is the only remark I propose to offer concerning any of them. It will certainly prove unavailing to convince a certain class of persons of the historical reality of the Deluge, to find that our SAVIOUR, that St. Peter, and St. Paul, have all spoken of it as an actual event:—Men who are disposed to reject the story of the dumb ass speaking with man's voice, will not perhaps believe it one whit the more because they find it appealed to by St. Peter[609]:—and the Divine exposition offered by CHRIST Himself of Jonah, three days and three nights in the fish's belly, will not, it may be feared, reconcile others to an event which strikes them as being too improbable to be true. But this, at least, will infallibly result from the discovery:—men will perceive that they must positively make their election; and either accept the Bible as a whole, or else reject it as a whole; for that there is no middle course open to them. The New Testament stands committed irrevocably to the Old. Every Book of the Bible stands committed to all the other Books. Not only does our LORD quote the Canon in its collected form, and call it "the Law and the prophets,"—or simply h graph, "the Scripture,"—and so set His seal upon it, as one undivided and indivisible roll of Inspiration; but He and His Apostles single out the very narratives which the imbecility of Man was most likely to stumble at, and employ them for such purposes, and in such a manner, that escape from them shall henceforth be altogether hopeless. To eliminate the marvels of Scripture, I say, is impossible; for a Divine Hand has been laid upon almost every one of them. The subsequent references are not only most numerous, but they run into the very staple of the narrative,—and will not,—cannot be eradicated.

I question whether all students of the inspired page are aware of the extent to which what I have been saying holds true. Let me only invite you to investigate the structure of the Bible under this aspect, and you will be astonished at the result. For you will find that the system of tacit quotation and allusive reference is so perpetual, that it is as if the design had been that the fibres should be incapable of being disentangled any more. Balaam's story for example in the Book of Numbers, is found alluded to in Deuteronomy, in Joshua, in Micah, in Nehemiah; by St. Peter, by St. Jude, and by St. John in the Apocalypse[610].—The Exodus, with its attendant wonders, is alluded to in Joshua, and in Judges, and in Job, and in the Psalms; in Amos, and Isaiah, and Micah, and Hosea, and Jeremiah, and Daniel; in Kings, in Samuel, in Nehemiah; and in the New Testament repeatedly[611]. The Evangelists quote one another times without number. In the Epistles, the Gospels are quoted upwards of fifty times; and St. Peter quotes St. Paul again and again. It is a favourite device of these last days to hint at the allegorical character of the beginning of Genesis. But I find upwards of thirty references in the New Testament to the first two Chapters of Genesis[612]. Certain parts of Daniel have incurred suspicion,—for no better reason, as it seems, than because certain persons have found it hard to believe that Prophecy can be "an anticipation of History[613]." Now it is strange certainly to find a thing objected to for being what it is: and "Prophecy is nothing but the history of events before they come to pass,"—as Butler remarked long ago[614]. Waiving this, however, you are requested to observe that our SAVIOUR quotes from those very parts of Daniel which have been objected to. You cannot get rid of those parts of Daniel therefore. You are not to suppose that the Bible is like an old house, where a window may be darkened, or a door blocked up, according to the caprice of every fresh occupant. The terms on which men dwell there are that every part of the structure shall be inhabited; and that every part shall be retained in its integrity. What I am insisting upon is, that the sacred Writers plainly say,—We stand or we fall together. They reach forth their hands, and they hold one another fast. They rehearse comprehensive Genealogies,—they furnish a summary view of long histories,—they enumerate the various worthies of old time, and cite their deeds in order. They recognize one another's voices, and they interpret one another's thoughts, and they adopt one another's sayings. Verily the Bible is not "like any other Book!" The prophets and Apostles and Evangelists of either covenant reach out one to another; and lo, among them is seen the form of One like the SON of GOD.... How far it may be rational to reject the Bible, I will not now discuss: but it is demonstrable that a man cannot accept the Bible, and straightway propose to omit from it one jot or one tittle of its contents. As for abstracting from Scripture the marvels of Scripture, it is precisely for the protection and preservation of them, as I have been shewing, that the most curious and abundant provision has been made.

1. The miracles, properly so called, whether of the Old or New Testament, have lately been cavilled at with exceeding bitterness[615]. That they are sufficiently attested, is allowed[616]; the objection is a (so called) Philosophical one, and is briefly this,—that the Laws of Nature being fixed and immutable, it is contrary not only to experience, but also to reason, to suppose that they have ever been suspended, or violated, or interrupted. Events "contrary to the order of Nature,"—events which would introduce "disorder" into Creation,—are pronounced incredible.—This is a very old objection; but it has been lately revived. I will dispose of it as briefly as I can.

You are requested to observe then, that this difficulty,—(such as it is,)—is entirely occasioned by the terms in which it is stated. Who ever asserted that Miracles are "violations of natural causes[617]?" "suspensions of natural laws[618]?" Who ever said that the effect of Miracles is to "interrupt"—"violate"—"reverse,"—the Laws of Nature? Why assume "contrariety" and "disorder" in a kosmos which seems to have had no experience of either?

But GOD is, I suppose, superior to His own Laws! He is not the creature of circumstances,—even of His own creating. Supreme is He in Creation,—albeit in a manner which baffles thought. He does not even suspend His Laws, perhaps, so much as fulfil them after a Diviner fashion;—somewhat as He was fulfilling the Mosaic Economy even while He seemed to be violating one or other of its sanctions. He does not reverse or disorder the fixed course of Nature, so much as rise above it, and shew Himself superior to it. He does not disturb anything, but our notions of His mode of acting. GOD coming suddenly to view in Nature, (which is an essential part of the notion of a miracle,) occasions perplexity, it is true; but only because we do not understand fully either Nature or GOD. "We know Him not as He is, neither indeed can know Him." While of Nature, we know nothing but a few Laws which we have discovered by a long and laborious induction of phenomena. In fact, this whole manner of speaking concerning the Creator of the Universe, with reference to the Laws which He is found to have prescribed to things natural, has, I suspect, some great foolishness in it: for, even if we do not so far dishonour GOD as to imagine that He is subject to Law, yet we seem to imply that we think ourselves capable of understanding the relation in which He stands to Law. Whereas, the very notion of Law may be utterly inapplicable to GOD,—who is not only its first Author, (as He is indeed the first Author of all things,) but the very source and cause of it also. So that what are Laws to ourselves may be not so much as Law at all to GOD; but, (if I may so speak,) something which depends on "the counsel of His will," and which, (considered as a restraining cause,) is to Him as if it were not. There can be no miracles with GOD[619]!

Briefly then:—That He who, (surely I may say confessedly,) is above Law, when He manifests Himself in the midst of Creation, should act in a manner which defies conception; and yet should disturb nothing, reverse nothing, violate nothing;—(except to be sure, possibly, certain preconceived notions of His rational creatures;)—in this, I say, there is surely nothing either incredible or absurd.

2. So much, to say the truth, seems to be admitted, by all but professed Atheists. But then, certain formul have been invented to bridge over the difficulty, which Miracles are supposed to occasion, which I cannot but think are just as objectionable as unbelief itself.

By way of saving the credit of "the Laws of the Universe," a kind of compromise has been discovered; to which I do not find that GOD has been made any party.

The idea of Law, which has been falsely declared to be only now "emerging into supremacy in Science[620]," seems to have usurped such a dominion over the minds of a few persons, superficially acquainted with Physical studies, that Miracles can be only tolerated on the supposition that they are "the exact fulfilment of much more extensive Laws than those we suppose to exist[621]." We are kindly assured that what we call a Miracle is not "an exception to those laws which we know, but really the fulfilment of a wider Law which we did not know before[622]." Men are eager to remind us that this is the view of Bp. Butler[623], (whom every one, I observe, is fond of having for an ally.) Thus, a very recent writer says,—"What we call interferences may, (as Bp. Butler observed long ago,) be fulfilments of general laws not perfectly apprehended by us[624]."—But I cannot find that Bp. Butler anywhere says anything of the sort. What Butler says, is,—that we know nothing of the laws of storms and earthquakes,—tempers and geniuses;—yet we conclude, (but only from analogy,) that all these seemingly accidental things are the result of general laws. Now, (he proceeds,) since it is only "from our finding that the course of Nature, in some respects and so far, goes on by general laws, that we conclude this of the rest;"—it is credible "that GOD'S miraculous interpositions may have been, all along, in like manner, by general laws of WISDOM." Butler says that it "may have been by general laws," "that the affairs of the world, being permitted to go on in their natural course so far, should, just at such a point, have a new direction given them by miraculous interposition." He does not say, you observe, that those "miraculous interpositions" are "the exact fulfilment of much more extensive Laws than those we suppose to exist;" (as if a larger induction were all that was needed, in order to get rid of the obnoxious word "Miracle:")—not, that Miracles may be "fulfilments of general laws not perfectly apprehended by us;" (as if the only thing wanted, were an enlargement of the human formula, in order to bring a miraculous interposition within the definition of an extraordinary phenomenon.) Such notions belong altogether to the inventors of calculating machines; whose speculations, even concerning Divine things, clearly cannot soar above their instrument[625]. It is called the "argument from laws intermitting[626];" and evidently reduces a miracle to a phenomenon of periodical recurrence. The aloe, watched for ninety-nine years and observed to blossom in the hundredth, is (according to this view) an emblem of the constitution of Nature at last interrupted by a Miracle.

I will not waste your time further with this view of the subject, having exposed its fallacy. Station yourself, in thought, at the grave of Lazarus; and see him that was dead and had been four days buried, come forth bound hand and foot with grave-clothes;—and then prate of any "general Laws," except those "OF WISDOM," to as many as you can get to listen to you. A "miraculous interposition," (as Butler phrases it,) has given a new direction to affairs which, so far, had been permitted to go in their natural course. That "general Laws" of inscrutable Wisdom determined such a "miraculous interposition"—is a position which, so far from objecting to, I embrace with both the arms of my heart[627].

3. Another favourite recipe there is for escaping from the bondage of Miracles, which is so childish, that it would seem scarcely to deserve notice: but that it has been largely resorted to by writers of whom the world thinks highly. Those men, in a word, try to explain them away where they can: where they cannot, they pare them down as much as they are able, or rather as much as they dare. Demoniacal possession? Symptoms like those described are known to accompany epilepsy. Manna? Something like it falls in the wilderness of Sinai to this hour. The Red Sea parted? Well, but a strong East wind blew all night. Stilling the storm, and healing Peter's wife's mother? Every storm is stilled if let alone; and a fever will burn out, often without occasioning death. The miraculous draught of fishes, and the stater in the fish's mouth?... but you can readily supply a suggestion for yourselves.

Now, two remarks present themselves on this kind of handling, which may be worth stating. (1) Those who so speak forget that the Devils are related to have conversed with CHRIST[628]:—that the manna, (of which so many miraculous properties are related[629],) fed 600,000 men for forty years, and then suddenly ceased[630]:—that the waters of the Red Sea were a wall to the children of Israel, on their right hand and on their left[631]:—that when CHRIST said to the waves of the sea of Galilee "Peace, be still," "there was a great calm[632]:"—that Peter's wife's mother, cured of her fever, "rose and ministered unto," (that is "waited upon,") her Benefactor[633].... It is worse than absurd to explain away part of a miracle, with a view to getting rid of the whole of it: as if the essence of the miracle were not sure to reside in the residuum,—in the very part which is left unaccounted for! (2) But above all, what place have such explanations in the recorded cases of feeding the multitudes, opening the eyes of one born blind, and raising the dead? While you leave the chiefest miracles of the Gospel untouched, you may not flatter yourself that you have got at the kernel of the matter; or indeed that the real question at issue has been touched by you, at all.

4. There remains to notice one subtle and most treacherous method of dealing with the marvels of Scripture,—(moral and physical alike,)—to which I desire in conclusion to direct your special attention; and which I would brand with burning words if I had them at command. I allude to what is called "IDEOLOGY,"—the plain English for which term is, a denial of the historical reality of Scripture. I will not waste time with inquiring whether this method is old or new. It is certainly much in fashion; and it is certainly finding advocates in high quarters. I therefore make no apology for introducing the monstrous thing to your notice. It requires, I should hope, only to be understood, to be rejected with unqualified indignation.

You and I, then, have been taught to believe that "the WORD was made flesh and dwelt among us," in the way St. Matthew and St. Luke describe: that our LORD was Baptized and Tempted of Satan; that He wrought Miracles,—casting out Devils, and even raising the Dead; that He was Transfigured on a mountain; that He was Crucified, died, and was buried; that He rose again the Third Day, ascended into Heaven, and at last, (as on this day,) sent down the PARACLETE to dwell with His Church for ever. All this, I say, you and I,—with the whole Church Catholic for 1800 years,—have been taught to believe as plain historical truths, mere matters of fact; past telling wonderful indeed, but yet as historically true, as that I am standing here and you are sitting yonder,—neither more nor less.

But you are to understand that we, and all mankind with us, have been under a very curious delusion on this head. We are assured that every one of these things, or at least that some of them, are only ideologically true: that Historically, they are false. In plain language, we are requested to believe that they never occurred at all. It is only a lively way of putting it,—no more!

You will inevitably suppose that I must be trifling with you: I therefore proceed to give you a sample of this kind of teaching. A living dignitary of our Church writes as follows concerning the Transfiguration of CHRIST. "It may be asked, of what kind was the vision which we here call the Transfiguration? Was it an effect produced within on the minds of the Apostles; or was it that an actual external change came for the time over the person of our LORD? We cannot say." I give you this as the mildest form of the poison. Quite evident is it that the same suggestion is just as applicable to our LORD'S Birth, or to His Death; to His Temptation, or to His Resurrection. But to see whither all this tends, and what it really means, you must have recourse to the pages of a more advanced proficient in the Science of Ideology. He admits that its "application to the interpretation of Scripture, to the doctrines of Christianity, to the formularies of the Church, may undoubtedly be pushed so far as to leave in the sacred records no historical residue whatever. An example of the critical ideology carried to excess," (he says,) "resolves into an ideal" the whole of our LORD'S Life and Doctrine; and "substitutes a mere shadow for the JESUS of the Evangelists." But for all that, (says the writer I am quoting,) "there are traits in the Scriptural person of JESUS, which are better explained by referring them to an ideal than an historical origin: parts of Scripture are more usefully interpreted ideologically than in any other manner,—as for instance, the history of the Temptation by Satan, and accounts of Demoniacal possession." This writer, (who is a clergyman of the Church of England, and a Graduate in Divinity,) goes on to idealize the descent of Mankind from Adam and Eve, together with the chiefest marvels of the Old Testament: insisting that "the force, grandeur, and reality of these ideas are not a whit impaired," although we discredit and reject the history, as history. So, our SAVIOUR, (he says,) "is none the less the Son of David, in idea and spiritually, even if it be unproved whether He were so in historic fact." "The spiritual significance is still the same," (he says,) "of the Transfiguration, of opening blind eyes, of causing the tongue of the stammerer to speak plainly, of feeding multitudes with bread in the wilderness, of cleansing leprosy,—whatever links may be deficient in the traditional record of particular events."

"Whatever links may be deficient!" O that men would have the courage or the honesty to say what they mean! Why not say plainly, "however untrustworthy we may account the narrative to be?" And this writer cannot mean any other thing; for missing "links," assuredly, there are none.—In truth this method of wrapping up a monstrous abortion in "purple and fine linen," in order to make it look like "a proper child," is so much in vogue, that plain men are obliged first to translate a fallacy in order to understand it. Thus, a recent Apologist for the very writer I have been quoting,—after surrendering the beginning of Genesis as "parabolic," (that is, not historically true,) is yet so obliging as to contend that "there still remain events" in Scripture,—our LORD'S Resurrection to wit,—"in which the garb of flesh,"—(pray mark the phraseology!)—"in which the garb of flesh seems to be so indispensable a vehicle for the spirit within, that we can hardly conceive how the one could have sustained itself in the world, unless it had been from the beginning allied to the other[634]." In plain English, the writer is so candid as to admit that if the Resurrection of our LORD JESUS CHRIST from death be a mere fabrication,—in plain terms, a hoax practised upon the credulity of an unscientific age,—it is hard to understand how it can have imposed upon mankind so completely for the last eighteen hundred years.

I will not insult the understanding of those who hear me so grossly as to suppose that dreams like these,—(and really they are no more!)—require answer or refutation. Such desperate shifts to elude the meaning of plain words, as the whole theory of Ideology discloses, would be even ludicrous, if the subject-matter were not so very sacred and solemn. As in the case of certain acts of flagrant dishonesty which one sometimes reads of,—one cannot forbear exclaiming, The man must certainly have felt himself very sore pressed indeed to have been induced to resort to a step so utterly disgraceful to his character!... Anyhow, since certain persons have adopted this course, I do but plead for consistency. Only let them be sure that they apply this precious method of Interpretation to the History of England, and to everything their friend tells them: and let them not feel surprised if the same kind of ideological handling is bestowed upon everything they tell their friend. Idealize away, and be sure you stick at nothing! Why be outdone in logical consistency by such an one as Strauss? Let men also make their election whether Scripture shall be a lie or not. And when they have made up their minds, let them, in the Name of GOD, instead of dealing in unmanly insinuations, and dark hints, and shuffling equivocations,—let them declare themselves plainly, that we may know at least with whom and with what we have to do. For while false Brethren are thus playing fast and loose with Revelation, they are trifling with the faith of thousands,—and imperilling other immortal souls besides their own.

But I shall be reminded that the subject-matter of daily life, and of the Everlasting Gospel, is very different: and that the marvellous character of certain events recorded in the Bible constrains us to relegate those events to a distinct region. A child's plea, which was effectually disposed of upwards of a century ago! What does it amount to but this,—that what is supernatural, or even highly extraordinary, must be also untrue?... When, however, the argument is shifted, and is made an appeal ad misericordiam:—when I am entreated to remember that though I believe in the Resurrection of CHRIST from Death, the same event is a "stumbling block" to many; and that I am "bound to treat with tenderness those who prefer to lean on the other, and, as they think, more secure foundation[635];" (viz. on the hypothesis that the Resurrection of the Son of Man is all a fable;)—I say, when I am so addressed, really, friends and Brethren, I am constrained to cry out that there is a limit beyond which Nature cannot endure; and that that limit has now been overstepped. Will men try to persuade us that the idea of our LORD'S Resurrection is a more secure basis for the Church's faith than the fact of our LORD'S Resurrection? Why, they might as well try to convince the world that a broken reed is a better support than an oaken staff;—or that a handful of waste paper is of more value than the title-deeds of an estate. How can a shadow,—how can what is confessedly an imagination,—be, in any sense, or for any body, a "secure foundation;" or indeed, any foundation at all? how, above all, can a fancy be a "more secure foundation" than a fact?... Not only will I not treat men with tenderness who put forth such blasphemous folly,—(men who, in their rashness, their recklessness, their arrogance, shew no manner of tenderness or consideration for others!)—but I will hold them up to ridicule, to the very utmost of my power. Nay, I would make them objects of unqualified reprobation to all, if I could, as they deserve to be reprobated; for they are the worst enemies of the Gospel of CHRIST[636]. "If CHRIST be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is vain also[637]!" "The Apostle rests the truth of the Christian Religion on the fact that CHRIST was risen.... The whole system turns upon this central point; the several doctrines gather round it, they depend upon it, they grow out of it; so that without it, Christianity would have no coherence or meaning[638]."

You and I know very well "that nothing could more effectually shake the whole fabric of Revealed Religion, than thus converting its history into fable, and its realities into fiction. For if the narratives most usually selected for the purpose may thus be explained away; what part of the Sacred History will be secure against similar treatment? Nay, what doctrines, even those the most essential to Christianity, might not thus be undermined? For are not those doctrines dependent upon the facts recorded in Scripture for the evidence of their truth? Does not, for instance, the whole system of our Redemption presuppose the reality of the Fall as an historical fact? And do not the proofs of the Divine authority of the whole, rest upon the verification of its Prophecies and Miracles, as events which have actually taken place? Allegory thus misapplied is therefore worse than frivolous or useless; it strikes a deadly blow at the very vitals of the Christian Faith[639]." Away then with that very questionable form of liberality, which makes most free with what belongs to GOD! The truths of Revelation are yours and mine, I grant you: but only so yours and mine that, to our eternal blessedness, we embrace,—to our eternal loss, we let them slip! We add to them, or we take away from them, under peril of GOD'S curse.... Away too with that mawkish sentimentality which can find no better object for its sympathy than the hardened blasphemer, and the confirmed sceptic! My sympathy shall be reserved for those who have never so offended, but are, on the contrary, full of precious promise;—for the young and as yet inexperienced;—for you, who will have the battle of CHRIST and His Church to fight, when we shall be mouldering in the grave. Let those who do not know me, deem me uncharitable if they will. I care not. The uncharitable man,—mark me, Brethren!—the truly uncharitable man, is he, who shews no consideration for weak and unstable souls; who does not regard the trials and perils of the young; who beguiles unsteady feet to the edge of the precipice, and there forsakes them; whose destructive method, (for constructiveness is no part of that man's philosophy!)—whose destructive method leaves the young without chart and compass,—aye, without moon or stars to sail by; who labours hard to communicate the taint of his own foul leprosy to those who were before unpolluted; who dims the eye, and deadens the ear, and defiles the thoughts, and darkens the hope of as many as have the misfortune to come in his way, and feels no pity!—Yes, yes! The man who sows his own vile doubts broadcast over two continents,—doing his very best to destroy the faith of those for whom CHRIST died,—he, he is the uncharitable man[640]! Not he who, forsaking the flowery fields of the Gospel, (whither he would far, far rather lead you!) and foregoing the free mountain air of imperishable Truth, for your sakes only keeps treading these dreary stifling paths of speculation;—a friend of yours, I mean, who with stammering eloquence, (the more's the pity!) clings thus to you, Sunday after Sunday,—imploring you, with all a brother's earnestness, not to venture where to venture is to die; and warning you against the men who have conspired against your life;—even while he labours hard to shew you what he knows to be "a more excellent way;" and implores you to come where CHRIST Himself hath promised that "ye shall find rest to your souls!"

This is all there is time for, to-day. Let me, in the fewest possible words, gather up what has been spoken into a practical shape.

Friends and brethren,—(I am still addressing the younger men present!)—Divinity is not debate; and Religion is not controversy; and Life is not long enough for perpetual disputings. "He that cometh unto GOD must believe that He is." The heart dries up, and the affections wither away, and the soul faints, amid an atmosphere of cloudy doubts, and captious difficulties, and perverse disputations. You must rise above it, if you would discern the colours on the everlasting hills, and behold the beauty of the promised Land, and see objects as they really are. O put away from yourselves, (if any of you are so unhappy as to have acquired it,) a habit of mind which will effectually unfit you for profiting by what you read in Holy Scripture: and you, who are free from such dreadful bondage, beware lest, by the indulgence of some sin,—whether of the flesh or of the spirit,—you darken that spiritual eye by which alone spiritual things are to be discerned. It is like talking about colours to the blind, or about sounds to the deaf, to discuss with a certain class of persons the Inspiration, or the Interpretation, or the Marvels of Scripture. The Bible is, with them, a common book,—"to be interpreted like any other book." Prophecy is denied, and Miracles are rejected or explained away,—on the plea that they are alike incredible. These men lay claim to intellectual gifts above their fellows; and know not that they are "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Rebels are they against the Most High; and find their exact image in those citizens who "sent a message after Him, saying, We will not have this Man to reign over us[641]." The gist of all they deliver, is rebellion against GOD.

But it is not so with yourselves, who have yet everything to learn in respect of Divine things. O beware lest it ever become your own dreadful case! Begin betimes to acquaint yourselves with the wealth of that celestial armoury which contains a weapon which must prove fatal to every foe; but which it depends on yourselves whether you shall have the skill to wield or not. Suffer not yourselves to be cheated of your birthright, the Bible, either by the novel fictions of unstable men, or by the exploded heresies of a bygone age, revived and recommended by living unbelievers. You, especially, who aspire to the Ministerial office, and are destined hereafter to undertake the cure of souls, O do you be doubly watchful! Give to the Bible the undivided homage of a childlike heart; and bow down before its revelations with a suppliant understanding also; and let no characteristic of its method by any means escape you. Notice how it is indeed all one long narrative, from end to end; and see therein GOD'S provision that nothing shall be idealized, nothing explained away. Learn too that Man is thus called upon to look outward, and to sustain himself by an external Law; not to depend on the promptings of his own conscience, and so to become a god unto himself. The Bible, I repeat, is all severest history, from the Alpha to the Omega of it. But then, underneath the surface there are meanings high as Heaven, deep as Hell: and why? because the true Author of it is not Man, but GOD!

Let it quicken you in your desire to understand that Book out of which you will have hereafter to preach, reprove, rebuke, exhort[642],—sometimes to bethink yourselves of the flocks which already are expecting you; and among which GOD already sees your future going out and coming in; your faithful teaching, or (GOD forbid!) your betrayal of a most sacred trust. Acquaint yourselves in due time, by all means, with the scientific grounds on which the Bible is to be received as the Word of GOD: but of a truth, hereafter, you will forget to require that external testimony; for you will be convinced of its Divine origin, when you have become the adoring witnesses of its Divine power. Truly that must be from GOD which can so change the life and affect the heart; which can sustain the spirit under bereavement, and become the soul's satisfying portion under every form of adversity! It has already altered the aspect of the World; and it has still a mighty work to do in India, and in China, and in Africa, and in the Islands of the Sea.

Difficulties there are in Scripture, doubtless: but I should be far more perplexed by the absence of them, than I shall ever be by their presence. Nay, they are a chief source of joy to a rightly constituted mind; for they exercise the moral nature and the intellectual powers, in the noblest possible way. It is the office of the highest Intellect to know when to walk by Faith, and when by sight: and when, to "ask for the old paths." It needs a mind of no common order fully to recognize the distinctive difference between a system which comes from GOD; and one which has been elaborated by human Reason: the latter progressive,—the former incapable of progress; the one liable to change,—the other, unchangeable for ever. There are certain indelible characteristics of a Divine Revelation, I say, which it is the office of the keenest wit to detect and hold fast,—which it is a prime note of imbecility in a thoughtful man to overlook and let go.... The Bible in truth, as one grows older,—(to me at least it seems so,)—becomes almost the only thing in the world really deserving of a man's attention. Above Reason, many things in it confessedly are: but against Reason, I do not know of one. Meantime, is it not a glorious anticipation for you and for me, that to understand those hard things fully may be hereafter a part of our chiefest bliss? There is but a step between us and death[643]; and assuredly when we wake up after His likeness, we shall be satisfied with it[644]!... Already "the shadows of the evening are stretched out[645]." Be patient, O my soul, "until the day break, and the shadows flee away[646]!"

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