The age we live in, (Heaven knows!) has many drawbacks. What age of the Church has not had them? The fatal disposition which prevails to relax all the ancient safeguards,—the desire to tamper yet further with the Law of Marriage, and to desecrate the Christian Sabbath,—these are grievous features of the times; which may well occasion alarm and create perplexity. But nothing of the kind should ever make us despond; much less despair. There is One above "who is over all, GOD blessed for ever." Shall we not rather seek to employ these advantages which we have, with a single heart, a single eye to GOD'S glory; and leave the issue, with a generous confidence, to Him?... It was thus that the great philosophic Divine of the last century comforted himself, amid darker days than we shall ever experience.
"As different ages have been distinguished by different sorts of particular errors and vices, the deplorable distinction of ours," (he said,) "is an avowed scorn of Religion in some, and a growing disregard to it in the generality." "It is impossible for me, my brethren,"—(Butler is still addressing the clergy of his Diocese, 1761,)—"to forbear lamenting with you the general decay of Religion in this nation; which is now observed by every one, and has been for some time the complaint of all serious persons. The influence of it is more and more wearing out of the minds of men;" while "the number of those who profess themselves unbelievers, increases, and with their number their zeal. Zeal, it is natural to ask,—for what? Why truly for nothing, but against everything that is sacred and good among us." And yet, in days dark as those, Piety could suggest that "no Christian should possibly despair;" and Faith could assign as the reason of this blessed confidence,—"For He who hath all power in Heaven and Earth, hath promised that He will be with us to the end of the world."
It is time to dismiss Mr. Pattison's Essay. In doing so, I will not waste my time and yours by carping at the many errors of detail into which he has (not inexcusably) fallen. These are the accidents,—not the essence of his paper. The root of bitterness with the Author is, clearly enough, the Theory of Religious Belief in the Church of England. His concluding words shew this plainly. The sting of the Essay is in the tail:—
"In the Catholic theory the feebleness of Reason is met half-way, and made good by the authority of the Church. When the Protestants threw off this authority, they did not assign to Reason what they took from the Church, but to Scripture. Calvin did not shrink from saying that Scripture 'shone sufficiently by its own light.' As long as this could be kept to, the Protestant theory of belief was whole and sound. At least it was as sound as the Catholic. In both, Reason, aided by spiritual illumination, performs the subordinate function of recognising the supreme authority of the Church, and of the Bible, respectively. Time, learned controversy, and abatement of zeal, drove the Protestants generally from the hardy but irrational assertion of Calvin. Every foot of ground that Scripture lost was gained by one or other of the three substitutes: Church-authority, the Spirit, or Reason. Church-authority was essayed by the Laudian divines, but was soon found untenable, for on that footing it was found impossible to justify the Reformation and the breach with Rome." [O shame!] "The SPIRIT then came into favour along with Independency. But it was still more quickly discovered that on such a basis only discord and disunion could be reared. There remained to be tried Common Reason, carefully distinguished from recondite learning, and not based on metaphysical assumptions. To apply this instrument to the contents of Revelation was the occupation of the early half of the eighteenth century; with what success has been seen. In the latter part of the century the same Common Reason was applied to the external evidences. But here the method fails in a first requisite,—universality; for even the shallowest array of historical proof requires some book-learning to apprehend."—(pp. 328-9.)
Now all this is discreditable to Mr. Pattison as a Philosopher and as a Divine. When did Protestant England "throw off the authority" of the Church?—What are Calvin's opinions to her?—How does 'Independency,' 'Rationalism,' or any other unsound principle, affect us? Look at our Prayer-Book. Is it not the same which it was from the beginning? The Sarum Use, reformed and revised, has been our unbroken heritage as Christian men, from the first. Essentially remodelled in the days of Edward VI., the recension of our "Laudian Divines" is, (by GOD'S great mercy!) still ours. What other teaching but that of the Book of Common Prayer, is, to this hour, the authoritative teaching of the Church of England? Why insinuate there has been vicissitude of Theory, where notoriously there has been none? Why imply that the storms which periodically sweep over the citadel of our Zion are effectual to remove the old foundations and to substitute new? What but a hollow heartless Scepticism can be the result of such an abominable passage as the foregoing?
"Whoever will take the religious literature of the present day as a whole, and endeavour to make out clearly on what basis Revelation is supposed by it to rest, whether on Authority, on the Inward Light, on Reason, on self-evidencing Scripture, or on the combination of the four, or some of them, and in what proportions; would probably find that he had undertaken a perplexing but not altogether profitless inquiry."—(p. 329.) And so the Essay ends.
With a short comment on the proposed problem, I also shall conclude.
No one but a fool would set about the task which Mr. Pattison here proposes. The current "religious literature of the day" cannot be supposed, for an instant, to be an adequate exponent of the mind of the Church of England,—or of any other Church. Revelation rests, at this hour, on exactly the same basis on which it has always rested, and on which it will rest, to the end of time; let the age be faithful, or faithless,—learned or unlearned,—rationalizing or scientific,—sceptical or superstitious,—or whatever else you will. And if I am asked to explain myself, I would humbly say,—(always submitting my own statements in such a matter to the judgment of the Bishops and Doctors of the Church of England,)—that we receive the Bible on the authority of the Church. The Church teaches us by the concurrent voices of many Fathers, Doctors, Saints, how to interpret the Bible; and convinces us that the three Creeds which she delivers to us as her own independent tradition, may be proved thereby; being in entire conformity with Holy Scripture, though not originally deduced from it. "Self-evidencing" is hardly a correct epithet to bestow upon Scripture. And yet, from the evidence which the New Testament supplies to the Old, and from the interpretation which it puts upon its teaching, we should not despair of proving the Truth of Revelation, to one who had neither darkened the inward Light, nor perverted his Reason.
In truth, however, it is idle thus to speculate. We have been born into the world during the nineteenth Century, whether we wish it or not. We have been nourished, (GOD be thanked!) in the bosom of the Christian Church, whether we would or no. The glory of the Gospel has informed our natural reason, and we cannot undo the blessed process, strive we as much as we will. The "inward Light," (as we call it,) is the lingering twilight of the Day of Creation, in the case of the heathen,—the reflected ray of the noontide of the Gospel, even in the case of the modern unbeliever. We cannot escape from these conditions of our being, although we may affect to ignore them, or pretend to turn our eyes the other way. No help however is to be rejected. No faculty of the soul need be denied the privilege of assisting to convince the doubting heart. The inward Light may not be disparagingly spoken of: for what if it should prove to be a ray sent down from the Father of Lights, to illumine the dark places of the soul? The aid of Reason is not to be excluded; for what is Faith but the highest dictate of the Reason? Faith, (let us ever remember,) being opposed not to Reason, but to Sight!... And who for a moment supposes that we disparage the office of Reason, because we speak of the authority of the Church, in controversies of Faith? We simply proclaim the Church to be the appointed witness and keeper of Holy Writ; and when we are invited "to make out clearly on what basis Revelation is supposed to rest," (p. 329,) we point,—where else should we point?—unhesitatingly to her unwavering witness from the beginning.
* * * * *
VII. The Essay which brings up the rear in this very guilty volume is from the pen of the "REV. BENJAMIN JOWETT, M.A., [Fellow and Tutor of Balliol College, and] Regius Professor of Greek in the University of Oxford,"—"a gentleman whose high personal character and general respectability seem to give a weight to his words, which assuredly they do not carry of themselves." His performance is entitled "ON THE INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE:" being, in reality, nothing else but a laborious denial of its Inspiration.
Mr. Jowett's quarrel is with the whole body of Commentators on the Bible,—ancient and modern; with the whole Church Catholic. He cannot endure the claim of that Book, (like its Divine object and Author,) to "a Name which is above every other Name." That Plato and Sophocles should be capable of but one method of Interpretation, and that the literal,—while the Bible lays claim to a yet profounder meaning,—so distresses the Regius Professor of Greek, that he has appropriated to himself almost a quarter of the present volume, in order that he may cast laborious and systematic ridicule on the very supposition. Some parts of his method I propose presently to submit to exactly the same "free handling" which he has himself applied to THE WORD OF GOD. In the meantime, since it is my intention not only to demonstrate the worthlessness of the structure which Mr. Jowett has with so much perverse industry here built up, by an examination of some parts of it in detail, but also to pull down as much of the fabric as I am able within a small compass,—(the construction of something which it is hoped will prove more durable, being to be found in my IIIrd and IVth, Vth and VIth Sermons,)—I proceed at once to inspect the foundation-stone of his edifice; and briefly to demonstrate its absolute insecurity.
$1.$ Mr. Jowett's fundamental principle is expressed in the following brief precept: "Interpret the Scripture like any other book." (p. 377.) To this favourite tune, (although he plays many intricate variations on it,) he invariably reverts in the end. On this preliminary postulate therefore, which, at first sight, to a candid mind, seems fair enough, I proceed to remark as follows:—
Mr. Jowett's formula may be cheerfully and entirely accepted,—apart from the sinister glosses which he immediately proceeds to put upon it. By all means "Interpret the Scripture like any other book." Let us see to what result this principle will conduct us. As for the formula itself, I take the liberty to assume that it ought to mean somewhat as follows:—"Approach the volume of Holy Scripture with the same candour, and in the same unprejudiced spirit with which you would approach any other famous book of high antiquity. Study it with at least the same attention. Give at least equal heed to all its statements. Acquaint yourself at least as industriously with its method, and with its principle; employing and applying either, with at least equal fidelity, in its interpretation. Above all, beware of playing tricks with its plain language. Beware of suppressing any part of the evidence which it supplies as to its own meaning. Be truthful, and unprejudiced, and honest, and consistent, and logical, and exact throughout, in your work of Interpretation. 'INTERPRET SCRIPTURE LIKE ANY OTHER BOOK.'"
Now, (not to be tedious,) if this were Mr. Jowett's principle, all further discussion would be at an end. The general question of the right method of interpreting the Bible would be easily settled; but it would be hopelessly settled—against the Regius Professor of Greek. As I have briefly shewn, (from p. 144 to p. 160 of the present volume,) our LORD and His Apostles openly and repeatedly claim for Scripture that very depth of meaning, that very extent of signification, which Mr. Jowett so strenuously maintains that it does not possess.—This great fact, he prudently takes no notice of. He simply ignores it. Either he has overlooked it, through inadvertency: or he has omitted it, as not perceiving its force and bearing on the question: or he has disingenuously kept it back. He must choose between these three suppositions. If he has overlooked the fact on which I lay so much stress,—he is a careless and incompetent reader. If he has failed to see its force and bearing on the question,—he is a weak and illogical thinker. If he has deliberately suppressed it, knowing its fatal power,—he is simply a dishonest man. To prevent offence, I may as well state freely that my entire conviction is that he is simply a weak and illogical person. My warrant for this opinion is especially the very sad performance of his now under consideration.
It is clear however that the paraphrase above hazarded does not express Mr. Jowett's principle. "Interpret the Bible like any other book," means with him something else. And what it does mean, the Reverend author does not suffer us to doubt. He shews that his meaning is, Interpret the Bible like any other book, FOR it is like any other book. I proceed to shew that this is Mr. Jowett's meaning.
It becomes necessary however at once to introduce to the reader's notice the main inference which, (as already hinted,) flows from Mr. Jowett's favourite position. "Interpret Scripture like any other book,"—he says. His business is with the Interpretation of "the Jewish and Christian Scriptures;" and he begins by eagerly assuring us,—and is strenuous in all that follows to make us believe,—(but simply on priori grounds!)—that "the true glory and note of Divinity in these, is not that they have hidden, mysterious, or double meanings; but a simple and universal one, which is beyond them and will survive them." (p. 332.) "Is it admitted," (he asks, at the end of many pages,) "that the Scripture has one and only one true meaning?" (p. 368.)
Let us hear what reasons the Reverend author of this seventh Essay is able to produce in support of his favourite opinion. He approaches the subject from a respectful distance:—
(i) "It is a strange, though familiar fact,"—(such are the opening words of his Essay,)—"that great differences of opinion exist respecting the Interpretation of Scripture." (p. 330.)—'Familiar,' the fact is, certainly; but why 'strange?' A Book of many ages,—of immense antiquity,—of most varied character,—treating of the unseen world,—purporting to be a mysterious composition,—and by all Christian men believed to have GOD for its true Author: a book which has come into collision with every form of human error, and has triumphed gloriously over every form of human opposition:—how can it be thought 'strange' that the interpretation of such a book should have provoked "great differences of opinion?" ... Surely none but the weakest of thinkers, unless committed to the assumption that the Bible is like any other book, could ever have penned such a silly remark.
(ii) "We do not at once see the absurdity of the same words having many senses, or free our minds from the illusion that the Apostle or Evangelist must have written with a reference to the creeds or controversies or circumstances of other times. Let it be considered, then, that this extreme variety of interpretation is found to exist in the case of no other book, but of the Scriptures only." (p. 334.)
But the "phenomenon" which Mr. Jowett represents as "so extraordinary that it requires an effort of thought to appreciate it," (Ibid.,) does not seem at all extraordinary to any one who does not begin by assuming that the Bible is "like any other book."—If the Bible be inspired,—then all is plain!
(iii) "Who would write a bulky treatise about the method to be pursued in interpreting Plato or Sophocles?"—asks Mr. Jowett. (p. 378.)—No one but a fool!—is the obvious reply. Plato and Sophocles are ordinary books; and therefore are to be interpreted like any other book. The Bible not so, as we shall see by and by. Again,—
(iv) "Each writer, each successive age, has characteristics of its own, as strongly marked, or more strongly, than those which are found in the authors or periods of classical Literature. These differences are not to be lost in the idea of a Spirit from whom they proceed, or by which they were overruled. And therefore, illustration of one part of Scripture by another should be confined to writings of the same age and the same authors, except where the writings of different ages or persons offer obvious similarities. It may be said, further, that illustration should be chiefly derived, not only from the same author, but from the same writing, or from one of the same period of his life. For example, the comparison of St. John and the 'synoptic' Gospels, or of the Gospel of St. John with the Revelation of St. John, will tend rather to confuse than to elucidate the meaning of either." (pp. 382-3.)—But really, in reply, it ought to suffice to point out that the result of the Church's experience for 1800 years has been the very opposite of the Professor's. "The idea of a SPIRIT from whom they proceeded," is, to the thoughtful part of mankind, the only intelligible clue to the several books of Holy Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation! Hence "the marginal references to the English Bible," (to which Mr. Jowett devotes a depreciatory half page,) so far from being the dangerous or useless apparatus which he represents, we hold to be an instrument of paramount importance for eliciting the true meaning of Holy Writ.—In a word, he is reasoning about the Bible on the assumption that the Bible is like any other book.
(v) "To attribute to St. Paul or the Twelve the abstract notion of Christian Truth which afterwards sprang up in the Catholic Church ... is the same error as to attribute to Homer the ideas of Thales or Heraclitus, or to Thales the more developed principles of Aristotle and Plato." (p. 354.)—Not if St. Paul and the Twelve were inspired.
(vi) He bids us remark, with tedious emphasis, that although the same philological and historical difficulties which occur in Holy Scripture are found in profane writings, yet "the meaning of classical authors is known with comparative certainty; and the interpretation of them seems to rest on a scientific basis.... Even the Vedas and the Zendavesta, though beset by obscurities of language probably greater than are found in any portion of the Bible, are interpreted, at least by European scholars, according to fixed rules, and beginning to be clearly understood." (p. 335.)
But at the end of several weak sentences, through which the preceding fallacy is elongated into distressing tenuity, who does not exclaim,—The supposed "scientific" basis on which the interpretation of books in general rests, is simply this; (1) that being merely human, and (2) not professing to have any other than their obvious literal meaning,—they are all interpreted in the obvious ordinary way!
For (1),—If any book were even suspected to be Divine, the manner of interpreting it would of course be different. Not that the "basis" of such Interpretation would therefore cease to be "scientific!" Take the only known instance of such a Book. The Bible has been suspected (!) for 1800 years to be inspired. How has it fared with the Bible?
The Science of Biblical Interpretation is one of the noblest and best understood in the world. It has been professed and practised in every country of Christendom. The great Masters of this Science have been such men as Hilary of Poictiers, Basil and the two Gregories in Asia Minor, Epiphanius in Cyprus, Ambrose at Milan, John Chrysostom at Antioch, Jerome in Palestine, Augustine in Africa, Athanasius and Cyril at Alexandria. The names descend in an unbroken stream from the first four centuries of our ra down to the age of Andrewes, and Bull, and Pearson, and Mill. These men all interpret Scripture in one and the same way. Their principles are the same throughout. They were all Professors of the same Sacred Science.
But (2),—If a book even professes to have a hidden meaning, it is interpreted by a special set of canons. Thus Dante's great poem may not be read as Hume's History of England is read.—To proceed, however.
(vii) Sophocles is perhaps the most subtle of the ancient Greek poets. "Several schools of critics have commented on his works. To the Englishman he has presented one meaning, to the Frenchman another, to the German a third; the interpretations have also differed with the philosophical systems which the interpreters espoused. To one the same words have appeared to bear a moral, to another a symbolical meaning; a third is determined wholly by the authority of old commentators; while there is a disposition to condemn the scholar who seeks to interpret Sophocles from himself only and with reference to the ideas and beliefs of the age in which he lived. And the error of such an one is attributed not only to some intellectual but even to a moral obliquity (!) which prevents his seeing the true meaning." (p. 336.)
It has fared with Sophocles therefore, (according to Mr. Jowett,) in all respects as it has fared with the Bible. "It would be tedious," (he justly remarks,) "to follow the absurdity which has been supposed into details. By such methods," Sophocles or Plato might "be made to mean anything." (p. 336.)
But who does not perceive that the obvious way to escape from the supposed difficulty, is to remember that neither Sophocles nor Plato was inspired!... Mr. Jowett's difficulty is occasioned by his assumption that the Bible stands on the same level as Plato and Sophocles.
(viii) Again,—"If it is not held to be a thing impossible that there should be agreement in the meaning of Plato and Sophocles, neither is it to be regarded as absurd, that there should be a like agreement in the interpretation of Scripture?" (p. 426.)—The whole force of this argument clearly consisting in the strictly equal claims of these books to Inspiration.—Elsewhere, Mr. Jowett expresses the same thing more unequivocally:—The old "explanations of Scripture," (he says,) "are no longer tenable. They belong to a way of thinking and speaking which was once diffused over the world, but has now passed away." Having quietly assumed all this, the Reverend writer proceeds:—"And what we give up as a general principle, we shall find it impossible to maintain partially; e.g. in the types of the Mosaic Law, and the double meanings of Prophecy, at least in any sense in which it is not equally applicable to all deep and suggestive writings." (p. 419.)
(ix) "Still one other supposition has to be introduced, which will appear, perhaps, more extravagant than any which have preceded. Conceive then that these modes of interpreting Sophocles (!) had existed for ages; that great institutions and interests had become interwoven with them; and in some degree even the honour of Nations and Churches;—is it too much to say that, in such a case, they would be changed with difficulty, and that they would continue to be maintained long after critics and philosophers had seen that they were indefensible?" (pp. 336-7.)
I suppose we may at once allow Mr. Jowett most of what he asks. We may freely grant that if the Tragedies of Sophocles had exercised the same wondrous dominion over the world which the Books of the Bible have exercised:—if Oedipus and Jocasta and Creon; if Theseus and Dejanira and Hercules; if Ajax, Ulysses and Minerva;—had done for the world what Enoch and Noah;—what Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;—what Joseph, and Joshua, and Hannah, and Samuel, and David;—what Elijah and Elisha; what Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, and the rest;—what St. Peter, and St. John, and St. Paul;—what the Blessed Virgin and her name-sakes, have done:—In a word: had Homer's gods and heroes altogether changed the face of society, and revolutionized the world; so that "great institutions and interests had become interwoven with them, and in some degree even the honour of Nations and Churches;" (p. 336;)—if, I repeat, all this had really and actually taken place;—great "difficulty" would, no doubt, (as Mr. Jowett profoundly suggests,) be experienced, at the end of 2000 years, in getting rid of them.
But since it unfortunately happens that they have done nothing of the kind, we do not seem to be called upon to follow the Regius Professor of Greek into the supposed consequences of what he admits to be an "extravagant supposition;" and which we humbly think is an excessively foolish one also.
When, however, the Reverend Author of this speculation establishes it as a parallel with what has taken place with regard to the Word of GOD, we tell him plainly that his insinuation that "critics and philosophers are maintaining the present mode of interpreting Scripture long after they have seen that it is indefensible"—is a piece of impertinence which seems to require a public apology. A man may retain Orders in the Church of England, if he pleases, while yet he repudiates her doctrines: may declare that he subscribes her Articles ex animo, and yet seem openly to deny them. But he has no right whatever to impute corresponding baseness to others. The charge should be either plainly made out, or openly retracted.
By such considerations then does Professor Jowett attempt to shew that we ought to "interpret Scripture like any other book." The gist of his observations, in every case, is one and the same,—namely, from priori considerations to insinuate that the Bible is not essentially unlike any other book.
Now, quite apart from its Inspiration,—which is, obviously, THE one essential respect wherein the Bible is wholly unlike every other book in the world; (inasmuch as, if it is inspired, it differs from every other book in kind; stands among Books as the Incarnate WORD stood among Men,—quite alone; notwithstanding that He spoke their language, shared their wants, and accommodated Himself to their manners;)—apart, I say, from the fact of its Inspiration, it is not difficult to point out several particulars in which the Bible is utterly unlike any other Book which is known to exist; and therefore to suggest an priori reason why neither should it be interpreted like any other book.
1. The Bible then contains in all (66-9=) 57 distinct writings,—the work of perhaps upwards of forty different Authors. Yet, for upwards of fifteen centuries those many writings have been all collected into one volume: and, for a large portion of that interval, on the writings so collected the Church Universal has agreed in bestowing the name of the Book,—=kat' exochn=,—THE BIBLE.
2. The Bible is divided into two parts, which are severed by an interval of upwards of four centuries. On these two great divisions of the Bible, respectively, has been bestowed the title of the Old and the New Covenant. And, what is remarkable,—The same phenomena which are observable in respect of the whole Bible, are observable in respect of either of its parts. Thus,
(1) The several writings of which the Old Testament is composed,—(39-3=) 36 in all, are by many different hands: those of the New Testament, in like manner,—(27-6=) 21 in all, are by eight different authors.
(2) Those many writings of the Old Testament are found to have been collected into a single volume about four hundred years before the Christian ra; when they were denominated by a common name, h graph,—"The Scripture;" and the supreme authority of the writings so collected together, was axiomatic. One arguing with His Hebrew countrymen was able to appeal to a place in the Psalms, and to remind them parenthetically that "the Scripture cannot be broken,"—that is, might not be gainsaid, doubted, explained away, or set aside.—Precisely similar phenomena are observable in respect of the writings of the New Testament.
(3) Although the books of the Old Covenant are scattered at intervals over the long period of upwards of a thousand years, the writers of the later books are observed to quote the earlier ones, as if by a peculiar secret sympathy: now, incorporating long passages,—now, simply adapting one or two sentences,—now, blending allusive references. For some proof of this assertion, (as far as I am able to produce it at a moment's notice,) the reader is referred to the foot of the page.
The self-same phenomenon is observable with regard to the New Testament Scriptures. Although all the books were written within so short a space as about fifty years, the later writers quote the earlier ones to a surprising extent. In the Gospels, the Gospels are quoted times without number. In the Epistles, the Gospels are cited, or referred to, upwards of sixty times. The Epistles contain many references to the Epistles.—The phenomenon thus alluded to will also be found insisted upon in a later part of the present volume.
"The fact, I believe, on close examination, will be found to stand thus:—The Holy Bible abounds in quotations, even more perhaps than most other books; but they are introduced in a way which is peculiar to Revelation, and its own. When a Prophet or Apostle mentions one of his own holy brethren, as when Ezekiel names Daniel, or Daniel Jeremiah; when St. Peter speaks of St. Paul, or St. Paul of St. Peter, or of St. Luke the Physician; when they mention them, they do not quote them; and when they quote them, they do not mention them."
(4) The later writer in the Old Testament who quotes some earlier portion of narrative is often observed to supply independent information,—entering into minute details and particulars which are not to be found in the earlier record.—Now, "with the same Almighty SPIRIT for their guide, what was it to be expected that the historians of our Blessed LORD would do? What, but the very thing which they have done? that they would walk in the path, which the holy Prophets of old had marked out? that they would often tread full in each other's steps; often relate the same miracle, or discourse, or parts of it, in the words of the same prior writer; sometimes compress, sometimes expand; always shew to the diligent inquirer, that they did not derive their information, even of facts which they relate in another's words, from him whom they copy, but wrote with antecedent plenitude of knowledge and truth in themselves; without staying to inform us whether what they deliver is told for the first time, or has its place already in authentic history."
(5) It may be worth remarking that though the Inspiration of no part of either Testament has ever been doubted in the Church, there do exist doubts as to the Authorship of more than one of the Books of the Old Testament; and one Book in the New, (the Epistle to the Hebrews,) has been suspected by some orthodox writers not to have been from the pen of St. Paul, but to have been the work of some other inspired and Apostolic writer.
(6) History, Didactic matter, and Prophecy,—is found to be the subject of either Testament.
(7) In the New Testament, as in the Old, we are presented with the singular phenomenon of more than one Book being in a manner copied from another,—yet with the addition of much independent original matter. It is superfluous to name Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, on one side,—and the Gospels on the other. To the Gospels may be added the Second Epistle of St. Peter and the Epistle of St. Jude.
(8) Lastly, the same modest use of the Supernatural is to be found in either Testament.—In both, the writers are observed to pass without effort, and as it were unconsciously, from revelations of the most stupendous character, to statements of the simplest and most ordinary kind.—In both, there is the same prominence given to individual characters; the same occasional minuteness of detail where it might have been least expected.
3. But by far the most remarkable phenomenon remains to be noticed; namely, the immense number of quotations, (so far more numerous than is commonly suspected,)—extending in length from a single word to nearly a hundred and fifty,—together with allusive references, literally without number, which are found in the New Testament Scriptures; the writings of the elder Covenant being in every instance, exclusively, the source of those quotations,—the object of those allusions.
4. When the nature of these quotations, references, and allusions is examined with care, several extraordinary phenomena present themselves, which it seems impossible to consider without the deepest interest, surprise, and admiration. Thus,—(i.) The New Testament writers, on repeated occasions, display independent knowledge of the Old Testament History to which they make reference. The following instances occur to my memory:—All the later links in our LORD'S Genealogy; the second Cainan: Salmon's marriage with Rahab: the burial-place of the twelve Patriarchs: the age of Moses in Exod. ii. 11: that in the days of Elijah the heaven was shut up for three years and six months: that it was the Devil who tempted Eve: the contest for the dead body of Moses: the names of Pharaoh's magicians: how Abraham reasoned with himself when he prepared to offer up his son Isaac: the golden censer, mentioned in Heb. ix. 4: Abraham's purchase of Sychem; and a few other things.
(ii.) The same New Testament writers are observed to handle the Old Testament Scriptures with an air of singular authority, and to exercise an extraordinary license of quotation; inverting clauses,—paraphrasing statements,—abridging or expanding;—and always without apology or explanation;—as if they were conscious that they were dealing with their own.
(iii.) Most astonishing of all, obviously, as well as most important, is the purpose for which the Evangelists and Apostles of our LORD make their appeal to the Old Testament Scriptures; invariably in order to establish some part of the Christian Revelation. "Every thoughtful student of the Holy Scriptures has been struck with the circumstance which I now allude to: the freedom, namely, with which the inspired Writers of the New Testament appeal back to the Old; and see in it, as its one proper theme, the Christian subject. They find themselves in that place, at length, to which former intimations had pointed, and recognize the connexion which they themselves have with their ancient forerunners." ... It is as if for four hundred years and upwards, a mighty mystery,—described in many a dark place of Prophecy, exhibited by many a perplexing type, foreshadowed by many a Divine narrative,—had waited for solution. The world is big with expectation. The long-expected time at last arrives. Up springs the Sun of Righteousness in the Heavens; and lo, the cryptic characters of the Law flash at once into glory, and the dark Oracles of ancient days yield up their wondrous meanings! "GOD, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the Fathers by the Prophets,"—in these last days speaks "unto us by His SON:" and lo, a chorus of Apostolic voices is heard bearing witness to the Advent of "the Desire of all nations!" ... Such is the relation which the New Testament bears to the Old: such the true nature of the many quotations from the earlier Scriptures, which are found in the later half of the One inspired Volume.
5. And thus we are led naturally to notice the extraordinary connexion which subsists between the two Testaments. "For what is the Law," (asks Justin, A.D. 140,) "but the Gospel foretold? or what is the Gospel, but the Law fulfilled?" "The contents of the Old and New Testament are the same," remarks Augustine: "there foreshadowed, here revealed: there prefigured, here made plain." "In the Old Testament there is a concealing of the New: in the New Testament there is a revealing of the Old."—Mr. Jowett's inquiry,—"If we assume the New Testament as a tradition running parallel with the Old, may not the Roman Catholic assume with equal reason a tradition parallel with the New?" (p. 81.)—shews a truly childish misapprehension of the entire question. The New Testament is not a "parallel tradition" at all; but a subsequent Revelation from Heaven.
6. Now I might pursue these remarks much further: for it would be well worth while to exhibit what an extraordinary sameness of imagery, similarity of allusion, and unity of purpose, runs through the writings of either Covenant;—phenomena which can only be accounted for in one way. This subject will be found dwelt upon elsewhere; and to what has been already delivered, I must be content here to refer the reader.
(Mr. Jowett himself has been struck by the phenomenon thus alluded to: but after hinting at "some natural association" as having suggested the language of the Prophets, he proceeds: "We are not therefore justified in supposing any hidden connexion in the prophecies where [the prophetic symbols] occur. Neither is there any other ground for assuming design of any other kind in Scripture; any more than in Plato or Homer." (p. 381.) ... And thus our philosopher, assuming at the outset that the Bible is an uninspired book, is for ever coming back to the lie with which he set out. But to proceed.)
7. Still better worthy of notice, in this connexion, is the singular fact (which will also be found adverted to in another place,) that the Old and New Testaments alike profess to be a History of Earthly events from a Heavenly point of view. The writers of either Covenant claim to know what GOD did; how characters and events appeared in His sight: they profess to find themselves in a familiar, and altogether extraordinary relation with the unseen world. Thus, Moses begins the Bible with an august account of the great Six Days,—when GOD was alone in Creation; the unwitnessed Agent, and Author of all things:—while St. John the Divine, concluding the inspired Canon, relates that he was "in the Spirit on the LORD'S Day;" and heard behind him "a great Voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last." ... "The general design of Scripture," (says Bishop Butler,) "may be said to be, to give us an account of the World, in this one single view,—as GOD'S World: by which it appears essentially distinguished from all other books, as far as I have found, except such as are copied from it."
8. And yet the grand external characteristic feature of the Bible remains unnoticed! The one distinctive feature of the Bible, is this,—that the four-fold Gospel, as a matter of fact, exhibits to us, the WORD "made flesh:" and, (O marvel of marvels!) suffers us to hear His voice, and look upon His form, and observe His actions. It does more. The New Testament professes to be, and is, the complement of the Old. The promise of CHRIST, solemnly, and repeatedly,—"at sundry times and divers manners,"—given in the one, is fulfilled in the other. Henceforth they are no more twain, for they have been by GOD Himself joined together; and the subject of both is none other than our SAVIOUR, JESUS CHRIST.
Enough surely has been already adduced to warrant a reasonable man in refusing to accept Professor Jowett's repeated asseveration that the Bible is "to be interpreted like any other book." A Book which proves on examination to be so wholly unlike every other book,—so entirely sui generis,—may surely well create an priori suspicion that it is not to be interpreted either, after any ordinary fashion. But the grand consideration of all is still behind! The one circumstance which effectually refutes the view of the Reverend Professor, remains yet to be specified; namely, that THE BIBLE PROFESSES TO BE INSPIRED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. The HOLY GHOST is again and again declared to speak therein, dia, "by the instrumentality," "by the mouth," of Man. In other words, GOD, not Man, professes to be the Author of the Bible!
That the Bible does set up for itself such a claim, will be found established at p. 53 to p. 57 of the present volume. Professor Jowett's assurance that "for any of the higher or supernatural views of Inspiration, there is no foundation in the Gospels or Epistles," (p. 345,)—must therefore be regarded as an extraordinary, or rather as an unpardonable oversight on his part. One would have thought that a single saying, like that in Acts iii. 18 and 21, would have occurred to his memory, and been sufficient to refute him. Other places will be found quoted at p. cxcvii.
Very much is it to be feared however that the same gentleman has overlooked a consideration of at least equal importance; namely, the inevitable inference from the discovery that the origin of the Bible is Divine. He informs us that,—"It will be a further assistance (!) in the consideration of this subject, to observe that the Interpretation of Scripture has nothing to do with any opinion respecting its origin." (p. 350.) "The meaning of Scripture," (he proceeds,) "is one thing: the Inspiration of Scripture is another."—True. But when we find the Reverend Author insisting, again and again, that "it may be laid down that Scripture has one meaning,—the meaning which it had to the mind of the Prophet or Evangelist who first uttered, or wrote it," (p. 378,)—we are constrained to remind him that, "To say that the Scriptures, and the things contained in them, can have no other or farther meaning than those persons thought or had, who first recited or wrote them; is evidently saying, that those persons were the original, proper, and sole authors of those books, i.e. THAT THEY ARE NOT INSPIRED." So that, in point of fact, the origin of Holy Scripture, so far from being a consideration of no importance, (as Mr. Jowett supposes,) proves to be a consideration of the most vital importance of all. And the Interpretation of Scripture, so far from having "nothing to do with any opinion respecting its origin," is affected by it most materially, or rather depends upon it altogether!
On a review of all that goes before, it will, I think, appear plain to any person of sound understanding, that Professor Jowett's priori views respecting the Interpretation of Holy Scripture will not stand the test of exact reason. To suggest as he has done that the Bible is to be interpreted like any other book, on the plea that it is like any other book, is to build upon a false foundation. His syllogism is the following:—
If the Bible is a book like any other book, the Bible is to be interpreted like any other book.
The Bible is a book like any other book.
But it has been shewn that the learned Professor's minor premiss is false. It has been proved that the Bible is NOT a book like any other book.
Nay, I claim to have done more. I claim to have established the contradictory minor premiss. The syllogism therefore will henceforth stand as follows:—
If the Bible can be shewn to be a book like no other book, but entirely sui generis, and claiming to be the work of Inspiration,—then is it reasonable to expect that it will have to be interpreted like no other book, but entirely after a fashion of its own.
But the Bible can be shewn to be a book like no other book; entirely sui generis; and claiming to be the work of Inspiration.
$2.$ It remains however, now, to advance an important step.—Mr. Jowett, in a certain place, adopts a principle, the soundness of which I am able, happily, entirely to admit. "Interpret Scripture from itself,—like any other book about which we know almost nothing except what is derived from its pages." (p. 382.) "Non nisi ex Scriptur Scripturam interpretari potes." (p. 384.)
Scarcely has he made this important admission however, and enunciated his golden Canon of interpretation, when he hastens to nullify it. His very next words are,—"The meaning of the Canon is only this,—'That we cannot understand Scripture without becoming familiar (!) with it.'"
But, (begging the learned writer's pardon,) so far from that being the whole of the meaning of the Canon, his gloss happens exactly to miss the only important point. The plain meaning of the words,—"Only out of the Scriptures can you explain the Scriptures,"—is obviously rather this:—'That in order to interpret the Bible, our aim must be to ascertain how the Bible interprets itself.' In other words,—'Scripture must be made its own Interpreter.' More simply yet, in the Professor's own words, (from which, more suo, he has imperceptibly glided away,)—"Interpret Scripture from itself." (p. 382.) ... How then does Scripture interpret Scripture? That is the only question! for the answer to this question must be held to be decisive as to the other great question which Mr. Jowett raises in the present Essay,—namely, How are we to interpret Scripture?
Now this whole Inquiry has been conducted elsewhere; and will be found to extend from p. 144 to p. 160 of the present volume. It has been there established, by a sufficiently large induction of examples, that the Bible is to be interpreted as no other book is, or can be interpreted; and for the plain reason, that the inspired Writers themselves, (our LORD Himself at their head!) interpret it after an altogether extraordinary fashion. Mr. Jowett's statement at p. 339 that "the mystical interpretation of Scripture originated in the Alexandrian age," is simply false.
And in the course of this proof, (necessarily involved in it, in fact,) it has been incidentally shewn that the sense of Scripture is not, by any means, invariably one; and that sense the most obvious to those who wrote, heard, or read it. It has been fully shewn that the office of the Interpreter is not, by any means, (as Mr. Jowett imagines,) "to recover the meaning of the words as they first struck on the ears, or flashed before the eyes of those who heard or read them." (p. 338.) The Reverend writer's repeated assertion that "we have no reason to attribute to the Prophet or Evangelist any second or hidden sense different from that which appears on the surface," (p. 380,) has been fully, and as it is hoped effectually refuted.
And here I might lay down my pen. For since, at the end of 74 pages, the Professor thus delivers himself, (in a kind of imitation of St. Paul's language,)—"Of what has been said, this is the sum,—That Scripture, like other books, has one meaning, which has to be gathered from itself ... without regard to priori notions about its nature and origin:" that, "It is to be interpreted like other books, with attention to the prevailing state of civilization and knowledge," and so forth; (p. 404;)—it must suffice to say that, having established the very opposite conclusion, I claim to have effectually answered his Essay; because I have overthrown what he admits to be "the sum" of it. Let me be permitted however—before I proceed to review some other parts of his performance,—in the briefest manner, not so much to recapitulate, as to exhibit 'the sum' of what has been hitherto delivered on the other side; in somewhat different language, and as it were from a different point of view.
We are presented then, in the New Testament Scriptures, with the august spectacle of the Ancient of Days holding the entire volume of the Old Testament Scriptures in His Hands, and interpreting it of Himself. He, whose Life and Death are set forth in the Gospel;—whose Church's early fortunes are set forth historically in the Acts, while its future prospects are shadowed prophetically in the Apocalypse;—whose Doctrines, lastly, are explained in the twenty-one Epistles of St. Paul and St. Peter, St. James and St. John and St. Jude:—He, the Incarnate WORD, who was "in the beginning;" who "was with GOD," and who "was GOD:"—that same Almighty One, I repeat, is exhibited to us in the Gospel, repeatedly, holding the Volume of the Old Testament Scriptures in His Hands, and explaining it of Himself. "To day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears,"—was the solemn introductory sentence with which, in the Synagogue of Nazareth, (after closing the Book and giving it again to the Minister,) He prefaced His Sermon from the lxist chapter of Isaiah.—"Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me,"—"'O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the Prophets have spoken! Ought not CHRIST to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?' And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself."—"These are the words which I spake unto you, that all things must be fulfilled which are written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me."
"CHRIST was before Moses. The Gospel was not made for the Law; but the Law was made for the Gospel. The Gospel is not based on the Law, but the Law is a shadow of the Gospel. In order to believe the Bible, we must look upward; and fix our eyes on JESUS CHRIST, sitting in Heavenly Glory, holding both Testaments in His Hand; sealing both Testaments with His seal; and delivering both Testaments as Divine Oracles, to the World. We must receive the written Word from the Hands of the INCARNATE WORD."
This august spectacle, let it be clearly stated,—(1) Establishes, beyond all power of contradiction, the intimate connexion which subsists between the Old and the New Testament; as well as the altogether unique relation which the one bears to the other:—(2) Invests either Testament with a degree of sacred importance and majestic grandeur which altogether makes the Bible unlike "any other book:"—(3) Proves that the Bible is to be interpreted as no other book ever was, or ever can be interpreted:—(4) Demonstrates that it has more than a single meaning:—and lastly, Convincingly shews that GOD, and not Man, is its true Author.
It will of course be asked,—Then does Mr. Jowett take no notice at all of this vast and complicated problem? How does he treat of the relation between the Old Testament and the New?... He despatches the entire subject in the following passage:—"The question," (he says,) "runs up into a more general one, 'the relation between the Old and New Testaments.' For the Old Testament will receive a different meaning accordingly as it is explained from itself, or from the New." (Very different certainly!) "In the first case,—a careful and conscientious study of each one for itself is all that is required." (That is to say, it will not be explained at all!) "In the second case,—the types and ceremonies of the Law, perhaps the very facts and persons of the history, WILL BE ASSUMED (!) to be predestined or made after a pattern corresponding to the things that were to be in the latter days." (p. 370.) (And why not "will be found to be replete with Christian meaning,—full of lofty spiritual significancy?"—the proved marvellousness of their texture, the revealed mysteriousness of their purpose, being an effectual refutation of all Mr. Jowett's priori notions!)
"And this question," (he proceeds,) "stirs up another question respecting the Interpretation of the Old Testament in the New. Is such Interpretation to be regarded as the meaning of the original text, or an accommodation of it to the thoughts of other times?" (Nay, but Reverend and learned Sir: "nothing so plain," as you justly observe, "that it may not be explained away;" (p. 359;) yet we cannot consent to have the sense of plain words thus clouded over at your mere bidding. It is now our turn to declare that the Interpreter's "object is to read Scripture like any other book, with a real interest and not merely a conventional one." It is now we who "want to be able to open our eyes, and see things as they truly are." (p. 338.) We simply petition for leave to "interpret Scripture like any other book, by the same rules of evidence and the same canons of criticism." (p. 375.) And if this freedom be but conceded to us, there will be found to be no imaginable reason why the Interpretation of the Old Testament in the New,—(CHRIST Himself being the Majestic Speaker! our present edification and everlasting welfare being His gracious purpose!)—should not be strictly "regarded as the meaning of the original text." ... But let us hear the Professor out:—)
"Our object," (he says, and with this he dismisses the problem!)—"Our object is not to attempt here the determination of these questions; but to point out that they must be determined before any real progress can be made, or any agreement arrived at in the Interpretation of Scripture." (p. 370.) ... They must indeed. But can it be right in this slovenly, slippery style to shirk a discussion on the issue of which the whole question may be said to turn? especially on the part of one who scruples not to prejudge that issue, and straightway to apply it, (in a manner fatal to the Truth,) throughout all his hundred pages. Mr. Jowett's method is ever to assume what he ought to prove, and then either to be plaintive, or to sneer. "It is a heathenish or Rabbinical fancy:"—"Such complexity would place the Scriptures below human compositions in general; for it would deprive them of the ordinary intelligibleness of human language" (p. 382):—&c.
"Is the Interpretation of the Old Testament in the New to be regarded as the meaning of the original text; or an accommodation of it to the thoughts of other times?" (p. 370.) This is Mr. Jowett's question; the question which it is "not his object to attempt to determine;" but which I, on the contrary, have made it my object to discuss in my VIth Sermon,—p. 183 to p. 220. Without troubling the reader however now to wade through those many pages, let me at least explain to him in a few words what Mr. Jowett's question really amounts to: namely this,—Do the Apostles and Evangelists, does our Blessed LORD Himself, when He professes to explain the mysterious significancy of the Old Testament,—invariably,—in every instance,—misrepresent "the meaning of the original text?" And the answer to this question I am content to await from any candid person of plain unsophisticated understanding. Is it credible, concerning the Divine expositions found in St. Matth. xxii. 31, 32,—xxii. 43-5,—xii. 39, 40,—xi. 10,—St. John viii. 17,18,—i. 52,—vi. 31, &c,—x. 34-5:—the Apostolic interpretations found in 1 Cor. ix. 9-11,—x. 1-6,—xv. 20,—Heb. ii. 5-9,—vii. 1-10,—Gal. iv. 21-31:—is it conceivable, I ask, that not one of all these places should exhibit the actual 'meaning of the original text?' And yet, (as Mr. Jowett himself is forced to admit,)—"If we attribute to the details of the Mosaical ritual a reference to the New Testament, or suppose the passage of the Red Sea to be regarded not merely as a figure of Baptism, but as a preordained type;—the principle is conceded!" (p. 369.) "A little more or a little less of the method does not make the difference." (Ibid.) In a word,—in such case, Mr. Jowett's Essay falls to the ground!... To proceed however.
$3.$ The case of Interpretation has not yet been fully set before the reader. Hitherto, we have merely traced the problem back to the fountain-head, and dealt with it simply as a Scriptural question. We have shewn what light is thrown upon Interpretation by the volume of Inspiration. The subject has been treated in the same way in the Vth and VIth of my Sermons. But it will not be improper, in this place,—it is even indispensable,—to develope the problem a little more fully; and to explain that it is of much larger extent.
Now, there is a family resemblance in the method of all ancient expositions of Holy Scripture which vindicates for them, however remotely, a common origin. There is a resemblance in the general way of handling the Inspired Word which can only be satisfactorily explained by supposing that the remote type of all was the oral teaching of the Apostles themselves. In truth, is it credible that the early Christians would have been so forgetful of the discourses of the men who had seen the LORD, that no trace of it,—no tradition of so much as the manner of it,—should have lingered on for a hundred years after the death of the last of the Apostles; down to the time when Origen, for example, was a young man?... It cannot possibly be!
(i.) "The things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses," (writes the great Apostle to his son Timothy,) "the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." Provision is thus made by the aged Saint,—in the last of his Epistles,—for the transmission of his inspired teaching to a second and a third generation. Now the words just quoted were written about the year 65, at which time Timothy was a young man. Unless we suppose that ALMIGHTY GOD curtailed the lives of the chief depositaries of His Word, Timothy will have lived on till A.D. 100; so that "faithful men" who died in the middle of the next century might have been trained and taught by him for many years. It follows, that the "faithful men" last spoken of will have been "able to teach others also," whose writings (if they wrote at all) would range from A.D. 190 to A.D. 210. Now, just such a writer is Hippolytus,—who is known to have been taught by that "faithful man" Irenus,—to whom, as it happens, the deposit was "committed" by Polycarp,—who stood to St. John in the self-same relation as Timothy to St. Paul!
(ii.) Our SAVIOUR is repeatedly declared to have interpreted the Old Testament to His Disciples. For instance, to the two going to Emmaus, "beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Moreover, before He left the world, He solemnly promised His Apostles that the HOLY GHOST, whom the FATHER should send in His Name, "should teach them all things, and bring to their remembrance all things which He had spoken to them." Shall we believe that the Treasury of Divine Inspiration thus opened by CHRIST Himself was straightway closed up by its human guardians, and at once forgotten? Shall we not rather believe that Cleopas and his companion, (for instance,) forthwith repeated their LORD'S words to every member of the Apostolic body, and to others also; that they were questioned again and again by adoring listeners, even to their extremest age; aye, and that they taxed their memories to the utmost in order to recal every little word, every particular of our SAVIOUR'S Divine utterance? It must be so! And the echo, the remote echo of that exposition, depend upon it! descended to a second, aye and to a third generation; yea, and has come down, faintly, and feebly it may be, but yet essentially and truly, even to ourselves!
(iii.) And yet,—(for we would not willingly incur the charge of being fanciful in so solemn and important a matter,)—the great fact to be borne in mind, (and it is the great fact which nothing can ever set aside or weaken,) is, that for the first century at least of our ra, there existed within the Christian Church the gift of Prophecy; that is, of Inspired Interpretation. The minds of the Apostles, CHRIST Himself "opened, to understand the Scriptures." Can it be any matter of surprise that men so enlightened, when they had been miraculously endowed with the gift of tongues, and scattered over the face of the ancient civilized World, should have disseminated the same principles of Catholic Interpretation, as well as the same elements of Saving Truth? When this miraculous gift ceased, its results did not also come to an end. The fountain dried up, but the streams which it had sent forth yet "made glad the City of GOD." And by what possible logic can the teaching of the early Church be severed from its source? It cannot be supposed for an instant that such a severance ever took place. The teaching of the Apostolic age was the immediate parent of the teaching of the earliest of the Fathers,—in whose Schools it is matter of history that those Patristic writers with whom we are most familiar, studied and became famous. Accordingly, we discover a method of Interpreting Holy Scripture strictly resembling that employed by our SAVIOUR and His Apostles, in all the earliest Patristic writings. As documents increase, the evidence is multiplied; and at the end of two or three centuries after the death of St. John the Evangelist, voices are heard from Jerusalem and other parts of Palestine; from Antioch and from other parts of Syria; from the Eastern and the Western extremities of North Africa; from many regions of Asia Minor; from Constantinople and from Greece; from Rome, from Milan, and from other parts of Italy; from Cyprus and from Gaul;—all singing in unison; all singing the same heavenly song!... In what way but one is so extraordinary a phenomenon to be accounted for? Are we to believe that there was a general conspiracy of the East and the West, the North and the South, to interpret Holy Scripture in a certain way; and that way, the wrong way?
Enough has been said, it is thought, to shew that many of Mr. Jowett's remarks about the value of Patristic evidence are either futile or incorrect; or that they betray an entire misapprehension of the whole question, not to say a thorough want of appreciation of the claims of Antiquity. We do not yield to the 'Essayist and Reviewer' in veneration for the Inspired page; and trust that enough has been said to shew it. Our eye, when we read Scripture, (like his,) "is fixed on the form of One like the Son of Man; or of the Prophet who was girded with a garment of camel's hair; or of the Apostle who had a thorn in the flesh." (p. 338.) We are only unlike Mr. Jowett we fear in this,—that we believe ex animo that the first-named was the Eternal SON, "equal to the FATHER," and "of one substance with the FATHER:" and further that St. Paul's fourteen Epistles are all inspired writings, in an entirely different sense from the Dialogues of Plato or the Tragedies of Sophocles. It follows, that however riveted our mental gaze may be on the awful forms which come before us in Holy Scripture,—as often as we con the inspired record of the actions and of the sayings of those men, we are constrained many a time to look upward, and to exclaim with the Psalmist, "Thy thoughts are very deep!" And often if asked, "Understandest thou what thou readest?"—we must still answer with the Ethiopian, "How can I, except some man should guide me?"
(iv.) To assume however that our defective knowledge "cannot be supplied by the conjectures of Fathers or Divines," (p. 338,) is in some sort to beg the question at issue. To say of the student of Scripture that "the history of Christendom, and all the afterthoughts of Theology, are nothing to him:" (p. 338:) that "he has to imagine himself a disciple of CHRIST or Paul, and to disengage himself from all that follows:" (Ibid.:) is not the language of modesty, but of inordinate conceit. In Mr. Jowett it is in fact something infinitely worse; for he shews that his object thereby is to "obtain an unembarrassed opportunity of applying all the resources of a so-called criticism to discredit and destroy the written record itself."
"True indeed it is, that more than any other subject of human knowledge, Biblical criticism has hung (sic.) to the past;" (p. 340;) but the reason is also obvious. It is because, in the words of great Bishop Pearson, "Philosophia quotidie progressu, Theologia nisi regressu non crescit." "O ye who are devoting yourselves to the Divine Science of Theology," (he exclaims,) "and whose cheeks grow pale over the study of Holy Scripture above all; ye who either fill the venerable office of the Priesthood or intend it, and are hereafter to undertake the awful cure of souls:—rid yourselves of that itch of the present age, the love of novelty. Make it your business to inquire for that which was from the beginning. Resort for counsel to the fountain-head. Have recourse to Antiquity. Return to the holy Fathers. Look back to the primitive Church. In the words of the Prophet,—'Ask for the old paths.'"
When therefore Mr. Jowett classes together "the early Fathers, the Roman Catholic mystical writers, the Swiss and German Reformers, and the Nonconformist Divines," (p. 377,)—he either shews a most lamentable want of intellectual perspective, or a most perverse understanding. So jumbled into one confused heap, it may not be altogether untrue to say of Commentators generally, that "the words of Scripture suggest to them their own thoughts or feelings." (p. 377.) But when it is straightway added, "There is nothing in such a view derogatory to the Saints and Doctors of former ages," (Ibid.,) we are constrained, (for the reasons already before the reader,) to remonstrate against so misleading and deceitful a way of putting the case. Mr. Jowett desires to be understood not to depreciate "the genius or learning of famous men of old," when he remarks "that Aquinas or Bernard did not shake themselves free from the mystical method of the Patristic times." (Ibid.) But with singular obtuseness, or with pitiful disingenuousness, he does his best by such words to shut out from view the real question at issue,—namely, the exegetical value of Patristic Antiquity. For the Church of England, when she appeals, (as she repeatedly does,) to "the Ancient Fathers," does not by any means intend such names as the Abbot of Clairvaux, who flourished in the middle of the twelfth century; or Thomas of Aquinum, who lived later into the thirteenth. It is the spirit of the ante-Nicene age which she defers to; the Fathers of the first four or five centuries to whose opinion she gives reverent attention; as her formularies abundantly shew. Whether therefore Aquinas and Bernard were or were not able to "shake themselves free from the mystical method of the Patristic times," matters very little. The point to be observed is that the Writers of the Patristic times, as a matter of fact, "did not shake themselves free from the mystical method of" CHRIST and His Apostles!
Very far am I from denying that "any one who, instead of burying himself in the pages of the commentators, would learn the Sacred Writings by heart, and paraphrase them in English, will probably make a nearer approach to their true meaning than he would gather from any Commentary." Quite certain is it that "the true use of Interpretation is to get rid of interpretation, and leave us alone in company with the author." (p. 384.) But this is quite a distinct and different matter, as every person of unsophisticated understanding must perceive at once. The same thing will be found stated by myself, in a subsequent part of the present volume, at considerable length; the qualifying condition having been introduced at p. 16. The truth is, a man can no more divest himself of the conditions of thought habitual to one familiar with his Prayer-Book, than he can withdraw himself from the atmosphere of light in which he moves. Not the abuse of Commentators on Holy Scripture, but the principle on which Holy Scripture itself is to be interpreted,—is the real question at issue: the fundamental question which underlies this, being of course the vital one,—namely, Is the Bible an inspired book, or not?
Apart from what has been already urged concerning "the torrent of Patristic Interpretation" which flows down not so much from the fountain-head of Scripture, (wherein so many specimens of Inspired Interpretation are preserved,) as from the fontal source of all Wisdom and Knowledge,—even the lips of the Incarnate WORD Himself;—apart from this, a very important Historical circumstance calls for notice in this place.
How did Christianity originate? how did it first establish a footing in the world? "The answer is, By the preaching of living men, who said they were commissioned by GOD to proclaim it. That was the origin and first establishment of Christianity. There is indeed a vague and unreasoning notion prevalent that Christianity was taken from the New Testament. The notion is historically untrue. Christianity was widely extended through the civilized world before the New Testament was written; and its several books were successively addressed to various bodies of Christian believers; to bodies, that is, who already possessed the faith of CHRIST in its integrity. When, indeed, GOD ceased to inspire persons to write these books, and when they were all collected together into what we call the New Testament, the existing Faith of the Church, derived from oral teaching, was tested by comparison with this Inspired Record. And it henceforth became the standing law of the Church that nothing should be received as necessary to Salvation, which could not stand that test. But still, though thus tested, (every article being proved by the New Testament,) Christianity is not taken from it; for it existed before it.
"What, then, was the Christianity which was thus established? Have we any record of it as it existed before the New Testament became the sole authoritative standard? I answer, we have. The Creeds of the Christian Church are the record of it. That is precisely what they purport to be: not documents taken from the New Testament, but documents transmitting to us the Faith as it was held from the beginning; the Faith as it was preached by inspired men, before the inspired men put forth any writings; the Faith once for all delivered to the Saints. Accordingly you will find that our Church in her viiith Article does not ground her affirmation that the Creeds ought to be 'thoroughly received and believed,' on the fact that they were taken from the New Testament, (which they were not;) but on the fact that 'they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.'"
It follows therefore from what has been said, that even if bad men could succeed in destroying the authority of the Bible as the Word of GOD, all could not be up with Christianity. There would still remain to be dealt with the Faith as it exists in the world; the Faith held from the beginning; the Faith once delivered to the Saints. None of the assaults on Holy Scripture can touch that; for it traces itself to an independent origin. The evil work, therefore, would have to be begun all over again. The special doctrines which are impugned in 'Essays and Reviews' do not stand or fall with the Inspiration or Interpretation of Scripture; but are stereotyped in the Faith of Christendom. "The Fall of Man, Original Sin, the Atonement, the Divinity of CHRIST, the Trinity, all have their place in the Faith held from the beginning. They are imbedded in the Creeds, and in that general scheme of Doctrine which circles round the Creeds, and is involved in them. Nay, curiously enough,—or rather I should say providentially,—the very point against which the attacks of this book are principally directed, namely the Inspiration of the Old Testament, is in express terms asserted there:—the HOLY GHOST 'spake by the Prophets.'"
It remains to shew the bearing of these remarks on Mr. Jowett's Essay.—With infinite perseverance, he dwells upon "the nude Scripture, the merest letter of the Sacred Volume, as if in it and in it alone, resided the entire Revelation of CHRIST, and all possible means of judging what that Revelation consists of: whereas this is very far indeed from being the case. Every single Book of the New Testament was written, as we have seen, to persons already in possession of Christian Truth. It is quite erroneous therefore, historically and notoriously erroneous, to suppose either that the Divine Institution of the Church, or that its Doctrines, were literally founded upon the written words of Holy Scripture; or that they can impart no illustration nor help in the Interpretation of those written words.... The complete possession of the saving Truth belonged to the Christian Church not by degrees, nor in lapse of time, but from the first. Of that saving truth, thus taught and thus possessed, the Apostles' Creed, growing up as it did on every side of Christendom as the faithful record of the uniform oral teaching of the Apostles, is the true and precious historical monument; and I venture to say that if any person claims to reject the Apostles' Creed as an auxiliary, a great and invaluable auxiliary, in interpreting the writings of the Apostles, he shews himself to be very wanting indeed in appreciation of the comparative value of Historical Evidence, and of the true principles of Historical Philosophy.—And not the Apostles' Creed only; but the whole history and tradition of the universal Church,—needing, no doubt, skill and discretion in its application,—supply, when applied with requisite skill and discretion, very valuable and real aid in interpreting Holy Scripture."
When therefore Mr. Jowett speaks contemptuously of "the attempt to adapt the truths of Scripture to the doctrines of the Creeds," (p. 353,) the kindest thing which can be said is that he writes like an ignorant, or at least an unlearned man. "The Creeds" (he says) "are acknowledged to be a part of Christianity.... Yet it does not follow that they should be pressed into the service of the Interpreter." Why not? we ask. "The growth of ideas," (he replies,) "in the interval which separated the first century from the fourth or sixth makes it impossible to apply the language of the one to the explanation of the other. Between Scripture and the Nicene or Athanasian Creeds, a world of the understanding comes in; and mankind are no longer at the same point as when the whole of Christianity was contained in the words 'Believe on the LORD JESUS CHRIST and thou mayest be saved;' when the Gospel centred in the attachment to a living and recently departed friend and Lord." (p. 353.)
But there is a fallacy or a falsity at every step of this argument. For when did the Gospel ever "centre in attachment?" or when was "the whole of Christianity contained" in one short sentence? Supposing too that "a world of the understanding" does come in between the first century and the sixth; how does it follow that it is "impossible" to apply the language of the Creeds to the interpretation of Holy Scripture? Explain to me how that "world of understanding" affects the Nicene Creed? Even in the case of that most precious Creed called the Athanasian,—why need we assume that "the growth of ideas" has been a spurious growth? What if it should prove, on the contrary, that the development has been that of the plant from the seed? Above all, why talk of "the fourth or sixth century,"—as if the Creeds were not essentially much older; nay, co-eval with Christianity itself?... Such writing shews nothing so much as a confused mind,—a weak, ill-informed, and illogical thinker.
Indeed Mr. Jowett seems to be altogether in the dark on the subject of the Creeds: for he speaks of them as "the result of three or four centuries of reflection and controversy," (p. 353,)—which is by no means true of all of them; nor, except in a certain sense, of any. But when he inquires,—"If the occurrence of the phraseology of the Nicene age in a verse of the Epistles would detect the spuriousness of the verse in which it was found,—how can the Nicene or Athanasian Creed be a suitable instrument for the interpretation of Scripture?" (p. 354.)—he simply asks a fool's question. The cases are not only not parallel, but there is not even any analogy between them. Let us hear him a little further:—
"Absorbed as St. Paul was in the person of Christ, ... he does not speak of Him as 'equal to the Father,' or 'of one substance with the Father.' Much of the language of the Epistles, (passages for example such as Romans i. 2: Philippians ii. 6,) would lose their meaning if distributed in alternate clauses between our LORD'S Humanity and Divinity. Still greater difficulties would be introduced into the Gospels by the attempt to identify them with the Creeds. We should have to suppose that He was and was not tempted; that when He prayed to His Father He prayed also to Himself; that He knew and did not know 'of that hour' of which He as well as the angels were ignorant. How could He have said 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?' or 'Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from Me.' How could He have doubted whether 'when the Son of Man cometh He shall find faith upon the earth?' These simple and touching words," (p. 355,)—pah!
Now if what precedes means anything at all,—(I am by no means certain however that it does!)—it means that the writer does not believe in the Divinity of our LORD JESUS CHRIST. Unless the sentence which is without a reference to the foot of the page be not a denial of the fundamental Doctrine of the Faith,—I do not understand it. But look at all which precedes; and then say if those are the remarks of a man entitled to dogmatize "On the Interpretation of Scripture." ... If Mr. Jowett really means that the Creeds cannot be reconciled with the Bible,—how can he himself subscribe to the VIIIth Article? If he means nothing of the kind,—why does he write in such a weak, cloudy, illogical way?
But the whole of the case has not even yet been stated. Down from the remote period of which we have been hitherto speaking,—the age of primitive Creeds, and oecumenical Councils, and ancient Fathers,—in every country of the civilized world to which the Gospel has spread,—the loftiest Intellect, the profoundest Learning, the sincerest Piety, have invariably endorsed the ancient and original method of interpretation. I am not implying that such corroboration was in any sense required; but the circumstance that it has been obtained, at least deserves attention. Modes of thought are dependent on times and countries. There is a fashion in all things. Great advances in Science,—grand epochs in civilization,—vicissitudes of opinion,—difference of institutions, national traditions, and the like,—might be supposed to have wrought a permanent change even in this department of Sacred Science. But it is not so. The storm has raged from one quarter or other of the heavens, but has ever spent its violence in vain. Still has the Church Catholic retained her own unbroken tradition. To keep to the history of that Church to which we, by GOD'S mercy, belong:—The constant appeal, at the time of our own great Reformation, was to the Fathers of the first four centuries. Ever since, the temper and spirit of our Commentators has been to revert to the same standard, to reproduce the same teaching. The most powerful minds and the most holy spirits,—English Divines of the deepest thought and largest reading,—let me add, of the soundest judgment and severest discrimination,—have, in every age, down to the present, gratefully accepted not only the method, but even the very details of primitive Patristic Interpretation. But "the acceptance of a hundred generations and the growing authority arising from it,"—like "the institutions based upon such ancient writings, and the history into which they have entwined themselves indissolubly for many centuries,"—all conspire to "constitute a perpetually increasing and strengthening" body of evidence on the subject of Sacred Interpretation.
Now, to oppose to the learning, and piety, and wisdom, of every age of the English Church,—to the unbroken testimony of the Church Universal,—(3) to the torrent of Patristic Antiquity,—(4) the decision of early Councils, and (5) the 'still small voice' of primitive Creeds,—yet more, (6) to the constant practice of the Apostles,—and, above all, (7) to the indisputable method of our Divine LORD Himself;—to oppose to all this mighty accumulation of evidence, the simple priori convictions of—Mr. Jowett! savours so strongly of the ridiculous, that it really seems superfluous to linger over the antithesis for a single moment.
$4.$ Our task might now be looked upon as completed.—It only remains, in justice to the gentleman whose method we have been considering, to ascertain by what considerations he is induced to reject that method of Interpretation which, as we have seen, enjoys such overwhelming sanction.
(i) In opposition to what goes before, then, he throws out a suggestion, that "nothing would be more likely to restore a natural feeling on this subject than a History of the Interpretation of Scripture. It would take us back to the beginning; it would present in one view the causes which have darkened the meaning of words in the course of ages." (p. 338-9.) "Such a work would enable us to separate the elements of Doctrine and Tradition with which the meaning of Scripture is encumbered in our own day." (p. 339.)
Let us here be well understood with our author. The advantage of a good "History of Interpretation" would indeed be incalculably great. But Mr. Jowett, (like most other writers of his class,) assumes the point he has to prove, when he insinuates that the result of such a contribution to our Theological Literature would be to shew that all the world has been in error for 1700 years, and that he alone is right. That 'erring fancy' has often been at work in the fields of sacred criticism,—who ever doubted? That there have been epochs of Interpretation,—different Schools,—and varying tastes, in the long course of so many centuries of mingled light and darkness, learning and barbarism;—what need to declare? A faithful history of Interpretation would of course establish these facts on a sure foundation.
But the Reverend Author forgets his Logic when he goes on from these undoubted generalities to imply that all has been confusion and utter uncertainty until now. Above all, common regard for the facts of the case ought to have preserved him from putting forth so monstrous a falsehood as the following:—"Among German Commentators there is for the first time in the history of the world, an approach to agreement and certainty." (p. 340.)
Let us however,—passing by the many crooked remarks and unsound inferences with which the Reverend writer, (more suo,) delights to perplex a plain question,—invite him to abide by the test which he himself proposes. For 1700 years, (he says,) the Interpretation of Scripture has been obscured and encumbered by successive Schools of Interpretation. The Interpreter's concern (he says) is with the Bible itself. "The simple words of that book he tries to preserve absolutely pure from the refinements of later times.... The greater part of his learning is a knowledge of the text itself." [He is evidently the very man who sweeps the house to discover the pearl of great price. (p. 414.)] "He has no delight in the voluminous literature which has overgrown it. He has no theory of Interpretation. A few rules guarding against common errors are enough for him.... He wants to be able to open his eyes, and see or imagine things as they truly are." (p. 338.) [How crooked by the way is all this! "He has no theory of Interpretation?" Why, no; for the best of all reasons. He denies Inspiration altogether! His "theory" is that the Bible is an uninspired Book! ... How peculiar too, and how plaintive is the "want" of the supposed Interpreter, "to he able to open his eyes;"—glued up, as they no doubt are, by the superstitious tendencies of the nineteenth century, and the tyranny of an intolerant age!]
But we may perhaps state the matter more intelligibly and simply, thus:—In order to ascertain the true principle of Scriptural Interpretation, let us,—divesting ourselves of the complicated and voluminous lore of 1700 years,—resort to the Bible itself. Let us go for our views to the fountain-head; and abide by what we shall discover there.
A fairer proposal (as I think) never was made. It exactly describes the method which I have humbly endeavoured myself to pursue in the ensuing Sermons. The inquiry will be found elaborated from p. 141 to p. 160 of the present volume; and the result is to be read on the last-named page, in the following words:—"that it may be regarded as a fundamental rule, that the Bible is not to be interpreted like a common book. This I gather infallibly from the plain fact, that the inspired writers themselves habitually interpret it as no other book either is, or can be interpreted.—Next, I assert without fear of contradiction that inspired Interpretation, whatever varieties of method it may exhibit, is yet uniform and unequivocal in this one result; namely, that it proves Holy Scripture to be of far deeper significancy than at first sight appears. By no imaginable artifice of Rhetoric or sophistry of evasion,—by no possible vehemence of denial or plausibility of counter assertion,—can it be rendered probable that Scripture has invariably one only meaning; and that meaning, the most obvious and easy."
Now, the reader is requested to observe that what precedes is the direct contradictory of the position which Mr. Jowett has written his Essay in order to establish. And thus we keep for ever coming back to his prton pseudos,—the fundamental falsity which underlies the whole of what he has written.
(ii) But although we have eagerly resorted to Scripture itself in order to ascertain on what principle Scripture ought to be interpreted, we cannot for a moment allow some of the sophistries with which the Reverend Author has encumbered the question, to escape without castigation. He may not first court an appeal to the School of Apostolical Interpretation; and then, before the result of that appeal has been ascertained, go off in praise of the illumination of the present age; and claim to represent the Theological mind of Europe in his own person. "Educated persons," (he has the impertinence to assert,) "are beginning to ask (!), not what Scripture may be made to mean, but what it does. And it is no exaggeration to say that he who in the present state of knowledge will confine himself to the plain meaning of words, and the study of their context, may know more of the original spirit and intention of the authors of the New Testament than all the controversial writers of former ages put together." (pp. 340-1.) This might be tolerated perhaps, in the self-constituted oracle of a Mechanics' Institute; but as proceeding from a Divinity Lecturer in one of the first Colleges in Oxford, I hesitate not to declare that such an opinion is simply disgraceful.
Very much of a piece with this, in point of flippancy,—(though barely consistent with his frequent assertions that the entire subject is hemmed in by grave difficulties,)—are the Regius Professor of Greek's remarks on the value of learning as a help to the Interpretation of Holy Writ. "Learning obscures as well as illustrates." (p. 337.)—"There seem to be reasons for doubting whether any considerable light can be thrown on the New Testament from inquiry into the language." (p. 393.)—"Minute corrections of tenses or particles are no good." (p. 393.)—"Discussions respecting the chronology of St. Paul's life and his second imprisonment; or about the identity of James, the brother of the LORD; or, in another department, respecting the use of the Greek article,—have gone far beyond the line of utility." (p. 393.) "The minuteness of the study of Greek in our own day has also a tendency to introduce into the text associations which are not really found there." (p. 391.)—Lastly, he complains of "the error of interpreting every particle, as though it were a link in the argument; instead of being, as is often the case, an excrescence of style." (p. 391.)
So then, in brief, the Fathers are in a conspiracy to mislead: Creeds and Councils encumber the sense: Modern Commentators are not to be trusted: the comparison of Scripture with Scripture, except it be "of the same age and the same authors," "will tend rather to confuse than to elucidate:" (p. 383:) "Learning obscures," and an accurate appreciation of the meaning of the text is "no good!"—"When the meaning of Greek words is once known, the young student has almost all the real materials which are possessed by the greatest Biblical scholar, in the book itself." (p. 384.) In a word, (as Dr. Moberly has had the manliness to remark,)—"It simply comes to this: A little Greek, (not too much,) and a strong self-relying imagination, and you may interpret Holy Scripture as well as—Mr. Jowett!" (p. lxii.) ... Benighted himself, the unhappy author of this Essay is so apprehensive lest a ray of light from Heaven shall break in upon one of his disciples,—even sideways, as it were, from the margin of the Bible,—that he carefully prohibits "the indiscriminate use of parallel passages" as "useless and uncritical." ... Yet may one not with discrimination refer to the margin?—Better not! "No good!" (p. 393.) replies the Oracle. "Even the critical use of parallel passages is not without danger." (p. 383.) ... O shame! And all this from a College Tutor and Lecturer on Divinity! this from one entrusted with the care of educating young men! this from a Regius Professor of Greek!
Mr. Jowett congratulates himself that "Biblical criticism has made two great steps onward,—at the time of the Reformation, and in our own day." But his notion is amply refuted by the known facts of the case: for when he adds,—"The diffusion of a critical spirit in History and Literature is affecting the criticism of the Bible in our own day in a manner not unlike the burst of intellectual life in the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries;" (p. 340;) he clearly requires to be reminded that the success of the Divinity of the Reformation was owing to the grand appeal then made to the Patristic writings.
So far then as any of ourselves are resorting to those sources of information, there may be a faint resemblance in kind between the spirit which animates us, and that which wrought so nobly in the Fathers of our spiritual freedom,—Cranmer and Ridley and the other learned and holy men who revised our Offices. But if "German Commentators" and their method be supposed to be the ideals to which the age is tending, then the Theology of the middle of the nineteenth century stands in marked contrast to what prevailed in the middle of the sixteenth; and our spirit is the very reverse of theirs.—But I hasten on.
(iii) "The uncertainty which prevails in the Interpretation of Scripture," Mr. Jowett proposes to get rid of,—(this is in fact the aim of his entire Essay,) by denying that there are in Scripture any deeper meanings to interpret. In the meantime, by every device in his power, he seeks from priori considerations, (as we have seen,) to shew that no such meanings can exist. We allow ourselves to be biassed, to a singular extent, he says, "by certain previous suppositions with which we come to the perusal of Scripture." (p. 342.) But for this, "no one would interpret Scripture as many do." (Ibid.) Let us ascertain then what these erroneous "suppositions" are.