Inspiration and Interpretation - Seven Sermons Preached Before the University of Oxford
by John Burgon
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Let me end, as the manner of preachers is, by gathering out of what has been spoken one brief practical consideration.—This whole visible frame of things wherein we play our part, is hastening to decay. Everything we behold,—ourselves included,—carries with it the prophecy of its own speedy dissolution.—What, amid the wreck of worlds, will be our confidence?... It is an inquiry worth making, in these the days of health, and vigour, and security, and peace. O my soul, (learn to ask yourselves,)—O my soul, when the Heavens shall depart, and the Earth reel before the Second Advent of its Maker;—when the Sun puts on mourning, and the very powers of Heaven are shaken;—what shall be our confidence,—our hope,—in that tremendous day? Whither shall we betake ourselves, amid the overthrow of universal Nature, but to the sure mercies of Him who "in the beginning created the Heaven and the Earth?"—To those strong Hands, we intend, (GOD helping us!) with unswerving confidence to commend our fainting spirits[328].... Him, then, in life let us learn to reverence, on whom in death we propose so implicitly to lean! And we only know Him in, and through, and by His WORD. Nor can we in any surer way shew Him reverence or dishonour, than by the manner in which we receive His message,—yea, by the spirit in which we unfold this, the first page of it,—where stands recorded that primval act of Almighty power which is the ground of all our confidence,—the very warrant for our own security.... "Blessed" of a truth, in that day, will he be, "that hath the GOD of Jacob for his help, and whose hope is in the LORD his GOD:—who made the Heaven and the Earth,—the Sea and all that therein is:—who keepeth His promise for ever[329]!"


[271] Preached in Christ-Church Cathedral, Nov. 11th, 1860.

[272] "The whole period, from the beginning of the primary fossiliferous strata to the present day, must be great beyond calculation, and only bear comparison with the astronomical cycles, as might naturally be expected; the earth being without doubt of the same antiquity with the other bodies of the solar system."—Mrs. Somerville's Physical Geography.

[273] Col. i. 16.

[274] Neh. ix. 6.

[275] Eph. i. 11.

[276] Hooker's Eccl. Pol., B. I. c. iii. 2.

[277] Ps. xxxiii. 6.

[278] Alluding to a catastrophe which had recently occurred at St. Mary's Church, and which necessitated considerable repairs; in consequence of which, the first four of these Sermons were preached in the Cathedral.

[279] Is. xl. 12.

[280] Amos v. 8 and ix. 6.

[281] St. Matth. xxvii. 45.

[282] Exod. x. 21-23.

[283] St. Matth. xxiv. 29.

[284] Job ix. 5-7.

[285] Ps. xxxiii. 9.

[286] Gen. i. 4.

[287] "Can any one sensible of the value of words suppose," (asks Mr. Goodwin,) "that nothing more is here described, or intended to be described, than the partial clearing away of a fog?" (Essays and Reviews, pp. 227-8.) No one,—we answer. But to the question, we venture to rejoin another. To whom does this philosopher suppose his pleasantry likely to prove injurious? Is he making Moses ridiculous, or—himself?

[288] St. John ix. 5, &c.

[289] 1 Tim. vi. 16.

[290] 2 Cor. iv. 6.

[291] "Whether the writer regarded them as already existing, and only waiting to have a proper place assigned them, may be open to question." (E. and R., p. 221.) We accept the alternative given us by Mr. Goodwin.

[292] Job xxxviii. 7.

[293] Alluding to 1 Kings vii. 21.

[294] The test of Elohim and Jehovah has been, by the Germans themselves, given up; "and for this plain reason,—that in many parts of Genesis, [e.g. ch. xxviii. 16-22: xxxi.: xxxix., &c.] it is utterly untenable; the names being so intermingled as to admit of no such division." See the Appendix (C) to the Rev. Henry John Rose's Hulsean Lectures for 1833,—p. 233.

[295] Besides in Gen. i. 2, the expression (tohu bohu) recurs in Jer. iv. 23 and Is. xxxiv. 11,—both times with clear reference to the earlier place. Jeremiah in fact quotes Genesis.

[296] Eccl. Pol., B. I. c. iii. 2.

[297] Ps. cxlviii. 5, 6.

[298] South's Sermons, (Serm. II.)

[299] See St. Matth. xix. 4 to 6,—where Gen. i. 27 as well as Gen. ii. 24, are quoted by our SAVIOUR.

[300] "Holding," (says Hugh Miller,) "that the six days of the Mosaic account were not natural days, but lengthened periods, I find myself called on, as a geologist, to account for but three out of the six. Of the period during which light was created; of the period during which a firmament was made to separate the waters from the waters; or of the period during which the two great lights of the earth, with the other heavenly bodies, became visible from the Earth's surface;—we need expect to find no record in the rocks."—Testimony, &c., p. 134.—This is ingenious, and is piously meant. But the first three days remain to be accounted for by somebody, all the same. If the last three days represent "lengthened periods," so, I suppose, do the first three.

[301] Exod. xx. 11.

[302] Essays and Reviews, p. 252.

[303] Ibid.

[304] Id. p. 253.

[305] Id. p. 252.

[306] Pattison's The Earth and the World, p. 99.

[307] Col. ii. 3.

[308] Josh. x. 12.

[309] Prov. iii. 20.

[310] St. John iii. 8.

[311] St. John iii. 5.

[312] St. Matth. xxvi. 26.

[313] St. John viii. 58.

[314] St. John x. 30.

[315] Ps. xciv. 9.

[316] On this subject, the reader is referred to Serm. VII.

[317] Ps. xcii. 4.

[318] Cowper.

[319] Eph. iii. 18.

[320] This paragraph is mostly copied from a Sermon (MS.) preached before the University by the late Professor Hussey, Oct. 12, 1856.

[321] Professor Phillips refers me to a paper by Mr. Prestwich in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, 1859, vol. x. No. 35, p. 58. Also in the Transactions of the R. S. for 1860, p. 308.

[322] I allude to the supposed disclosures of Egyptian monuments.

[323] I allude to a recent work on the Origin of Species.

[324] The reader is requested to read what Bishop Pearson has most eloquently written on this subject. It will be found in the Appendix (B).

[325] 1 Cor. xv. 47.

[326] Ibid. xv. 22, &c.

[327] Pistis does not occur once in St. John's Gospel: pisteu (which is found about thirty-five times, in all, in the first three Gospels,) occurs about one hundred times, in the Gospel of St. John alone.

[328] St. Luke xxiii. 46, (quoting Ps. xxxi. 5:) words which are alluded to in 1 St. Pet. iv. 19.

[329] Ps. cxlvi. 5,—words quoted by the early Church of Jerusalem, Acts iv. 24.


* * * * *


* * * * *

2 Tim. iii. 16.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.

But that is not exactly what St. Paul says. The Greek for that, would be pasa H graph—not pasa graph—theopneustos. St. Paul does not say that the whole of Scripture, collectively, is inspired. More than that: what he says is, that every writing,—every several book of those hiera grammata, or Holy Scriptures, in which Timothy had been instructed from his childhood,—is inspired by God[331]. It comes to very nearly the same thing; but it is not quite the same thing. St. Paul is careful to remind us that every Book in the Bible is an inspired Book[332]. And this statement is not confined to one place.—Elsewhere, he calls his message "the Word of GOD;" and says that it had been received by the disciples not as the Word of Men, but as it is in truth, the Word of GOD[333].—Elsewhere, "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the HOLY GHOST teacheth[334]:"—where, if I at all understand the Apostle, (and he speaks very plainly!) he says that his words were inspired by the HOLY GHOST.—Accordingly, St. Peter declares that the Epistles of his "beloved brother Paul" are part of the Holy Scriptures[335];—Divinely inspired, therefore, like all the rest.

But does not St. Paul himself in a certain place express a doubt—saying "I think that I have the Spirit of GOD[336]?" and does he not contrast his own sayings with the Divine sayings, ("not I but the LORD[337]"), clearly implying that his own were not Divine? and does he not say that he delivers certain things "by permission, and not of commandment[338]," whereby he seems to insinuate a gradation of authority in what he delivers?—No. Not one of these things does he do. He says, indeed, of a certain hint to married persons that he offers it "by way of advice to them not by way of precept:" but giving advice to men is a very different thing from receiving permission from GOD. Again, "Unto the married," (he says,) "I command, yet not I but the LORD,"—alluding to our LORD'S words, as set down by St. Matthew, chap. xix. verse 6[339]; which is simply an historical allusion to the Gospel.—So far from "thinking" he had the Spirit of GOD, (as if it were an open question whether he had it or not,) he says the very contrary. Doke, in all such places, implies, not doubt but certainty[340]: (as when our LORD asks,—-"Doth he thank that servant because he did the things commanded him? ou dok,"—I fancy not indeed[341]!) On St. Paul's lips, as every scholar knows, the phrase is not one of doubt, but one of indignant, or at least emphatic asseveration[342].—A man had need be very sure he understands the record, (let me just remark in passing,) before he presumes to criticize it.

"The Spirit of CHRIST" is said by St. Peter to have been "in the prophets[343]:" and in another place he declares that they "spake as they were moved by the HOLY GHOST[344]." The HOLY GHOST accordingly is said to have spoken the xlist Psalm "by the mouth of David[345]." The xcvth Psalm is declared absolutely to be the utterance of the HOLY GHOST[346]. Once, the cxth Psalm is ascribed simply to GOD[347]; and once, to David speaking under the influence of the HOLY GHOST[348]. The iind Psalm is described as the language of GOD the FATHER "by the mouth of His Servant David[349]." "Well spake the HOLY GHOST by Esaias the Prophet unto our Fathers[350],"—was the exclamation of the Apostle Paul, quoting the 9th and 10th verses of his vith chapter. When Jeremiah speaks, the HOLY GHOST is declared, (not Jeremiah, but the HOLY GHOST) to witness unto us[351]. The assertion is express that it was "GOD" who, "by the mouth of all His Prophets," foretold the Death of CHRIST[352]: "the LORD GOD of Israel" who, "by the mouth of His holy Prophets of old," gave promise of CHRIST'S coming[353]. "The HOLY GHOST signified" what the Mosaic Law enjoined[354]. "It is not ye that speak, but the HOLY GHOST[355]"—was our SAVIOUR'S word of promise and of consolation to the Twelve: and, on an earlier occasion,—"It is not ye that speak; but the SPIRIT of your Father, which speaketh in you[356]." And this promise became so famous, that St. Paul says the Corinthians challenged him to prove that CHRIST was speaking in him[357].... But why multiply places? The use which our SAVIOUR makes in the New Testament of the words of the Old,—from the writings of Moses to the writings of Malachi,—would be simply nugatory unless those words were much more than human. And the record of the Apostle is express and emphatic:—"All Scripture—every Book of the Bible,—is given by Inspiration of GOD."—In the face of such testimony, by the way, we deem it not a little extraordinary to be assured (by an individual who has acquired considerable notoriety within the last few months) that "for any of the higher or supernatural views of Inspiration there is no foundation in the Gospels or Epistles[358]."

Strange to say, there is a marvellous indisposition in Man to admit the notion of such a heaven-sent message. Not to dispute with those who deny Inspiration altogether, (for that would be endless,) there are many,—and, we fear, a daily increasing number of persons,—who, admitting Inspiration in terms, yet so mutilate the notion of it, that their admission becomes a practical lie. "St. Paul was inspired, no doubt. So was Shakspeare." He who says this, intending no quibble, declares that in his belief St. Paul was not inspired at all.

But this is a monstrous case, with which I will not waste your time. Far more numerous are they, who, admitting that the Authors of the Bible were inspired in quite a different sense from Homer and Dante, are yet for modifying and qualifying this admission after so many strange and arbitrary fashions, that the residuum of their belief is really worth very little. One man has a mental reservation of exclusion in favour of the two Books of Chronicles, or the Book of Esther, or of Daniel.—Another, is content to eliminate from the Bible those passages which seem to him to run counter to the decrees of physical Science;—the History of the Six Days of Creation,—of the Flood,—of the destruction of Sodom,—and of Joshua's address to Sun and Moon.—Another regards it as self-evident that nothing is trustworthy which savours supremely of the marvellous;—as the Temptation of our first Parents,—the Manna in the Wilderness,—Balaam reproved by the dumb ass,—and the history of Jonah.—There are others who cannot tolerate the Miracles of the Old and the New Testament. The more timid, explain away as much of them as they dare. What remains, troubles them. The more logical sweep them away altogether. A miracle (they say) cannot be true because it implies a violation of the fixed and immutable laws of Nature.

And then,—(so strangely constituted are some men's minds,)—there are not a few persons who, without exactly denying the inspiration of the Bible in any of its more marvellous portions,—(for that would be an inconvenient proceeding,)—are yet content to regard much of it as a kind of inspired myth. This is a class of ally (?) with whom one really knows not how to deal. The man does not reason. He assumes his right to disbelieve, and yet will not allow that he is an unbeliever. The world is singularly indulgent toward persons of this unphilosophical, illogical, presumptuous class.

Now, I shall have something to say to all these different kinds of objectors, on some subsequent occasion. But I shall be rendering the younger men a far more important service if to-day I address my remarks to a different class of objectors altogether: that far larger body, I mean, who without at all desiring to impugn the Inspiration of GOD'S Oracles, yet make no secret of their belief that the Bible is full of inaccuracies and misstatements. These men ascribe a truly liberal amount of human infirmity to the Authors of the several Books of the Bible;—slips of memory, misconceptions, imperfect intelligence, partial illumination, and so forth;—and, under one or other of those heads, include whatever they are themselves disposed to reject. The writers who come in for the largest share of this indulgence, are the Evangelists; because the Historians of our LORD'S life, having happily left us four versions of the same story, and often three versions of the same transaction, the evidence whereby they may be convicted of error is in the hands of all. Truly, mankind has not been slow to avail itself of the opportunity. You will seldom hear a Gospel difficulty discussed, without a quiet assumption on the part of the Reverend gentleman that he knows all about the matter in question, but that the Evangelist did not. His usual method is, calmly to inform us that it is useless to look for strict consistency in matters of minute detail; that general agreement between the four Evangelists there does exist, and that ought to be enough. The inevitable inference from his manner of handling the Gospels, is, that if his actual thoughts could find candid expression, we should hear him address their blessed authors somewhat as follows:—"You are four highly respectable characters, no doubt; and you mean well. But it cannot be expected that persons of your condition in life should have described so many intricate transactions so minutely without making blunders. I do not say it unkindly. I often make blunders myself,—I, who have a "clearness of understanding," "a power of discrimination between different kinds of Truth[359]" unknown to the Apostolic Age!" ... Of course the preacher does not say all this. He has too keen a sense of "the dignity of the pulpit." And so he puts it somewhat thus:—"While we are disposed to recognize substantial agreement, and general conformity in respect of details, among the synoptical witnesses, in their leading external outlines, we are yet constrained to withhold our unqualified acceptance of any theory of Inspiration which should claim for these compilers exemption from the oscitancy, and generally from the infirmities of humanity." ... This sounds fine, you know; and is thought an ingenious way of wrapping up the charge which the Reverend preacher brings against the Evangelists;—of having, in plain terms,—made blunders.

It will be convenient that we should narrow the ground to this single issue: for the time is short. And in the remarks I am about to offer, I shall not imitate the example of those preachers who dress out an easy thought in a superfluity of inflated language, only in order that its deformity may escape detection. Be not surprised if I speak to you this morning in uncommonly plain English; for I am determined that the simplest person present shall understand at least what I mean. The dignity of the Blessed Evangelists, who walked with JESUS, and whom JESUS loved,—the dignity of that Gospel which I believe to be penetrated through and through with the Holy Spirit of GOD,—for that, I confess to a most unbounded jealousy. As for the "dignity of the pulpit,"—I hate the very phrase! It has been made too often the shield of impiety and the cloak of dulness.

To begin, then,—Is it, I would ask you, a reasonable anticipation that the narrative of one inspired by GOD would prove full of inconsistencies, misstatements, slips of memory:—or indeed, that it should contain any misstatements, any inaccuracies at all? What then is the difference between an inspired and an uninspired writing,—the Word of GOD and the Word of Man?

The answer which I shall receive, is obvious. As a matter of fact (it is replied) there are these inaccuracies: that is, the same transaction is described by two or more writers, and their accounts prove inconsistent. Thus, St. Matthew begins his account of the healing of the blind at Jericho, with the words,—"And as they were going out of Jericho:" but St. Luke, "While He was drawing nigh to Jericho."—There are these slips of memory; as when St. Matthew ascribes to "Jeremy the prophet" words which are found in the prophet Zechariah.—There are these misstatements, as where the Census of the Nativity is said to have taken place under the presidentship of Cyrenius.—And these are but samples of a mighty class of difficulties, (it is urged:)—the two Genealogies; the Call of the four Disciples; the healing of the Centurion's servant; the title on the Cross; the history of the Resurrection:—and again, "the sixteenth of Tiberius;" "the days of Abiathar;" with many others.—Let me then briefly discuss the three examples first cited,—which really came spontaneously. Each is the type of a class; and the answer to one is, in reality, applicable to all the rest. I humbly ask for your patience and attention; promising that I will abuse neither, though I must tax both.

The great fundamental truth to be first laid down, is this—that the Gospels are not four—but one. The Ancients knew this very well. Euangelistai men tessares,—Euangelion de hen—says Origen[360]: "the Gospel-writers are four,—but the Gospel is one." And the ancients recorded this mighty verity four times over on the first page of the Gospel, lest it should ever be forgotten; and there it stands to this day:—the Gospel,—the one Gospel kata,—according to—St. Matthew,—according to St. Mark,—according to St. Luke,—according to St. John. Like that river which went out of Eden to water the Garden,—it was by the HOLY GHOST "parted, and became into four heads."—The Gospels therefore, (to call them by their common name,) are not to be regarded as four witnesses, or rather as four culprits, brought up on a charge of fraud. Rather are they Angelic voices singing in sweetest harmony, but after a method of Heavenly counterpoint which must be studied before it can be understood of Men.

And next,—There is one great principle, and one only, which needs to be borne in mind for the effectual reconciliation of every discrepancy which the four narratives present: namely, that you should approach them in exactly the same spirit in which you approach the statement of any man of honour of your acquaintance. Whether the Apostles of the LAMB,—men whom we believe to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit of the Everlasting GOD,—are not entitled to far higher respect, far higher consideration, at our hands,—I leave you to decide. As one whose joy and crown it has been to weigh every word in the Gospel in hair-scales, I am prepared to risk the issue. Be only as fair to the four Evangelists as you are to one another; and I am quite confident about the result.

I appeal to the experience of every thoughtful man among you who has at all given his mind to the subject of evidence, whether it be not the fact,—(1st) That when two or more persons are giving true versions of the same incident, their accounts will sometimes differ so considerably, that it will seem at first sight as if they could not possibly be reconciled: and yet (2ndly), That a single word of explanation, the discovery of one minute circumstance,—perfectly natural when we hear it stated, yet most unlikely and unlooked-for,—will often suffice to remove the difficulty which before seemed unsurmountable; and further, that when this has been done, the entire consistency of the several accounts becomes apparent; while the harmony which is established is often of the most beautiful nature. (3rdly) That when (for whatever reason) two or more versions of the same incident are not correct, no ingenuity can ever possibly reconcile them, as they stand. They lean apart in hopeless divergence. In other words, they contradict one another.

Now, these principles are fully admitted in daily life. If your friend comes to you with ever so improbable a tale, the last thing which enters into your mind is to disbelieve him. Is he in earnest? Yes, on his honour. Is he sure he is not mistaken? That very doubt of yours requires an apology: but your friend says,—"I am as sure as I am of my existence." "Give it me under your hand and seal then." Your friend begins to suspect your sanity; but the matter being of some importance, he complies. "It must be so then," you exclaim, "though I cannot understand it.".... I only wish that men would be as fair to the Evangelists as they are to their friends!

You are requested to observe,—for really you must admit,—that any possible solution of a difficulty, however improbable it may seem, any possible explanation of the story of a competent witness, is enough logically and morally to exempt that man from the imputation of an incorrect statement. The illustration which first presents itself may require an apology; but the dignity of the pulpit shall not outweigh the dignity of His Gospel after whose blessed Name this House is called[361]: and I can think of nothing as apposite as what follows.

It is a conceivable case, that, hereafter, three persons of known truthfulness should meet, in a Court of Justice at the Antipodes; where the entire difficulty should turn on a question of time. The case is conceivable, that the first should be heard to declare that at Oxford, on such a day, of such a year, he had seen such an one standing before Carfax Church while the clock was striking one:—that the second should declare that he also, on the same day of the same year, had seen the same person passing by St. Mary's, when the clock of that Church was also striking one:—that the third should stand up and assert,—"I also saw the same person on that same day, but it was on the steps of the Cathedral I met him; and I also remember hearing the clock at that moment strike one."—Now I can conceive that the result of such evidence would be adverted upon in some such way as the following:—"While we are disposed to recognize the substantial agreement, and general conformity in respect of details, among the synoptical witnesses, in their leading external outlines, we are yet constrained,"—and the rest of the impertinence we had before. Whereas you and I know perfectly that the three clocks in question were, till lately, kept five minutes apart: a sufficient interval, (I beg you to observe in passing,) for the individual in question to have been seen by you walking in an easterly direction; and by me due west; and by a third person, due east again. Highly improbable circumstances, I freely grant, every one of them; and yet, by the hypothesis, all perfectly true! Meantime, it is conceivable that Judge and jury would have the indecency openly to tax the three men I spoke of with inexactitude in their statements: and it is conceivable that those three honest men—(the only true men, it might be, in the Colony, after all,)—would carry to their grave the imputation of untruth. Here and there, a generous heart would be found to say to them,—I share not in the vulgar cry against you! I nothing doubt that it all fell out precisely as you assert. Either, the clocks in Oxford went wrong that day;—or there had been some trick played with the clocks;—any how, I believe you, for I have evidence that you are marvellously exact in all your little statements; and you cannot have been mistaken in a plain matter like this. I have heard too that you are not the ordinary men you seem.... The men make no answer. They care nothing for your opinion, and my opinion. The rashness of mankind may astonish the Angels perhaps; but the Apostles and Evangelists of CHRIST are already safe within the veil!

The difficulty supposed is not an imaginary one. St. John says that when Pilate sat in judgment on the LORD of Glory, "it was about the sixth hour[362]." But since St. Mark says that at the third hour they crucified Him[363],—the two statements seem inconsistent. The ancients,—(giants at interpretation, babes in criticism,)—altered the text. Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, A.D. 300, says that he had seen it in the very autograph of St. John[364]. A learned man of our own, however, a hundred years ago, ascertained that, in the Patriarchate of Ephesus, the hours were not computed after the Jewish method: but, (strange to say,) exactly after our own English method[365]. And yet, not so strange either; for the Gospel first came to us from there.—You see at a glance that all the four mentions of time of day in St. John[366], which used to occasion so much difficulty, become beautifully intelligible at once.

To come then to the three samples of difficulty propounded a moment ago. And first, for the blind men of Jericho.

I. The difficulty lies all on the surface. Listen to a plain tale.

Our SAVIOUR, attended by His Disciples and followed by a vast concourse of persons, had reached the outskirts of Jericho. A certain blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. He heard the noise of a passing crowd, and inquired what it meant? He was told that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. He rose at once,—hastened down the main street through which, in due time, CHRIST perforce must come; joined another blind man, (named Bartimus,—a well-known character, who, like himself, was accustomed to sit and beg by the road side;) and the two companions in suffering, having stationed themselves at the exit of Jericho, waited till the Great Physician should appear.

The crowd begins to approach; and the two blind men implore the Son of David to have pity on them. So importunate is their suit, that the foremost of the passers-by rebuke them. The men grow more urgent. Our SAVIOUR pauses, and orders that they shall be called. At this gracious summons, both draw near; the more remarkable applicant flinging his outer garment from him as he rises from his seat; but both, when they appear in our SAVIOUR'S presence, making the same request. The Holy One, touched with compassion, laid His Hands upon their eyes, and grants their prayer: whereupon they both follow Him in the way.

Well, (you will ask,)—what then?—"What then?" I answer. Then there is no difficulty in the three accounts about which you spoke so unbecomingly a moment ago. Assume this plain, and not at all improbable version of the incident, to be true, and you will find that no difficulty remains whatever. Every recorded circumstance is accounted for, and fits in exactly with it. I wish there were time to enlarge on some of the details, and to make some remarks on the manner of the Evangelists in relating events: but there is no time. Besides,—without a huge copy of the Gospel open before us all, I could not hope to make my meaning understood.

For of course you are to believe that he who would understand the Gospel must first study it. You must ascertain, by some crucial test, confirmed by a large and careful induction, what the character of a narrative purporting to be inspired, is. You have no right first to assume exactly what Inspiration shall result in, and then to deny that there is Inspiration because you fail to discover your assumed result[367]. That were foolish.

I shall perhaps be thought to lay myself open to the rejoinder,—"Neither have you any right to assume that Inspiration will result in Infallibility." But the retort is without real point. I do but assert that, just as every man of honour claims to be believed until he has been convicted of a falsehood,—inspired Prophets, Evangelists, and Apostles have a right to our entire confidence in the scrupulous accuracy of every word they deliver, until it can be shewn that they have once made a mistake.

If you will take the trouble to compare any of the cases,—in Genesis for example,—where a conversation is first set down, and then reported by one of the speakers,—you will find that it is deemed allowable to omit or to add clauses, even when the discourse is related in the first person[368]. Something before inserted, is withheld: or something before withheld, is inserted. No discourse was probably ever set down, word for word, as it was delivered. In sacred, as in profane writings, the exact substance, or rather, the real purport, of what was spoken, very reasonably stands for what was actually spoken. The difference is this;—that a narrative, by man abridged, may convey a wrong impression: whereas an inspired abridgement of any history soever cannot mislead.

Other characteristics of an inspired narrative,—the lesser Laws of the Divine Harmony, as they may be called,—will be discovered by the attentive reader. For example, that intervening circumstances are often passed over, without any notice taken of them whatever: while yet it is singular how often the Evangelist shews himself conscious of what he omits by some very minute allusion to it[369]. This must suffice however. It would require a whole sermon, a whole volume rather, to enumerate all the features of the Evangelical method.

II. The next sample of difficulty will not occupy us long. St. Matthew is charged with a bad memory, because he ascribes to "Jeremy the prophet[370]" words which are said to be found in Zechariah.—Strange that men should be heard to differ about a plain matter of fact! I have never been able to find these words in Zechariah yet!... There are words something like them,—but not those very words, by any means,—in Zech. xi. 12. Why then is St. Matthew to be taxed with a bad memory? Are there not other prophecies quoted in the New Testament not to be found in the Old? Yes[371]. Is not the self-same prophecy sometimes found in two different prophets,—as in Isaiah and Nahum? Yes[372]. Are not some prophetic passages common to Jeremiah and Zechariah? Yes[373]. The Jews even had a saying that the Spirit of the one was in the other. Where then remains a pretence for supposing that St. Matthew was troubled with a bad memory?

III. So, it is generally assumed that St. Luke made a mistake when he said that the census of the Nativity was made when Cyrenius was President of Syria,—because not Cyrenius but Varus is known to have been President about that time.—Now, there are three fair conjectures,—each of which is sufficient to meet this difficulty: but instead of developing them, I will simply remind you of a minute circumstance in Jewish story which shews how dangerous it is to press a general fact against a particular statement.—In the year 4 B.C., Matthias was undeniably the Jewish High-priest. Now, if St. Luke, describing the events of a certain day in September, B.C. 4, had recorded that the High-priest's name was Joseph, you would have thought him guilty of a misstatement: but the error would have been all your own,—for it has been discovered that a person bearing that name held the office of High-priest for one single day,—namely, the 10th of Tisri.... "A very unlikely circumstance!" you will exclaim. O yes,—a very unlikely circumstance indeed: but, you will have the kindness to observe that that is not exactly the point in question.

Why then are difficulties of this, or of any kind, permitted in the Gospel at all? it may be asked.—I answer,—that they may prove instruments of probation to you and to me. The sensualist has his trials; and the ambitious man, his. The difficulties in Holy Scripture,—which are numerous, and diverse, and considerable,—are admirable tests of the moral, the spiritual, the intellectual temper of Man[374]. Experience shews moreover that some of the minutest discrepancies of all, if they be but of a character almost hopeless, are more potent to create perplexity in minds of a certain constitution, than the gravest doubts which ever burthened the soul of Speculation.

I have confined myself to one class of objections, for an obvious reason. Difficulties which arise out of the matter of Scripture, as it is emphatically embodied in quotations from the Old Testament made in the New, must be separately considered in one or more Sermons on Interpretation. I must be content to-day with repudiating, in the most unqualified way, the notion that a mistake of any kind whatever is consistent with the texture of a narrative inspired by the Holy Spirit of GOD. The allusion in St. Stephen's speech to "the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor, the son" (not the father, but the son) "of Sychem," is a good example of confusion apparently existing in an inspired speaker; but, in reality, only in the writings of those who have sat in judgment upon his words[375].

To keep to the case of the Evangelists,—I appeal to your sense of fairness, whether it be not reasonable to assume, that until those blessed writers have been convicted of one single inaccuracy of statement, their narratives ought to be accounted faultless, like Him whose Life they record;—like Him by whose Spirit they are inspired. I would to Heaven that men would have the decency to suspect themselves, and one another, rather than the Evangelists,—of mistake; or at least, before they venture publicly to impugn the Authors of the Everlasting Gospel, that they would be at the pains to weigh the evidence with the care that evidence deserves, but which I am sure that sermon-writers and essayists do not bestow. Let them spend the long summer days of many a Long Vacation—from early morning until twilight,—dissecting every syllable of the blessed pages; and then they will learn to adore instead of to cavil. They will deem them absolutely faultless, instead of daring to charge all their own pitiful misconceptions, and weak misapprehensions, and miserable blunders, upon them.—They will be inclined, rather, to challenge the world to establish one blot in what they love so well; and would gladly stake all upon the issue of a conflict before a fair tribunal,—if submission might follow upon defeat.

As for mistakes of the paltry kind last noticed—(the days of Abiathar, the sixteenth of Tiberius, and so forth,)—I wonder the glaring absurdity of charging them against Evangelists, does not strike any modest man of sane mind. To suppose that St. Matthew quoted the wrong prophet, or that St. Luke did not know the regnal years of the reigning Emperor; that St. Stephen confused Abraham with Jacob, and Sychem with Hebron;—all this is really so grossly absurd, that I can hardly condescend to discuss the question. It is like maintaining that Sir Isaac Newton, after discovering the Law of Gravitation, and calculating the pathway of a planet, persisted in saying that two and two make five: or that Columbus, after discovering America, despaired of finding the way to his own door. It is simply ridiculous!—Admirable as a subject for men to exercise their wits upon,—as instruments of cavil, objections like these are about as formidable as a child's sword of lathe in the day of battle.

I hear some one say,—It seems to trouble you very much that inspired writers should be thought capable of making mistakes; but it does not trouble me,—Very likely not. It does not trouble you, perhaps, to see stone after stone, buttress after buttress, foundation after foundation, removed from the walls of Zion, until the whole structure trembles and totters, and is pronounced insecure. Your boasted unconcern is very little to the purpose, unless we may also know how dear to you the safety of Zion is. But if you make indignant answer,—(as would to Heaven you may!)—that your care for GOD'S honour, your jealousy for God's oracles, is every whit as great as our own,—then we tell you that, on your wretched premises, men more logical than yourself will make shipwreck of their peace, and endanger their very souls. There is no stopping,—no knowing where to stop,—in this downward course. Once admit the principle of fallibility into the inspired Word, and the whole becomes a bruised and rotten reed. If St. Paul a little, why not St. Paul much? If Moses in some places, why not in many? You will doubt our LORD'S infallibility next!... It might not trouble you, to find your own familiar friend telling you a lie, every now and then: but I trust this whole congregation will share the preacher's infirmity, while he confesses that it would trouble him so exceedingly that after one established falsehood, he would feel unable ever to trust that friend implicitly again.

Do you mean to say then, (I shall be asked,) that you maintain the theory of Verbal Inspiration?—I answer, I refuse to accept any theory whatsoever[376]. But I believe that the Bible is the Word of GOD—and I believe that GOD'S Word must be absolutely infallible. I shall therefore believe the Bible to be absolutely infallible,—until I am convinced of the contrary. "Theories of Inspiration," (as they are called,) are the growth of an unbelieving age: and it is enough to disgust any one with the term, to find how it has been understood in some quarters. A well-known living editor of the Gospel[377], says,—"According to the Verbal-Inspiration Theory, each Evangelist has recorded the exact words of the Inscription on the Cross;—not the general sense, but the Inscription itself;—not a letter less nor more. This is absolutely necessary to the theory." The advocates of the theory (he proceeds) "may here find an undoubted example of the absurdity of their view.... Let us bear this in mind when the narrative of words spoken, or of events, differs in a similar manner."—It is certainly very kind of the learned writer thus to apprize us of the danger of accepting a theory, which, so explained, we certainly never heard of before,—and trust we may never hear of again.

But if, instead of the "Theory of Verbal Inspiration," I am asked whether I believe the words of the Bible to be inspired,—I answer, To be sure I do,—every one of them: and every syllable likewise. Do not you?Where,—(if it be a fair question,)—Where do you, in your wisdom, stop? The book, you allow is inspired. How about the chapters? How about the verses? Do you stop at the verses, and not go on to the words? Or perhaps you enjoy a special tradition on this subject, and hold that Inspiration is a general, vague kind of thing,—here more, there less: strong, (to speak plainly,) where you make no objection to what is stated,—weak, when it runs counter to some fancy of your own.—O Sir, but this "general vague kind of thing" will not suffice to anchor the fainting soul upon, in the day of trouble, and in the hour of death! "Here more, there less," will not satisfy a parched and weary spirit, athirst for the water of Life, and craving the shadow of the great Rock. What security can you offer me, that the promise which has sustained me so long occurs in the "more," and not in the "less?" How am I to know that your Bible is my Bible: in other words, what proof is there that either of us possesses the Word of GOD,—the authentic utterance of GOD'S HOLY SPIRIT,—at all?

And do you not feel, that this "will o' the wisp" phantom of your brain, can prove no guide to either of us in the pilgrimage of life? Perceive you not that the unworthy spirit in which you approach the Book of GOD'S Law must effectually prevent you from getting any wisdom from it? Why, the pages which you look so coldly and carnally at, are written within and without, and burn from end to end with unutterable meaning! While you are quarrelling about the title on the Cross, you are missing the common salvation! You keep us, Sunday after Sunday, disputing outside the gates of Paradise, instead of bidding us enter in, and eat of the delicious fruit! While you are persisting that there is no beauty in the garden, (because you choose to be deaf as well as blind,)—the shadows are lengthening out, and the glory is departing, and the angels are getting weary of harping upon their harps!

No, Sirs! The Bible (be persuaded) is the very utterance of the Eternal;—as much GOD'S Word, as if high Heaven were open, and we heard GOD speaking to us with human voice. Every book of it, is inspired alike; and is inspired entirely. Inspiration is not a difference of degree, but of kind. The Apocryphal books are not one atom more inspired than Bacon's Essays. But the Bible, from the Alpha to the Omega of it, is filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit of GOD: the Books of it, and the sentences of it, and the words of it, and the syllables of it,—aye, and the very letters of it. "Nihil in Scripturis est otiosum," (said the great Casaubon): "non dictio, non dictionis forma, non syllaba, non littera." ... The difficulty which attends quotations, I must explain another day. It is not a difficulty.—The seeming paradox of calling a pedigree inspired, is only seeming.—The text of Holy Scripture has nothing at all to do with the question. Is a dead poet responsible for the clumsiness of him who transcribes his copy, or for the carelessness of the apprentice in the printer's attic?—Least of all do we overlook the personality of the human writers, when we so speak. The styles of Daniel,—of St. John,—of St. Paul,—of St. James,—differ as much as the sounds emitted by organ pipes of wholly diverse construction. But those human instruments were fabricated, one and all, by the Hands of the same Divine Artist: and I have yet to learn that when the same man builds an organ, fills it with breath, and performs upon it a piece of his own composition with matchless skill,—I have yet to learn that any part of the honour, any part of the praise, any part of the glory of the performance is to be withheld from him! ... The illustration is at least as old as Christianity itself. Pray take it in the noble words of Hooker.—"They neither spoke nor wrote one word of their own: but uttered syllable by syllable as the Spirit put it into their mouths; no otherwise than the harp or the lute doth give a sound according to the discretion of his hands that holdeth and striketh it with skill. The difference is only this: an instrument, whether it be pipe or harp, maketh a distinction in the times and sounds, which distinction is well perceived of the hearer, the instrument itself understanding not what is piped or harped. The prophets and holy men of GOD not so. 'I opened my mouth,' saith Ezekiel, 'and GOD reached me a scroll, saying, Son of Man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this I give thee. I ate it, and it was sweet in my mouth as honey,' saith the prophet[378]. Yea, sweeter, I am persuaded, than either honey or the honeycomb. For herein, they were not like harps or lutes, but they felt, they felt the power and strength of their own words. When they spake of our peace, every corner of their hearts was filled with joy. When they prophesied of mourning, lamentations, and woes, to fall upon us, they wept in the bitterness and indignation of spirit, the Arm of the LORD being mighty and strong upon them[379]."

To conclude. The first time I enjoyed this privilege, I urged the younger men to a diligent and painful daily study of the Bible. On the next occasion, opening the Bible at the first page, I attempted to define the provinces of Theological and of Physical Science. All that was then offered may be summed up in one brief formula:—GOD'S works CANNOT contradict GOD'S Word. I adverted to the method of would-be geologists, (a class all apart from the grave and learned few who give their days and nights to a truly noble branch of study,)—because from them the most malignant attacks have proceeded: and I took my stand on the first chapter of Genesis, because the enemies of GOD'S Truth have made that chapter their favourite point of attack. But my argument was not directed more against Geology than against any other of the physical Sciences. They are all alike the handmaids of Theological Science. Geology, however, singularly honoured by the Creator in that He hath bequeathed for her inspection so many marvels of primval Time,—evidences of how He was working in this remote planet before the Creation of Man;—Geology, I say, it especially behoves to be humble: partly, because she is the youngest of all the sciences; and partly, because the weak guesses of her childhood are yet in the memory of us all. If indeed she would inherit the Earth, let her remember that she asks for the blessing which CHRIST hath promised to none but the meek[380].

We altogether repudiated, then, the contrast which is often implied between Theology and Science; as if Theology were not a Science, but some other thing. Theological Science we declared to be the noblest of the Sciences,—the very Queen and Mistress of them all. And yet, supreme as she is, she not only admits, but desires, and thankfully accepts the ministerial offices of the other Sciences; all of which, like dutiful servants in a household, have it in their power to render her most important acts of homage. Language, for example, carries the keys of the casket wherein she keeps her treasures; and for that reason Theology hath promoted Language to great honour. History, and Geography, and Chronology, have each had their respective tasks assigned them. It is for Astronomy to make answer if question be raised of the date of Paschal full Moon, or of Eclipse. Let the physiologist explain, if he can, Scriptural allusions to the vegetable and animal kingdoms. How precious are the guesses of Geology, as she tries to fathom the Ocean of unrecorded Time!—Who would desire the silence of the Professor of any department of physical Science? Morals also have their place and their function assigned them; and a thrice blessed place,—a most holy function is theirs! Why should not Moral Science have an office even in the Court of Theology? Was not Morality the Schoolmaster of the sons of Japheth, what time there was dew on the fleece only, but it was dry upon all the earth beside? What are Morals else but the echoes of the voice of GOD yet lingering in the Hall of Conscience, or rather in the Chambers of Memory?.... Her function therefore is to bear willing witness to the Goodness, the Wisdom, the Justice of the Eternal: and her place,—the loftiest which can be imagined for a creature,—is somewhere beneath the footstool of Almighty GOD.

But when, instead of the submissive manners of a well-ordered Court, symptoms of insolence and insubordination are witnessed on every side,—then, the least and humblest takes leave, (time, and place, and occasion serving,) to speak out fearlessly on behalf of that which he loves with an unworthy, but a most undivided heart.—When Language impugns those Oracles which she was hired to decypher,—and pretends to doubt the Inspiration of that Book of which, confessedly, she barely understands the Grammar:—when History and Chronology cry out that the annals of Theology are false, and her record of Time a fable; that the Deluge, for instance, is an old wives' story, and the economy of times and seasons a human fabrication:—when Astronomical and Mechanical Science strut up to the Throne whereon sits the Ancient of Days,—prate to Him, (the first Author of Law,) about the "supremacy of Law,"—and tell Him to His face that His miracles are things impossible:—when Physiology insinuates that Mankind cannot be descended from one primval pair; and that the lives of the Patriarchs cannot be such as they are recorded to have been:—when the pretender to Natural Philosophy gravely assures us that we ought not to pray for fair weather, because the weather depends not upon "arbitrary changes in the will of GOD," but upon laws as fixed and certain "as the laws of gravitation[381],"—which, mark you, Sirs, is no longer a dry verbal speculation, but is nothing less than an invasion of that inner chamber where you or I have retired to pour out the fulness of an aching heart, in prayer that GOD would prolong, if it may be, the life of the dearest thing we have on earth; and rudely to bid us rise from our knees and be silent, for that the health of Man depends not on the will of GOD, but on fixed physiological laws:—lastly, when the pretender to Geological skill denies the authenticity of the First Chapter of Genesis; which is to deny the Inspiration of all the rest; and therefore of the whole Bible;—and thus to rob Life's weary pilgrim of that rod and staff concerning which he has many a time exclaimed,—"they comfort me!":—whenever, as now, such things are spoken and printed,—not in a corner, and by insignificant persons, and in ambiguous language,—but in plain English, by clergymen and scholars in authority, openly in the face of GOD'S sun;—then it is high time, even for the humblest and least among you,—if no man of mark will speak up, and speak out, for GOD'S Truth,—to deliver a plain message with that freedom which Englishmen hold to be a part of their birthright. It should breed no offence, I say, if the most unworthy of GOD'S servants, here, before you all,—before these younger men especially, who have been drawn hither by the fame of your piety and your learning,—and who have been entrusted to your guardianship through the precious years of early manhood, with a well-grounded confidence that you would give them to eat not only of the Tree of Knowledge, but also largely of the fruit of the Tree of Life:—in this Holy House too where he received his commission[382], and vowed before GOD and Man, that he would "be ready," (the LORD being his helper,) "with all faithful diligence to drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to GOD's Word:"—before such an audience, and in such a place, it must and shall be lawful for me solemnly to denounce as false and deadly,—full of nothing but pernicious consequence,—that system of practical Infidelity which enjoys such unhappy popularity at this hour; which, under the mask of Science, and under the specious name of Progress, is spreading like a fatal contagion through the length and breadth of the land; and which, if suffered to go unchastised and unchecked, will end by shaking both the Altar and the Throne!.... Look well to it, Sirs, if you care for the safety of the Ark of GOD. For my part,—like one of old time whose words I am not worthy to take upon my lips,—"I cannot hold my peace: because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war[383]!"

The case is not altered,—rather is it made worse,—if this hostility to GOD's Truth proceeds from persons bearing Orders in the English Church. ("O my soul, come not thou into their secret!") The case is not altered: for the requirements of Physical Science are still the plea; and Divines, in no sense, these men are, however unsuccessful they may prove in establishing their claim to the title of philosophers either. Nay, Sirs,—suffer one of yourselves to ask you, whether these disgraceful developments are not the lawful result of your own incredible system, of sending forth, year by year, men to be teachers and professors of Divinity,—to whom you have yet never imparted any Theological training whatever[384].

You are requested to observe, that not only cannot GOD's Works contradict GOD's Word,—simply because they are twin utterances of one and the same Divine Intelligence;—but also the deductions of Physical Science cannot possibly run counter to the decrees of Theology[385],—simply because they are respectively in a wholly diverse subject-matter. Had Theology even once delivered a Geological decree, or pretended even once to pronounce upon any Astronomical problem; then, indeed, there would be reason why her disciples should watch with alarm the rapid advance of Physical Science,—instead of hailing it, as they do, with wonder and delight. Then, indeed, we should be constrained to admit that the day might be coming when Theology would have to reconsider the platform whereon she stands; and possibly to "give way." But it is an undeniable fact that there exist no Theological dogmas on matters Geological,—no, not one! Theology cannot retreat from ground on which she has never set foot. She cannot retract, what she has never advanced, or recal the words which she has never spoken. The decrees of Theology are all confined to the Science of Theology,—and with that subject-matter, the other Sciences have simply no concern. Their office there, as I have again and again explained, is simply ministerial; and when they enter the presence chamber of the great King, they are bid not to draw too nigh. "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet; for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground!"

And how about Moral Science,—whom we beheld, a moment since, shrouded in her mantle, beneath the footstool of the ALMIGHTY;—afraid to look up into His awful Face,—and not presuming to speak, unless called upon to bear her solemn witness to what she learned of Him "in the beginning?"—Must we imagine her too rising from her lowly seat, and presuming to sit in judgment upon the Author of her Being? Are we to picture her arraigning the Goodness of Him who commanded Abraham to slay his son;—or the Justice of Him who sent Saul to destroy the Amalekites;—or the Mercy of Him who inspired certain of David's Psalms;—or the Wisdom of Him who made the everlasting Gospel the mysterious four-fold thing it is?—Then, were she to do so, we should perforce exclaim,—This judgment of thine cannot possibly be just! For the echo must resemble the voice which woke it! Other spirits must have been intruding here; and the unholy din of their voices must have drowned the clear, yet still and small utterance of ALMIGHTY GOD within thy breast!.... In other words, if there be antagonism, Ethics,—not Theology, but (that which calls itself) Moral Science,—must instantly and hopelessly give way.

For doubtless, that inference of ours as to what had happened, would be a true inference.—It will be the fact, I fear, before the end of all things; for it seems to be implied,—(a more heart-sickening sentence in all Scripture, I know not!),—that when the Son of Man cometh, He will not find the Faith on the Earth[386]. And if not the Faith (tn pistin),—what then? The Moral Sense? Hardly! for where was the Moral Sense when she let go the Faith?—It was the fact, (if I read the record rightly,) eighteen centuries ago: for children had then forgotten their duty to their Parents; and the sanctity of Marriage was unknown; and (O prime note of a darkened conscience!) men not only did things worthy of Death, but "had pleasure in them that did them." Read the first chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, and say what was then the condition of the Moral Sense in man. Tell me, while your cheek is yet burning, whether you think Moral Science was then competent to sit in judgment on a Revelation sent from the GOD of Purity, until GOD's own SON had republished the sanctions of the Moral Law, and informed Man's conscience afresh!... No Sirs. We are told expressly, that "as they did not like to retain GOD in their knowledge, GOD gave them over to a reprobate mind,"—"gave them up unto vile affections." And why? Hear the Apostle! It was because "when they knew GOD, they glorified Him not as GOD; neither were thankful:"—hence, they were suffered to become vain in their imaginations, and, "their foolish heart was darkened!"—In other words, the candle of the LORD, the light of conscience within them, was well nigh put out.

This will explain the reason why, when "THE WORD was made flesh and dwelt among us," He so frequently delivered precepts,—yea, preached whole Sermons,—on what would now-a-days be called mere "Morality." He was republishing the Moral Law. He was graving afresh those letters which had been wellnigh worn out through tract of Time, and the wear and tear of Man's ungoverned lusts.—Hence, to this hour, when question is raised of Right and Wrong,—the appeal is made, by the common consent of Christian men, not to the inner consciousness of the creature, but to the Creator's external Revelation of His mind and will. Let abler men explain to us what we mean when we talk about Immutable Morality. I am by no means sure that I understand myself. Sure only am I that it will carry us a very little way. Aristotle would never have made the average moral sense of mankind his standard, had he known of a logos theopneustos. The principles of Morality do indeed seem to be fixed and eternal;—aei pote z tauta:—but it is no longer true, oudeis oiden ex hotou 'phan. Ever since the Gospel came into the world, general opinion has ceased to be the standard of Truth: for the Bible has simply superseded it; and put forth a standard to which "general opinion" itself must bow. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." So spake the Eternal SON while yet on Earth. And He foresaw that there would come a day when the world would still ask, with Pilate, "What is Truth?" Accordingly, we heard his solemn reply in this Morning's Second Lesson—"THY WORD,"—"THY WORD is Truth." ... "GOD made two great lights," I grant you: but what I maintain is, that He made "the greater Light to rule the Day."

And therefore are we very bold to assert that it is all too late for men now to vaunt the authority of the Moral Sense, as a thing to be set up against the fixed and immutable Revelation of GOD'S mind and will. "The sufficiency of Natural Religion is a paradox of modern invention, and the boast of it comes with an ill grace, and under great suspicions, so late in the day of trial[387]." Aye, it comes all too late. Here in England, (GOD be praised!) the moral sense is indeed strong. Is it as strong, think you, among those continental nations which are under the spiritual yoke of Rome? Is it as strong among the Hindoos? Is it as strong among the savage inhabitants of central Australia?... Perceive you not that if Moral Science speaks with a loud and clear voice in Christian lands, it is because there the Moral Sense has been in those lands informed afresh by Revelation? "That the principles of Natural Religion have come to be so far understood and admitted, may fairly be taken for one of the effects of the Gospel[388]." The echoes of the voice of GOD are now so distinct, only because GOD hath suffered His awful voice to be heard on earth again: and if among ourselves those echoes are the loudest and the clearest, is it not because among ourselves the Bible is read the most?

"The fact" (says the thoughtful writer already quoted,)—"the fact is not to be denied; the Religion of Nature has had the opportunity of rekindling her faded taper by the Gospel light,—whether furtively or unconsciously availed of. Let her not dissemble the obligation, and make a boast of the splendour, as though it were originally her own; or had always, in her hands, been sufficient for the illumination of the World."—"It is not to be imagined that men fail to profit by the light that has been shed upon them, though they have not always the integrity to own the source from which it comes; or though they may turn their back upon it, whilst it fills the very atmosphere in which they move, with glory[389]."

I say, therefore, that it is all too late to vaunt the supremacy of Conscience as opposed to Revelation,—Moral as opposed to Theological Science. Moral Science owes all its renewed strength and vigour to Theology. And so, were Moral Science to dare call in question, (as she sometimes has done, and may dare to do again!), the Morality of the Bible,—we should find her monstrous image nowhere so fitly as in that of the man whose withered hand CHRIST healed in the Synagogue,—if the same man had proved such a wretch, as straightway to lift up his arm with intention to smite his Benefactor and his GOD.

Physical Science therefore, (for the last time!)—all the other Sciences,—Moral Science not excepted,—are the handmaids of Theological Science: and Morality, to which we omitted before to assign an office, we have stationed somewhere beneath the footstool, which is before the Throne, of the Most High.—But this day's Sermon,—(and with these words I conclude, sorry to have felt obliged to detain you so long!)—this Day's Sermon has had for its object to remind you, that THE BIBLE is none other than the voice of Him that sitteth upon the Throne! Every Book of it,—every Chapter of it,—every Verse of it,—every word of it,—every syllable of it,—(where are we to stop?)—every letter of it—is the direct utterance of the Most High!—Pasa graph theopneustos. "Well spake the HOLY GHOST, by the mouth of" the many blessed Men who wrote it.—The Bible is none other than the Word of GOD: not some part of it, more, some part of it, less; but all alike, the utterance of Him who sitteth upon the Throne;—absolute,—faultless,—unerring,—supreme!

* * * * *

Eg men oun ita hen mian keraian ou pisteu kenn einai thein mathmatn.

ORIGENES, Comment. in S. Matth. tom. xvi. c. 12. p. 734.

Tauta moi eirtai ... pros systasin tou mden mechri syllabs argon ti einai tn theopneustn rhmatn.

BASILIUS, in Hex. Hom. vi. c. 11. tom. i. p. 61 c.

Scriptur quidem perfect sunt, quippe a VERBO DEI, et SPIRITU ejus dict.

IRENUS, Contr. Hr. lib. ii. c. xxviii. 2.

Mdemia hypenantisis atopia en tois theiois logois.

METHODIUS, Tyrius Episcopus, ap. Routh Reliqq. t. v. p. 351.

Esti gar en tois tn Graphn rhmasin ho Kyrios.

ATHANASIUS, ad Marcellinum.

HOsa h theia graph legei, tou Pneumatos eisi tou HAgiou phnai.

GREGORIUS NYSSEN, Contr. Eunom. Orat. vi.

Cedamus igitur et consentiamus auctoritati Sanct Scriptur, qu nescit falli nec fallere.

AUGUSTINUS, De Peccator. Merit. lib. i. c. 22.


[330] Preached in Christ-Church Cathedral, 25th Nov. 1860.

[331] Pasai hai theopneustoi graphai,—as it is worded in the Epistle sent by the Council of Antioch in the case of Paul of Samosata, A.D. 269. (Routh Reliqq. iii. 292.) See Middleton on the Greek Article, (Rose's ed.) in loc. And so, in effect, Wordsworth and Ellicott.—It is right to add that it has been contended that =pasa graph= = "the whole of Scripture." See Lee on Inspiration, p. 263, (note.) So Athanasius seems to have taken it: Pasa h kath' hmas graph, palaia te kai kain, theopneustos esti. (Ep. ad Marcell. i. 982.)

[332] That theopneustos is the predicate, seems sufficiently obvious. So Athanasius, in the passage above quoted. So Gregory of Nyssa: dia touto pasa graph theopneustos legetai, dia to ts theias empneuses einai didaskalian. (Contr. Eunom. Orat. VI. ii. 605.) Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium, quotes the place in the same way.—Basil also, saying—Pasa graph theopneustos kai phelimos, dia touto syngrapheisa para tou Pneumatos, (Hom. in Psalm. I. i. 90,)—clearly adopts the construction assumed in the text.—Ambrose (De Spir. Sancto, lib. II. c. 16. ii. 688,) says,—"In Scriptura Divina, theopneustos omnis ex hoc dicitur, quod Deus inspiret qu locutus est Spiritus." (The above are from Lee on Inspiration, which see, pp. 260, 493, 599.)—Tertullian (quoted by Tisch.) says, "Legimus omnem Scripturam dificationi habilem, divinitus inspirari."—A few modern scholars have suggested that theopn. may be an epithet, not a predicate. The doctrine will remain the same either way; for the meaning of the place can only be, "Every Scripture, being inspired, is also profitable," &c. This is Origen's view: but his criticism is not in point, inasmuch as he read the text differently, (omitting the kai.) Lee aptly compares the construction of pan ktisma Theou kalon, kai ouden apoblton. (1 Tim. iv. 4.)

[333] Thess. ii. 13.

[334] 1 Cor. ii. 13.

[335] 2 St. Pet. iii. 16,—where see Wordsworth.

[336] 1 Cor. vii. 40.

[337] 1 Cor. vii. 10.

[338] 1 Cor. vii. 6. (Touto de leg kata syngnmn, ou kat' epitagn.)

[339] St. Matth. xix. 6 (= St. Mark x. 9:) and the following places,—St. Matth. v. 32: xix. 9 (= St. Mark x. 11, 12.): St. Luke xvi. 18.

[340] Montfaucon, prf. ad Euseb. Comm. in Psalm., cap. x. See also sch. Prom. V. v. 289.

[341] St. Luke xvii. 9. So St. Mark x. 42. St. Luke viii. 18. St. John v. 39.

[342] Comp. 1 Cor. iv. 9: Gal. ii. 9: Heb. iv. 1.

[343] To en autois Pneuma Christou.—1 St. Pet. i. 11.

[344] hypo Pneumatos HAgiou pheromenoi elalsan hoi hagioi Theou anthrpoi.—2 St. Pet. i. 21. (lit. "impelled,"—like a ship before the wind.)

[345] proeipe to Pneuma to HAgion dia stomatos Dabid.—Acts i. 16.

[346] kaths legei to Pneuma to HAgion.—Heb. iii. 7.

[347] hypo tou Theou.—Heb. v. 10.

[348] Dabid eipen en t Pneumati t HAgi.—St. Mark xii. 36.

[349] ho Theos ho poisas ton ouranon kai tn gn kai tn thalassan kai panta ta en autois, ho dia stomatos Dabid tou paidos sou eipn.—Acts iv. 24, 25.

[350] to Pneuma to HAgion elalse dia Hsaiou tou prophtou.—Acts xxviii. 25.

[351] martyrei de hmin kai to Pneuma to HAgion—Heb. x. 15, quoting Jer. xxxi. 33, 34.

[352] ho de Theos ... prokatngeile dia stomatos pantn tn prophtn autou pathein ton Christon.—Acts iii. 18.

[353] Kyrios ho Theos tou Isral ... elalse dia stomatos tn hagin tn ap' ainos prophtn autou.—St. Luke i. 68, 70.

[354] touto dlountos tou Pneumatos tou HAgiou.—Heb. ix. 8.

[355] ou gar este hymeis hoi lalountes, alla to Pneuma to HAgion.—St. Mark xiii. 11.

[356] ou gar hymeis este hoi lalountes, alla to Pneuma tou Patros hymn to laloun en hymin.—St. Matth. x. 20.

[357] epei dokimn zteite tou en emoi lalountos Christou.—2 Cor. xiii. 3.

[358] Rev. B. Jowett, in E. and R.,—p. 345. Yet see Acts iii. 18, 21.

[359] Dr. Temple, in Essays and Reviews, p. 25.

[360] Contra Marcion, sect. I. p. 9.

[361] See the first foot-note, p. 53. [Our 330]

[362] St. John xix. 14.

[363] St. Mark xv. 25.

[364] The passage may be seen in John Bois' Vet. Interpretis cum Bez aliisque recentioribus collatio, (1655,) p. 333.

[365] See a Dissertation by Dr. Townson at the end of his admirable book on the Gospels.

[366] Viz. St. John i. 39: iv. 6, 52: xix. 14.

[367] And yet, we hear it asserted that we cannot "suppose the Spirit of absolute Truth" "to suggest accounts only to be reconciled in the way of hypothesis and conjecture."—E. and R., p. 179.

[368] E.g. Gen. xxiv. 2-8, compared with ver. 37-41; and again, ver. 12-14, compared with ver. 42-44. Again, Gen. xlii. 10-13, compared with ver. 31, 32: and again, ver. 14-16, compared with ver. 33, 34. Again, Gen. xlii. 36-8, compared with xliv. 27-29, &c., &c., &c.

[369] Instances of this will be very familiar to every attentive student of the Gospels. Thus St. Matth. xxvi. 68 implies acquaintance with a minute circumstance which is stated in St. Luke xxii. 64:—St. Matth. x. 13 implies what is expressed in St. Luke x. 5, &c., &c., &c.

[370] St. Matth. xxvii. 9.

[371] E.g. St. Jude ver. 14, 15.

[372] Is. lii. 7, and Nahum i. 15.—Is. ii. 2, 3, 4, and Micah iv. 1, 2, 3.—Micah iv. 6, and Zeph. iii. 19.—Is. xi. 9, and Hab. ii. 14.—Micah iii. 12, and Jer. xxvi. 18, &c., &c.

[373] E.g. Jer. xxiii. 5 and Zech. vi. 13.

[374] See Appendix (C).

[375] See Appendix (D).

[376] See Appendix (E).

[377] The Rev. H. Alford, Dean of Canterbury.

[378] Ezek. iii. 2, 3.

[379] Hooker, Serm. v. 4. (Works, vol. iii. p. 663.)

[380] St. Matth. v. 5.

[381] Professor Kingsley's Sermon,—"Why should we pray for fair Weather?"

[382] See at the foot of p. 53, note (a). [Our 330]

[383] Jer. iv. 19.

[384] The complaint is a very old one. See Pearson's Minor Works, vol. i. pp. 429-30.

[385] It becomes necessary to explain, that on the Sunday after the delivery of the foregoing Sermon, a Sermon was preached directly contravening its teaching. Next week, it became the present writer's duty to address the same auditory,—which will explain as much of what follows in the present Sermon, (including something at p. 79,) as may seem to require explanation. It was impossible to proceed with the argument, until what had been advanced of a directly opposite tendency had been thus disposed of.

[386] St. Luke xviii. 8.

[387] Davison's Discourses on Prophecy,—p. 7.

[388] Ibid.

[389] Davison's Discourses on Prophecy,—p. 8.—The following passage is from Bp. Horsley's Primary Charge to the Clergy of Rochester, (1796,):—"The question in this case is not abstract,—what Reason may have the ability to do. The question is upon a matter of fact,—what she did. Were these things, in point of fact, man's own discovery?—The sacred history is explicit that they were not. And notwithstanding the many useful lessons of Morality we find in the writings of the heathen sages,—the many eloquent discourses upon providence, and the immortality of the soul,—the many subtile disquisitions upon the great questions of necessity and moral freedom, upon fate and chance,—I am persuaded, that had it not been for the early communications of the Creator with mankind, Man never would have raised the conceptions of his mind to the idea of a God; he never would have dreamt of the immaterial principle within himself; and he never would have formed any general notions of Right and Wrong in the abstract; he would have had no Religion, perhaps no Morality.... The prudent dispensers of the Word will resort to Revelation for his first principles, as well as for more mysterious truths. He will not trust to philosophy for any discoveries. He will suffer philosophy to be nothing more than his assistant in the study of the inspired Word. She must herself be instructed by those lively oracles before she can be qualified to take part in the instruction of men. To lay the foundation of Revelation upon any previous discoveries of Reason, is in fact to make Reason the superior teacher. It is not improbable, that Idolatry itself had its first beginning in an early adoration of this phantom of Natural Religion,—the idol, in later ages, of impolitic metaphysical Divines."—Charges, pp. 50, 51.—Bp. Butler says the same thing, but more briefly, in his Analogy, P. II., c. ii.: also P. I., c. vi.


* * * * *


* * * * *

ST. JOHN xvii. 17.

Thy Word is Truth.

I thankfully avail myself of the opportunity which, unexpected and unsolicited, so soon presents itself, to proceed with the subject which was engaging our attention when I last occupied this place.

Let me remind you of the nature of the present inquiry, and of the progress which we have already made.

Taking Holy Scripture for our subject, and urging, as best we knew how, its paramount claims on the daily attention of the younger men,—who at present are our hope and ornament; to be hereafter, as we confidently believe, our very crown and joy;—even while we held in our hands that volume which our Fathers were content to call the volume of Inspiration, we were constrained to recollect that its claim to be inspired has of late years been repeatedly called in question. It has even become the fashion to cavil at almost everything which the Bible contains. We are grown so exceedingly wise, have made so many strange discoveries, and have become so clear-sighted, that the more advanced among us are kindly bent on disabusing the minds of their less gifted brethren of that most venerable delusion of all,—(for it is coeval with Christianity,)—that the Bible is in any special sense the Word of GOD. I do not say that Theologians talk thus. But pretenders to Natural Science, knowing nothing whatever of Divinity, and therefore intruding into a realm of which they do not understand so much as the language;—together with, (sad to relate!) men bearing a commission in the Church of CHRIST, (and who ought therefore to be building up, where they are seeking to destroy,)—are employing the powers which GOD has given them, in this direction. It becomes indispensable, in consequence, that we should say somewhat on behalf of those Oracles which have been so vigorously impugned; and it should not seem strange if we oppose to such destructive dogmatism, the most uncompromising severity of counter statement.

The objections which have been raised against the Bible, although they have been industriously gleaned from various quarters, will all be most effectually met, I am persuaded, by getting men to acquaint themselves with the contents of the deposit itself. And yet, inasmuch as it is the nature of doubts, when once injected into the mind, to fester and to spread; inasmuch also as the bold confidence of plausible assertion, especially when recommended by men of reputation, and set off with some ability and skill, is apt to impose on youth and inexperience;—we seem reduced to a kind of necessity, to examine; and, as far as the limits of a sermon will allow, to refute; the charges which have been so industriously brought forward against the Bible.

The favourite objections of the day come partly from without,—partly from within. The classification is not exact, but it may serve to assist the memory. One class of objections is, in a manner, destructive,—for it results in entire disbelief of the Bible:—the other class, suggesting imperfections, results in a low and disparaging estimate of its contents. When exception is taken against certain portions of Holy Scripture, on the ground of discoveries in Physical Science,—of the dictates of the Moral Sense,—of the supremacy of mechanical Laws,—and the like,—we consider that the supposed difficulties come from without. As much as we care to say on this class of objections has either been already offered, or must be reserved for a subsequent occasion[391].—When doubts are insinuated, arising out of the subject-matter of the Bible, we consider the difficulties to proceed from within. The apparent contradictions of the Evangelists, are of this nature. Supposed errors or misstatements, come under the same head. Very imperfectly, yet sufficiently for our immediate purpose, we have touched upon both subjects. Those portions of the Old Testament which savour in the highest degree of the marvellous, must be reserved for separate consideration[392]. To-day I propose to speak of another kind of objection; but which arises, like the others, out of the subject-matter of the Bible. Moreover, it is the kind of difficulty which most readily presents itself to any who listened with unwilling ears to my last discourse. Some here present may remember my repeated and unequivocal assertion that Holy Scripture is inspired from the Alpha to the Omega of it;—not some parts more, some parts less, but all equally, and all to overflowing;—that we hold it to be, not generally inspired, but particularly; that we see not how with logical consistency we can avoid believing the words as well as the sentences of it; the syllables as well as the words; the letters as well as the syllables; every "jot" and every "tittle" of it, (to use our LORD'S expression,) to be divinely inspired:—and further, that until the contrary has been proved, we shall maintain that no misapprehension or misstatement, no error or blot of any kind, can possibly exist within its pages:—that we hold the Bible to be as much the Word of GOD, as if GOD spoke to us therein with human lips;—and that, as the very utterance of the HOLY GHOST, we cannot but think that it must be absolute, faultless, unerring, supreme.

I. To this, it has been objected as follows:—

You cannot possibly mean what you say. You will not pretend to assert that the list of the Dukes of Edom[393], is as much inspired,—inspired in the same sense,—as the Gospel of St. John.—To which I make answer, that I believe one to be just as much inspired as the other: and before I leave off, I will endeavour to bring my hearers to the same opinion. In the meantime, it is only fair to the objector, to hear him out: to follow his guidance; and to see whither he would lead us. It will be quite competent for us then to retrace our steps; to point out "a more excellent way;" and to entreat him, with all a brother's earnestness, to reconsider the matter, and to follow us.

The objection may, I believe, be fairly stated as follows.—It is unreasonable to consider any part of Holy Scripture inspired which the author was competent to write without the aid of Inspiration. Just as you would not multiply miracles needlessly, and ascribe to special Divine interference results which might be otherwise accounted for, so neither ought you to call in the aid of Inspiration where it may clearly be dispensed with. A genealogy,—a catalogue of names, whether of places or persons,—whatever may reasonably be suspected to have been an extract from public Archives;—nothing of this sort need you, nor indeed, properly speaking, can you, call "inspired." More than that. All mere narratives of ordinary transactions,—or indeed of transactions extraordinary;—whatever, in short, a writer, having first beheld it with his eyes, appears to have simply described with his pen, it is unreasonable to regard as the work of Inspiration. For it is plain to common sense,—(so at least I have heard it said,) that there is much, both in the Old and in the New Testament, the delivery of which required no other than the ordinary gifts of men:—actual observation, good memory, high intellect, clearness of statement, honesty of purpose. Look at the preface to St. Luke's Gospel. It seems only to convey that the author of it believed himself to be bringing out a superior edition of a narrative which had already been attempted by many. I would apply, (it is said,) to the whole of the Old Testament the same observations which I apply to the New. There are parts which evidently required nothing but opportunity of experience, or research, and the ordinary qualities of a trustworthy historian.—This then is the way the case is put. There is no intentional irreverence on the part of the objector: no conscious hostility to GOD'S Truth. Very much the reverse. But having once assumed that the catalogue of the Dukes of Edom is not to be regarded as an inspired document, he has logical consistency enough to perceive that he cannot exactly stop there. And so, he carries his speculations a little further. He tries to take (what he calls) a "common sense" view of the question. He says that he thinks it a dangerous proceeding on the part of the preacher to insist on the infallibility of Apostles and Evangelists. Meanwhile, I suspect that he is not by any means without a suspicion that he is on a platform beset with far greater dangers, himself. He has walked a little this way, and that way; and his "common sense" has shewn him that there is an ugly precipice on every side. Nay; he perceives that the ground trembles, and cracks, and shakes,—and even yawns beneath his feet.

For I request you to observe, that there is absolutely no middle state between Inspiration and non-inspiration. If a writing be inspired, it is Divine: if it be not inspired, it is human. It is absurd to shirk the alternative. Some parts of the Bible, it is allowed, are inspired; other parts, it is contended, are not. Let it be conceded then, for the moment, that the catalogue of the Dukes of Edom is not an inspired writing; and let it be ejected from the Bible accordingly. We must by strict parity of reasoning, eject the xth chapter of Genesis, which enumerates the descendants of Japheth, of Ham, and of Shem, with the countries which they severally occupied,—that truly venerable record and outline of the primval settlement of the nations! The ten Patriarchs before, and the ten after Noah: the many enumerations contained in the Book of Numbers: much of the two Books of Chronicles: together with the Genealogies of our SAVIOUR as given by St. Matthew and St. Luke.

It is clear that the history of the Flood,—very much of it at least,—is of the same nature: a kind of calendar as it were, and record of dates.

But we may go on faster, and use the knife far more freely. Every thing in the Pentateuch of which Moses had been an eye or ear-witness, and which he set down from his own personal knowledge, may be eliminated from the Bible, as not inspired. According to the principle already enunciated by yourself, I call upon you to excise from the Book of GOD'S Law, Exodus, and Leviticus, and Numbers, and Deuteronomy: those passages only excepted which are prophetical,—as the xxxiiird of Deuteronomy. Joshua must go of course: for if the son of Nun did not write the Book which goes under his name,—(as the wise men in Germany say, or used to say, he did not[394],)—of course the narrative is not authentic; and if he did, you say that it ought not to be regarded as inspired. Judges and Ruth cannot hope to stand; for they are mere stories,—narratives of events which any contemporary author who enjoyed "actual observation, good memory, high intellect, clearness of statement, and honesty of purpose," was abundantly qualified—(according to your view of the matter)—to commit to writing. The Books of Samuel and of Kings cannot be claimed as the work of Inspiration, of course. Chronicles we have got rid of already. No imaginable plea can be invented for the Books of Ezra, of Nehemiah, and of Esther; those writings having evidently required nothing (to use your own phrase) but "opportunity of experience or research, and the ordinary qualities of a trustworthy historian." The prophetical books you spare; natural piety suggesting that since "Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of GOD spake as they were moved by the HOLY GHOST[395];"—the writings of Isaiah and the rest, must be retained as inspired. We expunge those portions only which are simply historical and moral; since to these, by the hypothesis, the spirit of Inspiration cannot be thought to have extended.

We come now to the New Testament; and two of the Gospels are found to be mutilated already, by the elimination of one chapter of St. Matthew and one of St. Luke. But on the principle that personal observation, a good memory, honesty of purpose, and so forth, are the only requirements necessary, we may proceed to carry forward the work of excision with spirit, so that we be but careful to use discernment. For example, we may begin with the Call of St. Matthew, and the Feast which he made to our LORD in his own house. Who so competent to relate this, as the Evangelist himself? Whenever, in short, the Twelve were present, St. Matthew, (as one of the Twelve,) may be assumed to have written from personal observation; and that portion of his narrative is to be rejected accordingly as uninspired.

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