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Inspiration and Interpretation - Seven Sermons Preached Before the University of Oxford
by John Burgon
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3. But St. Paul further largely interprets the ordinances of the Mosaic Law. Thus, the provision that the High-priest alone should enter, once a year, into the Holy of Holies, not without blood, he interprets as follows;—"the HOLY GHOST this signifying,"—("the HOLY GHOST this signifying!)—that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first Tabernacle was yet standing[467]." He explains further that "CHRIST being come an High-Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect Tabernacle, ... by His own Blood entered in once into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal Redemption for us[468]."—The Veil of the Temple, (he says,) typified CHRIST'S flesh[469]; and St. Paul intimates that he could further have spoken particularly of the Golden Censer, and the Ark of the Covenant, and the Pot of Manna, and Aaron's rod, and the Tables of the Covenant, and the Cherubims of Glory[470].—Again, he says, that "the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the Sanctuary by the High Priest for Sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own Blood, suffered without the gate[471]."—Who is not familiar with the same Apostle's declaration that the words of our father Adam relative to Marriage, are expressive of a great mystery, and set forth symbolically the union of CHRIST and His Church; "For we are members of His Body,—of His Flesh and of His Bones[472]?"—St. Peter is at least as remarkable in his Interpretations as St. Paul; for he says of the Ark "wherein eight souls were saved by water,"—"The like figure whereunto, even Baptism, doth also now save us[473]."

Now these samples of Inspired Interpretation would be abundantly sufficient for our present purpose. But before I proceed to make any use of them, it is right to draw attention to a phenomenon, even more extraordinary.

4. It is found then, that besides vindicating for the Scriptures of the Old Testament this unsuspected depth and fulness of prophetic and typical meaning, the very Narrative itself teems to overflowing with mysterious purpose. You have but to weigh well what the HOLY SPIRIT hath delivered concerning Abraham and Melchizedek, Hagar and Sarah,—to perceive that the texture of the Historical Narrative itself is of supernatural fabric. All are familiar with what I allude to; but I must remind you of it, in detail. The Apostle is bent on shewing the superiority of our SAVIOUR'S Priesthood to that of Aaron. How does he proceed? He lays his finger, unhesitatingly, on a verse in the cxth Psalm, ("Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek;")—declares with authority that it is CHRIST whom the prophet there alludes to,—or rather, whom GOD apostrophizes,—(for that is what St. Paul actually says; prosagoreutheis hypo tou Theou[474]: although David undeniably wrote the Psalm;)—and proceeds, without more ado, to draw out minutely the characteristics of our SAVIOUR'S Priesthood, from the very brief narrative contained in the xivth Chapter of Genesis. Do but hear him!

The compound name "Melchi-zedek," being interpreted, denotes "King of Righteousness:" while "King of Salem" denotes "King of Peace." These titles, (it is implied,) are emphatically appropriate to CHRIST our King; to Him who "is our Righteousness," and the very "Prince of Peace." It happens that nothing is said in Genesis about the parentage of Melchizedek, nor about the family from which he sprang: not a word as to when he was born, or when he died. From this silence of Scripture, St. Paul collects the typical adumbration of One who, as very GOD, was without human parentage,—had no earthly lineage;—"was before all things," GOD from all eternity,—having indeed "neither beginning of days nor end of life."—Did not Abraham give to Melchizedek a tithe of the spoils? Consider then, (St. Paul says,) how great an one Melchizedek must have been! Nay, consider that the descendants of Levi are commanded to take tithe of their brethren, although all are sprung from Abraham alike; but here is one, altogether of a different family, taking tithes of Abraham,—aye and blessing Abraham too;—(dedekatke, eulogke, "hath tithed," "hath blessed,"—the effect of the act remaining for ever in CHRIST typified by Melchizedek.)—This mysterious King of Salem and Priest of the Most High GOD not only tithes but blesses Abraham, who had received from ALMIGHTY GOD the promises, which included all blessedness, earthly and heavenly. Now, this implies Melchizedek's superiority,—for, of course, the less is blessed of the greater.—Men who receive tithe here below are mortal; but the very silence of Scripture respecting Melchizedek's death, symbolically teaches that HE whom Melchizedek typified, yet liveth.—And indeed, (so to speak,) the tribe of Levi who take tithes, paid tithes to Melchizedek in the person of their great progenitor; because Levi was as yet in the loins of his father Abraham when Melchizedek met him[475].... I do not ask your pardon for thus leading you in detail over one unusually minute specimen of Divine Interpretation. I know well that there are many persons to whom the Divine method is highly distasteful; and who think their own method of Interpretation infinitely better. But, unfortunately for those persons, the question in hand is not a question of taste, but a dry matter of fact. We have to discover what is the Divine method of Interpretation, and no other thing. Its improbability and its inconvenience,—its difficulty, and its strangeness,—its seeming inconclusiveness, (apart from the authority on which it rests,) and its certain uniqueness, (notwithstanding the many injunctions we have met with that we must interpret the Bible like any other book[476],)—all these considerations are all together irrelevant, and beside the question. St. Paul himself admits that the Discourse now before us is polys kai dysermneutos,—long and of difficult interpretation[477].—Some will perhaps be found to inquire how it happens that while so many remote points of analogy are adduced, so obviously typical a circumstance as Melchizedek's bringing forth "bread and wine[478]" obtains no notice from the Apostle? I answer,—For the same reason that Isaac is nowhere spoken of, nowhere so much as hinted at, in the Bible, as being a type of CHRIST. A blind man may see it. It requires no Revelation from Heaven to teach such things as that! But the typical foreshadowing of the superiority of our SAVIOUR'S Priesthood over that of Aaron, in the story of Melchizedek, would infallibly have escaped mankind altogether, unless it had been thus specially revealed.

Some there may be so utterly wanting in Theological instinct, or so depraved of taste; so utterly unused to the study of GOD'S Word, or so unobservant of the characteristic method of it,—as to imagine that there is something trifling in the specimens of Interpretation before us. I am only concerned to maintain that they are Divine. You may think what you please about them. They are the teaching of the HOLY GHOST. Nay, if unfortunately any persons here present should think themselves wiser than GOD, I would request them to observe that, singularly enough, GOD has connected with this very exposition a short address to themselves. It runs as follows:—"Concerning Melchizedek, we have to deliver a long and difficult interpretation; difficult, however, only because ye have become dull of hearing[479]." (The fault, you observe, is yours. Whereas GOD made your spiritual senses sharp and quick, you have blunted their edge, and are become stupid and obtuse. It follows:)—"For when, by reason of the length of time that ye have professed Christianity, ye ought to be Teachers," (pray mark that!)—"ye have need that some one should teach you the first Principles of the Oracles of GOD; and ye have become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that useth milk, is without experience in the Word of Righteousness; for he is an infant. But solid food (sterea troph) is for them that are of full age[480]." Where you are requested to observe that a specimen of Interpretation you think trifling, the HOLY GHOST calls "solid food;" and yourselves, who in your own conceit represent the World's Manhood[481], He calls npious,—"babes." ... This discrepancy of opinion strikes me as rather curious.

5. The time would fail, were we to enter as particularly into the Divine Interpretation elsewhere given of another story, apparently as little fraught with mystery as any in the Bible. Who would ever have imagined that the brief narrative of Hagar's dismissal from the house of Abraham at Sarah's instance, was the allgoria of so Divine a thing as St. Paul declares;—the two Mothers setting forth the two Covenants, (one, bearing children unto bondage,—the other, the free Mother of us all: Sinai symbolized by that, the heavenly Jerusalem by this:) and even Ishmael's mockery not being without mysterious meaning?—Such however is the Divine Interpretation.—Elsewhere, when St. Paul desires to contrast the method of the Gospel with the method of the Law,—(this, glorious; that, with the same glorious features concealed;)—and also to illustrate the present unbelief of the Jewish nation;—the Apostle finds a prophetic emblem of their blindness in the veiled countenance of their great Lawgiver, as described in the xxxivth chapter of Exodus. The mystical intention of that veil, (he says,) was to symbolize the nation's inability to look steadfastly to the end of the dispensation, and to recognize MESSIAH. Nay, to this hour, while they read their Scriptures, that veil (he says) is upon their hearts. And yet, even as Moses, when he returned to GOD, is related to have taken off the veil from his face, so (St. Paul says) will it fare with the Jews, when they convert and turn themselves to CHRIST. The veil will be withdrawn[482].—Now, I gather from all this, and many a hint of the like kind,—that the whole of Scripture is of the same marvellous texture, the Old Testament and the New, alike,—whether we have the eyes to see it or not.

6. But I cannot dismiss the typical character of the Scripture narrative, until I have reminded you of one striking intimation of it which you might easily overlook. "O fools and slow of heart," was our LORD'S reproof to Cleophas and his companion on the evening of the first Easter: "Ought not CHRIST to have suffered these things, and to enter into His Glory? And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself[483]." In like manner, St. Paul at Rome expounded to the unbelieving Jews, "persuading them concerning JESUS both out of the Law of Moses and out of the Prophets, from morning till evening[484]." The same thing is repeated elsewhere[485]: but the most express declaration is that of our LORD Himself to the Jews:—"Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me; for he wrote of Me[486]," Moses therefore wrote concerning CHRIST. CHRIST Himself says so. But where? Shew me the places in the Pentateuch which prove that CHRIST was "to suffer these things" and then to "enter into glory?" You cannot do it; unless indeed in Isaac's Sacrifice you are content to find the adumbration of the scene on Calvary. You cannot do it; unless in Joseph's betrayal for twenty pieces of silver, (the deed of another Judas!) and his letting down into the pit without water, you recognize the image of the death of One by the blood of whose Covenant the prisoners of hope were set free[487]. You cannot do it; unless in the same Joseph's exaltation to the supreme power of Egypt, (when they "cried before him, Bow the knee!") you behold MESSIAH'S session at the Right Hand of GOD. You cannot do it; unless you notice how "Joseph, who was ordained to save his Brethren from death, who would have slain him, did represent the SON of GOD, who was slain by us and yet dying saved us[488]." You cannot do it; unless in the Paschal Lamb, and the wave-sheaf, you discern things Heavenly, and of eternal moment. You cannot do it; unless you remember "that as, in order to consecrate the Harvest by offering to GOD the first-fruits of it, a sheaf was lifted up and waved; as well as a Lamb offered on that day by the priest to GOD; so MESSIAH, that immaculate Lamb which was to die, that Priest which dying was to offer up Himself to GOD, was upon the same day lifted up and raised from the dead; or rather shook and lifted up, and presented Himself to GOD, and so was accepted for us all; that so our dust might be sanctified, our corruption hallowed, our mortality consecrated to eternity." Many who hear me will perceive that I have been quoting from Bp. Pearson; and will be constrained to admit that Isaac and Joseph,—the wave-sheaf and the Paschal Lamb,—may well be types of CHRIST; and that, thus lightly touched, there can be little objection to tracing in such histories and provisions of the Law, the main outlines of the Life and Death and Resurrection of our REDEEMER. But remember, we have handled wondrous little of the patriarchal History and of the Law; and that little, wondrous cursorily; more, as it seems to me, in the manner of children in a Sunday-school, than as Divines in the first University of Europe!... Now, St. Paul entertained his audience "from morning until evening." Had he nothing to say about Paradise, think you, and the mysterious parallel between the first and second Adam? nothing to say about the Ark of Noah, and the waters of the Flood? What of the history of the patriarch Jacob, and of Joseph "at the second time made known to his brethren?" What of Moses, and the miracles of the Exode? What of the many minute provisions, (all of them, no doubt, significant!) of the Mosaic Law? What of Esau's posterity and Balaam's prophecies,—the Cloud and the Flame,—the Manna and the Quails,—the riven Rock and Jordan driven back?...

I have already said enough to feel at liberty to gather out of it all, the two chief propositions concerning Holy Scripture, which it is my business this morning to establish. And first, I assert that it may be regarded as a fundamental rule, that the Bible is not to be interpreted like any other 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[489]. 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 to those who first heard or read it.

I would not be misunderstood by this audience, nor do I fear that I shall be. I am not denying (GOD forbid!) the literal sense of Scripture. Rather am I, above all, contending for it. We may never play tricks with the letter. Those Six Days of Creation, depend upon it, were six days: and the Tree of Life, and the Tree of Knowledge, and the Serpent, were the very things they are called,—and no other things. So of every other part of the Bible. The Temptation of our LORD was as matter of fact a transaction as one of His walks by the sea of Galilee. In what form the Tempter came to Him, hath not been revealed. After what fashion the Prince of the power of the air contrived the dazzling panorama "in a moment of time[490]," I do not pretend to understand. The literal sense of what has been revealed, is, for all that, to be depended on. All is sincere History: nothing is ever allegory,—nothing may ever be evacuated or explained away! We have our LORD'S own word for it. The speech in Paradise, and what happened at the time of the Flood; the fate of Lot's wife, and what befel the cities of the plain; the conduct of David (when he ate the shew-bread), and the visit to Solomon of the Queen of Sheba; the history of the widow of Sarepta, and of Naaman the Syrian:—all these stories of the Old Testament are by our LORD Himself appealed to as veritable History[491].

But I am proving that Scripture itself, literally understood, compels us to believe that under the letter of Scripture, (which of course is to be interpreted literally,) there lies a deeper and sometimes a far less obvious meaning; occasionally a meaning so improbable, (as men account improbability,) that, but for the finger of GOD pointing it out, we could never by possibility have discerned it; so extraordinary, that when it is shewn us, it needs an effort of the heart and of the mind to embrace it fully.

Cases of literal Interpretation are indeed of constant occurrence in Scripture; but the principle on which they depend is obvious, and common to all writings alike. I do not doubt, for a moment, that the history of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, (which we heard read this morning,) is a bon fide narrative,—truer and more authentic in details, than is to be found in any other book of History.—Neither do I doubt that the obvious teaching, (the moral Interpretation as it may be called,) of that incident, is the proper one: viz. that even for the most fiery of fleshly trials, GOD'S grace is sufficient:—that Joseph's safety lay in refusing even to be with her, joined to his holy fear of sinning against GOD:—that lust is ever cruel, and will hunt for the precious life[492]:—finally, that the way of purity, though it may lead at first to sorrow, will infallibly conduct to blessedness at the last. Considerations like these, which are obvious and easy, are also unquestionably true; and especially precious, (who ever doubted it?) as helps to personal holiness.—But still, there may underlie this narrative, for aught I see to the contrary, a mystical signification. Potiphar's wife may, (as the best and wisest of ancient and modern Divines have thought,) symbolize the Power of Darkness; and Joseph, our Divine LORD. The garment Joseph left in the woman's hand, may represent that fleshly garment of which the true Joseph divested Himself,—(apekdysamenos as St. Paul speaks in a very remarkable place,)—the mortal body which Satan apprehended (his sole triumph!) and by which he was ensnared, when a greater than Joseph gat Him out from an adulterous world[493]. Joseph in the prison, and CHRIST in the grave: Joseph exalted, and CHRIST Ascended: Joseph at last feeding the families of the World, and CHRIST becoming the Bread of Life to all:—let it not occasion offence, Brethren, if I confess that, for aught I see to the contrary, some such hidden teaching as this, may underlie the plain historical narrative; and in no way interfere with a literal interpretation.

III. From the two foregoing negative positions, however, (which almost need an apology, such obvious truisms are they,) I eagerly pass on to something better and higher.

1. And first, I boldly declare that the clue to all that has been advanced concerning the marvellous method of Holy Writ is supplied by the single consideration that the Bible is the Word of GOD,—that Holy Scripture, from the Alpha to the Omega of it, is the language of the HOLY GHOST. Incomprehensible and unmanageable on any other hypothesis,—all the disclosures of inspired Interpretation, by the hearty reception of this one revealed truth, are rendered perfectly intelligible and clear. The HOLY SPIRIT may surely be assumed competent to interpret what the HOLY SPIRIT has already delivered! His disclosures therefore are beyond the reach of censure; however marvellous they may happen to be. But they are all a hopeless riddle to those who have blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts.

Thus, to advert for a moment to the prophetic character (as it may be called) of the historical parts of Scripture,—What is it which moves secret unbelief, and prompts a reference to the human devices of Allegory and Accommodation[494]? It is the profound conviction that no merely human narrative could be handled as St. Paul handles Genesis, except by indulging in rhetorical license, and giving to Fancy a very free rein. But disabuse your mind of this lurking suspicion, so derogatory to the honour of Him by whose Spirit the Bible is inspired,—cease to suspect that the narrative of Scripture is a merely human narrative,—and how different becomes the problem! Why should the HOLY GHOST have spoken less by the mouth of Moses, than by the mouth of David and Isaiah, Jeremiah and the rest of the prophets? But if He speaks in Genesis, then are the words of Genesis His;—and every word of the narrative "proceedeth" (as our LORD phrases it,) "out of the mouth of GOD."

I am constrained to be thus express and emphatic, because it has been lately "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,—to the hearers or readers who first received it[495]." The original sense of Scripture, (says this writer,) is "the meaning of the words as they first struck on the ears, or flashed before the eyes, of those who heard and read them[496]." Now, I will not pause to remark on the complicated fallacy involved in this. For (1), Why should a hearer's first impression of a speaker's meaning be assumed to be that speaker's meaning[497]? And (2), Why may not Prophets and Evangelists have intended secondary meanings[498]? But I do not dwell on this, for it does not touch the point. Let us hear the voice of one who adorned this place many years before the present controversy arose, and who has exactly anticipated the question now at issue. "Observe how this matter really is," says Bp. Butler. "If one knew a person to be the sole Author of a book; and were certainly assured, or satisfied to any degree, that one knew the whole of what he intended in it; one should be assured or satisfied to such degree, that one knew the whole meaning of that book: for the meaning of a book is nothing but the meaning of the Author. But if one knew a person to have compiled a Book out of memoirs which he received from Another, of vastly superior knowledge in the subject of it; especially if it were a Book full of great intricacies and difficulties; it would in no wise follow that one knew the whole meaning of the Book, from knowing the whole meaning of the compilers: for the original memoirs, (i.e. the Author of them,) might have, (and there would be no degree of presumption, in many cases, against supposing Him to have,) some farther meaning than the compiler saw. To say then, 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: which is absurd, whilst the authority of these books is under examination; i.e. till you have determined they are of no divine authority at all. Till this be determined, it must in all reason be supposed,—not indeed that they have, (for this is taking for granted that they are inspired;) but,—that they may have, some farther meaning than what the compilers saw or understood[499]."—So far Bp. Butler.

2. Now, if GOD be in effect the Speaker, why need we hesitate to believe that He has so framed the stories, that they shall be throughout adumbrations of the things which concern our peace[500]? Let some garment be shewn me of merely human manufacture, and however costly it may prove, I look for nothing in it beyond the known properties of any other earthly fabric. But give me the assurance that, on the contrary, it was woven by Divine hands, and fashioned in a Heavenly loom, and do I not straightway expect to find it a mystery and a marvel of Art? It is even so with the language of Holy Writ. It is all framed and fashioned after a Diviner model than men are able to imagine. It is instinct with sublimest meanings. It is penetrated, through and through, with the Spirit of the Most High GOD. It is of so celestial a texture, that, to the eye of the soundest Reason, informed by the purest Faith, it reveals, (when the Spirit of its Divine Author shines upon it,) the glorious outlines of an imperishable Life!

3. The strong root of bitterness out of which springs unbelief in this supernatural character of the historical parts of the Bible, is an unworthy notion of GOD'S Power. Because human histories are perforce barren and lifeless, it is assumed that the Book of GOD'S Law must be a dead thing also. And then, the conceit of self-relying Reason glides in, (like a serpent,) and remonstrates as follows:—"Yea, can GOD have sanctioned a method of such subtlety and pliability as will make His own Scriptures mean anything[501]? Is it not rather, an exploded fashion, which the age has outgrown,—that fashion of supposing that there is sometimes a double sense in Prophecy, and that the Gospel is symbolized in the Law? Were then the worthies of the Old Testament puppets in GOD'S Hands, acting parts?—now, typifying remote personages; now, exhibiting future transactions; now, symbolizing national events? Is it credible? Not so! Accept one of two alternatives, and never dream of a third. Believe either that the Evangelists, the Apostles, our SAVIOUR CHRIST Himself,—partaking of the ignorance of their age, and speaking according to the modes of thought then prevalent, were mistaken in their interpretations of Holy Scripture; or else, deny boldly that there are interpretations at all. Assume that they are mere allegory and accommodation! Something must be allowed for the backwardness of the Past;—and 'the time has come when it is no longer possible to ignore the results of criticism[502].' A change of method 'is not so much a matter of expediency as of necessity. The original meaning of Scripture' is at last 'beginning to be understood[503].' Be persuaded, and make it thy business to persuade others, that the Bible is but a common Book!"

4. To all of which, we make summary answer:—Passing by thy self-congratulation on the enlightenment of the age,—of which, except in certain departments of physical Science, we see no evidence;—the whole of thy argument concerning Holy Scripture amounts to this;—that it would be very distasteful to thee, to find that it contained any sense beyond that which lies on the surface. Types, intended by the Author of Scripture to be types: Prophecy with sometimes more than a single application: historical events foreshadowing remote transactions:—all these thou deniest, because thou dislikest. Observe, however, that while thou art urging thine own private opinion, we are dealing with a revealed fact. Thou talkest about a probability, but we are establishing a proof. "It is written" that Scripture is thus significant, is thus mysterious in its historical outlines. And thou canst not explain away one syllable, though thou shouldest deny "every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of GOD."

5. Let us, however, examine the question merely by the light of unaided reason.—Consider then! If GOD made this world the particular kind of world which He is found to have made it, in order that it might in due time preach to mankind about Himself, and about His providence:—if He contrived beforehand the germination of seeds, the growth of plants, the analogies of animal life; all, evidently, in order that they might furnish illustrations of His teaching; and that so, great Nature's self might prove one vast Parable in His Hands:—why may not the same GOD, by His Eternal Spirit, have so overruled the utterance of the human agents whom He employed to write the Bible, that their historical narratives, however little their authors meant or suspected it, should embody the outline of things heavenly; and, while they convey a true picture of actual events, should also after a most mysterious fashion, yield, in the Hands of His own informing Spirit, celestial Doctrine also?

6. For let me remind you,—The very actions of men,—the complicated transactions of our common lives,—are thus overruled by God's Providence; and, without restraint, are so controlled that they shall subserve to the ulterior purposes of His will,—after a fashion which altogether defies analysis. Beyond this inner circle of comprehensible causation,—external to the immediate sphere of cause and effect which courts our daily scrutiny,—there is an outer circle, which rounds our lives; and (as I said) overrules all we do; fashioning, by virtue of a supreme fiat which is altogether beyond our comprehension, all our ends. Why then, I ask, may not the Bible be, what it purports to be,—the authentic record of transactions which the marvellous skill of Him who governeth all things in Heaven and Earth did so overrule, that they should become foreshadowings of chief transactions in the Kingdom of CHRIST? Shall prophecy, in the ordinary sense of the term, be admitted by all,—and yet a prophetic transaction be deemed impossible with GOD? If Isaiah may prophesy of one "red in His apparel," after "treading the winepress alone[504];" may describe Him as "despised and rejected of men;" "a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief;" "wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities;" "brought as a lamb to the slaughter," and "making intercession for the transgressors;" and at last destined to find "His grave with the wicked, yet with the rich in His death[505]:"—if this may be in words described minutely, and move no doubt; shall we close our eyes that we may not see,—or seeing shall we fail to recognize,—in the person of such an one as David, a divinely-intended type of MESSIAH? What! when he who was born in Bethlehem, overcomes the Philistine at the end of forty days, and takes from him the armour wherein he trusted;—when he,—a prophet, priest, and king,—is persecuted by his enemies, and betrayed by his own familiar friend; when he at last passes over the brook Kidron and ascends Olivet, sorrowing as he goes;—yea, when he utters words which our REDEEMER resyllables with His dying breath[506];—wilt thou refuse to discern in the person of David, the lineaments of David's Son? and sneer at us, who herein have been better taught than thou; although thou hast no better reason to give for thy unbelief than that the view of Holy Scripture which the Church Catholic hath held in all ages, seems to thee a thing impossible?

7. Take once more, if thou wilt, the analogy of Nature; and thence infer what is probable concerning things Divine. Is it observed that the works of GOD are thus single in their office; or are they, on the contrary, manifold in their virtues and uses? Than the metal Iron, what substance more serviceable for every ordinary mechanical purpose of daily life? Yet, ask the physician which of the metals he could least afford to forego as an instrument of cure: and he will tell thee that he finds Iron the fullest of healing virtues also. Shall then plants and animals, yea, and the whole of the Animal Kingdom, be admitted to subserve to manifold, and at first sight unsuspected uses,—so that the wisest are ready to confess that the function of most remains to this hour a secret:—and shall we be reluctant to allow that the Word of GOD—"the Tree of Life," whereof "the leaves are for the healing of the nations,"—may also be thus various in its purpose; fraught with other teaching besides that which on its very surface meets the careless eye?

8. To speak without a figure,—It is not of course to be supposed that the inspired writers knew all the wondrous qualities of the message they delivered, or of the narrative they were divinely guided to indite. Altogether a distinct question this; although the two have been sometimes confused together[507]. Nay, Revelation itself comes in to help us here. St. Peter, in express words, declares that concerning the mystery of Redemption "the prophets inquired and searched diligently; ... searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of CHRIST which was in them did signify, when it,"—(not they, observe, but It)—"testified beforehand the sufferings of CHRIST, and the glory that should follow." That "not unto, themselves, but unto us they did minister,"—thus much, indeed, was revealed to them; but no more. The rest, to this hour, the very "Angels desire to look into!"

9. But between the words which a man delivers being full of Divine significancy, and himself knowing the full scope and purport of those words,—there is surely a mighty difference! When Caiaphas foretold the universal efficacy of CHRIST'S Death, who less than Caiaphas suspected the far-reaching truth of the words which fell from his unholy lips? He knew nothing about the triumphs of the Cross; and yet he could prophesy very accurately concerning them. "This spake he not of himself," (says the Evangelist,) "but being high-priest that year, he prophesied that JESUS should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of GOD that were scattered abroad[508]." ... It may safely be assumed that the sacred writers no more knew the force and power of their own words, than those Priests who lived and moved amid the shadows of the Mosaic Ritual were able to discern therein, the substance of things eternal in the Heavens. And yet we believe concerning those ritual types that "they were a concealed prophetic evidence, the force of which was made apparent by the presence of the Gospel[509]." I am prone to suspect that the burning vehemence of their own language must many a time have moved the Prophets of old to deepest astonishment; and that when there broke from them words of more than mortal power,—or images of unearthly grandeur,—or the outlines of a grief more than human; when they spake of a betrayal for thirty pieces of silver[510], of blows and spitting[511], and of pierced hands and feet[512]; of parted garments and lots cast upon a vesture[513];—they must have felt, they must have felt the awfulness of the message they were commissioned to deliver; and longed, yea yearned unutterably to see and to hear the things which were reserved to be witnessed in the days of the Son of Man!

10. Enough, however, of all this. In reply to priori objections, I have been content to argue the question as if the Bible were a newly-discovered Book without a history; whereas the consentient writings of all the Fathers and Doctors of every age, in every portion of the Christian Church, is an overwhelming fact! Rather have I reasoned as if the Bible were a book altogether silent concerning itself. But the plain truth, as I have fully shewn, is the very reverse. Scripture is full of interpretations of Scripture;—and the constant method of Scripture in such interpretations, is spiritual or mystical;—and this witness of Scripture is the strongest proof possible that the principle involved is correct. Meanwhile, the great underlying truth which I now desire, more than any other to bring before you, is this:—that it is the HOLY GHOST who, in the New Testament, interprets what the same HOLY GHOST had delivered in the Old. This, believe me, is the true key, the only intelligible solution, to all those difficulties respecting places of the Old Testament, whether interpreted, or only quoted, in the New, which have so exercised the ingenuity of learned men. We are always to remember, in a word, that the true Author of either Testament,—the real Author of every part of the Bible, is (not Man, but) GOD!

IV. Such then, (to conclude,) is the Divine method of Interpretation. We are not concerned now to classify, and sort it out under different heads. To apply, even to a small extent, the principles we have been labouring to establish, would not only lead us much too far, but would constrain us to travel out of our proper subject and prescribed province. Our purpose has only been, to vindicate the profundity, or rather the fulness of Holy Writ[514]; and to shew that under the obvious and literal meaning of the words, there lies concealed a more recondite, and a profounder sense: call that sense mystical, or spiritual, or Christian, or what you will. Unerringly to elicit that hidden sense is the sublime privilege of inspired Writers; and they do it by allusion, by quotation, by the importation of a short phrase[515], by the adoption of a single word[516],—to an extent which no one would suspect who had not carefully studied the subject. How that method of theirs is to be applied by ourselves, it is impossible, I repeat, for me even to hint at in a single discourse. But this, I will say; and with this I dismiss the subject;—that Interpretation would be a hopeless task, but for the solemn circumstance that the whole of the Bible is inspired by one and the self-same Spirit; so that one part may always be safely compared with any other part of it, you please. Nay, by no other method can you hope to understand the Bible, than by such a laborious comparison of its several parts. "Non nisi ex Scriptur Scripturam potes interpretari." The more you study the Book, the more you will feel convinced that its many authors all resorted to one and the same Fountain of Inspiration. They all use the same imagery; they all speak the same language; they all mean the same thing. St. John the Divine, in the Book of Revelation, shuts up the Canon by reproducing the combined imagery of all the ancient prophets,—by declaring that the Song of Moses and of the LAMB is sung by the redeemed in Heaven,—by marvellous words about "the Tree of Life," which is "in the midst of the Paradise of GOD." The Inspired writers of either Testament all draw from the same Treasury, and therefore all say the same things. The Heavenly Jerusalem, (with her gates of pearl and streets of gold,) is the home of the spirit of each one of them[517]; JESUS CHRIST, and He Crucified, is the abiding theme of them all. And O, how their words do sometimes teem, and their phrases swell, almost to bursting, with their blessed argument[518]! You shall be troubled with only one example of what I mean.—Moses having described the interview between Melchizedek and Abraham, the mighty secret of MESSIAH'S priesthood which therein lay enshrined was curtained all so close, that neither Angels nor Men could possibly discern it. Must it then remain a mystery for 2000 years? Not so! Midway between the day of Abraham and the day of CHRIST,—just midway,—David, speaking by the HOLY GHOST,—(of that, our LORD Himself assures us[519],)—David, I say, when a thousand years had rolled by, utters the cxth Psalm; and in the fulness of his prophetic fervour, the great secret bursts unexpectedly into light! A thousand years had passed since Abraham returned from 'the slaughter of the Kings.' It wanted yet a thousand years to the date of our SAVIOUR'S Birth. And lo, midway, a voice is heard, shouting to Him across the gulf of Ages,—"Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek!"

"And let not Reason be alarmed. Her vocation is not gone. Yea rather, I know not if Human Intellect ever had a loftier problem presented to her than to follow out that deep Analogy which has been noticed above; and to learn, (if it may be called Reason's learning,) how to deal with Holy Scripture as Apostles and Evangelists deal with it. Let not Reason be alarmed. She is only asked to listen, and to discern the nature and laws of Sacred Study. She is asked but to discern the evidence which there is of her being in a world which she imperfectly understands.... The student of the Bible is advised so to address himself to the study of that Book, so to deal with its language, as one should deal with THE WORD OF GOD,—the measure of whose import is in the infinite, not in the finite World.—Surely, by these things the LORD tries the spirits of us all; tries other men by other means, but tries the intellectual man by the Word of GOD[520], and watches him as he reads it; hardens the obdurate; blinds the self-blinded; but pours into the humble mind the riches of His divine Wisdom like showers into a valley; making it soft with the drops of rain and blessing the increase of it[521]."

V. Friends and brethren, it is not without reluctance that on a Sunday in Lent, when penitential thoughts should rather occupy us,—and in this place too, where the promotion of practical piety should rather be our aim,—I have so addressed you. But indeed, I seem to have no choice. It is idle crying "peace, peace," when there is no peace. If the Inspiration of Holy Scripture be a deceit, and the Divine meaning of Holy Scripture a superstition,—then, farewell to all our hopes in Life and in Death; farewell to peace in days of despondency and gloom. Our faith is gone, and our teaching becomes a hollow heartless thing. Since, under the name of freedom of discussion, unbounded licentiousness of speculation is openly the fashion of the age, we are constrained to give a reason for the hope which is in us; and to defend, without compromise or hesitation, that Bible, which is the great bulwark of the Faith. It shall not be said that we can condemn, but that we make no answer. It must be seen that we put forth in reply the ancient Truths; and it will be felt that before the majesty of those ancient Truths, the arts of the enemy will prove weak and unavailing,—rather, will stand revealed in all their native deformity. If English Clergymen, coming abroad in the cast-off clothes of German unbelief[522], and decked out with the exploded sophisms of the last century, are to declare openly that the faith of our Fathers is already looked upon among ourselves as 'a kind of fossil of the Past,'—then is it high time that voices should be heard vindicating that ancient method of our Fathers; and boldly proclaiming that this imputation against the Clergy of England is a disreputable untruth. The Church of England, (GOD be praised!) hath not left her first love; hath not given up her ancient method; Christianity is not 'a difficulty to the highest minds.' The Christian Religion embraces, as much as ever it did, "the thought of men upon the Earth." "All the tendencies of Knowledge" are not "opposed to it." The Gospel is still immeasurably before the age. Intellect has not gone,—the loftiest order of well-trained intellects will never go,—the other way[523]. It is, on the contrary, none but a very shallow wit which errs. Had it confined its speculations to the cloister, or come abroad with sorrow and shame, we should have pitied in silence, and in silence also have lamented. But when it comes insultingly abroad, and sets up a claim to intellectual superiority even while it denies the most sacred truths;—then pity gives way before indignation and disgust. Crown the whole with the iniquity of imputing these views generally to the more thoughtful of the English Clergy[524],—and we are constrained openly to resent the grievous wrong. We declare it to be an unfounded calumny; a calumny which, in the name of the whole Church, I solemnly repel before GOD,—and His Holy Angels,—and you!

Vain, utterly vain,—worthless, utterly worthless,—must any superstructure of intellectual, moral, or religious training be, which is built up on the doctrine that the Bible is to be interpreted like any other Book; in other words, that the Bible is a common Book; in other words, that Inspiration is a fable and a dream. We have no fear whatever that your high instincts, (with all your faults!),—your English manliness,—will, to any extent be led astray, by sophistry worthless as that which we have been exposing. But we know you look to your appointed Teachers from this place, (as well you may,) for advice, and support, and encouragement, in your better aspirations;—and let me, at least, in plain language, warn you that novelties in Religion never can be true. "Philosophia," says the great Bishop Pearson speaking of Physical Science; "Philosophia quotidie progressu: Theologia nisi regressu non crescit[525]." "Ask for the old paths!" ... The faith, remember, was hapax,—once for all,—delivered to the Saints. There will be no new deposit. There can be no new doctrines. There has been no fresh Revelation,—no new principle of guidance vouchsafed to man. A new method of interpreting Scripture is quite impossible. And the true method,—the only true method—must be that which was adopted by our SAVIOUR, by His Evangelists, and by His Apostles: a method which they taught to their first disciples, and which those early Bishops and Doctors handed on in turn to the generation which came after them. That method, by GOD'S great goodness, has descended in an unbroken stream, even to ourselves; who have described it this morning, feebly indeed and unworthily,—yet, in the main, as it would have been described at any time, by any of the glorious company of the Apostles, the goodly fellowship of the Prophets, the noble army of Martyrs,—by any of the Doctors and Fathers of the Holy Church throughout the world! O let it be our great concern,—yours and mine,—to preserve with undiminished lustre the whole deposit of Heaven-descended teaching which is the Church's treasure!... Like runners in a certain ancient race of which we all have read, let it be our pride and joy,—yours and mine,—to grasp the torch of Truth with a strong unwavering hand; to run joyously with it so long as the days of this earthly race shall last; and dying, to hand it on to another, who, with strength renewed like the eagle's, may again,—swiftly, steadily, exultingly,—run with it, till he fails!... So, when the Judge of quick and dead appeareth,—so let Him find you occupied,—O young men, (many of you, my friends,) who are already the hope of half the English Church! So faithfully may we, Brethren and Fathers, one and all, be found employed, when He cometh,—whose answer to the Tempter is emphatically the text of the present solemn season, as well as a mighty voucher for the Divine origin, and sustaining efficacy of that Book concerning which I have been detaining you so long,—"It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone; but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of GOD!"

Ut verum fatear, semper existimavi, allusiones istas, (ad quas confugiunt quidam tanquam ad sacrum su ignoranti asylum,) plerumque nihil aliud esse, quam Sacr Scriptur abusiones manifestas.

BISHOP BULL, Harmonia Apostolica, cap. xi. sect. 3.

There would be no need to scruple the term, if it were not meant to imply that this Accommodation was arbitrary on the part of the Evangelist; or that the mind of THE SPIRIT that spoke by the Prophet does not most fully include this application.

DR. W. H. MILL.

FOOTNOTES:

[436] Preached at St. Mary-the-Virgin, on the Third Sunday in Lent, March 3rd, 1861.

[437] "It cannot be said that this, [viz. that the Bible is the Word of God,] is always remembered. It cannot be said that they who write respecting the Bible, even Christian writers who are looked up to, always appear to have been in that frame of mind while contemplating the statements of the Sacred Volume, which they, the same men, would have been in if they had been listening for a voice out of a cloud; a word reaching them which was simply, and in that sense, the Word of GOD. Yet the Sacred Volume comes to us with no less claims than as conveying such a message; and on every feature of it, it carries that claim. It professes to be this,—an account of what went on in the secret council-chamber of the MOST HIGH."—Eden's Sermons, pp. 150-1.

[438] Exposition of the Creed, Art. II. ("Our LORD,")—vol. i. p. 183.

[439] 1 St. Peter i. 11.

[440] Eccl. Pol., B. v. c. lix. 3.

[441] Bp. Bull, Defensio Fid. Nic. I. i. 9, (Works, vol. v. i. p. 22.)

[442] Disc. v. The state of Man before the Fall. Bull's Works, vol. ii. p. 99.

[443] "DEUS novit cordis mei secreta: in dogmatis theologicis a novaturiendi prurigine (quam etiam supremi Judicis tribunal insiliens fidenter mihi tribuit theologi professor) adeo alienus sum, ut qucunque catholicorum Patrum et veterum episcoporum consensu comprobata sunt, etiamsi meum ingeniolum ea non assequatur, tamen omni reverentia amplexurus sim. Nimirum non paucis experimentis monitus didiceram, cum adhuc juvenis Harmoniam scriberem, (quod mihi jam confirmata tate persuasissimum est,) neminem catholico consensui repugnare posse, quin is (utcunque ipsi aliquantisper adblandiri videantur sacr Scriptur loca nonnulla perperam intellecta, et levicularum ratiuncularum phantasmata) tandem et Divinis Oraculis et san rationi repugnasse deprehendatur."—Bp. Bull's Works, vol. iv. p. 313.

[444] In days of unbelief, one is tempted to add a note even on a Theological truism like that in the text,—"Esto igitur, inquies; fuerit Deus, qui in Veteri Testamento, sive per Angelum, sive sub angelic reprsentatione sanctis viris apparuit et locutus est; at qu demum ratione adducti crediderunt doctores, fuisse DEI FILIUM? Respondeo: Ratione, ni fallor, optim, quam ex traditione Apostolic edidicerant."—Def. Fid. Nicn. I. i. 12. Bp. Bull's Works, vol. v. i. p. 27.

[445] All' h ekklsia, hagitate Eusebie, heters ta peri toutou nomizei kai ouch hs sy. ton men gar en t bat phanenta t Mys theologei ton de en HIerich t met' auton ophthenta, ton tn HEbrain epistasian lachonta, machairan espasmenon, kai t Isou lysai prostattonta to hypodma, touton de ge ton archangelon hypeilphe Michal, k. t. l.—The entire passage may be seen in the best annotated editions of Eusebius, (lib. I. c. ii. 17.) since that of Valesius, who first introduced it to notice. But to read it in a truly valuable context, reference should be made to Dr. Mill's Christian Advocate's publication for 1841, p. 92. The note alluded to has been reprinted in Dr. Lee's Discourses On Inspiration, p. 535.

[446] Essays and Reviews, p. 31.

[447] See Appendix (J).

[448] St. John i. 1-3.

[449] So Bp. Butler, in a passage which will be found below, at p. 165-6.—Very different is the judgment of Professor Jowett, who is of opinion 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."—Essays and Reviews, p. 350.

[450] See above, pp. 55-57.

[451] Professor Jowett in Essays and Reviews, pp. 393-402. He adds,—"Discussions respecting the use of the Greek article, have gone far beyond the line of utility. There seem to be reasons for doubting whether any considerable light can be thrown on the New Testament from inquiry into the language.... Minute corrections of tenses or particles are no good." (p. 393.) And this, from a Regius Professor of Greek!

[452] See below, pp. 164-5.

[453] Essays and Reviews, p. 372.

[454] St. Matth. ii. 15:17, 18:23.

[455] Hos. xi. 1.

[456] Jer. xxxi. 15.

[457] e.g. Is. xi. 1. Also Zech. iii. 8: vi. 12. Jer. xxiii. 5 and xxxiii. 15.

[458] St. Matth. viii. 17.

[459] Is. liii. 4.

[460] For consider Exod. ix. 19, Jonah iv. 11, &c.

[461] 1 Cor. ix. 8-10, quoting Dent. xxv. 4. See also 1 Tim. v. 18.—"It seems providentially appointed that texts of the Old Testament should be called out into Christian meaning which are the very texts we might have dismissed into a transitory interest. 'Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn.' 'Humane provision!', modern observation might say. 'Is it for oxen God careth? is an Apostle's interpretation of the same text; 'or saith He it altogether for our sakes?'.... It is a law, we find, prospectively set down for the Christian Church."—Eden's Sermons, p. 189.

[462] Ps. viii. 7.

[463] Heb. ii. 6-8. 1 Cor. xv. 25, and Eph. i. 22.—See Shuttleworth's Paraphrase of the first place cited, p. 394.

[464] Exod. xiv. 22, 29.

[465] 1 Cor. x. 1-4.

[466] St. John vi. 32-58.

[467] Hebr. ix. 6-9.

[468] Ibid. v. 11, 12.

[469] Dia tou katapetasmatos, toutesti ts sarkos hautou. Hebr. x. 20.

[470] Hebr. ix. 2-5.

[471] Hebr. xiii. 11, 12.

[472] Eph. v. 30-32.

[473] H kai hmas antitypon nyn szei baptisma. 1 St. Pet. iii. 21.

[474] Hebr. v. 10.

[475] Hebr. vii. 1-10. The student in Divinity will find it well worth his while to inquire for a Latin Dissertation by the late learned Dr. W. H. Mill on this subject.

[476] Essays and Reviews, pp. 338, 375, 377, 419-20, 426, 428, 429, &c. The advice is Professor Jowett's.

[477] Hebr. v. 11.

[478] Gen. xiv. 18.

[479] Nthroi gegonate tais akoais.—Hebr. v. 11.

[480] Hebr. v. 12-14.

[481] Dr. Temple in Essays and Reviews.

[482] 2 Cor. iii. 12-16.—Take notice that in allusion to the place, Exod. xxxiv. 34, (hnika d' an eiseporeueto Myss enanti Kyriou lalein aut, perireito to kalymma,) St. Paul says,—hnika d' an epistreps pros Kyrion, periaireitai to kalymma. The expression is altered in order to bring out more clearly the allegorical meaning.

[483] St. Luke xxiv. 25-27.

[484] Acts xxviii. 23.

[485] Acts xxvi. 22, 23.

[486] St. John v. 46, 47.

[487] Zech. ix. 11, 12.

[488] Bp. Pearson.

[489] Consider St. John ii. 17, 22: xii. 16. St. Luke xxiv. 8, 45. Acts xi. 16.

[490] En stigm chronou.—St. Luke iv. 5.

[491] St. Matth. xix. 5. St. Luke xvii. 27 and 32. St. Matth. xi. 23: xii. 4 and 42. St. Luke iv. 25-27.

[492] Prov. vi. 26. Consider v. 9. Eccl. vii. 26. Gen. xxxix. 20. 2 Sam. xi. 15. St. Mark vi. 25.

[493] The learned reader,—(and the unlearned reader too, who will bear in mind that apekdysamenos, [in the E. V. 'having spoiled,'] certainly means 'having stripped off from himself,')—is invited to consider with attention those words of Col. ii. 15:—apekdysamenos tas archas kai tas exousias, edeigmatisen en parrsia, thriambeusas autous [not autas, observe;] en aut [sc. t staur. See by all means Pearson on the Creed, Art. v. note (l): (ed. Burton, vol. ii. p. 217-8.) Cf. Eph. ii. 16. Consider St. Luke xi. 22.] To complete the teaching of the passage, the reader is invited to study also, in connexion with what goes before, 1 Cor. ii. 6-8; taking notice, that hoi archontes tou ainos toutou are not, (as the marginal references suggest,) the powers of the visible, but of the invisible World. See St. John xii. 31: xiv. 30: xvi. 11, and Ephes. ii. 2: vi 12.—See Ignatius Ep. ad Ephes. c. xix., (with the notes in Jacobson's ed.) See also Dr. Mill on the Temptation, p. 165.

[494] See Sermon VI.

[495] Professor Jowett in Essays and Reviews, p. 378.

[496] Professor Jowett in Essays and Reviews, p. 338.

[497] Consider St. John xii. 16: x. 6: xi. 13. St. Luke xviii. 34. St. Matth. xvi. 11, 12. St. John viii. 27, &c., &c.

[498] See St. John xi. 49-52: vi:. 37-39.

[499] Analogy, Part ii. ch. vii.

[500] Augustine, speaking of the New Testament, says,—"Factum quidem est, et ita ut narratur, impletum; sed tamen etiam ipsa, qu a DOMINO facta sunt, aliquid significantia erant,—quasi verba (si dici potest) visibilia, et aliquid significantia."—Opp., tom. v. p. 421 F.

[501] Essays and Reviews, pp. 368, 372.

[502] Professor Jowett in Essays and Reviews, p. 374.

[503] Professor Jowett in Essays and Reviews, p. 418.

[504] Is. lxiii. 2, 3.

[505] Is. liii.

[506] Comp. Ps. xxxi. 5 with St. Luke xxiii. 46.

[507] By Professor Jowett for example. "The time will come when educated men will no more be able to believe that the words of Hos. xi. 1 were intended by the prophet to refer to the return of Joseph and Mary from Egypt, than," &c.—E. and R., p. 418. When did "educated men" ever believe anything of the kind?

[508] St. John xi. 50. Comp. xviii. 14.

[509] Davison on Prophecy, p. 192.

[510] Zech. xi. 12, 13.

[511] Is. l. 6.

[512] Ps. xxii. 16. Zech. xiii. 13.

[513] Ps. xxii. 18.

[514] "Adoro Scriptur plenitudinem."—Tertullian adv. Hermog., c. 22.

[515] Comp. St. Matth. ii. 20, with the LXX Version of Exod. iv. 19: St. Matth. iii. 4, with the same version of 2 Kings i. 8: St. Matth. xxvi. 38 with Ps. xlii. 5. St. Luke i. 37, with Gen. xviii. 14,—i. 48, with 1 Sam. i. 11, and with Gen. xxx. 13,—i. 50, with Ps. ciii. 17. St. John i. 52, with Gen. xxviii. 12,—&c., &c.

[516] A few examples may prove suggestive to a thoughtful reader:—exodos, in St. Luke ix. 31 and in 1 St. Pet. i. 15:—apokatastsei, in St. Matth. xvii. 11, (cf. Mal. iv. 5): sitometrion, in St. Luke xii. 42, (cf. Gen. xlvii. 12): paradeisos, in St. Luke xxiii. 43. The reference is of course always to the Septuagint version.

[517] Ps. xlvi. 4: xlviii. 1, 8: lxxxvii. 3. Is. lii. 1: lx. 14. Ezek. xlviii. Ephes. ii. 19, 20. Phil. iii. 20. Gal. iv. 26. Hebr. xi. 10: xii. 22: xiii. 14. Rev. xxi. 2, 10: iii. 12, &c.

[518] "Scriptores theopneustoi, de typo disserentes, divinius quiddam ex inopinato pati solent, et ad antitypum vehementiore Spiritus afflatu rapi et elevari. Assertionis hujusce veritas inde constat, quod verba qudam haud expectata spius inferant, qu MESSI vel solum vel aptius quam Illius typo congruant."—Spencer De Legg. Hebr., vol. ii. p. 1035. Consider such places as Ps. ii. 6, 7: xli. 9, 10: xlv. 10, 11: lxi. 6: lxxii. 5, 7, 11, 16, 17: lxxxix. 29. Gen. xlix. 18. Is. lxi. 1, 2, 3. Zech. vi. 11, 12.

[519] St. Mark xii. 36.

[520] "And their manner of treating this subject when laid before them, shews what is in their heart, and is an exertion of it." Bp. Butler's Analogy, P. II. ch. vi.—See Appendix (C).

[521] Eden's Sermons, pp. 192-5.

[522] "With the exception of the still-imperfect science of Geology," (says Dr. Pusey,) "the Essays and Reviews contain nothing with which those acquainted with the writings of unbelievers in Germany have not been familiar these thirty years." Even the Apologist for the volume in question assures us that one who "had looked ever so cursorily through the works of Herder, Schleiermacher, Lcke, Neander, De Wette, Ewald, &c., would see that the greater part of the passages which have given so much cause for exultation or for offence in this volume, have their counterpart in those distinguished Theologians."—Edinb. Rev., Ap. 1861, p. 480.

[523] Rev. B. Jowett in Essays and Reviews, pp. 374-5.

[524] Rev. B. Jowett in Essays and Reviews, pp. 372, (bottom,) 340, 374, &c.

[525] Minor Works, vol. ii. pp. 9-10.—"In Christianity, there can be no concerning truth which is not ancient; and whatsoever is truly new is certainly false."—Epistle Dedicatory prefixed to Pearson on the Creed, p. x.



SERMON VI.[526]

* * * * *

THE DOCTRINE OF ARBITRARY SCRIPTURAL ACCOMMODATION CONSIDERED.

* * * * *

ROMANS x. 6-9.

"But the Righteousness which is of Faith speaketh on this wise,—'Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into Heaven?' (that is, to bring CHRIST down from above:) or, 'Who shall descend into the deep?' (that is, to bring up CHRIST again from the dead.) But what saith it? 'The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thine heart:' that is, the word of Faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the LORD JESUS, and shalt believe in thine heart that GOD hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."

It is quite marvellous in how many different ways different classes of professing Christians have contrived to nullify the value of their admission that the Bible is inspired. Some would distinguish the inspiration of the Historical Book from that of those which we call Prophetical. Others profess to lay their finger on what are the proper subjects of Inspiration, and what are not. Some are for a general superintending guidance which yet did not effectually guide; while others represent the sacred Writers as subject, in what they delivered, to the conditions of knowledge in the age where their lot was cast. The view of Inspiration which Scripture itself gives us,—namely, that God is therein speaking by human lips[527]; so that 'holy men of GOD' delivered themselves as they were 'impelled,' 'borne along,' or 'lifted up,' (pheromenoi) by the HOLY GHOST[528];—this plain account of the matter, I say, which converts 'all Scripture' into something 'breathed into by GOD,' (theopneustos,)[529]—men are singularly slow to acknowledge. The methods which they have devised in order to escape from so plain a revealed Truth, are 'Legion.'

Second to none of the enemies of Holy Writ, practically, are they who deny its depth and fulness. It is only another, and a more ingenious way, of denying the Inspiration of the Bible, to evacuate its more mysterious statements. Those who are for eluding the secondary intention of Prophecy, the obviously mystical teaching of Types, the allegorical character of many a sacred Narrative,—are no less dangerous enemies of GOD's Word than those who frame unworthy theories in order to dwarf Inspiration to the standard of their own conceptions of its nature and office. I say, it is only another way of denying the Inspiration of Scripture, to deny what is sometimes called its mystical, sometimes its typical, sometimes its allegorical sense.... And thus,—what with the arbitrary decrees of our own unsupported opinion, or the self-sufficient exercise of our own supposed discernment;—what with our insolent mistrust; or our shortsighted folly and presumption; or, lastly, our coldness and deadness of heart,—our slender appetite for Divine things, which makes us yearn back after Earth, at the very open gate of Heaven;—in one way or other, I repeat, we contrive to evacuate our own admission that the Bible is an inspired Book: we fasten discredit on its every page: we become profane men, like Esau: we despise our birthright.

But the most subtle enemy of all remains yet to be noticed. It is he, who,—finding the plain Word of GOD against him: finding himself refuted in his endeavour to fix one intention only on the words of the HOLY GHOST, and that intention, the most obvious and literal one; finding himself refuted even by the express revelation of the same HOLY GHOST, elsewhere delivered;—bends himself straightway to resist, and explain away, that later revelation of what was the earlier meaning. It is a marvellous thing but so it is, that the very man who contended so stoutly a moment ago for the literal meaning of Scripture, now refuses, and denies it. Anything but that! If he allows that St. Matthew, or St. Paul,—yea, or even our Blessed LORD Himself,—are to be literally understood; are severally to be taken to mean what they say;—then, Moses and David,—narrative, law, and psalm,—besides their literal meaning, have, at least sometimes,—and they may have always,—a mystical meaning also. Under the evident, palpable signification of the words, there lies concealed something grander, and deeper, and broader; high as Heaven,—deep as Hell.

And this supposition is so monstrous an one; seems so derogatory to their notions of the mind of GOD;—it is deemed so improbable a thing, that the words of Him, whose ways are not like Man's ways, should span the present and the future, at a grasp;—that He whose "thoughts are very deep," should, with language thereto corresponding, be setting forth CHRIST and His Redemption, while He tells of Patriarchs and Lawgivers,—Judges and Kings,—priests and prophets of the LORD:—I say, it is deemed so incredible a thing that Moses should have written concerning CHRIST, (though our SAVIOUR CHRIST Himself declares that Moses did write concerning Him)[530]; or that the occasional expressions of the Prophets should really contain the far-reaching allusions which in the New Testament are assigned to them; that the men I speak of,—men of learning (sometimes), and of piety too,—will condescend to every imaginable artifice in order to escape the cogency of the Divine statement. St. Paul—was infected with the Hebrew method of interpretation. (It is of course assumed that this method was essentially erroneous! It is overlooked that our LORD had recourse to it, as well as St. Paul! It is either forgotten, or denied, that the HOLY GHOST, speaking by the mouth of St. Paul, acquiesced in every instance of such interpretation on the part of His chosen vessel!) ... As for St. Matthew, he addressed his Gospel to the Jews, and therefore reasoned as a Jew would. (St. Matthew's Gospel was not of course intended for the Christian Church! The blessed Evangelist was also deeply learned,—it is of course reasonable to suppose,—in the sacred hermeneutics of the Hebrew Schools!) ... The other Sacred Writers, it is pretended, all wrote according to the prejudices of the age in which they lived.—In all these cases, it is contended that merely in the way of Accommodation, is the language of the Old Testament cited in the New. What was said of one thing is transferred to quite another,—to suit the purpose of the later writer; to illustrate his reasoning, to adorn or to enforce his statements.... And this brings me to a question of so much importance, that I pause to make a few remarks upon it. In the present discourse, it shall suffice to remark on the doctrine of Scriptural ACCOMMODATION; for which it is presumed that the text, (selected not without reference to the present Sacred Season,) affords ample scope, as well as supplies a fair occasion.

Now, it is not to the term "Accommodation," that we entertain any dislike; but to the notion which it seems intended to convey; and to the principle which we believe that it actually embodies. That the HOLY SPIRIT in the New Testament sometimes accommodates to His purpose a quotation in the Old,—is very often a mere matter of fact. In all those places, for instance, where St. Paul inverts the clauses of a place cited,—there is a manifest accommodation of Scripture, in the strictest sense of the word. When two, three, or more texts, widely disconnected in the Old Testament, are continuously exhibited in the New,—a species of accommodation has, of course, been employed. The same may be said when a change of construction is discoverable. Again, there is accommodation, of course, when narrative,—legal enactment,—or prophecy, is so exhibited that the point of its hidden teaching shall become apparent. Nay, in a certain sense of the word, there is "accommodation," as often as a prophecy, however plain, is applied to the historical event which it purports to foretel. The prophecy may be said,—(with no great propriety indeed, but still, intelligibly,)—to have been accommodated to its fulfilment.—Occasionally, a general promise is made particular,—as in Hebrews xiii. 6; and perhaps this might be called an accommodation of the text to the needs of an individual believer. Yet is it plain that in all these cases 'application' or 'adaptation' would be a better word.

But such ways of adducing Holy Scripture, we suspect, are not by any means what is meant by 'Accommodation;' and they do not certainly correspond with the notion which the term is calculated to convey. The place in the Old Covenant, seems, (from the term employed,) to have been forced, against its conscience, as it were, to bear witness in behalf of the New. It has been wrenched away from its natural bearing and intention; and made to accommodate itself,—and, on the part of the writer, quite arbitrarily,—to a purpose, with which it has, in reality, no manner of connexion. This, I say, is the notion which the term "Accommodation" seems to convey.

I am supposing, of course,—(as the opposite school is, of course, supposing,)—not an illustration,—which obviously any writer, whether ordinary or inspired, has a right to introduce at will; but a case where the cogency of the argument depends entirely on the place cited. A sudden and unforeseen requirement arose;—nothing entirely fit and applicable occurred to the memory: but by an arbitrary handling of the ancient Oracles of GOD,—(altogether illogical and inconclusive indeed, yet entitled to a certain measure of respectful consideration at our hands, and certainly having a strong claim on our indulgence,)—the later writer saw that he should be able to substantiate his position, or to strengthen his argument, or to prove his point. And he did not hesitate to do so. It is surprising that his hearers or his readers should have accepted his statements, and admitted his reasoning;—very! But they did. And it is for us, the heirs of the wisdom of all the ages, to detect the time-honoured fallacy and to expose it.—This, I say, is the notion which the term "Accommodation" seems calculated to convey; and it is to be feared, does very often represent.

And the introduction of this principle, as already explained, I cannot but regard as the most insidious device of all. It admits fully all that we have elsewhere laboured to establish. It freely grants that Apostles and Evangelists were inspired. But then, it denies that much of what they deliver in the way of interpretation of Scripture, is to be regarded as real interpretation. By a taste for Allegory; by Rhetorical license; on any principle, it seems, but one, is the Divine method to be accounted for; and the plain facts of the case to be obscured, or explained away.

Now I altogether reject this principle of arbitrary "Accommodation." I hold it to be a mere dream and delusion. And I reject it on the following grounds:—

1. It is evidently a mere excuse for Human ignorance,—a transparent deceit. Men do not see how to explain, or account for, the apparent license of the Divine method; and so they have invented this method of escape. Most cordially do I subscribe to the opinion expressed by Bishop Bull, in his discussion of the very text which we are now about to consider:—"Atque, ut verum fatear, semper existimavi, allusiones istas, (ad quas confugiunt quidam tanquam ad sacrum su ignoranti asylum,) plerumque aliud nihil esse, quam sacr Scriptur abusiones manifestas[531]."

2. The "theory of Accommodation," (as it is called,) is attended with this fatal inconvenience,—that, (like certain other expedients which have been invented to get over difficulties in Religion,) it altogether fails of its object. For even if we should grant, (for argument's sake,) that some quotations from the Old Testament can be explained on this principle,—so long as there remain others which defy it altogether, nothing is gained by the proposed expedient. Thus, so long as attention is directed to certain of the places in St. Paul's writings already referred to[532], there is certainly no absurdity in adducing them as instances of Rhetorical license. But how can it be pretended that the text whereby St. Paul establishes, (on two distinct occasions,) the right of the Christian Ministry to a liberal maintenance,—with what propriety can it be thought that Deut. xxv. 4 lends itself to such a theory? Those words seem,—and, apart from Revelation, might without hesitation have been declared,—to have nothing at all to do with the matter[533]! To talk of the "accommodation" of words so eminently unaccommodating, is unreasonable, and even absurd.

3. But, allowing the advocates of this theory all they can possibly require, the result of their endeavours is but to make the Sacred writers ridiculous after all. For it attributes to them a method, which, if it be a mere exhibition of human fancy, often seems to be but a species of ingenious trifling,—scarcely entitled to serious attention at our hands. There is no alternative, in short, between certain of the expositions which we meet with, being Divine,—and therefore worthy of all acceptation; or Human,—and therefore entitled to no absolute deference whatever.

4. On the other hand, learned research has hitherto invariably tended to shew that the meaning claimed for Scripture by an Apostle or Evangelist, does actually exist there. Thus, it has been admirably demonstrated that the Evangelical meaning attributed by St. Matthew, (in the first chapters of his Gospel,) to certain places in the ancient Prophetical Scriptures of the Jewish people, derives nothing but corroboration from the inquiries of Piety and Learning[534].... It is proposed on the present occasion, without pretending to bring to the question any such helps as these, to examine the portion of Holy Scripture already under our notice, with a view to ascertaining what light it will throw on the main question at issue. To this task, I now address myself.

St. Paul's words, from the 6th to the 9th verse (inclusive) of the xth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, present probably, as fair an example as could be desired of what is sometimes called "Accommodation." To say the truth, I know not an instance of what, in any uninspired writing, I should have been myself more inclined to stigmatize as such. The Apostle begins an affectionate remonstrance with his countrymen by declaring that they "did not understand the Righteousness of GOD;" (that is, the Divine method whereby GOD wills that we shall be made righteous, by faith in CHRIST;) but desired to set up (stsai) a righteousness of their own, on the worthless foundation of their own Works[535]. "For," (he proceeds; with plain reference to what "the Righteousness of GOD" is;)—"For CHRIST is the end" (aim, or object,) "of the Law[536] to every one who hath faith" in CHRIST. St. Paul straightway proceeds, (as his manner is,) to establish this latter proposition. How does he do it? "For," (he begins again,)—"Moses describes the nature of the righteousness which proceeds from the Law, when he declares [in Leviticus xviii. 5,] that 'The man who hath done the deeds commanded by the Law, shall live thereby.'—But concerning the Righteousness which proceeds from Faith,"—[it was called before, 'the Righteousness of GOD,']—"Moses writes as follows[537]:—'Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into Heaven? (that is, to bring CHRIST down:) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring CHRIST up from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach: because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the LORD JESUS, and shalt believe in thine heart that GOD raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."

Here then is a quotation from the xxxth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy,—a quotation introduced in the way of argument, in support of a proposition: the remarkable circumstance being, that St. Paul adduces the words of Moses with extraordinary license. For first, he omits as many of the Prophet's words as make little for his purpose, while he introduces a very remarkable alteration in some of the words which he retains: amounting to a substitution of one sentence for another. And next, there is one single word, which he expands into an important phrase; and that merely to suit his own argument. But the strangest thing of all is the interpretation which he delivers of words, which as we have just seen, are partly his own,—partly, the words of Moses: by which interpretation, the most strikingly Christian character is fastened upon sayings pronounced by the ancient Lawgiver in the land of Moab, to the Jewish people.—We do further, for our own part, most freely admit, that the place,—as it stands in the Old Testament,—neither at first, nor at second sight, seems to have any such meaning as the Apostle assigns to it. I will remind you of the words in Deuteronomy, by reading the entire passage:—"This commandment which I command thee this day, ... is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in Heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to Heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it." ... Now, I say, one of ourselves might read this passage in the Book of Deuteronomy over a hundred times, and never suspect that Moses, when he so wrote, was writing concerning faith in CHRIST: and yet we have the sure testimony of the HOLY SPIRIT to the fact that he was.—The inquiry, "Who shall ascend into Heaven?", signifies, we are told, "Who shall ascend,—to bring down CHRIST from above?"—And just so, the other clause, "Who shall descend into the deep?", is declared to be an incomplete expression: the full phrase being,—"Who shall descend,—to bring up CHRIST[538] from the dead." ... Now we never desire to see a non-natural sense fastened on the Inspired Word. With Hooker, we "hold it for a most infallible rule in expositions of sacred Scripture, that, where a literal construction will stand, the furthest from the letter is commonly the worst." We contend therefore that whereas we have here the explicit assurance that Moses wrote of none other than CHRIST,—though his words do not bear upon them any evidence of the fact,—it is a mere trifling with holy things, to call the fact in question.

Here, however, we shall be reminded that the great Apostle,—though professing to quote,—confessedly argues in part from his own language, which is not the language of Moses. Moses says,—"Who shall go over the sea for us?" (tis diaperasei hmin eis to peran ts thalasss?) And since the version of the LXX is what the Author of the Epistle to the Romans follows in this place, it is reasonable to expect that he would adhere to that version, or at least to the sense of that version, in the exhibition of so important a clause as the present. Whereas, instead of "Who shall go over the sea," we find St. Paul writing,—"Who shall go down into the deep?" (Tis katabsetai eis tn abysson?)—language evidently highly suggestive of the mysterious transaction to which the same St. Paul says it contains a reference[539]; but certainly not the language of Moses. And we shall be reminded that this is not merely phraseology rescued from vagueness, and made definite; but it is the actual substitution of one thought for another. This is what will be said; and if it be followed up by the assertion that here, therefore, we have a clear example of Scriptural Accommodation, it might seem, at first sight, impossible to deny the fact.

For our own parts, we are inclined to meet the present difficulty, and every similar one, in quite another spirit; and dispose of the objection, somewhat in the following way. The same GOD who gave us the Scriptures of the Old Testament, gave us the New Testament also. The Bible is one. He who inspired the Law, inspired the Gospel. The HOLY GHOST pleads with us in both alike.—Surely, therefore, He who spake of old time by the Prophets, may be allowed, when, in the last days, He speaks by the Apostles of CHRIST,—to explain His earlier meaning, if He will. Surely, He may tell the Israel of GOD,—if He pleases,—what He meant by the language He held of old time to Israel after the flesh! Yea, and if it seemeth good to Him to call in the wealth of His ancient treasury, in order to recoin it that He may the more enrich us thereby:—if it pleases Him to take His ancient speeches back again into His mouth, in order that He may syllable them anew,—making them sweeter than honey to our lips, yea, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb;—what is Man that he should reply against GOD? What should be our posture, at witnessing such a spectacle, but one of Adoration? What, our becoming language, but praise?

It is easy to anticipate the answer that will be made to all this. We shall be told that we are, in some sort, begging the question. The Bible is an Inspired Book, indeed: but what is Inspiration?—Moses wrote the Book called "Deuteronomy:" St. Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans. And St. Paul,—quoting a passage out of the older record,—has substituted a sentiment of his own for a sentiment contained in the writings of Moses. He does the same thing in other places; and elsewhere, as here, he proceeds to reason upon the data he has so obtained. This, it will be said, is the phenomenon which we have to deal with.

But, we reply, it is manifest that he who so argues,—with all his apparent good sense, and fairness,—is entirely committed to a theory concerning Inspiration; and that a very unworthy one. The Bible comes to us as an Inspired Book; claiming to be the very Word of GOD. The Holy Church throughout all the World, doth acknowledge it to be so. Surely, therefore, it is for us to study its contents by the light of this previous fact.—But quite contrary is the method of our opponents. They treat the Bible as if it were an ordinary Book. They submit its contents to the same irreverent handling as they would the productions of a merely human intellect. They not only reason about its claims from its contents,—but they would even pronounce upon its claims, from the same evidence. They dare to sit in judgment upon it. Hence their lax notions on the subject of Inspiration. They first run riot among statements which are too hard for them; and when they have perplexed themselves with these, till the field is strewed with doubts, and the limits of unbelief and mistrust have become extended on every side,—Inspiration, like an ill-defined boundary-line on a map, is suffered faintly to hem in, and enclose the utmost verge of the unhappy domain.—Whereas, we maintain that a belief in the Bible, as an Inspired Book, should, at the outset, prescribe a limit to human speculations.

Let this belief encircle us exactly, and entirely; and define, at once, the area within which all our reasonings must be taught to marshal themselves, and to find their full development. In brief, our opponents meet our remonstrance by another; but, as we contend, an unreasonable one;—at least, as proceeding from men who, no less than ourselves, allow freely the Inspiration of Scripture. We say,—The Bible is the word of GOD. Fill your heart with this conviction, and then humbly address yourself to the study of its pages.—It is argued on the other side,—The pages of the Bible are full of perplexing statements. They evolve strange phenomena, interminably. Convince yourself of this; and then make up your mind, if you can, about the Inspiration of the Bible[540].... I shall have occasion, by and by, to explain more in detail the spirit in which the Divine Logic,—Inspired reasoning as it may be called,—is to be approached. For the moment, I am content to waive the question; and to be St. Paul's apologist, almost as if I had met with his words in an uninspired book.

Solemnly protesting, then, that the ground we have just occupied is the only true ground on which to take our stand; but withdrawing from it because we do not fear the appeal to unassisted Reason, even in matters of Faith,—so that the proper limits and conditions of inquiry be but observed;—we proceed to inquire whether,—apart from Revelation,—there be not good ground for believing that the words of the ancient Hebrew Lawgiver and Prophet contain and mean the very thing which the Christian Apostle says they do.—We change our language at this stage of the inquiry. We no longer assert, (as before we did,) that the HOLY GHOST speaking by the mouth of Moses, must have meant, what the same HOLY GHOST, speaking by the mouth of St. Paul, declares that He did mean. We are willing to study the sacred text solely by the light which grave criticism and patient learning have thrown upon it.—Our inquiry now, is this;—Although the words in Deuteronomy, read over attentively by ourselves, suggest no such Christian meaning as we find affixed to them in the Epistle to the Romans,—is there no reason, traditional or otherwise, for supposing that they do envelope that meaning; yea, so teem and swell with it, that the germ of the flower may be actually detected in the yet unopened bud?... I proceed to this inquiry.

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