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EXTRACT FROM HALDANE’S’ EVIDENCE AND AUTHORITY OF DIVINE REVELATION.”
“It has been asserted that ‘the question of the Canon is a point of erudition, not of divine revelation.’ This is to undermine both the certainty and the importance of the sacred Canon. The assertion, that the question of the Canon is not a point of revelation, is false. It is not true either of the Old Testament or of the New. The integrity of the Canon of the Old Testament is a matter of revelation, as much as anything contained in the Bible. This is attested, as has been shown, by the whole nation of the Jews, to whom it was committed; and their fidelity to the truth has been avouched by the Lord and his apostles. Is not this revelation? The integrity of the Canon of the New Testament is equally a point of revelation. As God had said to the Jews, ‘Ye are my witnesses,’ and as they ‘received the lively oracles to give unto us,’ Acts vii. 38, so the Lord Jesus said to the apostles, ‘Ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem and all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.’ The first churches received the New Testament Scriptures from these witnesses of the Lord, and thus had inspired authority for those books. It was not left to erudition or reasoning to collect that they were a revelation from God. This the first Christians knew from the testimony of those who wrote them. They could not be more assured that the things taught were from God, than they were that the writings which contained them were from God. The integrity of the sacred Canon is, then, a matter of revelation, conveyed to us by testimony, like everything contained in the Scriptures.
“While it has been denied that the question of the Canon is a point of revelation, it has been asserted that it is a point of erudition. But erudition has nothing farther to do with the question, than as it may be employed in conveying to us the testimony. Erudition did not produce the revelation of the Canon. If the Canon had not been a point of revelation, erudition could never have made it so—for erudition can create nothing; it can only investigate and confirm truth, and testify to that which exists, or detect error. We receive the Canon of Scripture by revelation, in the same way that the Jews received the Law which was given from Mount Sinai. Only one generation of the Jews witnessed the giving of the Law, but to all future generations of that people it was equally a matter of revelation. The knowledge of this was conveyed to them by testimony. In the same way Christians, in their successive generations, received the Scripture as a matter of revelation. The testimony through which this is received, must, indeed, be translated from a foreign language; but so must the account brought to us of any occurrence, the most trivial, that takes place in a foreign country. If in this sense the question of the Canon be called a point of erudition, the gospel itself must be called a point of erudition; for it, too, must be translated from the original language in which it was announced, as also 356must everything which the Scriptures contain. When a preacher inculcates the belief of the gospel, or of a doctrine of Scripture, or obedience to any duty, would he be warranted in telling his audience that these are questions of erudition, not of divine revelation? Erudition may be allowed its full value, without suspending on it the authority of the word of God.
“The assertion that the question of the Canon is a point of erudition, not of divine revelation, is subversive of the whole of revelation. We have no way of knowing that the miracles related in the Scriptures were wrought, and that the doctrines inculcated were taught, but by testimony and the internal evidence of the books themselves. We have the evidence of miracles, as that evidence comes to us by the testimony which vouches the authenticity of the inspired books. As far as the genuineness and authenticity of any book are brought into suspicion, so far is everything contained in it brought into suspicion. For it should always be remembered, that there is no greater absurdity than to question the claim of a book to a place in the Canon, and at the same time to acknowledge its contents to be a revelation from God. There can be no evidence that the doctrines of Scripture are revealed truths, unless we are certain that the books of Scripture are revelation. If the books which compose the Canon are not matter of revelation, then we have no revelation. If the truth of the Canon be not established to us as matter of revelation, then the books of which it is composed are not so established; and if the books be not so, then not one sentence of them, nor one doctrine or precept, which they contain, comes established to us as a revelation from God. If, then, the question of the Canon be a point of erudition, not of divine revelation, so is every doctrine which the Scriptures contain; for the doctrine cannot be assured revelation, if the book that contains it be not assured revelation. There can be no higher evidence of the doctrine being revelation, than of the book that contains it: and thus were not the Canon a matter of divine revelation, the whole Bible would be stripped of divine authority Anything, therefore, that goes to unsettle the Canon, goes to unsettle every doctrine contained in the Canon.
“Without a particular revelation to every individual, it does not appear that the authority of the Canon could be ascertained to us in any other way than it is at present. The whole of the Scriptures was given at first by revelation, and afterwards this revelation was confirmed by ordinary means. The testimony concerning it has been handed down to the churches from one generation to another. On this, and on their own internal characteristics of being divine, we receive the Scriptures with the most unsuspecting confidence, and on the same ground the Jews received the Scriptures of the Old Testament. In these ways it is fixed by divine authority, and not left in any uncertainty; for, if its truth can be ascertained by ordinary means, it is fixed by the authority of God, as much as if an angel from heaven were every day to proclaim it over the earth. When Paul says, that his handwriting of the salutation was the token in every epistle, he at once shows us the importance of the Canon, and warrants us in receiving it as a divine revelation attested by ordinary means. Those to whom he wrote had no other way of knowing 357the handwriting of the apostle, than that by which they knew any other handwriting. Even at that time the churches knew the genuineness of the epistles sent to them by ordinary means; and Paul’s authority warrants this as sufficient. We have, then, the authority of revelation for resting the Canon on the ordinary sources of human evidence, and they are such as to preclude the possibility of deception. The claim of the epistles sent to the first churches, and of the doctrine they contain as divine, rested even to those churches on the same kind of evidence on which we now receive them. It is very important to settle what kind of evidence is sufficient for our receiving the Scriptures. Many have rated this too high; and as the Scriptures contain a revelation, they wished to have them attested to every age by revelation, which is, in fact, requiring the continuance of miraculous interference, which it might easily be shown would be pernicious.”—Pp. 147-150.
“If it should be asked, Should we be precluded from inquiring into the grounds on which the Canon is received? it is replied, Certainly not. But we should remember that the permanent ground on which it stands is testimony; and such must be the ground of every historical fact. Internal evidence may confirm the authenticity of a book sanctioned by the Canon, but to suspend belief till we receive such confirmation, argues an ignorance of the principles of evidence. A book might be inspired, when no such internal confirmation, from the nature of the subject, might be found. And when a book is substantially approved, by testimony, as belonging to the Canon, no evidence can, by a Christian, be legitimately supposed possible, in opposition to its inspiration. This would be to suppose valid objections to first principles. Sufficient testimony deserves the same rank as a first principle with axioms themselves. Axioms are not more necessary than testimony, to all the business of human life. Internal evidence may be sufficient to prove that a book is not divine; but it is absurd to suppose that such a book can have valid testimony, and therefore it can never be supposed by a Christian, that any of those books that are received as part of the sacred Canon, on the authority of sufficient testimony, can contain any internal marks of imposture. This would be to suppose the possibility of the clashing of two first principles. The thing that can be proved by a legitimate first principle, can never be disproved by another legitimate first principle. This would be to suppose that God is not the author of the human constitution. If, then, in a book recognized by the Canon, as the Song of Solomon, we find matter which to our wisdom does not appear to be worthy of inspiration, we may be assured that we mistake. For if that book is authenticated by testimony as a part of the sacred Scriptures, which the Lord Jesus Christ sanctioned, it is authenticated by a first principle, to which God has bound us, by the constitution of our nature, to submit. If, in this instance, or in any particular instance, we reject it, our own conduct in other things will be our condemnation. There is no first principle in the constitution of man that can entitle him to reject anything in the Song of Solomon, coming, as it does, under the sanction of a first principle. Those persons who reject any book of the Canon on such grounds, 358would show themselves much more rational, as well as more humble Christians, if, recognizing the paramount authority of a first principle universally acknowledged, they would view the Song of Solomon and the book of Esther, as any other part of the word of God, and humbly endeavour to gain from them the instruction and edification which, as divine books, they must be calculated to give. This questioning of the Canon, then, proceeds on infidel and irrational principles, which, if carried to their legitimate length, must end in complete unbelief.”—Pp. 153, 4.
“It is a wonderful circumstance in the providence of God, that while the two parts of Scripture were delivered to two classes, with the fullest attestation of their divine original, both the one and the other have been faithful in preserving the precious trust respectively committed to them, while they have both been rebellious in regard to that part of which they were not originally appointed the depositaries. The Jews always held the books of the Old Testament in the highest veneration, and continued to preserve them, without addition or diminution, until the coming of Him concerning whom they testify, and they have kept them entire to this day; yet they have altogether rejected the New Testament Scriptures. And while Christians have all agreed in preserving the Scriptures of the New Testament entire and uncorrupted, they have wickedly adulterated those of the Old by a spurious addition, or have retrenched certain portions of them. Of the divine original of the sacred Scriptures, as we now possess them, we have evidence the most abundant and diversified. It is the distinguishing characteristic of the gospel, that it is preached to the poor, and God has so ordered it, that the authenticity of that word by which all are to be judged, should not be presented to them as a matter of doubtful disputation.
“Were there no other evidence of the truth of divine revelation than the existence of the holy Scriptures, that alone would be conclusive. The Bible is not a book compiled by a single author, nor by many authors acting in confederacy in the same age, in which case it would not be so wonderful to find a just and close connection in its several parts. It is the work of between thirty and forty writers, in very different conditions of life, from the throne and sceptre down to the lowest degree, and in very distant ages, during which the world must have put on an entirely new appearance. and men must have had different interests to pursue. This would have led a spirit of imposture to vary its schemes, and to adapt them to different stations in the world, and to different fashions and changes in every age. David wrote about four hundred years after Moses, and Isaiah about two hundred and fifty years after David, and John about eight hundred years after Isaiah. Yet these authors, with all the other prophets and apostles, wrote in perfect harmony—confirming the authority of their predecessors, labouring to enforce their instructions, and denouncing the severest judgments on all who continued disobedient. Such entire agreement in propounding religious truths and principles, different from any before or since Promulgated, except by those who have learned from them, establishes the divine mission of the writers of the Bible beyond dispute, proving that they all derived their wisdom from God, and spake as 359they were moved by the Holy Ghost. In all the works of God there is an analogy characteristic of his divine hand; and the variety and harmony that shine so conspicuously in the heavens and the earth, are not farther removed from the suspicion of imposture than the unity that, in the midst of boundless variety, reigns in that book which reveals the plan of redemption. . To forge the Bible is as impossible as to forge a world.”—Pp. 156, 7.
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