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VII. The Essay which brings up the rear in this very guilty volume is from the pen of the “Rev. Benjamin Jowett, M.A., [Fellow and Tutor of Balliol College, and] Regius Professor of Greek in the University of Oxford,”—“a gentleman whose high personal character and general respectability seem to give a weight to his words, which assuredly they do not carry of themselves143143 Rev. M. Pattison, in Essays and Reviews, p. 307..” His performance is entitled “On the Interpretation of Scripture:” being, in reality, nothing else but a laborious denial of its lnspiration.cxl
Mr. Jowett’s quarrel is with the whole body of Commentators on the Bible,—ancient and modern; with the whole Church Catholic. He cannot endure the claim of that Book, (like its Divine object and Author,) to “a Name which is above every other Name.” That Plato and Sophocles should be capable of but one method of Interpretation, and that the literal,—while the Bible lays claim to a yet profounder meaning,—so distresses the Regius Professor of Greek, that he has appropriated to himself almost a quarter of the present volume, in order that he may cast laborious mid systematic ridicule on the very. supposition. Some parts of his method I propose presently to submit to exactly the same “free handling” which he has himself applied to the Word of God. In the meantime, since it is my intention not only to demonstrate the worthlessness of the structure which Mr. Jowett has with so much perverse industry here built up, by an examination of some parts of it in detail, but also to pull down as much of the fabric as I am able within a small compass,—(the construction of something which it is hoped will prove more durable, being to be found in my IIIrd and IVth, Vth and VIth Sermons,)—I proceed at once to inspect the foundation-stone of his edifice; and briefly to demonstrate its absolute insecurity.
1. Mr. Jowett’s fundamental principle is expressed in the following brief precept: “Interpret the Scripture like any other book.” (p. 377.) To this favourite tune, (although he plays many intricate variations on it,) he invariably reverts in the end144144 pp. 338, 375, 420 top line, 428, &c.. On this preliminary postulate therefore, which, at first sight, to a candid cxlimind, seems fair enough, I proceed to remark as follows:—
Mr. Jowett’s formula may be cheerfully and entirely accepted,—apart from the sinister glosses which he immediately proceeds to put upon it. By all means “Interpret the Scripture like any other book.” Let us see to what result this principle will conduct us. As for the formula itself, I take the liberty to assume that it ought to mean somewhat as follows:—“Approach the volume of Holy Scripture with the same candour, and in the same unprejudiced spirit with which you would approach any other famous book of high antiquity. Study it with at least the same attention. Give at least equal heed to all its statements. Acquaint yourself at least as industriously with its method, and with its principle; employing and applying either, with at least equal fidelity, in its interpretation. Above all, beware of playing tricks with its plain language. Beware of suppressing any part of the evidence which it supplies as to its own meaning. Be truthful, and unprejudiced, and honest, and consistent, and logical, and exact throughout, in your work of Interpretation. ‘Interpret Scripture like any other book.’”
Now, (not to be tedious,) if this were Mr. Jowett’s principle, all further discussion would be at an end. The general question of the right method of interpreting the Bible would be easily settled but it would be hopelessly settled—against the Regius Professor of Greek. As I have briefly shewn, (from p. 144 to p. 160 of the present volume,) our Lord and His Apostles openly and repeatedly claim for Scripture that very depth of meaning, that very extent of signification, which Mr. Jowett so strenuously cxliimaintains that it does not possess.—This great fact, he prudently takes no notice of. He simply ignores it. Either he has overlooked it, through inadvertency: or he has omitted it, as not perceiving its force and bearing on the question: or he has. disingenuously kept it back. He must choose between these three suppositions. If he has overlooked the fact on which I lay so much stress,—he is a careless and incompetent reader. If he has failed to see its force and bearing on the question,—he is a weak and illogical thinker. If he has deliberately suppressed it, knowing its fatal power,—he is simply a dishonest man. To prevent offence, I may as well state freely that my entire conviction is that he is simply a weak and illogical person. My warrant for this opinion is especially the very sad performance of his now under consideration.
It is clear however that the paraphrase above hazarded does not express Mr. Jowett’s principle. “Interpret the Bible like any other book,” means with him something else. And what it does mean, the Reverend author does not suffer us to doubt. He shews that his meaning is, Interpret the Bible like any other book, for it is like any other book. I proceed to shew that this is Mr. Jowett’s meaning.
It becomes necessary however at once to introduce to the reader’s notice the main inference which, (as already hinted,) flows from Mr. Jowett’s favourite position. “Interpret Scripture like any other book,”—he says. His business is with the Interpretation of “the Jewish and Christian Scriptures;” and he begins by eagerly assuring us,—and is strenuous in all that follows to make us believe,—(but simply on à priori grounds!)—that “the true glory and note cxliiiof Divinity in these, is not that they have hidden, mysterious, or double meanings; but a simple and universal one, which is beyond them and will survive them.” (p. 332.) “Is it admitted,” (he asks, at the end of many pages,) “that the Scripture has one and only one true meaning?” (p. 368.)
Let us hear what reasons the Reverend author of this seventh Essay is able to produce in support of his favourite opinion. He approaches the subject from a respectful distance:—
(i) “It is a strange, though familiar fact,”—(such are the opening words of his Essay,)—“that great differences of opinion exist respecting the Interpretation of Scripture.” (p. 330.)—‘Familiar,’ the fact is, certainly; but why ’strange?’ A Book of many ages,—of immense antiquity,—of most varied character,—treating of the unseen world,—purporting to be a mysterious composition,—and by all Christian men believed to have God for its true Author: a book which has come into collision with every form of human error, and has triumphed gloriously over every form of human opposition:—how can it be thought ’strange’ that the interpretation of such a book should have provoked “great differences of opinion?” . . . Surely none but the weakest of thinkers, unless committed to the assumption that the Bible is like any other book, could ever have penned such a silly remark.
(ii) “We do not at once see the absurdity of the same words having many senses, or free our minds from the illusion that the Apostle or Evangelist must have written with a reference to the creeds or controversies or circumstances of other times. Let it be considered, then, that this extreme variety of interpretation cxliv is found to exist in the case of no other book, but of the Scriptures only.” (p. 334.)
But the “phenomenon” which Mr. Jowett represents as “so extraordinary that it requires an effort of thought to appreciate it,” (Ibid.,) does not seem at all extraordinary to any one who does not begin by assuming that the Bible is “like any other book.”—If the Bible be inspired,—then all is plain!
(iii) “Who would write a bulky treatise about the method to be pursued in interpreting Plato or Sophocles?”—asks Mr. Jowett. (p. 378.)—No one but a fool!—is the obvious reply. Plato and Sophocles are ordinary books; and therefore are to be intetpreted like any other book. The Bible not so, as we shall see by and by. Again,—
(iv) “Each writer, each successive age, has characteristics of its own, as strongly marked, or more strongly, than those which are found in the authors or periods of classical Literature. These differences are not to be lost in the idea of a Spirit from whom they proceed, or by which they were overruled. And therefore, illustration of one part of Scripture by another should be confined to writings of the same age and the same authors, except where the writings of different ages or persons offer obvious similarities. It may be said, further, that illustration should be chiefly derived, not only from the same author, but from the same writing, or from one of the same period of his life. For example, the comparison of St. John and the ’synoptic’ Gospels, or of the Gospel of St. John with the Revelation of St. John, will tend rather to confuse than to elucidate the meaning of either.” (pp. 382-3.)—But really, in reply, it ought to suffice to point out that the result of the Church’s experience for 1800 years cxlvhas been the very opposite of the Professor’s. “The idea of a Spirit from whom they proceeded,” is, to the thoughtful part of mankind, the only intelligible clue to the several books of Holy Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation! Hence “the marginal references to the English Bible,” (to which Mr. Jowett devotes a depreciatory half page,) so far from being the dangerous or useless apparatus which he represents, we hold to be an instrument of paramount importance for eliciting the true meaning of Holy Writ.—In a word, he is reasoning about the Bible on the assumption that the Bible is like any other book.
(v) “To attribute to St. Paul or the Twelve the abstract notion of Christian Truth which afterwards sprang up in the Catholic Church . . . is the same error as to attribute to Homer the ideas of Thales or Heraclitus, or to Tildes the more developed principles of Aristotle and Plato.” (p. 364.)—Not if St. Paul and the Twelve were inspired.
(vi) He bids us remark, with tedious emphasis, that although the same philological and historical difficulties which occur in Holy Scripture are found in profane writings, yet “the meaning of classical authors is known with comparative certainty and the interpretation of them seems to rest on a scientific basis. . . . Even the Vedas and the Zendavesta, though beset by obscurities of language probably greater than are found in any portion of the Bible, are interpreted, at least by European scholars, according to fixed rules, and beginning to be clearly understood.” (p. 335.)
But at the end of several weak sentences, through which the preceding fallacy is elongated into distressing tenuity, who does not exclaim,—The supposed “scientific” basis on which the interpretation of books cxlviin general rests, is simply this (α) that being merely human, and (β) not professing to have any other than their obvious literal meaning,—they are all interpreted in the obvious ordinary way!
For (α),—If any book were even suspected to be Divine, the manner of interpreting it would of course be different. Not that the “basis” of such Interpretation would therefore cease to be “scientific!” Take the only known instance of such a Book. The Bible has been suspected (!) for 1800 years to be inspired. How has it fared with the Bible?
The Science of Biblical Interpretation is one of the noblest and best understood in the world. It has been professed and practised in every country of Christendom. The great Masters of this Science have been such men as Hilary of Poictiers, Basil and the two Gregories in Asia Minor, Epiphanius in Cyprus, Ambrose at Milan, John Chrysostom at Antioch, Jerome in Palestine, Augustine in Africa, Athanasius and Cyril at Alexandria. The names descend in an unbroken stream from the first four centuries of our sera down to the age of Andrewes, and Bull, and Pearson, and Mill. These men all interpret Scripture in one and the same way. Their principles are the same throughout. They were all Professors of the same Sacred Science.
But (β),—If a book even professes to have a hidden meaning, it is interpreted by a special set of canons. Thus Dante’s great poem145145 See all this very ably and interestingly explained in an article reprinted from the ‘Christian Remembrancer’ (Jan. 1861,) On certain Characteristics of Holy Scripture, by the Rev. J. G. Cazenove, p. 11, &c. may not be read as Hume’s History of England is read.—To proceed, however.cxlvii
(vii) Sophocles is perhaps the most subtle of the ancient Greek poets. “Several schools of critics have commented on his works. To the Englishman he has presented one meaning, to the Frenchman another, to the German a third the interpretations have also differed with the philosophical systems which the interpreters espoused. To one the same words have appeared to bear a moral, to another a symbolical meaning a third is determined wholly by the authority of old commentators while there is a disposition to condemn the scholar who seeks to interpret Sophocles from himself only and with reference to the ideas and beliefs of the age in which he lived. And the error of such an one is attributed not only to some intellectual but even to a moral obliquity (!) which prevents his seeing the true meaning.” (p. 336.)
It has fared with Sophocles therefore, (according to Mr. Jowett,) in all respects as it has fared with the Bible. “It would be tedious,” (he justly remarks,) “to follow the absurdity which has been supposed into details. By such methods,” Sophocles or Plato might “be made to mean anything.” (p. 336.)
But who does not perceive that the obvious way to escape from the supposed difficulty, is to remember that neither Sophocles nor Plato was inspired! . . . . Mr. Jowett’s difficulty is occasioned by his assumption that the Bible stands on the same level as Plato and Sophocles.
(viii) Again,—“If it is not held to be a thing impossible that there should be agreement in the meaning of Plato and Sophocles, neither is it to be regarded as absurd, that there should be a like agreement in the interpretation of Scripture.” (p. 426.)—The whole force of this argument clearly consisting in the strictly cxlviiiequal claims of these books to Inspiration.—Elsewhere, Mr. Jowett expresses the same thing more unequivocally:—The old “explanations of Scripture,” (he says,) “are no longer tenable. They belong to a way of thinking and speaking which was once diffused over the world, but has now passed away.” Having quietly assumed all this, the Reverend writer proceeds: “And what we give up as a general principle, we shall find it impossible to maintain partially; e.g. in the types of the Mosaic Law, and the double meanings of Prophecy, at least in any sense in which it is not equally applicable to all deep and suggestive writings.” (p. 419.)
(ix) “Still one other supposition has to be introduced, which will appear, perhaps, more extravagant than any which have preceded. Conceive then that these modes of interpreting Sophocles (!) had existed for ages; that great institutions and interests had become interwoven with them; and in some degree even the honour of Nations and Churches;—is it too much to say that, in such a case, they would be changed with difficulty, and that they would continue to be maintained long after critics and philosophers had seen that they were indefensible?” (pp. 336-7.)
I suppose we may at once allow Mr. Jowett most of what he asks. We may freely grant that if the Tragedies of Sophocles had exercised the same wondrous dominion over the world which the Books of the Bible have exercised:—if Œdipus and Jocasta and Creon; if Theseus and Dejanira and Hercules; if Ajax, Ulysses and Minerva;—had done for the world what Enoch and Noah;—what Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;—what Joseph, and Joshua, and Hannah, and Samuel, and David;—what Elijah and Elisha; cxlixwhat Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, and the rest;—what St. Peter, and St. John, and St. Paul;—what the Blessed Virgin and her name-sakes, have done:—In a word: had Homer’s gods and heroes altogether changed the face of society, and revolutionized the world; so that “great institutions and interests had become interwoven with them, and in some degree even the honour of Nations and Churches;” (p. 336;)—if, I repeat, all this had really and actually taken place;—great “difficulty” would, no doubt, (as Mr. Jowett profoundly suggests,) be experienced, at the end of 2000 years, in getting rid of them.
But since it unfortunately happens that they have done nothing of the kind, we do not seem to be called upon to follow the Regius Professor of Greek into the supposed consequences of what he admits to be an “extravagant supposition;” and which we humbly think is an excessively foolish one also.
When, however, the Reverend Author of this speculation establishes it as a parallel with what has taken place with regard to the Word of God, we tell him plainly that his insinuation that “critics and philosophers are maintaining the present mode of interpreting Scripture long after they have seen that it is indefensible,”—is a piece of impertinence which seems to require a public apology. A man may retain Orders in the Church of England, if he pleases, while yet he repudiates her doctrines: may declare that he subscribes her Articles ex animo, and yet seem openly to deny them. But he has no right whatever to impute corresponding baseness to others. The charge should be either plainly made out, or openly retracted146146 Nor is this a mere slip of Mr. Jowett’s pen. At p. 372, he states that “a majority of the Clergy throughout the world,”—(with whom he associates the “instincts of many laymen, perhaps also individual interest,”)—are in favour of “withholding the Truth.” But, he adds, (with the indignant emphasis of Virtue when she is reproaching Vice,)—“a higher expediency pleads that ‘honesty is the best policy,’ and that truth alone makes free!”—How would such insolence be treated in the common intercourse of daily life?—(I will not pause to remark on Mr. Jowett’s wanton abuse of the Divine saying recorded in St. John viii. 32,—repeated at p. 351.).cl
By such considerations then does Professor Jowett attempt to chew that we ought to “interpret Scripture like any other book.” The gist of his observations, in every case, is one and the same,—namely, from à priori considerations to insinuate that the Bible is not essentially unlike any other book.
Now, quite apart from its Inspiration,—which is, obviously, the one essential respect wherein the Bible is wholly unlike every other book in the world; (inasmuch as, if it is inspired, it differs from every other book in kind; stands among Books as the Incarnate Word stood among Men,—quite alone; notwithstanding that He spoke their language, shared their wants, and accommodated Himself to their manners;)—apart, I say, from the fact of its Inspiration, it is not difficult to point out several particulars in which the Bible is utterly unlike any other Book which is known to exist; and therefore to suggest an à priori reason why neither should it be interpreted like any other book.
1. The Bible then contains in all (66–9=) 67 distinct writings,—the work of perhaps upwards of forty different Authors147147 I suppose that there may have been many inspired Psalmists; and that perhaps the book of Judges was not all by one hand. With reference to the two books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, see 1 Chron. xxix. 29, 30. 2 Chron. ix. 29: xi. 2: xii. 15, 5, 7: xiii. 22.. Yet, for upwards of fifteen centuries those many writings have been all collected cliinto one volume: and, for a large portion of that interval, on the writings so collected. the Church Universal has agreed in bestowing the name of the Book,—κατ᾽ ἐξοχήν—the Bible.
2. The Bible is divided into two parts, which are severed by an interval of upwards of four centuries. On these two great divisions of the Bible, respectively, has been bestowed the title of the Old and the New Covenant. And, what is remarkable,—The same phenomena which are observable in respect of the whole Bible, are observable in respect of either of its parts. Thus,
(α) The several writings of which the Old Testament is composed,—(39–3=) 36 in all148148 By the Jews themselves they were reckoned as 22., are by many different hands: those of the New Testament, in like manner,—(27–6=) 21 in all, are by eight different authors.
(β) Those many writings of the Old Testament are found to have been collected into a single volume about four hundred years before the Christian æra; when they were denominated by a common name, ἡ γραφή,—“The Scripture149149 “It is remarkable that the word Γραφή, which means simply Writing, is reserved and appropriated in the New Testament (where it occurs fifty times) to the Sacred writings, i.e. to the Holy Scriptures; and marks the separation of the Scriptures from all “common books,” indeed from all other writings in the world.”—Wordsworth ‘On Inspiration,’—p. 85.;” and the supreme authority of the writings so collected together, was axiomatic150150 St. Luke xvi. 17.. One arguing with His Hebrew countrymen was able to appeal to a place in the Psalms, and to remind them parenthetically that “the Scripture cannot be broken151151 οὐ δύναται λυθῆναι ἡ γραφή,—St. John x. 35.,”—that is, might not be gainsaid, cliidoubted, explained away, or set aside.—Precisely similar phenomena are observable in respect of the writings of the New Testament.
(γ) Although the books of the Old Covenant are scattered
at intervals over the long period of upwards of a thousand years, the writers of
the later books are observed to quote the earlier ones, as if by a peculiar secret
sympathy: now, incorporating long passages,—now, simply adapting one or two sentences,—now,
blending allusive references. For some proof of this assertion, (as far as
I am able to produce it at a moment’s notice,)
the reader is referred to the foot of the page152152 e. g. (i) Long passages:—
Judges i. 11-15 quotes Joshua xv. 15-19.—2 Sam. xxii. quotes Ps. xviii.—1 Chron. xvi. quotes Ps. xcvi., and Ps. cv.—2 Kings xix. quotes Is. xxxvii.—2 Kings xx. quotes Is. xxxviii., xxxix.
(ii) One or two sentences:—
Numb. xiv. 18 quotes Exod. xxxvi. 6, 7.—Ps. lxviii. 1 quotes Numb. x. 35.—Ps. lxviii. 7, 8 quotes Judges v. 4, 5.—Ps. cxviii. 14 quotes Exod. xv. 2.—Prov. xxx. 5 quotes Ps. xviii. 30.—Joel ii. 13 quotes Jonah iv. 2.—Isaiah xii. 2 quotes Exod. xv. 2.—Isaiah xiii. 6 quotes Joel i. 15.—Isaiah li. 6 quotes Ps. cii. 25-7.—Isaiah lii. 10 quotes Ps. xcviii. 2, 3.—Micah iv. 1, 2, 3 quotes Isaiah ii. 2, 3, 4.—Nahum i. 15 quotes Isaiah lii. 7.—Zeph. iii. 19 quotes Micah iv. 6.—Habakkuk ii. 14 quotes Isaiah xi. 9.—Jeremiah x. 13: li. 16 quotes Ps. cxxxv. 7.—Jeremiah xlviii. quotes Isaiah xv. 16.—Jeremiah xxvi. 18 quotes Micah iii. 12.—1 Chron. xxix. 15 quotes Ps. xxxix. 12.
(iii) Allusive references.—(This would involve a prolonged reference to the Hebrew Scriptures, which would be even out of place here.).
The self-same phenomenon is observable with regard to the New Testament Scriptures. Although all the books were written within so short a space as about fifty years, the later writers quote the earlier ones to a surprising extent. In the Gospels, the Gospels cliiiare quoted times without number. In the Epistles, the Gospels are cited, or referred to, upwards of sixty times. The Epistles contain many references to the Epistles.—The phenomenon thus alluded to will also be found insisted upon in a later part of the present volume153153 See pp. 234-5..
“The fact, I believe, on close examination, will be found to stand thus:—The Holy Bible abounds in quotations, even more perhaps than most other books; but they are introduced in a way which is peculiar to Revelation, and its own. When a Prophet or Apostle mentions one of his own holy brethren, as when Ezekiel names Daniel, or Daniel Jeremiah; when St. Peter speaks of St. Paul, or St. Paul of St. Peter, or of St. Luke the Physician; when they mention them, they do not quote them; and when they quote them, they do not mention them154154 Rev. Ralph Churton’s Sermon “On the Quotations in the Old Testament,” (1807,) published in Townson’s Works, vol. i. p. cxxxiv.,—where see the interesting note..”
(δ) The later writer in the Old Testament who quotes some earlier portion of narrative is often observed to supply independent information,—entering into minute details and particulars which are not to be found in the earlier record.—Now, “with the same Almighty Spirit for their guide, what was it to be expected that the historians of our Blessed Lord would do? What, but the very thing which they have done? that they would walk in the path, which the holy Prophets of old had marked out? that they would often tread full in each other’s steps; often relate the same miracle, or discourse, or parts of it, in the words of the same prior writer; sometimes compress, clivsometimes expand; always shew to the diligent inquirer, that they did not derive their information, even of facts which they relate in another’s words, from him whom they copy, but wrote with antecedent plenitude of knowledge and truth in themselves; without staying to inform us whether what they deliver is told for the first time, or has its place already in authentic history155155 Rev. Ralph Churton’s Sermon, quoted in note (t), pp. cxliv-v..”
(ε) It may be worth remarking that though the Inspiration of no part of either Testament has ever been doubted in the Church, there do exist doubts as to the Authorship of more than one of the Books of the Old Testament; and one Book in the New, (the Epistle to the Hebrews,) has been suspected by some orthodox writers not to have been from the pen of St. Paul, but to have been the work of some other inspired and Apostolic writer.
(ζ) History, Didactic matter, and Prophecy,—is found to be the subject of either Testament.
(η) In the New Testament, as in the Old, we are presented with the singular phenomenon of more than one Book being in a manner copied from another,—yet with the addition of much independent original matter. It is superfluous to name Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, on one side,—and the Gospels on the other. To the Gospels may be added the Second Epistle of St. Peter and the Epistle of St. Jude.
(θ) Lastly, the same modest use of the Supernatural is to be found in either Testament.—In both, the writers are observed to pass without effort, and as it were unconsciously, from revelations of the most stupendous character, to statements of the simplest and clvmost ordinary kind156156 E. g. Gen. xxviii. 11, 12: xxxii. 1-3. Exod. xxiv. 10.—St. Luke xxii. 43-45. St. Matth. xxvii. 52, 53. St. Jude ver. 9..—In both, there is the same prominence given to individual characters157157 E.g. Jacob, Joseph, David.—St. Paul, St. Peter, St. John.; the same occasional minuteness of detail where it might have been least expected158158 E.g. Gen. viii. 9: xxxvii. 15-17: xlviii. 17, 18. Exod. ii. 6.—St. Luke viii. 55. St. John xiii. 4, 5: xxi..
3. But by far the most remarkable phenomenon remains to be noticed; namely, the immense number of quotations, (so far more numerous than is commonly suspected,)—extending in length from a single word to nearly a hundred and fifty159159 E. g. Heb. viii. 8-12, where Jer. xxxi. 31-36 is quoted. See Acts ii. 17-21, where Joel ii. 28-32 is quoted.,—together with allusive references, literally without number, which are found in the New Testament Scriptures; the writings of the elder Covenant being in every instance, exclusively160160 It is supposed that the three well-known references to profane writers, (Acts xvii. 28. 1 Cor. xv. 33. Tit. i. 12, [concerning which see Jerome, Opp. i. 424: vii. 471,])—the place in St. Matthew, (xxvii. 9,)—and St. James iv. 5,—are scarcely exceptions to the statement in the text., the source of those quotations,—the object of those allusions.
4. When the nature of these quotations, references, and allusions is examined with care, several extraordinary phenomena present themselves, which it seems impossible to consider without the deepest interest, surprise, and admiration. Thus,—(i.) The New Testament writers, on repeated occasions, display independent knowledge of the Old Testament History to which they make reference161161 See above,—(δ).. The following instances occur to my memory:—All the later links clviin our Lord’s Genealogy162162 Only given by St. Matthew and St. Luke.; the second Cainan163163 Only found in St. Luke iii. 36.: Salmon’s marriage with Rahab164164 Only found in St. Matth. i. 5.: the burial-place of the twelve Patriarchs165165 Only found in Acts vii. 16.: the age of Moses in Exod. ii. 11166166 Only found in Acts vii. 23.: that in the days of Elijah the heaven was shut up for three years and six months167167 St. James v. 17,—mentioned also by our Lord, St. Luke iv. 25; who informs us that Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites. This is only revealed in St. Luke xi. 30.: that it was the Devil who tempted Eve168168 2 Cor. xi. 3.: the contest for the dead body of Moses169169 St. Jude ver. 9.: the names of Pharaoh’s magicians170170 2 Tim. iii. 8.: how Abraham reasoned with himself when he prepared to offer up his son Isaac171171 See Heb. xi. 19. Consider Rom. iv. 19.: the golden censer, mentioned in Heb. ix. 4: Abraham’s purchase of Sychem172172 Acts vii. 16.; and a few other things173173 Compare Exod. ii. 2, 3 with Acts vii. 20. Consider Rev. ii. 14: also Heb. xii. 21: also Heb. ix. 19, &c..
(ii.) The same New Testament writers are observed to handle the Old Testament. Scriptures with an air of singular authority, and to exercise an extraordinary license of quotation; inverting clauses,—paraphrasing statements,—abridging or expanding;—and always without apology or explanation;—as if they were conscious that they were dealing with their own.
(iii.) Most astonishing of all, obviously, as well as most important, is the purpose for which the Evangelists and Apostles of our Lord make their appeal to the Old Testament Scriptures; invariably in order to establish some part of the Christian Revelation. “Every thoughtful student of the Holy Scriptures has been struck with the circumstance which I now allude to: clviihe freedom, namely, with which the inspired Writers of the New Testament appeal back to the Old; and see in it, as its one proper theme, the Christian subject. They find themselves in that place, at length, to which former intimations had pointed, and recognize the connexion which they themselves have with their ancient forerunners174174 Sermons, by the Rev. C. P. Eden, p. 185..” . . . . It is as if for four hundred years and upwards, a mighty mystery,—described in many a dark place of Prophecy, exhibited by many a perplexing type, foreshadowed by many a Divine narrative, had waited for solution. The world is big with expectation. The long-expected time at last arrives. Up springs the Sun of Righteousness in the Heavens; and lo, the cryptic characters of the Law flash at once into glory, and the dark Oracles of ancient days yield up their wondrous meanings! “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the Fathers by the Prophets,”—in these last days speaks “unto us by His Son:” and lo, a chorus of Apostolic voices is heard bearing witness to the Advent of “the Desire of all nations!” . . . . Such is the relation which the New Testament bears to the Old: such the true nature of the many quotations from the earlier Scriptures, which are found in the later half of the One inspired Volume.
5. And thus we are led naturally to notice the extraordinary connexion which subsists between the two Testaments. “For what is the Law,” (asks Justin, A.D. 140,) “but the Gospel foretold? or what is the Gospel, but the Law fulfilled175175 Τί γάρ ἐστιν ὁ Νόμος; Εὐαγγέλιον προκατηγγελμένον· τί δὲ τὸ Εὐαγγέλιον; Νόμος πεπληρώμενος. Justin: Quæst. ci. p. 456.?” “The contents clviiiof the Old and New Testament are the same,” remarks Augustine: “there foreshadowed, here revealed: there prefigured, here made plain.” “In the Old Testament there is a concealing of the New: in the New Testament there is a revealing of the Old176176 Eadem sunt in Vetere et Novo: ibi obumbrata, hic revelata; ibi præfigurata, hix manifesto. (Augustine: Quæst. xxxiii., in Num. § 1. m. iii. p. 541.)—In Veteri Testamento est occultatio Novi: in Novo Testamento est manifestatio Veteris. (Id. De Catechiz. Rudibus, § 8.—See also Quæst. lxxiii. in Exod.).”—Mr. Jowett’s inquiry,—“If we assume the New Testament as a tradition running parallel with the Old, may not the Roman Catholic assume with equal reason a tradition parallel with the New?” (p. 381.)—shews a truly childish misapprehension of the entire question. The New Testament is not a “parallel tradition” at all; but a subsequent Revelation from Heaven.
6. Now I might pursue these remarks much further: for it would be well worth while to exhibit what an extraordinary sameness of imagery, similarity of allusion, and unity of purpose, runs through the writings of either Covenant;—phenomena which can only be accounted for in one way. This subject will be found dwelt upon elsewhere; and to what has been already delivered, I must be content here to refer the reader177177 See below, from the foot of p. 174 to the beginning of p. 176..
(Mr. Jowett himself has been struck by the phenomenon thus alluded to: but after hinting at “some natural association” as having suggested the language of the Prophets, he proceeds: “We are not therefore justified in supposing any hidden connexion in the prophecies where [the prophetic symbols] occur. Neither is there any other ground for assuring design of clix any other kind in Scripture; any more than in Plato or Homer.” (p. 381.) . . . . And thus our philosopher, assuming at the outset that the Bible is an uninspired book, is for ever coming back to the lie with which he set out. But to proceed.)
7. Still better worthy of notice, in this connexion, is the singular fact (which will also be found adverted to in another place178178 Below, p. 108. The render is requested to refer to the place.,) that the Old and New Testaments alike profess to be a History of Earthly events from a Heavenly point of view. The writers of either Covenant claim to know what God did179179 E. g. Gen. xi. 5-8: xviii. 17-21.; how characters and events appeared in His sight180180 E. g. Gen. vi. 6. 2 Sam. xi. 27.: they profess to find themselves in a familiar, and altogether extraordinary relation with the unseen world181181 E.g. 2 Kings xix. 35. St. Matth. xxviii. 2, 3.. Thus, Moses begins the Bible with an august account of the great Six Days,—when God was alone in Creation; the unwitnessed Agent, and Author of all things:—while St. John the Divine, concluding the inspired Canon, relates that he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day;” and heard behind him “a great Voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last182182 Rev. 1. 10, 11..” . . . . The general design of Scripture,” (says Bishop Butler,) “may be said to be, to give us an account of the World, in this one single view,—as God’s World: by which it appears essentially distinguished from all other books, as far as I have found, except such as are copied from it183183 Analogy, P. II. ch. vii..”
8. And yet the grand external characteristic feature of the Bible remains unnoticed! The one distinctive feature of the Bible, is this,—that the four-fold Gospel, clx as a matter of fact, exhibits to us, the Word “made flesh:” and, (O marvel of marvels!) suffers us to hear His voice, and look upon His form, and observe His actions. It does more. The New Testament professes to be, and is, the complement of the Old. The promise of Christ, solemnly, and repeatedly,—“at sundry times and divers manners,”—given in the one, is fulfilled in the other. Henceforth they are no more twain, for they have been by God Himself joined together; and the subject of both is none other than our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Enough surely has been already adduced to warrant a reasonable man in refusing to accept Professor Jowett’s repeated asseveration that the Bible is “to be interpreted like any other book.” A Book which proves on examination to be so wholly unlike every other book,—so entirely sui generis,—may surely well create an à priori suspicion that it is not to be interpreted either, after any ordinary fashion. But the grand consideration of all is still behind! The one circumstance which effectually refutes the view of the Reverend Professor, remains yet to be specified; namely, that the Bible professes to be inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost is again and again declared to speak therein, διά, “by the instrumentality,” “by the mouth,” of Man. In other words, God, not Man, professes to be the Author of the Bible!
That the Bible does set up for itself such a claim, will be found established at p. 53 to p. 57 of the present volume. Professor Jowett’s assurance that “for any of the higher or supernatural views of Inspiration, there is no foundation in the Gospels or Epistles,” (p. 345,)—must therefore be regarded as an extraordinary, or rather as an unpardonable oversight on clxihis part. One would have thought that a single saying, like that in Acts iii. 18 and 21, would have occurred to his memory, and been sufficient to refute him. Other places will be found quoted at p. cxcvii.
Very much is it to be feared however that the same gentleman has overlooked a consideration of at least equal importance; namely, the inevitable inference from the discovery that the origin of the Bible is Divine. He informs us that,—“It will be a further assistance (!) in the consideration of this subject, to observe that the Interpretation of Scripture has nothing to do with any opinion respecting its origin.” (p. 350.) “The meaning of Scripture,” (he proceeds,) “is one thing: the Inspiration of Scripture is another.”—True. But when we find the Reverend Author insisting, again and again, that “it may be laid down that Scripture has one meaning,—the meaning which it had to the mind of the Prophet or Evangelist who first uttered, or wrote it,” (p. 378,)—we are constrained to remind him that, “To say that the Scriptures, and the things contained in them, can have no other or farther meaning than those persons thought or had, who first recited or wrote them; is evidently saying, that those persons were the original, proper, and sole authors of those books, i. e. that they are not inspired184184 Butler’s Analogy, P. II. ch. vii..” So that, in point of fact, the origin of Holy Scripture, so far from being a consideration of no importance, (as Mr. Jowett supposes,) proves to be a consideration of the most vital importance of all. And the Interpretation of Scripture, so far from having “nothing to do with any opinion respecting its origin,” is affected by it most materially, or rather depends upon it altogether!clxii
On a review of all that goes before, it will, I think, appear plain to any person of sound understanding, that Professor Jowett’s à priori views respecting the Interpretation of Holy Scripture will not stand the test of exact reason. To suggest as he has done that the Bible is to be interpreted like any other book, on the plea that it is like any other book, is to build upon a false foundation. His syllogism is the following:—
If the Bible is a book like any other book, the Bible is to be interpreted like any other book.
The Bible is a book like any other book.
But it has been shewn that the learned Professor’s minor premiss is false. It has been proved that the Bible is NOT a book like any other book.
Nay, I claim to have done more. I claim to have established the contradictory minor premiss. The syllogism therefore will henceforth stand as follows:—
If the Bible can be shewn to be a book like no other book, but entirely sui generis, and claiming to be the work of Inspiration,—then is it reasonable to expect that it will have to be interpreted like no other book, but entirely after a fashion of its own.
But the Bible can be shewn to be a book like no other book entirely sui generis; and claiming to be the work of Inspiration.
2. It remains however, now, to advance an important step.—Mr. Jowett, in a certain place, adopts a principle, the soundness of which I am able, happily, entirely to admit. “Interpret Scripture from itself,—like any other book about which we know almost nothing except what is derived from its pages.” (p. 382.) clxiii“Non nisi ex Scripturâ Scripturam interpretari potes.” (p. 384.)
Scarcely has he made this important admission however, and enunciated his golden Canon of interpretation, when he hastens to nullify it. his very next words are,—“The meaning of the Canon is only this,—‘That we cannot understand Scripture without becoming familiar (!) with it.’”
But, (begging the learned writer’s pardon,) so far from that being the whole of the meaning of the Canon, his gloss happens exactly to miss the only important point. The plain meaning of the words,—“Only out of the Scriptures can you explain the Scriptures,”—is obviously rather this:—“That in order to interpret the Bible, our aim must be to ascertain how the Bible interprets itself.’ In other words, Scripture must be made its own Interpreter.’ More simply yet, in the Professor’s own words, (from which, more suo) he has imperceptibly glided away,)—“Interpret Scripture from itself.” (p. 382.) . . . . How then does Scripture interpret Scripture? That is the only question! for the answer to this question must be held to be decisive as to the other great question which Mr. Jowett raises in the present Essay,—namely, How are we to interpret Scripture?
Now this whole Inquiry has been conducted elsewhere and will be found to extend from p. 144 to p. 160 of the present volume. It has been there established, by a sufficiently large induction of examples, that the Bible is to be interpreted as no other book is, or can be interpreted; and for the plain reason, that the inspired Writers themselves, (our Lord Himself at their head!) interpret it after an altogether extraordinary fashion. Mr. Jowett’s statement at p. 339 that “the clxivmystical interpretation of Scripture originated in the Alexandrian age,” is simply false.
And in the course of this proof, (necessarily involved in it, in fact,) it has been incidentally shewn that the sense of Scripture is not, by any means, invariably one; and that sense the most obvious to those who wrote, heard, or read it. It has been fully shewn that the office of the Interpreter is not, by any means, (as Mr. Jowett imagines,) “to recover the meaning of the words as they first struck on the ears, or flashed before the eyes of those who heard or read them.” (p. 338.) The Reverend writer’s repeated assertion that “we have no reason to attribute to the Prophet or Evangelist any second or hidden sense different from that which appears on the surface,” (p. 380,) has been fully, and as it is hoped effectually refuted.
And here I might lay down my pen. For since, at the end of 74 pages, the Professor thus delivers himself, (in a kind of imitation of St. Paul’s language185185 Heb. viii. 1.,)—“Of what has been said, this is the sum,—‘That Scripture, like other books, has one meaning, which has to be gathered from itself . . . . without regard to à priori notions about its nature and origin:” that, “It is to be interpreted like other books, with attention to the prevailing state of civilization and knowledge,” and so forth; (p. 404;)—it must suffice to say that, having established the very opposite conclusion, I claim to have effectually answered his Essay; because I have overthrown what he admits to be “the sum” of it. Let me be permitted however—before I proceed to review some other parts of his performance,—in the briefest manner, not so much to recapitulate, as to exhibit ‘the sum’ of what has been hitherto delivered clxvon the other side; in somewhat different language, and as it were from a different point of view.
We are presented then, in the New Testament Scriptures, with the august spectacle of the Ancient of Days holding the entire volume of the Old Testament Scriptures in His Hands, and interpreting it of Himself. He, whose Life and Death are set forth in the Gospel;—whose Church’s early fortunes are set forth historically in the Acts, while its future prospects are shadowed prophetically in the Apocalypse;—whose Doctrines, lastly, are explained in the twenty-one Epistles of St. Paul and St. Peter, St. James and St. John and St. Jude:—He, the Incarnate Word, who was “in the beginning;” who “was with God,” and who “was God:”—that same Almighty One, I repeat, is exhibited to us in the Gospel, repeatedly, holding the Volume of the Old Testament Scriptures in His Hands, and explaining it of Himself. “To day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears186186 St. Luke iv. 21.,”—was the solemn introductory sentence with which, in the Synagogue of Nazareth, (after closing the Book and giving it again to the Minister,) He prefaced His Sermon from the lxist chapter of Isaiah.—“Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me187187 St. John v. 46..”—“‘O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the Prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses, and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself188188 St. Luke xxiv. 27..”—“These are the words which I spake unto you, that all things must be fulfilled which are written in the clxvi Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me 189189 St. Luke xxiv. 44..”
“Christ was before Moses. The Gospel was not made for the Law; but the Law was made for the Gospel. The Gospel is not based on the Law, but the Law is a shadow of the Gospel. In order to believe the Bible, we must look upward; and fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, sitting in Heavenly Glory, holding both Testaments in His Hand sealing both Testaments with His seal; and delivering both Testaments as Divine Oracles, to the World. We must receive the written Word from the Hands of the Incarnate Word190190 Dr. Wordsworth (Occasional Sermon 54,) On the Inspiration of the Old Testament, (I859.)—p. 70..”
This august spectacle, let it be clearly stated,—(1) Establishes, beyond all power of contradiction, the intimate connexion which subsists between the Old and the New Testament; as well as the altogether unique relation which the one bears to the other:(2) Invests either Testament with a degree of sacred importance and majestic grandeur which altogether makes the Bible unlike “any other book:”—(3) Proves that the Bible is to be interpreted as no other book ever was, or ever can be interpreted:—(4) Demonstrates that it has more than a single meaning:—and lastly, (5) Convincingly shews that God, and not Man, is its true Author.
It will of course be asked,—Then does Mr. Jowett take no notice at all of this vast and complicated problem? How does he treat of the relation between the Old Testament and the New? . . . He despatches the entire subject in the following passage:—“The question,” (he says,) “runs up into a more general one, clxvii‘the relation between the Old and New Testaments.’ For the Old Testament will receive a different meaning accordingly as it is explained from itself, or from the New.” (Very different certainly!) “In the first case,—a careful and conscientious study of each one for itself is all that is required.” (That is to say, it will not be explained at all!) “In the second case,—the types and ceremonies of the Law, perhaps the very facts and persons of the history, will be assumed (!) to be predestined or made after a pattern corresponding to the things that were to be in the latter days.” (p. 370.) (And why not “will be found to be replete with Christian meaning,—full of lofty spiritual significancy?”—the proved marvellousness of their texture, the revealed mysteriousness of their purpose, being an effectual refutation of all Mr. Jowett’s (à priori notions!)
“And this question,” (lie proceeds,) “stirs up another question respecting the Interpretation of the Old Testament in the New. Is such Interpretation to be regarded as the meaning of the original text, or an accommodation of it to the thoughts of other times?” (Nay, but Reverend and learned Sir: “nothing so plain,” as you justly observe, “that it may not be explained away;” (p. 359;) yet we cannot consent to have the sense of plain words thus clouded over at your mere bidding. It is now our turn to declare that the Interpreter’s “object is to read Scripture like any other book, with a real interest and not merely a conventional one.” It is now we who “want to be able to open our eyes, and see things as they truly are.” (p. 338.) We simply petition for leave to “interpret Scripture like any other book, by the same rules of evidence and the same canons of criticism.” (p. 375.) clxviiiAnd if this freedom be but conceded to us, there will be found to be no imaginable reason why the Interpretation of the Old Testament in the New,—(Christ Himself being the Majestic Speaker! our present edification and everlasting welfare being His gracious purpose!)—should not be strictly “regarded as the meaning of the original text.” . . . But let us hear the Professor out:—)
“Our object,” (lie says, and with this he dismisses the problem!)—“Our object is not to attempt here the determination of these questions; but to point out that they must be determined before any real progress can be made, or any agreement arrived at in the Interpretation of Scripture.” (p. 370.) . . . They must indeed. But can it be right in this slovenly, slippery style to shirk a discussion on the issue of which the whole question may be said to turn? especially on the part of one who scruples not to prejudge that issue, and straightway to apply it., (in a manner fatal to the Truth,) throughout all his hundred pages. Mr. Jowett’s method is ever to assume what he ought to prove, and then either to be plaintive, or to sneer. “It is a heathenish or Rabbinical fancy:”—“Such complexity would place the Scriptures below human compositions in general; for it would deprive them of the ordinary intelligibleness of human language” (p. 382):—&c.
“Is the Interpretation of the Old Testament in the New to be regarded as the meaning of the original text; or an accommodation of it to the thoughts of other times?” (p. 370.) This is Mr. Jowett’s question; the question which it is “not his object to attempt to determine;” but which I, on the contrary, have made it my object to discuss in my VIth Sermon,—p. 183 to p. 220. Without troubling the reader however now clxixto wade through those many pages, let me at least explain to him in a few words what Mr. Jowett’s question really amounts to: namely this,—Do the Apostles and Evangelists, does our Blessed Lord Himself, when He professes to explain the mysterious significancy of the Old Testament,—invariably,—in every instance,—misrepresent “the meaning of the original text?” And the answer to this question I am content to await from any candid person of plain unsophisticated understanding. Is it credible, concerning the Divine expositions found in St. Matth. xxii. 31, 32,—xxii. 43-5,—xii. 39, 40,—xi. 10,—St. John viii. 17, 18,—i. 52,—vi. 31, &c.,—x. 34-5:—the Apostolic interpretations found in 1 Cor. ix. 9-11,—x. 1-6,—xv. 20,—Heb. ii. 5-9,—vii. 1-10,—Gal. iv. 21-31:—is it conceivable, I ask, that not one of all these places should exhibit the actual ‘meaning of the original text?’ And yet, (as Mr. Jewett himself is forced to admit,)—“If we attribute to the details of the Mosaical ritual a reference to the New Testament, or suppose the passage of the Red Sea to be regarded not merely as a figure of Baptism, but as a preordained type;,—the principle is conceded!” (p. 369.) “A little more or a little less of the method does not make the difference.” (Ibid.) In a word,—in such case, Mr. Jowett’s Essay falls to the ground . . . To proceed however.
3. The case of Interpretation has not yet been fully set before the reader. Hitherto, we have merely traced the problem back to the fountain-head, and dealt with it simply as a Scriptural question. We have shewn what light is thrown upon Interpretation by the volume of Inspiration. The subject has been treated in the same way in the Vth and VIth of my clxxSermons. But it will not be improper, in this place,—it is even indispensable,—to develope the problem a little more fully; and to explain that it is of much larger extent.
Now, there is a family resemblance in the method of all ancient expositions of Holy Scripture which vindicates for them, however remotely, a common origin. There is a resemblance in the general way of handling the Inspired Word which can only be satisfactorily explained by supposing that the remote type of all was the oral teaching of the Apostles themselves. In truth, is it credible that the early Christians would have been so forgetful of the discourses of the men who had seen the Lord, that no trace of it,—no tradition of so much as the manner of it,—should have lingered on for a hundred years after the death of the last of the Apostles; down to the time when Origen, for example, was a young man? . . . . It cannot possibly be!
(i.) “The things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses,” (writes the great Apostle to his son Timothy,) “the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also191191 2 Tim. ii. 2..” Provision is thus made by the aged Saint,—in the last of his Epistles,—for the transmission of his inspired teaching192192 See the middle of p. cxcvii. to a second and a third. generation. Now the words just quoted were written about the year 65, at which time Timothy was a young man. Unless we suppose that Almighty God curtailed the lives of the chief depositaries of His Word, Timothy will have lived on fill A.D. 100; so that “faithful men” who died in the middle of the next century might have been trained and taught by him for many clxxiyears. It follows, that the “faithful men” last spoken of will have been “able to teach others also,” whose writings (if they wrote at all) would range from A.D. 190 to A.D.. 210. Now, just such a writer is Hippolytus,—who is known to have been taught by that “faithful man” Irenæus193193 Photius, p. 195, ed. Bekker.—“Eos simul jungendos censui,—Polycarpum, Irenæum, Hippolytum; cum Hippolytus discipulus Irenæi fuisset, Irenæusque Polycarpum, Joannis Apostoli discipulum, audivisset.”—Routh, Preface to Opuscula, p. x.,—to whom, as it happens, the deposit was “committed” by Polycarp,—who stood to St. John in the self-same relation as Timothy to St. Paul!
(ii.) Our Saviour is repeatedly declared to have interpreted the Old Testament to His Disciples. For instance, to the two going to Emmaus, “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself194194 St. Luke xxiv. 27..” Moreover, before He left the world, He solemnly promised His Apostles that the Holy Ghost, whom the Father should send in His Name, “should teach them all things, and bring to their remembrance all things which He had spoken to them195195 St. John xiv. 26. The fulfilment of this promise repeatedly occurs: as in St. John ii. 17, 22: xii. 16: xiii. 7: St.. Luke xxiv. 8. Consider St. John xx. 9..” Shall we believe that the Treasury of Divine Inspiration thus opened by Christ Himself was straightway closed up by its human guardians, and at once forgotten? Shall we not rather believe that Cleopas and his companion, (for instance,) forthwith repeated their Lord’s words to every member of the Apostolic body, and to others also; that they were questioned again and again by clxxiiadoring listeners, even to their extremest age; aye, and that they taxed their memories to the utmost in order to recal every little word, every particular of our Saviour’s Divine utterance? It must be so! And the echo, the remote echo of that exposition, depend upon it! descended to a second, aye and to a third generation yea, and has come down, faintly, and feebly it may be, but yet essentially and truly, even to ourselves!
(iii.) And yet,—(for we would not willingly incur the charge of being fanciful in so solemn and important a matter,)—the great fact to be borne in mind, (and it is the great fact which nothing can ever set aside or weaken,) is, that for the first century at least of our æra, there existed within the Christian Church the gift of Prophecy; that is, of Inspired Interpretation 196196 1 Cor. xii., xiv., &c.. The minds of the Apostles, Christ Himself “opened, to understand the Scriptures197197 St. Luke xxiv. 45..” Can it be any matter of surprise that men so enlightened, when they had been miraculously endowed with the gift of tongues198198 Acts ii. 4-21., and scattered over the face of the ancient civilized World, should have disseminated the same principles of Catholic Interpretation, as well as the same elements of Saving Truth? When this miraculous gift ceased, its results did not also come to an end. The fountain dried up, but the streams which it had sent forth yet “made glad the City of God.” And by what possible logic can the teaching of the early Church be severed from its source? It cannot be supposed for an instant that such a severance ever took place. The teaching of the Apostolic age was the immediate parent of the teaching of the earliest clxxiiiof the Fathers,—in whose Schools it is matter of history that those Patristic writers with whom we are most familiar, studied and became famous. Accordingly, we discover a method of Interpreting Holy Scripture strictly resembling that employed by our Saviour and His Apostles, in all the earliest Patristic writings. As documents increase, the evidence is multiplied; and at the end of two or three centuries after the death of St. John the Evangelist, voices are heard from Jerusalem and other parts of Palestine; from Antioch and from other parts of Syria; from the Eastern and the Western extremities of North Africa; from many regions of Asia Minor; from Constantinople and from Greece; from Rome, from Milan, and from other parts of Italy; from Cyprus and from Gaul;—all singing in unison; all singing the same heavenly song! . . . In what way but one is so extraordinary a phenomenon to be accounted for? Are we to believe that there was a general conspiracy of the East and the West, the. North and the South, to interpret Holy Scripture in a certain way; and that way, the wrong way?
Enough has been said, it is thought, to shew that many of Mr. Jowett’s remarks about the value of Patristic evidence are either futile or incorrect; or that they betray an entire misapprehension of the whole question, not to say a thorough want of appreciation of the claims of Antiquity. We do not yield to the ‘Essayist and Reviewer’ in veneration for the Inspired page; and trust that enough has been said to shew it. Our eye, when we read Scripture, (like his,) “is fixed on time form of One like the Son of Man; or of the Prophet who was girded with a garment of camel’s hair; or of the Apostle who had a thorn in the flesh.” (p. 338.) clxxivWe are only unlike Mr. Jowett we fear in this,—that we believe ex animo that the first-named was the Eternal Son, “equal to the Father,” and “of one substance with the Father199199 See Mr. Jowett’s Essay, p. 354.:” and further that St. Paul’s fourteen Epistles are all inspired writings, in an entirely different sense from the Dialogues of Plato or the Tragedies of Sophocles. It follows, that however riveted our mental gaze may be on the awful forms which come before us in Holy Scripture,—as often as we con the inspired record of the actions and of the sayings of those men, we are constrained many a time to look upward, and to exclaim with the Psalmist, “Thy thoughts are very deep200200 Ps. xcii. 5.!” And often if asked, “Understandest thou what thou readest?”—we must still answer with the Ethiopian, “How can I, except some man should guide me201201 Acts viii. 30, 31.—“‘Revela,’ inquit David, ‘oculos meos, et considerabo mirabilia de Lege Tuâ.’ Si tantus Propheta tenebras ignorantiæ confitetur, quâ nos putas parvulos, et peno lactantes, inscitiæ nocte circumdari? Hoc autem velamen non solum in facie Moysi, sed et in Evangelistis et in Apostolis positum est.”—Hieronymus, Ep. lviii. vol. i. p. 323.?”
(iv.) To assume however that our defective knowledge “cannot be supplied by the conjectures of Fathers or Divines,” (p. 338,) is in some sort to beg the question at issue. To say of the student of Scripture that “the history of Christendom, and all the afterthoughts of Theology, are nothing to him:” (p. 338:) that “he has to imagine himself a disciple of Christ or Paul, and to disengage himself from all that follows:” (Ibid.:) is not the language of modesty, but of inordinate conceit. In Mr. Jowett it is in fact something infinitely worse for he shews that his object thereby is to “obtain an unembarrassed opportunity clxxvof applying all the resources of a so-called criticism to discredit and destroy the written record itself202202 Dr. Moberly, as before, pp. liii.-iv..”
“True indeed it is, that more than any other subject of human knowledge, Biblical criticism has hung (sic.) to the past;” (p. 340;) but the reason is also obvious. It is because, in the words of great Bishop Pearson, “Philosophia quotidie progressu, Theologia nisi regressu non crescit203203 Minor Works, vol. ii. p. 10. .” “O ye who are devoting yourselves to the Divine Science of Theology,” (he exclaims,) “and whose cheeks grow pale over the study of Holy Scripture above all; ye who either fill the venerable office of the Priesthood or intend it, and are hereafter to undertake the awful cure of souls:—rid yourselves of that itch of the present age, the love of novelty. Make it your business to inquire for that which was from the beginning. Resort for counsel to the fountain-head. Have recourse to Antiquity. Return to the holy Fathers. Look back to the primitive Church. In the words of the Prophet,—‘Ask for the old paths204204 Ibid. p. 6..’”
When therefore Mr. Jewett classes together “the early Fathers, the Roman Catholic mystical writers, the Swiss and German Reformers, and the Nonconformist Divines,” (p. 377,)—he either shews a most lamentable want of intellectual perspective, or a most perverse understanding. So jumbled into one confused heap, it may not be altogether untrue to say of Commentators generally, that “the words of Scripture suggest to them their own thoughts or feelings.” ,(p. 377.) But when it is straightway added, “There is nothing in such a view derogatory to the Saints and Doctors of former ages,” (Ibid.,) we are constrained, (for the reasons clxxvialready before the reader,) to remonstrate against so misleading and deceitful a way of putting the case. Mr. Jowett desires to be understood not to depreciate “the genius or learning of famous men of old,” when he remarks “that Aquinas or Bernard did not shake themselves free from the mystical method of the Patristic times.” (Ibid) But with singular obtuseness, or with pitiful disingenuousness, he does his best by such words to shut out front view the real question at issue,—namely, the exegetical value of Patristic Antiquity. For the Church of England, when she appeals, (as she repeatedly does,) to “the Ancient Fathers,” does not by any means intend such names as the Abbot of Clairvaux, who flourished in the middle of the twelfth century; or Thomas of Aquinum, who lived later into the thirteenth. It is the spirit of the ante-Nicene age which she defers to; the Fathers of the first four or five centuries to whose opinion she gives reverent attention; as her formularies abundantly shew. Whether therefore Aquinas and Bernard were or were not able to “shake themselves free from the mystical method of the Patristic times,” matters very little. The point to be observed is that the Writers of the Patristic times, as a matter of fact, “did not shake themselves free from the mystical method of” Christ and Hiss Apostles!
Very far am I from denying that “any one who, instead of burying himself in the pages of the commentators, would learn the Sacred Writings by heart, and paraphrase them in English, will probably make a nearer approach to their true meaning than he would gather from any Commentary.” Quite certain is it that “the true use of Interpretation is to get rid of interpretation, and leave us alone in company with clxxviithe author.” (p. 384.) But this is quite a distinct and different matter, as every person of unsophisticated understanding must perceive at once. The same thing will be found stated by myself, in a subsequent part of the present volume, at considerable length205205 See Serm. I. pp. 10-11, 13, &c.; the qualifying condition having been introduced at p. 16. The truth is, a man can no more divest himself of the conditions of thought habitual to one familiar with his Prayer-Book, than he can withdraw himself from the atmosphere of light in which he moves. Not the abuse of Commentators on Holy Scripture, but the principle on which Holy Scripture itself is to be interpreted,—is the real question at issue: the fundamental question which underlies this, being of course the vital one,—namely, Is the Bible an inspired book, or not?
Apart from what has been already urged concerning “the torrent of Patristic Interpretation206206 See below, p. 142.” which flows down not so much from the fountain-head of Scripture, (wherein so many specimens of Inspired Interpretation are preserved,) as from the fontal source of all Wisdom and Knowledge,—even the lips of the Incarnate Word Himself,—apart from this, a very important Historical circumstance calls for notice in this place.
How did Christianity originate? how did it first establish a footing in the world? “The answer is, By the preaching of living men, who said they were commissioned by God to proclaim it. That was the origin and first establishment of Christianity. There is indeed a vague and unreasoning notion prevalent that Christianity was taken from the New Testament. The notion is historically untrue. Christianity was widely extended through the civilized world before the New Testament was written and its several books were clxxviiisuccessively addressed to various bodies of Christian believers; to bodies, that is, who already possessed the faith of Christ in its integrity. When, indeed, God ceased to inspire persons to write these books, and when they were all collected together into what we call the New Testament, the existing Faith of the Church, derived from oral teaching, was tested by comparison with this Inspired Record. And it henceforth became the standing law of the Church that nothing should be received as necessary to Salvation, which could not stand that test. But still, though thus tested, (every article being proved by the New Testament,) Christianity is not taken from it; for it existed before it.
“What, then, was the Christianity which was thus established? Have we any record of it as it existed before the New Testament became the sole authoritative standard? I answer, we have. The Creeds of the Christian Church are the record of it. That is precisely what they purport to be: not documents taken from the New Testament, but documents transmitting to us the Faith as it was held from the beginning; the Faith as it was preached by inspired men, before the inspired men put forth any writings; the Faith once for all delivered to the Saints. Accordingly you will find that our Church in her viiith Article does not ground her affirmation that the Creeds ought to be ‘thoroughly received and believed,’ on the fact that they were taken from the New Testament, (which they were not;) but on the fact that ‘they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.’”
It follows therefore from what has been said, that even if bad men could succeed in destroying the authority of the Bible as the Word of God, all could not be clxxixup with Christianity. There would still remain to be dealt with the Faith as it exists in the world; the Faith held from the beginning; the Faith once delivered to the Saints. None of the assaults on Holy Scripture can touch that; for it traces itself to an independent origin. The evil work, therefore, would have to be begun all over again. The special doctrines which are impugned in ‘Essays and Reviews’ do not stand or fall with the Inspiration or Interpretation of Scripture; but are stereotyped in the Faith of Christendom. “The Fall of Man, Original Sin, the Atonement, the Divinity of Christ, the Trinity, all have their place in the Faith held from the beginning. They are imbedded in the Creeds, and in that general scheme of Doctrine which circles round the Creeds, and is involved in them. Nay, curiously enough,—or rather I should say providentially,—the very point against which the attacks of this book are principally directed, namely the Inspiration of the Old Testament, is in express terms asserted there:—the Holy Ghost ’ spake by the Prophets207207 From a Sermon by the Rev. F. Woodward, quoted below, at p. 249.—In illustration of the learned writer’s concluding remark, take this from the Creed of Lyons, contained in Irenæus (A.D. 180),—Καὶ εἰς Πνεῦμα Ἅγιον, τὸ διὰ τῶν Προφητῶν κεκηρυχὸς τὰς οἰκονομίας, καὶ τὰς ἐλεύσεις In the Creed of Constantinople, we read, Τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον . . . τὸ λαλῆσαν διὰ τῶν Προφητῶν..’”
It remains to shew the bearing of these remarks on Mr. Jowett’s
Essay.—With infinite perseverance, he dwells upon “the nude Scripture,
the merest letter of the Sacred Volume, as if in
it and in it alone, resided the entire Revelation of Christ,
and all possible means of judging what that Revelation consists of: whereas
this is very far indeed from being the clxxxcase. Every single Book of the New Testament was written, as
we have seen, to persons already in possession of Christian Truth.
It is quite erroneous therefore, historically and notoriously erroneous,
to suppose either that the Divine Institution of the Church, or that its Doctrines,
were literally founded upon the written words of Holy Scripture or that they can
impart no illustration nor help in the Interpretation of those written words. . . . . The
of the saving Truth belonged to the Christian Church not by degrees, nor in lapse
of time, but from the first. Of that saving truth, thus taught and thus possessed,
the Apostles’ Creed, growing up as it did on every
side of Christendom as the faithful record of the uniform oral teaching of the Apostles,
is the trite and precious historical monument208208 The Creed of Lyons begins by describing itself as that which
ἡ μὲν Ἑκκλησία, καίπερ κηθ᾽ ὅλης τῆς οἰκουμένης ἕως περάτων τῆς γῆς
διεσπαρμένη, παρὰ δὲ τῶν Ἁποστόλων καὶ τῶν ἐκείνων μαθητῶν παραλαβοῦσα,
κ.τ.λ. Most refreshing
of all, however, are the concluding words of that Creed: so comfortable are they
that I cannot deny myself the consolation of transcribing them
here, where indeed they are very much ad rem:—
Τοῦτο τὸ κήρυγμα παρειληφυῖα, καὶ ταύτην τὴν πίστιν, ὡς προέφαμαν, ἡ ἐκκλησία, καίπερ ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ κόσμῳ διεσπαρμένη, ἐπιμελῶς φυλάσσει, ὡς ἕνα οἶκον οἰκοῦσα· καὶ ὁμοίως πιστεύει τούτοις, ὡς μίαν ψυχὴν καὶ τὴν αὐτὴν ἔχουσα καρδίαν· καὶ συμφώνως ταῦτα κηρύσσει, καὶ διδάσκει, καὶ παραδίδωσιν, ὡς ἓν στόμα κεκτημένη· Καὶ γὰρ αἱ κατὰ τὸν κόσμον διάλεκτοι ἀνόμοιαι, ἀλλ᾽ ἡ δύναμις τῆς παραδόσεως μία καὶ ἡ αὐτή. Καὶ οὔτε αἱ ἐν Γερμανίαις ἱδρυμέναι ἐκκλησίαι ἄλλως πεπιστεύκασιν, ἢ ἄλλως παραδιδόασιν, οὔτε ἐν ταῖς Ἰβηρίαις, οὔτε ἐν Κελτοῖς, οὔτε κατὰ τὰς ἀνατολὰς, οὔτε ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ, οὔτε ἐν Λιβύῃ, οὔτε αἱ κατὰ μέσα τοῦ κόσμου ἱδρυμέναι. Ἀλλ᾽ ὥσπερ ὁ ἥλιος, τὸ κτίσμα τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ κόσμῳ εἶς καὶ ὁ αὐτὸς, οὕτω καὶ τὸ κήρυγμα τῆς ἀληθείας πανταχῇ φαίνει, καὶ φωτίζει πάρτας ἀνθρώπους τοὺς βουλομένους εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν ἀληθείας ἐλθεῖν. Καὶ οὔτε ὁ πάνυ δυνατὸς ἐν λόγῳ τῶν ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις προεστώτων ἕτερα τούτων ἐρεῖ, (οὐδεὶς γὰρ ὑπὲρ τὸν διδάσκαλον,) οὔτε ὁ ἀσθενὴς ἐν τῷ λόγῳ ἐλαττώσει τὴν παράδοσιν. Μιᾶς γὰρ καὶ τὴς αὐτῆς πίστεως οὔσης, οὔτε ὁ πολὺ περὶ αὐτῆς δυνάμενος εἰπεῖν ἐπλεόνασεν, οὔτε ὁ τὸ ὀλίγον ἡλαττόνησε.—See Heurtley’s Harmonia Symbolica, p. 9.; and I venture clxxxito say that if any person claims to reject the Apostles’ Creed as an auxiliary, a great and invaluable auxiliary, in interpreting the writings of the Apostles, he shews himself to be very wanting indeed in appreciation of the comparative value of Historical Evidence, and of the true principles of historical Philosophy.—And not the Apostles’ Creed only; but the whole history and tradition of the universal Church,—needing, no doubt, skill and discretion in its application,—supply, when applied with requisite skill and discretion, very valuable and real aid in interpreting Holy Scripture209209 Abridged from Dr. Moberly, as before, pp. lii.-v..”
When therefore Mr. Jowett speaks contemptuously of “the attempt to adapt the truths of Scripture to the doctrines of the Creeds,” (p. 353,) the kindest thing which can be said is that he writes like an ignorant, or at least an unlearned man. “The Creeds” (he says) “are acknowledged to be a part of Christianity . . . . Yet it does not follow that they should be pressed into the service of the Interpreter.” Why not? we ask. “The growth of ideas,” (he replies,) “in the interval which separated the first century from the fourth or sixth makes it impossible to apply the language of the one to the explanation of the other. Between Scripture and the Nicene or Athanasian Creeds, a world of the understanding comes in; and mankind are no longer at the same point as when the whole of Christianity was contained in the words ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou mayest be saved;’ when the Gospel centred in the attachment clxxxiito a living and recently departed friend and Lord.” (p. 353.)
But there is a fallacy or a falsity at every step of this argument. For when did the Gospel ever “centre in attachment?” or when was “the whole of Christianity contained” in one short sentence? Supposing too that “a world of the understanding” does come in between the first century and the sixth; how does it follow that it is “impossible” to apply the language of the Creeds to the interpretation of Holy Scripture? Explain to me how that “world of understanding” affects the Nicene Creed? Even in the case of that most precious Creed called the Athanasian,—why need we assume that “the growth of ideas” has been a spurious growth? What if it should prove, on the contrary, that the development had been that of the plant from the seed210210 Καὶ ὅνπερ τρόπον ὁ τοῦ σινάπεως σπόρος, ἐν μικρῷ κόκκῳ, πολλοὺς περιέχει τοὺς κλάδους, οὕτω καὶ ἡ Πίστις αὕτη, ἐν ὀλίγοις ῥήμασι, πᾶσαν τὴν ἐν τῇ Παλαιᾷ καὶ Καινῇ τῆς εὐσεβείας γνῶσιν ἐγκεκόλπισται.—Cyril. Hieros. Cat. v. § 12,—quoted by Heurtley.? Above all, why talk of “the fourth or sixth century,”—as if the Creeds were not essentially much older; nay, co-eval with Christianity itself? . . . . Such writing shews nothing so much as a confused mind,—a weak, ill-informed, and illogical thinker.
Indeed Mr. Jowett seems to be altogether in the dark on the subject of the Creeds: for he speaks of them as “the result of three or four centuries of reflection and controversy,” (p. 353,)—which is by no means true of all of them; nor, except in a certain sense, of ally. But when he inquires,—“If the occurrence of the phraseology of the Nicene age in a verse of the Epistles would detect the spuriousness clxxxiiiof the verse in which it was found,—how can the Nicene or Athanasian Creed be a suitable instrument for the interpretation of Scripture?” (p. 354.)—he simply asks a fool’s question. The cases are not only not parallel, but there is not even any analogy between them. Let us hear him a little further:—
“Absorbed as St. Paul was in the person of Christ, . . . . he does not speak of Him as ‘equal to the Father,’ or of one substance with the Father211211 Answer. He certainly does not employ the identical language of the Nicene Council, or of the (so called) Athanasian Creed. But what then?.’ Much of the language of the Epistles, (passages for example such as Romans i. 2: Philippians ii. 6,) would lose their meaning if distributed in alternate clauses between our Lord’s Humanity and Divinity212212 Ans. Passages of the Epistles “distributed in alternate clauses between our Lord’s Humanity and Divinity,” begging Mr. Jowett’s pardon, is nonsense. But no passage in St. Paul’s Epistles which relates to the Humanity, or to the Divinity of Christ, could be said to “lose its meaning” by being unlocked by its own proper clue: or, if the statement be complex, by being distributed under two heads.. Still greater difficulties would be introduced into the Gospels by the attempt to identify them with the Creeds213213 Ans. But not, I suppose, to reconcile them? Why use inaccurate language on so solemn a subject?. We should have to suppose that He was and was not tempted214214 Ans. Doubtless we have to suppose this!; that when He prayed to His Father He prayed also to Himself215215 Ans. Not so. For “there is one Person of the Father, and another of the Son.”; that He knew and did not know ‘of that hour’ of which He as well as the angels were ignorant216216 Ans. Doubtless we have to suppose this!. how could He have said ‘My God, My God, why halt Thou forsaken clxxxivMe?’ or ‘Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from Me.’ How could He have doubted whether ‘when the Son of Man cometh He shall find faith upon the earth217217 Ans. But He did not doubt!?’ These simple and touching words,” (p. 355,)—pah!
Now if what precedes means anything at all,—(I am by no means certain however that it does!)—it means that the writer does not believe in the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Unless the sentence which is without a reference to the foot of the page be not a denial of the fundamental Doctrine of the Faith218218 1 St. John iv. 2, 3.—2 St. John ver. 7.,—I do not understand it. But look at all which precedes; and then say if those are the remarks of a man entitled to dogmatize “On the Interpretation of Scripture.” . . . . If Mr. Jowett really means that the Creeds cannot be reconciled with the Bible,—how can he himself subscribe to the VIIIth Article? If he means nothing of the kind,—why does he write in such a weak, cloudy, illogical way?
But the whole of the case has not even yet been stated. Down from the remote period of which we have been hitherto speaking,—the age of primitive Creeds, and œcumenical Councils, and ancient Fathers,—in every country of the civilized world to which the Gospel has spread,—the loftiest Intellect, the profoundest Learning, the sincerest Piety, have invariably endorsed the ancient and original method of interpretation. I am not implying that such corroboration was in any sense required; but the circumstance that it has been obtained, at least deserves attention.. Modes of thought are dependent on times and countries. There is a fashion in all things. Great advances clxxxvin Science,—grand epochs in civilization,—vicissitudes of opinion,—difference of institutions, national traditions, and the like,—might be supposed to have wrought a permanent change even in this department of Sacred Science. But it is not so. The storm has raged from one quarter or other of the heavens, but has ever spent its violence in vain. Still has the Church Catholic retained her own unbroken tradition. To keep to the history of that Church to which we, by God’s mercy, belong:—The constant appeal, at the time of our own great Reformation, was to the Fathers of the first four centuries. Ever since, the temper and spirit of our Commentators has been to revert to the same standard, to reproduce the same teaching. The most powerful minds and the most holy spirits,—English Divines of the deepest thought and largest reading,—let me add, of the soundest judgment and severest discrimination,—have, in every age, down to the present, gratefully accepted not only the method, but even the very details of primitive Patristic Interpretation. But “the acceptance of a hundred generations and the growing authority arising from it,”—like “the institutions based upon such ancient writings, and the history into which they have entwined themselves indissolubly for many centuries,”—all conspire to “constitute a perpetually increasing and strengthening219219 Dr. Moberly, as before, p. xlvii.” body of evidence on the subject of Sacred Interpretation.
Now, to oppose (1) to the learning, and piety, and wisdom, of every age of the English Church,—(2) to the unbroken testimony of the Church Universal,—(3) to the torrent of Patristic Antiquity,—(4) to the decision of early Councils, and (5) the ’still small clxxxvivoice’ of primitive Creeds,—yet more, (6) to the constant practice of the Apostles,—and, above all, (7) to the indisputable method of our Divine Lord Himself—to oppose to all this mighty accumulation of evidence, the simple à priori convictions of—Mr. Jowett! savours so strongly of the ridiculous, that it really seems superfluous to linger over the antithesis for a single moment.
4. Our task might now be looked upon as completed.—It only remains, in justice to the gentleman whose method we have been considering, to ascertain by what considerations he is induced to reject that method of Interpretation which, as we have seen, enjoys such overwhelming sanction.
(i) In opposition to what goes before, then, he throws out a suggestion, that “nothing would be more likely to restore a natural feeling on this subject than a History of the Interpretation of Scripture. It would take us back to the beginning it would present in one view the causes which have darkened the meaning of words in the course of ages.” (p. 338-9.) “Such a work would enable us to separate the elements of Doctrine and Tradition with which the meaning of Scripture is encumbered in our own day.” (p. 339.)
Let us here be well understood with our author. The advantage of a good “History of Interpretation” would indeed be incalculably great. But Mr. Jowett, (like most other writers of his class,) assumes the point he has to prove, when he insinuates that the result of such a contribution to our Theological Literature would be to shew that all the world has been in error for 1700 years, and that he alone is right. That ‘erring fancy’ has often been at work in the fields of sacred clxxxviicriticism,—who ever doubted? That there have been epochs of Interpretation,—different Schools,—and varying tastes, in the long course of so many centuries of mingled light and darkness, learning and barbarism;—what need to declare? A faithful history of Interpretation would of course establish these facts on a sure foundation.
But the Reverend Author forgets his Logic when he goes on from these undoubted generalities to imply that all has been confusion and utter uncertainty until now. Above all, common regard for the facts of the case ought to have preserved him from putting forth so monstrous a falsehood as the following:—“Among German Commentators there is for the first time in the history of the world, an approach to agreement and certainty.” (p. 340.)
Let us however,—passing by the many crooked remarks and unsound inferences with which the Reverend writer, (more suo,) delights to perplex a plain question220220 E.g. “We should observe how the popular explanations of Prophecy, as in heathen (Thucyd. ii. 54,) so also in Christian times, had adapted themselves to the circumstances of mankind.” (The Reverend writer can never for a moment divest himself of his theory that Thucydides and the Bible stand on the same footing!) “We might remark that in our own country, and in the present generation especially, the interpretation of Scripture had assumed an apologetic character, as though making an effort to defend itself against some supposed inroad of Science and Criticism.” (p. 340.) . . . . Just as if any other attitude was possible when one has to do with ‘Essayists and Reviewers!’,—invite him to abide by the test which he himself proposes. For 1700 years, (he says,) the Interpretation of Scripture has been obscured and encumbered by successive Schools of Interpretation. The Interpreter’s concern (he says) is with the Bible clxxxviiiitself. “The simple words of that book he tries to preserve absolutely pure from the refinements of later times. . . . The greater part of his learning is a knowledge of the text itself.” [He is evidently the very man who sweeps the house to discover the pearl of great price. (p. 414.)] “He has no delight in the voluminous literature which has overgrown it. He has no theory of Interpretation. A few rules guarding against common errors are enough for him. He wants to be able to open his eyes, and see or imagine things as they truly are.” (p. 338.) [How crooked by the way is all this! “He has no theory of Interpretation221221 One would imagine that the Essayist and his critic were entirely agreed. See below, p. 74,—“I refuse to accept any theory whatsoever.” And p. 11 5,—“Theory I have none.”?” Why, no; for the best of all reasons. He denies Inspiration altogether! His “theory” is that the Bible is an uninspired Book! . . . . How peculiar too, and how plaintive is the “want” of the supposed Interpreter, “to be able to open his eyes;”—glued up, as they no doubt are, by the superstitious tendencies of the nineteenth century, and the tyranny of an intolerant age!]
But we may perhaps state the matter more intelligibly and simply, thus:—In order to ascertain the true principle of Scriptural Interpretation, let us,—divesting ourselves of the complicated and voluminous lore of 1700 years,—resort to the Bible itself. Let us go for our views to the fountain-head; and abide by what we shall discover there.
A fairer proposal (as I think) never was made. It exactly describes the method which I have humbly endeavoured myself to pursue in the ensuing Sermons. The inquiry will be found elaborated from p. 141 to clxxxixp. 160 of the present volume; and the result is to be read on the last-named page, in the following words:—“that it may be regarded as a fundamental rule, that the Bible is not to be interpreted like a common book. This I gather infallibly from the plain fact, that the inspired writers themselves habitually interpret it as no other book either is, or can be interpreted.—Next, I assert without fear of contradiction that inspired Interpretation, whatever varieties of method it may exhibit, is yet uniform and unequivocal in this one result; namely, that it proves Holy Scripture to be of far deeper significancy than at first sight appears. By no imaginable artifice of Rhetoric or sophistry of evasion,—by no possible vehemence of denial or plausibility of counter assertion,—can it be rendered probable that Scripture has invariably one only meaning; and that meaning, the most obvious and easy.”
Now, the reader is requested to observe that what precedes is the direct contradictory of the position which Mr. Jowett has written his Essay in order to establish. And thus we keep for ever coming back to his πρῶτον ψεῦδος,—the fundamental falsity which underlies the whole of what he has written.
(ii) But although we have eagerly resorted to Scripture itself in order to ascertain on what principle Scripture ought to be interpreted, we cannot for a moment allow some of the sophistries which which the Reverend Author has encumbered the question, to escape without castigation. He may not first court an appeal to the School of Apostolical Interpretation; and then, before the result of that appeal has been ascertained, go off in praise of the illumination of the present age; and claim to represent the Theological mind of Europe in his own person. “Educated persons,” (he has the cxcimpertinence to assert,) “are beginning to ask (!), not what Scripture may be made to mean, but what it does. And it is no exaggeration to say that he who in the present state of knowledge will confine himself to the plain meaning of words, and the study of their context, may know more of the original spirit and intention of the authors of the New Testament than all the controversial writers of former ages put together.” (pp. 340-1.) This might be tolerated per-Imps, in the self-constituted oracle of a Mechanics’ Institute; but as proceeding from a Divinity Lecturer in one of the first Colleges in Oxford, I hesitate not to declare that such an opinion is simply disgraceful.
Very much of a piece with this, in point of flippancy,—(though barely consistent with his frequent assertions that the entire subject is hemmed in by grave difficulties,)—are the Regius Professor of Greek’s remarks on the value of learning as a help to the Interpretation of Holy Writ. “Learning obscures as well as illustrates.” (p. 337.)—“There seem to be reasons for doubting whether any considerable light can be thrown on the New Testament from inquiry into the language.” (p. 393.)—“Minute corrections of tenses or particles are no good.” (p. 393.)—“Discussions respecting the chronology of St. Paul’s life and his second imprisonment; or about the identity of James, the brother of the Lord; or, in another department, respecting the use of the Greek article,—have gone far beyond the line of utility.” (p. 393.) “The minuteness of the study of Greek in our own day has also a tendency to introduce into the text associations which are not really found there.” (p. 391.)—Lastly, he complains of “the error of interpreting every particle, as though it were a cxcilink in the argument instead of being, as is often the case, an excrescence of style.” (p. 391.)
So then, in brief, the Fathers are in a conspiracy to mislead: Creeds and Councils encumber the sense: Modern Commentators
are not to be trusted: the comparison of Scripture with Scripture, except it be
“of the same age and
the same authors,” “will tend rather to confuse than to elucidate:” (p. 383:) “Learning obscures,” and an accurate appreciation
of the meaning of the text is
“no good!”—“When the meaning of Greek words is once known222222 Had the following passage occurred
sooner to my recollection, it should have been sooner inserted:—“Are we to conduct
the Interpretation of Holy Scripture as we would that of any other writing? We are
and we are not. So far as the words
are concerned, the mere words of Scripture have the same office with those of all language written
or spoken in sincerity.” They must be studied “by the same means and the same rules
which would guide us to the meaning of any other work; by a knowledge of the languages
in which the books were written, the Hebrew, the Chaldee, the Greek, and of those
other languages, as the Syriac and Arabic, which may illustrate them; and of all
the ordinary rules of Grammar and Criticism, and the peculiar information respecting
times and circumstances, history and customs,—all the resources, in a word, of the Interpretation
of any work of any kind. The Grammatical and _Historical interpretation of
profane or sacred writings is the same. . . . “All Scripture,” meanwhile, “is given by Inspiration of God:” and this at once introduces several important differences;
which whoever neglects may yet, with whatsoever advantages of learning and talent, fail
to discover the real meaning of the Word of God.”—From Dr. Hawkins (Provost of Oriel)
’s Inaugural Lecture as Dean Ireland’s Professor, delivered in 1847,—pp. 29-30.
It is but fair to Mr. Jowett to add that, in terms, he has very nearly (not quite) said the self-same thing himself, at p. 337, (upper half the page.) But it is the peculiar method of this most slippery writer, or most illogical thinker, occasionally to grant almost all that heart can desire, as far as words go; but straightway to deny, or evacuate, or explain away, the thing which those words ought to signify.—Thus, at p. 337, he volunteers the remark that “No one who has a Christian feeling would place Classical on a level with Sacred Literature;” and at p. 377, he observes that, “There are many respects in which Scripture is unlike any other book.” And yet, (as I have shewn, p. cxliii. to p. cl.,) Mr. Jowett puts the Bible on a level with Sophocles and Plato; and argues throughout as if Scripture were in no essential respect unlike any other book!, the young student has almost cxcii all the real materials which are possessed by the greatest Biblical scholar, in the book itself.” (p. 384.) In a word, (as Dr. Moberly has had the manliness to remark,)—“It simply comes to this: A little Greek, (not too much,) and a strong self-relying imagination, and you may interpret Holy Scripture as well as—Mr. Jowett!” (p. lxii.) . . . Benighted himself, the unhappy author of this Essay is so apprehensive lest a ray of light from Heaven shall break in upon one of his disciples,—even sideways, as it were, from the margin of the Bible,—that he carefully prohibits “the indiscriminate use of parallel passages” as “useless and uncritical.” . . . Yet may one not with discrimination refer to the margin?—Better not! “No good!” (p. 393.) replies the Oracle. “Even the critical use of parallel passages is not without danger.” (p. 383.) . . . O shame! And all this from a College Tutor and Lecturer on Divinity! this from one entrusted with the care of educating young men! this from a Regius Professor of Greek223223 “Had this writer reminded us that the New Testament Greek is a Greek of different age from that of the classical writers; had he simply warned us that we must not press our Attic Greek scholarship too far, but study the Alexandrian Greek of the Septuagint, Philo, &c. in order to ascertain the exact meaning of the words and phrases of the writers of the New Testament;—still more, if, as the result of such study on his own part, he had offered us some well-digested observations on the use of tenses, articles, or particles in the sacred writings;—he would have done some service. But this talk about ‘excessive attention to the article,’ and ‘particles being often mere excrescences of style,’ is of no effect except to expose the writer to ridicule. It sounds as if he had been accustomed to lay down the law to an admiring audience of ‘clever young men,’ and had forgotten that there were still ‘men in Denmark’ who understood Greek.”—Some Remarks on Essays and Reviews, prefixed to Dr. Moberly’s ’Sermons on the Beatitudes.’ (1861.) pp. lxii.-iii.!
Mr. Jowett congratulates himself that “Biblical criticism has made two great steps onward,—at the time of the Reformation, and in our own day.” But his notion is amply refuted by the known facts of the case: for when he adds,—“The diffusion of a critical spirit in History and Literature is affecting the criticism of the Bible in our own day in a manner not unlike the burst of intellectual life in the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries;” (p. 340;) he clearly requires to be reminded that the success of the Divinity of the Reformation wag owing to the grand appeal then made to the Patristic writings.
So far then as any of ourselves are resorting to those sources of information, there may be a faint resemblance in kind between the spirit which animates us, and that which wrought so nobly in the Fathers of our spiritual freedom,—Cranmer and Ridley and the other learned and holy men who revised our Offices. But if “German Commentators” and their method be supposed to be the ideals to which the age is tending, then the Theology of the middle of the nineteenth century stands in marked contrast to what prevailed in the middle of the sixteenth , and our spirit is the very reverse of theirs.—But I hasten on.
(iii) “The uncertainty which prevails in the Interpretation of Scripture,” Mr. Jowett proposes to get rid of,—(this is in fact the aim of his entire Essay,)—cxcivby denying that there are in Scripture any deeper meanings to interpret. In the meantime, by every device in his power, he seeks from à priori considerations, (as we have seen,) to shew that no such meanings can exist. We allow ourselves to be biassed, to a singular extent, he says, “by certain previous suppositions with which we come to the perusal of Scripture.” (p. 342.) But for this, “no one would interpret Scripture as many do.” (Ibid.) Let us ascertain then what these erroneous “suppositions” are.
Now this can only mean two things: viz. first, that a Divine Prophecy is not an infallible utterance: and secondly, that the three places quoted from the Old Testament are proofs of the fallibility of Prophecy; proofs which ought to overcome prejudice, and persuade men to renounce their “previous supposition” that Prophecy is infallible.
Certainly the charge is a grave one. For if Prophecy is untrue, then what becomes of Inspiration?
And yet, how stands the case? The writer seems to have expected “that no one would refer to the passages that he has bracketed, or that all would be too ignorant to know the utter groundlessness of his assumption. If there are, in the whole Scripture, two past prophecies which were signally and remarkably fulfilled, they are the first two which he has selected as instances to be dropped down, without a remark, of the failure of Scripture prophecies I And as to the third passage, surely it implies an ‘incuria’ which might be deemed ‘crassa’ to have asserted that it contained an instance of the non-fulfilment of Prophecy cxcvfor it implies that Mr. Jowett has read the verses to which he refers with so little attention as not to have discovered that the prediction which failed of its fulfilment was no utterance of Amos, but was the message of Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, in which he falsely attributes to Amos words he had not spoken! . . . Surely such slips as these are as discreditable to a scholar as a Divine224224 Quarterly Review, No. 217, p. 298.!”
And this, from a gentleman who has the impertinence to remind us oracularly, that “he who would understand the nature of Prophecy in the Old Testament, should have the courage to examine how far its details were minutely fulfilled!” (p. 347.) Are we then to infer that Mr. Jowett’s courage failed him when he came to Amos vii. 10-17?
(β) “The mention of a name later than the supposed age of the prophet is not allowed, as in other writings, to be taken in evidence of the date. (Isaiah xlv. 1.)” (p. 343.)
But what is the meaning of this complaint when applied to Isaiah’s well known prophecy concerning Cyrus? In the words of the excellent critic last quoted,—“We know not that we could point to such an instance as this in the writings of any other author of credit. Of course, Mr. Jowett knows as well as we do the distinction between History and Prophecy; and that the mention in any document of the name of one who was unborn at the time fixed as the date of the writing, would be at once a complete disproof of its accuracy as a history of the past, and a proof of its accuracy as a prediction of the future. Of course he also remembers that the point he has to prove is that this passage is History and not Prediction; cxcviand his mode of proving is this; he assumes that it is a history of the past,—advancing as a charge against the believers of Revelation, that they do not, (as they would in any other history,) reject the genuineness of the passage because it embalms a future name in a past history! . . . This audacious, (for we cannot use a weaker word,) assumption of what he has to prove, pervades his Essay225225 Quarterly Review, No. 217, pp. 265-6..”
And thus, into whatever department of speculation we follow this writer, the tortuous path is still found to conduct us back to the same underlying fallacious assumption,—viz. that the Bible is like any other Book; in other words, is not inspired.
(γ) Persons in Mr. Jowett’s position, “find themselves met by a sort of presupposition that ‘God speaks not as Man speaks.’”—(p. 343.)
“A sort of presupposition,” indeed! . . . . Does the Reverend gentleman really expect that we will stoop so low as argue this point also with him? It shall suffice to have branded him with his own words.
“The suspicion of Deism, or perhaps of Atheism, awaits inquiry. By such fears, a good man (!) refuses to be influenced: a philosophical mind (!) is apt to cast them aside with too much bitterness. It is better to close the book, than to read it under conditions of thought which are imposed from without.” (p. 343.)
Well surely, the proximity to Balliol College of the scene of Crammer and Ridley’s martyrdom, must have turned the brain of the Regius Professor of Greek!—Let him be well assured however that not rational “Inquiry,” but irrational assumption; not the modest cogitations of “a philosophical mind,” but the arrogant dreams of a weak and confused intellect, are what have cxcviiexcited such general indignation of late, among “good men,” from one end of the Kingdom to the other. Nor could anything probably of equal pretensions be readily appealed to, which is nevertheless more truly unphilosophical, fallacious, and foolish, than the Essay now under consideration.
(iv) Subsequently, (p. 344,) Mr. Jowett professes to grapple with the phenomenon of Inspiration. His method is instructive. He begins by inadvertently advancing a direct untruth: for he asserts that for none “of the higher or supernatural views of Inspiration is there any foundation in the Gospels or Epistles.” (p. 345.)—Had he then forgotten St. Paul’s statements in Gal. i. 1, 11-17: ii. 2, 7-9. 1 Cor. xv. 3. Ephes. iii. 3, &c., &c.? But I have established the contradictory of the Professor’s position in the ensuing Sermons, p. 53 to p. 57, to which the reader must be referred.—This done, he proceeds to assert that,
(α) Inspiration does not preserve a writer from inaccuracy. And the charge is substantiated by the following ridiculous enumeration:—“One [Evangelist] supposes the original dwelling-place of our Lord’s Parents to have been Bethlehem226226 St. Matth. ii. 1, 22., another Nazareth227227 Luke ii. 41..” (This from a Lecturer on Divinity! Does Mr. Jewett then suppose that his readers have never opened the Gospels, and do not know better? Why, both his statements are simply false!)—“They trace His genealogy in different ways.” (Yes. In two. And why not in twenty? Is Mr. Jewett not aware that a genealogy may be differently traced through different ancestors?)—“One mentions the thieves blaspheming: another has preserved to after cxcviiiages the record of the penitent thief:” (And why should he not?)—“They appear to differ about the day and hour of the Crucifixion.” (Yes, they appear to differ: but they do not differ!)—“The narrative of the woman who anointed our Lord’s feet with ointment is told in all four, each narrative having more or less considerable variations.” (There is no conceivable reason why this should not have been as Mr. Jowett relates; but, as a matter of fact, we have here another of this Gentleman’s private blunders,—shewing what an uncritical reader he must be, of that book concerning which he presumes to dogmatize so freely.)—“These are a few instances of the differences which arose in the traditions of the earliest ages respecting the history of our Lord.” (Nay, but this is to beg the whole question!)—“He who wishes to investigate the character of the sacred writings should not be afraid to make a catalogue of them all, with the view of estimating their cumulative weight.” (p. 346.) (Truly, it would be well for Mr. Jewett if he had as little to fear from such “investigations” as the Evangelists!)
“In the same way, he who would understand the nature of Prophecy in the Old Testament, should have the courage to examine how far its details were minutely fulfilled. The absence of such a fulfilment may further lead him to discover that he took the letter for the spirit in expecting it.” (p. 347.) But really this is again simply to beg the whole question. Unbecoming in any writer, how absurd also is such a sentence from the pen of one who, (as we have lately seen,) no sooner descends to particulars than he makes himself ridiculous by betraying his own excessive ignorance. . . . “The letter for the spirit,” also! which cxcixis one of the ‘cant’ expressions of Mr. Jowett and his accomplices in ‘free handling,’—based evidently on a misconception of the meaning of 2 Cor. iii. 6. The contrast recurs at pp. 36, 357, 375, 425, &c., &c.
(β) Still bent on shewing that Inspiration does not secure Scripture from blots and blemishes, Mr. Jowett proceeds as follows. (I must present him to the reader, for a short space, in extenso; since by no other expedient can the complicated fallacies of his very intricate and perverse method be exposed.)
“Inspiration is a fact which we infer from the study of Scripture,—not of one portion only, but of the whole.” (p. 347.) (Now even this is not a correct way of stating the case. Still, because the words may bear an honourable sense, we pass on.)—“Obviously then, it embraces writings of very different kinds,—the book of Esther, for example, or the Song of Solomon, as well as the Gospel of St. John.” (That the volume of Inspiration is of this complex character, and that it embraces writings so diverse, is beyond dispute.)—“It is reconcileable with the mixed good and evil of the characters of the Old Testament, which. nevertheless does not exclude them from the favour of God.” (Why the Inspiration of a writer should not be ‘reconcileable’ with any amount of wickedness in the persons about whom he writes,—I am quite at a loss to perceive. Neither do I see why “the mixed good and evil” of certain “characters of the Old Testament,” (or of the New either,) should “exclude them from the favour of God.” What else becomes of your hope, and mine, of Eternal Life?)—“Inspiration is also reconcileable,” (he proceeds,)—“ with the attribution to the Divine Being of actions at variance with that higher revelation which He has given of Himself in cc the Gospel.” (Is this meant as an insult to “the Divine Being?” or simply as a slur on Revelation? Either way, we reject the charge with indignation228228 See Sermon VII., pp. 222-232..)—“It is not inconsistent with imperfect or opposite aspects of the Truth, as in the Book of Job or Ecclesiastes:” (Nothing which comes from God should be called “imperfect:” but why different aspects of the Truth should not be brought out, by different writers, as by St. Paul and by James,—it is hard to see.)—“With variations of fact in the Gospels, or the Books of Kings and Chronicles:” (We do not admit that Inspiration is consistent with “variations of fact;” but with different versions of the same incident, it is confessedly compatible.)—“With inaccuracies of language in the Epistles of St. Paul.” (With grammatical inelegancies, no doubt; but not with logical inaccuracies.)—“For these are all found in Scripture:” (This statement, by the way, should have been substantiated by at least as many references as there are heads in the indictment,)—“neither is there any reason why they should not be; except a general impression that Scripture ought to have been written in a way different from what it has.” (Just as if Mankind for 1800 years had been the victims of an à priori conception as to how Holy Scripture ought to have been written!)—“A principle of progressive revelation admits them all; and this is already contained in the words of our Saviour, ‘Moses because of the hardness of your hearts;’ or even in the Old Testament, ‘Henceforth there shall be no more this proverb in the house of Israel?’ “(O if Catholic writers were to expound Holy Scripture with the license of these gentlemen! . . . . That the scheme of Revelation has been progressive, is ccia Theological truism. What that has to do with the question in hand, I see not.)—“For what is progressive is necessarily imperfect in its earlier stages:” (“Imperfect” in what sense?)—“and even erring to those who come after.” (No, not in that sense imperfect, certainly!), . . . “There is no more reason why imperfect narratives should be excluded from Scripture than imperfect grammar; no more ground for expecting that the New Testament would be logical or Aristotelian in form, than that it would be written in Attic Greek.” (Now why this cloudy shuffling about “imperfect narratives,”—instead of saying what you mean, like a man! Further,—Is Mr. Jowett so weak as not to perceive that there is no force whatever in his supposed parallel? The Discourses of the Incarnate Son, for instance, are certainly anything but “Aristotelian in form.” His dialect,—(Angels bowed to catch it, I nothing doubt!)—was that of the despised Galilee. But need the teaching it conveyed have therefore been “imperfect?” Why may not the least perfect Greek be the vehicle for the more perfect Doctrine? What connexion is there between the casket and the jewel which it encloses?)
(γ) The Reverend writer promises us help, from “another consideration which has been neglected by writers on this subject.” (The announcement makes us attentive.)—“It is this,—that any true Doctrine of Inspiration must conform to all well-ascertained facts of History or of Science.” (We scarcely see the drift of this ill-worded proposition; but are disposed to assent.)—“The same fact cannot be true and untrue,” (Who ever supposed that it could?)—“any more than the same words can have two opposite meanings.” (But why glide at once into a gross falsity? cciiAre there not plenty of words and speeches, of the kind called ‘equivocal’ or ‘ambiguous,’ which are of this nature? I am content to refer this writer to his own pages, for the abundant refutation of his own assertion. No man in the world knows better than Mr. Jowett that “the same words can have two opposite meanings.”) “The same fact cannot be true in Religion, when seen by the light of Faith , and untrue in Science, when looked at through the medium of evidence or experiment.” (Why not? For example,—‘He maketh His Sun to rise.’ ‘If God so clothe the grass of the field.’ ‘God said, Let there be light.’ Who sees not that the view which Faith and which Physical Science respectively take of the same phenomenon, may essentially differ?)—“It is ridiculous to suppose that the Sun goes round the Earth in the same sense in which the Earth goes round the Sun;” (Very ridiculous.)—“or that the world appears to have existed, but has not existed, during the vast epochs of which Geology speaks to us.” (Leave out the words, “appears to have,” and this also is undeniable.)—“But if so, there is no need of elaborate reconcilements of Revelation and Science.” (How does that follow? If what is thought to be Divinely revealed, and what is thought to be scientifically ascertained, seem to be conflicting truths,—why should not an effort be made to reconcile them?) “They reconcile themselves the moment any scientific) truth is distinctly ascertained.” (Yes: by the Human simply trying to thrust the Divine out of doors !)” As the idea of Nature enlarges, the idea of Revelation also enlarges:” (I deny that there is any such intimate connexion as this author supposes between Physical Science and Divinity,)—“it was a temporary cciiimisunderstanding which severed them.” (But when were Nature and Revelation ever for an instant “severed?”)—“And as the knowledge of Nature which is possessed by the few is communicated in its leading features at least, to the many, they will receive it with a higher conception of the ways of God to Man. It may hereafter appear as natural to the majority of Mankind to see the Providence of Glop in the order of the world, as it once was to appeal to interruptions of it.” (p. 349.) (As if an increased knowledge of Nature were the condition of Theological enlightenment . . . . I presume that the latter clause,—so hazy and the reverse of obvious in its meaning!—is intended to convey the sentiment which Mr. Baden Powell expresses as follows:—“The inevitable progress of research must, within a longer or shorter period, unravel all that seems most marvellous; and what is at present least understood will become as familiarly known to the Science of the future, as those points which a few centuries ago were involved in equal obscurity, but now are thoroughly understood229229 Essays and Reviews, p. 109..”)
(δ) We are next informed “that there are a class of scientific facts with which popular opinions on Theology often conflict. . . . . Such especially are the facts relating to the formation of the Earth and the beginnings of the Human. Race.” (p. 349.) (And pray, what “facts “are these, relative to the “beginnings of the Human Race,” which conflict with Scripture?) . . . . “Almost all intelligent persons are agreed that the earth has existed for myriads of ages:” (Which is perfectly true.)—“The best informed are of opinion that the history of nations extends back some thousand cciv years before the Mosaic Chronology.” (Which is decidedly false.)—“Recent discoveries in Geology may perhaps open a further vista of existence for the human species; while it is possible, and may one day be known, that Mankind spread not from one but from many centres over the globe; or, (as others say,) that the supply of links which are at present wanting in the chain of animal life may lead to new conclusions respecting the origin of Man.” (A cool way, this, of anticipating that something which ‘may,’—(or may not!)—be discovered hereafter, will demonstrate that the beginning of the Bible is all a fable!)—“Now,” (proceeds our author,) “let it be granted that” “the proof of some of these facts, especially of those last-mentioned, is wanting; still it is a false policy to set up Inspiration or Revelation in opposition to them, a principle which can have no influence on them, and should be kept rather out of their way.” (Considerate man!) “The Sciences of Geology and comparative Philology are steadily gaining ground. Many of the guesses of twenty years ago have been certainties; and the guesses of to-day may hereafter become so. Shall we peril Religion (!) on the possibility of their untruth? on such a cast to stake the life of Man, implies not only a recklessness of facts (!), but a misunderstanding of the nature of the Gospel. If it is fortunate for Science, it is perhaps more fortunate for Christian Truth, that the admission of Galileo’s discovery has for ever settled the principle of the relations between them.”—(pp. 349-50.) .
Now, what a curious picture of a perverse and crooked mind does such a sentence exhibit Divine Revelation can “have no influence,” of course, on facts of any kind, (including facts in Physical Science,) ccvwhen once those facts have been well ascertained. But, in the entire absence of such facts, why should we refuse to listen to the well ascertained Revelation of God? Nothing is more emphatic, for example, than the Divine declaration that the whole Human family is derived from a single pair; and the origin of Man is plainly set down in Genesis. Why then oppose to this, the confessedly undiscovered fact that “mankind spread from many centres;” and the purely speculative possibility that, hereafter, a certain theory “may lead to new conclusions respecting the origin of Man?”—As for “Religion” being “perilled on the possibility” of the truth or untruth of the Sciences of Geology and comparative Philology;—we really would submit that God may be safely left to take care of His own; and that “peril,” there is,—there can be,—none!
And then, the maudlin tenderness of an “Essayist and Reviewer” (of all persons in the world!) for “the life of Man,”—meaning thereby his Christian hope, and Faith in the Redeemer! . . . As if, (first,) Man’s “Life” were in any sense endangered, by our upholding the honour and authority of the Bible! And (secondly,) as if the age had shewn itself in the least degree impatient of scientific investigation I And (thirdly,) as if Religion depended, or could be made to depend, on Physical phenomena, or on the progress of Natural Science, at all! . . . . I scruple not to say that arguments like these impress me with the meanest opinion of Mr. Jowett’s intellectual powers: while they prove to demonstration that he does not in the least understand the subject on which he yet writes with such feeble vehemence.
But I may not proceed any further, or my pages ccviwill equal in extent those of the gentleman already named. Indeed, to follow that most confused of thinkers, and crooked of disputants, through all his perverse pages; to expose his habitual paltry evasive dodging,—his shifting equivocations,—his misapplications of Scripture,—his unworthy insinuations,—his plaintive puerilities of thought and sentiment;—would require a thick volume.—If Mr. Jowett does not deny the Personality of the Holy Ghost, he ought to be thoroughly ashamed of himself for penning sentences which can lead to no other inference. For he ought to know that when men talk of words “receiving a more exact meaning than they will truly bear;” and of what “is spoken in a figure being construed with the severity of a logical statement, while passages of an opposite tenour are overlooked or set aside:”—(p. 360.) men mean to repudiate the doctrine which those words are thought to convey; not to imply their acceptance of it.—So again, if Mr. Jowett holds the doctrine of Original Sin, he ought to be heartily ashamed of himself for having insinuated that it depends “on two figurative expressions of St. Paul to which there is no parallel in any other part of Scripture.” (p. 361.)—Nor, however moderate his attainments as a teacher of Divinity, ought he to be capable of putting forth such a notorious misstatement as that the doctrine of Infant Baptism rests upon a verse in the Acts (xvi. 33,)—which verse has really nothing whatever to do with the question230230 See Dr. Moberly, (as before,) p. lv-lx.. (p. 360.)
Professor Jowett shuts up his Essay with a passage which, for a certain amount of tender pathos in the sentiment, has been often quoted, and sometimes admired. He says:—ccvii
“The suspicion or difficulty which attends critical inquiries is no reason for doubting their value. The Scripture nowhere leads us to suppose that the circumstance of all men speaking well of us is any ground for supposing that we are acceptable in the sight of God. And there is no reason why the condemnation of others should be witnessed to by our own conscience. Perhaps it may be true that, owing to the jealousy or fear of some, the reticence of others, the terrorism of a few, we may not always find it easy to regard these subjects with calmness and judgment. But, on the other hand, these accidental circumstances have nothing to do with the question at issue; they cannot have the slightest influence on the meaning of words, or on the truth of facts. . . .
“Lastly, there is some nobler idea of truth than is supplied by the opinion of mankind in general, or the voice of parties in a Church. Every one, whether a student of Theology or not, has need to make war against his prejudices no less than against his passions; and, in the religious teacher, the first is even more necessary than the last. . . . . He who takes the prevailing opinions of Christians and decks them out in their gayest colours,—who reflects the better mind of the world to itself—is likely to be its favourite teacher. In that ministry of the Gospel, even when assuming forms repulsive to persons of education (!), no doubt the good is far greater than the error or harm. But there is also a deeper work which is not dependent on the opinions of men, in which many elements combine, some alien to Religion, or accidentally at variance with it. That work can hardly expect to win much popular favour, so far as it runs counter to the feelings of religious parties. But he who bears a ccviiipart in it may feel a confidence, which no popular caresses or religious sympathy could inspire, that he has by a Divine help been enabled to plant his foot somewhere beyond the waves of Time. He may depart hence before the natural term, worn out with intellectual toil; regarded with suspicion by many of his contemporaries; yet not without a sure hope that the love of Truth, which men of saintly lives often seem to slight, is, nevertheless, accepted before God.”—(pp. 432-3.)
My respect for a fellow-man induces me to offer a few remarks on all this.
Let me be permitted then to declare that I am as incapable as any one who ever breathed the air of this lower world, of making light of the sentiments of true genius. I can respond with my whole heart to the passion-stricken cry of one who, when “regarded with suspicion by many of his contemporaries,” is observed to hail his fellows with confidence, across the gulph of Time; and as it were implore them, after many days, to do him right. Nay, were I to behold a man of splendid, but misguided powers, elaborating from God’s Word a plausible system of his own, whereby to bring back the Golden Age to suffering Humanity; and insisting that he beheld in the common revelations of the Spirit, the unsuspected outlines of such a form of polity as Man never dreamed of,—(nor, it may be, Angels either;)—I should experience a kind of generous sympathy with this bright-eyed enthusiast; even while I proceeded to test his wild dream by what I believed to be the standard of right Reason. Then, as the specious fabric was seen suddenly to collapse and melt away, should I not, with affectionate sorrow, secretly mourn that such brilliant parts had not been ccixenlisted on the side of Truth? and feel as if I could have been content to go about for life maimed in body, or hopelessly impoverished in estate, if so great a disaster could but have been prevented as the loss of one who ought to have been a standard-bearer in Israel?
Once more. Although the cold shade of unbelief has never for an instant, (thank God!) darkened my spirit; so that one may not be very apt to sympathize with men who walk about hampered with a doubt; yet, were one to know, (as one has often known,—too often, alas!) that the arrow was rankling in a friend’s heart,—who by consequence shunned the society of his fellows, and walked in moody abstraction,—looking as if life had lost its charm, and as if nothing on the earth’s surface were any longer to him a joy;—would one not be the first to go after such a sufferer; and seek whether a firm hand and steady eye might not avail to extract the poisoned shaft? If that might not be, at least by daily acts of unaltered kindness, and the ways which brotherly sympathy suggests, who would not strive to recover such an one? If all other arts proved unavailing, it would remain for a man with the ordinary instincts of humanity, in silence and sorrow at least, to look on, while the solitary doubter was paying the bitter penalty,—doubtless, of his sin.
But how widely different,—rather, how utterly dissimilar,—is the phenomenon before us! Here is a singularly confused and shallow thinker oppressed with the vastness of his discovery, that the Bible—has nothing in it! Here is a Clergyman of the Church of England, and a Lecturer in Divinity, whose difficulty is how he shall convince the world that the Bible is—like any other book! Here is the sceptical ccxfellow of a College, conspiring with six others, to produce a volume of which Germany itself, (having changed its mind,) would already be ashamed! . . . Mr. Jowett is enthusiastic for a negation! Without belief himself, he cannot rest because Christendom has, on the whole, a good deal of belief remaining! If he may but unsettle somebody’s mind,—his Essay will have achieved its purpose, and its author will not have lived in vain! . . . Sublime privilege for “the only man in the University of Oxford who” is said to “exercise a moral and spiritual influence at all corresponding to that which was once wielded by John Henry Newman231231 Edinburgh Review, (April, 1861,) p. 476.!”
I shall be thought a very profane person, I dare say, by the friends and apologists of Mr. Jowett, if I avow that the passage with which he concludes his Essay, instead of sounding in my ears like the plaintive death-song of departing Genius, sounds to me like nothing so much as the piteous whine of a schoolboy who knows that he deserves chastisement, and perceives that he is about to experience his deserts. System, or Theory, the Reverend Gentleman has none to propose. Views, except negative ones, Mr. Jowett is altogether guiltless of. Can anybody in his senses suppose that a man “has, by a Divine help (!), been enabled to plant his foot somewhere beyond the waves of Time,” (p. 433,) who doubts everything, and believes nothing? Can any one of sane mind dream that posterity will come to the rescue of a man who, when he is asked for his story, rejoins, (with a well-known needy mechanic,) that he has “none to tell, Sir?” What then is posterity to vindicate? What has the Regius Professor of Greek written so many ccxiweak pages to prove? Just nothing! If Mr. Jowett’s Essay could enforce the message it carries, the result would simply be that the world would become disbelievers in the Inspiration of the Bible: they would disbelieve that Scripture has any sense but that which lies on the surface: they would therefore disbelieve the Prophets and Evangelists and Apostles of Christ: they would disbelieve the words of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself! . . . Has Mr. Jowett, then, grown grey under the laborious process of arriving at this series of negations? When he anticipates “departing hence before the natural term,” does he mean that he is “worn out with the intellectual toil” of propounding nothing! and that he expects the sympathy and gratitude of posterity for what he has propounded?
But this is not all. Instead of coining abroad, (if come abroad he must,) in that garb of humility which befits doubt,—that self-distrust which becomes one whose fault, or whose misfortune it is, that he simply cannot believe,—Mr. Jewett assumes throughout, the insolent air of intellectual superiority the tone of one at whose bidding Theology must absolutely ‘keep moving.’ A truncheon and a number on his collar, alone seem wanting. The menacing voice, and authoritative air, are certainly not away,—as I proceed to shew.
“It may be observed that a change in some of the prevailing modes of Interpretation, is not so much a matter of expediency as of necessity. The original meaning of Scripture is beginning to be understood.” (p. 418.)
“Criticism has far more power than it formerly had. It has spread itself over ancient, and even modern history. . . . Whether Scripture can be made an exception ccxii to other ancient writings, now that the nature of both is more understood; whether . . . the views of the last century will hold out,—these are questions respecting which” (p. 420.) it is hard to judge.
“It has to be considered whether the intellectual forms under which Christianity has been described, may not also be in a state of transition.” (p. 420.)
“Now, as the Interpretation of Scripture is receiving another character, it seems that distinctions of Theology which were in great measure based on old Interpretations, are beginning to fade away.” . . . “There are other signs that times are changing, and we are changing too.” (p. 421.)
“These reflections bring us back to the question with which we began,—What effect will the critical Interpretation of Scripture have on Theology?” (p. 422.)
Again:—“As the time has come when it is no longer possible to ignore the results of criticism, it is of importance that Christianity should be seen to be in harmony with them.” (p. 374.) (The sentences which immediately follow shall be exhibited in distinct paragraphs, in order that they may separately enjoy admiration. Each is a gem or a curiosity in its way.)
“That objections to some received views should be valid, and yet that they should be always held up as the objections of Infidels,—is a mischief to the Christian cause.”
“It is a mischief that critical observations which tiny intelligent man can. make for himself (!), should be ascribed to Atheism or Unbelief.”
“It would be a strange and almost incredible thing that the Gospel, which at first made war only on the vices of mankind, should now be opposed to one of the highest and rarest of human virtues,—the love of Truth.”ccxiii
“And that in the present day the great object of Christianity should be, not to change the lives of men, but to prevent them from changing their opinions; that would be a singular inversion of the purposes for which Christ came into the world.”
We are really constrained to pause for a moment, and to inquire what this last sentence means. Are not “the lives of men” mainly dependent on “their opinions?” Why then contrast the two? And which of our “opinions” does Mr. Jowett desire to see changed? Would he have us resign our belief in the Atonement? reject the Divinity of Christ? deny the Personality of the Holy Ghost? put the Bible on a level with Sophocles and Plato? ridicule the idea of Inspiration? . . . How would it be a “singular inversion of the purposes of Christ’s Coming,” that Christianity should “prevent” mankind from “changing” such “opinions” as these?
“The Christian religion is in a false position when all the tendencies of knowledge are opposed to it.” (All the tendencies of knowledge, then, are opposed to the Christian Religion!)
“Such a position cannot be long maintained, or can only end in the withdrawal of the educated classes from the influences of Religion.” (So we are to look for “the withdrawal of the educated classes from the influences of Religion232232 The Rev. H. B. Wilson says,—“If those who distinguish themselves in Science and Literature cannot, in a scientific and literary age, be effectually and cordially attached to the Church of their nation, they must sooner or later be driven into a position of hostility to it.” (p. 198.) This is one of the many notes, if not of “concert and comparison,” at least of intense sympathy between the Essayists and Reviewers.!”)cciv
After anticipating “religious dissolution,” because of “the progress of ideas, (!) with which Christian teachers seem to be ill at ease,” (!) Mr. Jowett, (who we presume is speaking of himself,) says, “Time was when the Gospel was before the Age:” (The Gospel is therefore now behind the age!)—“when the difficulties of Christianity were difficulties of the heart only:” (When was that?)—“and the highest minds found in its truths not only the rule of their lives, but a wellspring of intellectual delight.” (All this then has ceased to be the case! “The highest minds” being of course represented by—Mr. Jowett!)
“Is it to be held a thing impossible that the Christian Religion, instead of shrinking into itself, (!) may again embrace the thoughts of men upon the earth?” (that is to say, “embrace the thoughts” of—Mr. Jowett!)—“Or is it true that since the Reformation ‘all intellect has gone the other way?’”
“But for the faith that the Gospel might win again the minds of intellectual men,” (such men as Mr. Jowett?)—“it would be better to leave Religion to itself, instead of attempting to draw them together.” (p. 376.)
Now this kind of language, in daily life, would be called sheer impertinence; and the person who could talk so before educated gentlemen would probably receive an intimation that he was making himself offensive. He would certainly be looked upon as a weak and conceited person. I really am unable to see why things should be written and printed which no one would presume to say! . . . Encircled by a little atmosphere of fog of his own creating, Mr. Jowett is evidently under the delusion that his own confused vision and misty language are the result of the giddy ccxveminence to which, (leaving his fellow-mortals far behind him,) he has contrived, all alone, to soar. He anticipates the complaint of some unhappy disciple, that he “experiences a sort of shrinking or dizziness at the prospect which is opening before him:” whereupon Mr. Jowett invites the “highly educated young man,” (p. 373,) to consider “that he may possibly not be the person who is called upon to pursue such inquiries.” Who are they for, then? “No man should busy himself with them who has not clearness of mind enough to see things as they are.” (p. 430.) The clearness of mind, for example, which belongs to Mr. Jowett!
True enough it is that had such airs been assumed by such an one as Richard Hooker, who achieved the first four books of his ‘Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity’ before he was 40; and dying in his 46th year, proved himself to be the greatest genius of his age:—had language like Mr. Jowett’s been found on the lips of Joseph Butler, who when he was 44 produced his immortal ‘Analagy,’ and at the age of 26 delivered his famous Rolls ’Sermons:’—had Bishop Bull been betrayed into the language of self-complacency when, at the age of 35, he made himself famous by his ‘Harmonia Apostolica:’—the proceeding would have been intelligible, however much one might have lamented such an exhibition of weakness. . . . But when the speaker proves to be one of the very shallowest of thinkers, and most confused of reasoners;—a man who, although grey-headed, has done nothing whatever for Literature, sacred or profane;—nor indeed is known out of Oxford except for having been thought to deny the Doctrine of the Atonement;—a man who dogmatizes in a Science of which he clearly does ccxvinot know so much as the very alphabet; and presumes to dispute about a Bible which he has evidently not read With the attention which is due even to a first-rate uninspired book;—then, one’s displeasure and impatience assume the form of indignation and disgust. The Divine who, purposing to prove that Holy Scripture is in kind like any other book, does so by inveighing against those who treat it differently; and indeed, on every occasion, assumes as proved the thing he has to prove233233 Quarterly Review, No. 217, p. 266.:—is obviously the very man to vaunt the privileges of the intellect. The student of the Bible who mistakes the utterance of a lying prophet for the language of Amos, and then boldly charges the lie upon the inspired author of a book of Canonical Scripture;—is of course a proper person to discuss the Prophetic Canon. The gentleman who flatters himself that he has been sweeping the house to find the pearl of great price, (p. 414,) is a very pretty person, truly, to lecture about the Gospel! . . . I forbear reproaching Mr. Jewett with his invariable misapplications or misapprehensions of the meaning of Scripture: his false glosses, and truly preposterous specimens of exegesis234234 See at pp. 351, 352, 357, 358, 361, 365, 367, 413, &c.. I am content to take leave of him, while he is flattering himself that he has “found the pearl of great price, after sweeping the house:” (p. 414:) and under that melancholy delusion, I fear he must be left,—holding the broom in his hands.
On a review of these Seven Essays, few things strike one more forcibly than the utterly untenable ground occupied by their authors. They are “in a position ccxviiin which it is impossible to remain. The theory of Mr. Jewett and his fellows is as false to philosophy as to the Church of England. More may be true, or less; but to attempt to halt where they would stop is a simple absurdity235235 Quarterly Review, as before, p. 282..”
To exactness of method or System, their work can hardly pretend; and yet they have a system,—which has only not been rounded into symmetry, by the singular circumstance that these seven writers “have written in entire independence of one another, and without concert or comparison.” They avow a common purpose, however; for they “hope” that their joint labours “will be received as an attempt to illustrate,” (whatever that may mean,) “the advantage derivable to the cause of Religion and Moral Truth” from what they have here attempted; and which they justly characterize as “free handling.” Putting oneself in their position, it is easy to imagine the sorrow and concern,—the horror rather,—with which a good man, when the first edition of ‘Essays and Reviews’ made its appearance, would have discovered the kind of complicity into which he had been inadvertently betrayed; and how eagerly he would have withdrawn from a literary partnership which had resulted so disastrously. At the end of nine largo editions, however, the corporate responsibility of each individual author has become fully established; and besides the many proofs of sympathy between the several authors which these pages contain236236 Take a few instances:—Mr. Wilson and Mr. Jowett speak of the Gospels as more or less accurately embodying a common tradition, pp. 161 and 346.—Dr. Temple and Mr. Jowett propose the heart and conscience, as the overruling principle, pp. 42-5, and 410:—and insist that the Bible is “a Spirit, not a Letter,” pp. 36 and 357, 375, 425.—Dr. Temple and Dr. Williams regard the Bible as the voice of conscience, pp. 45 and 78:—look for a verifying faculty in the individual, pp. 45 and 83:—dwell on the “interpolations” in Scripture, pp. 47 and 78.—Mr. Wilson and Mr. Jowett insist on the meaning which Scripture had to those who first heard it, as its true meaning, pp. 219, 223, 230, 232, and 338, 378:—on the necessity of reconciling Intellectual men to Scripture, pp. 198 and 374.—Professor Powell and Mr. Jowett are of one mind as to Miracles, pp. 109 and 349.—Dr. Temple and Mr. Jowett delight in the same image of the Colossal Man, pp. 1-49 and 331, 387, 422.—Dr. Williams and Mr. Jowett coincide in their estimate of the German Commentators, pp. 67 and 340.—Dr. Temple and Dr. Williams are of one mind as to the past training of our Race, pp. 1-49, and 51. They are generally agreed as to the untrustworthiness of Genesis, and of the Scripture generally, the hopeless contradictions between the Evangelists, &c., &c. They hold the same language about our having outlived the Faith, (‘Traditional Christianity,’ as it is called;) the impossibility of freedom of thought; the necessity of providing some new Religious system; the effete nature of Creeds and formularies of Belief; the advance in Natural Science as likely to prove fatal to Theology, &c., &c., it is no longer doubtful ccxviiithat the sentiments of the work are to be quoted without reference to the individual writers. It would be unfair to assume that not one of these seven men has had the manliness to avow that his own individual convictions are opposed to those of his fellows. We are compelled to regard their joint labours as one production. It is the corporate efficacy of the several contributions which constitutes the chief criminality of the volume. It is to the respectability and weight of the combined names of its authors, and to their combined efforts, that ‘Essays and Reviews’ are indebted for all their power.
What then is the system, or theory, or view, advocated by these seven Authors?—They are all agreed that we are “placed evidently at an epoch when ccxixHumanity finds itself under new conditions, to form some definite conception to ourselves of the way in which Christianity is henceforward to act upon the world which is our own.” (p. 158.) To do this, we must emerge from our “narrow chamber of Doctrinal and Ecclesiastical prepossessions.” (Ibid.) Accordingly, we find insinuated “a very wide-spread alienation, both in educated and uneducated persons, from the Christianity which is ordinarily presented in our Churches and Chapels.” (p. 150.) There has been a spontaneous recoil.” (p. 151.) We cannot “resist the tide of civilization on which we are borne.” (p. 412.) “The time has come when it is no longer possible to ignore the results of criticism.” It is therefore “of importance that Christianity should be seen to be in harmony with them.” (p. 374.) “The arguments of our genuine critics, with the Convictions of our most learned clergy” (p.66) are all opposed to the actual teaching of the Church. Meantime, “the Christian Religion is in a false position when all the tendencies of knowledge are opposed to it.” (p. 374.) “Time was when the Gospel was before the age: . . . when the highest minds found in its truths not only the rule of their lives, but a well-spring of intellectual delight. Is it to be held a thing impossible that the Christian Religion may again embrace the thoughts of men upon the earth?” (pp. 374-5.)
In the mean time, the Bible is a stubborn fact in the way of the new Religion. Nay, the English Book of Common Prayer is a great hindrance for those “formulæ of past thinkings, have long lost all sense of any kind;” (p. 297;) so that the Prayer-book “is on the way to become a useless encumbrance, the rubbish of the past, blocking the road.” (Ibid.) But the ccxxPrayer-book confessedly stands on a different footing from the Bible. The Bible erects itself hopelessly in the way of “the negative religion.” (p. 151.) O those many prophecies, which for 4000 long years sustained the faith of God’s chosen people, and at last found fulfilment in the person of Christ, or in the circumstances which attended the establishment of His Kingdom! O that glorious retinue of types and shadows which heralded Messiah’s approach! . . . And then,—O the miraculous evidence which attested to the reality of His Divinity237237 See St. John iii. 2: v. 36: x. 25, 37-8: xiv. 11: xv. 24: St. Luke vii. 20-22, &c., &c.! O the confirmation, (to those who needed it,) when He walked the water, and stilled the storm, and cast out devils by His word, and by one strong cry broke the gates of Death, and caused Lazarus to “Come forth!” . . . O the solemn independent testimony borne by Creeds, from the very birthday of Christianity,—(whether planted in Syria or in Asia Minor, in Africa or in Italy, in Greece or in Gaul; “in Germany or in Spain, among the Celts or in the far East, in Egypt or in Libya, or in the middle regions of the globe238238 Creed of Lyons, A.D. 180; see above, p. clxxx., note..”) Lastly,—O the adoring voice of the whole Church Catholic throughout the world, for many a succeeding century,—translating, expounding, defining, explaining, defending to the death! . . . How shall all this formidable mass of evidence possibly be set aside?
It is plain that Prophecy must be evacuated of its meaning; or rather, must be denied entirely: and to do this, falls to the share of the vulgar awl violent Vice-Principal of Lampeter College. Disprove he cannot; so he sneers and rails and blusters instead. Prophecy, he calls “omniscience;” “a notion of foresight ccxxiby vision of particulars;” (p. 70;) “a kind of clairvoyance,” (p. 70,) and “literal prognostication.” (p. 65.) Mr. Jowett (as we have lately seen239239 pp. cxciv.-v.,) lends plaintive help: but indeed Dr. Williams does not lack supporters.
To deny the truth of Miracles falls to the lot of the Savilian Professor of Astronomy. His method has the merit of extreme simplicity: for it is based on the ground that, in the writer’s opinion, Miracles are impossible,—which of course must be held to be decisive of the question.
The battle against the Inspiration of the Word of God is reserved for the Regius Professor of Greek; who requires for his purpose twice the space of any of his fellows. His method is also of the simplest kind, when divested of its many encumbrances. He simply assumes it as proved that the Bible is a book not essentially different from Sophocles and Plato. In other words he assumes that the Bible is not inspired; and reproaches, pities, or sneers at every one who is not of his opinion.
In the meantime, What is Prophecy? What are Miracles? Of what sort is that Bible which has imposed upon mankind so grossly, and so long? They are facts, and must be explained. What are they? Prophecy, then, is “only the power of seeing the ideal in the actual, or of tracing the Divine Government in the movements of men.” (p. 70.) As for Miracles, “their evidential force is wholly relative to the apprehensions of the parties addressed. . . . Columbus’ prediction of the Eclipse to the native islanders,” (p. 115,) is advanced as an illustration of the nature of the argument from. Miracles. By whatever method ccxxiithe Bible has attained its present footing in the world, it is a book which has been hitherto misunderstood; and it must plainly be dealt with after a new fashion. Our Lord’s Incarnation, Temptation, Death and Burial, Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven,—all His Miracles, in short, will be best interpreted Ideologically; in other words, by a principle “which resolves into an ideal the whole of the historical and doctrinal person of Jesus.” (p. 200.) So interpreted, “the Gospel may win again the minds of intellectual men;” (p. 376;) but it will find it no easy matter. There is in fact “a higher wisdom” than the Gospel, “which is known to those who are perfect,”—“that reconcilement,” namely, “of Faith and Knowledge which may be termed Christian Philosophy.” (p. 413.)
The great object, in short, is to bring about “a reconciliation” (p. 375,) between “the minds of intellectual men” (p. 376,) and Christianity. Such a reconciliation is to be regarded as a “restoration of belief.” (p. 375.) And it is ‘to be effected by “taking away some of the external supports, because they are not needed and do harm: also because they interfere with the meaning.” (p. 375.)—Those “external supports” are (1) a belief in the Inspiration of the Bible;—(2) the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church;—(3) Creeds and the decisions of Councils ,—(4) the works of Anglican Divines;—(5) Learning; (p. 337;)—(6) a profound acquaintance with the Greek language; (p. 393;)—(7) a minute knowledge of Greek Grammar; (p. 391;)—(8) the Doctrine of the Greek Article;—(9) the free use of the parallel passages. . . . The Bible, when interpreted by any self-relying young man who knows a little Greek, and attends to the meaning of words,—will be ccxxiiiseen in all the freshness of its early beauty, like an old picture which has been recently cleaned. “A new interest” will be excited by this new Bible, which will “make for itself a new kind of authority.” By being thus literally interpreted, it will be transformed into “a spirit.” Then, (but not before) the Bible will enjoy the sublime satisfaction of keeping pace with the Age. It may so, even yet, “embrace the thoughts of men upon the earth.”
But what kind of thing will this Bible be? The beginning of Genesis, (pp. 207-253,) is to be rejected because it “is not an authentic utterance of Divine knowledge, but a human utterance, which it has pleased Providence to use in a special way for the education of mankind.” (p. 253.) We are invited to “a frank recognition of the erroneous views of Nature which the Bible contains.” (p. 211.) Thus, all miraculous transactions will have to be explained away. The volume of Prophecy will have to be regarded as a volume of History. The very History will have to be read with distrust. Like other records, it is subject to the conditions of “knowledge which existed in an early stage of the world.” (p. 411.) It does not even begin to be authentic, until B.C. 1900; or rather, until B.C. 900240240 See pp. 57 and 170.. What remains is to be looked upon as “the continuous witness in all ages of the higher things in the heart of man,” (p. 375,)—(whatever that may happen to mean.) The Gospel is to be looked upon as “a life of Christ in the soul, instead of a theory of Christ which is in a book, or written down,” (p. 423.) “The lessons of Scripture, when disengaged from theological formulas, have a nearer way to the hearts of the poor.” (p. 424.) Even “in ccxxivMissions to the heathen, Scripture is to be treated as the expression of universal truths, rather than of the tenets of particular men and Churches.” (p. 423.) It is anticipated that this “would remove many obstacles to the reception of Christianity.” (Ibid.) “It is not the Book of Scripture which we should seek to give the heathen;” “but the truth of the Book; the mind of Christ and His Apostles, in which all lesser details and differences should be lost and absorbed;” “the purer light or element of Religion, of which Christianity is the expression.” (p. 427.) . . . . Such is the ghostly phantom, by the aid of which the Heathen are to become evangelized!
But this historical Bible is not to be regarded as the rule of a man’s life, or indeed as an external Law at all. (pp. 36, 45.) “We walk now by Reason and Conscience alone.” (p. 21.) The Bible is to be identified “with the voice of Conscience,” (p. 45,)—which it has “to evoke, not to override.” (p. 44.) “The principle of private judgment . . . makes Conscience the supreme interpreter.” (p. 45.) Ours is “a law which is not imposed upon us by another power, but by our own enlightened will:” (p. 35:) for the “Spirit, or Conscience” “legislates” henceforth “without appeal except to himself.” (p. 31.)
Having thus disposed of “Traditional Christianity,” (p. 1560 it is not obscurely hinted that something quite different is to be substituted in its place. And first, next to “a frank appeal to Reason, and a frank criticism of Scripture,” (p. 174,) the nature and “office of the Church is to be properly understood.” (p. 194.)
The Church then is a spontaneous development of the State, as “part of its own organization,” (p. 195,)ccxxv—a purely secular Institution. The State will “develop itself into a Church” by “throwing its elements, or the best of them, into another mould; and constituting out of them a Society, which is in it, though in some sense not of it (?),—which is another (?), yet the same.” (p. 194.) The nation must provide, from time to time, that the teaching of one age does “not traditionally harden, so as to become an exclusive barrier in a subsequent one; and so the moral growth of those who are committed to the hands of the Church be checked.” (Ibid.) The Church is founded, therefore, not upon “tile possession of a supernaturally communicated speculation (!) concerning God,” but “upon the manifestation of a Divine Life in Man.” “Speculative doctrines should be left to philosophical schools. A national Church must be concerned with the ethical development of its members.” (p. 195.) It should be “free from dogmatic tests, and similar intellectual bondage;” (p. 168;) hampered by no Doctrines, pledged to no Creeds. These may be retained indeed; but “we refuse to be bound by them.” (p. 4d.) The Subscription of the Clergy to the Articles should also be abolished: for “no promise can reach fluctuations of opinion, and personal conviction.” (!!!) Open heretical teaching may, to be sure, be dealt with by the Law; but the Law “should not require any act which appears to signify ‘I think.’” (p. 189.) Witness “the reluctance of the stronger minds to enter an Order in which their intellects may not have free play.” (p. 190.) . . . Such then is the Negative Religion! Such is the new faith which Doctors Temple and Williams, Professors Powell and Jowett, Messieurs Wilson, Goodwin, and Pattison, have deliberately combined to offer to the acceptance of the World!ccxxvi
It is high time to conclude. I cannot lay down my pen however until I have re-echoed the sentiments of one with whom I heartily agree. I allude to Dr. Moberly; who professes that he is “struck almost more with what seems to him the hardheartedness, and exceeding unkindness of this book, than with its unsoundness. Have the writers,” (he asks,) “considered how far the suggesting of innumerable doubts,—doubts unargued and unproved,—will check honest devotion, and embolden timid sin? For whom do they intend this book? Is it written for the mass of general readers? Is it designed for students at the Universities? Do they suppose that this multitude of random suggestions will be carefully wrought out by these readers, and be rejected if unsound; so as to leave their faith and devotion untarnished? . . . Have they reflected how many souls for whom Christ died may be slain in their weakness by their self-styled strength?”
“Suppose, for a moment, that the Holy Scriptures are (p. 177,) the Word of the Spirit of Gov,—that the Miracles, (cf. p. 109,) including the Resurrection of Christ, are actual objective facts, which have really happened,—that the Doctrines of the Church are true, (p. 195,) and the Creeds (p. 355,) the authoritative expositions of them,—and that men are to reach Salvation through faith in Christ, Virgin-born, according to the Scriptures, and making atonement (cf. p. 87,) for their sins upon the Cross. On this supposition,—Is not the publication of this book an act of real hostility to God’s Truth; and one which endangers the Faith and Salvation of Men? And is this hostility less real, or the danger diminished, because the writers are, all but one, Clergymen, some of them Tutors and Schoolmasters; ccxxviibecause they wear the dress, and use the language of friends, and threaten us with bitter opposition if we do not regard them as such241241 Some Remarks, &c., pp. xxiii.-xxv.?”
With this I lay down my pen. My last words shall be simple and affectionate, addressed solely to yourselves.
I trace these concluding lines,—(of a work which, but for you, would never have been undertaken,)—in a quite empty College; and in the room where we have so often and so happily met on Sunday evenings. Can you wonder if, at the conclusion of what has proved rather a heavy task, (so hateful to me is controversy,) my thoughts revert with affectionate solicitude to yourselves, already scattered in all directions; and to those evenings which more, I think, than any other thing, have gilded my College life? . . . In thus sending you a written farewell, and praying from my soul that God may bless and keep you all, I cannot suppress the earnest entreaty that you would remember the best words of counsel which may have at any time fallen from my lips: that you would persevere in the daily study of the pure Book of Life; and that you would read it, not as feeling yourselves called upon to sit in judgment on its adorable contents; but rather, as men who are permitted to draw near; and invited to listen, and to learn, and to live. And so farewell! . . . “Watch ye, stand fast in the Faith,”—nay, take it in the original, which is far better:—Γρηγορεῖτε, στήκετε ἐν τῇ πίστει, ἀνδρίζεσθε, ccxxviiiκραταιοῦσθε. πάντα ὑμῶν ἐν ἀγάπῃ γινέσθω. Ἡ χάρις τοῦ Κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ μεθ᾽ ὑμῶν. ἡ ἀγάπη μου μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν.
J. W. B.
June 22nd, 1861.ccxxix
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