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THE DOCTRINE OF ARBITRARY SCRIPTURAL ACCOMMODATION CONSIDERED.
“But the Righteousness which is of Faith speaketh on this wise,—‘Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into Heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) or, ‘Who shall descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? ‘The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth; and in thine heart:’ that is, the word of Faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
IT is quite marvellous in how many different ways different classes of professing Christians have contrived to nullify the value of their admission that the Bible is inspired. Some would distinguish the inspiration of the Historical Book from that of those which we call Prophetical. Others profess to lay their finger on what are the proper subjects of Inspiration, and what are not. Some are for a general superintending guidance which yet did not effectually guide; while others represent the sacred Writers as subject, in what they delivered, to the conditions of knowledge in the ago where their lot was cast. The view of Inspiration which Scripture itself gives us,—namely, that God is therein 184 speaking by human lips525525 See above, pp. 55-7.; so that ‘holy men of God’ delivered themselves as they were ‘impelled,’ ‘borne along,’ or lifted up,’ (φερόμενοι) by the Holy Ghost526526 2 St. Pet. i. 21.;—this plain account of the, matter, I say, which converts ‘all Scripture’ into something ‘breathed into by God,’ (θεόπνευστος,)527527 See above, pp. 53-4.—men are singularly slow to acknowledge. The methods which they have devised in order to escape from so plain a revealed Truth, are ‘Legion.’
Second to none of the enemies of Holy Writ, practically, are they who deny its depth and fulness. It is only another, and a more ingenious way, of denying the Inspiration of the Bible, to evacuate its more mysterious statements. Those who are for eluding the secondary intention of Prophecy, the obviously mystical teaching of Types, the allegorical character of many a sacred Narrative,—are no less dangerous enemies of God’s Word than those who frame unworthy theories in order to dwarf Inspiration to the standard of their own conceptions of its nature and office. I say, it is only another way of denying the Inspiration of Scripture, to deny what is sometimes called its mystical, sometimes its typical, sometimes its allegorical sense. . . . . And thus,—what with the arbitrary decrees of our own unsupported opinion, or the self-sufficient exercise of our own supposed discernment;—what with our insolent mistrust; or our shortsighted folly and presumption; or, lastly, our coldness and deadness of heart,—our slender appetite for Divine things, which makes us yearn back after Earth, at the very open gate of Heaven;—in one way or other, I repeat, we contrive to evacuate our own 185admission that the Bible is an inspired Book: we fasten discredit on its every page: we become profane men, like Esau: we despise our birthright.
But the most subtle enemy of all remains yet to be noticed. It is he, who,—finding the plain Word of God against him: finding himself refuted in his endeavour to fix one intention only on the words of the Holy Ghost, and that intention, the most obvious and literal one; finding himself refuted even by the express revelation of the same Holy Ghost; elsewhere delivered;—bends himself straightway to resist, and explain away, that later revelation of what was the earlier meaning. It is a marvellous thing but so it is, that the very man who contended so stoutly a moment ago for the literal meaning of Scripture, now refuses, and denies it. Anything but that! If he allows that St. Matthew, or St. Paul,—yea, or even our Blessed Lord Himself,—are to be literally understood; are severally to be taken to mean what they say;—then, Moses and David,—narrative, law, and psalm,—besides their literal meaning, have, at least sometimes,—and they may have always,—a mystical meaning also. Under the evident, palpable signification of the words, there lies concealed something grander, and deeper, and broader; high as Heaven,—deep as Hell.
And this supposition is so monstrous an one; seems so derogatory to their notions of the mind of God;—it is deemed so improbable a thing, that the words of Him, whose ways are not like Man’s ways, should span the present and the future, at a grasp;—that He whose “thoughts are very deep,” should, with language thereto corresponding, be setting forth Christ and His Redemption, while He tells of Patriarchs and 186Lawgivers,—Judges and Kings,—priests and prophets of the Lord:—I say, it is deemed so incredible a thing that Moses should have written concerning Christ, (though our Saviour Christ Himself declares that Moses did write concerning Him)528528 See above, pp. 157-160.; or that the occasional expressions of the Prophets should really contain the far-reaching allusions which in the New Testament are assigned to them; that the men I speak of,—men of learning (sometimes), and of piety too,—will condescend to every imaginable artifice in order to escape the cogency of the Divine statement. St. Paul—was infected with the Hebrew method of interpretation. (It is of course assumed that this method was essentially erroneous! It is overlooked that our Lord had recourse to it, as well as St. Paul! It is either forgotten, or denied, that the Holy Ghost, speaking by the mouth of St. Paul, acquiesced in every instance of such interpretation on the part of His chosen vessel!) . . . . As for St. Matthew, he addressed his Gospel to the Jews, and therefore reasoned as a Jew would. (St. Matthew’s Gospel was not of course intended for the Christian Church! The blessed Evangelist was also deeply learned,—it is of course reasonable to suppose,—in the sacred hermeneutics of the Hebrew Schools!) . . . . The other Sacred Writers, it is pretended, all wrote according to the prejudices of the age in which they lived.—In all these cases, it is contended that merely in the way of Accommodation, is the language of the Old Testament cited in the New. What was said of one thing is transferred to quite another,—to suit the purpose of the later writer; to illustrate his reasoning, to adorn or to enforce his statements And this 187brings me to a question of so much importance, that I pause to make a few remarks upon it. In the present discourse, it shall suffice to remark on the doctrine of Scriptural Accomodation; for which it is presumed that the text, (selected not without reference to the present Sacred Season,) affords ample scope, as well as supplies a fair occasion.
Now, it is not to the term “Accommodation,” that we entertain any dislike; but to the notion which it seems intended to convey; and to the principle which we believe that it actually embodies. That the Holy Spirit in the New Testament sometimes accommodates to His purpose a quotation in the Old,—is very often a mere matter of fact. In all those places, for instance, where St. Paul inverts the clauses of a place cited,—there is a manifest accommodation of Scripture, in the strictest sense of the word. When two, three, or more texts, widely disconnected in the Old Testament, are continuously exhibited in the New,—a species of accommodation has, of course, been employed. The same may be said when a change of construction is discoverable. Again, there is accommodation, of course, when narrative,—legal enactment,—or prophecy, is so exhibited that the point of its hidden teaching shall become apparent. Nay, in a certain sense of the word, there is “accommodation,” as often as a prophecy, however plain, is applied to the historical event which it purports to foretel. The prophecy may be said,—(with no great propriety indeed, but still, intelligibly,)—to have been accommodated to its fulfilment.—Occasionally, a general promise is made particular,—as in Hebrews xiii. 6; and perhaps this might be called an accommodation of the text to the needs of an individual believer. Yet is it 188plain that in all these cases ‘application,’ or ‘adaptation,’ would be a better word.
But such ways of adducing Holy Scripture, we suspect, are not by any means what is meant by ‘Accommodation;’ and they do not certainly correspond with the notion which the term is calculated to convey. The place in the Old Covenant, seems, (from the term employed,) to have been forced, against its conscience, as it were, to bear witness in behalf of the New. It has been wrenched away from its natural bearing and intention; and made to accommodate itself,—and, on the part of the writer, quite arbitrarily,—to a purpose, with which it has, in reality, no manner of connexion. This, I say, is the notion which the term “Accommodation” seems to convey.
I am supposing, of course,—(as the opposite school is, of course, supposing,)—not an illustration,—which obviously any writer, whether ordinary or inspired, has a right to introduce at will; but a case where the cogency of the argument depends entirely on the place cited. A sudden and unforeseen requirement arose;—nothing entirely fit and applicable occurred to the memory: but by an arbitrary handling of the ancient Oracles of God,—(altogether illogical and inconclusive indeed, yet entitled to a certain measure of respectful consideration at our hands, and certainly having a strong claim on our indulgence,)—the later writer saw that he should be able to substantiate his position, or to strengthen his argument, or to prove his point. And he did not hesitate to do so. It is surprising that his hearers or his readers should have accepted his statements, and admitted his reasoning;—very! But they did. And it is for us, the heirs of the wisdom of all the ages, to detect the time-honoured fallacy and 189to expose it.—This, I say, is the notion which the term “Accommodation” seems calculated to convey; and it is to be feared, does very often represent.
And the introduction of this principle, as already explained, I cannot but regard as the most insidious device of all. It admits fully all that we have elsewhere laboured to establish. It freely grants that Apostles and Evangelists were inspired. But then, it denies that much of what they deliver in the way of interpretation of Scripture, is to be regarded as real interpretation. By a taste for Allegory; by Rhetorical license; on any principle, it seems, but one, is the Divine method to be accounted for; and the plain facts of the case to be obscured, or explained away.
Now I altogether reject this principle of arbitrary “Accommodation.” I hold it to be a mere dream and delusion. And I reject it on the following grounds:—
1. It is evidently a mere excuse for Human ignorance,—a transparent deceit. Men do not see how to explain, or account for, the apparent license of the Divine method; and so they have invented this method of escape. Most cordially do I subscribe to the opinion expressed by Bishop Bull, in his discussion of the very text which we are now about to consider:—“Atque, ut verum fatear, semper existimavi, allusiones istas, (ad quas confugiunt quidam tanquam ad sacrum suæ ignorantim asylum,) plerumque aliud nihil esse, quam sacræ Scripturæ abusiones manifestas529529 Harm. Apost. Diss. Post., cap. xi. § 3..”
2. The “theory of Accommodation,” (as it is called,) is attended with this fatal inconvenience,—that, (like certain other expedients which have been invented to get over difficulties in Religion,) it altogether fails of its object. For even if we should grant, (for argument’s 190sake,) that some quotations from the Old Testament can be explained on this principle,—so long as there remain others which defy it altogether, nothing is gained by the proposed expedient. Thus, so long as attention is directed to certain of the places in St. Paul’s writings already referred to530530 See above, pp. 152-7., there is certainly no absurdity in adducing them as instances of Rhetorical license. But how can it be pretended that the text whereby St. Paul establishes, (on two distinct occasions,) the right of the Christian Ministry to a liberal maintenance,—with what propriety can it be thought that Deut. xxv. 4 lends itself to such a theory? Those words seem,—and, apart from Revelation, might without hesitation have been declared,—to have nothing at all to do with the matter531531 Consider again the Divine exposition, (in 1 St. John v. 6,) of St. John xix. 34.! To talk of the “accommodation” of words so eminently unaccommodating, is unreasonable, and even absurd.
3. But, allowing the advocates of this theory all they can possibly require, the result of their endeavours is but to make the Sacred writers ridiculous after all. For it attributes to them a method, which, if it be a mere exhibition of human fancy, often seems to be but a species of ingenious trifling,—scarcely entitled to serious attention at our hands. There is no alternative, in short, between certain of the expositions which we meet with, being Divine,—and therefore worthy of all acceptation or Human,—and therefore entitled to no absolute deference whatever.
4. On the other hand, learned research has hitherto invariably tended to shew that the meaning claimed 191for Scripture by an Apostle or Evangelist, does actually exist there. Thus, it has been admirably demonstrated that the Evangelical meaning attributed by St. Matthew, (in the first chapters of his Gospel,) to certain places in the ancient Prophetical Scriptures of the Jewish people, derives nothing but corroboration from the inquiries of Piety and Learning532532 See Dr. Mill’s Christian Advocate’s publication for 1814, The Historical Character of the circumstances of our Lord’s Nativity vindicated against some recent mythical interpreters,—especially p. 402 to p. 434.. . . . It is proposed on the present occasion, without pretending to bring to the question any such helps as these, to examine the portion of Holy Scripture already under our notice, with a view to ascertaining what light it will throw on the main question at issue. To this task, I now address myself.
St. Paul’s words, from the 6th to the 9th verse (inclusive) of the xth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, present probably, as fair an example as could be desired of what is sometimes called “Accommodation.” To say the truth, I know not an instance of what, in any uninspired writing, I should have been myself more inclined to stigmatize as such. The Apostle begins an affectionate remonstrance with his countrymen by declaring that they “did not understand the Righteousness of God;” (that is, the Divine method whereby God wills that we shall be made righteous, by faith in Christ;) but desired to set up (στῆσαι) a righteousness of their own, on the worthless foundation of their own Works533533 Cf. Phil. iii. 7-9.. “For,” (he proceeds; with plain reference to what “the Righteousness of God” is;)—“For 192Christ is the end” (aim, or object,) “of the Law534534 Consider St. John vi. 46, and all similar places. to every one who hath faith” in Christ. St. Paul straightway proceeds, (as his manner is,) to establish this latter proposition. How does he do it? “For,” (he begins again,)—“Moses describes the nature of the righteousness which proceeds from the Law, when he declares [in Leviticus xviii. 5,] that The man who hath done the deeds commanded by the Law, shall live thereby.’—But concerning the Righteousness which proceeds from Faith,”—[it was called before, ‘the Righteousness of God,’]—“Moses writes as follows535535 On the words, Ἡ δὲ ἐκ πίστεως δικαιοσύνη οὕτω λέγει,—Theodoret remarks:—Ἀντὶ τοῦ, περὶ δὲ τῆς ἐκ πίστεως δικαιοσύνης, οὕτως λέγει· οὐ γὰρ ἡ δικαιοσύνη ταῦτα λέγει, ἀλλὰ διὰ Μωσέως, ὁ τῶν ὅλων Θεὸς, περὶ τοῦ νόμου ταῦτα εἴρηκε· διδάσκων Ἰουδαίους ὡς δίχα πόνων τὴν τῶν πρακτέων διδασκαλίαν ἐδέξαντο.—Theodoret, Cat., p. 374.:—‘Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into Heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down:) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach: because if thou shalt confess with thy month the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
Here then is a quotation from the xxxth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy,—a quotation introduced in the way of argument, in support of a proposition: the remarkable circumstance being, that St. Paul adduces the words of Moses with extraordinary license. For first, he omits as many of the Prophet’s words as make little for his purpose, while he introduces a very remarkable alteration in some of the words which he 193retains: amounting to a substitution of one sentence for another. And next, there is one single word, which he expands into an important phrase; and that merely to suit his own argument. But the strangest thing of all is the interpretation which he delivers of words, which as we have just seen, are partly his own,—partly, the words of Moses: by which interpretation, the most strikingly Christian character is fastened upon sayings pronounced by the ancient Lawgiver in the land of Moab, to the Jewish people.—We do further, for our own part, most freely admit, that the place,—as it stands in the Old Testament,—neither at first, nor at second sight, seems to have any such meaning as the Apostle assigns to it. I will remind you of the words in Deuteronomy, by reading the entire passage:—“This commandment which I command thee this day, . . . is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in Heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to Heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” . . . Now, I say, one of ourselves might read this passage in the Book of Deuteronomy over a hundred times, and never suspect that Moses, when he so wrote, was writing concerning faith in Christ: and yet we have the sure testimony of the Holy Spiritto the fact that he was.—The inquiry, “Who shall ascend into Heaven?”, signifies, we are told, “Who shall ascend,—to bring down Christ from above?”—And just so, the other clause, “Who shall descend into the deep?”, is declared to be an incomplete 194expression: the full phrase being,—“Who shall descend,—to bring up Christ536536 Our E. V., following the translations since Cranmer’s, here inserts the word “again,”—which is certainly not implied by the Greek. from the dead.” . . . . Now we never desire to see a non-natural sense fastened on the Inspired Word. With Hooker, we “hold it for a most infallible rule in expositions of sacred Scripture, that, where a literal construction will stand, the furthest from the letter is commonly the worst.” We contend therefore that whereas we have here the explicit assurance that Moses wrote of none other than Christ,—though his words do not bear upon them any evidence of the fact,—it is a mere trifling with holy things, to call the fact in question.
Here, however, we shall be reminded that the great Apostle,—though professing to quote,—confessedly argues in part from his own language, which is not the language of Moses. Moses says,—“Who shall go over the sea for us?” (τίς διαπεράσει ἡμῖν εἰς τὸ πέραν τῆς θαλάσσης;) And since the version of the LXX is what the Author of the Epistle to the Romans follows in this place, it is reasonable to expect that he would adhere to that version, or at least to the sense of that version, in the exhibition of so important a clause as the present. Whereas, instead of “Who shall go over the sea,” we find St. Paul writing,—“Who shall go down into the deep?” (Τίς καταβήσεται εἰς τὴν ἄβυσσον;)—language evidently highly suggestive of the mysterious transaction to which the same St. Paul says it contains a reference537537 The expression is, of course, wholly dissimilar from that in Ps. cvii. 23,—οἱ καταβαίνοντες εἰς θάλασσαν ἐν πλοίοις, κ.τ.λ.; but certainly not the language of Moses. And we shall be 195reminded that this is not merely phraseology rescued from vagueness, and made definite but it is the actual substitution of one thought for another. This is what will be said and if it be followed up by the assertion that here, therefore, we have a clear example of Scriptural Accommodation, it might seem, at first sight, impossible to deny the fact.
For our own parts, we are inclined to meet the present difficulty, and every similar one, in quite another spirit and dispose of the objection, somewhat in the following way. The same God who gave us the Scriptures of the Old Testament, gave us the New Testament also. The Bible is one. He who inspired the Law, inspired the Gospel. The Holy Ghost pleads with us in both alike.—Surely, therefore, He who spake of old time by the Prophets, may be allowed, when, in the last days, He speaks by the Apostles of Christ,—to explain His earlier meaning, if He will. Surely, He may tell the Israel of God,—if He pleases,—what He meant by the language He held of old time to Israel after the flesh! Yea, and if it seemeth good to Him to call in the wealth of His ancient treasury, in order to recoin it that He may the more enrich us thereby:—if it pleases Him to take His ancient speeches back again into His mouth, in order that He may syllable them anew,—making them sweeter than honey to our lips, yea, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb;—what is Man that he should reply against God? What should be our posture, at witnessing such a spectacle, but one of Adoration? What, our becoming language, but praise?
It is easy to anticipate the answer that will be made to all this. We shall be told that we are, in 196some sort, begging the question. The Bible is an Inspired Book, indeed: but what is Inspiration?—Moses wrote the Book called “Deuteronomy:” St. Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans. And St. Paul,—quoting a passage out of the older record,—has substituted a sentiment of his own for a sentiment contained in the writings of Moses. He does the same thing in other places; and elsewhere, as here, he proceeds to reason upon the data he has so obtained. This, it will be said, is the phenomenon which we have to deal with.
Butt, we reply, it is manifest that he who so argues,—with all his apparent good sense, and fairness,—is entirely committed to a theory concerning Inspiration; and that a very unworthy one. The Bible comes to us as an Inspired Book; claiming to be the very Word of God. The Holy Church throughout all the World, cloth acknowledge it to be so. Surely, therefore, it is for us to study its contents by the light of this previous fact.—But quite contrary is the method of our opponents. They treat the Bible as if it were an ordinary Book. They submit its contents to the same irreverent handling as they would the productions of a merely human intellect. They not only reason about its claims from its contents,—but they would even pronounce upon its claims, from the same evidence. They dare to sit in judgment upon it. Hence their lax notions on the subject of Inspiration. They first run riot among statements which are too hard for them; and when they have perplexed themselves with these, till the field is strewed with doubts, and the limits of unbelief and mistrust have become extended on every side,—Inspiration, like an ill-defined boundary-line on a map, is suffered faintly to hem in, 197and enclose the utmost verge of the unhappy domain.—Whereas, we maintain that a belief in the Bible, as an Inspired Book, should, at the outset, prescribe a limit to human speculations.
Let this belief encircle us exactly, and entirely; and define, at once, the area within which all our reasonings must be taught to marshal themselves, and to find their full development. In brief, our opponents meet our remonstrance by another; but, as we contend, an unreasonable one;—at least, as proceeding from men who, no less than ourselves, allow freely the Inspiration of Scripture. We say,—The Bible is the word of God. Fill your heart with this conviction, and then humbly address yourself to the study of its pages.—It is argued on the other side,—The pages of the Bible are full of perplexing statements. They evolve strange phenomena, interminably. Convince yourself of this; and then make up your mind, if you can, about the Inspiration of the Bible538538 I cannot forbear transcribing the following passage in an elaborate apology which has recently appeared for Essays and Reviews:—“Among the many proposals which are floating abort for Essays and Counter-essays to vindicate the Doctrines supposed to be combated in this volume, let us be allowed to suggest this one:—‘The Nature of Biblical Inspiration, as tested by a careful examination of the Septuagint Version with special reference to the sanction given to it by the Apostles, and to its variations, by way of addition or omission, from the revised Text of the Canonical Scriptures.’ The conclusions of such an investigation would be worth a hundred eager declarations on one side or the other, and would be absolutely decisive of the chief questions at issue.” (Edinburgh Review, April, 1861, p. 483.) . . . . Now I scruple not to affirm that a well-informed, and faithful student of the Scriptures would covet no better portion fur himself than liberty to accept, in the most public manner possible, such a challenge as the foregoing.. . . . I shall 198have occasion, by and by, to explain more in detail the spirit in which the Divine Logic,—Inspired reasoning as it may be called,—is to be approached. For the moment, I am content to waive the question; and to be St. Paul’s apologist, almost as if I had met with his words in an uninspired book.
Solemnly protesting, then, that the ground we have just occupied is the only true ground on which to take our stand; but withdrawing from it because we do not fear the appeal to unassisted Reason, even in matters of Faith,—so that the proper limits and conditions of inquiry be but observed;—we proceed to inquire whether,—apart from Revelation,—there be not good ground for believing that the words of the ancient Hebrew Lawgiver and Prophet contain and mean the very thing which the Christian Apostle says they do.—We change our language at this stage of the inquiry. We no longer assert, (as before we did,) that the Holy Ghost speaking by the mouth of Moses, must have meant, what the same Holy Ghost, speaking by the mouth of St. Paul, declares that he did mean. We are willing to study the sacred text solely by the light which grave criticism and patient learning have thrown upon it.—Our inquiry now, is this;—Although the words in Deuteronomy, read over attentively by ourselves, suggest no such Christian meaning as we find affixed to them in the Epistle to the Romans,—is there no reason, traditional or otherwise, for supposing that they do envelope that meaning; yea, so teem and swell with it, that the germ of the flower may be actually detected in the yet un opened bud? . . . . I proceed to this inquiry.
1. And first, it is obvious, to any one reading the xxixth and xx chapters of the last Book of Moses, 199that they contain another Covenant, beside that of Horeb. This is expressly stated in the first verse of the xxixth chapter:—“These are the words of the Covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the Covenant which He made with them in Horeb539539 See the valuable exposition of the text, by Bp. Bull, in the Appendix (K),—to which I am very largely indebted..” Not to stand too stiffly thereupon, however540540 Opposed to Bp. Bull in his opinion, on this matter, seem Ainsworth, Patrick, Parker (Biblioth. Bibl.), Cornelius à Lapide, the Critici Sacri, &c. I cannot but think that the truth is with the first-named Commentator., let it be at least freely allowed that even if we choose to regard this chapter and the next as a renewal only of the Covenant made in Horeb, it is a distinct renewal—;both in respect of time and of place. Of time,—for whereas the Covenant of Sinai belongs to the first of the forty years of wandering, the Covenant of Moab belongs to the last. Of place,—for whereas the other was made at the furthest limit of the people’s wanderings, this belongs to their nearest approach to Canaan.—And I confidently ask, After such an announcement, and at a moment like that,—the forty years of typical wandering ended, and the earthly type of the heavenly inheritance full in view, Jordan alone intercepting the vision of their Rest;—shall we wonder, if here and there a ray of coming glory shall be found to flash through the language of the dying patriarch? if some traces shall be discernible, even in the language of Moses, of the dayspring of the Gospel of Christ?
2. We find that it contains not a few sayings in support of such a presumption. The 10th verse opens the covenant, and in the following solemn language:200—“Ye stand, this day, all of you, before the Lord your God: the Captains of your tribes, your Elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel ;—your little ones, your wives, and the stranger that is in thy camp,—from the hewer of thy wood, to the drawer of thy water. ” And what was the intention of this solemn standing before the Lord? Even—“that thou shouldest enter into Covenant with the Lord thy God, and enter into His oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day. ”—The purport of the Covenant thus to be made, was, that God might establish Israel that day for a people unto Himself, and that He might be unto them a God,—(an expression elsewhere appropriated by the Great Apostle to the Christian Church541541 See 2 Cor. vi. 16, (quoting Lev. xxvi. 12), where see Wordsworth’s note. Heb. viii. 6-13, especially ver. 10, (quoting Jer. xxxi. 33. Comp. Jer. xxiv. 7: xxx. 22: xxxi. 1: xxxii. 38.) Compare Rom. ix. 25, 26, (also 1 St. Pet. ii. 10,) with Hos. ii. 23: i. 10. See also Ezek. xi. 20: xiv. 11: xxxvi. 28: xxxvii. 27; and Zech. viii. 8: xiii. 9. Lastly, consider Rev. xxi. 3; where “the types of the itinerant Tabernacle in the Wilderness, the figurative ritual and festal joys of the Feast of Tabernacles, celebrated in the literal Jerusalem, are consummated in the Heavenly Jerusalem.” (Wordsworth.) See also Rev. vii. 15, with the annotation of the same Commentator.,)—-as he had . . . sworn unto their Fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. So that we have here the renewal of the Evangelical Covenant made with Abraham, and renewed to Isaac and Jacob,—which is clearly distinguished in Scripture from the Legal Covenant, made with their children 430 years after; and which is declared ineffectual to disannul the earlier one, confirmed before by God, and pointing entirely to Christ542542 προκεκυρωμένην . . . . εἰς Χριστόν. Gal. iii. 17.. That earlier Evangelical Covenant 201then, it was, which was renewed in the land of Moab;—in the course of renewing which, the words of the text occur.
3. And that it was indeed the Evangelical, (not the Legal Covenant,) which is here spoken of, is abundantly confirmed by the subsequent language of the passage: for Moses proceeds,—“Neither with you only do I make this Covenant and this oath ; but with him that standeth here this day with us before the Lord our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day 543543 Deut. xxix. 14, 15.:” meaning, (as the ancient Targum expounds the place,) “with every generation that shall rise up unto the world’s end.” It was the same Covenant, therefore, which is made with ourselves; “for the promise is unto” us, and to our “children, and to all that are afar off, even as many, as the Lord our God shall call544544 Acts ii. 39: Compare iii. 25.:” “not according to the Covenant which God made with the Fathers of Israel in the day that he took them by the hand to bring them out of the Land of Egypt545545 Jer. xxxi. 32. Consider verses 33-4 quoted in Heb. x. 16, 17. See above, note (t)..”
Yet more remarkably perhaps is this established by the language of the ensuing chapter: for God therein promises that Circumcision of the heart whereby men should be enabled to love the Lord their God with all their heart and with all their soul. Now this seems clearly to intimate not legal but Evangelical obedience,—the result of the free outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God; of which, in the Law, (properly so called,) we find no promise whatever. Here then we discover another anticipation of something which belongs to the times of the Gospel.
And this Evangelical complexion is to be recognized 202in the entire contents of the xxixth and xxxth chapters. They contain no single mention of ceremonial rites or observances,—of which the Law is, for the most part, full. But free obedience and perfect love are inculcated as the condition of blessedness: while hearty repentance is made the sole condition of forgiveness of sin.
In connexion with this, I may call your attention to a curious coincidence,—if indeed it be not something more. On the sincere repentance of the people, it is promised “that then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity;” which the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases,—“His Word will receive with delight thy repentance:” while the Septuagint even more remarkably renders the words—“will heal thy sins;” that is,—“will be thy Jesus.” Moses proceeds,—“and gather thee from all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath called thee.” And what is this but one of the very places, if it be not the very place, to which St. John alludes when he declares that Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only; but that He should gather together in one, the children of Goy that were scattered abroad546546 St. John xi. 49-52.?”
4. Nor is it, finally, a little remarkable that, by the general consent of the Hebrew Doctors, this xxxth chapter has ever been held to have reference to the times of Messiah. The restoration spoken, is referred by them to the restoration to be effected by Christ: while the promises it, contains are connected with those prophetic intimations which clearly point to the days of the Gospel547547 “Diligenter observandum est, ex consensu Hebræorum, caput hoc ad regnum Christi pertinere. Uncle etiam Bachai dicit, hoc loco promissionem esse quod sub Rege Messiah omnibus qui de fodere aunt, circumcisio cordis contingat, citans Joelem, 28.”—Fagius, (in the Critics Sacri,) on Deut. xxx. 11..203
So much, then, for the evidence, apart from Revelation, which the general complexion of the place in Deuteronomy affords to the reasonableness of the meaning affixed to it by the voice of the later Scriptures. Before we proceed to examine a little in detail the words of the text, we may be surely allowed to remind ourselves of the Testimony which St. Paul bears to the Evangelical character of what is hero delivered. He asserts, in the most direct and emphatic manner, that it is the Righteousness which is by Faith which here speaks548548 “Apostolus dicit hoc esse verbum fidei, quod ad Novum Testamentum pertinet. Quæ ergo scripta sunt in libro legis hujus in figurâ dicta sunt, pertinentia ad Novum Testamentum.”—Augustinus, in Nic. Lyra, ad loc.. He is contrasting the spirit of the Law, with that of the Gospel. He is setting the requirements of the one against those of the other. To exhibit the former,—he quotes from Leviticus. To enable us to judge of the latter,—he quotes this very place in Deuteronomy. Having shewn the justification under the Law,—which is by entire fulfilment of every enjoined work;—the Apostle describes the Righteousness of the Gospel,—which is by Faith in Christ. And he discovers its voice in the present chapter: nay, he calls our attention to its language; and, lest the intention of it should escape us, he proceeds to supply us, not only with an interpretation of it, but with a paraphrase as well.
Enough has been said, I trust, to render this proceeding on the part of the Apostle no matter of surprise. 204Let us see whether the particulars of his interpretation are altogether novel and unprecedented either.—The words of Moses which we have to consider, it will be remembered, are these:—The “commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in Heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to Heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it and do it? Neither is it beyond the Sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the Sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it549549 Deut. xxx. 11-14..”
Now, that all this denotes something close at hand and easy,—in place of something supposed to be remote and difficult,—is obvious. The whole of the earlier part of it, St. Paul affirms to be tantamount to the following injunction,—“Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into Heaven, to bring Christ down; or who descend into the abyss, to bring Christ up from the dead.” Concerning which words of caution, we have to remark that there seems to have been no intention whatever on the part of the Apostle, to warn his readers against requiring a renewed Revelation of Christ in the flesh, or a second Resurrection of the Eternal Son from the dead. He is illustrating the nature of Legal and Evangelical Righteousness, by the language of the Jewish Law. He contrasts the two, in their respective requirements; finding the voice of both in the writings of Moses: of the former,—in connexion with the covenant of Sinai; of the latter,—in connexion with the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children 205of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the former Covenant. With characteristic fire and earnestness, glancing, as usual, at every side of the question before him,—having, a little way back, explained himself, without explanation, when he inserted that remarkable parenthetical clause, τέλος γὰρ νόμου Χριστος550550 Rom. x. 4.,—“for Christ is the object of the Law;”—in order now to shew how thoroughly this is the case,—how full the Law is of Him, in whom alone it finds its perfect scope, end, and completion,—he explains that the very phrase “Who shall ascend up into Heaven?” pointed to nothing less than the Incarnation of Christ: that, “Who shall go over the Sea?” contained a wondrous far-sighted allusion,—(not the less real because unsuspected,)—even to the Resurrection of our Lord from death. So true is it, “that both in the Old and New Testament Everlasting Life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises551551 Art. vii..”
Moses then here warns the ancient people of God against an evil heart of unbelief. “Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend up into Heaven?” for such words on the part of Man would imply disbelief in the doctrine that the Son of God should hereafter take upon Him human flesh. (Since “no man hath ascended up to Heaven, but He that came down from Heaven, even the Son of Man which is in Heaven552552 St. John iii. 13..”) “Neither say, Who shall descend into the deep?” for such words on human lips must imply disbelief in Messiah’s Descent into Hell, and Resurrection from the Dead.—The mystery of Redemption might not 206be impatiently demanded; but must be looked for in faith, until the fulness of time should come, and the whole mystery of godliness should be revealed to the wondering eyes of Men and Angels553553 1 Tim. iii. 16..
We shall perhaps be asked, whether it is credible that Moses can have had any conception that such a meaning as St. Paul here ascribes to his words, did really underlie them? To which we answer, first, that it is by no means incredible554554 The reader is invited to consider Acts ii. 24 to 31,—attending particularly to what St. Peter says in ver. 30-1. “Even without this key,” (says Dr. M’Caul,) “the Rabbis interpreted Psalm xvi. of the Resurrection.”. And next, that whether Moses knew the full meaning of the language he was commissioned to deliver, or not,—seems, (as already explained555555 See above, pp. 171-2.,) to be an entirely separate question: the only question before us, being, whether his language contained that meaning, or not . . . . To what extent the Prophets,—who, (we know,) studied their own prophecies556556 1 St. Pet. i. 11.,—were ever permitted to fathom their depth, is a mere matter of speculation557557 “Though I think it clear that the Prophets did not understand the full meaning of their predictions; it is another question how far they thought they did, and in what sense they understood them.”—Butler’s Analogy, P. II. ch. vii.; delightful indeed, but in the present case quite irrelevant. In the meantime, we know for certain that Moses prophesied of Christ558558 See Acts xxvi. 22, 23: xxviii. 23. St. John i. 46: v. 46. St. Luke xxiv. 27, &c..
And next, if it be said that really this is only a proverbial expression,—a Hebrew phrase to denote something passing difficult, and hard of attainment:207—(as when, in the Book of Proverbs, it is asked, “Who hath ascended up into Heaven, or who hath descended559559 Prov. xxx. 4.?”)—we answer, we see no ground whatever for supposing that in the place just quoted, it is a proverb, and no more,—although from its use in the Talmud, the expression would certainly appear to have become, at last, proverbial560560 e. g. “Si quis dixerit mulieri, Si adscenderis in firmamentum, aut descenderis in abyssum, eris mihi desponsata,—hæc conditio frustranea est.”—Nasir ix. 2, apud Wetstein, (in Rom. x. 6.). If a proverb, however, it seems to have been a sacred one; nor can any place be appealed to where it occurs, nearly of the antiquity of this, in the writings of Moses. To pretend therefore to explain away a certain mode of expression, in the place where it first stands on record,—and where it is declared to have a deep and mysterious meaning,—simply because, subsequently, it was (to all appearance) used without any such pregnancy of signification,—is, manifestly illogical.
Nay, there is good ground for presuming, that the very place last quoted, contains a reference to the Eternal Son: for Agur proceeds to ask,—“What is His Name, and what is His Son’s Name, if thou canst tell561561 “The whole passage (Prov. xxx. 2-5,) may be thus paraphrased:—With my limited understanding I cannot attain the knowledge of God; for to know God, is to know Him who is omnipresent, filling Heaven and Earth; it is to know Him who is omnipotent, ruling over the winds and the waters, the most unstable of all elements; it is to know Him who created all things; it is to know His Name, and the name of His Son. But this knowledge can be attained only by Revelation: and he that would attain to it even from Revelation, must not pass over any one word as insignificant, for every word is purified like silver: neither must he add to Revelation, or he will be sure to go astray.”—From the Appendix (pp. 46-7) to a Sermon by Dr. M’Caul, on The Eternal Sonship of the Messiah, 1838. (Interesting and precious as this paraphrase is, I humbly suspect that the words in italics contain a vast deal more than the learned writer indicates.)?”. . . But the reference is far more obvious when 208the same expressions occur in the Book of Baruch. “Who hath gone up into Heaven, and taken her, and brought her down from the clouds? Who hath gone over the sea, and found her562562 Baruch iii. 29.?” For Wisdom, is there spoken of; and Wisdom, as we remember, is one of the names of Christ,—the name by which He is discoursed of, in the Book of Proverbs.
The uninspired evidence which completes the connexion of this place of Deuteronomy with the second Person in the Blessed Trinity, is the traditional interpretation assigned to it by the Hebrew Commentators. The Targum of Jerusalem expounds the latter clause as follows:—“Neither is the Law beyond the Great Sea, that thou shouldest say, O that we had one like Jonas the prophet that might go down to the bottom of the Great Sea, and bring it to us.” So that the very Jewish Doctors themselves here become our instructors; and teach us that a greater than Jonas must be here,—even while they guide our eyes to that especial type of our Saviour Christ in His Descent into Hell, and Rising again from the dead. I say, the very Jewish Doctors themselves here contribute their testimony; and yield a most unsuspicious witness to the inspired exegesis of the Apostle: for, “as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly,”—so, (they clearly mean to say), so should it be with the man whom Moses here indicateth: and so,—(these are the words of Christ Himself),209—so was “the Son of Man three days and three nights in the heart of the Earth563563 St. Matth. xii. 20..”
You will of course notice the facility with which the Jews themselves, interpreting their own Scriptures, have here exchanged the notions of going “over the sea,”—(“beyond the sea,” as it is in the Hebrew,)—and “going down to the bottom” of the sea. St. Paul seems, in this place, to have “accommodated” the words of Moses: but we cannot fail to perceive that the Hebrew text must cry aloud for such supposed “accommodation;” yea, cry aloud, even in the uncircumcised ears of the Jewish people; that their own Commentators, as if divinely guided by the good hand of God, should bear their own independent witness to the correctness of the Apostolic interpretation.
Nor may I fail to call your attention to the term employed by St. Paul to denote the Sea:—a term, surely divinely chosen. He had just before, (in the 6th and 7th verses,) employed the Version of the LXX: he was about to use it again in the 8th verse: but in this, (the 7th,) he departs from it. Instead of, Τίς διαπέρασει ἡμῖν εἰς τὸ πέραν τῆς θαλάσσης; he writes,—Τίς καταβήσεται εἰς τὴν ἄβυσσον. The term ἄβυσσον,—which is applicable to the deep places of the Earth, and to the depth of the Sea, with equal propriety;—(being a more indifferent term even than our own expression “the deep”);—affords a memorable example of the fulness and pregnancy of language on inspired lips. Adhering to the letter of the text he quotes, the Apostle, by changing the word expressive of that literal sense, embraces the whole spiritual breadth and fulness of the passage:—reminding us of Him, by the blood of whose covenant 210were sent forth the prisoners of hope out of the pit wherein is no water564564 Zech. ix. 11.,—even before he names Him; our Saviour Christ
I must also remind you, that there are many expressions used by our Lord, or used concerning Him by His Apostles, which help to shew, that, to have come down from heaven,—and to have been brought up from the deep of the Earth again,—may be regarded as the mysterious summary of the Saviour’s Mission565565 Consider Ps. cxxxix. 7. Amos ix. 2, 3..—“No man hath ascended up to Heaven,” (saith our Lord,) “but he that came down from Heaven566566 St. John iii. 13..” “I am the living Bread which came down from Heaven. . . . Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before567567 Ibid. vi. 33, 38, 51, 62.?” In another place,—“I came forth from the Father and am come into the World: again I leave the World, and go to the Father568568 Ibid. xvi. 28..”—But the most remarkable place remains: “Now, that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lowest parts of the Earth? He that descended, is the same also that ascended up far above all Heavens569569 Ephes. iv. 9, 10..” I say, this brief summary,—given by Christ Himself, or by those who had seen Him,—of the mystery of His manifestation in the flesh,—throws light on the language of the Hebrew lawgiver. It shews that the language of Moses to Israel, in the plains of Moab, fairly embraced the two great truths which Faith even now can but be exhorted to lay fast hold upon, and to appropriate:—“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth that Jesus is the Lord,”—that is, confess that the man Jesus is the untreated, Incarnate 211Jehovah; “and believe with thy heart that God raised Him up from the dead,—thou shalt be saved.” . . . . Such is the form which the exhortation now assumes. More darkly, of old time,—(as was fitting,)—was the same thing spoken: and, because reference was then made to an event not yet accomplished, the impatience of Unbelief is there repressed,—rather than the ardour of Faith stimulated. “Say not in thy heart who shall ascend into Heaven? or, who shall go down into the deep place?” . . . . But shall we deal so faithlessly with the Divine Oracles of the Old Testament, as to deny them the deeper meaning assigned to them in the New, because they speak darkly? Let us, from a review of all that has been humbly offered,—let us at least admit that there is good independent ground for believing that when Moses spake of ascending into Heaven,—it was with reference to the future coming of Christ:—when he made mention of descending into the Deep,—the Resurrection of the Saviour of the World was, in reality, the thing he spake of.—Let us allow that here, at least, there is nothing in the language of the New Testament, which, when studied by the light of unassisted Reason, does not appear to have been fully included, contemplated, intended by the language of the Old:—that the accommodation has not been arbitrary;—say rather, that here at least there has been no accommodation at all!
But I am impatient to leave this low rationalistic ground, and take my stand again, on the vantage ground of Faith. The position, I trust, has been established, that even in the case of words which seem least promising,—least likely to enfold the deeply mysterious meaning claimed for them by an 212Apostle,—the result of patient inquiry and research is to shew that such a meaning really does exist there, to the fullest extent. We have discovered, from mere grounds of Reason, apart from Revelation, that what St. Paul has cited in this place from Deuteronomy, may very well contain all that he says it contains. But, were nothing of the kind discoverable;—were it a most hopeless endeavour to reconcile the meaning evolved by the inspired Apostle, with the text he professes to interpret,—the claims of the sacred exegesis would remain wholly unimpaired. We should still say that this, because it is an inspired Commentary, is entitled to our fullest acceptance. We have, anyhow, the Holy Spirit interpreting Himself. He surely must be the best judge of His own Divine meaning. He does but enrich the Treasury of Truth, even by his apparent departures from the original Hebrew verity. Shall not the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, be allowed to speak comfort to His people in whatever way seemeth best to Himself? Is it not lawful for him to do what He will with His own? Is thine eye evil, because He is very good?
Yes, it cannot be too emphatically insisted on, that the success which may attend investigations of this nature, is not to be admitted for a moment as the measure of the soundness of the principle on which they proceed. The reasoning whereby Newton shewed that the diamond is a combustible substance would have been no whit invalidated had the diamond resisted to this hour every chemical attempt to reduce it to carbon. We do not,—(what need to say?)—we do not discourage the endeavour to enucleate the deep Christian significancy of passages for which Inspired writers claim such sublime meaning. Rather do we 213think that Human Reason could not find a worthier field for the employment of her powers570570 See above, pp. 176-7., than this. But we are strenuous to insist that the full and sufficient, and only irrefragable proof that a mighty Christian meaning does actually underlie the unpromising utterance of one of God’s ancient Saints, is,—that an Inspired Writer declares it to exist there.
There is no accommodation therefore, when an inspired writer adduces Scripture. Human language will sometimes require to be “accommodated:” Divine language, never! May not the Holy Spirit lay His finger on whatever parts of His ancient utterance He sees fit? may He not invert clauses, and (in order to bring out His meaning better) even alter words? If He tells thee that the prophetic allusion of Isaiah to “our griefs” and “our sorrows” comprehends “our infirmities” and “our sicknesses “in its span571571 St. Matth. viii. 17.,—is it for thee to discredit His assertion? If He is pleased to intimate that the providential arrangement whereby Christ) though born at Bethlehem, grew up at Nazareth,—had for its object the fulfilment of many a detached and seemingly disconnected prophecy572572 St. Matth. ii. 23. See above, p. 149.,—shall the unexpectedness of His disclosure excite ridicule in such an one as thyself? When He tells thee that besides the immediate scope of certain well-known words of Hosea and of Jeremiah, there was the ulterior aim He indicates; if behind Israel after the flesh, He shews thee the Anointed Son573573 Ibid. ii. 15.—if behind those captive Jews of the tribe of Benjamin whom Nebuzar-Adan led past their mother’s grave on their way to Babylon, He points to the slaughtered infant of Bethlehem; assuring thee that when He spake by the 214mouth of Jeremiah concerning the nearer event that remoter one was full before Him also; and that the solemn and affecting utterance of the Prophet was divinely intended by Himself to cover both574574 St. Matth. ii. 18.;—wilt thou, when He discourses to thee thus, presume to talk to Him of “accommodation?” Is it not enough for thee to have cavilled at the first page of the Old Testament on “scientific “grounds? Must thou, for Theological considerations, dispute the first page of the New Testament also?
Scripture then, whether in its Historical or its more obviously prophetic parts, has this depth of meaning for which I have been contending. We must perforce believe it, for it is a matter of express Revelation. We cannot pretend to deny the probability,—much less the possibility of it; for we really can know nothing of the matter except from an attentive study of Scripture itself. And the witness of Scripture, as we have seen, is ample, emphatic, and express.—Our Lord, being indignantly asked by the Jews if He heard what the children, crying in the Temple, said of Him,—made answer by quoting the 2nd verse of the viiith Psalm: “Yea, have ye never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise’575575 Ibid. xxi. 16.?”—Pray was this “accommodation,” or what was it? It was deemed a sufficient answer, at all events, by the Anointed Jehovah; whatever men may think! . . . When the Sadducees, disbelieving in the Resurrection of the Body, assailed our Lord with a speculative difficulty, He told them that they erred because they did not understand the Scriptures. “Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord, the God of Abraham, and 215the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For He is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him576576 St. Luke xx. 37..” How, by the popular method,—how, by any of the new lights which have lately been let in on Holy Scripture,—was the Resurrection of the dead to have been proved by the words which the Second Person in the Trinity spake to Moses “in the Bush?” And yet we behold that same Divine Personage in the days of His humiliation, proposing from those words, uttered by Himself 1600 years before, to establish the doctrine in dispute! . . . . Only once more. “In the last day, that great day of the Feast [of Tabernacles,] Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. He that believeth on Me,—as the Scripture hath said, ‘Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water577577 St. John vii. 37, 38.!’”—But where does the Scripture say that? You will look a long while to find it. You will never find it at all if you adhere to the method which of late has been declared to be the method most in fashion. You will never even understand what our Blessed Lord means, unless you attend to the hint which immediately follows,—and which the Divine Author of the Gospel would not suffer us to be without,—namely, that, “This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive:”—by which is meant, that as many of the Prophets as discoursed in dark phrase of that free outpouring of the Spirit which was to mark Messiah’s Reign, did, in effect, say the thing which He here attributes to them.
Inspired Reasoning, wherever found, may fitly obtain a few words of distinct notice here; but I shall perhaps speak more becomingly, as well as prove more 216intelligible, if,—(without further allusion to the sayings of that Almighty One “in whom are hid all the treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge578578 Col. ii. 3.;” sayings which it seems a species of impiety to approach except in adoration;)—I confine my remarks to the logical processes observable in the inspired writings of some of His servants, the Evangelists and Apostles of the Lamb.
The difficulty which has been occasionally felt in respect of the argumentative parts of St. Paul’s Epistles, is considerable, and may not be overlooked. 11is definitions, his inferences, his entire method of handling Scripture, gives offence to a certain class of minds. His reasoning seems inconsequential. There appears to be a want of logical order and consistency in much that he delivers. But,—can, it require to be stated?—the fault is entirely our own. “The radical fallacy of any attempt to analyze the reasoning of Scripture by the ordinary Laws of Logic” requires to be pointed out. And the root of it all is our assumption that an inspired Apostle must perforce argue like any other uninspired man.
But, in the first place, it is to be recollected that he did not collect the meaning and bearing of the Old Testament Scriptures from induction, and study only. He was,—by the hypothesis,—an inspired Writer. The same Holy Spirit who taught the authors of the Old Testament what to deliver, taught him, in turn, how to explain their words. By direct Revelation, he perceived the intention of a text, and at once bore witness to it. Thus St. Paul says of our Lord,—“He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying,—‘I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren, in the midst of 217the Church will I sing praise unto Thee.’ And again,—‘I will put my trust in Him.’ And again,—‘Behold I and the children which God hath given Me579579 Heb. ii. 12, 13; quoting Ps. xxi. 23 and Is. viii. 17..’” Now, “the Apostles quoted such places as these from the Psalms and Isaiah, not as they were gathered by any certain reason, but as revealed to them by the Holy Spirit, to be principally spoken of Christ. This understanding the mysteries of God in the Old Testament, being a special gift of the Holy Ghost580580 1 Cor. xii., xiv.—of the truth of which interpretations, the same Spirit, without any necessary demonstration thereof, bore witness also to their auditors and converts; and by miracles manifested the persons thus expounding them herein to be infallible581581 Pseudo-Fell’s Paraphrase and Annotations on the New Testament, (Jacobson’s ed.), in loc..”
To quote the language of a thoughtful writer of more recent date,—“Inspired teaching,—explain it how we may,—seems comparatively indifferent to (what seems to us so peculiarly important) close logical connexion, and the intellectual symmetry of doctrines. . . . The necessity of confuting gainsayers, at times forced one of the greatest of Christ’s inspired servants, St. Paul, to prosecute continuous argument; yet even with him, how abrupt are the transitions, how intricate the connexion, how much is conveyed by assumptions such as Inspiration alone can make, without any violation of the canons of reasoning,—for with it alone assertion is argument. . . . The same may be said of some passages of St. John, supposed to have been similarly occasioned. Inspiration has ever left to human Reason the filling up of its outlines, the 218careful connexion of its more isolated truths. The two are, as the lightning of Heaven, brilliant, penetrating, far-flashing, abrupt,—compared with the feebler but continuous illumination of some earthly beacon582582 Professor Archer Butler, quoted in Professor Lee’s Discourses on Inspiration, pp. 415-6..”
“In a train of inspired Reasoning,” (as the same writer elsewhere remarks,) “each new premiss may have been supernaturally communicated; and thus, in point of fact, the inspired reasoner but connects the different threads of the Divine Counsels; exemplifies how deep answereth to deep’ in the mysteries of Revelation; and presents, in one connected train of argument, those words of God which had been uttered at sundry times and in divers manners583583 Ibid., p. 586..’”
To conclude.—There is no such thing as inconsequential Reasoning to be met with in the writings of St. Paul584584 See above, pp. 132-7.;—no such thing as arbitrary Accommodation of the Old Testament Scriptures, in the New:—though not a few have thought it; and the language of many more writers, Papist as well as Protestant, is calculated to convey the same mischievous impression585585 See the Appendix, (L).. The hypothesis is as unworthy of ourselves,—with our boasted critical resources and many appliances of varied learning,—as it is derogatory to the Sacred Oracles to which it is applied. It is a deadly blow, aimed at the very Inspiration of Scripture itself; for it pretends to discover a human element only, where we have a right to expect a Divine one: an irresponsible dictum, when we listened for the voice of the Spirit; the hand of man, where we depended on finding the very Finger of God! We come to the 219blessed pages, for Divinity, and we are put off with Rhetoric. We come for bread, and the critics we speak of offer us a stone.
I will not detain you any longer. No apology can be needed for the subject which has been engaging our attention586586 In the earlier part of the present Sermon many passages have been re-written. What follows stands exactly as it was preached in 1851.. Those who watch “the signs of the times” attentively, will bear mo witness that unbelief is one. fearful note of the coming age. The self-same principle, working in different classes of minds, produces results diametrically different: but it is still the same principle which is at work. Unbelief is no less the cause why so many have forsaken the Church of their Fathers, to run after the blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits of the Church of Rome,—than it is the parent of that shallow Rationalism which unhappily is now so popular among us. . . . Intimations of what is to be hereafter, may be every now and then detected. At intervals, hoarse sounds, from a distance, are known to smite upon the listening ear; signals of the coming danger,—sure harbingers of the approaching storm.—Holy Scripture is the stronghold against which the Enemy will make his assault, assuredly: nor can we employ ourselves better than by building one another up in reverence for its Inspired Oracles: opposing to the crafts of the Evil One the simplicity of a child-like faith; and resolutely refusing to see less than God, in God’s Word!
This must be the preacher’s apology for disputing where he would rather adore; for discussing the Revelations of Scripture, instead of feeding upon them; especially at this holy Season when the Apostle’s exhortation 220finds an echo in all our services: the mouth, engaged in the constant confession that Jesus is the Lord,—the heart, filled with the thought of Him, who as at this time died for our sins, and rose again for our Justification.
God grant us grace,—at this and every other time,—so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve Him in pureness of living and truth: through the merits of the same His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord!221
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