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THE MARVELS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE,—MORAL AND PHYSICAL.—JAEL’S DEED DEFENDED.—MIRACLES VINDICATED.
Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God.
ON a certain occasion, the Son of Man was asked what was thought a hard question by those who, in His day, professed “the negative Theology588588 Acts xxiii. 8. For the phrase in the text, see Essays and Reviews, p. 151. Also p. 174..” There was a moral and there was physical marvel to be solved. Both difficulties were met by a single sentence. The Sadducean judgment had gone astray from the Truth, (πλανᾶσθε our Saviour said,) from a twofold cause: (1) The men did not understand those very Scriptures to which they appealed so confidently: and, (2) They had an unworthy notion of God’s power.—There are plenty of Sadducees at the present day among ourselves. They are as fond. as ever of finding difficulties in the self-same Scriptures. They are to be met, I am persuaded, exactly as of old by shewing that their error is still the fruit of their ignorance of Scripture the consequence of their unworthy conceptions of God. I propose to illustrate this on the present occasion. My subject, (one certainly not unsuited 222to the day,) is the Marvels of Scripture,—whether Moral or Physical. I would fain have discussed them apart; but I shall not have another opportunity. I must handle the whole subject therefore within the limits of a single Sermon: and by consequence I must be extremely brief.
Now, I venture to assume that whatever, from its extraordinary character, perplexes us in Scripture, is a difficulty only to ourselves; that moral Marvels and physical Miracles, alike, would cease to create any difficulty if we knew more about God. The Morality of the Life to come, I do believe will prove none other than the Morality of the life which now is; and so I presume that it may be their Divine Author’s will, that the physical Laws of the Universe shall be eternal likewise. And yet, as no thoughtful man will probably be found to say that he’ thinks he knows as much about the nature of these last now, as he expects to know hereafter,—so it is to be presumed that a sublimer, and therefore a juster view of the relation in which the Creature stands to the Creator, will disclose to us much which, at present, we should be little prepared to admit, if it were speculatively presented to us, (“as in a glass, darkly,”) respecting the Moral Government of God.
I. In the very fore-front, however, of what I have to say concerning those phenomena which are generally cited as the Moral Marvels of Holy Scripture, I must freely declare my opinion that nothing is wanted but that the whole of the historical evidence should be before us, in every case, in order that we might cease to look upon them as marvels at all. But so it is, that Scripture is severely brief: takes no pains to conciliate our good opinion: seems to care nothing 223either for our applause or our censure. Scripture, in short, has been made an instrument of Man’s probation589589 See the Appendix (C).. It is for us to search curiously into the record; to take an enlarged view of times and manners; and finally, in the exercise of a generous Faith, to decide whether the difficulty is such as ought to occasion us any real distress. I proceed, in this spirit, to consider, as briefly as possible, the history of Jael; simply because I have heard stronger things said against her, than against any of the Worthies of old time who are mentioned with distinct approbation in the Book of Life.
1. Now, if you choose to consider Jael as one who lured a weary and unsuspecting soldier into her tent,—shewed him hospitality,—and when he was asleep, murdered him in cold blood,—you certainly cannot help recoiling from the inspired decision that, “Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be.” But I take the liberty of saying that this is quite the wrong way to read her story. You must begin it from the other end.
God pronounces this woman blessed, and distinctly commends her for her deed. From this point you must start; remembering that no action can be immoral which God praises. The Divine sentence, instead of creating a difficulty, is, on the contrary, exactly the thing which removes it590590 Should one not as readily acknowledge a hint which was gathered from the conversation of the thoughtful Vicar of Stanford-in-the-Vale, as if it had been derived from some of his published writings?. To weigh the story apart from this, (which is the prime consideration of all,) is like condemning the immorality of an executioner without caring to hear that he is but carrying out the 224sentence of the Lawgiver. Furnished with the clue of Glop’s approbation of Jael’s deed, we retrace our steps, and reconsider the narrative. If all were still dark and hopeless, we might be sure that there are circumstances withheld, which if known would have made God’s justice clear as the light. But, as a matter of fact, it generally happens that, when we “know the Scriptures,” the difficulty in great measure disappears; and I am going to shew that it is so on the present occasion.
I find that when the people of God were on their way out of Egypt into Canaan, they were indebted to one family (the Kenites) for kindness and help591591 1 Sam. xv. 6.. The head of that family was Jethro, the father-hi-law of Moses, high-priest of Midian,—in which land the Lord, from the burning bush, had commissioned the future Lawgiver of Israel to redeem His people front the bondage of Egypt. Jethro met them in the Arabian desert; became their guide592592 Numb. x. 29-32. till they reached the promised Land; and with them entered the borders of their future possession. It was a covenant between the two races that they should share the goodness of Jehovah. Accordingly, the Kenites made their settlement amid the Royal tribe of Judah; and it is easy to foresee how close a bond would spring up between the alien family and their avowed protectors, when, to the memory of past dangers shared together, was superadded the consciousness of present blessings;—especially in an ago when the law of hospitality was held most sacred. how strong the bond became, the sequel of the story convincingly shews593593 A hint has here been taken from one of Dr. W. H. Mill’s admirable University Sermons, pp. 239-40..225
The children of Israel, at the end of a hundred and fifty years, find themselves cruelly oppressed by the most powerful of the Kings of the conquered but not extirpated race. God promises deliverance: and Deborah is raised up to organize the resistance against Jabin, “the captain of whose host was Sisera.” Now, while Heber the Kenite is gone with the rest to the battle,—(for he had pitched his tent, remember, by Kedesh; and it was from Kedesh594594 Judges iv. 6. that Deborah “sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam;”)—while Heber, the husband, I say, is gone to the battle, and Jael the wife is left alone, distracted with anxiety, in the tent;—when, weak and unprotected woman as she is, she beholds the Captain of the hateful oppressor of God’s people hastening to her tent, slumbering at her feet, and unexpectedly within her power:—will you pretend that she, a Midianitess, is to blame if she yields to the strong impulse which prompts her to compass the man’s downfall, as speedily as she may? “There was peace between Jabin the King of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite595595 Ibid. iv. 17.,” you will remind me. True: (between Jabin,—not between Sisera, by the way:) without this, the whole incident would not have happened. Sisera presumed on the peaceful relations which existed between his lord and Heber; and supposed that the sympathy of one alien race for another was to outweigh every other consideration. Yet, how stood the case? Heber had thrown in his lot, irrevocably, with the people of God; while Jabin had already utterly violated the conditions of peace. For twenty weary years, had Jael and her family shared the hardships of that sacred line which Jabin had “mightily oppressed.” All her life long596596 Ibid. v. 6., the 226highways have been unoccupied; and travellers have had to walk through by-ways; and the villages have been deserted by their inhabitants. Archers have infested the very places of drawing water597597 Judges v. 6, 7, 11.. Meanwhile, a sure word has gone forth from the Prophetess who dwells under the palm-tree between Ramah and Bethel on Mount Ephraim598598 Ibid. iv. 4, 5., to the effect that God will give a mighty victory this day to His people599599 Ibid. v. 7.. Moreover, Deborah, (to whom the children of Israel go up for judgment,) has foretold that the Lord will “sell Sisera into the hand of a woman600600 Ibid. v. 5 and 9..” How can you marvel at the rest! . . . With a faith strong and undoubting as Rahab’s, Jael,—weak woman as she is,—seizes the wooden tent-pin and the mallet, (the only weapons which are within her reach!); and, (somewhat as David afterwards employed a stone and a sling for the slaughter of the Philistine,) with these vile instruments, at one blow, she smites to the earth the enemy of God’s people. . . . O, it was not because she was treacherous, or because she was cruel! Treachery and cruelty were not the vices to which a dweller in tents (and she a woman!) was prone, when a thirsty soldier begged a draught of water; and most assuredly, had she been either, she would not,—she could not, have won praise from God! (Witness God’s wrath against David in the matter of Uriah, because he had no pity1 Sam. xii., as well as dying Jacob’s denunciations against Simeon and Levi because “instruments of cruelty” were “in their habitations601601 Gen. xlix. 5..”) O no! It was because she beheld in the slumbering captain at once the enemy of her own afflicted race,—and of God’s oppressed people,—and above all of God Himself. That 227was why “she put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workman’s hammer!” . . . The fight, you are requested to remember, had been a tremendous fight; and the battle, as she thought, was yet raging. Reuben, and Dan, and Asher had kept aloof from the encounter;—the first, in his rich pasture-land east of the Jordan, abiding “among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks;” the two others, intent on their maritime pursuits. Only some of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh602602 Comp. Judges v. 14, 17, with Numb. xxxii. 39, 40, and Josh. xiii. 31.—Consider Ps. lxxx. 2., had been found willing to throw in their lot with the two northern tribes of Zebulun, and Naphtali,—who had “jeoparded their lives unto the death.” And the battle which these had fought had been the Lord’s; and as many as had taken part with them, were considered to have come “to the help of the Lord.” Such then was the quarrel which Jael had made her own; and such the spirit in which she had done her wild deed of unassisted prowess!
To appreciate her constancy and courage, you may not overlook how fearful were the odds against the cause she was espousing: on the oppressor’s side, nine hundred chariots of iron; whereas, “was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?” It had been so terrific a day, that if the Lord had not been on their side,—if the stars in their courses had not fought for Israel,—how could Sisera have possibly been overcome? But the very river was employed to sweep the enemies of Israel away,—“that ancient river, the river Kishon!” . . . Now I boldly ask you, if the Angel of the Lord may curse bitterly the inhabitants of Meroz, “because they came not to the help of the 228 Lord,”—(pray mark that phrase; for it shews exactly in what light the conflict was regarded!)—“to the help of the Lord against the mighty;” shall we wonder if, by the Spirit of God, Deborah the prophetess proclaims “blessed above women in the tent” Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite to be;—the undaunted one by whose right hand the captain of all that mighty host had been slain? Find me another “woman in the tent” who may be compared with her! . . . Or rather, (for that is the only question,) shall these words embolden us to impeach the morality of Holy Writ? .. . I am sure there is not one of you all who really thinks it. She was—was she not?—a courageous, a faithful, and (according to her light,) a strictly virtuous woman. She was content to risk all, “as seeing Him who is invisible:” and to believe that “they that be with us are more than they that be with them603603 2 Kings vi. 16..” From the unmistakeable evidence of her uncompromising boldness in a good cause, her unwavering faith, her readiness to cast in her lot with the people of God,—no one but a hypocrite will turn away to criticize the details of her deed by the Gospel standard of Grace and Truth. “He asked for water, and she gave him milk.” What would you have had her do? It is by no means certain that she foresaw the deed which was to follow, and which cannot, (from the nature of the case,) have been the result of a preconcerted plan. The impulse to terminate the tyranny of Canaan, and the sufferings of her adopted people, as well as to decide the fortune of that critical day, by slaying one whom she regarded as the enemy of God Himself, may have seized her while she stood in the door of the tent,—weighing Sisera’s petition against Deborah’s prophecy. 229Be this as it may,—would you have had the woman connive at Sisera’s escape,—the enemy of God’s people, when God Himself had unexpectedly put him into her power?
It will assist us to understand this story, that we should bear in mind how it fared with Ahab, King of Israel, in the matter of Ben-hadad, King of Syria, as recorded in the xxth chapter of the First Book of Kings. “Thus saith the Lord)” (was the Divine sentence,) “Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people604604 1 Kings xx. 42..” It is quite evident that as the enemy of God, in the strictest sense, each fresh oppressor of Israel was regarded and that, as the enemy of the Lord God of Israel, Sisera was summarily slain by the Kenite’s wife.
Be so good as to remember also, that forgiveness of enemies is strictly a Christian duty. You have no right to expect to find the brightest jewels of the kingdom of Heaven glittering on the swarthy brow of an Arabian wife in the days of the Judges. “Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ605605 St. John i. 17..” You cannot expect to find the wife of Heber the Kenite more truthful than Sarah, and Rebekah, and Rachel,—or even than Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and David: neither should you be so unreasonable as to expect that the God of Truth will award praise and blame to His creatures by a higher standard of Morality than He has seen fit, at any given period, to allow. A perfectly enlightened conscience, no doubt, will never consent to lie. A Christian woman in Jael’s place, ought not, of course, to be guilty of Jael’s deed. But 230you are forgetting the time of the world in which your lot is thrown. I say nothing of the circumstances of terror under which she acted,—she was forced to act. How could she tell that Sisera would not awake ere she should strike the blow,—or at least before she could achieve his death? What if a company of Jabin’s host should come up to the tent-door, the instant she had done the deed, and inquire after Sisera? Suppose the issue of that day’s encounter should prove disastrous, what would be her own and Heber’s fate? . . . Feel a little for the poor wife,—for the lonely, helpless “woman in the tent,”—not entirely for the fierce soldier against whom you have heard the Lord’s decree of death; . . O ye, who, living in the full blaze of Gospel light, in cold blood can reject the doctrine of the Atonement, and deny the Lord who bought you, and teach that the Bible is “like any other book;” who can make light of its Inspiration, and evacuate its Prophecy, and idealize its Miracles; who with your lips can profess the Church’s doctrines, and with your pens can deny them;—go ye and prate of Morality, and Honesty, and Truth We shall heed mighty little your opinion of Jael’s conduct, and of the Divine Commendation which it met with. I believe that., instead of suspecting the morality of the Bible in this instance, there is hardly an honest Christian heart among us, but cries out, on the contrary,—“So let all Thine enemies perish, O Lord! But let them that love Him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.”
2. There is no time to consider, as I fain would, any other story; that of Jacob for example. It is quite amazing to hear the presumptuous speeches concerning that great Saint, in which good men sometimes permit 231themselves: as if the sum total of Jacob’s history were this:—that he once obtained an ungenerous advantage over his Brother, and then shamefully deceived his blind and aged Father. Whereas those were the two great blots in an otherwise holy life! actions which were followed by severe, aye lifelong punishment.—But I must not enter on Jacob’s history,—even to shew you that a careless reader overlooks certain circumstances which go a very long way indeed to excuse the actions just alluded to. I prefer reminding you that since, at Bethel, God blessed the exile’s slumbers with a glorious vision, and most comfortable promise, on his first setting out for Haran; and again at Jabbok, as well as at Mahanaim, blessed him with a vision of Angels, and a renewal of the blessing, on his return; from this point, as before, it will be our wisdom to reason; and we shall reason backwards. Had Scripture been quite silent in all other respects, such proofs of the Divine approval ought to be enough to convince a believing heart that the only thing wanting must be fuller details,—more evidence,—in order to shew us that the Patriarch deserved the Spirit’s praise. But in truth, in Jacob’s case, the details are abundant and the evidence decisive.
3. Of all the other (so called) difficulties which occur to my memory,—as the extinction of the Canaanites, (who yet were not extinguished,)—the Sacrifice of Isaac, (who yet was not sacrificed,)—the life of David;—I have only to say that before you can pretend to have an opinion upon the subject you must be sure that you “know the Scriptures:” else, I make bold to say, you will inevitably err in your cogitations concerning them. Thus, men are heard to insinuate astonishment that the King who so basely compassed Uriah’s 232death should have been “a man after God’s own heart:” whereas the Hebrew original, (as they would know, if they knew the Scriptures,) conveys nothing of the kind; while the murder of Uriah is found to have drawn down upon David unmitigated wrath and terrible punishment from the right Hand of Him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.
II. Turn we now, briefly, to the physical Marvels which are described in the Bible; and chiefly those which occur in the Old Testament.
I am about to speak of Miracles in general; but it may be convenient to say a few words first about certain mighty transactions which eclipse, by their vastness or their strangeness, most isolated events. Thus, as the Nativity, Temptation, Transfiguration, Resurrection, Ascension, of our Lord, together with the Coming of the Holy Ghost, eclipse in a manner the other Miracles of the New Testament,—so the Temptation of our first Parents, the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and the fate of Lot’s wife, the burning bush, the Plagues which prepared the way for the Exode, the crossing of the Red Sea, the Manna, and the brazen Serpent; Balaam’s ass, and the fate of the walls of Jericho; the history of Jonah, and of Daniel among the lions:—events like these stand out from the Old Testament narrative and challenge astonishment.
Of all these latter events, viewed as difficulties,—(for it is as difficulties in the way of Revelation that we are now expected to look on Miracles,)—you are requested to observe that they enjoy, one and all, the confirmation of express citation in the New Testament. I am saying that either St. Paul, or St. Peter, or St. James, or (above all) our Blessed Lord Himself, 233appeal to, or else explain, every one of these marvellous passages in Old Testament History. And this the only remark I propose to offer concerning any of them. It will certainly prove unavailing to convince a certain class of persons of the historical reality of the Deluge, to find that our Saviour, that St. Peter, and St. Paul, have all spoken of it as an actual event:—Men who are disposed to reject the story of the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice, will not perhaps believe it one whit the more because they find it appealed to by St. Peter606606 2 St. Peter ii. 16.:—and the Divine exposition offered by Christ Himself of Jonah, three days and three nights in the fish’s belly, will not, it may be feared, reconcile others to an event which strikes them as being too improbable to be true. But this, at least, will infallibly result from the discovery:—men will perceive that they must positively make their election; and either accept the Bible as a whole, or else reject it as a whole; for that there is no middle course open to them. The New Testament stands committed irrevocably to the Old. Every Book of the Bible stands committed to all the other Books. Not only does our Lord quote the Canon in its collected form, and call it “the Law and the prophets,”—or simply ἡ γραφή, “the Scripture,”—and so set His seal upon it, as one undivided and indivisible roll of Inspiration; but He and His Apostles single out the very narratives which the imbecility of Man was most likely to stumble at, and employ them for such purposes, and in such a manner, that escape from them shall henceforth be altogether hopeless. To eliminate the marvels of Scripture, I say, is impossible; for a Divine Hand has been laid upon almost 234every one of them. The subsequent references are not only most numerous, but they run into the very staple of the narrative,—and will not,—cannot be eradicated.
I question whether all students of the inspired page are aware of the extent to which what I have been saying holds true. Let me only invite you to investigate the structure of the Bible under this aspect, and you will be astonished at the result. For you will find that the system of tacit quotation and allusive reference is so perpetual, that it is as if the design had been that the fibres should be incapable of being disentangled any more. Balaam’s story for example in the Book of Numbers, is found alluded to in Deuteronomy, in Joshua, in Micah, in Nehemiah; by St. Peter, by St. Jude, and by St. John in the Apocalypse607607 Numb. xxii., xxiii., xxiv., xxv., xxxi. 8 and 16. Joshua xxiv. 9, 10: xiii. 22. Micah vi. 5. Nehem. xiii. 1, 2 (quoting Deut. xxiii. 3, 4.) 2 St. Peter ii. 14-16. St. Jude ver. 11. Rev. ii. 14..—The Exodus, with its attendant wonders, is alluded to in Joshua, and in Judges, and in Job, and in the Psalms; in Amos, and Isaiah, and Micah, and Hosea, and Jeremiah, and Daniel; in Kings, in Samuel, in Nehemiah; and in the Now Testament repeatedly608608 Exod. xiv. 19-31, &c. is thus referred to in Josh. ii. 10: iv. 23. Judges v. 4, 5. Job xxvi. 12. Ps. lxxiv. 13: cvi. 7-11: cxiv. 1-8: lxxvii. 14-20: lxvi. 6: lxxviii. 12-31. Amos ii. 10. Hos. xii. 13. Is. lxiii. 11-13: xliii, 16: li. 9, 10, 15. Micah vi. 4-5. Jer. ii. 6: xxxii. 20-1. Dan. ix. 15. 2 Sam. vii. 23. 2 Kings xvii. 7. Neh. ix. 9-21. Acts vii. 30-41. 1 Cor. x. 1-11. 2 Tim. iii. 8. Hebr. xi. 29. Rev. xv. 3.. The Evangelists quote one another times without number. In the Epistles, the Gospels are quoted upwards of fifty times; and St. Peter quotes St. Paul again and again. It is a favourite device of 235these last days to hint at the allegorical character of the beginning of Genesis. But I find upwards of thirty references in the. New Testament to the first two Chapters of Genesis609609 Gen. i. 1, (Heb. xi. 3:) 3, (2 Cor. iv. 6:) 5, (1 Thess. v. 5:) 6, 9, (2 St. Pet. iii. 5:) 11, 12, (1 St. John iii. 9:) 14, (Phil. ii. 15: Rev. xxi. 11:) 24, (Acts x. 12: xi. 6:) 26, (St. James iii. 9:) 26, 27, (Col. iii. 10:) 27, (1 Cor. xi. 7: St. Matth. xix. 4: St. Mark x. 6:) 28, (Ps. viii. 6-8, commented on in Heb. ii. 5-9: 1 Cor. xv. 25: Eph. i. 22.)—Gen. ii. 2, (Heb. iv. 4, 10:) 7, (1 Cor. xv. 45, 47:) 9, (Rev. ii. 7: xxii. 2, 14, 19:) 18, (1 Cor. xi. 9:) 22, (1 Tim. ii. 13:) 23, (Eph. v. 30:) 24, (Eph. v. 31: St. Matth. xix. 5: St. Mark x. 7: 1 Cor. vi. 16:) &c.. Certain parts of Daniel have incurred suspicion,—for no better reason, as it seems, than because certain persons have found it hard to believe that Prophecy can be “an anticipation of History610610 “It is a very misleading notion of Prophecy,” says Dr. Arnold,—(a writer to whom, more than to any other person, I conceive that we are indebted for “Essays and Reviews;” that unhappy production being the lawful development and inevitable result of the late Head-master of Rugby’s most unsound and mischievous religious teaching:)—“It is a very misleading notion of Prophecy, if we regard it as an anticipation of History.” (Sermons, p. 375.) “I think that, with the exception of those prophecies which relate to our Lord, the object of Prophecy is rather to delineate principles and states of opinion which shall come, than external events. I grant that Daniel seems to furnish an exception.” (Life and Correspondence, p. 59.) This was written in 1825. In 1840, we are informed:—“The latter chapters of Daniel, if genuine, would be a clear exception to my Canon of Interpretation. . . . But I have long thought that the greater part of the Book of Daniel is most certainly a very late work, of the time of the Maccabees; and the pretended prophecy about the Kings of Grecia and Persia, and of the North and South, is mere history, like the poetical prophecies in Virgil and elsewhere. . . . That there may be genuine fragments in it, is very likely?’ (Ibid., p. 505.)—In other words, Dr. Arnold, rather than suppose “my Canon of Interpretation” (!) worthless, is prepared to eject the Book of Daniel from the Inspired Canon. Any thing is “very likely,” in short, except that God could foretell future events, and Dr. Arnold be in error! . . . Ἆρ᾽ οὐχ ὕβρις τάδ᾽;.” Now it is strange certainly to find 230a thing objected to for being what it is: and “Prophecy is nothing but the history of events before they come to pass,”—as Butler remarked long ago611611 Analogy, P. II. ch. vii.. Waiving this, however, you are requested to observe that our Saviour quotes from those very parts of Daniel which have been objected to. You cannot get rid of those parts of Daniel therefore. You are not to suppose that the Bible is like an old house, where a window may be darkened, or a door blocked up, according to the caprice of every fresh occupant. The terms on which men dwell there are that every part of the structure shall be inhabited and that every part shall be retained in its integrity. What I am insisting upon is, that the sacred Writers plainly say,—We stand or we fall together. They reach forth their hands, and they hold one another fast. They rehearse comprehensive Genealogies,—they furnish a summary view of long histories,—they enumerate the various worthies of old time, and cite their deeds in order. They recognize one another’s voices, and they interpret one another’s thoughts, and they adopt one another’s sayings. Verily the Bible is not “like any other Book!” The prophets and Apostles and Evangelists of either covenant reach out one to another and lo, among them is seen the form of One like the Son of God . . . How far it may be rational to reject the Bible, I will not now discuss: but it is demonstrable that a man cannot accept the Bible, and straightway propose to omit from it one jot or one tittle of its contents. As for abstracting from Scripture 237the marvels of Scripture, it is precisely for the protection and preservation of them, as I have been shewing, that the most curious and abundant provision has been made.
1. The miracles, properly so called, whether of the Old or New Testament, have lately been cavilled at with exceeding bitterness612612 Throughout the volume entitled “Essays and Reviews;” while the third Essay is simply an affirmation of their impossibility.. That they are sufficiently attested, is allowed613613 And yet, Bp. Butler says,—“The facts, both miraculous and natural, in Scripture, appear in all respects to stand upon the same foot of historical evidence:” . . . . “and though testimony is no proof of enthusiastic opinions, or of any opinions at all; yet, it is allowed, in all other cases, to be a proof of facts.”—Analogy, P. II. ch. vii. (ed. 1833, pp. 285 and 293.); the objection is a (so called) Philosophical one, and is briefly this,—that the Laws of Nature being fixed and immutable, it is contrary not only to experience, but also to reason, to suppose that they have ever been suspended, or violated, or interrupted. Events “contrary to the order of Nature,”—events which would introduce “disorder” into Creation,—are pronounced incredible.—This is a very old objection; but it has been lately revived. I will dispose of it as briefly as I can.
You are requested to observe then, that this difficulty,—(such as it is,)—is entirely occasioned by the terms in which it is stated. Who ever asserted that Miracles are “violations of natural causes614614 Essays and Reviews, p. 140.?” “suspensions of natural laws615615 Ibid. p. 104.?” Who ever said that the effect of Miracles is to “interrupt”—“violate”—“reverse,”—the Laws of Nature? Why assume “contrariety” and “disorder” in a κόσμος which seems to have had no experience of either?238
But God is, I suppose, superior to his own Laws! He is not the creature of circumstances,—even of His own creating. Supreme is He in Creation,—albeit in a manner which baffles thought. He does not even suspend His Laws, perhaps, so much as fulfil them after a Diviner fashion,—somewhat as He was fulfilling the Mosaic Economy even while He seemed to be violating one or other of its sanctions. He does not reverse or disorder the fixed course of Nature, so much as rise above it, and shew Himself superior to it. He does not disturb anything, but our notions of His mode of acting. God coming suddenly to view in Nature, (which is an essential part of the notion of a miracle,) occasions perplexity, it is true; but only because we do not understand fully either Nature or God. “We know Him not as He is, neither indeed can know Him.” While of Nature, we know nothing but a few Laws which we have discovered by a long and laborious induction of phenomena. In fact, this whole manner of speaking concerning the Creator of the Universe, with reference to the Laws which He is found to have prescribed to things natural, has, I suspect, some great foolishness in it: for, even if we do not so far dishonour God as to imagine that He is subject to Law, yet we seem to imply that we think ourselves capable of understanding the relation in which He stands to Law. Whereas, the very notion of Law may be utterly inapplicable to God,—who is not only its first Author, (as He is indeed the first Author of all things,) but the very source and cause of it also. So that what are Laws to ourselves may be not so much as Law at all to God; but, (if I may so speak,) something which depends on “the counsel of His will,” and which, (considered as a restraining 239cause,) is to Him as if it were not. There can be no miracles with God616616 There are some admirable observations on this subject in the ‘Preliminary Essay’ prefixed to Dean Trench’s Notes on the Miracles.—See pp. 10, 12, 15, 60, &c.!
Briefly then:—That He who, (surely I may say confessedly,) is above Law, when He manifests Himself in the midst of Creation, should act in a manner which defies conception; and yet should disturb nothing, reverse nothing, violate nothing;—(except to be sure, possibly, certain preconceived notions of his rational creatures;)—in this, I say, there is surely nothing either incredible or absurd.
2. So much, to say the truth, seems to be ad-milted, by all but professed Atheists. But then, certain formulæ have been invented to bridge over the difficulty, which Miracles are supposed to occasion, which I cannot but think are just as objectionable as unbelief itself.
By way of saving the credit of “the Laws of the Universe,” a kind of compromise has been discovered; to which I do not find that God has been made any party.
The idea of Law, which has been falsely declared to be only now “emerging into supremacy in Science617617 Dr. Temple.,” seems to have usurped such a dominion over the minds of a few persons, superficially acquainted with Physical studies, that Miracles can be only tolerated on the supposition that they are “the exact fulfilment of much more extensive Laws than those we suppose to exist618618 Mr. Babbage’s Bridgewater Treatise, (2nd. Ed. 1838,) p. 92..” We are kindly assured that what we call a Miracle is not “an exception to those laws which 240we know, but really the fulfilment of a wider Law which we did not know before619619 “Why we should pray for Fair Weather: being Remarks on Professor Kingsley’s Sermon,”—by a Member of the University [of Cambridge,]—12mo. Cambridge, 1860, p. 8..” Men are eager to remind us that this is the view of Bp. Butler620620 “The view taken of Miracles in chapter viii., is the same as that contained in the work of Butler, on the Analogy,” &c.—Babbage (as above), p. 191., (whom every one, I observe, is fond of having for an ally.) Thus, a very recent writer says,—“What we call interferences may, (as Bp. Butler observed long ago,) be fulfilments of general laws not perfectly apprehended by us621621 Edinburgh Review, for April 1861, p. 486..”—But I cannot find that Bp. Butler anywhere says anything of the sort. What Butler says, is,—that we know nothing of the laws of storms and earthquakes,—tempers and geniuses;—yet we conclude, (but only from analogy,) that all these seemingly accidental things are the result of general laws. Now, (he proceeds,) since it is only “from our finding that the course of Nature, in some respects and so far, goes on by general laws, that we conclude this of the rest;”—it is credible “that God’s miraculous interpositions may have been, all along, in like manner, by general laws of wisdom.” Butler says that it “may have been by general laws,” “that the affairs of the world, being permitted to go on in their natural course so far, should, just at such a point, have a new direction given them by miraculous interposition.” He does not say, you observe, that those “miraculous interpositions” are “the exact fulfilment of much more extensive Laws than those we suppose to exist;” (as if a larger induction were all that was needed, in order 241to get rid of the obnoxious word “Miracle:”)—not, that Miracles may be “fulfilments of general laws not perfectly apprehended by us;” (as if the only thing wanted, were an enlargement of the human formula, in order to bring a miraculous interposition within the definition of an extraordinary phenomenon.) Such notions belong altogether to the inventors of calculating machines; whose speculations, even concerning Divine things, clearly cannot soar above their instrument622622 How exactly, in this instance, has Dr. Whewell’s anticipation received fulfilment!;—“We may, with the greatest propriety, deny to the mechanical Philosophers and Mathematicians of recent times any authority with regard to their views of the administration of the Universe; we have no reason whatever to expect from their speculations any help, when we ascend to the first Cause and supreme Ruler of the Universe. But we might perhaps go further, and assert that they are in some respects less likely than men employed in other pursuits, to make any clear advance towards such a subject of speculation.”—(Whewell’s Bridgewater Treatise, p. 334.)—Scarcely less acute is the remark which the late excellent Hugh James Rose has somewhere left on record, concerning the chapter wherein the preceding remark occurs,—That the world would not easily forgive Dr. Whewell for those two chapters on “Inductive” and “Deductive Habits.”. It is called the “argument from laws intermitting623623 Babbage (as before), p. 92, (heading of ch. viii.);” and evidently reduces a miracle to a phenomenon of periodical recurrence. The aloe, watched for ninety-nine years and observed to blossom in the hundredth, is (according to this view) an emblem of the constitution of Nature at last interrupted by a Miracle.
I will not waste your time further with this view of the subject, having exposed its fallacy. Station yourself, in thought, at the grave of Lazarus; and see him that was dead and had been four days buried, 242 come forth bound hand and foot with grave-clothes;—and then prate of any “general Laws,” except those “of Wisdom,” to as many as you can get to listen to you. A “miraculous interposition,” (as Butler phrases it,) has given a new direction to affairs which, so far, had been permitted to go in their natural course. That “general Laws” of inscrutable Wisdom determined such a “miraculous interposition,”—is a position which, so far from objecting to, I embrace with both the arms of my heart624624 See the Analogy, P. II. ch. iv. sect. iii..
3. Another favourite recipe there is for escaping from the bondage of Miracles, which is so childish, that it would seem scarcely to deserve notice: but that it has been largely resorted to by writers of whom the world thinks highly. These men, in a word, try to explain them away where they can: where they cannot, they pare them down as much as they are able, or rather as much as they dare. Demoniacal possession? Symptoms like those described are known to accompany epilepsy. Manna? Something like it falls in the wilderness of Sinai to this hour. The Red Sea parted? Well, but a strong East wind blew all night. Stilling the storm, and healing Peter’s wife’s mother? Every storm is stilled if let alone; and a fever will burn out, often without occasioning death. The miraculous draught ‘of fishes, and the stater in the fish’s mouth? . . . . but you can readily supply a suggestion for yourselves.
Now, two remarks present themselves on this kind of handling, which may be worth stating. (1) Those who so speak forget that the Devils are related to have conversed with Christ625625 St. Mark i. 24. St. Luke iv. 34: viii. 28, 30-32, &c. &c.:—that the manna, (of which so 243many miraculous properties are related626626 Exod. xvi. 18-21: 22-24:-25-27: 31: 33-34. Add Wisdom xvi. 20-1.,) fed 600,000 men for forty years, and then suddenly ceased627627 Exod. xvi. 36, and Josh. v. 12.:—that the waters of the Red Sea were a wall to the children of Israel, on their right hand and on their left628628 Exod. xiv. 22, 29.:—that when Christ said to the waves of the sea of Galilee “Peace, be still,” “there was a great calm629629 St. Matth. viii. 26. St. Mark iv. 39.:”—that Peter’s wife’s mother, cured of her fever, “rose and ministered unto,” (that is “waited upon,”) her Benefactor630630 St. Matth. viii. 16.. . . . It is worse than absurd to explain away part of a miracle, with a view to getting rid of the whole of it: as if the essence of the miracle were not sure to reside in the residuum,—in the very part which is left unaccounted for! (2) But above all, what place have such explanations in the recorded cases of feeding the multitudes, opening the eyes of one born blind, and raising the dead? While you leave the chiefest miracles of the Gospel untouched, you may not flatter yourself that you have got at the kernel of the matter; or indeed that the real question at issue has been touched by you, at all.
4. There remains to notice one subtle and most treacherous method of dealing with the marvels of Scripture,—(moral and physical alike,)—to which I desire in conclusion to direct your special attention; and which I would brand with burning words if I had them at command. I allude to what is called “Ideology,”—the plain English for which term is, a denial of the historical reality of Scripture. I will not waste time with inquiring whether this method is old or new. It is certainly much in fashion; and it 244is certainly finding advocates in high quarters. I therefore make no apology for introducing the monstrous thing to your notice. It requires, I should hope, only to be understood, to be rejected with unqualified indignation.
You and I, then, have been taught to believe that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” in the way St. Matthew and St. Luke describe: that our Lord was Baptized and Tempted of Satan; that He wrought Miracles,—casting out Devils, and even raising the Dead; that He was Transfigured on a mountain; that He was Crucified, died, and was buried; that He rose again the Third Day, ascended into Heaven, and at last, (as on this day,) sent down the Paraclete to dwell with His Church for ever. All this, I say, you and I,—with the whole Church Catholic for 1800 years,—have been taught to believe as plain historical truths, mere matters of fact; past telling wonderful indeed, but yet as historically true, as that I am standing here and you are sitting yonder,—neither more nor less.
But you are to understand that we, and all mankind with us, have been under a very curious delusion on this head. We are assured that every one of these things, or at least that some of them, are only ideologically true: that historically, they are false. In plain language, we are requested to believe that they never occurred at all. It is only a lively way of putting it,—no more!
You will inevitably suppose that I must be trifling with you: I therefore proceed to give you a sample of this kind of teaching. A living dignitary of our Church writes as follows concerning the Transfiguration of Christ. “It may be asked, of what kind was the 245vision which we here call the Transfiguration? Was it an effect produced within on the minds of the Apostles; or was it that an actual external change came for the time over the person of our Lord? We cannot say.” I give you this as the mildest form of the poison. Quite evident is it that the same suggestion is just as applicable to our Lord’s Birth, or to His Death; to His Temptation, or to His Resurrection, But to see whither all this tends, and what it really means, you must have recourse to the pages of a more advanced proficient in the Science of Ideology. He admits that its “application to the interpretation of Scripture, to the doctrines of Christianity, to the formularies of the Church, may undoubtedly be pushed so far as to leave in the sacred records no historical residue whatever. An example of the critical ideology carried to excess,” (he says,) “resolves into an ideal” the whole of our Lord’s Life and Doctrine; and “substitutes a mere shadow for the Jesus of the Evangelists.” But for all that, (says the writer I am quoting,) “there are traits in the Scriptural person of Jesus, which are better explained by referring them to an ideal than an historical origin: parts of Scripture are more usefully interpreted ideologically than in any other manner,—as for instance, the history of the Temptation by Satan, and accounts of Demoniacal possession.” This writer, (who is a clergyman of the Church of England, and a Graduate in Divinity,) goes on to idealize the descent of Mankind from Adam and Eve, together with the chiefest marvels of the Old Testament: insisting that “the force, grandeur, and reality of these ideas are not a whit impaired,” although we discredit and reject the history, as history. So, our Saviour, (he says,)” is none the less the Son of David, 246in idea and spiritually, even if it be unproved whether He were so in historic fact.” “The spiritual significance is still the same,” (he says,) “of the Transfiguration, of opening blind eyes, of causing the tongue of the stammerer to speak plainly, of feeding multitudes with bread in the wilderness, of cleansing leprosy,—whatever links may be deficient in the traditional record of particular events.”
“Whatever links may be deficient!” O that men would have the courage or the honesty to say what they mean! Why not say plainly, “however untrustworthy we may account the narrative to be?” And this writer cannot mean any other thing; for missing “links,” assuredly, there are none.—In truth this method of wrapping up a monstrous abortion in “purple and fine linen,” in order to make it look like “a proper child,” is so much in vogue, that plain men are obliged first to translate a fallacy in order to understand it. Thus, a recent Apologist for the very writer I have been quoting,—after surrendering the beginning of Genesis as “parabolic,” (that is, not historically true,) is yet so obliging as to contend that “there still remain events” in Scripture,—our Lord’s Resurrection to wit,—“in which the garb of flesh,”—(pray mark the phraseology I )—“in which the garb of flesh seems to be so indispensable a vehicle for the spirit within, that we can hardly conceive how the one could have sustained itself in the world, unless it had been from the beginning allied to the other631631 Edinburgh Review, (art. on ‘Essays and Reviews,’) April 1861, p. 487..” In plain English, the writer is so candid as to admit that if the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from death be a mere fabrication,—in plain terms, a hoax practised upon the 247credulity of an unscientific age,—it is hard to understand how it can have imposed upon mankind so completely for the last eighteen hundred years.
I will not insult the understanding of those who hear me so grossly as to suppose that dreams like these,—(and really they are no more!)—require answer or refutation. Such desperate shifts to elude the meaning of plain words, as the whole theory of Ideology discloses, would be even ludicrous, if the subject-matter were not so very sacred and solemn. As in the case of certain acts of flagrant dishonesty which one sometimes reads of,—one cannot forbear exclaiming, The man must certainly have felt himself very sore pressed indeed to have been induced to resort to a step so utterly disgraceful to his character! . . . . Anyhow, since certain persons have adopted this course, I do but plead for consistency. Only let them be sure that they apply this precious method of Interpretation to the History of England, and to everything their friend tells them: and let them not feel surprised if the same kind of ideological handling is bestowed upon everything they tell their friend. Idealize away, and be sure you stick at nothing! Why be outdone in logical consistency by such an one as Strauss? Let men also make their election whether Scripture shall be a lie or not. And when they have made up their minds, let them, in the Name of God, instead of dealing in unmanly insinuations, and dark hints, and shuffling equivocations,—let them declare themselves plainly, that we may know at least with whom and with what we have to do. For while false Brethren are thus playing fast and loose with Revelation, they, are trifling with the faith of thousands,—and imperilling other immortal souls besides their own.248
But I shall be reminded that the subject-matter of daily life, and of the Everlasting Gospel, is very different: and that the marvellous character of certain events recorded in the Bible constrains us to relegate those events to a distinct region. A child’s plea, which was effectually disposed of upwards of a century ago! What does it amount to but this,—that what is supernatural, or even highly extraordinary, must be also untrue? . . . When, however, the argument is shifted, and is made an appeal ad misericordiam:—when I am entreated to remember that though I believe in the Resurrection of Christ from Death, the same event is a “stumbling block” to many; and that I am “bound to treat with tenderness those who prefer to lean on the other, and, as they think, more secure foundation632632 Edinburgh Review, (art. on ‘Essays and Reviews,’) April 1861, p. 487.;” (viz. on the hypothesis that the Resurrection of the Son of Man is all a fable;)—I say, when I am so addressed, really, friends and Brethren, I am constrained to cry out that there is a limit beyond which Nature cannot endure; and that that limit has now been overstepped. Will men try to persuade us that the idea of our Lord’s Resurrection is a more secure basis for the Church’s faith than the fact of our Lord’s Resurrection? Why, they might as well try to convince the world that a broken reed is a better support than an oaken staff;—or that a handful of waste paper is of more value than the title-deeds of an estate. How can a shadow,—how can what is confessedly an imagination,—be, in any sense, or for any body, a “secure foundation;” or indeed, any foundation at all? how, above all, can a fancy be a “more secure foundation “than a fact? . . . . Not 249only will I not treat men with tenderness who put forth such blasphemous folly,—(men who, in their rashness, their recklessness, their arrogance, shew no manner of tenderness or consideration for others!)—but I will hold them up to ridicule, to the very utmost of my power. Nay, I would make them objects of unqualified reprobation to all, if I could, as they deserve to be reprobated; for they are the worst enemies of the Gospel of Christ633633 I have softened the expression originally employed in this place, out of deference to the opinions of some wise and good men, But I do not think that St. John, (the Evangelist and Apostle of Dogma,) would have thought my language too strong: nor St. Paul either. Εἴ τις οὐ φιλεῖ,—. “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is vain also634634 1 Cor. xv. 14.!” “The Apostle rests the truth of the Christian Religion on the fact that Christ was risen. . . . . The whole system turns upon this central point; the several doctrines gather round it, they depend upon it, they grow out of it; so that without it, Christianity would have no coherence or meaning635635 From a Sermon by the pious and learned chaplain to the English congregation at Rome, the Rev. F. B. Woodward,—Christ risen the Foundation of the Faith,—preached on Easter Day, 1861. (Rivingtons.).”
You and I know very well “that nothing could more effectually shake the whole fabric of Revealed Religion, than thus converting its history into fable, and its realities into fiction. For if the narratives most usually selected for the purpose may thus be explained away; what part of the Sacred History will be secure against similar treatment? Nay, what doctrines, even those the most essential to Christianity, might not thus be undermined? For are not those doctrines 250dependent upon the facts recorded in Scripture for the evidence of their truth? Does not, for instance, the whole system of our Redemption presuppose the reality of the Fall as an historical fact? And do not the proofs of the Divine authority of the whole, rest upon the verification of its Prophecies and Miracles, as events which have actually taken place? Allegory thus misapplied is therefore worse than frivolous or useless; it strikes a deadly blow at the very vitals of the Christian Faith636636 Van Mildert’s Bampton Lectures for 1814, (“An Inquiry into the general principles of Scripture-Interpretation,”)—pp. 242-3..” Away then with that very questionable form of liberality, which makes most free with what belongs to God! The truths of Revelation are yours and mine, I grant you: but only so yours and mine that, to our eternal blessedness, we embrace,—to our eternal loss, we let them slip! We add to them, or we take away from them, under peril of God’s curse. . . . Away too with that mawkish sentimentality which can find no better object for its sympathy than the hardened blasphemer, and the confirmed sceptic! My sympathy shall be reserved for those who have never so offended, but are, on the contrary, full of precious promise;—for the young and as yet inexperienced;—for you, who will have the battle of Christ and His Church to fight, when we shall be mouldering in the grave. Let those who do not know me, deem me uncharitable if they will. I care not. The uncharitable man,—mark me, Brethren!—the truly uncharitable man, is he, who shews no consideration for weak and unstable souls; who does not regard the trials and perils of the young; who beguiles unsteady feet to the edge of the precipice, and there forsakes them; whose destructive 251method, (for constructiveness is no part of that man’s philosophy!)—whose destructive method leaves the young without chart and compass,—aye, without moon or stars to sail by; who labours hard to communicate the taint of his own foul leprosy to those who were before unpolluted; who dims the eye, and deadens the car, and defiles the thoughts, and darkens the hope of as many as have the misfortune to come in his way, and feels no pity!—Yes, yes The man who sows his own vile doubts broadcast over two continents,—doing his very best to destroy the faith of those for whom Christ died,—he, he is the uncharitable man637637 The reader is particularly requested to read what Dr. Moberly has said on this subject in Some Remarks on ‘Essays and Reviews,’ being the Revised Preface to the Second Edition of ‘Sermons on the Beatitudes,’—p. xxii to p. xxv.—The constructive value of the ‘Remarks’ of that excellent Divine will long outlive the occasion which has called them forth. I allude particularly to the considerations which occur from p. xxxii to p. lxiii.! Not he who, forsaking the flowery fields of the Gospel, (whither he would far, far rather lead you!) and foregoing the free mountain air of imperishable Truth, for your sakes only keeps treading these dreary stifling paths of speculation;—a friend of yours, I mean, who with stammering eloquence, (the more’s the pity!) clings thus to you, Sunday after Sunday,—imploring you, with all a brother’s earnestness, not to venture where to venture is to die; and warning you against the men who have conspired against your life;—even while he labours hard to shew you what he knows to be “a more excellent way;” and implores you to come where Christ Himself hath promised that “ye shall find rest to your souls!”
This is all there is time for, to-day. Let me, in 252the fewest possible words, gather up what has been spoken into a practical shape.
Friends and brethren,—(I am still addressing the younger men present!)—Divinity is not debate; and Religion is not controversy; and Life is not long enough for perpetual disputings. “He that cometh unto God must believe that He is.” The heart dries up, and the affections wither away, and the soul faints, amid an atmosphere of cloudy doubts, and captious difficulties, and perverse disputations. You must rise above it, if you would discern the colours on the everlasting hills, and behold the beauty of the promised Land, and see objects as they really are. O put away from yourselves, (if any of you are so unhappy as to have acquired it,) a habit of mind which will effectually unfit you for profiting by what you read in Holy Scripture: and you, who are free from such dreadful bondage, beware lest, by the indulgence of some sin,—whether of the flesh or of the spirit,—you darken that spiritual eye by which alone spiritual things are to be discerned. It is like talking about colours to the blind, or about sounds to the deaf, to discuss with a certain class of persons the Inspiration, or the Interpretation, or the Marvels of Scripture. The Bible is, with them, a common book,” to be interpreted like any other book.” Prophecy is denied, and Miracles are rejected or explained away,—on the plea that they are alike incredible. These men lay claim to intellectual gifts above their fellows; and know not that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Rebels are they against the Most High; and find their exact image in those citizens who “sent a message after Him, saying, We will not have this Man to reign 253over us638638 St. Luke xix. 14..” The gist of all they deliver, is rebellion against God.
But it is not so with yourselves, who have yet everything to learn in respect of Divine things. O beware lest it ever become your own dreadful case! Begin betimes to acquaint yourselves with the wealth of that celestial armoury which contains a weapon which must prove fatal to every foe; but which it depends on yourselves whether you shall have the skill to wield or not. Suffer not yourselves to be cheated of your birthright, the Bible, either by the novel fictions of unstable men, or by the exploded heresies of a bygone age, revived and recommended by living unbelievers. You, especially, who aspire to the Ministerial office, and are destined hereafter to undertake the cure of souls, O do you be doubly watchful! Give to the Bible the undivided homage of a childlike heart; and bow down before its revelations with a suppliant understanding also; and let no characteristic of its method by any means escape you. Notice how it is indeed all one long narrative, from end to end; and see therein God’s provision that nothing shall be idealized, nothing explained away. Learn too that Man is thus called upon to look outward, and to sustain himself by an external Law; not to depend on the promptings of his own conscience, and so to become a god unto himself. The Bible, I repeat, is all severest history, from the Alpha to the Omega of it. But then, underneath the surface there are meanings high as Heaven, deep as Hell: and why? because the true Author of it is not Man, but God!
Let it quicken you in your desire to understand that Book out of which you will have hereafter to 254preach, reprove, rebuke, exhort639639 2 Tim. iv. 2.—sometimes to bethink yourselves of the flocks which already are expecting you; and among which God already sees your future going out and coming in; your faithful teaching, or (God forbid!) your betrayal of a most sacred trust. Acquaint yourselves in due time, by all means, with the scientific grounds on which the Bible is to be received as the Word of God: but of a truth, hereafter, you will forget to require that external testimony; for you will be convinced of its Divine origin, when you have become the adoring witnesses of its Divine power. Truly that must be from God which can so change the life and affect the heart; which can sustain the spirit under bereavement, and become the soul’s satisfying portion under every form of adversity! It has already altered the aspect of the World; and it has still a mighty work to do in India, and in China, and in Africa, and in the Islands of the Sea.
Difficulties there are in Scripture, doubtless: but I should be far more perplexed by the absence of them, than I shall ever be by their presence. Nay, they are a chief source of joy to a rightly constituted mind; for they exercise the moral nature and the intellectual powers, in the noblest possible way. It is the office of the highest Intellect to know when to walk by Faith, and when by sight: and when, to “ask for the old paths.” It needs a mind of no common order fully to recognize the distinctive difference between a system which comes from God; and one which has been elaborated by human Reason: the latter progressive,—the former incapable of progress; the one liable to change,—the other, unchangeable for ever. There are certain indelible characteristics of 255a Divine Revelation, I say, which it is the office of the keenest wit to detect and hold fast,—which it is a prime note of imbecility in a thoughtful man to overlook and let go. . . . . The Bible in truth, as one grows older,—(to me at least it seems so,)—becomes almost the only thing in the world really deserving of a man’s attention. Above Reason, many things in it confessedly are: but against Reason, I do not know of one. Meantime, is it not a glorious anticipation for you and for me, that to understand those hard things fully may be hereafter a part of our chiefest bliss? There is but a step between us and death640640 1 Sam. xx. 3.; and assuredly when we wake up after His likeness, we shall be satisfied with it641641 Ps. xvii. 16.! . . . Already “the shadows of the evening are stretched out642642 Jer. vi. 4..” Be patient, O my soul, “until the day break, and the shadows flee away643643 Song of S. ii. 17: iv. 6.!”
THY STATUTES HAVE BEEN MY SONGS IN THE HOUSE OF MY PILGRIMAGE.257
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