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IV.

(Lecture I., page 26.)

REVELATION AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE.

It is only an untenable idea of Revelation that can be supposed at variance with the idea of the development of Christian Doctrine. If we identify Revelation with its record—in other words, with Scripture—then it might be assumed that Divine truth was something absolutely fixed ion the text of Scripture (although even in this case the 217truth would vary according to the different ways of interpreting it); but Revelation can only be rightly conceived as a new force of spiritual light and knowledge communicated to a spiritual intelligence. This force enters, like every other force of knowledge and morality, into the higher culture of the race, and, from a supernatural point of view, is the most powerful factor in advancing that culture. But it works organically like other elements of human progress. It is not a definite formula laid upon the human intelligence, but a definite impulse communicated to it.

The Hebrew race were chosen by God to be the recipients of this higher spiritual knowledge; and through the writings of the Hebrew prophets, who were the special organs of Revelation, the Divine truth communicated to them has been imparted to mankind in general. These writings contain the Revelation, or are the record of it. Their true purport is not to be gathered by a mere induction of texts or proof passages, but by a living and sympathetic insight into the true spirit and structure of their thoughts, and its organic relations with all the spiritual thought of succeeding ages. The interpreter, in short, must rise to the spiritual level of the prophets’ mind (through the record which has been preserved of that mind), and so reach the heart of the Revelation communicated to it. It is only in this way that what was Revelation to the prophets can at the same time be Revelation to us-Revelation in every case being, by its very terms, not a dead letter, but a living light in the mind and heart.

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In this manner Revelation enters as a new and ever-renewing factor into human thought, continually enlarging, enlightening, and purifying it, and religious doctrine is the ever-fresh product of this process of spiritual education. It is the Divine truth originally communicated to the prophetic mind—but which, just in virtue of its Divine originality, has continued to grow in the spiritual consciousness of humanity in connection with all the higher elements of that consciousness; and so from time to time has been moulded or translated into new forms of expression, adapted to new necessities, and in order to meet new forms of error. The idea of the development of Doctrine, therefore, instead of being opposed to the idea of Revelation, may be said to presuppose this latter idea, and to rest upon it. The difficulty of discriminating what is merely human, or as it is called “natural,” in the product from what is divine or “supernatural,” is an inherent difficulty which no theory of Revelation can extricate, and which is least of all got rid of by the theory which identifies Revelation with its record, or supposes doctrine to be a mere deduction from textual premises, or parts of the letter of Scripture brought together in supposed logical order,

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