Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

for that alone, it is competent to the advocate of Christianity to reply, “Give me the apostles' testimony, and I do not stand in need of their judgment; give me the facts, and I have complete security for every conclusion I want.” ... The two following cautions... will exclude all uncertainty upon this head which can be attended with danger: First, To separate what was the object of the apostolic mission, and declared by them to be so, from what was extraneous to it, or only incidentally connected with it. ... Secondly, That, in reading the apostolic writings, we distinguish between their doctrines and their arguments. Their doctrines came to them by revelation properly so called; yet, in propounding these doctrines in their writings or discourses, they were wont to illustrate, support, and enforce them by such analogies, arguments, and considerations, as their own thoughts suggested. ... The doctrine itself must be received; but it is not necessary, in order to defend Christianity, to defend the propriety of every comparison, or the validity of every argument, which the apostle has brought into the discussion. DR. WM. PALEY: Evidences of Christianity, part iii. chap. 2; in Works, pp. 412–13.

We have omitted the illustrations by which this clear-headed thinker supports his reasoning, drawn from the belief of the evangelists in the reality of demoniacal possession, and from the erroneous opinion attributed to the apostles, and supposed to be found in their writings, that the day of judgment was to approach in their own times. But, as PALEY's work is well known, the whole chapter can easily be referred to.

The history of the New Testament remains in the main true, although the narrator may deviate from what actually took place, in describing immaterial collateral circumstances, or may, through mistake, alter or add something in such collateral incidents; and although he may adopt words somewhat varying from those actually used by the characters occurring in the history. It is sufficient if only the facts themselves are not fabricated, the thoughts and sentiments of the actors and speakers not perverted, and the truths which they propound not mixed with falsehood. In this sense we maintain that the history contained in the New Testament is true. The material facts are not affected. ...... The truth of an event in general depends not upon single words, nor on trivial temporary limitations and collateral incidents; but the question is, whether the fact be true. Each narrator has recorded it somewhat differently according to his own observation, and the different way by which he arrived at the knowledge of it. This very variety confirms the truth of the evangelio

[ocr errors]

history. A suspicion would naturally arise against them, if each of the evangelists had narrated every thing to the minutest circumstance in the very same words. G. F. SEILER: Biblical Hermeneutics, S298, 326.

It is my profound conviction that St. John and St. Paul were divinely inspired; but I totally disbelieve the dictation of any one word, sentence, or argument, throughout their writings. Observe, there was revelation. ... Revelations of facts were undoubtedly made to the prophets ; revelations of doctrines were as undoubtedly made to John and Paul; but is it not a mere matter of our very senses that John and Paul each dealt with those revelations, expounded them, insisted on them, just exactly according to his own natural strength of intellect, habit of reasoning, moral and even physical temperament? We receive the books ascribed to John and Paul as their books on the judgment of men for whom no miraculous judgment is pretended ; nay, whom, in their admission and rejection of other books, we believe to have erred. Shall we give less credence to John and Paul themselves ? Surely the heart and soul of every Christian give him sufficient assurance, that, in all things that concern him as a man, the words that he reads are spirit and truth, and could only proceed from Him who made both heart and soul. Understand the matter so, and all difficulty vanishes : you read without fear, lest your faith meet with some shock from a passage here and there which you cannot reconcile with immediate dictation by the Holy Spirit of God, without an absurd violence offered to the text. You read the Bible as the best of all books, but still as a book, and make use of all the means and appliances which learning and skill, under the blessing of God, can afford towards rightly apprehending the general sense of it; not solicitous to find out doctrine in mere epistolary familiarity, or facts in clear ad hominem et pro tempore allusions to national traditions. S. T. COLERIDGE: Table Talk; in Works, vol. vi. pp. 386–7.

The same laws of criticism which teach us to distinguish between various degrees of testimony, authorize us to assign the very highest rank to the evidences of the writings of St. John and St. Paul. If belief is to be given to any human compositions, it is due to these ; yet, if we believe these merely as human compositions, and without assuming any thing as to their divine inspiration, our Christian faith, as it seems to me, is reasonable; not merely the facts of our Lord's miracles and resurrection, but Christian faith in all its fulness, the whole dispensation of the Spirit, the revelation of the redemption of man and

[ocr errors]

reason.

of the Divine Persons who are its authors, of all that Christian faith and hope and love can need. And this is so true, that even without reckoning the Epistle to the Hebrews amongst St. Paul's writings; nay, even if we choose to reject the three pastoral Epistles; yet, taking only what neither has been nor can be doubted, — the Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, we have in these, together with St. John's Gospel and First Epistle, giving up, if we choose, the other two, ground on which our faith may stand for ever, according to the strictest rules of the understanding, according to the clearest intuitions of

DR. THOMAS ARNOLD: Miscellaneous Works, pp. 280–1. It may be fairly questioned, first, whether even its sacred history is inspired. For although, wherever a point of faith or practice is involved in the historical record, inspiration must be supposed (else the application of the record as an infallible rule must be abandoned), yet, where this is not the case, there seems to be no necessity for supposing inspiration; and, by not supposing it, several difficulties in the attempt to harmonize the sacred historians are removed. Again, proceeding still on the principle that the truths to be believed, the material of faith, is the point to which the control or suggestions of inspiration must have been directed, and to which alone it is necessary for constituting the Bible the rule of faith, that it should be directed, the reasoning of the inspired writers may be considered safely as their own. I do not mean to impugn the reasoning of any one passage in the apostolical writings; but, were any found open to it, the circumstance would not, according to this view, affect the inspired character and authority of the work. BISHOP HINDS : History of Christianity, pp. 523-4; Appendix, Note I.

It seems to me far safer, more scriptural, more godly, to suppose they (the writers of the Bible] did take pains, and that the Spirit taught them to take pains, in sifting facts, than to suppose that they were merely told the facts. I most assuredly could not give up the faith in God which they have cherished in me, if I found they had made mistakes.; and I have too much respect and honor for those who use the strongest expressions about the certainty of every word in the Scriptures, to suppose that they would. ... If any one likes to speak of plenary inspiration, I would not complain: I object to the inspiration which people talk of, for being too empty, — not for being too full. These forms of speech ... are not for those who are struggling with life and death : such persons want, not a plenary inspiration or a verbal inspiration, but a book of life; and they will know that they have such a book when you have courage to tell them that there is a Spirit with them who will guide them into the truth of it. - F. D.. MAURICE: Theological Essays, pp. 260–1.

To say (as is said by Count Gasparin] that authority must cease with the slightest admixture of error, is surely opposed to common sense and all experience. We might as well say, that testimony ceases to be testimony, as that authority ceases to be authority, as soon as there is the least admixture of what is doubtful or untrue. Applied to the case before us, the inaccuracy of the assertion is equally plain. Were the Scriptures no authority to those early Christians who doubted the canonicity of the Epistles of St. James and Jude; or to LUTHER, when he spoke of tossing the Book of Esther into the Elbe; or to PYE SMITH, when he disowned the Song of Solomon ? Is a man's Christian faith at an end, and his submission to the word of God destroyed, the moment he rejects the last verses of St. Mark, or stands in doubt whether to receive or reject the verse of the three heavenly witņesses ? Such rash statements are equally rash and mischievous. They bind heavy burdens upon the weak faith of infants in the family of Christ, which crush them into blind credulity, if passively accepted; or repel them into dangerous incredulity, if hastily flung away. There are several books and many verses of the Bible, in which it has not pleased God that the evidence of canonicity should be as clear as that which attests the main facts and fundamental doctrines of the gospel. A faith in the plenary inspiration of such portions can never rank among the vitals of Christianity. Men ought to ask themselves whether they are not tampering with their conscience or their reason, before they can look on it in this light, and persuade themselves into a conclusion which is obviously ill-founded and mischievous. . . . . If a perfect code, exempt from the slightest measure of error, or the least haze upon the horizon, were essential to the nature of a divine revelation, we should be compelled to contradict the plainest facts, and assert the infallibility of every version of the Bible, and every copy of every version. Those who read it in this form are millions to one, compared with those who could have access to the original autographs. In the case of the whole Bible, it is certain that no one person can ever have enjoyed this privilege. The degree of error, then, which is disclosed by various readings and imperfect versions, is plainly quite consistent with the great practical object of a message from God to man.

There can thus be no à priori reason why the same degree of error in the

22

autographs themselves might not be consistent with the purpose and character of a divine message. ...... The maxim (that the infallibility or inspiration of the Scriptures admits of no degrees, as asserted by Count Gasparin] does equal violence to the instincts of every Christian, confirmed by the daily experience of the church of God. The New Testament is felt to be more precious than the Old; the Psalms and Isaiah, than the Minor Prophets, or the appendices of the sacred history. What Christian, unless under some strange bias, can read Ezra Ü. 45–54 and John üi. 16 in succession, and seriously affirm that they are of equal dignity and spiritual excellence ? ... Truths equally true are not all of equal importance, and may differ widely, both in the ulness of spiritual wisdom from which they emanate, and their tendency to maintain the spiritual life of the church of God. Christian Observer for March, 1855; pp. 180–1, 183, 189–90.

§ 3. THE DOGMA OF THE INFALLIBILITY OF ALL PARTS OF THE BIBLE

INJURIOUS TO THE INTERESTS OF CHRISTIANITY.

All these err in overdoing [that is, all err who assert that Scripture excludes as useless the whole law and light of nature; that it is so divine, not only in matter, but in method and style, as to exhibit no human imperfection or weakness; that every passage in the Bible is equally obligatory on men of all places and ages; that the whole of it forms so perfect a rule of faith, that nothing which comes in any other way is to be taken for certain ; that, in order to be saved, we must hold the canonicalness of every book and text of Scripture; and that there are no various readings or doubtful texts, no corruption in written or printed copies). ... The dangers of overdoing here are these : 1. It leadeth to downright infidelity; for, when men find that the Scripture is imperfect or wanting in that which they fancy to be part of its perfection, and to be really insufficient, ... they will be apt to say, “ It is not of God, because it hath not that which it pretends to have.” 2. God is made the author of defects and imperfections. 3. The Scripture is exposed to the scorn and confutation of infidels. RICHARD BAXTER: Christian Directory; in Practical Works, vol. v.

pp. 562-5.

The most dangerous objections which can be made to the truth of our religion, and such as are most difficult to answer, are those drawn from the different relations of the four evangelists. The "Fragments"

« AnteriorContinuar »