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world has not yet acquiesced in its truth.

We can not believe by proxy, as nations, as empires, or as worlds.
We must each one believe for himself. Hence the evidence must
be considered, understood, and appreciated by every individual for
himself. But the fact that millions of all orders of mind, the greatest
and most gifted of our race, have believed it to be true — multitudes
of them even to martyrdom for its sake; and that not one individual
can believe it to be false, is a consideration that ought to silence
every modest inquirer, and, were it possible, cover with shame those
reckless and senseless dogmatists who declaim against a book of
whose contents and whose history they truly comprehend nothing,
because it is yet in debate. On their showing, there is nothing cred-
ible or worthy of universal acceptance, because there is nothing that
is not a matter of doubt or disbelief with some person. But we argue
not the question of the Bible's truth with such opponents. We have
not given a tithe of the topics from which its truth is irrefragably
argued. Enough, it is presumed, to convince the candid whose minds
can discern the force of argument, is contained in the preceding hints
and reflections.

Christianity has stood erect in the midst of all sorts of adversaries
— Jews, Pagans, Turks, infidels, etc.; and, like the pillars of Hercules,
the rock of Gibraltar, or the everlasting mountains, bids defiance to
all the billows of the ocean, and to all the tempests of Satan, to shake
it from its immovable basis. To those who desire to understand it for
their salvation, we intend in another tract to make a few suggestions
on the best method of reading the Bible for edification and comfort.

A. c.

On the inspiration of the Scriptures, "R. R." says, 1836, page 345:
The proofs for the divine origin of our sacred writings, or, more
correctly, for the inspiration of the Scriptures, have usually been
drawn from two sources — the Bible itself, and those displays of super-
natural power by which revelation has been accompanied and con-
firmed. The latter, which are termed the external evidences, are
well calculated to arrest the attention and compel the assent of the
infidel; while the internal evidences, furnished by the Bible itself,
deepen the convictions and increase the faith of the Christian. These


divisions are no doubt sufficiently convenient, though some of the more
important proofs would seem to be of a mixed nature — as prophecy,
which requires a prediction within the Bible, as much as the testi-
mony of fact or history without. Ihe mutual confirmation furnished
by the Bible and the visible universe is of the same character; lor
though the former bears a separate testimony that God has created
all things, yet it is from the correspondencies and analogies which are
observed in both, and the congruity which exists between them, that
there is derived a most interesting and conclusive evidence that both
have proceeded from the same Author.

Among those evidences which are properly called internal, there
are some points which 1 have not seen much noticed, and which,
nevertheless, in my opinion, carry no little weight with them. One
of these, to which we will at present confine our attention, is the
omission in the Bible of everything which tends merely to gratify

The passion of curiosity, which may be called the desire of knowl-
edge, is one of the most active and powerful which we possess. It
is worthy of remark, indeed, that the Divine Being has implanted in
us the most anxious longings for those things which are really the
most necessary to our existence, or most conducive to our happiness.
Thus a natural inclination leads every one to partake of these neces-
sary things, and the support of life as well as the pursuit of every-
thing requisite to our well-being, instead of being unwelcome tasks
imperfectly performed and often neglected, become the most urgent
desires, and the most agreeable employments. As, therefore, the
acquisition of knowledge is most necessary to fit man for the high
purposes of his creation, he has been endowed with an almost unlim-
ited capacity and desire for knowledge. This is a desire which noth-
ing can abate, and which extends itself to everything real or unreal,
fact or fiction. Who has not witnessed in the child the eager passion
for the tales of the nursery? Or, when the narrator has stopped in
the midst of a marvelous story, who has not observed in the infant
listener, the agony of ungratified desire? And who is there, indeed,
old or young, who has not experienced the delight derived from the
acquisition ot knowledge, or felt the tortures of disappointed curiosity?

" Witnoss the spriglitly joy wIh-ii niif;lit unkiidwii
Slrikos tlio quick sfii-c, uiul wakes encli notivo powor
To bri->ki'r in<'iisiiro>; wiiiuws tlic ncglfct
Of all funiiliiir nlijcct-*, tlioiiKli Ix'licM
Witli trail-port onoe— tlir fond alti'iUive ga^o
Of young a<toni»lini(Mit, tlio sober zeal
Of ago coiniiu'iitiiig on prodigiou-* things.
For such the bounteous providence of Heaven;
In every breast iniphtnlin).' tliis desire
Of object - new and strange, to urge us on


With unicmitted labor to pursue
Those sacred stores, that wait the ripening soul,
In Truth's exhaustless bosom. -What need words
To paint its powerV-lTor this the daring youth
BrcaliS from his weeping mother's anxious arms
In foreign climes to rove,- the pensive sage,
Heedless of sleep, or midnight's harmful damp.

Hangs o'er the sickly taper

Hence by night

The village matron, round the blazing hearth,

Suspends the infant audience with her talcs,

Breathing astonishment,— of witching rhymes

And evil spirits,— of the deatli-bed call,

To him who robb'd the witlow, and devour'd

The orphan's portion,— of unquiet souls

Bis'n from the grave, to ease the heavy guilt

Of deeds in life conceal'd— of shapes that walk

At dead of night, and clank their chains, and wave

The torch of hell around the murderer's bed.

At every solemn pause, the crowd recoil.

Gazing each other speechless, and congeal'd

With shivering sighs,— till, eager for the event,

Around the beldame, all erect, they hang.

Each trembling heart with grateful terrors quell'd."

The passion of curiosity, like every other strong desire, is liable to
transcend its legitimate boundaries and become excessive. An insati-
able appetite for the marvelous is an exemplification of this, and also
the desire to accumulate vast stores of knowledge and indulge in
remote speculations which oppress and bewilder the mind, and can
never be turned to any useful end. Utility, indeed, is the purpose for
which all the passions and faculties are given; and to indulge them
further than this, or employ them merely for the sake of the pleasure
which their exercise affords, is to abuse and misapply them. This
makes the distinction between virtue and vice; and it is such an
inordinate or unlawful indulgence, and consequent misuse of the
powers and faculties of human nature, which forms a striking char-
acteristic of the bulk of the human family. Every passion too which
is thus indulged is thereby increased in strength, and usurps the
place and the powers of others, as the cultivated plant widely extends
its luxuriant leaves, and monopolizes the nutritious qualities of the
soil. Hence such passions, like the miser's love of gold, become as
importunate as they are violent and insatiable.

The means now by which imposters have always succeeded in
deceiving men, has been by ministering to these extravagant desires,
and holding out a bait to some morbid appetite, until the bit was
in their mouth and the saddle upon their back. And amongst all the
desires, that of knowledge has been particularly regarded, and more
especially by religious imposters. Like the tempter of Eve, they have
proffered godlike knowledge, in exchange for obedience, knowing that


there are few who will not, like our first parents, forsake the path of
duty for the gratifuation of curiosity.

Thus the Mormonites, in our own day. while they sought to min-
ister to this passion by the old wives' fables of the Book of Mormon,
niid a pretended revelation of the fortunes of the lost tribes of Israel,
the origin of the Indian nations, Free-masonry, etc., have labored
assiduously to keep up the delusion by claims of miraculous power,
and mysterious visions, and the novelty of a splendid decorated and
gorgeous temple.

Thus too the arch imposter Mahomet, while he permitted to his
votaries an inordinate indulgence of those passions to which the
eastern nations are peculiarly addicted, declares expressly, "We have
sent thee the Alcoran to clear to men the doubts touching religion,
and to guide true believers into the right way." and accordingly pro-
ceeds to reveal the secret cause of Satan's expulsion from heaven.
Reader, would you like to know it?— I shall not tell it you— such
knowledge might be of use to devils, but it can not profit man. He
also gives a particular account of the Aaraf or Prisons, a place
between Hell and Paradise, and the condition of the persons in it;
details some of Noah's conversation with the antediluvians; relates
the story of the seven sleepers, and furnishes an account not only of
the particular torments of the wicked, but the joys of the righteous—
the gardens "beautified with date trees and vines, and rivers flowing
in the midst"— and the seven heavens with all their glories; not to
speak of his journey from Mecca to Jerusalem in a single night— his
supposed visit to heaven in company with the angel Gabriel, and
mounted on a white Burac. during which he saw all the prophets that
preceded him, and the wonders of Paradise— from a revelation of all
which, the courteous reader, however curious, will excuse me. Nor
is it necessary to speak of the visions of Baron Swedenborg, or the
peculiarities of the many deceivers who have sought to gain their
purposes by consecrating sensual indulgence, or catering novelties
and prodigies for the eagerness of curiosity. It is sufficient for us to
know that such traits are characteristic of them all.

But it is not so with the Bible. And it is with me a consideration
of no little weight as it regards the proof of the inspiration of the
sacred volume, that it is the only professed revelation of spiritual
and eternal things which is free from evekytiiing cALcri-ATEu to
OHATiFY MEUELY A vAix ciKiosrrY. In it there is nothing whatever
impertinent— nothing unnecessary. It gives us no useless history of
devils or of angels— the secret counsels of eternity remain undisclosed
—the peculiar condition of departed spirits is not detailed— nor are
the inhabitants of the sun, moon and stars described. It is intended
for man during his abode upon this earth. It begins therefore with


the creation of the world and ends with its destruction. It is designed
to elevate and perfect the character of man. It presents therefore the
Divine Being, as manifested in his works of creation and the history
of the human family, as the standard of perfection, and the object
of supreme regard. Nothing whatever is introduced which has no
tendency to inspire confidence, fortitude, and hope, or lead to personal
purity and practical benevolence. It neither exposes the folly of the
researches of antiquarians and philosophers, nor confirms their truth;
and the history of future events is concealed in symbols and enigmas
which are only to be understood when these events are accomplished.
And finally, even the glories of heaven, the nature, laws, inhabitants,
and enjoyments of that eternal world which it presents as the object
of hope, are dimly sketched, or veiled in mysterious and allusive

The reason of his reserve is obvious — that man should neither be
diverted from the acquisition of that practical knowledge necessary
to his condition, through the indulgence of idle curiosity and vain
speculation; nor be induced to neglect his duties by such a develop-
ment of the future as would wholly engross his mind and his affec-
tions. Enough is revealed to enforce duty, and to excite hope without
the frenzy of enthusiasm.

While then we can perceive in the omission of everything merely
tending to gratify curiosity, indubitable evidence of the inspiration
of the Scriptures, we can see in the vain attempt to be wise above
what is written and to intrude into things which they have not seen,
a striking manifestation of the pride, the folly, and the ignorance
of men.

In conclusion I may be permitted to illustrate the wisdom of this
omission on the part of Heaven in the eloquent language of St. Pierre:
"I remember that, on my return to France in a vessel which had
been on a voyage to India, as soon as the sailors had perfectly dis-
tinguished the land of their native country, they became, in a great
measure, incapable of attending to the duties of the ship. Some
looked at it wishfully, without the power of minding anything else;
others dressed themselves in their best clothes, as if they were
going that moment to disembark; some talked to themselves, and
others wept.

"As we approached, the disorder of their minds increased. As
they had been absent several years, there was no end to their admira-
tion of the hills, the foliage of the trees, and even the rocks which
skirted the shore, covered with weeds and mosses. The church spires
of the village where they were born, which they distinguished at a
distance up the country, and which they named one after another,
filled them with transports of delight.


"But when the vessel entered the port, and when they saw on the
quays their fathers, their mothers, their wives, their children, and their
friends, stretching out their arms with tears of joy. and calling them Dy
their names, it was no longer possible to retain a man on board; they
all sprung on shore, and it became necessary, according to the custom
of the port, to employ another set of mariners to bring the vessel to
her mooring.

"What then would be the case, were we indulged with a sensible
display of that heavenly country, inhabited by those who are dearest
to us, and who are worthy of our most sublime affections? The labo-
rious and vain career of this life would from that moment come to an
end. Its duties would be forsaken, and all our powers and feelings
would be lost in perpetual rapture. It is wisdom, therefore, that a
veil is spread over the glories of futurity. Let us enjoy the hope that
the happy land awaits us, and in the meantime let us fulfill with cheer-
fulness and patience what belongs to our present condition."


On Principles of Interpretation he writes:

The whole Christian religion, in its facts, its precepts, its prom-
ises, its doctrine, its institutions, is presented to the world in a
written record. The tcritings of Prophets and Apostles contain all the
divine and supernatural knowledge in the world. Now, unless these
sacred writings can be certainly interpreted, the Christian religion
never can be certainly understood. Every argument that demonstrates
the necessity of such a written document as the Bible, equally dem
onstrates the necessity of fixed and certain principles or rules of
interpretation: for without the latter, the former is of no value what-
ever to the world.

All the differences in religious faith, opinion and sentiment,
amongst those who acknowledge the Bible, are occasioned by false
principles of interpretation, or by a misapplication of the true prin-
ciples. There is no law, nor standard — literary, moral, or religious —
that can coerce human thought or action, by only promulging or
acknowledging it. If a law can effect anything, our actions must be
conformed to it. Were all students of the Bible taught to apply the
same rules of interpretation to its pages, there would be a greater
uniformity in opinion and sentiment than ever resulted from the
simple adoption of any written creed.

Great unanimity has obtained in most of the sciences in conse-
quence of the adoption of certain rules of analysis and synthesis: for
all who work by the same rules, come to the same conclusions. And
may it not be possible, that in this divine science of religion, there
may yet be a very great degree of unanimity of sentiment and uni-


formity of practice amongst all who acknowledge its divine authority?
Is the school of Christ the only school in which there can be no
unanimity — no proficiency in knowledge? Is the Book of God the only
volume which can never be understood alike by those who read and
study it? It can not be supposed, but by dishonoring God: for as
all the children of God are taught by God, if they are necessarily unin-
telligent in his oracles and discordant in their views, the deficiencies
must rather be imputed to the teacher than to the taught; for the
pupils in this school can be taught other sciences in other schools,
with such uniformity and harmony of views, as to make it manifest
to all that they are the disciples of one teacher.

God's Book is, however, put into the hands of men as it was first
spoken to men; but they have, in some cases, been taught not to
receive it from God, but from men. They do not consider that the
written book as well as the spoken word, is tendered to us under the
stipulations of human language — according to the contract between
man and man, touching the value or meaning of the currency of
thought — that every word and sentence is to be weighed and tested by
the constitutional laws and standards of the currency of ideas.

When one person addresses another, he supposes the person
addressed competent to interpret his words; and, therefore, all wise
and benevolent men select such words and phrases as, in their judg-
ment, can be interpreted by those addressed. Every speaker proceeds,
in all hia communications, upon the principle that his hearer is an
interpreter — that he has not first to be taught the science of interpre-
tation; and that he is bound so to express himself, that his hearer
may interpret and understand his words by an art which is supposed
to be native — which is indeed universal — common to all nations, bar-
barous aa well as civilized.

Now, as God is infinitely wise and benevolent in all his oral com-
munications to men, he proceeded upon the principle that they were,
by this native art, competent interpreters of his expressions; for other-
wise, his addresses could be of no value. He could not even begin
to teach them a new art of interpretation, as respected his communi-
cations, but by using their own words in the stipulated sense, unless
we imagine a miracle in every case, and suppose that all his words
were to be understood by a miraculous interposition. And this idea,
if carried out, would make a rerbal revelation of no value whatever
to the children of men.

If human language had never been confounded — if a multitude of
different dialects had not been introduced — no occasion for translating
language, as a matter of course, would ever have existed. Again, if
words and phrases, and the manners and customs of mankind, were
unchangeably fixed, or universally the same at all times and in all


countries, the art of interpreting would have been still more simple
than it is; for so far as it is artificial, it is owing to different dia-
lects, idioms, manners, customs, and all the varieties which the ever-
changing conditions of society have originated and are still originating.

At present, however, we would only impress upon the mind of the
reader, that the very fact that we have a written revelation — that
this revelation was first spoken, then written — supposes that there is
somewhere a native or an acquired art of interpretation; that the
persons addressed were already in possession of that art: for with-
out such an understanding, there would have been neither wisdom
nor benevolence in giving to mankind any verbal communication
from God.

In the present essay we shall offer a very few remarks upon, first,
the inspiration of the Bible; second, the language of the Bible; third,
the distribution of the Bible into chapters and verses; fourth, the
different dispensations of redemption; and fifth, offer seven cardinal
rules of interpretation: —

Revelation and inspiration, properly so called, have to do only with
such subjects as are supernatural, or beyond the reach of human intel-
lect, in its most cultivated and elevated state. In this sense "holy men
of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." But besides
this inspiration of original and supernatural ideas, there was another
species of supernatural aid afforded the saints who wrote the historical
parts of the sacred scripture. There was a revival in their minds of
what they themselves had seen and heard; and in reference to tradi-
tions handed down, such a superintendency of the Spirit of wisdom
and knowledge as excluded the possibility of mistake in the matters
of fact which they recorded. The promise of "leading into all truth,*
and the promise of "bringing all things before known to remem-
brance," by the Holy Spirit, include all that we understand by inspira-
tion in its primary and secondary import.

But while this inspiration precluded the selection of incorrect or
unsuitable words and sentences, the inspired men delivered super-
natural communications in their own peculiar modes of expressing
themselves. To illustrate my meaning by another reference to the
gift of tongue, the subjects of that splendid gift in a moment under-
stood those foreign languages as well at least as they knew their
own; and in expressing themselves selected such terms as, in their
judgment, most fitly and intelligibly communicated their ideas. In
other words, their own judgment or taste in the sele<'tion of terms
was not suspended by the new language. They used the terms of the
new dialect, as they used the terms of their native tongue — chose
such as. in their judgment, would most clearly and forcibly reveal
the mind of the Spirit to their hearers.


We regard the Apostles of Jesus Christ as gifted with a full and
perfect knowledge of the Christian institution; which entitled them,
without the possibility of error, to open to mankind the whole will
of their Master, whether in the form of fact, precept, promise, or
threatening; and as furnished with such a knowledge of the signs of
those ideas in human language as to express this knowledge clearly,
accurately and infallibly to mankind. But from what they have
spoken and written, we are authorized to think that they were as
free in the selection of words and phrases as I am in endeavoring to
communicate my views of their inspiration.

My reasons for this opinion are, that neither the Prophets nor the
Apostles exhibit any sort of solicitude in always expressing them-
selves in the same words upon the same subject. Nor does any one
of them seem at all concerned to be consistent with himself on all
occasions, in using the same words; either in delivering precepts,
uttering promises, or in giving a narrative of any of the incidents
of his own life or those of his companions. We have no less than
three accounts of Paul's conversion and mission to the Gentiles —
one from Luke, and two from himself; one delivered to the Jews
in Jerusalem, and one before Agrippa; yet no two of them agree in
word, though in sense they are uniformly the same.* We have two
accounts of the conversion of the Gentiles — one by Luke, and one
by Peter ;t and these are as diverse in words, though as accordant
in sense, as the narratives of Paul's conversion. We have four memoirs
of Jesus Christ, brief records of his sayings and doings; and yet no
two of them agree in words, in narrating a single speech, or in
describing a single incident in his life; though there is, as far as
they severally relate, a most perfect harmony in sense.

Peter's allusion to the epistles of Paul fully expresses all that wo
desire to teach on this subject. "Paul wrote," says he, '"according to
the ivisdom given him." Paul's epistles are, then, the development and
application of that wisdom given to him, expressed in his own style.
It may, indeed, be said that, guided by wisdom, it was impossible for

Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 20 of 70)