J Hannah.

The relation between the Divine and human elements in Holy Scripture : eight lectures preached before the University of Oxford in the year MDCCCLXIII .. online

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expressly called 'types,' which happened for our
guidance, and were recorded for our admonition. a
The whole Mosaic ritual, as we may learn from the
Epistle to the Hebrews, was thickly sown with typical
references, which were fulfilled in the office and the
sacrifice of Christ. Of other Scriptural expositions
which belong to this head, the leading examples are
the following: — Christ Himself teaches us that the
serpent which was lifted up by Moses in the wilder-
ness was a sign of the Son of Man, who must be
lifted up ; b that the history of the prophet Jonas was

a 1 Cor. x. G (tv-ui {//.ivy c.yEvi')67i<Tar), 11 (tvttoi, al. tvttikui^,
ovvifiaivov LkeLvoic}.
b John iii. 14.


a type of His resurrection ; a and that the bread from
heaven which was given through Moses prefigured
Himself as the true bread from heaven. b St. Paul,
in like manner, unfolds the hidden meaning of the
cloud and sea, the spiritual meat and the spiritual
drink, the spiritual rock which was Christ. He
draws out the position of the first Adam in his typical
contrast to the second. d He treats the primeval law
of marriage as a mystery which foreshadowed the
relation between Christ and His Church. 6 He dwells
on the veil which covered the face of Moses, and finds
in that history a series of typical images, to illustrate
the greater fulness, freedom, and perpetuity of Chris-
tian light/ All teaching of this kind must be care-
fully distinguished from such modes of instruction as
the use of parables, or the employment, throughout
the Apocalypse, of earthly representations to shadow
forth the kingdom of heaven. It is the fundamental
character of what may be strictly called a typical
system, that it rests on the basis of real objects, or
events of history. And confining ourselves to this
signification, we shall trace the unvarying presence of
the same principle which I have pointed out in the
former cases. Histories may, indeed, be typical, but
that circumstance never causes them to be any the
less real ; and that reality was quite sufficient to fill
the thoughts of the original actors, and occupy the
attention of the original narrators, even if they enter-

a Matt. xii. 40. b John vi. 32. c 1 Cor. x. 1-4.

d Rom. v. 14 (jvttoq tov /ieXXojToc) ; 1 Cor. xv. 45.
e Eph. v. 32. f 2 Cor. iii. 13-18.


tabled in any case the dim suspicion that their works
or words bore divine traces of the reflection of some
distant future. Taking the fullest and most complex
portion of that system, the types embodied in the Law
of Moses, Christians are now enabled to perceive their
manifold significance, because they read them by the
lio-ht of their fulfilment in Christ. But the Jew
could only see them by the eye of faith, which would
tell him that God's temporal ordinances must embody
a spiritual import beyond the depth to which his
present insight reached. And if he was ever roused
to profounder meditation, by the flash of an unearthly
splendour which was seen for a moment to gild with
strange glory some details of his ritual forms, his dim
forecast could but resemble the vision of that stranger
seer, whose tongue was overruled to proclaim the
God of Israel among the fires of Balak : seen, but not
now ; beheld, but not nigh ; the distant promise of the
star of Jacob, as descried from the mountains of
Moab, a

3. Of the third class of secondary meanings which
I mentioned, namely, the cases where specific enact-
ments are translated back into the universal principles
on which they rest, we have a marked instance in
St. Paul's repeated application of the Mosaic rule, ' Thou
shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treacle th
out the corn.' b ' Doth God take care for oxen?' he
asks us ; ' or saith He it altogether for our sakes ? For

a Num. xxiv. 17. Cf. Gen. xlix. 18; 2 Sam. xxiii. 5; Luke x.
23-4 ; John viii. 56 ; Ileb. xi.

b Dent. xxv. 4; 1 Cor. ix. 9, 10; 1 Tim. v. 18.


our sakes, no doubt, this is written.' The expression
is here so strong and conclusive, that some have
represented the Apostle as entirely depreciating the
literal meaning, however worthy the precept, in its
original connection, of the mercy of God. The words
of the Apostle show, they urge, that ' the mystical
meaning was intended by the Holy Ghost, and
the literal meaning was not.' a Without pushing the
argument to that extreme, we must admit that in
this instance St. Paul resolved a rule of labour, which
was laid down for oxen, into the broader principle
which covers the case of the Christian ministry;
namely, that all earthly service has the right to receive
its adequate reward. But perhaps a still more im-
portant illustration can be drawn from the manner in
which our Lord Himself subjects the Jewish Sabbath
to a loftier explanation, and thus unfolds a deeper
sense beneath its literal precept. b I need not now
revert to the discussion on the exact relation existing
between the Sabbath of the Jew and the Lord's Day
of the Christian (10). But members of our Church
must bear in mind the fact, that each Sunday and
holiday she teaches us to pray that God in His mercy
will incline our hearts to keep that Law. And further
reflection may dispose us to believe, that the Fourth
Commandment gives the foremost instance of a posi-
tive ordinance, which had been meant at the outset
for all humanity, which was reduced to stricter rules
under the Jewish system, and which has resumed its

a Dr. Neale, Commentary on the Psalms, i. 383.
b Matt. xii. 8 ; Mark ii. 27.


ancient and more noble authority now that the Jewish
ceremonial has been fulfilled and superseded. In its
fundamental import, it embodies the broadest law of
religious dedication. In its commemorative aspect,
it has ever been associated with such acts of God's
mercy as the completion of creation, the deliverance
from Egypt, the dealings of God with His chosen
people, and, finally, that great and crowning act of
blessing, the resurrection of our Lord. In its pro-
phetic character, it reminds men of the rest that
remaineth : a partial rest within God's Church on
earth ; a rest of untroubled happiness hereafter, in the
Sabbath of eternal life. This great representative
ordinance, then, may be explained on the same prin-
ciple with other laws of wider obligation which were
embodied in the Jewish code ; and if it is not so usual
to quote it under our present subject of secondary
meanings, it may now be seen that the language in
which our Lord describes it really furnishes a pre-
rogative instance of the principle on which many
obviously secondary meanings rest — that of resolving
special rules into universal laws, and thus falling back
from the temporal to the eternal.

And now let us ask, whether this doctrine of the
relation between the divine and human element,
wliich is found to explain all classes of secondary
meanings, will not go far to solve the apparent
difficulty of the seeming discrepancy between the
quotations found in the New Testament and their
original context? (11) We are frequently reminded


that such quotations do not always correspond to the
exact words or connection of the original writer ; and
that you cannot carry back into the Old Testament
the meaning which they receive in the later Scrip-
tures. Sometimes, it is urged, there is only a verbal
resemblance. Sometimes the new meaning sounds
only like a play on words. Sometimes passages are
combined from the most distant quarters, sentences
that were uttered at intervals of centuries being com-
pounded in a single text. In one instance, at least,
an argument is rested on the use of a singular instead
of a plural word. a But in answer we may fairly
plead the operation of that Divine intention (12) which
overruled a seemingly independent writer to provide
for the possibility of the future interpretation, by
employing one word rather than another. And in-
spired authors may reasonably claim the privilege of
interpreting the books to which they appeal, under
the guidance of the same Holy Spirit who presided
over their earlier utterance ; the right of developing the
more spiritual relations which lay beneath the ancient
forms. When facts are referred to, we may of course
expect that they shall be repeated correctly; though
the adoj)tion of traditions not elsewhere recorded in
Scripture may sometimes cause a passing difficulty.
But as to words, there was no reason for such rigorous
exactness as we are bound to use in our own quo-
tations. The inspired writers of the New Testament
were not jurists, dealing with the exact shade of

a Gal. iii. 10.
k 2


meaning embodied in a written code; nor were they
philologists, whose observations would have rested on
the precise and literal reproduction of the language.
They were God's interpreters, commissioned to reveal
the predetermined counsels of His will. As such
they were charged with the duty, not so much of
simply repeating, as of unfolding and applying His
earlier commands. It follows that, in all cases, and
at all times, they were likely to fix on the relative
rather than on the absolute meaning of a passage,
and to read it by the light of their own immediate
purpose, rather than by that of the purpose of the
original writer. Being themselves also inspired, their
function was not so much to quote as to interpret ; to
snatch from their dark places the scattered lights of
earlier teaching, and rearrange them to disclose the
convergent witness which they bear to the central
revelation of our Lord.

In all that has now been said, I have confined my-
self to such exhibitions of secondary senses as rest on
the explicit authority of Scripture. But we shall
here be met by the obvious question, whether the
principle is to be rigidly limited to those instances
which the later portions of Scripture furnish. So
some have thought ; believing that in such a limita-
tion they found their only possible protection against
the baseless dreams of mystic unreality. Yet I
cannot but think that this limitation is unreasonable,
and not borne out by the indications of Scripture.
If it were put in this form, that we must never go


beyond the authority or analogy of the sacred writings,
the rule would probably include all that is requisite.
But it includes much less than is requisite when the
appeal to that analogy is excluded (13). Consider
that in such a case we should be debarred from any
extension of that symbolical interpretation which
enabled St. John to describe the powers of evil under
the names of Sodom, of Egypt, or of Babylon. 9
For typical instances, we have no direct Scriptural
authority for regarding Isaac, or Joseph, or Samson,
or David, or Elijah, as each in his turn contributing
such special and conspicuous types of Christ as the
offered sacrifice ; the release from the Egyptian
dungeon ; the victory won, by the very act of dying,
over those Philistine enemies, whom we must no
longer regard as symbolical of evil ; the overthrow of
Goliath, to whom the same restriction will apply ; and
the forty days' fast and translation of the prophet:
to which we might add many similar instances,
in which the Church has ever loved to read con-
spicuous illustrations of the office and work of her
Lord (14). And under our third class we should be
forbidden to extend to any other portion of the Mosaic
system the same interpretation which St. Paul affixed
to the rule about oxen; or which enables us to
recognise the fundamental law of the Jewish Sabbath
in the loftier uses to which the Christian's Lord's Day
is devoted. To the example of Scripture, then, let us
add its analogy; according to St. Paul's own rule for

a Eev. xi. 8; xvi. 19, &c.


prophecy or preaching, that it shall be xara rrjv
avaXoy/av t% 7ri(rrscog' a ' that is to say, shall conform
to the ripened judgment of those who can look most
deeply into the mind of Christ, and can trace most
clearly the relations existing between one truth and
another, and the respective proportions of the dif-
ferent principles of faith. There is one important
rule, however, which may not have bound the inspired
writers, but which should always be obeyed implicitly
by uninspired interpreters — the rule that ex literali
solo potest tralii argumentumz the spiritual sense
supplies us with no secure ground for argument,
unless we find that what is spiritual in one place is
literal in another (15). We must not, then, be over-
hasty to draw a spiritual interpretation, for which we
cannot elsewhere find a literal basis. The secondary
senses furnish no new and independent teaching, but
only deepen, illustrate, and confirm the teaching
which the literal sense of other texts affords. To
this restriction we may add, if we please, such further
rules as formal expositors of the doctrine have en-
deavoured to establish (ig). But after all, I think
tli at we shall find that, as contrasted with times when
the search for spiritual senses drew men away from
a sober and critical study of the text of Scripture,
what we now need is, not so much more perfect rules,
as a sounder tact in using them. We could scarcely
expect or wish to recall men to the temper which
saw Jesus and the Cross in the number of Abraham's

a Tvom. xii. <>.


servants a (i7); but we never fail to find a wide and
sympathising answer to every sober endeavour to
deepen our spiritual insight into less prominent
portions of the Word of God.

That the Church was to retain the enjoyment of
such a privilege is indicated by the fulness with
which the method is pursued up to the very close
of the canon, in teaching which was to serve as our
abiding model, and on materials which were furnished
by the New Testament itself (18). Our Lord set
the example when He spoke in dark sayings of the
temple of His body ; b when He dwelt in one con-
tinuous passage on our spiritual awakening from the
death of sm, and the future resurrection of all men
for the final judgment; and when, in His repeated
warning, ' He that findeth his life shall lose it,' He
drew the analogy between temporal and eternal
death. d St. Paul employs the same method when
dealing with events so recent in occurrence, and so
eminently important in their literal signification, as
the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord.
In the literal sense, it was a heresy to say that ' the
resurrection is past already ; ' e in the spiritual sense,
it is a fundamental truth to declare, that each
Christian rose again in baptism from the death of
sin. Throughout all Christ's life He traces out
these double meanings. We are ' buried with Him
by baptism into death,' yet we are ' risen with Him
through the faith of the operation of God, who hath

a Gen. xiv. 14. b John ii. 19. c John v. 24-9.
d Matt -x. 39, &c. e 2 Tim. ii. 18.


raised Him from the dead.' * Our old man is
crucified with Him.' We must therefore reckon
ourselves to be ' dead unto sin,' and must prove
that we belong to Christ by crucifying 'the flesh,
with the affections and lusts.' a Now we must bear
in mind that these applications impose a spiritual
sense on the letter of the most important truths in
Scripture. It cannot be said that they are an
attempt to discover depth of spiritual significance,
in cases where we do not find it in the literal
meaning. The simple facts of Christ's crucifixion,
death, burial, and resurrection, do themselves sup-
ply the vital power which gives all energy and
reality to our own recovery from the deadness of
a fallen nature. Yet, beneath that letter, the over-
whelming importance of which no thoughts of man
could overestimate, the Apostle habitually draws out
these secondary senses, as types of that great
spiritual conversion, to which their literal meaning
gives the power. What inference can we draw,
but that the Church has always been justified in
seeing parables of heavenly truth in every word
and act of Christ ? The history of the good Sa-
maritan affords us one out of a thousand instances.
Who can doubt that Christ Himself is the true
example, who lies concealed under that model of
neighbourly love? In that narrative He gave a
hidden picture of His own great work of mercy,
when the guilty wanderer, who had left the heavenly

* Rom. vi. 4; Col. ii. 12; Rom. vi. G, 11 ; Gal. v. 24.


for the accursed city, lay dying of the wounds which
Law and prophet could not cure.

And now let it be considered whether the current
objections to this doctrine of secondary meanings
do not rest, to a great extent, on misapprehensions,
which a little calm and patient explanation would
remove. Is it alleged that the supporters of that
doctrine shake the credit of the literal narrative?
On the contrary, we uphold it in the very strongest
language, and we accept every inference which that
acknowledgement involves. Is it asserted that we
claim for the inspired writers a direct participation
in the Divine omniscience? On the contrary, we
claim for them no more than this, that besides their
high endowments in the way of human faculties,
they were made the vehicles for communicating to
mankind divine messages, which often reached far
beyond their present thought. In a much stricter
sense than it was true of Christ, they only spoke
what they knew, and testified what they had seen,
of the truths which were disclosed from above. a
Is it averred that we propose to sanction a lax
system of interpretation, by which almost any doctrine
could be made to emerge from almost every text?
On the contrary, we recognise and uphold the
principle, that, to us at least, the literal meaning
only can supply a sufficient foundation for argument.
Is it asserted that the method employed claims a
licentious freedom from the critical laws of exegesis ?

a John iii. 11.


We answer, that a rule of sufficient stringency is
obeyed by those who decline to pass beyond the
precedent or the analogy of Scripture. Such are
the rejoinders by which these objections could be
met. But let us not forget that they form the
mere outworks for defending that great positive
principle, the belief in the real Divine authorship
of Scripture, on which the theory of secondary senses
rests. There is no other faith but this which can
enable us to grasp the full conception of that spiritual
presence which interpenetrates the whole of Scrip-
ture: arranging the facts, and suggesting the record,
and controlling at times the very form in which
the inspired writers shaped their language ; planting
the early seed-plots of primeval and patriarchal
history with the germs that should burst forth into
a glorious harvest at the coming of the Son of Man ;
and resting the entire mass of the sacred writings
on a firm substratum of Divine significance, which
proves them to be, through all their portions, not
more the genuine words of men than the real and
undoubted Word of God.



2 Cor. iv. 7.

' We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excel-
lency of the power may be of God, and not of us.'

IF we have formed a just conception of that special
revelation which supplies a supernatural counter-
part to every portion of the facts of Scripture, and if
we have realised the influence of that special inspira-
tion which distinguishes the sacred writers from every
other class of human agents, the strength of our own
faith should be enough to save us from sharing in the
fears which have been aroused, by the assertion that
the human element, through which those divine gifts
were communicated, was not only moulded by the
individual characteristics of the writers, but was ad-
justed to the scientific opinions and literary habits
of the times in which they severally lived. And this
is the subject to which our attention must be now
directed. We have dwelt on some few of the leading
features which prove the reality and influence of that
Divine presence which shines through every part of
Scripture; reconciling the seeming contrarieties of
human formulas, and spreading out a broad range of


divine significance, as the basis on which the human
language rests. We know that the record begins in
mystery, and ends in miracle; the mystery of the
Divine nature, the crowning miracle of Christ's
resurrection from the dead. We discover that the
narrative is raised at every step above the level of
man's unaided intellect, by affording further glimpses
which deepen our sense of the mysterious, and by
recording continuous agencies, with which the mira-
culous is intimately blended. When we are now asked
to gaze, with reverence but with firmness, on the
nature of the earthly apparel in which these shapes
of heavenly truth are robed, we may surely enter on
the task in a spirit of frank confidence, and with
entire freedom from any unworthy alarm. We risk
but a small venture on the separate value of the
'earthen vessels,' when the possession of the heavenly
' treasure ' is secured. It is not that we may treat
such questions with indifference. If Scripture be
only the hem of Christ's garment, it is well to imitate
the faith of her who said, ' If I may but touch His
garment, I shall be whole.' a But it has been well
observed, that ' it makes a wonderful difference in the
apparent magnitude and importance of a difficulty,
whether it be regarded as the possible entrance to
an entire unbelief, or an acknowledged perplexity on
the fringe or edge of a strong and impregnable faith.' b
Setting forth from the firm foundation of such faith,

a Matt. ix. 21.

b Dr. Moberly, Preface to Semnons on the Beatitudes, p. xxiii.
(=p. xxvii. 2nd. ed.).


we shall find that disputes on details have a growing
tendency to settle themselves and disappear. It is a
dangerous and mistaken policy to raise these disputes
to adventitious importance, by treating them as
though they necessarily involved the issue of our
highest interests. We can understand a writer
saying that he holds ' the sixty-six books of the Old
and New Testaments to be verbally the Word of
God, as absolutely as were the ten commandments
written by the finger of God on the two tables of
stone ' (1). Whether we adopt the phrase or not, we
can certainly comprehend the creed which it ex-
presses, and we cannot deny that it is a legitimate
form of Christian conviction. But should a person
think to move us by telling us, If you deny that
every jot and tittle was thus given, you will make
me an infidel, we can only answer, that such is not
the language of a healthy faith. In a case of this
kind, the real strength of the faith is in an inverse
ratio to the violence of its language ; and the suspi-
cion cannot be repressed, that the bare mechanical
theory has been adopted, like the theory of an infal-
lible Church at other times, for its ease, its simplicity,
and the relief it gives from further trouble (2).

On the other hand, a real reason for uneasiness
may be found in the pertinacity with which the argu-
ment has been urged on, in opposite quarters, from
exaggerated scruples on subjects of science or history,
to moral and religious doubts, of deeper and more
certain danger. We might be willing to attend to
Paley, when he warns us against making ' Christianity


answerable with its life ' a for difficult questions con-
nected with the Old Testament (3). We might see
the risk of arguments which urge that if one asser-
tion is doubted, all is in peril; if one link is allowed
to be unsound, the chain is broken ; if one stone is
removed, the whole structure ' collapses into a shape-
less and unmeaning ruin' (4). We might readily
admit that these illustrations rest on wrong pre-
sumptions as to the kind and degree of scientific
accuracy which Ave are authorised to expect in Scrip-
ture language ; and that no fair reasoner has a right
to stake the credibility of Christianity itself on the
obscure adjustment of an isolated text, or the doubt-
ful interpretation of a subordinate passage. But it is
a different matter when such points as these are
made the stepping-stones for inroads on the substance
of the Christian faith. We cannot listen to the ex-
hortation to refrain from bringing ' the Sacred Ark
itself into the battle-field,' if we have reason to fear
that the advice is meant to induce us to resign
a solid bulwark, by which the citadel of faith is
guarded. We have learnt from experience that it is
only a narrow frontier which divides the alleged

Online LibraryJ HannahThe relation between the Divine and human elements in Holy Scripture : eight lectures preached before the University of Oxford in the year MDCCCLXIII .. → online text (page 10 of 30)