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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cruel doom to which they were consigned. It is the
sad characteristic of this fallen world, that so far as
mere external sufferings are concerned, the innocent
must often be involved in common sorrow with the
guilty; and the march of righteousness must often be
retarded by the frailties of the instruments through
which God vouchsafes to execute His work.

Apply these considerations to the present subject,
and they will at least lighten the perplexity which
we might feel in accepting such a composition as the
song of Deborah under the character of inspired
Scripture. Not for one moment may we dream that
its burning words may overcloud to us the law of
mercy ; that they would palliate in us the exercise of
cruelty; that they would justify us in being fierce
and ruthless, even in cases Avhere we might fancy
that we were doing the work of the Lord. Such
inferences would indeed set the letter against the
spirit, and find the savour of death in Scripture.
But there is no danger of any such misconception,
if we make the right allowance for the historical
position of the human element, through which that


sacred lesson was conveyed. We must adjust the pre-
cedent to our altered sphere, so as to teach us the zeal
with which we are bound to fight against our vices ;
to exemplify the earnest and unwearied battle which
we must wage against the Canaanites of sin within
our hearts. For most of us this is a sufficient lesson.
The duty of punishing the sins of others has been
delegated to comparatively few. Yet those few may
safely infer from the history, that not by man's de-
cision but by the eternal laws of God, there is a
point at which the wicked Avill be swept from the
earth : and if not by God's directer judgments, as
when He brought in ' the flood upon the world of the
ungodly,' a or when He poured forth rain of fire from
heaven, or when He charged His ancient people to
exterminate the Canaanites, then by the calm exer-
cise of judicial punishment, on the part of those who
are commissioned, as His representatives, to bear ' not
the sword in vain.' b

Those who take an opposite view of such passages
in ancient Scripture make it their ground for urging
that the old has been, not merely unfolded, but can-
celled ; that Judaism was not so much transfused hito
Christianity as utterly destroyed; that it resembled
not the seed of the tree, but the scaffold of the
building, and has therefore become all but useless
to ourselves. We should thus be recommended to
contrast the two dispensations in the same manner in
which we should contrast seen and unseen, temporal

a 2 Pet. ii. 5. b Rom. xiii. 4.


and eternal, letter and spirit, bondage and freedom,
fear and love. But this was never the meaning; of
these antitheses as they were employed in the rea-
soning of St. Paul. The fact really is, that both sides
of the truth are deepened when both are discrimi-
nated and explained. The tie of free and loyal ser-
vice is a more stringent obligation than the fetter of
the slave. The perfect love which casts out a blind
and cowardly fear, a fosters in our hearts that deeper
reverence, in which St. Peter tells us that the time of
our sojourning here must be passed. b The day of
judgment, as disclosed in the New Testament, is an
incomparably more awful revelation than any ter-
rors which were threatened to the Jew (u). And
precisely so it stands with reference to our present
subject. Evil is ever seen to be most hateful when
the aspect of goodness is most clearly unveiled ; and
the hatred for iniquity is only another phase of that
love for righteousness, with which both Psalmist and
Apostle unite it in their proclamation of the Prince
of Peace.

There is something especially dangerous, because
especially deceptive, in that cold propriety of conduct,
which feels in religion no strong consciousness of either
love or hate. But by the examples of its characters,
as well as by its precepts, Scripture always teaches
that the love for good must be combined with an
abhorrence for evil which forbids any tolerance of sin.

a 1 John iv. 18. b 1 Pet. i. 17.

c Ps. xlv. 8 ; Hcb. i. 9.


Such a character as that of Moses would illustrate at
once the existence of the feeling, and the limitations
by which it ought to be controlled (15). His history
shows us how enduringly the union lasted, even un-
der the veil of his proverbial meekness. To speak in
round numbers, we may say, that the special instances
of his warmth of temper are recorded at his fortieth,
his eightieth, and close upon his hundred and twentieth
year. The mention of his meekness is connected with
the central period, near the time when he cast down
and broke the tables on descending from the mountain.
It was about forty years before this that he slew
the Egyptian and hid him in the sand; but it was
nearly forty years after this that he was provoked in
his spirit, and spoke unadvisedly with his lips at the
waters of strife, and ' was wroth with the officers of the
host,' for saving alive the women of the Midianites. a
Or look at the instance of St. John the Divine (16).
Let us call to mind the zeal which caused that pair
of brothers to be surnamed sons of thunder by their
Master ; the hasty temper in which they wished to call
down fire from heaven on the Samaritans, when Christ
told them that they knew not what spirit they were
of; and the ambition which made them covet to sit on
His right hand and on His left in His glory. b Now
St. John's latest years present a picture of the calmest
evening with which a long and stormy day can close.

a (1.) Ex. ii. 12 (Acts vii. 23). (2.) Ex. xvii. 6; xxxii. 19;
Num. xii. 3 (Acts vii. 30). (3.) Num. xx. 10, 12; xxvii. 14;
Deut. i. 37 ; Ps. cvi. 32 ; Num. xxxi. 14 (Deut. xxxi. 2).

b Mark iii. 17 ; Luke ix. 54-5 ; Mark x. 37.



The whole of his teaching was at last condensed into
that single sermon, ' Little children, love one another.'
Yet if there be any truth in the story which describes
him as fleeing in horror from the bath which was pol-
luted by the presence of a heretic, we may infer that to
the very last his love was incompatible with even the
mildest concession towards acknowledged and resist-
ing evil. Or may we not turn for illustration to the
double tone, which marks the language of Christ Him-
self, the God of love ? He began and closed His public
ministry with an act of strange severity, when the
zeal of God's house led Him to cleanse with His own
sacred hands the House of Prayer, which men were
changing to a den of thieves. 3 And by the side of all
His acts of love and words of mercy, we read the
woes which He uttered on Scribes and Pharisees
and lawyers who were hypocrites ; on all who caused
offences, and cast stumbling-blocks in the way of their
brethren, and substituted outward forms for the spirit
of devotion, and passed over judgment and the love
of God. b Such as these found no mercy from the
Friend of sinners, who taught us how the contrite pub-
lican was justified when the self-righteous Pharisee
found no justification.

Even the sternest of the ancient lessons, then, finds
its proper place and work in teaching us that they
who ' love the Lord ' must see that they ' hate the
thing which is evil.' d Charity which is not guarded by
the feeling of resentment lacks its needful protection

a John ii. 15 ; Matt, xxi. 12. b Matt, xxiii. ; Luke xi.

c Luke xviii. 14. a Ps. xcvii. 10.


against sin ; while a seeming hatred of sin may itself
be sinful, if it lacks the indispensable counterpart of
love. The one error is like the false mercy of Saul,
when he spared the king whom God had sent him to
destroy — mercy which was condemned as rebellion
and stubbornness, and which forfeited the promises of
God. a The other error may resemble the false zeal
of Jehu, when he inflicted stern and bloody vengeance
on idolaters, and then became himself an idolater,
in defiance of the law which he had professed to

The Old Testament examples, then, should teach us
zeal. But the New Testament does not teach us that
zeal may grow cold, though it shows us how to temper
it with discrimination. The line is there drawn clearly
between vengeance and compassion ; between hatred
of evil, and charity for man ; between the anger that
is righteous, and the personal animosity that is every-
where condemned. The blessing which Deborah pro-
nounced on Jael is supplanted by the blessing which
angelic lips pronounced on the highly favoured mother
of our Lord. The fierce shout of national animosity
gives way to the calm voice of the Divine Instructor,
who sent the haughty Jew to the despised Samaritan
for an example of neighbourly love. The new law
rises into greater distinctness, but the true purport
of the old remains uncancelled. New life springs forth
at the bidding of Christ, but nothing that was heaven-
sent in the old has departed. The lesson of old times

a 1 Sam. xv. 22-3. b 2 Kings x. 16, &c. c Luke i. 28.

o 2


remains to teach us that evil must be rooted out
before there is room for good to nourish ; that the war
against sin in our own hearts must be relentless,
before they are chastened to receive the lesson of true
charity which led the Samaritan to see a neighbour
in the Jew.

Thus may we learn that God was bringing His new
leaven of truth into the world, under the cover of
those impetuous onslaughts upon evil of which we
have so conspicuous a record in the song of Deborah.
Let such narratives arouse us, not (which God forbid)
to be relentless toward our fellow-creatures, but to be
as ruthless in dealing with the corruption of our own
hearts as she was in destroying the enemies of the
Lord. Let it incite us to take, in every contest, the
Lord's side against the side of wickedness, and to
oppose ourselves to every kind of weakness, which
would tamper with and apologise for sin. No archer
of the Canaanites could harass with such fiery darts
as Satan. No chariots of Sisera could spread such
devastation as the inroads of sin upon the heart of
man. The battle has passed to a different sphere ; the
weapons of our warfare are no longer carnal. But we
need the same temper of energetic zeal, in assailing
the strongholds of the evil spirit ; we require the same
firm unwearied resolution, to wield the weapons of
our spiritual armour, against the resistance or the
onslaughts of our inveterate foe. Cowardice in that
great strife will lay us prostrate before the aggressor,
and will desolate the fields in which the word of God
is planted. But courage will raise us to a reward as


noble ; to a welcome more glorious than Deborah could
offer to Zebulun or Naphtali, to Jael or to Barak ; the
welcome with which our Heavenly Master will receive
His good and faithful servants, and bid them enter
into the joy of their Lord.



Acts xiv. 15.
' We also are men of like passions with yon.'

IN the last two Lectures I have endeavoured to
point out the effect of the human element in
fixing the outward shape of the Scripture record on
matters of history and science, and in accounting for
the fragmentary character under which morality was
brought back after the Fall. I now propose to approach
the subject more directly, through the medium of two
leading examples of the human writers, with the view
of showing, in detail, that the acknowledged presence
of individual characteristics was guarded against the
influence of individual imperfections.

The examination of two such instances from the
New Testament may serve to complete the argument
which was pursued last Sunday, in explanation of a
moral difficulty which meets us in the older parts of
Scripture. If it is found that, in cases which admit
of a more exact analysis, the human error is never
allowed to vitiate the inspired teaching, we gain a
strong confirmation of the view which I then ventured
to suggest; namely, that the mere record of sins must


on no account be regarded as their sanction ; and that
even words of commendation, when pronounced on
actions of a mixed moral character, must be inter-
preted as a simple recognition of the virtue, which
was confused, but not cancelled, by the intermixture
of the sin.

A large portion of the human interest of Scripture
depends upon the fact, that it brings us into close
contact with the personal history of the several
writers; that it faithfully records their gradual pro-
gression, their growth in grace, and, it may be, even
their frailties, which proved how completely they were
1 men of like passions ' with ourselves. a But, while
recognising this great advantage, we shall derive an
instructive lesson from the proof, that the written
documents were not tarnished by the evil influence
which might have been expected to arise from their
errors. The remark may be extended to instances
where temporary imperfection has passed on into
actual transgression of some law of God. Great
saints are recorded to have fallen for a season; but
the teaching which they deliver is not found to falter.
We may trace out the sin and its issue in their lives ;
we may see the very blow which descends in chastise-
ment ; the Scriptures, of which they count among the
human authors, may commemorate in fullest details
the agonies of their repentance, the loud cryings
of remorse for their sins. But those Scriptures
are never discoloured by the evil temper, or other

a Cf. James v. 17.


infirmity, which exposed the writers to temptation;
still less are they perverted to the utterance of erro-
neous doctrines which may have been connected with
their temporary fell. We can observe this in the Old
Testament in the cases of Moses and of David. We
can observe it in the case of Solomon, displayed under
still more striking circumstances. We can observe it
in the New Testament, in the writings of both St. Peter
and St. Paul.

It is, indeed, one lesson which we gather from the
traces of discord in the earliest Church history, that
the voice of divine instruction rises calmly and clearly
above the tumults of the disputants ; so that it is only
by careful analysis and collateral information that
we leam how far the most honoured names amongst
Christ's servants were entangled in the bitterness of
strife (1). Let us draw out in detail the two cases
which most naturally suggest themselves : the appa-
rent want of steady purpose in St. Peter ; the alleged
imperfection of the earliest teaching of St. Paul.

I. It is needless to dwell long, in the outset, on the
prominent features of St. Peter's character (2) : his
impetuous, venturesome, and earnest faith; and that
frequent intermixture of human weakness which
might seem so strange an imperfection in the leader
of the apostolic company, yet which comes home with
so strong a sense of dee}) reality to all who have ever
studied the frailty of their hearts. You will recollect
how frequently it happens, that even the smaller
details of the narrative bear traces of the uneven


balance between faith and knowledge, by which his
progress towards Christian maturity was retarded.
At one moment he cries, ' Thou shalt never wash my
feet;' at the next moment, ' Lord, not my feet only,
but also my hands and my head. ,a At one hour, he is
striking with the sword; at the next, he is denying
and abandoning his Master. And the rapid change
is often signalised in words which were addressed to
him by Christ, ' Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona :
for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,
but my Father which is in heaven;' and then, within
a few verses, ' Get thee behind me, Satan : thou art an
offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things
that be of God.' b

The Gospels and Acts supply us with three great
illustrations of this internal struggle, which divide
into as many portions the whole Christian life of the
Apostle. I refer to the three occasions on which
St. Peter was put forward, to give, as it were, a
formal and official expression to principles which
marked three distinct and special advances in Chris-
tian knowledge; on every one of which occasions the
Apostle's subsequent conduct proved that the truths
which his lips had been so eager to utter had failed,
when he pronounced them, to exert their proper
practical influence within his heart.

1. First comes that earnest declaration of faith in
his Master, which forms the foundation of the Chris-
tian creed, the first stone of that great edifice of

a John xiii. 8, 9. b Matt, xvi. 17, 23.


doctrine in which the treasures of all Christian know-
ledge are enshrined : ' Then said Jesus unto the twelve,
Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered
Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the
words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure
that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living
God.' a This is the first apostolic proclamation of the
foremost tenet of the Catholic faith; that primary
doctrine of the Divinity of Christ, which formed so
great a stumblingblock to the whole nation of the

2. The second of the great principles with which
St. Peter was entrusted, was the extension to the
Gentiles of the benefits of Abraham's promise. The
new Church had sprung from the very heart of
Judaism, to which Christ and His apostles all be-
longed. The further change was foreshadowed, indeed,
but not effected, throughout the acts of the earthly
sojourn of our Lord (3). It was foreshadowed when
He healed the centurion's servant, and the daughter
of the Canaanitish woman, and the ten lepers of whom
one was a Samaritan. It was foreshadowed when
He Himself, on more than one occasion, approached
towns and villages of the Samaritans, into which He
had forbidden His apostles to enter. It was fore-
shadowed when He acknowledged Gentile faith as
higher than any which He had found in Israel ; when
He announced that many should come from East and
West, to take the places of the children; and that

a John vi. 67-1).


thus the first should become last and the last should
become first. a It was foreshadowed when He excited
the anger of the Jews, by reminding them that Elijah
was sent only to the widow who dwelt in the Sidonian
Sarepta, and that Elisha's healing power was exer-
cised only upon the leprous Syrian. 15 But it was not
yet effected. There is no positive proof, for instance,
beyond the witness of a doubtful reading, that though
He withdrew mto the borders of Tyre and Sidon, His
own feet ever passed beyond the limits of the sacred
soil which was the special heritage of Abraham's
sons; and through the whole history of His life we
find that He acted Himself on the law which He
laid down, that He was ' not sent but unto the lost
sheep of the house of Israel." 1

His ascension leads us to a different sphere. And
it is St. Peter who proclaims the first stage of this
great revolution when he says, ' The promise is unto
you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off,
even as many as the Lord our God shall call.' e But
we receive an instant illustration of the spiritual
difficulty of passing from the mere proclamation of a
principle to the acceptance and acknowledgement of
its whole practical significance. The intellect may be
enlightened long before the current of the feelings has

a Luke vii. 2-10 ; Matt. xv. 21-8 ; Luke xvii. 12-19 ; ix. 52 ;
John iv. 5 ; x. 16 ; Matt. viii. 10, &c.

b Luke iv. 25-7.

c Mark vii. 31 (7i\dtv did SiSiivoc £«c ' tt, B, D, &c, Lacbinanu,
Teschendorf, Tregelles).

d Matt. x. 5, 6 ; xv. 24. e Acts ii. 39.


been changed. The Jewish prerogative, l unto you
first,' a represented a truth which was more vividly
apprehended in St. Peter's thoughts (4). He needed
the instruction of the heavenly vision before he had
completely mastered the wide range of the principle,
that ' God is no respecter of persons ; ' that God's min-
isters must call no man ' common or unclean.' b The
proclamation of the principle might be the first step ;
but it required for its completion the second step
which was taken at the baptism of Cornelius, when
the admission of the Gentiles was placed on the same
level of privilege which was enjoyed by Jewish
Christians. And the farther declaration of the
ground of this admission, through their equal parti-
cipation in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, was
again entrusted to St. Peter, who brought the work to
a completion, as the readiest leader in the apostolic

3. But again we find the traces of a new and un-
expected difficulty. The truth had been announced
and acted on ; but its full bearings and relations had
not yet been made clear. It had been settled, indeed,
that the Gentiles should be admitted freely to the
Christian Church ; and St. Peter never really forgot
the lesson which was taught him by the heavenly
vision, and on which he had acted in baptising the
household of Cornelius. But on this there arose the
further question, whether they should be admitted
without passing through the gate of circumcision —

* Acts iii. 2G. b Acts x. 34, 28. c Acts x. 47; xi. 15.


whether, in short, the new converts should be circum-
cised or no. On this great question, also, a formal
decision was announced ; and again it was St. Peter
who was commissioned to declare it at the council of
Jerusalem, when his words were forthwith ratified, in
the name of the Church, by the most venerated leader
of the Jewish Christians. It was the declaration of
St. Peter which was translated into the formal sen-
tence pronounced by the lips of St. James. a And
thus far we can clearly see the slow steps by which
these new truths were gradually sinking into men's
thoughts and conduct, and above all into their hearts.
And then came the time when the agency of St. Peter
was mainly superseded, and the narrative passes on to
the acts of St. Paul. Let us pause, before we follow
it, to note the connection between these observations
on St. Peter's history and his teaching as an inspired

Look back again to mark anew the wonderful signi-
ficancy of those three sayings of St. Peter, round which
our rapid summary has centered: the Divinity of
Christ ; the free admission of the Gentiles to the Chris-
tian Church, and their deliverance from the conditions
of the Law of Moses. These positions cannot fail to be
regarded as steps of almost unparalleled importance
in the gradual unfolding of the Christian faith and
system. And in every one of them it is the voice of
St. Peter by which they were uttered ; in every one
of them it is the faith of St. Peter which reminds us

a Acts xv. 14, &c.


of the Rock, on which the Church was to be builded
by the promise of her L,ord. a Such is the one side ol
the picture. Let us turn to the other and more
remarkable aspect. In every one of these cases we
discover, that in the mind of the highly favoured
Apostle himself, the advance movement was succeeded
by a speedy, though temporary, ebbing of the tide.
The first of these declarations was followed, after an
interval, by that denial of our Saviour which stands
out in Scripture as one of the most striking examples
of the fearful possibility of faithlessness in Christians ;
the most emphatic warning, that he ' that think eth
he standeth ' should 'take heed lest he fall.' b The
second was followed by that relapse into the old
Jewish feeling, which required the correction afforded
through the heavenly vision ; the very fact that the
lesson was thus called for, being a proof that St. Peter's
knowledge of the approaching admission of the Gentiles
had not yet completely modified his personal belief
in the prior claims and higher privileges of the Jew.
A new question seems to have arisen, after the council
of Jerusalem had passed its decree for the remission
of Gentile circumcision. It may have been the case,
that the question had already arrived at that new
phase on which it must have shortly entered. The
Gentiles, it was ruled, were no longer to be circum-
cised : but what was to be the usage for the Jewish
Christians? Were they bound to keep up the old rite
of circumcision, now that its ancient significance had

a Matt. xvi. 18. b l Cur. x. 12.


passed away (s) ? It would appear that this question
was postponed by St. Paul, at the time when he
circumcised Timothy, in whose case the doubt might
have arisen ; while he refused to circumcise Titus,

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 14 of 30)