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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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who fell under the exemption, which had been
explicitly established at the council. a But it would
doubtless be in connection with this point, or some
other question of a similar character, on which the
controversy had assumed a new phase at Antioch,
that St. Peter fell again under an injurious influence,
which made it needful for St. Paul to withstand him
' to the face, because he was to be blamed.' b It is not
to be supposed, that after the deep solemnity of the
events which accompanied the baptism of Cornelius,
and again after the careful deliberations and weighty
conclusions of the council, St. Peter could have fallen
back, as some have thought, from either the decision on
the free admission of the Gentiles, or the resolution to
admit them without compelling them to pass through
the gate of circumcision. It is more probable that the
dispute had arisen on some further complication in
this deeply important controversy, when St. Peter had
again failed to master some additional modification,
the need of which was clear to the keen insight of
St. Paul.

Such is the chequered history of the inner life of
the Apostle, up to and even beyond the time when he
disappears from the regular apostolic narrative. But
we must now remark, that all along its course

a Acts xvi. 3; Gal. ii. 3. b Gal. ii. 11.

208 lecture vn.

throughout the Acts, we have a series of addresses
which were delivered by St. Peter, and which cover
a much wider field of teaching than the points to
which we have referred. It is material to our pre-
sent argument to note, that those formal discourses
are free throughout from every trace of uncertainty
or error, by which his conduct was occasionally
biassed for a season (g). Historians have not failed to
mark the signal change which was wrought by the
descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost ; the sudden
conversion of the apostles from doubt, timidity, and
lingering ignorance, to a confidence, a boldness, and
a spiritual authority, which perplexed and overawed
the rulers of the Jews. Of these great characteristics
the sermons of St. Peter are the leading proofs ; and
from point to point they uphold and develope the
foremost doctrines of revelation with a clearness of
tone, and firmness of purpose, from which human
imperfections are totally excluded. And recurring
to the history, we observe that the notices which we
have collected do not really close the page, nor leave
us with the impression that the struggles of the
Apostle brought him to no earthly haven of rest.
The Holy Spirit has graciously afforded us that later
record of a more comprehensive nature, the contents
of which establish that all his failures had been
finally surmounted, and that all his misunderstand-
ings had been reconciled at last. It is here that the
evidence of his Epistles may be brought in : and we
may use them both without disturbance from any
critical questions bearing on the genuineness of the


second, because the character of both is in this respect
one and the same. And if it were suggested that
the argument which we have been pursuing might
warn us against reasoning from the words of the in-
spired writer to the spiritual position of the man, the
thought is overborne at once by the witness of their
solemn tone, of conscious, unwavering, steadfast faith.
In this light we may read the special notices, which
prove how completely every earlier sore was finally
healed: the touching allusions in the one epistle to
the ' wisdom given unto ' his ' beloved brother Paul ;'
in the other to the services of that ' faithful brother,'
the well-known companion of St. Paul, Silvanus. a
The personal nature of the details shows that a holy
calm had settled down at last, after the casual storms
of that eager, earnest, active life. Resting on the
past, with full assurance for the present, and with
high anticipations for the future — speaking as him-
self ' an elder and a witness ' at once of Christ's trans-
figuration and His sufferings, and already ' a par-
taker of the glory that shall be revealed ' — he writes
that he may ' stir up ' their ' pure minds by way of
remembrance;' in the spirit of a man who knows
how sorely he has himself been tempted, and can
therefore encourage others to bear up against the
fiery trial of temptation, and to resist the utmost
malice of the devil. b It is his own experience which
teaches him to place such absolute reliance on the

a 2 Pet. iii. 15 ; 1 Pet. v. 12.

b 1 Pet. v. 1 ; 2 Pet. i. 18 ; iii. 1 ; i. 12, 13 ; 1 Pet. i. 7 ; iv. 12 ;
2 Pet. ii. 9 ; 1 Pet. v. 9.



word of God, in opposition to false prophets, and in
contrast to the perishable objects of this transitory
world. a It is the recollection of his own failure which
urges him to bid them not to be ashamed if they are
called upon to suffer as Christians; and which leads
him to connect the Christian life with the courageous
discharge of all earthly obligations, as the counter-
part to those graces of the Spirit which are summed
up in the injunction, to sanctify the Lord God in their
hearts. b Well may we say, in Hooker's language,
that his strength had been his rum, and his fall had
proved his stay. c Well may our thoughts pass
quickly on, from the memory of his early vacillation
to the solemn stillness of his closing doxology ; when,
as his thoughts revert to Him who had been ' thrice
denied, yet thrice beloved,' he exclaims, ' to Him be
glory, xa\ vuv xou elg y[Aspav aiaivog •' even throughout
that eternity which is dies sine node, merus ae per-
petuus* Does not the record hold out to ourselves the
promise, that a ready faith will never lose its reward ;
that a zealous struggle will never fail, through God's
help, to lead to victory; that as, in some cases, His
' strength is made perfect in weakness,' e so in other
cases His firmness is created beneath the unsteady
efforts of uncertain strength; and that the doubts
and disappointments of this world are not seldom
closed even before the grave, and will unfailingly
vanish, when we pass to the deep rest of heaven?

a 1 Pet. i. 25; 2 Pet. i. 21 ; ii. 1. b 1 Pet. iv. 1G ; iii. 15.

c Sermon III., Works, ed. Keble, iii. G10.
d Bengel. in loc. e 2 Cor. xii. 9.


All this it teaches; but it surely teaches no less
clearly this lesson on the character of Holy Scripture :
that its voice was always raised above the sphere
within which earthly controversies are heard to
wrangle ; that the Holy Spirit uses the human cha-
racter, but excludes the intermixture of human
infirmity; uses the instrument, but forbids the dis-
cords which sometimes spoil its natural tones ; speaks
in the voice of sinful men, whose sins are set forth in
its own records for our warning, but never permits
those voices in its service to be swayed for one
moment by the influence of the sin.

II. We pass to a very different character, when
we turn our attention from St. Peter to St. Paul.
In St. Peter we have noted the gradual advancement
from the dominion of hasty impulses to the calm
self-control of settled unity and strength. We can
observe and mark the very crisis of the changes,
when the whole man seemed to be bowed under the
influence of the mighty agencies which lifted him on
from one point to another, to take the lead in every
movement of unfolding Christianity, with an im-
petuosity of purpose which left his tardier thoughts
behind. In the case of St. Paul, we trace the opera-
tion of a firm consistent zeal, informed and governed
by a resolute conscience ; but by its side we find that
the religious knowledge breaks asunder, at the great
change of the conversion, into two distinct portions,
which might be regarded as respectively typical of
Jewish and of Christian faith. The language in

p 2


which the Apostle speaks of his own former life is
constantly coloured by two contrasted lines of re-
flection. On the one side he is undaunted in assert-
ing the unbroken continuity of what was good; on
the other side, he sorrows over the recollection of its
earlier counterpart of evil. Whenever the question
turns on zeal, he claims it for his younger years, in
its highest fervour and its worthiest forms. ' Taught
according to the perfect manner of the law of the
fathers,' he ' was zealous toward God,' up to the
very highest standard of those whom he addressed.
' After the most straitest sect ' of their relioion, he
had ' lived a Pharisee.' In that religion he had
profited above many his equals in his own nation,
' being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of '
his ' fathers.' ' Touching the righteousness which is
in the law,' in short, he was ' blameless.' a Yet, on
the other hand, he is as explicit and energetic in
deploring the sin of that spiritual blindness, which
had darkened his own vision, as it darkened the
vision of the whole nation of the Jews. He says that
he ' was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and
injurious,' though he had ' obtained mercy, because '
he ' did it ignorantly in unbelief;' and he had learnt
to regard himself as in that aspect ' the least of the
apostles,' not worthy, indeed, ' to be called an apostle,'
because he had ' persecuted the church of God.' b
Now this is a very clear account of the spiritual

a Acts xxii. 3 ; xxvi. 5 ; Gal. i. 11 ; Phil. iii. G. Cf. Acts xxiii. 1 ;
xxiv. 14, 1G; 2 Tim. i. 3.

*> 1 Tim. i. 13; 1 Cor. xv. 9.


history of a most intelligible character. We see that the
current of his religious zeal had always run strongly,
and had filled to overflowing the channels through
which it was directed. But its earlier course had
been misguided into evil; and he never tried to
palliate that evil, even while insisting on the honesty
of purpose with which the mistaken course had been
pursued. His conversion brought about the instan-
taneous change of guiding the whole strength of his
will into a better channel, and removing the Jewish
barriers which had enslaved its energies within the
limits of a worn-out system.

Here, then, arise the questions on development,
which become important for our present argument.
First, what was the nature of that religious pro-
gress after his conversion, which is acknowledged in
some expressions of St. Paul (7) ? In the next place,
does it appear to have exerted such a control over
his inspiration, that we can detect its influence in
his writings, in their gradual deliverance from earlier
imperfections? In the third place, is it possible to
trace in any passages the very process of development,
the vibrations of a mind which is still balancing in
doubt between two opposite judgments, unable to
decide, yet unwilling to continue undecided? If we
are compelled to answer these later questions in the
affirmative, we shall have found an instance in which
the human element has intruded its imperfections
into the sacred record. If we can establish a reason-
able right to answer them in the negative, we shall
have gained a further example of the manner in


which all human weaknesses are overruled and
strengthened by the mighty presence of the enlight-
ening Spirit.

1. It is beyond all question, in the first place,
that St. Paul acknowledges a progress in religious
light after his conversion. His companion, St. Luke,
tells us at the outset, that ' Saul increased the more
in strength ; ' and Ave cannot doubt that his spiritual
insight was quickened, and his knowledge deepened,
by the ' visions and revelations of the Lord.' a Nor
does it seem difficult to illustrate from the history
that former knowledge of ' Christ after the flesh ' (8),
which he tells the Corinthians he has finally aban-
doned. 13 We must not forget, as I have already
remarked, that the early Church was reared under
the shade of Judaism ; that its earliest teachers, as
well as hearers, were all ' children of the stock of
Abraham ; ' c that its public ministrations were long
connected with the central bond of the temple
services at Jerusalem ; d that Christ's own commission
had originally limited the province of the twelve:
' Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any
city of the Samaritans enter ye not ; but go rather
to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.' e ' Unto
you first,' as we have seen, was the message of
St. Peter : ' to you is the word of this salvation
sent;' and 'it was necessary that the word of God
should first have been spoken to you,' is the echo

a Acts ix. 22 ; 2 Cor. .\ii. 1.
b 2 Cor. v. 16. c Acts xiii. 26.

d Acts ii. 1(1; iii. 1, etc. c Matt. x. 5, 0.


of that language from St. Paul. a Three times
throughout the Acts, as if by three different impulses
of sorrowing indignation, at the obduracy by which
his fellow-countrymen were hardened, the Apostle
announces his intention of turning to the Gentiles,
at Antioch, at Corinth, and at Rome. b There is no
reason to doubt that St. Paul, like the others, had
once sympathised completely with the Jewish anti-
cipations of a national Messiah, whose earthly lineage
should fix the main features of His character and
purpose. There was a time when the apostles
themselves imagined that Christ died chiefly for the
Jewish nation ; now they all knew that He had
' died for all,' and that ' He should gather together
in one the children of God that were scattered
abroad.' c At one time they had dwelt on the prior
claims of Judaism ; now they knew that in Christ
Jesus ' there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision
nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor
free; but Christ is all and in all.' d At one time
those original witnesses had doubtless prided them-
selves on their acquaintance with the human person
of the Saviour, and on being His brethren after the
flesh, through their common descent from Abraham.
Now they had learnt that faith had the promise of
a higher privilege than sight, and that the very
' mother and brethren ' of their Master ' are these
which hear the word of God and do it.' e That the

a Acts iii. 26 ; xiii. 26, 46. b Acts xiii. 46 ; xviii. 6 ; xxviii. 28.
c 2 Cor. v. 15 ; John xi. 50-2. Cf. 1 John ii. 2 ; Luke xxiv. 21.
d Col. iii. 11. e John xx. 29; Luke viii. 21.


1 Apostle of the Gentiles ' a would in like manner at
one time feel a deeper conviction of the claims of
those, ' of whom as concerning the flesh Christ
came,' b is thus found to be both likely in itself, and
borne out by the analogy of the gradual development
of the other apostles, and entirely consistent with the
course of the history.

2. But that we can detect any corresponding
progression in his inspired teaching, seems to be a
groundless suspicion, which a careful examination of
the order of his speeches and epistles will remove.

The steadiness with which, in his epistle to the
Galatians, the Apostle asserts the identity between his
earliest and his latest message, has been justly urged
as a strong argument against the supposed enlarge-
ment or correction of the Gospel which he had origi-
nally taught. But it is a still stronger argument
if we can find an antecedent witness of St. Paul's
own teaching, by which that identity is explicitly
established. Now it will not be denied that the
discourse at the Pisidian Antioch dates earlier than
the two Thessalonian Epistles, and that Ave can place
implicit reliance on the accuracy with which St. Luke
has reported it in the Acts of the Apostles. But as
if to meet by anticipation the suspicion of a change,
that Antiochene discourse contains the germs of all the
later doctrine, even in points on which it has been
most definitely challenged ; and amongst them it
embodies St. Paul's most emphatic assertion of the

» Rom. xi. 13 ; Gal. ii. 7. b Rom. be. 5. c Gal. i. 8, 9.


impossibility of obtaining justification through the
Law (9). It stands between the speech of St. Stephen
and the elaborate arguments of the Epistles to the
Galatians and the Romans. It resembles the former (10)
in its rapid sketch of Jewish history, tracing the steps
of the election from Abraham to David, and leading
it up to the great Heir of David, whose advent was
heralded by John the Baptist. 3 It resembles the latter
in its doctrine of the fulfilment of the promise which
had been made unto the fathers ; of the revelation
through Jesus Christ of the Divine righteousness, in
relation to the sin of man ; and the utter failure of
the Law of Moses to yield the justification which the
sinner sought. b But this question can be reduced to
a single issue. The Thessalonian Epistles, it is alleged,
' say nothing of justification by faith, and not by the
works of the Law.' The inference is, that this great
doctrine had not at that time been unfolded in the
mind of the Apostle. It is enough, by way of answer,
to quote the explicit declaration which he made at an
earlier date to the Jews of Antioch : ' Be it known
unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through
this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins ;
and sv rovru) 7r6ig b iria-rsuoiv fiixaiouTai ' by Him all
that believe are justified from all things, from which
ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.' c As
to the contrast, too, between the Jew and Gentile,
I have had a previous occasion to point out that
the speech at Lystra sets forth the very same

a Acts xiii. 17-25. b Acts xiii. 32, 38, 39. c Acts xiii. 38, 39.


conception of Gentile knowledge, which the Epistle to
the Romans afterwards unfolds. God had left them
in times past 'to walk in their own ways,' yet had
sent them His witness in the rains and seasons. 3
Precisely so at Athens, on the very same journey
to which the Thessalonian Epistles must belong,
the Apostle repeats this doctrine, with the variation
needed for more cultivated hearers, when he shows
how God had winked at times of ignorance, yet had
made men to bear such traces of His image, that they
never ceased to feel after their Heavenly Father out
of the midst of their thick darkness. b

3. But again it is alleged, that we can discover the
human workings of the mind of the Apostle, as it
wavers between the opposite sides of a question, and
as he loses the logical control over his argument, and
is tossed from side to side, in the tentative progress
from hesitation to faith (1 1). The proof of this position
is commonly made out by limiting the Apostle's words,
on each aspect of the question, to a narrower meaning
than we can conceive them to possess ; and by applying
the stigma of wavering or contradiction to a method
which is simply meant to bring out great truths in all
their breadth and fulness, by an emphatic assertion
of the contrasted alternatives, which are respectively
necessary to give expression to the whole revelation.
On this subject 1 must refer to some remarks which
1 have previously offered. A fair solution of the
difficulty may be found, I think, in every instance,

a Acts xiv. 1G, 17. b Acts xvii. 27,30. c Lecture III.


by prefixing to the argument the broad conception
which is meant to be divided; and then marking the
steps through which the Apostle unfolds it, as he
presents us with first one view of truth, and then the
other, urging with strenuous zeal the claims of each
on our acceptance, and leaving to obedient faith, or
the enlightened spirit, the duty of grasping the
connection between them.

For a brief illustration of the Apostle's method, we
might turn to his statements in the Epistle to the
Romans on the presence, the nature, and the operation
of a law (12). We may speak of the laws of God in three
main senses, according as we wish to describe, now a
fact of mere uniformity in nature ; now the supreme
authority, which imposed that uniformity by the
action of His will ; and now those principles of moral
obligation, which fix the eternal landmarks between
right and wrong. In this third sense, with which alone
we are now concerned, law denotes revealed know-
ledge, connected with the conception of authority,
obligation, or constraint. The term includes the
teaching both of conscience and of special revelation ;
and the law of revelation is subdivided again, accord-
ing to the two leading dispensations, into the Law of
Moses and the Law of Christ.

Beginning from this outline, we may classify the
usage of St. Paul. The constituent elements, I say,
of moral law are knowledge and constraint. At one
time, then, he applies the word in its vaguest sense
to the law which was written on the hearts of the
Gentiles, where both light and obligation existed


only with their feeblest power. In a second and
far more copious class of instances, he uses the word
for the Mosaic dispensation, where the Law was as
clear as God's hand could write it, and as inflexible as
the granite (13) on which it was inscribed. Against
both of these laws mankind had offended, with a
uniformity which established a tyranny of wicked-
ness, and so constituted, under a third usage, the
law of sin and death, a law of evil, which mocks
God's uniformities, while it displaces His obligation
by the bondage of a more bitter service. Fourthly,
the Gospel brought in a clearer light and easier
yoke : yet both the elements continued present ; and
the Apostle therefore represents it as the Law of
the Gospel, ' the law of the Spirit of life in Christ
Jesus,' or what St. James calls ' the perfect law of
liberty.' a Through these four meanings, we find,
on examination, that the Apostle's argument moves
clearly and distinctly; the context in every case
fixing the application, and giving no ground for the
charge of obscurity, unless we choose to bind him
by a narrower usage, and refuse to give scope for
the broader utterance of his thought.

We may add, that some of the stronger and more
perplexing expressions in his argument are mere
applications of the words of Christ. In explaining
them we must remember a Scripture peculiarity
which has been previously indicated, b namely, that
lower degrees of either grace or knowledge are

a Rom. viii. 2 ; James i. 25. b Above, p. 19.


often described as negations rather than deficiencies.
To be without law means, then, in the case of the
Gentiles, to be left to the guidance of that fainter
law, which was only written on the fleshly tables
of the heart. a When St. Paul says, 'I had not
known sin, but by the law,' he no more means to
deny that the Gentiles could sin without the Law of
Moses, than our Lord meant us to draw a similar
inference when He said, ' If I had not come and
spoken unto them, they had not had sin.' b The
reference of Christ is to the Law of the Gospel ; the
reference of the Apostle is to the Law of Moses.
But behind both these there lay the Law of the
Gentiles, which in their case also was the strength
of sin, and which gave them such a knowledge of
God's will, as invested their disobedience with the
same character of guilt, which marks the deeper trans-
gressions of the Jew and Christian. In all cases
alike, God's law is ' holy, and the commandment
holy and just and good.' c But when it rouses the
opposition of our fallen nature, it evokes the latent
mischief which it does not cause, displays it in its
own evil tendency, and increases the condemnation of
those who sin against the light of God. So far as
St. Paul's argument is specially limited to the Law of
Moses, the key to the entire difficulty must be found
in the relation of that Law to the Promise, and in the
uselessness of knowledge unaccompanied by grace.
From his conception of law the step is easy, to

a Rom. ii. 14. b Rom. vii. 7 ; John xv. 22.

c Rom. vii. 12.


draw out a similar peculiarity which marks his
explanation of the position and prospects of the
Jews. a The germ of the argument by which this
problem is answered can be detected before the
date of St. Paul's conversion, in that speech of
St. Stephen, to which he was a listener, and which
draws so clear a distinction between such outward
privileges as the Law and Temple, and the spiritual
blessing of the approbation of God. It is a mere
extension of that argument to show, that the election
of the Jews was conditioned by its object, which
was the ultimate salvation of the Gentiles also. The
Jews were the people whom God had chosen to keep
alive His truth among mankind, and to prevent the
torch of inspired knowledge from utter extinction
in the darkness. They were subjects of God's law,
guardians of His oracles, kinsmen of His prophets,
the fleshly brethren of the incarnate Son of God. To

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 15 of 30)