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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them pertained 'the adoption, and the glory, and
the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the
service of God, and the promises ; whose ' were ' the
fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ
came, who is over all, God blessed for ever.' b But
as individuals, they failed to attain ' to the law of
righteousness,' by 'going about to establish their
own righteousness,' and not submitting ' themselves
unto the righteousness of God ; ' c and as a nation,
they forfeited the privilege of their election when
they abused their stewardship, and asserted an

a Rom. iii.. iv., ix , x., xi.
b Rom. ix. 4, 5. - Rom. ix. 31; x. 3.


exclusive right to blessings which they held only
in the common interests of man. A tenure of this
kind could of course be described in varying lan-
guage, as the thought dwelt more on the greatness
of the blessing, or the danger of its loss. It could
not be otherwise than that the argument should move
through a series of contrasted phrases, as the Apostle
passes on from the much advantage of the Jew
to the rightful claims of the Gentile ; as he weighs
the ancient glories of the sons of Abraham against
the sins which had caused their election to be
annulled; as he balances God's promises against
man's frustrations of His merciful designs ; and as
he qualifies the darkness of their present rejection
by the dawning brightness of their future hope.
But we have only to let the interpretation follow
out the full breadth of the Apostle's meaning, and
the apparent wavering is found to be the mere
method of exposition, and not in any case the sign
of any doubt about the truth.

The nature of 'our present jmrpose forbids us to
go into any further details of criticism for establish-
ing the position which has now been upheld. It is
enough to have pointed out the grounds on which
we are justified in rejecting the view of his spiritual
development, which casts his earlier message into
an imperfect form, and charges his later teaching
with vacillation between the sides of incompatible
alternatives. Let us turn, in the last place, to re-
mind you again of the importance of the principle,


which is the counterpart to what we have been
studying; the inestimable advantage of that real
human presence, which moulds all the details of
Scripture instruction, yet without subjecting the
record to any tarnish from man's sin.

If Scripture speaks to all hearts alike — if it meets
every perplexity, strengthens every fainting spirit,
comforts every mourner, and spans the whole
compass of every intellect, from the highest to the
lowest — one main reason of this many-sided influence
may be found in the fact with which we have been
dealing: the fact that the Holy Spirit speaks to
us through men who were in all respects exposed
to all the same emotions with ourselves; through
men who represented every mode of thought, every
shade of feeling, every social class, as well as every
phase of the religious character. Throughout all
its countless details we may see that Scripture is
as certainly the book of man as we believe it to
be the book of God. Its voice is the voice of those
who were our fellows, however highly exalted they
might be above ourselves. They were the chosen
lights of human nature, which shone around the
Sun of Righteousness. They formed the royal court
of attendant ministers, who interpreted the will of
Him that sits upon the throne as Son of Man; of
Him who can still be 'touched with the feeling of
our infirmities,' because He 'was in all points
tempted like as we are, yet without sin.' a There

a Heb. iv. 15.


is no real difficulty in combining these two principles,
that the human nature of the sacred writers might
act in its completest development and freedom, yet
might be guarded from communicating its own
imperfections to the revelation which was sent from
God to man through man.

The human characters of Scripture are all gathered
round a common centre, to which they bear a widely
different relation in proportion to their distance
from its light. On their outskirts are crowds of
undistinguished agents, who play the subordinate
parts in the great drama it unfolds. The innermost
circle of the sacred writers retains the perfect impress
of man's threefold nature, while it rises towards a
higher form of being, as it shares in a nearer spiritual
intercourse with God. But God's light loses nothing
of its heavenly purity because it is reflected back
from human faces ; while man gains all the advan-
tage of the pervading presence of a sympathy which
answers to the most varied emotions of his heart.




2 Tim. ii. 15.

' Rightly dividing the word of truth.'

WE are now drawing near to the conclusion of the
argument, through which I have endeavoured
to unfold the completeness of both the divine and
human elements in Holy Scripture. It remains that
I should occupy this closing Lecture with a brief
summary of the results which I have sought to
establish, and the lessons which they are intended to

The question with which our enquiries have been
connected forms the narrowest, though not altogether
the least important, of three leading controversies,
which have recently aroused unusual interest : those
which relate to the respective differentia? of Scripture,
of Christianity, and of mankind. The series widens
outward, from doubts on the specific characteristics
of Scripture, to doubts on the specific claims of Chris-
tianity, and to doubts on the specific distinctness of
man. What is the peculiarity which justifies us in
marking off Scripture from all other books, as being,
not only the word of man, but the Word of God ?


In what respects does Christianity rise so wondrously
above all other religions as to justify the position
which is assumed by its supporters? And what is
the difference between man and the highest of those
lower races which exhibit so strange a mockery of
our reason? While dealing more particularly with
the first of these questions, we have found it necessary
to touch on both the others at different points in our

But it would be an unwise course to trust our
cause to any formal definition, which should be
framed so dogmatically as to proclaim itself the end
of controversy on any of these important topics. No
reasonable person can hope to do more than offer
such suggestions as may serve to establish the pro-
found reality of the boundary line by which the
specific difference is in each case guarded, and to
relieve the alarm with which any recognition of the
generic resemblance is commonly received. We
believe that man is distinguished from all other
tenants of this world which we inhabit, not only bv
a finer organisation and a keener intelligence, and
the preeminence which is represented and secured
through the gift of language ; but above all, and
perhaps as the cause of all, by that spiritual element
which bears its living witness to our creation in God's
image, and which enables us to enter into communion
with God. We believe that Christianity differs from
all other religions because it centres in the Divine
Person of our Saviour, conveys the special earnest
of the witness of God's Spirit, operates through



sacraments and ordinances of covenanted efficacy, and
is perpetuated by the establishment of a sacred society
which preserves the deposit of religious knowledge,
and enjoys the promised presence of the Spirit of
the Lord. That deposit, we believe, was originally
embodied in the Holy Scriptures, which differ from
every other book, because they alone contain a guaran-
teed revelation, which lifts the veil, so far as needed,
from both the earliest past and the remotest future,
to disclose the motive, the sanction, and the law of
man's labours; and because the Holy Spirit, which
watched over the delivery of that revelation, filled
the spirits of the writers with a more complete and
pervading presence than ever presided over the execu-
tion of a merely human work. And so long as we
hold these points with confidence, we may be ready
to trace out with perfect calmness the signs of larger
unity, which extend the analogy to other spheres ; and
we may admire, with reverent adoration, the widening
witness which they bear to the uniformities of the
Divine counsels. But ' it becometh well the just to
be thankful;" 1 and it is not for the rich to be jealous
of the poor, for those fragments of God's blessing
which they share. Such jealousy would, indeed,
betray dissatisfaction with our riches, or a doubt
whether the)' are really our own. We cannot grudge
God's lower gifts, when we know that He has en-
dowed ourselves in more abundant measure. Rather
should our own experience of His bounty lead us

a Fs. xxxiii. 1.


to expect, that it would often be poured forth in
wider and less usual channels than those through
which its ordinary blessings reach us. We may
welcome the labours of scientific enquirers, who
draw out man's affinities with lower races, if we have
realised the independent character of those higher
gifts, which make men alone the sons of God. We
may be thankful to acknowledge the fatherly good-
ness with which God lent some jewels of His truth to
the darkened heathen, if we feel sure of our own
position within reach of that storehouse of His Church,
from which ' every scribe which is instructed unto
the kino'dom of heaven ' can bring; ' forth out of his
treasure things new and old.' a And we may rejoice
to recognise the Spirit's presence in every lofty work
of man, if we have learnt to appreciate the fiery force
of that more certain inspiration, which fills God's
Word with power and light.

In dealing with the question which has formed
our own immediate subject, I have been guided
throughout by the strong conviction, that very scanty
success has rewarded any attempt to treat the Scrip-
tures either as purely human, or as purely divine, or
as compounded of those two elements in such a
manner that man's reason or conscience can discri-
minate unfailingly between them. It has appeared
to me that an escape from these perplexities might
be found in the complete and fearless recognition
of both elements, with all their natural results of

a Matt, xiii. 52.


characteristic influence, through every portion of the
sacred record ; a union which is strictly conformable
to the analogy of God's ordinary dealings with the
human spirit, which He guides, and moulds, and
strengthens, and perfects, but which He never de-
prives of its original endowment, of free and respon-
sible action. It is not to be denied, indeed, that
the subject-matter may cause now the one element
and now the other to be specially prominent in par-
ticular passages; but it is maintained that this never
happens so exclusively, that the one which is less
prominent is utterly withdrawn.

The theologian can be at no loss for parallel cases,
where two distinct agencies are found to cooperate
throughout one sphere with so complete a presence
that they cannot be distinguished, though they must
not be confounded. Without seeking illustrations
from the more mysterious regions of the interaction
of the Persons in the ever-blessed Trinity, or from
the less definite topic of the Sacramental Presence,
we may venture to recur to the current illustration
which is afforded to the Scriptures by the twofold
nature of our Lord. We must not, indeed, use it
without beins; careful to mark that there are limits
to the resemblance, which can be traced between a
Book and a Person : a Book in which two elements
are combined together in one result ; a Person in
whom two natures are united together in one indivi-
duality. The analogy extends no farther than this;
that in Christ, the Godhead and the Manhood are
both perfect, yet are inseparably united without loss


or limitation : in Scripture, the divine and human
elements are both complete, yet, as contributed re-
spectively by God and man, they meet in one common
production, each without limitation, and each without
loss. The necessary restriction of this analogy is no
objection to our using it so far as it holds true.
When the Athanasian creed compares the union of
God and man in Christ to the union of soul and body
in man, we know that we are dealing with an imper-
fect parallel, which cannot be treated as complete
without falling into the Apollinarian heresy. Under
the same reserve for an imperfect figure, we may
illustrate the cooperation of the divine and human
agencies in producing God's Word Written by the
coexistence of the divine and human natures in
God's Word Incarnate.

Now the doubts which make men fear to admit
the full influence of the human element rest on a
mistaken conception of the place and effect of sin ;
as though it were an essential portion of that human
nature, which it does but derange and confound.
Such a suspicion might be averted by the recollec-
tion that Christ took our nature with all its infir-
mities, yet without the slightest shadow of taint from
our sin. Nothing could be stronger than the asser-
tion of the inspired writer, that though absolutely
sinless, yet He ' was in all points tempted like as we
are.' a Nothing could be clearer than the testimony
of the Gospels, that He ' increased in wisdom and

a Heb. iv. 15.


stature,' and hungered and thirsted, and was tempted
by Satan and buffeted by man, and was ' sorrowful
and very heavy,' and suffered even to the utmost
agony by which our feeble nature can be torn and
distressed. a But while He thus felt all, that He might
pit}- all, b and through all His words and acts of mercy
exhibited the most perfect sympathy for our infir-
mities, yet the dark cloud of personal guilt never
cast the faintest reflection on His stainless spirit.
Nay, more than this, there was a divine decorum (1)
watching round His path, to ward off those sinless
indignities from material agencies which it was not
seemly that the Son of God should suffer. Though
He ate and drank, and slept and rose, and fasted and
was wearied, and had not ' where to lay His head ;'
though He was the mark for the blind assaults of
evil men, and of spirits still more evil ; though ' being
in an agony He prayed more earnestly,' and His
' soul' was 'exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;
though ' His pale weak form' was ' worn with many a
watch of sorrow and unrest ;' b yet we never read that
actual sickness was allowed to fasten on His sacred
Person. Though He laid down that life, which none
could take from Him, d and conquered Death by the
mere act of dying, yet He never permitted disease or
mortality to tarry in His presence ; but drove them

a Luke ii. 52 ; Matt. iv. 2; John iv. 7; xix. 28; Matt. xxvi. G7,
37 ; Luke xxii. 44.

b Christian Year, Tuesday before Easter.

c Matt. xi. 19 ; viii. 24 ; John iv. G ; Matt, viii. 20 ; Luke xxii.
44 ; Matt. xxvi. 38. d John x. 18.


from their victims by an instant assertion of His divine
supremacy, as baffled and impotent foes. a

And here we may gam a clue of guidance to tell
us what we may expect to find in that element of
Holy Scripture which was to come from the agency
of man. It would be human to the very utmost, in
the broadest acceptation, short of sin, in which the
word can be properly employed ; human in its
sympathy with suffering, resignation, and rejoicing;
human hi its recognition of the obligations of the
present; human in its keen longings for a brighter
future. All this it might be ; all this, and more than
this, we actually find it; yet all the while it may be
guarded from the slightest lapse into such errors as
would be unseemly companions for a message from
above (-2).

But now it must be borne in mind, that I state
this principle as the result of an enquiry, not the
dictate of a theory. The proper way to learn the
true character of revelation is not to conjecture what
it ought to be, but to examine what it is. We can-
not pay too much regard to Butler's warning, that
' we are not in any sort competent judges, what
supernatural instruction were to have been expected,'
and therefore, that we must not ' pretend to judge of
the Scripture by preconceived expectations.' b When
such an examination has carried us on, from a general
acknowledgement of the deep human sympathies of
Scripture, to compare the nature and history of its

a Matt. viii. IG ; John xi. 21, &c.
b Analogy, II. 3 (pp. 211, 212, ed. 1836).


records with those of any other ancient writings, we
find that it obeys implicitly the main conditions under
which all other early literature was formed and handed
down. Its text may be modified by various readings ;
its inspired guardians appear to have introduced the
same kind of minor changes and explanations which
persons of similar authority might introduce in
parallel cases; its sense has often been obscured for
centuries by mistranslations and misinterpretations;
it stands in close contact with large masses of external
material; it touches at a thousand points on heathen
literature and history ; its later writers do not hesitate
at times to avail themselves of facts derived from
outer sources, which tradition, and not Scripture,
must have furnished. And while the strenuous
labours of unfriendly critics have not succeeded in
convicting it of any such departure from the present
historical standard as we cannot account for without
imputing error to the original writer, it is yet clear
that the form in which the narrative is shaped and
propounded is analogous to that in which other
authentic histories of similar antiquity are moulded.
The argument has indeed been confused by an over-
estimate of the importance of various chronological
details, many of which rest on mere hypothesis, and
which are so far not an integral part of the record GO ;
as well as by laying undue stress on names or nume-
rals, which may have been corrupted through the
lapse of ages (4). Nor must we forget to claim a
reasonable allowance on account of the brevity of the
narrative, and our ignorance of details which would


at once explain a seeming difficulty. But all these
corrections and qualifications are in precise conform-
ity with our general position, that the form of the
narrative, and the mode of its transmission, belong, as
a general rule, to the human framework; and yet
that the human framework has been preserved by
God's providence' from any such imperfections as
would offend against the decorum of His revelation to
mankind. The facts which I have mentioned must
be frankly acknowledged, but they must not be
exaggerated. We believe that they have failed to
exercise an evil influence over the sacred record.
They do not prove that it is in any sense untruthful,
unreliable, or unhistorical. " They only establish this
fundamental principle, that it shared in the external
characteristics of analogous literature, as clearly as it
shared in the human thoughts and emotions of those
by whom its several portions were composed.

A further extension of this position, that Scripture
was written in the language of mankind, and was
meant from the first to be ' understanded of the
people,' enables us to account for the use of terms
adjusted to the scientific knowledge, or common
modes of speaking, which prevailed in the ages when
the books were written (5). We are ourselves in
the daily habit of using words in their superficial
significance, without appealing to the theories in
which they originated, and from which they have
descended into common use, through pedigrees which
have frequently been lost. Great interest has been
often thrown over philological studies, by the disclosure


of such facts in the history of words, and by the
ingenious analysis which has forced words them-
selves to reveal the original causes of their employ-
ment. But we should be ready to resist the tyranny
which should try to rule our present usage by an
antiquarian etymology, or make us answerable for
views on which we have no particular call to form a
judgment, and which scientific men have perhaps long
since resigned as erroneous. Xow, it is as unreason-
able to argue that Scripture writers are responsible
for the opinions under which their customary expres-
sions were imposed, as to accuse men of ignorance
when they continue to use the imperfect terms of an
unfinished science ; or to accuse them of superstition
when they call months and days by their old heathen
names ; or to accuse them of pertinacious adherence
to antiquated error, when they describe the changes
and aspects of earth and heaven, of day and night, in
phrases that have survived abandoned systems.

These remarks may serve to recall the tram of
thought by which we have endeavoured to establish
the completeness of that human element which proves
its presence so conclusively, even to the most careless
reader, through the characteristics of the several
sacred writers. And I have sought to show that
this completeness may be maintained and taught,
without the slightest disparagement towards that
great truth which is its counterpart and consumma-
tion — the truth that the whole of Scripture is not less
certainly penetrated by an influence which is abso-
lutely divine. Objective in its origin, and thus


broadly contrasted with the speculations of mankind ;
perfect in its moral and religious teaching, and thus
strongly opposed to those false creeds, which have
filled the earth with cruelty and sin; profound in its
grasp of those eternal principles, which can only be
brought within the reach of the human intellect by
presentation in a series of balanced and contrasted
statements; all-pervading in its presence, so that it
lies everywhere beneath the human words of Scrip-
ture, and constantly suggests a deeper sense than the
knowledge or designs of the original writer could
command : the inspiration of the Bible combines with
its revelations to form an element so conclusively
divine, that we cannot mistake it for the dream of
man; we cannot hesitate to recognise its heavenly
source and spiritual power. Nor can we under-
estimate the fulness of its influence, without closing
our eyes on the entire higher range of the phenomena
of Scripture, and thus falling into the grave mis-
take of constructing a theory from which the more
important series of the facts is excluded. Considera-
tions of this kind enable us to complete our state-
ment, by showing that Scripture is as divine as it is
human; the voice of Him who dwells in eternity,
though reaching us through the organs and minds of
His earthly servants ; the work of the Holy Spirit
Himself, filling all that He communicates with light
to enlighten and with grace to save.

If these conclusions have been correctly drawn, we
may expect to find that they will verify themselves


by their fitness to meet some fair conditions, which
we should not have been justified in demanding at
the outset, but which will serve as a valid test of the
results of our enquiry. From this point of view, for
instance, we might reasonably ask whether the truths
alleged to be revealed are really such as man's unaided
mind was incompetent to furnish ; whether the reve-
lation possesses a depth of meaning which admits of
progressive development in the spiritual sense, and is
caused by the presence of a divine significance, lying
hidden beneath the words of man ; and whether the
inspired record stands clear from any taint of human
infirmity, while the characteristics of the separate
writers are never obliterated. The importance of
these positions has always been seen so clearly, that
the attempt to disprove the affirmative answers has
furnished three favourite topics to those who have
wished to modify or weaken the common faith on
inspiration. At one time such reasoners have tried
to destroy the distinctive claims of revelation, by
arguments which involve the further destruction of
the distinctive claims of Christianity itself; alleging
— what in a different sense indeed is true — that Chris-
tianity is as old as the Creation; and gleaning scat-
tered passages from heathen authorities, to prove the
wide diffusion of some fragmentary light, which they
propose as a rival for the full illumination of the
sacred record. At other times they have raised
formidable difficulties against the doctrine of a double

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 16 of 30)