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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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 3 of 30)
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covenant, that we are taught to discriminate between
the feeblest Christian and the purest heathen by the
presence or absence of this grace alone.

Through all parts of the sacred history, we can

a Gen. i. 2 ; Ps. civ. 30. b Ex. xxxvi. 1.

c Dan. v. 11. d 1 Cor. iii. 16, &c.


read the unquestioned signs of His presence in
degrees of intensity which plainly vary from the
highest to the lowest. He dwelt in the hearts of the
ancient patriarchs ; or how could they have walked
and talked with God ? a He nerved the strength of
that great army of confessors and martyrs, who died
in the faith which the promise of a ' better country' b
had inspired ; whose eyes had never seen ' the King
in His beauty,' yet who lived in the confident hope
that they should become citizens of ' the land that is
very far off.' c The Spirit of the Lord was ever near
the people of the Jews, to guide, to warn, to elevate,
to strengthen ; imparting courage to their heroes, and
wisdom to their rulers, and glory to their national
life. Such are the signs of living inspiration which
preceded the gifts of the Christian covenant. And by
their side, and as their record, we find the productions
of a lofty line of writers, who were qualified, by the
highest and most specific inspiration, to transmit the
Word of God to man. Lawgivers and psalmists,
prophets and historians, alike found voice in words of
most exalted import, springing from lips that had
been touched as if with coals from God's altar. d Pass
to the tunes of John the Baptist, and who can doubt
that some gifts of the Holy Spirit must have waited
on his summons to repentance — gifts higher than any
which the heathen shared, and higher than any
which had heretofore been granted to the Jew ? But
though greater than the greatest of all earlier sons of

» Gen. v. 24 ; vi. 9, &c. b Hob. xi. 14, 1G.

c Isa. xxxiii. 17. d Isa. vi. G.


men, the Baptist himself was less than the least who
has participated in the outpouring of Pentecost. His
baptism was only the baptism of water, in contrast
with the gifts of Him who baptised ' with the Holy
Ghost and with fire.' a And at this crisis comes a
change so mighty, that all earlier gifts are swept into
the shade by the surpassing brightness of the gifts
which Christ had won for man. So great in them-
selves, so priceless to their recipients, yet, when con-
trasted with that better gift which was reserved for
us, they are as nothing: they can be set aside in
absolutely negative and exclusive language ; as when
Ave are told that ' the Holy Ghost was not yet (given),
because that Jesus was not yet glorified ; ' b or that
even John's disciples knew as good as nothing of the
character and working of the Holy Spirit (13).

But further. The Holy Spirit is present with a
difference, even among Christians. Even yet ' there
are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.' d For all
alike there is the gift of Baptism, the gift of Confirma-
tion, the gift of Holy Communion — each with its
special presence of the Holy Spirit. And for some,
again, there are such distinct and partial gifts as those
conferred in holy orders, with their several degrees.
And in the early Church, too, there were other gifts
of a still loftier and rarer character ; e gifts which
enabled men to work miracles, and to speak with
tongues, and to exercise many other wonderful

a Matt.iii. 11. b John vii. 39.

c Acts xviii. 25 ; xix. 2. d 1 Cor. xii. 4.

e Rom. xii. 6-8 ; 1 Cor. xii. 8-10, &c.



powers, which it was needless for their Giver to
perpetuate, when His Church had been established in
the world.

Now through all the classes which have been men-
tioned the word ' inspiration ' might be used, and in
some instances often is used, of each separate and dis-
tinct form of communication between the Holy Spirit
and the spirit of man. Yet it is clear that no such
special usage could limit any of the other meanings ;
still less could any such general use of the word be
employed as an argument against the special character
of that greatest and rarest gift of the Spirit, which
we believe that He vouchsafed to all the writers of
the Holy Scriptures. It is surely futile, then, to tell
us, what no one could have doubted, that the early
Christian fathers often claimed the presence of this
Spirit in themselves. It is futile to remind us that
our own Church, in its late and scanty use of the
word, is chiefly set on teaching us to pray that God's
holy inspiration may guide our own thoughts, and
govern our own actions ; that He will 'inspire con-
tinually the universal Church with the spirit of truth,
unity, and concord ; ' that He will ' cleanse the
thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of His
' Holy Spirit ' (14). Nor is there any cause to fear
that the claim of special inspiration for the writers of
those Scriptures, which guarantee the permanence of
such a blessing for ourselves, can ' teach us to quench
the Spirit in true hearts for ever.' Wlun we are
dealing with the relations between man and God, it
is perpetually necessary to distinguish between com-


pajra.ti.ye and absolute condemnation and exclusion (if).
' Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not ; yea,
the stars are not pure in His sight. How much less
man, that is a worm, and the son of man, which is a
worm ! ' a Thus words which seem to assert un-
qualified absence may be meant to describe only a
lower and less perfect form of presence. If the
language of Eliphaz or of Bildad seems to supply an
insufficient instance, we may recollect that Christ
taught us to call no man good, while Barnabas is
called ' a good man ' in the Acts of the Apostles ; the
reason, however, being immediately added, because he
was ' full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.' b In like
manner, the theological use of the word 'uncovenanted'
can be best defended on the ground that it describes
the position of those who live under a lower or less
specific covenant. St. Paul's expression, ' having not
the law,' c refers to those who were left to the
guidance of a fainter law within themselves. The
Evangelist's assertion that the Holy Ghost was not
yet given, can only mean, under any possible rendering
of the passage, that His most abundant gifts were
still unknown. In the same way, the word 'uninspired'
can be applied, with perfect propriety, not only to
those, if there be any such, who are excluded from
all share whatever in the Spirit's gifts, but also to
those whose participation in its various blessings bears
no resemblance to that supreme illuminating presence
to which the Scripture writers can alone lay claim.

a Job xxv. 5, 6 ; cf. iv. 18 ; xv. 15. b Matt. xix. 17; Acts xi. 24.
c Kom. ii. 14.


The wide extent, then, of the influences through
which the Holy Spirit operates, is no hindrance to
our conviction that there is an innermost centre of
inspiration, found only in the Word of God. There
may be circle within circle of Divine communion; just
as Christ Himself, the friend of all men, drew apart
the disciples from among the multitude, and the
twelve from among the disciples, and the three from
among the twelve, and out of the three chose one to
be preeminently distinguished as ' the disciple whom
Jesus loved.' a Even in ordinary characters, it is
depth which forms the only safeguard for expansive-
ness. Much more may we believe, that in a fallen
world, where sin had to be arrested, and the leaven
of a higher life diffused, the special and extraordinary
inspiration of the few would form the natural centre and
security for visitations extending to mankind at large.

Assuming, then, the possibility and probability of
high special inspiration, we proceed to affirm that no
other books can put in any kind of plea, which brings
them even nearly towards the level of the books of the
Canonical Scriptures. It is not well to ground the
canon on any separate branch of the proofs, by the
combination of which it is established (16). No nar-
row view of canonical authority can stand: not mere
authorship, for the authors of some books are still
uncertain, nor is it agreed that every work of every
inspired writer is comprised within the canon : not
internal evidence alone, for it would be a paradox to

8 John xxi. 20, &c


say that every list of names in Chronicles or Nehe-
miah ' shines by its own light,' and contains a higher
spiritual witness than the loftiest composition which
is rightly accounted in the strict sense uninspired:
not mere testimony, lest, in days of gainsaying, we
should be unable to give, as Hooker says we ought,
an account of ' what reason there is, whereby the
testimony of the Church concerning Scripture, and
our own persuasion which Scripture itself hath con-
firmed, may be proved a truth infallible.' a We are
not to rest on any of these singly, but on all in com-
bination, each in its due proportion. The light of God
in which we see God ; b the eye that seeks us out ; the
Spirit which finds our inmost spirit : this is one class
of evidence which no one who has felt its depth and
strength can undervalue. But before this, and by its
side, we need the evidence of testimony, to guard us
from accidental errors, and ascertain the Divine ori-
ginal of many things which might be wrongly cast
aside by a hasty superficial judgment : testimony to
prove prophetic or apostolic authority, in cases where
such authorship is known ; to prove the witness of the
Church herself, in cases where such authorship is un-
known : and all these lines of evidence conspire together
and corroborate each other, converging to form an
arch of proof, which bears the Scriptures on its steady
basis ; and defining the sphere of what we mean when
we maintain the special inspiration of the writers of
the Books of Scripture.

a E. P. III. viii. § 14. b Ps. xxxvi. 9.


It is of the canon of Scripture thus established that
we claim to uphold a peculiar inspiration, which differs
fundamentally from every other mode of the Divine
Presence to which the same name can be given. Nor
do we admit that we have placed any limitation on
the general influence of the Spirit, by maintaining
that the capacity of receiving and again imparting
special spiritual knowledge, which Scripture itself
enumerates amongst the highest spiritual gifts, 3, bore
immediate fruit, through both dispensations, in the
production of writings which were properly and pre-
eminently inspired, and which were to form the
foundation of all exact theology in every age.

II. But whither shall we turn for the differentia of
Scripture, and for the characteristics of this special

The chief element in that differentia will be found
in the subject-matter which it deals with; that is to
say, in the nature and character of Scripture Revela-
tion (17). But here again we are dealing with a term
which has received, though with less propriety, a
wider application. There have been other manifesta-
tions of God to man besides those which are recorded
in the volume of Scripture; and to these also the
term 'revelation' has been sometimes less properly

Jt has often been remarked, that the difference
between adequate and inadequate conceptions of

a John xvi. 13 ; Tiom. xii. P> ; 1 Cor. xii. 8-10.


Scripture might be thus expressed: that the former
accepts it, as containing revelations from God to man ;
while the latter regards it as the mere record of man's
higher speculations about God. The former view is
that which is maintained by every Christian. Yet,
that we may not uphold it in an exclusive spirit,
Scripture itself directs us to acknowledge that real,
though vague, manifestations of the Deity have been
granted beyond the pale of the guardianship to which
His written oracles have been confined. A fuller
examination of the passages will come before us at a
future time. It is sufficient for my present purpose
to remind you of such sources of what has been
called God's unwritten revelation, as the voice of the
heavens declaring His glory, and the seasons of the
earth proclaiming His goodness; the heart of man,
on which the rudiments of truth are traced, and the
history of man, which tells of God's dealings with our
fathers in the days of old. a To these may be added
Christ's own appeal to the teaching of Nature, as it sets
forth fundamental truths of religion : the sun rising
equally on the evil and on the good ; the lilies showing
forth their Maker's care ; the preservation of the feeblest
creatures, as a witness to His watchful goodness ; and
the love which we claim from earthly parents, as a
shadow of His deeper love. b

Scripture teaches us to recognise three different

a (1.) Ps. xix. 1 ; Isa. xl. 21 ; Rom. i. 19, 20. (2.) Ps. Ixv.
8-13 ; Acts xiv. 17. (3.) Rom. ii. 14, 15 ; Acts xvii. 27. (4.) 1 Cor.
x. 11, &c. ; cf. Ps. xliv. 1, and lxxviii.

»> Matt. v. 45 ; vi. 30 ; Luke xi. 13.


media for the Divine manifestations: the works of
Nature, the conscience of man (is), and that special
intercourse between the divine and human spirit,
which reaches its height in the sacred writings them-
selves. St. Paul appeals to each of these three
sources of Divine knowledge, according to the dif-
ferent characters of those whom he addressed. To
the unlettered Lycaonians he speaks of the rain from
heaven and fruitful seasons, which, even in the
darkest days, bore witness to the bounty of God. a
To the cultivated Athenians he speaks, not only of
the Creator, the Governor, the Guardian of mankind
— though such truths as these had the value of new
revelations, when contrasted with their intellectual
visions of impassive God — but still more closely of
the nearer conception of a Heavenly Father, whose
offspring were made by their birth in His image ; a
Father in whom we live and move and have our beino- •
who had once winked at times of ignorance, but
had now sent His Son to save men from their sins. b
Such were the two branches of the Apostle's argu-
ment with Gentiles : they are developed from the
two great sources of truth among the Gentiles — the
world, as the workmanship of God without ; and
man's conscience, as the representative of God within.
Towards Jews he holds a different language. His
appeal then lies to the law and to the testimony : the
lively oracles, which it had been their privilege to
guard ; those older Scriptures, which, through times

a Actsxiv. 17. b Acts xv ii. 24-31.


of unbelief and darkness, had kept alive the knowledge
of God's love. a To the Romans, again, he addresses
all three kinds of argument. They were Gentiles;
therefore he appeals to both the manifestations which
God had granted to the Gentiles: the law in their
heart, which is conscience ; the teaching of things
visible, which is the voice of Nature. b But again,
they were Gentiles who had already accepted the Old
Testament, and would therefore answer to the words
of Moses and the prophets. For this reason he
appeals to the numberless passages in the Old Testa-
ment by which his conclusions were foreshown.

It is to the third of these classes that we have now
to confine ourselves ; and we have to deal with it only
in the restricted sense to which it is limited by the
subject-matter of Scripture, which we shall presently
endeavour to describe. But this strictest kind of
revelation, again, is not co-extensive with the whole
sphere of Scripture, which embraces a wide range of
earthly knowledge, in addition to direct disclosures
from above. We must further distinguish, therefore,
between the divine and human sources of the mate-
rials out of which the sacred record was constructed.
When it is alleged that the holy writers were through-
out inspired, there is no necessity to add that the
materials of their record were the subjects of [in
equally pervading revelation. We see from St.
Luke's preface, to go no farther, that the fullest use
was everywhere made of historical materials and

a Actsxiii. 1G, &c. b Rom. i. 20; ii. 11.


human testimony. We shall therefore find it neces-
sary to discriminate in Scripture between what was
revealed to inspired men for the purpose of being
recorded, and what was simply recorded by them
from their own knowledge, or from accessible human
sources, under the safeguard and guidance of per-
petual inspiration.

Scripture, as viewed externally, presents us with
two series of facts, which answer to each other, and
which are combined into unity by the continued
presence of a uniform interpretation (19). The first
series begins with the creation, and stops short four
centuries before the incarnation of Christ. The key-
note of this earlier portion is the voice of preparation.
A church is set apart from the rest of the world;
special commissions and special promises are given to
individual members of it ; complex arrangements are
instituted, under Divine authority, to guard the rich
treasure of the national expectation, which looked
forward to the advent of One, who was to be at once
the King of Israel and the means of extending
Abraham's faith to all the world. Through captivity
and restoration, through foreign wars and civil dis-
sensions, amidst cowardice and heroism, amidst failure
and success, the stream of fact flows broadening
onward towards the fulfilment of that glorious hope.
The curtain does not fall till all has been made ready.
Every type is furnished; every symbol is assigned;
a deeper moral element has been wrought in by the
prophetic teaching; and certain conspicuous land-
marks have been fixed, by which the proximate date


of the great event might be foreknown. The second
series of facts takes up the answer, and supplies the
counterpart for which those distant centuries were
waiting. Point by point, and detail by detail, it
meets the expectation, fulfils the promise, and com-
pletes the work. ' The Word was made flesh, and
dwelt among us.' a Old things were swept away;
but the form only perished, while the spirit was
preserved and quickened. The Christian Church was
established, and Christ was preached through all the
countries of the then known world. The historical
record closes before the holy city of Jerusalem, which
had been the stronghold of the earlier life, was over-
thrown. In that event the warnings of the prophets
were fulfilled ; and the most sacred ties were snapped
asunder, to complete the removal of local restrictions
which Christ had announced when He said, ' Believe
me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this
mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.' b
But now, so far as these are simple facts, bearing
a plain historical character, and holding definite
external relations to dates, to geography, to the
histories of surrounding nations, it is clear that no
special revelation was required for their record. We
can imagine that even uninspired historians might
have narrated the whole contemporary portion of the
facts of Scripture, in histories of the common type
and order. But such records would have differed
widely from the existing Scriptures, because they

a John i. 14. b John iv. 21.


could not have presented the facts under the aspect
which a knowledge of their purpose and significance
supplied. Revelation, properly so called, is the
supernatural counterpart to this double series of
facts, uniting them together under one religious ex-
planation. Scripture consists, then, not of facts only,
but of facts arranged with a view to one overruling
purpose, and lighted up by a peculiar interpretation,
which the unassisted mind of man could never have
projected or supplied.

The case might be stated in another manner. The
chain of events which forms the external history of
both dispensations, is all along accompanied by the
revelation of a higher series, belonging to a super-
natural order. The various utterances of the words of
God, His commands, His promises, His warnings, His
expostulations, these are all facts of a superhuman
character, and pass beyond the historical sphere.
Such facts as these are connected with doctrines, and
with the disclosures of mysterious truth, on the nature
of God and the spiritual history of man. Everything
of this kind is pure and simple revelation. Yet it is
the very key-stone which holds together the whole
fabric of Scripture; so that, if we allow ourselves to
doubt its truth, our belief in the special character of
Scripture falls. As all this is, in the ordinary sense
of the word, miraculous, we make no further demand
on faith, when we add that it was coupled with many
other manifestations of miracle ; prophecies which none
but God could pronounce ; direct interpositions of His
sovereign will to alter or suspend His ordinary laws.


The preparation of the Old Testament extended to
many points which passed beyond the knowledge of
the Jews. The fulfilment of the anticipations which
were expressed in its records, could not, in the nature
of things, be furnished till long after the canon was
closed. This whole mass of knowledge, then, was
due to simple revelation; to disclosures so directly
superhuman and divine, that even the inspired writers
must, in many cases, have had but a dim conception
of the ultimate bearing of the truths which they set
down. The Divinity of Christ, for instance, is a
doctrine rather than a fact of history. It is a Divine
revelation, which gives new force and meaning to the
history and destiny of the creatures whom He made
and ransomed. But the Jewish nation, with few
honoured exceptions, had gained so feeble a mastery
over the true teaching of their own Scriptures, that
they found an insuperable stumbling-block in the
cardinal truth of what is most strictly termed
theology — the truth that He whom they looked for
as the Son of David was really David's King and

The presence of this series of Divine revelations is
the chief element in the differentia of Scripture — the
chief mark which distinguishes the inspiration of the
Bible from the inspiration of a holy life. When
David prayed, with a deep sense of sinfulness, ' give
me the comfort of Thy help again, and stablish me
with Thy free Spirit,' a he sought, as each of us should

a Ps. li. 12.


daily seek, for the cleansing inspiration of the Holy
Spirit's purifying presence; that 'ministration of the
Spirit," 1 to which we are admitted more freely than
the ancient Psalmist, which first regenerates and
then renews us; which first implants a better will,
and then enlightens it with clearer knowledge ; which
assures us of forgiveness, and advances us in grace ;
and enables us to bring forth good works in this life,
and to look forward with confidence to the life ever-
lasting. It was a very different kind of influence to
which he reverted in his dying declaration: ' The
Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was
in my tongue.' b The word that God gave him was
the thing that he must speak ; the revelation which
he was commissioned to disclose; the word which
unfolded heavenly truths, and raised common facts to
a higher significance, by disclosing their eternal

But as before of Inspiration, so now of Revelation :
wo iii id that it often reaches beyond its proper pro-
vince to enrich mankind with wider blessings than
those which belong strictly to the sphere of religion.
Being a disclosure of the highest and most universal
laws of God, its influence overflows into all parts of
moral knowledge, supplying motives and explanations
of the loftiest import. It cannot be doubted that
Revelation has combined with Inspiration to impart
that quickening power to Scripture which has made
it the prolific source of kindling life, in the spiritual

a 2 Ccr. iii. 8. b 2 Sam. xxiii. 2.


histories of the nations of mankind. But we may-
account these gifts to be a portion of God's additional
and superabundant bounty, and we need not embrace
them within the rigour of the definition which secures
the higher aspect of Scripture Revelation.

And here, again, let us pause to repeat, that
when we thus claim for Scripture a peculiar and un-
approached inspiration, and point to the revelations
which it embodies, as explaining both the need and
nature of that higher influence, we do not trench upon
the fundamental principle, that no religion anywhere
is worthy of the name, unless it looks to the abiding
presence of God's Holy Spirit as its only source of

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 3 of 30)