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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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the Magians to the cradle of Christ, and the woman
of Samaria was looking for the decisions of the
expected Messiah, and the Roman Cornelius was
constantly offering up acceptable prayers unto
God. h But these, again, are only partially con-
nected with that special revelation, which mainly
constitutes the Divine element in Scripture, and
which can be distinguished from the transient

a Matt. i. 5. b Matt, i. 5; Heb. xi. 31; James ii. 25.

c Ps. ex. 4; Heb. vii. 3, &c. d 2 Pet. ii. 15.

e Num. xxiii. 10 ; Mic. vi. 8. f Num. xxiv. 17.

& Job ii. 3 ; xlii. 7. h Matt. ii. ; John iv. 20 ; Acts x. 2.

48 lecture n.

gleams of light which occasionally flashed forth by
its side.

3. From these, as well as from the outside heathen
knowledge, the main stream of revelation is dis-
criminated, by its depth, by its purity, by its far-
reaching coherency, but, above all, by its close
connection with the Person of our Lord. As I have
before pointed out, Scripture presents us with a long
chain of facts, bound together by a uniform Divine
interpretation — facts which might have been narrated
by an uninspired historian; with an interpretation
which could never have existed amongst men, except
by an explicit disclosure from God (8). And it is
important to observe, that from the beginning its
course was rather analytic than synthetic. Revelation
advances, not so much by addition as by development.
There is but little in the later portions which is not
dimly foreshadowed in the earliest record. The
promise of a future Redeemer dates from the very
gates of Paradise; and from the first it gave the
forecast of His double character — the tribulation
through which He was to enter upon glory. ' I will
put enmity between thee and the woman, and between
thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and
thou shalt bruise his heel.' a The Unity unfolds into
the Trinity ; yet the thought of the Divine conference
and counsel is suggested in the earliest page of Scrip-
ture, as we read, 'Let Us make man in Our image,
after Our likeness : ,b and Christian theologians can

a Gen. iii. 15. b Gen. i. 2G.


find no fitter starting-point for the exposition of the
doctrine, than the Mosaic declaration of the Divine
Unity, expressed in the terms of a mysterious triune
formula, ' Hear, Israel ; the Lord our God is one
Lord.' 3

But though the boundaries of the current might
be fixed from the beginning, the constant onward
flow of revelation was ever deepening its channel, and
giving men profounder conceptions both of the nature
of God and the moral obligations of mankind. This


principle supplies an explanation of the statement in
Exodus, on the introduction of the knowledge of the
name Jehovah, which has recently given rise to some
renewed discussion b (9). It is the usage of Scripture
to ascribe a high and special significance to the know-
ledge of the name of God; just as in the New Testa-
ment the power of faith and miracles is so often
connected with the name of Christ. The name of
God stands for God as revealed to us. The funda-
mental principle of the Third Commandment enjoins
proper reverence, not for God in the abstract, but for
that revelation of the Deity which is contained in
Scripture. And this doctrine pervades the whole
narrative in Exodus. ' By my name Jehovah was I
not known to them : ' that is to say, they were never
taught to fathom the full depth of significance which
lay hidden beneath a well-known term. The question
which Moses expected the Israelites to ask him was,
What is the name of the God of our fathers, who sent

a Dent. vi. 4 ; Hooker, E. P. v. li. 1. b Ex. vi. 3.



thee? The answer which he was told to give them
was, ' I am that I am.' ' Thus shalt thou say unto
the children of Israel, I am hath sent me unto you.' a
And the proclamation of the meaning of this name
Jehovah is a later act of preeminent significance and
solemnity. ' The Lord descended in the cloud, and
stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the
Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and pro-
claimed, The Lord, the Lord God (Jehovah, Jehovah-
El) : merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant
in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.' b

It is perfectly consistent with these declarations, that
the mere letters of the name Jehovah, which can be
traced, as it is correctly urged, through so many parts
of Genesis, conveyed before this period none of the
deep meaning which was thus brought out by special
revelation, as the promises began to receive their first
fulfilment ; precisely as we cannot suppose that the
patriarchal name of God, ' the God of Abraham, and
the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,' conveyed to
those who used it that profound teaching on the
Resurrection which Christ disclosed beneath its out-
ward form.

While the theological side of revelation, then, was
thus deepened in the providential course of sacred his-
tory, we can trace the same kind of progression through
its moral aspect also (10). The righteousness of God
Was always manifested in His jealousy for holiness,

n Ex. iii. 13, 14. b Ex. xxxiv. 5-7.

c Matt. xxii. 32.


in His anger against sin ; yet Christ Himself seeks
words no clearer or more forcible than those of Moses,
when He tells us how God claims the utmost strength
of human love : ' Thou shalt love the Lord thy God
with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with
all thy might. ' a And so onward, through Deuteronomy,
and still more plainly through the long series of the
Prophets, the moral element, which had been thus
broadly sketched from the beginning, and with which
from the first had been blended the love of our neigh-
bour, as the second law of man, b was ever receiving
its more full development, as the counterpart to the
theological ; till the time when the last of the old pro-
phets handed on his message to the evangelist —

£ First filial duty, then divine,
That sons to parents, all to Thee may turn.' c

But before we pass on to a further exposition of this
revelation, in contrast with the religions of heathenism,
there remain two points for brief explanation; and
first, the position of those ceremonial ordinances,
which formed the casket for the preservation of that
precious trust, the prophetic announcement of the
Saviour of mankind.

4. It is probable that, from the outset, the service
of religion was fenced in by positive ordinances, such
as many have traced in the alleged primeval obligation
of the seventh day's rest. But without entering on
the obscure topic of the forms of worship in the

a Dent. vi. 5 ; Matt. xxii. 37. b Lev. xix. 18 ; Matt. xxii. 39.

c Mai. iv. G ; Luke i. 17 ; Christian Year, St. John Baptist's Day.

e 2


patriarchal Church, we naturally turn for the most
conspicuous instance of this kind of revelation to the
subsequent introduction of the Law of Sinai, with its
special adaptations to the transgressions of men. The
Mosaic precepts differed widely from the promise,
which is the more exact anticipation of the Gospel.
It is true that they embodied a lofty code of moral
obligation ; but their chief characteristic is, that they
were positive and protective (n). We shall have
occasion to return in the sequel to their typical cha-
racter. For our present purpose, we need regard
them only in that stern, external, and repressive
aspect in which they were so framed as to fence in
and isolate the Jewish nation, for the double purpose
of impressing them with deep convictions of the
character of sin, and compelling them to guard the
treasure, of which they were the stewards in the
universal interests of mankind. Now it is the ten-
dency of all who have to administer a code of positive
precepts to overrate their value on the ground of
their obligation — a defect which is condemned in
ordinary cases as legal pedantry, and which finds
a ready correction in the common sense of society.
In the case of the Jews, this error was more dangerous,
because the ordinances which they obeyed claimed a
superhuman authority; and it still misleads the histo-
rian who cannot reduce the Law to its proper level,
and who urges us to cut ourselves adrift from the
entire Old Testament system, for the sake of libe-
rating Christianity from its alleged Jewish clement.
We must draw, then, a clear line of demarcation


between the pure revelation of eternal truth, and the
ordinances which were merely framed to guard it
for an appointed season. We must bear in mind that
faith was always taught as the sole principle of accept-
able obedience ; and that God's true servants always
lived in a more spiritual atmosphere than that of the
narrow Pharisaic Jew.

5. The Mosaic ordinances, however, and all others
which resemble them in Scripture, were matters of
God's own appointment : they were ' the example and
shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished
of God when he was about to make the tabernacle ;
for, See, saith He, that thou make all things according
to the pattern shewed to thee hi the mount.' a They
are only the positive side of an entire dispensation,
which was in the strictest sense throughout divine.
They must be distinguished, therefore, in the fifth
place, from the personal style and characteristics of
the inspired writers, and from the whole class of pecu-
liarities which belong as distinctly to their separate
provinces in the economy of Scripture, as the language
or the imagery which they severally used belonged to
the nations in which they had been brought up. It
is this consideration which introduces us to the purely
human element of Scripture; in the outer fringe of
which, again, God has left room for varied contribu-
tions of ordinary knowledge : the ' wisdom ' of Egyp-
tians, the ' tongue ' of Chalda3ans, b the science of
Greece and the laws of Rome ; the stores of moral and

a Heb. viii. 5. b Acts vii. 22; Dan. i. 4 ; v. 11.


political experience, which had been gathered through
the histories of the tribes with which the chosen
people came in contact ; and even acknowledged
quotations from heathen writers, such as we meet
with in the teaching of St. Paul a (12). To this head,
again, we must refer erroneous arguments, which are
often reported in Scripture, sometimes at great length,
as in the speeches of Job's friends ; sometimes more
briefly, as in the message of Amaziah, the priest of
Bethel : b and much more that appears to be recorded
on the principle that knowledge must cover both
contraries, and that Scripture must not only tell us
what is right for our guidance, but must also record
what is not right for our warning.

II. Thus far we have sketched the five classes of
religious knowledge which I named in the beginning ;
and sufficiently, I trust, to guide us in our further
task of drawing, in the second place, a broad contrast
between false and true religions — between the systems
of Paganism and the revelation of the Scriptures. We
see that, before we enter on its relation to error, Scrip-
ture revelation must be distinguished on the one side
from the indistinct manifestations of truth, which God
vouchsafed in different measures to the Gentile world,
and which are traceable within the record of Scripture
itself; and that it must be distinguished as carefully,
on the other side, from the temporary ordinances which
were framed for its protection, and from the human

a Acts xvii. 28 ; 1 Cor. xv. 33 ; Tit. i. 12. b Amos vii. 10-13.


characteristics which were never obliterated by the
inspiration of the sacred writers. Let us now confine
ourselves to the intrinsic nature of that special reve-
lation, as it is brought out by contrast with the
various organisations of heathen religion.

1. While we admit and teach that those religions
present occasional traces of undoubted truth, which
should be recognised and welcomed as the gift of God,
we must observe that these truths never embraced any
entire system with which they were connected. This
is the foremost difference between Paganism and
revealed religion ; that while the lessons of Scripture
form portions of one perfectly true and holy system,
the truths which we find in heathen religions are like
grains of gold embedded in a base material: the
religion, as a whole, is constantly liable to pass over
altogether to the side of evil; the sins of men are
rivalled and surpassed by sins ascribed to beings who
are accounted as divine (13). Such systems were the
final issue of that false worship, the downward course
of which is indicated by St. Paul : when both the two
lights of nature had been darkened ; when conscience
had lost the keenness of its insight, and the visible
world had become the medium for chano-ino- ' the

o o

truth of God into a lie.' a Then worship degenerated
into systematic idolatry, and idolatry was the prolific
parent of immorality, and gods were made the patrons
of human vices, and temples became the centres for
the foulest sins. ' They did not like to retain God in

a Rom. i. 25.


their knowledge ; ' therefore ' God gave them over to a
reprobate mind.' a Their 'understanding' was 'dark-
ened, being alienated from the life of God, through the
ignorance that ' was ' in them, because of the blindness
of their heart. ' b Though it were true that man never
lost the conviction of the existence of God, yet dark
times came when he ceased to glorify Him as God, or
be thankful. Though it were true that he never lost
the fainter feeling of the real position of our own
nature, in the Divine sonship but estrangement of
man, yet corruption led him to judicial blindness,
when God gave him up to vile affections, because he
had ' worshipped and served the creature more than
the Creator.' c

As soon as systems of this kind had been fully
formed and established, the better thoughts of men
were left to work in the presence of a veil of darkness
which sin had drawn anew across the vision of their
spirits; and they were overpowered by the strong
rebellion of their sensual impulses, which made them
the bondslaves of a corrupted worship. And when-
ever purer aspirations intervened, to save some among
the worshippers from utmost degradation, the result
was, that the forms of religion broke away from their
substance, and mythologies became the least religious
portion of the national life (u). We are all familiar
with the lofty language in which the old Greek poets
proclaim the eternal laws of purity and truth, or show
how crime is ever tracked by the sure step of the

a Rom. i. 28. b Eph. iv. 18. c Rom. i. 21, 25.


avenger, and how the guilty father cannot shield off
retribution from his race. But by the side of these
very passages we trace the continued recognition of a
mythology, in which truth and purity are overborne
together, and the very throne among the gods is given
to triumphant sin. Now this fact, that the worship-
pers of heathenism were often better than their gods — -
that on the side of man there had grown up a reasonable
and orderly society, while the mythology in which
they still acquiesced presents a mere tissue of repulsive
vices — this fact seems to admit of no other expla-
nation than that which we have traced in the words
of Scripture ; namely, that such mythologies had ger-
minated at an earlier date in the corruption which
had followed on the wilful loss of Divine knowledge,
and had simply lived on unchallenged through the
force of habit, till a time when the plastic power, to
which they owed their birth, had passed away.

2. It is obvious that such systems contained no
lingering element of religious life to keep them on a
level with any national improvement, which God's
Spirit might vouchsafe to quicken. But even if con-
templated at a higher stage than that of ultimate
corruption, they were exposed to a second objection,
in addition to this mixture of gross error with their
truth — in the fact, that the whole framework by which
their particles of truth are rounded out into a system
betrays the handiwork of man rather than the inspi-
ration of God. We are here brought back to the
great distinction, which I have before referred to,
between God's words to man and man's thoughts of


God (15). Review in memory the various outlines
which we trace amongst the religions of mankind ;
take the coarse conceptions of old Nature-worship ;
include the higher moral elements which find occa-
sional admission to the complex mythologies of Egypt,
Greece, or Rome ; pass onward to a wider sphere, and
scrutinise the mystic systems which the East has
furnished ; extend the examination from religions
properly so called, to the speculative efforts of the
philosophic faculty ; and in all cases alike the con-
viction ever deepens more and more, that they present
the very opposite character to that by which the
whole course of revelation is distinguished; that in
every detail below the few grand principles which
God had really implanted in their hearts, these theo-
logies or philosophies are man's thoughts of God,
and not the words of God to man. We can trace the
very tide-marks as the waves of speculation rise and
fall ; while the revelation of even the earliest Scrip-
tures stands out clear before us like a rock. It was
the enslaved imagination which led men through the
mazes of mere Nature-worship ; it was the self-absorbed
intellect which entangled him in riddles on the infinite
and finite ; it was the debased fancy which enabled
him to project his own vices on the mists which sur-
rounded him, and to worship those vices as gods.
His own thoughts thus bore their unconscious witness
to the fatal loss of that Divine communion which had
formed the true life of the spirit. Men felt after the
lost clue in the midst of their darkness. They in-
vented formulas of varying value, by which they hoped


that they might reconnect the broken links of union,
and join again the sundered human and divine. At
one time Deity is figured under a spurious incarna-
tion : the infinite masking in the visage of the finite,
At another time man himself is deified ; the finite is
invested with imaginary attributes, which are borrowed
from vague conceptions of the infinite God. At other
times, again, dim intermediate phantoms are imagined,
to fill, if they could but really fill, the vast and dreary
void which interposes between earth and heaven.
Such are three main classes of religious speculation.
But mark well their essential characters, and you will
find that the first destroys the human; the second
destroys the divine; the third obscures both by its
dim series of shadowy beings, who have no true sem-
blance of either human or divine. Compare the best
of them with the religion which the ancient Israelites
were taught; and they seem like trembling mosses,
which afford no footing, in contrast with a solid cause-
way, stretching strong and firm through the morass.
Or we might change the figure, and say that they are
but ghostlike apparitions of the heated brain ; while
Scripture revelation represents the living figure which
reaches out its powerful arm to save us from the dim
caverns of unaided thought.

3. But to brino- this contrast to a more definite
issue, let us turn to St. Paul's discourse at Athens,
where the ' chief speaker ' a among the apostles ad-
dressed himself to the most cultivated population in

a Acts xiv. 12.

60 LECTURE li-

the Gentile world. The Apostle's argument is strictly
framed on his own principle, that it is well to become
all things to all men, in the sense of appealing to
each, if possible, upon the basis of some general and
conceded truths" (16). To the Athenians he offers
no reasonings from Moses or the Prophets. The
common law of conscience, the words of their ovvm
poets, the creed of their own philosophers, the inscrip-
tions on their own altars — these furnish the text of
the argument by which he introduces the revelation
of our Lord. Commencing with a recognition of their
zeal for religion, he avails himself of the inscription,
' To an unknown God,' which seems to have been the
natural expression of a desire to propitiate a local
deity, whom man would not be always able to identify
and name. By this reference he would command
some attention from the more religious of the people,
who had filled their city with its groves of shrines.
Other parts of his discourse would secure agreement
from a different class. His philosophic hearers would
accept his repetition of St. Stephen's declaration, that
1 the most High dwelleth not in temples made with
hands.' b All schools and parties would agree to the
position, that the divine nature is nihil incliga nostri*
exalted far above the need of such unworthy homage
as the hearts and hands of man could furnish ; and
many would respond to the words of their own poets,
who proclaimed that man is the offspring of God.
For each of these principles St. Paul could claim a

a 1 Cor. ix. 20-22 ; 2 Cor. iv. 2.
b Acts vii. 48. c Lucret. ii. G49.


separate assent from some around him : that, in some
dim sense, man is the son of God ; that the obligation
of worship extends even beyond our knowledge as
a fundamental duty of the human spirit; that the
speculative mind, however, must regard the Deity as
residing far back in the recesses of unseen infinity,
beyond the reach of human perturbations, and, as
some of his hearers might have wished to add, beyond
the sound of human prayers. On these he constructs
an argument, which corrects each one of the three
partial errors, and raises the whole from contradictory
guesswork to consistent truth. The creed of philoso-
phers would fix the true value of that cluster of
temples which crowned the summit of the Athenian
rock. The poet's claim of man's Divine paternity
might suggest nobler thoughts of Deity than the poor
expedients of idolatry could furnish. And to these,
if only these could have borne the addition, the com-
mon creed would have added the obligation of worship,
and would have denied the necessary existence of the
barrier which philosophy had established between
man and God.

1 Hitherto,' as Bentley remarks, ' the Apostle had
never contradicted all his audience at once; ....
every point was agreeable to the notions of the greater
party,' a till he came to the doctrine of the resurrec-
tion of the dead. But in each case there would be
less agreement amongst his several hearers than they
found respectively with him. The vulgar was blind

a Bentley's Works, iii. 31 ; ed. Dyce.


to the spirituality of God. The philosopher either
doubted the possibility, or denied the use, of human
worship. The dreams of sages had not closed one
temple, nor banished one idol from the altars of the
city. The phrases of poets had taught no Athenian
to acknowledge that his slave or his captive had the
claim of brotherhood, because moulded like himself in
the image of God (17). All this did but conceal a
hollow unreality under disjointed fragments of super-
ficial truth; and Athenian poets and philosophers
themselves would teach us that high aspirations, and
acuteness in theory, and even the outward semblance
of zeal for religion, were not incompatible with the
toleration of even the most degrading sin.

And now, what was the Divine revelation by
which the Apostle breathed fresh life and reality into
these old and outworn semblances of truth? His
4 new doctrine,' though compressed into these few
verses, covers all three topics which fill the Divine
element in Scripture ; namely, God and man, and the
relation which exists between them.

(1.) Of God he declared that He is at once the
Creator of the universe, and the Preserver and the
constant Governor of men. As Creator, He ' made
the world and all tilings therein.' This is at once an
advance on the whole tenor of ancient belief, which
found in the alleged eternity of matter its futile
explanation of the origin of evil (is). As Preserver,
' He giveth to all life and breath and all things.'
These words disclose with the full weight of revela-
tion the active presence of a personal and all-loving


God. As Governor, He fixes by His own decrees the
epochs of all history. He decides by His own supreme
authority the bounds, the dates, the destinies of
nations. ' He ruleth,' as He taught a heathen
monarch, ' in the kingdom of men, and giveth it 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 5 of 30)