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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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characteristic of mistaken views, that they rest more
frequently upon an exclusive or exaggerated statement
of a truth than upon the positive assertion of a false-
hood (5). Persons who have strongly realised the
importance of some principle which they believe to be
the only key for unlocking the mysteries of either
religious or philosophical difficulty, are unwilling to
concede the rights of any complementary statements
which may claim to take rank by its side. Limita-
tions, abatements, compromises, and qualifications,
seem to curtail the fair proportions of a cherished

a See Lecture VI.

80 LECTURE ni.

doctrine. They reduce it to the lower dignity of only
half a truth ; and they are proportionally distasteful
to those eager tempers which resent the suggestion
that their cardinal dogmas may require a counterpoise,
as an insult to the authority, whether of theory or
revelation, on which those dogmas are believed to rest.
Yet it is the characteristic feature of the highest
principles, that they cannot be reduced to the sim-
plicity of one expression, but can only be set forth
fully in contrasted statements, of which neither is
exclusively true. It is one main duty of religious
philosophy to guard the equipoise on such subjects as
evil or freewill against theorists who would push
either into the fancied solution of a single extreme.
You cannot treat evil as a lower form of good, without
destroying the reality of man's hatred for sin. You
cannot merge in one conception the contrasted ideas
of personality and law, without obliterating either
the distinction between mind and matter, or the dis-
tinction between man and God. Absorb will in
law, and you contradict man's universal witness to
the nature of the will as the causal source of all free
action. Resolve all laws into the present operation of
the will of God, and you destroy the belief in man's
responsibility, while you cannot avoid the moral
anomaly of regarding sin itself as an issue of His
holy will. A large portion of the predestinarian
controversy has arisen out of a similar attempt to
exclude, on speculative grounds, either one or other
of the two fundamental conceptions — the freedom of
man and the supremacy of God.


If we turn from theory to Scripture (6), we trace
the same law in those revelations of the Deity which
constitute the central topic of the sacred record. It
is thus that we are taught to believe in three Persons,
yet one God : a unity of substance, which must not
be divided ; a trinity of Persons, who must not be
confounded. It is thus that we maintain the perfect
manhood, yet the perfect Godhead, of the one Saviour,
Christ our Lord; the union of two natures, which
cannot be intermingled, in one Person, who cannot
be divided. And when we pass from God's own
nature to mark the relations which He bears to His
creatures, we find that Scripture is equally explicit
in bidding us recognise at once the foreknowledge of
God and the freewill of man ; the omnipotence and
love of God, yet the misery in which rebellion has
plunged His creatures; the grace of God, and the
perfect freedom of our own responsibility ; and the
double position held by man himself, as at once
'a creature, yet a cause.' a But it is not pretended
that Scripture always pauses to adjust the balance
amongst the truths which it reveals or declares.
Hence it follows that errors resting on detached parts
of most of the statements which I have mentioned,
might be defended by isolated extracts from Scrip-
ture : and it is the same system of partial quotation
which has in every age been employed by one-sided
reasoners, who have tried to ' set the word itself
against the word;' Deuteronomy against Leviticus,

a Lyr. Ap. xlii.


and Ezekiel against Deuteronomy ; Prophets against
Moses ; the New Testament against the Old ; one
Evangelist against another; the Epistles against the
Gospels ; St. James against St. Paul.

But if inferences and interpretations need abate-
ment, it does not follow that we may extend that
process to the truths on which they rest. There is
very little promise in any attempt to effect a union
between two such principles by paring them down
till they can be adjusted together, and thus robbing
each of some portion of its strength and meaning.
Such compromises seldom fail to weaken both the
truths which are thus forced into unnatural combina-
tion. It is better to acknowledge at once that passages
of this kind bring us into the presence of one of those
antinomies which can be traced as clearly in Scrip-
ture as in reason, and in which the appearance of
contradiction is produced by the fact that two con-
trasted propositions contain an incommensurable
element, which creates in our mind the impression of
two opposite allegations (7).

The causes of this phenomenon are twofold. In
some cases we should readily accept the one truth
but for the presence of another which is equally
authoritative. At other times we realise the difficulty
for ourselves whenever we make the effort to fathom
a principle which baffles the operation of our thought.
Disclosures of pure revelation commonly belong to
the former class. We should rest satisfied with
the one half-truth, if the other were not given to
counterbalance it. But whenever we approach those

lecture in. 83

ntysteries which are more closely analogous to the
antinomies of reason, we could work out the obscurity
on either side by simply unfolding the impossibility
of resting satisfied with either extreme. It is just as
with the familiar commonplaces ; that we can conceive
neither greatness which admits of nothing greater,
nor littleness which admits of nothing less ; that the
mind fails equally when we try to understand either
the beginning of time, or the eternal succession of
past ages without a beginning. A similar difficulty
emerges if we attempt to grasp such a thought as
that of infinity. The notion that we comprehend it
is a mere deception. We think of it as though it were
some vast mountain confronting us, which stretches
on all sides into limitless space ; or some ocean
reaching away before us, whose waves are bounded
by no farther shore. But let us note the fallacy : as
confronting ourselves, those conceptions are finite ;
the mountain has its limit toward us ; the sea has its
verge on which id e stand. In claiming for ourselves
an independent position, we do ourselves place a limit
or condition on the infinite ; and it seems as though
we could not escape the difficulty without merging
our own individual being in some self- destructive
creed of Pantheism. We cannot wonder that this
cause also should have given rise to many seeming
contradictions in Scripture. We could expect nothing
else on the assumption we began with, that Scripture
conveys a revelation on points to us so incompre-
hensible as the relation between the infinite and the
finite, or the relation between eternity and time (8).

G 2


We might easily draw up from Scripture a long
list of such contrasts, presenting in each case the
semblance but not the reality of contradiction.
Besides the instances which have been mentioned, we
might cite such illustrations as the following : — the
changelessness of God's purpose, yet its adjustment to
the ever-varying will of man ; the universality of His
laws, yet the minute watchfulness of His special
providence ; His perfect holiness, yet His longsuffering
patience with a sinful race ; the object of Christ's
coming as compared with its results ; and the con-
nection between God's superintending care and the
sedulity which is demanded from ourselves. The
texts referred to would be such as these : — ' God is
not a man, that He should lie, neither the son of man,
that He should repent ;' yet ' it repented the Lord
that He had made man on the earth.' a He dwelleth
' in the light which no man can approach unto ;' yet
He is about our path, and about our bed, and spieth
out all our ways. b With Him 'is no variableness,
neither shadow of turning ;' yet He is emphatically a
God that hears and answers prayer. He ' tempteth'
not 'any man;' yet 'God did tempt Abraham." 1
'The pure in heart' 'shall see God;' 'whom no
man hath seen nor can see.' e ' Thou art of purer
eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on
iniquity;' yet ' Thou hast set our misdeeds before
Thee, and our secret sins in the light of Thy counte-

a Num. xxiii. 19; Gen. vi. G.
b 1 Tim. vi. 1G ; Ps. exxxix. 2. c James i. 17 ; Pa. lxv. 2, &c.

d James i. 13 ; Gen. xxii. 1. e Matt, v. 8 ; 1 Tim. vi. 1G.

lecture m. 85

nance.' a 'On earth peace,' was the angelic message;
'not' 'peace, but a sword,' was our Lord's interpreta-
tion. 13 ' Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly up-
ward ;' yet ' the Lord is loving unto every man, and
His mercy is over all His works.' c ' Turn ye unto me,
saith the Lord of Hosts, and I will turn unto you ;'
yet 'Turn Thou us unto Thee, Lord.' d 'What I
say unto you I say unto all, Watch ;' yet ' except the
Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in
vain' e (9).

In some of these instances reconciliation is easy.
There are others in which the apparent contrariety
may be diminished by devout meditation, with the
assistance of the Holy Spirit. There are others,
again, which carry us up into the presence of the
highest mysteries — the relation between the finite and
the infinite ; and the possibility of evil in a world
which is governed by perfect power, wisdom, and
love. In dealing with doctrines so vast and obscure,
we can do no more than fix the limits of our igno-
rance, and take care that it shall not be mistaken
for knowledge. Yet it is clear that on considering
the analogies of reason, and the perplexities which
confront us hi all speculations on the same topics, a
true interpretation would not admit that in any one
of these examples either side has been overstated by
the inspired writer, or needs the modification which
a diluting exposition would supply. And from this

a Hab. i. 13 ; Ps. xc. 8. b Luke ii. 14 ; Matt. x. 34.

c Job v. 7; Ps. cxlv. 9. d Zech. i. 3 ; Lam. v. 21.

e Mark xiii. 37 ; Ps. cxxvii. 2.


negative conviction we may advance to the positive
assurance, that nothing short of inspiration could have
given so clear and full an utterance to both the great
truths embraced in each of these and similar questions,
without in any instance flinching from the needful
breadth of statement, and without in any instance
leaving either half of the truth unguarded, by the
provision of a counterpart in some other passage.

Many other texts of the same kind crowd upon the
memory, in connection with both the revelation of
God and the discipline of man. God condescends to
reveal Himself under the form of labour, yet His
eternal life must be existence of unstirred repose.
He ' fainteth not, neither is weary ; ' yet ' He rested
and was refreshed.' a Quamvis ea quietus feceris,
requievisti? ' He rested on the seventh day,' though
His rest was never broken. And while thus resting,
yet He rests not, as our Lord declares : ' My Father
worketh hitherto, and I work.' c With regard to
man, again, the regenerate are called holy, yet are
liable to fall, and still burdened by ' the body of this
death.' d The Church is to be spotless ; yet wheat and
tares must grow together in its borders till the harvest. 6
The conception of moral probation might be unfolded
in a series of contrasted assertions, combining the
spheres of man's accountability and God's control.
No evil temptation can originate in God; yet He

a Isa. xl. 28; Ex. xxxi. 17.

b S. August., Conf. xiii. 51. {Opp. i. 244.)

c Gen. ii. 2 ; John v. 17.

11 Rom. i. 7, &c. ; vii. 24. c Eph. v. 27 ; Matt, xiii. 30.


permits what He does not originate. The forbidden
tree of knowledge stood within man's reach. Satan
was not debarred from entering Paradise to tempt
him. The Holy Spirit led our Lord to His temp-
tation. 3 Balaam was allowed to go, yet condemned
for going. b The king whom Israel wished for was
granted as a token of God's anger. It is God's law
of discipline to grant men their desire, and, through
that very concession of an ill-judged prayer, to send
' leanness withal into their soul.' d This is the solu-
tion of the paradox, that while it is His will that
all men should be saved, yet 'whom He will He
hardeneth.' 6 The key is found in the universal prin-
ciple, that self-induced blindness is penal blindness,
according to that message of God through Isaiah,
which is quoted at each crisis in the Gospel history :
applied by Christ in three evangelists to the teaching
by parables ; f applied by the fourth evangelist to
Christ's ministry, as it drew near its close ; g and
applied by St. Paul to the position of his fellow-
countrymen, both when he was writing to the Romans
and when he was arguing with the Jews at Koine : h
' Hear ye indeed, but understand not ; and see ye
indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this
people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their
eyes ; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their

a Matt. iv. 1, &c. b Num. xxii. 20, 22.

c Hosea xiii. 11. d Ps. cvi. 15.

e 1 Tim. ii. 4 ; Rom. ix. 18.

f Matt. xiii. 14 ; Mark iv. 12 ; Luke viii. 10.

s John xii. 40. h Rom. xi. 8 ; Acts xxviii. 25.


ears, and understand with their heart, and convert,
and be healed.' 3 He who framed the moral law, by
contravening which the heart is hardened, may be
said to have hardened the heart of Pharaoh, though
it was Pharaoh's selfwill that really hardened it. b He
who warns us against the bad influence of Satan, yet
will not win for us that victory which the conditions
of our moral nature bind us to achieve for ourselves,
may be described as having ' moved David ' to num-
ber the people, though Satan is elsewhere said to have
' provoked ' the work. The sin, in fact, was David's
own; for all shi finds its real commencement in the
offender's own responsibility of will. But the phrases
of Scripture become clear when we remember that
Satan was the tempter, and was thus accountable for
the temptation ; while God had created the nature
and the laws which were perverted in that act of
distrust and rebellion (10).

1. It will be clear, from the proofs already cited,
that the method of Scripture rests upon the principle
that the most direct way of grappling with such diffi-
culties is to state each alternative, in its own proper
place and connection, unreservedly, simply, and em-
phatically; leaving the task of reconciliation, which
surpasses the powers of human intellect, to be either
attempted by the higher faculties of the enlightened
spirit, or postponed in all the confidence of faith, till
the time when we shall cease to know in part. Con-

a Isa. vi. 10, 11. " Ex. iv. 21, &c. ; viii. 15, &c.

c 2 Sam. xxiv. 1 ; 1 Chron. xxi. 1.


centration is a foremost sign of earnestness; just as
we say of the concentrated love of God,

' Thou art as much His care, as if beside

Nor man nor angel lived in heaven or earth.'*

It is the same with God's truths when proclaimed by
His servants. Each fills the eye, and exhausts the
attention, and strains the expressive power of hu-
man language. But why should we speak of God's
servants only ? Christ Himself did not pause to
ward off misconstruction when He told us of the
'joy ' that ' shall be in heaven over one sinner that re-
penteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons,
which need no repentance.' b The elder brother in
the parable asked a not unnatural question, when he
remonstrated against the welcome granted to the
prodigal, which seemed to make it more acceptable to
sin and repent again, than simply to abstain from sin.
Yet even then Christ would not qualify the revelation
of the gladness of God's pardoning love. His answer
does not remove the difficulty, though it is framed to
calm down the jealous temper which the language of
the elder brother had displayed : ' Son, thou art ever
with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet
that we should make merry and be glad; for this thy
brother was dead, and is alive agaiu, and was lost,
and is found.' c

2. This fearless recognition of the seeming contra-
diction which hangs over the expression of the highest

a Christian Year, Monday before Easter.
b Luke xv. 7. c Luke xv. 31, 32.


truths, is still more forcibly illustrated when the two
sides of the antithesis are brought close together in
Scripture, without the slightest attempt to weaken
either, by explanation or abatement. To this cause
we might trace the common Scripture use of paradox ;
as in our Lord's own words, ' He that findeth his life
shall lose it ; ' ' Let the dead bury their dead ; '
4 Whosoever hath, to him shall be given. ' a St. Paul
employs the same figure in such passages as these : —
' What I would, that do I not ; but what I hate, that
do I ; ' ' The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and
the weakness of God is stronger than men ; ' ' She that
liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth ; ' and even in
such single phrases as Quo-lav £io<rav, "koyixrjv S\aTps/av. b
We trace it at an earlier date in such texts as that in
Proverbs, which bids us answer, yet not answer, ' a
fool according to his folly ; ' c and in the close reflec-
tion of the style of Scripture which we observe in
some parts of the Apocrypha; for instance, in that
striking passage : ' Weep for the dead, for he hath
lost the light; and weep for the fool, for he wanteth
understanding : make little weeping for the dead, for
he is at rest; but the life of the fool is worse than
death.' d From passages of this kind Ave may proceed
to texts which compress the deepest problems in a
single sentence. St. Paul condenses in one phrase
the whole controversy on the limitation of the mind
of man, when he prays that we may ' know the love

a Matt. x. 39 ; viii. 22 ; xiii. 12.

b Rom. vii. 15 ; 1 Cor. i. 25 ; 1 Tim. v. G ; Rom. xii. 1.

c Prov. xxvi. 4, 5. ll Ecclus. xxii. 11.


of Christ, which passeth knowledge.' a He brings
within two words, xplvavrsg e7rXrjpa)(rav, the entire
debate upon predestination and freewill ; which is
summed up again with almost equal brevity in that
earliest of the apostolic Church's hymns : ' for to do
— whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined
before to be done.' b St. John presents in one view
the double aspect of the Mosaic dispensation, when he
says that the law of love is at once a new, yet not a
new, commandment. And the broadest antinomies
are often found within the compass of a single para-
graph ; just as the same chapter in Samuel contains one
assertion that God cannot repent, and two assertions
that ' the Lord repented that He had made Saul king
over Israel. ' d Thus, again, in one chapter of Exodus
we read, ' The Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as
a man speaketh unto his friend; ' and ' Thou canst
not see My face, for there shall no man see Me and
live.' 6 In two adjacent verses of St. John, Christ
teaches that ' God sent not His Son into the world to
condemn the world ; ' yet that ' he that believeth not
is condemned already.' f In the same chapter of
Romans, faith is described as both intellectual and
moral ; for ' faith cometh by hearing ; ' yet ' with the
heart man believeth unto righteousness. ' s One chapter
of Galatians brings before us the contrasted spheres

a Eph. iii. 19. b Actsxiii. 27; iv. 28.

° 1 John ii. 7, 8. d 1 Sam. xv. 11, 29, 35.

e Ex. xxxiii. 11, 20.

f John iii. 17, 18. Cf. ix. 39 ; eig Kplpa . . . i)\Qov and xvi. 11.

s Rom. x. 17, 10.


of social sympathy and individual responsibility;
' Bear ye one another's burthens ' (3apj) ; yet ' every
man shall bear his own burthen' (QofTiov)* Or to
pass on to books from single chapters. In the 5th of
St. John, Christ says, ' If I bear witness of myself,
my witness is not true ; ' in the 8th He tells us,
' Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is
true.' b In the 12th of St. Luke, He describes how
the lord, on his return, makes his servants ' sit down
to meat,' and serves them; in the 17th He asks, Who
would say to his servant, when returning from the
field, ' Go and sit down to meat ' ? ° In the 9th of
St. Luke He says, ' He that is not against us is for
us; ' in the 11th, ' He that is not with me is against
me.' d In one place of the Gospels we are told to call
ourselves ' unprofitable servants ; ' in another the same
word forms part of the sentence of eternal death. 6
On this instance it has been remarked : ' Miser est
quern Dominus servum inutilem appellat ; beatus, qui
se ipse ' f — a solution which is capable of wider ap-
plication, in so far as it suggests the mighty differ-
ence between the claim of merit and the bounteousness
of grace (n).

3. The firmness of the faith which could record
these sayings without an attempt to weaken their
force by reconciliations, is further exemplified by the
perfect freedom with which the sacred writers treat
the apparent contradictions of our present life. A

a Gal. vi. 2, 5. b John v. 31 ; viii. 14. c Luke xii. 37 ; xvii. 7.
d Luke ix. 50; xi. 23. c Luke xvii. 10; Matt. xxv. 30.

f Benp;elius on Luke xvii. 10.


weak faith would tempt us to avoid the subject, or
would try to gloze over its obvious difficulties. It
would frame vain speculations, in which it would
either shut its eyes on the reality of human misery,
or would fall into the pantheistic error of treating
evil as only a lower form of good. A strong faith
acknowledges the pressure of the difficulty, and pro-
claims it in the frank and fearless confidence, that the
obstacle will be hereafter found to lie hi us, not in our
Maker ; in the weakness and uncertainty of our present
vision, not in any limitation of either the power or
love of God. We may observe a sort of sacred elpcovzla
in the way in which the Jews used to deal with the
darker problems of our present existence (12). They
believed so firmly in God's immutability, that, as we
have seen, they were not afraid to speak of His repent-
ance, even in the very chapter in which it is recorded
that He cannot repent like a man. They reposed
such implicit trust in His righteousness, that they did
not hesitate to complain of their afflictions in the lan-
guage of strong expostulation. They relied with such
confidence on His unfailing goodness, that they did
not fear to deprecate actions which would rather have
sprung from a hard taskmaster, in the very tone which
a child might use towards a most loving parent at
the moment when most completely assured of his love.
Some have thought that, in this respect, the book
of Job was a protest against Judaism. But what
is there in the words of Job which is not urged
by Jews themselves in other parts of Scripture?
How can we distinguish the remonstrances of Job

94 lecture in.

from those of Abraham and Moses, or the reproaches
of Job from those of David, of Asaph, of Solomon,
of Jeremiah ? a And could anything show more
clearly the real position of the double element in
Scripture than the perfect submission with which, in
the issue, these dark thoughts are put aside, yet the
perfectly natural character of the human emotions,
which are thus associated with the reception of the
knowledge of God?

But it may be well to test these positions by a more
detailed examination of two prominent instances,
which have formed the favourite fields of controversy ;
namely, the apparent corrections supplied by later
writings to the earlier teaching, and the seeming
diversity on faith and works between the writings of
St. James and St. Paul.

1. The commonest argument advanced by those
who regard Scripture antinomies as real contradic-
tions, is based on an attempt to prove that the later
parts of Scripture are rather corrections than develop-
ments. The success of this attempt would justify the
inference, that the Divine element must have been
penetrated by an admixture of purely human imper-
fection, which it was afterwards found needful to

The second commandment, it is urged, declares
that the Lord God is 'a jealous God, visiting the

a Gen. xviii. 23-33; Ex. xxxii. 32; Num. xvi. 22; 2 Sam.
xxiv. 17; Ps. Ixxiii. ; xciv. 3; Ecclcs. i. 3, 13, &c. ; Jer. xii. 1;
Lam. ii. 1, &c. ; Bab. i. 2-1; Mai. iii. 15.

lecture in. 95

iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third
and fourth generation of them that hate ' Him, ' and

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 7 of 30)