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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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showing mercy unto thousands of them that love'
Him, ' and keep ' His ' commandments.' a In explicit
contrast, it is said, with both the warning and the
promise, Ezekiel proclaims, with earnest reiteration,
the distinct responsibility of each separate soul, alike
for its good works and its sins : ' Behold, all souls
are mine : as the soul of the father, so also the soul
of the son is mine : the soul that sinneth, it shall
die.' The just man ' shall surely live, saith the Lord
God.' If the just man's son is evil, ' he shall surely
die : his blood shall be upon him.' And if he, in turn,
begets a son who abandons the evil courses of his
father, the father shall perish, but the son shall be
saved: ' he shall not die for the iniquity of his
father; he shall surely live.' b The same principle
is further applied to changes of character, so as to
establish in every detail the rigid justice of the
Lord (13).

Now in truth there is no real opposition between
these contrasted statements. To call them contra-
dictions is mere ignoratio elenchi; they cannot con-
travene each other, because their movement lies in
different planes. The commandment is part of the
law of the theocracy which fixed the external dispa-
ragement of sin among God's people; while the pro-
phets were commissioned rather to enforce those deep
truths of personal religion which a formal system,

a Ex. xx. 5 , G ; Deut. v. 9, 10. Cf. 2 Kings v. 27, &c.
b Ezek. xviii. 4, 9, 13, 17.


even of Divine appointment, has always some tendency
to obscure. 3 But the answer can be rested on a still
wider basis. It is the universal law of God's provi-
dential government, that, in many external respects,
the innocent must suffer for the guilty ; and especially
the innocent descendants for the crimes of a father.
All experience abounds in proofs that those who
indulge in vicious courses possess the fatal power of
involving their descendants also in the outward
penalties which vice entails : such penalties, I mean,
as weakened constitutions and enfeebled bodies, in
addition to the heavy heritage of a dishonoured name.
This is the necessary consequence of our common
membership one of another, and especially of that
social unity which the theocracy exhibited in its
most striking form. But social unity is not more
certainly a law of God than that individual responsi-
bility for which each will have to answer in the
presence of his Judge. Not in any detail are these
two at variance. They may act and react, like many
other conditions in our state as men. Parental in-
fluence has a mighty force for good or evil, and the
honour of the old is in their sons. b But in the crisis
of our doom, all these things pass away like other
adjuncts of our spiritual life. Each stands alone in
the last appeal. Each heart knows its own bitter-
ness. Each conscience has to bear its own burthen.
The words of the prophet might have stood side by
side on the tables of the lawgiver with the words

a See above, p. 52. b Trov. x. 1, &c. c Prov. xiv. 10.


which were written by the finger of God. a It is
equally true that God visits the iniquity of the
wicked on their children, and that the soul that
sinneth, it alone shall die.

But it is urged that there are many other passages
in the Prophets which impose limitations on the claims
of the Law, or point with increasing clearness to a
time when those claims shall cease to be binding.
That the Law itself asserted a paramount and durable
obligation, seems to stand clear upon the surface of
the record : ' Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the
words of this law to do them.' b Thus Moses taught
the people to regard it as permanent. He hedged it
round with the most solemn exhortations. He pro-
nounced a wide range of earthly blessings on obedience ;
and he strove to deter the disobedient by a fearful
picture of national disaster, which far surpasses, in its
anxious vehemence, the thought of any merely tem-
porary warning, and which could not have been ful-
filled by any calamity of lighter import than that which
was inflicted at the fall of Jerusalem (14). Yet the
inspired guardians of the Law have themselves deep-
ened its teaching within the limits of the older Scrip-
tures ; and, as they gradually learnt to look forward to
a brighter era in the future, have implied that the Law
would cease to be obligatory when its types were
fulfilled at the coming of the Christ. d But how is it,

a Cf. Ex. xxxii. 32 ; Deut. xxiv. 16 ; 2 Kings xiv. 6.
b Deut. xxvii. 26; Gal. iii. 10. ° Deut, xxviii. 15-68.

d Ps. ex. 4; Isa. lxvi. 21 ; Jer. xxxi, 81 ; Dan. ix. 26 ; Zecli. vi.


98 lecture ni.

we are asked, that they could thus be taught to lessen
the pressure of a public obligation, which had been
imposed under such solemn sanctions ? Or what other
sense can be put on such compositions as the 51st
Psalm, or the 1st of Isaiah, or the 7th of Jeremiah,
than that they really abate the force of the older state-
ments on the value of atonements under the Law ?

To the first point we should answer, that even human
lawgivers are accustomed to speak with similar, if not
equal, emphasis of laws which may nevertheless be re-
pealed, should it be needful, by the power which im-
posed them; and it is right and natural that a still
stronger impression should be given, in the case of laws
which had a deeper significance than any human legisla-
tion could command, and when the power which had
imposed them was Divine. It was enough that the
same God who had spoken by Moses was known to
speak as surely and as clearly by the prophets, whom
He commissioned to explain His earlier ordinances. It
was enough, too, that Moses had himself prepared the
way for the change, by warning the people to expect
a Prophet, who was to teach them with authority at
least equal to his own. a Rights which are inherent in
all earthly governments must be conceded to the Divine
source of every government, by whose wisdom alone
' kings reign, and princes decree justice.' b But again,
it is erroneous to suppose that the interpretations which
were thus afforded brought any premature abrogation

13; Mai. i. ii., &c. Cf. Luke wiv. 27; John i. 15; v. 16; Ma
xxvi. 22.

a Dcut. xviii. 15-22. b Prov. viii. 15.


of the Law. They only recalled men from the vain
practice of a formal obedience to the spirit which
gives its sole value to obedience; in the temper of
the lesson which Saul had long ago received from
Samuel : ' Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt
offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the
Lord ? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to
hearken than the fat of rams.' a Again, the precise
position of the Mosaic dispensation is taught in the
New Testament with a clearness which leaves nothing
to be desired, and which is in perfect harmony with the
deeper interpretation of the original record. When
the life and death of Christ brought out in strong
relief the fact that the Mosaic ordinances had been
deeply marked by a typical character, it followed that,
in the same extent and proportion, the temporary
nature of their obligation would be recognised. At the
same time it became clearer that the oldest Scriptures
had established limitations of their force, and expla-
nations of their meaning, which the later Jews had
simply overlooked or forgotten. Thus Christ Him-
self reminded them that God had vouchsafed an earlier
stream of revelation, which overruled the stipulations
of the Law of Moses ; and that a degree of knowledge
had been granted to the patriarchal Church which
the special objects of the Law had caused it in some
measure to obscure. Of the Jewish marriage-law, for
instance, He said that ' from the beginning it was not

a 1 Sam. xv. 22. Cf. Ps. xl. 6 ; 1. 8, 14 ; li. 17 ; Prov. xxi. 3 ;
Isa. i. 13 ; Jer. vii. 22 ; Hos. vi. 6 ; Mic. vi. 5, &c, and see Matt. ix.
13 ; :i'n. 7, &c.

H 2


so ; ' but that its Mosaic form must be attributed to
the hardness of their hearts. a Circumcision, He also
said, was not ' of Moses, but of the fathers ;' b therefore
it took precedence of the Mosaic Sabbath ; and much
more did mercy, as the obligation of a still earlier
law (15). We have here the very outline of the argu-
ment, which St. Paul afterwards enlarged when he
showed, by appealing to the revelation made to Abra-
ham, that the Law possessed only a secondary and
temporary character ; c and that its narrow scope bore
no proportion to the worldwide promise of a Saviour,
who was to spring from among the sons of Abraham,
and in whom all nations of the earth were to be blessed.
Comparing the Law with the earlier and later revela-
tions between which it stands, we see that, like both,
it balances the gift of grace by the duty of obedience ;
the election of the Israelites to special privileges by
their obligation to love the Lord their God with all
their heart and soul and might.* 1 But in all revelations
alike, the greater stress is laid on that side of these
twofold principles which most needed enforcing in
each succeeding age. It is not true, however, that any
age was ever left so completely to the undivided opera-
tion of the one principle, as to be pardonable for for-
getting the other. The Jews had no defence for the
spiritual blindness which had learnt to look for
salvation to the thing that they saw, rather than to
1 1 in i who is ' the Saviour of all.' c They had no excuse

a Matt. xix. ,s. Cf. Matt. xii. 8; Mark ii. 27,28, &c.
h John vii. 22. c Gal. iii. 17.

'' IK in. \ i. ... e "\Vis<l. xvi. 7.


for the confusion which had substituted the works
of the Law for faith in the Promise ; and which relied
on that scrupulous legal obedience, which is at best
the mere fruit and evidence of faith, as the meritorious
ground for the acceptance which they owed solely to
the favour of God. And the fact that Scripture,
from time to time, counteracts similar errors by re-
iterating similar language, is a witness to its unity,
the absence of which would cause a greater difficulty.
2. Let us pass now from the consideration of
historical development to the leading example of
alleged contradiction between contemporary writers ;
namely, the doctrine of faith and works, as respec-
tively taught by St. Paul and St. James (16). But
this familiar controversy really carries us back to
the same antithesis which we have just been
examining. It is traced by both inspired writers
alike to the history of Abraham. It can be followed
up to the earliest period in which we possess the
terms of any covenant between man and God. Both
elements were found in Paradise itself, where grace
was given to make obedience possible; and then
obedience was exacted, as the sole condition of
continued grace. When that covenant was cancelled
by the sin of man, the foundation of a new covenant
was immediately laid, through which all mankind
became sharers in certain promised blessings. a In
the days of Abraham this covenant passed from
general terms into the form of a definite assurance,

a Gen. iii. 15.


which constituted the election of a peculiar race.
The conditions of that promise were, first, faith;
and secondly, obedience. Abraham ' believed in the
Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness.' a
Faith, then, which resigned all vain hopes of self-
recovery from the low estate of fallen man — faith,
which rested on a promised blessing, and which
restored the heart of man to the Divine communion
which sin had interrupted — faith came first, before
the rite of circumcision was ordained. But after
faith came obedience, of which circumcision was the
sign, and of which that wonderful act of faith, the
offered sacrifice of Isaac, was the most remarkable
proof. There is no real difference in this point be-
tween the fundamental conceptions of St. Stephen,
St. Paul, and St. James. All alike would place faith
first, as the groundwork which made obedience pos-
sible. All alike would have allowed, though they
might have expressed their meaning under different
forms, that ' faith ' afterwards ' wrought with '
Abraham's ' works, and by works Avas faith made
perfect.' b All alike would have agreed, that these
works would have been worse than useless if they
had been done in opposition to the spirit of faith;
because that would have amounted to an assertion
of independent ability, and would therefore have been
equivalent to a declaration of rebellion.

If, then, it is certain that each branch of teaching
is unquestionably true, and that each can be traced

a Gen. xv. C ; Rom. iv. 3. b James ii. 22.


with equal clearness in the inspired records to which
both make their appeal, it is surely unreasonable
to allege that the apostolic upholders of these two
positions could really contradict each other. What
St. Paul urges is true : that the best works of man
are worthless, if they are done without reliance on
the help of God. But what St. James urges is
equally true : that professed trust in God is spurious
if it does not lead to active effort on the part of
man. Works without faith would be the watchword
of a self-asserting reliance on man's strength, and a
denial of his need of grace. Faith without works
is the symbol of that antinomian self-deceit, which
substitutes a dreamy reliance on religious senti-
ments for a practical attention to religious duties.
The contrast is the same which always emerges,
when we compare the respective provinces of the
labour of man and the grace of God: and the
emphatic language used by each apostle is ex-
plained on the principle which I have endeavoured
to lay down. Each states, strongly and forcibly, the
truth which he was commissioned to deliver in oppo-
sition to prevailing error. St. Paul was confronting
a system of formalism, which pleaded privileged
position and ceremonial obedience as sufficient
grounds for acceptance in the sight of God. St.
James saw room to fear, that a belief in spiritual
acceptance, independently of obedience, might sap
the foundations of practical holiness. Each, there-
fore, supplies the half-truth which he saw to be
deficient, yet without any real contradiction of the

104 lecture nr.

other; and the Holy Spirit has provided that, as
both alike stand together in the canon, so the whole
truth shall emerge from the union between them.

And now, without dwelling longer on diversities
which are thus found to rest on a most intelligible
principle, let me close this Lecture by calling attention
to the opposite phenomenon, which is surely worthy
of deep consideration. Much has been said of
contrariety: what shall be said of that marvellous
unity which reaches from end to end of Scripture,
though veiled under a not less wonderful diversity
in source, and character, and outward form? (17)
The grand truths of Christian theology are revealed
or confirmed by the voices of a long range of utterly
dissimilar writers, speaking without the slightest
possibility of concert; doing each his own duty,
seeking each his appointed end; busied consciously
with objects of comparatively small importance,
while unconsciously furthering the far mightier pur-
pose of delineating, stroke by stroke, and feature
by feature, the great image of the revelation of God.
No other book contains such unity of result; no
other book has ever sprung from such diversified
variety of source. It is the work of many men, in
many lands, through many ages : the work of law-
givers and heroes, side by side with shepherds and
herdsmen ; the work of accomplished intellects and
untrained peasants; embodying history and poetry,
records of the past and predictions of the future,
all degrees of legislation, all forms of enquiry,


together with confessions of sin, and prayers for
mercy, and hymns of triumph; leading up to the
life of Christ set forth in the New Testament, and
the letters by which the early Church was governed,
guided, rebuked, and cheered. God, who called
Elijah from the desert and Elisha from the plough,
summoned others of His witnesses from nocks and
cattle, as well as from the race of priests or lineage
of kings. Moses spent the best forty years of his
life as a keeper of sheep amongst the mountains of
Arabia, nerving his spirit to high purpose in the
solitude of the lonely desert. David was taken from
the sheep-folds a to become an active warrior, a
prudent ruler, a governor beset by the lifelong
perplexities of complicated trials. Solomon was his
' father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight
of his ' mother,' b and became the wise king of a
prosperous and settled kingdom, till he fell in old
age under the temptations of luxurious opportunity.
Isaiah and Daniel came from royal courts ; Jeremiah,
Ezekiel, Ezra, from the priesthood; while Amos was
' no prophet ' nor ' a prophet's son,' but ' an herdman
and a gatherer of sycomore fruit,' whom God chose
to be a teacher as he was following his flock. But
why pursue a list which would simply repeat the
name and circumstances of every known writer of
Scripture, and complete the contrast between their
vocation and their work? If we pass to the
writings of Christ's first disciples, we find that they

a Ps. lxxviii. 70. b Pro v. iv. 3.

c Amos vii. 14, 15.


too differed nearly as widely from each other and
from all. The teachers of Christ's Church were
chosen from the boat of the fisherman and from
the seat of custom, as well as, like Paul, from the
schools of learning, or, like Luke, as it seems, from
the practice of science. Problems of disputed
authorship only serve to increase the marvel. If
the writers had less authority than the Church has
ascribed to them, the unity which pervades their
common message is a still more unanswerable
testimony to the Divinity of its source. The
alleged contrariety is the strongest proof of the
unity. The argument from design receives in this
case its most direct and conclusive application; and
the sheer impossibility that such a result should
have sprung from any human agency supplies us
with the surest ground for our belief that it was
throughout inspired and overruled by God.

This position forms the proper basis for the next
enquiry on which I shall propose to enter; viz.,
the precise conditions of the duplex sensus — the
real position of the literal meaning of Scripture in
relation to the secondary senses which it is believed
to have subserved.



Romans xv. 4.

c Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written
for our learning, that we through patience and comfort
of the Scriptures might have hope.'

F we believe that Holy Scripture contains a revela-
tion, which was made by God, ' at sundry times
and in divers manners,' a through a varied series of
human agents, we must expect to find that its lan-
guage would be adjusted, in the first instance, to the
level of the original hearers, and would yet be endowed
with a power of rising far above that level, in propor-
tion to the needs of more advanced humanity. The
first of these conditions is obvious in itself, though it
seems to be forgotten when men find stumblingblocks
in such necessary results of it as the adaptation
of Scripture language to the early state of scientific
knowledge. The second is the basis for the doctrine
of secondary senses — a doctrine which can be repre-
sented in so invidious an aspect as to make its defence
a task of considerable difficulty (1). Let a writer be
only suspected of maintaining that Scripture meant

a Heb. i. 1.


something different from what it seems to say ; that
its expositors are free from the laws by which all
other classes of interpreters are bound ; and that, in
defiance of the canons of criticism, they may claim
the right of relying solely on their private conceptions
of 'that which is good to the use of edifying;'* and
the reader is disposed to protest, without further hear-
ing, against so insecure a method, and to maintain
that it throws doubts upon the literal value of the
written word.

Yet this doctrine seems inseparable from the con-
ception of a revelation, which implies that the sugges-
tions of a Divine Author lie behind the expressions
of the human writer. If revelation be a condescension
from the higher to the lower, if it be the transfusion
of knowledge from a wider to a narrower sphere, the
truths thus entrusted to the expressive power of an
inferior language must embody a life and expansive-
ness which only need the fit occasion to burst forth.
The spirit is tenanting an earthly framework, and can
issue, when need is, from its narrow mansion, to shine
in broader and distincter light. And so, in point of
fact, through every portion of the inner mind of Scrip-
ture, we trace a clear capacity for future elevation,
above the level of the writer through whom it was
made known. This, I repeat, is precisely what we
ought to have expected. Granting that the in-
spired writers were employed, not as mere mechanical
instruments, but as God's chosen and enlightened

a Eph. iv. 29.


servants, speaking only under the guidance of the
Holy Spirit ; granting that the revelation would be
moulded by the human element, and would bear broad
traces of the individual characters of those through
whom it was conveyed ; we should still expect to find
that the Divine meaning would rise far above the level
of the human writer, and that his message would
show signs of deeper truth and more comprehensive
purpose than his words could compass or his mind
could understand. I am not now dealing with that
larger proof of inspiration, which is furnished by the
intrinsic dignity of its teaching and its essential supe-
riority to any truth which unaided reason seems to
grasp. I am speaking solely of this formal charac-
teristic, the capacity of spiritual development, as one
of the chief internal credentials which we might expect
to find, and which in fact we do find, in the book of

It is scarcely possible, for instance, to read the
writings of the prophets, and compare them with their
contemporary history, without the perpetual conviction
that more was meant — not perhaps by the human
speaker, but by the inspiring Spirit — than met the
earliest listener's ear. Just as in complex harmonies
of music we may detect the undercurrent of some
simple and familiar strain, so we hear tones through
the prophetic volumes which sound like parts of a
wider and more commanding system — notes in a more
extended chorus, responding across broad intervals of
varied measures, and arresting attention by a depth
of unity which no superficial diversity can hide.


Thoughts rise, as we read, which haunt us like the
hidden signs of the Platonic «va/Jivr y o-^. We pass
beyond the sacred writer with his obvious meaning,
and see him to be the willing instrument of One
whose purposes and mysteries he has not fathomed.
He is a servant, not a master, of the truths which he
declares, though his service is a glad and ready ser-
vice. He is no more than a private in a mighty
army, and knows little of the great designs which his
obedient movements are directed to subserve. His
tongue is controlled to utter words of larger import
than is exhausted by the object on which the earnest
attention of his present purpose is expended. Free
from the sin of Balaam, he yet reminds us of the over-
ruling influence which forced Balaam to pour forth
blessings beyond his wish and prophecies beyond his
thought. Free also from the blinded worldliness of
Caiaphas, yet, like him, he speaks words which plainly
come 'not of himself,' a but from the immediate sug-
gestion of the Spirit (2). The peculiarity extends to
the symbolical as well as the typical. The strain
may begin with personal anger against an individual
offender ; but pursue it a moment, and you will find
it purged from all the bitterness of earthly passion,
and rising into righteous condemnation of sin. Or it
commences with the glory of God's earthly temple,
and then swells, as if the seer could not control his
language, to describe the far-off vision of the eternal
temple in its everlasting grandeur in the heavens.

ft John xi. 51.


It is this capacity which St. Paul recognises in the
words of our text : ' Whatsoever things were written
aforetime were written for our learning ;' or, as he
elsewhere expresses it, '/or our admonition ; ' or again,

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 8 of 30)