Henry Wood.

Life more abundant; Scriptural truth in modern application online

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temporarily out of sight. The dramatic symbolism
of Revelation which portrays the general judgment,
the great white throne, the spectacular gathering
of all tribes and peoples and tongues, the opening
of the seals of the Book, the sounding of the
angels, the golden streets and precious stones,
the pit of the abyss, and the smoke from it, as
the smoke of a great furnace, and the great wealth
of other imagery, find their solution and interpreta-


tion in the unappreciated human sub-conscious do-
main. Doubtless few theologians would now be
found who literalize the Book of Revelation, which
is nearly all made up of striking delineations in the
nature of the few examples above quoted. But
they have a meaning, and the only possible inter-
pretation, must be found in the mysteries of the
chambers of the soul.

In the light of the subtle principles which per-
vade the microcrosmic mind of man, what a respon-
sibility is wrapped up in simple thinking ! Every
mental image is like a photographic negative which
stamps its impress — - not upon paper, stone, or
steel — but upon infinitely more durable material.
There is a continuous creation, and its products are
ever living and growing. Nothing has been so
lightly regarded as a thought, but think of each
volition making history. The " every idle word "
for which men shall be judged, when interpreted, is
a startling psychological truth. The judgment,
from being a great formal gathering, arbitrary in
character, located in the distant future, and in some
unknown part of the cosmos, comes home, and is
close fitting and virtually continuous. Every one,
or rather the divine element in him, is rendering a
continuous and unending verdict, even though not


yet opened up to consciousness. The sheep are pass-
ing to the right hand, and the goats to the left.
Every man contains and retains all he has been
with growing emphasis. When fleshly coverings
and limitations are removed, we shall be like a ship
which has its manifest nailed up, plainly showing
the composition of its cargo.

Since Professor Drummond, as a pioneer among
modern theologians, gave to the world his "Natu-
ral Law in the Spiritual World," the progress of
religious opinion has been rapid. That concept of
the Deity which likened him to an Oriental Sov-
ereign — capricious and ruling from without — is
fading. The spiritual realm is within man, and
this is where God's beautiful and orderly economy
manifests its activity and finds its expression. Any
scheme, consisting of a purchased release, or an
artificial severing of cause and effect, is plainly
against reason and justice. Were God's original
plans unexpectedly defeated ? Though greatly
modified in the present view, such a " plan of sal-
vation " remains of life size in the creeds.

But from the evolutionary and psychological
point of view, we must concede to past conven-
tional thought a necessary place and time, as a
stage of progress toward something higher. It


must be passed through, and therefore has a kind of
negative, disciplinary, and educational goodness.
Nothing is finished, because there is a continuous
becoming. The " Judgment Day " never began
and never will end. Every principle, opinion,
belief, and theory is being tested, measured, and
given its award. The scene may not be so sensu-
ously dramatic as that which literalism has accepted
in prose, enshrined in poetry, and spread in glowing
color upon canvas, but it has a deeper truth.
The realism and literalism depicted by the art of
the old masters of the mediaeval period, and the
profound impression made by the Miltonian litera-
ture are wonderfully expressive of an era of human
thought, literal, severe, and intense. Such a judg-
ment is now utterly discredited, but it had a meaning,
and in the evolutionary order, formed a zone which
had to be traversed before the goal of a higher and
purer ideal could be reached. The Bar of God is set
up in man. " The Kingdom of God is within you."
How then shall we be " saved " ? Saved from
what ? From a low false consciousness ; from the
Adamic concept that we are bodies ; from a
slavery to conditions, limitations, and negations ;
from mental pictures of evil and its power ; from
beliefs in antagonisms, weaknesses, diseases, and


adversities ; from selfishness, hate, grief, and
fear; from pessimism and materialism. These
are thought-creations which if allowed to ripen
bring forth self-made hellish conditions. The im-
mutable divine economy has placed the judge,
judgment, and executioner within. Nothing in
the whole universe of God can bring real harm
from the outside. The God-voice in the soul of
man, though still and small is a judicial utterance,
distinct in its teaching, and to listen, is to discover
the self and its bearings.

While nothing inherently good can be destroyed,
man can lose that which to him seems to be him-
self. If one builds up a consciousness, or creates
a thought-world, wherein he links the ego to the
perishable and unreal (the " wood, hay, and stub-
ble") he loses his seeming soul. Through a vital
connection he builds these things into his personal-
ity, and when they are swept away he has little by
which to recognize himself. The inmost self is
saved " as by fire," but the selfhood which he has
created with all his familiar environment is lost.
He has not brought the deeper individuality into
recognition. For an age-long period, or until a
new consciousness is developed, such a one is in a
denuded condition, He has built a structure upon


the sand of negation, and it is swept away. Does
such a judicial discipline seem severe? When its
origin is truly discerned, severe though it be, its
processes may be reversed and its educational
beneficence made plain. Then the soul will return
from its mistaken by-way, and with dearly bought
experience be drawn toward the Father's House.
God is love and imposes arbitrary sentence upon
no man. Man passes it upon himself and so
finally makes the great discovery that retribution
is in his very nature. Penalty, though of vital
moment, is radically different from the arbitrary,
vindictive, and lawless hell of former dogma.
Life is conserved but will be entered with con-
ditions of partial blindness, lameness, and deaf-
ness, self-imposed through ignorance or careless-
ness. But limitations will be finally outgrown.

The stuff of which character is made is tested
and fused, but the pure metal will remain uncon-
sumed and unharmed. The biblical warnings,
which are too numerous for present quotation,
will be found, in their summing up, to be in har-
mony with these conclusions. They warn us, in
effect, that if through a disregard of spiritual law
we hold back until a sensuous consciousness has
solidified around us, its removal will strip us bare.


It is possible now to build an environment of the
Real. Working with the law we no longer " kick
against the pricks." More than this, we gain a
backing of its supernal energy because salvation is
normal. It is a harmonious fitting of our own con-
stitution into the universal constitution.

The characteristic of the present era is intel-
lectual activity and development. This, though
well in its place, is not a savior, but such an
opinion prevails. Falling into the great world-
current, even religion has largely been brought
down to that plane. It has been rendered into a
system of belief, or an assent to certain approved
statements. But vastly more than that, salvation
consists of the unfoldment of the higher part of
man, or rather of the real self. Even theology, in
the ordinary sense is secondary. To be saved
completely, involves the emergence of the divine
selfhood from latency into self-recognition and
manifestation. It requires more than an intellec-
tual belief in the personal Jesus, or an acceptance
of his merits vicariously. It must include the
normal development of the intrinsic and eternal
Christ-mind or quality. While this was most fully
expressed through the personality of Jesus, it
knows no limitation, local or historic.


An intellectual giant may be a spiritual weak-
ling. He requires " saving " no less than his more
ignorant brother who seems to be so much below
him. " For the wisdom of this world is foolish-
ness with God." Whatever is idolized, or stands
in the place of that which is supreme, is a per-
version. There is a normal proportion, good in
itself, but its inversion transforms it into evil.
Every one needs to be saved from an undue
dominance of what is subordinate in moral and
spiritual grade. The business man needs to be
saved from his business, the lawyer from his law,
and the capitalist from his capital. Even the
scientist, the naturalist, or the philosopher must
not give himself to his profession. The soul
should not take firm root in anything less than the -
Eternal. It is not enough to send one's theories,
his philosophy, his beliefs, his theology, or even
his religion, higher ; he must go there himself. 1 ,
Full salvation involves the evolution of the spiri- ,
tual self-consciousness, the building of a soul-
structure of imperishable material. The ego must
form an organic union with eternal and living »

In the "judgment day" those things which
pass to the "left hand" in the last analysis are


composed of negation and lack the divine basis of
reality. It represents the objective nothingness
of that which relatively is evil. It is the educa-
tional background where we subjectively build up
appearances, specters, and imaginings, only finally
to learn that they are men of straw. It is the
darkness through which by contrast we distin-
guish and finally appreciate the light.

We may then welcome the " day of judgment "
and even retribution, for it, with all its pains, will
come only as we need its purification. This know-
ledge of its ultimatum will measurably strip it of
its terrors. The pains of the fiery furnace will be
bearable when we are persuaded that their age-
long outcome and purpose is good. Thus we at
length find that God, as Love, is All in All.



It is not the purpose, nor within the scope of
this volume to attempt any exhaustive or technical
study of the books of the Old and New Testaments.
That work is being done by trained specialists, and
requires a peculiar equipment which is not common,
and to which the author makes no claim. The
general inquirer who would learn the truth con-
cerning the making of the Bible in its present
form must give due regard to the best obtainable
authority, carefully weighing the evidence and
probability, so far as is possible. Actual history,
and formal proof for much which it would be de-
sirable to know, are meager, and so far as spiritual
values are concerned the internal evidence is by
far the most important. The limited survey which
follows is compiled from a careful comparison be-
tween the most scholarly and well recognized
authorities who are conservative in their general

conclusions. They are reverent in spirit and con-



structive in temper. Critical and technical re-
search shows that the ancient Hebrew traditions
are often unreliable, and that careful discrimination
is indispensable.

The Pentateuch, or first five books of the Old
Testament, the authorship of which for so long
was attributed to Moses, is now generally believed
to be a collective growth probably compiled at a
much later period. Varying literary style and
construction, tone and motive, the inclusion of
scattered epochs, the account of Moses' death, and
various other reasons make the above conclusion
logical, if not entirely positive. The book of
Joshua bears a close relation to the Pentateuch,
being a continuation of it in general character.

The order in which the various books of the
Old Testament appear is no indication of the
chronological order of their production. That
noble epic which so grandly portrays the process
of soul development, named Job, is thought to be
one of the most ancient of the biblical books.
The book of Judges includes the narratives of the
successive Judges of Israel gathered by some un-
known compiler. The histories given in the two
books of Samuel are thought to be by some writer,
perhaps belonging to the court of David. First


and Second Kings, and also Chronicles bear evi-
dence of the authorship of some unknown scribe.
Ezra and Nehemiah, which contain an account of
the lives and work of the prophets named, were
evidently written after the Return, and are thought
to be the work of some Jewish chronicler of offi-
cial rank. The poetic collection called the Psalms,
a national book of religious songs, bears evidence
of varied authorship in addition to that of David.
The compilation of wise sayings named Proverbs,
though called after Solomon, was probably the
work of various writers who lived both before and
after him.

Of the remaining books of the Old Testament,
which form an important part of the Sacred Writ-
ings of ancient Israel, there is also much uncertainty
as to their exact authorship and respective dates.
At the best there can be but an approximation to
the actual historic facts. The latest and most
careful criticism makes the authorship of fourteen
of the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament fairly
sure with parts of some others.

The authors, as well as the Scribes of ancient
Israel, were mainly compilers and copyists. The
writings of the nation, whether religious, political,
or historical, were common property. There was


no copyright law or custom of literary ownership.
Individuals as they were moved or " inspired "
added their quota to the common stock. Valuation
was internal rather than dependent upon the name
of the writer.

As to the authorship of the books of the New
Testament, there is a much greater certainty. The
four Evangelists whose names are given to their
Gospels undoubtedly wrote or edited them in great
degree. Luke was also the author of the Acts.
The letters or Epistles, with the exception of
Hebrews, bear the names of their writers. But
the reader of the Bible who peruses it for its spirit
and inspirational quality, places little emphasis
upon authorship. As the power of the Bible lies
deeper than the letter or any external authority,
the earnest seeker for truth need not concern him-
self if some former or traditional suppositions are
disturbed, or even overthrown. Each writer, what-
ever his name or official standing, is the unique
channel for a spiritual message. "He that hath
ears to hear let him hear." Whoever may be the
mouthpiece, it is the Spirit that speaketh unto the
churches. That the glad tidings are colored or
modified by each human expositor makes it more
peculiarly fitting for different classes, and for all


sorts and conditions of men. It would seem that
even a glance at the history of the manuscripts
which form the basis of the Bible, as we have it
to-day, should be sufficient to dispel any idea of
"inerrancy" and of homage to the letter.

There is not the slightest reason to think that
the Evangelists made any record of the words of
Jesus as they fell from his lips. The closest in-
vestigation shows that the earliest of the Gospels
was not written until from thirty-five to fifty years
had elapsed after the recorded transactions. Any
accuracy of language beyond a mingling of memory
and general tradition is improbable. About fifty
years passed after the active ministry of Jesus
before the Acts of the Apostles was written. In
the meantime, a theory of the meaning and purpose
of his life had become general and met with accept-
ance. Thus it is evident that the dogma of the
infallible perfection and inspiration of the text of
this, as of other parts of the Bible, is unreasonable
if not impossible. The mere fact that there is a
Revised Version giving more correct and often
modified meaning to many passages in translation
should be conclusive as to the theory of inerrancy.

If infallibility in the letter of the Bible existed
anywhere, it must have been inherent in the orig-


inal manuscripts, as they came from the hands of
their authors. But even were it admitted that they
were but amanuenses receiving the word by direct
dictation, it remains that the writings were long
ago scattered and lost beyond recovery, and that
their gathering and unification has been fragmen-
tary and uncertain. The most thorough scholar-
ship is now employed in a reverent effort to find
out the purpose of their messages and the motive
and conditions under which they gained currency.
The significant fact is, that these men had vital
spiritual truth, a knowledge of which the world
greatly needed. The outward verbiage through
which it was conveyed is but the husk which en-
closes the fruit. It would be as reasonable to
identify divinity with every detail of their manners
and costume as with every form and peculiarity of
their diction.

In ancient times any book was called a bible.
It is believed that Chrysostom, in the fifth century,
was the first to employ the Greek Biblia (the
books), as applied to the Hebrew sacred writings,
and so it came into use in the Eastern Church.
They usually were made in the form of a scroll
and the text was on parchment or more commonly
papyrus, a kind of paper made from a water-plant.


Each copy, and there were comparatively few, was
made by a scribe or regular copyist. The books
were called "The Law and the Prophets," or
" Holy Scriptures," before the inclusion of the
writings afterwards designated as the New Testa-
ment. The durability of the books which were
written on papyrus was quite limited. The com-
position of the books of the Old Testament
spreads over a period of about twelve hundred
years, and they were gathered somewhat in their
present form about a century before the Christian
Era. None of the earliest manuscripts of the Bible
have survived, and only fragmentary copies of copies,
scattered and considerably incoherent have been
preserved. The oldest existing New Testament
manuscripts were made hundreds of years later
than those by the original writers. Only by care-
ful comparison of widely scattered remains can the
text of the originals be approximated. Nearly two
thousand manuscripts of portions of the Old Tes-
tament are now in existence, none of them being
older than about 1,000 a.d. The most careful
examination of them has shown a variation in
about 150,000 passages, though nearly all the
differences are unimportant. While a supersti-
tious veneration of the letter strongly aided pre-


servation, there are indications that before the
text assumed its present form the versions in
other tongues show differences which cannot be
traced in any manuscript now in existence.

The writings which make up the New Testa-
ment had no such systematic copying as was done
by the older professional Scribes. Though so
much more recent than " The Law and the Proph-
ets," their variations are yet more numerous. Of
the fifteen hundred or more partial New Testa-
ment manuscripts now preserved, dating from the
fourth to the sixteenth century, the variations are
important and the original signatures of the au-
thors have been copied and re-copied indefinitely.
They are generally in Greek, though sometimes
accompanied by a Latin translation. Besides the
regular manuscripts before mentioned, early trans-
lations were made into the tongues of other coun-
tries where the Hebrew or Greek was not spoken.
Through careful comparison these have been use-
ful in confirming or correcting the differences
before noticed.

The version of the Bible called the Vulgate,
from the old Latin, was undertaken by Jerome at
the order of Pope Damasus in a.d. 382. In
the sixteenth century the Protestant and Roman


Catholic Churches took different courses as to
their chosen versions of the Bible. The Lutheran
party after considerable controversy settled upon
the pure and full biblical canon as is held by the
Protestants of to-day. The same held true of the
Swiss or Reformed party, and through them, and
by way of the Westminster Confession of Faith,
we have received our present body of sacred
Scripture. The Roman Catholic Church, in its
Council of Trent in a.d. 1545, adopted the Old
Testament Apocrypha as an integral part of the
Old Testament canon. In 1582 a New Testa-
ment was issued by the English Catholic Church
at Rheims, and the Old Testament in 1609 at
Douay, France. Before the latter publication, the
standard text had been fixed and proclaimed by
the Holy See. Several private revisions have
since been made by scholars in the Catholic
Church, but as the matter had been already offi-
cially settled they received no sanction.

The Gospels are not as much direct histories of
Jesus, as impressions, traditions, and ideals of him
which grew up after the close of his earthly career.
He left no manuscript, and so far as known no
directions or arrangements for the copying and
promulgation of his sayings. There was no logi-


cal motive for any effort toward their preservation
among his followers, for they expected his early
reappearance, the setting up of his kingly author-
ity, and the establishment of the national suprem-
acy. When at length the records began to be
made and the traditions revived, it is evident that
variations instead of one fixed account would
appear. Each memory, even of the same events,
would have its special emphasis and color. But
the general ideal of all would be Messiahship.
When at length the ideal of a temporal reign
gradually began to give place to that of a more
spiritual and moral leadership, his mission became
increasingly clarified. Still later this was again
obscured by theological dogmatism and specula-

The idea that the Bible in some miraculous way
came down from heaven in complete form, has filled
the imagination of men, even in spite of its known
history and certain gradual accretion. Miracles,
with superstition, were grouped around it, and they
increased with time and distance. The Book
steadily took on the character of a shrine and
oracle, and there is no possible doubt about its
growth, step by step. After the time of Ezra, the
Scribe, the professional exponents of the biblical


economy copied and excluded by a process of
natural selection. There was no technical test or
exact standard, but the problem of the Old Testa-
ment canon solved itself through the spiritual con-
sciousness of men. About the time of the advent
of Jesus, Josephus, and the Hebrew authorities
generally, recognized as sacred substantially the
same writings which are included to-day. But, as
before indicated, other books, apocryphal in charac-
ter, were ranked next to them, and afterwards often
classed or confused with them.

The books of final selection were called the ca-
nonical ones, and the others the uncanonical. Can-
onization signifies measured, approved. When
officially sanctioned by Church councils, any reli-
gious rules or laws become canonical. At the time
of the Reformation when the Protestant churches
transferred their authority from the Church to the
Bible, the distinction with them became fixed. But
since that time the Apocrypha, or uncanonical books
often have been used as an accompaniment to the
regular Scriptures. References are frequent in the
Old Testament to other books outside the canon.

The canon of the New Testament was as much
a matter of growth and natural selection as the
Old. It was a gradual and unconscious shaping


based upon inner vitality rather than external au-
thority. The vote of councils was but a formal
confirmation of the general verdict, as spontane-
ously arrived at.

Jesus proclaimed not a code of morals, or ethics,
but a living gospel, not words to be recorded, but
divinity in humanity. From recollection and repu-
tation, his disciples from time to time made records
for preservation of the sayings and doings of the
three years' ministry. About the same time, Paul's
letters to the churches, outlining the practical ap-
plication of the words of Jesus, became enshrined

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Online LibraryHenry WoodLife more abundant; Scriptural truth in modern application → online text (page 12 of 16)