W. B. (William Bell) Riley.

The finality of the higher criticism; OR, The theory of evolution and false theology online

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Online LibraryW. B. (William Bell) RileyThe finality of the higher criticism; OR, The theory of evolution and false theology → online text (page 9 of 12)
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JESUS OF NAZARETH.

Doctor Campbell defines Him as a man only.
To be sure, he resents this charge, and claims that
"Christ is 'the only man;' " yet his statements
bind him to the proposition that Christ is a man
only. He almost scoffs at the idea of His immac-
ulate conception; He insists that infinite knowl-
edge was not with Christ; His miracle-working
he ignores ; His physical resurrection he explains
on the ground that there is nothing physical, save
as thought takes that form. While ad-
mitting that divinity was in Jesus, he claims with
equal ardor that it is in every man. He says,
"God was not manifest in His flesh in any way
that would cut Him off from the rest of human
kind." Concerning His eternal existence, as a
co-equal with the Father, he names it "a gratu*
itous assumption, without a shred of evidence to
support it."

He admits that He was the incomparable man.
In common with those who first deny His deity



156 THE FINALITY OF

that they may praise His humanity, he remarks,
"It is no use trying to place Jesus in a row along
with other religious masters; we have no cate-
gory for Him." "His influence for good is
greater than all the masters of men put together,
and still goes on increasing." He even admits
Jesus cannot be exceeded, saying, "We have seen
perfect manhood once, and that was the man-
hood of Jesus." Apparently he sees no incon-
sistency between these admissions and his theory
of evolution by which he declares there has been
a "gradual and unmistakable rise ; the law of ev
olution governing in human affairs just as it
does in every other cosmic process." But plain
people, and some fairly well-educated and con-
fessedly intelligent ones, will find it difficult to
follow Mr. Campbell in this manipulation of no-
tions. If evolution is true we ought to be on the
whole forever ascending in the scale of human
life, e'en though we suffer occasional short peri-
ods of retrogression. The man born two thous-
and years ago, of purely human parents, even of
plain and unlearned ones, bred in the inferior
schools of that time, pressed upon from
every side by the ignorant prejudices of his age,
should hardly prove the final product in the pro-
cess of human life, the goal beyond which man-
hood can never go, the climax of human charac-



THE HIGHER CRITICISM. 157

ter. Mr. Campbell maintains that the Old Testa-
ment never prophesied the coming of Jesus ; that
the promise of the Seed of woman to bruise the
head of the serpent had naught to do with Him ;
that Isaiah's Child, to be born and to become the
Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Mighty God, the
Prince of Peace, the everlasting Father, pointed
only to a mortal man who long since served his
generation and passed away; that even the 53rd
of Isaiah anticipates no suffering Messiah.

He explains Christ's death on natural
grounds it was not the fulfillment of a proph-
ecy, but a collusion of bad men against a good
one; it was not the substitution for sin, but the
meaningless sacrifice of an uncompromising life ;
it was not the Lamb slain from the foundation
of the world, but merely the vent of human ha-
tred against holiness. How all of this comports
with his theory that nothing exists outside of
God; that God is in everything, and everything
is only some form of divine expression, this new
theologian has not told us. It is hardly to be
expected that he ever will ! He declares that had
Jesus been gibbeted, or hung, or drowned, that
his church would have made the gibbet, the rope,
the water, the basis of its call, the insignia of its
conquest. When one is passing through all this
philosophizing about Christ he is carried along



158 THE FINALITY of

by the writer's ardor, and does not so wrathfully
resent it; but when he lays aside the book, and
calmly contemplates the conclusion, he is com-
pelled to say, "not only unscriptural, but puerile,"
"not only irreligious, but insane." There never
lived a man of sound mind, who could read the
Bible through, and come to any such conclusion
concerning Christ, except he had first been tu-
tored in the school of modern skepticism, dexter-
ously initiated into the order of the Anti-Super-
naturalists. To illustrate One day there floated
into the harbor of Nagasaki a Bible. An intelli-
gent Japanese man plucked it from the sands.
Upon being told what it was, he procured a Chi-
nese translation and began to read, and for seven
years he pored over its pages. In 1866 he went
to Verbeck that remarkable man to tell of his
experience, and this is what he said : "Sir, I can
not tell you my feelings, when for the first time
I read the account of the character and the work
of Jesus Christ. I had never seen or heard or im-
agined such a person. I was filled with admira-
tion, overwhelmed with emotion, and taken cap-
tive by the record of His nature and life." It Is
needless to tell you that that unprejudiced Jap-
anese believed that Jesus was the Christ proph-
esied in the Old Testament; born of the Virgin
but begotten of the Holy Ghost; that He lived



THE HIGHER CRITICISM. 159

the life of spotless purity, and died the death oi
atoning sacrifice; that He rose literally from the
grave, and in person ascended to the right hand
of God, and that He there lives now to make in-
tercession for us; that He is the actual Head of
the church ; the present Conqueror, and the com-
ing King of Glory. This is the Christ of Conser-
vatives, the Christ of the Bible, and the Christ
of God. Who would exchange Him for Mr.
Campbell's remarkable man, however matchless
he may paint him, since it is written, "I and my
Father are one !"

Having disposed of the Sacred Scriptures;
the God of Israel, and the Man of Nazareth,
Doctor Campbell addresses himself to

SIN AND SALVATION.

Sin he defines as only a shadow. "Evil is a
negative, not a positive term; it denotes the ab-
sence rather than the presence of something; it
is the perceived privation of good, the shadow
where the light ought to be." "The devil," he
affirms, "is a vacuum." Some of his readers will
doubtless fear that an evil spirit has gotten into
the Doctor's head.

Now some of us had supposed that sin de-
noted more than the absence of something.
Drunkenness is doubtless the absence of sobriety,
but is it not also the presence of spirituous liquors



160 THE FINALITY OF

in possession of a man? Lust is the absence of
true love, but is it not also the supremacy of evil
passions? Murder is the absence of the appre-
ciation of life, but is it not also the presence of
animated destruction? Again, he defines sin as
"the opposite of love ;" but is it not more ? Is it
not the active expression of lust? So thin and
shadowy is all this suggestion that Mr. Campbell
himself grows tired of it. In discussing the
Atonement he sanely suggests, "it is time we had
done with unreal talk about sin. Sin is the mur-
der-spirit in human experience. 'Whosoever ha-
teth his brother is a murderer. If a man say, I
love God and hateth his brother, he is a liar : for
he that loveth not his brother whom he hath
seen, how can he love God whom he hath not
seen?' Strong language, but I suppose the man
who first used it must have known what he was
talking about." ("New Theology," p. 160). Did
not the man who defined "sin" as "the transgres-
sion of the law, know what he was talking about ?
Have the judges in the civilized parts of the world
had any occasion to doubt the accuracy of that
definition? Has the man who visits the red-light
district, or looks deeply enough into his own heart
to see its recesses, ever doubted the sanity of
Paul's statement of "the exceeding sinfulness of
sin?" Has not Doctor Campbell himself frankly



THE HIGHER CRITICISM. l6l

confessed his surrender to orthodoxy when he
says "pomposity is sin because it is egotism ; self-
complacency and contemptuousness are sin for the
same reason ; stupidity is sin, whether in a burglar
or a doctor of divinity ; a bitter, grasping, cruel,
unsympathetic spirit is sin, no matter who shows
it." Why does not the doctor go farther and say,
"the wages of sin is death ;" "the soul that sinneth
it shall die ?" All human experiences attest that
and all human observation witnesses to it.

A stranger thing than his contention that
"sin is a quest for God," has never found expres-
sion in literature. His contention that the man
who got drunk last night to gratify his lower
nature, was mistakenly, but "really seeking God,"
is something new under the sun. His notion that
the roue, who went out to destroy innocents,
while in the very act of spreading death, "was
seeking God," is the shrewdest definition of sin
Satan has yet conceived, and the strangest defi-
nition of what God is, that any man professing to
know Him has yet voiced. This opinion is changed
in nothing by taking the whole context into ac-
count, except, that one is led to pity the author of
such sentences, when by the context it is made
evident that he is, after all, in no sympathy
with sin.



1 62 THE FINALITY OP

It is little wonder that, with such definitions
of sin, one's idea of salvation should be conse-
quently queer. His presentation of the same is
simple enough, but not so easy. He tells men to
save themselves ; they are their own and only
saviours. Chas. Spurgeon says that he once vis-
ited Carisbrooke Castle where King Charles, of
unhappy memory, had been incarcerated. His
friends had planned Charles' escape ; a boat was
in waiting at the water's edge. Under the shadow
of darkness a ladder had been put up the side of
the castle, and it only remained for Charles to
scale the inner walls to the window, and all the
rest was easy! But alas! he had no power with
which to accomplish that. The Scriptures speak
of the soul as "dead in trespasses and in sin,"
and Mr. Campbell says, "he who is guilty of sin,
is guilty of soul-murder." Query: How can the
dead man save himself? When Jesus called Laz-
arus with a loud voice, he came forth. The day
is not yet come when the dead rise without any
divine assistance ! That day Mr. Campbell's phil-
osophy of salvation will be practicable, and not
before !

THE JUDGMENT TO COME.

He maintains there is none! "There is no
such thing as punishment; no far-off judgment
day; no great white throne, and no judge exter-



THE HIGHER CRITICISM. 163

nal to ourselves." (p. 210). This is a doctrine to
delight devils. It would take the fear out of their
hearts. When they reflect upon the God whom they
have spurned, they will cease from trembling.
But all of that will not keep them from the expe-
rience appointed unto the rebels against love. To
follow R. J. Campbell's speculations, when Christ
has given a revelation, is not to escape judgment,
but to increase it; not to fill up the lake of fire
and brimstone, but to fling ourselves in as addi-
tional fuel; it is not to enter the home which
God has prepared for them that love Him, but
to share the fate of them who hate Him and His
holy law. The most dangerous power with which
any minister or even mortal man was ever pos-
sessed, is the power of mis-direction. To point
people into the path that leads to the pit by per-
suading them that it ends in glory, is the acme
of opposition to God, and the climax of service
to the Adversary. For twenty centuries, yea and
for thirty, men whose faces have been lit up with
the light of a better world, whose feet have climb-
ed the path "that shineth more and more to the
perfect day," have walked according to the Word.
The fingers of true prophets and apostles have
pointed to the Celestial City, by way of the cross,
and to salvation by way of the bleeding Son of
God. I had rather lay down my life than hint to



164 THE FINALITY OF .

any man that there is "any other way given un-
der heaven." When Sam Hadley died, one of
the speakers at his funeral rehearsed the story
told by William Arthur in the "Tongue of Fire"
concerning one of his old friends, Robert Sut-
cliffe. An aged man is represented as coming to
see him ; they talked together, and the visitor said,
"Did you know that so-and-so was dead? That
this one is gone, and the other, mentioning their
names," and Robert Sutcliffe answered, "So they
have all gone ! I suppose some of these men will
meet in heaven and say, 'where is Robert Sut-
cliffe ; he must have lost his way !' " He was still
for a moment, and opening his eyes with a smile,
he exclaimed, "I think not ; I shall go home soon,
and I can hear those aged friends of mine shout-
ing as I climb the streets of heaven 'Here
comes Robert Sutcliffe he has not missed the
way.' "

Beloved, if we accept the philosophies of men,
and fling away the revelation of our God, what
excuse will we be able to present for having
missed the way?



THE HIGHER CRITICISM. 165



CHAPTER VIII.



SKEPTICISM IS SATAN BACK OF IT?

Henry Van Dyke has contributed an excel-
lent volume entitled "The Gospel for an Age of
Doubt." For the most part it is a noble defense
of "the faith once delivered." In the first chapter
of that volume he reminds his readers that "There
is a wide-spread unsettlement of soul in regard
to fundamental truths of religion, and also in re-
gard to the nature and existence of the so-called
spiritual faculties by which alone thes truths can
be perceived. In its popular manifestations, this
unsettlement takes the form of uncertainty rather
than of denial, of unbelief rather than of disbe-
lief, of general skepticism rather than of specific
infidelity. The questioning spirit is abroad, mov-
ing on the face of the waters, seeking rest and
finding none. The age stands in doubt."

The so-called Advanced Thinkers, occupying
some of our pulpits, seem to suppose that the
Gospel for such an Age should itself be "uncer-
tain." Many of them, refusing to favor home-
opathy in medicine, have, nevertheless, carried



l66 THE FINALITY OF

its tocsin, "Similis curantur similibus" to the ut-
most extent in theology, and propose to save a
doubting world by dosing it with additional
doubt, and we are even told now that "Doubt is
no sin." And, whereas the Bible tells us we are
"saved by faith" and "sanctified by truth," these
self-styled "Thinkers" actually affirm "We are
saved by doubt" and "sanctified by skepticism."
In discussing the subject, "Doubt Is the
Devil Back of It ?" we want to take our position
beside Christ and listen to His definitions of
doubt, watch Him when He is dealing with
doubt, and hear what He has to say on the sub-
ject of redemption from doubt, for, with a
strange inconsistency, the majority of the Critics,
while denying the integrity of the Word, are
still trying to cling to the authority of Christ.

THE DEFINITION OF DOUBT.

If one is to accept even the Standard Diction-
ary: "Doubt is to hesitate to accept as true or
certain." "To be skeptical concerning !" "To hold
to be questionable or uncertain ! To distrust !"

Christ met men who maintained toward Him,
toward His work and toward His Word, doubt.
These men were at that time naturally divided
into three classes, and the same divisions obtain
to this minute, viz., the uninstructed, the non-
convinced and the indisposed.



THE HIGHER CRITICISM. 167

The uninstructed! Ignorance has always and
everywhere been the basis of much doubt. We
have a phrase that "Ignorance is the mother of
credulity." It is none the less the mother of in-
credulity. You tell the ignorant man about the
infinity of space and instantly he takes on a quiz-
zical smile. You tell the ignorant man about the
multitude of worlds and the relative littleness of
the earth, and his look as perfectly phrases "Why
don't yon quit lying?" as if he voiced it. He
may be the recipient of all the blessings inci-
dent to the Divine arrangement of the universe,
and yet see God in none of it, solely because he
is uninstructed. In the ninth chapter of John's
Gospel we have recorded one of the most re-
markable miracles known to the New Testa-
ment. A man, blind from his birth, is instantly
given his sight. They asked him concerning
his healer, "Where is he?" He answered, "I
do not know." They asked him, "Who is he?"
He answered, "I do not know." They asked
him, "How did he do it?" He answered, "I do
not know." They said, "The man who healed
you is a sinner." He answered, "Whether he is
a sinner I know not; one thing I know, that
whereas I was blind I now see." The man's
unbelief in the diety of Jesus Christ was a pure
result of his ignorance of Him. When Jesus



1 68 THE FINALITY OP

returned to him and asked him, "Dost thou b*-
lieve on the Son of God?" he was compelled to
answer, "Who is he, Lord, that I might believe
on Him?" We are not ready to say that this
man was responsible for his ignorance. A blind
man has not the opportunity of knowedge ac-
corded to others. Nor would we characterize
him as a "sinner" because of his doubt. But
when the time came that the Lord returned and
stood before his open vision, and said unto him,
"Thou hast both seen him, and it is He that
speaketh with thee" had he not then fallen down
to worship Him, his continued skepticism would
have been Satan's triumph.

An impression exists in some quarters to the
effect that men are being made skeptical in this
country by their increasing knowledge. On the
contrary they are being made skeptical by their
increasing ignorance! The children of this
generation may know five times as much Science
as did their fathers and mothers; they do not
know one-tenth as much Scripture! They talk
of "the assured results of scientific investigation"
because they have followed that far enough to
feel that it is true ; and they talk about the "er-
rancy of the Scriptures" because they have so
grossly neglected them that they do not know
their content. This neglect is not a necessity;



THE HIGHER CRITICISM. 169

hence it is sin. How then, can the skepticism
born of it be less than sin?

The non-convinced! There are skeptical men
and women who are not chargeable with ignor-
ance of Scriptural things, but who are either from
Ireland or Missouri. The Irishman said, "I am
open to conviction, but I would like to see the
man that will convince me !" And the Missourian
said, "You'll have to show me !"

For the present we want to deal with the lat-
ter, and, without discussion, admit that he may
be a perfectly honest doubter. There are such
men and there are such women. They have
studied the Scripture some; they have studied
skeptical men more. The latter have filled them
with interrogation points. It is natural
that these men and women should be found in
the student body. When Henry Drummond said,
"Some of the finest young fellows with whom I
am acquainted, university men, are among the
most skeptical," he said the true thing. Why
should it not be so ? The average man or woman
who enters the schools has never even read the
Bible from cover to cover. He has dipped in
here and dipped in there, and his knowledge
is neither extensive, intensive, nor systematized,
The very methods employed in the school have
been ignored in his Biblical training. Great sec-



I/O THE FINAUTY OF

tions of the Word, he has never seen. At the
average school there is no arrangement whatev-
er to make him familiar with it; and in some
schools the very men appointed to. instruct him
in the same talk learnedly of the "literary value
of the Bible" and reveal at the same time their
utter indifference to its divine character, and
its spiritual import. Think of a freshman in an
Indiana college, assigned the book of Job a r the
subject of his essay, putting in at the library
to ask for the same, and expressing his surprise
to discover that it was in the Bible. Think of 96
men in the Northwestern University a hot-bed
of skepticism questioned as to what the Pente-
teuch was, and 30 of them unable to answer;
asked where the book of Jude was, and 40 of
them unable to tell that it was in the New Tes-
tament ; asked to mention one of the judges, and
51 failing; asked to name three kings of Israel,
and 49 giving it up ; asked to name three prophets,
and 44 confessing their inability. Twenty of those
students could not write a single Beatitude. And
65 of the 96 could not quote one verse from the
epistle to the Romans. For Judges they named
Solomon, Nehemiah, Daniel and Lazarus. For
the prophets they named Matthew, Luke, Herod
and Ananias. It is such students who enter a
professor's chair later in life, and go Ingersoll



THE HIGHER CRITICISM. 171

one better. Bob Ingersoll, blatant as he was
in his infidelity, never denied the immortality of
the soul. Shortly before his death he wrote a
little poem which runs after this manner :

"Is there, beyond the silent night

An endless day?
Is death a door that leads to light?

We may not say.
The tongueless secret hid in fate

We may not know:
We hope and wait."

It takes a professor in our own University-
Minnesota where doubt is glorified by some as
an evidence of intellectual superiority to be dead
certain that "there is no immortality of the soul,"
and to laugh the Scripture-teaching out of court.

The Indisposed! No man can honestly study
the skepticism of the present day and escape the
conviction that a vast deal of it is a result neither
of ignorance of the Scripture, nor a lack of over-
whelming argument in favor of its inspiration,
but it is rather an indisposition. The ninth chap-
ter of John's Gospel deals with this class also.
When the Pharisees had been instructed by the
man to whom vision was given as to now he got



172 THE FINALITY OF

his sight ; when he himself stood before them, an
undisputable evidence of the truth of his words,
they resorted to the exact phrase of modern skep-
tics, and discredited his standing, saying, "Thou
wast born in sin, and dost thou teach us? And
they cast him out." Jesus immediately appeared
upon the scene and said, "For judgment come I
into this world, that they that see not may see ;
and that they that see may become blind." The
Pharisees appreciated the point of His speech,
and said, "Are we also blind?" to which Jesus
made the remarkable answer, "If ye were blind
ye would have no sin ; but now ye say, We see ;
therefore your sin remaineth." In other words,
your skepticism is the pure product of a personal
conceit; and your infidelity is the fruit of the
indisposition to be convinced.

Joseph Parker never did a better job of rid-
dling skepticism than when he answered Mr.
Horton's series of "Tentative Suggestions" with
the volume, "None Like It A Plea for the Old
Sword." London's great preacher says, with
some degree of sarcasm, and yet with perfect oc-
casion, "Unbelief is not confined to technicalities.
It is really a mistake to suppose that Unbelief is
standing outside the ring-fence of Faith, sobbing
out its tender heart and begging Christian schol-
ars to explain how, in Samuel, David took from



THE HIGHER CRITICISM. 173

the King of Zobah a thousand and seven hundred
horsemen; and how, in Chronicles he took from
the same king, apparently on the same occasion,
a thousand chariots and seven thousand horse-
men. Dear, sweet, guileless Unbelief is quite
prepared to enter the church and enjoy the sacra-
ments, if only the number of horses could be
made the same in one book as it is in the other.
No, no ; that is not the measure of Unbelief. That
is only where Unbelief begins! When he has
been satisfied respecting the horse and his rider,
the docile Infidel will say, 'And how are the
dead raised up, and with what body do they
come ?' Do not imagine that the delightful Infi-
del, that pet of all juveniles, is only waiting to
see the Hexateuch properly dated, and properly
signed, in order that he may adopt the creeds
and idolize 'the historic episcopate/ Infidelity,
where it is honest and courageous, sets its face
against the whole line of the supernatural, the re-
vealed and the inspired, and not merely against
certain literal and obvious discrepancies. By all
means let discrepancies be reconciled or removed
scholarship is quite equal to this useful work
but do not suppose that the successful readjust-
ment of chronologies, dates, and authorships will
lead the Infidel to accept the Bible as 'the inspired
record of the Word of God.' I question whether it



174 THE FINALITY OF

would even help him to do so. Possibly it would
bring into more vivid and revolting significance
the fact that he 'did not like to retain God in his
knowledge'" (Rom. 1:28).

Men sometimes talk as if skepticism .vere on-
ly a difference of thinking and that one man is
as much entitled to his opinion as the other But


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Online LibraryW. B. (William Bell) RileyThe finality of the higher criticism; OR, The theory of evolution and false theology → online text (page 9 of 12)