INSPIRATION OF THE SCRIPTURES "WITH REFERENCE TO THE OBJECTIONS MADE IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
The subject of this Lecture will be the inspiration of the Bible as an argument for the divine origin of Christianity, keeping before us, in the discussion, the main thought which lies at the foundation of these Lectures —the argument as it exists in the nineteenth century. The point of the inquiry is not what the argument for the inspiration of the Bible, and the consequent proofs of the divine origin of the system, would have been when the canon of the Bible was complete, and it was first submitted to the world, but what it is now, after the volume has been before the world for eighteen hundred years. It has been fairly tried. It may be presumed that all the objections that are ever to be made to its inspiration have been already made. It may be assumed that its teachings are understood, and that we now understand what its influence will be at any time, in any land, or in relation to any class of men, barbarous or civilized, or in its bearing on the morals, the manners, and the laws of men. It may be assumed, perhaps, that science will have nothing more formidable to oppose to its claims to inspiration than it has already alleged, and that no discoveries will be made in the ruins of ancient cities and towns, or in the structure of the earth itself, that will add any new facts to strengthen the argument against its divine origin. What, then, is the evidence, in the age in which we live, that this book was inspired ?
It would not be practicable in a single Lecture, on such a subject, to enter into details, and it is not my purpose to attempt it. This one subject itself might extend beyond the entire limit of this course of Lectures, and still be unexhausted ; for the field is ample ; the difficulties are great; there are important questions which are not yet settled; and perhaps, as compared with other subjects pertaining to the Bible, there is no more inviting field on which a student of the sacred Scriptures, who would wish to prepare something that might be the great work of his life, could more properly employ his talents than in endeavoring to determine the yet unsettled questions about the inspiration of the Bible. Into the questions, therefore, about the modes of inspiration; whether it extends to the words as well as to the matter; how far the sacred writers availed themselves of their own knowledge and observation, and the knowledge and historical records in existence when they wrote; how far, as inspired men, they are responsible for statements on other subjects than those pertaining to the immediate purpose of inspiration — the ordinary facts of history, or the statements of science ; how far they were permitted to employ their own powers, and how this is consistent wth their being inspired; how the apparent discrepancies and contradictions in the book can be reconciled with the idea of inspiration — into these and kindred questions I do not propose largely to enter. I may be permitted, also, to say, that on some of these points there are difficulties which have not yet been met, and which perhaps none of us are prepared to meet.
I shall, therefore, limit my remarks to considerations of a very general nature, designed to show that the Bible can not have been the work of the unaided human powers, but that there are things pertaining to it which show that it must have come from God, or that it was inspired. In a parallel case, we might show that the worlds bear marks of having been made by God, and that any other theory would be incapable of defense, though there may be a thousand difficulties in our minds in respect to that creation, and a thousand things which we are not competent to reconcile and explain.
There are certain characteristics of mind which, however unnatural it may seem at first sight to place them together, appear to lie in the same line, or to have a relation to each other which has not yet been explained; where one closely borders on another; where one may be mistaken for another; and where, in describing the operations of the mind, there may be danger of ascrib-. ing that to one which properly belongs to another. I mention them in the following order: Genius; Inspiration; Insanity.
I mention them in this connection and this order, not because this order is always found, or because the one naturally develops itself into the other, or because the one is to be explained on the same principles as the other, but because there is a certain resemblance in them which would not be likely to be found in other characteristics of the human mind as bearing on the production of a work of art, or in relation to the developments of the highest forms of thought. The Bible is the creation of one of these. The word inspiration is often applied to the works of genius; among the Greeks, and the ancients generally, the idea of inspiration, as at the oracle at Delphi, was closely connected with the ravings of insanity.
(1.) Genius.—This means "the peculiar structure of mind which is given by nature to an individual, or that disposition or bent of mind which is peculiar to every man, and which qualifies him for a particular employment ; a particular natural talent or aptitude for a particular study or course of life—as a genius for history, poetry, or painting."— Webster. Hence it comes to be applied to superiority of mind, or to uncommon powers of intellect, particularly the power of invention.
This often seems to rise into inspiration, and, at any rate, lies along on the borders of inspiration, using that word now in the largest sense. Our life, if we would mark it in any case, is made up much of suggestions ab extra—from without. Those suggestions are numberless, and as varied as they are numberless; they are flitting and transitory; they come from some unseen quarter, and are apparently connected with each other by no laws of association, and by no laws that we can trace with what we have done or thought before. A few of them we retain at our pleasure; the mass we dismiss at once, as we do dreams. Genius consists, perhaps, not so much in the numbers or the nature of those suggestions as in the power or the disposition to retain them and to make a selection from them; to keep and combine those that may be the origin of great inventions, or that may be developed into some new discovery in science—that may lay the foundation of a great tragedy or a great epic. A thousand persons might have seen the spasmodic action produced in the muscles of the leg of a frog when in contact with a composition of zinc and acid, and never have thought of it again; but to Galvani it suggested an idea worth pursuing. Thousands of persons had seen an apple fall from a tree, and had thought no more of it; to Newton, according to the current tradition, it suggested an inquiry into the cause of its falling, and led to the discovery of the great laws by which the planets are held in their places and by which the worlds revolve. Thousands of persons had seen the operation of steam on a small scale—in lifting the lid of a tea-kettle—and had dismissed it without thought; to such a mind as that of Watt it suggested the idea of power, of motion, and is now changing the industry, the commerce, the civilization, and the religion of the world.
Yet who can tell whence these suggestions come into our minds ? Who is their author ? By what laws do they come, and by what laws do they go ? And by what principles did Homer, and Shakspeare, and Newton retain them, and mould them till their development had given undying lustre to their memory ?
There are those who suppose that the inspiration of the Bible is no more than this, and that it is to be explained on the same principle; not as derived from suggestions by the Spirit of God, but as suggestions of the mind itself, the suggestions of genius. Such persons— and they are many now—like Theodore Parker, and like Renan, do not deny the " inspiration" of the Bible, but it is inspiration such as there was in Burns or in Bacon; in Homer or in Milton; in Dante or in Michael Angelo. Shakspeare and Isaiah, Kant and Paul, differ only in degree.
How closely the idea of genius and inspiration lie on the same line may be seen from the meaning which the word genius has acquired. The ancients, in their use of the word, did not attribute genius to a man's own mind. It was the good or evil spirit, or demon, which was supposed to preside over his destiny in life ; to direct his birth and actions; to be his guard and guide'; to suggest thoughts to him; to impart to him wisdom. Socrates always referred what he had of wisdom that might be superior to that of other men, not to himself, but to his " genius"—the demon that pertained to him, that attended on him, that inspired him. The genius loci of the ancients was the presiding spirit of a place, the tutelary divinity, hence denoting the pervading spirit of an institution, a city, a society of men. The question before us is whether this will explain all that there was in Isaiah and John.
(2.) Inspiration in the proper sense of the term. Admitting now that there is such a thing, the present object is to distinguish it from genius—how it resembles it, and how it differs from it.
(a) As we have seen, it resembles it. It is suggestive. It is ah extra. It is from some unseen quarter. It comes into the mind by no laws of association with the past, often apparently by no laws of association with the different parts of the suggestion, any more than the suggestions of genius have, or than dreams have. It contains great thoughts—what Lord Bacon calls " the seeds of things"—to be developed either by the study of the prophet himself, who is inspired, studying his own predictions as if they were those of another man, or, in after times, by events that shall occur, by higher revelations, or by the studies of uninspired men. Thus, of the prophets, one himself inspired has said, " Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, searching what, or what manner of time the spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" (1 Peter, i., 11, 12). They gave themselves to the careful and profound study of their own prophecies, of the meaning of the words which had been suggested to them by the Spirit of God.
(b) Yet inspiration differs from genius. It is in advance of genius; it is beyond what lies in the range of genius. We suppose that no development of genius, no mere enlargement of any man's natural powers, however richly endowed, nothing which comes under the name of genius, would come up to what is implied in inspiration. However we may account for the " suggestions" which come into our minds, as I have said, ab extra, and especially the " suggestions" which come into the minds of men of genius, and which constitute the distinction between them and other men—suggestions on which the progress of the world in science and in art so-much depends—or whether they can be accounted for or not, yet we suppose that the matter of inspiration— the "suggestions" to the mind of the prophet— can be definitely explained. They are not the suggestions of genius, but of the Spirit of God,- breathing truths into the soul which would never occur to a human mind, however exalted, and securing, by a direct and special agency on the soul, the perfect accuracy of such suggestions. They are as if the Spirit of God spoke to men. There is a limit to genius. There is a point beyond which it does not go. It never comes up to inspiration, as mere human power, however great and wonderful, never comes up to a miracle. There is a point where that power stops short of a miracle, and that is within the power necessary to raise the dead; there is a point where genius stops short, and that is within the limit of inspiration. And yet it is a fair question, Why may not the genius which accomplished what Shakspeare accomplished embrace what Isaiah did as well as what Shakspeare did ?
(3.) It may have seemed strange, perhaps, that I have suggested the word insanity as in any way connected with inspiration; as having any resemblance to that or to genius, or as lying in any respect in the same line; as if genius and insanity were in any way connected ; as if men of genius were likely to be insane, as if all the insane were remarkable for genius; or as if the prophets uttered their predictions under the ravings of insanity.
It would take longer than the time will now admit of, without exhausting the whole time allotted to this Lecture, fully to explain and justify even the introduction of such a thought to your minds, or to show how they have been in any way connected or associated in the minds of men.
Perhaps even now the highest and best delineations of insanity have been drawn, not by Pritchard and others who have particularly studied and observed it, but by one who may almost never have seen an insane person, and who had not himself studied the subject, but by a man endowed, undoubtedly, with the highest genius that the world has known—as drawn in the character of Lear, Hamlet, Jaques, and in the tender sympathy, the knowledge of the disease, and of the proper mode of treatment of the disease expressed in the characters of Ophelia and Cordelia.*
The Savior himself was regarded by his kindred as insane: " And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him, for they said, He is beside himself'—ItiaTT) (Mark, iii., 21). "Many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad"—fiatverai (John, x., 20).
* See " Shakspeare's Delineations of Insanity, Imbecility, and Suicide," by A. 0. Kellogg, M.D., p. 1-114.
Paul was regarded as insane. " Festus said, with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself—fialvy—much learning doth make thee mad;" more literally, " much learning has turned thee to insanity"—tig /xayiav mpirptVti (Acts, xxvi., 24). " Whether," says Paul," we be beside ourselves'''—l^iarrifiev—as we may seem to many to be, to be insane—"it is to God"—in the cause of God; that is, what we say as inspired men may seem to men to be the mere ravings of insanity (2 Cor., v., 13).
It is well known to all that among the heathen the ideas of inspiration and insanity were closely connected. The opinion which was held by them on the subject is beautifully stated by Plato: " While the mind sheds its light around us, pouring into our souls a meridian splendor, we, being in possession of ourselves, are not under a supernatural influence ; but after the sun goes down, as might be expected, an ecstasy, a divine influence, and a frenzy falls upon us; for when the divine light shines, the human goes down; but when the former goes down, the latter rises and comes forth. This," says he, " is what ordinarily happens in prophecy. Our own mind retires on the advent of the divine spirit, but after the latter has departed the former again returns" (quoted in Bib. Repos., vol. ii.,p. 163). Here Plato calls it"cm ecstasy" " a frenzy" bordering close, at least, on insanity.
In the common ideas respecting the Pythian oracle, the conception of insanity, or raving madness, becomes more distinct. Thus Lucan says: "She madly raves through the cavern, impelled by another's mind, with the fillets of the god and the garland of Phoebus shaken from her erected hair; she whirls around the void space of the temple, turning her face in every direction; she scatters the tripods which come in her way, and is agitated with violent commotion, because she is under thy angry influence, O Apollo."*
Virgil has given a similar description of a demoniacal possession of this kind :
''1 feel the god, the rushing god! she cries—
While thus she spoke enlarged her features grew ;
Her color changed, her locks disheveled flew.
The heavenly tumult reigns in every part,
Pants in her breast, and swells her rising heart.
Still spreading to the sight the priestess glowed,
And heaved impatient of the incumbent god;
Then to her inmost soul by Phoebus fired,
In more than human sounds she spoke inspired. "f
It has been supposed by some that the true prophets were under an influence of this kind; that they were divested of intelligent consciousness, so that they were ignorant of what they uttered, and that the Spirit of Inspiration made use of them only as organs, or as unconscious agents to utter his truth. It is not my purpose to go into this inquiry; but I suppose, in common with the great mass of those who believe in the Bible, that, though they did not comprehend the full meaning of what they uttered (1 Peter, i., 10-12), yet that they
* Bacchatur demens aliena per antrum
Colla ferens, vittasqne Dei, Phoebeaque serta
Ercatis discussa comis, per inania templi
Ancipiti cervice rotat, Spargitque vagaiiti
Obstantes tripodes, magnoque exa;stuat igne
Iratum te, Phoebe, ferens.—Pharsalia, v.
t Ait: Dens, ecce, Deus! cui talia fanti—
Ante fores, subito non vultus, non color unus,
Ncc comptse mansere comai; sed pectus anhelum,
Et rabie fera corda tument; majorque videri
Nec mortale sonans ; afflata est numine quando
Jam propriore Dei.—JEn., vi., 46 seq.
had an intelligent understanding of what they saw or spoke ; that the prophet had control over his own mind (1 Cor., xiv., 32); that he could speak or not, as he pleased; and that in his inspired utterances he acted, as at other times, as a conscious, voluntary, and intelligent agent. The true idea, probably, has been expressed by Lowth: " Inspiration may be regarded, not as suppressing or extinguishing for a time the faculties of the human mind, but of purifying, and strengthening, and elevating them above what they would otherwise reach." The reference which I have made to insanity is not at all because it is believed that that was the condition of the minds of the prophets, but as illustrating the fact that it has been supposed that these states of mind lie much in the same direction, or have points of resemblance not unworthy to be noticed. The bearing of the remarks on the subject before us is that the Bible, as a composition, is to be traced as a whole, and in all its parts, to one of these three things. The question between the friends of the Bible and other men is to which of these it is to be attributed.
It will be admitted by all that the Bible is not a work of ordinary talent—of mediocre human powers. If it is a production of mere genius, it is genius of the highest order. Every thing about it shows this: its hold on mankind; its power to survive attacks; its perpetuated existence; its undiminished influence in the advances of civilization and the arts, and in the changes of human opinion; its poetry; its eloquence; its unity of purpose; its power of creating interest in the minds of all classes of men—the most humble as well as the most exalted, and the most exalted as well as the most humble; the poor man, the rich man; the slave and slave's master; the man of science, the man of refined taste, and the newly-converted savage; the delicate female and the hardy warrior. It is a book that can not be destroyed; a book that does not become old, and that is not hidden away in the lumber of old libraries. It keeps its place among living men in ages when new books abound; it has its place, in regard to a living power, not with Strabo, and Galen, and Mela, and Abelard, and Duns Scotus, but with Milton, and Shakspeare, and Macaulay, and Burke—books that are " thumbed" and read; it is a book of influence, and has more influence on mankind now than Homer, and Plato, and the Koran, and Shakspeare—than Kant, and Locke, and Bacon altogether. Is it a work of mere genius ?
I said that there are great questions about inspiration which are yet unsettled. I repeat, on account of its importance, and with the hope of stirring up some young man of this Seminary to the task, the remark that I have already made, that, in my judgment, there is no one department of Christian literature to which a young man could better devote himself, with the hope of producing something which the " world would not willingly let die," than the solution of those questions. They are beyond my range now—beyond my learning, my ability, and I shall not attempt to enter on them. What is inspiration at all? What is plenary inspiration ? Is it suggestion, or superintendence, or control, or all combined ? In inspiration, how far were the faculties of the men themselves employed ? Were they kept from error on all subjects? In what sense was what they wrote on common matters inspired ? To what extent in the Book is the Spirit of God " responsible" for the statements made ? And how can the dates, and the genealogies, and the apparent inconsistencies and contradictions be reconciled with the proper idea of inspiration ? These are questions in many of their bearings yet to be solved, and happy will be the man who shall be raised up to solve them.
Perhaps, at this stage of the argument, it might be said that the question whether the Bible is an inspired book can not be settled till these questions are determined, for they enter into the very essence of the question. It may seem to be so, and it might be difficult to show that it is not so. And yet it is not necessarily so. A thousand questions may be asked on any subject without affecting the main question. There may be questions asked about the Principia of Newton, and the correctness of his theories about light and colors, and "fits of easy transmission," and radiations of heat, which do not affect the question about the work as the work of a man in intellect at the very head of the race; there are many questions about the Iliad, yet unsettled, which do not affect the question whether the whole work is the production of one man; whether such a man as Homer ever lived; and whether the poem is made up of independent " rhapsodies" by different authors. The work is a whole by itself, and is a work of transcendent genius, however these questions may be settled.
May we not take some such view of the Bible, and find in that the evidence that it is inspired without being able as yet to solve all difficulties, as we find in other books, in a similar manner, the evidences of genius ?
In regard to the argument now to be submitted to you, I would be willing to concede that no single one of the points which I shall suggest would of itself constitute a proof of such inspiration. The impression which I would hope to make would be derived from all of them combined. The point which I would desire to leave for solution when I am through 'with the argument would be, Whether these things could exist if the Bible were not an inspired book f I shall ask you to remember that that which may not seem to be strong in itself may be strong in its position. The braces which help to sustain a lofty pile of architecture in a cathedral, or the arch of a bridge, may be feeble in themselves, yet these, combined and interlaced among each other, may give strength that shall hold the lofty structure or the massive bridge against the winds and the currents forever.
I . The first remark which I make is, that this claim, whatever it is, relates to a class of men, extending through a long series of years, constituting a unity in their productions, and making their productions properly one book. Whatever may be said of the productions of uninspired genius, this can not be said of them, and this claim could not be set up for them. There is no sense in which the Iliad, and the Paradise Lost, and the histories of Herodotus and Gibbon, and the orations of Demosthenes and Burke, constitute one book.
The Bible is one book ; not accidentally, or by being bound together like a pile of old pamphlets which the lover of pamphlets accumulates and binds up in one volume, but by an organic unity ; a unity of spirit, design, harmony, purpose ; a unity in the sense of being separate from all other books; a unity as distinct as if it were the production of one man; a unity as complete as the Iliad or the Paradise Lost—having a plan; having a beginning, a middle, and an end—a beginning, a middle, and an end more complete, extending through more years, and embracing a greater variety of characters and events than any other volume in the world— its beginning the beginning of creation; its middle the Incarnation and the Atonement; its end the consummation of the world's affairs.
The volume is made up, indeed, of a large number of pamphlets, written by different men, in different languages, and at different periods. The writers were of very different rank and character, from the magnificent Oriental prince to the shepherd-boy and the fisherman —from the man trained in the best schools of the age, like Paul, to the man who could say of himself, " I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit; and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel" (Amos, vii., 14,15). Some of them, indeed, had all the learning of their own country, and not a little of that in foreign lands, and some had none; some had traveled, but most of them had not ; some had conversed with sages of other countries, but most of them had never seen a philosopher or a sage.
What they wrote constituted substantially all the literature of the nation—its poetry; its learning; its history ; its eloquence; its laws. At the time of the completion of the volume it was all that they had. If there had been other books in existence, as the books of " Nathan the Prophet," and the " Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite," and " the Visions of Iddo the Seer" (2 Chron., ix., 29), and " Shemaiah the Prophet" (2 Chron., xii., 15), they had been absorbed into the volume, or had been allowed to " drop out," as not pertaining to the design of the one book that was to constitute the literature of the nation. If, simultaneously with this, or in the interval when one part of the volume—the Old Testament—was completed, and the other part—the New— was commenced, there was any thing that was, from any cause, deemed worthy of preservation, it was carefully separated from the sacred books in the "Apocrypha ;" if contemporaneously with the New Testament, or subsequently, any other literature existed, as the writings of Philo and Josephus, or the Talmud, this also was carefully separated from, and never confounded with, the one volume that constituted the peculiar literature of the nation.
There is, there has been no other nation where such an organic literature has sprung up, the work of many authors, extending through many years, and yet constituting one volume. The religion of China is in a book written by one man—Confucius; the Koran is the production of one man; for any thing that appears, the Zendavesta had a similar origin. The books of India, indeed—the Vedas and the Shasters—have, in this respect, some resemblance to the Bible, but, so far as appears, they were the productions of a few authors, and were composed in a brief period.
You can not bind Hp the literature of any other people, making one organic volume, as the Bible is bound up. You can not. thus bind up Grecian literature in one volume. You have Homer, and Hesiod, and Herodotus, and Thucydides, and Aristotle, and Plato, and Sophocles, and./Eschylus, but they would not, and could not make one volume, having a beginning, a middle, and an end. There is no reason why it should begin thus; why it should advance thus; and there is no catastrophe at its close. It is not one book. They are many books. There is no unity. They are not the production of one class of men, except as the Greeks in general were distinguished from the rest of mankind.
In this view, too, the length of time is to be noticed during which the composition was going on. The Bi
ble is not the production of one age, so that it could be considered, as certain groups of writings may be, as the development of that age; it is the production of many ages, and the composition was quietly going on at the same time in which the most important changes and revolutions were occurring in the earth. During the time of its composition kingdoms rose and fell; great conquerors founded empires, acquired immortality, and they and their kingdoms passed away; new discoveries were made in science and in art; vast revolutions occurred in human affairs. Unaffected by these changes, the composition of the Bible was quietly going on, and the men engaged in the work calmly performed their task, as a man would in a cave, sheltered by rocks, while storms and tempests howled around him. For a period of sixteen hundred years from the composition of the first book—the book of Job—to the book of Revelation, that work was calmly advancing—the writers now appealing in groups, and the work now interrupted by intervals of hundreds of years, till the last declaration was uttered, " Surely I come quickly; amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus;" winding up the volume and the work. The idea of unity is one that runs through all that period. The plan is slowly developed. The plan is finally consummated by one—John in Patmos— as unlike as can well be conceived in language, in attainments, in style, and manner, the man who at least sixteen hundred years before put pen to the whole work in the language, " There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job;" or, if Genesis was the first book written, as it is the first in the Bible now, in the language, " In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Meantime they never copied from one another. They never seem to have been conscious that there was apian slowly developing itself They never mutilated or shaped facts so as to fit in to such a plan; they never modified the statement of events so that they would seem to be a fulfillment of that plan. Moses, and David, and Isaiah, and Paul, and John are as independent of each other as Hesiod, and Homer, and Plato. The sacred writers were not a corporation, a company, a society, to write up a certain system, nor were there revisers of their writings so to shape and alter them as to secure unanimity and unity. The "Dunciad" was written by concert; the " Spectator" was written by concert; Pope's Homer was translated by different authors under his direction, and united by him in one; the German critics sometimes tell us that the Iliad itself was not written by one Homer, but by many; the dramas of Beaumont and Fletcher are always in one volume—"Beaumont and Fletcher"—apparently joint productions; but in the composition of the Bible each man pursued his own plan, for Moses, and Isaiah, and Paul were perfectly independent authors.
This is the more remarkable, because a great change occurred in passing from the Old Testament to the New. The old system, with all the peculiar laws and institutions pertaining to it, was to give way, and a new system to be introduced—Christianity living to be superinduced upon Judaism dying. The difficulty was how, in a system so unlike, and where one was to expire and the other to rise into life, the one could be made to appear to run into the other. Is Christianity a development of Judaism ? Would men under their own guidance, and without some higher influence, have developed the old system—the Jewish system—the system of the prophets—into Christianity ? Not at all. It would have been, under such a guidance, Judaism still; Judaism refined and expanded, Judaism adapted to the whole world, but Judaism still. And yet the New Testament is a development—a filling up—a completion of the system of the Old, and the entire Book—the Bible—is one. It is susceptible of easy proof that one part is the completion or complement of the other, as the two parts of a tally, or as " complementary" colors; not as the Jews would have done it, but as it was intended it should be. There is a scheme commenced. There is an anticipation. There is a progress. There is a cpmpletion in the Messiah. There is the unfolding of a plan running in its statements through many centuries; one writer in one age stating one thing, and another in another, as if in one age one artist should have fashioned an arm, and another a leg; one a hand, and another a foot; one the nose, another the lips, another the chin; one the form and size of the head, and another the body; and all at last should have been put together in the form of Minerva or Apollo.
The completion of the plan in the New Testament is (flfferent from what a Jew would have made, but it is a completion. He would have made the Messiah of the New Testament a prince, a conqueror, a king; he would not have made him a poor man, a despised man, a sufferer ; the true completion was that he was indeed a prince, a king, a conqueror, but that he was at the same time, and eminently, poor, despised, and a sufferer. But this accords, in fact, after all, with the Old Testament, for he was to spring from the decayed family of Jesse and David; he was to be despised and rejected of men; he was to be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; his grave was to be appointed with the wicked, but with the rich man was he to be in his death, and yet he was to be a conqueror and a king, with a dominion wider than Caesar ever won, and an empire more enduring than any of the dynasties of kings.
And if this is true, then there is this presumption in the case, that it was under the guidance of One Mind, that it is the product of one plan, that it is not the work of many minds acting independently or in concert, but that there was one presiding Intellect that guided all these writers, and adjusted all these parts one to another, as much as there must have been if there had been separate laborers working independently of each other, and through many centuries, in forming the different parts of the Venus de Medici or the Apollo Belvidere.
II. The second point will relate to a peculiarity in books as such, and in respect to which what has occurred to the Bible considered as a book can be best explained on the supposition that it is an inspired volume.
Books fall away in the progress of society; they drop out of notice; they accomplish their purpose; they are not missed. The peculiarity of the Bible on which I wish to remark, and from which I shall draw this part of my argument, is, that the Bible is not a book of this class. It does not drop out of notice; it has not accomplished its purpose; it does not fall away in the progress of events; it would be missed; it will not and could not be spared.
There are three classes of books of the kind that I now refer to.
There are, first, those which, though they are founded on truth, yet have no such merit as to make the world anxious to retain them. They have a local bearing and a local reputation, but have no claim on the general attention of mankind, and no merit that will convey them down from age to age. The old paths are strewed with these remains of literature, and advancing generations have no interest in gathering them up and preserving them; and any man that makes a book must lay to his soul—no very " nattering unction"—the idea that probably this will be the fate of the book that he makes. Commonplace books, poetry, novels, travels, biographies, histories, works of science, works on art, are thus dropped out of view and perish, or are preserved in the alcoves of a great library, or are among the rarities which antiquarians gather. The prima facie evidence in regard to an old book is that it is worthless, because it is rare; for if it had been valuable it would have been reprinted, and would not have been rare.
There are, secondly, those which have been superseded by better books on the same subject. Of these the number is already vastly large, and is constantly accumulating. Multitudes of books once useful have dropped away from the memory of mankind to be recovered no more—books that are gone with the volumes of Nathan the Prophet and Iddo the Seer (2 Chron., ix., 29)—books that have absolutely perished, while those that remain of that class go largely to swell the number of volumes on the shelves of our great libraries— books useful as illustrating the history of science and art, and the development of human affairs—books useful to the antiquarian, but books no longer useful as representing the real state of human knowledge. Science is enlarged. What was formerly regarded as science is no longer such; and the books of Galen, Hippocrates, Mela, Roger Bacon, occupy substantially the same place in science which the works of Abelard and Duns Scotus —may I not add Turretin—do in theology. The chemistry of the Middle Ages, the chemistry of Bagdad, was a different thing from the chemistry of Lavoisier, of Priestley, of Black, and of Sir Humphry Davy; and the books even of these men are also vanishing fast, and are taking their places with those that are mainly interest• ing to the antiquarian alone.
There are, thirdly, books that are false in science, in philosophy, in the facts affirmed, that pass away, of course, when the truth is discovered. All the works of Ptolemy, and all the books founded on the Ptolemaic system of the heavens, ingenious, labored, and profound as they were, passed away, of course, when the Copernican theory was established^ and those books now, like thousands of others, are of use only as marking the history of science, or as illustrating the powers of the human mind, or as showing, by contrast, the wonderful wisdom of the Creator in the actual structure of the uerse and the beauty of the Copemican system.
The question now is, Whether the Bible is a book that belongs to either of these classes ; a book to pass away with advancing knowledge, and in the progress of ages; a book to be dropped; a book that is to lie hidden in the alcoves of great libraries; a book that is to be of interest and value only to the antiquarian. If it is not so, then why is not so ?
The Bible is not a book to be dropped and forgotten. Whatever may be said of it, it is not to occupy the same place as those books which, from any cause, the world is " willing to let die." It has held its place in the world longer than any other book or books, unless it be true that the writings of Confucius go back to as remote a period as the composition of the book of Job. It has passed through innumerable revolutions in governments, in opinions, in philosophy, in manners, customs, and laws. It has made its way in the world under all forms of government—monarchical, aristocratic, republican, democratic. It has held on its steady course when Aristotle was in the ascendant and controlled the mind of Europe, and when he was dethroned, and Plato rose in the ascendant. It has held its way in the great change from the Ptolemaic to the Copernican systems of astronomy, and in all the revolutions which have been made in science and the arts. Many of those arts and much of that science it has modified; many of the laws which rule among the nations, and no small part of the customs of social life among the most refined people, it has originated «r shaped; it has seen systems of government and systems of religion pass away, and it still lives. The Bible, in the parts then composed, was among the books that influenced human affairs when Nineveh stood where its buried ruins now are; when Babylon was great and magnificent, where now the wild beasts of the desert lie down, and satyrs dance, and owls dwell, and dragons cry (Isa., xiii., 22) ; when Tyre was the mistress of the seas, now a place where the fisherman dries his nets; long before Hesiod and Homer sang; when uncivilized and savage men wandered over the Seven Hills on the Tiber, and when not a hut stood on the banks of the Thames.
The Bible has survived all attacks, and they have not been few or unskillful; and it has now a hold on the world which it never had before, and the world would now more unwillingly than ever before " let it die." It is translated into more languages than any other book; it has been transcribed more frequently, and with more care, than any other book; it is more frequently printed than any other book; it is more embellished with the highest ornaments of art than any other book; it lies on more tables in the dwellings of the intelligent and the refined than any other book. More cultivated minds have been employed in defending and illustrating it than any other book; more learning has been expended on it than on any other book; more keen and sagacious criticism has been employed on it than perhaps on all other books put together. More such minds are engaged in defending it now than ever were before. More men are employed in translating it, and more presses are at work in printing it than ever before. It is doing more to influence the world than it has done in any former age. It is working its way among the nations of the earth; changing customs and laws; originating institutions of learning and benevolence; modifying punishments ; influencing the treatment of prisoners; breaking off the shackles of slavery; and elevating the character and position of woman, as it has never done before. It is recognized as authority in more colleges and schools than it has ever been before; and if there are more attacks made on it from scientific sources, it is also true that more defenders from the same source arise to show that it is not inconsistent with the best deductions of science. The simplest and most philosophical way of explaining all this is, that the book had a higher origin than man.
III. My third remark will relate to the place which the Bible has in history, and the point of the remark will be, that the Bible contains records and statements on historical subjects which can be best explained also on the supposition that it is an inspired book.
(1.) The first observation here is, that it is the only history of the world that traces human affairs up to their origin. Following back any other history, and endeavoring to ascertain the origin of things in the early transactions in our world, we soon come to the region of fable, of legend, of myth, of night; we reach a point where all anterior in the history is manifestly the work of the imagination or the invention of national pride. In Egypt, in India, in China, in the African tribes, in Mexico and Peru', and to a great extent in Greece, we soon come into the region of night; and even of Rome, who, since the work of Niebuhr, will affirm, notwithstanding the records of Livy, that we have any exact knowledge of what occurred in its early history ? Begin, in your investigation of past events, where profane history begins, and you are plunged into the midst of a state of affairs of whose origin you know nothing, and where the mind wanders in perfect night and can find no rest. Kingdoms are seen, but no one can tell when or how they were founded; cities appear whose origin no one knows; heroes are playing their part in the great and mysterious drama, but no one knows whence they came or what are their designs; races of beings are seen whose origin is unknown, and the past periods of whose existence upon the earth no one can determine— races formed no one can tell for what purpose or by what hand. Vast multitudes of beings are suffering and dying for causes which no one can explain; one generation in its own journey to the grave treads over the monuments of extinct generations, and with the memorials of fearful changes and convulsions in the past all around it of which no one can give an account. Begin your knowledge of the past at the remotest period to which profane history would conduct you, and you are in the midst of chaos, and you can not advance a single step without plunging into deeper night—a night strikingly resembling that described in the oldest book in the Bible itself, and the oldest book in the world, as the abode of the dead: " The land of darkness and the shadow of death ; a land of darkness as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death without any order, and where the light is as darkness" (Job,x., 21, 22).
(2.) The Bible is the only book that explains the origin of things—the creation of the earth and the heavens—the creation of man, and the creation of the vegetables and animals that people the globe. True science does not pretend to explain those things; for, whatever false science may attempt, true science pauses before it reaches the point of the creation of matter or the origin of life. It finds matter, and it finds life, at the beginning of all its own investigations; nor do the labors of the chemist and of the physiologist go behind those facts as already existing to tell how they came into being. The Bible does.
(3.) The Bible, so far as secular history becomes intelligible, and at the point where it becomes intelligible, accords with and explains the existing state of things. The tenth chapter of Genesis, almost entirely a dry list of names—apparently as dry and unmeaning as the muster-roll of an army, or as Homer's list of heroes and ships in the first book of the Iliad—contains, in fact, the only clear and intelligible account of the peopling of our globe, and the origin of the nations that now dwell upon the earth. It is a document which could not have been fabricated any more than one beforehand could fabricate the names of the soldiers in an army, and yet it is the only document which we possess that tells how the world was divided and settled. The nations that dwell in Europe, in Asia, and in Africa can, for the most part, be distinctly traced up in their origin to the men whose names occur there ; and without this dry document, all accounts of the peopling of the globe would be darkness and chaos.
(4.) The Bible explains facts that exist which would be otherwise inexplicable.
In a state of feeling now extensively prevalent among scientific men, there are many who would shrink from avowing their belief in the first four chapters of Genesis, and there are many who would desire to turn those chapters into myth and fable, as containing statements which no scientific man would literally receive. In a course of lectures, or even in preaching, it might seem to the view of many such men to argue more of recklessness than of prudence to select those chapters as the subject of illustration, and there are not a few having high claims to eminence in science who would turn away from the statements in those chapters as belonging wholly to myths and legends.
Yet in those chapters are contained all that we know, if we know any thing in regard to the origin of the real facts that exist in our world. We, who hold to the inspiration of the Bible, believe that the record in those chapters will explain the origin of all that now exists on earth; we are certain that if that explanation fails, we shall look in vain elsewhere for any explanation—to history; to the reasonings of philosophers; to the geologist ; to the antiquarian; to the poets.
(a) Those chapters explain the origin of things—the creation of the heavens and the earth. Science does not explain the creation of the world—the origin of the uerse. It has no facts on that subject with which to deal; its work commences when the work of creation is done; when matter already has a being, and when the laws of matter are already established. It explains the laws by which the elements of matter combine or are moved, not how they were made; it explains the proportion of the sixty or more substances of which our world is composed; the laws of the chemical elements; the laws of galvanism, of light, of heat, of electricity, of life—not how they were made.
(b) The Bible explains the order in which things were made on the earth. Till the discoveries in the recent science of geology, the world has been in the dark in regard to that order, and the naked statement in the first chapter of Genesis, appealing, up to that period—that is, for nearly six thousand years—to the mere faith of mankind, has been all that the world has had to rely on. Two things are remarkable in regard to that statement in the first chapter of Genesis, with all that there is in the chapter still unexplained and mysterious: one is, that the ordert of the creation as there stated corresponds with singular accuracy with the order as disclosed by geology; the other is, that geology now affirms, from the testimony of the earth itself, that there were successive creations, as is affirmed in Genesis; in other words, that one class of animals has not been developed from a previous order of beings. The Bible affirms thus; and if there is any one thing now clear in the developments of geology, it is, that one race was swept off'to make way for another; and that one succeeded another in a certain order, and that order is the one found in the Bible; that man was the last in the series of the creations; and that there has been, in fact, no work of creation—no new matter formed—no new races of animals or vegetables brought upon the earth since man appeared. " Thus," says Moses," the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them" (Gen., ii., 1). How did Moses, or whoever was the author of the statement in Genesis, know this ? What are the probabilities that an ancient writer uninspired, undertaking to give an account of the creation of the world, would hit on that order? Where else has it been done; where has it been hinted at ?
(e) The Bible affirms and explains the fact to which all true science is tending—the unity of the race. That fact is stated and affirmed; that fact is the basis of the doctrine of uersal depravity as stated in the Bible; that fact is the foundation of all its statements about the work of redemption; that fact is the foundation of all that there is in the Bible in regard to the rights of man.
But that fact of the unity of the race has been by no means apparent to men, and is a doctrine the statement of which in the Bible is most easily explained by the idea of inspiration, even if it can be explained in any other way. It is morally certain now that men will come up to that doctrine in their own investigations; but it is by no means a doctrine so obvious that it would be laid at the foundation of a system as a matter of course, or a doctrine in reference to which there are no scientific difficulties to be removed. The varieties of language; the varieties of complexion; the forms of the skull, and the facial angle, and many other things in the formation and anatomy of the human frame, familiar to those who have devoted their attention to this subject; the varieties in the four great divisions of the race—the Mongolian, the Caucasian,'the Ethiopian, the American—all show how daring and bold, so to speak, was the doctrine laid at the very foundation of the whole book, that the races of men are all descended from one pair; that" God has made of one blood all the nations of men, to dwell on all the face of the earth" (Acts, xvii., 26); and that "the whole earth was of one language and of one speech" (Gen., xl, 1). Yet the tendency of science now is to demonstrate the unity of the human race; its tendency also is to demonstrate the original oneness of language. All the languages of the earth have been traced with very great clearness now to three sources, with the highest probability that they will yet be traced back to one; and it has not yet been demonstrated that the varieties of the human race in complexion and in anatomical structure are not susceptible of explanation on the supposition that the race was originally one.
Man, in the mean time, in the Bible, is kept wholly distinct from all the inferior creation. A line as marked as any line can be runs through the Bible between man and all the inferior races. There is no intimation that one has been developed from the other, or that the one is to be treated as the other. Man alone is a moral agent; is subject to law; is responsible. Man is a sinner; is redeemed; is immortal. Man is made in the image of God. He has a soul. He is a wandering child of God, to be governed by moral law; to be restrained by motives; to be guided by truth; to be redeemed by the blood of the atonement; to live forever with God. He is not derived or developed from the ourang-outang or the monkey; he is, in the Bible, a new creation, as geology now affirms him to have been.
Whence came these views and thoughts into the minds of the sacred writers ? How, on subjects so difficult, and on which there was to be such variety in the opinions of men before these truths were reached by the slow process of science, did they at once anticipate all that would be established on the subject in the fardistant ages, and state at the outset what man would be led to believe at the last ? The simplest explanation of this is, that that Eternal Spirit that sees and knows all truth guided them above the exercise of their own powers to the statement of those truths to which the world would at last come, but which would be reached by men in their own investigations only after ages had passed away.
The time will not allow me to pursue this train of thought farther, or to apply it to other subjects that lie equally within its range. A farther application of the thought would relate to such subjects as the fall of man, and the fact of uersal depravity; to the place which man occupies among the creatures of God here below; to the subject of death — especially death in man; to the origin of the languages of the earth, and to the dispersion of the nations. The question in regard to all these points would be whether any men would have been likely to have made the statements in the Bible unless they were inspired.
IV. The fourth point to which I shall advert in illustration of the subject of inspiration will pertain to the truths communicated in the Bible. The argument in the case will be, that those truths lie beyond the range of the unaided human powers.
This remark might be illustrated on a wide scale in reference to the powers of the human mind as existing any where, and, in the highest sense of the proposition, it would be that those truths are beyond the highest human intellects, or the power of such intellects to originate them, however those powers may be cultivated— beyond the reach and range of philosophy in its purest and most exalted forms. It might be questionable with some whether that could be demonstrated, but it is not necessary to consider that particular point in illustrating the proposition now before us. The real inquiry is whether those truths were beyond the natural powers of the men actually employed in composing the Bible. It may be, indeed, that the natural powers of those men were not inferior to the highest forms of intellect known elsewhere in philosophy and science; it may be that the intellects of Moses, and Isaiah, and David, and Paul were by nature equal to the great lawgivers, poets, reasoners, orators, philosophers of the world, and that, in themselves, they deserve a place by the side of Numa, and Lycurgus, and Demosthenes, and Plato, and Burke; but still the real question now is whether they, whatever were their native endowments, were competent,'without aid from on high, to disclose the truths actually found in the Bible. We are to remember, too, that whatever were the native endowments of Moses, and Isaiah, and David, and Paul, they were not the only men employed in writing the Bible. The Bible is not their work alone. They are not its authors as a whole. We are to bear in mind who they were associated with, and then to inquire whether the peasants, and shepherds, and fishermen that, in fact, wrote a large part of the Bible, were competent to be associated with them in the composition of the Bible as a whole—whether a common stone-mason could be associated with Phidias in the design of the Minerva, or common bricklayers with Michael Angelo in the structure of St. Peter's, and in the mosaics that adorn it.
(1.) Who, then, were the men that actually wrote the Bible ?
The Bible came from a land undistinguished for literature ; a land not rich in classical associations; a land not distinguished for pushing its discoveries into the region of science. Chaldea had its observatory, and the dwellers there early looked out on the stars and gave them names; Egypt had its temples where the truths of science, as well as the precepts of religion, were committed to the sacred priesthood; Greece had academic groves; but Judea had neither. To such things the attention of the nation was never turned. We have all their literature; all their science; all their knowledge of art—and all this is in the Bible. Among the ancients they were regarded as a narrow-minded, a bigoted, a superstitious people. They did not travel abroad as Greek philosophers did, to converse with sages in other lands, nor did they ever seem anxious to obtain any knowledge except that which was originated in their' own land. Pythagoras and Plato went abroad to converse with the wise of other lands; Herodotus to learn the facts of history; Solon and Lycurgus left their country to observe the working of the laws in other countries, and to give sanction to their own; but Moses left the court of Pharaoh and went into a desert; Isaiah, Daniel, and David never traveled to gain knowledge, and though Paul traveled much and far, it was never to gain knowledge, but to impart it to mankind. The idea is, that in the various departments of literature they could not come into competition with the classic writers of antiquity; that they made no pretensions to philosophy; that they were undistinguished in what the world regards as learning and eloquence; and, especially, that they had almost no knowledge of science as understood in the present age. They made no pretensions to what now constitutes the science of astronomy, chemistry, anatomy, mechanics; and, as compared with the philosophers of Greece, and the literary and scientific men of Germany, France, England, and our own country, the ancient Jew could have no claim to eminence, nor, in relation to these things, has he transmitted any thing that the world thinks worth preserving. It may add to the force of this consideration to remember that all the eminence of any kind which they had in ancient times ceased with the sacred writers, and that with the exception of Josephus and Philo, after the destruction of their Temple, they were of all pretended
literary people the most puerile and trifling. They wrote no poetry worth preserving or reading; they produced no orators or historians Of any distinction; they pushed forward no discoveries in science, and their writings, as produced in the Talmud, are the most dis
' tinguished of all compositions for frivolous things and for childish conceits. The writers of the Bible were mostly shepherds, peasants, fishermen, with no other and no better training than are now found in men of that rank in life.
As an illustration of this point, I may refer particularly to the apostle John. He was a fisherman on the Lake of Tiberias when Jesus first saw him, and called him to the work of an apostle. We have his Gospel,
• and we have his book of "Revelation," and, bearing in remembrance that he was a fisherman, we are to ask what would fishermen taken from the banks of the Delaware, from Marblehead and Gloucester, or from the Banks of Newfoundland, be likely to produce if called to compose a book on the subject of John's Gospel, or the Book of Revelation ? Suppose he were called to delineate a perfect character; to represent an incarnate God—living, acting, and speaking with man, and as a man; to compose or record from memory discourses of the profoundest character respecting God; to describe future scenes, in the world's great changes, in pictures and symbols, what would be likely to be the result of such an effort ? In illustrating this point, in language better than I can use, I may be permitted here to introduce an extract from a discourse by Dr. Dwight: " The apostle John," says he, " was born in an age when the philosophy of his country was a mere mass of quibbling, its religion a compound of pride and bigotry, and its worship a ceremonious parade. His lineage, his circumstances, his education, and his employment were those of a fisherman. On what natural principle can it be accounted for that, like the sun breaking out of an evening cloud, this plain man, in these circumstances, should, at an advanced age, burst upon mankind with a flood of effulgence and glory? Whence did it arise that, in purity of precept, discernment of truth, and an acquaintance with the moral character of man, and the attributes of his Maker, this peasant leaves Socrates, Plato, and Cicero out of sight and out of remembrance ? Do you question the truth of this representation ? The proof is at hand and complete. There is not a child of fifteen in this house who, if possessed of the common education of this land, would not disdain to worship their gods or to embrace their religion. But Bacon* and Boyle; Butler and Berkeley; Newton and Locke; Addison and Johnson; Jones and Horseley, have submissively embraced the religion of St. John, and worshiped the God whose character he has unfolded. Their systems have long since gone to the grave of oblivion. His has been animated with increasing vigor to the present hour, and will live and flourish through endless ages. Their. writings have not made one man virtuous. His have peopled heaven with the children of light. The seventeenth chapter of his gospel, written as it is with tfie simplicity of a child, yet in grandeur of conception and in splendor of moral excellence triumphs with inexpressible glory over all the efforts of human genius, and looks down from heaven on the proudest labors of infidelity."*
(2.) The class of truths discussed and disclosed by these men may be referred to as a second illustration of the evidence of their inspiration. A remark or two, * Sermons, vol. ii., p. 436, 437.
without attempting now to demonstrate the truth of the remark, or to illustrate it, is all that the time will admit.
(a) All that we truly know about God is from the Bible. I say " know /" I do not say imagine or conjecture. What did the Egyptians, the Persians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans know about God ? What did the ancient inhabitants of Britain, the Druids, the Celts, the Gaelic tribes ? What did the Goths, the Vandals, the Gauls, the Visigoths, that came pouring down from the North on the Roman empire ? What do the people of China, of India, of Tartary, or the tribes of Africa know? What do the followers of Mohammed, except as Mohammed learned it from the Bible? What has philosophy ever taught men about God ? What does science teach them now ? Does the telescope reach his throne ? Does the microscope disclose him ? They disclose something, you say; and so it may be, or at least they lay the foundation of reasoning about some things pertaining to God — perhaps to his existence; his greatness; his power; his knowledge. But how about those things which we are most interested in knowing—his moral character; his mercy; his justice; his goodness; his truth—about the question whether he is worthy of confidence? How long in the laboratory will the chemist toil before he will obtain from earths and alkalies—from the crucible and the blow-pipe—an answer to these questions ? Just as long as his predecessors of the Middle Ages, the alchemists, would have toiled to find the philosopher's stone or the elixir of life.
(b) All that we know about the immortality of the soul we learn from the Bible. I say here also, all that we " know," not what we may conjecture and wish for. Do philosophers disclose that ? Do astronomers ? Do chemists ? Do scientific men, as such, even believe in the immortality of the soul ? If they do believe it, do they believe it as the result of their discoveries in science ? Does the chemist believe it because he has found the proof of it in his laboratory ? Do mental philosophers believe it on the ground of their own reasonings ? The profoundest argument on this subject in ancient or modern philosophy is undoubtedly that of Plato in the "Gorgias." And yet who is convinced by that now? Who does not rise from the perusal of that argument with the conviction—painful and sad on his mind—that if this is all, then, indeed, " shadows, clouds, and darkness" rest on the whole subject ? You could not convince a child in any of our Sunday-schools, from that argument, that his soul is immortal. Hear Cicero again on that argument of Plato, in a passage which I have quoted to you before: " I know not how it is, but when I read I assent; but when I lay down the book, and begin by myself to reflect on the immortality of the soul, all that assent glides away."*
(c)/All that we know about a plan of salvation is learned^ifrom the Bible, not from philosophy or science. Science does not disclose such a plan — any plan by which a sinner may be saved. It is not, and it is not supposed to be, a part of the province of science to reveal such a plan, and 'scientific men, as such, are careful to keep their own province distinct from any such plan,
* Marcus. Quid tibi ergo opera nostra opns est? num eloquentia Platonem snperare possumus? evolve diligenter ejus eum librum, qui est de animo; amplius quod desideres, nihil erit. Auditor. Feri mehercule, et quidem ssepius, sed nescio quo modo, dum lego, assentior; cum posui librum, et mecum ipse de immortalitate animorum ccepi cogitare, assensio omnis ilia elabilur.—Cicero, Tnsc. Qusest., lib. i, cap. xii.
or the suggestion of any such plan. However much, in other respects, scientific men may seem to encroach on the doctrines of the Bible; however the geologist, to use a phrase derived from the law, but which may be regarded as quite expressive of the idea, may claim " concurrent jurisdiction" with the Bible over the subjects involved in its department, yet nothing of this kind is claimed or is manifest in regard to a plan of redemption for sinners, or a way of saving men. Neither the astronomer, nor the anatomist, nor the chemist claims for himself any special knowledge on this subject above other men, nor in the books published in these departments of science is there any suggestion about the way in which a sinner may be saved. Whatever may have been claimed by " philosophers," so called, in ancient times, in regard to this; whatever Socrates or Plato may have suggested, yet it is certain that the writers on mental philosophy of these times do not regard the matter as coming within the cognizance of their department of learning, and that, in reference to a plan of salvation for sinners, we should be as unsuccessful in our inquiries in the writings of Kant, of Sir William Hamilton, and of J. Stewart Mill, as we should in a treatise on Logarithms or Fluxions./ It has somehow occurred to the writers of the Bible to state such a plan; to make it prominent; to weave it into the entire structure of the book; to make it the grand thing on which the composition of the book turns; to make it the idea, in fact, running through the entire collection of books from Genesis to Revelation, sixty in number, and composed by perhaps a hundred different authors—an idea that runs through the book as really as the wrath of Achilles runs through all the books of the Iliad, or the wrath of Juno through the iEniad, or the fall of man through the Paradise Lost — though these are respectively the production of one man—of one mind.
(d) All that we know about a future state is from the Bible. I do not say all that we conjecture or imagine, but all that we know. Science does not pertain to that world, nor does it -determine any thing on the question whether there is to be a future world, or, if there is, what it is to be. The crucible and the blowpipe impart no light on that subject; the telescope has nothing. to reveal in regard to it; the geologist is laboring to determine something in regard to the interminable past, but he has nothing to reveal in regard to the interminable future. The footprints of birds, and the fossil bones, and the rocks reveal something in regard to the past, but they have nothing to say about that which is to come. If or can any man carry the deductions of his science—natural philosophy, mental philosophy, astronomy, chemistry, fluxions—a single step beyond the grave. Nor does any one come back from that world, if there is such a world, to tell the scientific man and the philosopher that there is such a world, and what it is. Apart from the Bible, we are in utter darkness—a " land of darkness and of the shadow of death; a land of darkness as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness" (Job, x., 21, 22).
(3.) The truths disclosed in the Bible are up to this age, and are still in advance of the world. Science has never come up to them; the progress made in the world in our own marvelous age has not superseded them. The Bible has not been dropped by the way, as the works of Averroes, of Galen, of Roger Bacon have been; nor has it found its place in the alcoves of the library where lie superseded and forgotten books of past times. It lives. It has a vitality and an energy which it never had before—in the nineteenth century as much ahead of the world, in its own departments, as it was in the time when its great truths were first preached on Mars' Hill by Paul. This remark I shall have occasion to illustrate in the tenth and concluding Lecture of this course, and it must now, therefore, be taken for granted.
(4.) It remains, then, to ask how these men knew these things; how they were able to propound these truths, which are to live through all the changes of the world; to influence permanently and perpetually the nations of the earth; to survive while countless generations of men pass away ?
Was it genius that produced the Bible ? How came these men to be endowed with such a genius ? Why has not the same thing occurred elsewhere among such classes of men—peasants and fishermen? Where else have such classes of men produced such a book ? There has been one Burns, one Bunyan, one Shakspeare—perhaps a dozen or a score more of such men of remarkable genius—plowmen, glovers, tinkers; but if all their compositions were put together, would they make one book; would there be one plan; would there be unity of design ; would there be such power in the volume; would the volume commend itself so much to all classes of men; would it secure so permanent a hold; would it perpetuate and extend itself so among the nations of the earth; would it so meet the wants of man as a sinner, as a sufferer, as a dying being, as immortal ?
Did the sacred writers borrow this from others? From whom ? From the Persian magi; from Chaldaean sages; from Egyptian priests? These were the only M
ones to borrow from at the time when a considerable part of the book was written, and they have not borrowed from them. They had nothing, and they have transmitted nothing to us which could be regarded as the original of which the Bible is a copy / and, whatever may be said of the Bible, it is an original book.
Is it the production of insanity ? Something like the ravings of the Pythian priestess or the priest of Apollo; something like those great thoughts which a mind like that of Hamlet could produce, the workings of " melancholic madness of a delicate shade, in which the reasoning faculties, the intellect proper, so far from being overcome or disordered, may, on the other hand, be rendered more active and vigorous ?"* It can not be necessary to argue this. Perhaps an apology is necessary for having alluded to it again.
Is it the result of inspiration ? This is the remaining solution. This, at least, will account for the facts. This will explain all. This is the most simple and easy solution ; this is what they claim for themselves; this is what has commended itself as the best solution of the facts to the great mass of mankind for these eighteen hundred years. This is likely to be extensively the opinion of mankind for generations to come.
That there are difficulties in the view which has now been submitted to you is not to be denied. That there are many questions which may be asked in regard to the inspiration of the Bible, which, if they do not remain to be asked, remain to be answered, is to be admitted. That there are things in the Bible apparently inconsistent with the high purpose of a revelation from God; that there are apparent inconsistencies and con
* Shakspeare's Delineations of Insanity, etc., by A. 0. Kellogg, M. D., p. 36.
tradictions in the book itself; that there are discrepancies between its statements and the statements of secular history—not determined yet which is right; that there are commands not easy to be reconciled with our notions of justice and morality; that there are statements which seem to conflict with many of the disclosures of science, no friend of the Bible can deny. That to solve these questions, and remove these difficulties, would be the meritorious work of a long life, a field worthy of the highest talent of any young man desirous of rendering the most efficient service possible to the Church of God, I most firmly believe. That there is no work on the inspiration of the Bible that meets all these questions, and removes all these difficulties, so that it would commend itself to a candid inquirer after truth as entirely satisfactory, be he infidel or otherwise, I think any one must admit who has had occasion to examine what has been written on the subject.
But these admitted facts do not affect the reasoning in this Lecture, if the reasoning has any value. The difficulties of science yet unexplained, and that seem, as many of them do, to lie beyond the compass of the human mind, do not affect the general course of argument in regard to astronomy, chemistry, geology, anatomy. The apparent inconsistencies and contradictions in the movements of the heavenly bodies are not allowed to set aside the deductions which seem to be clearly established. Time does wonders in all sciences. One after another difficulties are removed; a thing that seemed to jar is shown to be, in fact, in harmony; what seemed to be irreconcilable with something else is shown to be, in fact, essential to the very existence, and to the proper action of that " something else." How many difficulties, contradictions, discrepancies, thus silently vanish as light advances in the world, and as the real harmonies of the uerse are better understood ! Thousands of hearts, and heads, and hands are thus successfully toiling in removing the difficulties in nature ; intellects not less profound, learning not less extensive, hands not less active, are toiling in like manner, and with as much prospect of success, in removing the questions of difficulty in regard to the Bible.
It' is said that much of the Bible relates to common matters; to trifles; to things that men could learn without a revelation; to things that are of no great consequence; to things low and insignificant.
Much of this is so; and the same is as true of the world as God made it as it is of the Bible that He has revealed. Atoms; molecules; germs; infusoria; worms; reptiles; insects made to torment and annoy; centipedes ; tarantulas; vermin — why all these things ? Would the God that revealed the great truths of human redemption " reveal," if revelation it can be called, so many trivial things in the Bible ? Would the God that made the sun, the stars, the milky way, the millions—the numberless millions of suns that flame in the far distant realms of space, make and care for these things so trivial; so annoying; so noxious ?
It is said that there are discrepancies; inconsistencies; contradictions.
It is so, apparently. Are there none in nature that science has not yet taught us how to reconcile and harmonize? There was a discrepancy in the movements of the planet Uranus, lying, as was supposed, on the outer circle of the planetary worlds. It did not work well. It did not keep its course. It bent out of its way. It was not in harmony with the rest; nor could astronomers tell why. Le Verrier and Adams simultaneously gave their minds to the solution of the difficulty, and each suggested that there was another planet, as yet unseen by man, far in the region beyond it. The astronomer at Berlin pointed his telescope to the spot where they said it would be found, and the harmony of the planetary system was restored.
Who knows what time may do in removing apparent inconsistencies and contradictions ? Listen to a remark of . Hume: " No priestly dogmas ever shocked common sense more than the infinite divisibility of extension, with its consequences."*
It is said that there are things taught, commanded, and done in the Bible, as the command to Abraham to offer up his son Isaac, and the command to destroy the nations of Canaan, which it is difficult to reconcile with our notions of morality.
This, also, is so; and the same thing is true of much that God does in our world, and of much that he permits. Who has explained these things ? Who has been able to show exactly how the things that occur on earth under the divine administration — by the orderings of His providence, and by His own hand, are consistent with our notions of justice and right; our views of morality; our conceptions of benevolence ? When there are any fewer difficulties in the facts in our world than there are in this respect in the statements of the Bible, then it will be proper, on this account, to make it a special objection to the Bible as a work of God; when men have succeeded in explaining the difficulties in the facts as they occur under the divine administration, and in showing how they are consistent with our notions of justice, goodness, and morality, then it will remain to inquire whether possibly the same explanation might * Philosophical Works, vol. iv.,p. 182.
not remove all the difficulties from the same source pertaining to the word of God. The entrance of sin; the sorrows and woes of earth; the inequalities in the human condition; the destruction of the innocent—of women, and old men, and infants by the plague, by pestilence, and by famine; the desolations of war, not less savage and barbarous than the wars of Canaan; the divine vengeance taken on nations through the agency of the wicked passions of men—the love of conquest, revenge, and ambition—O for the coming of some one, gifted above all mortals hitherto, that shall be able to explain these things, and to tell how they are consistent with the character of a just and holy God; with our conception of what is right, and of what would be for the best; with our notions of benevolence, equity, righteousnes for some gifted mind to tell how sin, and woe, and death came into the uerse at all Q Till such an appearing, what better can we do than to suppose, in either case, that there may be principles at present beyond our grasp that may explain the one and the other; that the principles which would be applicable to the one may be applicable to the other; that the God of nature may be the God of the Bible.
These things constitute no great difficulty in the practical affairs of life; they need constitute no great difficulty in the practical matters of religion. They do not prove, in the one case, that the world is not the workmanship of a pure and holy God; they do not prove, in the other, that the Bible is not from the same pure and holy Being.
Have we reached a conclusion on this subject which will be satisfactory to your minds ? Perhaps I ought not to venture to affirm what I would hope may be true. Have we removed all difficulties from the subject ? Assuredly this has not been done; nor, in a world so full of difficulties on kindred subjects, could we hope that this could be done. But, notwithstanding these things, it may have been shown that the Bible is a book whose origin is not to be accounted for by a reference to human genius; and that the most simple and philosophical explanation of the facts in regard to it is, that it is given by Inspiration Op God—as the most satisfactory explanation of our world, after all, with all its difficulties, is, that it is The Creation Of God.