In this connection the so-called internal proof for the Divine character of the Holy Scripture must also be understood. In a later period it has been made to appear that the "heavenly majesty of the doctrines, the marvellous completeness of the prophecies, the wonderful miracles, the consent of all its parts, the divineness of the discourse," and so much more, formed a system of outward proofs able to convince the reason without enlightenment; but our first theologians, at least, did not attach such a meaning to them. They taught that these inner relations of the Scripture were understood, and thus were able to serve their real purpose only when, by enlightening, the spiritual understanding had been clarified and purified. He only, who in palingenesis had experienced a miracle in his own person, ceased to react against miracles, but rather invoked them himself. He who had observed the fulfilment of several prophecies in his own spiritual life, understood the relation between prophecy and its fulfilment. He who heard the music of the Divine melody of redemption in his own soul was rapt in wonder (rapiebatur in admirationem), as they expressed it, in listening to the Oratorio of Salvation proceeding from the heavenly majesty of doctrine in the Holy Scripture. As the ConfessTM Belgica states in Art. 9, that we even believe the mystery of the Trinity "from their operations, and chiefly by those we feel in ourselves," our faith in the Divine character of the Scripture rests upon the experience of spiritual life that addresses us from that Scripture. That similarity of personal experience fosters affinity, quickens sympathy and opens eye and ear. In by far the greater number of cases this testimo- ^ nium Spiritus Sancti works gradually and unobserved. The "enlightening" increases gradually in intensity, and in proportion as it grows stronger we see more, and see with more certainty, and stand the more firmly. Sometimes, however, this witness of the Holy Spirit becomes more incisive in character. This is especially noticeable in days of general apostasy, and then the child of God is fully conscious of this incisive inworking. Living in a society of high intellectual development, and taking notice of what is contributed by reason without enlightening to enervate the Divine character of the Holy Scripture, inwardly most painful discord is born. Doubt is contagious. When with firm tread you walk along your well-chosen way, and without hesitancy at the cross-road turn to the right, you are involuntarily brought to a standstill, and shocked for a moment in your feeling of assurance, when three or four persons call out after you that you should turn to the left. As in sanctification you are made to err in this way from time to time with respect to the Holy Scripture, you may be led to doubt, and even for a while pursue wrong paths. But this will not be permanent. The work of grace is not left to yourself, but with a firm hand is guided by the Holy Spirit, who in no mechanical way, but by a richer spiritual experience, at length restores you to seeing again what is truly Divine. And when the Holy Spirit enters accusation against us in our own soul that we kick against the pricks, and depend more on our own and Satan's word than on His Word, and moves and implores us with groanings unspeakable that for the sake of the glory of God and our salvation we attach again a greater significance to His Word than to any other, then there comes that incisive, and therefore decisive, moment when the child of God lays the hand on his mouth, and with shame and confusion turns his back upon doubt, in
order that in contrition and sorrow he may hearken again to the Holy Spirit as the speaker in His Word. As said before, however, this incisive character is not borne by the witness of the Holy Spirit in every person, nor at all times. As the conversion of many people has taken place almost without observation, which often happens in the quieter walks of Christian life, and the conversion of a few only, who at first wandered far off, is incisive like that of an Augustine, such also is the case here. For the most part this witness works gradually and unobserved, and only in exceptional cases is it as lightning that suddenly flames through the skies.
From the nature of this witness of the Holy Spirit, it follows at the same time, that it begins with binding us simply to the Holy Scripture in its centrum. It is the central truth concerning our ego, concerning the world about us, and of the true reality which is with God, that takes hold of us, convinces and follows after us, until we give ourselves captive to it. This central truth will take hold of one by this, and of another by that utterance, in proportion as our inner life is tuned to it; but the first impressions will always cause us to descend into the depths of misery and ascend to the heights of redemption. How far the authority, which from this spiritual centrum obtains its hold on us, extends itself later to those things in the Scripture that lie on the periphery, is a question devoid at first of all spiritual significance. Conditions are conceivable in which, after one is captured centrally by the Scripture, the clashing is continued for many years between our thinking and acting on the one hand, and that which the Scripture lays upon us in the name of the Lord as faith and practice (credenda and agenda). Gradually, however, an ever more vitally organic relation begins to reveal itself between the centrum of the Scripture and its periphery, between its fundamental and its derivative thoughts, and between its utterances and the facts it communicates. That authority which at first addressed us from that centrum only, now begins to appear to us from what has proceeded from that centrum. We feel ourselves more and more captivated by a power, whose centrum cannot be accepted without demanding and then compelling all unobservedly an ever more general consent for its entire appearance, and all its utterances. Thus it ends as Scripture by imposing sacred obligations upon us, as Holy Book by exercising over us moral compulsion and spiritual power. And in the end the connection between its form and content appears so inseparable, that even the exceptional parts of its form appeal to us, and, in form and content both, the Scripture comes to stand before us as an authority from God.
But this process of conviction worked in us by the Spirit, is always a spiritual work, which has nothing in common with the learning of the schools; it is moreover incapable of maintaining itself theoretically and of continuing itself according to a definable system. By itself it tends no further than to bear spiritual testimony to our personal, regenerated ego concerning the Divine character of everything the Holy Scripture teaches and reveals; and without more, the truth, for instance, of graphic inspiration can never be derived from it. If, however, an absolute certainty concerning this Divine character of the content of the Scripture has been sealed in the personal consciousness of man by this witness of the Holy Spirit, the effect of this goes back to the two former stages of the public opinion (communis fides), and the cleaving to Christ. With this conviction, which is now his own for good and always, he, who has been set free from the veil that darkly hung between, does not stand alone, but feels himself assimilated by the illuminated consciousness which in the communion of the saints is distinguished from the natural consciousness of the world. This assimilation becomes the stronger, according to the greater vitality of the child of God in him, by which he is evermore being changed into the image of the Son of God. Thus there originates a communion of consciousness not merely with those round about us, but also with the generation of saints of former ages, affinity of life with the saints that have gone before, unity of soulconceptions with the martyrs, with the fathers of the Church, with the apostles, and so at length with Christ Himself and with the faithful of the Old Covenant. In the life-consciousness of that sacred circle the positive conviction prevails, that we have a graphically inspired Scripture, on which we lean and by which we live; and that this is not contingent, nor accidental, but necessary. This faith in the Scripture is found as an indispensable and an entirely natural component part in the life-consciousness of this circle. And when in experience the riches of the Scripture contents become ever more precious to the heart, resistance is no longer possible. The power of assimilation is too strong, the general unsanctified human consciousness loses all its power, and at length the believer must accept the equally general, but now sanctified, human consciousness, including this component part of its content. If then, finally, the believer goes back to the first stage in his Christian life, i.e. to his personal faith in his Saviour, and realizes that Christ himself has presented the Holy Scripture — which the common opinion in the communion of saints has adopted in its world of thought as theopneustic, and of the Divine troth of which, thanks to the "Witness of the Holy Spirit," he is himself firmly convinced— as the product of the Holy Spirit, the assurance of his faith on this point is immovably established, and to him the Scripture itself is the principium, i.e., the startingpoint, from which proceeds all knowledge of God, i.e. all theology.
In this sense the Holy Scripture was the principium of Theology to our fathers, and in the same sense it is this to us. Hence this principium, as such, can be no conclusion from other premises, but is itself the premise, from which all other conclusions are drawn. Of course this does not dismiss the fact, that objections, derived from the common norma of our thought, can still be entered against the Holy Scripture and its alleged character; in this, indeed, every one should be left free, and these objections it is the task of Theology squarely to face. This, however, can be considered only in the science of the canon (disciplina canonicae) and the science of the text (ars textualis). We merely observe that on the one hand this critical task should not be impeded in the least, provided it is clearly understood on the other hand that the failure of your first efforts to solve such critical objections can rob you of the certainty of your principium, as little as success can strengthen it. Assurance of faith and demonstration are two entirely heterogeneous things. And he who, in whatever department, still seeks to demonstrate his principium, simply shows that he does not know what is to be understood by a principium.