Note N

NOTE N.

On The Spirit Guiding The Church (Chap. 23).

The whole teaching of the apostle to the Corinthians, in regard to the need of the Spirit's revelation, if the truth is to maintain its Divine power and freshness, and if we are to be led farther and deeper into it, suggests to us the danger that may attach to creeds as the expression, in words of human wisdom, of the truths of Scriptura While they have their very high value aa temporary and secondary embodiments of the faith of the Church, they may so easily in practice usurp the place which theoretically we accord to the word of God alone. They may especially become hurtful when they are regarded as a sufficiently perfect and final formula of what the word has to teach us, and unconsciously close the heart against the expectation of any further teaching of the Spirit for the clearer and fuller unfolding of what is revealed in the word. The Holy Spirit has been given to the Church as a whole to guide her into all truth. We have to trace the way in which, during the first five centuries, amid human controversy and weakness, some of the great outstanding truths of revelation were mastered and formulated. We thank God for the restoration at the time of the Reformation of truths that had been lost sight of, and displaced by error. But is there no danger that many consider the leading of the Spirit to have become less needful after our Reformation creeds had been settled t They can hardly bear to think that the Holy Spirit may have more to teach His Church, or that a clearer and fuller setting forth of Divine truth than is to be found in our standards may be expected This attitude towards the Holy Spirit and His teaching is one of great danger. It closes the heart against that teachable and expectant spirit to which alone the Divine Spirit can reveal the truth of God in power. It fosters that spirit of self-contentment with the correctness of cur orthodoxy which unconsciously robs Holy Scripture of its authority at the very moment we are insisting on our allegiance to it . It tends toward the position of the Jews in the time of Christ, in which, while they fondly imagined that God's word was everything to them, it was their human exposition of it, their human image of God's truth, for which they were so zealous. We must learn to trust the H"ly Spirit more in our theology; 'He has still much to teacli us. As the life and work of the ministry comes more under the power of the Spirit, and the leading of the Spirit in every believer, as a necessity and a privilege, is acknowledged, we shall become familiarized with the thought of His leading the Church into the truth, and look in confidence to Him to do His work in ways we cannot beforehand mark out.

What makes many so unwilling to accept this truth is the apparent danger connected with it. They see a great number engaged in the task of reconciling the tiuth of revelation to the instincts of the human mind, to the spirit of the age, to the requirements of science. All these seek emancipation from the creeds, not. with ihe view to the restoration of a more purely scriptural theology, but in order to be free from all trammels in the construction of a system of religion that shall satisfy what is considered the religious consciousness of human reason. It is not difficult to see how far asunder these two parties stand, though both plead for liberty in regard to the creeds. The one pleads for liberty of judgment, to be free to follow the dictates of Reason as uttered by our wisest men; the other for the liberty of the spirit, to be free to receive and to follow the teachings of the Holy Spirit, as revealed to the Church wholly under His rule, and waiting for His opening up of what Scripture contains. It is well, in the interest of the Church, to have these two parties carefully distinguished. The Church and the faith have no truer friend* than those who, while acknowledging that in Reformation truth a noble foundation was laid, yet believe, that in raising the superstructure there is still much that the Holy Spirit needs to do, is willing to do, in revealing the full proportion of Scripture truth, if He find the Church ready to listen and obey His leading.

The following remarks, from one whose attachment to the form of sound doctrine and deep insight into Scripture are above all question, are worthy of careful consideration. In his Christ and the Scriptures Dr. Saphir says :—

'There is among us an uneasy feeling, a secret consciousness of something being wrong. The development of doctrine which is clearly opposed to that gospel which has proved itself to the heart and experience of man the power of God, is one cause of alarm; and a return to the bulwark of the Reformation creed and theology is naturally the remedy suggested. But against this two considerations are urged. In the first place, Israel ought never to look and turn back. The Lord Himself (and not an image of Him) is a wall of fire round us. Life ah me can combat the errors of death. But, in the second place, if the creeds could not even retain and preserve life (as history proves they were not able to do), how much less will they be able to rekindle a dying flame or to bring to life the dead! It is out of these very creeds that the present state of things has come, either as a development or as opposition, and our aim ought to be to find out whether, in these creeds, the absence of some scriptural element, or the false representation and emphasis of some scriptural element, be not the root of the disease which is manifesting itself.

'And here it is evident that two parties meet which may be essentially and radically different: those for whom the creeds contain too much of the scriptural element, and those for whom they contain too little of that element, or do not contain it in sufficient purity. The objectors to the creeds may be such either because the creeds are too Shemitic, or because they are not Shemitic enough.'

Let us still listen to the words of another. When John Robinson, pastor of a congregation of refugee Puritans at Ley den, was bidding farewell to the party of exiles who were leaving in the Mayflower for New England, and were to become celebrated under the name of 'the Pilgrim Fathers,' he spoke these memorable parting words: 'I charge you, that you follow me no farther than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord has more truth to break forth out of His holy word. I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition