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a new series of investigations which may go far to modify results widely accepted, and may help us to obtain a purer text.
It does not help us to try to shelve this aspect of the question of Inspiration by speaking of the Scripture “as originally given." For that is an ideal document far beyond our reach, and of its merits and qualities we cannot make any affirmation whatsoever. What must concern us is the Scripture we actually have, and on which we depend for life and guidance, for hope and consolation, for salvation and redemption. We are concerned with these actual Scriptures by the use of which we are made wise unto salvation, and they must have, in their present form, the property and the quality of enabling us to know the mind of Christ and the will of God for our salvation. As a matter of fact, the Scriptures do fulfil the purpose of their being even in the present state of the text. They are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness, and they produce all the effects on the lives of men, on heart and mind and conscience, which are promised in the Scriptures themselves.
From another point of view, the uncertainty of the text, the number and the history of the various readings, and the process by which they have become what they are, have a positive advantage. They are one means by which we are able to trace the documents of the New Testament back, and to vindicate for them an early date. We are learning to use the history of text variations for apolegetic purposes, and by-and-bye we shall be able to give a triumphant answer to those who would make all our New Testament books to be documents of the second century. There are indications not a few which point in this direction ; but it would be irrelevant to introduce them here. My aim is to show that it is scarcely possible for us to make the affirmations about the infallibility of Scripture which are made until we have got a perfect text, and that we are never likely to have.
The foregoing remarks refer mainly to the New Testament. Scholars often wish that there was the same margin of uncertainty, and a like inner circle of certainty, with regard to the text of the Old Testament. But the truth is that we have no means of obtaining an Old Testament text as near to probable truth as the text of the New Testament is. In many passages the text seems to be corrupt, and every one knows how widely the Hebrew text differs from the Septuagint. Time was when it was earnestly contended that the vowel points was part of the Hebrew text, but no one thinks now of making that assertion. Still, it was made, and alarming consequences were predicted if the contrary was affirmed, and yet it was proven that the introduction of the vowel points was comparatively late, and no serious consequences have followed. But many able and pious people were anxious and alarmed, and thought that the doctrine of Inspiration was seriously endangered.
Another obvious reflection is that the doctrine of Inspiration is consistent with a measure of uncertainty with regard to the interpretation of the text of Scripture. For Scripture is variously interpreted. Preconceptions, presuppositions of all kinds are brought to the Scriptures, and the result is the various schemes of doctrine, each of which is professedly based on the Scriptures. Even when men go to the Scriptures to ascertain what they really mean, and resolutely strive to take nothing with them to the Scriptures, and to learn only what they teach, it is no easy task they undertake. Every exegete knows how hard it is to get face to face with the Scriptures. The greater our reverence for the Scriptures, and the more we desire to understand them in their pure simplicity, the harder we feel our task to be. A misinterpretation is a grave and serious offence against truth, and against Him whose word the Scriptures is. When we have used every endeavour, taken every precaution, there is still a margin of uncertainty, as every scholar knows. So much is needed in order to understand the Scriptures. We need to know something of the conditions of life and thought of the period of their production, something also of the stage of growth or decay of the language in which they were written; what words really meant at that particular time, or what new meaning New Testament writers poured into old words; something also of the mind, the character, the habit of the particular writer whose works we study, we must learn. Ignorance or a mistake in any of these matters, and in any of the other conditions of interpretation which I have not mentioned, will leave us with a margin of uncertainty as to the real meaning of Scripture; and this margin of uncertainty ought to make us modest when we seek to formulate our doctrine of Inspiration, or to set forth what is implied. in it. The history of interpretation is very suggestive. It needs no wide learning to know that there have been periods when the Allegorical method widely prevailed, when the plain historical meaning of Scripture was buried under a load of socalled spiritual lessons : scarcely any fact of Scripture was allowed to be left in its historical simplicity; vast systems of doctrine were based on numbers supposed to have a spiritual meaning; and generally what was professedly brought out of Scripture was first read into it. It is only by slow degrees that interpretation has become historical, exegetical, scientific. Nor are we far removed from the time when men used the Scriptures as a book from which some intimation of the future might be obtained by the simple process of opening its pages at random, and taking the first sentence which met the eye as an intimation of the Divine Will. No one will now affirm that this is a legitimate use of Scripture. Yet, as is pointed out by Professor Harris, there are sentences on the margin of “the S. Germain Codex of the Latin Bible known to the New Testament students by the sign g?,” which shows that “ the book has been used for purposes of divination, a custom which seems to have widely prevailed in early times, both in civil and ecclesiastical matters (4 Study of Codex Beza, chap. ii.). Practices of this kind, whether in ancient or modern times, reveal a desire on the part of those who used them to attain to greater certainty than the nature of the case admitted. Such a desire may have a larger influence than we know in shaping other conclusions both of a practical and of a theoretic kind.
A due regard to historical and scientific exegesis reveal other phenomena of Scripture which must be consistent with the doctrine of Inspiration. We are familiar now with the science of Biblical theology. At this hour it is surely not necessary to defend either the method of study or the results which have been ascertained in the sphere of Biblical theology. But it is comparatively a new science, and, though new, one of the most fruitful in theology. We have come to know that within the vast organism of the Scriptures, as a whole, there are many smaller organisms, relatively independent, and yet conspiring to form the great harmony of the united system of the Word of God. How rich is the diversity of types of doctrine and points of view within the New Testament; and how much richer our theology has become since we have been able in some measure to do justice to the special features of each presentation of the truth; and to recognize, as in a measure we are able to do, how necessary this variety is, in order that we may have some conception of the vastness, manifoldness, and harmonious unity of the truth as it is in Jesus. This new achievement of theology reminds us of the similar situation with regard to the sciences which deal with the outward world. Each science has dealt with its own subject, according to its own method; and when the work of each was so far done, it was found that the inter-relations between them kept pace with the individual progress, until men were able to see that there was a circle or organism of the sciences. Notwithstanding the diversity of one from another, they were found to unite in a higher harmony; and some principles --such as the Conservation of Energy-were really dominant, and all the sciences together were subject to them.
A similar result unfolds itself to the student of the New Testament as he follows his scientific guides through its various books. Each of the Gospels has its own point of view, its own guiding principle, its own leading thought. So much has been won, and may be said to be universally acknowledged. We get from Matthew one way of setting forth Jesus Christ, His person, His work, His place, power, and purpose. What it is we do not at present determine. But we may take for granted that the results of Biblical theology are so far sure as to enable us to say that the aims of the Gospels are diverse. One view from Matthew, another from Mark, another from Luke, and still another from John. There was a time when this rich diversity of system was lost sight of, and was almost obliterated by attempts at a harmony of the Gospels. Biblical science is wiser now, and it strains itself in the effort to set forth the contents of each Gospel in its own distinctive attainment. When this has been done in an adequate manner, then we shall see how they all fall together, and have their place in the grand harmonious truth which concerns the mission, and the peace, and the person of the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us.
What is true of the Gospels is true also of the other books of the New Testament. We are beginning to appreciate the vast variety which is contained in the Epistles of Paul. We find that there is a growing fulness
and the power, of revealed truth in his Epistles. From his first extant Epistle-to the Thessalonians—or through them all until we come to the Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, we see that the inspired Apostle is led on from truth to truth until he is able to attain to and to set forth the glory of his Master. Christ is placed not only in relation to sinners of the human race, but Christ is shown to be " the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in Him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions, or principalities or powers ; all things have been created through Him and unto Him, and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” The Apostle was a man that grew in the knowledge of Christ. Under the pressure of many perplexing questions, troubled with many problems raised day by day by some of the many Churches, the charge of which lay on him, meditating much, and thinking deeply, the Apostle is led by the Spirit of God to these statements of the doctrine of the Person of Christ which formed the solution of all the problems which needed to be settled.
We find many other phenomena in the Epistles of Paul. Not to speak of language, style, dialectic reasoning, and other things of that sort, we find that as we pass from group to group of his Epistles, arranging them as far as possible in groups near to each other as regards the time of their having been written, that each group has its own characteristic expressions, its leading conceptions, and its peculiar modes of thought and feeling; and all these varied results are under Inspiration. Thus Inspiration is consistent not only with the characteristics, emotional, intellectual, volitional, of any man, as distinct from another, but is consistent with marked changes in the man himself. It is consistent with the fire, impetuosity, and elasticity of youth; it is also consistent with the wide and wary outlook of ripe experience, and with the calm disciplined power which is the outcome of life-long devotion and loyalty to truth and duty. Such conclusions necessarily follow from a study of the life and writings of Paul.
This follows also from a study of the other writings of the New Testament in their individual peculiarity. How singular in many respects is the Epistle of James! What originality in the Epistle to the Hebrews ! When we study it under the guidance of such a man as Riehm, or Westcott, or Bruce, and follow the evolution of thought through all its ramifications, what a difference do we find between its point of view and the point of view of any other book of the New Testament. Why insist on these things ? They are notorious to every student of the Bible. Well, our reason is to show what service historical criticism and scientific exegesis has done for the better understanding of the New Testament. Another aim we have in view is to show that the doctrine of Inspiration must be stated in such a way as to be consistent with all the facts we know. For in all our dealings with the Scriptures, science has its rights, which can neither be gainsaid nor ignored. The laws of grammar have their place in the interpretation of an inspired document. For if an inspired book is to be understood, it must use
intelligible language, and must submit itself to the ordinary laws of human speech. This need scarcely be stated. Thus we have our grammars of the New Testament, our lexicons, our references to classical usage, our investigations into the origin, character, and history of that form of Greek in which most of the New Testament books are written. It is of importance too that we should learn how far the writers of the New Testament have departed from classical usage, how far they have introduced new words, how far they are infiuenced by Hebrew idiom, because without some knowledge of this it is hopeless to attain a true interpretation. Nor are we to be unmindful of the peculiarities of the individual writer, nor of the conditions of thought and life of the time in which he lived.
So far we have spoken of the New Testament, for, with respect to it, the question of interpretation is comparatively simple. All the books contained in it are the product of one century, and are produced under similar historical conditions. They were all in existence within less than a hundred years after the Ascension of our Lord. But with regard to the Old Testament, we have a far more complex problem. Here we have a literature which ranges over a thousand years, produced under all conditions of human society. It has almost all the forms which literature assumes.
It has ancient songs, like the Song of Deborah, and the fragment preserved from the book of the Wars of Jehovah. It has catalogues of names, like those in the books of Chronicles ; moral laws, like the Decalogue ; laws which regulate rites and ceremonies, such as we have in the Levitical legislation; beautiful stories, like that of Joseph ; forms of impassioned poetic speech in the Psalms and the Prophets. It is addressed to a people at almost every stage of civilization, and it traces the history of that people, and describes their character and conduct, in the plainest possible terms. Laws are given to them which are described by the highest possible authority as given to them for the hardness of their hearts; customs and ways of living are permitted, or not forbidden, which are absolutely prohibited in the New Testament. There are many other things which strike us in our reading of the literature of the Old Testament.
One obvious thing is the marvellous unity which runs through all the diversity of the books. The books are different in form, different in style, different in subject and matter, and yet there is one tone and spirit in them all. There is growth in them, there is a gradual unfolding in them of the great thoughts which come to perfect expression in the New Testament. In reading them, any one of them, we never can get away from the presence of the living God, nor can we read them without a deepening sense of human sin and unworthiness. From first to last, amid all the perplexing questions that arise, this sense of the Divine Presence in the Book is never absent, a sense which grows ever more keen and vivid as that Presence discloses itself more and more.
But the study of the Old Testament raises many questions. These are not questions which have been raised in a wilful and arbitrary manner, nor