« PreviousContinue »
ture-even as no doubt for some while the church did exist with a canon not full formed, but forming, and for a little while without any scriptures peculiarly its own, it is left out of sight that the question is not, whether a church could so exist, but whether it could subsisi—not whether it could be, but whether it could continue to be. That for a while, under rare combinations of favourable circumstances, with living witnesses and fresh memories of the Lord's life and death in the midst of it, a Christian church without any actual writings of a new covenant, could have existed, is one thing; and another, whether it could so have survived through long ages; whether, without them it could have kept ever before its eyes any clear and distinct image of Him that was its founder, or stamped any lovely impress of Him on the hearts of its children. No; that it possesses a scripture is assuredly no happy accident of the church ; but if the wonders of the church's first becoming were not to repeat themselves continually-if it was at all to know a natural revolution in the world ; then, as far as we can see, this was a necessary condition of its very subsistence."-(pp. 14–17.)
Having addressed to his audience some important practical considerations, Mr. T. thus returns to the immediate subject and design of his Lectures.
“ I shall desire," he says, “ reverently, and with God's grace assisting, to discover what I may, of the inner structure of this book which is so essential a factor in the spiritual life of men-humbly to trace where I can, the wisdom with which it is laid out to be the nourisher and teacher of all men, and of all men in all ages and in all parts of their complex being : also to show, where I am able, how it has approved itself as such."-(p. 18.)
The argument thus proceeds. 1. The unity of scripture is the first point. (Eph. i. 9, 10.) “ It is," Mr. T. observes, “ the necessary condition of a book which shall exert any great and effectual influence, which shall stamp itself with a deep impression upon the minds and hearts of men, that it must have a unity of purpose : one great idea must run through it all ..... not one which will play upon the surface of their minds that apprehend it, but reaching far down to the dark foundations out of sight of this awful being of ours."(pp. 23, 24.)
There must, in fact, be some single point in which all its different rays converge and meet. Now precisely such is the unity of scripture; and to show this is the object of Mr. T.'s second lecture. There is one idea in Holy Scripture, and this idea the very highest : all which it contains is referable to this. Nor is the unity in question involved or implied in the external accidents of the Book-for they are all such as would have created a sense of diversity. Language--form of comparison-chronology and authorship-all these would have tended to a different result. This unity, then, must lie deeper than all its outward circumstances—" in the all-enfolding seed out of which the whole book is evolved."--" But this unity of scripture—where is it? from what point shall we behold and recognize it?” Let Mr. T. answer his own inquiry.
"Surely," he observes, “ from that in which those verses which I have taken from the epistle to the Ephesians (i. 9, 10,) will place us: when we regard it as the story of the knitting anew the broken relations between the Lord God and the race of man : of the bringing the First-begotten into the world, for the gathering together all the scattered and sundered in Him : when we regard it as the true Paradise Regained-the true De Civitate Dei, even by a better title than those noble books which bear these names—the record of that mystery of God's will which was working from the first to the end 'that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ.'
“And all nearer examinations will show how true it is to this idea, which ve affirm to lie at its ground. It is the story of the divine relations of men, -of the divine life which, in consequence of those still subsisting relations, was struggling to the birth, with more or less successful issues, in every faithful man; which came perfectly to the birth in the One, even in Him in whom those relations were constituted at the first, and perfectly sealed at the last. It is the story of this and of nothing else : the record of the men who were conscious of a bond between earth and heaven, and not only dimly conscious -for that all people who have not sunk into savage hordes have been-but who recognized these relations, this fellowship, as the great undoubted fact with which God had underlaid their life; the support, not merely of their personal being, but as that which must sustain the whole society of earthwhether the narrower society of the family, or the wider of the state, or the all-embracing one of the church.”—(pp. 26–28.)
Such, Mr. T. remarks, is the true region in which only an Holy Scripture should move-and yet, how many other regions there were, in which, had it been other than what it is, it might have lost itself; theories of creation-endless cosmogonies—subtle speculations about the origin of the material universe. Thus, after the Christian faith had been given, a vast attempt was made to turn even that into a nature philosophy,—so willing are men to substitute the speculative for the practical, and to lose the last in the first. Such an attempt was Manicheism.
" But scripture is no story of the material world. A single chapter is sufficient to tell us that · God made the heavens and the earth.' Man is the central figure there, or, to speak more truly, the only figure-not one part of the furniture of this planet, not the highest merely in the scale of its creatures, but the lord of all-sun, moon, and stars, and all the visible creation, borrowing all their worth and their significance from the relations wherein they stand to him. Such he appears there in the ideal worth of his unfallen condition: and even now, when only a broken fragment of the sceptre with which once he ruled the world remains in his hand, such he is commanded to regard himself still...... And herein Holy Scripture is one, that it is throughout the history of man as distinct from nature-as immeasurably above nature-that it is throughout ethereal, and does never, as so many of the mythic accounts of heathen religions, resolve itself, on nearer inspection, into the mere setting forth of physical appearances.”—(pp. 29, 30.)
In brief, the Bible is not that which man, superficially looking at it, or in whom the speculative tendencies are stronger than the moral needs, might have desired it to be. It is not the history of nature but of man: nor yet of all men, but only of those who are more or less conscious of their divine original, and have not, amid
all their sins, forgotten that great word, “ We are God's offspring :”-nor yet even of all these, but of those alone who had been brought by the word of the promise into immediate covenant relation with the Father of their spirits. It is the history of an election of men under the direct and immediate education of God—not indeed for their own sakes only, as too many among them thought, turning their election into a selfish thing; but that through them he might educate and bless the world. That it does not tell the story of other men—that it does not give a philosophy of nature,-is not a deficiency, but is rather its strength and glory; witnessing for the Spirit which has provided for its growth and formation, and never suffered ought which was alien to its great plan and purpose to find admission into it—any foreign elements to weaken its strength or trouble its clearness. The Bible is not “ a world-history, but a history of the kingdom of God .... of men in a constitution of men, not seeking relations with God, but having them, and whose task is now to believe in them, and to maintain them :.... it presents him already in an hospital of souls, and under a divine treatment. Heathen philosophy might indeed be a preparation for Christianity-heathen mythology, upon its better side, an unconscious prophecy of Christ : yet were they only the negative preparation and witness : Jewish religion was the positive: and it is with the positive alone that a
Suure can ha positive : Semi si preparati.cious p
Such is Mr. T.'s first step in developing his argument touching the unity of Scripture, and in the course of which he very strikingly rebuts the objections of Spinoza and Voltaire, to the marked peculiarity of Scripture in assigning so prominent a place to man on the one hand, and in limiting, on the other, its history to little more than the annals of one small tribe, which occupied a narrow strip of mountainous territory, scarcely broader than Wales, leaving almost unnoticed the mighty empires of Egypt and Assyria.
We cannot well abridge the remainder of the argument, or the striking remark on the Apocalypse which follows. We shall therefore give it entire. Mr. T. proceeds :
“Nor less does Holy Scripture give testimony for a pervading unity-an inner law, according to which it unfolds itself as a perfect and organic whole, in the epoch in which growth in it ceases, and it appears henceforth as a finished book. So long as humanity was growing, it grew .But when the manhood of our race was reached, when man had attained his highest pointeven union with God in his Son-then it comes to a close. It carries him up to this, to his glorious goal, to the perfect knitting again of the broken relations, through the life, and death, and resurrection of Him in whom God and man were perfectly atoned. So long as there was any thing more to tell, any new revelation of the name of God, any new revelations of grace and nearness into which he was bringing his creatures,-so long the Bible was a
growing, expanding book : but when all is given, when God, who at divers times spake to the world by his servants, had now spoken his last and fullest word by his Son, then to this Book, the record of that Word of his, there is added no more, even while there is nothing more to add: though it cannot end till it has shown in prophetic vision how this latest and highest which now bas been given to man, shall unfold itself into the glory and blessedness of a perfected kingdom in heaven.
“For thus, too, it would mark itself as one, by returning visibly in its end upon its beginning. Vast as the course which it has traced, it has been a circle still, and in that most perfect form comes back to the point from whence it started. The heaven, which disappeared from the earth since the third chapter of Genesis, re-appears again in visible manifestation in the latest chapters of the Revelation. The tree of life, whereof there were but faint reminiscences in all the intermediate time, again stands by the river of the water of life, and again there is no more curse. Even the very differences of the forms under which the heavenly kingdom re-appears are deeply characteristic; marking, as they do, not merely that all is won back, but won back in a more glorious shape than that in which it was lost, because won back in the Son. It is no longer paradise, but the New Jerusalem-no longer the garden, but now the city, of God, which is on earth. The change is full of meaning; no longer the garden, free, spontaneous, and unlaboured, even as man's blessedness in the state of a first innocence would have been; but the city, costlier indeed, more glorious, more wonderful, but, at the same time the result of toil, of labour, of pains-reared into a nobler and more abiding habitation, yet with stones which, after the pattern of the elect cornerstone,' where each in its time laboriously hewn and painfully squared for the places which they fill.
" And surely we may be permitted to observe by the way, that this idea, which we plainly trace and recognize, of scripture as a whole, this its architectonic character, cannot be without its weight in helping to determine the canonical place and worth of the Apocalypse, which, as is familiar to many among us, has been sometimes called in question. Apart from all outward evidences in its favour, do we not feel that this wondrous book is needed where it is ?--that it is the key-stone of the arch, the capital of the pillarthat Holy Scripture had seemed maimed and imperfect without it--that a winding-up of the Epistles would have been no true winding-up; for in them the Church appears as still warring and struggling, still compassed about with the weaknesses and infirmities of its mortal existence-not triumphing yet, nor yet having entered into its glory. Such a termination had been as abrupt, as little satisfying, as if, in the lower sphere of the Pentateuch we had accompanied the children of Israel to the moment when they were just entering on the wars of Canaan; and no book of Joshua had followed, to record their battles and their victories, and how these did not cease till they rode on the high places of the earth, and rested each man quietly in the lot of his conquered inheritance."-(pp. 37–10.)
2. But the Bible " which is one, is also manifold.” This is the second point.
“ The idea of the oneness of Holy Scripture is incomplete and imperfect, till it pass into the higher idea of its unity : till we acknowledge that it is not sameness which reigns there : that, besides being one, it is also many: that as in the human body we, having many members, are one body, and the perfection of the body is not the repetition of the same member over and over again, but the harmonious tempering of different members, all being instinct with one life-not otherwise is it with scripture. For in that, whether we look at the Old or New Testament, the same richness and variety of form reveal themselves, so that it may truly be said, that out of the ground of this Paradise the Lord God has made “to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food;" all that the earth has fairest, appearing here in fairer and more perfect form, the fable only here transformed into the parable-the ode into the psalm-oracles into prophecies-histories of the world into histories of the kingdom of heaven. Nor is tragedy wanting, though for Edipus, we have the man of Uz: nor Epos, though for the tale of Troy divine, ours is the story of the New Jerusalem, 'which came down from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband?'"-(pp. 45, 46.)
Working out then the idea of the “ manifoldness of scripture," it is the object of Mr. T.'s second lecture, to consider “the relations of likeness and difference in which its various parts stand to one another : and to show how the differences are not accidental, but do plainly correspond to certain fixed differences in the mental and moral constitutions of men : how there is evidently a gracious purpose of attracting all men by the attractions which shall be most potent upon them : of spreading a table at which all may sit down and find that wherein their soul delights, till the words of the text, “They did all eat and were filled,' shall not be less true in regard of all the faithful now,—true rather in an higher sense
-than they were of that comparatively few, whom the Lord nourished with that bread of wonder in the wilderness.”
The first illustration is the gospels. “It is part, no doubt, of this spreading a table for the spiritual needs of all, that we have--not one gospel, but four: which yet in their higher unity, may be styled, according to that word of Origen's, rather a 'foursided gospel,' evayyélov Tetpdywvov, than four gospels, even as out of the same instinctive sense of its unity, the whole instrument which contained the four was entitled Evangelium in the early Church. And if we follow this more closely up, we can trace, I think, a peculiar vocation in each of the Evangelists for catching some distinct rays of the glory of Christ, which the others would not catch, and for reflecting them to the world-so that the terms, Gospel according to St. Matthew, according to St. Mark, and so on, are singularly happy, and imply much more than we, for whom the words are little more than a technical designation of the different gospels, are wont to find in them. ..... Thus the first gospel, that of St. Matthew, was evidently a gospel designed for the pious Israelite, for him who was waiting the theocratic King, the Son of Abraham, the Son of David .... (serving) as the gentle transition for so many as clung to the forms of Old Testament piety: and desired to hold fast the historic connexion of all God's dealings from the first. But the second gospel .... bears marks of an evident fitness for the practical Roman world -for the men who, while others talked, had done : and who would not at first erave to hear what Christ had spoken, but what he had wrought. It is eminently the gospel of action. .... But the third gospel, while it sets forth one and the same Christ as the two which went before, yet in some respects sets Him forth in another light. Not so much, with St. Matthew, Jesus Christ, a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers'-not so much Jesus Christ 'the Lion of the tribe of Judah,' rushing as with lion-springs from victory to victory: but Jesus Christ the Saviour of all men, is the object of his portraiture. . . . But .... something was yet wanting ;-a gospel in which the higher speculative tendencies, which were given to men not to be crushed or crippled, should find their adequate satisfaction-a gospel which links itself on with whatever had occupied the philosopbic mind of heathen or of Jew—the correction of all which in this was false--the complement of all which was deficient. And