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They left open the question of interpretation because they felt the weight of the reasons I have read to you from Jeremy Taylor; because they knew full well how difficult it is to attain the truth in the midst of such difficulties; and because they felt, to use Taylor's noble words, that it was unjust to take away liberty from any man unless they could secure him from error.
They left these questions open, I say, not perhaps understanding to what length they might go, but well understanding their general principles, and with a confidence which has been justified by the experience of three centuries-which will, I hope, be justified so long as it pleases God to continue the existence of the human race-that the Scripture stands upon a foundation from which neither criticism, nor interpretation, nor theories of inspiration, will ever be able to remove it; that it may, indeed, be explained, but cannot be explained away by the utmost exertions of science and reason.
I do not say
I earnestly beg not to be misunderstood.
that the writers of the seventeenth century held modern opinions; they could not do so. It would have been impossible for the men of that age to have held the views of the men of our own. They had not the same facts before them. They had no science, no criticism; they had but little, and that inaccurate, history; but they had enough to lead them, not to identity of opinion, but to identity of principle. If Hooker had been plied with the objections which are drawn in the present day from difficulties upon scientific and historical subjects; if he had been told that there are certain divergencies between the book of Kings and the book of Chronicles, and been asked, How do you account for that? he would have said-Scripture is perfect for the end for which it was designed; that end is to make men wise unto salvation-not to record the names of kings or
the dates of battles. Suppose he had been told difficulties had arisen from criticism as to dates, as to facts, as to circumstances-what would he have said to that? He would have said-Each book is written for some particular purpose, and contains throughout so much truth as the matter in hand requireth; and if you show me that some part of what is stated in that book is not true, I answer you, that is because the matter in hand did not require circumstantial accuracy on that point. But let us suppose that they had said to him: Science has revealed a world of which you knew nothing; science has shown us this earth existing, not for 6,000 years, but for millions of ages; science has shown us the processes by which it was built up, not in six days, but in an infinite number of years. Throughout the world learned men are engaged upon the subject of language. They are deriving from that study conclusions which cannot be altogether reconciled with some of the facts that are stated in the Bible. There is reason to think that the Flood was not universal, and that this or that scientific matter which is mentioned in the Bible is not mentioned correctly. What would have been his reply to that? I think, my lord, he would have said, Truth cannot be opposed to truth, for God is the author of it all, God teaches us by conscience and by reason, as well as by the Bible, and within their proper departments science and reason are supreme. What he would have said must be matter of conjecture, but I can tell your lordship what he did say, and I will conclude the address which I now lay before you, with two short extracts from the works of that great man-extracts so noble, so affecting, that I cannot read them, and I hope your lordship will not be able to hear them, without some emotion. The object of the first is to show that Hooker put the revelation which God makes by the light of nature upon the
same footing with the revelation which he makes through the Scriptures. I will not mar it by any feeble comments of my own. "There is in the world no kind of knowledge
whereby any part of truth is seen, but we justly account "it precious, yea, that eternal truth in comparison where"with all other knowledge is vile, may receive from it some "kind of light, whether it be that Egyptian and Chaldean "wisdom wherewith Moses and Daniel were furnished, or "that natural moral and civil wisdom wherein Solomon "excelled all men, or that rational and oratorial wisdom of "the Grecians which the Apostle Paul brought from Tarsus, or that Judaical which he learned in Jerusalem, sitting at "the feet of Gamaliel. To detract from the dignity thereof "were to injury even God himself, who being that light "which none can approach unto, hath sent out these lesser lights whereof we are capable, even as so many sparkles resembling the bright fountain from which they rise." And, my lord,† these other emphatical words are not less noble, and not less memorable. They may be applied to others than Cartwright-they may be applied to other generations than the seventeenth century. With them I will conclude my address on the present occasion, thanking your lordship for the patience with which you have listened to one so long, and in many respects so tedious. I could wish to leave the impression of them on your lordship, that they may dwell on your mind, and influence it in your judgment upon the awful case which is in your hands. "And as incredible praises given unto men do often abate
and impair the credit of their deserved commendation,
so we must likewise take great heed, lest in attributing "unto Scripture more than it can have, the incredibility of "that, do cause even those things which indeed it hath "most abundantly, to be less esteemed."
* 1 Hooker, 305.
† Ib. 274.
ANSWER TO THE OBJECTION THAT THE INFALLIBILITY OF THE BIBLE WAS BELIEVED BY THE DIVINES QUOTED.-USE MADE OF THE LIBERTY LEFT BY THE ARTICLES BY EMINENT DIVINES OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN THE DEISTICAL CONTROVERSY, AND IN THE CONTROVERSIES ARISING FROM MODERN SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES. EXAMINATION OF THEIR VIEWS OF THE INSPIRATION AND AUTHORITY OF THE SCRIPTURES.
(Delivered in the COURT OF ARCHES, Jan. 7, 1862.)
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR LORDSHIP,
I WISH, before entering on the next branch of my argument, to sum up shortly the results of the numerous extracts and authorities which I quoted to the court when I was here last. The general result which I tried to establish was this-First, that the Church of England had in fact left open the questions of the inspiration, the criticism, and the interpretation of Scripture. Secondly, in order to corroborate that conclusion, I attempted to show what were the reasons why the church had taken that course; I showed, I think, that the question of the infallibility of Scripture, and the questions arising out of criticism and historical investigation, had not arisen, and could not have arisen, between Christians at the time of the Reformation; but that upon the other hand the question of the relative authority of Scripture and the church, and the question as to the grounds upon which Scripture was
to be received, were the leading controversies of the day; and I then showed that the view which the articles of the Church of England favoured with reference to the nature and evidence of the authority of the Scriptures; and the view on the same subject taken by the leading divines of the century which followed the Reformation impliedly sanctioned the course taken by Dr. Williams and others in freely discussing every question relating to the inspiration, the criticism, and the interpretation of the Bible.
The ground which, as I suggest, the church took was this-that the Bible is to be received on the evidence of primitive tradition corroborated by reason and conscience. Primitive tradition is exactly equivalent to what we now call historical evidence. You are to receive the Bible, they said, because those who knew best received it; and the consequence of that is, you are to receive it to the extent to which historical evidence will support it. My lord, I showed by many quotations, and by a reference to two whole books of Hooker, that that was the view of Scripture which was taken by Hooker, by Chillingworth, and by Jeremy Taylor, three of the leading divines of the Church of England. I also showed by a comparison between the Thirty-nine Articles and the Westminster Confession, still the leading doctrinal authority of the Church of Scotland, that the Calvinists took an entirely different view of the authority of Scripture, that they based it on an entirely different ground, and that, following the example of Calvin himself, they asserted that the Bible was not received on the authority of any man or church, but that it was to be believed and to be received as a self-evident first truth, which was in itself the source and origin of all other truths whatever. I corroborated this by showing that when the Thirty-nine Articles were revised