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ABSTRACT OF THE ARGUMENT.
THE general principle of Dr. Williams's defence as to the first five charges in the indictment (counts 7-11, both inclusive), is, that all questions relating to the mode, the extent, the nature, and the effect on the books of the Bible of the inspiration of those books; all questions of criticism; and all questions of interpretation; are by law open questions, which the clergy, by their ordination vow, "to "be diligent in such studies as help to the knowledge of Holy Scriptures," are bound in conscience to consider. The proof of this is contained in the following propositions:
I. The law upon this subject is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles, the Rubrics, and Formularies, and not, as alleged by the prosecutors, in the Gospels, Epistles, and Proper Lessons selected for particular days.
II. Protestant Christians must believe either that the Bible contains, or that it constitutes the Christian revelation. In the first case, they may believe that the Bible
is fallible; but in either case, they must believe that the revelation is of Divine authority, and that so much of the Bible as constitutes that revelation, whether it be the whole or a part, is also of Divine authority.
III. The general doctrine of the nature and authority of the Bible must, from the nature of the case, be composed of answers to the following questions :
1. What specific books are entitled to be considered as parts of the Bible? This is the question of canonicity.
2. How far was God the author, directly or indirectly, of the original books? By what process was his authorship effected? Did it extend to the whole or to part of the books? So far as it did extend, did it imply absolute truth in any and what part of the matter written? These questions taken together constitute the question of inspiration.
3. How far do the existing copies of the canonical books correspond with the originals? By whom were the original books written, and at what time? These, and other questions of the same kind taken together, constitute the question of criticism.
4. What is the meaning of the contents of the books? and to what class of composition, as poetry or prose, history or fiction, do they and each part of them respectively belong? These, and other questions of the same kind collectively, constitute the question of interpretation.
IV. The 6th, 7th, and 20th Articles of religion determine the question of canonicity, but leave open the questions of inspiration, criticism, and interpretation.
V. The profession of unfeigned belief in the canonical Scriptures made by deacons at their ordination is a conscientious test only, and is of no dogmatic authority whatever. If it were of dogmatic authority, it would close none of the questions left open by the articles of religion.
VI. A comparison of the Thirty-nine Articles with the Westminster Confession and the creed of Pius IV. proves that the liberty left by the Thirty-nine Articles on the inspiration, criticism, and interpretation of Scripture was left intentionally.
VII. The writings of several eminent divines of the seventeenth century show the reasons why this liberty was left, and thus corroborate the assertion that in point of fact it was left.
VIII. The objection that at and after the Reformation most of the divines of the Church of England believed, in fact, in the infallibility of the Bible, is irrelevant; as they viewed that belief, in so far as they held it, as matter of opinion, and not as matter of faith.
IX. Throughout the Deistical controversy of the latter part of the seventeenth and the whole of the eighteenth century, the principal divines of the Church of England exercised the liberty left to them by the Thirty-nine Articles, by denying that either the infallibility, or the circumstantial accuracy, of the Bible were articles of the
Christian faith; by admitting that the Bible contained errors; and by defending it on the ground that the substantial truth of its contents was proved by historical and other evidence.
X. Eminent divines of the Church of England of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries further exercised the same liberty by maintaining, that in all matters of science, science and not Scripture is the test of truth; and that in case of a difference between them, science is to be believed in preference to Scripture.
APPLICATION OF THESE PRINCIPLES TO THE SPECIFIC
Count 7.-Charges a denial that Scripture is the Word of God, containing a special revelation of his truth and of his dealings with mankind, and that it is the rule of our faith.
Evidence.-Three passages cited, p. xi.-xiv.
Answer. The passages charged amount to a theory as to the nature of the inspiration of Scripture; lawful because the question of inspiration is open, and also because it agrees with the language of the Prayer-book and Homilies on the subject.
Count 8.-Charges an affirmation that in the books of the Old Testament there is, with the possible exception of one, two, or three doubtful passages, no element of divinely inspired prediction or prognostication.
Evidence.-Passages cited, p. xv.-xxiii.
Answer, 1.—The whole question of the nature of prophecy is open, as forming part of the general liberty of interpretation.
2. Dr. Williams's principle of the interpretation of prophecy has been adopted by eminent divines, and he differs from them, if at all, only in the extent of its application.
Counts 9 and 10.—Charge :—
1. A denial that Jonah was a real historical person.
2. A denial that Jonah wrote the Book of Jonah.
3. A denial that Daniel wrote the Book of Daniel.
4. A denial that the Books of Jonah, Daniel, the Revelation, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the 2nd Epistle of St. Peter, are parts of Holy Scripture, whose authority is binding on the church.
Evidence. Extracts cited, pp. xxiii., xxiv. and xxv., xxvi. Answer. As to (1) and (2).—That Dr. Williams did not say what is complained of.
As to (3).-i. That he had a right to deny the authorship of Daniel under the liberty of criticism.
ii. That eminent divines have used the same right as to the same and other books.
As to (4).—That he did not say what is complained of, and that the charge proceeds on a mistaken notion as to the meaning of canonicity.
Count 11.-Charges an affirmation that the statements of Holy Scripture as to historical facts may be read and understood in a wholly figurative sense, and in a nonnatural sense of the plain words and purport thereof. Evidence.-Extracts cited, p. xxvii., xxviii.