Page images
PDF
EPUB

which in the discretionary exercise of omnipotence he has willed to leave altogether undone. The wisdom and the propriety, therefore, and not the possibility of an absence of all difficulties from a divine revelation are the things we are called upon to decide: and it is of little importance to urge how easy it would have been for divine inspiration to have made the Scriptures intelligible, without labour, to all, unless it can at the same time be shewn, that it would have been expedient so to do. If that expediency can be clearly made out, there is, at once, an end of the debate. If the removal of all difficulties from Holy Writ could be proved advantageous in many respects, and detrimental in none, then indeed a sufficient reason would have been shewn for inspiration to interfere with the exercise of her preventive power. But if the benefits which we derive from the presence of "things hard to be understood," be not only considerable in themselves, but such as could by no other obvious method have been supplied; and if these benefits be found upon a careful examination to be not only enough, but more than enough, to counterbalance the concomitant inconveniences; if, in fact, we should have lost much and gained little, or nothing, by the absence of all difficulties from the Bible, then may we safely and fairly conclude, that it was both wise and prudent to permit them

to appear, and that it would have been most unreasonable to demand Inspiration to interpose for their exclusion. And what it would have been wrong in her to banish, it must be right in her to retain.

Having thus obtained a sufficient and satisfactory criterion of the propriety and expediency of difficulties having a place in Holy Writ, let us next proceed to apply it. Let us, first of all, examine what are the advantages which result from the presence; or, in other words, what are the disadvantages to which we should have been subjected by the absence of "things hard to be understood." Let us next consider the disadvantages which result from the presence of " things hard to be understood;" or, in other words, the advantages we should have gained by their absence; and then, finally, from a review of both, let us carefully and impartially estimate whether the consequences of their removal, would not have been, upon the whole, detrimental both to the stability of the Christian's faith, and the progressive improvement of man's rational nature.

I. That the stability of the Christian's faith would have been materially affected by the obliteration from the Bible of every kind of " thing hard to be understood," is evident from this

single consideration; that from, the existence of some kinds of Scripture difficulties at least, advantages of solid importance, in an evidential point of view, have been frequently derived, and that some of the best internal arguments in favour of revelation, have been actually deduced from the very nature of its difficulties.

1. What, for instance, is the character of those internal evidences to which we commonly appeal for a proof of the genuineness and authenticity of the Scriptures? It is to their philological and historical difficulties that for this purpose we most generally turn. It is to the peculiarities of the Scripture style, and to the multiplicity of the Scripture allusions to the manners and customs of the ages and countries in which we affirm them to have been written, and the sentiments and actions of those of whom they treat. These are the topics on which we most strongly and successfully insist. We resort to these themes, because we feel justly convinced, that such difficulties are the best internal arguments we can use upon the subject; since had the Bible been so framed that it might have been alike understood by men of every capacity and in every age, it could have had none of the characteristic features which would have fixed its composition to any particular person or period.

Strip the Bible, then, of all those peculiarities which so evidently originate in the circumstances under which it was produced, and you will rob it for ever of one of the best internal marks of its having been produced under those circumstances. So far, therefore, as philological and historical" things hard to be understood," corroborate the external evidences for the genuineness and authenticity of the Scriptures, so far is their permitted existence influential, and, consequently, beneficial, in the formation of every enquiring Christian's faith. Hence we may state it as the first of those disadvantages to which we should have been subjected by the removal of all difficulties from the Bible, that we should have lost a direct and very powerful internal evidence in favour of its genuineness and authenticity.

!

2. But the faith of the Christian requires not only to be formed, but also to be protected and preserved. Amidst the bustle of worldly business the direct and positive evidences in favour of revelation are too frequently forgotten, almost as soon as learnt; and, even where remembered, they are apt to lose their influence over the mind by losing the charm of novelty to the imagination. It is, therefore, highly expedient that we should have a constant opportunity

of fortifying the unsteadiness or weakness of our belief by the aid of some indirect and incidental arguments which, arising up from time to time with all the freshness of unexpected discoveries, may strengthen our dependence upon the general proofs of the divine origin of the Bible, and renew, at intervals, our fading remembrance of their force. Now as the ordinary philological and historical difficulties contribute to give the first origin to our belief in the truth of the Scriptures, so do those of a more arduous nature tend to its preservation and protection when formed. For it is constantly happening that things hardest to be understood are receiving a complete elucidation; and every great obscurity elucidated is an objection removed; and every objection removed affords one of the best, because most unsuspicious, testimonies to the truth and authority of any writing.-But, instead of reasoning upon the justice of this remark, let us at once endeavour to illustrate and apply it by selecting from the history of theological science one or two of the most obvious examples by which it has been sometimes so irresistibly confirmed.

It is well known, then, that it had long been a matter of wonder to find St. Paul, when brought before the Jewish Sanhedrim, expressing himself

C

« PreviousContinue »