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LECTURE IV.

THE EXISTENCE OF DIFFICULTIES IN THE SCRIPTURES

NOT INCOMPATIBLE WITH THEIR OBJECT AS

A RELIGIOUSLY INSTRUCTIVE WORK.

2 PETER III. 16.

In which are some things hard to be understood.

That in an ancient work composed by various authors, and at various times; a work written in different and difficult languages, and upon the most different and difficult subjects ; a work comprehending the history of all ages, and of many nations, from the foundation of the world to the present time; and that, not only a history of the ordinary transactions between man and man, but also of the extraordinary dispensations of Almighty God: that in such a work, when regarded as a mere human composition, we should meet with many things hard to be understood,” I have already shewn to be natural and almost unavoidable. I have also shewn that even if such a work, as inspired, were something more than a mere

human composition, still the mere fact of its inspiration would not render it by any means necessary or expedient, that it should be entirely destitute of those difficulties which, under similar circumstances, would attend upon any ordinary production of man. The existence of an things hard to be understood” in the Scriptures, whether considered as a common work, or as one of the inspired communications of the Creator to his creatures, is, therefore, in both cases clearly defensible.

But there still remains another point of view in which the Bible may be contemplated, and without the consideration of which all other arguments which apply to its difficulties would, however satisfactory as far as inspiration alone is concerned, be deemed partial and inconclusive. The Bible it will be remembered professes not only to have been “given by inspiration of God,” but to have been inspired by God for the instruction of man; that is, “to have been written for our learning.” It is under this double character, therefore, that it must ever be viewed. Its difficulties must be shewn to be not only consistent with its nature as an inspired, but also compatible with its object as an instructive work. For if there be

any

demonstrable incompatibility between the existing diffi

a Rom. xv, 4.

culties, and the intended instruction of the Scriptures, their defence must, after all, be given up, however useful they may be proved in any other respect.

This then is the last general argument against which we have to contend in favour of “ things hard to be understood ;” and in its fundamental principles it is perfectly correct. Did the Jewish and Christian revelations profess to lead us into “all truth," without limitation or degree ; did they pretend to open to us the recesses of every science, and to make us wise upon all imaginable subjects in earth or heaven, then, no doubt, the existence of “things hard to be understood,” of whatever kind, and to any extent, would be injurious to the end proposed, and of course both inexpedient and improper. If the Bible declared its intention of laying down, without the possibility of being mistaken, misinterpreted or misapplied, all the endless varieties of philosophical and literary edification, no literary or philosophical difficulties whatever ought to have a place in the table of its contents. But this is very far indeed from being the case. The only declared object of revelation is to make men“ wise unto salvation“,' and, for that purpose, it ministers not to questions of science, but of “godly edifying," " that the man

* 2 Tim. iii. 15.

of God may be perfect,” not in all the varied branches of human research, but of heavenly righteousness, and “ thoroughly furnished,” not unto all literary, but “unto all good works.”

It distinctly claims, but it claims no more than to teach us the words, and shew us the way that leadeth unto everlasting life. It is only, therefore, when the difficulties which the Bible contains are, either in their nature or degree, destructive of that special and spiritual purpose, that they can be deemed any serious obstacle to its professed instructive character. If its words be so extremely liable to be misinterpreted or misunderstood, that few, however anxious, can draw from them the wisdom of salvation ; if the way which it points out as the road to heavenly bliss, be so extremely intricate and dark, that few, even of the most acute and diligent, can find it ; if the facts, the doctrines, or the precepts it proclaims, appear to the most impartial enquirers unrighteous, or to the most enlightened irrational; or if it be so confused, or contradictory, or trifling, as to be useless for the great end it assumes to have in view,-in all these cases, of course, we must necessarily admit that its difficulties form a solid objection to it in its instructive capacity ; because they constitute a real objection to its supposed intention of being the guide to happiness and rule of life. But

a 2 Tim. ii. 17.

if it be the “unlearned and unstable” alone who “wrest the difficulties of Scripture to their own destruction ;” if, when its meaning is hidden, it is hidden only “to them that are lost,” whose minds “the god of this world hath blinded“,” that they should not see the things that belong to their everlasting peace; if in things essential it be clear, and doubtful only in matters of inferior import; if there be no portion of its contents which, when rightly interpreted, can give an example of encouragement to an ungodly life; if there be no moral regulation which can fairly be considered as defective or dangerous, and no speculative proposition which may not be shewn reasonable in its own nature, or credible in consequence of the authority of him who propounds it,—then may we safely maintain that its partial obscurity is not incompatible with its office as a teacher of religious truth. Then also may we safely conclude, that if there be no incompatibility between the difficulties and the religiously instructive character of the Scriptures, it was not necessary, and, if not necessary, not expedient, to make every thing they contain alike intelligible to the idle and the industrious, the learned and the ignorant, in every age, in every country, and under every modification of circumstances. For by so doing some arguments of considerable weight in favour of the probability

a 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4.

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