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that of appearances. In drawing illustrations from nature, the writers could not have been understood, unless they had used figures and forms of speech based on nature as popularly understood. Hence the heavenly bodies are spoken of as revolving round the earth, the ant as storing up food in summer, and the earth as being immovable, all of which are now known to be contrary to [strict] truth.'
This writer, like some others, feeling as if he had gone too far in uttering words so true, contradicts them a few pages after, and makes a number of statements which remind one of what the Apostle says, about handling the word of God deceitfully. One would be tempted to charge him with 'cunning craftiness,' only his craft is not very cunning. When religious teachers act so unfaithfully, they have no right to complain if people lose all confidence in their honesty.
CAUSE OF THEIR FEARS.
We grant, however, that the temptation to keep back the truth on this point is very strong, and we must not be hard on the timid ones. It is not always a fear of personal loss or suffering that keeps men from speaking freely on religious subjects, but a dread of lessening their usefulness, of hurting the minds of good though mistaken people, or of disturbing and injuring the Church.
But it is no use trying to cheat unbelievers. You cannot do it. They will find you out, and be all the more suspicious and skeptical in consequence. We must deal with them honestly; tell them nothing but what is true, and use no arguments but what are sound and unanswerable. Advocates of Christianity have made numberless unbelievers by teaching erroneous doctrines, and by using weak and vicious arguments. The Christian should so speak and act, that it shall be impossible for any one ever to find him in the wrong.
The following is probably our own.
The historical difficulties of the Bible amount to little. They do not affect its scope and tendency, as a moral and spiritual teacher. Nor are they inconsistent with the doctrine that the Scriptures were given by inspiration of God, as that doctrine is presented in the Scriptures themselves. They may be inconsistent with the views of Scripture inspiration taught by certain Theologians; but all we have
to do is to set the views of these Theologians aside, and content ourselves with the simple teachings of Scripture.
Now the doctrine of Scripture inspiration as taught by the Scriptures themselves, gives me no authority to expect the Scriptures to be free from historical and scientific errors, or from any of those so-called imperfections which are inseparable from human language or from human nature. It authorizes me to expect that the Scriptures shall aim at my moral and spiritual instruction and salvation, and that they shall be adapted to answer that great end. It authorizes me to expect that the body and substance of the Book shall be true and good, and that a spirit of wisdom and purity and love shall pervade the Book, giving it a rousing and a sanctifying power. It authorizes me to expect in it all that is necessary to bring me into harmony and fellowship with Christ, to fill me with His spirit, to change me into His likeness, to enable me to live as He lived, and to labor as He labored. It authorizes me to expect in the Bible all that is necessary to comfort me in affliction, to give me patience, to sustain my hopes, and to support and cheer me in the hour of death. And all this I find in infinite abundance. I find it in a multitude of forms,-forms the most touching and impressive. I find it presented in the plainest, simplest style. I find in the Bible an infinite treasury of all that is holy, just and good, of all that is beautiful, sublime, and glorious,—of all that is quickening, renovating, strengthening,—of all that is cheering, exhilarating, transporting,-of all that I can wish for or enjoy, -of all that my powers can comprehend,-of all that my soul can appropriate and use. I find in it, in short, riches unsearchable, beyond all that I could ever have asked, or thought. And what can I wish for more?
God has given us no perfect teachers, no perfect preachers, no perfect churches; why should we suppose it necessary that He should give us a perfect book? He has not given us any perfect books on medicine, on diet, on trades, on politics, on farming, on gardening, on education, or on poetry. Why should we expect Him to give us one on religion? As a matter of fact, He has not done so. Our common Bible is a translation. So are all the common Bibles in the world. And all translations are imperfect.
AND WHAT NOT TO EXPECT.
The translations are made from Greek and Hebrew Bibles, and those are all imperfect. The Greek and Hebrew Bibles are compiled or formed from Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. But these also are imperfect. They all differ from each other. And no one can tell which is nearest to the originals, for the originals are lost. So that whether there was an absolutely perfect Bible at first or not, there is no such Bible now. God Himself has so ordered things, that all the Bibles in the world, like all the preachers, churches, and teachers, share the innocent imperfections of our common humanity.
Suppose the original Bible to have been perfect, and to have been preserved from destruction, only one person could have possessed it. The rest would have had to be content with imperfect human copies. God might Himself have written perfect Bibles for all. mankind, but He did not choose to do it. Or He might have made perfect copies of the original Bible, but He did not choose to do even that. He might have employed a few legions of angels in making copies of the Bible; but that He did not do. He left the work to be done by men, and men have done it, as they do all their work, imperfectly.
Still, they have done it well enough. The poorest manuscript Bible in the world is good enough. The most imperfect Greek and Hebrew Bible is good enough. The poorest translation is good enough. It is so good, we mean, that those who are able to read it, may learn from it all that is necessary to make them good, and useful, and happy on earth, and to fit them for the blessedness of eternal life in heaven.
There is a sense in which no translation of the Scriptures is good enough, if we can make it better; and we have no desire to prevent men from doing their best to improve the translations in all languages as much as possible. But do not let them make the impression that a perfect translation is necessary or even possible; for it is not. God has caused the Bible to be written in such a way, He has put all important matters of truth and duty in such a variety of forms, that any translation, made with a reasonable amount of learning and honesty, is sure to make things intelligible enough in some of the forms in which they are presented in the Book.
The Bible, like the Church and the Ministry, is a great mixture of the human and the divine. There is not a single book, nor a single passage perhaps, in the whole volume, in which the weaknesses of man and the perfections of God are not blended. Everywhere we have revelations of the divine glory, and everywhere we have manifestations of human imperfection. We have human errors side by side with divine truths. We have neither a perfect. teacher nor a perfect example in the whole Book, but one; and of that one we have not a perfect record, either of His teachings or His life. We have nothing but brief, imperfect, fragmentary records of either. They are perfect enough; but they are very imperfect. And Moses, and the Prophets, and the Apostles, are perfect enough; but they are all imperfect. The Bible is perfect enough; but it is, according to the ordinary meaning of the word, still imperfect.
We do not need perfection, we do not need infallibility, in anything; and we have it not. Imperfection is better, and that we have in everything.
And all this is in keeping with God's doings in other cases. 'The inspiration of the Holy One giveth man understanding; but does not make his mind infallible. Christians have an unction, an inspiration, from the Holy One, and know all things:' and yet they do not know all things; but only those things which pertain to God and Christ and even their knowledge of these is acquired not all at once, or without the use of means; but by degrees only, and by the faithful use of their natural powers.
The Apostles were not machines. Their inspiration did not take away their liberty, or suspend the use of their natural powers. Nor did it teach them natural science, or history; or lift them above ordinary, innocent errors. Nor did it cause them to learn all Christian truth at once. They gained their knowledge by degrees. Some imagine, that the moment the Apostles received the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, they were perfect and infallible; whereas it took them nearly ten years to learn that they were to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. They had the words of Christ, 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature;' yet it required nearly ten years, and a
special vision, to make them understand that every creature included the Gentiles.
NO MAN MADE WHOLLY INFALLIBLE.
Nor have we any proof that the Spirit ever made the Apostles infallible in every little matter. Paul says, when speaking of the resurrection, 'That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.'. Now the truth is, that the seed from which the harvest springs, does not die. It simply expands and unfolds. His doctrine was right, but the notion on which he grounded his illustration of it was an error. But it answered his purpose. And there is a sense in which seed dies. It ceases to be a seed in becoming a plant.
Bishop Watson says, 'a grain of wheat must become rotten before it can sprout;' but that is not the case. It ceases to be a mere grain to become a plant; but it does not become rotten; it remains alive and sound.
The Apostle is an able minister, a glorious interpreter of Christ and His doctrine; and there is nothing seriously amiss in his illustrations; but several of them are based on prevailing misconceptions.
Some say, 'If the Apostles were not infallible in everything, their writings would be of no use to us. If they might err in one thing, they might err in others, and we could have no certainty of the truth of anything.' But that is not true. On one occasion, Paul says, 'I knew not that it was God's high-priest.' And on another, he says, 'I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius.' Afterwards he says, 'I baptized also the house of Stephanas :' and he finishes by saying, 'I know not whether I baptized any other.' Will you say, 'If Paul could be ignorant or mistaken about the high-priest, or the number of persons he had baptized; he might be ignorant or mistaken on every subject?' The truth is, a man who was so much taken up with great things, would be sure to think but little of small things. His determination to know nothing but Christ; would be sure to keep him from wasting his time or strength on trifles. A man's ignorance on some points is often proportioned to his knowledge on others. And Paul is all the more trustworthy on great matters of Christian truth and duty, because of his indifference to matters of little or no importance. And say what we will, the