« ForrigeFortsett »
always: for our land is in the low part of the earth towards the West, and the land of Prester John is in the low part toward the East.” “ Jerusalem,” he adds, " is in the midst of the world ; and that it should be in the midst of the earth David witnesseth in the Psalter, when he saith—Deus operatus est salute in medio terre--God is my king of old, working salvation, in the midst of the earth.""
In a similar manner, but in a less degree, do many in our own day read the Scriptures through their prejudices. Their mistaken views in science and theology throw over the hallowed pages a colour and complexion which certainly do not belong to them. The notorious Tom Paine affords an instructive illustration of this fact. He held up the Scriptures to ridicule, for the ignorance he supposed them to discover on certain astronomical questions, stating, as he thought quite correctly, the real theory of the heavenly bodies. After-discoveries have shewn that all his statements were wrong, and the Bible, which did not furnish the details he was anxious it should give, remained untouched by these later researches.
And we shall find this to be the case generally. The Bible conforms its scientific disclosures to the same rule as its more strictly prophetical writings. We think it wrong to pry too curiously into unfulfilled prophecy. Its fulfilment is often regarded as the only legitimate key to its proper interpretation. Just so it seems to be in the other case; but unwilling to wait the result, we bring our own blunders and prejudices to the task, and insist on making the Bible speak as we should do, had it been our work instead of God's. This, then, is what we mean by prejudice in connexion with Revelation..
Let us look a little in detail at some of these prejudices. One of the most common of these notions is, that the Bible limits both the extent and duration of the Universe--a theory not only at variance with the modern discoveries of Astronomy and Geology, but especially repugnant to the scientific seeptie, and especially the Deist; who ridicules the littleness of such a notion, and denounces it as derogatory to the majesty of his God, for whose character and attributes he is nevertheless mainly indebted to the sacred oracles.
Those who entertain this prejudice suppose that our Earth is the first body in the Universe in point of dignity and importance that the Sun occupies the second, and the Moon the third place in creation, whilst the stars are only little lamps manufactured expressly for our use, or rather perhaps for the ornament of our heavens, as they give too little light to do us much service. As to the inhabitants of the universe, their creed is that they are exclusively confined to this earth--to man and the inferior animals, as low perhaps as the animalcules and infusoria, but certainly no higher than our own species.
Such are the narrow, the prejudiced views with which thousands approach the Bible. Anything opposed to them is at once denounced, and we are told, if we embrace it, that we are either downright infidels, or very indifferent Christians that we are in fact setting up our opinions against the testimony of Inspiration. But we are, so to speak, only weeding the broad fields of Theology, plucking up those plants which our Heavenly Father has not planted, and bringing out the full glory of the tried gold of the word.
For does the Bible anywhere tell us that there are no worlds in Creation but our own? Not to insist on the fact that it speaks twice of “the worlds,” (Heb. i. 2, and xi. 3,) it leads us. to infer their existence from many other texts, and that they are peopled with intelligences who shall join with us to swell the chorus of that majestic gathering of all things together in One, when the dispensation of the fulness of times shall come, and the restitution of all things be achieved.
We think it obvious that the doctrine of a plurality of worlds is to be found in Scripture. The stars are there described as innumerable, whilst those visible to the unassisted eye have been actually numbered and mapped out.
The more we increase the power of our telescopes, the more fully do we develop the literal accuracy of this statement. At all events, there is certainly nothing in the Bible opposed to the idea of an indefinitely extended, a limitless universe. If the royal psalmist had no ideas beyond those of our old-fashioned and prejudiced readers of the Bible, he uttered one of the veriest platitudes when he contrasted man with the stars, so much to the disparagement of poor humanity. Could he suppose, as many in our own day do, that these stars were mere specks of light?
Yet this is the alternative to which such a supposition would reduce us. Ought we not rather to suppose that David, or the Spirit speaking by David, had adequate ideas of the majesty of the universe, when he directed attention to these remoter suns and systems in the panorama of Creation ? The inconsistency would not terminate with the fact that he believed the stars to be mere material worlds, though larger than this earth, or even its central sun. The pious ejaculation of the psalmist seems indeed to suppose the existence of life or intelligence in these remote spheres; as under no other view can we imagine them to display greater wisdom, or to reflect more glory on their Great Framer than man, his crowning work.
But we scarcely require this concession. The Bible is full of intelligences superior even to our own exalted species; angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, cherubim and seraphim. These must dwell somewhere. At all events they exist, to set aside the charge brought against Revelationthat it limits, rather than extends, our ideas of Creation ani. mate and inanimate.
Well might we, indeed, turn round upon the Deist and shew him that all these and other spiritual existences are only made known to us through the medium of the Bible, and that consequently it offers far more majestic views of Creation, than with all his “big-swelling words of vanity" he is able to bring forward. And how consistent are these disclosures with all we know of facts. There are gradations observed throughout all nature. Plants, zoophytes, fishes, reptiles, birds, beasts, and then man as regards his physical organism. He is the first gifted with a spiritual nature : is it probable he should be the last? Why should there not be as many gradations above him as below Locke, a great name, says—“ There are far more species of creatures above us than there are beneath us." The same language is held and amplified by Dr. Dick in his “ Philosophy of a future state.” As we wanted the microscope to carry us down to the minutest animated atom; so we only want some spiritually-discerning telescope, to carry our dazzled and wonder-stricken gaze through the brilliant ranks of intelligences around and above us. And this glass, to some extent, the Word of God supplies.
As a necessary consequence of this assumed importance of our solar system in the universe, the sun and moon possess in the opinion of these prejudiced readers a monopoly of the heavens. It is something akin to impiety in their eyes to talk of other
Yet on no point are our modern astronomers more decided than on the existence of analagous systems, and a plurality of suns. It can be proved by close and conclusive reasoning, that the stars partake of the nature of our central orb, and that some of them-Sirius, for example, are many times as large. The timid and prejudiced reader of Inspiration is shocked at such a fact, and charges its propounders with flying in the face of Scripture. “ The sun and moon," he
says, “ are called in the Bible the two great lights;' and how can any one after this affirm the existence of a greater than either ?” The answer is exceedingly simple. They are not called great bodies, great spheres, great globes, or great stars but simply, “Great lights.” And such they undoubtedly are, and will remain, even though science should carry its discoveries very much farther than it has at present done. A great light may emanate from a very small body. The Bude light, and the Electric light, are not, as regards mere size, necessarily larger than an ordinary gas or oil lamp, and the brilliancy of any luminous body must depend farther on its proximity or remoteness, as in the case immediately before us.
We cannot, therefore, see in what way the testimony of Scripture limits the extent of creation. Nor does it fix its duration as many suppose, to a few thousand years. We need scarcely repeat what we have so often asserted in other forms, that the first verse of the Bible is the only one giving an account of the Creation properly so called--the making of something out of nothing. It is a curious fact that long before geology was established as a science, Parkhurst gave a critical rendering of this verse exactly in accordance with our modern views—" In the beginning God created the substance of the heavens and the substance of the earth”-the mere material, afterwards modified and adapted to the succession of purposes for which its Creator had designed it.
On this subject so much has been already written, that we need scarcely do more than remark, that the second and subsequent verses of the first chapter of Genesis, give no account of any creating process, but simply describe the remodelling of matter already existing. “But,” says the prejudiced reader of Scripture, “ the Bible fixes the date of Adam's birth, and of course, he was placed upon the earth as soon as it was created.” Certainly not. We know, at all events, that six days had dawned before it took place. A day, as we now understand the term, is the period occupied by the earth in turning once round upon its axis; but, not to insist on the reasonable doubt whether the earth began revolving immediately on its creation, and before the sun existed which made that revelation necessary—a day in Scripture language is a very different thing, as any one may see on consulting that word in any good Concordance. By giving only the first example that occurs to us, “ In the day that the Lord made the earth and the heavens,” (Gen. ii, 4,)—we shall see the great ambiguity attaching to this term; and the difficulty of calculating the exact period that elapsed even between the creation of light, and that of Adam. We need not, however, do this as we see no reason whatever to suppose
that Adam must have been coeval, or nearly so, with the great globe itself. The absurdity of believing that the entire visible universe sprang into actual being at the precise period of the Adamic creation, as it is called, is obvious from the following, amongst other considerations. “ If the stars had been created in the same week with Adam, the light of the very nearest could not have reached him for more than three years, and there are many among them of which Herschel says, “Their light has taken at least one thousand years to reach us, and when we observe their places, and note their changes, we are in fact reading only that portion of their history which took place a thousand years ago.""
Again, Prejudice is ready to say, “My Bible tells me that in the beginning' God created the heavens and the earth; but your geologists speak of a succession of creations—a great many beginnings.
“ And so, we humbly think, do the Seriptures. We should be little better than infidels if we believed that God was not continually putting forth his creative power. For what, otherwise, can we understand from the sublime language of inspiration