Imagini ale paginilor

tion is supernatural. Its life is supernatural. Its charter is a supernatural book. Its force and motives come from beyond the skies. Its issues are greater than nature brings.

In the recognition which we gladly give of the beauties of analogy between the natural and the spiritual worlds, we must guard the limits of the two. They are not the same. That kingdom of heaven which He who overcame the sharpness of death has opened to all believers, is not a kingdom whose mighty and eternal sweep can be forced into the framework of natural law. The incarnation of Bethlehem, the rifled grave of Joseph of Arimathea, the ascension from Bethany to the throne of God, were not by “natural law in the spiritual world”! The difficulties of the Bible confirm it as a Divine work; not by identity, but by analogy.

Another remark to be made in regard to these difficulties is this: they sift the Church, and they test the faith of men.

When the Master was followed by a great multitude that would take Him by force to make Him a king, and fleeing from them was followed yet again, it was time to prove them, and in utterances of profoundest truth He piled difficulty upon difficulty with increasing intensity to the end. “I am the bread that came down from heaven."

“How is it that He saith : I came down from heaven?

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven. .. The bread that I will give is my flesh.”

“ How can this man give us His esh to eat?”

“Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.”

“ This is a hard saying, who can hear it ? ”

“No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” And from that time many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him (John vi.).

Often in the history of the Church there come these hours of Capernaum when the crucial word must be spoken ; when that difficulty must be thrown out which shall test the crowds who follow the Lord either to make Him a king after their own thought, or to share the loaves and the fishes; when it shall be seen who of His disciples will go

back and walk no more with Him in the unworldliness of His reign, in the purity of His truth, in the mystery of His leadings; and who, clinging to His hand through all mystery, all darkness, all difficulty, will meet His question of infinite pathos, “Will ye also go away?” with the answer of absolute trust, “ Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”

In dealing with the difficulties of the Scriptures, therefore, we have not the least idea that they will all be removed. Difficulties will remain. They are put there to reinain. The Lord of hosts Himself is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence upon which many stumble and fall and are broken. If a man is determined to commit suicide he can do it by the very means that God has created to preserve life-by fire or by water. Spiritual self-destruction is quite possible through the Word of Life itself. At the same time no man has a right to put needless difficulties in the Bible, or to make difficulties where none exist.

More than this, every man is bound to deal as fairly at least with the Bible as he deals with his fellowmen in the ordinary relations of life. That which would give him no trouble as a judge upon the bench, or a juror in the box, he has no right to urge as a serious objection to the Scriptures. And a principle that any court of law would accept as removing a difficulty, where there is no reason to assume falsehood or mistake, may reasonably be applied, and must in all fairness be accepted, if it relieves any alleged difficulty of the Divine Word.

In testing at this time some of the difficulties of the Scriptures by the accepted rules of evidence, hardly more can be done than to present a few of these rules as applicable to these difficulties. But the rules are of the widest application. The solution of one difficulty by them is the solution of a hundred.

Looking upon the Bible as a whole, let us refer first to the familiar precept that every man is to be presumed innocent until he is proved guilty. This is emphatically true of a man of good general reputation. Now the Bible is not a new book. It has been before the world for ages. It has a character. That it is on the whole a good book, the bitterest opposers of its plenary inspiration not only admit but assert. It is conceded that it is entitled to its name—the Bible, the Book.

Paine, indeed, thought, or rather said, that any man who could read and write could make a Bible equal to this. Mr. Ingersoll seems to believe that he himself is the man who can read and write. These are the only two, as far as our memory just now goes, who have felt competent to write the 90th Psalm and the ten commandments; the Sermon on the Mount and the 14th chapter of John; the 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians, and the 21st and 22d chapters of the Revelation. Leaving these exceptional judges out of the account, most readers of the Bible have considered it as something more than an ordinary book. Its character has generally been regarded as justifying its title.

It claims to be a truthful book. By every fair principle this claim must be allowed until it is shown to be false. Bancroft's "History of the United States” claims to be a reliable work. The claim is generally admitted. If a man now comes forward and asserts that it is false in whole or in details, by universal judgment he must prove his assertion. And obviously his proofs must be stronger than the evidences of the truth of the history. If this is

[ocr errors]

so in reference to a book that has not stood the test of half a century, emphatically is it true of a book whose character has been established through the searching scrutiny of friends and foes for fifteen centuries—aye, for twice fifteen centuries. If a man now affirms the Bible to be false, wholly or in part, it rests upon him in all fairness to prove his position. And his evidence must be stronger than that which supports the book. For three thousand years a growing mass of testimony to the truth of the Bible has been rolling up in the face of every objection that ingenuity, learning, and the bitterest hostility could present. Account for it as we may, that is the fact. There is therefore a reasonable presumption in its favor, and in favor of any specific statement that it makes. If then we find in it a positive statement, for example, as to the origin of man, and that statement is now confronted by another and contradictory one, the two do not stand on the same level. The new claimant must prove his position, and to prove it he must disprove the truth of the Scripture record. It is not enough to show that his proposition might be true, if we had no other information on the subject. He must show that the Scripture, with its mass of supporting and cumulative evidence, is false. And he must support his new proposition by a body of evidence stronger than this manifold evidence of ages by which the Scriptures are sustained. A mere conceivable hypothesis of how man might have originated, even though that hypothesis may have the support of certain analogies, so long as it is destitute of proof as to how man did originate, cannot stand against the positive statement of the Word of God that he originated in another way. And we cannot understand the eagerness with which men professing faith in the Bible, seem ready to yield its clear declaration for an hypothesis that admittedly has not a solitary positive proof to sustain it; an hypothesis that logically must make the incarnation of the Son of Godif the term is retained-an outworking of natural law, which outworking ought long ago to have been surpassed by one born greater than Jesus of Nazareth.

The character of the Bible may justly claim to sustain its record till it is proved false. Deal with it as fairly as you deal with the red-handed anarchist. Let the Book be innocent till proved guilty. And if innocent, like the Incarnate Word, the written Word stands a true witness in all things forever. Condemned, crucified, buried, it will always rise again. It is a perilous thing to condemn the guiltless.

Another rule of law is this: “The testimony of a single witness, where there is no ground for suspecting either his ability or integrity, is a sufficient legal ground for belief." (Starkie on Ev., i., 550.) The mere silence of one witness, or of many witnesses, cannot set aside the clear, positive testimony of a single trustworthy witness. That Josephus does not mention events which Moses records, does not affect the truth of the Mosaic record. And his silence as to the Bethlehem massacre—even if no reason could be suggested for it, as there can be-cannot, under this rule of law, affect the positive testimony of Matthew that there was such a massacre.

The courts go farther than this. They say: “If a witness swear positively that he saw or heard a fact, and another who was present that he did not see or hear it, and the witnesses are equally faithworthy, the affirmative witness is to be believed.” (Decisions of the Supreme Court of Errors of the State of Connecticut, vol. 6, p. 188.)

In the case referred to in that decision, the court set aside a verdict that had been rendered by the lower court on the negative testimony of eleven witnesses against the positive testimony of three. The principle established by that decision, and which is universally accepted as law, is

« ÎnapoiContinuați »