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'I speak as unto wise men: judge ye what I say.'
It will not be disputed that the subject with which INTRODUCTION these pages are concerned is one of deep interest and moment. In the discussion of it, however, some of the things advanced may seem to the reader novel and startling. Let me, then, at the outset, bespeak his candid and patient attention. Strange as certain points in the argument may appear, let him not on that account refuse carefully to consider them. We are far too apt to imagine that what to us is new, or that differs from what we have been taught or accustomed to believe, is in itself novel. But all truth, in relation to men, is new at some time or other, for it pleases God not to discover all his truth at once, but to cause it to be revealed in portions. This was his method in giving those successive revelations, which now, as a whole, constitute the Bible. Beginning with Genesis, we trace gradually increasing light till we come to the New Testament. Then Heb. i. 1, 2. God, who in many portions and in divers methods had spoken in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, spoke by his Son. But even the Great Prophet, Jesus Christ, did not reveal the whole truth. I have yet many things to say unto you,' John xvi. 12.
INTRODUCTION He told his disciples, but ye cannot bear them now.' It was reserved for the Lord the Spirit to lead the Apostles into further discoveries, and so through them to teach the Church. With the Apostolic writings we consider the formal revelations from heaven to be completed. We look for no more directly inspired writings. But in the interpretation of these writings, in the gathering from them what they teach, we do look for advance and development. To possess a completed revelation is one thing, to know all that can be known from that revelation is quite another. In point of fact, the discovery of its meaning has been progressive. The Church has not all at once learned all that Holy Scripture reveals, but has advanced, from time to time, in the discernment and understanding of its truths. The profoundest student of the Bible is constrained to confess that there are depths in it he has never fathomed. "It is owned," says that deep thinker, Bishop Butler, "that the whole scheme of Scripture is not yet understood; so, if it ever come to be understood, before the restitution of all things and without miraculous'interpositions, it must be in the same way that natural knowledge is come at, by the continuance and progress of learning and liberty, and by particular persons attending to, comparing, and pursuing intimations scattered up and down it, which are overlooked and disregarded by the generality of the world. For this is the way in which all improvements are made, by thoughtful men tracing out obscure hints, as it were, dropped us by nature accidentally, or which seem to come into our minds by chance. Nor is it at all incredible
that a book which has been so long in the possession INTRODUCTION of mankind should contain many truths as yet undiscovered." Nevertheless, when any truth is so brought to light, the hue and cry of novelty is generally raised against it. It conflicts, perhaps, with current beliefs; it fits not in conveniently with what is counted orthodoxy; it is greeted, therefore, with coldness at least, if not hostility. On this point the remarks of Mr. Birks deserve attention:"The hope of the millennial kingdom of Christ" (and, let it be added, the hope of the ultimate deliverance of all souls from the power of evil) "has naturally encountered the suspicions of those Christians whose faith has been crystallized and frozen down in artificial systems of theology. When the doctrines of the gospel have once been compacted together by a logical process, and the result is conceived to embody the whole counsel of God, every new truth drawn fresh from the Scriptures is an unwelcome guest or even a suspected enemy; it wears a strange and foreign aspect, and disturbs the symmetry of a laboriously constructed system." As bearing upon this, how interesting is the following prayer of the great and good Dr. Chalmers: "Deliver me, O Lord, from the narrowing influence of human lessons, from human systems of theology; teach me directly out of the fulness and freeness of thine own Word. Hasten the time when, unfettered by sectarian intolerance, and unawed by the authority of men, the Bible shall make its rightful impression upon all, the simple and obedient readers thereof calling no man Master, but Christ only." And, to quote one more passage, Dr. Goulburn well "The truth
INTRODUCTION has a vitality in it still; and many dry rudiments of it, which at present lie dull and uninteresting in our minds, are yet destined to expand and acquire a now significance. Let the mind, then, be frankly open to any and every truth, however unfamiliar to us the first view of it, which may turn out to be in accordance with the teaching of the Apostles."
The foregoing extracts suffice to prove that, in the judgment of learned and thoughtful men, a doctrine is by no means to be discarded because it be new. Rather are we to expect that as the labourers diligently dig into the deep mine of Scripture, they will be continually bringing forth from it new ore; that as, in other words, the study of Scripture by pious and searching men advances, so new truths will be elicited, or old truths brought out in such fresh lights as to make them new. We know how in our own time the religious world has had to recast its judgment upon several points, and how many opinions, formerly denounced, are now recognized as perfectly allowable, even if not absolutely accepted as orthodox. What different views, for instance, now prevail on the interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis, on the Deluge, on Inspiration, on the Atonement; views that a few years ago were deemed erroneous or defective. And so I venture to believe that not many years hence will the doctrine of the restitution of all things find general acceptance, and that good men will look back and sadly wonder how they could ever have held the theory which consigns the larger portion of the souls that God made and Christ died for to immutable, irremediable, never-ending torment and perdition.