Imágenes de páginas

tradition of ancestral faith testified to the existence of a God of redeeming grace who had actually entered into a covenant relationship with Israel, and whose supernatural guidance of its fortunes was a reality testified by age-long experience. This faith gave strength and consistency to the hope of a life beyond the grave, since it suggested the idea of a watchful providence which, while mindful of national destinies, was yet careful of the single life. The Israelite could commend his parting soul into the hands of a faithful Creator, who had tended and guided him throughout the days of his pilgrimage, and could be utterly trusted not to forsake him in his passage through the valley of the shadow of death. It was a dim faith, but it sufficed till the day of a new revelation should break, and the shadows flee away1.

But advancing experience, while it deepened the Jew's assurance of an overruling providence sustaining and guiding the individual, gave rise to a new perplexity. There came a period when the Israel of God, conscious of its zealous devotion to Jehovah and its fidelity to His revealed will, found itself in exile-comfortless, afflicted, persecuted. In their efforts to comprehend the meaning of a calamity that seemed to contradict their most cherished convictions, godly men were led to a more profound view of the mystery of suffering. Israel's history suggested dimly at least the great part which sorrow had played in the development of God's purpose; it had been the purifying discipline through which the ancient heroes and saints had passed. And the teaching of history was to be supplemented by personal experience. The Jewish saint possessed his soul in patience, and as the result of endurance learned to say, It is good for me that I have been in trouble, that I may learn thy statutes. So there arose a religious philosophy of suffering; it was seen to be in great measure the chastisement of human sin, but it was also a manifest dis

1 Cant. ii. 17.

2 Ps. cxix. 71.

cipline of human character, and the needful probation of human fidelity. Much was still left unexplained: there were perplexities which no reasoning could solace, and no analysis could satisfactorily explore. Such perplexities are reflected in the book of Ecclesiastes, and they seem to be intended to recall the soul to its primary intuitions-to its faith in God, duty, and human accountability. In this record of the experience of a child of Israel, a child of God' the sorely troubled spirit may recognize itself; it may be comforted or at least touched by the discovery that however far it has wandered from light and love, it is not forgotten, it is understood, it is followed, it is pitied. For to the heart of man God is a refuge in any trouble; in the thought of His creative compassion there is hope; in the revelation of His goodness there is a pledge of love which will deign to subject itself to the conditions of our mortality, there is the implicit promise of a divine self-sacrifice. The perplexities which overwhelmed the heart of the Hebrew sage press not less heavily upon us. With the apostolic writer, we can only say concerning man, We see not yet all things put under him. But we Christians possess in our creed a key to the dread mystery of existence. We see Jesus 1. We see the Son of man exalted to the throne of God. The Gospel of the risen and ascended Christ suffices to sustain and reassure the hearts that shrink and the spirits that faint:

'Beyond the tale, I reach into the dark,

Feel what I cannot see, and still faith stands.

I can believe this dread machinery

Of sin and sorrow would confound me else,
Devised, all pain, at most expenditure
Of pain by who devised pain,-to evolve

By new machinery in counterpart
The moral qualities of man,-how else?
To make him love in turn and be beloved,
Creative and self-sacrificing too,

And thus eventually God-like.'

1 Heb. ii. 8, 9.


Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.-Ps. cxix. 18.

Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.-Luke xxiv. 45.


In my first lecture it was pointed out that Scripture has a twofold character corresponding to the dual nature of Christ; and it would seem that erroneous ideas about the Bible and its inspiration have often been the direct result of forgetting the analogy that subsists between the written and the incarnate Word of God.

The self-manifestation of God in Jesus Christ was the answer to an age-long prayer; it presupposed human aspirations and human faith; it appealed to ideas of God which a divine discipline had already moulded and purified. The Gospels in fact show us that the power to discern the true nature and to apprehend the teaching of Christ depended upon the temper and attitude of individual minds. Mere intellect and human learning were of little avail; as often as not they proved to be obstacles in the way of true discernment. Christ's manifestation of Himself was addressed to faith and to the consciousness of need. He was the saviour of the lost, the physician of the sick, the rewarder of humility and perseverance. The Pharisee with all his zeal for the law of God, the Sadducee with all his supposed superiority to antiquated prejudices, the scribe with all his learning, saw in Jesus Christ nothing more than a human teacher1. In a word, men found in Him what they were prepared to

1 Cp. John iii. 2; Luke vii. 39; xx. 41.

find; some listened to Him, some admired Him, some hated and feared Him, some received him; and to these last gave he power to become the sons of God1. No man could come unto Him in a saving sense except such as were drawn to Him by the Father who had sent Him 2. And that the written word comes to men under similar conditions has been proved by experience. We cannot too often remind ourselves that of all the faculties with which we seek God and apprehend His will, one only brings the soul into actual contact with Him—namely, that which St. Paul calls faith working by love. It follows that the right understanding of Scripture is a reward by which persevering faith is crowned. In the In the upper chamber He who had Himself inspired the Hebrew prophets and guided the pen of chroniclers, poets, and sages, answered the prayer to which the Psalmist gives utterance: Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. He expounded unto His disciples in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. He enabled them to penetrate through

the veil of the letter to the Messianic sense beneath; He taught them to regard the Old Testament as a vast and continuous prophecy of Himself; and in so doing He gave His sanction to that method of interpreting Scripture which corresponds to its twofold character: the method which finds unsuspected spiritual meaning, eternal and ideal teaching, concealed beneath the exterior form which meets the eye. Thus the anticipations of an earlier age were justified. For the Psalmist's prayer illustrates the effect produced on devout hearts by the study of the sacred Law, which formed the earliest canon of Hebrew Scripture. It testifies to the growth of a consciousness that the written word embodied a spirit which had ceased at least for a while to be a living force in the hearts of men. For the voice of prophecy in its strict sense was

[blocks in formation]

silent. It had been succeeded by the learned labour of the scribes-teachers who no longer based their claim to attention on any personal divine commission, but were content to appeal to the authority either of the written word1, or of the unwritten Halachah, or law of custom by which the Torah was supplemented and almost superseded.

The 119th Psalm, however, is evidently the fruit not of mere traditional instruction orally received, but of personal study and contemplation of the sacred law. It witnesses to a rising sense of the depth, the mystery, and the many-sidedness of a book which the spiritual experience of the faithful had recognized as God's word to His people. It reminds us that even the most perfect methods of literal and historical exegesis may fall short of appreciating the full significance of Scripture. The search after God and after a true knowledge of His ways implies not only a temper of constant dependence on the guidance of His Spirit, but a continual recollection of the limitations and defects of even the highest faculties, and the most skilled methods of research 2. one who contemplates in the spirit of Pascal or of Butler the infinite mystery that surrounds human life and divine revelation will deny the reasonableness and necessity within limits of a spiritual or mystical interpretation of Scripture. To despise the use and results of a method which has undoubtedly been sometimes employed in an arbitrary and fantastic fashion, is to incur a serious spiritual and mental loss 3. A true



Oettli, Der gegenwärtige Kampf um das A. T. p. 10: 'An die Stelle des lebendigen und begeisterten Prophetenwortes tritt der heilige Kodex, der die Religion normiert und bindet.' Cp. Hunter, After the Exile, part ii. ch. 16; Kuenen, Religion of Israel, ch. ix.


Cp. Aug. de util. cred. 4: 'Sed praesumo quod et in hac spe, qua spero vos viam sapientiae mecum obtenturos, non me deseret ille cui sacratus sum; quem dies noctesque intueri conor; et quoniam propter peccata mea propterque consuetudinem plagis veternosarum opinionum sauciatum oculum animae gerens, invalidum me esse cognosco, saepe rogo cum lacrymis.'


Cp. Westcott, Introd. to the Study of the Gospels, p. 458: 'It may be as unfair to disparage the symbolic interpretation of Scripture by Origen's

« AnteriorContinuar »