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without the aid of a higher light. Something is gained, in our view, in the discussion of these topics, when we keep in mind the great object to be secured, (if it can be consistently with truth), which is none other than the Protestant principle of the Authority of the Bible as a guide to the knowledge of duty and salvation. Whether he proceed from a scientific or a practical motive, the first thing to be done by an enquirer for religious truth is to settle the question, where shall this truth be found. This is obviously the first step. Until this point is determined, there is no criterion of truth, no “judge to end the strife” of diverse opinions. The Roman Catholic considers the Church through the voice of its clergy and their head, the infallible expounder of truth.
of truth. In every doubt, he has an arbiter at his side whose verdict, being the result of divine illumination, is held to be conclusive. The Protestant agrees with the Roman Catholic in holding to an objective standard, but the standard with him is the Bible, which he feels authorized to interpret for himself. Denying that the Church is either the unerring interpreter of Scripture, or the infallible guardian of oral teaching of Christ and the Apostles, which has been handed down from their day by tradition, he falls back upon the Bible itself. The Bible alone is his Rule of Faith. This we take to be the fundamental position of Protestantism on the question which, as we have said, stands at the threshold of all profitable religious inquiry. On the contrary, the Rationalist differs from both the Roman Catholic and Protestant, first in rejecting every objective Authority, every Authority beyond the mind itself, in matters of religion, and then in positively maintaining the sufficiency of Reason. Nothing is allowed to stand which cannot justify itself at this tribunal of his own understanding. There is no divine testimony separate from the thoughts and deductions of the human mind, and entitled to regulate belief. 'We may stop to observe that an ingenious German writer * has not improperly classified the Mystic with the Rationalist, so far as the former takes his own feeling for a source and criterion of truth, superior to any external Rule. The Mystic and the Rationalist meet on the common ground of a renunciation of objective Authority, the one relying ultimately upon subjective reason, the other upon subjective feeling, for all his convictions of religious truth. And hence the Mystic is found to pass over, not unfrequently, by a natural and easy transition, to the standpoint of the Rationalist, the difference between them often depending for the most part on a diversity of temperament and education. Now the Protestant principle which is thus distinguished from that of the Ro. manist and of the Rationalist, is of vital moment; and it stands n close connection with the other doctrine of Biblical Inspiration. Give up the doctrine of the Normative Authority of the Bible, and we are driven upon the alternative of either ab. jectly surrendering ourselves to the Church, or of being set adrift, with the Rationalist, upon a sea of conjectures and uncertified reasonings of men. When, for example, I open an Epistle of St. Paul and find there a passage upon the design and use of the Saviour's death, and when I have ascertained the sense of the passage, by a fair exegesis, may I then be sure of its truth? Or when I meet on the page of Scripture with a practical injunction pertaining to the duties of life, may I de. pend upon it as strictly conformed to the truth, and shape my conduct in accordance with it? Here is the practical question concerning the Bible; and the fact of Inspiration, or of supernatural aid enjoyed by the writers, has its value chiefly in the assurance it may afford upon this primary question. It is interesting to observe that the most discerning of those theologians at the present day, who are dissatisfied with the old formulas concerning Inspiration, feel the necessity of keeping secure the cardinal Protestant principle of the Normative Authority of the Scriptures. The Bible is still held to be the safe and sufcient Rule of Faith, upon which the Christian may cast himself without misgiving. Thus Dr. Arnold, holding that the apostles in the New Testament predict the speedy Advent of Christ to judgment, is careful to remark, nevertheless, that by the recorded words of Christ which declare this point not to be a subject of Revelation, and by the circumstance that those injunctious of St. Paul, the propriety of which depended in his own mind on this expectation, are given expressly not by divine anthority, but as counsel, this error of the apostles is prevented from having the effect to weaken with us their general authority. That is to say, it was an error, but an error into which they do not profess that Inspiration led them, and from the misleading influence of which all are saved who attend to the words of Christ in the passage above referred to. Another witness to the importance of upholding the Protestant view upon this subject, is the learned and brilliant theologian of Heidelberg, Dr. Rothe. In the essays † which he put forth not long ago, and which he has more lately collected in a sınall volume, the old theological definitions in regard to Inspiration are frankly discarded, for the reason that they were constructed, in the opinion of the author, from a mistaken con. ception of the nature and method of Divine Revelation. Not only does he extend the influence of the human element, or factor, in the composition of the Scriptures so far as to admit of the introduction of errors in physical science and in history, but he does not hesitate to allow that the Apostles fell into mistakes in reasoning and in their mode of interpreting the Old Testament, and to distinguish between the doctrines they set forth, and the arguments to which they resort in confuting adversaries, and which are more or less the result of their own fallible reflection. In these and other particulars, Rothe departs widely from the accepted formulas of doctrine. And yet he maintains, and feels it necessary to maintain, the Normative Authority of the Scriptures. This he endeavors to save by his view that the Bible is not only a self-explaining, but, to some extent also, a self-correcting book. If we are able to discern the imperfection of an ethical sentence, or ethical judgment in one portion of the Scriptures, we do this only by means of the ethical standard which the Gospel, or the Scriptures as a whole, have given us, so that the Rule of Faith-the Source of knowledge--remains an objective one. We are still moving in the sphere of the Bible, following the
* Kliefoth, in his “ Einl. zur Dogmengeschichte.”
Bible's own teaching, judging by the Bible's own standard. It is foreign to our present purpose to criticize these views of Rothe, which have made so strong an impression in Germany. We advert to them simply to illustrate wherein lies the importance of the doctrine of Inspiration, and how essential it is, even in the opinion of profound theologians who are held to be the most liberal of the adherents of the Evangelical system, to uphold the Protestant doctrine of an objective and on the whole unerring, standard of religious truth and duty.
Yet the subject of the Normative authority of Scripture is of subordinate interest when compared with the debate that has arisen upon the historical reality of the Scriptural miracles. The attention of thoughtful men, everywhere, is concentrated upon the question of the verity of those parts of Scriptural history which describe miraculous events. If this be established, the speculative objections to the doctrinal system of Christianity, at once fall to the ground. All opposition of this sort is then silenced, if not satisfied. On the other hand, if the miracles are disproved, Christianity is stripped of its essential peculiarity. The central fact of a Supernatural Interposition having for its end the restoration of man to communion with God, is lost. The Christian system of doctrine is reduced to a mere product of the human mind, having no divine sanction, and mixed, we know not how largely, with error. That this question of the historical reality of the Scriptural miracles involves the whole claim of Christianity to be a Revelation, is plain, for Revelation and Miracle are inseparable from each other. In fact, the ablest skeptical writers of the present day have set themselves to the work of undermining the evidence for the Scriptural miracles. To explain the origin of Christianity, and the origin also of the New Testament narratives of supernatural events, on some hypothesis that shall dispense with the need of putting faith in the latter, is the problem which they are struggling to solve. The Life of Christ by Strauss, is simply an elaborate attempt to set aside miracles, by propounding some hypothesis more plausible than the old exploded theory of a willful deception on the part
of the early disciples. The Life of Christ by Renan, is likewise little more than an effort to account for Christ and Christianity and the Christian Scriptures, without giving credence to miraculous events. The recent criticism of the New Testament canon, embracing the attempt to impeach the genuineness of various books, is only a part of the great discussion of the historical truth of the New Testament miracles; for it is difficult to attack the credibility of the Gospel histories without first disproving their genuineness. This main issue is nerer withdrawn from the mind of writer or reader. The resources of learning and skill which are expended by the Tübingen school of critics with Baur at their head, and in turn by their antagonists, in reference to the authorship and date of the Gospels and of other portions of the New Testament, are only a chapter in the controversy to which we allude. The spectacle presented is that of a conflict for the possession of a place not so much valued for itself, as for being the key that carries with it another position on which all thoughts centre. Thus the real issue between the believer and the unbeliever has become distinct and conspicuous. Did Christ do the works which none other men could do? This is the vital question—we might almost say, the only question. The case of Christianity rests upon the decision of it. Its claim to a rank essentially different from that of other religions and philosophies, stands or falls according as this question is answered. Is the doctrine of God, or does Christ speak of himself, uttering a human wisdom which, however rare, is only human, bearing upon it no loftier sanction, and even mixed with an amalgam of error?
This being a question so momentous, we have a right to require of every one who enters into the discussion of the character of the Scriptures, especially if he be understood to represent the Christian cause, that he shall declare himself in regard to it without ambiguity. Whatever view he may take upon special questions, upon this cardinal proposition of supernaturalism he has no right to appear to halt or to oscillate between two opinions. The volume of Essays and Reviews which lately kindled so great an excitement in the English