Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the comparison of Watson would hold good : apart from that it is inappropriate. There is a great difference between God's permitting certain events to happen in nature, which are disastrous to many of his intelligent creatures, and his commanding one people to seize upon the territory of another and root out all the inhabitants. It is of no avail for expositors to insist upon the incorrigible wickedness of the Canaanites as having at last drawn down their destruction upon them, God suspending the stroke till their crimes reached a pitch no longer to be endured. All this may be admitted, without in the least degree accounting for the moral justice involved in the fact of expressly enjoining and sanctioning the Israelites to undertake a war of extermination. The manner of destroying the wicked peoples is of great importance ; although Paley seems to think otherwise. The instrumentality employed for murdering the inhabitants of the land and taking possession of it, enters into the very essence of the injustice implied. Not unconscious agents in nature, but human beings capable of knowing good and evil, on whose heart Jehovah had written the great principle of moral equity between man and man, were executors of the divine will. For that very reason, we cannot regard them as acting in accordance with immutable justice or christian morality, and therefore agreeably to the divine command, else the Deity dispenses with a law of nature in man which is the expression and mirror of his own character. As the reflex of his own character we consider it inviolable, even in relation to the Deity, because he cannot deny himself. “Morality," says Von Ammon, "rejects every war of extermination. That passages are found in the Old Testament which favour such atrocities, cannot excuse this kind of warfare, since such principles are never approved in the New Testament; and a truly religious morality can only acknowledge that command as truly divine, which will abide the test of justice and morality." This witness is true. It is therefore beside the mark to adduce the theocratic constitution as a special warrant for the employment of the Israelites as ministers of divine justice in the work. "God indeed could charge his subjects with carrying out His purpose of war and extermination, but not in harmony with His own perfections and the moral nature He had implanted within them. There was no special fitness in entrusting this duty to the Israelites, as Macdonald asserts. In all human beings, responsible as they are to their Creator, there is a special unfitness; because reason and conscience are opposed.

What then, some may ask, becomes of a divine revelation in this

[ocr errors]

1 Sermon on the destruction of the Canaanites. 2 Handbuch der Sittenlehre, iii. 2, p. 61. 3 Introduction to the Pontateuch, vol. i. p. 64.

case? Does not the explanation you furnish altogether destroy the reality of such a revelation ? We do not think so, and offer the following remarks towards the right understanding of what a revelation proper really is. It is the expression of man's religious consciousness. So far as such consciousness is first awakened and enabled to behold directly certain spiritual objects at a particular period of the world—so far as the eye of the soul is at once opened to perceive spiritual truths otherwise unknownthere is an immediate revelation, which may be outwardly expressed by speech or writing. Thus the establishment of the theocracy, and consequent training of Israel, took place in virtue of such a divine revelation within the mind of Moses. A divine impulse led to the founding of it. Here there was a pure spiritual intuition so ordered by Jehovah as to be properly and truly supernatural. The idea was divine. But the carrying out of it could only be effected in humanity, and in adaptation to the relations of the time; which is tantamount to the assertion that it could not be without a mixture of the rude spiritual and moral conceptions which then prevailed. After the original idea was revealed, it became deteriorated by contact with mental idiosyncrasies and infirmities inherent in the relations of humanity at the particular time and place. The carrying out of such immediate revelation was left in a measure to the spiritual apprehension of him who had received it; and human instrumentality works in harmony with the development of the age it belongs to. Hence in the arrangement of the external conditions, institutes partaking of the rudeness of their time cannot be avoided ; and commands are issued as divine, which may be repugnant to the moral perceptions of mankind. These commands can only be regarded as indirect emanations of the divine love and holiness, in distinction from the immediate and direct. Their base is immediate revelation-pure ideas supernaturally originating in the soul ; but after being built up on such a base they cease to be entirely pure and holy, or worthy of the Supreme Being. They become deteriorated by the conditions under which alone they can be outwardly realised. According to the Biblical view, things belonging to the chain of instruments necessary to carry out immediate revelations or pure intuitions, are represented as happening by God's command. Such is the robbery of the Egyptians, commanded by Moses in the name of God. Such too is the war of extermination against the Canaanites, which cannot be justified from the moral standpoint of Christianity. It was not an immediate, but an indirect revelation so to speak. The establishment of the Israelitish theocracy which God willed, could not be effected without the expulsion of the Canaanites, in the given circumstances. Similar examples of conquered or destroyed peoples are presented in history; and we freely blame the human instruments that effected their ruin. But at the same time, the superintending hand of God may be perceived, who makes use of the wrath of men to accomplish his purposes. When a nation becomes corrupt and weak, it must give place in the Providence of God, to a stronger. Those that have grown old in superstition and idolatry, make way for such as have a more spiritual vitality. In a certain sense, the spirit of God is a spirit of revenge, casting down and destroying every thing opposed to the progress of man's education in the knowledge and fear of the Lord.

If the Old Testament contained immediate revelations expressed in their original purity and perfection as direct emanations of the Supreme love, the doctrine of development could have no place in it. But the human conditions apparently inseparable from the communication of such intuitions to the apprehension of others, the chief of which is the finite human vessels the intuitions lodge in), render progress a prominent element of their manifestation. In themselres, abstractly considered, they are incapable of spiritual development : as humanly conditioned they are imperfect and progressive. The finite adjuncts make them so.

Hence Mosaism, by which we mean the entire doctrine of religion, and the leading view of the world contained in the Pentateuch, was susceptible of spiritual development; as we see from the prophets and other wise men of the nation. The idea of the Supreme God of this world was gradually evolved out of its symbolical limitations in a purer state. The narrow view taken of the government of the world was enlarged by the world being no longer regarded as a property belonging to the Hebrew people, but as a future kingdom presided over by the God of nations; and a freer ethical view that insisted upon a living spirit of goodness, opposed itself to the morality of holiness by works. It is true that the stiff and symbolical forms of Mosaism withstood this development, and were always drawing the spirit of the people back again into the material. But the ideal religion of prophets and poets prevailed more and more-a religion of the heart that succeeded the temporary symbolical religion. Notwithstanding this character belonging to Mosaism, the idea of the theocracy and its establishment was an immediate revelation to Moses. The

germ of Mosaism was thus a pure and supernaturally excited intuition.

It is of chief importance to us that the actuation of a proper revelation should be pure and complete, because a revelation is only effectual in proportion to the perfection of the means that lodge it in the living consciousness of men. The means of making the primary spiritual intuition that comes directly from

[ocr errors]

God himself, available for man's good-all that appears along with it, and which has been termed indirect revelation-constitute what we term its actuation. This correspondence of perfection did not take place under the Old Testament. Not till Christ the Son of God appeared in the world, was there seen a pure revelation in connexion with a perfect form of manifesting it. As soon as perfect humanity existed, pure spiritual intuitions had all the mediating conditions necessary for their complete realisation among men—all that could cause them to become the highest life of human beings formed in the image of God, that they might be brought into entire harmony with the divine will.

It will be seen from what has been said, that the distinction often made between revelation and inspiration is unnecessary. They merely differ as two aspects of a united process. We do not find a pure revelation, i.e., a perfectly spiritual intuition by itself, without its actuation, or apart from all the means, conditions, and circumstances that manifest it. Popularly speaking therefore, revelation includes both ; completeness attaching to the one when taken by itself, and incompleteness to the other. It is possible by analysis to separate the process, and confine the term inspiration to one part of it; but such division is arbitrary and useless, because the constituents of the process never appear apart in the Bible. They are always together as one mode of intelligence. For when revelation is understood to be a direct communication from God to man of ideas which he could not have of himself, it is made to the latter through his own reason and conscience acting according to their natural laws, and acted upon in harmony with such laws. When persons receive these communications they are inspired. One who has revelations is so far inspired. The sayings or writings of inspired men are all the revelations we have; and such are imperfect and progressive, because of the imperfect agency employed with them. In their actuation they lose somewhat of their original perfection and purity; and since all our knowledge of them is from their conditioning, they and their conditioning become blended together. Hence it is useless to limit inspiration to the conditioning of revelations, i.e., of purely spiritual intuitions. If we say that it refers to that actuating energy of the Holy Ghost by which men divinely selected speak or write God's word, what can we know of such power except from the actual phenomena of the Bible ? What utility is there in speculating, with divines, respecting the power an inspired man had of imparting such truth as he apprehended ? One inspired reported the truth according to his peculiar idiosyncrasy. He followed his own manner of doing so—a human not divine manner because he was still a

man partaking of the development of his age, or probably anticipating a future and higher stage of it. Some of the sacred writers were superior to others in their impartation of divine truth. They differed as authors do now. Some gave forth truth in a less complete state than others, because they did not grasp it so firmly or clearly. They enunciated it just as they were able; or as they proved faithful to their vocation. God may be said to have helped them, as he enlightened them by His Spirit. If, as has been correctly said, infallibility does not admit of degrees, they were not infallible. The attribute of infallibility belongs to Christ alone, and cannot be predicated of a mere man. All that is necessary to say respecting the preaching and writing of inspired authors is, that they served their intended purpose. The men reflected their spiritual consciousness in a way to answer the end of God, who had disciplined them. Of course what they uttered and wrote was divine truth — divine not as contrasted with human truth but as tantamount to it. Their message was divine because it was thoroughly human. Their ideas were from God, because they were the ideas of minds influenced by the Spirit of God. Their communications were both human and dicine-in origin divine. We receive their messages as both, without setting the divine in opposition to the human or vice versâ ; the one being essentially equivalent not adverse to the other.

Let theologians then distinguish as they may between revelation and inspiration, the two are so combined as to be inseparable in their phenomena. To us who can only judge by the phenomena, there wAS ONE process. If inspiration be restricted to the spiritual influence exerted on the faculties of men, and revelation to the subject matter communicated; if the sayings and doings of inspired men are the revelation ; we affirm that the inspiration is of a kind to render the revelation imperfect and incomplete, in itself considered; though it is sufficient to serve the great end for which it was designed. The revelation is imperfect, because conditioned by the inspiration; and we know that the inspiration, coming as it does through men at different stages of the world's history, must necessarily partake of the imperfection belonging to finite beings living at periods of a lower or higher civilization.

VIII. THE TAKING OF A1.-In Josh. viii. 3, etc., we read that the leader of the Israelites chose out of his whole army 30,000 mighty men of valour, and sent them by night to lie in ambush not far from the city of Ai. Accordingly they went forth and took

up their place between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai. In the twelfth verse it is also said that Joshua took about 5,000 men, and set them to lie in ambush between Bethel and

а

« ZurückWeiter »