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it to some difficulty under which we were says Mr. Benson; for the sceptic and labouring, gives a clear and happy solution the infidel would immediately shift of the whole, a new and unwonted vigour their ground, and convert the very is immediately communicated to our faith.
absence of difficulty into a source For an apparent objection to the credibility of the Bible has thus been turned into
of objection and accusation. He a real evidence of its truth, and the con- sums up his argument as follows :sequence which naturally follows is that of
“ It is not then, merely upon the ground giving an additional degree of confidence
that the obscurities of revelation form no to our reliance upon a religion whose very weakness has been proved to be strength. insuperable or even plausible objection to The beneficial influence of the elucidation, its inspired and heavenly origin, that we and consequently of the existence of Scrip-would defend their appearance and extent. ture difficulties, is, therefore, manifest not
That indeed we do firmly support and only in the production of belief at first,
sincerely believe. But we support also but also in nourishing and maintaining it
with equal firmness, and believe with when produced.” pp. 31–36.
equal sincerity, that they are of essential
and positive advantage, both in an eviIn what has been hitherto pub- We maintain that, had no difficulties at all
dential and intellectual point of view. lished on the subject under consi
existed in the Bible, the faith of believers deration, it has very generally been
would have been deprived of a great pordeemed sufficient to
tion of the present internal evidence in attitude purely defensive, by shew- favour of that religion which the Bible ing that, in the permission of such contains. The human understanding too obscurities as we find in Scripture, would, as we believe, in the absence of there is nothing inconsistent with the religious difficulties, have wanted one great goodness or the wisdom of the Di- stimulus to improvement; and human vine Being. Atterbury indeed, in learning, by being confined in its applicahis three well known discourses, has having but little or no connection with the
tion to the purposes of this life only, and taken a somewhat bolder course, and elucidation of religious truth, would have points out, with the spirit of one been liable to be despised as needless, or who felt confident of the goodness neglected as an incumbrance, by those of his cause, the “wise ends and whose thoughts and hopes and labours reasons" for which such obscurities were directed principally to the attainment were permitted. But Mr. Benson of heavenly things. So would piety have is a more adventurous champion run the risk of becoming illiterate, and still, and uses language on the sub
those who were struggling for eternity ject which, if not supported by his have neglected the tedious and painful ac
quisition of knowledge as irrelevant to the powerful reasoning, might be deem- best interests of the soul ; and hence the ed somewhat hazardous. He con- Christian, like the Mahometan world, tends, not only that there must be would have sunk lower and lower in the difficulties in Scripture, but also, scale of intellectual creation. But happily that it is expedient many of those with us, that can never, as things are now difficulties should be great, and constituted, be justly the result. Sokindly, not speedily solved or removed,
as well as skilfully, has Christianity been They should be great, or they would framed for the advantage of man, that fail of attracting the attention, and every good philosopher, whatever be the
subject of his studies, may, by applying stimulating the efforts, of the scholar the information he acquires to the illusand the philosopher to unravel them. tration of the pages of Scripture, become They should not be speedily solved, a theologian, if he will; and can, therebecause scepticism and infidelity fore, have no excuse for renouncing reliwill always exist, and every fresh gion as the enemy of Science. Every solution of a difficulty becomes a
theologian, at the same time, if he wonld new argument in favour of religion. indeed deserve the honour of the name How can this be? may the unbe
must of necessity endeavour to make him
self liever exclaim: would not the im
a sound philosopher; and has, theremediate solution of all difficulties science in the nbstract as an enemy of true
fore, 'no legitimate ground for stigmatising at once demolish''scepticism?'s No, religion. For so admirably is the seheme
of redemption compounded of clearness which so deadens the delicate sensibilities and obscurity in its doctrines, that whilst of devotional tendencies, that, were we every ordinary believer may perceive to speak with the tongue of an angel upon enough of the nature of his faith and call- holy things, we should speak to unheeding ing to guide his conduct and enliven his ears, did we not arrange our meaning in hopes; the divine, if he would thoroughly argument, and shew as much knowledge of defend and explain the whole mystery of the mysteries of nature and science, as of godliness in all its bearings, must defend grace. There are some, it is to be feared, and explain it by the use of knowledge who assemble themselves together, to and argument; since it is by knowledge think rather than to feel, and desire to be and argument alone that those difficulties told of the opinions they are to hold, can be removed which either affect the rather than the deeds of godliness they evidences or obscure the contents of reve- are to perform.” pp. 65–67. lation.” pp. 62–61.
In the fourth lecture, the Bible In guarding against any such is considered as a religiously instrucinterpretation of his meaning as
tive work, adapted for individuals of would suppose him to place science every class in society. “ Its diffion a level with piety, or to raise culties,” our author justly observes, ability above humility of mind, our
“ must be shewn to be not only author has the following passage, consistent with its nature, as an inwhich is eminently beautiful in it. spired, but also compatible with its self, and very seasonable before the object, as an instructive, work." audience in whose hearing these
The Bible,” he says, lectures were delivered.
claims, but it claims no more than,
to teach us the word, and shew us “ There is, in fact, a devotional contem
the way that leadeth to everlasting plation of Holy Writ, which is far more precious in the sight of God, far more im- difficulties are, in their nature or
life. It is only therefore when its proving to the heart, and of far more value to the saving of the soul, than all the in- degree, destructive of that special tellectual lucubrations of a mind, however and spiritual purpose, that they can deeply imbued with the principles of be deemed any serious obstacle to earthly philosophy, and extensively versed its professedly instructive character." in the wisdom of the literary world. If a No such charge, however, can be man would gather spiritual profit in its made good against the Bible ; and fullest extent from the study of God's this we consider as affording a suffiword, he must kneel rather than sit down cient answer to those who object to to search the Scriptures
, and lift his eye the circulation of the whole Scripin supplication to Heaven, rather than fix it in speculation upon the phrases in which tures among the poor, on the ground the commentators have recorded their of some portions of them involving opinions, their differences, and their errors. considerable difficulty, or being liable Thus and thus only can the most learned, to perversion. Let this be admitted; or the most enlightened, be saved by what but are the poor and illiterate the they read; and I have felt it most peculiarly only persons who are in danger of a duty to enforce this caution before the misunderstanding and misinterpretpresent audience. In an university, the very ing the Bible? Have not the most air we breath is intellectual; the studies, the honours, the very walls of the place, dangerous heresies in the church are appropriated to the exercises of the proceeded from ingenious, highly head; and in such an exclusive attention gifted men ; but men, at the same to the cultivation the mental talents, time, of fanciful or ambitious minds, the better, but less splendid, qualifications deficient in judgment, or in humility, of the disposition and feelings, are too or in both?
Were not Origen, liable to be held as comparatively insigni- Arius, Pelagius, Socinus, Priestley, ficant and mean. The love of God waxes often dim, where the love of literary dis- character? The poorest man of sound
more or less individuals of this tinction has pre-occupied the altar of the heart. There too often creeps a coldness understanding easily finds enough in over the imagination, and a captiousness his Bible to meet his spiritual wants; over the mind of the abstract reasoner, and generally, either from conscious inability, or from that total want of their connexion with the whole. leisure for speculation, which is in The command to offer up Isaac may separable from his mode of life, be condemned, and the loss and passes by what is " hard" as what restoration of Jonah ridiculed, if is, for him at least, unnecessary "to they be viewed only as unconnected be understood.". It is true, that incidents; but, when we contemthose who are said to wrest the plate them in referer.ce to the great Scriptures are the unstable and un- Scriptural system of which they learned. But may not the unlearned form a part, they immediately ascomprehend likewise the half-learn- sume a dignity and importance which ed, of all persons the most in dan set them above the sarcasms of the ger of pernicious errors ? And, scorner. with regard to the unstable, such The objectors to the Bible are characters, we know, are not by any even further in the habit of giving means confined to the lower walks a false or imperfect view of the of life.
connexion subsisting between difThe fifth, sixth, and seventh lec- ferent events and circumstances, tures are employed in establishing and then deducing inferences as those principles on which our at- though they had reasoned on a cort tempts at the solution of Scripture rect statement of the cases & Thus," difficulties ought to be conducted. - says Mr. Benson, “if we suppose Here the author takes a view of the the only object of the transfigurari errors to be avoided, and the rules tion of our Lord to have been that to be observed. The first class of of giving an extraordinary proof of errors he makes to consist, either his Divine mission, we have cona: in overlooking the character which ceived but half the truth .... really belongs to the Bible, or (what It is only when we investigate the is of chief importance) the charac glory of this appearance in connec ter which it assumes, and the cir- tion with the sufferings of the Mess? cumstances under which it professes siah, the fulfilment of the Propheto have been composed. These cies, and the completion and aboli ? claims of the work itself, in its own tion of the Law, as well as in itse behalf, whether true or false, form ' bearings on the pretensions of Jesus, an essential portion of that evidence that we begin to appreciate and on by which, whenever its internal cre- derstand its wonders." This is to dibility is called in question, in con- make an inadequate estimate of the sequence of its difficulties, it both end of an action. Still more per demands and has a right to be verse and dangerous is it to assign tried: “Now this is a rule which in- a false motive for the proceedings fidel writers have uniformly trans- of the Almighty. --Thusizilie & £ gressed. The objectors to the Bible form their judgment of it, as though
“ The righteousness and merits of the it professed to be nothing more than a Israelites are assumed as the real and only common, uninspired historical,ormót God's peculiar people : and then, toʻshew
justifiable motives for their selection as ral, or philosophical work.” “Those the impropriety and injustice of the seleev difficulties," says Mr. Benson, “which tion, their follies and their crimes, their may be accounted for, on the suppo• 'murmurings and unbeliefs are heaped to sition of its inspiration, cannot be gether with a most anxious; but yotar
most esteemed as in any manner detract-unavailing industry anNot for thy sighal ing from the justice of its claims to teousness, or for the uprightness of that quality."
heart dost thou go in to possess the land, - Again; the same objectors are in self unto his chosen racé : and every framer
(Deut. ix. 5.) is the warning of God himthe habit of pronouncing upon par" of an argument, who denies the truth of ticular passages of Seripture, with the declaration, and assumes something to out caking them ; either in theirw have been the motive for the transactions connexion with each other, or in which the Bible expressly tenquaces as ita
motive, may reason justly enough, accord- unbeliever boasts the glory of a faning to his own view of the subject, but has cied triumph. no right whatever to condemn, by that rea
Many of the above observations soning, the book which takes a different view. If in our contemplation of a com
are at once beautiful and weighty. bination of mechanical powers, we choose They evidently proceed from no ora perversely to maintain, in direct contradic- dinary intellect; and they sometimes tion to the assertions of its maker, that a remind us of those refined, but at wheel was intended to perform the office of the same time solid and satisfactory a screw, we may legitimately triumph in the processes of reasoning, which form demonstration of the absurdity of such a so remarkable a feature in the writsubstitution in the abstract; but there is ings of Paley. no soundness whatever in the conclusions
The rules to be observed, in exwe may form against the skill or wisdom of the inventor, in this particular case.
plaining Scripture difficulties, are
He meant no such substitution, and therefore he
the subject of the seventh lecture. is liable to no such censure,” pp. 104, 105. These rules are merely the converse
of the errors exposed and condemna The remaining class of errors ed in the two preceding lectures. which our author notices is, where To these rules, relating to the matthe objector takes a fair view of the ter of Scripture, the author adds circumstances of the case, but draws some remarks on the manner in his conclusions in an improper man- which its phraseology ought to be ner, or founds them upon improper treated; and condemns the custom and inapplicable principles. This of subjecting the language of the last form of error he exemplifies by Bible to the same narrow regula- . the custom of bringing every thing tions, and expounding it on the in the Bible to the test of certain same restricted basis, as the lanpreconceived theories of our own. guage of any other book.' We are." A delineation of natural religion, not among the “ theologians of he says, is formed by one, and the modern times," who would absom i whole sysem is compacted and com. lutely “ reject” the rule which Mr. pleted by another. The infinite Benson attempts to establish ; but." attributes of the incomprehensible we wish that he had here expressed God then become the subjects of himself more clearly, and thrown propositions and inferences, as po- light upon his argument by some sitive and as distinct as if they re- happy illustration, after the manlated merely to the operations of ner in which he has enriched his some tangible, and measurable, and volume upon other occasions. Her mechanical power. Thus moulded tells us, that “ the common rules into form, the scheme is accepted of criticism are not to be omitted, as a safe and certain law, and ap- but only modified and enlarged to it plied, with all the fearlessness of meet the peculiarities of the sacred ignorance, to the doctrines of atone. writings." He tells us again, that ment, predestination, and grace. “ the Spirit could make such a ver "The natural philosopher walks bal arrangement as might assimilate forth to contemplate the majestic with the changes of situation and scenery of nature with a systematic opinion in each succeeding age.” It eye, to disturb the silence of her may be our defect of comprehensolitudes with the sound of his sion; but we must own that these hammer, and gather the materials sentences present no very definite of his geological theory from a few ideas to our minds. We know that petty fragments broken off from the the words of Scripture may often masses of her stupendous moun- admit of " secondary and co-ortajns." Upon such imperfect know- dinate senses.”? . They do so in the ledge is the Bible condemned; and. case of types and prophecies. But by such fallacious reasonings the we conceive, that either the express CHRIST. OBSERV, No. 275. 7 H 4 Y feito ris filio
warrant of Scripture itself, or at solutely insurmountable. St. Peter, least a process of reasoning found- as Atterbury remarks, speaks of ed on the analogy of its various things “hard” only, not impossible parts, will furnish our only safe clue " to be understood ; " things which to this double interpretation of its the “ unlearned and unstable” language. Under all other circum- would be apt to wrest ; not such as stances, we seem to be in danger the union of piety, learning, and of wandering into the mazes of penetration would be unable to diserror, mysticism, and enthusiasm. cover. Ma of the Puritans of the seven- We pass on to the eighth lecture, teenth century contended for what relating to the success which may they termed a meaning of the Spirit, reasonably be expected in the soluto be found in Scripture, as distinct tion of Scripture difficulties. from its obvious and literal mean- two questions which our author here ing; and they seemed to think that discusses are, first, what degree of
there was hardly any passage which success the theological inquirer may v might not admit of this spiritual and reasonably look for ; and, secondly, secondary signification. We shall whether this probable success be only say, that the existence of such sufficient for all the essentials of a a distinction as is here contended Christian's faith and practice. Adfor, and consequently the duty of mitting that very many bard things acting upon it, appear to us to have may and will remain to be unridnever been satisfactorily made out; dled, he contends that we have no and we fear that the endeavour to cause to despair of success. maintain this distinction has fre- merous failures may be attributed quently been productive of more in- to a neglect or misapplication of the convenience than advantage to the proper and legitimate rule of reainterests of Scripture, by giving too soning. Many may be attributed Large a scope to the imagination, in to the clamours of passion, the force
the exposition of its contents. of prejudice, the pride of learning, and ali Mr. Benson concludes his seventh the distraction and want of leisure lecture with some rules, by way of occasioned by the business of ordicaution. He guards those who are nary life. Nor is the hope of illusengaged in the elucidation of Scrip- trating Scripture confined to the ture against attempting to explain scholar, « In sacred literature,” all difficulties, but recommends that observes our auther, as in pro. the solution of many should be left fane, a discreet boldness, a patient to those who are more deeply versed ingenuity, a cautious modesty, and in the learning which such questions unwearied meditation, directed long require ; an obvious caution, indeed, and exclusively to one particular but still very necessary to be en- subject, may, with a less learned "forced, like many other things which education, a scantier stock of indeappear easy when they are once pendent acquirements, and fewer known. Some difficulties he recom- external advantages than men in mends to be passed over, not only former agés possessed, yet lead the as unexplained, but as inexplicable way to discoveries in these enlighten
by the human faculties. If he al- ed days, which the men of former ludes here, as we suppose he does, ages found it impossible to make. to a full comprehension of the mys- Then follows an allusion to the laterious doctrines of the Gospel, we bours of the unlearned, but indeperfectly agree with him. But if he fatigable Belzoni, - so happy both as allades to any of those difficulties' an illustration, and as a fair speciwhich are connected with Biblical men of the lecturer's eloquence,
criticism, strictly so called, we are that we cannot withhold it from our prof a different opinion, as we con- readers,
sider no such difficulties to berąbo z Look them to the land of Egypte and