the Order in Things to be Believed.
RECTOR OF TRINITY CHURCH, NEW HAVEN.
PRINTED BY TUTTLE, MOREHOUSE & TAYLOR.
A Religion which spreads over large portions of the earth, and finds a permanent home amongst nations diverse from each other in language, tastes and customs, must, in the course of time, receive into itself many additions, which, according to the common estimation, are parts of the Religion in its original and divine form. In Christian countries, these additions gather or cluster around three things: The Church itself; Scripture, in respect of its interpretation; and Scientific Theology. As the parasite clings to the oak, so the traditions of the ages cling to these three great constituent elements of Christianity; and it is difficult to discern, beneath the thicket and entangled brush or undergrowth, the outline of the living tree which is compelled to bear the great weight. No one who has read history, supposes that the Church now presents to the eye just the phenomena it presented sixteen hundred years ago. We know, indeed, that the [5/6] Sacrifices of Prayer and Praise were then offered to God through Christ, the Sacraments were given and received, the Word was preached by the Ministry and read before the Faithful--and these are still characteristics or marks of the Church. But the mode and form of worship, of the ministration and celebration of the Sacraments, of Preaching, of Christian activity in general, have undergone revolutions corresponding with the revolutions in social and civil life, and with the altered circumstances of the Church throughout the world. Nor can any one say that Holy Scripture is interpreted as it was, nor are [* The difference in the 'process' arises from the difference in the position of the Interpreter, and of the critical apparatus he is compelled to employ, and not from a difference in his Faith.] the processes of interpretation, even amongst men who wish to be in sympathy with the past, what they were sixteen hundred years ago. Nor, lastly, is Scientific Theology now what it was then--had it continued fixed, inflexible and stereotyped, it would have ceased, long ago, to be a living interest in the world. Essentially, of course, the Church is what it was, and Holy Writ itself is what it was, and the Faith is what it was but all are set forth, seen and handled in our own way and after the necessities of our own time and place.
Here then, in this nineteenth century, Christianity is in the world, rooted and grounded in the soil, having as it were, over its original life, another--the running vine of human tradition, flowering at times in great beauty--and we are forced to observe that we are called [6/7] to deal with a grand complex phenomenon. Church, Theology, Scripture, in the meanwhile, are variously defined, School is against School, Sect is against Sect, and Church against Church.
Christianity being thus a complex phenomenon, presenting many phases to the mind, challenges the faith of men. We who are sent to preach the Gospel, exhort men to faith. Faith is the prominent duty to which we urge all hearers of the Gospel; for without it there can be no living Church, no living Theology, no living apprehension of the divine Word, no living Piety. Considering then the complex nature of Christianity, and the current notions and traditions which make up actual public Christianity, it is of the last importance to answer distinctly this question:--What do we mean when we call men to Faith? Faith in what? In Christianity, as you or I personally understand the word, with all our individual peculiarities of belief? No! In Christianity according to Holy Writ? Undoubtedly Faith should conform to its teaching--but Christianity according to Holy Writ means one thing here, another thing there. Systems mutually exclusive of each other are set forth as of divine authority, and claim is made in behalf of all of them, that they are culled, or derived somehow from the direct teaching of Scripture: Faith in Christianity then as the Church holds it? But the visible unity of the Church is broken, and again we meet with a variety of preliminary inquiries, upon which an intelligent man may consume years of study, without [7/8] reaching a satisfactory result. A subtle process is involved in the application of the beautiful rule, that we should hold what has been held, "semper, ubique, et ab omnibus,"--always, everywhere, and by all. We of the Clergy accept the teachings of the Church, but we are far from unanimity in our estimate of the contents of her authoritative declarations.
Let us then revert once more to the question--what is it to which we direct the Faith of mankind? What is the Object which we press upon their devout acceptance--the first and foremost Object? Is it Holy Writ, the guide of believers, and the Law by which we are governed in matters of belief and explicit doctrine? Or, is it the Church, which is the divinely ordained witness for Christ? Or, lastly, is it somewhat which is neither the Scripture nor the Church, but from which the Church acquires reality, and the Sacred Scriptures their authority?
I believe, brethren, there is a divine order in the things to be believed: and that if not the order in its full extent, at least its principle becomes manifest in the answer to the questions just proposed. And I shall endeavor to return the answer in and by the following propositions.
I. When we call men to Faith, the true, the unchanging Object of Faith for each and for all generations, is our Lord Jesus Christ.
II. All Truth distinctly Christian, and all Christ's Institutions, objectively considered, are from Him; [8/9] consequently in so far as their recognition upon our part is concerned, it must rest upon our Faith in Him.
III. Sacred Scripture owes its recognition as authority to this Faith, while, at the same time, we gather from this principle, suggestions for the true point of view in biblical study.
I. When we call men to Faith, the true, the unchanging Object of Faith for each and for all generations is our Lord Jesus Christ. The only question here is a question of order: and I press it in this view. I maintain that our Lord is the grand central figure, the first and foremost object of Faith, to be pressed upon the minds and hearts of men--to be pressed, too, upon their reception in advance of all elaborated systems of Theology, or in advance of any portion of the Christian Revelation, as such. In the kingdom of Grace I recognize no preliminaries to be settled before the mind and heart shall be directed to our Lord--"the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world." All preliminaries here are obstacles, because issues in advance of the main issue become raised. We go directly ad rem, or rather to the Sacred Person who claims our allegiance, because all else connected with the Church or the Economy of Grace, stands or falls with Him. We set Him forth as the Son of God, incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary--as crucified, dead, and buried: as risen from the dead, as ascended and glorified. We preach Him as the Saviour of sinners, as the King, the Prophet, the Priest for all [9/10] time,--as the 'bright and morning star,' 'the desire of all nations,' the flower and glory of humanity. We preach Him, in a word, in His unchangeable qualities, attributes and powers, as He has always been preached, and we challenge Faith in Him accordingly, as a divine-human person, whose words, whose deeds, whose sufferings were for the forgiveness of human sins, and for the restoration of believers to actual fellowship with Almighty God.
In the fulfillment, of this great duty, we may be narrow, or we may be wide in the range of our thought: we may appeal to Holy Writ, to the witness of the Church, to the experience of the faithful, to the consciousness of sin, to the inherent needs of each man--to the heights and the depths of human life--but be our style of address what it may, be our arguments, our persuasives, our appeals what they may, they must move directly to the one point, to personal faith in the personal Saviour.
This, perhaps, may be considered so true as to need neither proof nor emphatic assertion. But for 'the order of faith,' in the view here held and now advocated, it is of more moment than may at first appear. For it must be confessed, that since the days when the Church of God became imperial, through the patronage and enactments of Constantine and his family, Christ, although he has been preached everywhere, has not, nevertheless, been preached constantly, as He was once--i.e. in advance of the doctrines and of the institutions [10/11] which are derived from Him. It has been too much the fashion to preach Him as behind a system whether of doctrine or of Church enactments, instead of in advance of them. I say nothing of the truth or of the error of these systems; I mention only the fact. Allow me, therefore, to urge the proposition as of the largest importance, and to name especially in support of it, the following considerations, in quick review. 1. The teachings of our Lord; 2. His offices. 3. The teachings of the Apostles. 4. The example of the early Church.
1. The teachings of our Lord. Our Lord was sent as Teacher only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. This means that personally His Ministry, as a Ministry of teaching, was confined to the narrow limits of his native country--but it does not mean that what He taught was designed only for them who actually listened to Him. Bearing this in mind, we should, I think, be struck with the prominence given in the Gospels to the idea of discipleship. The word disciple occurs seventy-five times in St. Matthew's Gospel alone, and even more frequently in St. John. Discipleship to whom or to what? I answer, not discipleship to our Lord's teachings, as if he were the founder of a school of thinkers and moralists--but discipleship to the Lord Himself. We read of "my disciples," "thy disciples," "his disciples"--not of adherence simply to the teachings of the Saviour. Discipleship to Him involved, of course, discipleship to His teaching; and His own words [11/12] are,--'if ye keep My commandments, then are ye My disciples indeed.' Remember, too, the terms of the Apostolic commission, that disciples be made everywhere, and that they be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Ghost. We do not meet with the notion of discipleship to doctrine, but to the Son of God personally. Duty itself, in the Christian economy, springs from this recognition of the Lord. Fidelity to doctrine follows.
2. I must pass to the next argument for my proposition. In the Kingly, the Prophetic and the Priestly functions, our Lord is directly the object of our allegiance, of our love, of our reverence. The affections, clamorous for, and dwarfed without a personal object, find their object in Him--not to be reached at last, after years of wandering amid the issues raised by Theologians from time to time, but directly and at once, one Law being in force alike for the rustic and for the refined thinker. Why press these offices, borne by Him for the light and the life of men, unless we mean to fix the mind, to direct the heart immediately towards Him, whom having not seen, we believe? Do we seek to conquer a world by the sound of a term? Do we put forth our best endeavors to win men to the acceptance of a few words, or are we intent upon a thing, upon a power? I know your reply.
3. Again: consider the teachings of the Apostles. In what light did they regard the work to which they were called? They preached a doctrine indeed--but [12/13] they preached it as Ambassadors for Christ. And the doctrine they preached was especially the Messiahship of Jesus, authenticated in their own view by His resurrection, and by the fulfillment of Prophecy in His own person. They preached Christ crucified: Christ risen and glorified: Christ the King, the Judge of quick and dead. The pith of their doctrine lay in their proclamation of the Messiahship of Jesus--and the effect of their Ministry was, to quicken the faithful with a wonderfully real apprehension of the Sovereignty of the Lord, and of the personal trust and service they owed to Him, and of the hope of everlasting life through Him. Before an unbelieving world, they ceased not to testify that Jesus was and is the Saviour--to the exclusion of all other theories of life. For this they were willing to suffer the loss of all things, and to be esteemed the offscouring of the earth.
4. The Early Church bore the impress of their power in this view, and affords us a reason, at the same time, for adhering tenaciously to the principle now under discussion. It can readily be shown, that the Witness of the Early Church to this principle is three-fold--in the character of the personal piety then developed, in the worship of the Church, and in Theology: in personal piety, inasmuch as the Christian view of life, including the profound idea of personal sacrifice to God, took form from the keenly felt personal relationship of Believers to the risen Lord; in worship, in that our [13/14] Lord's life, death and resurrection formed the germ as well as centre, forth from which the entire liturgical system of the Church arose; and in Theology, from the fact, that the intellectual, doctrinal struggle in which the whole Church first became consciously engaged, concerned the doctrine respecting the Son of God--His divine-human Personality, and His relation as God-man to God the Father.
These are admitted historical facts, upon which I always reflect with the keenest satisfaction, because they teach, that as Jesus Christ was the object of the loving faith of His people, so when they began to frame a Theology, they found in the Lord the first and foremost object of their thought. The mind of the Church, by a noble instinct, turned towards Him, and controversy concerning Him once fairly inaugurated, never ceased, until the doctrine of His Being, as we hold it, was fully and triumphantly defined. Thus much, in this brief exposition, in support of the assertion laid down--that when we call men to Faith, we must mean that our Lord and Saviour is the personal object to whom we direct their minds and hearts.
II. All truth, distinctly Christian, and all Christ's Institutions, objectively considered, are from Him; consequently, in so far as their recognition upon our part is concerned, it must rest upon our Faith in Him.
Brethren, we are accustomed, I think, to recognize the Truth upon which I have been insisting, in its relations to personal piety; but we either overlook or shrink [14/15] from its application to the great questions of Theology. What is Theology? Is it an abstract science, whose axioms and principles are evolved forth from the Reason, in its ordinary processes, or is it the science about God, whose first truths and materials are communicated to the world through divine agency? I only echo the voice of Christendom when I declare, that the Son of God, whom we receive by Faith, is the revealer of the Father, and to Him we look for knowledge, because He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Philosophy treats of God and of man in its own way, and according to its own methods, depending upon and following only the light furnished by the Reason. Here I will not attempt to pronounce upon the power of Reason to discover the oneness and the attributes of God. I hold no controversy now upon this particular. I affirm that Reason, apart from Revelation, is assured of the existence of Divine Power--knows it, in fact. If Reason know it, let me ask how it happens that the Christian says--'I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth?' Why does he express belief upon a point he may be said to know? Is it not because he finds himself indebted to Jesus Christ for a Faith in attributes of God, which Reason, without Faith, does not apprehend? There is a Christian view of God the Father, and of God the Holy Ghost, which we have from God the Son. And it is specifically Christian, because it is learned only in the school of Jesus Christ. When men, either through [15/16] indifference or unbelief, move in lines of thought of their own selection, we are never assured of the result they will reach. Look abroad over the world at this moment, and examine the drift of thought concerning God. Is it satisfactory to the believing mind? Is it a consolation, a source of intellectual vigor to any mind? Thought drifts toward Atheism upon the one hand and Pantheism upon the other. The reason of the individual thinker struggles almost in vain against the current of the time in which he lives. There is even depression, exhaustion, and yet unwillingness to accept truth which transcends the senses: there is, too, where faith has perished, a feeling of loneliness, as of children who have lost their Father. In the meanwhile, we can stand upon the expression of the Old Faith, and say--I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth. And this we can do, because we accord to Jesus Christ the sublime position of the Revealer of the Godhead. Bear with me then, brethren, if I repeat, that by virtue of faith in Jesus Christ, thoughts and knowledge of the Invisible God in His Fatherhood, and of the Eternal Spirit in His Sanctifying Power, rise with the splendor of heavenly light before the mind, while, without this faith, we must take only what the spirit of a time can give. Let us grasp this fact in its power. Let us see that faith in Christ imparts firmness and stability to our belief in the Invisible God. Let our faith in Christ teach us to recognize Him as the centre of our Theology, through whom we look into the invisible [16/17] world, towards the throne of the Father--through whom, also, we look upon the present world, and interpret the sins and the graces, and the joys and the sorrows--the life, in fact, of humanity. O shame, that in view of the work of Christ as the Revealer of the Invisible, Christians will assert that we can know nothing of God, and that Christianity is only a regulative scheme to keep men from utter darkness and corruption of heart.
The subject in hand is large, and we can no longer rest at this stage of our journey. We have seen that as we approach the Father through faith in Christ, so also, intellectually, we hold our idea of Him through Christ. In like manner we apply the same law to the Institutions of Jesus Christ upon the earth--to His Church and Sacraments. This is clear. We hear of Christ through the Ministry of men--through the Church, through the living Preacher, through Holy Writ, but our faith in the Church as a divine institution is subsequent to, and depends upon our faith in Him who is the chief corner-stone. Christ first in the order of Faith, and then, yes, therefore, in the Holy Catholic Church as His Witness--His Body--the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. From the same point of view, the Sacraments acquire meaning and claim upon our reception. For without this faith, what can Church and Ministry and Sacraments be to us? What claim can they have upon us--what appeal for them can be made? Let us devoutly receive their [17/18] Author, and then, if rightly instructed, they become precious gifts; then we are glad to be incorporated into the family of God; then we rejoice in the mercy which prepares for the soul helps to faith and obedience in the days of our earthly pilgrimage. This once more, I understand to be the order of faith recognized by the early Church and expressed by the early Creeds.
III. But I must pass to the third and last topic of discourse, which is, that Sacred Scripture owes its recognition, as authority, to faith in Christ, while at the same time we gather from this principle, suggestions for the true point of view in biblical study.
We are called to meet a new phenomenon in England and America. Men who have studied Sacred Scripture laboriously, have renounced and are renouncing Christian faith: some of them, because they have discovered that certain previously cherished opinions upon the nature of the authority of the Bible, have fallen beneath the assaults of a sharp and vigorous criticism: others, because they have been unable to overcome the difficulties presented; e.g., by the genealogies in St. Matthew and St. Luke, respectively: others still, because they have been dismayed at discrepancies they were unable to reconcile, and at statements of some of the miracles recorded in both Testaments. The alarm has been sounded, consequently, through our Mother Church, and all her daughter Churches, and there is a feeling, that the atmosphere is charged with ominous currents.
 To an audience composed of a Bishop, the Clergy, and many distinguished representatives of the Laity of a Diocese of the Protestant Episcopal Church, assembled in Convention, it cannot be without interest, if, in order to place the topic under our review fairly before you, I go back, for a few moments, to the stormy days, when the entire Episcopal Church was at war upon questions of doctrine raised by Mr. Newman and his friends. In the remarkable book by which he sought to smooth the way, for all inquirers, to the Church of Rome, Mr. Newman expressed himself very freely about the study of the Scriptures. He took especial pains to show that the literal method of interpretation leads to heresy and to infidelity, and he dwelt especially, in illustration of his position, upon the exegetical school at Antioch--the school, by the way, whose most illustrious exponent is the 'golden-mouthed' Archbishop of Constantinople, the finest of all the ancient Interpreters. Mr. Newman preferred, to the literal interpretation of Scripture, the mystical and allegorical, and furnished his readers with specimens, selected from the morbid and florid fancies of cloistered Monks-in whose hands Scripture meant anything they might choose to make it mean, and in whose ears it sounded like some mysterious refrain, chiefly upon the merits of virginity. This mystical method, according to Mr. Newman, is a process preservative of the Catholic faith, while the literal method is destructive. This book, which contains, I think, more errors than any [19/20] book ever written by a Christian, was published just after its author joined the Church of Rome. His withdrawal from our Church destroyed the party of which he was the head and life: and since its dispersion and destruction, the living interest of the Church has gradually been transferred from the questions which had been under discussion for more than twelve years previously, and has moved onward once more to Holy Scripture. At this moment, special interest centres in the Bible, in questions of Revelation, of Inspiration, of the authority of Scripture, of its Infallibility, and of the method of its Interpretation. The depth and reality of this interest are authenticated in the silent, the unconcerted style in which it has begun to occupy serious minds, trained in various schools of thought. Most of the books written within the last few years by our Theologians, which have gained an hearing or have awakened inquiry, have related, directly or indirectly, to the Scriptures: the names most frequently mentioned now, are the names of Biblical scholars. In the meanwhile, the fears of the Church have been awakened over the rationalistic and destructive tendencies of some of these Biblical scholars, and we are now in the midst of a new conflict.
It cannot be denied that the tendency of Biblical study, in some quarters of our Church, is unsatisfactory. I do not think it either as learned or as profound as is claimed, alike by friend or by foe: it suffers much by comparison with German Biblical [20/21] study, in respect of learning, of depth, and of critical acumen. I think, however, that it becomes us to look into its position fully and fairly; it becomes us to know, moreover, that certain men, of whose moral honesty and Christian piety, previous to the publication of their writings, no doubt was entertained--that certain Biblical scholars, in a word, both in England and in this country, have drifted more or less from the faith of their early manhood, and have placed themselves in positions of doubt, and in some cases even of open unbelief.
I cannot, I will not bring myself to believe, that the cause of these disasters lies in the insincerity of the scholars concerned; neither shall we look for it in the Sacred Scripture itself, nor in the study of it. Brethren, we might well stand aghast, if we thought that the casket which contains the 'priceless pearl' were impregnated with some subtle poison, the effect of handling which is, to destroy all interest or belief in the value of the pearl itself:--if the study of the Word destroyed faith in the truth which the Word embodies. Better were it to renounce the Ministry, if the endeavor to learn the truth from the Sacred Oracles, must end in bitter denials of the very existence of the truth. For, in such an event, whose condition were more wretched than our own?
We shall not, I am sure, deal in vituperation, nor shall we pass by on the other side, as if these inquiries, these doubts, this want of faith, these negative results [21/22] from the study of Holy Writ, are of no moment to us. On the other hand, let us not be alarmed, for there is no occasion for fear: but let us bravely re-examine our position, and endeavor to ascertain the true point of view, for the Churchman and Theologian of the present day.
Once more, then, the question before us is a question of order in the things to be believed. Do we receive the Holy Scripture, first as authority in matters to be believed, and therefore Christ? Or, do we receive Christ first, and therefore the Scriptures? The question is not whether we must know anything of Scripture, whether we must receive any of its statements, whether we must accept its witness for Christ, prior or subsequent to faith in Him: but it is, whether we shall receive it as coming, in some special sense, from God, as bearing His mark, as vested with sacred authority, prior, or subsequent to faith in our Lord. Commonly, the order now insisted upon by preachers and apologists for the Gospel is, the Holy Scriptures first, and therefore Christ. I believe in the reversal of this order, and maintain, Christ first, and therefore the Scriptures.
I remark, that the method usually in vogue is, to press the authority of Scripture in advance of faith in our Lord. And this is specially true of men who are sturdy in their hostility against the error of pressing the authority of the Church in advance of faith in Jesus Christ, forgetting that there have been ages when there [22/23] was no open Bible, and that now there are communities where the art of reading is unknown. 'Here,' it is said, 'is the Word of God, read it, and you will find that Jesus is the Saviour of sinners.' This is very well, provided that men do at once receive the Bible as the Word of God. But suppose they raise questions, (and they do raise questions,) how are they to be convinced in advance, and by way of preliminary, that the Bible is the written Word of God? By an appeal to itself? This cannot be admitted, because it is the subject matter in dispute, and the controversy, in this view, must be decided upon grounds exterior to it. Shall we appeal to the Church? Not in this stage of the controversy, because the Church can only bear witness to her own faith in the premises, and also to the Canon of Scripture. In this last respect, her witness is of the first importance. When, then, the authority of Holy Writ is questioned, the usual process is to solicit the study of it upon the part of the inquirer. This method, however, labors under certain radical defects: because,
Very few men, from the nature of their pursuits, are capable of conducting the inquiry in a thorough manner. The knowledge demanded in the way of language, of history, of philosophy, of ethnology, is possessed only by rare students, and the controversies raised by the first chapter of Genesis alone, are enough to discourage one at the outset. The apologist has no right to dictate where or at what book the examination shall [23/24] begin: he commits the entire Sacred Volume to the free scrutiny of the inquirer. It will be handled according to the individual bias, and the intellectual habit; countless questions will be started, and the result of any inquiry conducted by this process is, necessarily, in the highest degree precarious.
Again, the method is false, because Faith, in the meanwhile, is held in suspense, and depends upon the issue of the inquiry touching the claims of the Bible to be considered as the written Word of God. Des Cartes, in his remarkable treatise upon Method, states, that at a certain stage in his intellectual history, he resolved to begin the work of thought afresh, as it were, and to this end, he tried to free his mind from all its past experiences, and to place it before the great objects of human research, in a state of complete equilibrium and indifference. From this point he proceeded to construct his philosophical system; but he is careful to add, that he did not submit his conscience to the same process. Now can we apply this rule to the grand question of Revelation? Is not the subject matter of Revelation, of present and abiding force, especially for the conscience and the heart? And can we advise men to hold their decision in suspense, until, it may be, after years of laborious study of all the parts and books of Holy Writ? Must the inquirer, during these years, in face of the duties, the joys and the sorrows of actual life, refrain from prayer, or from acts of devotion through the Mediator, until he have decided [24/25] whether the Bible, which enjoins these acts, have come from God? The posture in which this method places the inquirer, the questions to which it invites him, are overwhelming objections against it.
Lastly, this method is false, because when men actually accept the Holy Scriptures as authority in things to be believed, their acceptance of it arises from faith in a Revelation through Christ. Faith decides the question at last. The Bible is valued, is loved, because the mind and heart repose upon Jesus Christ, the Son of God--the express image of the Invisible. The mind, in its darkness and bewilderment, is drawn towards the light of Christ, and the old truth dawns upon the heart with all the morning freshness of a new discovery, and disquiet passes away. If Christ, then, be received from the statements of Scripture, Canonical Scripture, in its authority, is likewise received: if He be rejected, Canonical Scripture is also rejected. He who learns to love his Bible, reads it, as it touches, bears upon, imparts light and comfort to the soul, through the portraiture of Him who is a covert from the storm, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. But the recognition of it is not fixed, until the unquiet heart is made to rest in faith in the Saviour.
This is not an exceptional, it is an ordinary fact. And while it exhibits the untenable ground of Apologists who insist upon faith in the Bible as the Word of God, in advance of faith in our Lord, it authorizes the position I here maintain, that faith in our Lord must [25/26] precede our recognition of the authority of Scripture. The order in things to be believed then, is Christ, and hence, Sacred Scripture.
For the mind and heart are settled upon the point of Revelation through Jesus Christ, by an act of faith. The victory here is won, no matter what the process or by what agencies and ministries; no matter how the battle has been carried on, or how light has struggled with darkness. Having this firm standing ground, and knowing the estimation and reverence in which sacred Scripture has ever been held by the Church, the believer naturally, at once, and without effort, receives the teachings of his Lord, and the teachings also of His inspired servants. In fact, he seeks knowledge from this source most fervently. He turns to his Bible as to a storehouse of Truth, furnished for the man of God through the Holy Ghost. He learns from the Church what the Canonical Scriptures are: and the jealous care with which she has guarded them through all the vicissitudes of her history, is to him the exponent of their value, and of the light they shed.
And does not this suggest the true method and spirit of biblical study? The believer, grounded in the faith, standing upon the Rock of Ages, seizes Scripture truth first, not only in its grand outlines, but in the massive power of its central fact. His bias is towards positive Truth, and Scripture, in the light it throws far and near, becomes the object of his study. He does not consider its light through the mist of the difficulties he [26/27] may meet, but he estimates the nature of these difficulties, be they historic, literary, textual or doctrinal, by the light. Firm and clear in his faith, he learns that the points raised by a negative criticism do not touch the glorious heights where Christ sits enthroned, but that they concern a lower region of historic fact, or of authorship, or of the mode of composition of a book, or of a theory of interpretation. He does not stake his faith upon the issue of a question of genealogies, or of the accuracy of the number of men said to have fallen in a battle, or of geology, or of the deluge. He moves from the centre down through spiral circumferences to the points in the investigation of which the new criticism has occupied itself, and upon reflection he discovers, that let the controversy it has raised, go as it will, the authority and redemptive power of Jesus Christ are not imperilled. Imperilled? Never, as long as the Church preaches the Word, as long as the Bible is read by souls seeking the peace, the rest, and the lessons for the conduct of life, which Christ Himself can give.
I say, then, that faith in our Lord is the true point of view, and of departure, for the student of Holy Writ; that the difficult and even unanswered problems presented in some portions of Scripture, by this procedure are contemplated in the light and by the aid of its grand Truths, which are precious to all who have any faith in God; and moreover, that these difficulties are justly estimated, are neither exaggerated or extenuated, and are not the occasion of any lasting disquiet. Grammar [27/28] and historical knowledge, without faith, applied to Scripture, can only assert their want of faith,--they cannot change the record. In the hands of faith, they enable us to enter into the light and shadow, the grouping of facts, the literature in a word, of Holy Writ, with peculiar satisfaction. It is foolish, therefore, to fear the application of a scientific exegesis to the Bible. The thing to be feared, is want of faith, as this affects the individual interpreter. The true divining rod is in the hands of the believing scholar. The secret of the Lord being with them that fear Him, the meanings of the Bible, in its power, in its exhaustless depth of Truth, are revealed to Him who is in sympathy with the Lord from whom it has come. Faith alone can lead to positive results; and here, as elsewhere in the sphere of faith, we find the saying of Anselm verified,-- 'Neither do I seek to understand in order that I may believe; but I believe in order that I may understand: for he who does not believe cannot experience, and he who has not experienced cannot understand.' And I claim that as men addicted to natural science are now working in the faith that Law underlies the phenomena of nature, and is revealed in these phenomena, so faith in the One Mediator must precede the study of that Sacred Volume, which without faith is found only to give rise to questions we cannot solve, and which, moreover, is addressed in its real power only to men who are seeking the knowledge of God, and of the eternal Wisdom and Love revealed in human redemption.
 And now let me ask, in conclusion, what has a negative criticism been able to accomplish as against the Faith I have been seeking to uphold?
I have not time to answer the question as applied to the Old Testament; I therefore limit the inquiry to the New. It has called forth doubt in many minds, upon the genealogies of our Lord,--upon the composition of the Gospels, upon the report of some of our Lord's discourses and miracles, and upon the day of His death. It has thrown doubts over the authorship of the Gospel of St. John, and of some of the Epistles. Let us say nothing now of its literary achievements. Has it succeeded in shewing that the faith of the Church is not taught in Scripture? Has it shewn that the Divinity of Jesus Christ is not taught there? Has it invalidated Scripture testimony for the operations of the Holy Spirit? Has it even been able to overcome the testimony in behalf of our Lord's Resurrection? Has it been able to explain the faith of the Apostles in the Resurrection, upon the hypothesis that it did not actually occur? Has it been able to destroy the teachings especially of St. Paul? Has it been able to set aside the evidence in behalf of the mighty power of the Gospel in the corrupt and unbelieving age which witnessed its first appearance? What then has it done? It has destroyed faith in quarters where faith hung upon the assertion of the authority of the Scriptures in advance of Jesus Christ, and this it will continue to do.
 When I consider the results thus far, of the negative criticism, I do not fear for the faith, though I do fear for individuals who occupy ground which gives way beneath well directed assaults. It has been my endeavor, therefore, to place before you the preeminence of Jesus Christ, in our Theology, in our recognition of Scripture, in all that appertains to us, not only as Christian men, but also as Christian Ministers and Teachers. Here we find the principle of the solution of the Scripture controversy: here, too, we discover that the questions concerning Scripture are questions for Christians. The question between the Church and the World, concerns Jesus Christ and His relation to man. Standing before you this day, I remember that He is the Head of the Body, the Church, He is the beginning, the First Born from the dead, that in all things He might have the preeminence. I remember that it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell, and having made peace by the blood of His Cross, by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him whether they be things in earth or things in heaven.
The process of this reconciliation moves slowly on through the centuries. It is a reconciliation achieved by battle. All things connected with the means and agencies to gain the ultimate result, are brought under review, and pass through the ordeal of investigation and of hostile criticism. To-day the question is--faith, or no faith? Faith, or doubt and despair? No one doctrine is uppermost in the thought of Christendom; but God's [30/31] Revelation, as such, is questioned by an unbelieving age. Let us seek from Him wisdom to defend His cause rightly, honestly, manfully. Let us understand what the Church and the World need, and let the sound ring forth as it did eighteen hundred years ago,--We preach Christ Crucified, we preach Him who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Be this the truth for our hearts, and the fact by which we interpret Holy Writ and the history of mankind.