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gin and consequent imperfection of the Gospels is openly maintained. The writer says:
“Receiving the sketches, that have come down to us, of the life of Jesus as simple human histories, the productions of honest and intelligent men, while we acknowledge their substantial truth, we cannot possibly avoid admitting the liability of their authors to error. To hold the Gospels to be human compositions and to maintain their absolute freedom from mistake are ideas wholly irreconcilable. For it is of the nature of every thing human to be marked with imperfection. But because these writings, being human, are necessarily imperfect, to assert that they lose all claim to trustworthiness, is a very precipitate and dangerous conclusion. A perfect human work is, in strict terms, not an impossibility, but an absurdity. We might as well speak of a perfect imperfect work.
The pretension therefore in behalf of any book to absolute perfection, might justly provoke skepticism and cast ominous conjecture on its whole success.' On the other hand, the very imperfections of any human work, taking their form from the time and place of the writer, from his character and the nature of the subject of which he treats, aid us in determining the extent of his credibility. The strongest argument for the truth of the Gospel narratives is found, as I have endeavored in the foregoing pages to show, in the marks of human nature, in the traces, every where visible throughout these remarkable histories, of human minds, honest and intelligent, and yet impressed by the institutions, partaking of the opinions and prejudices of a certain period and country, and affected, in various ways, more or less powerfully, by the very facts they narrate. We are not then to be dismayed at the slightest appearance of misstatement in works which we acknowledge to be productions of men. The thing is inevitable.” (p. 96, 97.)
Such are the views of inspiration which are entertained in our times by some of the professed expounders of the Sacred Oracles. And are they not such as imply in the minds of those who hold them a complete denial of the divine origin of the Scriptures ? Nor are
these the views of merely a few bold and rash expositors. The fact that opinions substantially the same as these are so often expressed, and so seldom animadverted upon by theological writers in the Old Church, is of itself sufficient to prove that these views are far more generally entertained than might at first be supposedthat the great body of the Church is indeed infected by them.
We ought however to remark that there are some nominally belonging to the Old Church, whose views of inspiration appear to be of a higher and worthier character. It is refreshing to meet (as we do but rarely) with views like the following; for we recognize in them somewhat of the light of the New Dispensation.
“If the Spirit of God directs the minds of inspired men, and gives them just conceptions relative to the subjects on which they are to write; and if he constitutes and maintains a connexion, true and invariable, detween their conceptions, and the language they employ to express them; the language must, in this way, be as infallible, and as worthy of God, as though it were dictated directly by the Holy Spirit. But to assert that the sacred writers used such language as they chose, or such as was natural to them, without any special divine superintendence, and that, in respect to style, they are to be regarded in the same light, and equally liable to mistakes, as other writers, is plainly contrary to the representations which they themselves make, and is suited to diminish our confidence in the word of God. For how could we have entire confidence in the representations of Scripture, if, after God had instructed the minds of the sacred writers in the truth to be communicated, he gave them up to all the inadvertencies and errors, to which human nature in general is exposed, and took no effe al care that their manner of writing should be according to his will ?" (Lectures on the Inspiration of the Scriptures by Leonard Woods, D. D.--published in 1829—Andover, Mass. p. 97.)
Again this writer says:
“The points which I wish to be specially remembered are these; that our finding, after all our efforts, that any
part of Scripture is of difficult interpretation, or even unintelligible, is so far from proving the Bible to be imperfect, that it may directly result from its perfection ; that the sacred volume could not, consistently with the nature of the subjects of which it treats, and with the ends which God designs it shall answer, be so formed, as to be entirely free from obscurity; and that the Holy Spirit may direct men to write, for the benefit of future times, that which may be quite unintelligible now, and which may be of but little use to us, except as a means of rendering us more modest and humble, and more desirous that a day of clearer light may come.” (Ibid. P. 113.)
Those who have made themselves familiar with the writings of Swedenborg, believe that this day of clearer light” has come. But how any one can maintain the plenary, divine inpiration of the Scriptures, as Dr. Woods appears to, without admitting the existence of an internal sense as taught in the writings of the New Church, it is difficult to conceive.
And now let us see what kind of inspiration belongs to the Scriptures according to their own repeated declarations. On this subject, we will let the Word bear witness for itself.
In the first place, then, we remark, that the Sacred Scriptures claim to be THE WORD OF GOD. In the books of Moses it is repeatedly said, that “the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,” &c.; and likewise, that “Moses wrote all the words of the Lord.” Also in the prophets we find this expression very often made use of, · The Word of the Lord came unto me, saying."
Moreover, the Lord himself, when on earth, frequently called the Scriptures The Word of God. For example: after quoting a passage from the law of Moses concerning the duty of honoring fatherand mother, He then tells the Jews that, because they disregarded this precept, they made The Word of God of none effect through their tradition. (Mark vii, 13.) Again, on another occasion, when the Jews were ready to stone Him because He said, " I and the Father are one,” the Lord replied, " Is it not written in your law, I said ye
are gods? If he called them gods to whom the Word of God came, and the Scriptures cannot be broken) say ye of Him whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God ?" (John x, 34, 35, 36.) Now, the words which are here said to be written in the law, are found in Psalms lxxxii. 6; which proves that the book of Psalms is included in what the Lord calls “thé law.” And the Greek word Avonuar (luthēnai), which is here translated broken, signifies to loosen, to dissolve, or weaken any bond or obligation. Hence by these words, "and the Scripture cannot be broken,” is meant that its authority is not to be called in question, or the obligation to obey its precepts is not to be denied.
Here then it is affirmed by the very highest authority, not only that the Scriptures are the Word of God, but that their authority is not to be weakened, or on any account impugned.
Again : at the time of the Lord's first advent, in what manner did He treat the Jewish or Old Testament Scriptures, whenever He spake of them or quoted passages from them, as he often did ? Do we anywhere find Him saying, as some modern commentators have said, that Moses and the prophets were mistaken in regard to some things? That some things were hastily written, and some things negligently ? Or that the writers were not inspired in respect to everything which they professed to utter by Divine dictation ? On the contrary, does He not tell the Jews that they erred, not knowing the Scriptures? (Matt. xxii. 29.) Does He not say that Moses and all the prophets [by which is denoted the Scriptures] wrote concerning himself? (Luke xxiv. 27; John v. 46.) Does He not declare that they (the Jews) taught for doctrines the commandments of men, and thus had rendered the Word of God of none effect through their tradition ? (Matt. xv. 6, 9; Mark vii. 13.) And does He not assert the plenary divine inspiration of every part of the old Testament Scriptures, when He says, “ Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy but to fulfil—(i. e., to fill out by revealing some
what of its genuine sense—its fulness of meaning which they did not understand). For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled. Whosoever, therefore, shall break si. e. shall weaken the authority of one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. v. 17, 18, 19.)
Certainly we can have no higher authority for affirming, nor stronger evidence than these texts afford us for believing, that the Scriptures are indeed what they claim to be, without any qualification—THE WORD OF God; and that no part of them, however small, is ever to be set aside or to “pass from the law.”
Now “The Word of God," taken in an unqualified sense, evidently means an expression of the mind or of the will of God. "All thought, speech, and writing," says Swedenborg, “ derives its essence and life from him who thinks, speaks, and writes—the man, with all that he is, being therein ; but in the Word, the Lord alone is.” The Word of God therefore, if it be really, what the terms import, an expression of the Divine Mind, must be filled with illimitable treasures of sacred knowledge. The love and the wisdom of God must pervade every part of it, just as the spirit or life of man pervades every part of his body, even his fingers and finger nails. And in this conclusion we are sustained by these words of the Apostle, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” (2 Tim. iii. 16.) The words "given by inspiration of God,” are expressed in Greek by the single term Frónvevotos (theopneustos) which literally signifies God-breathed. If therefore all Scripture be really God-breathed, there cannot of course appertain to it anything of the errors, limitations, or infirmities of man's understanding. It must be infinite-perfect-divine—in every part. But how are we to reconcile this conclusion with such passages as have already been quoted from the Word ? Impossible--without admitting the existence of a sense within and above that of the letter. This inference, we think, is clearly deducible from what has been said thus far.