« PreviousContinue »
“ the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,”
,” ] they spake not merely as apostles, but as Jews, giving the universal belief of the nation in respect to the Hebrew scriptures. But the doctrine of accommodation means that one, for prudential reasons, conforms himself to a current belief, without regard to its truth or falsehood. To say that in the matter of the divine authority of scripture our Lord thus accommodated himself to the age in which he lived is to cast upon him an unworthy imputation, not only without evidence, but against evidence. The most powerful and influential body among the Jews of our Lord's day was the sect of the Pharisees, who sat in Moses's seat, and were the acknowledged leaders of the people in religion. They held firmly the traditions of the elders. Yet our Lord set aside these traditions in a very unceremonious way. All classes of the Jews were firm in the belief that their expected Messiah would establish a temporal kingdom - a kingdom, indeed, of truth and righteousness, but yet a temporal kingdom - with its seat at Jerusalem. Yet the Saviour carefully avoided the utterance of any word that might seem to give his sanction to that belief; and before Pilate he publicly declared that his kingdom was not of this world.2 On the other hand, he expressly sanctioned the current belief of the Pharisees respecting the resurrection, angels, and spirits. He gave also the full sanction of his authority to the doctrine, current in his day, of eternal rewards and punishments. Why this difference? The answer is found in his words to Pilate: “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” 4 All current beliefs that were in accordance with truth he sanctioned, but none that were based on falsehood. But he did undeniably sanction the belief of his day in the divine authority of the Hebrew scriptures ; and from his decision there can be no appeal to those who receive him as the Son of God, who dwelt from eternity with the Father, and knew all his counsels.
1 2 Peter i. 21.
2 John xviii. 36.
The divine authority of the record of revelation contained in the Old Testament being admitted, we infer at once, by analogy, that of the apostolic writings. Otherwise we should be reduced to the necessity of placing the apostles on a lower plane than Moses and the prophets, whereas the Saviour places them, in their office as teachers, above all their predecessors. He says of John the Baptist: “Verily, I say unto you, among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist : notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”] In a certain sense it might be said that the least believer who is in the kingdom of heaven is greater than any believer before its establishment. But the context naturally restricts us to prophets — men possessing the spirit of prophecy with its extraordinary endowments. John's greatness as a prophet lay in his near relation to Christ as his forerunner, and the one chosen by God to see him and testify to him before the people. But the least prophet in the kingdom of heaven was greater than he, as having a nearer relation to Christ and fuller revelations concerning him. But if we deny to the writings of Christ's own apostles, chosen by him to establish his church, and endowed on the day of Pentecost with the gift of the Holy Spirit, that divine authority which we concede to the things written concerning Christ " in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms,” we make them not greater than John and the prophets before him, but less than the least of them, which is a true reductio ad absurdum. Holding, then, the divine authority of the record left us by Moses and the prophets, we must, a fortiori, admit that of the writings of Christ's own apostles, who were greater than they.
2. Our second argument is drawn from the necessity of the case. Though our Lord finished the work which the Father gave him to do on earth, he did not finish the revelation of
1 Matt. xi. 11.
his gospel. On the contrary, he said to his disciples just before his crucifixion : “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of Truth is come, he will guide you into all the truth”;1 a plain intimation that these “ many things,” reserved for future communication, should be imparted to them not by himself in person, but through the Holy Spirit. And what were these “ many things”? One of them was the purely . spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom. This was not understood by the apostles till after the day of Pentecost ; for we find them asking, just before his ascension, “ Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel ?” a question which he declined answering, while he referred them to the promised gift of the Spirit.2 Another of the things which they could not bear during our Lord's personal ministry, was the abolition of the Mosaic law, and thus of the middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles. This great truth was so connected with the import of Christ's propitiatory sacrifice (to be next considered) that the unfolding of the two necessarily went hand in hand with each other. By the preaching of the cross the apostles taught doctrinally that in Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free; but Christ is all, and in all ” ; 3 and they taught the same truth practically by their decisions in respect to the Gentile converts. Then, again, what a rich unfolding we have in the apostolic epistles of the meaning of Christ's death on Calvary, and, in connection with this, of the doctrine of justification by faith! Faith in Christ's person had always been required. This the apostles had before his crucifixion. But faith in Christ crucified for the sins of the world they could not have till after the counsel of God had been revealed by his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. We might specify other truths, as, for example, what Paul says of the resurrection and the spiritual body. But those that have been mentioned enter into the very substance of the gospel. They are, in fact, integral parts of it; and that they might be unfolded without error the apostles needed a special illumination and guidance from on high. Can we now suppose that our Lord began the revelation of his gospel by his own infallible wisdom, and then left it to be completed by the wisdom of fallible men? The case of evangelical teachers since the days of the apostles is exceedingly different. They are not commissioned to add anything to the revelations of the New Testament, and need not, therefore, the attribute of infallibility. If Augustine and Jerome, in the later period of the Roman empire, if Anselm and Bernard in the Middle Ages, if Luther and Calvin at the era of the Reformation, if Wesley and Edwards in later days, have committed errors, these are comparatively of small account, provided only that we have in the apostolic writings an infallible standard by which to try their doctrines. But if the apostles whom Christ himself appointed to finish the work of revelation which he had begun, and whom he endowed with miraculous powers, as the broad seal of their commission, were left without any sure guarantee against error, then we are afloat on a sea of uncertainty without chart or compass, there being no standard of truth to which the church since the apostolic period can appeal. No man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, and that he came into the world to make to men a perfect revelation of the way of life, can admit such an absurd supposition.
1 John xvi. 12, 13.
2 Acts i. 6-8.
8 Col. iii. 11. • 1 Cor. xv.; 1 Thess. iv. 13-18.
3. Our third argument is drawn from Christ's express promises to his apostles. The substance of these is, that they should be divinely qualified for the work committed to them through the gift of the Holy Ghost. For convenience of discussion we will first consider the promises recorded in the so-called synoptic Gospels. In immediate connection with their commission to preach his gospel the Saviour said: “ Ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the nations. But when they VOL. XXIX. No. 113.
deliver you up, be not solicitous 1 how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given to you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For not ye are the speakers, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.”2 And again, referring to the persecutions that should come upon his apostles, he said: " But when they shall lead you and deliver you up, be not solicitous beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate; but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for not ye are the speakers, but the Holy Spirit” ; “ And when they bring you unto the synagogues and the magistrates and the powers, be not solicitous how or what
ye shall say. For the Holy Spirit shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say " ;* “ Settle it therefore in your hearts not to premeditate what ye shall answer. For I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist." 5 These promises are explicit enough. The only way in which one could attempt to evade their force would be to say that they referred to a specific emergency alone — " when they bring you unto the synagogues and the magistrates and the powers ” ; but that they did not contain any general promise of infallible guidance. Thus he would interpret the gracious Saviour's promise to his disciples not in the largest sense, but in the most narrow and restricted way possible, as Portia did Shylock's bond for a pound of Antonio's flesh, standing upon the exact letter:
“ This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are, a pound of flesh.
Therefore prepare thee to cut off the flesh.
But just a pound of flesh.” Such a narrow principle of interpretation suited well the necessity of Portia's case, which was to eviscerate from the bond all its substance; but it is not the Saviour's manner to 1 The original is μη μεριμνήσητε.
2 Matt. x. 18-20. 8 Mark xiii. 11. 4 Luke xii. 11, 12.
6 Luke xxi. 14, 15.