Page images
PDF
EPUB

the apostle of the Gentiles did. Nor has the language of the second volume been improved. The Testament was not indeed written in the days of Plato and Demosthenes. That age had passed away. Still the language existed in all its expressiveness, strength, and beauty; and nothing by way of improvement has been added to it since. The doctrines in the word, the duties in the word, the Church order, discipline, government, and worship, in so far as laid down in the word, remain the same, and the call of the prophet is the same, “ Hear ye the word of the Lord. To the law and to the testimony : if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."

But have not the study of natural, mental, and moral science, of physiology, chemistry, astronomy, and geology affected the word, written so long ago ? Not in the least. They have made no improvement on the word itself. They have afforded occasional helps, for which we are thankful, to the better understanding of the meaning of a particular term or passage in the word. But that is all.

Have not travels in the lands of the Bible, criticism of the higher and lower class, philology, studied specially in connection with the languages of the Bible, made an improvement on the word ? None whatever. Travels may help to illustrate, criticism may help to explain a text, philology may give us the true derivation and meaning of a word, and antiquarian research connected with manuscripts may give us a probably more genuine reading of a word. But the Bible, as a whole, is just the same as at the beginning. “ Heaven and earth may pass away, but the word of the Lord endureth for ever."

The pious, believing reader of the word, ignorant of the original languages of Scripture, and knowing no tongue but his own, need not be uneasy about anything he may read or hear concerning Moses and the Psalms, the prophets and apostles; aye, or even what he may hear said against them. “ The foundation stands sure." All the higher criticism has been able neither to discover a new doctrine, nor explode an old one. The word of the Lord is safe, as the law of the Lord of old in the ark of the covenant. And “ whenever the enemy has been coming in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord has lifted up a standard against him.”

A large part of the higher criticism bears against the Old Testament, chiefly against Mosaic statements and prophetic announcements'; but a part of it, and yet no small part, falls on the teachings of the New Testament. Indeed the Scriptures, Jewish and Christian, Old Testament and New, rise and fall together. The New Testament puts its imprimatur on the Old, and authenticates it.

The ceremonial of Moses was a shadow of things to come, but the body was of Christ. And we have been accustomed to read the Old Testament in the clearer light of the New, and the New in the shaded light of the Old, considering the one as promising, and the other fulfilling, and our blessed Lord and his glorious work the sum and substance of both. We have not so much regarded the one Testament as all shadows for the promises and prophecies were not shadows—and the other all substance, as the one containing truth veiled, and the other truth unveiled ; and we have thought a few papers might be useful at the present time, under the heading, “Light Reflected ; or, the Word its own Interpreter."

We have nothing to do in those pages with the atheist. Some have doubted whether such a man could be found. I know indeed that not a few have professed themselves to be atheists. But may they not be ranked in the same category with David's fool," who said in his heart, There is no God"?

It was only in his heart that he said it. His judgment, whatever judgment he had, went against it. He only wished that there might be no God. Men may live without God, and in works they may deny him ; yet it has, with good reason, been questioned whether any man of sane mind does really believe that there is no being in the universe superior to himself. How strange that any man could look on the little wondrous world within him, the great world around him, and the worlds unnumbered above him, and say there is no being greater than man. Even Hume, sceptic though he was, could not be called an atheist. Diderot has told an anecdote of him. Dining one day with a large company, Hume said, “ As for atheists, I do not believe one exists : I have never seen one.”. We do not, however, in the face of all that we know of Lucian and Bion in old times, and of the French Encyclopædists in times of modern date, assert that there have not been, or that there are not such beings, as atheists; but this we submit, that a community of such beings could not long exist together. There would be no union, no cement among them; and communities or nations must have union. Nations would be jealous of such principles prevailing among them. The Athenians banished Protagoras, the first sophist of his day, from their city and territory, and burnt his books in the agora, because in the beginning of one of them he expressed a doubt as to the existence of God.

Nor have we anything to do with the mere theist, who believes that there is a God, but denies that he has spoken to us in the Bible. We have nothing to do with the infidel, who, while he sees God in his works, refuses to see him in his word ; who denies that the heavens have broken silence, or that a messenger has come to us from above.

It is with the professor of religion that we have to do, the man who admits a revelation, the man of faith. When we speak of faith, we do not introduce the reader into the region of myth and mysticism. No, but into the land of purest realities. For what is faith, but “the belief of the truth”? We pass not into a field from which reason is excluded, or where we meet with anything contrary to reason, but a field in which we soar higher than reason's wing could carry us, guided by light from above. "Faith," says Sibbes, “is not contrary to reason, but above it ; as the light of the sun is above the light of a candle, but not contrary to it.” We exhort to the fullest exercise of reason ; assured that its fullest exercise will lead us to say, with some sages of old,“ We want light from above."

On one occasion, after reading the following words, “ Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain : and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit,” I was particularly struck with the manner in which the New Testament speaks of the statements made in the Old, and with the authority and authenticity it gives them. It accepts simpliciter what the Bible says, acknowledging it is God that speaks in it. It teaches us to receive the kingdom of God as a little child, for only thus can we enter in. It is this we desire to help our readers to do; making the word of God its own interpreter. How different is the reception given to the Old Testament statement by the Apostle James from that given by Neologian divines to other statements! They can speak of the manna that came down from heaven as the fruit of a tree still to be found in Arabia ; and of the offering up of Isaac as the result of a sudden impulsive feeling, leading Abraham to imitate the horrid rite of human sacrifice to Moloch.

J. F.

THE SABBATH WITH REFERENCE TO PRESENT

DIFFICULTIES.

A LECTURE BY THE REV. DR. JOHN CAIRNS, BERWICK.

WHATEVER incidental evils may result from recent discussions on the Sabbath question, I believe that the friends of the ancient and time-hallowed views on that subject will rejoice with me that it is occupying so much of public attention, and that the advocates of its continued obligation and sanctity on the old familiar grounds have had hitherto so much the best of the argument. I venture to make at this time a small contribution to this discussion, and I hope I shall do so in a fair and temperate spirit. I will not quote or even name any individual recently associated with the question, for this, among other reasons, that one whose name has been, amidst general regret, so much mixed up with this debate, has complained of the misrepresentation of his views. I will, therefore, notice and reply to difficulties which have recently received a wide currency through the press, without charging them on any party : for it cannot be questioned that they have insinuated doubts and objections into the minds of many, which need to be met and removed. With a brief summing up and criticism of such recent difficulties and objections, I shall occupy this lecture to young men.

The first general difficulty that I notice is the alleged want of evidence for the appointment and keeping of the primeval Sabbath.

To this I would reply, What evidence would be sufficient? Is it not said in Genesis that “God rested on the seventh day from all his works which he had made; and God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because that on it he had rested from all his works which God had created and made”? I have never been able to take any other view of this passage, which is reduplicated upon in the Fourth Commandment, than that God rested then and there, and then and there instituted the Sabbath for his creature man in his unfallen state. The hypothesis of Paley and others, that this is inserted in Genesis by way of anticipation of a Sabbath to be given to the Jews many hundred years after, is, to my mind, quite incongruous; and as nothing has lately been added to make it more plausible, I think it may be left in its original weakness. God's setting apart, then, of one day in seven, from the creation of man, as a holy day, is quite enough to separate the Sabbath from all merely Jewish ordinances. If God blessed it, this was not for his own sake, but for his creatures' sake; if he sanctified it, this was also for his creatures' sake, that it might be regarded for ever with holy reverence, as a memorial of the creation, and employed to lift the thoughts from earth to heaven. Those who keep a sacred day cannot justly be censured as Jews, or bigots, or superstitious persons, for they are only acting as God's creatures, who imitate God himself in resting from his work; and if this was a Paradisaic ordinance, and if rest and special opportunity for worship were needed by man unfallen, how much more by man oppressed by the burden of sin, and prone, amid the secularities of life, to forget his Maker?

Nothing has surprised me more in the recent discussions than the hint-if, indeed, it be not a mistake-that a Sabbath for unfallen man was not necessarily intended for man after the Fall. The argument is all the other way, unless man is so fallen that he is beyond recovery; for even as the other Paradisaic institution of marriage is not repealed by the Fall, but is all the more needed to restrain man's sinful lusts, so is the Paradisaic institution of the Sabbath all the more needed to restrain and correct the grinding tendencies of labour, and to lighten that curse which has been brought upon us all.

This purely human, and not national or Jewish, character of the Sabbath I think our Lord has unanswerably recognised in the often-quoted words, “ The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” This, indeed, has sometimes been denied ; and it has been maintained that all that our Lord taught in the words was, that the Jew as a man was more than the Sabbath as a law and a mere ordinance for man's good. But even on this low ground the human and universal

If you

“ for ever

character of the Sabbath comes out, for it is to the humanity of the Jew, as it were, and not to the Judaism of the Jew, that the appeal is made ; and if the Sabbath was made for his human part, why not for ours? Besides, this is required by our Lord's whole argument, which is this—“Whatever belongs to man belongs to me, the Son of Man, to regulate and control. The Sabbath was made for man, and thus it is under my rule. The Son of Man is therefore Lord of the Sabbath.” If you deny the human character of the Sabbath, you deny the claim of the great Exemplar and Restorer of humanity to recover it to its true original use. will not allow it to be given to the first Adam, and for the whole race, you interfere with the claim of the Second Adam, the Son of Man, on that ground, to be Lord of the Sabbath.

The only other point I shall notice under this head is the objection which has been drawn from the silence of Scripture as to the keeping of any Sabbath by the antediluvian saints and by the Old Testament patriarchs. Now, not to mention that the record is very brief, and passes over other important usages, there are sufficient hints of Sabbath observance, from Noah's repeated sending out of the dove after intervals of seven days, and from the mention of the existence of weeks in the intercourse of Laban and Jacob, to say nothing at all of the general observance of a seventh-day period, which has been so widely traced among the ancient nations, and the word in the Fourth Commandment, “ remember," which points to a known institution. However, I lay very little stress on this objection. Arguments against a thing drawn from silence have often been exposed. Dr. Kitto has somewhere remarked that if we were to judge of the belief of Englishmen of the eighteenth century from “Gray's Elegy, written in a Country Churchyard,” we would conclude that they do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, and hardly in the immortality of the soul, whereas we all know in point of fact that every tenant of every

narrow cell” where, according to the poet, each was laid,” had some words muttered over him professing a belief in the resurrection. So also in Scottish graveyards, were we to judge of the general silence of the monuments, we would conclude that the nation had no Christian hopes for the departed ; and surely one might as naturally expect these upon Scottish tombstones as expect notices of the Sabbath in the record of antediluvian and patriarchal history.

II. The second general difficulty which I notice is the supposed identification of the Sabbath with the Jewish dispensation, and its consequent disappearance with that dispensation. This is a wide field ; but I shall try to answer the substance of the difficulties that have been raised in connection with it.

A general answer to all of them is the argument which has been urged already as to the primeval Sabbath; for if that ordinance existed from the beginning, it would not rise and fall with the Jewish dispensation. A traveller might see the Rhone issuing from the Lake of Geneva, or the Rhine from the Lake of Constance, and might declare that they rose each in the lake, and appeal in proof of it to the colour of their waters, while in point of fact each goes far up to the eternal Alps ; and so the Jewish colour of the Sabbath, as it stood long in that lake of the Jewish dispensation, is no proof that it originated there, since it is a river which comes down from the highest fountain-head of time.

Bearing this in mind, I shall now reply to the reasons sometimes given for looking on the Sabbath as a mere Jewish ordinance. It is said first, to be enforced by reasons peculiar to the Jews. Thus, in the preface to the Ten Commandments “I am the Lord thy God, which hath brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage ;” and in the form of the Fourth Commandment, given in Deuteronomy, " And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched-out arm; therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath-day.” The Sabbath also is elsewhere spoken of as a sign between God and the children of Israel ; and hence it is inferred that it is no sign and no ordi. nance to other men and nations. This, I think, is about the strongest thing said against the Sabbath as a universal institution ; and I am bound to declare that it looks to me in no ordinary degree inconclusive. For if these reasons show the Sabbath designed for Jews, then by every law of fairness the reason given in

the Fourth Commandment in Exodus, drawn from God's resting and hallowing the day at the creation, which had nothing whatever peculiar to the Jews, shows it to have been designed for man. In truth, the two things are perfectly consistent. The Jews had reasons and motives additional to other men to keep the Sabbath ; but that was all. It did not, therefore, become a Jewish thing any more than when our ministers of religion and public speakers' call upon Britons to stand up for the Bible by the memory of their fathers who have bled and died for it, the Bible thereby becomes a British book, or is retracted from its world-wide scope and mission. The Sabbatic principle was also carried out in other ways among the Jews, as by their seventh-year Sabbath, and their seven times seven, or jubilee, and these two were signs to that nation; but this did not in the least interfere with what was universal, and based upon its own antecedent and independent reasonthe relation of a weekly Sabbath to the race of man. It may be added here that the universal scope of the Fifth Commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother,” is not in the least impaired by the local reason assigned to it," that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee;" and why should the Fourth Commandment be limited any more than the Fifth, more espècially when the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt is typical of the deliverance of men from a worse bondage, and they are as much bound by the spirit of the Jewish reasons as the Jews were by the letter?

It is said, again, that the pature of Sabbath observance under the Jewish dispensation was so peculiar that it argues a limited and local ordinance. Not a little has been objected under this point, but a brief answer will suffice. The severe penalty of death for Sabbath desecration is appealed to; but then this no more shows the law to be temporary than the penalty of death attached to idolatry and adultry, and now disused under the Gospel, argue these to be mere arbitrary Jewish crimes. The political or judicial law of the Jews is by universal consent repealed ; but sins against the moral law remain, though no longer treated as crimes, and punished by the magistrate. The rigour of the Jewish Sabbath is also dwelt on, such as the prohibition to kindle a fire, which is the only thing specially interdicted in the Books of Moses. But it must be borne in mind that this is not contained in the part of the law-namely, the Decalogue or Ten Commandments, which the upholders of a universal Sabbath with one consent regard as a rule to Christians ; and even if it had been in the commandment—though this is a great stretch of argument—I do not see that even this would, when weighed against the other evidence of its perpetuity, have disproved it. Work is strictly forbidden, and yet our Lord explained the commandment as warranting works of necessity and mercy, and so in a totally different climate from Palestine we might have been warranted in kindling fires for necessary uses, though the prohibition had actually stood in the letter of the law, and been/valid still to prohibit all needless labour. But I use this illustration only for the sake of argument. Much that has been said about the rigour of the Jewish Sabbath is wholly unfounded, at least as the lawgiver meant it, and as our Lord interpreted it. It was to the Jews a feast-day, though work was

bidden; and making allowance for mate and other needful exceptions, I should see nothing in the true Jewish Sabbath that has passed away.

It is further objected here that there is no evidence that the Jewish Sabbath was for worship, or for more than rest. This, however, is refuted by the language respecting God's blessing or sanctifying the day; for, even if the word “ sanctify mean only " to set apart,” this most naturally refers to worship. Hence we find double sacrifices offered on that day. We find such language as this—"Six days shall work be done ; but the seventh is a Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation;" Ye shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary. I am the Lord.” In Isaiah, “The new moons and Sabbaths are connected with “ the calling (of assemblies,” and we cannot suppose that the Sabbath sacrifices were ever conducted without worshippers. How the Jewish people worshipped in the rural districts before the rise of synagogues we know not; but there must have been some kind of visible religion, and we have seen how insufficient is the argument drawn from silence. We may allow the prophets here to be interpreters of their own law. If,” says Isaiah, thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord,

« PreviousContinue »