The Irrationalism of Infidelity: Section d.

Being a reply to "Phases of Faith"*

J. N. Darby.

{*London: 1853.}

<06001-129E> File Section d.


Mr. Newman sneers (he must forgive me the word) at the sentence on the serpent (Phases, p. 110), the meaning of which is evidently the entire humiliation of the serpent. Going on its belly and eating dust would present this thought to any one familiar with scripture. Gen. 3:14-15. The import of the words is, beyond all question, the expression of judicial degradation, and the feeding on it even to its fullest extent in the symbol of death.

Hence his full final judgment is expressed in these words: "And dust shall be the serpent's meat." But this one sentence, thus ignorantly scorned, gives the source, explanation, and judgment of what has characterized the universal race of man over the whole globe, to an extent without rival; unless, perhaps, the worship of the sun, which was generally identified with it. Where the polished idolatry of Greece and Rome (with which, I dare say, Mr. N. is well acquainted) has never penetrated, the exaltation of the serpent has reigned paramount, and even in all its details proved the truth of the Mosaic account of the fall. Indeed, the allusion of Mr. N. here is unfortunate; for the fact that a single verse of simple statement accounts for what has governed the whole world, though it embraces nothing of the corruption that characterized what so governed it, is the strongest possible proof of the divinity of the record we possess.

It is evidently impossible for me here to give an account of the Ophiolatreia, or Serpent worship. I can only notice some of the remarkable elements of it. It is found in China, Egypt, Babylon, England, France, Ireland, North America, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Scandinavia (i.e., Sweden and Norway), Greece, Italy, Africa in its most savage parts, Palestine, India — in a word, all over the world. It is connected with the principal gods of the East, of Greece, of Rome, and with the most solemn worship of the countries I have mentioned. In Sweden and Norway, and in Macedonia serpents were kept in the houses as household gods; in Greece and elsewhere, in temples as public ones. They were considered the preservers of Athens, as of Whidah on the coast of Guinea; and the savage of Louisiana carried a serpent and the sun, as the symbols of his religion, and tattooed them on his skin.

If we turn to the elements which characterized it, we find it accompanied with a tree, and a naked woman constantly its priestess. In India and Mexico, the deliverer is bitten in the heel by the serpent, which in these and other cases is destroyed by being smitten on the head. Further, he is worshipped often erect, and not prostrate on his belly, and was fed alive with sweet cakes of honey. We find him frequently associated with a tree, and conversing with a woman. And this in countries, in sculptures, and in heathen accounts, which leave no possibility of alleging fraud or intention.

110 It has been shewn that the early history of Greece relates to colonies partly from Egypt, but partly from Hivites, serpent-worshippers driven out from Palestine by Joshua, as indeed were the Carthaginians.* Can any one doubt for a moment of the bearing and origin of all this, and the importance of shewing that "that old serpent," which had elevated himself to be the god of all the world, was, by present ocular proof, a venomous prostrate reptile? There he was, manifested and marked out by his condition under the finger of God. And when we see the whole world full everywhere with these traditions of the serpent, of the worship of the serpent (and of the serpent erect and not on his belly), is not the immense moral importance of this declaration (which in one little word explains it all, gives the terrible and real secret of it all, and reveals the ruined condition of the rebellious and disobedient man) evident to any serious sober-minded person? Scripture has not invented these facts; the whole state of the world, as the research and learning of the nineteenth century have brought to light, has demonstrated the truth of the account given it in Genesis — the divine importance of the key given in a few short words. That is, the whole history of the universe demonstrates the folly of the flippant sneers of ignorant or wilfully blind infidelity, spinning thoughts out of itself, as a spider its web, to catch those who may be foolish enough to fall into it, and neglecting the universal testimony of the world.

{*It may be interesting to the English reader to know, that Stonehenge, other circles at Abury (Wiltshire), and again at Stanton Drew, near Bath, as well as many in Brittany, in France, are temples of the serpent, formed in exactly the same mystic shapes as appear in Egypt (that is, a serpent in a circle, which represents eternity, the Deity, and also the universe, which is also sometimes seen as an egg coming out of the serpent's mouth, or encircled by his folds).}

I may just add, as curious, that a living serpent was kept in the temple of Esculapius, the god of healing. So serpent amulets among the Britons were supposed to preserve from all harm. Serpents were carried in baskets by the Bacchanals, Bacchus having in Greek the same name as the object of serpent honour in India, as indeed was the case with another name in Egypt.

111 Another remarkable fact connected with it was, that the notion of gaining wisdom from serpents was universal. This went even to the notion, that eating their flesh gave it. They gave oracles. The progress of idolatry seems to have been this: Satan seized upon the idea of God in men's minds, and the obscure traditions of what had happened. Where he could, he connected this directly with himself; and serpent worship was universal, as we have seen. Still, the sun being the great and splendid benefactor of man, and in unity, man's heart connected this with the one supreme God. This allied itself with the universe. Thus the serpent and sun worship (both being intimately associated with the idea of the unity of Deity and the universe) became connected.

Sometimes the worship of the sun drove out the serpent worship in its grosser form, yet was always connected with it: how should it be otherwise? Thus Apollo, who is the sun, established his worship at Delphi by slaying Typhon, an immense serpent, who was also said to have been cast down from heaven by Jupiter. He then gave oracles in his place. Still the serpent was sacred to him, and was otherwise associated with the Delphic worship. So in the Scandinavian mythology, the great serpent produced by the evil spirit, Loke, against the supreme God, is cast into the sea. He is the enemy of the gods; Thor will destroy him, but he will die in doing it. So the wolf, produced by the evil spirit, now chained, will in the end break loose and devour the sun.

On the other hand, Hercules, and other such mystic personages answering to Thor in many respects, a kind of god-man, destroys serpents in all manner of fables. And Krishna in India, and Teotl in Mexico, reproduce traditional accounts of scripture redemption, connected with what is said of the serpent in Genesis.* Caesar produces as the doctrine of the Druids, that man's sins could only be expiated by man's death.

{*The notion of the serpent biting the heel, and of the preserver crushing its head, is retained in the constellation of the Serpent and Hercules.}

Now idolatry, as far as we can say from scripture, came in only after the flood. Hence we have the next step in idolatry, a vague tradition of a reign of bliss under Saturn, which recalled Paradise; and then his three sons, Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto, who become the supreme gods of heaven, earth, and sea; that is the three sons of Noah (the ark being so distinctly remembered, that in the grand procession they carried a statue about in a kind of ship). Indeed, it is very probable that the Greek word translated "temple" is really identical with that of "ship." In fine, the worship of the serpent connected itself with that of the sun and whole host of heaven; and, in cultivated Greece and Rome, merged, though retaining both, into traditions as to Paradise, Noah's three sons, and the flood. The purest of all serpent worship was perhaps in England.*

{*Here too, however, it was identified with the worship of the sun and of the ark or goddess who represented it.}

112 This serpent worship retained its power longer than we suppose. In idolatrous Egypt, so judged in scripture, there was a sect of Gnostics who connected it with their pretended Christianity, and, under the name of Ophites (that is, "serpent worshippers"), had a living serpent, which was let out to glide over the sacramental elements to consecrate them, it being the source of wisdom (exactly as was done with Isis,* the great object of serpent worship, on whose temple was written, "I am all that hath been, and is, and shall be; and my veil no mortal hath ever removed;" and exactly as the worship in England was carried on in the serpent temple at Abury and other places, as recorded in British bards' writings of that day): so in Brittany in France, where the remains of these dragon temples are abundant, it is curious to see the mounts ("barrows" as they are called) where the sun was worshipped with the serpent, now all dedicated to St. Michael, whom the Revelation presents to us as the destroyer of Satan's power. And within man's memory, in a village wake, the serpent worship was commemorated, though none understood what it meant.

{*It is doubtful whether this was Isis. Wilkinson supposes the inscription to have been to Nepthys.}

But I have said enough to demonstrate the importance of shewing that the serpent was to go on his belly and eat dust. The world has consecrated it — has shewn the place the serpent had in its history. The connection of it with the worship of the host of heaven is shewn in the fable that Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, seized hold of the great serpent that was attacking Jupiter and the gods, and flung it into heaven, where it became the constellation Draco. Indeed, all the constellations are idolatrous gods. And, to this day, the planets known to antiquity are all marked by the symbolical signs connected with this worship — that of a circle and cross.

In a word, while many traditions of truth were preserved, the serpent was deified. The Englishman little knows, when he tends his sheep or ploughs over Hackpen, that the hill he has beneath his feet has for its name "the serpent's head," for such, in old British, is the meaning of "Hackpen" (and there was the head of the immense serpent formed by stones, the circle of deity through which it passed being in the centre, and known as Abury, a name which is undoubtedly supposed to recall the universal name given to the serpent as worshipped); nor that Arthur Pendragon is "Uther of the dragon's head;" nor that when he calls his "mother," he uses most probably one of the names of Isis, the Egyptian goddess, which identifies death and the woman, for Moth signifies "death."*

{*This last connection is perhaps questionable.}

113 The reader who wishes to have more details on this must consult Bryant and Faber; or, if he has not access to these, a work more popular, but with, perhaps, fuller information — Deane's "Worship of the Serpent." He will find the facts I have only alluded to, and an abundance more, which it is, of course, impossible for me to give here.

Universal testimony renders it unnecessary for me to dwell upon the pain and peril of childbirth. Gen. 3:16. The apprehension of death which so often accompanies it tells a tale in a woman's heart which a man's indifference (Phases, p. 110) to it will avail little against. I am aware that Mr. N., who thinks it mawkish sentiment to make difficulties about hanging people for the good of society, and takes evil for granted, must, among other evils, take for granted that of parturition. But one who believes in goodness, though he believes God can bring good out of evil, and that He has attached increase of suffering to seeming greater ease, that men's lot may be more even — one who believes God is good may naturally ask, "Why was suffering attached to the bringing in an innocent babe into the world? Why was this special suffering attached to woman, and man left exempt from it necessarily and always?'' For, whatever the reason, general and universal suffering, more or less, there is in this respect. Were the Bible an imposture as to this, it could only found such an imposture on the universal consent of man's universal knowledge of the fact. There was not such extravagant effeminacy of habits when Moses wrote the Pentateuch. A person who founds his infidelity on an assertion that suffering does not, as a general rule, accompany childbirth, must be wonderfully fond of the infidelity he is sustaining.


The next objection is, "that the two different accounts of the creation are distinguished by the appellations given to the Divine Creator." (Phases, p. 110.)

Now that God, in the revelation of Himself, employs different names for the purposes of that revelation, which bring out some particular character in which He is pleased to act in the display of Himself, every one who has paid the least attention to scripture is perfectly aware of.

There are three names especially which constitute so many grounds and bases of relationship with Him. He always was what is revealed in each one; but He was not so formally in relationship with man, until revealed for that purpose.

God is the general name of the Being — Elohim.

1. Almighty was the name He took as the special protector of Abraham — Shaddai.

2. Jehovah, as in relationship with Israel, the abiding One, "who was, and is, and is to come," who will accomplish in power what He has promised and undertaken in grace. (See Ex. 6:3.) As this was the name He thus formally took with Israel, to whom these oracles were given, He is careful to shew, from the outset, that Jehovah their God was the Elohim Shaddai ("God Almighty") of creation and of Abraham; and hence the name of Jehovah is introduced from the beginning of any relationship of God with His creatures, though it was not the name of formal revelation and relationship.

3. The third name is Father. This is with Christians. Hence it is said in 2 Corinthians 6:17-18, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." That is, the living God (see 2 Cor. 6:16), Jehovah Shaddai, makes Himself Father with those who come out and believe.

Now this is the whole matter in what is objected to. As soon as God begins to unfold His ways with His creation, to be in relationship with it as a subsisting thing, and the ground on which this is based and manner in which it has been formed is developed, He reveals Himself as being that very Jehovah whom the Jews knew as their God. When it was the mere fact of creation in power, the great thing was to shew that God, as such, did it. Elohim created, Elohim made; but when God is teaching what He was for this creation, and how He took such a place, He takes a name of relationship in which those to whom the revelation was addressed knew Him as their God. He is not called simply Jehovah, but Jehovah-Elohim, so as to connect the two thoughts, and shew the Jehovah their God as Elohim the Creator, the supreme source of all things. And this was of the very last importance. Germans and infidels, who are altogether ignorant really of the whole scope and purport of scripture, naturally find some reason within the scope of their infidelity (which cannot reach beyond a question of documents) for what is really altogether a perfection, and a pretty evident one for such as are at all attentive to scripture.


As to Dr. Arnold (Phases, p. 111), the interesting character of whose mind and talent I need not enlarge on here, there was one characteristic trait of his mind which always furnishes a solid ground for distrust of any — that is, its very great confidence in itself. Breaking through the narrow boundaries of an Oxford education, which is more occupied with the means of knowledge than with knowledge itself, it broke forth into what was to it an unknown region, and soared out not quite aware whither. Amidst a thousand moral benevolent theories, the spiritual right-mindedness of a regenerate mind kept him safe as to what concerned moral foundation for himself. But there was no kind of moral or intellectual measure, in his own mind, of the sphere into which he got, nor of man's powers in relation to it. He knew that he had broken loose from many things that were mere trammels, which he then despised; but he never knew what the world, into which he had wandered out of the happy valley of the Isis, really was. Hence many a question started, which, to a mind not substantially kept right by spiritual instinct, as his was, became infidelity. I should say of this interesting man, that he was one of the most interesting, but unformed, I know within the little circle of my knowledge. He never was in the mature manhood of his mind, which accounted to itself for its own thoughts and real bearing. Here, for instance, drawing the juice, I doubt not, from much of scripture, he leaves the husk of infidelity to Mr. N. It was immaterial to him what the morass of difficulty was which he thus lightly tripped over, and thought thus to help others over too. To Mr. N. there was the morass of doubt, and that was all. To Arnold "the Mosaic cosmogony" was cosmogony, and that was all. To Mr. N. it was questionable cosmogony, and that was all he found in it.


"The history of Joseph" is "a beautiful poem": only it is a true one — a wonderful picture of Christ's relationship with the Jews, yet written confessedly centuries, to say no more, before it happened, and by those who could not possibly foresee its accurate application. Nay, it is prophetic, I doubt not, of that which is yet to come. Here, however, Mr. N. merely suggests there are difficulties, without entering into any detail or proof, so that we are relieved from answering him.


He objects to the long lives of the patriarchs (Phases, p. 110); but he does not say why. Nor is there any reason why a man should not be constituted to live nine hundred as well as seventy years. It is a question of the sovereign power of God, on which mere reasoning is absurd. The longevity of the patriarchs would have rendered the peopling of the earth easier, as well as the communication of true knowledge more secure. But Mr. N. does not even state the difficulty with any accuracy; for the earth must have been peopled from two persons (or, at any rate, from six since the flood) according to the Mosaic account. After that, five hundred years, four hundred, and so on; and on the division of the earth in Peleg's days two hundred years were the allotted term of man's life, and, ere long, "three-score years and ten." But if we take the flood as the point of departure, the universal tradition, mythology, and worship of men confirm the account of Moses, and of the existence even of the three sons of Noah.


The statements of ancient eastern writers, preserved for the most part in Josephus and Eusebius, are as clear and distinct as possible, confirming the account of Moses even to the sending forth of the birds. And the traditional mythology of Egypt, Greece, and all the neighbouring countries preserves the various facts and words connected with the flood, the ark, and Noah; tracing up their history each one to this same personage, making a god of him. And the eight became, in a remarkable manner, the sacred divine number in Egypt (the great converter of Mosaic history* into fabular divinities); while he is in many fables represented as hid in an ark from the fury of a mythical representative of the deluge, and coming out by a new birth, and celebrated as the inventor of wine. A sacred ship was carried in procession in many places. The very word "ark" (in Hebrew, teba) having given its name** to many of the places in which these superstitious memorials of it were preserved. The preservation of the ark on Ararat is recorded by the most ancient historical records in existence; and in various places, where temples connected with these events were erected, a vast cleft was shewn, through which the waters of the deluge are said to have retired.

{*India, though in another form, has preserved the same histories; but through Greece, which derived it chiefly thence, we are more familiar, at any rate, with the Egyptian edition. All idolatry had, I cannot doubt, a common source; that of India, Egypt, Druidism, and other mythological systems, were only local forms of it.}

{**Some question this.}

117 In the East, the general historical account was preserved more clearly and fully — a very natural result of the fact that it was from thence, according to the Mosaic accounts, that the various colonies of the human race started: whereas in Greece and places connected by colonies with it, each (though stating it in a way which, even to their own serious writers, proved it a far earlier history) attributed it to the first king of their own colony and localized it. But they all agree in doing the same, each for his own colony, thus proving its universality, and in many instances acknowledging that their founder came from Egypt, and in one case in a very peculiar ship, thence held sacred — the very one which was carried in procession in the rites of Isis, in which the ark and the deluge were celebrated.

Besides this, the tradition of a deluge is universal all over the world. I may add, that the ablest naturalists, such as Cuvier, allege it to have been universal. Where does this universal tradition come from? Whence its connection with the author of the human race preserved in an ark, and beginning again the history of man, who had perished by a deluge?

I may add, that there is an ancient medal of a city in Asia Minor, called by the Greek name of the "ark," on the reverse of which you have an ark, with a man and woman in it: the top taken off and a bird flying with a small bough in its bill, and another resting on the ark. A man and woman are also outside, come down on the dry ground. All these, remark, are heathen notices of the deluge.*

{*The reader who has the opportunity may consult Bryant, vol. 2. p. 195 of the 4to edition.}

118 Mr. N. suggests physiological difficulties as to the peopling of the earth. (Phases, p. 110.)

Some physiologists have thought, on physiological principles, that the earth must have been probably more populous at the time of the deluge than now; but to such mere probable calculations it is really useless to have anything to say. The population of the earth increases so much more rapidly under some circumstances than under others (so amazingly faster, too, in proportion to the space over which the population has to spread), or, on the other hand, diminishes from oppression or misery; that assertions, made off-hand as to possible numbers, really prove nothing else than the disposition of the objector. Mr. N. — who has not confidence in scripture, because he will not believe it to be God's word, and who has great confidence in these surmises, because he is sure they are man's — considers the latter, of course, certain, the former of no authority, and talks of demonstrations; though as to demonstration, for instance, of the antediluvian population, it is a mere absurdity to talk of it. Does he suppose he has any demonstration that there has been no deluge, the testimony to which, and even to the Mosaic account of which, is everywhere, and the proofs of which, according to the authority of such men as Cuvier, are everywhere also? All this shews simply the will to make objections, and the hardihood of objectors.


I would just remark here, that the word "infallible"* is used by Mr. N. in a very loose way, in which, indeed, he is not singular. God alone is infallible; for "infallible" means one who can in no case err. The most perfect truth cannot be called "infallible;" it is the opposite to error, not to fallibility. This word does not apply itself to anything already expressed. The mass of truth to us yet unknown in scripture gives a certain applicability of this word to it (meaning, that we are sure that whatever we do thus find will be truth).** But the moral difference of infallibility and perfect truth is very great indeed; because when I judge of the infallibility of scripture, I am pronouncing on an abstract question about the book. When I reject positive truth that is there, I am facing what acts directly on my conscience. I do not discuss infallibility with an infidel. For, in strict logic, none but one who is incapable of erring in what he may pronounce is infallible. But in scripture all is pronounced: it is truth or error. The business of the infidel is, therefore, to pronounce that such and such things are truth or error.

{*"It was impossible to allege anything so cogent in favour of the infallibility of any or some part of the scriptures." (Phases, p. 112.)}

{**Hence, when a simple person says, "Scripture is infallible," he is quite right: he means merely, that all he will find there is the truth as coming from God.}


I turn to the question of the entrance of death. Mr. N. examines the present condition of man's body,* which scripture declares and every one knows to be mortal; and states, that as it is constituted it must be so, and hence argues that it must have been so in a state which he knows nothing about. And that is called logic! Is it impossible that it should have been in another state? Of course, as it is, it is mortal. But could not God have sustained it? All things subsist by Him. An animal that lives a century or two, or an insect that closes its life with the evening of its birthday, are all constituted so by Him with whom are the issues of life. Could He not have ever sustained the life of him whom He had made in His own image? A heathen, Callimachus, will tell him, that in Him we live, and move, and have our being. Mr. N. will tell us that the earth could not have held them. Who told him they would have stayed there? All this is mere gratuitous supposition.

{*"To refer the death of animals to the sin of Adam and Eve is impossible. Yet if not, the analogies of the human to the brute form make it scarcely credible that man's body can ever have been intended for immortality." His proof is drawn from geology and physiology, such as, "The conditions of birth and growth to which it is subject, and the wear and tear of life," &c. (Phases, p. 112.)}

One thing is certain, that some dire and ruinous confusion is entered in; and whatever Mr. N. may dream in his closet, the misery, the violence, the horrors of the four quarters of the globe proclaim an unintelligible Deity, or a desolated and ruined, because a sinful, world. He must be as hard-hearted as the god his imagination would content itself with, or admit that sin has brought in desolation and misery. Death is but the seal and stamp that characterizes an existence over which it casts its fear, if thought allows anything but a wilful folly which is worse; and indeed it extends its power and gloom over man in spite of folly, so as to make a Saviour weep, though he that denies Him can look at it with indifference, because he can hide it from his heart, till it meets his eye, or — which God forbid — too late, appals his conscience.

120 But Mr. N. will teach us more than scripture. Man is like the brutes that perish, and must have always been so. Death could not have come upon animals. Geology, he says, tells us so. Now I do not pretend to judge this absolutely. The apostle, in speaking of death entering into this world, says nothing whatever of what has happened in others, or with other creatures. He does not even speak of beasts. Now man has not been found in any ancient fossil remains.


What the apostle says is this: "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Rom. 5:12. Now here he evidently is entirely occupied with the effect of sin in bringing man under death, as the beginning of death declares. Neither in Genesis nor in Romans is anything said of the beasts. In both, men alone are spoken of as the specific subject. In Genesis, and to that the apostle refers, it is a sentence previously pronounced on man. When man was created, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, a thing never said of beasts. Death was pronounced in case of failure. As far as any other testimonies go, the New Testament rather speaks of beasts, as indeed does the Old, as perishing beings — "The beasts that perish." Ps. 49. Peter says, "Natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed." 2 Peter 2:12. Now I grant this does not positively prove anything, because the psalmist and apostle may refer to their present condition. But it shews how little ground there is for the objection. For with a holy wisdom, the word of God does not answer our curiosity, but leaves beasts as they are before our eyes. We are told, indeed, that the creature has got into misery and ruin by our fall, and, as a system, will not be restored till we are manifested in glory; and this is true even of our bodies. This was morally important for us to know, that we might be humbled by the sense of the way in which we had dragged down subordinate creation with us — encouraged by the thought that our glory would be the occasion of the restoration of the blessing. But no further curiosity is indulged.*

{*Besides, the finding fossil remains of an antecedent world, supposing it fully demonstrated, proves nothing of the manner in which death entered into this, even as regards beasts. We have no knowledge of their condition before the fall.}


To talk of physiology is mere nonsense, because physiology can only examine man as he is — a state which scripture and all men pronounce to be that of mortality. What he was is the question; and of this I apprehend a dissecting infidel surgeon is about as ignorant as his neighbours; and more so than many, if he supposes that the God who created man could not sustain him in a present immortal condition. No creature can subsist per se, that is, independently of God. God had constituted man not dying, and then sentenced him to be a dying creature as he is. Why is "wear and tear" (Phases, p. 113) essential to life? Now it is, no doubt; but this is not essential to life, but to man's present state of life. The Paradisaical state is mentioned by Plato in a curious passage. He says, "They lived naked in a state of happiness, and had an abundance of fruits, which were produced without the labour of agriculture, and men and beasts could then converse together. But these things we must pass over, until there appear some one to interpret them to us."

It is certainly remarkable, how everything in the Mosaic history is preserved, at least as disjecta membra, bits of truth amidst masses of error and superstition, corrupted into a mythological system by Egyptians, into a fabular system by Hesiod and Homer, into a monstrous system by Hindus, but preserved. While Moses (who certainly did not derive it from extracting it by morsels from Hindu, Egyptian, Grecian, and Mexican fables, or from Plato, who lived centuries after him) has given a concise, simple account of immense moral import, infinitely elevated above the whole range of the heathen fables which pervert its elements, placing the supreme God — man —  good — evil —  responsibility — grace —  law — promise —  the creatures — marriage, all in their place; which short statement accounts for all that we find dispersed over the whole world, of traditional notions of the primeval history of man — so accounts for it, that with a little pains, we can trace all the fables to their source. How comes this? It is God's most brief but divine account of the whole matter, preserving by its very brevity its true character of the moral seed, so to speak, of all that has been afterward developed of good and evil. It was meant to be such and not more. The germ of all was there in that form. It is divinely given. With further details it would have lost this character. It would have had only its own moral consequences for the parties concerned, like other acts of individual men. But in the Mosaic account, creative goodness, the knowledge of good and evil, conscience, judgment, the way of the tree of life closed, and promise in the woman's seed given, all involving immense principles, are brought out. We see ourselves that the whole world is concerned in it, the immense drama of which angels and principalities and powers are the wondering spectators; and the conflict of good and evil, the moral of the tale, is opened with those in whose persons it was to be all developed; and the suggestion of His coming in grace and power, who would close, in the glorious triumph of good, putting down evil, what had begun in the solemn lessons of a lost paradise. But the drama was a reality; and all was involved in that one man and his failing companion. Yet from her who failed recovery was to spring, for grace was to be brought out and magnified (that is, God in His dealings with man). And these things angels desire to look into.

122 But Mr. N. will find faults if he can — old moral ones, for the old ones that depended on "science" are abandoned. We hear no more of the Zodiac of Dendera, or the millions of years of Hindu chronology, or the more moderate thousands of Chinese dynasties. All these have disappeared before increased information. The Zodiac, on which the Volneys would found the ruin of revelation by its proofs of the long ante-Mosaic existence of the world, has been proved, by the discovery of the meaning of the hieroglyphic symbols, to have been made in the reign of Augustus Caesar. The Indian eclipses are proved to have been calculated backwards, and the earliest observation to have been made not earlier than 700 years before Christ, that is, scarcely so early as Hezekiah's reign. And the time is known when all ancient books were destroyed in China, so that all is fable before. No history exists before the latter part of the history of the Jews: and, what is remarkable, all well-authenticated ancient history centres round that people.

123 Take Herodotus, and you will find that he has no nations with a history to tell you of but such as were in connection with the Jews — the Assyrians, Egyptians, and Babylonians, and such like — I name only the earliest. All the rest is vague and dark. Outside this we have some Chinese dynasties and some dark Hindu traditions, which tend to confirm the early Mosaic accounts; and in monuments which no fraud could have reached. In Egypt, we have pictures of Jews making bricks under the lash; and, what is remarkable, we have evidently Jewish overseers, and besides them Egyptian directors, or head-overseers — exactly what is stated in the book of Exodus. For if infidelity can find doubts to stumble and fall upon, God has given to a simple faith what even externally confirms its confidence, and confounds the folly of the false science that will not believe. Such proofs are never the foundation of faith; they cheer and confirm it.

Remark another thing, that history groups itself also round exactly that centre which Moses has made the cradle of mankind. While the peculiar people of God, placed at the point of contact of the three parts of the old world, formed the centre field of active power, as they certainly did for Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, all are grouped round it; the hivings off of people in all directions are found to be from the centre, in which Moses placed it. It was the real officina Gentium. So late as the barbarian inroads into the Roman empire, the invasions were in a great measure determined by advancing hordes from the east. In general, all languages and all records shew that, from about Mesopotamia, and the country north of it, as a centre, the world has been peopled. Though, of course, many of the movements are lost in the obscurity of ages, and secondary colonizations took place subsequently, as Hivites and Phoenicians peopling Greece and Africa, when driven out by Joshua, of which there is very ample evidence; and colonies from Egypt to Greece, and Greece to Italy; from Phoenicia over the whole Mediterranean at least. But this only confirms the general fact, and that very strongly in some of its details. The Phoenicians went even to Ireland, and the first of May is still called in Irish, as pronounced, Boul tinne, that is, Baal teine,* Baal's fire, teine meaning fire in the Celtic. I turn now to some other objections — the moral ones to which I have alluded.

{*The only question which may be raised is, whether this expression of Boul tinne may not belong to the original inhabitants who first peopled the country: but this would only make the proof stronger. In Ireland, the tradition of the arrival of the Phoenicians is well known and fully believed.}


Mr. Newman's first moral objection is to the song of Deborah, Judges 5:24; and his objection is, that "the prophetess Deborah, in an inspired psalm, pronounces Jael to be blessed above women, and glorifies her act by an elaborate description of its atrocities." (Phases, p. 113.) But who told Mr. N. that Deborah's song was "an inspired psalm?" That the writer of the Judges was inspired to give it to us, I do not doubt; but that is entirely a different matter. I believe in the fullest way in the inspiration of scripture; but this does not mean, that all that it contains was inspired in the mouths of those who uttered it. We have Satan's words, wicked men's words, human accounts of divers facts, recorded by inspiration, but not themselves inspired. A revelation should give (it is what it means) the perfect presentation of the Divine mind on the subject of which it treats, to one spiritually capable of understanding it. But in doing this — as to man, as to Israel — it must give me a true real picture of what man, what Israel, is; and this it does, not merely by a dogmatic statement, but by a large historical development of what man has done, what he has felt, what he has been in various circumstances, under various advantages, and in various stages of progress through the revelations already afforded him. If the Bible had merely given us God's judgment, we never should have had the same testimony to conscience as we have, by its affording us man's actual history under the various dispensations of God towards him. But to do this, I must have him as he was, his feelings expressed as they were in him; whether without God, or under the influence of piety, yet ill-informed in God's mind; or animated as to his heart by God's Spirit, yet the result a mixed one, and taking the forms of thought and feeling, which were and must have been such as his state of moral education would have produced. Otherwise it would not have been the true and needed account of man (consequently, not a divine one).

In the midst of all this, we get positive revelations from God, given in order to act upon men in this state. In this last case, I get inspired testimony of what God's own mind is. Yet even here grace has adapted it to the conscience and spiritual information possessed, and God's dealings with men in such or such a state. If He deigned to deal with them, thus He must in condescendence have done for their blessing. He leads them up and onward indeed; but it is them He is to lead. A gracious father speaks to his child according to what suits it, yet never what is unworthy of himself: it is worthy of him to suit himself to it. So has God dealt with men, with Israel. How else could He have dealt with them, if He meant them to be morally developed?

125 Thus, in the Old Testament, we have a perfect, divinely-given picture of man, under this gracious process, in the various relationships in which he was placed with God, so as to get his whole condition fully brought out; that by a divinely-given history we might know ourselves, and at the same time the whole course of God's dealings, and what man was under them, till his need of perfect and supreme grace should be manifested, and God manifested in Christ as the supreme grace he needed, and man and God get into the relationship which was His full purpose according to the security which flows from the unchangeableness of His nature and the perfectness of His love.* When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Rom. 5:6. Hence it is said, "for the forgiveness of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare at this time his righteousness." Rom. 3:25. He dealt with them for the full development of His ways. He received them according to His knowledge of the perfect work to be accomplished in Christ.

{*I speak of the revelation of it. The effectual means of all grace was Christ from the beginning. "God's righteousness was declared at this time." This last remark shews that the doctrine of development since Christ is a blasphemous arraignment of the perfection of God Himself manifested in Christ, fully revealed by the apostles, or a total ignorance of what Christianity is. Hence John urgently insists, "That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have heard, which we have looked upon, which our hands have handled, of the Word of life." That is, he calls back to what was from the beginning as the safeguard against all seduction. It is remarkable that, as soon as he had got thoroughly infidel, Mr. N. could get on good terms with his brother, who had got thoroughly papist, and not before. This tells a tale few are prepared to believe. It is a sign, too, of the times.}

Now God has given us a perfect revelation of all this; but we should not have the knowledge either of man or of our God Himself, and of His wondrous and all-perfect and patient ways with us, if we had not men at each step exactly as they were: it would not be the truth else. The statement of morality simply by God would, no doubt, have shewn what man ought to be. That we have in the law. But it would not have shewn us what man is — what he is under the various dealings of God. Now we have this; and, I repeat, to have it we must have man, even when under the influence of God's Spirit, just as he was under it (the effect produced being according to the degree in which his own soul was acted on, the medium in which he lived, and the measure of revelation afforded him).

126 Such was Deborah's song. It is not a communication of God's thoughts, but of Deborah's feelings. Doubtless, her heart was moved by the Spirit in thankfulness for the deliverance of God's beloved people; but there is not a sign of its being a communication from God to that people. Now such a song may vary in the spiritual conformity to the highest measure of light which is possessed — may be more or less mixed with man, and may be coloured by the general condition of the people, and the nearness of the individual's soul to God. It may express much greater nearness, because the mass are far gone from Him, as in Hannah's, whose weakness is entirely cast on God, and hence points vividly to Christ; or Simeon's, whose soul can go in peace Luke 2:29, because the hope of his devout heart is fulfilled in the midst of the desolations of Israel; or (if God interferes in outward mercy and gives a temporal reviving, because He will not destroy, but makes Himself known, and that in mercy to His people) the thanksgiving or the praise will descend to the measure of the present interference, by which God has hindered His people from having their remembrance blotted out of the earth

Such is, in fact, Deborah's song. It does not rise above it — I mean above the present measure of Israel's blessing. If I am to know what Israel was then, it should not — if I am to know the way of God's dealings with them, it must not — pass beyond it. Israel gradually sunk; and the character of deliverers and deliverances sunk, till God had to come in afresh in Samuel and David, when "He had delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand." Ps. 78:61 How am I to learn this, and know what the real condition of the people and the truth of God's dealings were, if I do not have them just as they were? A song of David, of Simeon, or of Hannah, would have been morally out of place to celebrate the deeds of Barak the son of Abinoam, and of the prophetess of the palm-tree in mount Ephraim. The thing objected to is a perfection in the revelation. I judge many things in the revelation by a clearer light. I learn many things in God's ways. How could I, if they were not there?

127 Mr. N. neither states the fact correctly, nor reasons justly from what he observes. It is never given as an "inspired psalm." It is only said, "Then sang Deborah, and Barak the son of Abinoam." I pass a moral judgment on many things in the Old Testament, because God has given us the true light, and the darkness is now passed. But how does that shew that it is not an inspired revelation that has given me them? I judge them in the perfect light. But it is He who is light who has given me them to judge of, and the light to judge them by. He means to inform my spiritual judgment, and to reveal His ways to me, to shew me-that He has never ceased dealing with men — that the world has not gone on without His knowledge. He has given me the key to everything, and therefore He has afforded me all these elements with divine perfectness, on which and by which my judgment is to be spiritually formed, and my senses exercised to discern good and evil, as man has learnt it through ages, or as it has been displayed and developed in his history; while Christ has given the perfect key by which to judge of it all. Hence Paul says, the scriptures are "able to make us wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus." And so, when poor Peter would have put Moses and Elias in the same rank with Christ, they disappear, and "a voice came from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. And … Jesus was found alone."

Then, besides these historical pictures of God's ways and of their effect on man, I do get direct addresses to the conscience at the time in the prophets, and the eye of the saints suffering under the evil state of God's people directed to that better day which the Christ who should visit them as the dayspring should bring in to set all things right. They looked on to it, and were saved by hope, as we are; if not so clear a hope, yet as true, and indeed the same, though only partially revealed, and in its earthly part, yet so as that heaven was necessarily brought in by it. Abraham rejoiced to see Christ's day; and he saw it, and was glad; and, a stranger in the Canaan which had been promised him, he looked for "a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" Heb. 11:10; in the glory of which he will enjoy the blessings of the inheritance of his children in a better and sweeter way than those who shall actually possess them. The Old Testament is gained, not lost, thus; we have it from our God's own hand to instruct us. What happened as proofs of God's present interference in a temporal way to them — which was what suited their state and God's government of the earth — is spiritual instruction for us, written for our learning, which is what we want, that by which we can more fully know God; while all He teaches in it is perfect, and from that I learn His ways.

128 Mr. N. is false in his theory, and mistaken in his fact. First, I can "pass a moral judgment." (Phases, p. 114.) The history of men in the Old Testament is given me for the purpose; and instead of its being lost thereby, or the battle in its defence, it gains all its real value. And, secondly, as to Deborah's song, his statement is unfounded

Yet this does not depend on "my powers" (ib.), save as God may use them; nor on "my scientific knowledge" (ib.), on which, in his own case, Mr. N. places so much reliance; nor on "blinding my moral sentiments" (ib.), because I have the perfection of Christ to judge by. It does depend on my spiritual progress, my moral state, as to being able to use the word; and this is exactly what ought to be.


As regards the sacrifice of Isaac, Mr. N. shews here, as elsewhere, his monstrous setting aside of God and His authority.

The act is not given as a rule of morality nor of conduct in any way, but as a special case in which Abraham's faith was put to the test. "It came to pass that God did tempt Abraham." Gen. 22:1. Hence there is no kind of analogy with "those who sacrificed their children to Moloch."* Jer. 32:35. Men, through a perverse, unnatural, and cruel custom, gratifying the suggestion of their depraved nature, without any command whatever, accomplished of their own will this horrid barbarity, which was done as due to, and as liked and approved by, the god which their nature had pictured to them, as a practice pleasing to him. They got over conscience and affection through the hope of having their lusts and vengeance gratified, so as habitually to treat their children thus. It was their own practice to execute this cruelty — their state of mind.** In Abraham's case it was not, nor ordered of God to be so. God had placed the promises in Isaac in a positive manner; and God puts Abraham to the test, to shew whether he had such entire confidence in Him, that he would give up all the promises as possessed (trusting that God would somehow and at all events accomplish them, and raise up Isaac again, for in him God had said that the promises of a seed should be accomplished), and obey God in an express command, let it cost him what it would. When this was proved, God suffered not the child to be touched.

{*"Abraham was (in heart and intention, though not in actual performance) not less guilty than those who sacrificed their children to Moloch." (Phases, p. 114.)}

{**I say, it was the fruit of their own heart, and the expression of its state. For the question is on the "heart and intention," which Mr. N. says was as bad in Abraham as in Moloch's worshippers. I have no doubt that the devil had brought them to this — taught them this frightful worship. "The things which the Gentiles offer, they offer to devils, and not to God." But Mr N. cannot take this ground, because he believes not in such a work of Satan. If he does, he thinks that the devil can communicate — reveal — a religion to men, but that God cannot. I treat it, therefore, as the simple fruit of man's heart; and thus this voluntary act of atrocious cruelty, in which man's heart did become the maker of his own god, as Mr. N. wishes, and in which this god was the projected image of his heart; this voluntary unnatural depravity to get such a god in some way to help it, to gratify in some way its own lusts, is not at all worse, according to Mr. N., than Abraham's sacrificing his own heart's feelings and everything he could lean upon, at the express command of a God whose constant love, faithfulness, and power he had known and believed in, and now trusted to give him his son back again. And a judgment such as this, to Mr. N.'s mind, is the proved falsity of scripture morals!}

129 What analogy has this with a practice of passing their children through the fire as agreeable to their self-made god — an act done on their own part? There is no kind of similarity in the cases whatever. Would you say, that a man who hazarded his life to save his father (as the young Munro, who was bitten in two by a shark), was the same as justifying suicide, or pirates offering a man every voyage to a shark, to satisfy some supposed impure god of the sea, and gain men's own ends? And mark how the express command of God (Abraham's sole motive for doing it) is entirely left out here. In the other case it was the habitual violation of the tenderest and strongest moral obligation, to please a god who, if that habitually pleased him, was certainly a devil. Here it is a single case where the supreme and express claim of a God known as sovereign and sovereignly good by Abraham is not cavilled with, however little he could account for such a command.

I am at this moment answering objections; but, in the midst of them, Mr. N. inserts these conclusions: —

"1. The moral and intellectual powers of man must be acknowledged as having a right and duty to criticise the contents of scripture.

"2. When so exerted, they condemn portions of the scripture as erroneous and immoral.

"3. The assumed infallibility of the entire scripture is a proved falsity, not merely as to physiology and other scientific matters, but also as to morals," etc. (Ib. p. 115.)

130 I have, in principle, discussed this already; but it is well to notice it here.

Express it thus: The moral and intellectual powers of all men must be acknowledged as having a right and duty* to criticise the contents of scripture. If not, it is merely the personal pretension of some individuals who plume themselves on their own capacity. That is, all men are in a state fully competent to judge of what is becoming to God. That is proved by Abraham's being as bad as Moloch's worshippers! and thousands of enlightened persons having been so far from discovering it, that they thought Abraham a blessed man, and Moloch's worshippers atrocious men and unnatural parents! I should have thought these last a proof that men, whatever the reason, were not capable of forming a just judgment of what becomes God. They clearly prove the assertion false; indeed, one has only to state the proposition to see its falseness. In the first place, the majority have accepted heathen atrocities without a murmur. In the next place, the immense majority of those who have not have accepted the scriptures (which Mr. N. condemns as giving a false idea of God, and stating of Him what does not become Him) as the most absolutely perfect revelation of God.

{*I say, moral and intellectual powers must be acknowledged as having a duty — a singular phrase, to give Mr. N.'s own idea as accurately as possible.}

They differ entirely from him.

Mr. N.'s statement amounts to this — he condemns certain portions of scripture as erroneous and immoral. Hundreds of infidels and millions of heathens have criticised the scriptures, or heard them criticised, and found proof that they are of God. They have examined them as a whole, and seen a perfect development of God's ways with man; the rule of man's conduct given to him; but the moral apprehension of the conscience, and the whole system dependent on it, being imperfect when God was only partially revealed (for all depended on the light given), they have seen the God of supreme patience condescending to deal with men according to the light they have from Him; but always with evidence enough to prove to the conscience, by things suited to it in the state in which it was, that it was God it had to say to. They have seen that in due time He has revealed Himself perfectly. Mr. N., availing himself of this light, though rejecting it as an imposture, condemns the previous state of imperfection by it. God bore with it, "as a father pitieth his [little] children," Ps. 103:13. though correcting and leading them on. Which is worthiest of God? But the fact of man's passing four thousand years,* either accepting some Moloch-god, or considering as perfection the testimony Mr. N. condemns, proves that the supposed moral power of man was not fit to criticise, unless Mr. N. suppose that the true God was made for his happy self and his companions.

{*This is equally true, ever since, because Christians accept the Old Testament as a work of the true God, though the true light did not then shine. Indeed, the doctrine of human progress adopted by Mr. N. and his sect is the most heartless and vile idea imaginable. It is just a knot of self-complacent men, who think they have got a good deal of light that nobody else has, coolly consigning, as if by the arrangements of God (not as a dismal effect of sin and departure from Him, as Christians do), all the millions, for six thousand years, to darkness and the horrors of paganism, in order that they may have the light now. And mark the notable arrangement — their God (for certainly it is not ours) turns man out of His creating hands in this state of atrocious wickedness, darkness, and brutality, to get on some how if he can, by gradual discoveries confined to a few philosophers, to some degree of light at the end, when the scene is to cease. It is not the case of a child in the sweet simplicity of guileless confidence with all to learn. Burning men in immense wicker images of their own form, as British Druids did, is not simple-hearted childhood; nor is it cultivated corruption (flexible polytheism is the word), like that of Corinth. The Fall makes this intelligible; but without it, when one thinks of the point of departure, and that we are creatures of God, the system of progress is the most atrocious and absurd one can well conceive. And what progress! It is, that, at the end of six thousand years, a few philosophers can speculate heartlessly on those who have been in this darkness before them. But I shall say a little more on this, and other points connected with it, in a few pages of Appendix.}

131 He says, as we have seen, that the infallibility of scripture is a proved falsity. Proved by whom, and to whom? Not to me, by a person who can compare the habitual burning of children to Moloch with an extraordinary putting to the test of one who knew God by seeing if he would give up natural grounds of confidence as to possession of promise and trust wholly in the known and true God. Such a person seems to me morally incapable of judging of right and wrong, and much too far from God to be able to judge of anything. Not one who can criticise a song as inspired without giving himself the trouble of enquiring whether it be so. Nor one who can flippantly comment on a verse as ridiculous when it accounted for and judged the most universal evil influence in the world which he had either ignorantly or culpably passed over.

132 Mr. N.'s moral and intellectual powers have condemned, or his will has sought reason for condemning, certain portions of scripture carved out from all the rest. But how is this to guide those who only see in such condemnation moral incapacity of judgment in the proofs given, and incorrectness or ignorance as to the facts alleged, or those connected with it?

Mr. N. cannot pretend he is the only one who has examined scripture. Does he pretend that the immense mass of moral intelligent men have not judged quite differently from him? You will say, This does not prove the truth of scripture. I grant it. But it proves that what Mr. N. says in these three conclusions is only immense complacency in his own opinion; for the moral and intellectual powers in question were his own. For instance, why am I to suppose Cuvier's and Buckland's powers, who believed in a universal deluge, inferior to or less exercised than Mr. N.'s who denies it? Can any one tell me any reason Mr. N. has to give me for it except one? Again, take the moral powers of Paul and James, who cite the case of Abraham. They never suspect anything wrong. Were Paul's moral powers unexercised? Mr. N. will say he did not dare to criticise scripture. Were his moral powers then really numbed by it? Was he in the same condition in virtue of believing in scripture as those who gave their children to Moloch? This is Mr. N.'s theory;* for he cites, as an admirable act, a deed Mr. N. thinks equally bad. It is not referred to as an act pardoned for ignorance' sake, or passed over in silence, but adduced as a proof of the power of faith. I have read Paul's works, and I have read Mr. N.'s. Which has the truest knowledge of God, and what became Him? What were the effects produced in righteousness, love, devotedness, self-renouncement, strict holding fast of eternal righteousness and truth, largeness of heart, and flexibility in grace towards all, power of abstraction to embrace combined truth and vast plans in one glance as a whole — power of individuality which concentrated his affections on particular objects as if there were none else, a purity of mind which apprehended right and wrong with instinctive clearness, a spirit of obedience which bowed as a child in humility to the Master whom he knew as his Lord and God? We see powers moral and intellectual, exercised in the most various ways; heathen philosophers and poets, studied at the renowned Tarsus, and rabbinical lore imbibed at the feet of Gamaliel equally well known — a rabban among rabbis; and all these acquirements brought into practical exercise and adaptation to men in the most active life, by one occupied with every kind of character eminently real in his power, and yet carrying perfect abstract theory into the reality. All ended in his taking as a choice excellence what was, "if the voice of morality is allowed to be heard" (Phases, p. 114), not less culpable than sacrificing children to Moloch; nay, he quotes it as excellence "in heart and intention" (for there was no actual performance), exactly where Mr. N. finds the guilt. Now I humbly conceive that Abraham's heart and intention in giving up all, and the promises too (as to present possession) on the true God's own word, through confidence in Him, and counting on Him to restore Isaac, was not the same as an habitual disposition to put man's own children through the fire, as actually and always agreeable to the heart and nature of "Moloch, horrid king." Moses presents it as a special trial, and the apostle notices it as such. I conceive that the parallel does not prove the immorality of this portion of the scripture, nor the superiority of "the moral and intellectual powers" which think they can criticise it; but something very different from that (and that is moral incapacity to judge), and that Paul, who, by divine teaching, received the scriptures as from God, had his moral and intellectual powers much better formed and much better exercised by the reception of what was divinely superior to himself, than he has, who, depriving himself of all above him, pretends to criticise what Paul bowed to.

{*The truth is, that, according to Mr. N.'s reasonings, he was in a worse one, having taken up a false revelation.}

133 It is well Mr. N. should learn another truth. We may be morally exercised on that which is above us without calling it in question. Nay, the highest and only really profitable exercise must be of this kind. Ignorance of God is not the best cultivation of moral powers. The highest, best exercise of moral and intellectual powers is on Him; but if I own Him as such, I own Him above me in supreme authority. I do not call Him in question. He is not the subject of criticism, or the idea of God is lost. But we have already seen that Mr. N. shuts Him always out.

134 He never gets beyond man. But man, what is he? If it is his judgment, it is every man's — it is that of the most deceived. There are millions of judgments; that is, there is none, if we speak of a rule. You will tell me there is conscience, which is substantially common to all. I admit it fully; but, where real, it owns the authority of God, always in His supremacy — owns itself the object of His judgment, and does not pretend to be His judge: conscience ceases to act when we do. Hence, though the will be unbroken, and the passions unsubdued, the word of God, the scriptures, tell on it, speak to it, make it quail, attract it as good. And, as far as conscience goes, it does not cavil or criticise; for conscience is in a sinner, and it knows the word is holy, and knows it has to say to God in it. It is a subjective element, and is acted on as to responsibility, is aware of it — and the word acts on this. Felix will tremble, though he may say, "Go thy way," and hope for money, and leave Paul bound. Acts 24:25


A few words are also needed in this place as to inspiration, which Mr. N. introduces here in passing. He says, "But in what position was I now towards the apostles? Could I admit their inspiration, when I no longer thought them infallible? Undoubtedly … The moderns have erringly introduced into the idea of inspiration that of infallibility, to which either omniscience or dictation is essential." (Phases, p. 120.) Mr. N. is so exceedingly loose in his way of stating things, that one is forced sometimes to be tedious to bring out clearly what has really to be answered. But as popular notions are often the same, such a process in answering may have a certain general utility. In reasoning on the reality of a divine revelation, however, such looseness is unpardonable. In popular language it is comparatively immaterial. Thus when men speak of the infallible word of God, they mean that they may rely upon it as having all the infallible certainty of what God says; and they are quite right. But no person speaking carefully would say the apostles were infallible. We have one of them rebuking another to his face, so that he did not think so. Thousands of devoted Christians have canvassed St. Paul's vows and purifyings at Jerusalem. Acts 21:26. No true and sound-minded one has questioned the divine authority and truth of the scripture that speaks of it. What I look for in a revelation, as I have said, is a perfect representation of the divine mind, as to all the ways in which God is pleased to make Himself known in dealing with man. In order to have this, I must have a full display — an exposure of man as he really is; and this, being historically and dogmatically given, affords the ground of human conscience and divine light. Now this is the greatest boon, save the power to use it, that God can give to man (not now speaking of the salvation itself which it is the means of making known to him); he gets the knowledge of himself and of God, and of what God is towards himself, such as he really is; and he is brought into the perfect light, and that in grace.

135 But for this purpose, how many things very different from God's will and thoughts, contrary to what God would have inspired, and of a mixed character when He has acted on the affections, shall we find! If God shews us the truth, we must have things as they really are. We must have an apostle's failures as well as all else — man's path, under the highest power of the Holy Ghost bestowed upon him. For this end he must often express himself. Only with this we need the positive revelation of God's own mind in an unquestionable way to be able to judge, supposing we are spiritual, of all this; and that the scriptures afford us. This human character is, in the New Testament, especially drawn out and unfolded. In the Old, we have the history of man divinely given, and certain oracles imparted with "thus saith the Lord," with comparatively little, save in the Psalms, of the effect of the working of the Holy Ghost in man, so as to produce affections and thoughts in which the divine spring is seen, but the forms of human thoughts, because it was the Holy Ghost working in man. In this latter case, there may be various degrees of spiritual clearness of thought according to the state of the person in whom the Holy Ghost works. It may be such as spiritual men have now, only of course the thoughts conformed to the state of the dispensation. Thus it was, as we have seen, in the case of Deborah's song; and if I am to know man and God's dealings, and man under them, I must have this. A person may be filled with the Holy Ghost, and so express his mind, that though it be his feelings, and so given, yet what nature would have produced is absent; and it is only what the Holy Ghost has produced, though in his heart. Thus his heart is a proper vessel of the Holy Ghost; and his utterance may be recorded as being really of God, and proper inspiration, though in a human heart. Thus the song of Hannah has, I doubt not, this character, though not given as inspired, and expressive of her own feelings and apprehension of God's ways, as such must be to be real. So Elizabeth's song in Luke 1 — Zachariah's in the same chapter — Simeon's in chapter 2. In these cases, such outgoings of heart, being directly from the Spirit, will be prophecies, properly speaking. Such we have in the Psalms, though they be expressions often of feelings in the writer's heart at the time, and, I doubt not, prepared for the remnant of Israel in the latter day, as giving them divine comfort in their tried feelings and exercised hearts then.

136 Of David's psalms we are expressly informed by himself, the sweet psalmist of Israel, "The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue." 2 Sam. 23:2.

This kind of working of the Holy Ghost even in our hearts, and that in cases where our minds are not sufficiently taught of God to know what to look for, is spoken of in Romans 8, where he says, "He who searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered." It is merely saying, that the Holy Ghost can work in the affections where the intelligence may not be sufficiently formed to express itself on particular subjects, or point out the positive answer to these affections. If before-hand God communicates the answer to a heart so exercised, it becomes real prophecy or inspired truth, as well as divinely given feelings. If even the Spirit gives such expression to the sorrow of the heart that it should be according to God, this may be more than personal, though it be such, and rise to the full revelation of that personal or sympathetic sorrow, which was in the heart of Jesus from the same causes more fully developed, and without counteracting or modifying evil. And this might be without the knowledge, in him who uttered it, of what it applied to. Such a principle is clearly recognized in the New Testament; for Peter speaks of the prophets who, by the Spirit of Christ which was in them, testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory which should follow, and they searched what and what manner of time it referred to, and found it was not for themselves but for us. 1 Peter 1:11. The Jews had the same notion, and as an opinion it was well founded, though they joined unsound notions as to inspiration with it. They taught that there was the gradus Mosaicus, or "Moses' degree;" the gradus propheticus; and the Bath-kol, or "Daughter of a voice" — the first two founded on Numbers 12:6-8, and the third characterizing the chetubim or hagiographa. This did not touch the authority but the character of the writings, but it is often of deep interest to know the manner of God's speaking to us; though, in whatever way He may speak, His word has always the same authority. Not one jot or one tittle can pass from the law, and all that is written in Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Christ, must be fulfilled. Yet when the apostle says, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past, hath in these last days spoken to us by the Son [in the Son, in the person of the Son ἐν υἱῳ ]," Heb. 1:1. is it not of the deepest possible interest to see the testimony of God brought to us in the person of the Son Himself? — God Himself speaking there? For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God, "for God giveth not the Spirit [to Him] in measure." Everything there was the expression of God Himself. It was not "Thus saith the Lord," for some precious sentences, and then a man's relapsing into his ordinary though perhaps sanctified existence. All that came forth breathed God — God in human kindness, philanthropy; as the apostle speaks, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself." 2 Cor. 5:19. If He took up a child; if He spoke to a sinner; if He sat at the well wearied, with a yet more weary and desolate heart beside Him, a woman who came alone at that strange time to draw water, one justly in one sense ill seen by men, and yet however dark, perhaps with secret wants beyond them, a sign to His eye that the fields were white for harvest; if He touched an outcast leper with a gracious and sovereign "I will" — all told that God was there, amongst men — with men, because of men; and gracious words proceeded out of His mouth. Surely they made men wonder; for how long had they been away from God. And if a prophet's words were just as sure because the Spirit of Christ really spoke to them, yet surely I need not speak of the bright and blessed interest which accompanied the existence of such a testimony as His who spake as never man spake. A Saviour's words came, if indeed heard, with divine grace itself to the ear. It was the mercy that it spoke of. "If thou knewest the gift [free-giving δωμεὰν ] of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink [who has come so low as to be dependent on you for a drink of water]; thou wouldest have asked of him [entire confidence of heart in God — such a God! — would have been produced, nor would it have been disappointed in grace or in power to answer], and he would have given thee living water." John 4:10.

137 This was indeed revealing God. Here we have not a long and dreary because a we picture of man cultivated in vain by the great Husbandman, and the testimonies and warnings of God sent to him, or prophecies of brighter days to come through grace. We have perfect gracious man walking before God, for our eyes to rest on and learn, and God walking before men in all the near grace they needed, come to them just as they were, that they might learn what He was, and by it be drawn out of what they were. It was presented to them in all their distance from God, and in all their misery where grace could be best felt, that they might be drawn out of that misery, and know with joy the God who had done so. It is this that Mr. N. despises — treats as an imposture. Man shall by searching find out God, and boast of his capacity — with such a history as he has; but God neither has nor shall reveal Himself to him. That is an evil, and forbidden by spiritual men! As for unspiritual they may shift for themselves; that is not a philosopher's affair: misery is necessary* for general development, as hanging is good for society. It is a mere "morbid notion" to object to it!

{*The following are Mr. N.'s statements on this head: — "It is true, that even in the primitive structure of things, we discover much which at first shocks us. Physical pain in many aspects appears not as an accident and an abuse, but as if definitely designed. Fierce beasts are observed to be armed for inflicting misery, and the instincts of one creature are often directed to destroy the quiet and comfort of another, which may seem not to have earned hostility. On this subject whole volumes might be written, as ample arguments have been. Here it may be sufficient to remark, that the difficulty turns on the epicurean assumption, that physical ease and comfort is the most valuable thing in the universe: but that is not true, even with brutes. There is a certain perfection in the nature of each, consisting in the full development of all their powers, to which the existing order manifestly tends; and any one who shall speculatively reconstruct the organized world, and logically follow out his own scheme, will probably end in discerning, that the present arrangements of God are better than man could have devised. As for susceptibility to pain, it is obviously essential to every part of corporeal life, and to discuss the question of degree is absurd. On the other hand, human capacity for sorrow is equally necessary to our whole moral nature, and sorrow itself is a most essential process for the perfecting of the soul. Not to have discerned the relation of sorrow to virtue is perhaps the most striking defect pervading all the Greek moral philosophy.

"More permanent disturbance of mind is caused to good men who have no extensive view of human nature, nor habit of mental analysis, from the prevailing wickedness of mankind. It avails not here to say that human goodness is only a relative idea, and that however much better men were, we should still think them bad, since our standard would have risen. In a mere moral view, indeed, such a reply suffices for all tribes of men have some morality. Those who are ferocious towards foreigners are often tender-hearted towards their own people; and the difference of savage from civilized virtue is one of degree. But religiously the case is otherwise; for there is a chasm between loving God and not loving Him, serving Him and not serving Him. We can easily suppose such an improvement in human nature, that though all would of course be still imperfect, yet none should be irreligious: and men will ask, Why does a good God leave so large a part of mankind in irreligion? To many this is an exceeding severe trial of faith, because irreligion has been invested with eternal consequences, which binds the understanding in a net absolutely inextricable. But let the Gordian knot be cut; let it be discerned that the infinite cannot be the meed of the finite; then, while we lament the actual state of the world, we shall not find it hard to understand that it has necessarily resulted from the independence of the human will, which must be left free and capable of resisting the divine will, otherwise we should not be men, but brutes or machines. Assuming then that evil is finite, transitory, and only an essential condition towards the attainment of a higher and permanent good, we find nothing in human wickedness, however intense, and whatever misery it causes, to inspire rational doubt of the divine goodness.

"That there is abroad among us an unsound view of supreme goodness (or benevolence, as it is called), cannot, I think, be denied. It is akin to that spurious humanity, which so shudders at putting a criminal to death, as to prefer keeping him alive even where there is no human hope of his being recovered to virtue, but every probability of his incurring more and more desperate hardness. The benevolent man is supposed to shrink from inflicting bodily pain on any one, whether for his own good, or as a necessary process for defending others; and where this morbid notion prevails, we must expect people to be much shocked at the broad facts of the natural history of animals, to say nothing of man himself … Pain and suffering are undoubtedly among God's most efficacious means for perfecting all His creatures, and, not least, man; but they must needs be with Him means not ends, if we are to attribute to Him in any sense that which we are able to recognize as goodness; and consequently they must be His plans, either partial and subordinate, or finite and transitory. All theology which contradicts this, darkens and distorts the face of God to us." (Soul, p. 43-46.)}

139 But to return. The inspiration of the New Testament is interesting in another way. The Holy Ghost Himself is come down to dwell in the saints, and to take the things of Christ and shew them to us; and He dwells in us as a seal that we are children of God, heirs of all, and joint-heirs with Christ. He at the same time brings all the love of God into the sorrows of the way, enables us to apprehend according to God the present state of things, while it marks out a road suited to those who are one with Christ in heaven, for His members by the way. Hence the New Testament is not, in the general tenor of its revelations, a mere testimony of "Thus saith the Lord." It has this prophetic character sometimes; but in general it is the expression of the mind and the sympathies of God in all that concerns the saints on earth. It is the Holy Ghost in a man, who is a member of the body, communicating all the privileges of the body to it, and entering into all its sorrows, while it reveals the love and wisdom of the Father and the Son, leading into all truth, and casting the perfect light of God on all that went before, and shewing things to come; in this last having more the character assumed before in prophecy, as we read, "The Spirit speaketh expressly;" 1 Tim. 4:1. "Let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches," Rev. 2, 3 etc. Hence there is — while often rising to the most glorious testimonies of blessing in the revelation of God, and of His designs for the glory of Christ and the Church with Him — a familiarity, an entering into detail as to all that concerns the body, and what becomes its heavenly path down here — an expression of the feelings of the instrument who addresses it, which gives the most touching picture of the effect of the presence of the Holy Ghost, and brings down the love of God into the detail and circumstances of man's Christian life. It is not, indeed, after we pass the gospels, Christ Himself; but it is His Spirit lifting His members up to Him by the revelation of Him, and coming down to them in all their trials and conflicts, in all through which they pass, to be the spring of feeling there, through His assured sympathy. Such God would shew Himself; and surely all that He says there has the tenderest claim and the perfect authority of Him who speaks thus in love. It is the word of God; the Holy Ghost on earth, in the apostle or prophet, speaking generally in the Church; but not an inferior, separate Spirit; but as He hears so He speaks, in union with the Father and the Son — the wisdom of God amongst men.

140 The scriptures of the New Testament are the perfect expression of the divine mind as communicated to, or working in, the Church of God; suited to the relationship in which God has thus placed them with Himself.

I turn to the nature of inspiration. As to the apostles being infallible, no one dreams of such a thing. A truth communicated, as I have already said, cannot be infallible: it can only be absolute truth; and truth is truth. It is nonsense to speak of its failing or not failing. A person only can be infallible. The apostles may have been divinely kept while communicating truth, and thus not suffered to fail while thus used of God. In this secondary sense alone can they be, in any proper use of the word, infallible at that moment; but this is not the real meaning of the word. I do not doubt that God took care that all they have left to us in the scriptures should perfectly present His mind; but this did not make the apostles infallible. God alone is infallible (that is, incapable of failing).

141 Mr. N. says, omniscience or dictation is necessary to infallibility. Neither has anything to say to it. Omniscience and inspiration are a contradiction in terms: for inspiration is the communication of truth or facts; omniscience supposes, or rather means, that all is known already. Nor is dictation necessary either. Suppose, as to historical scripture, if God acted on my mind or memory so as to call up facts He chose to have related, in the way, the connection, the order in which He chose them to be in my mind, and associated with the feelings which He thought proper to be produced in my soul by it, and the utterance of my memory and the expressions of my feelings to which they naturally gave rise when thus produced, to the exclusion of all distracting or modifying thoughts of any kind, to deteriorate what the Holy Ghost produced in my mind and soul — and that I write this down as thus formed and producing itself in my mind, being full of the Holy Ghost, so that no other idea whatever intruded itself, but such as the Holy Ghost had produced, and that He approved the necessary expression of it, acting on the mind, not on the lips — should not I have and give the perfect mind of God, only through the mind of a man?

Again, if Christ had spoken, and the Holy Ghost recalled to my memory His words, or a particular part of His words, and I write down these words; so of facts. This would not be dictation. Supposing He formed in my soul the substance of what passed, and I wrote it down from the perfect spiritual apprehension of it, as He put it in my mind, to the exclusion of all else, I should have the perfect mind of God; yet the Holy Ghost acting in my mind would use it as an instrument, and the communication have the form of the mind it passed through. Why, if God has expressly formed the instrument, can He not then use it for the purpose for which He has formed it, according to what He has made it? Now that is style.* To deny it, and declare dictation necessary, is merely to suppose that the Holy Ghost cannot use a man's mind, such as it is, and govern his words, without annihilating him mentally, and making use of his lips as of the dumb ass's to rebuke the prophet.

{*"That there was no dictation is proved by the variety of style in the scripture writers." (Phases, p. 120.)}

142 The apostle does not speak of the mere use of the organ without the intelligence as the highest kind of inspiration, but as the lowest, and that it was of a higher order when the man was mentally made partaker of what he communicated, and communicated therefore with his own thoughts and feelings engaged (which produces style), though the Holy Ghost produced those thoughts and feelings. The spout which gives a form to the current that flows from it may transmit the water as pure as it flows in. I do not say the Holy Ghost did not give the words; but that it was not necessarily dictation of them merely. Nay, if He did dictate them, He could do it in the form of mind and thought of the person He deigned to use, so that it should be his style. So that every part of the statement of Mr. N. is unfounded. The Holy Ghost gave the thoughts; and they were not left to the uncertainty of man's account of them. He caused them to be communicated in words He taught; but why should not He work in a mind according to the mind He had designedly given it?* See 1 Cor. 2:12-14.

{*This passage attributes three things to the spirit — the original reception of the truth by the instrument employed, the manner of its communication, and its reception by the hearer. I should translate πνευματικοῖς πνευματικὰ συγκρίνοντες "using a spiritual medium of communication for spiritual things." This shews how much the mind is connected with the expressions used in communicating truth. The whole question is, Can the Holy Ghost employ the mind, and through it language, to the exclusion of all other influence, or is it forced to leave the mind out and dictate the words? The apostle speaks of both, and prefers having the mind in use in inspiration.}

Human minds were left to the instruments, but they were acted on and used by the Holy Ghost to the absolute exclusion of all other influence from within or without. If I played every note of a piece of music exactly, not allowing a discordant sound to come in, note for note being settled long before, yet the tone of the instrument on which I played would remain the same. Had I not played, it would have been silent; nor while I play, can another note, but what I please, sound at all. God had framed the instrument with that tone, as well as used it. It is merely want of apprehension that the Holy Ghost could act in the mind, and take possession of it for its own purposes, and so govern the words. That leads to the statement I am discussing. Mr. N. says, "Their knowledge [of God's message], however perfect, must, yet in a human mind, have co-existed with ignorance, and nothing but a perpetual miracle could have prevented ignorance from now and then exhibiting itself in error of fact or argument." (Phases, p. 121.) Why co-existed? Ignorance does not exist, it is a mere negative. Supposing they were ignorant of every other possible idea, they would have given just the inspired message, and it would have been God's sent message, being produced in their minds exactly in that form. It would have been mingled with nothing else, for there would be nothing else to mingle with. Now that was the practical effect of the Holy Ghost, because He so filled their minds, and with that, that it excluded all else from their minds as much as if it did not exist for them. Every real teacher is inspired in the sense of having thoughts and feelings communicated by the Holy Ghost, but He does not so fill him and control his natural actings as that his own thoughts or will may not mix themselves up at all; so that he cannot be trusted as giving absolute truth as an authority, though all he teaches may be the truth, and he may spiritually profit his hearers. Besides, I doubt not that all his materials are already revealed in the scriptures. The Holy Ghost uses them by His ministration of them; but they are revealed, even if not generally known.

143 I do not know what Mr. N. means by a "perpetual miracle" (Phases, p. 121), to which he objects. The apostles were not perpetually writing epistles, nor evangelists histories. If God was communicating truth, He did whatever was needed to secure its being His, whenever He did so. That is a self-evident, necessary, and simple proposition. Mr. N. speaks of "revering" the apostles' "moral and spiritual wisdom." (Ib. p. 121.) That has nothing to do with God's word. The apostle himself distinguishes them. Mr. N. speaks of not obtruding miracles on the scripture narratives.* What he seems to mean is this, that when the scriptural history gives a plain narrative of fact, he is not to make a miracle of it to explain a physiological difficulty.

{*"I had slid into a new logical canon — that I must not obtrude miracles on the scripture narrative."( Phases, p. 122.)}

This has really no force in it. The historians relate a fact: if the fact is out of the order of nature, they relate it as it is. If they are credible, I am to receive it as what it is — something out of the order of nature. If it is not, I consider it natural.

Mr. N. speaks of their not "shewing any consciousness that it [the fact he narrates] involves physiological difficulties." A man that presents himself as giving by the Holy Ghost a narrative of what really happened does not occupy himself with questions, but communicates what is revealed. Did he do otherwise, it would make his "consciousness" of being inspired doubtful. Mr. N.'s remark supposes the thing in question, namely, that it is their doing. I do not invent a miracle, I believe a fact not in the general order of nature. It is one of the perfections of scripture, that it states the fact without any bombastic, or indeed any comment on what was done. There is the fact needed for one's knowing the truth. It is to produce its impression. The impression produced on the writer's mind is not the subject of revelation. You will find it in human Thaumaturge's lives, but not in a divine narrative. It is to produce (not, in general to record) impressions, unless these impressions form part of the divine history of man. What is it to my soul what the writer feels about the matter, provided he gives me the fact? Mr. N. does not seem to know what the true character and purpose of a revelation is.


But Mr. N. goes on to the deluge. I have already shewn that there are proofs from universal tradition throughout the whole world of this great event. "Geologists," he says, "have rejected it."* Some do, very likely; but it most certainly is not the case with all. Of the ablest there are those who do not. I do not doubt its universality; so that I leave any reply founded on a contrary idea aside.

{*"It had become notorious to the public, that geologists rejected the idea of a universal deluge." (Phases, p. 122.)}

Mr. N. asserts as to the question, "Whence could the water come?" (Phases, p. 122) that it is represented as coming from the clouds, and perhaps from the sea.* Scripture states that "all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened." Gen. 7:11. Now this last may be a figurative expression for a very extraordinary quantity of rain from clouds; but it is either descriptive of what for quantity would be a miracle (for it uses an expression never repeated), or else it is some miraculous outletting of water other than from the clouds. The expression, "All the fountains of the great deep were broken up, if it is not some miraculous outpouring of the sea itself, must mean some outbreak of waters from below, which, as never repeated, is to be called, so far as such events can be, miraculous.

{*"Secondly, the narrator represents the surplus water to have come from the clouds, and perhaps from the sea, and again to drain back into the sea." (Phases, p. 123.)}

145 Mr. N.'s statement of what scripture narrates is as unfounded as possible. Language never used elsewhere is used for the purpose of shewing that it was an extraordinary, and, save in this one case, unheard of, outbreak of waters in some never else known way. Mr. N. says, "from the clouds and perhaps from the sea:" as if clouds were certainly one source of the waters of the flood; and, if there were anything else, the thing to be added was the sea. Now something besides the clouds is certainly mentioned. Would any one suppose, from Mr. N.'s words, that if it was not the sea, it certainly was some divinely-caused outbreak of waters from some hidden source? He certainly does not dream of a "miraculous creation and destruction of water." (Phases, p. 123.) Be it so. But why two extraordinary words? Does not the narrative speak of some outburst of water known on no other occasion? But let us be more precise as to the fact. The passage speaks neither of clouds nor sea. But besides rain, it speaks of the fountains of the great deep being broken up, and the windows of heaven opened. It is never said the water drained back into the sea, but that "the waters returned from off the earth continually;" and declares the fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained. That is, the narrator does present it as having its source and its arrest in the extraordinary intervention of God — call it "miracle" or what you please.

In a word, it is certain that the sacred writer does, in the distinctest way, point out some very overwhelming outbreak of waters from an extraordinary source.

The reader may remember, that when God began to form the world, what subsisted as already created was one vast mass of waters, called "the deep:" "darkness was upon the face of the deep," and "the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters." The earth stood indeed by God's power out of the water; but what unknown mass of waters was engulphed is not stated, nor what were the waters which were above the firmament or expanse. Whatever store of waters there was below, broke forth over the earth, and from above came down upon it. Mr. N.'s statement of the passage is a total misrepresentation of it.

He states that the ark was not of dimensions sufficient to "take in all the creatures" (Phases, p. 123) — more exactly, the animal races belonging to the dry land. It has been proved, over and over again, that it was. It has been calculated that it was a vessel of more than forty-two thousand tons, being four hundred and fifty feet long, seventy-five broad, and forty-five high; eighteen times as much as the largest man-of-war (one of which can stow, say, a thousand men, with provisions, for a very much longer time than the flood lasted, besides an immense weight of guns, shot, &c.) so that it is evident that the ark could easily have received the animals that could not live in the water.

146 As to the dispersion of animals,* the discovery of many remains of different kinds, as of large elephant species, embedded in ice in Siberia — hyenas and their prey in a cavern in Yorkshire — has remarkably confirmed the deluge. The extinction of many species and introduction of others in the most unlooked-for way renders such speculations of no weight whatever.

{*"And especially the total disagreement of the modern facts of the dispersion of animals, with the idea that they spread anew from Armenia as their centre." (Phases, p. 123.)}