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LORD HATHERLEY ON THE CONTINUITY OF SCRIPTURE. The Continuity of Scripture as declared by the testimony of our
Lord, and of the Evangelists and Apostles. By William Page, Lord Hatherley, London: John Murray, Albemarle Street. 1869.
This book, at the first glance, might possibly disappoint expectation excited by the high character, religious and intellectual, of its author. It mainly consists-indeed, the work proper is made up of a collection of texts from the Old and the New Testaments, presented in parallel columns, such as all are familiar with in any ‘Harmony of the Evangelists;' that is, upon the same principle. A book so composed might very easily be depreciated upon a cursory glance, and be pronounced to be what any one could have put together who should sit down with a Concordance, supplemented by the aid of the Oxford and Cambridge Greek Testaments, edited respectively by the late Bishop Lloyd and the late Professor Scholefield, in both which the marginal references are most judiciously and critically selected.
With such books, and with his Bible, no doubt the Lord Chancellor was furnished, when he began to write: but it would be a very superficial view of his volume to conclude that it was the product of a mechanical transcription of a number of passages from the Old and New Testaments, made ready to the author's hands. It is well known to those who have been in the habit of closely examining marginal references in some editions of the Bible which profess to supply them copiously, that the selection is most loose and unsatisfactory, often including passages possessing a verbal resemblance, and yet irrelevant to that in illustration of which they are adduced. No department of Biblical exposition demands greater discrimination than this: while it is an unostentatious task, it is, however, that which no one may hope to execute who has not long and thoughtfully weighed text of the Scriptures with text; who has not, in this particular sense, "compared spiritual things with spiritual,” very carefully.
But even if it furnished less evidence than it does of patient study and mature knowledge of the Bible, a book so con. structed would be of very important use, if it should accomplish the end which its author modestly indicates in the first paragraph of the ' Preface':
“The object of this little book is simply devotional. Tbe com
piler of it desires to strengthen others, as he himself has been strengthened, by the comparison of Scripture with Scripture. Frequent perusals of the Old and New Testament have satisfied him that each is an inspired work, such as no wisdom of man could have framed; and farther, that the earlier Revelation is as inseparably connected with the later, as the acorn is connected with the oak which springs from it.”
These introductory words are a fair sample of the Preface, which is of a highly suggestive character. The skilful compiler desires to obey the injunction “ Strengthen thy brethren,” to “comfort others with the comfort wherewith he himself has been comforted,” and is satisfied, in an unostentatious book, to “excel to the edifying of the Church,” according to the true meaning of that term ; for in no way are Christians so “built up in their most holy faith,” as when a broad and firm foundation has been laid in their minds, that "no wisdom of man could have framed” the two constituent portions of the Bible; when thus the judging faculty has been satisfied by the most powerful evidence.
How does “the comparison of Scripture with Scripture” work this conviction?
The reply to this question conducts us at once to the subject of the book before us. The correspondence of Scripture with Scripture, carried on through a period of more than three thousand years, forces upon the mind the conviction of designa conviction which is intensified by the discovery that some words which were spoken, or written, at the very earliest stage in this period, are recognized as finding their accomplishment at its latest extremity. Ages have intervened, because “the end” (the fulfilment) “is not yet :” “but when the fulness of the time is come,” God's ripened purpose is exhibited; the design' which had lain treasured up in the unfathomable mines' of Him “who worketh all things after the counsel of His will” comes forth accomplished ; and a most powerful assurance is created in the mind of the thoughtful student of Scripture, that 'all is of God. “Whoso is wise will ponder these things; and he shall understand” that it is not due to fortuitous coincidence, but to a superhuman plan, that the event has thus agreed with the word : and he will thus be led to affix a nobler and more worthy sense than was originally intended, to those words of the Greek poet,
μέγας εν τούτοις θεός,
wide ynpáoket, words which seem to speak of the evidence of an Almighty agent, and of its undying force; and only yielding, in true application, to those of the Prophet "This also cometh from Vol. 68.-No. 378.
the Lord of Hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.” (Is. xxviii. 29.)
“ The volume of God's Word is stamped with the same continuous unity of purpose as that which marks the volume of God's Works. This latter unity has been well designated 'the Law of Continnity.' Both volumes contain many things hard to be understood by man's limited faculties, but the great attribute of Love is alike predominant in the providential ordering of Creation, and in the merciful dispensation of Redemption.
“The unity of Scripture is manifested in so many ways that volumes might be written upon the subject. To the Christian one demonstration of that unity is sufficient, viz., that our Lord has declared it: 'Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me.' (John v. 39.) To make this testimony apparent in all its fulness is the main object of this compilation; but it may not be amiss to offer a few prefatory remarks upon the general internal testimony to the same truth."
Under the heads, “I. The Historical Unity of Subject; II. The Moral Unity; and III. The Spiritual Unity," are comprised the author's views of the characteristic oneness of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. The argument of the first of these divisions will be best shown by the first and last words of it:
“I. As regards Historical Unity, the Bible contains the history of Man's creation, his fall, his miserable degradation consequent on that fall, and his restoration to favour with his Creator through a sinless Redeemer. ....
“It may safely be said, the historical events of the Old Testament, no less than direct prophecy, all bear on this one grand conclusion. The historical prophetic annunciations of outward events as distinguished from their spiritual bearing, the various types, and even the apparently dry genealogies, all point in the same direction; but of this I shall say more under another head. I will only add, that to any one reading over and over again consecutively the Word of God, this wonderful Historical Unity forces itself upon the mind with increasing conviction of a preconceived development of the world's history, with reference to the final and eternal restoration of man to his first estate.”
The witness which each of these species of oneness bears to the main argument of “continuity” is so important as to forbid our comparing either one with the other, lest we should seem to disparage either; but the “historical” is to be regarded of high value, pointing as it does to facts, and being, in this sense, more palpable than any other. For, just to seize that expression, “a preconceived development of the world's history," how much is implied in it? It enunciates the truth, “ Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of
the world.” It asserts that “the Mind which constructed the Scriptures is the same that showeth the things that are coming, and shall come,” “ declaring the end from the beginning.” Thus much is contained in the idea of what is “ preconceived," while “the world's history” is an expression which takes our thoughts to Him who adds to that announcement of His own Divine prescience, “I have spoken, I will also bring it to pass : I have purposed it, I will also do it.”
We notice, at the commencement of the remarks under the second head of " General Internal Testimony” to the continuous character of the Scriptures, a slight variation from the form in which it is before expressed. Here it is. “II. The Moral Unity of Scripture; or, the unity of design with reference to man's moral preparation for a more glorious existence.” In the earlier place, it stands thus :-“Man's moral preparation for the great work of redemption.” Difference of language, as employed by such a writer, must be supposed to have a meaning beyond that of mere variation from the type of words he had already used.
Probably we interpret that meaning aright, when we understand the later form as designed to express the sense of the former with a greater degree of precision. “The Restoration of Man" (which is one of the members of the first classification of testimony'), is identical with the “ great work of redemption,” if by this be meant that 'work' on God's part in giving His Son for our redemption. It is plain that the author, in the former words, would express man's subjective preparation for that work, in its eternal consequences :
“One cannot help seeing, from the very opening down to the last chapter of the Old Testament, inclusive of the Prophets), 'the watchfulness of the All-merciful Father over the moral condition of all through whom His worship was to be preserved, and through whom, first, His scheme of redeeming love was to be worked out.” (p. xix.)
In a rapid but comprehensive sketch, this purpose of God is illustrated, as it was shown in calling out individuals and nations from the corruption of the world. The Old Testament, beginning with Seth, is appealed to for this testimony :
“We see, therefore, successive separations of men, families, and a nation, from whom there appeared the best hope of moral influence; a law laid down; a succession of teachers ; chastisements inflicted; mercies still vouchsafed, in order that men's hearts may be in a state of moral preparation for their spiritual birth; and then, at last, the voice is heard of one crying in the wilderness, (as had been predicted by the Prophets,) .Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.' The moral tendency of this preparation is indicated by the figure of the axe being laid to the root of the tree, so that "every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit may be hewn down and cast into the fire ;' and the like moral preparation appears in the answer given by the Baptist to the soldiers on their march, to the publicans, and to the people in general. (Luke iii.)
“But whilst a moral life was thus insisted upon, and every cir. cumstance was so ordered as to encourage its development, it is also plainly enough indicated, in every portion of Scripture, how little man, with all his own efforts, is able thus to answer the requirements of Him' who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. And doubtless it is for this reason that the fearful shortcomings of even the best men (morally speaking) are laid before us with all the plain simplicity of a holy truthfulness.”
It is with peculiar propriety that, after insisting upon man's moral training for the eternal existence which the Gospel should make known, the Author teaches the renewal of the heart to be an integral part of the Divine plan of restoration. The distinctive office of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in the accomplishment of that purpose, is thus recognized under the third instance of the testimony which the Scriptures afford to “continuity” of purpose :
“The Spiritual unity is shown by the uniformity with which the restoration of fallen man is set forth as wrought out by the free mercy of God the Father through God the Son ; who as man should be free from man's guilt, able and willing to offer up Himself as an atoning sacrifice for the guilt of all mankind, and should also renew man's heart to a love of God by the operation of God the Holy Spirit. This last is, doubtless, the most striking, as well as the most deeply interesting instance of uniformity of design as carried through the whole sacred volume from Genesis to Revelation." (p. 22.)
With the latter sentence of this passage the remarks we made above on the “Historical Unity of Scripture,” might seem to be at variance; but they are not. We referred, not to what would strike an attentive and observant reader of Scripture, but rather to what was plain and palpable. Facts are stern and unanswerable things. Allowed, none can gainsay the evidence they furnish; but, a thread commencing with the first book of the Bible, and running through the ages which intervene between it and the last, is of so fine and delicate a texture as to require, at some of the stages of its progress, a measure of discernment not possessed by all, and specially that “spirit of faith” which is serious and candid in its examination of the claims of Scripture. To a mind so attuned the spiritual unity is, doubtless, the most striking, as discovering the ancient unaltered purpose of the Mind which decreed the redemption of man. Deeply interesting is such a discovery, because it is connected with the highest, the eternal
the ancient un anten. Deeply intiehest, the