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which man may receive weapons, that opens up springs in life's desert, plants a palm in life's burning sands.
Well did John Ruskin say that the issues of life and death for modern society are in the pulpit: "Precious indeed those thirty minutes by which the teacher tries to get at the separate hearts of a thousand men to convince them. of all their weaknesses, to shame them for all their sin, to warn them of all their dangers, to try by this way and that to stir the hard fastenings of the doors where the Master himself has stood and knocked yet none opened, and to call at the openings of those dark streets where Wisdom herself hath stretched forth her hands and no man regarded. Thirty minutes to raise the dead in." And he who hath known the joy of encouraging some noble youth who is discouraged, the rapture that comes when at least one who hath become long snared and held in the cruel trap hath been freed, the joy of feeling that blind eyes have come to see things unseen and deaf ears to hear notes that once were unheard, or hath swung wide some dungeon door to lead forth some prisoner of conscience, will know that it is no profession that conceals such hidden springs, receives such hidden messages, is fed with such buoyancy and happiness as the ministry-the Christian teacher, who brings divine truth to men for God's sake and for man's sake.
VOL. LV. No. 219.
THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE.1
BY PROFESSOR DAVID FOSTER ESTES, D.D.
THE National Congregational Council of 1895 proposed to other Protestant evangelical churches church union based upon: "1. The acceptance of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments inspired by the Holy Spirit, as containing all things necessary for salvation, and as being the rule and ultimate standard of Christian faith." To this statement the Congregational creed of 1883 is closely parallel, which makes the declaration (Art. V.) that the Scriptures "constitute the authoritative standard by which religious teaching and human conduct are to be regulated and judged." Our Congregational brethren, then, both accept the Scriptures as authoritative, as, indeed, the ultimate standard of religious authority, and also lay such stress on this acceptance as to make it the first requisite for church union.
At the same time, however, it cannot be denied that the faith which our Congregational brethren have set in the forefront of their declaration is not to-day the faith of all. Not only do some within the pale of the Protestant evangelical churches to which they appeal, hold this view only loosely and half-heartedly, but there are a few at least who deliberately set aside and reject the authority of Scripture. A teacher of theology, discussing "The Theological Teaching for the Times," lately declared: "The theological task to-day in all Western Christendom is . . . the complete rejection of the false principle of authority. 1The opening address at the beginning of the Seminary year, at Hamilton Theological Seminary, September 13, 1897. Copyright, 1898.
Not an infallible church tradition, not an infallible church office, not an infallible canon of Scripture, only religion has sovereign right in the kingdom of religion. Today faith seeks freedom from these false principles of au
Now, while it must be recognized that there exists today, to a greater or less degree, a hostility to the authority of Scripture as to all authority in religion, which finds clear expression in the words just quoted, it is also to be remembered that this hostility is so far from being alarming or even surprising, that it is to be expected in view of the natural tendencies of the time. Of course this does not mean that all who may object to the authority of the Scriptures necessarily share all, or indeed any, of the characteristics of the age which are to be noted; but, even though unconsciously to themselves, men may be, must be, affected by the spirit of the age, as by the atmosphere in which they live. Of what sort, then, is the age, to the subtle influence of which we all are unceasingly exposed, and which may be molding us, intellectually and spiritually, even while we consciously resist it?
The past generation has been an era of criticism, and not least as touching the Bible. The text itself of the New Testament has been reconstituted. The need of the same process for the Old is recognized, but as yet scarcely begun. Literary criticism has solved many problems, and discovered many more which await solution; and, while some things which it has said have already been unsaid, yet the influence even of these confessed errors still abides. Biblical Theology, most reverent and constructive of all branches of theological study, has asked more questions than it has answered. There is no occasion of surprise, then, if, in view of the débris heaped up by critical processes, men come to inquire whether the value of the Bible 1 Professor George B. Foster, Bibl. World, ix. 1, pp. 24, 25.
has not thus been impaired. It is a matter of course that the Roentgen rays of criticism, which have made the tissues of Scripture transparent, will be, and should be, turned on the skeleton which alone enables it to stand forth a power to the church and the world, its divine authority.
Again, it must be recognized that the intellectual successes of the past generation have brought about an exaggerated, not to say intoxicated, confidence in the all-sufficiency of the same powers and methods in all departments of thought and life. Inductions have been so broad, deductions so safe, forecasts so brilliant, in all the realms of the visible and the material, that it is not surprising that men confidently extend the same processes upward as well as outward, Godward as well as worldward, in complete forgetfulness that the materials of religion are less tangible and more remote than those of science, and that its conclusions are less readily verifiable. The microscope and the retort have told so much, the geologist and the biologist have foretold so much, that it is to be expected that, ignoring necessary distinctions, religion should be treated in the same way; that what cannot be subjected to the tests which are in place in the study of natural science should be disregarded; that what is not verifiable by observation should be rejected. Now the importance of the modern methods and results in the sphere of external nature may be fully recognized, while at the same time they are confined to this their proper sphere; but that this should often fail to happen, is only what is to be expected.
A third reason for anticipating opposition to the authority of Scripture is to be found in the fact that this age is individualistic even to excess. Universal enfranchisement has been sought; but in the endeavor the goal of liberty has not unnaturally been often overpassed, and protest against wrongful authority has been pushed so far as to become rebellion against rightful authority. Proof of this
may be found, if needed, in the warning given this summer by an eminent sociologist, Professor Small, of the University of Chicago, to the assembled teachers of the land, against the "mistaken policy" "of practically leaving to pupils themselves to fix the standard of their own conduct. That is right which they consent to treat as right, and nothing is positively binding upon them unless they agree." "It is mobocracy," he further declares, "to make the individual the court of last resort in matters of conduct. . . . Democracy is saved from being mobocracy by denying anarchism, and maintaining that there are principles of conduct in which the happiness of all is involved, and that the necessity of all demands that if the individual does not respect these principles, he must be made to."1 At the same time that the sociologist was giving this warning to educators by the lakes, a preacher, Dr. Moxom of Springfield, declared even more solemnly at a religious conference by the sea: "There is another inheritance, that we are in danger of losing,-that of reverence for moral authority, the distinctive characteristic of our fathers, who were incarnated consciences. We . . . must remember that the most precious inheritance is a sense of the sovereignty of the moral law."2 Since then Professor Charles Eliot Norton is reported to have said: "From all sides we hear complaints of the spirit of lawlessness in the rising generation. And there can be no doubt that the greater independence now allowed to the youth of both sexes than was the case in the past is often abused, and tends to degenerate into willful self-assertion, indifference to the rights and interests of others, and resistance to authority of whatever nature."3
It should occasion no surprise that in an age so critical,
1Speech at Milwaukee, letter in Chicago Times-Herald.
2 Report in Christian Register, July 22, 1897.
S Press report, August 20, 1897.