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Again, it has been objected to the claim of authority for the Bible, that "the claim itself can only be established, if at all, by the use of those very faculties which this Divine Revelation is to supersede. If you cannot trust our reasoning powers to begin with, then neither can you trust them to establish this prodigious claim for the Christian Scriptures."1 But it needs little consideration to see the unfairness of this statement. Without dwelling on the fact that the Scriptures, if accepted as authoritative, do not supersede our powers as untrustworthy, but furnish them matter for their use, it should be said that it is by no means unlikely that our powers may be capable of recognizing a trustworthy authority, while incapable of ascertaining all that may be communicated by that authority. The traveler in the Alps does not suppose that he is discrediting his own intellectual powers when he engages a guide, but, frankly recognizing that he himself lacks the knowledge of mountain craft and local conditions indispensable if he were alone to reach the summit, past precipice, glacier, and crevasse, he seeks out one who, as he is convinced by his testimonials, is a trustworthy guide, who will be, in a word, an authority for the ascent. To know the pathless mountain is one thing; to choose a guide is quite another. So, personally to experience, intuitively to perceive, or unerringly to infer, all needed truth, is, for the individual man, simply impracticable; to accept the Scriptures as authority, may be, nay, is, the sanest and supremest act of reason.
Again, an antithesis is sometimes forced between the authority of the Bible and the authority of Christ. But this is needless and harmful. It was Jesus himself who said of the Old Testament, "The Scripture cannot be broken"; and where shall we go for Christ's words of eternal life but to the New Testament? Were the two in demonstrated 1R. A. Armstrong, God and the Soul, p. 167.
opposition, we might be compelled to choose; but, as the case stands, when the unfair question is raised, "Which?" the only proper answer is, "Both." To find Christ as an authority we must go to the Bible, and the authority of Christ certifies the authority of the Bible.
Still another objection has been raised,-the only one, indeed, which Martineau develops,1-namely, that the authors of the Bible are in great part unknown. But even if we were constrained to accept his views as to the origin of the books of the Bible, this would not in the least affect the authority of Scripture; for this depends not on the human element, but on the divine, and consequently it might well enough happen that, as is now the case with some, many books belonged to authors not now known. It is not because any man wrote any book of the Bible that we assert its authority. The Bible is authoritative, because in it God recognizably speaks.
The last objection which demands attention is, that the speakers and writers of the Bible do not rest their claim. and demand for attention and obedience solely on the basis of their authority, whence it has been strangely enough questioned whether they do indeed possess authority. Now it may freely be granted that they do frequently argue and entreat as well as declare and command. But this implies no doubt on their part of their authority. It only shows a constant purpose to use all means to save some, to try every method to secure right belief and behavior. In addition to assertion and demand, prophets, apostles, the Divine Man himself, show the sweet reasonableness and eternal rightfulness of what they assert and demand, and, by so doing, they no more rob their doctrine of its divine authority by this appeal to reason than by their no less frequent appeals to gratitude and fear and love and hope. The conviction of the divine authority of the Bible reThe Seat of Authority in Religion, pp. 181-285.
ceives manifold confirmation. For instance, since its moral and spiritual teaching reached with the apostles its final development, this teaching has been nowhere set aside. During this time the tone of the world's literature has been transformed: the conceptions of sin and of righteousness which have come to be prevalent in modern times are elevated out of reach of those anciently prevalent, but they do not overtop the ancient Scriptures, and the Scripture ideal of morality and the Scripture precepts for its practice are nowhere found erroneous or unworthy. Again, the religious doctrines of the Bible are not proved erroneOf course theology as a systematic science is almost entirely absent from its pages; but, unlike its natural science, which was no part of the divine revelation which it records but only that of its time, its assertions as to spiritual truth were not of that time, but for all time. Age after age has, in some part at least, ignored them; age after age has, in part at least, denied them; but later ages have carefully rescued the neglected, rejected truths, and no part of the spiritual content of Scripture has been superseded. Perhaps, on a narrow and unfair view of revelation, which overlooked its gradual development, and that the ancient law was not filled full to its original purpose till Jesus came, error might be claimed, but it must be recognized that what he taught with his own lips and through his Spirit-guided apostles has found no loosing, and has needed no completion.1
For, while, as has just been said, no part of the religious content of Scripture has been set aside, so nothing has been added to it. This is not because the attempt has not been made. The Roman Catholic Church, in particular, has in fact, if not in purpose, greatly extended the teaching of Scripture. So, from age to age, philosopher, theologian and reformer, dogmatist, rationalist and mystic, have tried 1 Compare G. J. Romanes, Thoughts on Religion, pp. 157, 158.
over and over again the same experiment; but, little by little, the unscriptural accretions fall away again, so that to-day, whatever may be true of parties, schools, and sects, nowhere does the creed of the church as a whole outmeasure the extent of Scripture. That theology has been a progressive science need not be disputed, but its progress consists not in the discovery of new facts and truths outside of the Bible, but in the clearer recognition and better statement of what is found within the Bible. Christian thought has greatly flourished in the ages, but all its seeds are in the Scriptures.
Thus the Scriptures demonstrate their sufficiency and consequent finality. As they have found no correction or supplement, so they need none. Not that all theological problems are solved, not that all religious questionings are set at rest, not that a large range does not remain for the investigations of reason as well as for the imperative of conscience; but, beyond the revelation recorded in Scripture, nothing further in morals or religion is necessary for salvation or indeed possible, for, in the clear phrase of Dr. Abbott, "Beyond the revelation, in his Anointed One, of a God of perfect love abiding in perfect truth and purity, there is nothing to be revealed concerning him."1
Again, the harmony which exists between Christian experience and the Bible is to the believer a marvelous confirmation of its divinity and consequent authority. This proof is thus stated by Herrmann: "A man learns how to see this glory of the sacred Scripture when there has begun in him the same life whose rise and whose perfection are there so incomparably described. . . . Before that, the thought that he is to treat the Bible otherwise than as he treats all other literature is to him intolerable, or, at least, utterly strange. Afterward he looks upon it as an actual miracle in history standing there before his eyes, that, as
1Lyman Abbott, The Theology of an Evolutionist, p. 66.
he opens the Scriptures, he finds there a new world, a new home for the new personal life that has begun in himself."1 The conviction that the Scriptures are from God, because they correspond so wonderfully to results of divine activity in the soul, a conviction doubtless wrought and confirmed by the Holy Spirit himself, is of course incommunicable; but its general existence, proved by the testimony of believers inexplicable if untrue, is no weak argument for the divine origin, and hence for the authority, of the Bible, while to the soul which shares this conviction it is conclusive beyond argumentation.
It is a development of this conviction wrought in the soul of the individual believer, that the belief in the authority of the Scriptures, absolute, sufficient, final, has always been firmly held by the church in all ages. To find the value of this agreement, it is not necessary to hold to the infallibility of the Christian consciousness in general, or of the creeds of the churches, even when accordant. To him who believes that the Holy Spirit is ever present to guide the church, it is incredible that on such a point the church universal should always have been in error, and the crowning confirmation of his own faith in the divine and hence absolute and final authority of Scripture will be the unanimity of the universal faith in the same truth. The prophecy of Augustine, "Faith will reel when the authority of Scripture wavers," must be far from fulfillment, for where is there a confession which touches the place of the Bible and does not make it authority? From the great mass of such credal statements which almost monotonously reiterate the thought of the single and supreme authority of Scripture, two may not unfitly be quoted in conclusion, which correspond very closely to the Congregational creed, quoted at the beginning of this discussion. The Walden
1W. Herrmann, The Communion of the Christian with God (Eng. trans.), p. 36.