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shall keep this influence under, and reason alone is no longer the all-sufficient judge of truth. In this way we should be forced back to the old orthodox doctrine of the chronic impotence of reason, superinduced upon it by the Fall; a doctrine which the reigning orthodoxy had tacitly renounced.

In the Catholic theory, the feebleness of Reason is met half way, and made good by the authority of the Church. When the Protestants threw off this authority, they did not assign to Reason what they took from the Church, but to Scripture. Calvin did not shrink from saying that Scripture “ shone sufficiently by its own light.” As long as this could be kept to, the Protestant theory of belief was whole and sound; at least, it was as sound as the Catholic. In both, Reason, aided by spiritual illumination, performs the subordinate function of recognizing the supreme authority of the Church and of the Bible respectively. Time, learned controversy, and abatement of zeal, drove the Protestants generally from the hardy but irrational assertion of Calvin. Every foot of ground that Scripture lost was gained by one or other of the three substitutes, — Church-authority, the Spirit, or Reason. Church-authority was essayed by the Laudian divines, but was soon found untenable ; for, on that footing, it was found impossible to justify the Reformation and the breach with Rome. The Spirit then came into favor along with Independency. But it was still more quickly discovered, that, on such a basis, only discord and disunion could be reared. There remained to be tried Common Reason, carefully distinguished from recondite learning, and not based on metaphysical assumptions. To apply this instrument to the contents of revelation was the occupation of the early half of the eighteenth century; with what success has been seen. In the latter part of the century, the same Common Reason was applied to the external evidences. But here the method fails in a first requisite, - universality; for even the shallowest array of historical proof requires some book-learning to apprehend. Further than this, the Lardner and Paley school could not complete their proof satisfacto- Ę rily, inasmuch as the materials for the investigation of the first and second centuries of the Christian era were not at hand.

Such appears to be the past history of the Theory of Belief in the Church of England. Whoever would take the religious literature of the present day as a whole, and endeavor to make out clearly on what basis revelation is supposed by it to rest, whether on Authority, on the Inward Light, on Reason, on self-evidencing Scripture, or on the combination of the four, or some of them, and in what proportions, would probably find that he had undertaken a perplexing, but not altogether profitless inquiry.

16

ON THE INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE.

BY BENJAMIN JOWETT, M. A.

IT,

T is a strange though familiar fact, that great dif

ferences of opinion exist respecting the interpretation of Scripture. All Christians receive the Old and New Testament as sacred writings; but they are not agreed about the meaning which they attribute to them. The book itself remains as at the first: the commentators seem rather to reflect the changing atmosphere of the world or of the Church. Different individuals, or bodies of Christians, have a different point of view, to which their interpretation is narrowed, or made to conform. It is assumed as natural and necessary, that the same words will present one idea to the mind of the Protestant, another to the Roman Catholic; one meaning to the German, another to the English interpreter. The Ultramontane or Anglican divine is not supposed to be impartial in his treatment of passages which afford an apparent foundation for the doctrine of purgatory or the primacy of St. Peter on the one hand ; or the three orders of clergy, and the divine origin of episcopacy, on the other. It is a received view with many, that the meaning of the Bible is to be defined by that of the Prayer-book ; while there are others who inter

pret “ the Bible, and the Bible only," with a silent reference to the traditions of the Reformation. Philosophical differences are in the background, into which the differences about Scripture also resolve themselves. They seem to run up at last into a difference of opinion respecting revelation itself; whether given beside the human faculties or through them; whether an interruption of the laws of nature, or their perfection and fulfilment.

This effort to pull the authority of Scripture in different directions is not peculiar to our own day: the same phenomenon appears in the past history of the Church. At the Reformation, in the Nicene or Pelagian times, the New Testament was the ground over which men fought: it might also be compared to the armory which furnished them with weapons. Opposite aspects of the truth which it contains were appropriated by different sides. “Justified by faith without works,” and “justified by faith as well as works," are equally Scriptural expressions: the one has become the formula of Protestants; the other, of Roman Catholics. The fifth and ninth chapters of the Romans, single verses such as 1 Cor. iii. 15, John iii. 3, still bear traces of many a life-long strife in the pages of commentators. The difference of interpretation which prevails among ourselves is partly traditional ; that is to say, inherited from the controversies of former ages. The use made of Scripture by Fathers of the Church, as well as by Luther and Calvin, affects our idea of its meaning at the present hour.

Another cause of the multitude of interpretations is the growth or progress of the human mind itself. Modes of interpreting vary as time goes on : they partake of the general state of literature or knowledge. It has not been easily or at once that mankind have learned to realize the character of sacred writings : they seem almost necessarily to veil themselves from human eyes as circumstances change. It is the old age of the world only that has at length understood its childhood. (Or rather, perhaps, is beginning to understand it, and learning to make allowance for its own deficiency of knowledge; for the infancy of the human race, as of the individual, affords but few indications of the workings of the mind within.) More often than we suppose, the great sayings and doings upon the earth, “ thoughts that breathe, and words that burn,” are lost in a sort of chaos to the apprehension of those that come after. Much of past history is dimly seen, and receives only a conventional interpretation, even when the memorials of it remain. There is a time at which the freshness of early literature is lost: mankind have turned rhetoricians, and no longer write or feel in the spirit which created it. In this unimaginative period, in which sacred or ancient writings are partially unintelligible, many methods have been taken at different times to adapt the ideas of the past to the wants of the present. One age has wandered into the flowery paths of allegory,

“In pious meditation, fancy-fed.” Another has straitened the liberty of the gospel by a rigid application of logic: the former being a method which was at first more naturally applied to the Old Testament; the latter, to the New. Both methods of interpretation, the mystical and logical, as they may be termed, have been practised on the Vedas and the Koran, as well as on the Jewish and Christian Scriptures;

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