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because you think it is God's book you look for something unreal! You are startled and scandalised because you meet with that which is thoroughly in accordance with facts and experience! You will have to be shocked and scandalised by such discoveries the further you read in it. You must go elsewhere if you want to see human beings dressed out for show and effect; here you will see them as they are, in all the greatness which they derive from a high calling and purpose, , in all the littleness which belongs to them as mere creatures of flesh and blood. And this, this is the witness that you are studying the work of a Divine Artist; this is the proof that the Bible is not a collection of fragments, but that it has a living unity. We in our wisdom desire a picture in which there shall be no perspective; where each person shall stand out as full and large and prominent as every other; where light and shadow and proportion shall be wholly wanting. You cannot be satisfied that Deborah should be a brave, noble woman, that she should go forth in the name of the Lord of hosts, that she should trample down strength, should praise the Lord for the avenging of Israel. You must instal her as a teacher of ethics, though she makes no pretensions to the character, though the Bible nowhere claims it for her. I do not ask Deborah to explain how an act which I recognise as the judgment of a righteous God upon an evil man should be effected by the deed of a person more evil than himself. I doubt not that when she was judging Israel under the palm-tree,
she would have been led, by her reverence for the law of God and by His teaching, to inflict the most summary and decisive judgments upon such acts as she then commended. At that instant all other thoughts were absorbed in joy for the rescue which she ascribed to its true source.
I think God, and not man, is the author of the Bible; I believe that He is teaching me through Deborah much that I have need to learn. I gladly receive the lessons which He imparts through her. But I shall not allow my reverence for her to interfere with my reverence for Him. I shall not insist that she must be right when she contradicts lawgivers, prophets, apostles, the Son of God. I shall not in that neological spirit cut the Bible into fragments, and insist that it is without coherency, without a purpose. I shall regard it as a book of gradual discovery, of growing Revelation; and I shall believe this to be its final and
! most certain revelation, that God is light, and with Him is no darkness at all; that He never calls good evil, or evil good; that every false act done by saint or sinner, man or angel, proceeds from the father of lies. Since the Son of God has been manifested, the works of the devil have been manifested also; it is a monstrous contempt of God's blessed teaching to say that we cannot know them; an awful denial of it to say that in certain instances we may identify them with His works who has come to destroy them.
Brethren, in what I have said this afternoon I have not been encouraging you to interpret Scripture in a lax, careless method, according to some notions of your own. I have wished you to feel that you are studying a holy and divine record, and therefore that you are to be very watchful lest you should substitute rude and vulgar conclusions of mortal judgment for that which is higher than mortal judgment, and is to correct them. God teaches us in His Scriptures by the errors, confusions, contradictions of His best and stoutest servants. Was not Job an inspired man? Might not even his three friends claim some supernatural teaching? Their words are recorded in Scripture. Thank God that they are! Not for the world would we dispense with them. But if we receive them as authoritative, we contradict God Himself, for we are told He was angry both with Job and his friends because they had justified themselves rather than Him. We must be content to learn in His way, not in ours; to be trained as that apostle was whom we remember to-day, by the experience of our own mistakes, presumption, vanity, cowardice,—to be trained by the records of the mistakes, presumption, vanity, cowardice, of those whom we venerate most, who have been the greatest pillars of the Church; that so we may learn what that eternal rock is upon which it rests, and against which the gates of hell shall never prevail.
ELI AND SAMUEL.
Lessons for the day, 1 Samuel II. and III.
Preached at Lincoln's Inn, on the Third Sunday after Trinity, July 6, 1851.
1 SAMUEL III. 14.
And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli,
that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever. UR Lessons have brought us to a new stage
in the history of the chosen nation. We begin to-day the prophetical and regal period of it. That is a subject upon which I do not intend to enter now.
I have chosen a passage from the lesson of this afternoon, not so much because it is an opening to the later books of the Old Testament, as because it throws back a light upon the earlier. I regard it as the most suitable conclusion to these Lectures. The questions which have so often occupied us in the course of them, whether the character of the Bible as a divine history interferes with its claims to be a faithful human history, whether the divine kingdom which the Scriptures speak of means merely a priestly kingdom, whether the real maxim of Jewish records is utterly inapplicable to us, or whether we are as much under an actual divine government as they were
all come before us in the story of Eli and Samuel. The priestly order, as we have seen, was essential part of the Jewish commonwealth. It dwelt in a particular family; the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, had been an attempt to take it out of that family; the suppression and punishment of it vindicated the limitation. Eli inherited the office which had belonged to Aaron; his sons offered the daily sacrifice. They were sons of Belial, we are told; they knew not the Lord. They valued the portions which it procured them; they made it vile in the eyes of the people by shewing how vile it was in their eyes ; having lost all sense of God's presence in the acts which most avouched His presence, there was nothing to restrain them. They became openly and brutally corrupt; gloating, it would seem, in the thought of turning consecrated places into places of sin. Thus they made the sacrifice of the Lord to be abhorred. This is the special charge against them. The people loathed the whole service. It not only lost all reality in their minds, it became positively hateful to them. Unbelief in anything true began to mix strangely and awfully with honest detestation of a lie. This is a description, the liveliest and most faithful possible, of a nation becoming atheistical through the atheism of its priests ; learning to think that whatever is divine is with them; inwardly convinced at the same time that in them there is nothing divine, something
Old Eli, the high priest, might have kept