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Clergyman of the English Church ought to be prepared to prove by his words and his acts whether he pleads guilty to it or not.
I will merely set down a few notorious facts. I find myself obliged by my position to read each day to my Congregation certain chapters from the Old and the New Testament. These chapters are called Lessons.' They are not chosen at random, but follow each other continuously. No hint is given about interpretations of them to be obtained from doctors old or new. On Sundays we read in our Communion Service an Epistle and a Gospel. These taken alone might lead us to fancy that the Bible was to be cut up into portions, each containing some particular moral; not to be treated as a history. Lest we should go away with that impression, the regular order of lessons in the New Testament is preserved, and a special set of lessons is appointed from the Old Testament. These last can by no possibility have been selected for the purpose of teaching a certain set of maxims or notions. They often consist of passages which modern teachers stumble at, and which fastidious parents desire their children to pass over. They must have been appointed because the compilers of our Services held the Bible to be an orderly historical revelation.
This statement I leave to the consideration of every honest Dissenter.
If he knows any religious body here or elsewhere, which has expressed its desire that the Bible — the whole Bible-should be presented to men in general' in a more formal, decisive, and practical manner than the English Church has done, I shall be rejoiced to hear the name of that body. But if he supposes that in saying
. so, I am striving to make out a case for myself or for the English Clergy, he is entirely mistaken. I think we are laid under a heavy responsibility by our position in a Church which has given these distinct and emphatical intimations of her meaning. I do not think that we have in any satisfactory degree acquitted ourselves of that responsibility. I do not think we have had courage to bring out the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament in their simple clear sense, as a revelation of God to Man, or as a lamp to the feet of us Englishmen in the 19th century.
The cause of this failure is, I think, not far to seek. The religious world has adopted a certain theory respecting the Old Testament. The polity we read of there, we are told, was constructed upon principles entirely peculiar, entirely different from those under which we are living. God was the King of the Hebrews in a literal actual sense; He is the King of the people of England in an imaginary metaphorical sense. This is the assumption with which we begin our studies; we announce it or imply it continually in our sermons; it leavens all our thoughts. Consequently the whole scheme of Old Testament history must be resolved into a scheme of irregular interferences. It cannot be brought to bear-we have no right to bring it to bear-upon
the actual condition and relations of our English population. It cannot, in any honest sense of the words, be looked upon as a history or revelation for us. It must be treated as a mere collection of religious notions and maxims, as supplying a set of texts upon which we are to make edifying remarks, and from which we are to deduce what are called practical applications. At the same time it is a part of our business to tell our congregations, that the religious teaching of the Old Testament does not strictly belong to us, seeing we are Christians, and have been brought into a much more spiritual economy. Nay, we are to inform them that the doctrine of a future state and the way of preparing for it, which are taken to be the main subjects of divine communications, can be learnt but very imperfectly and indistinctly from these records. What then can remain of them? What is the foun. dation of the reverence which we are taught to entertain for them ? Can you maintain it by speaking of them as merely typical, or the likenesses of something else ? Can you maintain it by drawing from them certain rules of conduct, which in the same breath you say are superseded by other and higher rules?
These are questions which men are asking themselves everywhere. Would to God they were asking them more earnestly, with more determination to obtain an answer! were, I should not care how much they heard of neological doubts or neological solutions. I believe the first might be a means of leading them to look again into the Bible for a real and simple history; that the others would afford them scarcely a temporary resting-place. What makes one tremble, is not the active, but the passive unbelief of our day; not the vehement
If they words, 'like the east-wind,' of men who declare that they cannot be content with conventions, and must have something solid to rest on; but the placid scepticism which takes it for granted that religious men in general are standing upon a reef of sand, and has not interest to ask whether there is any rock beneath upon which we all might stand. Let us confess it plainly and simply. It is not Neologians or Rationalists who have taught men that the Bible is a collection of incoherent fragments an old oriental document with which modern civilization has nothing to do. We have taught them that. The religious world has been inculcating the lesson upon all classes amongst us. And then we are shocked and startled when we see it brought out openly before us, dressed in critical formulas : and we fly hither and thither for defence against the evil spirit we have ourselves raised; now begging help of some orthodox German, whom we suppose has more knowledge about documents than ourselves; now intreating some Genevan divine to furnish us with a new theory of inspiration which will settle all doubts, and which must be received as if it was itself inspired.