Full text of "The organon of Scripture: or, The inductive method of Biblical interpretation"

Author: Lamar, J. S. (James Sanford), 1829-1908
Subject: Bible
Publisher: Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott & co.
Year: 1860
Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT
Language: English
Digitizing sponsor: Google
Book from the collections of: Harvard University

This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project
to make the world's books discoverable online.

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject
to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books
are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover.

Marks, notations and other marginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the
publisher to a library and finally to you.

Usage guidelines

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we have taken steps to
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for
personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Maintain attribution The Google "watermark" you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it.

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About Google Book Search

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web

at |http : //books . google . com/










I umo Of Bomrai is thi iTinyKBSAL looio, appuoabui to all dtquibiis
nr wmoH man oan xvaAGx.— JftJZ.


1860. ^

Entered, according to Act of Oongren, in the year 1860, by


In the Glerk'i Office of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern
District of Pennsylrania.


The principal reasons which have induced ns to add an-
other to the already long list of works on Exegetical Science,
will be given in the body of the present volume. In this place
it will suffice to say that, as its title-page indicates, the pub-
lication which is now offered to the public differs in its
whole design and execution from all that have preceded it.
It purports to be, radically and essentially, a new work,
and not a remodeled edition of Emesti, Michaelis, Stuart, or
Home. True, it does not claim to have discovered a new
method of investigating phenomena; it merely adopts, and
applies to the Scriptures, a method which has been satisfac-
torily tried in other departments of study, but which, it is be-
lieved, has never been presented and urged as the Method of
Biblical Interpretation. On this it bases its chief if not its
sole claim to the attention and favor of the public.

That Method takes precedence and control of Kules, and
oannot be superseded by them, is a proposition which seems
never to have been considered by any of the writers on Her-
meneutical Science. Hence they have not only failed to
elaborate and insist upon the Inductive Method, but have
been equally silent with reference to all others; and their
works, which have so long been held as standard authorities
in this department, are wholly destitute of any well-defined
Method of Interpretation. Whereas, unless we have wholly



misappreliended the fundamental principles of the subject
which we have presumed to discuss, it will be seen, as we ad-
vance, that the glaring discrepancies which have marked, and
which continue to mark, the interpretations made by different
individuals of equal intellectual and moral qualifications, are
to be traced directly to this very deficiency — the absence of
a well-established and all-comprehensive Method.

The following work, it is hoped, will be found to contribute
something towards supplying this evident defect.

It will not, however, be supposed that because methods
have not formed the subject of discussion in our exegetical
works, the Bible has, therefore, been interpreted without them.
What we complain of is, not the absence of methods, but
the failure to settle which one of those in use is right, and
to determine with accuracy the principles and laws contained
under it. Men have pursued now one and now another
method, according to their fancy or the exigencies of the case
they desired to make out, while the general rules of inter-
pretation have been either applied or disregarded in obedi-
ence to the requirements of whatever method happened for
the time to be in use. It has, therefore, been deemed necessary
to discuss the claims of those which have hitherto been pur-
sued, before entering upon the exposition and application of
that which gives the title to the present work. And, not-
withstanding the space covered by this preliminary review, it
is hoped that its importance as a preparation for what comes
after will be a sufficient apology for its introduction.

It is hardly to be expected, considering the prevalency of
religious error and the multiformity of religious prejudice,
that we have, in this part, entirely escaped giving offense.
Still, we have carefully shunned all unpleasant allusions to
denominational peculiarities, and have left the various fruits


of false methods to their own fate, confining ourselves almost
exclusively to the exposure and eradication of their common
cause. On the subject of Human Creeds — involved in the
discussion of the Dogmatic Method — ^we have spoken with
great freedom and considerable elaborateness. We felt justi-
fied in adopting this course, without fear of encountering par-
tisan prejudice or personal ill will, from the fEict that creeds were
regarded as the common ground of nearly all Protestants, how
widely soever different in other particulars. And we have no
doubt that even those who may dissent from the conclusions
introduced, will cheerfully accord to us the privilege of ex-
ercising that right which is at once the proud distinction
and impregnable defense of Protestantism — assured as they
are, that it has been exercised as temperately as our profound
convictions of duty would allow.

As to the style of the work, it is suflBcient to say that perspi- •
cuity has been the object of our chief solicitude. We have
constantly had reference to that class of readers whose stn-
dies have not been directed into the channels from which the
subject matter of this work is derived. How far we may have
succeeded in bringing the History, Philosophy, Theology, and
Science involved in our plan within the grasp of such readers,
it would be impos'sible now to say ; but we have constantly felt
that if our arguments were sound, they could only be effective
by being understood ; and if they were not, we had no desire
to conceal their weakness by enveloping them in the fogs of
mystical or metaphysical obscurities. The whole arrange-
ment of the different books, parts, and chapters, has been
made with reference to what seemed to be their logical con-
nection, relation, and dependence; and this, if no mistake
has been made, will itself contribute to that perspicuity which
we have sought to make characteristic of the style.



The yarious works which have been consulted will be referred
to as they are quoted. It may not, however, be improper for us
here to state our indebtedness to Dr. Enfield's excellent edi-
tion of Brucker's Historia Critica Philosophioe. In the his-
torical exhibition of Mysticism and of Scholasticism this
work has been particularly valuable to us. In the second
book we have freely availed ourselves of the lucid and able
works of Sir John Herschel, John Stuart Mill, and others, and
have not scrupled to quote largely from them, whenever by so
doing we thought the object we had in view could be best

Conscious as we are of many imperfections in the work which
is now submitted to the public, we doubt not that a discrim-
inating criticism will discover many more. But in view of
the numerous other duties which lie before us, we cannot hope
to be able at an early day to give it a thorough revisal, and
do not feel justified in withholding it longer from its mis-
sion. Hence, such as it is, it is sent forth, to meet with
whatever reception may be granted to it by an intelligent
Christian community.

Augusta, Qkobgia, Mat 18, 1859.



Pbetacb iii






The great masses of society are actual, though not positive skep-
tics. The skepticism of the eighteenth compared with that
of the nineteenth century. Comte's Positive Philosophy.
Smaller stars. Actual skepticism defined. It accounts for
the rapid growth of "Spiritualism," etc. Not confined to
these developments. The fortress of this skepticism. The

responsibility of the church with reference to it 17




Two ways mentioned of judging this science. Neither correct.
Properly regarded it is seen to contain correct principles,
but no method. The aids we now possess in studying the
Scriptures. Their value. Their deficiency. They have not
given a tcientific character to Hermeneutics. Protestants in
a dilemma. Importance of points in controversy. Inef-



fectual union of Tract Societies and *' Evangelical Alliances."
The cause of our diflferences. Four hypotheses. The exist-
ence of false methods the real cause. Biographical History
of Philosophy, and Lord Bacon quoted. What Protestantism
accomplished at first, and what it left for us to accomplish.
This has not yet been done. Conclusion 25



Method defined. Rule defined. Their relation to each other.
The one immediate, the other ultimate in effect. Correct
rules and a false method lead to falsehood. Method the first
consideration in scientific inquiry. The province of each
illustrated. Master and servant. General and subordinates.
The materials for a building, and its erection. Failure of
Hermeneutics accounted for. Book-keeping. Solomon's
Temple, and how it was built. The Christian temple. Re-
turns, Plan of the work 84

PART 11.



Webster's definition of mysticism imperfect. Mill's definition.
The Principle of Mysticism. The sense in which the word
is used in this work. Philosophy of Chaldea and Persia the
source of mysticism. Sum of what is known of that phi-
losophy. Its effects upon ancient speculation. Ammonius
Saccas makes it the standard of all philosophy and religion.
Mosheim quoted. Why this amalgamated philosophy was
called Platonism. The effects of its adoption. The fallacy
of calling the Eastern philosophy the standard. The real
standard. Why we begin our survey of mysticism here.



Platonists conyerted to Christianity. Justin Martyr, Athen-
agoras, Clemens, and Origen. Their labors to reconcile
Christianity to the new philosophy. The method of doing
this. Their reasons for it. Its effects. Mosheim and Enfield
quoted. Conclusion , 46



Pseudo-Dionysius and his works. "Two heads," and per-
haps "three." Translated by Joannes Scotus. Thus mys-
ticism was introduced into the West. Its aggravated form.
The learning of the age. Mechanical mysticism. The re-
bound from Scholasticism. Neo-Platonism, Pythagorianism,
and Cabalism combined. The mystics immediately preced-
ing the Reformation. After the Reformation. George Fox
identified with earlier mystics. Mosheim and Bancroft
quoted. Swedenborgianism goes one step beyond the first
mysticism. Estimate of Swedenborg's character and works.
A dilemma. Cousin quoted. Resumi. The Medici, Para-
celsus, Van Helmont, Poiret, Law, Penn, "spirit rappers."
Theosophists 69



The employment of the Mystic Method varies with the neces-
sities of the case. The change one of degree, not of kind.
Only 2k part of Scripture subject to mystic principles. The
"wall" around Protestantism. The gate in the wall. The
effect of closing it. High ground. Low water. Argument
for perpetuating established institutions. A definition of
Heterodoxy. A difficulty. An evangelical "gauge." An
orthodox "lever." "Our church." A spiritual sense op-
posed to a literal. A new spiritual sense. Difference be-
tween this and Origenism. Science studied on this method.
"He know9 that he is right." Conclusion 72





The meaning of a literal text. The nature of human language.
It is regulated by fixed laws. If it change it must change
according to rule. A "horse," a "cow," and a "horse for
sawing wood." The battle of Waterloo. Bonaparte, the
Devil; St. Helena, Tartarus, etc. The Bible in human lan-
guage. The consequence. The nature of the Bible in par-
ticular. A revelation if it mean what it says, not otherwise.
Mysticism, infidelity. Objections. The word mystery. The
letter killeth. The limit of interpretation. Going beyond.
Outside mysteries. Sir Wm. Hamilton, and Sir Isaac New-
ton quoted. Archbishop Whately. Illustrations. Paul's
Tision. The seven thunders, etc 85



Soylla and Charybdis. General rule for determining what
texts are figurative. Specifications. Home. Rule embrac-
ing all figurative language. Irensaus's rule for parables.
TertuUian's rule. These extended to all figurative language.
The comprehension of faith and obedience. Figurative lan-
guage does not teach new truth. Dean Trench quoted. The
standard in the Bible. The efi^ect of adopting these princi-
ples. Parables not to be quoted for arguments except as
confirmations. Various authorities. Objections met. Con-
clusion 101






The Dogmatic Method the master of the Mystic. The rise of
Scholasticism. A logical knight-errant. The fame of the
Scholastics. New doctrines. Aristotle's works prohibited,
and the consequence. A new idea. Thej are receiyed into
the bosom of the church. The maintenance of the Latin
Theology the limit of the schools. Dr. Hampden quoted.
Characteristics of Scholasticism. Questions discussed. Hal-
lam. Sir J. Mackintosh. The dogmatic character of Scho-
lasticism. Its essential evil. Brucker. The marriage of
religion with philosophy. Transubstantiation made an arti-
cle of faith. Waddington and Mosheim. PascaVs remarks
on ^'accidents" considered, note. The effects of Scholas-
ticism. Returns, Hampden 118



Aristotle's authority in the days of Luther. Impious position
of Eugenius and Qeorgius. Luther's attitude to Scholas-
ticism. Melancthon's tergiyersation. The example of Lu-
ther and his coadjutors. The distinguishing principles of
Protestantism. Without these Protestants would be Roman-
ists. Not carried out in practice. A change of masters.
The difference. The binding character of Protestant dog-
mata. Penalty for their yiolation. Inferentially, not verb-
ally, scriptural. So Romish dogmata. One lawgiver. Both
principles present or absent at the same time. The position
taken sustained by authorities. Hallam. Chambers. Balmes.
Edinburgh Review 128





Protestants do not donbt Ihe correctness of their principles.
Why they abandon them in practice. The Confession of
Augsburg. The theory of Protestants has multiplied
thought. The example of Luther has multiplied dogmatism.
Relatiye position of objects. Influence of dogmatism traced.
The circuit of error. Neo-Platonism, Scholasticism, multi-
form dogmatism. The impotency of rules with such methods. 147



Section I. — This subject the parent of intemperate controversy.
Reasons for treating upon it. To be viewed in the light of
the principles of Protestantism. Tested by the first prin-
ciple. By the second. A change imperative 154

Section II. — The constitution of creeds. False views of the
Christian faith. Things improperly referred. Faith and
knowledge distinguished. Doctrine not independently an
object of faith. The Christian faith. Test of correct faith.
This brings us practically to Protestant principles. The
eflfect of it 158

Section III. — Creeds viewed from another angle. The offspring
of extreme positions. Illustration. Polemic Theology com-
pared with the Bible. Connections broken and relations
destroyed. False impression. Most men's consistency. A
constant change. A constant perversion. Calvinism. Ar-
minianism. Other isms 168

Section IV. — ^Archbishop Whately*s argument for creeds. His
premises for us. His conclusion against us. Quotation.
A syllogism. Whately on the effect of creeds. Teaching v.
proof. Creeds may be written or unwritten. An analogy.
Dogmatic Method in Science. Its results. A change and
its results 167


BOOK 11.





The order to be observed in this book. The word induction de-
fined. Ogilvie*s Webster. Isaac Taylor. Lord Bacon. In-
duction bp simple enumeration. Proper induction. Peculiarity
of the Baconian Induction. It includes Deduction. This
not fully elaborated by Bacon, and why. The two offices
of deduction. Distinguished from dogmatism. Playfair
quoted. ** Form," as used by Bacon, defined. Prerogatives
of instances. Illustration. The whole process built upon
an assumption. All science rests upon faith 177



An a priori argument. Paying down the interest. The two
volumes, and their analogy. The onus probandi, Will and
wisdom of God. The Bible not an abstraction. History,
and allusion to history. Fact. Truth. Truth not created.
God is Truth, not Fact, and why. Phenomena of Nature.
Of the Bible. Authorities which sustain the author's posi-
tion. Prof. Nichol, Mill, Sir John Herschel. Another argu-
ment. Effects to be expected. Objections answered 187


07 bacon's idol a.


The term idola defined. Idola Tribiis. Idola Speciis. Idola
Fori. Idola Theatri. Bacon's explanation of each. Her-
Bchel on Prejudice. Prejudices of two kinds. The term
*' experience*' defined. The sensible impression, and the
judgment. Most fayorable moral condition of an inquirer.
Bailey. Plato quoted 200


of the collection of materials.

Preliminary remarks. The authors relied upon. The first step
in ascertaining a law of Nature. Or of Revelation. Exam-
ple. Kinds of facts to be collected. Circumstances to be
obserred 211


general classification.

Quotations from Herschel and Mill. General division precedes
special classification. Synopsis of the Bible. Its grand
divisions or dispensations. The necessity of fixing their
boundaries. One of these not settled. Induction on the
subject. Its result. Remarks 216



No independent fact. Genera and species relative. The scale
ascending and descending. Genus generalissimum. Species
specialissimad. Principle of classification. The same object
differently classed. Residual phenomena. Generalizations
confined to their grade. Illustration 231





Bemark on their phraseology. Canon I, where an assigned
peculiarity is wanting or opposite. Canon II, where all the
facts agree in one point. Canon III, a unanimous agreement
of analogies. Canon lY, opposing facts. Canon Y, arrange-
ment of facts. Canon YI, counteracting causes. Canon YII,
difference in one particular. Canon YIII, complicated phe-
nomena. Concluding remarks 240



Scientific inquiry demands both processes. Ascension and de-
scension. Induction, must precede deduction. Mill. Novum
Organum. Deduction v. Dogmatism. Its uses in exegesis.
It elucidates obscure passages. Enlarges the borders of
revelation. Caution in its pursuit. Conclusion 268




The logical place of this part is Chapter lY. of the preceding.
Characteristic of Science. Ptolemy v. Newton. Kepler's
laws. A case supposed. The meaning of words. A ** logi-
cal" justification 276



Exegetioal science rests upon two axioms. Similar basis of
natural science. Axiom I, a word in a given passage has



one meaning. Axiom II, a word has always the same mean-
ing under the same circumstances. The foundation of Lexi-
cography. Equiyalent in natural science. Herschel. First
General Principle. Generalization. Primary and Etymo-
logical meaning. Rule I, the Dictionaries. Rule II, direct
appeal to facts. This rule includes the Canons of Induc-
tion. Illustration. The sources of facts ; the Bible ; Con-
temporary Literature; Incidental exemplification; Para-
phrases, Scholia, and Commentaries 280



Eyery word has one, and but one general meaning. Other
meanings only modifications of that. Illustration, <' cross.''
New position on the word "let." "Grone,'* "grown,"
"groan." "Our," "hour." "Ale," "ail," etc. Second
General Principle, the presumption always in favor of the
primary sense. The burden of proof. Rule III, the force
of circumstances. Cuts off guess-work. Rule IV, context.
A gap to be filled. The word "let" further argued. A
maxim deduced. Minty giU^ cleave. Rule V, subject matter.
Application to scientific allusions. Lieut. Maury. The
Geological question of the "six days." Laplace's specula-
tion on the origin of the earth. Extended to the creation of
man. Harmonized with the Bible. The meaning of the
word "day." Dr. Kurtz's, and Hugh Miller's position.
Prophecy. Rule VI, Scope or Design. Exemplified by vari-
ous papal interpretations. Rule VII, Historical circum-
stances, Dispensation, Date, etc. etc. Review. Form,
Completeness, Simplicity of the author's scheme. Compari-
son with others. Similar evolution of all sciences. Certain
of Home's rules examined. Correct but useless. Imper-
fection of our version, note. Conclusion 291

Notes 317






In submitting to the Christian public a New Method of
Biblical Interpretation, it seems proper to begin with such
preliminary considerations as may serre to justify the course
proposed, and to prepare the way for its adoption. And
foremost among these, is the attitude of the masses to the
Book whose communications are to be investigated ; be-
cause it is for them the Christian lives, and not for himself.
However well, therefore, he may be satisfied of the truth of
conclusions to which he himself has been brought in follow-
ing the existing methods of exegesis, he cannot have dis-
charged his whole duty while he remains indifferent to the
condition in which those methods have left his fellow-

What, then, is the relation sustained by the great body
of the people to the Holy Bible ? How do they regard it ?
To what extent is its authority recognized and respected ?

2* X^


Is its influence such as should satisfy the reasonable desires
and expectations of enlightened philanthropy? If not,
what is the cause of the failure, and how can it be removed ?
Such are the questions which we are to attempt to answer
in this preliminary part.

And here, in the outset, we feel constrained to pronounce
the great masses of men and women in Christendom —
reared and educated though they hare been under the
direct and indirect influences of the Bible — Skeptics. By
this we do not mean that they hate the Scriptures, or that
they would be willing to put forth any positive effort to
destroy them, for this is true of the fewest number. The
skepticism of our age is not so coarse and dogmatic. It
is more subtle and refined ; more timid and retiring ; but
at the same time more insinuating and dangerous. Ours
is actualf not positive skepticism.

The nineteenth century has produced neither a Yoltaire,
a Gibbon, nor a Hume. True, it has witnessed the pro-
mulgation of the Positive Philosophy of M. Auguste
Comte, — a philosophy whose direct object is to prove that
religious belief is the transient state of human nature ; but
even this profound work furnishes indirectly the strongest
proof of the immovable stability of revelation, in the fact
that the only means which appeared to so great a thinker
and so earnest an opponent, of arresting its influence and
disproving its claims, was to annihilate the Being who is
claimed as the Author of it. And, when it is proved that
there is no God, we shall admit that ours is not a revelation
from God. But we are not prepared to give up our con-
viction of the existence of a Great First Cause, in order to


perceiye the positive dependence of effects upon proximate
causes. Nor is it necessary. We can believe that the
universe is controlled by laws ; but it only strengthens our
faith in the being and the wisdom of a Law-maker. And
we are persuaded, whatever influence the writings of M.
Comte may have had upon a few mortified metaphysicians,
that his postulates concerning God and his religion have
not been, nor can they ever be, widely embraced.*

In addition to the above monstrous attempt, which would
sacrifice the living Creator as an offering to His own laws,
a few smaller stars have made feeble efforts to cover the
face of the sun ; but their transit was only known to phi-
losophers, and they have passed on into merited oblivion.

We may therefore conclude, almost without qualification,
that the skepticism of the nineteenth century has not de-
veloped itself in that absolute and positive form which
distinguished it in the eighteenth. And we may further
remark, that the violence and force of the attacks made
upon the truth in the preceding age resulted, in the provi-
dence of God, in ultimate good. Men were raised up to
meet the emergency, who were enabled not only to sustain
triumphantly the claims of the Bible against the most pow-
erful opposition that can, perhaps, ever be brought against
it, but also to disarm their adversaries of all their weapons
of offensive warfare. Thus the Scriptures have been trans-
mitted to our age, securely intrenched, as it were, behind
bulwarks of impregnable strength, and free from all danger
of successful assault from any possible quarter.

* See Note Ay at the end of the work.


Hence it were ridiculous for us to stand behind our para-
pets and hurl shafts against a foe that has retired from the
contest. We have a different work to perform. It is the
enemy that now acts on the defensive ; and he will never
be routed while the friends of the Bible continue merely to
walk over the old battle-fields, recounting the deeds of glory
and triumphs of skill which were there achieved by our fathers.
In other words, we do not deem it necessary or wise to be
perpetually repeating the masterly arguments of our ances-
tors against a species of infidelity that no longer exists —
or, if it exist, is no longer formidable; while a living
enemy, as destructive and deadly, is permitted to lurk unre-
buked in our families, and to sit unassailed in our churches.
When the old enemy ventures forth in hostile attitude, it
will then be time enough to draw out from our armory
those weapons which repelled him before ; but certain are
we that this is not now the daily and appropriate work of
the church.

What I have denominated actual skepticism^ is not a
determined opposition to the faith, but rather a simple
want of it. It is ignorant of the truth, and distrustful of
its ability to find it. It is a skepticism which terminates
upon the Church rather than the Bible. It admits that
the Bible contains the truth, but thinks that the Church is
not able to determine what is that truth. It says : " We
concede that the argument for the Divine inspiration of the
Bible is unanswerable ; hence we do not oppose it — we say
not a word against it : but what does it mean ? What is
it that it would have us believe ^ and what does it require


US to doV^ These questions it asks the Church, and the
Church returns all manner of conflicting and contradictory
answers. Christ has made his people the light of the
world ; they have inrited and urged the world to come to
them for light — to look to them as the exponents of Scrip-
ture truth; but when the direction is heeded, the very
answer that one Christian returns is stoutly contradicted by
another, while both are opposed by a third, and all pro-
nounced false by a fourth ; until, discouraged and hopeless,
men have settled down in actual skepticism to wait for some
other manifestation. They are hence ready (for men will
seek to satisfy their religious cravings) to embrace any new
thing that promises satisfaction. Thus Mormonism, with
all its absurdities, is greedily swallowed ; Spirit-Rapping
finds its thousands and tens of thousands of deluded vota-
ries ; and all manner of frauds and impositions gain cre-
dence and support, in consequence of the absence of a
fixed and positive faith in Christianity.

But that this want of faiths this actual skepticism, dif-
fers from positive infidelity, is evident from the fact that
nearly all these deluded people seek to exhibit an agree-
ment between their schemes and the Bible. They are not
prepared wholly to give up that book. They are not will-
ing to abandon altogether its doctrine and its hopes ; but
they must have satisfaction as to its meaning. This they
have tried to find in the existing churches, and have
failed ; and now, as a last resort, they have taken hold of
" Spiritualism," or some other ism, which, though it cannot
and does not fill the vacuum in their hearts, can at least


withdraw attention from it for a time, while it gives promise
that when the system, now in its infancy, shall be per-
fected, their highest hopes shall be realized.

This, however, is but a single development of the skep-
ticism of our age ; and its magnitude will be very imper-
fectly estimated if we suppose it to be confined to the com-
paratively few who are drawn off into these absurd schemes.
It pervades the great mass of society. Its baneful influence
is insinuated into the hearts of the high and the low, the
wise and the unwise alike. It fills our chapels every first
day of the week with crowds of its respectful and respected
votaries. In all sections of the country, among all classes,
conditions, professions, and occupations, there is exhibited
this quiet, unobtrusive, inactive want of faith ; a skepticism
of the most hopeless kind, which places men in that state in
which ^'it is impossible to please God," but which is likely
to be altogether pleasing to the flesh. The dangers of
skepticism, and the arguments against it, are not appreciated
by our actual skeptic, for he is not conscious of being such.
He feels that he is not averse to the truth ; he even takes
pleasure, it may be, in witnessing its success. His difficulty
is, that he is waiting for something. He is not yet fully
satisfied. In the conflict of opposing creeds and contra-
dictory doctrines, he has not been able to make up his
mind. He is in doubt as to which of a number of pro-
posed systems is true, not as to whether there be truth ;
and hence he lives, not opposed to faith, but destitute
of it.

The great voice which rises up from this mass of doubt-


ing, hesitating, unbelieving mind is, " Point oat the truth,
and we will receive it ; tell us what the Scriptures mean,
and we will follow them ; but amid the thousand discords
and clamorous strifes, the antagonistic doctrines and dis-
crepant interpretations, we cannot determine what to be-
lieve or what to do." And thus infidelity — ^routed from the
ground it once so proudly and defiantly occupied, and
compelled to relinquish into the hands of the Church its
hold upon science, criticism, and history, with which at one
time it threatened the overthrow of the truth — has taken
refuge in a fortress built by the Church, Our divisions,
contentions, and differences have given birth to, and builded
the stronghold of, a skepticism the most pernicious and
insinuating, which prevails as widely as Christendom;
which is giving life and support to all manner of false reli-
gions; a skepticism which often sits at the communion-
table of the Lord ; which grows up with our reb'gious edu-
cation, and is confirmed by the weekly preaching from our
pulpits; and which the Church can never reach till she
becomes able to destroy her own work.

For it must be evident that the evil cannot be eradicated
by the arguments used by the opponents of a different
skepticism. No reasoning against the result can avail so
long as the cause which produces it is present and active.
Former skepticism was based upon imaginary facts, and
was routed when they were shown to be imaginary. But
the skepticism of our age is based upon actual facts, and
can only be overcome when those facts are destroyed.
The infidelity which founded its opposition to the Bible


upon the coutradictions it was supposed to contain, or
upon the opposition of its communications to the truths
of established science, or upon the unreasonableness and
insufficiency of its evidences, was disarmed and silenced
when it was shown that no such contradiction or opposi-
tion existed, and that the evidences upon which it com-
manded our faith were accordant with the demands of
right reason and common sense, and were stronger, clearer,
and more numerous than those which were held to establish
any analogous proposition. And so the skepticism which
is based upon the uncertainty of biblical interpretation^
as manifested in the contrariety of faith and practice ex-
hibited in the Church, admits of but one conclusive answer,
and demands but one argument, — ^the removal of the foun-
dation upon which it rests.

This brings us to the consideration of the present state of
hermeneutical science ; for we attribute our disagreements
not to the Bible, nor yet to the depravity or incompetency
of those who have studied.it, but to the imperfections and
perverting influences of the methods which have been fol-




The science of Biblical Interpretation may be super-
ficially judged of, either by the amount and variety of labor
and learning which have been devoted in bringing it to
perfection, or by the effects it has produced. In the one
case we should probably conclude that nothing, in the other
that everything, remained to be done. But if we look into
the science itself, and carefully weigh the principles it has
brought to light, and compare them with the results that
have followed their application, we shall arrive at a conclu-
sion neither altogether favorable nor wholly unfavorable to
its merits. We shall conclude that the science contains
many excellent principles, and has laid down many valuable
laws, but that it is wholly wanting in the establishment of
an all-comprehensive and pervading method which alone
can properly apply those principles, and determine where
and when to enforce those laws ; and hence, that good
rules have been improperly used, neglected, or violated, for
want of a presiding and predominant power to direct and
govern their employment. Every interpreter has pursued
his own method, and has called in the aid of such herme-
neutical principles only as that method required. Hence,
if those labors were multiplied a thousandfold, and were all
to be confined, as they have hitherto been, to the axioms and
rules of exegesis, the same results would continue to follow.



The distinction between the province of method and that
of rales we deem of sufficient importance to have a separate
chapter devoted to its illustration ; in this place, therefore,
we can be better occupied in showing that the discrepancies
which exist are really traceable to the perversity of the
methods which obtain.

And in the first place, let us inquire, what aids do
we now possess in coming to a consistent and true under-
standing of the sense of Scripture? Let us cast in
our minds the number and transcendent ability of the
Commentaries, Notes, Scholia, Paraphrases, Rules of
Interpretation, Keys to the Bible, Introductions, to the
Scriptures, Sacred Hermeneutics, Principles of Exege-
sis, Sacred Geographies, Bible Dictionaries, Biblical Anti-
quities, et csetera ad infinitum, — and we pause and ask
ourselves whether anything of value can be added to labors
so abundant and learning so various and profound ? The
question is pertinent and forcible. And certainly it were
the height of immodesty to attempt to rival, to undervalue,
or to set aside such able and invaluable productions. The
author has no such chimerical purpose, and no such unwor-
thy desire. But he cannot conceal from himself the fact
that these works have failed to render Hermeneutics what it
ought to be — a science, in the true acceptation of the word.
He cannot ignore the fact that they have failed to accom-
plish what should have been, and what doubtless was, the
ultimate object of their production, and that, consequently,
our interpretations are characterized by as much discrep-
ancy and uncertainty now as before their publication.


Subjects of the highest practical moment are still in con-
troversy. Earnest and studious Christians are still arrayed
in opposition to each other. The membership of one
church are conscientiously debarred from the communion-
table of another; while the serious preaching from one
pulpit is seriously contradicted by that from another. Men
equally distinguished for learning and piety take opposite
views of the same passage, and are taught irreconcilable
doctrines from the same page. But we shall be told by
some one who is satisfied and even pleased with this state
of things, that the points concerning which differences exist
are all of secondary importance — the mere drapery of
Christianity ; and that our exegetical science has proved
abundantly equal to the settlement of all the weightier
matters. But does he reflect that, in -this statement, he
charges the whole Protestant world with the guilt of mak-
ing or perpetuating divisions in the body of Christ upon
trifling considerations ? Whereas, if his statement be false,
a large majority of Protestants must be in error on subjects
that are of vital moment. But it must be either true or
false; and, therefore, divided Protestants must be either
guilty of schism, or a majority of them have mistaken
' falsehood for truth. They are either involved in a malig-
nant sin, or they are in imminent danger. For one, we
believe that the points of disagreement are, many of them,
of the greatest importance. All Divine truth is important,
and all radical misapprehension of it to be deprecated ; but
when the subject of if pertains directly to the matter of our
salvation — to the divinity or non-divinity of the Author of


it ; to the terms of accepting and enjoying it ; and to the
daily and weekly worship and service superinduced by it, —
we can hardly think a Christian man serious who calls this
the "drapery of Christianity." Does not the earnestness
and pertinacity with which the dispute is carried on demon-
strate the importance that is attached to it? Does not
every man feel that his position cannot be yielded without
his suffering the loss of valuable truth ? He may regret
the condition in which he finds the Church, and may
labor to correct it; but we are slow to learn that our
divisions are not healed by singing hosannas to union
once a year in our Tract Societies, or by laying aside for
a week our peculiarities in order to have a union revival.
Nor will the evil ever be corrected by the dignified assem-
blies and powerless resolves of Evangelical Alliances, or
Young Men's Christian Associations. Sincere convictions
cannot be corrected by a vote, nor made to yield to a reso-
lution, nor be sacrificed to a love of union. The cause of
our differences must be ascertained and removed, and then
the evil will correct itself.

This cause we have attributed to the insuflSciency of our
exegetical science.

But is our science alone at fault? May not the dis-
crepancies in our interpretations be accounted for by refer-
ence to the peculiar character of the Bible itself, or the
moral obliquity of those who consult it ? In reply, we sub-
mit, that when different interpretations exist, as they now
do, respecting the practical details 'of Christianity ^ — its
laws, ordinances, membership, officers, and order, together


with the great Foundation upon which all profess to stand, —
they can only be accounted for upon one of the following
hypotheses ; —

1. Those who profess to draw their conclusions from the
Bible are dishonest ; or

2. The Bible itself is unintelligible ; or

3. It teaches the contradictions which are professedly
drawn from it ; or

4. It is not interpreted according to the proper Method.
We will glance at each of these suppositions: —
MrsL That those who consult the Bible are dishonest,

or insincere, considered as a whole, is the last assump-
tion that reason could admit or charity approve. The
hypothesis, indeed, is clearly incompatible with well-known ^
facts. Those who differ on the above subjects are, for
the most part, men whose whole lives have been but a
series of noble and generous deeds and self-sacrificing
devotion; men characterized by the strongest faith, the
most ardent love, and unaffected piety. Certainly, if any
satisfactory evidence can be given of honesty and sincerity,
it is furnished by those who suspend their own eternal inter-
ests, and those of their families and friends, upon the cor-
rectness of their faith and practice. Exceptions there may
be, and doubtless are — men pervaded by that wide-spread
skepticism we have pointed out, who, having no faith in
any system, profess that one which is most pregnant with
worldly promise ; but these only prove the correctness of
the general rule. The first hypothesis, therefore, will not
serve to account for the disagreements complained of.



Second. The second is, that the Bible itself is unintel-
ligible. But, then, why study it at all ? Why ever con-
lend for its meaning ? Why ever feel confident in a
position ? According to this supposition it is all a trans-
parent farce. It is neither a revelation, nor a safe direct-
ory. Its meaning, if it have a meaning, is placed upon
a par with the ambiguous oracles of Delphi, and we are
never less profitably or less wisely employed than when
seeking to understand it. — But it is a revelation. Its very
nature and design is to unfold and make known. It is
declared to be able to make us " wise unto salvation," which
it can only do by being understood. We should expect
that a Being of infinite wisdom and goodness would, in
giving directions to his creatures how safely to prosecute
the journey of life, make those directions what they are
declared to be, so plain that the wayfaring man, though a
simpleton, need not err in them. The Bible, then, at least
in so far as its practical parts are concerned — those upon
which we all so widely differ — admits of being understood,
and if it is not, the reason must be sought in some other
quarter than its native obscurities.

Third. That it teaches those contradictory and irrecon-
cilable doctrines that are greeting our ears and our eyes
from all the pulpits and presses in Christendom, is what no
Christian believes and no infidel can prove. But if it can-
not and does not teach contradictory doctrines, it follows
that those which obtain in religious society cannot be drawn
from it by any sound principles of exegesis.

It is admitted, then, we may now safely conclude, that


men of great mental capacity and power do honefltly and
sincerely differ in their interpretation of the Bible, and take
opposite ground respecting its teaching ; on subjects, too,
which are eminently practical and transcendently import-
ant ; and this, when every consideration of reason, its own
express declarations, and the character of Him who is re-
vealed as its author, concur in bearing testimony that there
is no contradiction in its doctrine, and that no one need
mistake its meaning. There remains, therefore, but one
other hypothesis, viz. : —

Fourth, It is not interpreted according to the proper

The language a living writer* applies to Lord Bacon
is singularly applicable here: "He attacked the ancient
philosophy without having thoroughly understood it; he
attacked it, because he saw that a method which conducted
great intelligences io such absurd conclusions as those then
in vogue, must necessarily he false,^^ And the distin-
guished author of the Organum himself asks : —

" Whence can arise such vagueness and sterility in all
the physical systems which have hitherto existed in the
world? It is not certainly from anything in nature itself;
for the steadiness and regularity of the laws by which it
is governed clearly mark them out as objects of precise
and certain knowledge. Neither can it arise from any
want of ability in those who have pursued such inquiries,
many of whom have been men of the highest talent and

* Lewes's Biog. His. Phil., vol. ii. p. 418.


genius of the ages in which they lived ; it can, therefore,
arise from nothing else but the perverseness and insuffir
ciency of the metuobs ivhich have been pursued P^

This language, mutatis mutandis, we repeat as our own
conclusion from the premises and arguments which have
gone before.

Whence can arise such vagueness and sterility in the
religious systems which have hitherto existed in the world ?
It is not certainly from anything in the Book of Scripture
itself, the very nature of which indicates that its laws must
be objects of precise and certain knowledge. Neither can
it arise from any want of ability in those who have pur-
sued such inquiries, many of whom have been men of the
highest talent and genius of the ages in which they lived ;
it can, therefore, arise from nothing else but the perverse-
ness and insufficiency of the methods which have been

Protestantism expressly recognizes the Bible as the only
rule of faith and directory of conduct. Thus far it leaped
in the beginning ; but here it paused, and transmitted to
the Protestants of our age the responsible duty of determ-
ining the means of its successful investigation; of ascer-
taining that method of interpretation which will enable
individuals, not to choose their own faith, and mark out
their own course of conduct — (for we have a Bule of faith
and life) — nor yet to bind themselves to the dogmas or
fetter themselves by the rules of a self-styled orthodoxy,
but to ascertain with certainty what is the faith and what
the requirements taught in the Bible. Hitherto this im-


portant work has not been accomplished. And, until it
be, it is most evident that the formidable evils existing in,
and growing out of, disunion and partyism — evils which
have never perhaps been appreciated in all their magnitude
and influence — cannot be removed. Until then, skepticism
must revel and destroy, beyond the reach of argument or
the hope of correction. Until then, church will be arrayed
against church, and Christian against Christian ; doubt will
be mingled with faith, and a hesitating uncertainty exert
its congealing influence upon both individual and associated

From the whole premises we conclude that, notwithstand-
ing the time, labor, and learning which have been devoted
to it, the science of Biblical Interpretation is still wanting
in some powerful and essential element ; or else, that it em-
braces in itself incongruous and countervailing principles
of sufficient potency to neutralize its influence. In either
case we feel justified in making an attempt, however hum-
ble, to discover and remove the cause of its inefficiency ;
while we seek to find a Method that will furnish the diligent
and earnest student with more satisfactory assurances that
he has acquired the real sense of the Holy Bible — ^which
sense alone is Divine Truth.




We liave promised to devote a chapter to the distinctiou
which we conceive to exist between the province of Rules
and that of Method in Biblical Interpretation. And the
consideration of this subject alone, unless we have wholly
misapprehended it, will justify us before the reader in writ-
ing a treatise on Methods^ notwithstanding the number and
value of the works which have been given to the public on

Webster's definition of method is: "1. A suitable and
convenient arrangement of things, proceedings, or ideas;
the natural or regular disposition of separate things or
parts; convenient order for transacting business, or for
comprehending any difficult subject. Method is essential
to science, and gives to knowledge its scientific character.
2. Way ; manner. 3. Classification ; arrangement of natu-
ral bodies according to their common characteristics."
Perhaps the following definition, expressed in general
terms, will serve to show the sense in which the word is
used in this work. The way or manner of proceeding
in the investigation of the causes or explanations of phe-
nomena. *

This definition permits us to use the term false, (which
we may frequently have occasion to do,) as descriptive of
method ; which could only be allowed in strictness of the


second of Webster's definitions. For, though we might
speak of false classifications, or false arrangements, it is
evident that they could not be at the same time "false,"
and, as the definition says, "suitable and convenient,"
"natural and regular," made "according to their common
characteristics," i.e. upon their true principle.

By a rule is meant, " That which is established as a
principle, standard, or directory ; that by which anything
is to be adjusted or regulated, or to which it is to be con-
formed ; that which is settled by authority or custom for
guidance and direction." And by rules or canons of Bib-
lical Interpretation, we mean those principles or standards
which are established for our government in determining
the sense of Scripture. These also may be true or false —
general or special.

With these definitions laid down, we proceed to consider
the relation existing between method and rules. And this
may be expressed in the proposition, that method exerts a
controlling influence over rules; determines when, where,
and to what extent, they are to be employed ; and modifies
the results obtained by them to suit its own purposes.
While, therefore, the immediate result is obtained by the
instrumentality of rules, the ultimate conclusion— that
which is the object of the whole proceeding — is dependent
upon the method which presides over them. Hence, what-
ever be the nature of the rales employed, as is the method
so the final conclusion. If different persons pursue different
methods they will require the use of different rules in the
interpetration of the same passage. They may perfectly


agree as to the correctness and importance of each one of
the whole system of rnles contained in the standard works
on hermeneutics, while every man proves by established
and recognized principles of exegesis that his interpreta-
tion is right; and this he can continue to do, so long as
the application of those principles is left to chance.
Correct rules, therefore, without the concurrence of a cor-
rect method, or, what is the same thing, with the pre-
dominance of a false method, so far from leading to truth,
do but give plausibility and confirmation to falsehood.

Hence, in all scientific inquiries, the ascertainment and
pursuit of the true method of investigation, is justly re-
garded as the first consideration ; for, this being settled, all
the rules and principles necessary to aid in carrying it out
will spring up spontaneously,' as it were, while each one
occupies its natural place, and exerts its legitimate force.
Thus a sort of governmental system is formed, comparable
to that of the military, in which method is the General, and
the various special laws and canons the subordinate offi-
cers, which, in obedience to the General, govern the indi-
vidual facts, while all concur in carrying out the same plan
and accomplishing the same object.

Being thus, in practice, uniformly associated and co-oper-
ant, it may be difficult, without improperly anticipating our
subject, aptly to illustrate their separate influence and dis-
tinct office. We shall, perhapt, however, be understood if
we say that, in the collection and observation of individual
facts, their classification and arrangement, though it is all
done in obedience to the direction of method, rules are the


immediate agents. These being servants, act only in har-
mony with the requirements of the master. And hence we
look finally to this all-pervading and predominant method,
as the genius that determines where facts are to be sought,
what particulars are to be collected, and what order and
arrangement are to be given to them. If this be false, it
places individual facts in false relations^ destroys or dis-
regards their natural connections, forces them to unite by
artificial ones, and all this by the aid, it may be, of correct
rules falsely applied. But if the method be the true and
natural one, drawn from a careful study and comparison of
the facts themselves, it not only leaves them to speak their
own clear and unbiased language, but points out kindred
facts which support their testimony, until, having weighed
with accuracy and fairness their several communications, it
conducts us to general truth and scientific knowledge.

Rules, then, are immediate and special, methods ulti-
mate and general in their application. According to the
rules of cutting, sawing, hewing, and splitting, we provide
ourselves with the materials for a building. Method, which
has been directing all the while, now takes these and con-
structs the edifice. It may form them into a barn, a
kitchen, or a residence ; a house of one story or two ; with
few windows or many ; adapted to this purpose or that :
and, in any case, we use the same rules of measurement and
mechanics; place the posts perpendicularly, the sleepers
horizontally, the boards and shingles in a certain estab-
lished order — and all is done regularly and according to
rale. But it is the method which controls the rules, determ-



ines when and where this or that one shall be emplojed,
directs the shape and arrangement of the materials, and, in
short, constructs the building.

We are now prepared to account for the fact previously
alluded to, that, notwithstanding the valuable contributions
which have been made to hermeneutical science, but little
has been done toward the ultimate objefct of that science.
It is because those contributions have been made in the
form of rules aZone, -which, as we have seen, are subservient
to method; and hence the results of their employment,
even allowing them all to be correct, must be as diverse as
the methods which apply them. They resemble a treatise
on book-keeping, in which the author, with much learned
amplification, lays down and illustrates rules for judging
the quality of paper, pens, and ink ; introduces a chapter
on the importance of accuracy in keeping accounts, to aid
in which he gives a clear statement, with numerous exam-
ples, of the rules of addition, multiplication, subtraction,
and division ; then some important observations on acquir-
ing the habit of neatness, and of being strictly honest and
faithful, brings him, by a graceful peroration, to the end of
the work. Such a work would be filled, we may suppose,
with nothing but truth ; and all its rules and observations
would be pertinent and valuable. It would be deficient in
but one thing — the method of book-keeping I And a
thousand such works, brought to the utmost perfection of
their plan, would leave the subject just where they found
it; that is, every man would observe the rules given, and
keep books according to his own method.


I have no serious objections to the exegetical canons that
the wisdom and piety of Christendom have handed down
to us. Most of them are but the obvious conclusions of
ordinary intelligence. I think they have been needlessly
multiplied, and that many of them could be improved in
their phraseology, while not a few have been called into
existence by some false method, or laid down to serve a
partisan purpose. Still, in the main, they are obviously
correct. Through their influence much has been done in
determining the meaning of words, the sense of particular
texts, the signification of parables and figures ; in short, in
supplying all men with the materials or individual facts of
revelation. And on these, as individual facts, most earnest
students are agreed. It is only when we come to adjust
these materials to their place in the great temple of truth
that we are made painfully sensible of the utter insufficiency
and incompleteness of our science. Then every builder has
his own method, and immediately there springs up an in-
terminable controversy about the design of this, the loca-
tion of that ; the use of one thing, and the non-essentiality
of another.

Every one uses the Scripture materials, and honestly
believes that he is building the veritable temple of God.
And, by rejecting what he cannot use, as non-essentials,
and supplying what the Scriptures do not furnish, under
the warrant of expediency, every one succeeds in giving to
his edifice an air of perfection and finish, and in fitting into
it a large number of the most excellent of the divine ma-
terials. These serve to support and beautify the structure,


while they furnish to its friends the standing proofs that it
is indeed the house of the Lord. And in this, mark you,
he has applied correct rules to the texts he has employed.
He has been careful in this matter. True, he has not needed
all the rules that one might suppose belonged to the sub-
ject — and why ? Because there was a method above, that
controlled him in the selection of them. Thus a second, a
third,^ and a fourth — thus, in fact, a hundred different struc-
tures might be reared out of the Scripture materials, and
each one claim to be supported by the best-established
principles known to our hermeneutics I

What we need, therefore, is not rules of interpretation,
nor yet more laborious study or profounder intelligence,
but the discovery and establishment of the true method in-
dicated by the nature of the Scriptures themselves.

At the risk of being thought tedious, I must introduce
one more illustration, as well to show the point we have
previously been considering, as to indicate how this method
is to be drawn from the Bible itself.

Solomon's temple, we are told, was "built of stone made
ready before it was brought thither; so that the A was
neither hammer nor ax nor any tool of iron heard in the
house, while it was in building." If now, while those stones
or blocks were all spread out upon the ground, before the
building was commenced, as, for the sake of the illustratiou
we may suppose them to have been, a, skillful architect
had gone with rule in hand, and carefully measured and
compared every several piece, he could have determined
with accuracy the place of every stone in the future build-


ing. And if he had been employed to superintend its erec-
tion, he could have had the work carried on according to
the method or plan which was indicated by the stones them-
selves. Every piece had an appropriate place, and the
marks upon it showed what was that place ; and when they
were all arranged agreeably to those indications, the struc-
ture was Solomon's Temple.

But suppose it does not occur to this architect who is to
superintend the building, that its plan can be ascertained
from the materials themselves, but must be gathered from
the various rumors and traditions which are in circulation
on the subject ; or, if you please, we may imagine that, as
he stands looking at and admiring those stones, he frames
in his mind the plan of a building which he thinks equal or
superior to that they are now fitted to produce ; in either
case, having decided upon his method of proceeding, i.e.
the arrangement he will give to the materials, he begins
operations. Everything goes on bravely for a time, for he
is engaged on a part of the work which must be the same
in any method. But after awhile, when the proportions
of thof building begin to come out, he finds places that
not a stone on the ground will fit ; and now commences an
infinite series of changes. He cuts off a tenon here, fills
up a mortise there, leaves out this block, places that on the
side opposite to its intention, turns this one over, changes
the ends of that one, and after all his powers of change
and adaptation have been exhausted, he sees whole piles of
marble lying around which he cannot use, while his build-
ing is still unfinished. Hence, he must send to the quarry



and procure other materials to supply places that nothing
in the original design can be made to fit ; and so, at length,
he finishes the edifice ; and, doubtless, it is a very fine and
beautiful one, but — it is not Solomon's Temple!

It is thus in the Scriptures. The materials of the Tem-
ple of Truth are accurately fitted, marked, and numbered,
and spread out before the reader, it may be in some con-
fusion, enough to arouse him from indifference to careful
examination; and now if he will earnestly consider and
carefully compare these materials, it is next to impossible
for him to mistake their method, or to fail to arrange them
in the precise order designed by their Author and Giver.
And simple as it may seem, this just and natural arrange-
ment of the facts or materials of the New Testament, with-
out adding to or subtracting from their number — assigning
to every fact, precept, promise, doctrine, blessing, and privi-
lege its own exact place in the collection of the whole —
will conduct us in the most direct manner to the clear, full,
and correct understanding of Christianity. For the entire
business of interpretation consists properly in the careful
observation and comparison of the phenomena of revela-
tion, preparatory to the determination of their respective
places and relative bearings in the grand synthesis of the
whole. The ruleSf therefore, by which we come to a just
understanding of individual facts, and the method which
controls the operation of those rules, and arranges those
facts into the true Christian system, must be drawn from
the nature of the subject as presented in the Bible itself.

If there be any soundness in the reasonings which have


gone before, it is now established — 1. That actual or prac-
tical skepticism everywhere prevails. 2. That the principal
cause, and certainly the main obstacle to the removal of
this skepticism, is found in the differences of Christians
respecting the practical requirements of the gospel. 3. That
these differences are not the result of deficient intelligence
or vitiated morals, nor yet of causes inherent in the word of
God, but alone of the perverseness and insufficiency of the
methods pursued. 4. That these methods must produce
such results in spite of correct and well-established rules of

Our future coarse is, therefore, plain. We must ex-
amine and expose in the clearest light those methods
which have hitherto been pursued, and show, from their own
nature as well as from their history, their necessary tendency
to perversion and deception. This will occupy a large part
of the present work. But as the evil is deep-seated and
formidable, and as the results to be anticipated from the
general adoption of the one true method are of the hap-
piest and most important kind, it is hoped that the reader
will not rush impatiently over what is deemed necessary as
a preparation for it — the exposure of the germ and radix
of all our mistakes. It should not, however, be supposed
that the methods to be examined are as numerous as the
errors that have grown out of them, for in that case we
should indeed have before us a wearisome and hopeless
task. Fortunately, we know that one initial error may be
the parent of a thousand, and one or two false methods give
birth to any number of untrue systems. And, excepting


the perversion of the Inductive Method, which will be con-
sidered in its proper place, we think the thoughtful reader
will find that all false methods of interpretation, however
numerously they may have been developed, are resolvable
into these two — the My die, and the Dogmatic Method,"^
Dwelling upon these sources of error, we shall be relieved
of the otherwise ungracious necessity of exposing denomin-
ational peculiarities, as these, in so far as they may be
false, will all be included in the original error which under-
lies and supports them.

In order that the reader may have a clear appreciation
of these methods, I shall deem it expedient to conduct him
back to their origin, far beyond present influences and pre-
vailing prejudices, that he may there first gaze upon them
as they exert their pernicious and unqualified influence.
After viewing them thus in their pristine vigor when they
rule without a rival, we shall trace their history in a rapid
sketch through the intervening periods down to our own
times; and then attempt to show to what extent they are
now employed by Protestants, with the various modifica-
tions and qualifying influences which accompany them.
Having thus thoroughly examined/ and exposed them, and

^ Rationalism is the counterpart of Dogmatism. The latter seeks
to enlarge the domain of Scripture till it covers some artificial sys-
tem; the former would lop off everything that goes beyond the
narrow confines of reason. On this subject the reader will find
some judicious remarks in a work which has been issued since my
manuscript was finished: ManseVs Bampton Lectures — ^^The Limits
of Religious Thought" lee. i.


having showa their atter insufficiency, and their inevitable
tendency to error and delusion, the way will be prepared
for considering the only remaining and true method, to
which we shall devote the second book of the present

PART 11.




In entering upon an inquiry into the origin, nature, and
influence of Mysticism, as an element in Hermeneutics, it
is first of all necessary to fix clearly the sense we attach to
the word. And this is the more needful from its being a
term very loosely employed, and somewhat vague in its

Our standard lexicographer defines it to be : " 1. Ob-
scurity of doctrine. 2. The doctrine of the Mystics, who
profess a pure, sublime, and perfect devotion, wholly disin-
terested, and maintain that in calm and holy contemplation
they have direct intercourse with the Divine Spirit, and
acquire a knowledge in Divine things which is unattain-
able by the reasoning faculty." This definition admirably
describes the Mystics, but seems to leave us in the dark as
to mysticism, unless some ray of light can be drawn from
the phrase "obscurity of doctrine I" We resort, therefore,
to Mr. MilPs definition, which appears to be both philo-
sophical and complete. He says : *' Whether in the Yedas,
in the Platonists, or in the Hegelians, mysticism is neither



more nor less than ascribing objective existence to the
Babjective creations of the mind's own faculties, to mere
ideas of the intellect ; and believing that by watching and
contemplating these ideas of its own making, it can read
in them what takes place in the world without."*

It proceeds, therefore, upon the principle, that whatever
can be clearly and separately conceived in the mind, must
have a separate and substantive existence. And as the
mind not only forms distinct ideas of general laws, but as
these are truly the objects of scientific research, there must
be general objects in existence corresponding to such con-
ceptions or ideas. Hence truth is not to be acquired from
the observation of individual facts, but by absorbing all the
faculties into contemplation — the one great purpose of life.
Thus when the mind, removed as far as possible from the
influence of all individual facts, and shut up within itself,
forms conceptions or ideas, these are the images of a
reality, of which individuals may be a modification, but
never more than a modification. In other words, the
Mystic who clearly perceives the idea generated in his con-
templations, may be able to trace it, grossly and imperfectly
presented, in facts ; but as these are in perpetual flux and
transmutation, while the idea with its corresponding object
is permanent, that becomes the standard to which they must
be adjusted. That is, before facts can express the actual
truth, they must be made to conform to the ideal — and this
is the work of the Mystic Method.

* System of Logic, p. 464.


If, after this brief explanation, any obscurity still lingers
around the subject in the apprehension of the general
reader, we trust it will be dissipated by considering the his-
torical development which we shall presently proceed to
exhibit. But lest the philosophic terms employed by Mr.
Mill should embarrass those not familiar with such lan-
guage, we may add this to what is said above, namely, that
we shall use the term mysticism to signify any system which
professes to see more in natural or revealed phenomena
than is cognizable by common sense, whether this enlarge-
ment of mental vision be the result of the transference of
ideas arising from contemplation, or of those drawn from
any other source; while the course pursued to make the^
facts appear to justify such increase or change in their
natural meaning will be recognized as the mystic method.

In tracing theological mysticism to its origin, we may
be surprised for a moment to find ourselves wandering in
the gloom and darkness of the ancient philosophy of Chal-
dea, or attempting to explore the cryptic learning of the
Persian Magi. This, however, is its true source, and we
can but congratulate ourselves that a correct analysis of
the stream is not dependent upon an intimate acquaintance
with the fountain. For, owing to the meagre accounts
which have come down to us from the remote antiquity iu
which it flourished, as well as to the cabalistic symbols in
which it was often communicated, the philosophy, or, what
is much the same, the theology of the East, is very imper-
fectly known.

The sum of what may be collected from the accounts of


Berosos, Diogenes Laertins, Herodotus, XenophoD, and
Strabo, as given by Brocker, is, that the Chaldeans be-
lieved that in the beginning all things consisted of dark-
ness and water; that Belns, or a divine power, dividing
this hamid mass, formed the world ; and that the human
mind is an emanation from the divine nature. The Per-
sians conceived light (or those spiritual substances which
partake of the nature of fire) and darkness, or the impene-
trable, opake, and passive mass of matter, to be emana-
tions from one eternal source. These active and passive
principles thej conceived to be perpetually at variance ; the
former tending to produce good, the latter evil ; but that,
through the mediation or intervention of the Supreme
Being, the contest would at last terminate in favor of the
good principle. They also believed that various orders of
spiritual beings, gods, or demons, proceeded from the
Deity, among which the human soul is a particle of divine
light, and will return to its source and partake of its im-

This is regarded, with good reason, as the source of the
philosophy of several other countries, particularly of India
and of Egypt ; and it is not improbable that an influence
so extensively active, affected all the speculations of ancient
times. It is not, therefore, surprising that in process of
time attempts should have been made to reform other sys-
tems by adjusting them to this ancient standard. How
often this might have been done it does not concern us now

* Enfield's Hist, of PhiL book L chapters iii. and iv.


to inquire ; suffice it to saj that, before the close of the
second century of our era, Ammonius Saccas had formed
the stupendous design of harmonizing all the learning and
philosophy of the world upon this basis — ^believing it to be
the root whence all else had sprung. " He maintained,"
says Mosheim, '^ that all the different religions which pre-
vailed in the world, were, in their original integrity, con-
formable to the genius of this ancient philosophy ; but that
it unfortunately happened that the symbols and fictions,
under which the ancients delivered their precepts and doc-
trines, were, in process of time, erroneously understood
both by priests and people in a literal sense ; that, in con-
sequence of this, the invisible beings and demons, whom
the Supreme Deity had placed in different parts of the uni-
verse as ministers of his providence, were, by the sugges-
tions of superstition, converted into gods, and worshiped
with a multiplicity of vain ceremonies. He therefore in-
sisted, that the religions of all nations should bd restored
to their original purity, and reduced to their primitive
standard, viz., 'The ancient philosophy of the East;'
and he affirmed that his project was agreeable to the in-
tentions of Jesus Christ, whose sole view, in descending
upon earth, was to set bounds to the reigning superstition,
and to remove the errors that had crept into all religions,
but not to abolish the ancient theology from which they
were derived."*

Collecting thus a mass of heterogeneous tenets, specula-

* Ecclesiastical History, Cent, ii., par. ii., chap. i.


tions, and principles, gathered indiscriminately and in the
aggregate from enlightened philosophers, heathen priests,
and inspired Apostles and Prophets, he forced all, by the
'* violent succors of art, invention, and allegory," to bear
some resemblance to the primitive model. And as Plato
was thought most nearly to resemble the original, or rather
most clearly to express its cardinal doctrines, which he was
supposed to have rescued from the corruptions of the
Greeks, and as his name was in itself a tower of strength
and a guarantee of soundness, the amalgamated philosophy
was called Platonism — ^better known and distinguished as
the New or Neo-Platonrsm.

The impetus thus given to "investigations," if such they
may be called, will be readily imagined. Here was the
whole world of mind, embalmed in a thousand voluminous
works, and exhibited in ten thousand different manifesta-
tions and developments, all to be studied and interpreted
in the light of an obscure theology, the very language of
which was confessedly symbolic and mystical. What a field
for the exercise of genius I A universe of facts pregnant
with a new significance, discoverable without examination,
and confirmable without proof 1 The rhapsodies of Hindoo
priests became visible in Plato's Dialogues ; the mysteries
of Persian Pytheri were the foundation of Pythagoras'
numbers; the Ethics of the Stagirite squared with the wis-
dom of Chaldean soothsayers ; while the sublime principles
of the Gospel could be read from the Hieroglyphics of
Alexandria I But with eyes to see the invisible, and ears
to hear the inaudible, and a mind to understand the incom-


prehensible, what wondrous things may not be seen, and
heard, and known I

After all, however, the original movers in this scheme
imposed upon themselves and the world by a fallacy. They
began with the assumption that the ancient philosophy of
the East was not to be understood literally — ^that its real
meaning was something altogether different from the
obvious sense of the words in which it had been taught.
Whence, then, was this meaning to be derived, if not from
the philosophy itself? Where was the instrument that
could disclose a sense in it contrary to that of its language ?
Evidently in the mind of the founder himself. This, by
means of mere contemplation, without basis or standard,
generated the ideas which were transferred, first to that
philosophy, and afterwards to all philosophy and all reli-
gion. But this is precisely the definition of mysticism —
"ascribing objective existence to the subjective creations
of the mind's own faculties, to mere ideas of the intellect."
And if Ammonius did not believe, in the first instance, that
"by watching and contemplating his ideas, he could learn
what existed in the world without," he did that which was
equivalent to it — embalmed those ideas in one system, and
then read in that the contents of all others.

Here, then, we begin our survey of mysticism, not be-
cause it is the first manifestation of it, but because all the
streams of truth and falsehood were here first brought by
its fell influence to mingle into a current whose pestilential
miasmata has been diffused over all Christendom ; because
here first the limpid stream of Christian doctrine was forced


into the channel of its turbid waters, and made to receive
a pollution from which it has not even yet been wholly

Although the reader may have anticipated, from the re-
marks which have gone before, the influence which such a
system as that we have been considering would be likely to
exert upon Christian doctrine, it will still be profitable to
observe it more minutely, and to dwell upon it with some
specification and detail. For this purpose let us contem-
plate it as it gradually enlarges its sphere and discloses its
true character.

Yery soon after the establishment of the New Platonism,
towards the conclusion of the second century, a considerable
number of its adherents were converted to the Christian
faith, among whom were Justin Martyr, Athenagoras,
Clemens Alexandrinus,* and Origen. But although, as
we have said, they were converted, in some sense, to the
Christian faith, they were not converted from their Pla-
tonism. This they still retained and loved. True, their
futh in it might' not have been as implicit as in the Bible,
but they were, nevertheless, as fully persuaded of its general
verity, and its essential importance in the perfection of a
system of truth, as they were of the truth and value of the
Canonical Scriptures. They were delighted with the divine

* Clemens Alexandrinus held that it was a meretricious practice i }
for a woman to look at herself in a mirror; "because," says he,
«* by making an image of herself she violates the commandment,
which prohibits the making of the likeness of anything in heayen
above, or on earth beneath !" — Psedagogw^ 1, iii. o. 2.



assurance of the Scripture doctrine, but they also saw iu
Platonism, as they imagined, many divine truths, which
might be legitimately transferred to the Church. They
were strengthened in this view by an opinion which had
gained currency, but which, it is hardly necessary to say, was
wholly without foundation, that Plato had acquired the
elements of his philosophy from the Old Testament — either
from the Alexandrians, who were informed to some extent
of the contents of the Hebrew Scriptures, or from a Greek
translation made at an earlier date than the Septuagint.
In their eyes, therefore, his whole system was but an elabo-
ration of revealed truth, a full development of principles
of divine verity. His inferences and reasonings might
sometimes be erroneous, and upon these they felt some
little freedom in pronouncing a judgment; but the essential
and fundamental doctrines he inculcated they looked upon
as very high, if not the highest authority.

But it is not only true that they cherished a decided pre-
dilection for the sage whose name they revered; it is also
to be remembered that the great mass of Unbelievers were
Platonists. His doctrines — remodeled and unjustly repre-
sented, it is true, but still held under the sanction of his
name — formed the staple of every conversation, and the
perpetual topic of every discourse. The whole circle of
learning and speculation revolved round this centre. It
was the point of departure in every investigation, and the
established test of every new proposition.

It was but natural, under such circumstances, for those
learned Christians who believed both the Bible and Plato,


to attempt to show a "harmony and coincidence in their
capital doctrines." And as the philosopher was already
the accredited standard, it is by no means surprising that
those attempts should have been made rather with the de-
sign of proving that the Bible agreed with Plato, than that
he agreed with the Bible. " This coalition," says Brucker,
" was attempted to be made in the second century by Justin
Martyr, Athenagoras, and Clemens; and the corruption
of faith which led to this formal effort doubtless existed
still earlier."

"The New Philosophy," says Mosheim, "was impru-
dently adopted by Origen and many other Christians, to
the prejudice of the cause of the gospel and the beautiful
simplicity of its celestial doctrines. For hence it was that
the Christian doctors began to introduce their perplexed
and obscure erudition into the religion of Jesus ; and to
involve in the darkness of a vain philosophy some of the
principal truths of Christianity, that had been revealed
with the utmost plainness, and were, indeed, obvious to the
meanest capacity ; and to add to the divine precepts of our
Lord many of their own, which had no sort of foundation
in any part of the sacred writings."*

This was mysticism in contact with the Bible. Every
one who looked upon its sacred pages converted them into
a mirror that should reflect his own ideas, or those which
he had accepted from the philosophers around him. For,
we repeat, it was not Platonism, nor yet the ancient phi-

* Ecclesiastical History, Cent. ii. par. ii. chap. i.


losopby of the East, that constituted the real standard of
truth — for they were as flexible and mutable as anything
else — but it consisted alone in the baseless ideas of the
philosophers themselves; ideas whose objective existence
they saw, as they supposed, in the Bible, in Plato, and in
every other system.

But how, it may be asked, could such wonderful phantas-.
magoria be generated out of the plain and simple truths of
revelation? What magical art could be employed that
would enable them to exhibit to others the marvelous
visions of their own imaginations ? The process was sim-
ple — a mere method of interpretation.

They reasoned about in this way; "There can be no
opposition in truth ; the Bible and what we call Platonism
is truth ; therefore the Bible must agree with Platonism.
If this agreement does not appear in the plain letter, it is
because the plain letter does not communicate the true
sense ; then it must have a mystical meaning, which does
agree with the standard. " What that meaning was, whether
reached by allegorizing the passage, or by any other process,
we can be at no loss to determine — it was one that coin-
cided precisely with the ideas they carried with them to the
investigation. And the same argument which justified
them in turning the truth of the letter into a heterogeneous
myth, proved the truth of the myth by a process of ratio-
cination whose premises none in that day would have dared
to question.

But let us do those fathers the justice to believe that, in
addition to the motive already mentioned, they were, in


many cases, actuated by a genaine but misguided philan-
thropy; a mistake from which Christian philanthropists
might even yet draw warning — ^that, namely, of accommo-
dating the truth to the prejudices of the age. They doubt-
less believed that the Church would gain an immense
accession of strength, and greatly enlarge the sphere of
her usefulness and the area of her blessings, if the great
body of philosophers at Alexandria and elsewhere could
be propitiated to Christianity ; and to effect this, the surest
and most direct road seemed to be to prove that the doc-
trine of the New Testament did not differ, in its true sense,
from what they had already received from Plato. It seemed,
indeed, but the dictate of common sense for them to hold
that if what the Alexandrians believed and cherished
upon the authority of Plato could be shown to have been
inculcated also upon the authority of Jesus, hii authority
would be elevated at least to an equality with that of the
philosopher ; and this would be placing it very high, if not,
in their judgment, high enough.

The prosperity of the Church, therefore, the interests of
humanity, and their own convictions of truth, might all
have concurred in directing them to pursue the course they
did, and to adopt as their golden rule of interpretation,
" That wherever the literal sense was not obvious, or not
clearly consistent with their philosophical views, the
words were to he understood in a spiritual or mystical

* Brucker, book yi. chap. 8.


According to Mosheim, *' They all attributed a double
sense to the words of Scripture; the one ohmous and
literal^ the other hidden and mysteHous, which lay con-
cealedf as it were, under the veil of the outward letter.
The former they treated with the utmost neglect, and turned
the whole force of their genius and application to unfold
the latter ; or, in other words, they were more studious to
darken the Scriptures with their idle fictions than to in-
vestigate their true and natural sense." Again, he says,
** Origeu was at the head of this speculative tribe. This
great man, enchanted by the charms of the Platonic phi-
losophy, set it up as the test of all religion^ and imagined
that the reasons of each doctrine were to be found in that
favorite philosophy, and their nature and extent to be de-
termined byit.^^^

Upon a general survey of all the facts. Dr. Enfield con-
cludes, ** That the seeds of the Scholastic Theologyf were
sown when the dialectics of Aristotle were first introduced
into the controversies of the Church ; and the Mystic The-
ology took its rise when the enthusiastic notion of union
with God, and other fanatical principles taught by the
Alexandrian philosophers, were embraced among Chris-
tians ; and was established when the spurious writings of
Dionysius| obtained credit and authority in the Christian
world. From the Peripatetic school. Christians learned to
perplex the truth by subtle disputations ; and from that of

* Ecclesiastical History, Cent. ii. par. ii. chap. i.
f See par. ill. chap, i., infra.
X See next chapter.


the later Platonists, they received a powerful bias toward
enthusiasm. Hence, with the professed design of exploring
truth, they involyed it in a cloud of obscure notions and
subtle distinctions; and under the pretence of sublime
piety, enfeebled and enslaved the human mind by the ex-
travagancies of mysticism; in both ways opposing the
true spirit, and obstructing the natural operation of Chris-



If a volume were filled with the history of the Mystic
Theology, as a system, it would be but a volume of absurdi-
ties — a perpetual recurrence of human abortions, exciting
the ridicule of the thoughtless and the pity of the wise.
The only good 'which could be anticipated from such a
work, would be the warning it would give, on every page,
of the danger of slighting common sense ; and this, we
hope, will be as efifectually accomplished by the facts ex-
hibited in this brief chapter, and in that which has pre-
ceded it.

It has been said above, that though the Mystic Theology
originated with Origen and his contemporaries, it was

* History of PhiL, book tU. chap. 2.


established through the mflaence of the reputed works of
Dionysias. It will be remembered that aboat jld. 54,
through the instrnmentality of Paal's preachmg in Athens,
one of the jadges of the Areopagus, bearing the above
name, was converted to Christianity, (Acts, xviL 34.) Some
four hundred years afterwards a number of works made
their appearance, on "The Heavenly Hierarchy," "The
Names of God," "The Mystic Theology," and "The Be-
clesiastical Hierarchy," which, owing to the credulity of
the age, were palmed ofif as the productions of this early
Christian convert. " Though it is certain," says the Ency-
clopedia Americana, "from internal evidences, that these
writings could not have been written earlier than about the
beginning of the fifth century, they contained such fan-
tastic descriptions of the Deity, and of the orders of angels
and blessed spirits, borrowed from the New Platonic phi-
losophy — such brilliant representations of the Catholic
ceremonies, exaltations of the hierarchy, praises of the
monastic life, and mystic interpretations of the doctrines
of the church — as gave them the highest charm in the eyes
of the ignorant clergy, who had no doubt of their genuine-
ness."* Thus the wildest vagaries of an unknown and
unscrupulous fanatic were clothed with the sanction of a
supposed apostolical name ; and now, to evaporate, as it
were, the reason in fumes of murky mysticism, was esteemed
the duty, as it had been the delight, of almost the entire

* Art. Dionysius.


The sacred charm which those wonderfal writings threw
over the name and the person of Dionjsins can with diffi-
culty be appreciated by a Protestant of the nineteenth cen-
tury. Canonized with the apostles and early martyrs, he
became the patron saint of France, whose convents onar-
reled abont his bones, and ended by proving him a monster.
For, two churches, in the heat of their controversy con-
cerning the possession of his genuine skull, referred the
important matter to the pope — the highest recognized
authority — ^who, with characteristic infallibility, sustained
the claims of each I'*'

It will not surprise us to read, that the works of a saint
so highly venerated, and which were so serviceable to the
hierarchy, were translated in Paris in the ninth century.
This was done by the celebrated Joannes Scotus, unaer tne
patronage of Charles the Bald. And thus the stream
whose origin we traced to the darkness and mists of ancient
Chaldea and Persia, and which became strong and bold in
the days of Origen and Ammonius, poured the whole of its
accumulated tide of waters into the Western world ; while
every drop was thought to have been consecrated by one
who was religiously venerated as a saint, and heard as a
prophet of the Most High. Popes and cardinals, bishops
and priests, monks and laymen, all vied with each other in
the fanatical attempt to smother reason with enthusiasm,

* Ency. Amer. — Another churcli, in the fourteenth century,
olaimed a third head ; but for want of authoritative sanction the
matter must still be considered as involyed in some doubt !



and to cover the inscriptions of sense with the incoherent
rhapsodies of dreamy contemplation. They not only set
limits to the pretensions of reason, but *' excluded it en-
tirely from religion and morality, as they considered that
true knowledge, being unattainable by study or reasoning,
was the fruit of mere contemplation, inward feeling, and
passive acquiescence in divine influences." We need
scarcely inquire how the Bible fared in the hands of such
interpreters. " They pretended," says Mosheim, "to draw
from the depths of truth (or rather of their imaginations)
what they called the internal sense and marrow of the
Scriptures, i,e. their hidden and mysterious sense ; and this
they did with so little dexterity, so little plausibility and
invention, that the greater part of their explications must
appear insipid and nauseous to such as are not entirely des-
titute of judgment and taste. The Mystic doctors carried
this visionary method of interpreting Scripture to the
greatest height, and displayed the most laborious industry,
or rather the most egregious folly, in searching for myste-
ries where reason and common-sense could find nothing
but plain and evident truths. They were too penetrating
and quick-sighted not to perceive in the holy Scriptures
all those doctrines that were agreeable to their idle and
fantastic system."*

In an age when the learning of the world was confined
to the Church, and when its most reverend dignitaries could
barely read ; when men regarded their fanatical dreams and

* Ecclesiastical History, Cent. xiii. par. ii. chap. iii.


extravagant reveries as the depth of wisdom and the cer-
tain index of divine trath ; when the chief requisite in a
good priest, apart from his ability to dream dreams and see
visions, was familiarity with the principles and practice of
mnsie, we cannot be surprised at any absurdities, nor marvel
at any exhibitions of folly. It must not, however, be sup-
posed, because mysticism reigned over reason, and fancy
took the place of revealed truth, that there were no common
bonds of union, and no general agreement in their senti-
ments ; for, as Mr. Hallam judiciously remarks, *' Though
the number of those who professed themselves to be under
the iufluence of supernatural illumination was very great —
with the exception of a few founders of sects, and lawgivers
to the rest — ^the Mystics fell into the beaten track, and grew
mechanical even in their enthusiasm."'*' The great multi-
tude were more prone to follow the "inward light" of
others than to cultivate the dubious flickeriogs of their own.
They looked for some authority upon which to repose, "and
instead of builders, became, as it were, occupants of man-
sions prepared for them by more active minds."

Hence, when at length the scholastic system had filled
all Europe with puerile controversies and profitless logoma-
chies, uDtil many persons, disgusted and almost disheart-
ened, perceived that, in committing themselves to such a
guide, they were sacrificing things for names and substances
for shadows, the rebound into mysticism which followed
was not characterized by any great individual and inde-

* Introduction to Literature, vol. L p. 118.


pendent ''meditations." Bold and daring originality was
not then so common bm it has since become. Men felt safer
if they could have some great name of antiqaity to lead
them. And as those disaffected scholastics were seeking
to free themselves from the subtleties of Aristotle, it was
the most natural thing in the world for them to call in the
aid of Plato. Of him, however, they knew little or nothing
except what they could learn through the school of Alex-
andria, which, as we have seen, transmitted — not Platonism
— bat a forced and incongruous agglomeration of all isms,
both human and divine, which were held together by the
cohesive power of allegorized mysticism.

To this system, as if not satisfied with mere incompre-
hensibility, they added the mysteries of Pythagoras and
the occult learning of the Jewish Cabala. This latter con-
sisted in a very specific and complex system concerning tne
nature of the Supreme Being, the emanation of various
orders of spirits in successive links from his essence, their
properties and characters. It is evidently one modification
of the Oriental philosophy, borrowing little from the Scrip-
tures, at least through any natural interpretation of them,
and the offspring of the Alexandrian Jews not far from the
beginning of the Christian Era.* Thus Neo Platonism,
Pythagoreanism, and Cabalism, each mysterious enough,
one would think, to satisfy a taste only ordinarily perverted,
were compounded into a sort of system paradoxicffl and

* Hallam's Lit., vol. i. p. 119.


esoteric in the highest degree, bat which was religioaslj
held as the embodimeat of all ancient wisdom.

Such was the Mystic Theology which was revived and
invigorated as a refage from scholasticism. And can any
two systems be foand, in the whole history of the Chnrch,
80 perfectly contrasted and yet so equally worthless ? The
one deprived religion of its spirit, the other destroyed its
body. The one quarreled over forms without substance,
and postulated dogmata without meaning or importance ;
the other, with a sublime contempt for the vulgar inlets and
sources of knowledge, transported itself beyond the pre-
cints of reason, and mistook the phantoms of imagination
for the images of spiritual truth.

But let us do justice, even to "man^s miraculous mis-
takes." Abortive as was this attempted reformation, in
itself considered, and wild and deluded as were the votaries
of this system, they, nevertheless, exerted a sort of con-
servative influence upon the religious society of their times.
It was something, in that age, to tell men there was a spirit-
ual religion, even if they were unable to point it out. I
cannot despise the man who has a heart to expose the
errors of the world, though he may not have an intellect
that can grasp the whole truth. It was thus with the Mystics
at the period immediately preceding the Protestant Refor-
mation. For, to quote from an eminent historian, '' while
superstition reigned supreme, while empty and gorgeous
ceremonials had supplanted the spirit of worship, and while
every germ of truth and holiness seemed to be ignored by
the clergy or blasted by the wranglings of the Realists and



Nominalists, this sect, renouncing the sabtleties of the
schools, the vain contentions of the learned, and all the acts
and ceremonies of external worship, exhorted their followers
to aim at nothing but internal sanctity of heart, and com-
munion with God, the centre and source of all holiness and
perfection."* We may, therefore, admit that they approxi-
mated more nearly to piety than any others in that dark
and licentious age, if we remember that it was biU an
approximation. For their piety, if such it must be called,
was by no means an intelligent and reverent communioa
with God, and appreciation of his word, but merely the
extreme of contemplative enthusiasm, or, in one word,

After the great battle for reform had been fought by
Luther and his compeers — and notwithstanding the light
which the rough conflict struck from the Scriptures — George
Fox, in the seventeenth century, and, after him, William
Law and Emanuel Swedenborg, in the eighteenth, bring
down the developments of the Mystic Theology to a very
recent period, and, indeed, transmit them to our day.

That both the " Friends" and the Swedenborgians have
all the essential characteristics of that mysticism whose his-
tory we have rapidly sketched, will not, I presume, be denied
by the intelligent members of those two Bocieties. " The
former, in their notions concerning the Holy Scriptures,
the internal word, the divine light within and its opera-
tions and effects, so perfectly agree," says Mosheim, "with

* Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, Cent. xyi. sec. i. chap. i.


those Mystics who lived before George Fox, as to leave
but little question that he was indebted to their writings,
directly or indirectly, for all the capital articles in his the-
ology."* Nay more, the Friends took "the famous Mystic
Theology which arose so early as the second century," and
"set off the motley form with their own inventions." And
Mr. Bancroft says, "The faith of the people called Quakers
is, that every heart contains an incorruptible seed, capable
of springing up and producing all that man can know of
God, and duty, and the soul. An inward voice, uncreated
by schools, independent of refinement, opens to the unlet-
tered hind, not less than to the polished scholar, a sure
pathway into the enfranchisements of immortal truth."
Again, "The inner light is to the Quaker not only the
revelation of truth, but the guide of life and the oracle of
duty."f I am unable to perceive any essential difference
between this and the mysticism of earlier times.

The Swedenborgians, also, or members of the New
Church, in their fundamental postulate, that the Scriptures
are to be interpreted according to the doctrine of "corre-
spondences" — ^from which, as a matter of course, the whole
system must spring — seem to me to set aside the rational
understanding as an incompetent judge of the sense of
Scripture, and refer us for the true meaning to what we
must regard as questionable — the inspiration of Swedenborg
himself, their founder and leader. Origen and his co-la-

* Ecclesiastical History, Cent. xvii. sec. ii. par. ii. chap. iv.
t History of the United States, vol. ii. chap. xvi.


borers, as we saw above, ascribed a " double sense " to the
words of Scripture — the one natural, the other spiritual ;
Swedenborgians simply go one step farther, and give us a
triple sense — the "natural," the "spiritual," and the "ce-
lestial." It would seem, then, that whatever may be predi-
cated of the first mystics, may, with even stronger reason,
be affirmed of these.*

Swedenborg himself was a man of learning, and has
transmitted an unblemished reputation. In his works there
are many excellent remarks, and some just representations
of Scripture doctrine. They contain many things which
all approve, and to the knowledge of which intelligent and
independent Protestants have been conducted, without read-
ing a line of his voluminous productions, or laying the least
claim to any "inner light," or angelic association. It is
unfortunate that he should have handed down to posterity
the only qualification of an otherwise illustrious fame — ^his
lofty and unsupported pretensions to inspiration, with the
errors to which those pretensions necessarily gave birth.
As it is, he must be classed among the most extravagant
of mystics, whose early instruction and accurate learning,
while they could not save him from the vortex of error into
which the whole tribe before him had been drawn, were
sufficient to add dignity to a system that might else have
fallen, long since, into merited contempt.

If Swedenborg was really inspired, then it follows that
his own works should be classed with those of the apostles

* See Note B.


and prophets ; in which case, they themselves mast be in-
terpreted ''correspondentially." Bat as this has not hith-
erto been done, we may suppose that the trae sense of his
writings has not yet been ascertained, and that it mast
remain locked np antil some fatare Swedenborg shall far-
nish the key that will open all their secrets. Till then we
mast stand, therefore, with respect to biblical interpreta-
tion, just where wo would have stood if he had not written.
Or, if the interpretation of his writings, according to the
ordinary laws of language, supplies us with their true sense,
we may conclude that the same is true of all other inspired
productions. But if his writings are not inspired, then they
are without authority, and we are left where we were be-
fore — alone with the Bible and common-sense.

Thus mysticism increases in mystery the more it is ex-
amined. Its devotees mast believe it at the expense of
truth, and follow it at the cost of safety. They must hush
the voice of God without, in order to distinguish the con-
fused noises that are within. I will, however, leave the
reader to make his own reflections, and will conclude this
brief notice of the New Jerusalem Church and its founder
by a quotation from an eminent French philosopher of the
Eclectic school : —

'' In the midst of the eighteenth century, has not Sweden-
borg united in his own person an exalted mysticism and
a sort of magic, opening thus the way to those senseless
persons who contest with me in the morning the solidest
and best-established proofs of the existence of the soul and
Ood ; who propose to me in the evening to make me see


otherwise than with my eyes, and to make me hear other-
wise than with my ears ; to make me use all my faculties
otherwise than by their natural organs, promising me a
superhuman science on the condition of first losing con-
sciousness, thought, liberty, memory, all that constitutes me
an intelligent and moral being ? I should know all, thea,
but at the cost of knowing nothing that I should know. I
should elevate myself to a marvelous world, which, awakened
aud in a natural state, I am not even able to suspect, of
which no remembrance will remain to me — a mysticism at
once gross and chimerical, which perverts both psychology
and physiology ; an imbecile ecstasy, renewed without ge-
nius from the Alexandrian ecstasy; an extravagance which
has not even the merit of a little novelty, and which history
has seen reappearing at all epochs of ambition and impo-

Such is a faint outline of the rise and progress of the
Mystic Theology ; a system which began with Origen in the
absurd attempt to adjust the infinite to the finite — the word
of God to the varying philosophies of men ; which was
established by the fraud of a preteaded Dionysius, made
honorable by the patronage of the Medici, and influential
by the support of Paracelsus and the learning of Boehmen,
Van Helmont, and Poiret; a system which was modified
at one time by the pseudo-science of the Scholastics, and
super-excited at another into the frenzied ravings of Theo-
sophism ; which was rendered sacred by Fox, and respect-

* Cpusin'B Lectures on the Truly Beautiful and Good, leo. y.


able by Law and Penn; which Emanuel Swedenborg
garnished with the drapery of learning, and commended
by the power and prestige of distinguished talents and a
blameless life ; and which, in one form or another, has ever
been, and is now, a controlling element in the most im-
portant of all undertakings — ^that of arriving at the true
sense of the revealed word of God. Modem " Spiritual-
ists,'' with the undignified designation of "spirit rappers,"
have capped the climax of unblushing pretension. Like
the Theosophists of the sixteenth century, their converse
with angels, their rapport with departed spirits, and their
brilliant internal light, will hardly bear being treated in a
grave discussiod ; it is transcendental fanaticism ; mysticism
carried out ; the frenzy of the Rosacrusians, coupled with
vanities and puerilities that would make even a Scholastic
blush I Let us hope that this monstrous departure from
reason will be the last of the numerous schemes of system-
atized mysticism, for the construction of a religion which,
while it professes attachment to the word of God, is really
infidel and destructive.

As a system, the Mystic Theology will not again attract
attention in these pages. We have deemed it advisable to
exhibit it first in this light, to enable the reader better to
understand its real nature and tendency. Henceforth we
are to consider it as a concomitant power, secretly present
and insidiously active, which negatives but partially the
conclusions of common-sense, and counteracts, only to a
limited extent, the influence of reason and of Scripture.




Is it possible that any intelligent Protestant of our days
has the least confidence either in the theology or the method
of the Mystics ? Are we to believe that that system which
we have seen springing ap among the earliest corraptions
of the Charch, and culminating in the age of its grossest
darkness — a system whose uniform tendency has been to
supplant the plain truths of the Bible by the' speculations
of philosophy or the fancies of a morbid imagination — ^is
still cherished and respected in the midst of the effulgent
light of this nineteenth century ? No. As a system it is
distinctly repudiated. Its postulates are rejected, and its
conclusions laughed at It is not to be supposed that we
could have seen the hundreds of eminent philosophers and
theologians it has wrecked upon the hidden rocks of a
specious infidelity, and have taken no warning from their
fate and learned no wisdom from their example. On the
contrary, an open avowal of confidence in the system would
excite the mingled commiseration and ridicule of every man
whose judgment would be worth regarding.

Why, then, have I introduced it as one of the existing
impediments to the acquisition of truth ? Why have I
occupied so much space in tracing its origin and progress ?
what practical value can there be in anything I have yet
written on the subject ? My answer is, that notwithstand-


ing the distinct repudiation of the Mystic Theology as a
system^ and the emphatic condemnation of its method as
the sole and exclusive guide to truth, that method is still
employed to an extent varying with the necessities of every
several sect. But being commingled with other methods,
and being kept as much as possible out of sight, it would
have been difficult to have shown its presence, its influence,
and its dangerousness, without having first pointed to its
portrait as it stands out in bold relief upon the canvas oi
history. Now I hope to be able to identify it, even in its
present form and surroundings, with a known and recog-
nized enemy.

The change has been one of degree, not of kind. Pro-
testants would be indignant at the idea of interpreting all
Scripture upon Mystic principles ; they think that only a
pari of revelation is to be thus construed. They have in
this taken one step, and a very important one too, in the
right direction. We now believe — and let us keep this in
mind, and be thankful that we do believe it — that the ** in-
ternal sense and marrow " of only a part of Scripture is
concealed "under the vail of the outward letter;" and let
us show all becoming contempt for the absurd Origen, who
so ridiculously presumed to extract this "marrow" from
every passage I How monstrous, for him to think that all
Scripture had a double meaning, when it is so evident that
this is true of only a part 1 Ay, but what part ? What
chapters, what verses, what particular forms of expression,
are we to look upon as containing this deep and hidden
sense ? And what is that sense ? How is it to be known ?



How are we to reach it ? How prove it ? Here, it seems
to me, we are all adrift, without chart or compass.

Still, I grant you, the Mystic Theology is walled out, if
we may so express it, by Protestantism. And let us give
thanks that our fathers, and our cotemporaries, with our-
selves, have had the ability and the manliness to complete
so herculean a work. For it is indeed a great work. And
now, as we stand upon this mighty wall, and gaze upon
the slimy and pestilential waters with which our ancestors
sought to purify the healthful stream of truth, let us drop
a tear for the weakness of poor human nature, and then
come down and examine the stream on our side of the wall.
Why seems it so dark and turbid ? What mean those par-
tides of filthy green that we see floating on its surface ?
Why is it not clear and sparkling as when it gushed at first
from the fountain-head ? It is because our fathers left a
flood-gate in the wall, which we have never had the courage
to close. In fact, we find it very useful as a means of com-
munication between the present and the past; and there
are, besides, many other important uses connected with it,
which we will try to make you understand.

Just observe, if you please, while I shut down this flood-
gate. The water very soon, you perceive, becomes clear as
crystal, and seems to be fresh and living. But do you not
see that it has retired into a narrower channel ? To this
?our attention is particularly directed ; because, although
it is a very small matter in itself, "our church," as you
must have noticed, is built upon such high ground, that the
water is beyond our reach when it gets so low. And look


all along down the stream at the varioas denominational
establishments — some upon higher and some upon lower
ground — ^but none of them in reach of- the water when the
whole of this mystic current is shut out I

But why not remove those establishments down to the
stream? Softly, my dear sir — let us not cast reproach
upon our ancestors I These all stand where they placed
them ; and it is not well to interfere with existing institu-
tions I Let us maintain our consistency I We occupy a
high place in the world, which has been gained at much
cost of labor, money, and talents, and we must not sacrifice
it to an experiment. Besides — and now I will raise this
gate again — do you not see that it does not deprive us of
a single particle of truth? We have the whole of the
water of life flowing by us, while this gate is merely a con-
trivance for elevating it to our level. I declare to you, so
admirable is this arrangement, that I have not language to
express my abhorrence of the gross and corrupting plan
adopted by Clemens and Origen. They^ instead of moder-
ately using mysticism for good, and bringing it to the sup-
port and enlargement of the truth, carried the truth into
it, where its stream was soon lost in the immensity of the
horrible gulf which received it. But here, examine this
swelling current, analyze it, and you find truth in every par-
ticle of it I And say what you will, as human nature now
is, the success of the Church is not to be expected in any
other way. We have known several small parties of very
fastidious tastes, spiritually, who seemed not to relish this
mixed water of life, and who colonized far up above this


flood-gate, but low down by the fountain-head of the
stream. They never seemed, however, to attract much
attention, and their movement was generally regarded as a
presumptuous insinuation that the water below this is un-
wholesome ; a sentiment which, whether expressed or im-
plied, has been decided by the best and ablest men to be
heterodox I And in this decision the world has almost
unanimously acquiesced. We must, my very dear sir, keep
pace' with the upward and onward progress of the world I

I am sorry to hear you ask me how we manage to agree
upon the height this gate is to be raised ; for, to be frank
with you, this matter has given us a good deal of trouble.
Now and then a captious radical insists upon closing it
altogether ; but in the main, our difficulties are of a dif-
ferent kind. Several short- sighted denominations, not
making allowance for the influence of this flood-tide in
changing the place of the original current, have spent a
great deal of time in watching the direction of the current
above the gate, and in making calculations to ascertain
where it should be ajb any given point below, as they think
that part of the mixed stream must be rather purer and
more delicious than any other. And hence they have built
as near the point indicated by their calculations as the
nature of the case would admit. But the elements of these
calculations are so various that they have reached very dif-
ferent conclusions ; and the consequence is, that while some
are nearly flooded by the stream, and are using every exer-
tion to lower the gate, others are barely within reach, and
are becoming clamorous for its higher elevation; while


'' our church" is just situated as it should be, and I trust
we have sufficient influence to prevent any change being
made for many years to come.

But it is a lamentable fact, that ignorant and thoughtless
persons, who seem to have at heart neither the beauty of
Zion nor the well-being of the world, have often tampered
with this gate after the most shameful sort — some jerking
it up to an alarming height and letting in whole floods of
Arianism and Antinomianism, while others have slammed
it down so recklessly as to shut out the ritual of the law,
and the covenant of circumcision, and have thus made sad
havoc of the peace and prosperity of the Church. To
prevent such misfortunes in the future, we have succeeded
in constructing a gauge, which we call '^Eoangelicaliam,^
by which we can determine precisely how high the gate is
to be raised ; and if any one ever ventures to elevate it more
or less than he should, we have able and skillful men at the
head of afl'airs, who instantly rush to the rescue, and, by
means of a powerful lever we have invented, called ^'Or-
thodoxy^'^^ they very soon succeed in getting it back to its
proper and evangelical elevation.

This is the way the work goes on. Every new inter-
preter, if he will but put his hand upon that lever, however
lightly he may bear, and keep his eye fixed upon that gauge,
which has various degrees marked on it to suit the diflcrent
tastes of those who adopt it, will be honored by some and
tolerated by all. But he who presumes to lift the gate
higher than the prescribed limits, is an enthusiast and a
fanatic ; while if any one dare to lay the hand of common



sense upon it, and shut it altogether, he, forsooth, is an
uncharitable exclusive— an unmitigated bigot — a radical —
and a heretic I

But perhaps the reader would like to have this matter
exhibited without a figure ; to see it in its native, unadorned
shape and coloring. If so, though we cannot, without
changing our fixed plan and purpose, enter into specifica-
tions which might excite the ill-will of some whom we hope
to benefit, we will do the best we can to gratify him in the
way of general allusions.

It may be remarked, then, of Protestant interpreters
generally, that, in consequence, it may be, of early educa-
tion, or in the absence of thorough investigation, or from
some other cause, it matters not what, they are led to be-
lieve a certain doctrine, or system of doctrines, true. Let us
do them the justice to admit that they are honest in this
belief. Their opponents, however, call up before them an
array of Scripture texts, the plain and obvious meaning
of which is directly antagonistic to their cherished belief.
There is now but one alternative : they must either abandon
sentiments and doctrines to the advocacy of which they have
long been publicly committed, or they must persuade them-
selves and others that the Scriptures adduced have a
spiritual sense different from their literal signification;
nay, so widely different that it harmonizes with doctrines
confessedly the opposite of their literal meaning. And
can we hesitate in deciding upon the course they would
adopt in a case like this ? Their genius is set to work ;
their imagination, their learning, all their powers, are called


into requisition, for the purpose of finding that in tliose
texts which is already in their minds. They "a^ribe an
objective existence to the subjective creations of the mind's
own faculties — to mere ideas of the intellect" — and this
is mysticism. And now, the means which are made use of
for the purpose of seeing, and of showing to others, that
agreement between the subjective and the objective, what-
ever be their peculiarities, constitute the Mystic method.
Such an effort as that we have supposed in the above case,
would be singularly unsuccessful if it failed to involve the
subject at least in doubt. It is no very' difficult matter to
weave almost any text into a sort of metaphysical, web that
can mean anything or nothing, pro re nata. Then some
show of learning — an appeal to the original, and a quota-
tion from the fathers — will be ample preparation for a cli-
macteric stroke of ridicule, — and the work is done I

Meanwhile their opponents have been treated to a cata-
logue of texts which, it is insisted, teach clearly and un-
equivocally that they are wrong. In self-defense, they leave
the prosecution of their charges, and engage with pious
courage to prove the consistency and scripturality of their
church and doctrines. And here begins a new series of
spiritual meanings. The commentators are called in ; the
critics are summoned to take part; the absurdity of the
letter is insisted upon; while divers mortal dangers are
discovered to be lurking in it by the light of Paul's second
letter to the Corinthians;* — and presently their case is

* See next chapter.


made out. Their assailants are hushed — awed into silence,
mayhap, by the presence of the learned divines introduced
— everybody sees that the passages might mean so and so
— the debatants insist that such must be their meaning —
and the point is settled.

And thus the work proceeds. A third party, and a
fourth, a fifth, and a tenth, each spiritualizes a part, and
each contributes something toward the general uncertainty
of all interpretation.

In this way the door has been opened for the plausible
introduction of all manner of crude and false interpreta-
tions ; and when thus opened, no party has been able to
close it, because each one has found it necessary to pass
through it for a portion of its belief. Any one of them
would gladly use the knife of common sense with which to
cut off the spiritualized authority of its neighbors, if it
were not conscious that the same instrument applied to
itself, would deprive it of many fair proportions. All are,
therefore, estopped by their own records, from exposing
and eradicating a method which, in the case of others, they
perceive to be false. Hence it is, that the wildest vagaries
of the most ridiculous fanaticism can be supported by
Scripture arguments analogous to those of our more sober
and less visionary fellow- Christians.

It is true, then, of Protestants, (although it may be less
palpable, less open and avowed than in the case of Origen
and his compeers,) that they too have their various philoso-
phies as so many touchstones of biblical interpretation. It
may be the real or the Ijorrupted philosophy of Plato, that


of Aristotle, of Locke, or Cousin — or it may be a system
fabricated by themselves — the effect is the same, the prin-
ciple is the same, and the method engendered by it is the
same. In every such case, their interpretation is but an
effort to reconcile revelation with their favorite system of
religious philosophy. When the literal meaning fits the
pattern, that is accepted, and the excellent rules in our
hermeneutics on the importance of abiding by the obvious
sense, are quoted and applied with a hearty good will ; but
in all other cases resort is had to the Mystic method, under
the specious and self-deluding pretense of spiritualizing
the Scriptures, until the agreement is satisfactorily brought
about. This is often done when men are unconscious of it
themselves. They nearly all have their philosophies of con-
version, for instance, or regeneration, or sanctification; and
believing them to be true, they can hardly avoid viewing
the Scriptures through them as a medium, and transferring
them to the Scriptures as their meaning. Even in preach-
ing the gospel, very few feel satisfied until they have shown
its harmony, as they understand and proclaim it, with some
recondite philosophy of the mind — its affections, will,
power, and disability ; while in nine cases out of ten, this
can only be done by perverting or mystifying the Scrip-

What can be expected from pursuing such a course ? If
it should be adopted in the study of the book of nature,
(as it once was,) we know full well the results that would
follow. Science would be paralyzed. The facts which
speak to us in the rippling stream, the falling shower, the


flashing spark, the changing seasons, and the revolving
spheres — in all things above, beneath, aroand, and within
us — would become as the fairy tale. Their voice would
lose its distinctness ; and their revelation of law and truth
would be metamorphosed by this alchemic principle into a
base counterfeit or an empty nothing. And can we expect
a diflFerent result when it is followed in the study of the
Bible ? Will not its revelation of spiritual law and divine
truth be lost upon one who refuses to see that law or to un-
derstand that truth otherwise than as they agree with the
Ideas which already fill his mind ? Let a man but take to
his soul the flattering conviction that in some sense and to
a certain degree he is inspired to know the hidden mysteries
of revelation, and he is lost to common sense. Every ap-
1 peal made to him from the Bible falls powerless upon his
ears, because he attaches a secret naeaning to it. The per-
tinency and authority of the word are only recognized when
his explanation is placed upon it, and his explanation, how-
ever far-fetched and absurd, favors his position. Question
the correctness of his interpretation, and he speaks of the
mysteries of the faith and the deep things of God, beyond
the reach of vulgar sense. He knows that he is right — ^he
has the consciousness of it within him. It would be next
to infidelity for him to doubt the correctness of conclusions
to which he has been guided under the gracious illumina-
tion of the Holy Spirit. And here are ten, twenty, fifty
such men — all led to conclusions by the Holy Spirit, and
all led to different ones I

Such are the more striking characteristics of the Mystic


method, as pursued by Protestants. Not that they are all
equally guilty ; for the evil is almost infinitely various in
the degrees of its manifestation. Some have seen the per-
verseness of the method, and have abandoned it Others
have perceived that its reckless employment was pernicious,
and have sought to limit it by various precautionary rules,
which, however, are generally too indefinite to be enforced,
and too loose to be practically useful. While not a few
recognize no limit to its employment but the necessities of
their own foregone conclusions, — which, filling their minds
and occupying all their thoughts, are transferred to every
passage they read, and are seen everywhere in the fathom-
less deeps beneath the letter, be it what it may. They have
thus become a sort of spiritual Bletonists, whose senses are
so acute that they can perceive the presence of water far
down beneath the surface, while ordinary mortals must
either dig at random, or else remove to the springs which
gush spontaneously from the bosom of the earth.

We conclude, then, from facts which are of every-day
occurrence, which are embodied in our standard theological
works, and which are everywhere well known: 1. That
Protestants do still resort to the Mystic method of biblical
interpretation, some with reference to one text and some to
another — some to a greater and some to a less extent.
Though they do not, like Origen, turn the whole Bible into
a mystery, they bring mystery into the Bible — which is ah
evil identical in kind, though diflFerent in degree. 2. That,
while it is generally conceded that this method is only to be
followed in the interpretation of a part of Scripture, still,


as there are no well-defined and controlling principles
which regulate its pursuit, and decide wJiat part of the
Bible is to be thus construed, this, limitation itself is of but
little practical force. Hence, the method is used, as we
have seen, by the different parties, to pervert almost any
text to the support of a foregone conclusion, or to be in
harmony with a pre-existent idea ; while the result has been
that general indefiniteness and uncertainty of interpretation,
which it should be the immediate object of hermeneutics to
correct. 3. That this method is pursued simultaneously
with others, both correct and incorrect, which results in the
incongruous commingling of truth and falsehood. Hence
every denomination can prove its doctrines true, because,
by analysis, the truth may be found in them ; while, as a
system of doctrines, every one, perhaps, might be shown to
be false — ^to give an incorrect and inconsistent exhibition
of Christianity as a whole. The truth they contain gives
them permanency, and supplies to their advocates argu-
ments for their defense ; while the error mixed in with it
engenders opposition and multiplies divisions and sects.
4. And finally, that this state of things must continue, un-
less we can determine upon great and certain principles
which shall effectually set aside the method that has pro-
duced it ; for nothing can effect a permanent cure that does
not eradicate the cause of the disease.
. It therefore becomes incumbent upon us, before proceed-
ing to the discussion of other methods, to contribute what
we may be able toward the settlement of those things in
this, which are now left to every man's prejudices or


interests. And to facilitate onr progress toward a clear
comprehension of those important principles, the establish-
ment of which we deem necessary to the completeness of
the subject we have had under review, and which must be
drawn from the nature of the Bible itself, we shall, for the
time, arrange the communications of that book under two
grand divisions or heads — ^the one embracing all those
Scriptures which are literal^ and the other those which are
figurative; to each of which we shall devote a brief
chapter, for the purpose of showing the inapositeness of
the Mystic method to any text of Scripture.



All writings must be either literal, or figurative, or a
mixture of both. The Holy Scriptures, like most, and,
perhaps, all other productions, are of this last kind. Some
of their communications are delivered in language wholly
free from metaphor, simile, or figure of any sort; while
others abound in these beautiful adornments of speech. In
order, then, to determine whether either of these classes of
texts is to be interpreted according to the Mystic method,
we have resolved to consider them separately. Now, there-
fore, we are to be occupied with the literal parts of Scrip-
ture. And for the sake of a nucleus round which to collect



our observations, we will begin by submitting the following
proposition : —

That Literal texts of Scripture have that meaning ^ and
no other y which their words fairly import or necessarily
imply, when viewed in the light of all their circum"

If this proposition can be established, it will effectually
supersede the employment of the Mystic method, so far as
the texts embraced in it are concerned. It might be thought
necessary for us to give rules for ascertaining what texts
are literal ; but this will be determined indirectly when we
get to the next chapter, in which we shall have occasion to
show what texts are figurative ; when, from the nature of
the case, it will follow that all others are literal. We will
proceed at once, therefore, to the proof of the proposi-

1. And first, we argue that its truth follows from the
nature of human language. All the confidence a writer
can have that he will be properly understood, and all the
assurance obtainable by a reader that he has grasped the
true meaning of a writer, are based upon the tacit agree-
ment that both will be governed by the principle of this
proposition — ^the writer in the use of words, and the reader
in the interpretation of them. If I could bring myself to
believe that the authors whose works are on my shelf, had
violated this compact, I should lose all confidence in the
things which have hitherto been most surely believed by
me. I should be in doubt whether a battle were really
fought at Waterloo or Bunker's Hill — ^whether Newton dig-


corered the law of grayitation — whether the planets mo^e
in elliptical orbits — or, in short, whether anything is as it
has been represented to me. May not many or all the
words hare been nsed in some peculiar sense which I cannot
certainly know from the circamstances, bnt which I am to
gaess at ? No. Language is regulated by laws as fixed
as any in nature. It may change, indeed, but not arbi-
trarily. The change must be in obedience to rule. An
author may, if he please, use a word in a sense never given
to it before ; but if he do, he is bound by law to explain
that sense. And if he fail to comply with the law, he fails
to make himself understood. I may tell my servant to feed
the horse, when I mean the cow — just as I can violate the
laws of the land ; bnt in either case I suffer, and for the
same reason, because law is violated. We may, by mutual
agreement, resolve to apply the name horse to a certain
convenience for sawing wood; but we must indicate by
signs or circumstances when that application of the word
is intended. And when I thus indicate it, by telling my
servant to saw toood on the horse, he is not at liberty, ac-
cording to our paction, to disregard the signs or circum-
stances connected with the word, and to understand me in
this case to mean the animal horse. Thus the whole appa-
ratus of verbal communication, however arbitrarily it may
have been formed, is regulated by a principle as fixed and
certain as anything else, viz. : That words are to be under-
stood in their usual and most obvious signification — that
which men have agreed to give to them — and which agree-
ment is indicated by custom — except where circumstances


necessitate a change, in which case the amount and kind of
change is to be measured and determined hy the circum-

But our proposition says, not only that literal texts have
that meaning which their words fairly import or necessarily
imply when construed as above, but that they have no
other. The truth of this also will be best seen at first in
human compositions. When we read and comprehend the
plain account of all the events, circumstances, and results
of the battle of Waterloo, we conclude that we have the
full meaning of the narration. Other things connected
with, and bearing upon it may also be true; but unless
they are introduced or alluded to, or necessarily implied by
what is said, they form no part of the signification of the
story as narrated. We might interpret the whole matter
according to the Mystic method, and say that by Bonaparte
is meant the Devil, by Wellington the Prince of Peace, and
by their respective armies the angels of darkness and of
light ; while St Helena might be held to signify Tartarus,
and London or England, Paradise ; and the only objections
to this interpretation would be : 1. That it is unauthorized ;
and 2. That it is false. It would, however, have as much
authority, as much' reason, and as much truth, as many
Mystic expositions of Scripture history.

The reader will admit, then, that in human compositions
there are fixed and necessary laws ; that they are written
in obedience to these laws; and consequently, that they
must be interpreted by them. If so, the Mystic method,
whose very nature is that it is above law and independent


of it, can have no place whatever in their interpretation.
Bat the Bible is written in hnman language — ^by human
beings — for the benefit and instruction of human beings;
therefore, it must observe the laws of human language.
They regulated its composition, and must necessarily, there-
fore, regulate its interpretation. Hence, this argument
alone disproves the applicability of the Mystic method to
the Scriptures.

2. But not only is this shown from the nature of lan-
guage in general ; it follows also, and with even greater
force, from the nature of the Bible in particular. It pur-
ports to be a Revelation in human language ; to have
been written for the purpose of making known those things
which are necessary to our enjoyment here and our salva-
tion hereafter. Now, unless it mean what it says, when
construed as human language requires to be construed, it %b
not a revelation. It may be a convenient medium through
which we are to derive a revelation, but in itself, it is an
anomaly — an enigma — an unmeaning jargon. We may
guess at its sense ; but we might have guessed at the truth
without a line of Scripture. It does not make known
what we so much need to know ; it merely shows us our
ignorance^ excites our curiosity, worries our patience, and
leaves us to the tender mercies of chance. If it does not
mean what it says, it must, if it have a meaning, mean
something that it does not say. What is that something ?
How shall we learn and understand it ? Not from revela-
tion — ^for we have, by the hypothesis, confessed that it is
not revealed. All idea of a revelation in words is given



up as impossiblef when toe exclude such revelation from
dependence upon the laws of words. This something,
then, is not revealed — ^for no truth is revealed ; and if we
ever find it out, it must either be by shrewd guessing, or by
obtaining personal and miraculous inspiration to enable us
to explain inspiration! Mysticism, therefore, renounces
all pretension to accuracy of interpretation, except upon
the claim it necessitates to fresh inspiration ; while its prin-
ciple, necessarily and from the nature of things, abandons
all belief in the Scriptures as a revelation. This is the
goal to which it inevitably conducts. Hence, perceiving
thlB fact, we have felt justified in saying that those who
were deluded by it, were "wrecked upon the rocks of a
specious infidelity."

From the nature of human language, therefore ; from the
fact that the Bible is written in human language ; from its
special province as a revelation of truth; and from the
consideration that the opposite leads directly, though insidi-
ously, to infidelity, we conclude that our proposition is true ;
or, that literal texts have that meaning, and no other, which
their words fairly import or necessarily imply, when viewed
in the light of all the circumstances.*

Here the subject might safely and properly be left, to
dissipate by its own light such objections as may be urged
against it; for, certainly, none can be half so strong, in the
judgment of a devout Christian, as the reasons exhibited

* The nature and principles of language will be more elaborately
treated in the concluding part of this Yolume, book ii. par. ii.


in its favor. It maj serve, however, to give double assur-
ance of the truth of the proposition submitted, if we pause
here to show that such opposing arguments as have here-
tofore been introduced, are really confirmations of what
they would overthrow.

1. The first objection is based upon the fact that the
Scriptures contain the word mystery. It is urged, and
truly, that they expressly declare, that, "without contro-
versy, great is the mystery of godliness;"'*' that deacons
are to be men "holding the mystery of the faith in a pure
conscience ;"f that the Apostles "spoke the wisdom of
God in a mystery ;^^ with other passages of similar im-
port ; and hence it is inferred that all our reasonings are
clearly opposed to the plain teachings of Scripture.

And for one moment let us admit, for the sake of argu-
ment, the justness of the inference deduced from these
texts. What follows ? Evidently just what we attributed
to the Mystic Method, that the Scriptures do not reveal
the gospel — ^they merely make known our ignorance of it
by telling us of its existence, while they declare it to be a
mystery. It appears, too, that it is not only a mystery, but
an incommunicable one ; for, notwithstanding all the "inner
light," and the "angelic intercourse" of eighteen centu-
ries, it remains as great a mystery as ever. Direct inspira-
tion, or special revelation, may enable one to understand it
for himself, but he cannot make it known to others. He
can be a sort of center of infallibility for his countrymen,

? 1 Tim. iii 16. f Ihid. v. 9. J 1 Cor. ii. 7.


directing them from his innQf light how to live — ^but he
cannot elevate them to his favored position. It would seem
that the learning of the church would have been much more
wisely employed in teaching men how to be inspired, than
in framing rules of interpretation, which must be worthless.
The Bible is a mystery, and its principal value consists in
the fact that it makes known that it is a mystery. As a
mystery does not fulfill the requirements of a revelation,
our confidence or faith in it must be transferred to the in-
spired and infallible interpreters of it — ^to those who alone
can illuminate its darkness by casting upon it reflections
from the "Divine Light within." This, if we understand
it, is infidelity clothed in the habiliments of "spirituality"
—a something like "an angel of light," which beckons us
away from the Bible to find that truth which it declares is
not made known to us in the Bible I

What, then — for surely the reader is prepared to look
upon the other side of the question — does the word "mys-
tery," as used in the Scriptures, "fairly import or neces-
sarily imply, when viewed in the light of the attending
circumstances ?" We answer that its ordinary and obvious
meaning is, a secret — by which we understand something
easily intelligible when made known, but wholly unintelli-
gible until made known. The "secrets" of Free-Ma-
sonry, for example, are utterly inscrutable to the uninitiated
—to those to whom they have not been communicated;
bat are as plain and intelligible as anything else to those to
whom they have been made known. So the gospel was a
"secret" up to the time of its revelation; and after that


time it is still called the mystery or secret of the faith —
jast as Masons speak of what are^ not what were^ the
mysteries of their order. The whole question then turns
upon this point : has the mystery of godliness been revealed
or made known, or has it not ? Because, as in either case,
it will still be called a mystery, nothing can be inferred
from the mere fact that that word is employed. We are,
therefore, forced to a direct appeal to all the facts in the
case. What say the Scriptures ?

Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans, uses this language :
" Now to him that is of power to establish you according
to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according
to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret
since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by
the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the command-
ment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations
for the obedience of faith,"* etc. Also, in the Epistle to
the Ephesians, he says: "For this cause I Paul, the pris-
oner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, (if you have heard
of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me
to you- ward ; how that by revelation he made known to me
the mystery, as I wrote before in few words, whereby when
ye read ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery
of Christ,) which in other ages was not made known unto
the sons of men as it is now revealed unto the holy apos-
tles and prophets by the Spirit. "f Again, to the Colos-
sians he writes : " Whereof I am made a minister according

* Rom. xvi. 25, 26. f Eph. iii. 1-5.


to the dispensation of God which is given to me for yon,
to fulfill the word of God ; even the mystery which hath
been hid from ages and generations, but now is made
manifest to his saints."* And even the passage which
tells us that, " without controversy, great is the mystery of
godliness," immediately makes known what that mystery
is, viz.: "God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the
Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed
on in the world, received up into glory."

If anything can be made clear, and placed beyond dis-
pute, these quotations establish the correctness of our posi-
tion — while they show that the diflference between Paul
and our Mystic friends is this : he preached the revelation
of the mystery, and they the mystery of revelation; he
declares that it is, they that it is not made manifest and
known to the saints ; he assures us that by reading we may
understand his knowledge of the mystery, they that this
knowledge must be derived from some *' internal light" or
special inspiration ; he says that the mystery was hid before
its revelation, they that it is hid in its revelation I Thus,
in every aspect, mysticism is directly antagonistic to the
plainest declarations of the Bible — not only destitute of
Scripture support, but opposed to Scripture.

2. A second objection is based upon Paul's language in
2 Corinthians iii. 6, which reads as follows : " Who also
hath made us able ministers of the New Testament ; not
of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but

* Col. i. 25, 26.


the spirit givetb life." This passage is thought to teach
not only that the literal meaning is useless, but that it is
full of danger. And as those who have embraced this
conclusion have drawn it from the letter of this text, it
would seem that thej are involved with us in mortal peril I
To preserve them from being killed^ therefore, by their in-
considerate adoption of the letter, we will say that the
above text has some secret spiritual sense which does not
appear upon the face of it. They are now safe — and so
are we. For, of course, nothing but this secret sense can
apply to our position, and for aught any one knows, this
is directly in our favor I The objection, therefore, is en-
gulfed in the very ground upon which it was based. But
suppose we take the literjil meaning of the text — and thus
inconsiderately abandon what we thought to prove by it,
so far as the text itself is concerned ; then — as all Scrip-
ture is profitable — we will use the destructive force of the
letter to kill the objection based upon it ; for in this sense
it clearly proves our proposition.

The Apostle is contrasting Judaism and Christianity.
The former he calls the " letter ;" the latter the " spirit." In
harmony with his argument to the Romans, that the com-
mandment which was ordained to life, he found to be unto
death ; that sin taking occasion by the commandment, de-
ceived him, and hy it slew him;'^ — ^he here says that he is
a minister, not of the Old Testament, for it is the ministra-
tion of death written and engraven in stones — ^but of the

* Rom. Tu. 10, 11.


New Testament — i,e. not of the letter, but of the spirit;
for the lettef killeth, but the spirit giveth life. The New-
Testament, then, as it stands — ^the New Covenant, the New
Dispensation, the New Institution of Christianity — as it is
revealed and made known in the plain and literal sense of
the words of the gospel — ^which we are to understand, Paul
says, as we read them — ^this is the spirit referred to in the

I have now disposed of the two most plausible objections
that have been urged against the position I have adopted ;
and have shown not only their impotency as objections,
but that the very texts upon which they are based do really
and strongly confirm the truth of my proposition. It only
remains, in this place, for me briefly to remark upon the
limit of our sphere as interpreters of Scripture — ^the con-
fines outside of which we are never to pass. And to these
remarks I would take the liberty of directing the special
attention of the reader.

I submit, then, the following obvious but highly import-
iant canon : That in the interpretation of Scripture we
are to restrict ourselves to what is expressly revealed or
declared, i.e. to the words or phenomena of the Bible.
The absolute and essential nature of revealed things, with
their remote causes and reasons, must remain in this life an
inscrutable mystery. They are beyond the limits of possi-

* "The spirit here means," says Bloomfield, "that new spiritual
system, the gospel." — "The spirit here seems to refer," says
Barnes, "to the New Testament, or new dispensation, in contra-
distinction from the Old."


ble knowledge, and, consequently, beyond the comprehen-
sion of exegetical principles. But the same is true of
everything in the natural world. " Of things absolutely or
in themselves," to quote a distinguished authority, "be they
external, be they internal, we know nothing, or know them
only as incognizable ; and we become aware of their incom-
prehensible existence only as this is indirectly and acci-
dentally revealed to us, through certain qualities related to
our faculties of knowledge, and which qualities, again, we
cannot think of as unconditioned, irrelative, existing in and
of themselves. All that we know is, therefore , phenome-
nal^ — phenomenal of the unknown With the

exception of a few late Absolutist theorizers in Germany,
this is, perhaps, the truth of all others most harmoniously
re-echoed by every philosopher of every school."*

We do but contend that revealed things are not an
exception to the universal law of all things. Archbishop
Whately very justly complains that "philosophical divines
are continually going beyond Scripture into those inquiries
concerning the absolute^ which are confessedly, and by
their own account, beyond the reach of human faculties.
What the Scriptures are concerned with, is not the phi-

* Sir Wm. Hamilton : Philosophy of the Conditioned. Among a
numerous collection of testimonies, he gives the following from
Newton's Principia, (Schol. Ult.): "Quid sitrei alicujus substantia,
minime cognoscimus. Videmus tantum corporum figuras et colores,
audimus tantum sonos, tangimus tantum superficies extemas, olfaci-
mus odores solos, et gustamus.sapores: intimas substantias nullo
sensu, nulla aotione refleza, cognoscimus."



losophy of the human mind in itself, but (that which is pro-
perly religion) the relation and connection of the two
Beings ; — what God is to us — what he has done and will
do for us — and what we are to be and to do in regard to

It is only, then, when we go '* beyond revelation" that
we encounter what may properly be called mysteries. As
long as we are content with the knowledge of phenomena
— that is, in this case, of the words and sentences, inter-
preted as other words and sentences should be — so long will
we stand upon tangible ground and deal with intelligible
communications. In contending, therefore, that the Bible
is not mysterious, I desire to be understood as meaning
that it is not so phenomenally ; for I would be far from
intimating that there are no mysteries below, above, and
around it — mysteries which are suggested by it, but which,
nevertheless, are not in it — and hence, are not the subjects
of interpretation. Of course, a Book which brings, as it
were, eternity into time, and the kingdom of the heavens
down to the earth, would, in being adjusted within its won-
derful sphere, bear upon and suggest innumerable things
outside of itself, which form no part of its subject, and of
which nothing is revealed. It is these outside particulars
that men have called the "mysteries of revelation ;" whereas
they are not of it at all.

Perhaps we may be borne with in illustrating a point so
important, and which has been so often overlooked.

A stone let loose from the hand falls to the ground.
Nothing is more simple — nothing better understood. But


one can ask questions about it — questions which are imme-
diately suggested by it — which no one can answer. Why
does it fall ? The earth attracts it toward its center. So
far all is clear. We have the phenon\enon, with its proxi-
mate cause or explanation. But now if we attempt to go
beyond this, we are lost. How does the earth attract it ?
What is the essential nature of that influence which it
throws out beyond itself, which takes hold of the stone and
draws it down with positive force ? No man can tell. And
yet the phenomenon is obvious to the meanest capacity;
and the law which regulates it, an " object of precise and
certain knowledge." So we reverently believe the facts in
the history of the Son of God ; and we can and do under-
stand them phenomenally J i,e. in so far as they are revealed.
But not satisfied with this, the world has for ages been seek'
ing to penetrate into the essence of these phenomena — to
go beyond the record, and learn something of "eternal
generation" — of "God of God" — " eternally begotten "—
to analyze the divine mind, and to comprehend the eternal
purpose of the Creator, its cause and explanation, with all
those deep- buried reasons which actuated him in producing
the work of redemption — ^in short, to define the Infinite;
stupendous folly, only equaled by its daring and impious
presumption I

Again, the veriest rustic can understand the practical
prerequisites necessary to the support of his animal life.
He can plant, till, reap, grind, cook, eat, and thus continue
to live. He seems to regard the whole process as a sort
of matter of course, and by no means difficult of compre-


hension. Yet he would very soon perish if he never again
performed these actions till the mysteries connected with
them were solved; if he had to determine the essence of
vegetable and animal life, with the secret processes and in-
fluences which convert the elements of matter into the one,
and the defunct remains of that into the other. And so
with the practical duties which underiie our spiritual life,
as exhibited in the Bible — they are as obvious and plain as
the others ; but if we must wait, as so many seem to be
doing, to understand every "why" and "wherefore" sug-
gested by them, before we comply, then all must perish on
account of disobedience.

• Thus we might continue to illustrate, and show upon
every page the clearest revelation suggesting inscrutable
mysteries — secret things which belong to God and not to
us or our children. What Paul saw and heard in the third
heaven is a mystery — ^but why? The account given is
plain enough, but the vision is not told, and is a mystery
because it is not in revelation. What the seven thunders
uttered (Rev. x. 4) is a mystery, not because the words
are mysterious, but because the words are not there ! John
was required to "seal up those things which the seven
thunders uttered, and write them not." What Christ wrote
with his finger on the ground (John viii. 6) is a mystery
— a secret that no rules of exegesis could unfold, because
it is not revealed to us what he wrote. How the angel
strengthened him in the garden — what was that virtue that
went out of him to heal the sick — at what season the angel
went down into the pool of Bethesda and troubled the


water, and a thousand snch questions, are wholly unan-
swerable, because they are outside of revelation, — ^beyond
the limits of possible knowledge.

We are now prepared to advance to the consideration of
those Scriptures which are embraced under the second of
the divisions we have temporarily formed.



When it is considered that so large a portion of Holy
Writ is in typical, allegorical, parabolical, and metaphorical
language, it will be perceived that, if the principles of the
Mystic Method may be employed in the interpretation of
such texts, we have effected very little comparatively, when
we have rescued the remainder of revelation from such per-
yersion. But we trust that we shall be able to show that
these Scriptures are susceptible of an interpretation as
perfectly accordant with the sober judgment of common
sense, and as completely independent of the rhapsodies of
self-styled '' illumination," as the plain and unadorned dec-
larations of the most literal texts.

We have sought to steer clear of the Scylla, — we must
now be on our guard against the Charybdis of interpreta-
tion. For while to interpret a literal text upon Mystic
principles is to destroy the force and meaning of that text,



the opposite error, which interprets figurative language in
its literal sense alone, gives the high sanction of the Bible
to propositions at once the most absurd and monstrous. It
hence becomes necessary, in the first place, to determine
with all possible accuracy what texts are figurative ; after-
wards we shall attempt to establish the principles of their
interpretation. How, then, shall we know what language
is figurative ?

Perhaps the best general rule that could be given in an-
swer to this question, is, tliat this is to be determined just
as we determine the same thing in any other hook. What-
ever rules and guides we have in ascertaining this matter
in Homer or Plato, in Cicero or Virgil, in the Spectator,
the Novum Organum, or Paradise Lost, — the same will
direct us in the Bible. In reading these works we have in
our minds the definition of the various figures of speech
employed in human language — (all of which are in the
Bible) — and we observe the context, the subject-matter, the
scope or design, and all the circumstances of a given pas-
sage, in the light of these definitions, and seldom find the
least difficulty in determining when a passage is figurative,
or what particular figure is employed — whether irony,
simile, metaphor, synecdoche, or what. This rule we
should think, therefore, would be altogether sufficient in
the Bible ; but in addition to it we will off*er some specifi-

"The literal meaning of words is to be given up," says
Home, "if it be either improper, or involve an impossi-
bility, or where words, properly taken, contain anything


contrary to the doctrinal or moral precepts delivered in
other parts of Scripture."* He also lays down the propo-
sition, " That whatever is repugnant to natural reason can-
not be the true meaning of the Scriptures ; for God is the
original of natural truth as well as of that which comes by
particular revelation." To these specifications we may add
the numerous Scriptures which are declared to be parables,
types, or allegories, and the fact that all general laws are
in plain and literal language — as the ten commandments,
for example, or the new commandment — ^though directions
to particular individuals, however general in their applica-
tion, may be in figurative language, as, ''Let your light
shine." From all which we may deduce this brief, but plain
and comprehensive rule : —

That all Scriptures are to be regarded as figurative
which are either declared to be such, or which the various
attending circumstances show to be su>ch, or which, when
taken literally, contravene any general precept, or are
contrary to evident reason and the nature of things.

There is, we think, no instance of figurative language
that does not come under some clause of this rule ; and
hence we can readily determine by it whether any given text
is figurative or literal. We have but to consider, for
example, whether anything in the context or elsewhere
declares it to be figurative ; if not, we may then inquire
whether the literal meaning is absurd, or contrary to evi-
dent reason, when viewed in the light of its subject-mat-

* Introduction, Par. ii. book ii. chap. i. sec i.


ter and all the circumstances; and if this, too, be an-
swered in the negative, we ask whether it contravenes
any general precept ; and finally, we consider whether all
the circumstances require us to class it under some one
of the various figures of speech defined in our grammars
and other elementary works. In thousands of instances we
shall be constrained to answer some one of these questions
in the affirmative, and thus to pronounce the text figurative.
In all other cases we shall conclude that it is literal, and,
therefore, that its meaning is to be reached in the way
already pointed out.

It now only remains, having settled the rule for determ-
ining what Scriptures are figurative, for us to answer the
second demand in this investigation, viz. : How is the sense
of such passages to be acquired ? And we deem it par-
ticularly important to place this matter in the clearest pos-
sible light, from the fact that men are so prone to give
play to their imaginations in expounding this class of Scrip-
tures. The rule of Irenseus, for the interpretation of para-
bles, may well be extended to all language in which the
same principle is involved.

'* Parables," he says, "cannot in any case be made the
original or the exclusive foundations of any doctrine, but
must be themselves interpreted according to the analogy
of faith;* since, if every subtle solution of one of these
might raise itself at once to the dignity and authority of a

* For remarks on the '* analogy of faith," see Campbell's Disser-
tations, Dis. iv. We would say, instead, literal Scriptures,


Christian doctrine, the rule of faith would be nowhere."*
To the same effect speaks Tertullian : " We are kept within
limits in the exposition of the parables, accepting as we do
the other Scriptures as the rule to us of truth, as the rule,
therefore, of their interpretation.^^f

The correctness and necessity of this canon are evident
the moment it is presented to the mind. For, if any
doctrine be allowed to rest exclusively upon such "subtle
solution," there is an end to all certainty, but no end to
argument, and controversy, and false doctrines. But to say,
as we must, that no doctrine is to be founded exclusively
upon a solution of such Scriptures, is equivalent to saying
that no such doctrine is true. For certainly it is our duty
to receive and to inculcate all true doctrine ; but as we can-
not receive these subtle solutions for doctrines, we admit
that they are not true, or, if true, that they cannot possibly
be known to be so, and hence to believe them would be to
have faith in the interpreter, and not in the word of God.
All doctrinal truth, ;[; therefore, is taught in literal and plain
language. Every particular embraced in the faith that
saves the soul, and every duty which our Heavenly Father
enjoins in connection with that faith, while they may be ex-
hibited in a variety of the most beautiful images, and clothed
with all the exuberance of Oriental metaphor, are also
taught in language clear and level to the meanest capacity.

* Quoted in Trench on the Parables. f ^^^^'

X In the New Testament use of the word, "doctrine" is some-
thing practical, not speculative.


Now faith and obedience embrace in their ample signifi-
cance the whole of religion. Our pardon, peace, enjoy-
ment, and hope in this world — and onr glory, honor, and
immortality in the next, are, in one sense, dependent upon
and secured by them. Surely, then, if we can be right in
these particulars, all things else may well and safely be made
matters of mutual forbearance. If so, we begin immediately
to approach a point from which we can all see eye to eye.

From the premises before us it follows that parables and
figures do not, as such, teach new truth; they illustrate
the truth elsewhere taught without a figure — either in the
immediate context, or in some other portion of the Bible.
This being so, the rule for their interpretation follows
clearly and necessarily, viz.: Figurative language must
always be interpreted by literal, or in harmony with the
doctrine of non-figurative Scripture.

Says Dean Trench : " From the literal to the figurative,
from the clearer to the more obscure, has ever been recog-
nized as the law of Scripture interpretation. " The " other
Scriptures," says Tertullian, are "the rule to us of truth,"
and, therefore, the "rule for interpreting" parables and

The rule we have laid down above, instead of erecting a
standard outside of the Bible, as Origen and others did, to
which the figurative language of Scripture was adjusted,
finds the standard in the Bible itself— ihxxs allowing the
Holy Spirit to be his own interpreter. The literal Scrip-
tures, therefore, are the touchstone of all sound interpreta-


We have thus brought out, one by one, principles of
hermeneutics, which, unless we have greatly mistaken their
force, it will be difficult to over-estimate ; particularly if
they are viewed in connection with the controversies which
a disregard of them has perpetuated in the church. For,
if literal Scriptures teach that and only that which their
words fairly import or necessarily imply, when construed
in the light of all the modifying circumstances, they must
teach the same thing to every man of common sense who
thus construes them; and if all other Scriptures are to be
interpreted hy these, they, of course, could never be the
occasion of important disagreement; because, upon these
principles, they can never be quoted or relied upon in con-
troversy, except as confirmations or illustrations of literal
truth. Hence, when these principles are generally allowed
and practically observed by the intelligent of all parties, as
sooner or later they must be, the first result will be to con-
fine controversy to the ground covered by the literal texts ;
and, as the principles for their interpretation are so plain
and simple, when viewed apart from the perverting influ-
ence of the "subtle solution" of figurative language, that
it will be next to impossible to mistake their sense, a second
result will ultimately follow, namely, agreement as to their
meaning; and this, as we have seen, will lead directly to
agreement as to the meaning of those other texts which are
to be interpreted by these.

A beautiful passage is quoted from Anselm by Dean
Trench, "on the futility of using as primary arguments
what indeed can but serve as graceful confirmation of truths


already on other grounds received and believed ;" and he
adds: "It is a recognized axiom, Theologia parabolica
non est argumentativa. And again, Ux solo sensu lit-
terali peti possunt argumenta efficada,^^ These princi-
ples are indeed founded upon the sure basis of reason and
the nature of things, and were never denied in any age of
the church, except by such as divorced themselves from
reason that they might court to their embraces an infatu-
ating mysticism. They are the legitimate offspring of a
calm and enlightened common sense — ^the lawful spouse of
the intellect ; and no proposition can be more evident than
that their recognition and hearty adoption by all, in lieu of
those mystic principles which have supplanted them, must
precede the general and accurate knowledge of the truth,
and the settlement of points now in controversy. Well
established as we must now consider them to be, by the
concurrent testimony of common sense and recognized
authorities,* they are the germs of an exegesis which we

* <*I hold it for a most infallible rule in expositions of sacred Scrip-
ture, that where a literal construction will stand, the farthest from
the letter is commonly the worst. There is nothing more dant/erotu
than the licentious and deluding art which changeth the meaning of
words, as alchemy doth, or would do, the substance of metals, mak-
ing of anything what it listeth, and bringeth in the end all truth to
nothing. ^^ — Hooker's Ee Pol., b. v. c. 59. "It is contrary to the
whole scope and purpose of revelation to explain it on some ab-
struse system of mythical interpretation." — Thompson's Chr. The-
iam, p. 824. See also Stewart's Elements of Interpretation ; Trench
im the Parables; Home's Introduction; Campbell's Dissertations;


hope to be able to develop into something like scientific
form and accuracy.

Before finally dismissing the subject, it may be well to
dispose of the single objection which has been urged against
the position we have taken with reference to the figurative
Scriptures. It is contended that, upon our principle, those
Scriptures are useless, inasmuch as we possess the whole
truth without them. This will best be met by mentioning
a few of the benefits derived from them notwithstanding
the truth of our position.

1. Figurative language heightens the interest of the
Bible. However grand and lofty the truths it reveals, they
would be read with great comparative indifference if they
were dryly stated, without metaphor, simile, or illustration
of any sort. In fact, it is scarcely too much to believe
that if such had been its character, it would, apart from
some special interposition of Providence, long since have
perished from the earth, and its saving light have been
extinguished by the dullness and sterility of its forbidding

2. It serves as an illustration of the meaning of literal
truth ; it gives clearness to, and intensifies the meaning of,
that which is taught without a figure. And this, notwith-
standing it must itself be explained by the literal. If we

Whatcly's PreUminary DUiertation, Encyclopedii Britannicay (iii.;)
Macknight on the EpitUes; besides fifteen or twenty works cited by



desired to give au untaught savage a correct idea of a
steam-engine, it would not be sufficient to describe it to
him, even in the most plain and unadorned language we
could command ; nor should we succeed better by placing
an exact picture of it before him, unaccompanied by such
explanation. But if we place the picture before him, and
at the same time explain it, he understands the picture by
means of the literal description, while the description is

1 itself made plain by means of the picture. Only one en-
gine is described, but it is doubly described. So in the
Bible, the literal and the figurative language do not com-
municate distinct and different truths, but they mutually aid
in filling the mind with the same great truth. Hence, while
the parables and metaphors are explained in accordance
with the literal truth, they intensify and extend its meaning.
If all the truth revealed had been thus illustrated, we should
have had in one volume two copies, as it were, of divine
truth — one literal, the other figurative ; the latter under-
stood in the light of the former, and that illustrated, beau-
tified, and rendered comprehensive by the latter.

3. It keeps the great truths of the Bible ever before the
mind. Infidels have contended that if God had given a
revelation to men, he would have inscribed it upon the sun
or the prominent objects of the material world. And this
is just what is done. The law of gravitation is not more
clearly written upon the face of a falling apple, than is the
law of man's spiritual life on the clustering grapes and
verdant leaves of the forest vine. The intelligent con-
sideration of a believer sees the law in the one case as in


the other. Spiritual truth, iu the same way, is transferred
to almost everything we behold. When our eyes take in
the light of the morning, or when raised to view the stars
of eyening, the mind may be filled with a truth, may per-
ceive a LigJU and a Star which shed their beams upon the
heart. And when the majestic sun dispels the shadows of
night, and throws his resplendent beams over fields, and
trees, and streams, — ^he himself, with all that he illuminates,
gives a grand, a harmonious expression to heavenly, re-
vealed, eternal truth. Thus, too, whatever we see trans-
piring around us, whether in the city or the country, or
whatever we ourselves do from the morning till the night, —
almost every action is God's impressive gesticulation en-
forcing his word. He must be blind indeed who cannot
recognize divine wisdom and benevolence in thus devising
a scheme, simple as the Bible, by which the whole universe
becomes vocal with eternal truth,*and beaming with hea-
venly light I

Such are the uses and benefits of figurative language,
when it occupies the place we have assigned it ; but not one
of these blessings can be claimed from it upon any other
ground. Hence, he who opposes the principles we have laid
down, does but tell us in effect, to sacrifice all these treas-
ures to the Moloch of party, or immolate them to the
demon of fanaticism.

If the reader has followed us .through the several chap-
ters of this second part, and carefully observed the different
phases of the subject of mysticism, as we doubt not he has,


be is prepared, before taking a final leave of it in order to
enter upon tbe consideration of anotber and perbaps more
formidable evil, to pronounce an intelligent judgment upon
tbe premises already submitted. Wbat tbat judgment will
be, tbe autbor will not pretend to decide ; but for bimself,
witb all bis responsibilities before bim, be bas no hesitation
in recording bis conviction, tbat mysticism, in wbatever
sbape or form presented, differs tbe breadtb of tbe beavens
from tbe spiritual religion of Jesus ; tbat it bas been tbe
fruitful parent of naugbt but falsehood and folly ; tbat its
delusive ligbt is but an ignis fatuus, wbicb

'< Leads to bewilder, and dazzles to blind;"

and tbat its metbods of interpretation, wbile presumptu-
ously arrogating superior penetration into trutb, and sub-
limer conceptions of tbe Spirit, do, in fact, eviscerate
religion of its substance^ and tbe Bible of its meaning.





Having shown the folly and danger of mysticism, and
considered the means by which to determine whether or
not any given passage is to be regarded as figurative, and
having laid down the rules by which such Scriptures are to
be interpreted, it remains to notice another instrument of
error and perversion yet more potent. In point of dignity
the Dogmatic Method should first have commanded our
attention, it being not merely the superior, but the master
of mysticism, whose pliable power it wields in subserviency
to its own purposes. But as this course would have done
violence to the historical and chronological aspects in which
we deemed it proper to consider them, we have preferred
to take them up in the order of their prominent develop-
ment, as exhibited on the pages of the past.

We know of no better method of making the reader
acquainted with this subtle and pernicious power, than to
exhibit it as it sways over society at large its unrestrained
and unquestioned influence. And it is believed that we

10* (113)


shall be able to form a more accurate judgment concerning
it by thus briuging it out in bold relief, than we should if
we attempted to view it in the first place, as it now exists
in connection with various modifying principles. Without
pausing to define a term the meaning of which will be
made evident as we proceed, the attention of the reader is
invited at once to the Scholasticism of the eleventh, twelfth,
and thirteenth centuries, as a fair specimen of the Dog-
matic Method of biblical interpretation. While a con-
densed account of this remarkable system will be in itself
interesting, it will furnish the key to unlock much subse-
quent religious history.

Towards the close of the eleventh century many of the
clergy began to study and profess the Dialectic Philosophy ;
** and in a few years they were able to introduce it into the
schools, and have it adopted as a branch of public iustruc-
tion.*'' Calculated as it was to add luster to the names of
those who excelled in it, it is not to be wondered at that
by the beginning of the twelfth century it had taken the
lead of every kind of learning. To be a skillful dialectician
was of more worth than eminence in any other department.
The greatest men of the times were so captivated by the
power and renown which the exercise of this art gave them,
that some of them, not satisfied with the honors conferred
upon them by their own nation, left their country and trav-
eled in foreign parts for the sole purpose of disputation ; a
sort of logical knights-errant strolling about in quest of
adventure. Abelard — ^whose celebrity is not wholly phil-

* Enfield's Hist, of Phil., book vii. chap. iii. sec. 1.


osophical — ^has left this exemplary account of himself:
"Preferring the study of logic to all others, and the dispu-
tations of the schools to the trophies of war, I entirely
devoted myself to this pursuit, and, like a Peripatetic phi-
losopher, traveled through different countries, exercising
myself wherever an opportunity offered."

Indeed, no other branch of study was considered worth
attention, except in so far as it contributed to the perfec-
tion of this all-absorbing and all-important art. Those
who were masters of it were regarded with the highest
veneration ; crowds of admirers flocked around them ; mul-
titudes of pupils attended their lectures; their greatness
and glory was the exhaustless theme of conversation ; and
their skill and profundity the pride and admiration of their
countrymen. Believing that they had found in this art the
long- coveted key of biblical knowledge which was to un-
lock and disclose to view the mysteries of revelation, we
cannot marvel at their extravagant appreciation of it.
What a charm is there in secret wisdom I How eagerly do
men seek for it, and how indifferent they often are to that
which is evident to all I

Soon it came to pass that new and strange doctrines
were propounded, and when propounded, argued and de-
fended with a skill that none could gainsay or withstand.
This aroused the watchful and jealous guardians of the
church. It was necessary, they began to think, for some-
thing to be done ; and as they could not answer the argu-
ments of the dialecticians, they resorted to the more
summary process of burning their writings, and censuring


the authors of them. The Synod of Paris, and the Coun-
cil of Lateran, took the matter into their ecclesiastical
hands, and as Aristotle was the Magnus Apollo in this
heretical movement, his writings were prohibited from
being read I This most sage proceeding had the effect it
ever has, of increasing the desire to taste the forbidden
fruit ; and it was not long till the fondness for the subtleties
of the Aristotelian logic and metaphysics had increased to
such an extent that the clergy complained that "scholars
spent their whole time in disputation."* This unlooked-for
result seems to have suggested a new idea to the infallible
guardians of truth: if this powerful influence cannot be
destroyed, let us appropriate it to our own use; let us
make it the handmaid of the church. A law is formed in
accordance with this prudent suggestion, and the writings
of Aristotle — physical, metaphysical, and dialectical — are
admitted by express statute into the University of Paris.
Being thus received into the bosom of the church, and his
dialectic art made subservient to the maintenance of its
dogmata, the Stagirite, by the end of the twelfth century,
gained universal dominion. His philosophy became the
main pillar of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and his logic the
main instrument of its defense. Thus by slow and some-
times imperceptible degrees did the leaven of his influence
extend itself, until his philosophy became indissolubly in-
corporated with the doctrines of the church, and "the
philosopher who had lived and died without a line of

* Enfield's Hist, of Phil., book vii. chap, ill sec. 1.


inspiration, became the interpreter and the judge of the

Says Dr. Hampden: ''The maintenance of the Latin
Theology became the immediate limited object to which the
schools, now passed into the hands of the ecclesiastics, were
directed. Men expert in fighting the battles of the Lord,
skillfol in defending each disputed point, and in parrying
the assaults of the heretic, were the kind of persons which
the method of teaching pursued in the schools would par-
ticularly contemplate. There was no desire on the part of
the Latin churchmen to encourage a freedom of inquiry,
or a wide range oyer the field of literature; the adventurer
in such a track might be dangerous to the repose of the
church; might break that chain of dependence which
bound the subject-people to the chair of spiritual authority.
Only such a discipline of the intellect was provided as
should sharpen and strengthen, without emboldening it;
render it apt to object, to discuss, to infer, without tempt-
ing it to spread forth Daedalean wings, and soar above the
labyrinth in which it was immured. * * * Their phi-
losophy, consequently, was an insincere, unreal system, a
collection of principles, the data not of investigation and
experience, but of a prescriptive authority ; the results of
the labor and ingenuity of others taken in their concrete
form without analysis, and applied as oracular texts for the
deduction of truths."*
. , .^^ —

* Hampden on the Scho. PhiL of the Middle Ages; Encyclopedia


From the twelfth century to the Reformation the whole
world was disturbed by the idle disputes of this Scholastic
Philosophy ; " and so deeply did it take root," says an able
writer, "that even to this day it has not been wholly ex-
tirpated." It is difficult for us to form an adequate con-
ception of the refined folly and learned nonsense which
characterized the mental labors of the greatest men of this
period. The highest and proudest achievement of genius
was to maintain a point by resorting to verbal quibbles and
hair-splitting distinctions. The most abstruse, metaphys-
ical, and incomprehensible subjects were gravely and earn-
estly discussed, as though the world's salvation had been
suspended on their solution. Such subjects as identity,
entity, hascceity, formality, the first principle, etc. were
voluminously treated, argued, defined, and illustrated, as
not only worthy of consideration, but as being essential to
the comprehension of the Christian religion.*

The Scholastic Philosophy, says Mr. Hallam, upon the
authority of Tennemann, "gave rise to a great display of
address, subtlety, and sagacity in the explanation and dis-
tinction of abstract ideas, but at the same time to many
trifling and minute speculations, to a contempt of positive

* They not only bestowed mucti attention upon Augustine's doc-
trine of absolute predestination, and of original sin, with their cog-
nates, but also upon such questions as, whether in the love of God
there can be any view lo reward; whether, if God had commanded
his creatures to hate himself, it would have been their duty ; whether
angels, in going from place to place, pass over the intervening space,
etc. etc. !


and particular knowledge, and to much unnecessary refine-
ment; while the dry technical style of the Schoolmen,
affecting a geometrical method and closeness, was, in fact,
more prolix and tedious than one more natural, from its
formality in multiplying objections and answers. And, as
their reasonings commonly rested on disputable postulates, (
the accuracy they aflTected was of no sort of value."*

When we reflect that this art was not the amusement of
the few, but the business of the many ; that it was not the
appropriated luxury of worldly speculatists, but the daily
staple of religious instruction, we may form some concep-
tion of its baneful influence. The clergy, practically leav-
ing Christ out of Christianity, and no longer seeking to
induce men to believe on and obey him, employed them-
selves in nothing else but the solution of abstruse and subtle
questions, " which were always merely speculative, and often
merely verbal." And this was the employment of them all.
Education was narrowed down to a course of instruction in
dialectics and metaphysics; and as the church was the
great' patron of the schools, and the Schoolmen the pow-
erful supporters and defenders of the church, the whole
Christian world became almost exclusively Scholastics. I
cannot forbear inserting in this place the happily-expressed
remarks of Sir James Mackintosh, in his Preliminary Dis-
sertation in the Encyclopedia Britannica.f

The Schoolmen, he says, "were properly theologians
who employed philosophy only to define and support that

? Hallam'B Lit., vol. i. p. 38. f !>"• "•

120 80HOLASTI0I8M.

Bystem of Christian belief which they and their cotempo-
raries had embraced. The founder of that theological sys-
tem was Aurelins Angnstinns, (called by ns Angnstin,)
Bishop of Hippo, in the province of Africa; a man of
great genios and ardent character, who adopted at different
periods of his life the most yarions, but at all times the
most decisive and systematic, as well as daring and extreme
opinions. This extraordinary man became, after some
struggles, the chief doctor, and for some ages almost the
sole oracle of the Latin Church. It happened, by a singular
accident, that the Schoolmen of the twelfth century, who
adopted his theology, instead of borrowing their defensive
weapons from Plato, the favorite of their master, had re-
course for the exposition and maintenance of their doctrines
to the writings of Aristotle, the least pious of philosophical
theists. The scholastic system was a collection of dialect-
ical subtleties, contrived for the support of the corrupted
Christianity of that age, by a succession of divines whose
extraordinary powers of distinction and reasoning were
morbidly enlarged in the long meditation of the cloister,
by the exclusion of every other pursuit, and the consequent
palsy of every other faculty ; who were cut oflT from all the
materials upon which the mind can operate, and doomed
forever to toil in defense of what tkey must never dare
to examine. ^^

One exception to the general and continued acceptance
of this system we have seen in a previous chapter ; but of
this, unhappily, we are in doubt whether it was an excep-
tion for the better. It was the exchange of the emptiness


and absurdities of abused reason, for the fantasies and
dreams of abused imagination. To one who looks at them
from the stand-point of the nineteenth century, it is diffi-
cult to determine whether anything was gained or lost by
abandoning the intangible verbalisms of the Scholastics for
the foolish extravagancies of the Platonized Cabalistics.
There might have been grounds of preference between the
two evils ; but when each was alike destitute of truth, the
exception can hardly be said to relieve, as a whole, the
darkness of the picture.

Do we now ask what was the essential evil of Scholasti-
cism ? The answer is, it was the abuse of that which in
itself is good — the art of reasoning. Its logic was refined
until nothing was too ethereal for its grasp, and was em-
ployed not in the investigation of truth, but solely in sup-
port of the doctrines of the Romish Church. " It assumed
axioms without examination ; made distinctions where there
was no real difference; used terms without any precise
meaning; and engaged in controversies upon abstruse
questions, which, after endless skirmishes, it was impossible
to bring to any issue, and which, notwithstanding the vio-
lence of the contest, it was of no importance to determ-
ine."* Such an instrument is invaluable to the mere
partisan. By its aid alone he can maintain dogmas how-
ever absurd, and give coloring to pretensions however

But the evil of Scholasticism did not consist alone in the

* Brucker's Hist. Crit. Phil., book vii. chap. iii. sec. 3.


abuse of the dialectic art, but also and chiefly, religiously
considered, in the particular direction of that abuse — ^the
employment of it to force a coalition between the philoso-
phy of Aristotle and the doctrine of revelation. We have
seen a similar process pursued by the Alexandrian converts
to Christianity with reference to the New Platonic Phi-
losophy. Their work was eflfected by means of allegorized
mysticism ; this union was formed through the influence of
logical subtilty. The same effect produced by each of two
different instruments ; not that allegory and mysticism were
ignored by the Scholastics, nor that a kind of Iggic was
wanting to the Alexandrians, but that the latter mainly
succeeded by means of allegory, and the former by dialectic
refinement and skill. The effect of this last marriage of
religion to philosophy is not unlike that which resulted
from the first. As when the antediluvian sous of God took
wives from the daughters of men, the consequence was an
unexpected corruption and an awful curse. Respecting
the union of Aristotle with the New Testament, the author
of the Critical History of Philosophy says : —

" Theology, already sufficiently clouded and corrupted by
the speculations and disputes of former ages, by admitting
into its service scholastic philosophy, involved itself in
new obscurity ; so that at length, instead of the plain and
simple doctrine of religion, little else was to be found in the
writings of theologians but vague notions and verbal dis-
tinctions. As an example of the mischief which arose to
theology from this alliance, I may mention the doctrine of
transubstantiation, which first sprung up at this period,


giying birth to the most violent disputes, till at length the
absurd dogma passed into an article of faith.^^*

It is thus when men set themselves to strive for victory
instead of truth, and, to secure their end, resort to the help
of confused notions, unmeaning distinctions, and barbarous
terms, that they are finally rendered unable to distinguish
truth from falsehood, or reason from absurdity, and are led
to receive as evident truth dogmata not only preposterous,
but inconceivable. To believe in transubstantiation, is to
believe that Christ's body was broken and his blood shed
many hours before his trial and crucifixion ; that the dis-
ciples ate the one and drank the other while he was alive

* The doctrine of transubstantiation originated with Paschasius
Badbert, a Benedictine monk, in the ninth century; was at first
opposed by the Church, but afterwards, at the Council of Placentia,
sanctioned, and was finally confirmed and named by Innocent III.,
in 1215; and about the same time, as a consequence of the doctrine,
the cup was withdrawn from the laity. (Waddington's Hist. Ch.,
pojisim.) Mosheim says, £c. Hist. p. 821, "It was reserved for
Innocent to put an end to the liberty, which every Christian had
hitherto enjoyed, of interpreting this presence in the manner he
thought most agreeable to the declarations of Scripture, and to de-
cide in favor of the most absurd and monstrous doctrine that the
phrensy of superstition was capable of inventing. This audacious
pontiff pronounced the opinion which is embraced at this day in
the Church of Rome with regard to that point, to be the only true
and orthodox account of the matter ; and he had the honor of intro-
ducing and establishing the use of the term iransubitaniiation,
which was hitherto absolutely unknown." The same is true of
auricular confession.


and unharmed before them ; that in the different parts of
the globe he is crucified a thousand times every Lord's day
at the same hour; that Christ is perpetually suffering*
the agonies of immolation ; that the priests are innocent,
while, by their own showing, guilty, of crucifying him afresh;
and finally, that the senses of sight, touch, taste, and smell
— senses upon the accuracy and reliability of whose judg-
ments the very truth of Christianity is assured to usf — are
not to be trusted I Yet such belief is produced and main-
tained by means of the Scholastic Method of searching the
Scriptures ; a method which jumps to a conclusion either
without any shadow of Scripture warrant, or, what is even
worse, because more delusive, from a hasty and incomplete

* So contended Paschasius — vide Waddington, chap. xv.

f Pascal (Provincial Letters, Let. xviii.) says: "As God has been
pleased to employ the intervention of the senses to give entrance
to faith, (for faith cometh by hearing,) it follows that so far from
faith destroying the certainty of the senses, to call in question the
faithful report of the senses would lead to the destruction of faiths
And yet, strange to say, he continues: " It is on this principle that
St. Thomas [Aquinas] explicitly states that God has been pleased
that the sensible accidents should subsist in the eucharist, in order
that the senses, which judge only of these accidents, might not be

But if all that is judged of by the senses be but the accidents of
bread, we should like to be informed what constitutes its differ-
entia; or how "St. Thomas" could ever have satisfied himself that
he had at any time eaten a piece of bread. Upon this principle,
for aught we know, our leavened bread may be boiled mutton, and
our biscuit roast beef!


collection of disjointed texts, raises this conclusion to the
dignity of a positive and unquestionable dogma, and then
ever after reads the Scriptures for the purpose of finding it
taught in them. By this process almost any propositions
connected with religion or morals may be established, how-
ever antagonistic and irreconcilable ; and hence it becomes
the prolific source of so large a number of' disputed points
— ^none of which may be true, while each is propped up
by a formidable array of Scripture proof-texts. It is, too,
the grand system of self-imposition, causing honest men to
mistake a dialectic conclusion for an undoubted truth.
Precisely to the extent of its employment may we expect
to find absurd tenets, rancorous discussion, opposing sects,
uncertain interpretation, and unhallowed liberties with the
word of God. It speculates revelation into theories,
changes theories into revelation, and converts the word
of truth into an apparatus for carrying on a war of

Though this brief chapter is but a meager outline of a
system which flourished for many years over all the Chris-
tian world, and which, as we shall hereafter see, has trans-
mitted much of its spirit and influence to our day, it would
not contribute to our object to discuss the subject more
thoroughly, or to examine its history more minutely. We
have exhibited its grand characteristics as they are mani-
fested, without relief, in the follies an^ delusions of the
Schoolmen ; and this will serve the purpose intended by it,
of enabling us to recognize it when it shall subsequently



present itself, notwithstanding it may be mingled with, and
modified by, other influences.

The sum of what we have learned of the Scholastics
may be stated as follows : —

Their theology was the result of a dominant ecclesiast-
ical authority, imposed without mercy and received without
examination. " They were doomed," as says Mackintosh,
"to toil forever in defense of what they must never dare to

"They held first," says Hampden, "that no authority
sanctioned by the church should be questioned ; secondly,
that nothing should be attempted to be established^ inde-
pendently of those authorities, or which could not be recon-
ciled with them." Again, ^'Examination of principles
was forbidden ground to the religionist and the philoso-
pher." "The object was not to rise from individuals to
general principles, but to descend from the highest abstrac-
tions to individual beings." But further, as commentators
and expositors, let us note the principles that guided them.
"What may be called an excess of legislation in matters of
doctrine had taken place, through the mistaken notion on
which divines had acted, that every variation of opinion
required to be ruled by the coercive judgment of the eccle-
siastical power. This state of things naturally led to the
creation of a class of expositors and commentators who
should maintain the consistency of this vast accumulation
of decisions, bring to light what was obscure, and defend
what was ambiguous from the perverse constructions of the


heretic." "It had not for its object to win men to the
truth ; it sought only to justify and secure an obedience to
which the unwilling intellect was constrained."*

As viewed, then, in the light of its hermeneutics, it was
a system which exerted all the power and skill of the most
refined dialectics to justify from the Scriptures the doc-
trines, decrees, and dogmata of the Roman Catholic
Church. It had nothing to do with the discovery of truth
— ^that was treasured up in the canons and decretals of the
councils and the popes. To question these was heresy, to
reject them damnation ; while, by the aid of Aristotle,
to force the Scriptures into their support was at once the
duty and the glory of all the faithful sons of the Church, f

* Hampden on the Schol. Phil, of the Middle Ages, passim; En-
cyclopedia Metropolitana.,

f Those who may wish to pursue. the subject further, may consult
Hallam, Mosheim, Brucker, Mackintosh, and Hampden ; or, if any
one can have the patience to wade through them, while he wonders
at a fanaticism clothed in the sober garb of reason and sanctioned
by the authority of the church, let him peruse the works of the
"Universal and Angelic Doctor," Aquinas; the "Most Profound
Doctor," Columna; the "Most Resolute Doctor," Durand; and the
"Invincible Doctor," Ockham.




We have now reached the proper stand point from which
to view the Reformation of the sixteenth century. And as
this great movement has most weighty bearings upon the
subject of hermeneutics, it will be well for us to pause here
for a short time and note the precise condition of things
immediately anterior to it, that we may be enabled to
appreciate better the value of the principles of Protest-
antism ; afterwards we shall inquire whether these princi-
ples have been carried out.

When Martin Luther came upon the stage, the authority
of Aristotle was equal or paramount to that of the Bible.
Eugenius, Bishop of Ephesus, and after him Georgius
Scholasticus, maintained, says Brucker, that the opinions
of Aristotle "were consonant to the truest and best doc-
trines of the Christian religion, and were even more trueP^
And although we might not be justified in saying that this
extreme ground was maintained by all, it is true that the
spirit of the doctrine so recklessly expressed by Eugenius
was cherished by all those who gave tone and direction to
society, religious and philosophical. The Bible, the writ-
ings of the fathers, and the decrees of the Church, were
therefore all explained by Aristotle, and forced by the
alkahest of his dialectics to be dissolved and mingled into


the mass of philosophical speculation. Hence the appo-
siteness and wisdom of the remark made by Luther in his
letter to Jodocus, that it would be "impossible to reform
the church without entirely abolishing the canons and
decretals, and with them, the Scholastic theology, philoso-
phy, and logic.^^

So utterly opposed was he to the Aristotelian Logic and
Metaphysics that, not pausing here, "he inveighed," as
Mr. Hallam says, "against those sciences themselves;" a
course in which, in the beginning of his career, he was
seconded by the powerful aid of the erudite Melancthon.
In time, however, the latter was induced to change his
mind, and he who at one period denounced the philosophy
of his day in language which would seem to indicate that
it could not be made the source of valuable truth,* subse-
quently became a strenuous advocate of Aristotle, and
introduced into the University of Wittenberg a scheme of
dialectics and physics founded upon the peripatetic school.
But though his influence with Luther was sufficient to
induce him at length to retract some of the sweeping
invectives which he had hurled against philosophy, it never
caused him, during the contest waged with Rome, to resort
to an alliance with Aristotle for an explanation of the

* "Among the variety of opinions which prevail in the different
Scholastic factions," such is the language at this time used by
Melancthon, "you will scarcely find one that is consistent with
itself. Truth is everywhere confounded with error, and every doctor
is more concerned to gather crowds by his noisy disputations than
he is to establish sound philosophy.''


Bible, or a defense of those capital principles since known
as the fundamental and distinguishing principles of Pro-
testantism. And so far as the example of this prince of
reformers is worth anything, we may say, without qualifica-
tion, that he began by throwing ofif the shackles of all
human authority, religioinr and philosophical, and determ-
ined to exercise his own understanding and to follow his
own judgment, instructed and guided by the word of God
alone. He next set his face against the catise of corrup-
tion and ignorance, exposing and uprooting, as far as he
was able, those false methods of interpretation which
could never result in undoubted truth, and which gave
birth to a thousand contests carried on in a spirit of ran-
cor and selfishness utterly at war with the spirit of Chris-

What is true of Luther is true also of his cotemporary
coadjutors. Their movement, in its incipiency, was a grand
and determined effort to burst the bonds of ecclesiastical
authority, to separate the Bible from its unholy and un-
natural alliance with philosophy, to bring it to bear upon
the minds and hearts of men responsible for the reception
given to it, and to determine its meaning from its own
words, without respect to recognized and consecrated dog-
mata. Their success is known and read of all. The
reformation of religion they wrought out was only equaled
by the reformation of science which was superinduced upon
it. Their sturdy and manly blows battered down the walls
which shut out the light of scientific truth, at the same
time that they forced the corrupters of the faith to retire


from the contest, and leave the Bible in the hands of respon-
sible men in the exercise of common sense.

But although these benefactors of the world labored
nobly and with surprising success, they did not and could
not finish the work. Scholasticism was too strong to be so
readily destroyed. Modes of thought which men had been
accustomed to all their lives could not at once be laid
aside, even by those who felt that others might be better.
Besides, there were many friends of the old system left,
many who thought that philosophy might aid a true as it
had so long supported a false religion. Melancthon intro-
duced Aristotle into the leading university, prevailed on
Luther to modify his opposition, and presently the authority
of the Stagirite was again fully established in a sway which
he maintained without serious opposition till the writings of
Lord Bacon curtailed his influence, and finally, in physical
science, destroyed it altogether. It is true, then, as we
shall presently show more fully, that in a very early period
of the Reformation the reformers practically abandoned
their own ground — a retrogression which, unfortunately,
has not even yet been corrected.

To appreciate this, the most important phase in its his-
tory, it will be necessary for us to inquire into the specific
principles of Protestantism, as theoretically propounded,
and as practically carried out. And I have mistaken the
subject wholly if we do not find in this inquiry principles
of interpretation developed which will account for many if
not all the discrepancies which have of late so disastrously


affected the church. The fundamental and distinctive
principles of Protestantism are numerically as follows : —

1. The Bible is the only rule of religious faith and
practice^ to the exclusion of all canons^ decretals, tradi-
tions, and philosophies.

2. Private judgment or interpretation is the right and
duty of all.

These constitute the very core of Protestantism. Its
genius and spirit are expressed by them ; its essential and
distinctive features are portrayed by them ; and they form
the cord which binds all its votaries together. Here is the
common ground upon which all sects and parties stand;
the punctum saliens of every new movement ; the cardinal
and elementary principles which, without modification, have
been cordially embraced by every man who has claimed to
be a true Protestant, from Luther down. Equally true is
it that the opposites of these principles constitute the foun-
dation, and permeate the superstructure of the Papacy.
What better definition, indeed, could be given of that sys-
tem than to say that it imposes canons and decretals, bulls
and philosophies, as of equal authority with the Bible,
and that it denies the right of men to interpret the Bible
for themselves ? The above, then, not only are, but they
must be, the principles of Protestantism. There can be
no such thing conceived apart from them. Upon what
other basis could we possibly rest any protest against
any usurpation or corruption whatever ? We could refuse
nothing sanctioned by authority ; we could declaim against
nothing, if deprived of, or if renouncing, the right of pri-


vate judgment. Take away or nullify, then, these princi-
ples, and all the so-called Protestant sects would become,
€0 instantij but parts and parcels of the Romish Church ;
because it is in these, and in these alone, that the two sys-
tems are radically distinguished, while all other peculiarities
grow directly out of these roots.

There can be no doubt, therefore, that every man who
claims to be a Protestant will instantly recognize, as all
such have ever recognized, the above as the cardinal and
necessary principles of his system. Thus they are, have
been, and doubtless ever will be, theoretically embraced,
adopted, and retained by all, — while in practice they are
carried out by very few. This is evident with respect to
each one of them.

I. The Bible is not, and has not been, the only rule of
faith and practice among Protestants.

Certainly, they do not notice the decrees of the Councils
of Constantinople, of Lateran, or of Trent; they are free
from those masters, and this is a great deal ; but still the
authority of other high ecclesiastical councils, and of other
great names — of their own liking — is as binding upon
them practically, as such authority is or ever was upon
Papists. Some are bound by the acts done at Geneva,
some by those at Westminster, others again by those at
Augsburg. Some defer to the authority of Luther, some
to that of Calvin, and others to that of Arminius and
Wesley. Protestants listen to different men, and reverence
different names, and bow to different councils from those
recognized by the Papist, — and this is one distinction.



Another is, that Papists claim the right to impose such
authority, while Protestants deny the right, but still bow
to the authority. They have reserved to themselves the
nominal privilege of rejecting ecclesiastical decretals when
they choose, while those that impose them take care to have
them so commingled with something else that is desirable,
that they always choose to yield. The Protestant system
is in this respect more complicated, — less open and avowed,
and less freely exercised, — and being generally accompanied
by a courteous disclaimer of power, men are disposed to
believe that it does not exist, and that their system does not
constrain or bind them. They have yielded to the influ-
ences to which they are subjected, until they are no longer
I felt. But let them resist — let them commence to exercise
' the freedom which they imagine themselves to possess, if
they would learn the existence and the power of the au-
thority which binds them.

The great struggle for human freedom in matters of reli-
gion has resulted, we contend, merely in a change of mas-
ters. This change, doubtless, was a great gain. Protestant
rules and rulers are better and wiser than those we ex-
changed for them. But why should we be ruled at all
except by the plain authority of the word of God ? Why
call, or receive any man for, our master, besides Him who is
in heaven ? This is our theory — ^the theory of Luther, and
Calvin, and Zwingle, and of all Protestants ; while if our
church, or synod, or council ordain anything, however ob-
noxious to objections, or however grating to our sense of
right and propriety, we yield implicit obedience to the


mandate ; not that we will submit to human authority-r-
that is Romish — we do so for the peace of the church and
the advancement of the cause I

But what is a man to do ? In nine cases out of ten he
must submit or be deprived of church privileges. The fact
is, that in almost every Protestant sect there are other rules
besides the Bible which are binding upon the life and
conscience; rules the violation of -which excludes from
communion, and the rejection of which debars from mem-
bership! When we hear men speak of the "Constitution
and Laws of our Church," we never think of the Bible,
which is theoretically the only constitution and law ; and
when we hear them ask an applicant for membership if he
will " consent to be governed by the rules of this church,"
we know the " only rule " is not what is meant.

But it is contended that there is no such thing as com-
pulsion in all this ; no authority is exercised ; and if any
one do not believe these things, and be not willing to be
governed by them, he is left perfectly free, — let him go
somewhere else. But this, in the first place, leaves out of
sight the numerous pains and penalties — not physical, not
papistic, but mental — which are resorted to, to make men
" willing " to submit ; and, in the second place, it is delu-
sive by speaking of a freedom which exists only in name,
andiuot in fact. Suppose we ask where this "freeman" is
to go? It is vastly easy to say, "let him go somewhere
else," and thus throw off the responsibility of his case ; but
if all Protestant sects have human creeds or rules of one
sort or another, and he have conscientious scruples about


accepting any such, this "somewhere else" must be by him-
self. And then, Is not every man of learning and piety in
Protestantdom engaged in warning him of his danger, and
in assuring him of damnation for not belonging to "the
church," for making no profession of religion, for renounc-
ing its privileges and failing to perform its duties? Or
if a number of such unite and form a church without a
human creed or a human rule, and religiously devote them-
selves to the study and practice of the Bible, will not the
dignified clergy pronounce them heterodox, and for the
sole deficiency of a human creed declare them unsound,
untrustworthy, and dangerous ?* But further, unless the
members of the various sects are hypocrites — which we
cannot at all believe — they must regard their own peculiar
doctrines and rules as being rights and consequently that
those opposed to them are wrong. If wrong, then they
ought not to prevail. Let us suppose that they did not ;
that this one only system, with its creeds, its articles, its
rules, its constitution, and its discipline, were recognized as
Protestantism or the Protestant Church. And let every
reader suppose, if he please, that this is not his, but his
neighbor's church. Now what follows? Evidently that
every man's freedom from human authority — ^these consti-
tutions and rules being confessedly human — must be exer-
cised in every case at the expense of all church privileges.
He must either be a hypocrite, and profess to believe what
he does not, or he must giye up his own judgment and take

* See the Report of the Transylvania Presbytery of Kentucky,


Ihat of others upon trust, or he must be a freeman at the
hazard of his soul — they being the judge.

But it may be urged in support of these rules, or articles
of faith, that they are in accordance with the Bible, and
therefore it is divine and not human authority which en-
forces them. But the very fact that this plea is put in by
so many different parties, casts the strongest suspicion upon
it. It is but a revival by each individual sect of the old
papal claim to infallibility. According to our interpreta-
tion, or our " standards," the Bible must teach so and so ;
and as our interpretation cannot be wrong, no man is enti-
tled to membership who rejects it. But to debar one from
membership, or to exclude one from communion upon
grounds of difference respecting these points, is to inflict
pains and penalties for the purpose of enforcing acquies-
cence ; in other words, an infliction of punishment on ac-
count of "heresy." I have said that the Papists, like the
Protestants, claim that their canons and decretals are in
accordance with the Bible ; because, even in those cases
where there is no shadow of express verbal warrant, they
are still made by the church, and this, it is claimed, has
authority delegated by the Scriptures to make and enforce
fhem. Thus, by a process of logic, all of them are shown
to be scriptural. Now with respect to Protestant articles
of faith and rules of government, they must either be in
the express language of the Bible — and then there will be
no need of transcribing them — or else they must be sup-
ported by a process of reasoning — which yields the dis-
tinction between Protestants and Papists.



And the case is not relieved by prefixing (as is commonly
done) to these articles one which must be incompatible with
them; for, although it is customary to begin with the
cherished theory that the *' Bible is the only rule of faith
and practice," every one knows that it is anything but cus-
tomary to stop there.

But we shall be told that any other than the course we
are opposing will deprive those who prefer that course of
the liberty of exercising such preference. Have we not the
right and the liberty, say some, of making or adopting any
creeds or canons we choose ? Unquestionably. But that
is a very different thing from claiming that these, when
made or adopted, must be regarded as a fundamental or
integral part of Christianity, and that they must be ac-
tually or virtually enforced upon others, upon peril of the
loss of the divine blessings. It is the regarding of them
as a part of the Christian religion, and, by all the powers
that may be lawfully employed, compelling their adoption,
that we oppose. Human creeds or canons, while their very
existence is a standing departure from Protestant ground,
become intolerable only when they would invade the liberty
of men. Civilly speaking, every one has the privilege of
making, changing, enlarging, or curtailing his religion, or
of having no religion at all, — but in Christianity there is
but "one Lawgiver." So long, therefore, as any one is
willing that his enlarged system of articles and rules shall
not be held or regarded as Christianity, either in whole
or in part ; so long as he recognizes the Bible as the only
source of thai^ and gives to his deductions no force, and


no place as forming a part of that system, — so long he
may claim respect, and to this extent he may exercise the
most unlimited Christian freedom.

But, to disregard all other aspects of the case, we are
here only concerned with it as it affects interpretation.
Let it be observed, then, that in so far as the rules and
articles of faith which we now have under review claim
to have scriptural warrant, they rest not upon the express
words of the Bible, taken in their connection, but upon
inferences and deductions from them. From premises often
hastily adopted, and from texts often disjointed and mis-
placed, certain logical conclusions are drawn, and these
conclusions are made fundamental, and ate built upon as
scriptural truth. They become the constitutional and
elementary principles of the system, and, as the system is
supposed to be pure Christianity, they are regarded as the
cardinal principles of that system, and consequently the
standards of all subsequent interpretation. All, now, who
embrace these conclusions, read the Bible with both the
expectation and the desire of finding them there; and
experience but little difficulty in doing so. Every man
must either interpret the Scriptures so as to make them
support the doctrines of his church, or, unless he is a hypo-
crite, he must give up those doctrines and be without a
church, or he must accept them, as he commonly does, upon
the authority of the churchy in opposition to the Bible — he
himself being the judge.

If he take the former course, he perverts the Bible ; for
evidently no more than one of the many different and con-


flicting doctrines of the various churches caa be sustained
by the Bible without perverting it. If he take the next
course, he cuts himself off from the privileges and enjoy-
ments of the church. And if he take the last, he abandons
a cardinal principle of Protestantism. Hence the failure
by Protestants to carry out their fundamental principle
of "the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the
Bible,"* must result, as it has hitherto resulted: 1. In per-
verting the great source and fountain of all truth, by the
infusion of all manner of crude and pernicious deductions,
which are virtually held as a part of the Bible itself. 2. In
weakening their influence and limiting the good they might
do, by deterring such multitudes of thinking and conscien-
tious men from accepting the divine and good, as it can
only be enjoyed by taking also so much that is human
and bad. 3. In making the interpretation of the Bible,
for all practical and plain men, utterly uncertain and dubi-
ous, — thus to a great extent paralyzing its authority over
the conscientious, and exposing it to the contempt and ridi-
cule of the skeptical.

II. It will require but few words to be said on the other
great principle of Protestantism, — the right of private judg-
ment This springs from the previous one. The two are
always present or absent at the same time. Hence the

* ** Here Luther, with a steady hand, establishes the fundamental
principles of the Reformation : The word of Qod, the whole word
of God, and nothing but the word of God." — D'Aubigne's JlisL
Be/., vol. 1. book iii.


"Bible lalone," being a mexe theory, the right of private
interpretation is also discoaraged in practice; for it is
evident that if all Protestant churches have rules and arti-
cles of faith which rest upon inferential and deductive con-
clusions, made by those who fill or have filled high stations
in the church, and if the acceptance of these is necessary
(as it often is) to membership, then the right of private judg-
ment, so far as all those matters which are professedly fun-
damental are concerned, resolves itself into the dubious
privilege of thinking for yourself, provided you take care
to think as your leaders do. Certainly in these cases it
hath this extent, no more.

It is presumed, indeed, that no one will question that the
confessions of faith control the judgment. This is their
nature, their design, their object For if they do not,
they are utterly worthless and useless, and not one argu-
ment can be introduced in their favor. They are but clumsy
impediments to the mind, efiecting neither good nor evil : .
passive, inert, powerless, they must speedily perish from
their own impotency. But if they do control the judgment,
then we have seen that they are pernicious, and destructive
of the fundamental and necessary principles of Protest-

But am I occupying broad catholic ground in thus con-
tending that Protestants have departed from their prin-
ciples, or have I taken the position merely to serve a
purpose ? If motives so unworthy are attributed to me, let
us see how the subject appears to others, who could have
had no ulterior object in view.


Mr. Hallam, in his Introduction to the Literature of
Europe, voL i. chap. vi. sec. 33, says: "It is often said that
the essential principle of Protestantism, that for which the
struggle was made, was a perpetual freedom from all au-
thority in religious belief, or what goes by the name of the
right of private judgment. But to look more nearly at
what occurred, this permanent independence was not much
asserted, and still less acted upon. The Reformation was
a CHANGE OF MASTERS, — a Voluntary one, no doubt, in those
who had any choice ; and in this sense, an exercise, for the
time, of their personal judgment. But no one, having gone
over to the confession of Augsburg or that of Zurich, was
deemed at liberty to modify those creeds at his pleasure.
He might, of course, become an Anabaptist or an Arian ;
but he was not the less a heretic in doing so than if he had
continued in the Church of Rome.

" The adherents of the Church of Rome have never failed
to cast two reproaches on those who left them : one, that
the reform was brought about by intemperate and calum-
nious abuse, by outrages of an excited populace, or by the
tyranny of princes; the other, that, after stimulating the
most ignorant to reject the authority of their church, it
instantly withdrew this liberty of judgmentf and devoted
all who presumed to swerve from the line drawn by law to
virulent obloquy, or sometimes to bonds and death. These
reproaches, it may be a shame for us to own, *can be
uttered and cannot be refuted.^

"Protestantism — whatever, from the generality of the
word, it may since be considered — was a positive creed;


more distinctly so in the Lutheran than in the Helvetic
cbarches, bat in each, after no great length of time, assam-
ing a determinate and dogmatic character. The preten-
sions of Catholic infallibility were replaced by a not less
uncompromising and intolerant dogmatianif availing itself,
like the other, of the secular power, and arrogating to
itself, like the other, the assistance of the Spirit of God.
The mischiefs that flowed from this early abandonment of
the right of free inquiry are as evident as its inconsistency
with the principles upon which the reformers had acted
for themselves."*

The above is clear, and directly to the point. And thus
it appears that Luther and the other leaders of the reform
movement contended with the Catholics for the great prin-
ciple or right of private judgment, when they needed it to
justify themselves in coming out of the Catholic Church ;
bat no sooner had they become strong enouglT to feel
perfectly independent of Rome, than they took away the
right from others and reserved it as a special preroga-
tive for themselves, perhaps claiming it now by right of

Another authority says : " Protestantism owns two funda-
mental principles — ^that the Bible contains the sole rule of
faith, and that it is the right of every one, without respect
of person, to judge of that rule with all the aids which
divine grace, reason, and conscience can inspire. At the
same time it may be noticed that, generally, in practice,

* The italics are ours.


each church possesses certaia standards of belief to which
it is expected its members will adhere."*

Here is the contrast: theoretically y "the Bible is the sole
rule of faith,"— pracfo'caWj^, "each church has certain stand-
ards" besides the Bible; theoretically ^ it is "the right of
every one to judge of that rule," — practically, every one
"is expected to adhere" to some one of these "standards."

We will next hear from Madame de Stael: "The right
of examining what we ought to believe is the foundation
of Protestantism. The first reformers did not think thus;
they thought themselves able Jp place the pillars of Her-
cules of the mind according to their own lights ; but they
were mistaken in hoping to make those who had rejected
all authority of this kind in the Catholic religion submit to
their decisions as infallible, "f Hence the multiplicity of

Perhaps the reader would like to contemplate the subject
from a Papist's point of view. We therefore give an ex-
tract from Balmes : — •

"If there be anything constant in. Protestantism," says
this learned Catholic, "it is undoubtedly the substitution
of private judgment for public and lawful [i.e. Catholic]
authority. This is always found in union with it, and is,
properly speaking, its fundamental principle ; it is the only
point of contact among the various Protestant sects, — the
basis of their mutual resemblance. It is very remarkable

* Chambers's Popular Encyclopedia, vol. ii. p. 222.
f Germany, par. iy. chap. ii.


that this exists for the most part uQintentionallj, and some-
times against their express wishes. However lamentable
and disastrous this principle may be, if the coryphaei of
Protestantism had made it their rallying point, and had
constantly acted up to it in theory and practice, they would
have been consistent in error. Bat if yon examine the
words and acts of the first reformers, you will find that they
made use of this principle as a means of resisting the
authority which controlled them, but they never dreamed
of establishing it permanently; that if they labored to
upset lawful authority, it was for the purpose of usurping
the command themselves."

Again: "The only way that Protestantism has of pre-
serving itself, is to violate as much as possible its own
fundamental principle, by withdrawing the right of private
judgment, inducing the people to remain faithful to the
opinions in which they have been educated, and carefully
concealing from them the inconsistency into which they
fall when they submit to the authority of a private indi-
vidual, after having rejected the authority of the Catholic
Church. '»*

One more quotation must suffice upon this point. The
Edinburgh Review for October, 1855, says: —

"It is, we believe, universally agreed among Protestants
of all denominations, that the Bible is their one, great,
paramount authority ; and that they repudiate all tradi-
tionary lore or human teaching; and that every man,

* Protestantism compared with Catholicity, oliap. L


depending on his own judgment, and availing himself of
his right to nse it, looks to the sacred Scriptures, and to
the sacred Scriptures alone, for the spiritual light which
should both inform his faith and direct his conduct. Such
is the theory, but it is little more than a theory. If Chris-
tians acted upon it honestly and more freely than they do,
they would, in all probability, find their differences dimiri'
ish and their charity increase. But the fact is, that the
right of private judgment, in religion, is a principle more
vaunted than exercised. And the experience of society
would lead us to infer, that whUe we and the rest of our
fellow-Protestants profess to follow tlie instructions of the
Bible, we are far more generally led by the opinions of our
respective ministers ; and that our doctrinal views are never
so much really derived f:om the letter of the sacred text
as from the notes of some favorite expositor in the margin.
But whatever influences may interfere to warp its opera-
tion, all Protestants, whether Churchmen or Dissenters,
are agreed in the principle, that our only authoritative
religious teacher is the Bible."

From all that has gone before, we may conclude with
McCrie that it is generally, nay universally, agreed, that
"if there is one principle more essential than another to the
Reformation, it is that of entire independence of all mas-
ters in the faith. Nullius addictus jurare in verba ma-
gistri,^^* And although it has been departed from in
practice, let us hope that the mischiefs which have thence

* Note in the Provincial Letters.


resulted may yet be removed by a speedy returil to princi-
ples so evidently right, and so imperiously necessary;
especially let us remember that, while the power of the
Romish hierarchy has been so long and so fearfully wielded
in opposition to the right of private judgment, her prin-
ciple, like so many of her doctrines, is derived from



It should not be supposed, from the facts that have been
adduced, that Protestants have doubts as to the soundness
of their principles, or that they have ceased to love and
cherish those principles ; for there can be little question that
if the leaders of any party should distinctly announce, ex
cathedra, that the theory of Protestantism is false, and that
the Bible alone is not sufficient to inform the faith and
direct the conduct, such a proposition would be promptly
and indignantly rejected with hardly a dissenting voice;
and this by men who have all their lives been acting under
"Constitutions," "Disciplines," and "Articles," made in
violation of this theory.

The influences which have led them into this inconsist-

* Vide Cic. de Leg., chap. ii. sec. 8; Livy, book iv. c. xxx., and
book xxzix. chap. xvi.


ency are partly as follows: 1. A persuasion that their
articles aud rules are but the embodiment of a learned,
critical, and correct interpretation of the Scriptures ; that
they are, therefore, the very "juice and marrow of Scrip-
ture," and consequently to accept them is not to depart
from their theory. 2. They distrust their own judgment,
especially when to follow it would bring them into antago-
nism with men so learned as those who have formed their
articles ; and hesitate to rely upon it in matters so moment-
ous. Every point in their Confession of Faith is supported
by an array of marginal references to the Scriptures ; and
though in many cases. they are unable to see the applica-
bility of these references to the points said to be proved by
them, that is doubtless owing to their ignorance, and they
could not have the presumption to place their judgment
against that of men so venerable for their learning and
piety. And this timidity, if it ever manifest symptoms of
abatement, is immediately strengthened by their leaders
repeating the spirit of the words used by Eckius against
Luther: "I am astonished," said he, "at the humility and
diffidence with which the reverend Doctor undertakes to
stand alone against so many illustrious fathers, thus affirm-
ing that he knows more of these things than the sovereign

pontiff, the councils, divines, and universities I It

would no doubt be very wonderful if God had hidden the
truth from so many>eaints and martyrs till the advent of
the reverend Father."* 3. If in spite of these considera-

* D'Aubigne's Hist. Ref., vol. ii. book v.


tions they are brought into doubt, the doubt is speedily
removed by the. reflection that their fathers and grand-
fathers, to say nothing of a host of ministers and worthies
long since gone to heaven, were saved in this church under
these rules ; and hence, if they be not scriptural, they can-
not at least be essentially opposed to Scripture ; salvation
is the great matter, and as that is attainable with this Con-
fession of Faith, it is the part of a meek and humble Chris-
tian to remain quiet for the good of the world and the
peace of Zion ; and besides the felicity of

"traveling home to God

In the way their fathers trod," —

they cannot forget a text so often heard, that ''he that
doubteth is damned," — which means, of course, as they sup-
pose, to doubt the Confession of Faith 1
• The gradations, in the declension from the original con-
sistency and purity of Protestantism, may therefore easily
be traced, without attributing to Protestants any settled
conviction of the unsoundness of their distinguishing prin-
ciples. Upon the promulgation of the Confession of Augs-
burg, in 1530, "the pretensions of Catholic infallibility,"
to recur to the extract from Mr. Hallam, "were replaced
by a not less uncompromising dogmatism.^^ This being
the work of those who had fought for the right of private
judgment, it was ever after looked upon as a precedent of
the legitimate exercise of that right. Hence, while the
Protestant theory has justified many independent men in
thinking for themselves, Protestant example has warranted



them in making their thoughts the standard of orthodoxy.
The theory has had influence enough to multiply thought,
while the example has multiplied, in the same ratio, '^ un-
compromising dogmatism.'' Ilence the number and variety
of parties, each with its dogmatic creed.*

We need scarcely ask what the science of interpretation
would become under such circumstances. Every man stands
upon the little hillock which some polemic or mystic laborer
has thrown up, and surveys the landscape of revelation from
this point of observation. While every one sees, and talks
of, and maps out the same things, every one makes a dif-
ferent map, because the relative position of objects varies
with the stand-point from which they are viewed. They
are all compelled, by the force of circumstances, to study
the Bible through the medium of a vitiated dialectics ; and
thus studying it, they impose upon their judgments and
bring themselves to see in it dogmas which a strictly induc-
tive exegesis would never have disclosed, and can never be
brought to sanction. Thus the dogmatic method of the
Schoolmen is still pursued by those occupying influential
positions in the church, and by the influence of circum-
stances almost unavoidably pursued, notwithstanding its
necessary tendency to warp the judgment and vitiate its

* The tendency of dogmatism is to endanger the interests of reli-
gious truth, by placing that which is divine and unquestionable in
too close an alliance with that which is human and doubtful.-^
ManseVa Bampton Lectures^ lect. i.


To make this matter perfectly evident — and its import-
ance will justify us in dwelling upon it a moment longer —
let us take a young man, and follow his history from the
communion table to the pulpit, and from the pulpit to the
chair of the commentator, and see if we cannot observe
those influences which almost compel him to adopt the
course we have mentioned. He is ecclesiastically connected
with some one of the great Protestant denominations, — say,
for example, one of the Calvinistic family, or, if you please,
an Arminian. His early education has all been in the hands
of that denomination, and he has grown up with a strong
and decided bias in its favor. Its doctrines have been care-
fully instilled into him ; its polity and practice have been
commended to him by learning, genius, eloquence, and the
power, perchance, of a pious example. It is by no means
strange that he comes to regard the church of his parents
and minister, which has upon its record a host of names
distinguished in history, and whose praises g^re upon every
tongue, as the church par excellence. He is even surprised
that there should or could be any other. In process of
time he is promoted, first to the communion table, and
finally to the theological seminary. Here he is trained and
instructed in a course of theology based upon the peculiar
system in which he was reared. He is familiarized with
its doctrines; taught the methods of stating, proving,
and defending them ; learns by heart the numerous proof-
texts relied upon, and fortifies himself with authorities for
sustaining the turn he is to give them, and which his church
has given them before him. His mind is thus completely


filled with that system of doctrines. It embraces all he
knows, all he believes. His thoughts all hang upon the
pegs it furnishes, and his reading all flows into the channel
it opens.

He is conscious that at home his relations and acquaint-
ance are cherishing high expectations of him, and looking
to him as the future champion of their tenets and defender
of their faith.

At length he leaves the seminary and enters the pulpit;
enters it with a burning desire to accomplish something
toward the advancement of those doctrines which ten thou-
sand considerations conspire to make him love ; enters it
with an unshaken faith in their correctness, and with not a
fact or sentiment in his mind which does not seem to be
completely in harmony with them. Of course he reads the
Bible, — doubtless he loves it. But it would be almost a
miracle if, when he opens its sacred pages, he did not desire
to find his doctrines there. In the first place, he is assured
of their truth, because his whole stock of knowledge has
been turned by his education into the channel of their con-
firmation ; and in the second place, his natural affections,
his gratitude for past favors, his dependence for future sup-
port, and his desire to be useful, all combine to deter him
from changing, — leaving out of the account that partisan
spirit which few men in such circumstances could be free
from. Hence the system of doctrines in which he has
been schooled, whether he is conscious of it or not, becomes
the standard by which he interprets the Bible. And though
the standard may be different, the principle does not at


all differ from that of the Catholic Schoolmen of the thir-
teenth century.

Let him pass to the dignity of a commentator, and the
case is not altered. He writes with the honest conviction
that all the Bible mast be so constraed as to harmonize
with what he is sure must be true — his early-embraced doc-
trines. And skilled as he is by this time, in the use of
dialectics and rhetoric, he finds but little difficulty in show-
ing that passages of Scripture seemingly the most opposite
to his views, can be construed in such way as perfectly to
accord with them. If they can, then he feels that they
should, because his views must be correct. Hence it be-
comes evident that, however pious and gifted he may be,
all his learning, genius, and tact are exerted with a hearty
good will and an honest purpose to force the Bible into
a preconceived and preadopted interpretation. Is he a
Calvinist ? The whole Bible teaches Calvinism. An Ar-
minian ? Nothing but Arminianism can be found in Scrip-
ture. A Universalist ? Universalism is taught upon every
page. A Unitarian ? The Scriptures are full of Unita-
rianism I

Thus error has completed its great circuit, and we have
got back to the point from which Origen started. With
him, Neo-Platonism was true, and every interpretation
felse that did not agree with it ; with the Scholastics, their
peculiar system of Aristotelianism was the touchstone of
sound interpretation ; while with us — ever progressing with
the march of time — there is any number of systems, each
of which brings the pible within its narrow compass. The


fundamental error in all these cases is the same, however
variously it may be developed, — the erection of a standard
outside of the Bible, be that standard what it may, by which
to test its meaning.

The lights now before us will enable every one to answer
for himself the question so often asked. Why do pious and
learned men differ in the interpretation of a book confess-
edly simple in style and practical in matter? And we
think it must also be evident that, so long as the above
state of things continues, no mere rules of interpretation
will avail for the correction of an evil which springs not
from the want of rules, but from a false method at the
bottom of them.



Few subjects perhaps have given birth to more grave
and earnest discussion than that which is now to claim our
attention. And so much extravagance has been indulged
in by the respective advocates of the two extreme positions
— the friends and the enemies of human creeds — ^that it is
with reluctance I venture to record my judgment on the
premises. But bearing so palpably as the question does
upon the grand design of the present treatise, its consid-


eration could not be wholly disregarded without exhibiting
a manifest deficiency, while the work perhaps would fail
thereby to accomplish its principal object. I shall, there-
fore, disregard the considerations which have tempted me
to confine my remarks to the most general aspects of the
subject, and endeavor to bring out somewhat prominently
its specific characteristics, in so far as they are connected
with exegetical science.

We have seen that the Augsburg Confession of Faith
was a practical repudiation of the principles of Protest-
antism ; that it introduced the most uncompromising and
intolerant dogmatism; that it established a precedent
which, with here and there an exception, has been followed
by the founders of all Protestant sects ; and that it super-
induced the dogmatic method of interpretation — the ne-
cessary result of dogmatic creeds.

It must now be determined, to the satisfaction of those
interested, whether the principle that private judgment is
the right of all, that upon which Luther and his compeers
acted, was right or wrong ; for if it was right then, it is
right now ; and if wrong now, it was always wrong. It
must be either right or wrong ; — ^let us try the creeds upon
each of the suppositions : —

1. First, then, we take the ground that the principle is
absolutely right; then it follows that all Protestants who
have departed from it by making a "positive creed" which
determines beforehand what the interpretation of a large
part of revelation shall be, and which inflicts penalties and
disabilities for departing from that interpretation, are


standing out in opposition to the right ; for if the principle
be right, to make a creed which violates it must be wrong.
I am aware that when this point is pressed, the advocates
of creeds reply that they are not authoritative, not posi-
tive and dogmatic, and do not control the judgment
But this is as much as to say that they are mere useless
lumber. What good is there in a creed which is not en-
forced ? What benefit in rules which do not bind ? Why
retain a confession which is but a dead letter ? Such ques-
tions always bring out in one form or another the confes-
sion that creeds are "necessary as standards of orthxh
doxy;^^ that they are "indispensable to keep out heresy;^
that they are " essential to maintain uniformity P^ But
if they do all this, then they have life, influence, power,
authority ; then they control the judgment ; then they vio-
late the principle of Protestantism ; then they are wrong,
if that principle is right I

2. They are forced, therefore, in consistency, to flee to
the other hypothesis, and to take hold of the other horn,
that the principle itself is wrong. Let us admit, then, for
the sake of the argument, that it is wrong ; that it is not
adapted to the use of men in their present condition ; that
men have not the right to exercise private judgment, and
to interpret Scripture for themselves. Then it follows that
the whole Protestant movement was wrong from its incep^
Hon ; because neither Luther, nor Calvin, nor Melancthon,
nor Zwingle, had the right to interpret Scripture contrary
to the canons and decretals of the church. They based
their right of forming an independent judgment upon the


correctness of the general principle^ and if that principle
was wrong, then their action was wrong. But if the prin-
ciple was right, then all the subsequent development of
Protestantism was wrong in not carrying it out. Whether,
therefore, the principle is right or wrong, Protestant creeds
are left wholly without defense.

But the other distinguishing principle of Protestantism
— ^the Bible alone — ^has been shown in a previous chapter
to be also inconsistent with the various rules of faith and
practice which are enforced along with it; hence, looking
at the subject only in the light of these two principles, our
course is plain : we must, to be consistent, either give up
our creeds or our principles. If we give up the creeds, we
shall retain all the wisdom and truth, all the precepts and
promises, all the hopes and enjoyments, and all the instruc-
tion and consolation, which God has furnished us in his
word. We lose nothing but our inconsistency, while we
place ourselves in the attitude most favorable to the recep-
tion of the communications of the Bible, in their true and
consistent sense. Whereas, if we give up our principles,
we prove our creeds to be wrong in the very making of
them, while we perpetuate in society the false interpreta-
tions to which they have given birth. A revolution of
some kind must sooner or later take place ; for whether the
fundamental principles of Protestantism be true or false,
they imperatively demand a radical change in the constitu-
tion of Protestant society. If true, they must be carried
oat — if false, we must go back to Romanism.




Let as now look into the constitution of the creeds, and
observe the materials of which they are made. In the first
place, they give false views of the Christian faith, by exalt-
ing metaphysical speculations to an equality with the divine
facts revealed and assured to our belief. Not content with
the simple faith of the first Christians, they embody specu-
lative views concerning the divine nature, the human mind,
the origin of evil, the necessity and freedom of the will, the
eternal decrees of God, etc. etc., as parts of the faith of the
gospel ; and then the acceptance of creeds thus formed is
made a prerequisite to membership. ^ Thus undue import-
ance is given to matters which, if treated of at all in reve-
lation, are always distinctly subordinate. Things are
assigned to the first place in the creeds, which in the Bible
have the second. Take, for example, the subject of Elec-
tion. In those creeds which embrace it in any of its phases,
it forms a prominent and essential part of the faiih; and,
as a matter of course, it must be looked into, weighed, and
studied over by every one who desires and proposes to join
the church, — and his mind must be satisfied upon it before
he can, as an honest man, come forward and publicly pro-
fess to believe it as it is recorded in the confession before
him. Whereas, Peter and Paul, on the contrary, said
nothing whatever on that subject in preaching to the world.
With them, it formed not a part of the faith^ but of the
subsequent instruction. They also were primarily con-


cerned in inducing men to accept the grace of God, rather
than in perplexing their minds with the question, whether
it were possible to fall from or lose that grace. This be-
longed to a subsequent period. And so of every specula-
tion upon every ** doctrinal" subject in the various creeds
of Christendom, whether true or false, in themselves con-
sidered, they are false in the position they are made to
occupy. They were never presented to the world by the
Apostles as primary objects of faith.

Indeed, no doctrine of the Bible is, independently, or in
itself, an object of faith. It is embraced in the great fact
that Jesus is the Christ, We are required to believe in
him, and this involves the acceptance of all he teaches;
while the doctrine is not commended to us by testimony
concerning itself, but by testimony concerning Him who
teaches it. In this appears the propriety of the order
observed by the Apostles. They first presented Jesus and
him alone, in all the glory of his Sonship and Messiah-
ship — his person and offices, accompanied by testimonies
calculated to make men "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ."
Having produced this faith in him as Prophet, Priest, and
King, they did not have to convey his doctrine "in the
words which man's wisdom teacheth," but simply to pro-
pound and enforce it by his authority, in the words of his
Spirit, as something which they were pledged by their faith
to receive. AH sound Christian doctrine, then, stands or
falls with this faith. Take it away, and all the speculations
of the creeds, allowing them every one to be true, will
vanish ^'like the baseless fabric of a vision." Not being


themselves fundamental, not being independent objects of
belief, so soon as the faith from which they have sprang,
and by which they are supported, is destroyed, they must
fall with it. Hence, as all true doctrine upon all spiritual
subjects flows directly and necessarily from the intelligent
and implicit belief in Jesus, embracing the profound and
ample significance contained in the proposition that he was
and is the Christy the Son of God, this is the only primary
and fundamental object of the Christian faith, — ^the true
center from which radiates all the light and truth of the
Bible. Hence, too, all those systems which equalize this
faith with metaphysical speculations, and doctrines not fun-
damental, whether those doctrines be true or false in them-
selves considered, destroy the symmetrical proportions of
the Bible, and place men in false positions from which to
study Christ's institutions.

Every creed, therefore, which contains more than is ne-
cessary to constitute a man a Christian, is unapostolic,
pernicious, and schismatic ; generating strife and division,
and debarring worthy persons from the privileges of the
church ; while every one which contains less, is worthless
by falling short of saving faith, and delusive by keeping
this deficiency oat of sight. Now the only faith in Chris-
tendom which contains neither more nor less than what is
essential to the constitution of a Christian, is that preached
by the Apostles in the original propagation of the gospel.

To make this evident, we have only to place the respect-
ive advocates of the various creeds on the stand, and hear
them testify to the non-essentiality of their most cherished


points. We take a Calvinist, for example, and ask him,
Can a man be a Christian who does not believe your doc-
trine of eternal, unconditional, and personal election ? And
notwithstanding he may be a most strenuous advocate of
the dogma, he will solemnly respond in the affirmative.
Then, we answer, that doctrine is not essential to the con-
stitution of a Christian, and has been unduly and unwar-
rantably exalted in being placed among the necessary and
fundamental articles of the Christian faith. We next take
an Arminian and put the same question. Can a man be a
Christian who rejects your peculiar views as distinguished
from Calvinism ? And dear as those views are to him, and
zealously as he has advocated them, he is constrained by
the force of truth and conscience to answer in the affirma-
tive. Then we make the same charge against him — that
he has corrupted the simple faith of the gospel, by intro^
ducing as articles of faith matters which belong to a different
category. And so if we should go through the several
articles in the various creeds and confessions of Protestant
sects, we should find them filled — not only in the judgment
of their opponents, but also in that of their advocates —
with matter which, being extraneous and non-essential,
must necessarily be schismatic and pernicious.

But suppose we apply this test to "the faith which was
once delivered to the saints," — that which is common to
all, that which gives to all alike the title to be recognized
as Christians even by their opponents, — and how different
the response I Can a man be a Christian who does not
believe that the Christ has come in the flesh, that Jesus of



Nazareth was and is that Christ, that he is the Son of
God? In short, can he be a Christian who does not be-
lieve the gospel ? The answer is an emphatic No! without
the least hesitation, from every shade and type of Protest-
antism. The reason is, that this faith is recognized and
felt to be that which is essential to the constitution of a
Christian. Nothing short of this is suflScient; nothing
more is necessary. But to believe this is to oblige one to
obey all the commandments, to heed all the instructions,
and to cherish all the promises of the Saviour, either oracu-
larly delivered in person or by those to whom he delegated
the authority. In fact, the whole Bible is but a radiation
from this glorious personage; and all its facts, precepts,
promises, hopes, fears, and enjoyments, are intimately and
indissolubly connected with him. To believe in him, then,
is to believe in and accept the whole Bible ; and to have no
other faith is to reject all but the Bible, which brings us,
literally and practically to the great cardinal principle
of Protestantismr^TB:^ bible, the whole bible, and


And standing at this angle, all the doctrine of revela-
tion, whether on the subject of election, predestination, sin,
holiness, sacrifice, atonement, grace, faith, works, justifica-
tion, redemption, glory, honor, immortality — in short, every
divine communication, will be viewed not as revolving around
the centers of Calvinism, or Arminianism ; of Lutheran-
ism, Universalism, Trinitarianism, or Unitarianism ; but
around Christ, the great central sun of the spiritual solar
system. All the motives and temptations for distorting the


Scriptares will be taken away, and the distortion itself must
cease. Men having no system of their own to support, and
being connected alone with the system of Christ, will be
willing to let the Bible mean what it says ; and ceasing to
dogmatize as proficients, they will begin meekly to study as


Another serious objection to human creeds, and one
which the above position alone will enable us to remove, is
that they are mainly the offspring of extreme views. They
are not generally the sober conclusions of a calm, cool, and
dispassionate judgment, but the result of fiery contests and
furious debates. The enemies of a supposed truth drove
its friends to express it in stronger terms than the Bible
will justify ; to prevent it from being undervalued, they
gave it too much prominence. The consequence has been,
a destruction of the beautiful symmetry and just propor-
tions possessed by the Christian system as it emanated from
the hands of its Author. Thus all parties have usually
taken extreme ground, — one going too far to the right, and
another to the left; while truth was passed over by all, and
left, unappropriated, in the middle. An apt illustration of
this, and one which has the advantage of being familiar, is
found in the ground taken by the respective advocates of
justification by faith, and justification by works. There
can be no doubt that faith is a cardinal item in Christianity,
one absolutely essential to a man's acceptability in the sight


of God; equally clear is it that good works are authorita-
tivelj enjoined, and form an essential element in the Chris-
tian character. It would seem to be but the dictate of
common sense, then, to blend the two together, insisting
upon both, in the order in which the Scriptures present
them, as equally divine. Instead of which the great labor
of theologians seems to have been to separate them, and
force the Scriptures to teach that hero and hereafter a man
is justified either by faith alone, or by works alone. Neither
position is true; works without faith ire utterly valueless,
and faith without works is dead and powerless. The Scrip-
tures quoted by each party are true, full of meaning, and
immensely important ; but they become false in their appli-
cation of them to these extreme views.

I am persuaded, from a somewhat careful and impartial
study of polemic theology, compared with the teachings of
the holy Scriptures, that in a large majority of instances all
parties are wrong. In seeking to separate their views
entirely from those of their opponents, to give them a con*
spicuous distinctness, and to form them into an independent
system, they have broken up the connections and destroyed
the relations in which the subjects are found in Holy Writ,
and have given them a false coloring, a factitious value, and
an unscriptural importance. Let any one dispassionately
read the Bible with reference, for instance, to the contro-
versy between the Calvinists and Arminians, and I am per^
suaded, if he accept without reserve the teaching of that
book, that he will rea<;h a conclusion widely differing both
from the one side and the other, and which yet partakes


somewhat of the nature of each. The texts which have
been held to teach the respective doctrines are commingled
in Scripture, and reciprocally modify and limit each other's
meaning. Schoolmen and controversialists separate them,
tear them away with violent hands from the connections
which serve to qualify and explain them, and the result is,
if not falsehood, a gross perversion of truth. And now, as
if to prevent mankind from ever looking at them with
unbiased eye, as they really exist in the Bible, these ultra
views are embodied in a platform or creed, and their re-
spective advocates go forth to muster volunteers. The
impression is unavoidably produced that one side or the
other must be right; and no one seems to think that
both may be right when modified, and both wrong as they

Now if men were left free, i.e, if they were not forced to
give in their adhesion to one view or the other upon peril
of being debarred the privileges of the church, or — for it
amounts to this practically — upon the peril of losing their
souls, these errors would be more easily and speedily cor-
rected. But such is not the case. These ultra notions are
made the basis of a church, and every member pledges
himself to their support. Having once taken the step, we
all know the difficulty in the way of formal retraction.
Men have an instinctive dread of being called inponsistent,
and with most men consistency means never to change ! To
avoid this the Scriptures are interpreted according to those
false methods we have endeavored to expose, and by means
of allegory, mysticism, and dogmatism, the system can


maintain its ground until it expires as if by its own limita-
tion; for all human systems, in matters of religion, must
inevitably be temporary. Called into being by the circum-
stances and prejudices of a particular age or nation, they
can never be permanent or universal. Their importance is
factitious, and their beauty of appearance results rather
from the excited state of those who gaze upon them, th%n
from any. conformity of their nature to the true principles
of moral and spiritual sesthetics. Hence, notwithstanding
the difficulties in the way, they are perpetually changing,
receiving modifications, additions, and special adaptations,
to enable them to maintain their influence in society, and
exhibit the phenomena of a vitality which is not inherent.
While hundreds of human systems have flourished for a
time and then passed forever from the history of the church,
others have taken their place and are now undergoing those
changes which are the stamp of their origin.* Calvinism
is not what it was; Arminianism has changed its face;
other isms have been forced to adapt themselves to the
requirements of an increasing intelligence; and if the
founders of existing sects could rise from the dead, they
could with difficulty recognize their own churches. The
men who to-day are prostituting their talents in the well-
meant labor of fitting Scripture to their systems, will have
their work remodeled by their successors, as they have
undone that of their fathers. Gradually, mayhap imper-

* See Note G.


ceptibly, the change will take place, and thus the standard
of orthodoxy which tests the meaning of the Bible will be
perpetually different, while the Bible will be perpetually
perverted to its support.


Before dismissing the subject, it is proper that we should
give a respectful hearing to what may be urged in favor of
that which we have felt called upon to oppose. We will
therefore give a somewhat lengthy extract from Archbishop
Whately, an author distinguished alike for logical acumen
and profound scholarship. And the reader will observe —
unless we have entirely mistaken the meaning of the learned
prelate — ^that while his conclusion is against uSf his premi-
ses and his arguments are all for us,*

" We are inclined to think," says he, " that if Christians
had studied the Scriptures carefully and honestly, and
relied on these more than their philosophical systems of
divinity, the incarnation, for instance, and the Trinity,
would never have been doubted, nor named. And this at
least is certain, that as scientific theories and technical
phraseology gained ground, party animosity raged the
more violently.

" The proper objection to the various philosophical sys-
tems of religion, — the different hypotheses and theories
that have been introduced to explain the Christian Dis-

* See Preliminary Dissertations ; Encyc. Brit., Dis. iii.


pensation, — is not the difficulties that have been urged
(often with good reason) against each separately ; but the
fault that belongs to all of them equally. It is. not that
the Arian theory of the incarnation, for instance, is wrong
for this reason, and the Nestorian for that, and the Eutychian
for another^ and so on ; but they are all wrong alike, be-
cause they are theories relative to matters on which it is
vain and absurd and irreverent to attempt forming any
philosophical theories whatever. And the same, we think,
may be said of the various schemes (devised either by those
divines called the Schoolmen, or others,) on which it has
been attempted from time to time to explain other religious
mysteries also in the divine nature and dispensations. We
would object, for instance, to the Pelagian theory, and to
the Calvinistic theory, and the Arminian theory, and others,
not for reasons peculiar to each one, but for such as apply
in common to all,

"Philosophical divines are continually prone to forget
that the subjects on which they speculate are, confessedly,
and by their own account, beyond the reach of the human
faculties. This is no reason, indeed, against our believing
anything revealed in Scripture, but it is a reason against
our going beyond Scripture with metaphysical speculations
of our own. One of the many objections to this is, that
they thus lay open Christianity to infidel objections, such
as it would otherwise have been safe from.

"What the Scriptures are concerned with is, not the
philosophy of the human mind in itself, but (that which is
properly religion) the relation and connection of the two


beings ; — what God is to ixa, what he has done and will
do for us, and what we are to be and to do in regard to

After illustrating this point, and showing that men must,
ex necessitate rei, exercise the right of private judgment
to a certain extent, he proceeds to speak of catechisms,
creeds, and symbols more particularly, and says : —

"This would have seemed a most obvious and effectual
mode of precluding all future disorders and disputes ; as
also the drawing up of a compendious statement of Chris-
tian doctrines would have seemed a safeguard against the
still more important evil of heretical error. Yet if any
such statements or formularies had been drawn up, with the
sanction and under the revision of an Apostle, we may be
sure they would have been preserved and transmitted to
posterity with the most scrupulous and reverential care.
The conclusion, therefore, seems inevitable, that either no
one of the numerous elders or catechists ever thought of
doing this, or else tliey were forbidden by the Apostles to
execute any such design ; and each of these alternatives
seems alike inexplicable by natural causes. Since, then, no
one of the first promulgators of Christianity did that which
they must — some of them at least — have been naturally led
to do, it follows that they must have been supernaturally
withheld from it, how little soever we may be able even to

conjecture the object of the prohibition That a

number of Jews, accustomed from their infancy to so strict
a ritual, should, in introducing Christianity, have abstained



not only from accurately prescribing, for the use of all Chris-
tian churches forever, the mode of diTine worship, but even
from recording what was actually in use under their own
directions, does seem utterly incredible, unless we suppose
them to have been restrained from doing this by a special
admonition of the Divine Spirit."

Such are the premises, and such the arguments and rea-
sonings of the learned Archbishop. We thank him for
them ; for we think they are not only true and unanswer-
able, but that, being such, they triumphantly sustain the
position we have feebly attempted to occupy. But what is
his conclusionf It is briefly this : That the Divine Spirit
prohibited the making of creeds and symbols, "that all
churches might be free to arrange these matters according
to the circumstances or exigencies of each particular case I"
And such is the conclusion of the author of the ''Elements
of Logic I" The Holy Spirit did not bind men to symbols
of divine, that the church might be free to bind them to
those of human authority I The Divine Spirit prohibited
competent men making creeds, that incompetent men might
be free to do so ! The first Christians were " supernaturally
withheld" from following the *^ natural" promptings of the
human heart, as proof to all subsequent Christians that
these "natural" promptings are right I The Spirit of God
forbade the making of confessions of faith, therefore it is
the privilege and duty of the church to make them I Accord-
ing, then, to the reasoning of our standard logician, murder,
theft, robbery, drunkenness, and adultery, fall legitimately
within the circle of Christian freedom. They are the


"natural" promptings of the heart, "forbidden" by the
Holy Spirit, and are, therefore^ right and proper I

But it is only when the distinguished Archbishop is fet-
tered by his own inconsistency that he is forced to make
sach havoc of Scripture and logic. Give him but the
emallest portion of freedom — or even the semblance of it —
and his mind instantly manifests its accustomed clearness
and strength. For instance, speaking of the effect of
creeds, had they been formed by apostolic direction, —
which, we remark, is equally true, in the different parties,
of those formed upon the above logic, — ^he says : —

"In fact, all study, properly so called, of the rest of
Scripture, — all lively interest in its perusal, — would have
been nearly superseded by such an inspired compendium of
doctrine ; to which alone, as far the most convenient for
that purpose, habitual reference would have been made in
any questions that might arise. Both would have been
regarded, indeed, as of divine authority ; but the compen-
dium, as the fused and purified metal — ^the other, as the

mine containing the crude ore The orthodoxy of

most persons would have been, as it were, petrified, like the
bodies of those animals we read of incrusted in the ice of
the polar regions; firm fixed, indeed, and preserved un-
changeable, but cold, motionless, lifeless.

"It is only when our energies are roused, and our facul-
ties exercised, and our attention kept awake, by an ardent
pursuit of truth, and anxious watchfulness against error, —
when, in short, we feel ourselves to be doing something
towards acquiring, or retaining, or improving our knowl-


edge, — it is then only, that that knowledge makes the re-
quisite practical impression on the heart and condacf

Here, again, we admire the reasoning and embrace the
truths of the able gentleman, bat are forced to reject his
conclnsion. It is as follows : " To the chnrch, then, has
her all-wise Founder left the office of teaching, to the
Scriptures that of proving the Christian doctrines."

This we must regard as most pernicious. It is the office
of the church, we think, to teach the Scriptures^ — to
PREACH THE WORD, — and uot somc symbols or creeds called
"Christian doctrines," which every party thinks may be
proved by the Scriptures. But the ground of the Arch-
bishop is precisely that occupied by the religious world.
The Scriptures are not consulted as the teacher of GhrisVa
religion^ but to find proof of every man's creed. And as,
according to the methods hitherto pursued, almost any-
thing can be proved by the Scriptures, they have come to
mean anything, or everything, or nothing, "according to
the circumstances or exigencies of each particular case."

We know of no abler or more respectable advocate of
human creeds than the right reverend gentleman we have
just quoted. And from what he advances, we see nothing
to change, but everything to confirm us in the correctness
of the position previously assumed: that a standard of
orthodoxy can only be made among Protestants by the
exercise of the right of private judgment, and then can
only be a standard by taking away that right ; that, hence,
we must either give up our principles in order to retain our
standards, — and thus go back to Rome, — and then, after


all, we must give up our standards because they do not rest
tipou principle, and because, not being infallible, they do
not meet the requirements of the case; and thus, by an-
other road, we get back to Rome. All of which is avoided
by giving up our standards and retaining our principles,
thus being Protestants in fact as well as in theory.

Yiewing the subject, therefore, in the light of its bearings
upon the science of interpretation alone — ^for all we have
said has had respect to this — we are constrained to believe
that a consistent, satisfactory, and uniform interpretation
of God's holy book — such as meets the just requirements
of the case — is dependent primarily upon the sacrifice of
all human standards and symbols of faith. By this I do
not mean written creeds exclusively, but all prejudice of
whatever kind, and I specify written speculations and theo-
ries more particularly, because they render prejudice more
inflexible and difficult of removal, and because they seem
to compel men, as if by the wand of authority, to resort to
those logical abuses and self-impositions which we have
seen culminating in the Scholastic dogmatism of the four-
teenth century.

In advocating this course, which may seem harsh and radi-
cal to some, but which, nevertheless, is believed to be the true
conservatism, I have the satisfaction to know that in an ana-
logous case it resulted in that very certainty and agreement
so much needed and desired in religion. So long as the
Dogmatic Method was pursued in the study of nature, there
was no unanimity among men and no satisfaction in their



conclusions. Every man had his cherished theory, and the
object of his study was to harmonize nature with it. Hy-
potheses and counter-hypotheses existed without number,
while the volume of nature was not asked to teach, but to
confirm, to prove. The more phenomena that could be
explained upon any theory — just as now the more Scrip-
ture that can be expounded in accordance with some dogma
— ^the greater the triumph. There was, consequently, no
well-defined natural science until Lord Bacon induced men
to abandon their theories — to give up all their idola,
false appearances, or prejudices — and consult nature for
truth, and not for proof.

The result was an incalculable advancement in every
department of science. The controversies about theories,
hatched out in the study, were hushed ; and men set to work
to learn the laws of nature from nature itself, and not as
formerly to make laws for it. As a part of the fruit of this
change of method, we have the science of Astronomy in all
its accuracy, wonder, and glory, — those of Chemistry, Min-
eralogy, Geology. Botany, and others, all resting, as far as
they have been brought to perfection, upon bases of un-
questionable facts, with not a voice in all the world raised
in controversy against them. Nor is it deemed necessary,
in order to keep out scientific heresy, to weave the conclu-
sions thus reached into a sort of authoritative creed ; for
it is found to conduce to the progress of truth, and not
falsehood, to leave every mind perfectly free to question,
controvert, oppose, reject, or adopt them, as his reason or
folly may determine ; but to command respect and attention


his objections must be based, like the sciences themselves,
upon facts. To cavil at, or oppose these, is simply to make
one's self ridiculous and contemptible.

The ten thousand subjects of controversy, which men
thought could never by any possibility be settled, have all
been dissipated, and everything is reduced to one single
point — Are these the facts f While speculative and meta-
physical theories necessarily receive a particular type, color,
and modification from every individual mind, and are, there-
fore, as infinitely various as are the mental capacities which
embrace them, facts are the same to all.

We have said that by inaugurating the true method of
consulting nature. Bacon destroyed the influence of dog-
matism in scientific research; but he confined his labors
almost exclusively to the volume of physical nature, while
the old method maintained the ascendency over the volume
of revelation, as it did for a long while in metaphysics.*

* Sir William Hamilton, speaking of this method, says: ** Instead
of humbly resorting to consciousness to draw from thence his doc-
trines and their proof, each dogmatic speculator looked only into
consciousness, there to discover his pre-adopted opinions. In phi-
losophy men have abused the code of natural, as in theology the
code of positive revelation ; and the epigraph of a great Protestant
divine, on the book of Scripture, is certainly not less applicable to
the book of consciousness : —

**Hic liber est in quo quserit sua dogmata quisque
Invenit, et pariter dogmata quisque sua.

'*This is the book where each his dogma seeks;
And this the book where each his dogma finds."

Phil, of Com. Sense, p. 29.
This extract, from one of the ablest men of the present age, while


Id. the following book we shall make an attempt to show
that iu so far at least as they are the sources of our faith
and practice, the Scriptures admit of being studied and
expounded upon the principles of the inductive method;
and that, when thus interpreted, they speak to us in a voice
as certain and unmistakable as the language of nature heard
in the experiments and observations of science.*

it corroborates all we have said of the presence of dogmatism in the
interpretation of Protestants, is not less pointed in its condemnation
of it.
* See Note D,






The order we purpose to observe in the treatment of the
subject of this book, is the following : We shall begin with
the definition and general explanation of the Inductive
Method ; then, by the aid of the lights thus furnished, in-
quire whether this method may be followed in the interpre-
tation of the holy Scriptures; having determined this
affirmatively, we shall proceed to a particular analysis of
the method, giving illustrations of the use and application
of the several steps, drawn both from science and revela-
tion. This will conclude the first part. The second will
be devoted to the Axioms, Principles, and Rules involved
in determining the exact signification of words, together
with such kindred matter as may arise in the discussion of

the main subject.



We shall now attempt to define in general terms, and to
explain so clearly the meaning of the inductive method,
that even those who are not familiar with philosophical and
scientific terminology may have no difficulty in compre-
hending the scope and design of the ensuing part of the
present work. And as all we have yet written has been
but a preparation for what is still to come, it is hardly
necessary for us to solicit from the reader his undivided

We begin with the word Induction, and give its defini-
tion as contained in the highest lexicographical authority —
Ogilvie's Webster's Imperial Dictionary. This defines it
to be "a material illation of a universal from a singular,
as warranted either by the general analogy of nature, or
the special presumptions afforded by the object matter of
any real science." The same work quotes a perspicuous
explanation from Isaac Taylor. *' Induction," says he, "is
the drawing or leading off an inference or general fact from
a number of instances, or it is the summing up of the result
of observations and experiments. It was Lord Bacon who
introduced this term into philosophy ; and who, moreover,
taught the true method of acquiring a knowledge of the
laws of nature, by attending to facts, and by carefully com-
paring a great number of instances; instead of the old
method of philosophizing, which consisted in forming a
theory, or supposition, independently of all facts, and then
explaining the appearances of nature on the blind assump-
tion that the theory was true. The old method was the
shortest and the easiest ; but it was utterly fallacious. The


modern or Baconian method is laborious and difficalt; but
it is successful, and has proved in the highest degree bene-

Let us next hear from Lord Bacon himself. He says :
"In forming axioms, we must invent a different form of
induction from that hitherto in use ; not only for the proof
and discovery of principles, (as they are called,) but also of
minor, intermediate, and, in short, every kind of axioms.
The induction which proceeds by simple enumeration {per
enumerationem simplicem) is puerile, leads to uncertain
conclusions, and is exposed to danger from one contra-
dictory instance, deciding generally from too small a number
of facts, and those only the most obvious. But a really
useful induction for the discovery and demonstration of the
arts and sciences, should separate nature by proper rejec-
tions and exclusions, and then conclude for the affirmative,
after collecting a sufficient number of negatives."*

While, then, the word induction signifies the illation of
a universal from a singular, the drawing or leading off a
general inference from a number of instances, the rising
from particular facts to general laws, — ^this would very in-
adequately define thai induction introduced and advocated
by Lord Bacon ; for in this there was nothing new and
nothing valuable. And hence, some eminent authors, over-
looking, it would seem, the peculiarity of the Baconian
induction, have sought to detract from his fame as the father
of experimental science. But the case assumes an entirely

* Novum Organum, book i. aph. 105.

180 DsninTioN of teems.

different aspect, when it is remembered that it was not
simply induction, but a peculiar method of induction that
he proposed He did not originate, nor did he advocate
the method of simple induction ; on the contrary, he was
sedulously careful to guard men against it, and to expose
and oppose it with all the clearness and strength of his
great mind. The induction which he advocated required
the collection of numerous facts or particulars ; that they
should be carefully studied and compared; that whatever
was special and exceptional, should be excluded or rejected;
that contrary or negative instances should be duly weighed ;
and that there should be no ascent to the general conclu-
sion, until after all this care, diligence, and circumspec-

But even this, though it may indicate the meaning of the
word induction as used by Bacon, by no means furnishes a
complete idea of the inductive method. That included,
besides this careful induction, which was always the first
step in the process, another element which was exactly the
reverse of it, namely, deduction; which descends from the
general to the particular; from the whole to the parts in-
cluded in it ; which affirms that if a given general proposi-
tion be true, it follows of necessity that some other one
embraced in it must also be true. It is true that this ele-
ment of his method was not fully drawn out by Bacon
himself, because he did not live to finish his Great Instau-
ration. It is, nevertheless, an essential part of the magnifi-
cent scheme he projected, and has been ably unfolded and
illustrated by successors of his, who are not unworthy to be


ranked even with a name so illastrious and a genius so

If asked to specify the precise province of deduction in
this method, we reply that it is twofold : first, to verify the
conclusions or generalizations of induction \ and secondly,
to conduct to new truth embraced in those conclusions.
Bat, strictly speaking, it is not, perhaps, so accurate to say
that deduction serves to verify, as that it starts us on the
track that leads to verification. It says, if this conclusion
be true, then this also must be true, and this, and this ; and
here it pauses. Having pointed out to us the direction that
our conclusion muat take, if it be true, and the goal to which
it is obliged to conduct, it leaves us to watch the result ; to
determine by observation whether our induction holds good
in its consequences ; and to ascertain whether other par-
ticulars of the same class, not embraced in the original
process, are explicable by the conclusion we have reached.
Thus deduction points out the means of verification. It
tells us where to look for our law if it be what it purports
to be ; and then, but not till then, after we have thus looked
and discovered the fulfillment of the prediction, after we
have put our generalization to the proof, are we fully satis-
fied of its truth. It is verified j it is proved ; it is scien-
tific ; it enables us to predict. Thus we go up and down
the ladder ; from particulars to generals, and from generals
to particulars ; from individuals to classes, and from these
back to individuals. Everything has its place and its use,
and unites with everything else in proclaiming that truth
fMut he consistent with fact, upon which it depends.



Again, having risen to the general truth, and yerified it,
every legitimate conclusion from it is also true. Thus de-
duction multiplies the truths reached by the opposite pro-
cess. In some instances in natural science, moreover, these
conclusions have been deduced from hypotheses, and some
of the greatest discoveries have been made in this way.
Not that induction was set aside, for all such conclusions
were verified by it before they were held as truth ; but in
cases where it was difficult or impossible to resort in the
first instance to direct induction, philosophers commenced by
saying, if such an hypothesis be true, such and such results
will follow. This, however, is very different from dogmatism ;
it is not a positive declaration that their guess is true, but
a mere temporary assumption of its truth for the sake of the
experiment. And now, if the predicted results follow, what
are we authorized to conclude ? That the guess is true ?
That the hypothesis is sound ? No. These furnish only a
strong probability in its favor. How do we know but that
the same phenomena might be accounted for upon each of
several other hypotheses ? How do we know that it does
not contravene some law written upon hundreds of other
phenomena of the same class, and that these are but the
negative or exceptional cases ? The hypothesis, then, must
be verified. We must go to work inductively to collect
facts, to weigh and compare them, in order to see what they
teach. The mere fact that an hypothesis will serve to explain
many phenomena, is not proof positive of its correctness,
because that explanation may not be the most natural one.
The Ptolemaic system of the universe served to explain


nearly if not quite all the phenomena. On Newton's
hypothesis of light, all the phenomena were explained for
many years, and it was not till quite recently that it was
proved to be incorrect.* And hence, though we may, and
often do, perceive a scientific truth before we resort to the
inductive method, we can never know it to be truth till

This, then, is what we mean by the Inductive, or Baco-
nian method, — not induction opposed to deduction, but both
combined in opposition to dogmatism. It is the telescope
by the aid of which we read the inscriptions upon facts,
and perceive those general principles which presided when
they were written. If these inscriptions can be made clearer
by turning them for a moment to the light of an hypothesis,
viewed as an hypothesis, it authorizes and even requires us to
do so. But if, as is almost always the case, we prefer to hold
the mind in abeyance, and compel it to wait, without eren
guessing the conclusion, till the testimony of all the facts,
like so many individual witnesses, is heard, we shall in this
way, too, be following the guiding direction of the Novum
Organum Scientiarum. And when we are still in doubt,
after hearing the evidence of all the witnesses, which of two
possible conclusions is correct, the method requires us to
settle the point by deduction. We are to assume first the
one and then the other, and argue from them respectively
to the facts, till we determine in which the logical conse-
quences and the facts all agree. All this and more is

* See Note K


clearly presented by Playfair, in the following quotation
from his Preliminary Dissertation, in the Encyclopedia
Britannica : — *

"Having collected the facts," he says, "the next object
is to find out the cause of the phenomenon, its form^ (in the
language of Bacon,) or its essence. The fonni of any
quality in a body is something convertible with that quality,
i.e. where one is present, the other must be also. It differs
nothing from cau^e^ but we apply it when the result is not
an event or change, but a permanent quality.

" In order to inquire into the form, that is, the cause or
essence of anything, we begin by inquiring what things are
thereby excluded from the number of possible forms. This
is the first part of the process of induction. It confines
the field of hypothesis and brings the true explanation
within narrower limits. Thus, if we were inquiring into
the quality which is the cause of transparency in bodies,
from the fact that the diamond is transparent we immedi-
ately exclude rarity or porosity as well as fluidity from
those causes, the diamond being very solid and dense.
Negative instances are those where the given form is want-
ing. Thus, in inquiring into the form of transparency,
compounded glasL is a negative instance — ^being not trans-
parent ; so also are clouds and fogs.

"After a great number of exclusions have left but few
principles common to every case, one of these is to be
ai%umed as the cause; and by reasoning from it syn-

* Dissertation iy.


tbetically, we are to try if it will accouot for the phe-

Again : ''All facts are not eqaally yalaable in the dis-
coyery of truth. Some of them show the thing sought for
in its highest degree, some in its lowest ; some exhibit it
simple and uneombined, in others it appears confused with
a variety of circumstances. Some facts are easily inter-
preted, others are very obscure, and are understood only in
consequence of the light thrown on them by the former.
This led Bacon to consider what he calls the Prerogatives
of Instances, the comparative value of facts as means of
discovery or as instruments of investigation."

As an example of the pursuit of the inductive method,
we may instance the process by which Sir Isaac Newton
arrived at the theory of universal gravitation. From a
large number of facts and experiments regarding the falling
of bodies towards the earth's center, he reached the conclu-
sion that all bodies gravitate towards the earth's center
with forces proportioned to their masses, and inversely as
the squares of their distance from the center. In other
words, from the fact that stones, sticks, apples, snow, water,
and all the various objects that could be observed, were
Been to gravitate in this^ way, he "led or drew off" the
general conclusion that this was true in all cases, or that
such was the doctrine or rule of terrestrial gravitation.
This being verified and established, he was enabled to carry
the inductive process still higher. By examining the mo-
tions of the heavenly bodies, an(f availing himself of the
laws of terrestrial gravitation, previously established, he



arrived at a still more general conclusion, namely, that
every particle of matter in the universe attracts every other
particle with a force proportional to the product of their
masses directly, and the square of their mutual distance
inversely, and is itself attracted with an equal force. This
law has been verified a thousand times and in as many dif-
ferent ways, and it now stands out before us an eternal
monument to the excellency of a method which could point
out a principle so sublime and so important written upon
the face of a falling apple.

But notwithstanding the certainty we feel of the correct-
ness of scientific conclusions thus reached and verified, let
us not suppose, even for a moment, that Science or Nature
addresses a higher faculty of our being than does Revela-
tion ; for in all these conclusions there is, and there must be,
one assumption at least — one thing which is not known but
believed — and this the most fundamental of all. The entire
superstructure of science, with all its facts, data, proposi-
tions, reasonings and conclusions, rests primarily, like reli-
gion, upon faith. It is impossible to demonstrate, impos-
sible to know, the universal and eternal uniformity of nature.
We believe it; we take it for granted ; we set out with this
assumption ; and we have confidence that though it cannot
be demonstrated absolutely, it will be impossible to disprove
it, or to show that our faith in it, which rests upon evi-
dences so numerous and overwhelming, has been misplaced.
Here then, in foMh^ is the pedestal of all knowledge;
here science and revelation start upon the same level ; and
while with the inductive method applied to the one, we rise


to the highest generalizations in the physical universe, with
the full, unquestioned and unquestionable assurance of their
truth, let us see if the same method will not conduct us, with
equal assurance, to the lofty heights of that revealed truth
which is spiritual, living, and powerful



In this chapter we shall present an a priori argument
for the practicability of interpreting the holy Scriptures
according to the principles of the inductive method. And
it is hoped that this, while it relieves the mind of the sus-
pense which it might otherwise feel, will dispose it also to
a more careful examination and consideration of what
follows. In other words, to use one of the beautiful
figures of Bacon, we shall first "pay down the interest" on
the sum of our obligations to the reader, as a means of
obtaining further indulgence "until the principal shall be

God has spread out before his children two great volumes
— the Book of Nature, and the Book of Revelation. In
these are treasured up all the stores of wisdom and knowl-
edge which are accessible to us in our present state. It
may be true, indeed, that they are but the indexes, as it


were, to those vast libraries of eternity which are to interest
and instruct os forever and ever, or merely the preface to
the volumes which we shall hereafter study ; but however
this may be, they are the beginning and the end of our in-
vestigations and acquirements in this life — the primers of our
childhood, and the text-books of our maturer years. "We can,
indeed, know nothing that is not taught either in one or
in both of these wonderful productions ; and hence, to these
heaven-indited volumes we are to look for all truth, all wis-
dom, all eternal law and unchanging principle. And now
the method of acquiring a knowledge of their contents is
the subject of our investigations. Not that it is possible
for us ever to know all the depths of the riches of the wis-
dom of God contained in these profound works, but that
we can learn much — perhaps far more than men have hith-
erto acquired — even in the brief period of our earthly pil-
grimage. And, surely, if anything can interest a rational
man, that method which proposes to enable him to learn
more, to give him a broader, deeper, juster conception of
God's own truth, should command his most earnest and
concentrated attention. Our proposition is, that the same
method should be pursued in the interpretation of both
volumes. And as we have already shown the inductive
method to be that in the pursuit of which naiure is correctly
interpreted, if we succeed in establishing the above propo-
sition it will be equivalent to the establishment of this one,
namely, that the holy Scriptures should be interpreted
according to the inductive method.

This we argue, first, from the fact that both volumes are


the production of the same mind, and are analogoas in their

As all science rests upon the indisputable assumption that
that mind is uniform in the principles of its operation, we
do but contend that a particular proposition is embraced
in its own universal, when we say that this uniformity
extends to the Bible. At any rate, when it is admitted
that the Bible is the work of the same Being that formed
the universe, the presumption is in favor of our proposi-
tion, while, for the same reason, the onus probandi rests
upon those who contend that this work is an anomaly in the
imiverse. Proving this, they may, perhaps, disprove our pro-
position, but in doing so they will undermine all science,
and leave us without a fulcrum upon which to rest any lever
that could elevate us to truth. This would not, however,
of itself show that both volumes should not be interpreted
according to the same method, but only that the method
hitherto pursued in the one depended upon a false postu-
late. We shall, therefore, take it for granted that the
Author of the Bible was consistent with himself when he
produced it; and that he acted in harmony with the uni-
form principles which are elsewhere and everywhere seen
to have characterized his actions. But if it was vrritten
upon the same principles, it follows that it must also be
interpreted upon the same. Or, if the two works are an-
alogous in their nature, they must be also in the manner in
which their truths impress themselves upon the mind.

Let us note, then, in what respects this likeness is appa-
rent) in so far as the subject before us is affected by it. And


first, they are both the record of the will and wisdom of
God. In the Book of Nature, which is the first volume, —
written first, and always read and partially understood
first, — this record is engraved upon material objects or
physical facts. Looking upon these we discern the in-
scription, we read the law written upon each individual
case; for example, that this stone which I cast into the
air, falls to the ground according to a certain definite
law. But whether this is the law of all stones, or whether
it is a law confined to stones, we can ascertain alone
by the inductive method; by observing other stones and
other objects, and tracing the law upon each one of them,
variously modified, perhaps counteracted, but still plainly
seen; and inferring from these numerous particulars the
general law of the whole creation. If now we open
volume second, the Book of Kevelation, what do we see ?
Precisely what we saw before, the will and wisdom of
God written upon facts. Of course the facts are differ-
ent, and the record upon them peculiar, but the method
observed in their communication is precisely similar.
We are apt, it would seem, to imagine that the truths and
laws of the Bible are abstract ; that they have no necessary
OP real connection with the facts along with which they
seem to be commingled ; and that they may be acquired
without that attention to the facts which, in scientific pur-
suits, is recognized as necessary. But nothing is farther
from the truth. It cannot be too emphatically repeated,
nor too deeply engraved upon the heart, that the Bible ia
not an abstraction, but that the comprehension of its reve*


IfltioD of law and tratb Is just as dependeot upou the facts
It cootaiDS as a knowledge of the laws of nature upon the
faei§ of nature. We could Just as easily rise to the highest
geoeralizations of science without the phenomena of the
physical creation, as we could attain to the knowledge of
ipiritual truth without the phenomena of a spiritual world ;
without beings, that k, contemplated in their moral and
fpiritual aspects and rehitions, as so many facts upon which,
fli it were, those laws and truths are written. And how-
ever tliat necessity may be ac(.'ounted for, the church has
erer recognized it as a necessity, to maintain the accuracy
of the Bcrifiture facts in order to give warrant and support
to its claims as a teacher of truth. And however surprised
we may be when the proposition is first submitted to us, it
if a truth that the whole Bible m founded upon facts —
lifitorical events, persons, and things; and that even those
portions which might seem to l>e less dependent upou hhi-
tory, as the poetry and epistles, have, nevertheless, their
basis on history, and derive their significance and their
claims from the facts with which they are connected. The
whole Bible, then, Is history, and allusion to history, past,
present, or to come.

Bat wliatever U, or has been, or shall be, is a fact ; while
that which conforms to, or accords with it, is truth. This
tM^ing so, it follows that truth cannot be originated or
formed, but, like ilim whose being it describes, it ut self-
existent. The i^lble \» not the creator, but the revealer of
truth. A fact is produced, and then truth springs sponta-
neously and immediately into being, Vou may change the

192 p&AonoABHiiTT of iNDucnvE Exsassi&

fact, but jovL canoot change the truth ; that remains unal-
terable as the exponent of the fact which loaa, while a new
truth springs into being to represent the new fact which is.
Thus truth, from its yerj nature, must be everlasting and
unchangeable : '*The eternal years of God are hers."

But again, as eyerything which iS) or has been, or shall
be, except God alone, can be traced to a cause which
brought it into being as the result of an act, a deed, a
factum, He alone is truth absolute, as He alone is Jeho-
vah, I Am, Self-existent. And hence, although He is
truth. He is not fact ; because his existence is not predi-
cated by Gignomai, but by Eimi; because He is not I
Become, but I Am. But as all things else are facts, and
all truth else conformity to them, it follows that truth must
have facts underlying it, and must conduct the mind imme-
diately and directly to their consideration.

The study of spiritual truth is, therefore, the study of
spiritual facts ; and the word of God is their phenomena.
Behold, then, how perfectly alike are the two Tolumes ; they
both exhibit — what ? Facts themselves ? No, but the phe-
nomena of facts; the one, the phenomena of those which
are material ; the other, of those which are spiritual. In
neither case are the things themselves the immediate objects
of investigation, but in both we study them through the
medium of the phenomena which they respectively exhibit
In both cases, these phenomena represent rules, laws, cir-
cumstances, influences, forces, connections, and dependences,
which may be expressed in words; which science does so
express ; and which, in revelation, are already so expressed.


In science, then, let it never be forgotten, the observed
phenomena are written down in words, and become " re-
corded instances." And it is from these records, from these
words which express the phenomena of individuals, that
the induction rises to general law. A, after careful obser-
Tation and experiment, records a number of phenomena
with precision and accuracy. B, without having seen what
A saw, but having faith in the reliability of his record,
takes it, studies it, weighs and compares its several parts
and circumstances, and draws from it a conclusion, which
is afterwards verified and shown to be strictly correct and
according to the facts. And here we have a record of spir-
itual phenomena, made by the unerring hand of God, con-
cerning facts the momentous importance of which should
arouse every faculty into activity, and awaken every energy
to diligence ; a record in all respects analogous to that of
a competent scientific observer; a record containing, like
his, rules, laws, incidents, circumstances, influences, modifi-
cations, and everything necessary to enable us to rise to the
clear, full, and joyful comprehension of the truth; and now
does it not seem reasonable that we should — docs it not
seem marvelous if we should not — pursue the same method,
and go up from these particular and recorded instances to
general law and universal principle ? True, if we thus act,
we may, and in most instances we shall, find these general
laws expressed for us and before us in the words of the
Holy Spirit ; but we shall then know that they are gen-
eral ; and in learning this, we shall learn what is special,
what circumstantial, what lunited in its application; we



shall perceiye the exact place and the precise force of every
fact, incident, circumstance, precept, doctrine, and commu-
nication ; and thus learning " rightly to divide the word of
truth," we shall assign every sentence to its proper place,
and give to every word its legitimate force.

To show that we are not singular in occupying the above
position, it will be suflScient to quote from a few of the
many distinguished authors who have also advocated it.
Professor Nichol, of the Glasgow University, in the article
"Bacon," in the Cyclopedia of Biography, says : "Although
the advance of the physical sciences, caused by the impulse
Lord Bacon communicated, has exacted for them processes
more complete and perfect than his;* when, as to the
moral sciences — as to inquiry, political, ethical, and reli-
gious — shall the time arrive in which inquirers shall prac-^
tically recognize the validity even of the most general
precepts in the Organon? The ultimate application gf
these precepts is sure ; but humanity has not yet acquired
the strength to accomplish it." All must agree with him
that the ultimate application of this method is sure, for it
is founded upon the eternal principles of common sense ;
and we venture to hope and believe that its consummation is
not in the far distant future, but that the free-born sons
of America and Great Britain, even in this nineteenth cen-
tury, have the strength and the courage to accomplish it.

Says Mr. Mill, System of Logic, page 1T4 ; " The logic of
science is the universal logic, applicable to all inquiries ia

* See this explained in the previous chapter.


which man can engage, and the test of all the conclusions
at which he can arrive by inference." And again, page 18T,
speaking of induction per enumerationem simplicem, he
says: "It was, above all, by pointing out the insufficiency
of this rude and loose conception of induction, that Bacon
merited the title so generally awarded to him, of Founder
of the Inductive. Philosophy. Although his writings con-
tain, more or less fully developed, several of the most
important principles of the inductive method, physical
investigation has outgrown the Baconian conception of
induction. Moral and political inquiries, indeed, are as
yet far behind that conception. The current and approved
modes of reasoning on these subjects are still of the same
vicioiis description against which Bacon protested; the
method almost exclusively employed by those professing to
treat such matters inductively is the very inductio per
enumerationem simplicem which he condemns ; and the
experience which we hear so confidently appealed to by all
sects, parties, and interests is still, in his own emphatic
words, mera palpatio, ^^

Again, page 520, he says: "If there are some subjects
on which the results obtained have finally received the
unanimous assent of all who have attended to the proof,
and others on which mankind have not yet been equally
Buccessful, — on which the most sagacious minds have occu-
pied themselves from the earliest date, with every assistance
except that of a tried scientific method^ and have never
succeeded in establishing any considerable body of truths,
so as to be beyond denial or doubt, — it is by generalizing


the methods successfully followed in the former inquiries,
and applying them to the latter , that we may hope to re-
move this blot upon the face of science. "

''It is not/' says Sir John Herschel, Discourse on
Natural Philosophy, page 86, *'the introduction of induc-
tive reasoning, as a new and hitherto untried process, which
characterizes the Baconian philosophy, but his keen percep-
tion, and his broad and spirit-stirring, almost enthusiastic
announcement of its paramount importance, as the alpha
and omega of science, as the grand and only chain for the
linking together of physical truths, and the eventual key
to every discovery and every application.^^

But, not to multiply quotations, or to protract an argu-
ment which we think is already conclusive, we remark, that
in many cases in which polemic theology has not interposed,
with its warping influence, men have pursued the inductive
method in their interpretations of Scripture ; and in every
such instance, where their investigations have been con-
cluded, they are perfectly agreed. For, says Bacon, "if
men would bind themselves to two things : 1. To lay aside
received opinions and notions ; 2. To restrain themselves,
till the proper season, from generalization, they might, by
the proper and genuine exertion of their minds, fall into
our way of interpretation without the aid of any art."
In many cases this has been done, and men have experi-
enced that *Mnterpretation," as Bacon immediately adds,
" is the true and natural act of the mind, when all obstacles
are removed."* Hence, although we can never embrace all

? Novum Organum, book ii. aph. 180.


the immensity of the comprehension of the volume of infi-
nite wisdom, yet whereunto we have attained, in all the
researches made strictly upon the inductive method, there
is as perfect agreement and uniformity as can be found in
any branch of physical science. The reciprocal duties of
husbands and wives, for example, of parents and children,
of masters and servants, though not more plainly taught
than the duties we owe to God, are yet cordially received
and diligently enforced, because there is no scholastic theory
to metamorphose their meaning; while concerning those
duties last mentioned there is perpetual controversy about
the place of this, the force of that, the essentiality of one,
and the non-essentiality of another. The reason is, that in
the duties of man to God there is some connection with
salvation, and as they are constantly making incursions
into some one's theory of conversion, or of regeneration,
or of justification, they must be ruled out, or explained
away, or forced to harmonize with such theory.

In all cases where the inductive method has been strictly
followed, men have arrived at conclusions, satisfactory,
clear, and consistent, both in themselves and with the other
Scriptures ; and all are agreed and united. While, wherever
any other method has been pursued, there is uncertainty,
obscurity, inconsistency; and all are disagreed and dis-
united. Can those who love truth more than party hesi-
tate to adopt a conclusion which is forced upon them by
considerations so powerful ?

But, some one will say, this would but lead to the estab-
lishment of one more system, and thus, instead of lessening,



increase the evils now existing. To which it is replied,
that so far from its being the means of resulting in any
sectarian establishment, it is calculated solely to lead to
those great catholic truths which are revealed for our
learniug and salvation. If properly used, it will make
known the one only system of religion which Christ gave
to the world, and will thus absorb whatever is true and
reject whatever is false in all the systems and organizations
in Christendom. We do not contend for the principles or
the peculiarities of any existing or imaginary sect, but
simply for the true method of acquiring truth, in its just
proportions and proper relations.

Others again will contend that this method has been
employed, in so far as it is available, by many or all the
students of the Bible. Without pretending to meet such
an assumption, which can hardly be urged seriously in this
place by those who have perused with any care what we
have written, we respectfully refer them to Professor Nichol,
to Sir John Herschel, to John Stuart Mill, and to Sir Wil-
liam Hamilton ; and when all these distinguished gentlemen
and as many more have been silenced, we will point them to
the divisions and strifes of Protestantism, and tell them to
account for that dark spot upon the garment of religion,
upon their assumption.

It is also to be anticipated that a few short-sighted par-
tisans, like their illustrious prototype, will seek to cast
ridicule upon our humble effort, by crying out, *' How won-
derful, that you should have discovered what so many wiser
and older men have overlooked I How modest in you, to


presame to correct the reverend dignitaries of the church I"
To which we woald deign bat this reply, that oar argument
cannot be set aside by a sneer which originated in the heart
of Eckius, nor our position shaiien by a taunt that rises
from the spirit of Romanism.

Upon the whole, then, we conclude that though in some
iostanceSy and perhaps in very many, due attention has been
paid to the method by which truth is to be sought and
found, in a very large majority this has been disregarded,
or but partially employed, and then often neutralized by
the simultaneous presence aud employment of improper
and heterogeneous processes. We think, also, that it is
not too much to conclude, from the arguments introduced
in this chapter, that the inductive method can be employed
in the interpretation of Scripture ; that it should be ; and
that, when thus employed, the best and happiest results
may be expected to follow. The remainder of this part of
the work will, therefore, be devoted to a particular elucida-
tion and exemplification of this process.

200 bacon's idola.


OP bacon's idola.

The good effects of Lord Bacon's writings were dne, in
a great measure, to the prominence in which he brought
out, and the clearness with which he exposed, the sources
of error. To accomplish this was his first object, as it has
been that of all succeeding writers on method, whose learn-
ing and ability are such as to entitle them to be recognized
as authorities. The author of the Novum Organum de-
nominated the sources of error idola, a term which has
giyen place in more modern productions to that of preju-
dice, which expresses substantially the same idea. We
shall attempt a brief explanation of these terms, while we
urge the acceptance of what is taught on the subject to
which they relate as a necessary preparation for the pur-
suit of the inductive method.

The sources of error are divided by Bacon into /our
classes, or four different kinds of idola, that is, '' images,"
"false appearances," or prejudices, viz.: —

Idola Tribus Idols of the Tribe.

Idola Speeds Idols of the Den.

Idola Fori Idols of the Forum.

Idola Theatri .... Idols of the Theater,
Although the terms employed in the above classification
are strange and unfamiliar, it is believed that they will pre-

BAOON'8 idola. 201

sent but little difficulty to even the most ordinary reader,
if he will attend to the explanation of them furnished by
their author.

1. By the Idols of the Tribe, he meant to point oat
those sources of error which are common to the whole
human race, and which result from the nature and consti-
tution of the mind. For example, under this head he says :
'' The human understanding, from its peculiar nature, easily
supposes a greater degree of order and equality in things
than it really finds ; and although many things in nature
be 8ui generis, and most irregular, will yet invent parallels,
and conjugates, and relatives, where no such thing is/'
Again : '' The human understanding, when any proposition
has been once laid down, (either from general admission
and belief, or from the pleasure it affords,) forces every-
thing else to add fresh support and confirmation," — as in
the case of dogmatic creeds in religion. ''Man always
believes more readily what he prefers;" ''admits a tincture
of the will and passions," to affect his conclusions. The
understanding relies upon the senses, notwithstanding their
"dullness and incompetency ;" and finally, it is, "by its own
nature, prone to abstraction, and supposes that which is
fluctuating to be fixed."*

2. By Idols of the Den, or Cavern, he meant those
sources of error which derive their origin from the peculiar
nature of each individual's mind and body ; and also from
education, habit, and accident. For example : " Some men

* Novum Organam, book L aph. 46 to 61.

202 ba(X)n's idola.

become attached to particular sciences or contemplationSy
either from supposing themselves the authors and inventors
of them, or from having bestowed the greatest pains upon
them." "Some are more vigorous and active in observing
the differences of things, others in observing their resem-
blances. Each of them readily falls into excess, by catch-
ing either at nice distinctions or shadows of resemblance."
''Some dispositions evince an unbounded admiration for
antiquity, others eagerly embrace novelty ; and but few can
preserve the just medium, so as neither to tear up what the
ancients have correctly laid down, nor to despise the jvLst
innovations of the moderns."

3. The Idols of the Forum, or Market-place, represent
those false conclusions which arise from the popular and
current use of words which represent things otherwise than
as they really are. " For men imagine that their reason
governs words, while, in fact, words react upon the under-
standing. The idols imposed upon the understanding by
words are of two kinds: they are either the names of
things which have no existence, or the names of actual
objects, but confused, badly defined, and hastily and irregu-
larly abstracted from things." Who can estimate the pre-
judicial influence of the words " Trinitarianism " and
"XJnitarianism;" of the "Christian Sabbath," "eternal
generation," "transubstantiation," and others of the first
class, which represent logical deductions, and not things?
Or of the word "regeneration," of the second kind, which
has given birth to an interminable war^re about "word
regeneration," and "spirit regeneration/' and "baptismal

bacon's idola. 203

regeneration,'' when hardlj one man in a thoasand uses the
term in its scriptural meaning ?

4. Idols of the Theater represent the errors resulting
from false systems of philosophy and incorrect reasoning.
For an illnstration of this class, we respectfully refer the
reader to the first book of the present treatise, parts second
and third, and to the Novum Organum of Bacon, book i.
aph. 61-68.

If the sources of error are thus numerous and various,
thus subtle and powerful, it seems to be but the dictate of
common sense that we should make it our first and most
earnest study to understand and to become free from them.
And certain it is, that none but those who have the manli-
ness to rise above these influences are capable of success-
fully pursuing the inductive method of biblical interpreta-
tion. As, therefore, it is all-important to the reader to
have this matter presented in every light which can show it
in its true character, we presume we need offer no apology
for introducing the following admirable remarks of Sir
John Herschel: —

"Experience, once recognized as the fountain of all our
knowledge of nature, it follows that, in the study of nature
and its laws, we ought to dismiss as idle prejudices, or at
least suspend as premature, any preconceived notion of
what might or what ought to be the order of nature in any
proposed case, and content ourselves with observing, as a
plain matter of fact, what is. To experience we refer as
the only ground of all physical inquiry. But before expe-
rience itself can be used with advantage, there is one

204 bacon's idola.

preliminary step to make, whicli depends wholly on our-
selves ; it is the absolute dismissal and clearing the mind
of all prejudice, from whatever source arising, and the
determination to stand and fall by the result of a direct
appeal to facts in the first instance, and of a strict logical
deduction from them afterwards."

It is scarcely necessary to remark that the author does
not mean by "experience" that which certain fanatics un-
derstand by it. For, while with him it is, "1. A series of
experiments, or the results of such experiments; 2. Ob-
servation of facts or events happening under like circum-
stances;"* with them it is the remembrance of the peculiar
feelings or emotions of which they have been the subjects.
And while for him to say that the laws of nature are to be
learned from experience, is the same thing as to say that
they are to be learned from a careful observation and com-
parison of phenomena, — just as the laws of Scripture are
to be learned by a comparison of its phenomena; they
would teach that those laws must be so and so, because
such is their ''experience.'' And by this they mean that
such is their observation upon themselves, not upon out-
ward phenomena.

Our author proceeds to mention two kinds of preju-
dices : —

" 1. Prejudices of opinion.

" 2. Prejudices of sense.

"By prejudices of opinion, we mean opinions hastily

* Webster's Dictionary.

bacon's idola. 205

taken up, either from the assertion of others, from our own
superficial views, or from vulgar observation, and which,
from being constantly admitted without dispute, have ob-
tained the strong hold of habit on our minds. Such were the
opinions once maintained that the earth is the greatest body
in the universe, and placed immovable in its center, and all
the rest of the universe created for its sole use ; that it is
the nature of fire and of sounds to ascend ; that the moon-
light is cold; that dews fall from the air," etc. And, we
may add, such are the opinions even yet current in some
sections, that repentance precedes belief; that faith comes
without hearing ; that the ordinary influences of the Spirit
are the "baptism of the Holy Ghost ;" that faith without obe-
dience is suflScient for justification ; and many others which
have rested for years in the stronghold of prejudice, and
which nothing but a strictly inductive exegesis can dissi-
pate. But our author continues : —

'' Our resistance against the destruction of the other class
of prejudices, those of sense, is commonly more violent at
first, but less persistent than in the case of those of opinion.
Not to trust the evidence of our senses seems indeed a hard
condition, and one which, if proposed, none Would comply
with. But it is not the direct evidence of our senses that
we are in any case called upon to reject, but only the erro-
neous judgments we unconsciously form from them, and this
only when they can be shown to be so by counter evidence
of the same sort." He instances the erroneous conclusions,
that colors are inherent qualities, like weight or hardness ;


206 bacon's idola.

that the moon is larger at its rising or setting than in the
zenith; ventriloquism, etc., and proceeds: —

''These, and innumerable instances we might cite, will
convince us, that though we are never deceived in the sensi-
ble impression made by external objects on us, yet in form-
ing our judgments of them we are greatly at the mercy of
circumstances, which either modify the impressions actually
received, or combine them with adjuncts which have become
habitually associated with different judgments ; and, there-
fore, that in estimating the degree of confidence we are to
place in our conclusions, we must, of necessity, take into
account these modifying or accompanying circumstances,
whatever they may be."*

Absolutely necessary as this is in the study of nature, it
is no less so in that of revelation. A man reads a passage,
for example, iu the Psalms, or in the Epistle to the Romans,
and says, with a triumphant air. Behold, how clearly my
doctrine is taught I here is the proposition I contend for in
iisdem verbis/ And this is true. The sensible impres-
sion made upon his mind by the passage is correct, while
the judgment he forms from that impression may be false ;
and for the very sufficient reason, that he may have culled ^
the text from the body of an extended argument, addressed
to people in peculiar circumstlances, and designed to accom-
plish a particular end, while he has left out of the account
all those circumstances which, when considered, greatly
modify and limit its meaning. His proper course is, then,

* Discourse on Nat. Phil., par. ii. cap. i.


to correct this erroneous judgment, by attending to the
** counter evidence of the same sort/' — ^that is, he should hear
all the witness has to say, and all that the other witnesses
testify, before he makes up his decision.

We should disregard both the pleasure and the interest of
the reader, were we to conclude this chapter without spread-
ing before him one or two extracts from the work of a
modem essayist, which, in clearness, in truth, and in point,
will serve as a happy sequel to those above presented from
the masterly hand of the distinguished natural philoso-
pher: —

" The most^vorable moral condition," says this writer,
"in which the inquirer can be, is, unquestionably, when he
is possessed with a simple and fervent desire to arrive at
the truth without any predilection in behalf of any opinion
whatever, and without any disturbing emotion of hope or
fear, affection or dislike. 'To be indifferent,' says Locke,
'which of two opinions is irue, is the right temper of mind
that preserves it from being imposed on, and disposes it to
examine with that indiffcrcncy, till it has done its best to
find the truth — and this is the only direct and safe way to
it. But to be indifferent whether we embrace falsehood or
truth, is the great road to error.'

**If a man is possessed with a desire to find a given
opinion true, or to confirm himself in a doctrine which he
already entertains, he will, in all probability, bestow an
undue attention on the arguments and evidence in its favor,
to the partial or total neglect of opposite considerations ;
but if he is free from all Wishes of this kind, if he has no

208 bacon's idola.

predilection to gratify, if his desires are directed solely to
the attainment of correct views, he will naturally search for
information wherever it is likely to present itself; he will
be without motive for partiality, and susceptible of the full
force of evidence.

** However unaccountable it may at first sight appear, it
is a fact, that few human beings, in their moral, religious,
and political inquiries, are possessed with this simple desire
of attaining truth ; their strongest wishes are directed to
the discovery of new grounds for adhering to opinions
already formed; and they are as deaf to arguments on the
opposite side, as they are alive to evidence in favor of their
own views."*

To these admirable remarks he adds, in the next section,
the following : —

" Impartiality of examination is, if possible, of still higher
value than care and diligence. It is of little importance
what industry we exert on any subject, if we make all our
exertions in one direction, if we sedulously close our minds
against all considerations which we dislike, and seek with
eagerness for any evidence or argument which will confirm
our established or favorite views. A life-long investigation
may, in this way, only carry us farther from the truth.
What duty and common sense require of us is, that our
attention be equally given to both sides of every question,
that we make ourselves thoroughly acquainted with all the
conflicting arguments, that we be severely impartial in

* Bailey's Essays, pp. 250, 251.

bacon's idola. 209

weighing the evidence for each, and snffer no bias to seduce
us into supine omission on the one hand, or inordinate
rapacity for proof on the other.

" This, too, is anything but a light and easy task. It can
be performed to a certain extent by every honest and sin-
cere inquirer ; but perhaps to achieve it in perfection, would
require a mind at once enlarged, sagacious, candid, disin-
terested, and upright. A man who perfectly accomplishes
it, however, cannot fail to command the esteem of his fellow-
men by the worth and dignity of his conduct. It is painful
to think that such an example is rare ; that instead of it we
usually find the mere partisan, one evidently engaged, not
in the pursuit of truth, but in searching for every possible
argument to support and confirm a conclusion predeterm-
ined by his interests, his prejudices, or his position in

" What a contrast do these two present ! — one, candid,
upright, fearless of the issue of the investigation because
solely intent on truth, searching on all sides, refusing no
evidence, anxious only that every circumstance should be
brought out in its true colors and dimensions, and free from
anger against opposition ; the other, directing all his acute-
ness to one side, prying into those sources of information
alone where he imagines he shall find what is agreeable to
his wishes, stating everything both to himself and others
with the art and exaggeration of a hired pleader, sounding
forth the immaculate merits of his cause, and filled with
rancor against all who do not range themselves under the


210 bacon's idola.

same banners. Or, perhaps, instead of the angry partisan,
we see (what is equally a hamiliating spectacle) the timid
inquirer moving cautiously along, as if alarmed at the sound
of his own footsteps, shunning every track not palpably
well-trodden, and looking at any evidence that may chance
to cross his path, foreign to his ordinary train of thought,
with as much trepidation as he would experience were he
to see an apparition rising out of the earth. The annals
of the world abound with instances of the most determined
obstinacy, in turning away from sources of information
which it was apprehended might subvert established

Such, then, are the conditions upon which eternal truth
is to be wooed and won. She requires evidences that she
is loved, — deeply, devotedly, supremely loved ; that she is
loved for her own sake, and more than all the dogmas of
the fathers, than all the doctrines of the most hoary an-
tiquity, than all the brilliant innovations of the moderns ;
and she requires that her suitor shall manifest this love by
taking every prejudice or former inamorata, whether of
opinion or of sense, and every idol, whether of the tribe,
the cavern, the forum, or the theater, and with a sublime
and heroic devotion immolating them upon her altars as a
willing sacrifice of propitiation. When this is done, she
opens wide her doors and admits all to her eternal fellow-
ship and communion.

But, reader, if upon examination you find your inmost
heart and soul not thus imbued with the love of truth, — if
you find yourself clinging still to your idols, and unwilling


really to give up your prejudices, let me say to you in the
language of Plato — "2/* ever you ought to pray you
should do 80 now,^^

"^Aye d'^f 8edv etnore izapaxXr^riov r^/xjy, vuv iffrw touto ourm
Yt)^6fjLevov,—De Leg., lib. x.



We have at length reached the point towards which, in
the preTious chapters, we have been slowly advancing. In
them we promised to give an analysis of the inductive pro-
cess, to point out its several steps, and to illustrate their
uie and application by examples drawn from both nature
and revelation. And as the only originality to which we
pretend in this part of the work is the peculiar applica-
tion, and not the discovery or the improvement, of the
method of induction, we can see no reason why we should
not transfer to our pages the lucid explanations of it which
grace the works of the masters of science. And this will
serve the double purpose of relieving us of the labor of
trying to express in our own language that which has been
already so well said, — thus enabling us to give our undivided
attention to the single point which toe seek to establish, —
while it will confirm the assurance given, that the method
proposed' for the interpretation of Scripture, is really the


method of science, und is not changed or perverted to serve
a purpose. To those already familiar with the processes of
science, this assurance may seem to be superfluous, but the
author seeks never to lose sight of that large class whose
investigations have not hitherto been directed to the points
involved in the present discussion ; and he confesses to a
peculiar anxiety that the masses of the people, and espe-
cially the young, should be enabled to understand a method
which has hitherto been so prolific of good, and which
promises even greater results in the future.

From among the authors who have subjected the method
of science to a severe analysis, and who have sought to
diffuse a knowledge of its principles and a sense of its im-
portance, we have selected Sir John Herschel and John
Stuart Mill as furnishing, the former in his "Discourse on
the Study of Natural Philosophy," and the latter in his
" System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive," the most
complete, perspicuous, and reliable exhibition of that whose
application we wish to extend. The former of these works,
as being on the whole the plainest, we shall follow as a text,
calling in the aid of the latter only when such aid may seem
necessary to supply a deficiency or elucidate an obscurity.
We begin, then, with the first step : —

" Whenever we would either analyze a phenomenon into
simpler ones, or ascertain what is the course or law of na-
ture under any proposed general contingency, the first step
is to accumulate a sufficient quantity of well-ascertained
facts, or recorded instances, bearing on he point in ques-
tion. Common sense dictates this, as affording us the means



of examining the same sabjeet in several points of view;
and it wonld also dictate, that the more different these
collected facts are in all other circumstances but that
which forms the sabjeet of inquiry, the better; because
they are then, in some sort, brought into contrast with
one another in their points of disagreement, and thus
tend to render those in which they agree more prominent
and striking."

Suppose, for example, we wished to ascertain what is the
law of Scripture on the subject of conversion to Christ:
after dismissing all prejudice from our mind, the first thing
to be done would be to collect the scriptural facts, or re-
corded instances, which bear upon the point. And in this
case it would be as plainly the dictate of common sense as
in any other. But we proceed : —

'' The only facts which can ever become osefiil, as grounds
of physical inquiry, are those which happen nniformly and
invariably under the same circnmstances. This is evident :
for if they have not this character they cannot be included
in laws; they want that universality which fits them to
enter as elementary particles into the constitution of those
universal axioms which we aim at discovering. If one and
the same result does not happen under a given combination
of circumstances, apparently the same, one oT two things
must be supposed, — caprice, (t.e. the arbitrary intervention
of mental agency,) or differences in the circumstances them-
selves, really existing, but unobserved by us. In either
case, though we may record such facts as curiosities, or as


awaiting explanation when the difference of circumstances
shall be anderstood, we can make no ase of them in scien-
tific inquiry. Hence, whenever we notice a remarkable
effect of any kind, our first question ought to be, Can it be
reproduced ? What are the circumstances under which it
has happened ? And will it always happen again if those
circumstances, so far as we have been able to collect them,
coexist ?"

If, now, we return to the subject above chosen for illus-
tration, we may collect, among other recorded instances of
conversion, that of the thief on the cross. We now ask,
What are the circumstances of this case ? Are they pecu-
liar, or do they possess *' that universality which fits them
to enter as elementary particles into the constitution of a
universal axiom " or law ? If we decide that they are pecu-
liar, and such that, from the nature of the case, they could
not by any possibility arise again, then we must be careful
not to make those of the circumstances which are thus pecu-
liar the elements of a general conclusion.

"The circumstances, then," continues our author, "which
accompany any observed fact are main features in its ob-
servation, at least until it is ascertained by sufficient expe-
rience what circumstances have nothing to do with it, and
might, therefore, have been left unobserved without sacri-
ficing t?ie fact. In observing and recording a fact, there-
fore, altogether new, we ought not to omit any circumstance
capable of being noted, lest some one of the omitted cir-
cumstances should be essentially connected with the fact,


and its omission shoald, therefore, reduce the implied state-
ment of a law of nature to the mere record of an historical
event '^

Such, then, are the materials of the inductiye method.
Not parts of facts or instances ; not a clause of a verse, or
a single sentence ; not a single case, even when taken in all
its amplitade ; bat a large collection of cases, all observed
in the light of every circumstance that can contribute in
any degree to explain them. This subject, which has re-
ceived the earnest attention of every writer on induction,
will come up again, under a different aspect, when we get
to the subject of classification. It will be sufficient to ob-
serve in this place, that the circumstances which, in the
collection of materials for a biblical induction, must in all
cases be observed, are such as these : The person speaking
or writing; the persons addressed — their prejudices, diffi-
culties, previous attainments, and general character, whether
Jews or Gentiles, believers or unbelievers ; their relation to
him who addresses them, with the main design of his address,
and the whole scope of the argument in which the given
passage occurs. Equally important is it to eliminate those
circumstances which do not properly belong to a given case,
but which we are continually liable to attach to it, — as, for
instance, the present state of knowledge, the opinions of
modern times, the views and theories which have been
based upon it, and all that mass of doctrinal or metaphysical
speculation, which is now propounded in the language then


Having acted upon such principles, in the observation
and collection of facts, we are prepared to take another
step, and to proceed to the classification of the objects we
have thns collected.^



We divide the subject of Classification into two parts,
denominated respectively General and Special Classifica-
tion. The former, which is preliminary to the latter, will
be considered in the present chapter. The nature and
necessity of this division of the subject will appear from
the following quotations from the authors we have previ-
ously named : —

"Before we can enter," says Sir John Herschel, "into
anything which deserves to be called a general and sys-
tematic view of nature, it is necessary that we should pos-
sess an enumeration, if not complete, at least of consider-
able extent, of her materials and combinations; and that
those which appear in any degree important should be
distinguished by names which may not only tend to fix

* The whole of the second part of tl|is book belongs logically to
the above chapter. It was, however, reserved for separate treat-
ment, for reasons which will be given in the proper place.


them in our recollection, but may constitute, as it were,
nuclei or centers, about which information may collect into

And Mr. Mill, (System of Logic, page 433,) speaking
of classification as embracing all really existing objects,
says : "We cannot constitute any one class properly, except
in reference to a general division of the whole of nature;
we cannot determine the group in which any one object can
most conveniently be placed, without taking into considera-
tion all the varieties of existing objects — all, at least, which
have any degree of aflfinity with it. No one family of plants
or animals could have been rationally constituted, except as
part of a systematic arrangement of all plants or animals ;
nor could such a general arrangement have been properly
made, without first determining the exact place of plants
and animals in a general division of nature.^^

It is evident, in other words, that, before a particular
and correct classification can be made, we must ascertain
the grand divisions which exist in nature, or form a general
classification. Afterwards we can make as many subdivi-
sions and classifications as are warranted by the facts in the
several departments of each grand division. And as in
nature, so in revelation ; it is, first of all, necessary to pos-
sess a general knowledge of the entire book of Scripture,
— "an enumeration, more or less complete, of its materials
and combinations," — its history and chronology, the great
events which stand out prominently upon its surface, with
the order of their succession, and their mutual dependence.
For, as Mr. Mill elsewhere observes, " Of all truths re-



lating to phenomena, the most valuable to us are those
which relate to the order of their succession."*

This general information is possessed, to a greater or
less extent, by most persons in the various communities of
Christendom. Almost every one knows what is written of
the creation ; of the early forms of worship ; the deluge ;
the calling of Abraham ; the life of Joseph ; the passage
of the Israelites from Egypt; the giving of the law; the
subsequent conduct of the Jews under their judges, kings,
and prophets; the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection,
ascension, and coronation of the Saviour; the descent of
the Holy Spirit ; the preaching of the Apostles ; the con-
version of Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles; the organiza-
tion of churches ; the epistles directed to them ; with various
interesting and important matters which serve to fill up this
rough outline of the book of Scripture. Now from the
facts contained in this enumeration we are to form, or, more
strictly speaking, to discover, those grand divisions into
which the Bible is naturally divided.

Without this all is chaos. Without this, too, it is im-
possible correctly to make those special classifications which
are indispensable to a critical or accurate knowledge of par-
ticular subjects. In other words, unless this be done, there
can be no science of interpretation, however numerous the
collection of biblical facts, or however honest and earnest
the endeavors of scholars to understand them. But, for-
tunately, we are not left at this late day to penetrate a

* System of Logic, p. 196.


region hitherto unexplored; and it is with no ordinary
pleasure that we record the fact, that the observation and
research of enlightened Christians have led them, with sin-
gular unanimity, to look upon the Bible as being naturally
separated into three grand divisions, respectively desig-
nated, in the order of their historical succession, as fol-
lows : —

1. The Patriarchal, or ante-Judaic Dispensation.

2. The Mosaic, or Jewish Dispensation.

3. The Christian Dispensation.

These names, which have been given to the several grand
divisions of Scripture, serve as so many centers of attrac-
tion, drawing to them all those passages or recorded facts
which the mind perceives naturally to belong to them. Or,
to return to the language of Sir John Herschel, above
quoted, "they constitute, as it were, nuclei or centers, about
which information may collect into masses."

But from this it follows of necessity, that if there be
diversity of opinion as to the boundary lines of these divi-
sions, — the points in the Scripture history where one dis-
pensation ends and another begins, — there must be a
corresponding diversity in the treatment of so much of that
history as covers the space in dispute. For if A maintain
that the Jewish Dispensation ends at a certain point, and
B that it ends at some subsequent point, A will of course
refer the intermediate Scriptures to the Christian Dispen-
sation, while B will refer the same Scriptures to the Jewish.
It is, therefore, not only necessary to determine, as has
been done, that such divisions do exist in the Bible, but it


IS equally, and for the same reason, necessary that we ascer-
tain with all possible accuracy where the lines are placed
that separate such divisions.

So far as known to me there is no disagreement respect-
ing the termination of the first and the beginning of the
second dispensation. All concur in fixing this point at
the giving of the law from Mount Sinai. The reasons for
this are so abundant, so palpable, and so conclusive, and
withal so generally known and appreciated, that it were
idle to occupy space in presenting them. Unhappily, how-
ever, the same unanimity of opinion does by no means
obtain respecting the boundary between the Jewish and
the Christian Dispensations. And indispensable to every
biblical student as we deem the determination of this point,
we might here safely leave it without discussion, and pro-
ceed at once to the elucidation of that method which would
enable the reader to solve the problem for himself. But
as we feel sure that he would prefer to see a matter so
important settled in its appropriate place, as it will be so
frequently involved in our subsequent progress, and as it
will furnish a fair illustration of the application of the
inductive method to the Scriptures, we have concluded —
notwithstanding our development of the principles involved
is still incomplete — to attempt the solution of the problem
by the aid of the general principles exhibited in the first
chaptei* of the present book.

The point before us is to determine precisely, if possible,
when the Christian Dispensation began ; and as there is no
text which tells us in so many words that it began at this


or that point, it can be determined only by means of
the inductive method. We begin, then, by observing and
collecting the facts which relate to the subject ; and while,
for want of space, we shall do little more than allude to
them, the reader will do well to examine* them carefully in
their original places and connections : —

First fact. Christ was a Jew ; born of Jewish parents
according to the flesh ; made (or placed) under the (Mo-
saic) law; and lived and died under the Jewish Dispen-
sation. We need not pause to prove a fact which none ever

Second fact. During his life, the Christian Dispensa-
tion, or the kingdom of heaven, is spoken of, sometimes as
future, and sometimes as present. For example: "The
kingdom of heaven is at hand;^^ "On this rock I will
build my church;" " Thy kingdom come;^^ "Woe unto you'
Scribes and Pharisees, for you shut the kingdom of God
against men, for you neither go in yourselves nor suffer
those that are entering to enter;" "The law and the
prophets were until John, since that time the kingdom
of God is preached, and every man prcsseth into it;" it
''suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force;"
"The kingdom of God is within you, — has come unto

Third fact. The limitations placed upon the disciples in
their preaching, during this period, were those of Judaism,
and not of Christianity : " Go not into the way of the Gen-
tiles, and into any city of Samaria enter ye not, but go rather
to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. " But in the Christian



Dispensation there is **no difiFerence," and they are to *'go
into all the world and preach the gospel to every crea-

Fourth fact. It is a recognized principle that the law
or dispensation is changed when the priesthood is changed,
(Heb. vii. 11, 12 ;) while it is revealed that Christ was not
a priest while on the earth, because the law of Moses was
then of force, (Heb. yiii. 4,) bat that he was made a priest
after, or "since the law," (Heb. vii. 28.) He was the end
of the law — ^nailed it to his cross. He was afterwards
made a priest after the order of Melchisedec, and then
there was "of necessity a change in the law," or a new
dispensation, which brought men "under law to Christ."

Fifth fact. The Holy Spirit, by the mouth of the
prophets, predicted that this law should go forth out of


Zion: "For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the
word of the Lord from Jerusalem." (Is. ii. 2, 3; Mic.
iv. 2.)

Sixth fact. The Apostles who were to open the king-
dom — to proclaim this law and this word of the Lord, and
to one of whom, Peter, were given the keys of the king-
dom of heaven — were expressly required, in accordance with
the above prophecy, to "tarry at Jerusalem until they
should be endued with power from on high;" and then,
when thus endued, they were to " begin " the proclamation
of the word of the Lord, "at Jerusalem." They were also
informed that they should "receive" this "power after that
the Holy Spirit had come upon them."

Seventh fact. All this was fulfilled on the day of Pen-


tecost, (Acts, ii.) Christ was then priest; the Holy Spirit
came upon the Apostles ; they were tarryiDg at Jerusalem ;
and Peter, with the eleven, proclaimed the word and the
law of the Lord, ''beginning at Jerusalem;" while the
door was thus opened through which three thousand passed
into the kingdom of heaven, freed or loosed from their

Though the above are not all the facts which bear upon
the case, they are the prerogative instances, and are abund-
antly sufficient to enable us to determine the point before
US. These force us to exclude such hypotheses as that the
Christian Dispensation began in eternity, or at the creation
of man, or the calling of Abraham, or the giving of the
law, or the birth of Christ, or the crucifixion ; and compel
us to adopt one of two conclusions, — either that it began
with the preaching of John in the wilderness, or on the
day of Pentecost. Now the inductive method requires
that, " after a great number of exclusions have left but few
principles common to every case," or but few conclusions
possible in the light of all the facts, "one of these is to be
assumed as the cause," i.e. the explanation or answer;
" and by reasoning from it synthetically, we are to try if it
will account for the phenomena."* We will assume, then,
for the sake of testing its correctness, that the new dispen-
sation began with the preaching of John the Baptist in the
wilderness of Judea. Now if this be true, all the texts
which bear upon the subject can be clearly explained by it

* See Play fair, quoted in chap, i., supra.


without doing violence to them, and without disregarding,
in their interpretation, the forms of expression which are
common in the Bible. Let us apply it, then, to the various
classes of facts we have before us : —

1. If it be true, then according to our first fact there
were two dispensations in existence at the same time, for
Christ, during his life, recognized the existence and au-
thority of the Jewish Dispensation.

2. If it be true, then those Scriptures in our second class,
which speak of the kingdom of heaven as having come,
signify that it had actually and formally come ; but this
is incompatible with those other texts which represent it as

3. If it be true, then the direction to the disciples to
confine their preaching to the Jews, is a law of the Chris-
tian Dispensation, and, of course, still obligatory; but this,
too, is incompatible with the commission, unless the "all
nations " and the " every creature" be taken in a limited
sense, to mean only all the Jews in every nation, which is
contrary to known facts.

4. If it be true, then Christ must have exercised the
priestly ofiBce upon the earth — which is also contrary to fact.

6. If it be true, then the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah
cannot refer to the going forth of the law of the last dis-
pensation. But they expressly declare that the prediction
is concerning what shall take place in " the last days " or
dispensation, when the "mountain of the Lord's house" —
the government or kingdom of Christ — "shall be established
in the top of the mountains."


6. If it be true, the Apostles did not " begin at Jerusa-
lem," but merely carried on there what had been begun
some years before in the wilderness.

7. If it be true, Peter did not open the door of the
kingdom on the day of Pentecost, nor upon any other
occasion ; but merely stood in the door, with his keys in
his hand, which were altogether useless, as it had been
opened by John, without keys.

This assumption, then, so far from being yerified by the
test, is shown to be wholly untrue, and incompetent to ex-
plain one single fact, without having its explanation proved
false by the instant and irreconcilable opposition of numer-
ous and various other facts. We are left, therefore, to the
single conclusion, that the new dispensation began on the
day of Pentecost. Let us now see whether this can be

It perfectly accords with the fact that Christ lived under
the Jewish Dispensation ; with the fact that the kingdom
of heaven was future during his lifetime ; with the fact that
the gospel was to be preached to all the world ; with the
fact that Christ was to be priest before the law was changed ;
with the fact that the law was to go forth from Mount
Zion ; that the Apostles were to publish it, and begin at
Jerusalem ; and that they were to do so after they received
the Holy Ghost ; and so with every other fact and docu-
ment on the subject. The only apparent exception*
being those texts which speak of the kingdom of heaven

^ See Canon VI., ohap. vii., tii/ra.


as being in existence during his life — before the king was

If, now, the ordinary forms of speech used by the sacred
writers will enable us to interpret those texts in harmony
with this general conclusion, without doing violence to
them or bringing them in opposition to other texts, the
verification will be perfect and the induction complete.

To determine this we must take into account the peculiar
circumstances of the case. We notice that John, Christ,
the twelve, and the seventy, all proclaimed and inculcated
the principles of the kingdom of heaven. The whole
burden of their teaching was directed to the preparation
of men for the coming kingdom. They told them what it
was like in the material world ; gave them correct ideas of
its spiritual nature ; and made known those exalted prin-
ciples of self-denial, sincerity, love, and forgiveness, which
were to distinguish its subjects, and which, therefore, were
to be received and cherished as a preparation for that
kingdom. Now those who embraced these instructions
were spoken of as receiving the kingdom of God, or as
having the kingdom of God within them, or as pressing
into the kingdom of God, or as having the kingdom of
heaven come unto them; and as these principles were
greatly opposed, it was necessary for those who embraced
them to break loose, as by an ejffort of violence, and press
into the kingdom, in spite of those who by their hypocrisy
and falsehood were shutting the kingdom of God against
men. Thus, by embracing those principles or truths which
were certain to conduct them into the kingdom which was


at hjmd and ready to be formally set up, they could, by
anticipation f and in perfect accordance with the usages of
Scripture, be said to enter or to have entered the kingdom.

But is it a usual or frequent form of expression in the
Bible, to represent things as having actually occurred
which are yet future, but which, from the certainty of their
coming, are virtually the same as past ?

In that beautiful prophecy concerning our Saviour, in
the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, we read : " He is despised
and rejected of men. . . And we hid as it were our faces
from him. . . Surely he haih borne our griefs, and carried
our sorrows ; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of
God and afflicted." And so throughout. "He was
wounded;'' "he was bruised;" "the chastisement of our
peace tvas laid upon him," etc. The Lamb of God was
virtually slain in the days of Isaiah — ^nay, from the foun-
dation of the world ; and it could, therefore, be spoken of
by anticipation^ as having really occurred ; and yet no one
would presume to argue from this circumstance that, as a
historical event, the actual occurrence took place one mo-
ment anterior to the time of Pontius Pilate, and the day
and hour specified by the Apostles.

Our Saviour tells his disciples (Mark, ix. 31,) that "the
Son of man is delivered into the hands of men;" while
his actual delivery into their hands was long afterwards.

In the institution of the supper he tells them : " This is
my body broken for you — and my blood shed for you;"
while he was yet alive.

A case directly in point occurs in Philippians, iii. 20 :


*'For our conversation is in heaven ; from whence also we
look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ;" where the
word "conversation" is, in the Greek, TzoXirtofxa^ (politeu-
ma,) citizenship. We are, then, citizens or residents of
heaven — not actually, but virtually, from having embraced
the principles and adopted the course of life which will
conduct us to heaven. And this agrees with what is said
to the Hebrews, xiL*22 : **But ye are come to Mount Sion,
and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusa-
lem, and to an innumerable company of angels," etc. This
text is doubly useful in the establishment of the point in
question, because, if taken literally, it verifies the conclu-
sion previously reached, that the law of the new dispensa-
tion went forth from Mount Zion in Jerusalem, inasmuch
as this passage begins the contrast of the two dispensa-
tions, by identifying them with the two mountains whence
they respectively started ; and if the words are to be taken
as Mr. Barnes and others suppose, then they are analogous
to the class of Scriptures which it is incumbent upon us to
explain in harmony with that conclusion. In whatever
sense they are taken, therefore, they conclude the argument.
But we will quote Barnes's note in loco : —

" It cannot be literally meant here that they had come
to the Mount Zion in Jerusalem, for that was as true of
the whole Jewish people as of those whom the Apostle
addressed, but it must mean that they had come to the
Mount Zion of which the holy city was an emblem ; to the
glorious mount which is revealed as the dwelling-place of
God, of angels, of saints. They were not, indeed, literally


in heaven, nor was that glorious city literally on earth, but
the dispensation to which they had been brought was that
which conducted directly up to the city of the living God,

and to the holy mount where he dwelt above It is

true that Christians have not yet seen that city by the
bodily eye, but they look to it with the eye of faith. It is
revealed to them ; they are permitted by anticipation to
contemplate its glories, and to feel tliat it is to be their
eternal home. They are permitted to live and act as if
they saw the glorious Ood whose dwelling is there, and
were already surrounded by the angels and the redeemed."

Inasmuch, therefore, as the conclusion or generalization
from the facts is warranted, required, and supported by
every fact involved in it — until it is shown to be erroneous
by the counter testimony of facts equally veritable and
plain — we can suffer no consequences of the conclusion, or
no mere opposing theory to shake our conviction, that the
Christian Dispensation did first actually, formally, and his-
torically begin its existence on this earth, on the day of
Pentecost. In this conclusion we are happy to have the
concurrence, among others, of a not less discriminating
mind than that of Archbishop Whately. He says : —

"That gospel which had been proclaimed by Christ and
his disciples, during his personal ministry, was, that the
'kingdom of heaven was at hand.^ That kingdom was
then only in preparation. It was not completely begun,
till the Apostles, after the outpouring on them of the Holy
Spirit, on the day of Pentecosty founded at Jerusalem the
first Christian church, and baptized into the name of the



Lord Jesus about three thousand persons, who were thus
enrolled as subjects of that kingdom."*

We have thus settled, as we trust, the boundary lines of
the three grand divisions of the Bible, viewed as a con-
nected history. And on these premises we remark, that
these dispensations, while clearly and perfectly distinct, are
not independent of each other. Each one has its own
appropriate facts. Jaws, promises, privileges, blessings,
ordinances, and institutions, which are sui generis and
distinctive ; while many things in each are common to all,
and many serve to explain and establish matters in the
others. As God is unchangeable, the principles by which,
if we may so speak, he is pleased to govern himself in his
dealings with men, cannot change, and must be the same in
every dispensation ; while the laws and institutions which
are adapted to man in the various stages of his career and
his development must change in order to that adaptation.
Hence it is, that we find God unchangeably requiring faith
and obedience, while the propositions to be believed and
the commandments to be obeyed vary, many of them, with
the different dispensations. Hence if we would learn the
peculiarities of either dispensation, that which constitutes
it Patriarchal, Jewish, or Christian, in distinction from the
others, we must go to those parts of Scripture which are
professedly devoted to that dispensation. Whereas the
general principles of all divine religion may be learned
with more or less ease, and may be seen more or less fully
developed in either department.

* Prelim. Dis., Encyo. Brit., Dis. iii.


We may further remark that, as Christianity was always
in contemplation during the continuance of the antecedent
dispensations, a large number of its principles were antici-
pated and recorded with reference to it. Hence we can
learn many of the peculiarities of the Christian Dispensa-
tion, particularly if read by its own effulgent light, from
the types and shadows of the Mosaic, from the prophets,
from the Baptist, and, above all, from Him the very burden
of whose preaching and instructions was to illustrate and
commend the truths and principles of the approaching dis-
pensation. While, then, it is absolutely necessary to fix
with the utmost precision the lines of separation, in order
to learn what is distinctive in each dispensation, we are
not to suppose that these dispensations are respectively
insulated from the rest of Scripture, and destitute of that
mutual support, illustration, and confirmation which are
apparent upon every page of the inspired record.



It will require but a brief space in which to lay down
the principles of special classification. The only difficulty
to be apprehended in this, lies in the fact that such classifi-
cations are characterized by an apparent want of fixedness,
the precise nature of which should be clearly understood


bj erery one who woold em[^oj with profit the method of

There is no independent fact in the oniTerae. Erery-
thing that exists, and eTerjthing that occurs, is connected
with something else — naj, in some sense, with everything
else, by ties more or less numerons, and in associations
more or less immediate. And hence, begin where we may,
we can trace those cords of connection up to something
higher, and down to something lower, as well as to the
objects immediately by the side of that we are examining.
Suppose we begin at the highest point, and trace this con-
nection downward. Here we regard the whole creation
as one class, nature^ bound into a unit by a great cable, as
it were, held by the hand of Omnipotence. Tracing this
down from its point of suspension, it is presently perceived
to be divided into two strands — one of which runs through,
and binds into one everything that is organic, and the other
everything that is inorganic. These again are respectively
subdivided. We will follow the strand that represents the
organic division of nature. This is divided immediately
into two smaller cords, one of which binds to itself all
vegetable organization, and the other all animal. These
now subdivide in order to bind into classes the various
kinds of vegetables and of animals. And thus we de-
scend from a single point to every individual in the uni-
verse, and see, to begin with the individuals, how each
one is bound to, or classed with, first, others most like
itself; next, others which are like it in a less number of
respects ; and then, others still less ; and finally with all


things, in some of which the likeness is confined to a single

Or we might, in making our classifications, ascend the
scale. Beginning with the individuals of the animal crea-
tion, we might form them into the various classes of ani-
mals, and then elevate all these into the one class, ani-
mal. In the same way we might bring up all the classes
of vegetables to the one class, vegetable; and then uniting
these two, we should have the one class, organic nature.
Pausing here till we had brought up the various classes
of the other department, to the most general class of
that department, inorganic nature^ we could unite these
two into the great genus generaussimum, or highest
class, nature, or creation.

It will be perceived that every class except the highest
and the lowest — which are called by logicians genus gene-
ralissimunij and species specialissima — is at the same
time both a genus and a species; a genus with respect to
classes below it, and a species with respect to that or those
above it ; and all of them together are called the interme'
diate genera and species, i.e. each one is a genus genera-
lius, or a species specialior, according as we consider it in
the ascending or descending series.

All this is strictly true of the facts of the Bible. In one
point the Scriptures are a unit — ^the word of God. But
they are divided, as we have seen, into three grand divi-
sions, denominated dispensations ; and now each of these is
divided again into other classes, and these into others, and
80 on, till all the facts are arranged into a series of genera



and species, from any single one of which we can ascend
to a genus generallus, or higher class.

Upon what principle, now, are we authorized to make
these classifications of Scripture texts or facts ? We answer,
upon that one precisely which prevails in natural classifi-
cation — the principle of their constitutional agreement or
natural likeness. We group into families things which
are akin to each other. Here are half a dozen texts, for
example, which agree perfectly in several essential particu-
lars, while each has some peculiarity which distinguishes
it from all the others. They are, for instance, on the same
subject — addressed to men who are in substantially the
same condition — for the purpose of inculcating the same
truth and effecting the same object. With reference, then,
to all the points of natural likeness or agreement, we class
them together, while the points of dissimilarity are left out
or disregarded.

But we are not to suppose that the respective peculiari-
ties, which find no place in this classification, are therefore
redundant and useless ; for there may exist numerous other
facts which agree with those in the first class only in the
points which are therein disregarded. And thus the same
fact may enter into two or more classes, with reference now
to one of its aspects, and now to another. All parables,
for example, may be classed together in one family, because
they are all naturally alike in one respect, namely, that they
are parables. Again, the laws of language require that
poetic compositions shall be construed in a manner differ-
ing in some important particulars from plain narrative.


Now, for the porpose of eliminating the highly-colored
imagery and bold hyperboles, with all that extravagance
of diction which is proper to poetry, but which would mis-
lead if taken as plain prose and used in our inductions ;
and for the purpose of ascertaining what would be the real
facts and unadorned doctrine remaining as residual phe-
nomena after those things are excluded, — we may class all
such Scriptures together, as inyolving the laws applicable
to poetry in their interpretation. But now, all those things
which we have designated the residual phenomena of such
Scriptures — what remains after the poetic element has been
eliminated — must be classed again, upon the principle of
the likeness of their subject matter. Thus, too, of all the
forms of figurative expression — ^before they can enter into
the process of legitimate induction, i.e. before they can be
placed upon a par or in a class with simple facts, they must
themselves be rendered simple, by being divested of those
accidents which might otherwise be taken as essential phe-
nomena, and thus vitiate the conclusion.

Enough has now been said on this subject, it is presumed,
to make evident the following propositions : 1. That for
any classification to be useful, it must be formed upon the
basis of the real connection or homology which exists natu-
rally between the objects classified, and not merely upon
the fortuitous similarity of their accidents. 2. That the
same fact may be connected in its different aspects with
more classes than one, just as a man is related by consan-
guinity to more families than one. 3. And finally, that a
generalization from any class of facts must be of the same


grade with that class. The violation of this last principle
— which is about equivalent to Bacon's inductio per enu-
merationem simplicem — has been the occasion of much
mischief in those so-called inductions which have been
made from revelation. It would seem to require no argu-
ment to prove that, before we can rise to an induction of a
higher grade than the class of facts from which it is drawn,
those facts themselves must be elevated to such grade ; but
in that case they will be united, of course, with other facts
and classes, which will enter into the final generalization;
and hence, if such generalization had been made previ-
ously, it would have sprung from a partial and insufficient
number of facts, i.e, it would have been an induction by
simple enumeration.

All this may be illustrated by an example. Let it be
given to investigate the subject of conversion, taken in its
most comprehensive sense, as embracing the whole change
from the state of sin to that of justification.* We find, by
observation and comparison, that there are various classes
of texts bearing upon this subject, which, for the sake of
convenience, we may number. Leaving out some classes
concerning the predictions relating to conversion, the obli-
gations to turn, and the blessings that will follow, it will be
sufficient for our illustration to note the following : —

1. We may place in the first class all that Ood has

* The reader may observe that the terms "convert" and its cog-
nates are, in the Scriptures, commonly used in a miore restricted
sense — as applicable to the act of turning.


already done for the world in respect to their conversion.
And this, it will be perceived at once, will embrace a large
number of texts, which, besides their hearings on the sub-
ject in question, teach also many things on other subjects,
and would be included in other classes if those subjects
were to be investigated.

2. In our second class we may place all those texts
which teach what the Holy Spirit does in the conversion
of men. In this class we should be careful to include only
those texts which describe his work in conversion, while
we exclude from it, as belonging to a different inquiry, such
as tell what he does for Christians, or those who have
already been converted. And this we do upon the prin-
ciple we have been insisting upon, that there should be a
natural bond of connection to hold together the individuals
of a class.

3. We may next place in a class those Scriptures which
make known the office of the word of God in effecting

4. In a fourth class we may collect the general and spe-
cific laws of conversion, such, for example, as the commis-
sion given by the Saviour to the disciples when he sent
them out to convert men.

5. And in a fifth class we may include all the cases of
actual conversion recorded in the Scriptures. But it will
be perceived that this class, from its very nature, embraces
all the others. It stands upon a higher grade, including
everything in each of the lower.

Leaving this last class, then, for our final generalization,


we begin with the others, and from^each of them make an
induction appropriate to itself. Suppose we take class
No. 2. Now, from a careful comparison of all its indi-
viduals, viewed in the light of their yarious circumstances,
we are able to learn the general truth which they teach.
But what is that truth ? and what degree of generality are
we to assign to it ? It is not the final conclusion, for that
belongs to a higher genus ; but it is one element that enters
into the constituency of the final generalization. That is
all that this class teaches, all we expected it to teach, all
that it is necessary for it to teach — the office or work of
the Holy Spirit in conversion. But instead of assigning
this truth to its proper place, men have frequently inferred
that the whole of conversion was the work of the Spirit;
and have thus, by a false induction, set aside the necessity
and merit of Christ's death and blood, have made the word
of God useless, and have divested the minds of men of the
sense of individual responsibility. Such men, and they
are consistent in doing so, preach the Spirit, instead of
preaching Christ, his word, and his requirements, and leav-
ing the Spirit to do his own work. All this evil results
from making a generalization of a higher grade than the
class of facts which is held to justify it. And a similar
evil, equally destructive of the symmetry of Christianity,
would result if either of the other classes were thus unwar-
rantably generalized. No man, therefore, can be said to
declare the whole counsel of God, on the subject of con-
version, who does not tell what Christ has done, what the
Spirit is doing or seeking to do, what the province of the


word of God is, and the effect of studying, listening to,
and heeding it ; what the laws or requirements of Christ
are, or, in other words, what men must themselves do before
they are actually and fully converted. All these elements
enter into that generalization which we name conversion ;
and all these will be found in our fifth class of facts — the
cases of actual conversion, as recorded in the New Testa-
ment, and more particularly in the Acts of the Apostles.
They may not all be specifically mentioned and developed
in each case, but if we interpret them inductively we will
carefully compare all the cases. And it is our judgment
that, if laying aside all philosophies and theories and pre-
judices, and studying those cases in the light of the prin-
ciples herein taught, with a perfect willingness to receive
what the Scriptures teach, every human being who has
capacity to enable him to appreciate the force and meaning
of ordinary language, will reach precisely the same con-
clusion as to what is scriptural conversion^ in the general
sense in which we are using that term.

If the reader desire a fuller examination of the princi-
ples of special classification, he will find the subject ably
treated in the works from which we quoted so freely in the
previous chapters, and to which we expect to be greatly
indebted for much of what remains to be done. We trust
that what we have said will serve at least to show the im-
portance of carefully observing those principles in biblical
classification, while we are not without hope that our
familiar explanations and illustrations have contributed
something to the elucidation of a subject not popularly


understood, and which has not been hitherto sufficiently
regarded. We are now prepared to pass to the considera-
tion of the rules to be observed in making inductions from
facts thus collected and classified.



It may be supposed that in any collections of facts with
reference to the determination of a general law, the manner
in which they express or exhibit that law will vary. Some
will seem to direct us immediately to its consideration,
while others will lead us by a route more or less circuitous.
This variety in the modes by which facts communicate
their teaching, gives rise to a number of precepts appli-
cable to particular cases, which we call the Canons of the
Inductive Method, or the rules to be observed in treating
the various forms and conditions of the instances from
which the induction is to be made. Of course, therefore^
it will not be expected that these canons will all be involved
in every case, any more than all the rules of syntax in the
analysis of every sentence. Their application is determined
by the necessity that calls for them. In the prosecution
of our plan, the reasons for which have already been given,
we shall express and illustrate these canons in the language
of Sir John Herschel, compared, as occasion may require,


with Mr. Mill, while we seek to point out cases in biblical
studies in which they will severally be applicable.

It is deemed proper to remark, in this place, that although
the phraseology of some of the following canons may at
first appear difficult of comprehension to those who have
not been accustomed to the use of philosophical and scien-
tific language, such difficulty will disappear, it is believed,
after a little thought and patience, particularly if the main
point in the rule be traced out in the illustrations which
accompany it, and in others, parallel to those, which can
hardly fail to suggest themselves. And it should be re-
membered that a little pains bestowed in mastering these
canons, in connection with the principles already developed,
will put the reader in possession of the key which not only
unlocks the storehouses of natural and revealed truth, but
which is able also to introduce him into every department
of knowledge. While it is our special object to show that
the method of science is also the method of revelation, it
is equally true that the same principles are the open sesame
to law, to medicine, to politics^ and to "every inquiry in
which man can engage."


"ijr in our group of facts there he one in which any
assigned peculiarity ^ or attendant circumstance ^ is want-
ing or opposite^ such peculiarity cannot be the cause (or
explanation) we seek."

This is equivalent to the axiom of Mr. Mill: "What-


ever circamstance can be excluded, without prejudice to the
phenomenon, or can be absent notwithstanding its pre-
sence, is not connected with it in the way of causation."

In an inquiry into the cause of dew, the fact that the
under side of certain objects is, in some instances, be-
dewed, proves that dew does not fall from the sky. We
may suppose that all the balance of the facts seem to point
to this falling from the sky, as the explanation of the phe-
nomenon of dew; but even in that case, the presence of
this one fact in which the "assigned peculiarity" is "want-
ing or opposite," proves that such explanation cannot be
correct. This canon, it will be perceived, is not so useful
in conducting us to truth as in preserving us from error.

It applies particularly to those cases in which we have
been accustomed, or are likely, to make a false and hasty
induction. In biblical studies men frequently overlook the
fact that words are^ sometimes used to comprehend or im-
ply more than is contained in their strict definition ; which
enlargement of meaning must be ascertained by a com-
parison of Scripture with Scripture. The word faiths for
example, besides its proper sense, sometimes comprehends
also the whole gospel ; sometimes more particularly what
we understand by repentance ; while repentance frequently
implies faith. But if, overlooking this fact, we should take
the word faith in passages where it is used in an enlarged
sense, and predicate salvation of it in its restricted and
proper sense alone, our first canon would enable us to
perceive the mistake. To illustrate more particularly, let
us suppose that from the words of the commission, "he


that belie veth and is baptized shall be saved," and from
kindred passages, we induce or lead off the conclusion that
simply to believe, in the restricted and proper sense of that
word, and to be baptized, are the only antecedents of sal-
vation. Now, if there be "one case" in which this as-
signed efifect, i.e. salvation, is "wanting," notwithstanding
the presence of its assigned antecedents, namely, belief and
baptism, it will follow that these are not alone the "cause
or explanation " of the effect. Such a case we have in the
history of Simon Magus, Acts, viii. He believed and was
baptized, and yet, so far from being saved, he was " in the
gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity." How shall
we account for this ? By saying his was not the right kind
of faith? This is a mere assumption. The Scriptures
know nothing of different kinds of faith. Besides, the
Holy Spirit says that "then Simon himself believed also,^^
which is a clear declaration that, so far as the mere act
of believing was concerned, he believed just as the others
in Samaria did. If they had the right kind of faith,
he had also the right kind of faith. What, then, was
the deficiency ? Evidently this : he was destitute of true
repentance, which was embraced in the term "believe,"
as given in the commission,* but which was not embraced in
the term, as applied to Simon. The words of the com-
mission remain, therefore, as they forever will, true without
exception, when taken in that comprehensive meaning
which a sound induction shows to have been intended.

^ Compare Mark, xvi 16, with Luke, xxiv. 47.


Again, many well-meaning persons have concluded, from
the numerous Scriptures which commend sincerity and con-
demn hypocrisy, that sincerity alone will secure our accept-
ance with God. Hence the expression so constantly
repeated, and which one is expected to look upon as an
evidence of the most enlightened charity, that "it makes
, no difference what you believe if you are but sincere." To
say nothing of the pernicious influence of a sentiment
which equalizes falsehood with truth, let us, in obedience
to canon first, take the single case of Saul of Tarsus, who,
actuated by religious sincerity, became the "chief of sin-
ners," to show that the conclusion is wholly erroneous.


**Any circumstance in which all the facts without ex-
ception agree, may he the cause in question, or, if not, at
least a collateral effect of the same cause; if there he hut
one such point of agreement, this possihility hecomes a
certainty; and, on the other hand, if there he more than
one, they may he concurrent causes.^^

Or, in the language of Mr. Mill: "If two or more in-
stances of the phenomenon under investigation have only
one circumstance in common, the circumstance in which
alone all the instances agree, is the cause (or effect) of the
given phenomenon."

The illustration of the above canon is also drawn from
investigations on the phenomenon of dew. "Now here,"
says our author, "we have analogous phenomena in the


moisture which bedews a cold metal or stone when we
breathe upon it ; that which appears on a glass of water
fresh from the well in hot weather ; that wliich appears on
the inside of windows when sudden rain or hail chills the
external air ; that which runs down our walls when, after a
long frost, a warm moist thaw comes on, — all these instances
agree in one point, the coldness of the object dewed, in
comparison with the air in contact with it. "

In the Scriptures we have numerous cases of conversion,
all slightly varying in their attendant circumstances. Those
converted on the day of Pentecost were Jews, charged
with the guilt of betraying and murdering their Messiah ;
others were Samaritans, guilty, we may presume, of such
sins as are common to men ; others again were devout and
pious proselytes, as the eunuch and Cornelius; others still
were heathen idolaters. Some of the converts were learned,
noble, polite ; while some were slaves, poor, despised, and
ignorant; some of the cases are reported in connection
with miracles, others with ordinary instrumentalities alone;
but, notwithstanding the variety of circumstances, they all
agree in one point — the exhibition of an obedient faith.
If, now, we are seeking to learn what constitutes scriptural
conversion, so far as the act of the persons converted is
concerned, we are required, by the second canon, to de-
termine, in the first place, that an obedient faith may be the
constitution of such conversion; and if, upon further in-
quiry, we find that there is no other circumstance in which
all the facts without exception agree, then the possibility
becomes a certainty; but if, upon this inquiry, we should

21* .


find another point in which all the facts agreed, then we
should unite that also to the obedient faith as a ''concur-
rent cause," or as forming a part of the elements that
entered into the constituency of conversion, regarded as the
act of the creature.

The above illustration we look upon as being so apt and
perspicuous, that we will not withdraw the attention from
it by furnishing others.


" We are not to deny the existence of a cause in favor
of which we have a unanimous agreement of strong an-
alogies, though it may not he apparent how such a cause
can produce the effect, or even though it may be difficult
to conceive its existence under the circumstances; in such
cases we should rather appeal to experience when possi-
ble, than decide a priori against the cause, and try whether
it cannot be made apparent.^^

In illustration of the application of this canon. Sir John
Herschel returns to the subject of dew: "Is it a fact that
the object dewed is colder than the air? Certainly not,
one would at first be inclined to say ; for what is to make
it so ? But the analogies are cogent and unanimous ; and,
therefore, pursuant to Rule 3, we are not to discard, their
indications ; and, besides, the experiment is easy ; we have
only to lay a thermometer in contact with the dewed sub-
stance, and hang one a little distance above it out of the
reach of its influence. The experiment has been made;


the question has been asked, and the answer has been inva-
riably in the affirmative. Whenever an object collects dew,
it is colder than the surrounding air."

From a large number of biblical questions to which this
canon is applicable, we will select a single one, and leave the
reader to apply it to others as occasion may require. The
question selected is this: Is Christian baptism for the re-
mission of sins? Certainly not, one would at first be
inclined to say ; for what could make it so ? How is it
possible that any connection can exist between an external
act and the remission of sins ? But the analogies are
cogent and unanimous; and therefore, pursuant to canon
third, we are not to discard their indications. We will
mention some of these analogies : —

The eating of the forbidden fruit was an external act of
very trifling moment, in itself considered; but, in conse-
quence of the divine law which it violated, it was an act of
incalculable importance.

Naaman the Syrian's dipping of himself in the Jordan
for the cure of leprosy, would have excited the just ridi-
cule of men, if it had been viewed as a simple external act,
apart from the authority that enjoined it. How can the
water which touches but the surface remove a disease?
What virtue is there in it? The idea is preposterous, and
the act absurd. But he was cured, notwithstanding I

An infidel or skeptic Jew, bitten by a fiery serpent, might
have asked with the same shallow plausibility, How can my
looking upon the brazen serpent remove the poison from
my veins ? The cause is not adequate i;o the effect. But

2iH isducti^t: caxoxs.

gtill, if he looked, he lired ; and if he refused to look, he

Again, it may be asked, Wh j is faith held to be necessary
to pardon ? It is a mere act of the creatnre God cannot
exercise faith for any one. Besides, we are expressly taught
that the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin ; and as this
blood was shed for all, all will therefore be saved, whether
they have or have not faith. But, notwithstanding this
popnlar logic, he that belieyeth not shall be condemned !

By the same sort of transparent sophistry, we can set
aside repentance, a change of heart, the love of God, the
love of man, good works, and everything that God has
required ; and thus establish TJniversalism, upon the basis
of infidelity!

The analogies, therefore, are cogent and unanimouSy
that whatever God appoints, with reference to a certain
end, is effectual, when obeyed, and necessary for the attain-
ment of that end. As, therefore, in every single instance
in the New Testament where the design of Christian bap-
tism is spoken of, it is declared to be "for the remission
of sins,^^ either in these identical words, or in others clearly
equivalent in meaning, and as this is supported by the
uniform analogy of all Scripture, we cannot feel at liberty
to discard such testimony.

The author will take this occasion to say, that he looks
upon baptism as being the smallest part of Christianity.
Still it is a part, and, in its place, an essential part; and
hence he cannot but regret that Protestants, in their
anxiety to get as far as possible from Borne on this point,


have nearly all, in his judgment, gone beyond Jerusalem,
If the day has not passed when we might reasonably hope
to see this mQch-controverted question settled upon the
sure basis of Scripture, it might be interesting and profit-
able to point out some of the aberrations which have been
made from the Bible. And if the reader will take this in
the spirit in which it is offered, the author will just indi-
cate, in a few sentences, some of the inconsistencies into
which the different divisions have been betrayed.

1. First, then, they have all so heartily repudiated the
doctrine of Rome, that the baptism of a subject without
faith, repentance, or any preparation of mind or heart,
secures salvation, that they have been led to reject the
Scripture doctrine also, which is, that the baptism of a
believer who heartily repents, and who puts all his trust
in Christ, is *'for the remission of sins."

2. One large division of Protestants, while insisting
upon the utter uselessness, and non-essentiality of the ordi-
nance, feel aggrieved at those who would have them with-
hold it from their children ; and contend earnestly for the
right of dedicating their offspring to the Lord, and of
securing for them his covenant blessings in baptism I

3. Another and opposite division, sensitive concerning
their orthodoxy, are equally earnest in disclaiming any
good that is to result from the institution, and especially
the promised blessing of remission, while they contend,
with a zeal that is ut least worthy of a blessing and a re-
ward, for the right "mode," and a ''believing subject.''

If inconsistencies so glaring can continue for scores of


years in the midst of the most searching criticism and
incessant debate, we confess that the prospect of a final
agreement on the trath is by no means flattering. Still, if
Protestants will only bring themselves to the determination
really to stand and fall by their own principles^ all these
difficulties will seem speedily to evaporate like the dew of
morning. For not one of them has sprung from the Bible ;
and when we go back to that^ and thai alone, the subject
will stand out in its own clear light, with not a word said
on the "modes" of baptism, or about "dedicating our
children to the Lord by baptism." It will be, in fact, when
stripped of its extraneous matter, a new subject. We shall
then see a word and circumstances telling us, beyond
doubt, that a certain specific action is baptism ; while the
" mode " in which that action is to be performed is left to
the convenience or taste of every individual. Any other
action, whatever it might in subsequent ages be named,
we should not regard as a " mode " of Bible baptism, but
a different thing altogether. And then, when that specific
action, whatever we should discover it to be, was performed
by those whom the Scriptures positively and directly re-
quire to perform it, we should assure them, in the language
of Scripture, of "the remission of sins." We might or
might not understand how or why the benefit of Christ's
blood, which alone is efficacious for the cleansing of sin,
should first be fully assured to the individual in that action ;
but still we could and should receive it as a matter of faith,
even without its philosophy. And thus it seems to us that
this, the most difficult and involved of all the questions in


controversy, might be put forever at rest, by returning
practically to the true foundation of Protestantism, and
then interpreting the Bible according to the principles of
induction, or common sense.


" Contrary or opposing facts are equally instructive
for the discovery of causes with favorable ones."

An example of the above brief but valuable canon, in
its application to natural inquiries, is also found by Sir
John Herschel in the prolific investigation of the phenome-
non of dew. "Among the negative instances," he says,
"it is observed that dew is never copiously deposited in
situations much screened from the open sky, and not at all
in a cloudy night. A clear view of the cloudless sky, then,
is an essential condition, or, what comes to the same thing,
clouds or surrounding objects act as opposing causes."

One or two examples will show the application and im-
portance of the above canon in biblical questions. In the
inquiries which have been made into the causes, or the
immediate and essential antecedents of human salvation,
many have concluded that faith was a mere accidental con-
comitant, increasing perhaps the degree of enjoyment, but
not an essential condition of salvation ; and all those pas-
sages of Scripture which speak of the eflfect and import-
ance of faith have been somehow explained in harmony
with this supposition. To test the correctness of such a
position as this, the negative instances are most valuable.


"He that believeth not shall be condemned." "If ye be-
lieve not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." "He
that believeth not is condemned already, because he has
not believed," etc. These instances, and others like them,
show that faith is not merely a general accompaniment of
salvation, but an essential condition precedent. As when
the sky is not clear there is no dew, proves that a clear sky
is essential to its formation ; so these cases, where there i^
no faith there is no salvation, prove faith to be essential
to salvation. But let us discriminate : a clear sky is not
the cause of dew ; it is but a condition necessary to the*
effectual operation of the cause. The real cause of dew is
the cooling of the dewed surface by radiation of heat faster
than its heat can be restored to it by communication with
the ground, or by counter-radiation, so as to become colder
than the air, and thereby to cause a condensation of its
moisture. Clouds, by this counter-radiation, replace the
whole or a great part of the heat radiated away, and thus
act as opposing causes. While their removal does not,
then, furnish a cause of dew, it takes away the obstacle
which neutralizes the cause. Precisely so it is with faith.
It is not the cause of our salvation, but a condition neces-
sary to the effectual operation of the cause, which is the
love of God in Christ. Or — for it amounts to the same
thing — infidelity is an obstacle which throws off the saving
influences of the gospel, and prevents them from affecting
the heart.

By the same canon we may be assured of the necessity
of obedience conjoined with, or rather springing out of.


faith. If, from the various texts which speak of the im-
portance of faith as an essential condition of salvation, we
should conclude that there was no other one, and that the
cause of salvation could effectually operate without the
concurrence of any other state of mind, disposition of
heart, subordination of will, or consecration of life, than
what is implied in the mere fact of believing, negative
Instances or opposing causes, if such exist, will at once
settle the matter and close the argument.

We read, that "among the chief rulers, also, many be-
lieved on him, but because of the Pharisees they did not
confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue,
for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of
God." — John, xii. 42. "Thou believest there is one God;
thou doest well : the devils also believe and tremble. But
wilt thou know, vain man, that faith without works is
dead ? Was not Abraham our father justified by works,
when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar ? Seest
thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was
faith made perfect?" — James, ii. 19. "God will render to
every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient
continuance in well-doing seek for glory, honor, and im-
mortality, eternal life ; but unto them that are contentious
and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indig-
nation and wrath, tribulation and anguish." — Romans, ii. 6.
"The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his
mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them
that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our
Lord Jesus Christ"— 2 Thes. i. 7.


Sacb Scriptares as these make it evident that faith with-
out obedience is not sufficient for salvation; and that hence,
in those cases where faith is spoken of without mentioning
obedience, it is nevertheless clearly and necessarily implied.
For if a man is justified by faith, and condemned for dis-
obedience, it amounts to demonstration that justifying faith
must include obedience ; otherwise a man might be both in
a state of justification and of condemnation at the same
time, which is absurd.

It is much to be regretted that, in the reaction from the
system of works alone, as the meritorious cause of salva-
tion, Protestants should have run to the other extreme, and
attached to the Bible doctrine of "justification by faith"
the unscriptural addition of the word "alone," thus -ex-
cluding as concurrent conditions the commandments of
God. The intention in this was simply to exclude them
as causes, with the implied idea of merit in those who
obeyed them. But a moment's consideration tvoold have
shown, one would think, that, as the exercise of faith is
itself an act of obedience, it falls necessarily into the same
predicament with all other scriptural requirements ; and,
consequently, if they are to be excluded from the prerequi-
sites of salvation, in order to avoid the idea of merit, itj as
it belongs to the same category, must also be excluded
with the others ; and this forces us to predicate salvation
without faith or obedience, which is Universalism — ^pro-
vided it be true that "God is no respecter of persons."
But if we regard faith and obedience alike, not as causes
of salvation, and, therefore, wanting the idea of merit, bat


as conditions uecessarilj precedent to the effectual opera-
tion of the true cause, the subject is instantly relieved of
all difficulty; everything falls into its appropriate place;
and all of practical Christianity is beautifully harmonized.


" Causes vrill frequently become obvious, by a mere
arrangement of our facts in the order of intensity in
which some peculiar quality subsists; though not of ne-
cessity, because counteracting or modifying causes may
be at the same time in action.^^

** Sound consists in impulses communicated to our ears
by the air. If a series of impulses of equal force be com-
municated to it at equal intervals of time, at first in slow
succession, and by degrees more and more rapidly, we hear
at first a rattling noise, then a low murmur, and then a
hum, which, by degrees, acquires the character of a musical
note, rising higher and higher in acuteness, till its pitch
becomes too high for the ear to follow. And from this
correspondence between the pitch of the note and the
rapidity of succession of the impulse, we conclude that our
sensation of the different pitches of musical notes origi-
nates in the different rapidities with which their impulses
are communicated to our ears."

It is of very great practical importance in Christianity,
to determine the proximate cause of faith. How is it pro-
duced ? What influences or forces are necessary to gene-
rate it? The solution of this problem will furnish a


beaatifal example of the application of the above canon.
We have a series of characters, beginning with those who
have no faith, proceeding to those who have but little, then
to those who have more, and to others who have still more,
till finally we reach a class who have attained to the fall
assurance of faith. And now, in all this series, we notice
one circumstance which varies precisely as the degree of
faith varies. This circumstance we may consider in both
its historical development and in its individual reception.

First, then, there are nations of the earth who have no
testimony concerning Jesus; and these have no faith in
him. Next, if we trace the history of the world, we dis-
cover that those who had a partial revelation of him, had
a faith which was measured by the testimony communi-
cated. As the testimonies were multiplied, or as the com-
munications of truth were increased, the measure of faith
was proportionally enlarged. Finally, we come down to
the complete manifestation of the divine nature, and revela-
tion of the divine will, when faith attains its utmost perfec-
tion, and the system of truth is designated by pre-eminence
as the faith. This historical summary discloses to us the
varying limits of possible faith — as measured by the amount
of testimony. But in each of these historical periods, the
amount or degree of faith actually exercised by individuals
was proportional, not to the amount of testimony com-
municated, but to that personally and heartily received.
Hence, in the last dispensation, as in all others; there are
degrees of faith."* Some are strong and others weak in the
faith, according to the testimony which each one appre*


ciates ; while in no single case is the faith greater than the
testimony, as no Christian can believe more than he is
required and authorized to believe by the word of God;
or if he does, the excess is not Christian/aiY/i, but a profit-
less opinion. It is to be lamented that so few give that
earnest and hearty attention to the word of God which
would result in a proper measure of faith in Christ, in his
infinite love, his tireless goodness, his tender compassion^
his long-suffering patience and forbearance ; and rest satis-
fied with the elements of the doctrine of Christ. And it
is equally to be deplored that so many run wild with
phrensy and fanaticism, presumptuously rushing where an-
gels would fear to tread, and disturbing the peace and
prosperity of the faithful by insisting upon the acceptance,
as articles of faith, of matters clearly beyond the record.

The mere arrangement of the facts, therefore, "in the
order of intensity in which some peculiar quality subsists,"
leads to the establishment of the conclusion, that "faith
comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God;" or,
that faith is produced by testimony.

Of course, no one will infer that this truth could only be
established or reached by observing the above canon ; for
the same result will be obtained by applying the second
canon to the facts involved. In that case we should take
such recorded instances or declarations as the following:
"These are written that ye might believe;" "in whom ye
also trusted after that ye heard the word of truth ;" "faith
comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God;" the
Bereans "searched the Scriptures," and "many of them



therefore believed;" with all the cases recorded in the
Acts, where faith is produced; and as in all this array of
facts there is agreement in one }?oint — the circumstance of
testimony preceding and causing faith — that circumstance
clearly points to the conclusion reached above. And now,
if we pleased, we might strengthen and verify this conclu-
sion according to canon third, by showing the unanimous
concurrence of analogies in its favor. It is thus when we
get on the highway to truth, we see other roads coming in
at different angles, but all finally becoming one ; and any
of these, if we had found it necessary or convenient to
have started in them, would have conducted us to the same


*' Counteracting or modifying causes may subsist un-
perceived f and annul the effects of the cause we seek, in
instances which, but for their action, would have come
into our class of favorable facts ; hence, exceptions may
often be made to disappear by removing or allowing for
such counteracting causes.^^

" Thus in chemistry, the alkaline quality of the alkaline
and earthy bases is found to be due to the presejice of
oxygen combined with one or other of a peculiar set of
metals. Ammonia is, however, a violent outstanding ex-
ception, such as has been alluded to, being a compound of
azote [nitrogen] and hydrogen ; but there are almost cer-
tain indications that this exception is not a real one, but


assames that appearance in consequence of some modifying
cause not understood.''

Infidel objections, based on the seeming opposition of
certain texts, have forced the church to emph)y the above
canon more frequently, perhaps, than any other known to
science. As its application is thus familiar to every one
who has encountered an apparent discrepancy in revela-
tion, and as we have already given an example of it in our
previous induction concerning the establishment of the
Christian kingdom, it is not deemed necessary to dwell
upon it in this place. Numerous instances in the history
of polemic theology will suggest themselves, in which it
had been well if the cautions of this principle had been
heeded. For want of it, Luther was led to reject the
Epistle of James from the canon of Scripture. He saw
that his doctrine — which he thought was also that of Paul
— of "justification by faith alone," and that of James, that
a man "is not justified by faith only," were, as they still
are, irreconcilably opposed. If he had, in obedience to
the above rule, held his mind in abeyance until be had
weighed all the circumstances connected with the language
of the two Apostles, he might have been led to modify his
own doctrine to make it scriptural, but he would have
seen, as we have elsewhere proved, that the Scriptures are
perfectly consistent in their doctrine on the subject.


CANON vir.

''If we can find two instances which agree exactly in
all bat one particular, and differ in that one, its influ-
ence in producing the phenomenon, if it have any, must
thereby be rendered sensible.^^

" Two pieces of iron exposed of an evening to a cloud-
less sky — the one rough and the other smooth — are found
to contract unequal quantities of dew. Now, the two
cases agree exactly in every respect except the quality of
the exposed surface, and hereby its influence in the produc-
tion of dew is determined.'^

Of the many examples which might be given of the
application of this canon to the Scriptures, we will select
but a single one. The conversions recorded in the Acts, of
the jailer and his household, (chap, xvi.,) and of "many of the
Corinthians," (chap, xviii.,) agree exactly in all but one par-
ticular — the earthquake and its attendant circumstances.
Now, in deriving the general law of conversion, or the con-
ditions which are essential in any given case, from these two
instances, the influence of the earthquake, in so far as it was
special, must be estimated by comparing it with the ease
where there was no earthquake. Whatever was specially
the effect of the earthquake in that particular case, must
be left out of a general law which does not expect that
particular influence. We, therefore, compare the two
cases, and find them agreeing exactly in the following par-
ticulars: 1. Hearing; 2. Faith; 3. Baptism. Here is the


end of the particulars in which they agree ; and from these
— compared, of coarse, with other cases — we must draw
the general conclasion as to what elements enter neces-
sarily into the constituency of conversion.

But, now, as the earthquake is left out of this induction,
what shall we do with it? This is provided for by the next


"Complicated phenomena^ in which several causes
concurring J opposing or quite independent of each other ^
operate at once, so as to produce a compound effect, may
be simplified by subducting the effect of all the knoum
causes, and thus leaving, as it were, a residual phe-
nomenon to be explained,^^

When the law of universal gravitation *'came to be veri-
fied by deducing from it the exact motions of the planets
and satellites, which ought to take place if it were true,
there were found some small deviations in those of the
planets, and some very considerable ones in that of the
moon and other satellites, still unaccounted for; resi-
dual phenomena, which still remained to be traced up to

We were careful in remarking, while on the subject of
classification, that objects were grouped, preparatory to
induction, not with reference to all their circumstances, but
to those only in which they were alike ; and that those cir-
cumstances which were unlike, would remain as residual


pheuomena after the induction; and that they most be
re-classiHed with others like themselves.

Hence, the earthquake, in the illustration under the pre-
vious canon, being a residual phenomenon remaining after
the induction from the points of agreement has been made,
must be now classified with those providential or miracu-
lous influences which concur in preparing the mind for the
reception of the word which produces faith. And from
this point of view, it will be seen to agree with the provi-
dential circumstances that surrounded Crispus and the
Corinthians; and, if we pleased, we might take these and
other facts and learn from them what may be known on
that particular subject.

We have now completed the exhibition of the canons of
induction, given in the language of Sir John Herschel,*
with examples of their application to the facts of Scrip-
ture. And we think that the reader will agree that there
is nothing stiff, or forced, or unnatural in this application ;
and that it seems to be just as appropriate, as necessary,
and as conclusive in the Bible as in nature. With refer-
ence to the points we have chosen as examples, we have
confined ourselves almost exclusively to the great subject of
conversion in its different aspects; in this we have been
influenced by what seemed to be weighty considerations :
1. This subject is the most important to the world of all
others, and, at the same time, the most interesting. 2. The

* Discourse on Nat. Phil., chap, vi


facts involved in its discussion are better and more gene-
rally known than others. 3 There is more difference of
opinion and practice on this subject than on most others.
4. It is believed that agreement on this subject would lead
most speedily and directly to agreement on others.

As to the conclusions themselves which we have reached
upon those points, though we are aware that they differ in
some important particulars from those of others for whose
discrimination and learning we have the very highest respect,
still, as we do most religiously believe that they rest upon a
basis of immovable principles, they are submitted in firm
but humble confidence to the examination and judgment
of our fellow-Christians. At the same time, we should be
unfaithful to our own principles, if we did not avow our
perfect readiness and willingness to abandon those conclu-
sions the moment they are shown to be untenable.



In the general outline with which we commenced the
present book, it was attempted to be shown that the
method of science was a union of two methods — ^the in-
ductive and the deductive ; that these two processes were
mutual complements of each other. And we think it evi-
dent that neither can be relied on as a sufficient guide to



tnitb, independently of the aid and support of the other.
For, as Sir John Herschel remarks, ''It is very important
to observe that the successful process of scientific inquiry
demands continually the alternate use of both the induC'
live and the deductive method. The path by which we
rise to knowledge mast be made smooth and beaten in its
lower steps, and often ascended and descended, before we
can scale oar way to any eminence, much less climb to the
summit. The achievement is too great for a single effort;
stations must be established, and communications kept
open with all below. To quit metaphor, there is nothing
so instructive, or so likely to lead to the acquisition of
general views, as this pursuit of the consequences of a law
once arrived at, into every subject where it may seem likely
to have an influence. . . . For it is hardly possible to arrive
at the knowledge of a law of any degree of generality in
any branch of science, but it immediately furnishes us with
the means of extending our knowledge of innumerable
others, the most remote from the point we set out from ;
so that, when once embarked in any physical research, it is
impossible for any one to predict where it may ultimately
lead him."

Mr. Mill, also, has clearly proved that the deductive sci-
ences are, at the same time, altogether inductive; that
their first principles, or axioms, are generalizations from
experience ; that they are the highest class of inductions —
the simplest and easiest cases of generalization from facts
furnished by our senses or by our internal consciousness.*

* See System of Logic, book IL chap. vi.


And he has shown that the dedactive method consists of
three operations: the first, one of direct induction; the
second, of ratiocination; and the third, of verification.*

Although Bacon did not clearly develop the deductive
process in his method, it is evident that it was contem-
plated ; for he says, " The signs for the interpretation of
nature comprehend two divisions: the first regards the
eliciting or creating of axioms from experiment; the
second, the deducing or deriving of new experiments from
axioms," {de ducendis aut derivandis experimentis novia
4ib axiomatibus.)1i

It will appear from the above exhibition of the princi-
ples of legitimate deduction that it differs from the dog-
matic method in this : that while deduction proper requires,
as the first step, the pursuit of induction, with all its cau-
tious observation and comparison, as the means of pro-
curing the premises from which it proceeds, dogmatism
generates these premises, either independently of all facts,
or, what is perhaps worse, by means of that vicious induc-
tion which proceeds by simple enumeration.

While, then, deduction is constantly to be employed as a
means of verification, even during the successive steps in
the process of rising to an inductive law, we shall be un-
derstood as advocating its use in the discovery of new
truth only in those cases where axioms or generalizations
have been reached in the manner pointed out in the pre-

* See System of Logic, book iii. chap. zi.
f NoYum Organum, book ii. aph. 10.


vious chapters of this book. By that method we elevate
ourselves upon a platform which we are sure is sound and
immovable ; and then, by this, we stand and survey the
new objects which such elevation has brought within the
purview of our observations.

Deduction proceeds upon the prinoiple, that the neces-
sary consequences of a truth must themselves he true.
Guided by this index, let us inquire how this method facili-
tates the acquisition of Scripture truth ; and in this inquiry
we shall be brief, as we do not deem it necessary to dwell
upon a principle the application of which is evident and

If asked what use, apart from verification, we can have
for deduction in a case where all the facts involved are
spread out before us, we reply that its uses are twofold :
1. To illuminate dark or obscure facts; 2. To conduct to
the knowledge of truth which is not specifically expressed,
but which is left to be learned by this method.

That there are obscurities in many parts of the Bible, is
well known ; passages which contain allusions difficult of
comprehension; facts which, viewed by themselves, are
dark and mysterious ; but which, nevertheless, we can per-
ceive to be in some way related to a class of facts which
are well understood, and from which we have risen, or may
rise, to an inductive generalization. We therefore ^'fol-
low out," deductively, "into all its consequences, this in-
ductive result, and apply it to all those cases which seem
even remotely to bear upon the subject of inquiry ; so that
every new addition to our stock of causes becomes a means


of fresh attack, with new vantage ground, upon all those
unexplained parts of former phenomena which have re-
sisted previous efforts."* In this way our generalizations
become, as it were, lighted torches with which we go back
to those objects which were previously enveloped in dark-
ness, and view them in a clear light. And thus the mean-
ing of many individual facts is disclosed, their relations
and connections are perceived, and the bearing and influ-
ence of their attendant circumstances are ascertained with
a clearness not otherwise possible. Thus, too, seeming
exceptions are made to disappear ; apparent contradictions
are seen to harmonize ; and difficulties, the most formidable
and discouraging, are resolved with ease and satisfaction.

It requires no argument to show the propriety and ne-
cessity of availing ourselves of the light of the clear and
well known, in seeking to understand the doubtful and
obscure. No principle of exegesis is better established —
no one more generally admitted and received. But, like
most good things, it is liable to abuse and misapplication.
When we rush hastily to a conclusion, before collecting a
sufficient number and variety of facts, and then make such
conclusion the guide and standard of all subsequent inter-
pretations of passages upon the same subject — passages
which may not be obscure in themselves, but are only so in
being compared with our imperfect and perhaps unsound
generalizations — the process is grossly abused, and, in-
stead of leading to truth, does but multiply obscurities,

* Hersohel.


perversions, and falsehoods. It cannot, then, be too em-
phatically repeated, that before deduction can be relied on
to direct ns to truth, its premises must in all cases be
reached by means of the most careful induction from the
largest number of facts, the meaning of which, as indi-
viduals, can be certainly known. With such precautions,
it is invaluable ; without them, it is pernicious.

To us it has seemed to be of more importance to give
emphasis to this point than to occupy space with illustra-
tive examples ; for every one is familiar with the deductive
process, which, as a process, is the same whether the prem-
ises be sound or unsound. It has ever been found neces-
sary to read a large part of the Old Testament in the light
of the New, in order to appreciate its full significance ; and
so familiar are we with the process, that we often fail to
observe that it is pursued, or to note the source of the
light which enables us to see things so clearly. The para-
bles, also, and the various figures of speech, in so far as
they are themselves obscure, are to be interpreted upon the
same principle, as we attempted to show^in a previous
part. And whatever be the nature or the cause of any
obscurity, there can be no better way of reaching its mean-
ing, and of bringing it out into prominence, than that
which is here indicated.

If, then, it be true, that no proposition or text in the
Bible is so utterly destitute of light, when viewed in its
connections and circumstances, but that we may determine
from it what its subject really is, though that subject, as
therein presented, may be altogether incomprehensible,


there seems to be uo barrier to the above process; for,
when this is learned, we know immediately in the light of
what generalization it is to be viewed, which light, when
properly cast, will almost always elucidate its obscurities
and unravel its perplexities.

2. But, in the second place, the process of deduction
enables us, in a certain sense, to enlarge the borders of
revealed truth — ^to perceive a thousand things to be true
which are not expressly mentioned. Full and elaborate as
are the Scriptures, they suggest much more than is ver-
baily enunciated. All the logical consequences of their
propositions are as true and obligatory as those proposi-
tions themselves. Every individual truth is a member of
a system of truth. Nothing is isolated, nothing inde-
pendent. The truth of one proposition necessitates the
truth of another, and that of another, and so on ad infini-
tum. Now, while the Scriptures furnish the first, and it
may be several of the succeeding links in this series, they
do not and could not furnish them all. Many are left
to be discovered by the human mind, guided by those
logical rules which have been induced from its own nature,
arfd the correctness of which is self evident In all cases,
therefore, in which our premises are the result of a true
and rigorous induction, and in which our conclusions from
them are the result of the sound and legitimate process of
ratiocination, we have the same assurance of the truth of
such conclusions that we do of the truth of the premises
which contain them.

Or, to look at the subject from a different angle, the


Scriptares present as with a namber of facts on a great
variety of subjects ; and on these facts, as we attempted to
show in the early part of this book, the truth is virtually
written. But besides the facts actually employed by the
Holy Spirit in exhibiting the truths and requirements of
Scripture, there are numerous others belonging to the
same classes, to which the law or the truth adheres as
naturally as to those recorded for the purpose of enabling
us to learn that truth. Hence, it is our privilege and duty
to deduce from the law of the facts given, the law of the
facts not given. And this is what we mean commonly by
the practical application of Scripture. The Bible does
not say that A, B, or C, living in this nineteenth century,
shall repent, but it gives a general law which includes A,
B, and C. It does not tell us that horse-racing and faro
are wrong, it does not express these sins by namCf but it
gives us a general law which includes these specialities.
And so of the various specific vices of modern fashionable
society; they are evidently and clearly unscriptural and
forbidden, not because they are expressly mentioned, but
because we light upon them when we descend from general
and well-established principles.

Again, the Bible does not say that it is wrong for the
church to make laws for its own government; but it tells
us "there is one lawgiver;" that we are "under law to
Christ;" that we are to "hear him;" that we belong to
him ; and from these it follows that no one else has the
right to be a lawgiver, or to make laws either for himself
or others, in spiritual matters. While, therefore, the


Scriptures declare that "there is one lawgiver," we must
regard the Roman Catholic Church and her copyists as a
living denial of its truth.

Enough has now been done, it is hoped, to indicate the
sphere of the deductive process in the scientific method of
interpretation ; but before dismissing the subject, it may be
important to remark, that the very fact that this process is
so prolific of results, and can be employed with so much
readiness and facility, renders it necessary to be doubly
cautious in its use. For as from one truth we may by this
process deduce a whole system of truth, so from one false-
hood we may deduce a whole system of error. This false
system, too, will be logical in form, and perfectly consistent
in its several parts. There will be but one point open to
attack — ^but one weak and unsupported part — ^the starting
place. If this had been sound, the whole would have been
sound; but this being false, diffuses its nature through
every subsequent development. Whenever the head — the
fons et principium — is corrupt, the whole stream will be
of the same nature. Hence the importance of the remark
made by the authors quoted above, that the first step in
the deductive method must be a direct induction. This
supplies us with truth to start with ; gives us a solid foun-
dation to stand upon; and then, if the deduction be pro-
perly made, the result of the second step, the ratiocination,
will be truth. But lest we should by any means be mis-
taken in a matter so important, we have one concluding
step left, the verifi^cation. We can test the, correctness of
our deductions by collating the conclusions of our ratioci-

272 DBDUonvB process.

nations with observed facts. And he who is really in search
of truth will not be satisfied until this is done. For, "to
warrant reliance upon the general conclusions arrived at
by d( duction, these conclusions must be found, on a careful
comparison, to accord with the results of direct observa-
tion wherever it can be had."*

The author hces now completed the main part of his
design, — that upon which the claims of this work to popu-
lar favor must chiefly rest, — the exhibition of the inductive
or scientific method in its application to biblical exegesis.
Of the many imperfections in what he has done, none can
be more sensible than himself; and he would fain withdraw
the attention of the reader from its logical and rhetorical
blemishes, whatever they may be, and fix it. wholly upon
what he regards the all-absorbing importance of its subject
matter. Though he does not affect to be altogether indif-
ferent to the judgment which the public may pronounce
upon the work as a literary production, this is by no means
the object of his chief solicitude. His constant aim has
been to present great principles in a light so clear that
none could fail to understand them ; and he has written,
from first to last, with the determination to sacrifice, if
necessary, everything else to perspicuity. If he has suc-
ceeded in this object to the satisfaction of the reader, he
would now solicit from him a candid and independent judg-
ment upon the principles which have been elaborated.

* Miirs Logic, p. 269.


Are they true or false ? Are they good or bad ? Do
they seem to be valuable or worthless? What effects
might be anticipated from their adoption ? Is there any
better method ? Is this complete and sufficient ? Would
its general adoption heal the divisions in the body of
Christ ; divisions which have paralyzed its influence, and
whiclf have emasculated the inherent power of the word
of God in its hands ? If this method will not, what other
one will ? Mysticism ? It originated the present state of
things I Dogmatism? It carried on and perfected the
unholy work I There is no hope from these methods.
They have been weighed in the balances — fairly and im-
partially weighed — and found wanting. It does seem,
therefore, that there is but one other refuge — a resort to
that method which, in whatever department it has been
tried, has proved itself to be perfectly reliable, and which
has uniformly produced precisely those effects which are so
desiderative in religion.

The history of science may be written in one sentence.
She first repudiated those false methods we have imper-
fectly exposed, and, by a sublime declaration of independ-
ence, threw off the shackles of party which they had
forged; she then embraced that method which she now
commends to us, which enabled her to look with a clear
and unbiased eye upon the facts of the world, and to rise to
the exalted dignity which she now maintains ; sitting like
a queen of nature upon a throne of eternal truth, while with
the scepter of common sense she sways authority over crea-
tion, and compels the universe to support her dominion.


We have sought to inspire the votaries of religious
trvlh with the resolution, while we pointed out to them
their ability, to climb to at least an equal elevation. And
now it is for the reader to say whether the recommend-
ation is foolish or wise — whether the prQposal is chimer-
ical or practical. And when he shall have deliberately
made up his judgment in the light of the whole argument,
and under a sense of his own responsibilities, it will
remain for him, if he agree with us, to act for himself.
Parties, with all their power and patronage, will pot sud-
denly change ; it need not be expected that great bodies
will speedily release themselves from the fetters of a
cramped, a rigid, and an inflexible "orthodoxy." The
work must be done by individuals. It is for them to lead
the way. It is for isolated persons, like the reader, to
resolve that the birthrights of Protestantism are too valu-
able to be bartered for a mess of pottage, and to rise in
the strength of immovable principle^ and with the bold
avowal of inalienable rights and determine to learn the
truth from its original sources, and to receive and obey it
"at all hazards and to the last extremity."

Profoundly confident as we are of the ultimate triumph
of all the essential principles herein advocated, we have
had too much reason to know the strength and pertinacity
of religious prejudice, to flatter ourselves that they will be
accepted otherwise than through the gradually increasing
pressure of outside influences. The incrustations which
cover the existing bodies of Protestantism have become
too hard and inflexible to be broken from within. The next


reformation must commence from without. The intelli-
gence of society at large must break the shell of partisan
prejudice, before the inmates can see the light. Hence it
is that we appeal to individuals, — ^whether connected with a
church or not, — whosoever is outside of this indurated
crust, to hammer it with all the powers of reason and
Scripture. This is the only hope, but in this we have an
abiding confidence.

It now only remains for us to place the principles and
laws which regulate the meaning of words, on a basis of
certainty and simplicity equal to that which we have laid
down for the passages which contain them. This under-
taking, with our reasons for deferring it till the last, will
occupy us in the subsequent and concluding part of this





The principles to be elaborated in this part might, with
some propriety, have been introdaced at an earlier stage
of our progress. Logically and practically they belong
to the fourth chapter of the preceding part, which treats
of the observation and collection of materials preparatory
to induction. But as we felt unwilling to discuss in that
place the various minutisB which require consideration, and
as the argument could be made equally plain and conclu-
sive by employing only general terms, we determined to
reserve for a separate part the specialities there embraced
under more general expressions. Another and stronger
reason we shall see as we advance.

The reader who is familiar with the elaborate treatises
which have been published on the elements and laws of
biblical interpretation, may be disposed to think that the
very few principles and rules which we are about to sub-
mit are wholly insufficient. And it is not unlikely that,
when he gets through the two or three brief chapters which



we shall devote to the sabject, he will look back, astonished
and disappointed, and ask, ''Where are the scores and
even hundreds of rales that I have been accustomed to
look upon as necessary in the expositions of Scripture ?"
We are sure we cannot tell, unless they are lying buried in
the Toluincs of their authors — embalmed as the mummies
of a by-gone age. Whore are the cycles, epicycles, and
deferents of tlie Ptolemaic Astronomy — that cumbrous
machinery by means of which men so long and so learn-
edly explained the movements of the heavenly bodies?
Gone glimmering among the things that were — supplanted
by the clear and simple law of universal gravitation. The
three great laws of Kepler, — ''the legislator of the skies,"
— may be expressed in as many lines ; and even these were
proved by ^ewtou to be the necessary results of the law
of universal gravitation. It is characteristic of scientifto
progress to generalize and simplify. And whether or not
the principles and laws of this work be held to exhibit
hermeneutics in the light of a science, we are satisfied that
whenever it shall be done, its principles and laws will be
few, general, and simple. We may recur to this subject
again in the conclusion of this part, and examine a few of
the rules which have hitherto been observed, for the pur-
pose of pointing out their inefficiency and uselessness.

It may facilitate the accomplishment of our primary
purpose, if we can, in the first instance, get a clear view of
the object towards which we aim. And this, according to
our whole argument, can best be done, we presume, by
Instituting a comparison.



Let us suppose, then, what is true in a large majority
of cases, that the only information accessible to us on the
science of astronomy, is that contained in books ; and that
we are furnished with a complete history of the various
discoveries that have been made in this science from the
earliest times to our own day. We read of it in its in-
fancy, when none but its most obvious principles were
recognized and recorded; and we trace it down through
its subsequent and intermediate stages of development, till
we come to the grand discoveries and marvelous achieve-
ments of the moderns. And now, as all these facts, circum-
stances, principles, and laws are in words — and most of
them originally in the words of a foreign or dead lan-
guage ; some in Italian, French, and German ; and some
in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin — we ask ourselves how, from
these records, are we to learn the science of astronomy ?
What course does common sense indicate ? What princi-
ples does it lay down ? What rules does it give ? The
answers to these questions will be, at the same time, the
principles and rules of biblical interpretation ; because the
two cases are precisely analogous.

All the knowledge of spiritual science which is accessible
to us is contained in its records. These exhibit it in periods
corresponding with those of astronomy. We see first its
inchoate and imperfect dawnings, — a knowledge of some
of its more obvious and general principles ; next a fuller
and clearer, but still intermediate and unfinished develop*
ment; and, finally, the full exhibition of all its principles,
in perfect simplicity, completeness, and harmony. And all


this is in the words of languages now dead. How, then,
are we to proceed in learning this higher science of the
heavens ? What does common sense point oat as the first
and indispensable consideration? Evidently, as in the
former case, it is to learn the exact use and meaning of the
words which are employed. And every other inquiry —
whether it relate to the history of the people more imme-
diately concerned, their manners, customs, habits, charac-
ters, or circumstances generally — will be auxiliary to, and
have for its ultimate object to throw light upon, the words
of the records.

This inquiry into the significance of words is, however,
but the preparatory stage of the investigation. Its object
is to supply the materials from which, by a subsequent and
higher induction, we are to rise to those general laws which
are the ultimate object of the whole proceeding. My pur-
pose, therefore, in this part, is to lay down those principles
and rules which will enable us to determine the use and
meaning of the words employed in communicating the
truths of Scripture, which, if we were correct in a position
previously taken on the relation of truth to fact, will be
equivalent to a knowledge of the individual facts of reve-
lation. And as these facts are the elements of those higher
generalizations which it is the object of biblical science to
attain unto, it follows that the developments of this part
belong logically to that chapter in the preceding which
we have mentioned.

Why, then, it may be asked, was it not inserted in its
appropriate place? Because the present investigation,


like all others, involves the principles of the inductive
method, which had not as yet been fully presented. We
therefore deemed it compatible with the dialectical arrange-
ment of our subject to postpone this inquiry until after we
had exhibited the principles upon which it was to be con-
ducted. Now, with those principles clearly understood,
and, we trust, implicitly relied upon, and with the advant-
age of turning back to the canons of induction, and adopt-
ing them in their appropriate place as a part of our present
scheme, we can proceed in the work before us with ease
and rapidity.



The whole superstructure of exegetical science rests
upon two axioms. And as we have just shown that the
object now to be accomplished is yet more elemental in its
character than that already gained in the foregoing part,
we shall begin with these nethermost stones of the foun-
dation. We have seen that the lowest basis of natural
science is the assumption that nature is uniform in the
principles of its operation. This assumption rests upon
the immutability of God, or, if you please, upon God him-
self; so that all scientific truth reposes securely upon Him
who is truth absolute and essential. Thus, also, the axioms
of the science of interpretation are not only self evident^


but necessary truths springing from the character of Him
who is the author of revelation ; principles which the mind
intuitively perceives could not have been disregarded by
the author of a divine revelation, without defeating his own
ends, and doing violence to his own character.

If, therefore, God has spoken to man in human lan-
guage — a proposition which is assumed in this work,
and if he thus spoke with the desire and intention of
being understood, the affirmative of which results of ne-
cessity from his character — then he must have acted in
harmony with two principles, which are the axioms that
underlie the interpretation of his words.


Every word in a given passage has, in thai place, one
fixed meaning, and no more.

If the reader will, for a moment, suppose this axiom
false, and will trace out the consequences of its falsity into
all their issues, he will be led to the strongest possible
conviction of its necessary truth and fundamental import-
ance. He will perceive that not only the rules which we
are to lay down must rest upon it, but that, as Ernesti
says, "There can be no certainty at all in respect to the
interpretation of any passage, unless a kind of necessity
compel us to affix a particular sense to a word, which
sense, as I have said before, must he one ; and unless there



are special reasons for a tropical meaning, it must be the
literal sense."*

The above axiom expresses the specialty of herme-
neutics. There is nothing corresponding with it, as to its
form, in the substructure of science, until after it is thrown
into the form of revelation. But so soon as this is done,
its basis becomes not only similar, but identical. For
whenever scientific phenomena are thrown into the form
of revealed phenomena, i.e, when they are expressed in
words, they stand, like the Scriptures, upon axiom first;
but when natural phenomena are contemplated directly
without the aid and intervention of words, and when re-
vealed words are viewed as being the phenomena of spirit-
ual facts, and consequently analogous to the phenomena
of nature, then, again, they both stand together upon an-
other basis, which for each is identical in kind, but which,
for the sake of perspicuity, may be differently expressed.
In contemplation of the object now before us, we may
express this basis in the form of the following axiom.


Whatever be the true sense of a word under any given
set of circumstances, it will in all cases retain that sense
under the same circumstances.

This axiom is the foundation of all lexicography. The
meaning of words must, in the first instance, be learned in
every case, from the circumstances connected with their

* Ernesii, p. 10.


use. But if these do not always teach the same thing, or
if a given word may have, under the same circumstances,
now one meaning and now another, all knowledge of the
sense of words is abandoned, as beyond the limits of pos-
sible attainment. Not only, therefore, must all rules of
interpretation rest upon this axiom, but the reliability of the
definitions in the dictionaries must also depend upon its
truth. It is fixed in the profound necessities of philology,
and can only be given up when we are prepared to give up
all hope of being instructed by words.

But what equivalent to this do we have in the interpre-
tation of nature ? We will answer in the language of Sir
John Herschel : " The only facts which can ever become
useful as grounds of physical inquiry, are those which
happen uniformly and invariably under the same cir-
cumstances. This is evident; for if they have not this
character they cannot he included in laws.^^*

Without further explanation or argument, we will leave
the above two axioms with the reader, believing that if he
be not already satisfied of their necessary truth, and of
their fundamental position in the science of interpretation,
his own reflections must surely lead him to this conclusion.
We shall now place upon this foundation two general princi-
ples, or laws for the interpretation of words, which, it is
believed, will cover the whole subject, or embrace the whole
science of hermeneutics, so far as the primary inquiry into
the meaning of words is concerned. These principles, for
the sake of perspicuity and convenience, we shall after-

* Dis. on Nat. Phil., p. 89.


wards resolve, severally, into the less general rules which
are contained in them. Bat we desire to be distinctly un-
derstood as saying that the whole science of verbal inter-
pretation, whether of the Scriptures or of any other book,
is contained in the two general principles to be laid down,
and that the subsequent development of those principles is
not an addition to them.


In ascertaining the meaning of any word in a given
text, the first step is to generalize it.

This means that we are, first of all, to determine by in-
duction the primary or general signification of a word,
before we pronounce upon its force in the passage given.

Observation. — The primary is not necessarily the
etymological meaning, hut that which would he suggested
to the mind of one well acquainted with the language, if
he heard the word pronounced alone, or saw it written
upon a sheet of hlank paper. ^

But let us suppose that we are wholly ignorant of the
sense of this word, and that the whole force of the passage
turns upon it ; or, what is the same thing, let it be a word
whose meaning is in controversy. Our first care should be
to place ourselves in the condition of one familiar with the
language ; and this can only be done by learning first the
general meaning of the word. If it have secondary senses,

* The reader will notice that, this is not exactly the definition of
** primary" which is usually given in the dictionaries.


or if it have been tamed oat of its ordinary sphere to per-
form extra service, be it so ; all this we shall attend to io
its proper place; but these special ases and exceptional
instances do not now concern us, and could not in the least
contribute to our first object. Our only business is now to
ascertain the primary, as a guide to the secondary senses ;
to determine the general and proper signification, as a
means of reaching the special and tropical. To facilitate
the conduct of this generalizing or inductive process, we
submit, in the first place, the following rule.


The primary meaning ^ as given in the dictionaries of
the language to which the vxyrd whose definition is soiighi
belongs, may he temporarily accepted as the basis of sub-
sequent inquiries.

The definitions contained in dictionaries are the results
of inductions made by their authors. They commonly
exhibit before us at once both the facts which are required
in the investigation and the conclusions which have been
reached from those facts. They, therefore, have an au-
thority precisely analogous to that of standard works on
natural science. We seldom deem it necessary to call in
question the results of the investigations of physical phi-
losophers, and commonly rest satisfied with what they
propound as general laws — particularly if they give the
facts upon which those conclusions depend — without our-
selves actually testing their correctness. And hence, if the


biblical student should do no more than consult the best
dictionaries for the primary meaning of the words of Scrip-
ture, his knowledge would be as accurate and reliable as
that possessed by the mass of well-informed men on phys-
ical science.

Still it is always our privilege, and in cases of doubt or
uncertainty, our duty, to go behind the conclusions others
have reached, and to determine for ourselves the point
under investigation, by a direct appeal to the facts. In this
case, the definition of the dictionaries may be either wholly
disregarded, — and then the process will be an induction de
novo, — or, what is better, it may be made, as contemplated
Dy rule first, the basis of the investigation ; and the pro-
cess will partake more of the nature of verification. We
will endeavor to frame a rule which will embrace both
these characteristics.


After the dictionaries have been consulted, the next
resort, in determining the general meaning of a word, is
a direct appeal to the facts.

It is evident that this rule calls up under it all those
inductive canons which we attempted to explain and illus-
trate in the first part of this book, with all the principles
connected with them, and preparatory to their employment
It requires, therefore, that we first collect and classify, in
the manner already explained, the various facts involved
in the explanation of the word of whose meaning we are


in search. And now, having carefully performed this pre-
paratory work, if we find cases clearly presented and obvi-
ous, in which "the assigned peculiarity" — i.e. in this case,
the definition in the dictionary — "is wanting or opposite,"
we shall conclude, according to canon first,* that if such
be its meaning in any case, it is destitute of that high
degree of generality claimed for it, and of which we are in
search. But if, in our large and varied collection of facts,
there be one point in which "they all without exception
agreCf^^ — one well-defined sense that can be traced in every
individual case, — then, according to canon second, we shall
conclude that to be the general meaning we seek. There
may, and doubtless .there will be, various shades and difi'er-
ences of meaning besides this discernible in the same word
as used in different individual passages, but these peculiari-
ties of signification are not yet the objects of our investi-

On the other hand, it may be that the definition of the
lexicons will seem to be extremely difficult of detection in
a given passage, or we may be unable to perceive how the
text is to be understood and harmonized with others, if
such meaning is to be taken as correct ; while, nevertheless,
the analogous passages may present no such difficulty, but
be "cogent and unanimous" in favor of the assigned mean-
ing. In this case canon third would become applicable,
and prevent us from rejecting a strongly supported truth,
merely because we are unable to understand all its appli-

* See Canons of Induction, in chap. vii. part i., nyn-a.


Or, if we discover a case in which the absence of the
meaning given in the dictionaries can be accounted for bj
considering the neutralizing influence of opposing causes,
this too, as shown by canon fourth, will but establish its
generality. But, not to multiply illustrations, it is enough
if the reader perceive that the various canons of the in-
ductive method which are applicable to natural science
and to the doctrine of whole passages are equally appli-
cable to the individual words which compose those pas-

This, then, is what we mean by saying that to ascertain
the primary sense of words, the first step is to generalize
them. As we have in the dictionaries generalizations to
start with, we may, for ordinary purposes, content ourselves
with these inductions made by others ; but in cases of pecu-
liar importance, we should either carefully verify the con-
clusions of lexicographers, or, disregarding them altogether,
rise at once from the facts to an original induction, which
induction, however, must itself be verified before it should
be regarded as true in itself and in its consequences. It
now ouly remains for us to indicate the sources of the facts
which are to be collected in this inquiry.

1. Thb Bible itself. It is true that a few words are
used but once in that book, and hence, could not be com-
pared without going outside of it; but these cases are
rare and exceptional. In a large majority of instances the
same word is of frequent occurrence. We shall find it
used in diflferent connections by the same writer, — ^by dif-
ferent writers, in different dispensations, in stating different


facte, in conducting different arguments, — occurring, in
short, in a variety of circumstances, relations, and influ-
ences. We are then to consider it in the light of these
various circumstances, — the context, the subject-matter, the
scope and design of each several passage in which it occurs,
— ^in the light also of the definition given in the lexicons,
the verification of which is the immediate object (in most
eases) proposed. In this way we collect and arrange the
materials for induction from the Bible itself.

did not make new words, but gave us a revelation of truth
in the words then current among men, it is evident, as he
intended his communications to be understood by those to
whom they were addressed, that he used those words in
their current and received acceptation. Hence it is per-
fectly legitimate, and often necessary, in determining the
general meaning of a word, to compare it, as used in the
Scriptures, with the use made of it by those authors whose
works were well known and received at the time the Scrip-
tures were written. And in this case, as a matter of course,
the same observations apply as in the former.

3. Incidental exemplification. The Scriptures often
supply us with a commentary upon their own words. True,
this might be considered as embraced under the first bead
above; it is intended to include those incidental allusions
and historical exhibitions which often point out with great
clearness the sense then attached to a word, but which we
feared might not be included in the inventory of our re-
sources unless expressly mentioned. In the preceptive and


statutory parts of Scripture, particularly, we can in many
cases learn what the persons addressed understood by an
important word, by observing what they actually did^ when
obeying, what they were commanded to do.

4. Translations, paraphrases, scholia, and cjom-
MENTARiES. Thesc, wheu made by those who lived at a
period so near that in which the Scriptures were written as
to furnish a strong presumption that the true sense was not
yet lost, nor the original meaning changed, may sometimes
be consulted with advantage. Such facts, however, we
regard only as corroborative and secondary, and would
never recommend a resort to them in the first instance,
particularly upon any subject which appertained in any way
to the doctrines and polity of the great apostasy, the ele-
ments of which were at work even in the times of the
Apostles. Still, if discreetly used as confirmatory evi-
dence, they need not be wholly disregarded;

Such are the vast resources accessible to him who would
inductively study the meaning of the words of Scripture.
And we are persuaded that whoever will take the pains to
engage in this pursuit will be led to conclusions as per-
fectly satisfactory and as strongly established as any that
can be reached on any analogous subject of inquiry. 'And
what though the method be, as Isaac Taylor says, "labori-
ous and difficult," he will find that the labor will be sweet,
— labor ipse voluptas, — ^for it will lead to conclusions
which are "certain." And what though it be but a word
that calls out this labor and pains, — ^it is A word op etern^vl
lipe ! All the magnificent achievements of science, great


and marvelous as they are, and productive of the ease,
comfort, prosperity, and enlightenment of men as they
have been, sink into worthlessness in comparison with the
modest achievement of acquiring a knowledge of the words




The principles and rules given above, with the inductive
canons contained under them, will enable the biblical stu-
dent to ascertain in every case what was the primary,
proper, or general sense of any given word at the time it
was used by the inspired penman. Every word has one
such meaning, and but one. If, in the course of ages,
what was originally this sense give place to what was once
a secondary sense, let it be so. No confusion and no un-
certainty can arise from it if we keep in mind that no word
can have at the same time two or more proper or general
significations. There must be a first; a primary meaning,
— ^that which will first be suggested to the mind, — and
there can be but one first; while every subordinate sense
will be but a modification of that. Uence the necessity of
commencing our investigations by acquiring this meaning.

To make this matter plain — for everything depends upon
it — let us exemplify it by the word cross. Of the noun,


Webster gives fourteen definitions ; of the adjective, eight ;
of the preposition, about five; of the transitive verb, nine;
of the intransitive, three ; of the adverb crossly , three ; of
the noun crossette, one ; crossing, three ; crossness, one ;
besides some forty-five wo'^Js compounded with the word
cross. Now here are nearly one hundred definitions, or
senses in which the word cross is used. But has the word
so many different meanings? Not at all. They are all
merely modifications of the original and proper sense —
which sense runs through every one of them. Now when
we write down the word "cross," without any prefix or
affix, or any sign to indicate any peculiar signification,
there arises in the mind of every one an image having the
form of an X, a dagger (f), or the sign plus (+). This
is fi,rst suggested to the mind of those acquainted with our
language, and is, therefore, its primary sense. If, now, we
say that one went " across the styeet," do we not say that he
made the form of a cross, the direction of the street
being one line, and his path another ? And so of all the
cases given in Webster.

Commentators have troubled themselves with a few
words — one in particular — which have been held as an
exception to the doctrine that we have advanced. The
particular word we refer to is "Ze^." Its primary or general
meaning at the time King James's translation was made,
as it still is, was to permit, to suffer, or to allow; but be-
sides this, it is said, the word has, or at least then had,
another sense which, so far from being a modification of
the general meaning, was directly its opposite, namely, to


hiuder, to obstruct. How is this to be accounted for?
Shall we call it an exception ? What reason is there for
it ? We dislike to see rules, and especially good rules, bur-
dened with exceptions which are unaccountable. We sub-
mit the following off-hand explanation, which we hope may
be found worthy of consideration : —

That there are two distinct wordsj each spelled and
pronounced "let." Our reasons for this conclusion we
will briefly give. Let us indicate a certain word without
using its proper letters — the word grone, for example ; and
let the reader pronounce it as (for the sake of the illustra-
tion) we would do if he were present. What would we
mean — a deep, mournful sound? or the perfect participle
or adjective from the verb to grow f The hearer could not
tell, because the same sound represents two distinct words^
whose meaning, consequently, has no similarity. We can
represent to the eye the difference in these words by writ-
ing one of them groan and the other grown. But lan-
guage existed before letters ; it was spoken before it was
written; and it is either a mere accident, or an artificial
convenience, that the two words are spelled differently.
Suppose they had not been, but that both words had been
represented by the letters grone, would that have made
them one word with two entirely different meanings ? By
no means. They would still have been two words, identical
in spelling as they were before in sound. The same is
true of the words air and heir; our and hour; ail and
ale; feat and feet; no and know; new and knew; rain
and reign; with numerous others of the same class. But



lest it shoald be objected that tbdse words are not in point,
because not of the same spelling — an objection which we
think would be grounded upon the most superficial view of
the subject — we will introduce others whose spelling and
pronunciation are both alike ; passing over that large class
whose spelling is the same, but whose pronunciation — a
very flitting matter — ^is different. Webster gives us no less
than three distinct words, each written gill, and each pro-
nounced jill — besides another word of the same form pro-
nounced with g hard. One of these words means ''the
fourth of a pint;" another means "ground-ivy;" and an-
other "a sportive or wanton girl." There is not the least
shade of similarity in their meaning. They are all alike
nouns, and in every sense different words. Again, we have
two words written and pronounced bowl, each of which is
a substantive with a different meaning. The same is true
of bower; also of brag, a boast, or boasting; and brag, a
game at cards. All the above examples, except gill, we
find upon one opening of Webster's Dictionary. We
opened at random, and have taken no pains to estimate
how large this class of words may be. Nor is it necessary
to look further. These are abundantly sufficient to show
that where definitions are entirely different, our standard
lexicographer regards the words defined as different*

* Webster is evidently not uniform in his treatment of such
words, seeming, in many cases, to act from mere caprice. This
cannot, however, be said of Richardson, who will be referred to


further on, and to whose remarks, as quoted in Note F, the atten-
tion of the reader is particularly directed.


We conclude, therefore, that "Let; to hinder," is one
word, and "Let, to permit," another. How much this
conclusion may be strengthened, if at all, by taking into
account the difference in the spelling of the original Saxon,
ladan and letarij we will not pause to inquire.

If the above reasoning be sound, the remark with which
we set out, that every word has one proper meaning alone,
while every other meaning is but a modification of that, is
left true without qualification, abatement, or exception.
Now, therefore, we are prepared to submit the principle
upon which the secondary sense of words is to be determ-


In determining the meaning of a word in any given
casCf the presumption is always in favor of its primary
or general sense.

The effect of this principle, as every rhetorician knows,
is to throw the burden of proof upon the opposite side.
In other words, it tells us that we are not called upon in
any case to show that the ordinary meaning is the one
most proper in that case, because this is to be taken for
granted unless there exist positive proof to the contrary.
Hence, when there is no such proof or evidence, the
general meaning stands without the aid of special support.
From this fJrinciple we draw the following rule.



No change or modijlcation should be nidde m the pri-
mary sense in any given case, except what is proved to
be necessary by the circumstances of that case.

This rale cuts oflf all guess-work, and all arbitrary pro-
ceedings in settling the secondary sense of words. It
teaches us that we are, in the first place, to insert, as it
were, the primary sense, in order to ascertain whether all
the facts and circumstances can be made, without violence,
to Jit in with it, so as to form a consistent whole; and
that, where this is impossible, the general meaning is to be
extended, restricted, or turned aside, just enough to make
the fit, but no more.

Here we might with propriety pause, without the addi-
tion of a single rule more specific than has already been
given, and leave the subject to the guidance of that com-
mon sense which has pointed out the above general direc-
tions. It may, however, be acceptable to the reader,
though it be not necessary to the completeness of the
subject, for us to draw out in the form of rules a few at
least of the special requirements embraced in the above
general principle, besides the rule already given.


The general meaning of a word must be modified to
the extent obviously required by the context. ¦

It cannot be important to dwell upon a rule the neces-


sity of which springs from the natare of langaage in
general, and which, therefore, must be observed no less in
the interpretation of human compositions than of the
Bible. If it be disregarded, no author's meaning can be
gathered from his words.

That what precedes and succeeds any word in a given
passage is to be taken into consideration in determining
its exact sense, appears also from what we said above,
that that sense must be such as would precisely fit or
fill the place assigned it ; which place can only be meas-
ured by observing the gap left between the preceding and
succeeding parts of the whole passage. Across this gap
we place temporarily the ordinary or primary sense of the
word, as a sort of bridge over which we can pass back and
forth, until we can ascertain what modification, if any, is
required to enable it to meet perfectly the obvious necessi-
ties of the case. It may be too long, and we contract it;
too short, and we extend it ; too direct, and we deflect it :
but still it is the same bridge, only a^'usted to the space it
is to cover.

But suppose it be a case like those in which the word let
occurs, as in the following passage : *' Oftentimes I desired
to come unto you, but was let hitherto." (Rom. i. 13.)
Now, if we throw over the space occupied by this word the
definition permit, instead of forming a bridge it forms an
obstruction. The mind cannot pass over it ; and by no
possible change or modification can it be made passable.
We are forced, therefore, to take out the let having this
signification, and to put in its place the other which has


the oppositp sense, to hinder. And now the passage is
perfect, and the mind glides along with ease from the fore-
going to the succeeding context, while language is shown
to be subject to rule and unchanging principle, and not the
sport of caprice. So if we should say that, " walking in
the garden, we plucked a sprig of mint of a very green
color," our young readers might open their Webster's Dic-
tionary and read as the definition of mint, "the place
where money is coined by public authority." They would
instantly perceive the incongruity of the definition with the
space assigned it, and the impossibility of adapting that
definition to that space. They would then open their dic-
tionary again, and find that there was another loord of the
same orthography and pronunciation, which signified a
peculiar aromatic plant — which signification would exactly
meet the requirements of the context.

Or, to give an example of a verb, we read that "the
Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof." (Zech.
xiv. 4.) And again, "my bones cleave to my skin."
(Ps. cii. 5.) Here is a case directly in point; two words
exactly alike in every respect save their significations,
which are directly opposite; while the context decides
which word was used. A case which, taken in connection
with the others given, establishes the principle previously
laid down, and which we deem of suflBcient importance to
give in the form of a

Maxim. — That incongruities, or oppositions of mean-
ing , are never represented by the same word, though they
may be by words having the same form.


In obedience to this maxim our lexicographets give two
or more mintSf gills, and cleaves. Why not, for the same
reason, have given two lets, and thas have been consistent
throughoat, while they left the most fundamental and im-
portant principle of philology without an exception ?

We have dwelt longer upon this point than its intrinsic
merits might seem to justify, from the fact that this apparent
exception has been made the basis of the most unwarrant-
able exegetical licentiousness. We will now leave it to
the reflections of the intelligent reader.*


The primary meaning of a word must yield to the
natural demands of the subject matter.

Among the numerous cases in which this rule applies,
perhaps we could not do better than to particularize such
passages as contain an allusion to scientific facts.

It is conceded that the Bible was not intended to teach
science, although in making its comprehensive revelations,
and in detailing its historical facts, it was next to impos-
sible to avoid making allusions to it. But in making such
allusions, it had an ulterior and higher object in view,
which could be subserved by adapting them to the then
existing state of knowledge, as well as, and even better
than, by turning aside from its lofty purpose to correct
that knowledge. We should hence expect that such allu-

* See Note F.


sions woa^l merely indicate, in the main, the then existing
state of scientific knowledge, which was and is, therefore,
the subject matter of the allasions. Sach passages would
be interpreted correctly when shown to harmonize with
such subject matter. There may indeed be cases in which
the beautiful but perhaps somewhat fanciful theory of our
distinguished countryman. Lieutenant Maury seems to be
justified by the facts.

''The Bible,'' he says,* ''frequently makes allusion to
the laws of nature, their operation and effects. But such
allusions are often so wrapt in the folds of the peculiar
and graceful drapery with which its language is occasion-
ally clothed, that the meaning, though peeping out from
its thin covering all the while, yet lies, in some sense, con-
cealed, until the light and revelation of science are thrown
upon it; then it bursts out, and strikes us with exquisit^
force and beauty." But such cases, if such there be — and
we confess that some of his^'examples are not without force
— only give us real science, instead of popular opinion, for
the subject matter of such biblical language.

A case similar to, if not identical with the class he gives,
is found in the geological question of the "six days;" in
which, after we determine the sense in which the word
"day" is used, we can see scientific truth "bursting out,
and striking us with exquisite force and beauty." It may
serve as an interesting example of our rule, if we pause for
a little while upon this point.

* Physical Geography of the Sea.


According to the celebrated speculation .of Laplace,
which is now, we believe, generally received by astronomers,
the earth, in common with the other planets, was formed
from the condensed vapor of the sun's atmosphere, which
originally extended to the limits of the present solar sys-
tem. And when the ring of vaporous matter which formed
our planet was first abandoned by the sun, in consequence
of the increased rapidity of its rotation caused by the
process of cooling and consequent contraction, and while
it was undergoing those changes of shape which ultimately
resulted in its present form, it was in the state, we may
suppose, in wliich it is first described in Genesis — ''with-
out form and void." After a portion of its vapors had
condensed into water, there would still surround the heated
mass such an immense thickness of impenetrable cloud and
vapor as effectually to exclude every ray of light, so that
total "darkness brooded over the face of the deep." In
process of time, as condensation went on, the rays of light
would begin to penetrate through the superincumbent
vapors, giving the strange phenomenon of the succession
of day and night, without any visible cause. This, in the
Scriptures, is marked as the first period, or first ''day" of

The increased coolness of the surface of the earth would
DOW begin to condense the vapors more rapidly near its
surface, while the lighter vapors would be left at a great
distance above, thus separating or "dividing the waters
from the waters." This is marked as the second "day."

The earth would now radiate heat more and more rap-


idlj, as the counter-radiation of the clouds became less and
less, until the elements of those solids, which in the form
of gases had been originally thrown off from the sun,
would, through the action of the laws of chemical afi&nity
and of gravitation, become solids, resulting in the forma-
tion of land and the consequent refluence of the water
which would be collected into seas, while "the dry land
would appear." This, by the fiat of God, was made to
"bring forth grass, and herbs, and fruit-trees yielding fruit
after their kind," — which designates the third "day."

Under the perpetual influence of the same laws and
agencies, those distant vapors which, up to this time, had
never been wholly dissipated even for a short while, would
now be removed from the face of heaven, and the sun, and
moon, and stars, would, for the first time, become visible
to the earth as the centers or "bearers" of that light
which had previously served but to disclose its gloom and
desolation. This ends the fourth "day."

The water would now have become sufficiently cool to
be inhabited by living creatures, and such were created as
were adapted to its present state ; together with such fowls
as could live in the earth by flying over its interminable
marshes and gloomy swamps. This marked the fifth

Finally, when the earth had become prepared for them,
and filled with food to sustain them, "cattle, and creeping
things, and beasts of the earth," were formed, which pre-
pared the way for the formation of man, the highest order
of terrestrial existence, and lord of all preceding creations.


Such is a hasty sketch of the history of creation, as
written upon the enduring rocks, and shells, and fossils
of the earth, compared with the same account as written
upon the page of revelation. The two records perfectly
correspond and harmonize. Science requires revelation
to make no change in its periods, or in the succession
of its facts. On the contrary, every stratum of the earth's
crust, with every bone and shell it contains, is a standing
monument to the truth of the Bible. And when we reflect
that one who lived three thousand years before the science
of geology was in existence — a science so ample in its
range and so startling in its revelations — should yet have
described with the most marvelous accuracy what God had
previously written on the deep -bedded strata of the earth,
we are profoundly convinced of his inspiration, and ask for
no higher evidence than the testimony of the rocks. Alf
the demand made by science in this case, is to extend the
meaning of the word "day," and make it the representa-
tive of an indefinite period — ^make it yield what is neces-
sary to the known " demands of its subject matter. "

Although this subject already occupies more space than
perhaps it should, we cannot feel satisfied to dismiss it with-
out calling attention to some remarks in the last work of
the lamented Hugh Miller. He takes the position that
God gave to Moses a vision of the successive scenes in the
creation drama,* jast as he afterwards gave to prophets
visions of what was subsequently to take place. The one

* Each scene occupying one day.


was, as it were, a prophecy of the past, the other of the

" From every view of the case," says this distinguished
geologist, ''a prophetic exhibition of the pre-Adamic
scenes and events by vision seems to be the one best suited
to the opening chapters of a revelation vouchsafed for the
accomplishment of moral, not scientific purposes, and at
once destined to be contemporary with every stage of civili-
zation, and to address* itself to minds of every various
caliber, and every diflferent degree of enlightenment"
From this argument he advances to Dr. Kurtz's rule of
interpretation — that the representations of pre-human
events which rest upon revelation are to be handled from
the same point of view, and expounded by the same laws,
as the prophecies and representations of future times and
events, which also rest upon revelation ; and continues : —

*' History is the surest interpreter of revealed prophecies
which referred to events posterior to the times of the
prophet," — (because in that history we find the subject
matter of the prediction,) — "in what shall we find the
surest interpretation of the revealed prophecies that re-
ferred to events anterior to his time ? In what light, or
on what principle shall we most correctly read the pro-
phetic drama of creation? In the light, I reply, of sci-
entific discovery ; on the principle that the clear and certain

* This, we are inclined to think, is the happiest solution of the
difficult problem that has yet been offered. It is, at any rate, well
worthy of serious consideration.


mast be accepted, when attainable, as the proper exponents
of the doubtful and obscure. What fully-developed his-
tory is to the prophecy which of old looked forward, fully-
developed science is to the prophecy which of old looked

The reader is not called upon to accept either of the
above ways of reconciling the language of revelation with
the facts of science ; some other way not specified may be
better. These are given in illustration of the position that
whenever, and in whatever way, the subject matter of any
communication is clearly knowrtj the words of that com-
munication must yield what is necessary to its natural


The general meaning of a vx>rd mvM be modified to
the extent required by the scope or design of the passage
in which it occurs.

The design may be known, says Home, either from its
being expressly mentioned; from the express conclusion
added by the writer at the end of an argument ; from a
knowledge of the time, occasion, and circumstances of the
writing; or from careful and repeated perusals of the whole
book or epistle.

Whatever design the writer had in view in penning
his composition, it is evident that he selected and ar-

* Testimony of the Rocks, lee. It.


ranged his words and arguments with reference to it It
hence becomes a matter of the first importance to ascertain
in the oatset the general scope or object of the whole book
or epistle, and the special design of each several part, and
then to cast the light of this knowledge upon the words
employed in seeking to carry out that design. This brings
the reader into sympathy with the writer, furnishes hipi
with the thread upon which his materials are strung, and
conducts him to the goal to which it was intended he
should be brought.

As no rule is more capable, when conscientiously ob-
served, of leading to the truth, so there is no one the
Yiolation of which has resulted in greater or more numerous
perversions of Scripture. The various "doctrines"* which
have sprung up in the church from age to age, have all
drawn proof from the Scriptures by quoting them in utter
disregard of this rule; quoting them to sustain proposi-
tions which had never entered into the mind of their
writers, but whose words admit of being wrested into giv-
ing them a seeming support. This might be shown with
fearful clearness by pointing to the marginal references of
the various confessions, disciplines, and catechisms of our
current Protestantism. But as we would not needlessly
excite the opposition of their advocates, and as the claim
to infallibility put forth by the Romish Church seems to
invite scrutiny, we will exemplify our remark, and the im-

* In the Scriptures this word is never used in the plural, except
in a bad sense— <* false doctrines," ** doctrines of devils," etc.


portance of our rule, by exhibiting before the reader a few
of her exegetical triumphs.

The direction given — James, v. 14, 15 — for the elders of
the church to pray for one sick, and to anoint him with oil
in the name of the Lord, for his recovery, is held to teach
extreme unction, to be administered when, and only when,
there is no hope of recovery I It is evident that the Apostle
does not design to teach this extreme unction, and that
his words do not teach it when interpreted in the light of
his design. " If thy brother trespass against thee, tell it
to the church," was one of the scriptural authorities for
that stupendous and iniquitous civil jurisdiction towards
which the church so long aimed, and which finally became
so formidable I The right to ordain kings rested, accord-
ing to Boniface VIIL, upon Heb. v. 4: *'No man taketh
this honor to himself, but he that is called of God as was
Aaron." Some Protestants have sought to rival the
"Vicar of Christ," in the accuracy with which they apply
the above text. "I am the good shepherd;" "Let every
soul be subject unto the higher powers ;" " He that is spir-
itual judgeth all things;" such were the texts upon which
the extravagant claims to papal domination rested. The
power to "bind and Zoose," justified the inimitable Hilde-
brand in loosing the subjects of a foreign monarch from
their allegiance I But enough. The mistake in all these
cases is the same — a failure to observe the rule we have laid
down concerning the design of a passage. Hundreds of
other examples might be given under this rule, but let these



The various historical circumstances connected with
the use of a given word must be allowed their just and
natural influence in restricting or enlarging its meaning.

This rule has a wide raage, and is intended to include
every necessary consideration not specified in those which,
have gone before. It requires — 1. That due attention be
given to the Dispensation in which the passage occars, and
to which it alludes. Of the importance of this we had
occasion to speak in the previous part. 2. That the exact
date of the writing, as nearly as it may be known, shall
have necessary consideration. 3. The author of the book
or epistle, with all that may be known of his peculiar style,
modes of expression, and his location and circumstances at
the time he wrote. 4. The persons addressed; their char-
acter, attainments, prejudices, wants, and difficulties. 5.
Contemporary profane history; to which we may add an
intimate acquaintance with the various religious and phil-
osophical sects, the customs of idolators, the celebrated
games and contests, the mode of warfare, with its imple-
ments of defense and attack, the recognized rites of hospi-
tality, the peculiar construction of habitations, — and, in a
word,, all that knowledge of antiquity which is necessary
to enable us to place ourselves, as it were, back in the con-
dition of those then living.

Such are the circumstances, to disregard which, and to
read the Bible only in the light of those that surround


ourselves, will almost inevitably lead us into error; but
which, if duly weighed and faithfully heeded, will enable
us to understand that book just as they understood it to
whom its several parts were at first respectively addressed.

Having found it necessary frequently to illustrate the
importance of attending to the circumstances, we need
dwell no longer upon it in this place ; and having been led
in the first book — in order to dispose finally of the Mystic
Method — to dissertate at some length on the rules which
were deemed specially applicable to the figurative language
of Scripture, we are now at the end of what remained to
be accomplished.

But before dismissing the subject of this part we will
devote a few paragraphs to a brief review of what we
have attempted to accomplish in it; while we solicit a
comparison of what it contains with the larger works on
the same subject which have so long and so deservedly
maintained their place as authorities.

And first, we would call attention to the form or con-
struction of our imperfectly presented scheme. It all rests
upon two axioms, which are at bottom substantially the
same, and which we have shown to be, in their ^ssential
nature, identical with the axioms of science. The truth of
these gives birth to the two leading or general principles,
which, as has been said, contain within themselves the rules
which are respectively found under them; rules which,
while they add nothing new to the fundamental principles,
serve to explain and develop them, and to point out and
illustrate the mode of their application.


Id the second place, we would invoke attention to the
completeness of this scheme. Few as are the rules, and
fewer still as are the principles — all of which may be com-
mitted to memory in a few minutes — they yet seem, to our
mind, to cover the whole ground, and to exhaust the whole
subject. The first principle, with its rules, will enable us
to determine with the accuracy of science — provided the
axioms be true-^the primary sense of words; while the
second, with its rules, will enable us to determine with
equal precision, their secondary senses, or their special
meaning in any given case — and these are all. This is the
whole extent of the inquiry. There seems to be nothing
left to chance or caprice ; nothing but what is thoroughly
provided for ; nothing in a state of uncertainty.

Again, the simplicity of these principles and rules may
be worthy of attention. They are just such as the mind
of every reader will recognize, the moment it understands
them, as being what anybody would have thought of.
And this very simplicity may have the effect of preventing
superficial readers from perceiving their value, and the
thick clouds of darkness they are calculated to dissipate.
But if they are, indeed, as exhaustive and accurate as we
have sought to make them, we trust that their being obvi-
ous to every man's common sense will not long prove an
obstacle in the way of their adoption.

That they will, prima facie^ appear to be but a partial
and imperfect exhibition of their subject, need not be
thought strange, when we reflect upon the multiplicity of
the rules which have hitherto been in use. In such a


conclusion, we should be ready ourselves most heartily to
concur, if the rules we have laid down were destitute, like
those of the eminent authors referred to, of the con-
trolling influence and pervading spirit of a well-defined
scientific and reliable method. They were forced to sup-
ply, as well as they were able, by a multiplication of par-
ticular directions applicable to every peculiarity in the
Scriptures, the want of a method which could embrace
those specialties in general laws. Hence their works par-
take largely of the character of commentaries. They had
first to interpret difficult passages and peculiarities vnthout
rules, before they could make a rule for others; and when
made, it rested, perhaps, not upon the essential nature of
language, but upon their interpretation. Many of their rules
are applicable to only the fewest number of cases, while
there are many others which can only be necessary in the
formative stage of hermeneutical science.

It has been thus, however, with almost every science.
It has commenced with the collection and rude classifica-
tion of large numbers of facts, and the determination of
various special principles; and then, long afterwards in
most cases, those materials have been re-classified, and
those specialties generalized into laws higher and more
comprehensive; while its redundancies, which served the
temporary purpose of patching its rents and covering its
constitutional deficiencies, have been left out altogether as
no longer necessary. In illustration of this point, take
the following rule from Home's Introduction: "An ob-
scure, doubtful, ambiguous, or figurative text, must never


be interpreted in sach sense as to make it contradict a
plain one." This rule is strictly correct, and, in the
formative stage of biblical science, it was doubtless useful.
But what service can it now render us ? It does not tell
us hx)w to interpret obscure, or ambiguous language, but
how it must not be interpreted. It was based upon the
conviction of the author that the science was then so im-
perfect that it could not lead to truth, and, therefore, it
was necessary for him to do what he could to prevent it
from leading to error. But now, with the inductive
method to guide us, it would seem to be the veriest trifling
to give a formal expression to a caution which is evidently
embraced in its very nature.

Again, he says : " The literal meaning of words must be
retained more in the historical books of Scripture than in
those which are poetical." Yery true; but how much
more? And to what extent is it to be retained in the
poetical Scriptures ? These are the very things we wish
to know — things immediately suggested to the mind by the
rule — but which the rule does not tell us.

Once more: ''In fixing the sense exhibited by a meta-
phor, the comparison ought never to be extended too far. "
We grant the truth of the remark, but where is the rule
in it ? It is absolutely impossible to tell from it how far
he would have us extend the comparison. It is a measur-
ing-stick of whose length we are wholly ignorant. Thus
we might go on and mention rule after rule, every one of
which is true, and many of which were more or less im-
portant in their day, but very few of which satisfy the


requirements of what a rule should be. They are very
much as if a natural philosopher should lay down as a rule,
''that, in making a classification of animals, too much at-
tention must not be paid to the differences in size." Or,
"that, in determining the nature of plants, their varieties
of color must not be insisted on;" "in comparing metals,
the comparison must never be extended too far;" "in esti-
mating the mechanical force of a lever, the material must
always be supposed to be sound."

All these are rules — rules, too, which are correct, and of
the highest degree of generality ; but we fancy that science
would make but little progress if it had none better. And
yet such as these have swelled the volumes of sacred herme-
neutics ; and they have been explained, applied, and illus-
trated, as though they really contributed to the science of
interpretation. At the same time it affords us pleasure to
say, that from nearly every work on the subject which has
fallen into our hands, we have been able to draw out from
this mass of redundant matter the true and natural prin-
ciples of inductive exegesis : and it has been with regret
and surprise that we have found these principles arranged
according to no just methody and formed into no natural

We have made a feeble effort to supply this evident defi-
ciency ; and the result is before the reader. It is hoped
that, however imperfectly the design has been carried out,
the work will at least show the necessity and the practica-
bility of interpreting the original Scriptures according to



the only method which has ever been successfally pursued
in any other department of study.*

But, alas I what are rules ; what are scientific principles ;
what the clearest demonstration of the Holy Spirit him-
self, to those whose hearts are not imbued with the love of
truth — whose delight is not in the law of the Lord —
who do not wish to be taught his ways, nor to walk in his
paths? How unspeakably important that every student
of the Bible (for we have not sought to give a method
that will supersede the necessity of study) should honestly
examine his own heart, and strive earnestly to eradicate
every vestige of prejudice, until he become perfectly will-
ing to

Seize upon truth, wherever 'tis found,

or whatever it be, or wheresoever it lead, while he should

* It is much to be regretted that, owing to the changes in our
language and other causes, our received version is far from being,
in all respects, a faithful representative of the original. The
method and rules we have given, however, will enable the student
of the English version to learn iU meaning ; while for its correction
he must avail himself of the aids which are furnished in commenta-
ries and other sources, until the enlightened piety and wisdom of
Christendom shall supply him with a version more exactly in agree-
ment with the mind of God as originally communicated. And from
the movements now making, and from the evident interest that has
been engendered on the subject both in this country and Great
Britain, we have reason to hope that this desideratum will very
soon be supplied — than which nothing could contribute more to the
awakening of a general interest in the study of the living oracles.


ever remember, as he learns, that unless he be a doer of
the word, and not a hearer only, he is but deceiving
himself 1

And if the devout Christian shall be led, in the provi-
dence of God, to accept the method and rules herein laid
down, as the means best calculated to facilitate his efforts
to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord
Jesus Christ," we are sure that his heart will respond to
what we would recommend as their crowning excellence,
namely : That this method should be pursued, and these
rules observed, in the exercise of continual prayer to
Him who is the source of all wisdom and understanding.

And the author would himself be recreant to his pro-
foundest sense of obligation, if he did not here record,
that whatever is good or useful in the work which he now
brings to a close, is owing to the blessing of his Heavenly
Father, bestowed in answer to earnest and importunate


Note A, page 19.

The system of M. Auguste Comte is based upon the discovery
of what he calls the law of human progress, viz.: "That each
of our leading conceptions, each branch of our knowledge,
passes successively through three diflferent theoretical condi-
tions: the Theological, or fictitious; the Metaphysical, or ab-
stract; and the Scientific, or positive." The first stage he
regards as the necessary point of departure of the human un-
derstanding; the third, as its fixed and definite state; while the
second, which is but a modification of the first, is only neces-
sary as a bridge over which the understanding passes from
the first to the third. He looks upon theology, therefore, as
only fit to occupy the attention of children, while men, full-
grown in understanding, are to be concerned alone with posi-
tive science.

Without pretending to give, in this place, the results of a some-
what careful examination of this system, we may be permitted to
say that, to our mind, it appears to be a continual, though perhaps
unconscious, perversion of history to the establishment of a fore-
gone conclusion. Even if we should admit that human prog-
ress is regulated by the law we have mentioned, would it follow
that the last stage must necessarily be free from all the ele-
ments which distinguish the first? What does the history to
which appeal is made really prove? This, in our judgment,
27* (81?)

318 NOTE&

namely : 1. That men, in the infancy of the world, or the begin-
ning of their advancement, account for phenomena by referring
them immediately to God, without the intervention of law, 2.
That, in the next stage, !hey abstract phenomena from the con-
trol of a superintending deity, and deify the forces supposed to
be inherent in them. 3. That they finally perceive that God
governs and controls all things through the intervention and
instrumentality of law. This law they recognize as positive,
because they believe that its author is wise and unchange-
able, and not, like M. Comte, because they believe it has no
author. We, therefore, regard him as standing upon the same
ground with the metaphysicians whom he ridicules, in that
he virtually deifies law^ while they virtually deified a capricious

History, then, teaches us that the theological or first stage,
reappears in the scientific or last, which is built, and necessarily
built upon it. Admitting, then, the law of M. Comte, which is
true under certain important limitations, he has erred, as we
think, from his inability to connect things which are naturally
and positively associated. He seems determined to believe in
the existence of active forces and unchanging laws, without
admitting their only possible cause. Hence, he speaks of " the
illusion of an illimitable power residing above ;" " the positive
philosophy, as free from monotheistic as from polytheistic or
fetich belief;" of "fetichism as no theological aberration, but the
source of theology itself ^^ etc. etc. — See Cours de Philosophie
Positive, passim.

Note B, page 68.

Our opinion of Swedenborg and his system is drawn from a
patient examination of his Vera Religio Christiana, which em-

NOTES. 319

braces the sum of his theological system — " continens unt^ersam
theologiam Novoe Ecdesioe" We have also consulted his
"Heaven and Hell," "Apocalypse Revealed," and "Arcana
Coelestia." It is not pretended that the text exhibits his posi-
tion in any other light than as it is presented to the subject of
hermeneutics; and, although it may be difficult to comprehend
his system of theology, we feel sure that we have not misrepre-
sented him as an interpreter, nor his system in its bearings upon

Note C, page 166.

On the mutations of human creeds, the reader will allow us to
quote some remarks from Isaac Taylor. "This same period,"
he says, "this sixty years — which has made us so much more
liberal, and, in a sense, more serious too than were our fathers,
and in which refinement and discretion have done so much for
us — has touched, not our creeds indeed, so as to remove any one
article from them, but it has touched the depths of our convic-
tions as to the whole, and as to several points of our belief.
There is little, perhaps, in the cycle of our predecessors' confes-
sion of faith which, if challenged to relinquish it, we should con-
sent to see erased. But, whether we be distinctly conscious of
the fact or not, there has come to stand over against each article
of that belief a counterbalance — an influence of abatement, an
unadjusted surmise, an adverse feeling, neither assented to nor
dismissed, but which holds the mind in perpetual suspense. The
creed of this time is — let us say — word for word the creed of
sixty years ago ; but, if such a simile might be allowed, these
items of our 'Confession' now fill one side of a balance sheet,
on the other side of which there stands a heavy charge which
has not yet been ascertained or agreed to. If this alleged state

820 NOTE&

of the case be resented — as it will, by some— it will be tacitly
assented to by the more thoughtfal and ingenuous reader."^
Wesley and Methodism, p. 19.

Again, page 17, he says: "The Methodism of the eighteenth
century has, we say, ceased to have any extant representative
among us." To this remark he refers on page 189: "Method-
ism we have spoken of as that which has long ago accomplished
iU purpose, and has passed away ; to other moods and modes
of thinking it has given place ; and with its nominal representa-
tive — the modern Wesley an Methodism — we have no more to do,
in these pages, than with any other existing religious body."

So with all other isms — that which they nominally represent
has passed away, and that which they now are is passing away.
Shall we continue to rest satisfied with any system whose very
nature is transient and mutable, when we may, if we please, find
that which is permanent and unchangeable?

Note D, page 176.

We cannot refrain from requesting the reader to concentrate
his attention upon the following profound and truly encouraging
remarks of Isaac Taylor, to which we will add, in passing,
such observations as may serve to show the connection in which
they occur. This great thinker saw, as all unbiased minds must
see, the necessary tendency of our imperfectly carried out Pro-
testantism to Romanism ; and he says, a time will come when^
"those who loathe these idolatries, and who resent this despot
ism, will find themselves driven in upon the only position where
a stand may by any means be made, namely, the authority of
Scripture; this being held as absolute, and not to be abated by
admixture with any other pretended sources of belief. .... At

NOTES. 321

Buch a time there will not remain an inch of space whereon the
foot may rest between these two positions ; that is to say, unless,
in the most peremptory manner, and to the exclusion of all re-
serves or evasions, the sense of Scripture^ ascertained and
interpreted on a true principle^ be resolutely adhered to, there
is nothing gross or abominable in the superstitions of Southern
Europe that must not be submitted to." He goes on to say, that
this contest against " Romanism and Ritualism " will be carried
on by "well-taught biblical scholars, who will feel, as we of this
time do not feel, the necessity, firsts of defining with unambigu-
ous explicitness, what it is they mean when they speak of the
apostolic writings as ^ given by inspiration of God/ and then
of laying down, and of invariably adhering to, certain principles
of interpretation." After speaking of the first of these pre-
liminary labors, he proceeds : —

"As to the second, it will flow out naturally from the first,
and it will hear an analogy to the revolution that was effected
in physical science by the promvUgation of the Baconian phi-
losophy, and in accordance with that analogy it will ^ect the
final expulsion of metaphysical schemes of Christian doc-
trine; in the room of which wiU come the fearless thboloot
OF interpretation ; ofifering to the eye, as it must, many of
those breaks and 'faults* — those inferences — ^irreconcilable the
one with the other — which are, and must ever be, the character-
istics of a theology that is fragmentary and disjointed."

Again, speaking of the coming movement under the name of
"Methodism," in contrast with the past Methodism, he says:
"The past Methodism took to itself the belief which it found;
but the coming Methodism must derive its belief anew from
Scripture, by bringing to bear upon this difficult subject a
reformed principle of biblical interpretation." Finally, he
says: "Those who, through a course of years, have been nsed

322 NOTE&

to read the Scriptures unshackled by systems, and bound to no
conventional modes of belief, such readers must have felt an
impatience in waiting, not for the arrival of a new revelation
from heaven, but of an ample and unfettered interpretation of
that which has been so long in our hands." — Wedei/ and Meth-
odism, pp. 286 to 290 ; Harper's edition, 1855.

Note E, page 183.

The reader may consult, on the subject introduced in the text,
Whewell's History of the Inductive Sciences ; in the additions
to the second volume of which, page 605, he will find a descrip-
tion of the interesting experiment which resulted in the final
disproof of the emission theory of light, by showing that its
velocity was less in water than in air.

Note F, page 299.

Since the completion of our manuscript, we have, through the
kindness of the obliging librarian of the Philadelphia Library,
gained access to authorities not previously within our reach;
and are gratified to find that they distinctly affirm, and strongly
insist upon, the important principle laid down in the text. Kich-
ardson's Dictionary — itself no mean authority — embodies what
has for ages been taught on this subject by scholars of the
first eminence ; and it is on this very principle that the learned
author seems to justify himself in making a new dictionary. He
says : —

"The great first principle upon which I have proceeded in the
department of the dictionary which embraces the explanation,

NOTES. 323

is that so clearly evolved and so incontrovertibly demonstrated
in the 'Diversions of Purley/ namely, that a word has one
meaning and one only; that from it all nsages must spring
and he derived; and that, in the etymology of each word must
be found this single intrinsic meaning, and the cause of the
application in those usages.

"That each word has one radical meaning, and one only, is
not a dogma of which very modem writers have the sole right
to boast. Scaliger asserts it in most explicit terms: 'Unius
namque vocis una tantum sit significatio propria, ac princeps.'
It is one of those many sound principles which have been met
with in the writings of learned and sagacious scholars, and
which have passed the not uncommon routine of being recog-
nized and admired, neglected and forgotten. It is one of those
which they themselves have employed to very little purpose,
and of which we are not warranted in concluding that they saw
the tendency with suflBcient distinctness to appreciate justly the
real value and importance.

" Tooke is most distinct in the assertion and maintenance of
these principles, (the oneness or singleness, and the source, of
the meaning of words;) he adopted them as the sole sure foun-
dation upon which philological inquiry could proceed; he, and
he alone, has adhered to them consistently, and he has raised
upon them an edifice to which all must look as a model, when
devising the ground-plot for a superstructure of their own." —
Preface to Dictionary, section ii.

Acting upon such principles it is no wonder that Bichardson
gives two distinct "Lets;" because it is evident that "to per-
mit" cannot be the secondary sense of a word whose radical is
*'to hinder" His arrangement o( them is as follows: —

Let, — Goth. Lat-yan; A. S. Lat-ian, Icetan; Ger. and Dut

324 NOTES.

Letten; tardare, morari, impedire ; to retard, to delay, to hinder,
keep back or behind.

Let, — Goth. Let-an; A. S. Lcetan; Dut. Lceten; linquere,
sinere, permittere, pati; to leave, to give leave, to permit or

With such authorities to support a principle, the obvious
necessity and value of which would seem to establish it even
withoiU authorities, we must regard it as permanently settled