« PreviousContinue »
The value of the theory contended for.
part of the covenant, He will not fail to perform His. Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of Jehovah. . . . The eyes of Jehovah are upon the righteous. The face of Jehovah is against them that do evil. . . . Evil shall slay the wicked, and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate : Jehovah redeemeth the soul of his servants, and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.”
No theory, we believe, could be put to a severer test than this, and, we venture to say, no issue could be more manifestly successful. We have not cited parts of Scripture which bore out our contention, and passed by those whose evidence might live against us. We have taken all the purely Elohistic psalms, and the whole of the purely Jehovistic contained in the first wk; and, without exception, the Elohistic speak more or less plainly of God's might and the Jehovistic of His faithfulness. We not only submit that, while no other theory accords with the facts, this does : we would also express our conviction that it presents us with a valuable exegetical help. The very name applied to God sets us at once at the writer's standpoint. In Exodus xiii. 17-19, there is a sudden break in the almost nniform use of Jehovah which characterises both the preceding and subsequent parts of the narrative. In these three verses Elohim alone is employed. Alford, in his posthumous commentary, says: “This seems to indicate distinctness of origin for this incorporated fragment. Even those who are fondest of finding subjective reasons for the change of the Divine names have, as far as I have seen, abstained here. Seeing that Israel was especially the people of Jehovah, and is here spoken of as under His special guidance, we might expect to find that His special name here, if anywhere.” Now give to Elohim its meaning as to every other word in the passage, and not only does the difficulty disappear, the words are even set in a new and welcome light. “And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that Elohim led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for Elohim said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt : but Elohim led the people about,” etc. The change of the Divine name from Jehovah to Elohim quietly, but most effectively, emphasises the truth that this was done, not because God's arm was not strong enough to smite their foes : the cause was Israel's faithlessness, not God's weakness. What a comment upon unbelief, that THE ALMIGHTY had to change Israel's path and lead them "about through the way of the wilderness": The change in the name indicates the lesson of the story.
There are minor points too which, in this light, acquire a new significance. It may appear, for example, that Gideon's battle-cry, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon,” savours somewhat of presumption. He seems to niake himself God's ally. It is not God alone, but God and Gideon, by whom the victory is to be achieved. The difficulty disappears when it is observed that Gideon speaks of Jehovah. He is claiming the fulfilment of a promise. “The LORD (had) said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man (Judg. vi. 16). Gideon's cry is simply the expression of his trust in the Divine faithfulness. There is another, though an unseen, sword by the side of his, the sword of Him who keepeth truth and executeth vengeancethe sword of Jehovah. Even in passages where it may seem that our explanation fails, it will be found that there is a depth of meaning in the names, which has long lain concealed. For example, Balaam says to Balak, “God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man that he should repent. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good ?” (Numb. xxiii. 19.)
All this is simply a prolonged representation of God's unchangeableness : why then is not Jehovah used—the name of God in His faithfulness rather than the name of God in His might? The next words indicate the answer : Behold, I have received commandment to bless : and He hath blessed, and I cannot rererse it" (ver. 20). There was no more effective way of impressing upon Balak the vanity of contending with God than to name Him here by His name of power. God's unchangeableness would have meant little had it not been for the Almighty strength behind it. But, in the face of the infinite might indicated solely by the name, and the unalterable purpose dwelt upon in the description, what availed all Balaam's arts and all Balak's sacrifices ?
We may add that to notice the significance of the names lends no mean aid in dealing with the books of the Old Its bearing upon the books of Scripture.
Testament. There are two which have presented the greatest difficulty to students of Scripture; and in each case the Divine name gives us the key to the interpretation. Widely different opinions have been expressed as to the purport of Ecclesiastes. To some it has seemed the outpouring of a repentant spirit, to others the bitterness and scepticism of a sated voluptuary. The true view of the book has been well expressed by Bleek: “The whole course of the argument is based everywhere upon the consciousness, expressed in the most distinct way, that God is the Almighty, from whom every thing proceeds, who gives life, wisdom, and all good things to men, whose working is for everlasting.” But it needs no deep study to discover this. To notice the fact that the book is purely Elohistic, that, in other words, the only name of God used throughout is that which designates Him as the infinite in power, is to discover the purpose of the book at the very
, outset. Ecclesiastes is a call to submission and joyous trust. We cannot take our lives out of God's hands. We may dash ourselves against His arrangements to our own undoing, or fret under them and fill our lives with misery, but we cannot overthrow or change them. He with whom we have to do is the Almighty. “I know that whatsoever Elohim doeth shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it; and Elohim doeth it that men may fear before him” (iii. 14). “ Behold what I have seen to be good : it is pleasant for one to eat and drink and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life which Elohim giveth him, for it is his portion” (v. 18).—In the two first and five last chapters of Job, both names appear. The rest of the book, with one solitary exception (xii. 9), is wholly Elohistic. Now this very fact sheds a flood of light upon its dark places. It is solely in this Elohistic portion, containing the speeches of Job and his friends, that the difficulty occurs; and the name they apply to God shows us where they alike erred. Both shut out of view God's faithfulness. Job's “miserable comforters” see nothing of the loving care and infinite purpose of good manifested in the troubles of the righteous: they do not know that God, just because He will give His people an everlasting inheritance, must lead them through the ocean depths and by the wilderness paths. Job, on the other hand,
VOL. XXXI. - NO. CXX.
sees nothing beyond the duty of submission to the Almighty and the eventual justification of the righteous. We might add to these instances, but we forbear. We are convinced that to understand these names of God is to find new light upon every page of the Old Testament Scriptures. The words are not meaningless. They were not taken at random, nor chosen in accordance with arbitrary and mechanical rules. They are laden with thought and feeling, they are full even to-day of that light from the Divine glory which beamed upon each writer's soul; and thus, setting us at his own standpoint, they help us to grasp more clearly the message which he brings.
Art. II.—The Place and Use of Doctrine.
affirm that the function of Scripture is to make known doctrinal statements as well as practical duties. More than two centuries have passed since the Westminster Assembly put on record as a truth, for the instruction of “such as are of weaker capacity,” that the Scriptures principally teach "what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man." And thus for generations Presby terianism at least has inculcated upon its children from their earliest years the fact that the Christian religion is equally and at once a system of faith and a course of life. The practice must have a principle according to which it is framed, and the principle in turn must rest upon a foundation of belief. Men's ordinary conduct is not accidental or unregulated in its action, but moved and moulded consciously or unconsciously by their acceptance of certain doctrines or opinions. In like manner, Christian character is the outcome of received and recognised conceptions of God and duty—truths and facts believed in as real and reliable, and as necessary as the manner of life itself to make up the rounded whole of Christianity. What is to be believed and what is to be done alike demand our attention, because they appear as true and essential counterparts of each other. Leaving out either, we deal falsely, because unfairly,
The Bible and Doctrine.
with human experience, and at the same time fail to reach a full and correct understanding of Divine revelation in the greatness of its purpose and the richness of its meaning, as God's message of mercy to man.
When we examine the Bible we find doctrine occupying a large, and often a clearly-defined, place within it. To some it may appear fuller and more systematic than it does to others. Yet none can deny its presence. It is not equally or universally diffused, but wherever and however revealed, must be recognised and dealt with as part and parcel of the record. Just as the miracles are a factor in Christ's life, and cannot be rejected without destroying its sublime harmony, and subverting the simple consistency of the Gospel narratives, so the doctrines of Christianity are essential to its existence and continuance both as a moral system of truth and a conscious spiritual experience. They force themselves upon our attention, refusing alike to be forgotten as antiquated or to be ignored as useless. And their claim to consideration and acceptance is to be answered not by disputation but by disproof.
But while we grant the existence of dogma in revelation and in life, there is yet room for controversy as regards the place it holds, and the purpose it serves, in the economy of religion. And differences have arisen on these points, and been so keenly discussed as to show that the subject is one not merely of general interest, but of pressing importance and peculiar moment in these times. One may hear the complaint made that doctrinal views and confessional statements only burden man's intellectual powers without bringing any compensating blessing to his moral nature, while the assertion is strongly insisted on in reply that the lack of spiritual earnestness and strength, which all alike acknowledge and bemoan, is due to the inability or unwillingness to take a firm grasp and make a right use of dogmatic truth. Now, it may be both parties are in some measure right in their averments. If the symbolic systems of the Churches are looked upon only as digests of learned discussions or collections of abstract propositions, having no more vital power or human influence than mathematical formulæ, they may well be set aside as valueless to man's highest interests. But if, on the other hand, they are