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HAT are the true relations of the Bible to human science ?
Few vexed questions of the day are of profounder interest, and few, certainly, elicit more or wider divergencies of opinion. That it is no part of the purpose of Revelation to teach science, either physical or mental, as such, is too obvious and too well understood to need a formal statement. It would seem almost equally obvious, though by no means so generally admitted, that the facts of Revelation must ever be in strictest harmony with the facts of science. To whatever extent the Author of Revelation, the Inspiring Spirit, may accommodate the form of his teachings to the modes of thought and expression common amongst those first addressed, or may suffer those teachings to be tinged by the human channels through which they flow, we cannot for a moment suppose that in dictating a series of communications, intended for the men of all times and climes, he could permit his own wondrous truths to become embodied in a form, or transmitted in a vehicle of error, thus suffering that error to go forth with, if we may so express it, his imprimatur. God is himself the origin and fountain of truth. It is “impossible" for him to lie. Every expression, in word or work, of a thought of his is an eternal truth, and the sum of these expressions makes up the grand, infinite cycle, whose smallest segments afford ample scope for man's profoundest study, and the exercise of the highest powers of his
in its pages.
intelligence throughout the ages. But every part and particle of the great whole must, rightly understood, harmonize with every other part. Truth must be eternally consistent with itself. It is positive, actual. Error and falsehood are but the perversion or the negation of some portion or aspect of truth. “What communion hath light with darkness?" " What concord hath Christ with Belial?" What fellowship is possible between God's immutable verities and those ever-shifting theories and fancies which loom, in mist and mirage, on the horizon of man's distorted intellectual vision ? We would thus briefly indicate the ground of the perfect confidence with which we conceive we may ever safely come to study the teachings of Scripture, expressed or implied, upon any subject touched upon
Whenever we can either find in it a direct statement, or deduce from its language a clear, unmistakable inference, we may surely rely upon it that the facts of nature and the inductions of true science must and will be found in the closest accord therewith.
This much is surely true of any kind or department of human knowledge; and so of the science of psychology. But, in respect to the latter, may we not reasonably expect to find something more than mere incidental allusions and implications? These certainly abound. The very nature of revelation renders them unavoidable. Man, his origin, his nature, his character, his destiny, these are the themes necessarily and perpetually involved in the record of man's rebellions against God and God's providential and gracious dealings with man. Hence, we can scarcely read a chapter without finding in it, expressed or implied, broadly stated or tacitly assumed, some psychological fact or principle. But may we not go farther? Might we not expect, from a priori considerations, to find the constitution of man's nature, especially of his inner and immortal nature, made a subject of direct revelation? It is certainly a subject of the deepest moment to us. And what other source of reliable knowledge have we upon the most perplexing questions suggested by that subtle, mysterious something which lies at the base of the individual consciousness? Is not man himself to man the most profound and the most baffling of all the mysteries of nature? What has human science brought to light upon this subject through all the centuries? What sure and incontrovertible facts has it revealed concerning the essential nature of the ego, or the mode of its connection with the body? To these queries we might reply in the language of Henry Rogers, when he describes the mind as
Taking itself, so to speak, into its own hands, turning itself about as a savage would a watch, or a monkey a letter; interrogating itself,
listening to the echo of its own voice, and obliged, after all, to lay itself down with a very puzzled expression, and acknowledge that of its very self itself knows little or nothing.
Alas!" exclaims at last the baffled spirit of this babe in intellect, as he surveys his shattered toys, his broken theories of metaphysics ; "I know that I am; but what I am, where I am, even how I act; not only what is my essence, but what even my mode of operation-of all this I know nothing; and, boast of reason as I may, all that I think on these points is matter of opinion, or is matter of faith.”'1
Such, then, being the discouraging result of our acutest efforts to interrogate or analyze our own inner selves, for our own information, we instinctively turn to the Word of God in hope of light. Nor do we turn in vain. The Scriptures contain the only reliable psychology. The whole wondrous book, from Genesis to the Apocalypse, is thickly studded with direct statements and incidental allusions, each throwing its own ray of light into the dark, deep chambers of the soul. That the Bible contains rich, exhaustless mines of information upon this and kindred subjects which are ever and anon rising to the surface and perplexing the minds of searchers after truth-mines as yet but very partially explored—no one who believes in the reality of an inspired book for all the ages can reasonably doubt.
From this vast storehouse of treasure, we propose attempting to cull and arrange, by the aid of previous explorers, a few truths, which are, we trust, of sufficient value to merit re-presentation at the present moment.
I. The Bible teaches us that there exist in man, as in the universe, two, and but two, distinct elements or essences of being.
These we generally designate by the terms “matter" and "spirit.” The term “matter" is not, I believe, anywhere found in the Scrip
I tures; but the idea it expresses is everywhere present. In the first chapter of Genesis, we have brought to view, on the one hand, the universal chaos, or, at least, the void and formless earth; and on the other, the brooding, creative Spirit. We have, as Delitzsch says, Hyle, not eternal, indeed, as that of the philosophers, but yet a Hyle still; absolutely formless and lifeless, the thohu wa-bohu, which, as an absolute negation, not so much of power--which, indeed, may also operate destructively as of form and life—may be called pure matter."2 And here, in broad and unmistakable contrast, we have the Spirit of God-the organizing, law-giving, life-creating, all-pervading Pneuma. “Thus, even on the first page of Scripture, matter and spirit are placed in essential opposition.” So, too, in the creation of man we have the two distinct elements-the body, formed 1 Ed. Rev., Oct. 1849.
2 Bib. Psychology, p. 104.
of clay, inert, lifeless, until it is taken possession of by the living and life-giving spirit, and man—the complex result of the union of the two-stands erect in the dignity and power of conscious life. The same broad distinction between the two fundamental essences of God's great cosmos is clearly implied in many other passages of Scripture, as when, in Isaiah xxxi. 3, it is said: “The Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit;" or in John iii. 6,
6 Christ tells Nicodemus : “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”! In these, and in many similar passages, a sharp opposition is indicated between flesh and spirit, between that which is corporal and material, and that which belongs to the sphere of immaterial existence. This idea of two kinds or elements of being, radically distinct in substance and in quality or attribute, is too manifestly a fundamental conception of Scripture to need fuller illustration in these pages.
II. The Bible everywhere teaches that the human spirit is the secondary efficient of human life; that it was the infusion of a lifegiving Spirit which made man a living soul.
As this statement assumes for its foundation text Gen. ii. 7, an interpretation which is not universally admitted, it will be necessary, first of all, to inquire into the meaning of that remarkable passage: “And the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” Here we have, with the conciseness so characteristic of this part of the Mosaic record, the inspired history of man's creation and the very core of the Biblical psychology. The passage is evidently intended to teach us something, to give us some information in regard to the mysteries of our nature and origin. What that information is let us reverently inquire.
We may notice three general views as containing the gist of the various interpretations of which the verse has been thought susceptible. At the one extreme, we may place the opinions of those who find in it no reference whatever to the higher, the spiritual part of our being. As an able exponent of this view we may refer to Dr. Conant, who understands the statement as descriptive simply of the formation of the human body, and the quickening of it with the principle of animal life. To the impartation of the spiritual nature, in which he conceives the image and likeness of God, mentioned in the first chapter, to consist, he finds no allusion in the affirmation that "Jehovah breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." Breath, in this connection, he understands to mean no more than in Isaiah ii. 22,
1 See also Gen. vi. 3; John vi. 63, et. al.
where it is said, with a probable reference to this passage: “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils"; or, as he would render it, "in whose nostrils is breath "; "only breath, so frail a principle of life, and so easily extinguished.” Any deeper significance is, he thinks, not found in the passage, but interpreted into it.
In reference to this view, aside altogether from any critical considerations, which are probably indecisive, we observe that,
First: It entirely ignores the significant and apparently designed peculiarity in the account of man's formation. Other animals are described as coming into being simply at the mandate of Jehovah. “Let the earth bring forth the living thing after its kind, cattle and reptile and beast of the earth, and it was so." But the inspired writer's conception of Adam's formation seems radically different. Jehovah God formed, moulded, him out of the dust of the earth, and then breathed into his nostrils the life-breath. Who can fail to discover a special significance in this? Other creatures were endowed with some general and common, though still profoundly mysterious, principle of life. Man's vital force was imparted by the direct inspiration of the Almighty. If the spirit, the highest, noblest element of his nature, that which constitutes the image of God in him, was imparted in some other way not described, where is the force of this distinction, this remarkable figure of speech, if such it is ? And, farther, does it not seem unaccountable that the inspired writer should have been taught to describe with such concise yet graphic minuteness, the lesser operation of Jehovah in the creation of an animal life which we have in common with other living creatures, and to pass unnoticed the higher, still more wonderful, process whereby man was endowed with an immortal nature and exalted into the very likeness of his Creator?
Again; this interpretation deprives many other passages of Scripture of much of their force and point. “There is a spirit in man,” says Elihu to Job, "and the inspiration of the Almighty
, giveth them understanding." How does it give understanding, if it is but the impartation of the principle of animal life? And then, when God is called the “Father of spirits,” and when we are told that it is "the spirit which giveth life,” and that the last Adam was a "life-giving spirit,” what additional significance do such passages derive in the light of their reference to the original infusion of the human spirit as the quickener of the body, by the inbreathing of the Almighty ? Upon this point, which will be more fully illustrated in another connection, the act of Christ described in John xx. 22, affords a most striking and suggestive comment.