Archive

Archive for December, 2013

Brief survey of the history of hermeneutics – 6. Alexandria and Antioch

December 31, 2013 Leave a comment

Introduction: Our study of the Patristics has set the stage for a brief discussion on the schools of Alexandria and Antioch. In one sense, they are a natural development of things already in place. In fact, Bradley Nassif claims, “Origen did not invent his interpretive techniques but borrowed them from a complex hermeneutical environment [Christian and non-Christian] that was already present in his day.”[1] Both Christian allegory and Christian typology pre-date these schools of thought. These two schools have sometimes been pitted against each other. Silva says:

This description, however, leaves out a series of interesting and suggestive bits of information. It is simplictic, for example, to view Origen and the Antiochenes as representing two opposite approaches more or less exclusive of each other. As we shall see, Origen used and defended literal interpretation on a number of occasions. Moreover, certain exegetical features that we would quickly dismiss as in some sense “allegorical” were consciously adopted as legitimate by the Antiochene exegetes.[2]

 

Read the rest here.

A word on ‘transferred application’

December 31, 2013 1 comment

Arthur PinkA word now upon transferred application, by which we mean giving a literal turn to language which is figurative, or vice versa. Thus, whenever the writer steps on to icy roads, he hesitates not to literalize the prayer, “Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe” (Psalm 119:117). “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8) is to be given its widest latitude, and regarded at both the rest of the body under the protection of Providence and the repose of the soul in the assurance of God’s protecting grace. In 2 Corinthians 8:14 Paul urges that there should be an equality of giving, or a fair distribution of the burden, in the collection being made to relieve the afflicted saints in Jerusalem. That appeal was backed up with, “As it is written, he that hath gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.” That is a reference to the manna gathered by the Israelites (Exodus 16:18): those who gathered the largest quantity had more to give unto the aged and feeble; so rich Christians should use their surplus to provide for the poor of the flock. But great care needs to be taken lest we clash with the Analogy of the Faith: thus “the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker” (2 Samuel 3:1) certainly does not mean that “the flesh” becomes enervated as the believer grows in grace, for universal Christian experience testifies that indwelling sin rages as vigorously at the end as at the beginning.

Arthur W. Pink The Application of Scriptures-A Study of Dispensationalism

Free eBook – The Doctrine of the Atonement as Taught by Jesus Himself

December 30, 2013 3 comments

atonement_smeatonThe Doctrine of The Atonement as

Taught by Christ Himself

or The Sayings of Jesus Exegetically Expounded and Classified.

SECOND EDITION – 1871

by Rev. George Smeaton, D.D.

Professor of Exegetical Theology, New College, Edinburgh

 

Available in Kindle .mobi and ePub formats

 

The present volume is intended to be the first portion of a larger whole, which if completed, will exhibit the entire New Testament teaching on the subject of the atonement. I purposed to survey the whole testimony of our Lord and of His apostles; beginning with the former as fundamental. But as the subject grew in my hands, it was found necessary to reserve, in the meantime, the consideration of the apostolic testimony.

In these pages I have examined, according to the rules of exact interpretation, what Jesus taught on the subject of the atonement, and have given a classification of His sayings and an outline of the doctrine. This seems to be urgently demanded in our times. The necessity of correctly ascertaining, by the only means within our reach, what the Lord actually taught on this point, cannot be overstated, when we direct any measure of attention to modern thought, and to the conflicting views, often as ill-digested by their propounders as perplexing to the minds of others, which are at present given forth on the nature, design, and effect of the Lord’s death. The one-sided views on this great theme, held not by scoffers at vital religion, but by earnest men, actually though not willingly deviating from biblical truth, are not to be corrected by any human authority, nor even by an appeal to the Church’s past, which yet, as the voice of our mother, is entitled to some amount of deference. They can be effectually confronted and silenced only by the explicit testimony of the Church’s Lord. The doctrine will stand there, but will stand nowhere else. And every true disciple has this distinctive feature about him, that he hears the voice of Christ, but a stranger’s voice will he not follow.

My task in this work has been simply to determine, by strict exegetical investigation, the import of Christ’s words, and to reproduce His thoughts by the exact interpretation of language. I have no other desire than to ascertain what He did say, and to abide by it. The principle on which alone it is safe to carry on investigations into doctrine on any point, is, I am fully persuaded, to go to the Scriptures, not for the starting-point of thought alone, but for the substance of thought as well, or for the rounded and concrete development of the doctrine in all its elements: and these will be found in Christ’s sayings, if we but patiently investigate them. It is not, then, to the Christian consciousness that I appeal with some modern teachers, nor to Christian feeling and Christian reason with others, but to the consciousness and sayings of the Great Teacher, and of His commissioned servants, employed as His organs of revelation to the Church of all time.

 

Source [Monergism.com]

65 Apologetics Questions Every Christian Parent Needs to Learn to Answer

December 30, 2013 Leave a comment

In prior posts, I’ve talked about why parents have to care about apologetics (the reasoned defense of Christianity) and I’ve shared resources for getting started with apologetics. I realize, however, that it can seem pretty ambiguous to have a goal of “learning apologetics.” We need to know the specific questions we most need to study and discuss with our kids; the ones that non-believers most frequently challenge Christians on and the ones that most frequently turn young adults away from faith after spending 18 years in church.

That’s the purpose of this post.

I want to give you a very specific list of 65 apologetics questions every Christian parent needs to learn to answer and discuss with their kids (in age appropriate ways). Of course, any such list is subjective. I created this list based on my own study and experience with engaging in these topics, with a special emphasis on the issues challenging young adults today.

You may not think I’ve narrowed it down much by giving you 65, but there are hundreds of questions that could have been listed! In case this looks overwhelming, I’ve highlighted in red my “top 20.” Start with those if you’re new to these topics.

I encourage you to take some time and challenge yourself here. Read each question and give yourself a “point” for each one you feel you could thoroughly answer. What would your score be if you had to answer these questions today?

 

Read the rest here.

Many were burned at the stake for rejecting the Popish doctrine of freewill

December 30, 2013 3 comments

In reference to the Calvinistic doctrines—the doctrines of free and sovereign grace held by the Reformers in England, Toplady observes, “Queen Mary and her Spanish husband well knew that Calvinism is the very life and soul of the Reformation; and that Popery would never flourish till the Calvinistic doctrines were eradicated.” Her efforts to destroy by sword and fire those who upheld the Truth earned for her the unenviable appellation of ‘Bloody Mary.’ The charge on which many of them were burnt at the stake was that they held to the doctrine of predestination and rejected the Arminian and Popish doctrine of free-will.

William MacLean-Arminianism-Another Gospel

The decrees of election and reprobation are immutable and irreversible

December 27, 2013 1 comment

Chapter II

 

WHEREIN THE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION IS EXPLAINED AS IT RELATES IN GENERAL TO ALL MEN.

Thus much being premised with relation to the Scripture terms commonly made use of in this controversy, we shall now proceed to take a nearer view of this high and mysterious article, and-

(Continued from point IV-And if the number of these is thus assuredly settled and exactly known, it follows that we are right in asserting-)

 

V.-That the decrees of election and reprobation are immutable and irreversible. Were not this the case-

(1) God’s decree would be precarious, frustrable and uncertain, and, by consequence, no decree at all.

(2) His foreknowledge would be wavering, indeterminate, and liable to disappointment, whereas it always has its accomplishment, and necessarily infers the certain futurity of the thing or things foreknown:”I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and, from ancient times, the things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand and I will do all My pleasure” (Isa 46:9,10).

(3) Neither would His Word be true, which declares that, with regard to the elect, “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom 11:29); that “whom He predestinated, them He also glorified” (Rom 8:30); that whom He loveth, He loveth to the end (John 13:1), with numberless passages to the same purpose. Nor would His word be true with regard to the non-elect if it was possible for them to be saved, for it is there declared that they are fitted for destruction, etc. (Rom 9:22); foreordained unto condemnation (Jude 1:4), and delivered over to a reprobate mind in order to their damnation (Rom 1:28; 2Th 2:12).

(4) If, between the elect and reprobate, there was not a great gulf fixed, so that neither can be otherwise than they are, then the will of God (which is the alone cause why some are chosen and others are not) would be rendered inefficacious and of no effect.

(5) Nor could the justice of God stand if He was to condemn the elect, for whose sins He hath received ample satisfaction at the hand of Christ, or if He was to save the reprobate, who are not interested in Christ as the elect are.

(6) The power of God (whereby the elect are preserved from falling into a state of condemnation, and the wicked held down and shut up in a state of death) would be eluded, not to say utterly abolished.

(7) Nor would God be unchangeable if they, who were once the people of His love, could commence the objects of His hatred, or if the vessels of His wrath could he saved with the vessels of grace. Hence that of St. Augustine.* “Brethen,” says he, “let us not imagine that God puts down any man in His book and then erases him, for if Pilate could say, ‘What I have written, I have written,’ how can it be thought that the great God would write a person’s name in the book of life and then blot it out again?” And may we not, with equal reason, ask, on the other hand, “How can it be thought that any of the reprobate should be written in that book of life, which contains the names of the elect only, or that any should be inscribed there who were not written among the living from eternity?” I shall conclude this chapter with that observation of Luther.+ “This,” says he, “is the very thing that razes the doctrine of free-will from its foundations, to wit, that God’s eternal love of some men and hatred of others is immutable and cannot be reversed.” Both one and the other will have its full accomplishment.

* Tom. 8, in Psalms 68, col. 738.

+ De Serv. Arbitr. cap. 168.

Jerome Zanchius-The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted-Translated by Augustus Montague Toplady

Chapter 2-What Reprobation is

December 26, 2013 1 comment

HAVING thus showed you that there is such a thing as a reprobation, I come now to show what it is, which, that I may do to your edification, I shall first show you what this word reprobation signifieth in the general, as it concerneth persons temporary and visibly reprobate. Secondly, more particular, as it concerneth persons that are eternally and invisibly reprobate.

First generally, as it concerneth persons temporary and visibly reprobate: thus, to be reprobate is to be disapproved, void of judgment, and rejected, etc. To be disapproved, that is, when the word condemns them, either as touching the faith or the holiness of the Gospel; the which they must needs be that are void of spiritual and heavenly judgment in the mysteries of the kingdom, a manifest token they are rejected. And hence it is that they are said to be reprobate or void of judgment concerning the faith; reprobate or void of judgment touching every good work; having a reprobate mind to do those things that are not convenient either as to faith or manners. And hence it is again that they are also said to be rejected of God, cast away and the like.

I call this temporary, visible reprobation, because these appear and are detected by the word as such that are found under the above-named errors, and so adjudged without the grace of God. Yet it is possible for some of these, (however for the present disapproved,) through the blessed acts and dispensations of grace not only to become visible saints, but also saved for ever. Who doubts but that he who now by examining himself concerning faith doth find himself, though under profession, graceless, may, after that, he seeing his woeful state, not only cry to God for mercy, but find grace, and obtain mercy to help in time of need? Though it is true that for the most part the contrary is fulfilled on them.

But to pass this, and more particularly to touch the eternal, invisible reprobation, which I shall thus hold forth. It is to be passed by in or left out of God’s election, yet so as considered upright; in which position you have these four things considerable:

First. The act of God’s election.

Secondly. The negative of that act.

Thirdly. The persons reached by that negative. And,

Fourthly. Their qualification when thus reached by it. For the first. This act of God in electing, it is a choosing or foreappointing of some. infallibly unto eternal life, which he also hath determined shall he brought to pass by the means that should be made manifest and efficacious to that very end.

Secondly. Now the negative of this act is a passing by or a leaving of those not concerned in this act-a leaving of them, I say, without the bounds and so the saving privileges of this act; as it followeth by natural consequence that because a man chooseth but some, therefore he chooseth not all, but leaveth, as the negative of that act, all others whatsoever. Wherefore, as I said before, those not contained within this blessed act are called the rest besides the election: “The election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.”

Thirdly. The persons then that are contained under the negative of this act, they are those (and those only)that pass through this wicked world without the saving grace of God’s elect; those, I say, that miss the most holy faith which they in time are blest withal who are foreappointed unto glory.

And now for the qualification they were considered under when this act of reprobation laid hold upon them — to wit, they were considered upright.

This is evident —

First, from this consideration: that reprobation is God’s act, even the negative of his choosing or electing, and none of the acts of God make any man a sinner.

Secondly. It is further evident by the similitude that is taken from the carriage of the potter in the making of his pots; for by this comparison the God of heaven is pleased to show unto us the nature of his determining in the act of reprobation. “Hath not the potter power over the clay of the same lump?” etc. Consider a little, and you shall see that these three things do necessarily fall in to complete the potter’s action in every pot he makes:

1. A determination in his own mind what pot to make of this or that piece of clay — a determination, I say, precedent to the fashion of the pot; the which is true in the highest degree in Him that is excellent in working; he determines the end before the beginning is perfected: “For this very purpose have I raised thee up.”

2. The next thing considerable in the potter, it is the (so) making of the pot, even as he determined, a vessel to honor or a vessel to dishonor. There is no confusion or disappointment under the hand of this eternal God; his work is perfect and every way doth answer to what he hath determined.

3. Observe again, that whether the vessel be to honor or to dishonor, yet the potter makes it good, sound, and fit for service; his foredetermining to make this a vessel to dishonor hath no persuasion at all with him to break or mar the pot; which very thing doth well resemble the state of man as under the act of eternal reprobation, for “God made man upright.”

From these conclusions then consider —

1. That the simple act of reprobation, it is a leaving or passing by, not a cursing of the creature.

2. Neither doth this act alienate the heart of God from the reprobate, nor tie him up from loving, favoring, or blessing of him; no, not from blessing of him with the gift of Christ, of faith, of hope, and many other benefits. It only denieth them that benefit that will infallibly bring them to eternal life, and that in despite of all opposition; it only denieth so to bless them as the elect themselves are blessed. Abraham loved all the children he had by all his wives, and gave them portions also; but his choice blessing, as the fruit of his chiefest love, he reserved for chosen Isaac.

Lastly. The act of reprobation doth harm to no man, neither means him any; nay, it rather decrees him upright, lets him be made upright, and so be turned into the world.

John Bunyan-Reprobation Asserted; Or, The Doctrine Of Eternal Election And Reprobation Promiscuously Handled: In Eleven Chapters Wherein The Most Material Objections Made By The Opposers Of This Doctrine Are Fully Answered, Several Doubts Removed, And Sundry Cases Removed Conscience Resolved.

A Brief Catechism of Bible Doctrine-10-The Offer of Salvation

December 26, 2013 1 comment

The Offer of Salvation

 

1. To whom does God offer the salvation in Jesus?

He has ordered it to be offered to every creature.

2. Upon what condition?

Upon that of repentance and faith.

3. Are not these terms easy?

They are so easy that all who refuse are without excuse.

4. Do all men accept them?

They do not; they universally reject them where left without Divine influence.

5. Has God thus left all mankind?

He has not; but effectually calls many to the knowledge and belief of His truth.

6. What agent accomplished this work?

The Holy Spirit.

7. Do those who accept the Gospel deserve any reward for so doing?

No, for their acceptance is entirely due to the grace of God.

8. How will God punish those who reject it?

Far more severely than He will those who have never heard it.

9. Upon what grounds will he punish any who have not heard the gospel?

Because they, too, are sinners, and have disobeyed the law of God written in their hearts and in nature.

James P. Boyce-A Brief Catechism of Bible Doctrine

Question 51-Puritan Catechism

December 26, 2013 1 comment

Spurgeon 1Q. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?

A. The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days, (Leviticus 23:3) and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, (Psalm 92:1,2; Isaiah 58:13,14) except so much as is taken up in the works of necessity and mercy. (Matthew 12:11,12)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism

Chapter 3-Reason and Revelation

December 25, 2013 2 comments

Chapter 3-Reason and Revelation

 

HAVING considered the proofs of the existence of God, we should discuss the ways in which he has made himself known, before we study his nature, and attributes, and relations to us. These constitute the sources of our knowledge of Theology, which are two, Reason and Revelation.

Reason is that power in man, which enables him to have mental perceptions, to exercise thought, and reflection, to know facts, to inquire into their mutual relations, and to deduce, logically, the conclusions which may be drawn from them.

Reason may be used either with reference to the natural or supernatural means of knowledge conferred by God.

When we refer to reason as a source of knowledge distinct from revelation, we mean the information attained, by the use of this faculty, in connection only with the natural, as distinguished from the supernatural.

By revelation, we mean the knowledge which God conveys by direct supernatural instruction, pre-eminently that given in the book known as the Bible.

Reason involves all the cognitive powers of man, which are the faculties through which the mind attains knowledge. These faculties are not separate, and independent, but are merely the instruments of the mind.

The mind is not itself an original source of knowledge, like the Scriptures, but is merely an instrument by which the man attains knowledge through the exercise of its appropriate faculties. There are no such things as innate ideas. These arrive only through the exercise of proper thought and reflection, in connection with some perceived facts.

The means by which the mind attains knowledge in the exercise of its faculties, are five.

1. Consciousness, by which we learn our own existence, and the fact that we think, and are personal beings, possessing personal identity during the term of our natural life.

2. Observation, and experience of the world about us, through the senses.

3. Through intuitive conceptions, by which, upon the suggestion through some external object, of some principle, we find ourselves at once convinced of its correctness.

4. The dispositions, instincts and tendencies of our natures.

5. The curse of events in nature, as tending to good or evil, to what is desirable or disastrous.

It is manifest that the knowledge obtained from these various sources must be abundant to teach man the simple facts upon which rests his duty to God; namely, that there is a God to whom he owes existence, and consequent reverence, service and love, and whose greatness and goodness enforce this obligation; also to show him that that duty has not been discharged, and that he has not the disposition to discharge it; and consequently to render him uneasy in his relations to God, and anxious to appease him, and secure some assurance of his pardon and approval. It has also been thought by many, that through reason alone man attains the conviction of immortality and of a future state of rewards and punishments.

However abundant may be the information thus conveyed to man, it is nevertheless clear that his knowledge in these directions must still remain very imperfect.

This must have been true of man even in a state of innocence. His finite nature and the finite conditions which surrounded him must still have left him ignorant upon many desirable matters. It is natural, therefore, to believe that, in that condition, he received direct communications from God, which are properly esteemed revelations.

But this imperfection must have been greatly increased by an subsequent, fall from innocence. By this the Perceptions of right and wrong would be dimmed, the power of conscience to enforce the right would be impaired, the desire to do the right would be diminished, prejudices against the right would be created, an affection for God would be greatly decreased, if not entirely obliterated.

Upon these grounds we may infer the necessity of some further source of knowledge of God, and of his will with respect to man.

We may also argue a priori as to the nature of this revelation.

1. It must come from God, the source of all our other knowledge. No other could give it, and it is fit that no other should do so.

2. It must be suited to our present condition, confirming the truth already known, and teaching what is practically useful to man as sinner before God.

3. It must be secured from all possibility of error, so that its teachings may be relied on with equal, if not greater, confidence than those of reason.

4. It must come with authority, claiming and proving its claim to be the word of God, who has the right to command, and to punish those who disobey his commands; with authority also, that man may with confidence believe and trust the promises and hopes pardon and peace it may hold out.

5 That it will be accompanied by difficulties and mysteries what may be expected, since these are found frequently attending the knowledge derived from reason.

The gift of such a revelation must of course depend absolutely upon the will of God. It is not for man to say, before it is given, whether it certainly will, or will not, be bestowed.

That it is not improbable may be inferred from the fact that God has already made himself known to us in various ways in ourselves and in nature. If we need further revelation we my hope for it.

The only reason to the contrary is that we have sinned against God, and he may have chosen to abandon us to our fate. But this is not so truly understood until revelation has confirmed our conviction of our sinful estate. On the other hand, the favors which God still bestows, and the means of continued knowledge of him which he affords, indicate that he has not yet consigned us to our deserved fate, and that he may have purposes of mercy towards us.

That which renders it highly probable is the expectation seen in man, in the conceptions he has formed of God, as one to be propitiated by sacrifices and approached with prayer.

If the expectations thus formed are to he verified, the important question arises, in what way can God make known to us the new truth he wills to teach.

They manifestly speak unadvisedly who assert that this can in nowise be done.

If he should so choose, he could impress it on each one in like manner as we attain intuitive conceptions. He might reveal it to individuals in dreams and visions, so as to make each one feel and know that the vision is from God. Those through whom he has revealed himself have in some such way attained absolute conviction that God has spoken to and through them, and with God there is neither impossibility nor difficulty in producing like certainty in the mind of each individual of the race.

But as God usually acts through means, so he has revealed himself to a few, and through them to mankind in general.

The only question then is, how can he give evidence to the race at large that the men he has inspired are indeed his messengers?

This also might be done in various ways, but he has chosen to do it by attesting their mission by miracles wrought through them.

As to the measure of authority to be ascribed to these miracles, men differ in opinion.

Some teach that any miracle wrought is of itself sufficient attestation of the messenger and of the truth which he teaches.

Others, that miracles are only proofs to those who behold them, and dubious proofs even then, and that the true purpose of them is not to set the seal of God’s authority, but simply to awaken attention and excite awe, and thus prepare the way for a proper hearing of the divine message. These assert that the revelation comes to us with the authority only of the self-convincing nature of the truth made known.

It is necessary, in this difference of opinions, to seek carefully after the true theory. From no source can we better obtain it than from the revelation itself, the teaching of which will be seen to be fully corroborated otherwise.

The Scripture theory seems to be this, that in any new revelation the prophet of God must present a doctrine perfectly consistent with ever past revelation and with the knowledge conveyed by nature, and must, at the same time, confirm by miracles his authority as a teacher from God. Without the miracle the new truth has no evidence that it is not simply the product of human reason or imagination. The coincidence in doctrine is necessary to protect against pretended miracles and the tricks of unprincipled men. Besides, the new truth can have no higher authority than the old, and therefore cannot supersede it, for the old also has come from God. No truth ever taught by God can be opposed by any new truth from him. What with God is truth is eternal truth. Like himself, it is the same “yesterday, to-day and forever.” It may be more abundantly or clearly revealed. We may learn to comprehend it better and to correct our own misapprehensions of it, but whatever God has once given as truth must so remain forever, as changeless as his own life.

1. The Scriptural authority for this theory is conclusive.

Moses announced the law, which shows the miracle alone not to be conclusive. See Deut. 13:1, 2, 3. “If there arise in the midst of thee a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and he give thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he shake unto thee, saying, let us go after other gods which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or unto that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” This passage shows that even a miracle, wrought by one teaching doctrine not in accordance with that already received, should not tempt to belief in the divine authority of him who should work it.

The Apostle Paul gives similar instruction to the Galatians, Gal. 1:8: ” Though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.” Whatever might be the accredited authority of the messenger, his teachings were not to be received.

Yet, with all this, the Scriptures do not disparage the miracle. The miracles of Mosaic times are constantly referred to as indubitably marking it as divine. Nicodemus recognized the high position assigned to miracles by the Jews, John 3:2: “No man can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him.” Christ himself says, John 10:25: “The works that I do in my Father’s name, these bear witness of me.”

This theory of the Scriptures is not necessarily based upon the idea that real miracles can be wrought otherwise than by divine power. Still the language sometimes used is liable to this construction. And much depends upon the definition of a miracle. If a miracle be a suspension of the fixed laws which God has established for the world, that suspension can only occur through his special permission. Taking this as the true meaning of the word, we can understand why such stress is laid in the Scriptures upon the Mosaic miracles and those of Christ, since many of them are such as nothing but divine power could accomplish. But the word miracle in the Scriptures has not this restricted meaning, but is applied likewise to any marked supernatural event. Because men are apt to put these upon a level with the miracles which God alone can work, they are warned not to follow after what is thus supernaturally done, if it be accompanied by such teaching as is contrary to truth already received.

See the apparent reality of such miracles in connection with the magicians of Egypt, Ex. 7:11; Chap. 8:7, and compare with it the conviction expressed by the magicians, Ex. 8:19, when they failed to produce lice from the dust, “This is the finger of God.”

Notice also what Christ says, Mark 13:22: “For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew signs and wonders, that they may lead astray, if possible, the elect.”

See also Rev. 16:13, 14: “And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits, as it were frogs, for they are spirits of devils, working signs; which go forth unto the kings of the whole world, to gather them together unto the war of the great day of God the Almighty.”

It is because of this liability to be deceived, that the Scriptures require the miracle and the concurrent doctrine as both essential to the reception of a new revelation.

2. This theory alone concurs with the course to which nature necessarily impels us.

To the extent that we are fully convinced of the truth of a doctrine, no subsequent revelation could change our belief. It is true that this does not apply when we have doubts; but when our knowledge is fixed, we cannot be moved. No amount of miracle could convince a Christian that the nature of God is otherwise than pure and holy, or that he delights in worship not of the heart, or that he is not infinite in justice and holiness, in goodness, mercy and truth, or that be will pardon sin without due satisfaction to his law.

3. This theory accords with the progressive character of divine revelation.

The earliest revelation came to those who had heretofore been guided only by reason. This was true even down to the beginnings of the Old Testament Scriptures, and, in that economy, only preparation was made for the future glory of the New Testament revelation. Hence the truths taught were, for the most part, only those which come within the compass of discovery by reason, or acceptance by it upon due suggestion, namely,–the existence of one God, the fact of creation, the law of moral obligation to God and man, the punishment of sinners, the duty of repentance, the pardoning mercy of God, and the law of sacrifices, with substitution and satisfaction.

The new economy goes further in its clear instructions: it teaches the vicarious atonement of Christ, involving representation in him and also in Adam, the doctrine of the Trinity in the Godhead, the mysterious union in the person of Christ, and many other truths heretofore only very indistinctly revealed.

These could not have been presented to those only taught heretofore by reason. But the revelation which stood between fore-shadowed them in different ways. From it alone originally they would not have been discovered. But now that they are made known, that former revelation is seen to concur with the new statements, and the conformity of the clearly expressed doctrine to the mere outlines of them in the past sustains the fact that they have a common author, and that the divine revealer is the same. It is like the presence in animals of the same genus in earlier days of germs which find their development in species which come later.

4. This accords with our means of judging what course of action infinite wisdom would have devised.

The conviction we have of past truth renders it impossible that we should throw it aside. We must, therefore, still hold it fast. That conviction has come from God, and we can have no higher evidence.

Yet, other statements and doctrines very probably or even certainly true, may be taught by men, as revealed to them, when they are either self-deceived, or attempting to deceive others. Hence, we must have the attesting miracle.

On the other hand, we are liable to be deceived as to what is supernatural, and especially, in the supernatural, as to what is within the limits of created power. Hence, we may be misled by the craft of men, or by the superhuman power of wicked spirits. Therefore, no doctrine must be accepted contrary to a truth already received.

A revelation, such as we have described, having been given and proved, another question arises: what is the relation which reason bears towards it?

We may lay down the following facts:

l. That reason is the first revelation, and is consequently presupposed in any other.

2. That the facts of reason cannot be denied by any subsequent revelation. No truth can destroy other truth.

A limitation must, however, be put on the province of reason. The doctrines of which it may judge, are those only which come within its sphere. Upon the presentation of a new doctrine reason may decide whether it agrees with former knowledge. If agreeable thereto, it must be accepted, if opposed, it must be rejected. But, if it be above reason, it must stand or fall with the rest of the revelation. God may, in his mercy, refrain from trying faith by a revelation of supernatural doctrine, but, if he reveals it, it must be no barrier to the reception of that doctrine itself, or of the revelation which accompanies it. In an able article in the Southern Presbyterian Review, Vol. I, pp. 1-34, on “Reason and Revelation,” Dr. Thornwell puts this limitation upon reason, that it is sole arbiter within its own bounds, but no judge beyond them. He thinks that in this way only can it be applied as a test of doctrine. The theory is undoubtedly correct. It fails only in not recognizing the precise manner in which Scripture brings it in as an arbiter, not as the judge of truth as disconnected from the past, but as related to the various times and forms in which God has taught it. Reason should judge a new revelation, not by the truths taught by reason alone, but also by those which have been made known in any previous revelation.

The office of reason with respect to revelation, is therefore seen to be:

1. To examine the evidence of the miracles upon which it rests.

2. To compare its doctrines with the teaching of the past, and recognize their correspondence with or opposition to that teaching.

3. To adopt or reject the revelation according to the evidence afforded that it is God’s truth.

4. To interpret its contents, according to the best light which learning affords.

Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D.D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887