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ARTICLE V.-PROFESSOR LEWIS'S NEW WORK, “THE DI
VINE HUMAN IN THE SCRIPTURES."
The Divine Human in the Scriptures. By Tayler LEWIS, Union College. New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.
This volume, which we are informed in the preface is introductory to a more complete and full discussion of the figurative language of the Bible, is designed to present the views of Prof. Lewis upon the inspiration and authority of the Divine Word. The author is widely known among the scholars of our country for his familiar and profound acquaintance with the languages and the philosophy of classical antiquity, and for the deep interest and the unusual success with which he has prosecuted his inquiries into the habits of thought, and the religious convictions of those early ages. His publication of “ Plato against the Atheists” disclosed the depth and extent of his researches into the religious ideas of antiquity, as well as the ability with which he applied the philosophical conceptions of that era to the subsequent forms of skepticism. His comments upon the Book of Job showed how successfully he had entered into the vague but real beliefs of that remote period in regard to death and a future life. More especially, however, should we refer to his “ Six Days of Creation,” as elucidating the breadth of his investigations into the early conceptions of the Hebrew mind in regard to the creation, and the important ideas which in the Bible cluster round the narrative of that great évent. That work, in consequence of some sharp allusions to modern science and some of its advocates, provoked opposition, and drew upon itself a severity of criticism that prevented its reaching in public estimation the position which, in our opinion, it unquestionably deserves, as a profound, useful, and satisfactory discussion of that great subject.
It affords us real pleasure to welcome him again into substantially the same field of thought and argument; and to in
troduce to the notice of our readers his suggestive and valuable work upon the inspiration of the Scriptures.
The aim of Professor Lewis to vindicate the claims of the Bible, leads him to present his views, first, of the nature of inspiration, and next, of some evidences which miay be offered for the inspired character of the sacred volume.
In respect to the nature of inspiration he maintains a position which is substantially identical with that which prevails throughout New England. The whole Bible he believes to be inspired—to possess a character of absolute truth in all that it really affirms,—through a ceaseless supervision and impulso of the Divine Spirit, guiding the writers of the Biblical books. The title of the work—The Divine Human-indicates the idea which he wishes to present—God speaking through the conceptions, emotions, and language of men ; a true and real union of the mind of God with the human mind in the Scriptures.
This conception is strongly distinguished from both of the two theories which are current among the different classes of religious thinkers. One of these, holding a theory of plenary inspiration, seems to deny all true action of the human agents of God's revelation, and holds all their language to be directly suggested of God, for the expression of absolute truth. The peculiarities of individual writers are ignored and denied ; the habits of thought of each individual pass for nothing; expressions and conceptions are not selected by the free working of the inspired mind in its own accustomed ways, as most natural and appropriate to it, but are suggested by the Infinite Wisdom as absolutely conveying the truth. All the language of the Scripture is inspired in precisely the same sense and way; and all individual peculiarities are lost in the mechanical utterance by the writer, of conceptions not his own.
The other class holds up to view the human element, and regards inspiration as the quickening and elevating of a devout soul to high views of truth, and to ennobling conceptions of duty, which it is then left to express in its own way, by its own accustomed imagery and machinery of thought.
These two views seem to possess between them the elements of a more comprehensive and complete inspiration than either of them exclusively maintains; and this combination of the two opposite schemes forms the system of Prof. Lewis. He regards the former as defective in some important respects. It is no true inspiration of the man. The words he utters are not his own; the figures of speech which he employs do not express the analogies and images under which he is led to view the truth. He is no otherwise inspired than a bird might be, which should be impelled to utter, without understanding, the articulate sounds of human speech. Though defective in this respect, however, it saves the great and fundamental conception which lies at the bottom of all inspiration; it authenticates the message as a real communication of truth from God to men. The latter view, on the other hand, while it maintains a real inspiration of the man, is no inspiration of his work; and leaves his message to his fellow men without any attestation of its accuracy. His description of the vision in which Heaven stood open before him, and even his record of observed facts, are prejudiced by all the inaccuracies of his own defective understanding, and his own imperfect recollection.
Professor Lewis regards inspiration as embodying a concurrent agency of God and man, in the preparation of that record of truth which should be given to the world as the guide of its faith. The inspired writer is indeed lifted up to behold realities and conceive truths, to which human power could Dever attain ; but he is not left to his own multiplied errors in the utterance of them. A Divine supervision secures the truthfulness of all his utterances, and makes his communication to mankind a reliable and authentic transcript of the Divine wisdom and the Divine will.
Up to this point the conception of inspiration which we have described will probably receive the approval of all discriminating and devout readers. But our author carries it to even a higher point, to which all may not be quite ready to follow him. He regards the Divine agency as not terminating in such a supervision as shall secure the real accuracy of the message of God, but as itself actively selecting and guiding the expression of it. Not only are the figures of speech which are employed for the expression of emotion all of Divine suggestion, but the language in all its particulars is equally selected and adjusted with Divine aid and care. All, therefore, carries with it the authority of a Divine sanction. Every mode of representing God through the analogy of human passions and conceptions, is itself sanctioned as embodying the very wisdom of heaven, and as conveying the truth in the highest mode in which the Infinite can express itself by finite forms, or the human mind receive intimation of the Divine.
This view Prof. Lewis defends with great vigor and beauty through several chapters of his work, maintaining that we need not fear to admit the anthropopathism of the scheme, since every manifestation of the Infinite in the finite must of necessity possess this character, and the objection, if carried out, would render a revelation impossible. While we should feel some hesitation in adopting the strong language in which he clothes his doctrine, we cannot be insensible to the vigor of his defense of it. He fearlessly carries up the argument to its highest plane, and contends very instructively for the possibil. ity of a revelation of the Infinite to man, however such a revelation must take place through finite forms of thought and speech. The discussion is exceedingly suggestive, and brings up many points which will greatly stimulate and expand the views of his readers, impart new confidence to their faith in inspiration, and increased conviction of the radical weakness of the skeptical theory which rejects it.
From this portion of the treatise, which is presented at some length, Prof. Lewis passes to an argument in behalf of the authentic and inspired character of the Scriptures. The transition is made through several chapters of great beauty and power upon the enduring vitality of the Word of God in all ages and against all forms of assault--and upon its universal character as adapted for all nations and races of men. This he regards as the great problem of which it is necessary for every skeptical theory to give an account. It is easy to assign the origin of the Bible to fraud or to fanaticism; but this only brings up at once the greater difficulty how any local and transient impulses of this kind could have given birth to a system so marvelously enduring, so wondrously adapted to mankind, and so lofty in its moral inculcations as to satisfy all the demands, and surpass all the achieve
ments, of man's moral nature under the most favorable circumstances. This course of argnment leads to a formal consideration of the theories which have been offered to account for the origin of the Bible; and here the author enters upon what we regard as the most valuable portion of his work, a discussion of the various hypotheses of the skeptical world to account for that wondrous fact, the Bible.
These are all reducible, he observes, to three suppositions, one of which must express the truth. The sacred books must be either :
I. Wholly true, an authentic and reliable history written upon adequate data ; or,
II. Wholly false, and consciously fraudulent; or,
III. Honestly mistaken—a compilation from legend and tradition having a certain basis of truth, but destitute of all historic accuracy.
The third of these general suppositions does not clearly distinguish the two forms of skepticism which have played the greatest part in its modern development—the rationalistic and the mythical. It is, indeed, difficult for any one to do this completely; for the theory of mythus, which makes the biblical fact to be wholly a birth of fancy, itself implies a nucleus of fact round which the myths are to crystallize.
In order for the Hebrew fancy to shape its myths and legends, there must have been a man whose character and history awoke the conviction that he must be the Messiah ; then, around him, it is possible that many of the supposed attributes of the Messiah might cluster. The fancy of his Jewish followers might attribute to him such works and such experience as became the predicted Prince of Israel. Hence the theory which assigns a late origin, and a mythical character, to the Gospels, proceeds on the same basis of fact as that which maintains an origin contemporaneous with the events, and regards those events, when supernatural, as the mistakes and exaggerations of credulous eye witnesses. Both these theories are in fact discussed, and the falsity of their funda