The, Faith of Christ has descended to us in the keeping of two distinct
but closely connected depositories, — the New Testament and the Christian
Church. In point of authority the Book is supreme; the canon or measure of the
Church's belief and practice. But historically, the living Society claims precedence;
the Christian /245/ Scriptures are the inspired witness of its earliest teachers
and members. The Gospels and Epistles clearly presuppose the existence of Christian
communities, from whose heart they issued, and to whose wants they were designed
to minister; whilst in the Acts we have a manual of primitive Church history.
A similar relationship exists between the Old Testament and what we may call
the Church of Israel. Even more clearly than the Christian Scriptures the older
Revelation takes the form of a progressive literature; it is the inspired utterance
of long ages of Hebrew prophets and kings.
Thus the Written Word, in both its parts, is, with regard to its human form
and aspect, the offspring of the Church of God; born, indeed, free from the
taint of human error and fallibility, yet truly made of her substance and partaker
of her nature. Unquestionably the Scriptures rise fare above the level of the
communities which gave them birth: as “the oracles of God,” proceeding
from His throne, they claim an authority and possess a fulness of truth distinctly
superhuman and sui generis. But they are not the less certainly the faithful
representatives of the inner life as well as of the outward condition of God's people under the two great periods which are parted by the Advent of our Lord.
Opening out vistas of Eternal Truth, to the end of which no human eye can reach,
the Holy Volumes; are yet chiefly occupied with the foreground of truths already
known and embodied in the creed or practice of the Church. Rising evermore above
the clouds of human ignorance into the light of God's infinite mind,
they rest, nevertheless, on the same foundation which had been laid in the hearts
of the men who wrote them — they express, although with a perfection beyond
the prophet's attainment, the substance of his personal faith, or at least of
that which animated the godly men of his own time.
If this be a correct view of the relationship which subsists between the Bible
and the Church; i.e., if as a matter of fact it has pleased God to throw His revelation into the form of a continuous expression of His people's
faith and practice, reflecting, while at the same time it strengthened and developed,
their religious progress and growth: we may fairly approach the question of
the coherence of the two Testaments through that of the position which the Christian
Church holds with regard to the Church of Israel.
Now there are points of kinship and resemblance between the two Churches which
are too patent to be overlooked. First, the fact that our Lord Himself was “born
under the law,” and officially “a minister of the circumcision;”
that His Apostles, not excepting the Apostles of the Gentiles, were also of
Jewish blood, and continued long after their entrance upon their now work to
regard themselves /246/ as members of the Jewish Church; <note
1> that their preaching began at Jerusalem and numbered its earliest
converts among the children and proselytes of Judaism. Further, the very worship
and organization of the Christian Church are stamped with the lasting impression
of their Jewish origin: the idea and even the form of both her Sacraments, the
outline of her liturgical services, the very name of the most numerous order
of her clergy, <note 2> have been we will
not say borrowed — but certainly retained or accommodated from the use
of her Jewish predecessor. It may be said that such resemblances are accidental,
that they amount at the most to affinity and not to consanguinity; that they
are only circumstantial, not essential. This is no doubt partly true; yet it
must be borne in mind that all systems are more or less materially affected
by the accidents of their origin, and that the Jewish colouring of Christianity
is, upon the assumption of the Divine origin of the Christian religion, a part
of “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.”
But we will shift the ground of inquiry from that which, if Divinely ordered,
is yet external and temporary, into the region of things spiritual and fundamental.
Whatever resemblance of outward form the Christian Church may bear to the Church
which preceded the Advent, the grand question is whether their inner life is
one or diverse; whether the spirit of the one is identical, or akin, or opposed
to that of the other.
Now the Apostles, who do not notice the more external connection of the two
Churches (of which in fact they were not likely to be conscious, living as they
did in the very age of transition), yet assert most fearlessly not merely the
resemblance but the entire identity of the Church before Christ and
the Church which more expressly bears His Name. The whole body of the faithful
forms in their view one corporation, almost one personality. <note
3> To the Church belong, indeed, various dispensations, successive periods
of life, gradual or occasional developments of size and strength: once she was
a child, but now mature; certain of her branches were broken off that others
might be grafted in; earlier years received not the promise, of which later
times have seen the fulfilment. But such changes do not affect essential unity,
which depends upon the identity of the life which underlies them all. And one
life, one only, belongs to the whole body of God's elect, from the time of righteous
Abel <note 4> unto the end. The just shall
live by faith. Three times <note 5> in
the Epistles our attention /247/ is drawn to this passing axiom of a Hebrew
prophet, because it affords a deep insight into the secret springs of the Church's
life. Standing where it does, it reveals the unity of the fundamental principle
which wrought in the Churches of the Old and New Testaments. Churches
we have called them; but if a common faith has power to knit together the successive
generations of God's people, then we had more properly spoken of a single Church;
the unity of an individual although a varied and protracted life.
And now, from this standpoint of a united Church, whose vital energy is the
power of a justifying faith, let us regard the two volumes which the custom
of centuries has bound into one “Bible.” Is the collocation arbitrary,
or does it rest upon an actual oneness of subject and aim?
First, the Jewish origin of Christianity, and the Jewish influences at work
in its earliest days, are most clearly reflected in the New Testament, and form
an obvious bond of union between the writings of the Apostles and those of Moses
and the Prophets. If the Hebrew language has given place in the Christian Scriptures
to the Greek, yet it is Greek, not as spoken by pagan lips, but as domesticated
amongst Hellenized Jews, and passed by means of the Septuagint through the purifying
and Judaizing medium of the Old Testament. The clumsy device of resolving every
grammatical or lexical peculiarity of the New Testament into a “Hebraism,”
has been very properly abandoned by all the recent editors: but the fact remains
undoubted, that a strong Hebrew or Aramean tincture is everywhere more or less
discernable. It emerges <note 6> in Greek reproductions
of Old Testament words and phrases: in the regular metaphorical use of certain
expressions known to classical Greek only in their literal significations; and
generally, in the simplicity of style, apparent even to the English reader,
which prefers to add clause to clause in coordinate sentences, rather than to
subordinate relative clauses to the leading thoughts. To affinities of language
and style may be added the closer tie of repeated allusions to the history and
teaching of the Law and the Prophets. Such references, more or less direct in
their character, underlie a very large portion of the Apostolic writings; <note
7> in fact, we are sometimes at a loss to understand how so continual
an interlacing of brief quotations and minute historical details drawn from
Old Testament sources, could have been intelligible to the Gentile converts,
who formed the great majority, even in the earliest Churches. /248/
So far, then, an affinity is undoubtedly to be traced between the two volumes
of Scripture: but if this be all, it is a relation not more important than that
which exists between the crumbling walls of a ruined temple and the now fabric
raised out of their materials: a connection interesting to the antiquary, but
for all practical ends inappreciably slight. Is there not a deeper unity of
design, of plan, and of subject answering to the inner life of faith, which
we have seen to be the fountain of the Church's oneness?
We answer in the affirmative; and this, without postulating the common and
peculiar inspiration of the two Testaments. Let us only be allowed to assume
what all who bear the Christian name must be prepared to grant, the supreme
authority of Christ, and the genuineness of the Gospel records of His
words. Nothing can be more manifest than that our Lord represents Himself as
the central Subject of Old Testament teaching. If we believe the testimony of Jesus, Moses wrote of Him: in all the Scriptures things are to be found
concerning Himself: the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, have each and all their
quota to contribute to the story of His life, and the doctrine of His cross.
The Old Testament is thus one with the New, as being at its heart and core the
Word of Christ. As one spirit of faith pervades all the ages of the Church,
and gathers all her true seed into one Israel of God, even so One
glorious Person, the Object of this common faith, binds into one consistent
whole the Jewish and Christian sacred Books, by the cementing power of a Presence
Which penetrates and hallows both.
A word must suffice with regard to the objection most commonly started against
the unity of the two Testaments. Our opponents say, “You may speak as you
will of the one spirit of faith which breathed alike in the ancient Hebrew saints
and in the Christians, to whom St. Paul wrote his Epistles; and of the corresponding
unity of subjects which knits together the two sections of the Bible. But such
a connection is untenable in the face of the mutual contradictions of the Law
and the Gospel, of the radical difference in temper and moral tone which distinguishes
Christianity from Judaism. For the present we can only reply, that the force
of this objection turns upon two fallacies: first, the confusion of the systems
or dispensations under which the Church has lived, with her actual life and
essential character: next, the assumption that the teaching of the Law is irreconcileable
with that of the Gospel. Childhood and manhood are states widely different,
and demanding very distinct methods of treatment: yet the child does not lose
his identity by growing up to man's estate. Nor does he unlearn in riper years
the elementary lessons of his childish days. The picture-books are thrown aside,
grammars and catechisms are discarded, but only because their teaching is now
replaced by the wider, deeper, /249/ yet substantially identical instruction
of the student's manuals. Such diversity, and such only, really distinguishes
the legal system from the evangelical... And if it be further urged that St.
Paul plainly recognizes a contrariety as well as a contrast between Judaism
and Christianity, the answer is not far to seek: the Judaism which he condemned
was the mere carcase of the former dispensation, from which the spirit had fled:
the folly which he reprobated was the return of Christians who had been inclined
by Gospel teaching, to the restraints and elementary lessons of childhood. The
Law itself was so far from being in his eye an enemy of the Gospel, that he
represents it as a most needful and useful predecessor “our schoolmaster
unto Christ.” <note 8>
Thus it is possible to entertain the most loyal belief in the true unity both
of the Bible and of the Church, while at the same time we are deeply thankful
that our own lot has been cast beneath the light of a completed Revelation.
We way hold fast by the oneness, while we acknowledge the progress of Scripture truth. We may be sure that the New Testament lies hidden
in the Old, while we glory in the thought that the Old lies open
in the New. <note 9>
Note 1: Compare, with regards to St.Paul, Acts
18,18; 21,24; 24,14.
Note 2: Priests, Presbyters, or Elders, ”the
overseers or presidents of the congregation, an office borrowed from the Synagogue.”
Alford on Acts 11,30.
Note 3: Compare Rom. 4. and 11;. Gal.3
and 4 Heb. 11., etc.
Note 4: Heb. 11, 4.
Note 5: Rom. 1,17 ; Gal. 3,2 ; Heb.10,38.
Note 6: For example, see Home & Tregelles, Introd.
N.T., ch. iii., and Winer, Gram. N.T. i., pt. i., 3.
Note 7: See, for illustration of this statement, Gough's N.T. Quotations. (Walton & Kimberley, London 1855.)
Note 8: Gal. 3,24, παιδαγωγὸς
εἰς χριστόν i.e., with a view to, or for Christ.
Christ was the end and drift of the Law's preparatory work.
Note 9: Augustin Quoest. in Exod.