The Bible and the Nineteenth Century Part 3




Part 3
PART 2Table of ContentsPART 4

The human mind, and the Bible

The transition from the human body to the human mind is a natural one, and brings us to our next field of inquiry, where we are confronted with this question: How compare the teachings of the Bible with ancient and with modern medical science?.

Opinions of the ancients as to the mind.

That Bible-writers do not teach in harmony with many ancient philosophers, there is no question. For instance, Democritus, who flourished at the time when the last of the prophets were composing their writings, tells us that the substance of the soul, or the thinking part of man, is fire. Pythagoras held essentially the same opinion, adding that it is a “self-moving unit” of fire. Diogenes the Cretan advocated the theory that the earth’s atmosphere is intelligent, and that a section of this intelligent atmosphere becomes at birth the intellectual part of man. The following conflicting views were likewise held by the ancient philosophical world: that the thinking part of a man emanates from the stars; that the mind is in the blood; that it is matter; that it is the deity. There were those who located the intellect in the blood; others, in the heart; others, in the abdomen; others, in the brain; and others, between the eyes.

What guarded the Bible-writers against false opinions?

Now, it is replied that these philosophers were attempting, as best they could, an explanation of very difficult problems, and that they should not be too severely criticized or condemned? We have not criticized them. We have no disposition to criticize them. They did as well as could be expected. They frequently adopted these views as working hypotheses, which they had an unquestioned right to do. But a matter of fair inquiry is this: What was it that guarded the Bible-writers in their statements against conflicting with one another, and against teaching what are now regarded erroneous views? Though they breathed an atmosphere loaded with crude and false speculations, still they are free from them.

Not their supposed non-philosophical character.

It is too late in the day to reply that the Jews were not speculative philosophers like the Greeks, and, therefore, these matters by them were not touched upon. They were touched upon; and the Jews had a philosophical as well as theological bent. The Book of Genesis bespeaks for its author a philosopher, and one of the highest order. Solomon, too, was a philosopher; and there were few in his day that equaled or at least excelled him. Philo was a Jew, yet a philosopher, and especially well drilled in the Platonic school of philosophy. The writings of Paul show that he had the philosophical tendency, and that he might have stood high in any of the ancient schools of philosophy. In a word, the supposed lack of the philosophical inclination or trend can never account for the absence from the Bible of the self-contradictory and false teachings of ancient philosophers as to the relations and operations of the human mind. Some other explanation, as every thoughtful person must admit, is needed to account for the fact that Moses did not teach that the soul is a section of the atmosphere; that David did not sing of the emanation of the soul from the stars; that Solomon did not locate the soul in the abdomen, and that Paul did not place it between the eyes.

Correctness of Bible statements in the light of modern thought.

More than this: the Bible-writers not only escaped the errors of their contemporaries, but their psychology, in the light of modern thought, is conceded to be correct. Magnus Frederick Roos, the great pioneer in Bible psychology, may be taken as a representative of his class in this statement: “I take it for my guiding rule, that everywhere in Scripture there reigns an accuracy and validity worthy of God.”

The union of the omnipotence of God and the free will of man; the nature and power of memory, imagination, reflection, and conscience; the supremacy of man, his special endowments, and, we may add, his exceptional creation, as stated in the Bible, — are found to be in perfect harmony, we do not say with all the various philosophical hypotheses of modern times, but with all well-established data of the dominant philosophical and scientific systems of modern times.

The moral argument derived from Bible influence.

The argument, too, derived from the benefit of the Bible upon the mind of man, is a special philosophical topic which of itself is sufficient to form an entire treatise. No one denies, and no one can deny, that the precious truths of the Bible have carried into the humble cottage of the peasant, and into the homes of the city, a refinement of intellect and a tenderness of heart which otherwise would never have existed there; and that the history of America, of all Europe, indeed, we may say of the whole world, shows that national purity and enlightenment are always in proportion to biblical knowledge and practice among the people. Few if any thoughtful persons will question the statement that if the Bible is philosophical false its influence could not have been followed by such beneficial results, nor have this quality and quantity of endorsement.

Mental methods of the Bible.

In order to avoid a multiplicity of subjects, we may, in this connection, speak of the mental methods of the Bible. As every reader is aware, Aristotle, by what must be regarded as a powerful system of reasoning, held the world captive for a thousand years. Yet to-day his method, and other methods based upon it, are superseded by what is known as the inductive process of Sir Francis Bacon, which is the bringing together of several facts belonging in a class, and then drawing from them an inference or conclusion.

Now, is it not somewhat remarkable, that at the very time when the system of reasoning used and perfected by Aristotle held sway over the minds of men, the method introduced by Bacon was almost consistently employed by Bible-writers?

Examples of inductive reasoning.

Even before Aristotle, we find in the concluding chapters of Job some of the most perfect examples possible of Baconian reasoning: the glory and majesty of Jehovah are there inferred from the various works of creation, by the same methods now adopted by all distinguished scientists the world over.

Paul, too, in the Epistle to the Romans, gives the key to the inductive method as applied to both the visible and invisible universe when saying –

“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans i. 20).

Chancellor Dawson, in reviewing the school of thought represented by John Stuart Mill, and while speaking especially of Mill’s essay on Theism, says, “It is certainly a remarkable coincidence, that the only way in which Paul said that the heathen could, without revelation, attain to the knowledge of God, is precisely that which this skeptical English philosopher singles out as the only argument valid to his mind.”

Our Lord also frequently employed this method of reasoning. Notably was this the case whenever presenting the claims of his mission and authority. For instance, he wrought his wonderful deeds before the people, and then said to them, “The works that I do bear witness of me” (John v. 36). It is as he had said, “Look at these works; test them: then draw your inferences.” “Believe me for the very works’ sake” (John xiv. 11), was, too, the inductive appeal ever upon his lips. How admirably this is illustrated, when the disciples of John inquired –

“Art thou he that should come? Or look we for another?” (Luke vii. 19).

We read, that –

“In the same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight.

“Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.

“And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (Luke vii. 21-23).

We must pause in the midst of the many illustrations that present themselves. In a word, the Bible abounds almost to the exclusion of other methods of reasoning, with those now recognized as the most valid and profound, though opposed to the methods employed throughout the civilized world at the time the larger part of the Bible was written.

Dependence of the modern method upon the Bible method.

The method adopted by Cousin in his “Course of Modern Philosophy,” by Sir William Hamilton in his “Metaphysics,” by Spencer in his “First Principles,” by John Stuart Mill in his various philosophical writings, by Darwin, Huxley, and Tyndall in their treatises upon physical science, is the Bible method made ready for the use of these recent writers by Bacon, and made ready for his use by the prophets, the Master, and his apostles. This dependence upon the Bible can be easily shown. Bacon’s estimate of the wonderful book is suggestive: “There never was found, in any age of the world, either religion or law that did so highly exalt the public good as the Bible.” And be it remembered that Bacon did not become inductive and practical in his reasoning until, through his admiration and study of the Bible, his mind had become imbued with the inductive and practical theology of the Bible.

Is there nothing, therefore, in all these matters to excite our surprise? How did it chance that the Bible in its statements of psychological facts, and in its psychological methods, is so recent, and so different from other ancient literature?

How shall the correctness of Bible psychology be explained?

Can any peculiarity of the Jew afford explanation? If so, a wonderful, a supernatural being, is the Jew. Such a supposition is, of course, untenable. If, however, it is admitted that the writers and compilers of the Bible were providentially selected, and were providentially guarded against introducing errors into the composition of the Sacred Scriptures, and were providentially helped in their writing, then we have an answer to a multitude of questions that seemingly, upon any other supposition, must remain unanswered if not unanswerable.

The Bible in its relation to government and civilization.

With this division of our topic we cannot delay longer, but we pass for a few moments to matters properly grouped under government and civilization. For since these subjects are based upon general principles and truths, and are consequently included in the field of scientific investigation, they fall properly within the limits of this discussion.

The Bible, if inspired, a court of ultimate appeal.

Since no small amount of the teaching of the Bible is manifestly designed to set forth the rules and principles which should govern the conduct of men in their various relations with one another, it follows, that if it is what it claims to be – a providential, exceptional, and inspired book – then, in its precepts relating to these matters, it must not only be superior to what is generally taught in ancient literature, but must be a worthy standard and a court of ultimate appeal as long as the world stands. Is it such a court of appeal?

The Bible and Law.

Let us first, in this connection, examine the teachings of the Bible as to the general principles of legal science and philosophy. Of the world’s judgment respecting the two tables of commandments, there is no ground for question. Perhaps an intelligent person cannot be found who will dissent from this statement, that these two tables recorded in the writings of Moses contain in a general form the vital principles of all modern legal science, judicial, national, and international. Is not that a fact upon scientific grounds worthy of careful study?

While a skeptical lawyer was reading these commandments, and while thinking of their accuracy, their profundity, and their marvelous comprehensiveness, he was led to reason thus: “I have read history. The Egyptians and the adjacent nations were idolaters; so were the Greeks and Romans: and the wisest and best Greeks and Romans never gave a code like this. Where did Moses get this law, which surpasses the wisdom and philosophy of the most enlightened ages? He lived at a period comparatively barbarous; but he has given a law in which the learning and sagacity of all subsequent time can detect no flaw. Where did he get it? He could not have soared so far above his age as to have devised it himself.”

It was through this sound process of reasoning, that the lawyer was led out of his infidelity into the realms of Christian faith.

The Bible revered by eminent lawyers.

And, too, is it not a forcible corroboration of the exalted legal philosophy of the Bible, that such masters in legal lore as Blackstone, Somers, Marshall, Story, and Kent, were reverent admirers of its sacred pages? But would they have been if its teachings were not profound and true?

Obligation of Roman law to the Bible.

Perhaps, however, the unbeliever points to the Roman law as a grand monument of human sagacity and wisdom. In a measure, it is such. But its obligation to Bible thinking and commandment, no scholar will venture to question. Indeed, Roman law, which lies at the heart of European law, never could have been what it is except for the influence of Christianity upon the Roman nationality. Dr. A. E. Peabody, in an article on “The Influence of Christianity upon Roman Law,” thus wisely states the case –

“The actual reformers of the Roman law were, all of them, nominally Christian. Constantine can hardly be termed a Christian in the interior, spiritual sense of the word; but he called himself one, and his improved legislation was under the guidance, and I might say under the direction of the bishops whom he regarded as endowed with divine wisdom and authority. Justinian, the greatest legislator of all time, was a zealous Christian – in some respects only too zealous, for he was an unrelenting persecutor of heretics, Jews, and Pagans. Of the series of Christian emperors, there was hardly one whose decrees did not bear the impress of his faith, and aid in vindicating the rights of long-depressed humanity.

The constitutional law of England, and the Bible

The present constitutional law of England, too, owes vastly more to the Bible than is generally supposed. Every student of legal science and history knows that the laws of Alfred and of Edward the Confessor, and even those framed as late as the days of Coke, continually cited the Scriptures as ultimate authority.

These questions are, therefore, pertinent: Have any of the general principles of the Roman law, and of the constitutional law of England, been outgrown? Are they likely to be? And, therefore, is not the Bible in a fair way to remain a court of ultimate appeal?

The Bible and political science.

What is true of law is equally true in the allied fields of political science and civilization. Bible truth and commandment, as already suggested, have been the great regulative and reformative power among the nations. No period or country has been visited by them without receiving both advancement and elevation. No nation has received them into its heart without feeling the flush of health in its cheek, and the vigor of life throughout the body politic. The Bible has been a standing protestation against usurpations and intolerances of every form, the world over, and history through.

The Bible endorsed by eminent statesmen.

Such masters in political science as Grotius, Selden, Montesquieu, Raleigh, Burke, Pitt, the Adamses, and Webster never had a thought of questioning, in matters of political life and legislation, the correctness of Bible statement. Passages from the Scriptures were quoted by these men as though they were a final appeal – a decision from the highest, the supreme court of the world.

The secret of England’s greatness.

An African prince sent an ambassador to Queen Victoria, asking the secret of England’s superiority among the nations. The Queen, handing the ambassador a copy of the Bible, said, “Go tell your prince that this is the secret of England’s political greatness.” It is Bible knowledge and practice which makes England pre-eminent: it is a disregard of Bible precept and practice which has brought a blush to the cheek of some of her dearest friends.

Sept. 26, 1815, the three great monarchs of the world, Alexander of Russia, Francis of Austria, and Frederic Wilhelm of Prussia, ruling seventy millions of people, signed and published in Paris, amid the clashing and din of war, “The Holy Alliance,” one of the most important state papers of modern times.

The Holy Alliance.

In it, these rulers solemnly recognized before the world the religion of the Sacred Scriptures as the only true basis of political relations, and the only safe legal directory for the nations of the earth: they pledged themselves “to act on the principles of the gospel, and to follow the rules of justice, charity, and peace.”

The world clearly saw, that if those professions were sincere, and if they should be followed, an improvement of inestimable advantage in national and international diplomacy and law would certainly result.

Declaration of Independence

Our own Declaration of Independence, in which we have an honest pride, is but an echo of the majestic chronological table which concludes thus: “Who was the son of Adam, who was the son of God.” When, therefore, our government discriminates against any people seeking a home upon these shores, it makes war against itself, and antagonizes laws more potent than gravitation. Sooner or later the penalty for such inconsistency, selfishness, and injustice must be paid.

When any people are fit for self-rule, a monarchy, especially if inclined to absolutism, is not, according to the Scriptures, a desirable form of government (1 Sam. viii.); and this view, as everyone knows, is in harmony with the drift of modern though and effort.

Republican government.

We may add also, that at least one of the Hebrew prophets anticipated the coming among men of a representative republican form of government like the one under which we are now living (Jer. xxx. 21), — one in which those among the humblest classes may rise to positions of highest authority.

Lactantius, rejoicing over the conversion of Constantine, indulges in glowing anticipations of the approaching regeneration of mankind, when the false gods shall all be overthrown, and He alone be worshipped whose temples are not of clay or of stone, but are men fashioned in the image of their Creator.

Benefits of Bible faith and practice.

“If God alone were worshipped, then should war and dissensions would be no more, for men would know that they are children of the same divine Father.

“Bound together in the sacred and inviolable bonds of heavenly truth, they would no more plot in secret against each other, when they should know the punishments prepared for the slayer of souls by an omniscient God, to whom all hidden evil and the innermost secrets of the hearts are revealed. Fraud and rapine would be no more; for men would have learned of God to be content with what they have, and to seek for the lasting gifts of heaven, rather than for the perishable things of earth.

“Adultery and prostitution would cease when they were taught that God had forbidden disorderly appetites; nor would woman be forced to sell her virtue for a wretched subsistence, when men should control their passions, and charity should minister to all the wants of the poor. These evils would vanish from the earth if all were brought unto the law of God, and all should do what now one people alone are found to do. How blessed would be that golden age among men, if throughout the world were love and kindness and peace and innocence and justice and temperance and faith! There would be no need of many and subtle laws, where innocence would need only the one law of God. Neither prisons nor the sword of the judge would be wanted, when the hearts of men, glowing with the divine precepts would of themselves seek the works of justice.

Such would be the inestimable blessings coming to any country, were the people governed by the precepts of Bible Christianity.

The Bible and the United States.

It may not be out of place to remark in this connection, that there are many friends of the Republic who are, at present, extremely anxious concerning its future welfare. The feeling is deepening in many hearts, that our country is already within circles whose centre is a destructive whirlpool; that our wealth, education, and material aggrandizement afford not the slightest hope or help; that political corruption, and the antagonisms between capital and labor, which are our national bane, will become more and more threatening and perilous, and that before long the end will be reached.

But can any one doubt, if the American people would conform to the precepts of the Bible, if they would make its teachings their rule of faith and practice, that blessing instead of cursing would be found within our borders, and that such a nation would rise on this continent as would fill with transports of delight the heart of every true patriot? Does this statement need confirmation?

Opinions of Daniel Webster, William H. Seward, and Professor Bowen.

Says Daniel Webster, “If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us, and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.”

Of wider application are the words of William H. Seward, whom all acknowledge to have been one of the ablest political philosophers this country has ever produced: “The whole hope of human progress is suspended on the ever-growing influence of the Bible.”

May I quote, too, from the pages of the late Professor Francis Bowen of Harvard College: “I have faithfully studied most of what the philosophy of these modern times, and the science of our own day, assume to teach. And the result is, that I am now more firmly convinced than ever, that what has been called the ‘dirt-philosophy’ of materialism and fatalism is baseless and false. I accept with unhesitating conviction and belief the doctrine of the being of one personal God, the Creator and Governor of the world, and of one Lord Jesus Christ, in whom dwelleth all of the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and I have found nothing whatever in the literature of modern infidelity, which, to my mind, casts even the slightest doubt upon that belief. Not being a clergyman, I am not exposed to the cruel imputation, which unbelievers have been too long been permitted to fling against the clergy, of being induced by prudential motives to profess what they do not believe. Let me be permitted also to repeat the opinion, which I ventured to express as far back as 1849, that the time seems to have arrived for a more practical and immediate verification, than the world has ever yet witnessed, of the great truth that the civilization which is not based upon Christianity is big with the elements of its own destruction.”

And now, does some one affirm in face of all these facts and opinions, and of a multitude of similar opinions which could be given, that Bible Christianity is not a safeguard of civil and religious liberty in this country, or that it is a damage to the weal of our national and individual life and character? How utterly preposterous!

Not, therefore, the theories of the communist, or the nihilist, of the worldling, or the formalist, of the enthusiast, or the ascetic, of the latitudinarian, or the bigot, of the Brahmin or the Mohammedan; but Bible Christianity in its inspired simplicity and power, which more than any thing else known among men checks an impure fancy, arms conscience with a divine power, awakes religious sensibilities, refines the moral sentiments, evolves devout affections, displays well-directed philanthropies, promotes determinations to do exactly right at all times and in all things; which leads to industry, inspires courage, patriotism, and intelligence; and whose tendency is to make of every man a loyal and royal son of God – is what, beyond any and every thing else, will aid in establishing the prosperity and perpetuity of the American Republic.

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