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removal of all difficulties from the Scriptures, we should have lost a direct and very powerful internal evidence in favour of their genuineness and authenticity.
To this, however, it may be objected that the genuineness and authenticity of the Sacred Writings might have been sufficiently supported by external evidence, without encumbering them with difficulties. No doubt this might bave been done; but it would have diminished the force of the arguments in support of the Jewish and Christian Revelations. Be the external evidences what they might, they could - not, in that case, have been considered the same in weight and influence over the human mind, because they would then have wanted the confirmation of internal proof. The sincere believer, feeling his own weakness, and liability to doubts, will be grateful for the additional evidence supplied by the Scripture. Difficulties ; because the proofs of Christianity are, after all, not more than enough to keep him steadfast to his Redeemer and his God. The sceptic would have been encouraged in his unbelief. Had there been no philological and historical difficulties to indicate the age and authors of the Bible, he would have strongly urged the deficiency of those internal marks of genuineness and authenticity which we demand and find in every other work.
The second advantage of Scripture Difficulties is the ,renewed confirmation of our sinking and wavering faith afforded by the elucidation of these difficulties. As the positive evidences of Revelation are apt to be forgotten, and to lose their influence by losing the charm of novelty, it is expedient that we should have a constant opportunity of fortifying the weakness. 'of our belief by the aid of some indirect and incidental arguments, which, arising up from time to time with all the freshness of unexpected discoveries, may strengthen our dependence upon the general proofs of the divine origin of the Bible, and renew, at intervals, our fading remembrance of their force. Now the Scripture difficulties are constantly receiving a complete elucidation; and every great obscurity elucidated is an objection removed ; and every objection removed, affords one of the best, because most unsuspicious, testimonies to the truth and authority of any writing. The beneficial influence of the elucidation, and consequently of the existence of Scripture difficulties, is therefore manifest, not only in the production of belief at first, but also in nourishing and maintaining it when produced.
If it be objected, that this benefit is compensated, and perhaps even overbalanced by the disadvantages of those
doubts which difficulties must always create before their ela. cidation can acquire any great degree of evidential weight, the answer is, that difficulties of some kind ớr other are inseparable from a state of trial and discipline. In natural religion and in moral philosophy, in what we are to believe, and what we are to do in every social, civil, and religious relation, we have obstacles to overcome. Had Revelation, therefore, been so cleared of difficulties, that men could not possibly doubt, it would have violated all the notions we have derived from experience and meditation upon the usual course of God's dealings with his creatures. And if the trial of our faith, in some way or other, be necessary and right, what better method can be imagined, than by the permitted existence of “ those things bard to be understood,” which, whilst they minister occasion for doubts, call forth at the same time our talents and diligence to solve them; and when solved, become subservient to the more decided establishment of our belief?
If it be also alleged, that the difficulties of Scripture would have been attended with the same advantages, had they been neither so great nor so numerous as they are, it may be replied, that, had they been slight in their nature, they would have had no effect upon the learned and inquisitive; that a gradual' solution of difficulties is what the stability of the Christian faith demands; and that, if they had been extremely limited in their number, they would have excited but little attention, and so would have been comparatively inefficient in either renewing or confirming us in our belief.
All those difficulties, then, which depend upon the laws of criticism, and the knowledge of antiquities for their solution, are attended with very beneficial results ; but, besides these, there are others of a different character, which bave been not unaptly styled the mysteries of revelation. These, however, are analogous to the difficulties which we meet with in the course and constitution of nature; and if they were blotted out of the Book of Life, one very plausible confirmation of its having proceeded from that Omniscient Being, who, when he speaks at all, may naturally be expected to speak of matters beyond the grasp of our limited comprehension.
The next benefit which the difficulties of Scripture produce, is that of contributing to the improvement of man's rational nature, by that exercise of the understanding which their solution requires. They link religion and learning in an inseparable bond of union, and thus give a dignity and use to every description of knowledge, which without that connexion, would never have accrued. Christianity demands extensive knowledge and learning for the elucidation and defence of its claims, and thus not only renders every form of human wisdom useful and important, but also contributes to the improvement of the intellectual faculties.
The Bible may be contemplated, not only as “ 'given by inspiration of God,” but as also given for the iustruction of man. Its difficulties, therefore, must be shewn to be not only consistent with its nature as an inspired, but also compatible with its object as an instructive work. This is no arduous task ; for, whatever difficulties exist in the Scriptures, they must be pronounced fit for edification, when it is shewn first, that they are sufficiently clear upon all the fundamentals of religion to every willing and ordinary capacity; and secondly, that amongst the various difficulties with which Revelation is acknowledged to abound, there are none which, when correctly explained, can lead to any immorality, or any dangerous error. Now the first of these propositions will scarcely be denied by candid inquirers, certainly not by sincere protestants, and the second, it is the object of Mr. Benson's researches to establish, which he does most successfully, as far as he has yet proceeded.
The difficulties of Scripture, therefore, are both consistent with the inspiration and utility of revelation, and are likewise attended with beneficial consequences. But it must not be inferred from this, that no attempt should be made to explain them. The benefits to which they give rise, are not attributable so much to the mere fact of their existence, as to the elucidation of them. When that which at first appears difficult and obscure is shewn by a proper interpretation to agree with the age, character, and circumstances of the writer, it strengthens the evidence for the genuineness and credi. bility of the work. Hence it is important that obscurities should be elucidated, but the question remains how is this to be accomplished? How are the difficulties to be explained? To this question Mr. Benson returns an answer in the fifth and sixth lectures, in which he points out the proper mode of removing the obscurities which are discoverable in the Sacred Writings. To this end, he first investigates and corrects the errors into which many have fallen in expounding the Bible, and afterwards deduces and defends the necessary rules to be observed in the interpretation of “ things hard to be understood." To accomplish this was no easy matter, and we are inclined to think that he has not treated this subject with his usual felicity. We are aware that to notice all the errors of expositors, and to give all the rules of interpretation would be to write a complete treatise on hermeneutic theology, and
that it requires the nicest judgment to hit the medium between a too scanty enumeration and too much detail; yet there are some omissions which we could wish to have seen supplied, and there are some rules laid down which are in themselves too self-evident to need a particular illustration. However we will not quarrel with our author for these faults, when he has supplied us with so much to commend,
We cannot omit to notice a degree of confusion which he appears to us to have fallen into, in laying down his fifth general rule, (p. 122. et seq.). Soine theologians maintain, that no other laws are to be applied to the interpretation of the Bible, than such as are applied to any human composition. Mr. Benson, in common with many others, is of a different opinion, and adopts it as a general rule in the explanation of Scripture difficulties, “ that we should always make that difference between the interpretation of the language of the Bible and any other book, which the inspiration and different object of the Bible require.” Now both opinions will be found correct if we advert to the distinction between the sense of the Scriptures and the subject matter of that sense. In extracting the sense or meaning of the sacred Writers the same rules must be applied as in extracting the meaning of any ancient author; but in explaining the difficulties which may attach to that meaning when found out, it must never be forgotten that it is a revelation from God, and consequently is entitled to a submissive deference, which it would be folly to yield to a merely human composition.
In the eighth lecture, the author proceeds to investigate first, what degree of success may be reasonably expected in our endeavours to elucidate the difficulties of Scripture; and secondly, whether this probable degree of success be sufficient for all the necessary purposes of a Christian's faith and practice. These points are discussed with a precision, an acuteness, and an elegance highly creditable to his abilities. His comparison of the success to be expected in illustrating Scripture difficulties, and of the success of the traveller Belzoni, in discovering the recesses of an Egyptian pyramid, is peculiarly happy. In the ninth lecture, we are presented with a classification of Seripture difficulties, which are arranged in three leading divisions; the first comprehending those difficulties which are of a philological nature; the second, those arising from chronology, geography, &c.; and the third, such as take their origin in the subjects about which revelation is conversant. This last, it is obvious, admits of many subdivisions. The two former classes are evidently relating to such matters as cannot well be discussed from the palpit, and the last opens into so wide a field of discussion, that few individuals have either the ability or the industry to embrace the whole. Accordingly, Mr. Benson confines himself to the consideration of the historical difficulties alone. It is these which, he believes, the circumstances of the times have rendered most essential to be vindicated and explained ; and when we consider how much these bave of late years been made the ground of ridicule and calumny by infidel writers, we rejoice that he has made this selection, and still more that he has executed it so well.
“ To collect, therefore, and to arrange the scattered information of preceding divines, to correct what they may have misrepresented, to add what they have forgotten, and to fulfil what they have left incomplete in the elucidation of those moral diffi. culties which arise out of the torical incidents and representations of Scripture, and to frame the defence as far as it may be possible in conformity with those principles which have been already laid down for the general interpretation of things hard to be understood ;'—this is the object which I'propose to pursue in the remaining portion of the present course of lectures. To some this plan may appear to afford but little scope for the introduction of original views. But utility, rather than originality, should, in every religious undertaking, be our principal aim; and I cannot but think that by considering the historical difficulties of Scripture in the order in which they follow each other in the Bible itself, we shall not only contribute something to the right understanding of many of the obscurer parts of the word of God, but form also a very convenient book of reference for those who may feel distressed by difficulties of this kind." P. 173.
In this extract, Mr. Benson states with great clearness the nature and object of the work, which must be allowed to be fruitfal of instruction, and particularly useful in these times, when infidelity is making every attempt to assail the Bible History. What the author has advanced in the first nine lectures may be considered as only preliminary, though it forms a valuable and proper introduction to the main object of his performance. In the remaining lectures he enters upon a particular consideration of those historical passages which have been most frequently made use of against revelation by modern Deists, commencing with those in the book of Genesis. Of the selection of this class of difficulties we have already expressed our strong approbation, because the writings and circumstances of the times render the early consideration of them a matter of immediate importance ; and, at any rate, we fully accord with the author, that whether the choice which has been made, be censured or ap