The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, vol. 61


The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Vol. 61


January 8, 1884

“Sound Speech That Cannot Be Condemned” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald 61, 2, pp. 27, 28.


IN these days of “departure” and “new departures” from the faith, especially in what are called the “educated” or “advanced” circles, it is refreshing to find such faithful words as the following, from Dr. Daniel T. Spear. Certainly, no one can question the ability or scholarship of Dr. Spear, and he speaks with no uncertain tone on these subjects, and his words are more than an offset to the so-called scientific advance of Beecher, McCosh, and others. The paragraphs presented below are taken from a speech by Dr. Spear at Saratoga Springs, last summer, on “Alleged Progress in Theology.” The speech was printed entire in the New York Independent of Sept. 29, 1883. It is on four points, viz., Higher Criticism, Inspiration of the Bible, Eschatology, and The Atonement of Christ. The whole speech is excellent, but too long to be given entire; yet that part on the inspiration of the Bible is worthy of especial notice, I think, and therefore I present it entire. He says:— ARSH January 8, 1884, page 27.1

“The second phase ‘of advanced thought’ relates to the inspiration of the Bible, which is one of the questions of the age, though not really a new question. ARSH January 8, 1884, page 27.2

“Modern infidelity, as you are aware, claims that modern science has made the discoveries in the kingdom of matter, organic and inorganic, which contradict the Bible and prove it to be false on certain questions of fact, particularly in reference to some Bible statements in the book of Genesis. The statements in question relate to the antiquity and organization of this globe and the creation of man. This infidelity says that these statements are false, and that modern science has proved them to be so. You see at once that this is a pretty large subject to be handled in a single speech, and then as only one item in four. ARSH January 8, 1884, page 27.3

“What shall we do with this modern science that is battering down the truth of the Bible? I begin my answer to this question by saying that I observe in a portion of the Christian ministry a tendency to assume as already settled and established, and therefore indisputable, the truth of these alleged scientific discoveries, and then, in order to obviate their apparent destructive relation to the Bible, to look around for some method of apologetic defense. So far as I have observed, two methods of such defense have been resorted to. One is to change the interpretation of the Bible, and give to its language another meaning so as to avoid the apparent conflict. The other method is to reconstruct the theory of Bible inspiration as to its statements on questions of fact, so as, on the one hand, to admit the alleged discoveries of science as corrections of the mistakes of the Bible on these questions, and, on the other hand, to save the credibility of the Bible in respect to certain other questions of a moral and spiritual nature in regard to which science has nothing to say. Both of these methods agree in assuming that the so-called science is all right, not only in respect to the facts alleged, but also in respect to the conclusions drawn therefrom. Both make a very respectful obeisance to science, and simply inquire how they can rescue the Bible from its verdict of condemnation. ARSH January 8, 1884, page 27.4

“You have an example of the first method in the attempt to make the word ‘day’ as occurring in the first chapter of Genesis, mean an age or a geological period. This overlooks the fact that the ‘day’ here mentioned is described as the first, the second, the third day, and so on, and also the fact that in the fourth commandment this same ‘day’ is spoken of as a day in a week consisting of seven days, each of which was twenty-four hours in length; and the still further fact that the Jews, for whom the record in Genesis and Exodus was originally made, not being geologists, would understand the term ‘day,’ as thus described, to mean a natural day of twenty-four hours. They could give it no other meaning; and no man would give to it other meaning unless led to do so in order to meet a supposed difficulty. The fact that the term is used for an indefinite period, does not make it in this use, with this description, and in these connections, anything but a natural day of twenty-four hours. [These italics mine.] To force another meaning into it is to give it a meaning which it does not bear; and moreover, when this meaning is forced into it, the supposed difficulty created by geology is by no means removed. I have a way of disposing of this difficulty that satisfies my mind, but which I cannot pause to detail; yet that way does not consist in placing a new, unnatural and false meaning upon the term ‘day’ as it occurs in the first chapter of Genesis and in the fourth commandment. ARSH January 8, 1884, page 27.5

“The other method of dealing with scientific infidelity involves a change of view in respect to the inspiration of the Bible, in effect giving up this doctrine when and where science says or claims to say that the Bible is wrong on questions of fact, and holding on to it where science says nothing because the field lies beyond its province. It is in respect to this phase of the question of inspiration that I submit for your consideration the following remarks:— ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.1

“1. We know nothing a priori on the subject of inspiration. Whether God would inspire all men or only some, and in what way and to what extent, if at all, are matters which, except as we may be informed by him, lie above and beyond the range of our faculties. The first thing to be done is to confess our natural ignorance on this subject. ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.2

“2. If we accept the Bible as of divine authority at all, we must accept it as of such authority in relation to the subject of inspiration, provided it contains any statements bearing upon the point. The main question then, is this: What does the Bible say on this subject? Does it assert its own inspiration? And in answer to this question, I will cite a few passages as examples of what the Bible does say. ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.3

“Take the first and second verses of the first chapter of Hebrews: ‘God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.’ God, as here stated, is the speaker. He does the speaking. He puts himself in real communication. He did so ‘in time past,’ and continued to do so ‘in these last days.’ He did so in the first instance ‘unto the fathers by the prophets,’ and he continued to do so in the second instance ‘by his Son.’ The point that I want you to observe is, that God spake in both instances, and in the way mentioned. I care not what you call it, if you get this fact into your minds. ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.4

“Take another passage: ‘For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.’ 1 Peter 3:21. Here, ‘holy men of God,’ evidently alluding to the Jewish prophets, are said to do the speaking, not from their intuitions or from their experience, but ‘as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.’ That is to say, the Holy Ghost moved them to speak, and they spake as he moved them. ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.5

“Take still another passage. Paul, in the third chapter of his second epistle to Timothy, reminds him of the fact that from a child he had ‘known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make men wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,’ and then proceeds to say in respect to these scriptures that ‘all Scripture is given by inspiration of God,’ etc. Here Paul affirms the divine authority of the Jewish Scriptures as a fact, in the sense that they were ‘given by inspiration of God.’ ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.6

“Take a fourth passage. Paul, in first Corinthians, chapter second, and verse thirteen, alludes to the things ‘freely given to us of God,’ and then proceeds to say: ‘Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.’ That is to say, The Holy Ghost teacheth the words, as Christ promised to his chosen apostles that he would, and under this instruction we do the speaking. ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.7

“I might multiply such passages indefinitely; but these will suffice to give you the Bible idea of inspiration. ‘Thus saith the Lord’ is the one great idea of this Book. It treats itself and speaks of itself as “the word of God.’ It commits God’s authority to the truth and reality of what it declares to be true and real, so that we are to believe on this authority and for this reason. It does so without any limitations, qualifications, or discriminations as to the matter revealed, or a fact stated. God himself is behind the words and in the words; and what they mean he means. This is the Bible idea of the inspiration of the men who originally wrote it. They did so under the direction of the Holy Ghost. You, of course, understand that this applies only to the original Scriptures. Whether these Scriptures have been preserved and correctly translated into other languages, is another question with which in this discussion I have nothing to do. ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.8

“3. Believing, as I do, that the original Scriptures were ‘given by inspiration of God,’ and that they have been preserved without corruption or essential change, then, if as to any point there be a real conflict between what the Bible says and what scienceis assumed to say, so that both cannot be admitted as truthful, I will not interpret out of a Bible passage its true and proper meaning, and I will not abandon its theory of inspiration and substitute one of my own; but I will raise the question whether the proof of the Bible is stronger than that of the science that conflicts with it, and so far as my own faith is concerned, abide by that inquiry. I must be sure in the first place that the conflict is real; and then I will accept the result which the proof forces upon me. I cannot think as a rational being and do otherwise. [Italics mine.] ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.9

“And now in regard to this question of comparative proof, I know of no science which contradicts the Bible on any question of fact, and is at the same time as well proved as the Bible itself. Take geology, for example. It says as an inference [italics his] from certain facts, that this globe, as to the matter composing it, is much older than six thousand years. This is an inference the truth of which I do not understand the Bible to deny. If the Bible did deny this inference, then I would reject the inference [italics mine], and I would do so because I hold the truth of the Bible to be more certain than this conclusion of the geologist [ditto]. There is an enormous space between the mere facts gathered by the geologist and the conclusion which he draws therefrom. He has to jump over this space in order to get to his conclusion. I confess frankly to you that I think his conclusion is probably correct; but when I compare the evidence of that correctness with the vast and varied evidence that sustains the divine authority of the Bible, the probability in favor of the latter, to my mind, rises to a much higher grade of certainty. Drive me to the wall on this subject, and I shall take the Bible and let the geological inference go to the dogs. [Good. Italics mine still, but this last is good enough to be in capitals.] I think I could show you, did the time permit, that this inference rests on several assumptions which may be true, but are far from being proved. [This is a strong confirmation of the late article in the REVIEW on the “Uncertainty of Geological Science,” and I am glad it comes from such a source.] ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.10

“Take the modern doctrine of evolution which traces man back to a monkey, and from a monkey back to a vitalized protoplasm, and which undoubtedly contradicts the Scripture record of man’s creation and all the references in the Bible so that record. The two systems cannot stand together. If man was originally created as the Bible says he was, then he was not created as evolution says he was, then he was. What are you going to do with this conflict? If you will take my advice, you will dismiss this sort of evolution as a sheer speculation, sustained by no evidence that even begins to equal that which supports the divine authority of the Bible. You will not reconstruct your theory of inspiration so as to get protoplasm into your creed. ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.11

“4. [Last paragraph] Let me say that I have not one particle of concern as to any destruction or serious damage to this religion by infidelity whether it be scientific or vulgar. This, by the very constitution of things, is a religious world in the instincts and necessities that belong to human nature; and infidelity, which consists in negatives, cannot unmake it as such. Christianity has come into such a world; and it everywhere meets a race of beings that want it, whom it fits, and whom it lifts in the scale of being. It has power with them, and has made its home among them. Downright infidelity, in any of its forms, is the exceptional condition of humanity, and a weak one at that, in this country and in every other country where Christianity prevails. ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.12

“5. Let me say finally on this point, especially to those of you who are in comparatively early life, speaking as one who has seen more than threescore years and ten, that if I were an occupant of the Christian pulpit, I would in the main preach the Bible to the people just as if I supposed they fully believed it and needed no argument from me to prove its truth. I would seek to impress them with the idea that I fully believed it myself. I would deal with its facts, its doctrines, its duties, its threatenings, and its promises, as being of complete, absolute, divine, and therefore infallible, authority, as a guide to faith and practice on all the subjects and questions of which it treats. I would not be afraid to say Hell, where the Bible says Hell. I would not modify the teaching of the Book of the breadth of a hair to suit any man, or adapt it to the proclivities of any age. Having been both preacher and hearer, I have come to the conclusion that just this sort of preaching is the best practical cure for infidelity, so far as the pulpit ordinarily has to do with it; and I am sure that it is best to impress the truth upon those who, though not infidels, are not Christians in the spirit and temper of their minds, and who great need to flee for refuge to the hope set before them in the gospel.” ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.13

Golden words are these under number 5, and worthy to be forever remembered by every preacher; so likewise are his closing words at the end of “The Atonement,” and also at the close of the whole speech. These I will subjoin also:— ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.14

6. “My final remark is that the best way to preach the doctrine of the atonement is to do so without much speculation, and largely in the language of the Bible. There is, after all, no more effectual way of stating the doctrine than to say that Christ died for our sins, or that he tasted death for every man. The statements of inspiration so blend the fact of the death with the reason therefor, and the relation thereof, as to make the most impressive appeal alike to the head and the heart. The pulpit will most effectually preach the cross of Christ that preaches it under the forms of thought, and largely in the expressions of thought, which the Bible supplies. These are the objects which faith needs to grasp and affirm, and upon which every soul needs to pillow its head when smitten with a sense of guilt, or called to meet its God in judgment. ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.15

“I have thus submitted to you my thoughts on the four points named. And in conclusion will simply say that the longer I have lived, and the nearer I come to the final exit from time, the better I am satisfied with the Bible as the rule of faith and practiced, as a shadow of a great rock in a weary land, as the solution of all religious questions that flash across the firmament of my mind, and as the sheet-anchor of all my hopes for another world. I am disposed to adopt the words of the psalmist, and say of the Bible and of the God of the Bible: ‘In the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul.’ If there is any better position than this, I know not what it is, nor where to find it. I want no advance and no retreat in theology that takes me away from this position.” ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.16

How much sweeter, how much more devout and trustful, how much tenderer are these words, and how vastly more they reach, and take hold of the heart, than the vulgar infidelity of Henry Ward Beecher, or the scientific infidelity of Dr. McCosh. And how thankful, we are to Dr. Spear that he has sent these “good words and comfortable words” ringing through the ranks of the so-called “scientific” and “advanced thought” controversialists. ARSH January 8, 1884, page 28.17