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Friday, August 18, 2017
Date Posted:

Ask For The Old Paths! Protestantism And The Bible

Address from the Chair to the United Protestant Congress, London 1922
Sir T. W. H. Inskip, K.C., M.P.

We are met this evening, in this course of meetings, to consider a subject of first‑class importance ‑ nothing less than the revelation of God by the Word written. And we are here not only to discuss, so far as time will allow, the many infallible proofs of its authority: we are here, I hope, to testify to the power that is always inseparable from authority.

May I begin with a familiar figure of speech, or a familiar illustration, when I say, as has often been said:  “The Bible is as a lion: you need not defend it: all that you need do is to let it out!”  That is the real remedy.  It has been proved a hundred times within the experience of everyone here who cares to look around him.  It has been true at different stages in the history of our nation. The Bible was the battering ram by which Wytcliffe and the Lollards destroyed the ramparts of Rome.  The Bible was the Instrument by which, after a century of Deism and of Rationalism, the Evangelicals made it possible for there to be an Evangelical Revival. It was the preaching of the Word and not the wisdom of the men that accomplished that miracle.


The mischief to‑day is partly that those whose duty it is to preach the Word are more concerned to preach the wisdom of men than to employ the wonderful instrument that God has put into their hands. Sometimes they are those who either have not experienced or do not believe in the fact of conversion. God help them if that is so!   Others, unhappily, who know the Truth, are almost as backward in their proclamation of the glorious Gospel.  If only those who have the Bible would preach the Bible, we should be in no doubt at all as to its eternal power.

The wonderful thing, or the strange thing, is that the Church has largely taken its ideas about the Bible from the world, instead of the world being asked and expected to take its ideas of the Bible from the Church. Those who do not understand spiritual things are allowed to handle spiritual topics and to be heard as if they spoke with authority.  Mr. H. G. Wells, in his fantastic “Outline of History,” presents a view of Revelation upon which he is not qualified to express an opinion.  And, unhappily, the echoes of Strauss may still be heard in the pulpits of our land when our modern theologians ‑ not the professed enemies of the Cross of Christ, but the modern theologians ‑ are prepared to explain the Messianic tradition as a myth not supported by anything in the prophetic utterances of the Old Testament. Was there ever such a topsy‑turvy arrangement as that we should give such heed to the notions of these men, whom I will call, and I hope you will understand what I mean, worldly men, upon this great topic?

CRITICISM AND CHAOS.                       

The insidious enemy has penetrated the very recesses of the citadel of the Church, and there are signs that some of those who have been most active in admitting the enemy are almost afraid of the consequences of their betrayal.       I have read recently what Bishop Gore thinks to be the certain facts about the authority of some of the books of the Bible.  No wonder, you will say, when I have read it to you, that Bishop Gore, the editor of  “Lux Mundi,” is engaged upon a reconstruction of Belief, to be contained in three volumes,  the opening sentence of which is: “The world in which we live to‑day can only be described as chaotic in the matter of religious beliefs.”  I can believe        this when I find a Bishop of the Church of England, who has taken the declaration required of the clergy of the Church of England, writing deliber­ately words which I will now read to you:­  “It is certain, in my judgment, that the early chapters of Genesis, the accounts of  Creation, Eden, the Fall, the Flood, are not historical records, but inspired folk‑lore.   The subsequent records of the beginnings of Israel are tradition and not strict history.  You have in the books of Chronicles a partly imaginative history.  We have in the Old Testament all kinds of literature: moral stories like Esther and Jonah; the stories of Daniel, written on a rather remote historical basis; dramas like the Book of Job and the Canticles; philosophy of a special kind, as in the Wisdom literature in Eccle­siastes, and later apocalyptic, much of this literature being pseudonymous, as the latter part of the Book of Daniel, dating from the second century, is written in the person of Daniel, who lived four centuries before, or Ecclesiastes                   in the person of Solomon.” That is a declaration of what he believes to be certain with regard to the major portion of the Old Testament Scriptures.   With this before me, let me try to consider for a moment whether those who have produced this chaos of which Bishop Gore speaks are safe guides.  Two generations ago the pillar of support for riled religion was Holy                           Scripture, not merely as containing the Word of God, but as being in every part of it the Word of God. That was the priceless gift of the Reformation; that was the flood that cleansed the Augean stables of human tradition.


Have you ever been becalmed at sea in a sailing vessel in a fog? Have you heard the notes around you of vessels as lost as yourself, betokening not safety, but danger and ignorance? Have you viewed with relief and satisfaction the lighthouse, when you could see it, that is founded upon a rock? In such a way may we regard the voices of the critics, as lost as ourselves, as wavering and as ignorant as any blind person who desires to be led to the light. The voices of the critics have been described by unimpeachable witnesses. One of them, Canon Headlam, the Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, has described them in words of this sort:  “During the nineteenth century all the developments of rationalism had their origin in Germany, and the English liberal theologians have confined themselves to the task of copying German criticism, generally just about the time when its inadequacy has been discovered.”  That is Canon Headlam's, not my, judgment upon the critics.

Let me take three typical examples and see where they stand to‑day: Strauss, with his idea of the mythical Christ; Matthew Arnold, who regarded the Bible merely as a vehicle of culture, and was a more insidious critic, who rejected miracles, not because of the lack of argument or historical proof, but because the modern mind, with its Zeit‑Geist, its time spirit, was turning away from them; and then Professor Huxley ‑ who, I may remind you, found Dean Wace a formidable and triumphant controversialist ‑ who pronounced the evidence in favour of the truth of the Gospel narratives to be wanting. Where are any of those men to‑day? Would any rationalist, or any critic, base himself upon the deliberate conclusions of any of those three men?  And yet somehow we are required, we are expected, to accept conclusions which are largely derived from men of this type as if they were established truth.


Let me cite two critics from among themselves to pass judgment upon them. I take Maurice Jones, who lately wrote  “The New Testament in the Twentieth Century,”  himself a critic. What does he say?  “The position of the Pauline Epistles in the critical world of to‑day is one that affords the deepest gratification, and is a fact of far‑reaching importance. Twentieth century criticism has thus restored to the Christian Church an inheritance which is priceless in value.”  They take it from us, and now they deign to restore it to us!  And what did Harnack himself say, in words that have often been quoted?  Writing in 1897, he said:  “There was a time, and the general public is still at that date, when it was considered necessary to hold the New Testament as a tissue of deception and falsehood. That time has now passed.  For Sceince it was an episode during which she learned much, and after which she has much to forget. . . . In our criticism of the most ancient sources of Christianity we are without doubt in course of returning to tradition.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I have not the knowledge nor the time this evening to quote further passages to you.  I have quoted two that are familiar, I daresay, to many here, to show you what, in my judgment, is certain, that the Higher Critics are the most unsafe guides to Holy Scripture that any reasonable person could select.


And let me now, in the few minutes that are left to me, turn to positive considerations. The awful and unique grandeur not only of the New Testament but of the Old Testament conceptions of God compels me to believe in Revelation. There is nothing like that, and never has been in the world. The more you debase the Jew, the more certain is the fact of Revelation.

Again, the prophetical nature of many of the books is inexplicable upon any theory except that of Revelation. This audience needs hardly to be reminded of such passages as are to be found in Isa. xlvi., where the prophet says,  “Remember this, and show yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.”  Is there a book in the world of which that could be said?  That, to my mind, is a standing proof and demonstration of the inspiration of the prophets. And you may remember Frederick the Great's striking question, and the still more striking answer.  “What is the best argument for the truth of Christianity?”  The answer that was given to him was,  “The Jew.”

Yet again, the Messianic line that runs through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation compels an unbiased reader to marvel at the unity of the whole.  Jesus Christ is no comet that comes out of the darkness to disappear into darkness, but He is the Christ, the Saviour of the world, foretold from the beginning of the age in this sacred Book.

But lastly, to me, the testimony of our Lord is final.  He took His stand upon the sacred records of the Law and the Prophets.  His claim was the more remarkable because He taught a higher Law than that of Moses, but even then He drew a clear line between the Commandments of God and the traditions of men. I note one further fact: He used the history of some of those who would be discredited as the most mythical among the characters of the Old Testament to assert His authority and to show His mission. Noah, Jonah, Solomon, Daniel are all historical characters in the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I for one am content to take my stand by Him and own myself no wiser at least than He was.  For Jesus Christ Himself the critics profess, maybe sincerely, a great devotion, but for those who believe Him to be, as we do, the Son of God, nothing is more unthinkable than that He, by conscious or unconscious error, relied upon the fables of song and story to support His claims to Divine authority.

We are sometimes taunted with our outworn ideas about the verbal inspiration of the Bible. They little understand how we read our Bible who speak in such terms of derision. Words are merely the coin of thought. They convey ideas, and as such they are inspired of God. What we stand for is the absolute truth of the historical record, for the Divine origin of every part of it. We recognise and accept it as the one authority of life and death. We prefer it to any human tradition or philosophy, and from Genesis to Revelation we declare it, in the very words of our Blessed Lord, to be the Word of God.

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