Page:Literature and Dogma (1883).djvu/228

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192
LITERATURE AND DOGMA

Atonement, and so on, are presupposed all through the Bible, are sometimes latent, sometimes come more visibly to the surface, but are always there; and to them every word in the Bible has reference, plain or figured?

Now, the Bible does not and cannot tell us itself, in black and white, what is the right construction to put upon it; we have to make this out. And the only possible way to make it out,—for the dogmatists to make out their construction, or for us to make out ours,—is by reason and experience. 'Even such as are readiest,' says Hooker very well, 'to cite for one thing five hundred sentences of Scripture, what warrant have they that any one of them doth mean the thing for which it is alleged?' They can have none, he replies, but reasoning and collection; and to the same effect Butler says of reason, that 'it is indeed the only faculty we have wherewith to judge concerning anything, even revelation itself.' Now it is simply from experience of the human spirit and its productions, from observing as widely as we can the manner in which men have thought, their way of using words and what they mean by them, and from reasoning upon this observation and experience, that we conclude the construction theologians put upon the Bible to be false, and ours to be the truer one.

In the first place, from Israel's master-feeling, the feeling for righteousness, the predominant sense that men are, as St. Paul says, 'created unto good works which God hath prepared beforehand that we should walk in them,'[1] we collect the origin of Israel's conception of God,—of that mighty 'not ourselves' which more or less engages all men's attention,—as the Eternal Power that makes for righteousness. This we do, because the more we come to know how ideas and terms arise, and what is their character, the more this explanation of Israel's use of the word 'God' seems the

  1. Eph., ii, 10.