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addressed to this witness, and which thus has a tendency to awaken and exercise it, for thus only is it possible that the Scriptures can be made “profitable for instruction in righteousness."
If therefore a teacher thinks that he is claiming honour for God's authority, when he refuses to listen to the objections which a learner makes to any view of a doctrine, on the ground of conscience, and when he silences all such objections by a mere reference to the written word, he is deceiving himself, --for that which is the true authority of God, in relation to every man, is the man's own perception of righteousness,—and the teacher is only then truly claiming honour for God, when he brings the doctrine to meet that perception.
I am not arguing for the right of private judgment,—I am arguing for the right of conscience, that is, for the right which my conscience has over me.
I am not arguing for my right to say to another man, my judgment is as good as your's, but I am arguing that neither he nor I can have a right to think that we are honouring God by our faith, whilst our conscience is not going along with the thing believed.
When I meet with any thing in the Bible to which my conscience does not consent, I feel persuaded that I don't understand the meaning of it for my
confidence that it comes from God, assures me, that if I understood it aright, I should perceive its righteousness. Whilst I remain in this condition however, I am conscious that I am not believing the thing, "for with the heart man believeth unto
righteousness ;” and I am certain that I cannot believe any thing truly unto righteousness, unless I perceive righteousness in it.--I am therefore conscious that I am not believing in it, and that I am only bowing to it. But I do not willingly rest in
. this condition. I examine the passages on which the doctrine in question rests,— I consider whether the meaning which I have been attributing to them is the true meaning-I consult translations and commentaries, not with the view of taking any of them as a guide, but that I may see whether I can find in any of them an interpretation which will at the same time satisfy my conscience, and agree with the language, and harmonize with the tenor of the dis
We ought to require the meeting of all these conditions in an interpretation, before we allow ourselves to rest in it; and accordingly when I have in this work preferred any interpretation of a passage, which differs from that which is found in the common version, I have done so on the ground that these conditions meet in it, and not in the other.
It may seem to some, that such a work as this, which consists chiefly of interpretations of passages, ought not to have been attempted by any one who was not well versed in verbal criticism in general, and more especially in that of the Scriptures. But besides that the labourers in that department have now brought the whole subject within the reach of very ordinary scholars, I believe that those who are best acquainted with the results of that kind of scholarship, will agree with me in thinking, that it has
already done all, or nearly all, that it is likely to do, and that another kind of instrument is needed, in order to draw a true and useful advantage from that which it has established; which instrument seems to me, to be no other than a zealous and yet patient demand for consistency and coherence, in our interpretations,—in respect both of conscience and of logic.
Whether I have used this instrument or not, each reader must judge for himself. All that I ask of him on this point, is, that he will not judge hastily, nor give a final judgment, until he has finished the book, and that he will allow his conscience as well as his reasoning to sit along with him in the judgment.
There is another thing of which I ought here to say something to the reader. Every one who has studied Christianity as a system not only of righteousness but of wisdom, must have perceived that it has a double form throughout, inasmuch as God has, in the first place, set forth to us, the whole truth, objectively, in Christ, and then He calls on us, to experience it all, subjectively, in ourselves, through the operation of the Spirit of Christ received into our hearts by faith. I am persuaded, also, that many must have felt, that the Atonement and the Righteousness of faith, are connected in this way -the Atonement being the objective view of the doctrine, and the righteousness of faith the subjective,—so that the Atonement when experienced by ourselves, is the righteousness of faith ; and
the righteousness of faith, when viewed out from ourselves, in Christ, is the Atonement. Thus to die with Christ, or to be partakers of His death, or to have His blood cleansing us from all sin, means the same thing as to be justified by faith, or to have the righteousness of faith,—and thus also the blood of Christ, when taken subjectively or experimentally, means the shedding out of the life-blood of man's will, in the Spirit of Christ, inasmuch as no one can know the blood of Christ purging his conscience, in any other way than by personally shedding out the life-blood of his own will.
From the habit of viewing these two doctrines as thus connected, and also from a conviction of the exceeding importance of understanding that the objective view of the doctrine is quite useless, when separated from the subjective, I have occasionally, in speaking of them, used language which I am aware may at first strike the reader as unusual, but which I trust he will see the justness and reasonableness of, as he advances. I do not mean to confound the two doctrines together, but to connect them together; as I do not mean to confound the root of a tree with a branch, but only to mark their connection, when I speak of them as having the same sap circulating through them both; for though I thus speak of them, I do not forget that the sap is originally concocted not by the branch but by the root, and that the branch could have no sap at all, unless it had a root, by which the sap might be prepared and communicated to it.
Now, God in our nature,—that is, Christ,-is the root of the new sap or eternal life in man, without which no man could have been righteous, and by the presence of which in our nature, every man may be righteous. This is the root, which connects the whole tree of man with God and heaven, as the carnal Adam is the root which connects it with Satan and corruption;—for the tree has two roots and two saps, and the atonement is just that acting of Christ, the new root, that voluntary dying, or shedding out by him of the old sap, or corrupt will of man,—through which he separated himself and all the branches that would adhere to him, altogether and for ever, from the corruption and condemnation which belonged to, and lay upon, that old sap,—that so they might be filled exclusively with the holy sap, the eternal life, and bear the eternal blessing which rests upon it. But the adherence which the branch gives to him, which is the righteousness of faith, is just a repetition of the same acting, by which he, the root, separated himself acceptably to God—namely, a voluntary dying, or shedding out of the old sap, performed by the branch, in the power of the new sap communicated to it from the root, and without which it would be incapable of performing it.
This view of these doctrines, connects them distinctly with the conscience. We must acknowledge, that that corrupt sap or life within us, which seeks self-gratification instead of righteousness, is indeed the source of all the evils of our condition, and