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The Controversy on the Pentateuch. In travelling over Europe, you may here and there come across some fortified city, or some rock-built castle, whose story tells of siege on siege. How in the olden time the battering-ram was brought to bear against the walls, and bowmen shot their arrows with steady aim against the men-at-arms who lined the ramparts; and how, in modern days, more skilful artillery played on the defences; how lines of circumvallation were drawn; how cannon were planted, and shell and shot pitilessly discharged upon outworks and citadel. Yet, after all, there stands the brave stronghold, battered but impregnable. The Pentateuch is very much like that. The five books of Moses not only tell of wars, but have been in them. Old-fashioned criticism and new-fashioned criticism have been equally daring and industrious in their assaults and sieges. It would be a great mistake to suppose that the recent attack on this part of Scripture is a new thing upon the earth. Without making any great pretensions to learning, it would be easy enough to give a narrative of attacks upon this portion of the Bible, extending from the earliest ages of Christendom down to the last few years, and including the names of learned authors familiar to such as are acquainted with the annals of literature. Good people are apt' to be alarmed for the ark of God, through want of knowing that that ark has been in battes heretofore as fierce and hot as any raging now, and yet is at the present moment safe and secure in God's own temple, in his own effectual keeping. The Philistines may at times fancy that they have robbed Israel of its palladium; but in the end it shall come back in triumph to its own hallowed camp, having cast down many a dagon in the hours of its supposed humiliation.
We can join in no outcry of fear just now; nor would we indulge in any revilings of men who, though very rash, unwise, mistaken, and unconsciously mischievous in their doings, are honest, frank, and may be far better than their creed. Our contention is with principles, not
persons. We would impugn the character of bad reasonings, without imputing to the reasoners bad motives. We fully believe that good will come out of all this strife. We have had a succession of stormy controversies during the last thirty years. Oxford tracts, papal encroachments, “Essays and Reviews,” and, besides great battles, several petty skirmishes, and the result has been on the whole beneficial to the interest of truth and righteousness. We have no doubt the result of the present excitement about the Pentateuch will be a more intelligent and correct estimate of its character and claims, a firmer and more enlightened faith in its credibility and trustworthiness.
In Bishop Colenso's treatment of the Books of Moses no account is taken of the positive evidences in support of their credibility. Objections are propounded without any notice of the direct proofs with which they stand in conflict. The accused is not allowed the benefit of previously established reputation. Butthe Pentateuch does not come into court with damaged character. It has been maligned it is true, holes have been picked in its coat again and again; but in spite of all efforts to lower its respectability, the testimony of witnesses to its honest name and worthiness of confidence, remain unimpeached and unimpeachable, and before we take up objections we must attend to positive proofs.
We must be allowed, at the very outset, to insist upon the true state of the question. It is not what conclusion shall we come to, after simply looking at certain difficulties and objections, which all lie on the side of rejecting the Pentateuch as a credible history; but what conclusions shall we come to, after looking at these, and at a number of positive arguments, at considerations manifold and strong in support of the credibility as well. Conceding something to the objector for the sake of argument; allowing even that certain particulars in the history, as we have it in its present form, may be, from some cause or other, incorrect-the inquiry arises, Are they sufficient to overturn the trustworthiness of the records altogether? Are they of such a character as to nullify a series of proofs like those so often presented by writers on the Pentateuch? We cannot but be deeply impressed with the thought, that this history is of an antiquity which runs up to the time when the events described took place; that no period can be assigned favourable to its fabrication or forgery; that to say it was written under the earliest kings of the united Jewish empire ; that it was made up by Samuel, or anybody else about his time, is a perfectly gratuitous assumption, and in the teeth of obvious reasons to the contrary; that the principal circumstances connected with the Exodus, and the origin of the Law, are celebrated in the Psalms most devoutly, as proofs of the power and goodness of God; that the holy Apostles, inspired men if any ever were, refer to some of the same events, as what they, in common with the Jewish people, fully believed; and that the Lord Jesus Christ gives his express sanction to certain statements made by Moses, and covers with the broad seal of his own authority the sacredness, divinity, and truth of the lawgiver's chronicles and institutes in those wonderful words, “ If ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”
Let anybody make the most he can of certain objections,—with the array of evidence on the other side, it comes to be a choice of difficulties. It is, in fact, a branch of the great infidel controversy. Infidels have sometimes said things which, looking at them by themselves, it is impossible satisfactorily to answer. Unbelievers have always sought to narrow the ground of dispute, and to place the final and conclusive issue upon some minor point, on the raising of which they expend all their logical and rhetorical skill. But with the enormous amount of resources for positive argumentation which the Christian advocate has at command, he righteously refuses to stake the settlement of the great dispute upon a battle between two small regiments. All the forces on both sides must be brought into the field before the war of life and death can be settled. And just so now, all that can be said for the credibility of the Pentateuch must be placed on one side, and all that can be said against it must stand on the other. Looking at the matter in that way, we contend that whatever there may be in a thoroughly searching criticism of the Books of Moses to produce perplexity,—whatever the objections made to certain statements,- it is incomparably easier, more reasonable, and more righteous to accept the substantial truth of the Pentateuch than to cast it aside as not historically true. The difficulties connected with unbelief in this matter are incalculably greater than those connected with faith. That the story of the Exodus is a fable, concocted nobody knows where, when, or how, though believed in by the chosen people of God, and inextricably interwoven with their sacred writings, endorsed by the prophets, and devoutly commemorated in the Psalms; though recognised as true and divine by the Apostles, and adopted in the same way by our blessed Lord, is one of those monstrous positions which it does not appear to us possible for any man to maintain who has not given up the Scriptures altogether. How the narrative, if not true, can have any value at all is beyond the conception of most people. That parables and allegories are employed in holy Scripture to convey moral and spiritual truth we all know; but parables and allegories in the Bible are compositions easily identified. They stand out on the sacred pages distinguishably enough. What marks of that mode of teaching can be discovered in the general structure of the Five Books of Moses? If any portion of the Bible has the look of history on its face it is this. Whatever the higher criticism may find underneath, most assuredly all above ground proclaims it to be straightforward, believable narrative. It pretends to be historical-it deceives one if it be not historical. Not being a mere allegorical poem,for that the structure of the composition does not allow us to suppose,