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Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit etc. by by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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This etext was prepared by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk
from the 1892 Cassell & Company edition.


by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit
Letters on the Inspiration of the Scriptures.
An Essay on Faith
Notes on the Book of Common Prayer
A Nightly Prayer
A Sailor's Fortune
Essay I
Essay II
Essay III
Essay IV
Essay V
Essay VI


Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on the 21st of October, 1772,
youngest of many children of the Rev. John Coleridge, Vicar of the
Parish and Head Master of the Grammar School of Ottery St. Mary, in
Devonshire. One of the poet's elder brothers was the grandfather of
Lord Chief Justice Coleridge. Coleridge's mother was a notable
housewife, as was needful in the mother of ten children, who had
three more transmitted to her from her husband's former wife.
Coleridge's father was a kindly and learned man, little
sophisticated, and distinguishing himself now and then by comical
acts of what is called absence of mind. Charles Buller, afterwards a
judge, was one of his boys, and, when her husband's life seemed to be
failing, had promised what help he could give to the anxious wife.
When his father died, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was but eight years
old, and Charles Buller obtained for him his presentation to Christ's
Hospital. Coleridge's mind delighted in far wandering over the
fields of thought; from a boy he took intense delight in dreamy
speculation on the mysteries that lie around the life of man. From a
boy also he proved his subtleties of thought through what Charles
Lamb called the "deep and sweet intonations" of such speech as could
come only from a poet.

From the Charterhouse, Coleridge went to Jesus College, Cambridge,
where he soon won a gold medal for a Greek ode on the Slave Trade,
but through indolence he slipped into a hundred pounds of debt. The
stir of the French Revolution was then quickening young minds into
bold freedom of speculation, resentment against tyranny of custom,
and yearning for a higher life in this world. Old opinions that
familiarity had made to the multitude conventional were for that
reason distrusted and discarded. Coleridge no longer held his
religious faith in the form taught by his father. He could not sign
the Thirty-nine Articles, and felt his career closed at the
University. His debt also pressed upon him heavily. After a long
vacation with a burdened mind, in which one pleasant day of picnic
gave occasion to his "Songs of the Pixies," Coleridge went back to
Cambridge. But soon afterwards he threw all up in despair. He
resolved to become lost to his friends, and find some place where he
could earn in obscurity bare daily bread. He came to London, and
then enlisted as a private in the 15th Light Dragoons. After four
months he was discovered, his discharge was obtained, and he went
back to Cambridge.

But he had no career before him there, for his religious opinions
then excluded belief in the doctrine of the Trinity, and the
Universities were not then open to Dissenters. A visit to Oxford
brought him into relation with Robert Southey and fellow-students of
Southey's who were also touched with revolutionary ardour. Coleridge
joined with them in the resolve to leave the Old World and create a
better in the New, as founders of a Pantisocracy--an all-equal
government--on the banks of the Susquehannah. They would need wives,
and Southey knew of three good liberal-minded sisters at Bristol, one
of them designed for himself; her two sisters he recommended for as
far as they would go. The chief promoters of the Pantisocracy
removed to Bristol, and one of the three sisters, Sarah Fricker, was
married by Coleridge; Southey marrying another, Edith; while another
young Oxford enthusiast married the remaining Miss Fricker; and so
they made three pairs of future patriarchs and matriarchs.

Nothing came of the Pantisocracy, for want of money to pay fares to
the New World. Coleridge supported himself by giving lectures, and
in 1797 published Poems. They included his "Religious Musings,"
which contain expression of his fervent revolutionary hopes. Then he
planned a weekly paper, the Watchman, that was to carry the lantern
of philosophic truth, and call the hour for those who cared about the
duties of the day. When only three or four hundred subscribers had
been got together in Bristol, Coleridge resolved to travel from town
to town in search of subscriptions. Wherever he went his eloquence
prevailed; and he came back with a very large subscription list. But
the power of close daily work, by which alone Coleridge could carry
out such a design, was not in him, and the Watchman only reached to
its tenth number.

Then Coleridge settled at Nether Stowey, by the Bristol Channel,
partly for convenience of neighbourhood to Thomas Poole, from whom he
could borrow at need. He had there also a yearly allowance from the
Wedgwoods of Etruria, who had a strong faith in his future. From
Nether Stowey, Coleridge walked over to make friends with Wordsworth
at Racedown, and the friendship there established caused Wordsworth
and his sister to remove to the neighbourhood of Nether Stowey. Out
of the relations with Wordsworth thus established came Coleridge's
best achievements as a poet, the "Ancient Mariner" and "Christabel."
The "Ancient Mariner" was finished, and was the chief part of
Coleridge's contribution to the "Lyrical Ballads," which the two
friends published in 1798. "Christabel," being unfinished, was left
unpublished until 1816.

With help from the Wedgwoods, Coleridge went abroad with Wordsworth
and his sister, left them at Hamburg, and during fourteen months
increased his familiarity with German. He came back in the late
summer of 1799, full of enthusiasm for Schiller's last great work,
his Wallenstein, which Coleridge had seen acted. The Camp had been
first acted at Weimar on the 18th of October, 1798; the Piccolomini
on the 30th of January, 1799; and Wallenstein's Death on the 10th of
the next following April. Coleridge, under the influence of fresh
enthusiasm, rapidly completed for Messrs. Longman his translation of
Wallenstein's Death into an English poem of the highest mark.

Then followed a weakening of health. Coleridge earned fitfully as
journalist; settled at Keswick; found his tendency to rheumatism
increased by the damp of the Lake Country; took a remedy containing
opium, and began to acquire that taste for the excitement of opium
which ruined the next years of his life. He was invited to Malta,
for the benefit of the climate, by his friend, John Stoddart, who was
there. At Malta he made the acquaintance of the governor, Sir
Alexander Ball, whose worth he celebrates in essays of the Friend,
which are included under the title of "A Sailor's Fortune" in this
little volume. For a short time he acted as secretary to Sir
Alexander, then returned to the Lakes and planned his journal, the
Friend, published at Penrith, of which the first number appeared on
the 1st of August, 1809, the twenty-eighth and last towards the end
of March, 1810.

Next followed six years of struggle to live as journalist and
lecturer in London and elsewhere, while the habit of taking opium
grew year by year, and at last advanced from two quarts of laudanum a
week to a pint a day. Coleridge put himself under voluntary
restraint for a time with a Mr. Morgan at Calne. Finally he placed
himself, in April, 1816--the year of the publication of "Christabel"-
-with a surgeon at Highgate, Mr. Gillman, under whose friendly care
he was restored to himself, and in whose house he died on the 25th of
July, 1834. It was during this calm autumn of his life that
Coleridge, turning wholly to the higher speculations on philosophy
and religion upon which his mind was chiefly fixed, a revert to the
Church, and often actively antagonist to the opinions he had held for
a few years, wrote, his "Lay Sermons," and his "Biographia
Literaria," and arranged also a volume of Essays of the Friend. He
lectured on Shakespeare, wrote "Aids to Reflection," and showed how
his doubts were set at rest in these "Confessions of an Inquiring
Spirit," which were first published in 1840, after their writer's

H. M.




My dear friend,

I employed the compelled and most unwelcome leisure of severe
indisposition in reading The Confessions of a Fair Saint in Mr.
Carlyle's recent translation of the Wilhelm Meister, which might, I
think, have been better rendered literally The Confessions of a
Beautiful Soul. This, acting in conjunction with the concluding
sentences of your letter, threw my thoughts inward on my own
religious experience, and gave immediate occasion to the following
Confessions of one who is neither fair nor saintly, but who, groaning
under a deep sense of infirmity and manifold imperfection, feels the
want, the necessity, of religious support; who cannot afford to lose
any the smallest buttress, but who not only loves Truth even for
itself, and when it reveals itself aloof from all interest, but who
loves it with an indescribable awe, which too often withdraws the
genial sap of his activity from the columnar trunk, the sheltering
leaves, the bright and fragrant flower, and the foodful or medicinal
fruitage, to the deep root, ramifying in obscurity and labyrinthine
way-winning -

In darkness there to house unknown,
Far underground,
Pierced by no sound
Save such as live in Fancy's ear alone,
That listens for the uptorn mandrake's parting groan!

I should, perhaps, be a happier--at all events a more useful--man if
my mind were otherwise constituted. But so it is, and even with
regard to Christianity itself, like certain plants, I creep towards
the light, even though it draw me away from the more nourishing
warmth. Yea, I should do so, even if the light had made its way
through a rent in the wall of the Temple. Glad, indeed, and grateful
am I, that not in the Temple itself, but only in one or two of the
side chapels, not essential to the edifice, and probably not coeval
with it, have I found the light absent, and that the rent in the wall
has but admitted the free light of the Temple itself.

I shall best communicate the state of my faith by taking the creed,
or system of credenda, common to all the Fathers of the Reformation--
overlooking, as non-essential, the differences between the several
Reformed Churches, according to the five main classes or sections
into which the aggregate distributes itself to my apprehension. I
have then only to state the effect produced on my mind by each of
these, or the quantum of recipiency and coincidence in myself
relatively thereto, in order to complete my Confession of Faith.

I. The Absolute; the innominable [Greek text which cannot be
reproduced] et Causa Sui, in whose transcendent I AM, as the Ground,
IS whatever VERILY is:- the Triune God, by whose Word and Spirit, as
the transcendent Cause, EXISTS whatever SUBSTANTIALLY exists:- God
Almighty--Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, undivided, unconfounded, co-
eternal. This class I designate by the word [Greek text which cannot
be reproduced].

II. The Eternal Possibilities; the actuality of which hath not its
origin in God: Chaos spirituale:- [Greek text which cannot be

III. The Creation and Formation of the heaven and earth by the
Redemptive Word:- the Apostasy of Man:- the Redemption of Man:- the
Incarnation of the Word in the Son of Man:- the Crucifixion and
Resurrection of the Son of Man:- the Descent of the Comforter:-
Repentance ([Greek text which cannot be reproduced]):- Regeneration:-
Faith:- Prayer:- Grace--Communion with the Spirit:- Conflict:- Self-
abasement:- Assurance through the righteousness of Christ:- Spiritual
Growth:- Love:- Discipline:- Perseverance:- Hope in death:- [Greek
text which cannot be reproduced]

IV. But these offers, gifts, and graces are not for one, or for a
few. They are offered to all. Even when the Gospel is preached to a
single individual it is offered to him as to one of a great
household. Not only man, but, says St. Paul, the whole creation is
included in the consequences of the Fall--[Greek text which cannot be
reproduced]--so also in those of the change at the Redemption--[Greek
text which cannot be reproduced]. We too shall be raised IN THE
BODY. Christianity is fact no less than truth. It is spiritual, yet
so as to be historical; and between these two poles there must
likewise be a midpoint, in which the historical and spiritual meet.
Christianity must have its history--a history of itself and likewise
the history of its introduction, its spread, and its outward-
becoming; and, as the midpoint abovementioned, a portion of these
facts must be miraculous, that is, phenomena in nature that are
beyond nature. Furthermore, the history of all historical nations
must in some sense be its history--in other words, all history must
be providential, and this a providence, a preparation, and a looking
forward to Christ.

Here, then, we have four out of the five classes. And in all these
the sky of my belief is serene, unclouded by a doubt. Would to God
that my faith, that faith which works on the whole man, confirming
and conforming, were but in just proportion to my belief, to the full
acquiescence of my intellect, and the deep consent of my conscience!
The very difficulties argue the truth of the whole scheme and system
for my understanding, since I see plainly that so must the truth
appear, if it be the truth.

V. But there is a Book of two parts, each part consisting of several
books. The first part (I speak in the character of an uninterested
critic or philologist) contains the relics of the literature of the
Hebrew people, while the Hebrew was still the living language. The
second part comprises the writings, and, with one or two
inconsiderable and doubtful exceptions, all the writings of the
followers of Christ within the space of ninety years from the date of
the Resurrection. I do not myself think that any of these writings
were composed as late as A.D. 120; but I wish to preclude all
dispute. This Book I resume as read, and yet unread--read and
familiar to my mind in all parts, but which is yet to be perused as a
whole, or rather a work, cujus particulas et sententiolas omnes et
singulas recogniturus sum, but the component integers of which, and
their conspiration, I have yet to study. I take up this work with
the purpose to read it for the first time as I should read any other
work, as far at least as I can or dare. For I neither can, nor dare,
throw off a strong and awful prepossession in its favour--certain as
I am that a large part of the light and life, in and by which I see,
love, and embrace the truths and the strengths co-organised into a
living body of faith and knowledge in the four preceding classes, has
been directly or indirectly derived to me from this sacred volume--
and unable to determine what I do not owe to its influences. But
even on this account, and because it has these inalienable claims on
my reverence and gratitude, I will not leave it in the power of
unbelievers to say that the Bible is for me only what the Koran is
for the deaf Turk, and the Vedas for the feeble and acquiescent
Hindoo. No; I will retire UP INTO THE MOUNTAIN, and hold secret
commune with my Bible above the contagious blastments of prejudice,
and the fog-blight of selfish superstition. FOR FEAR HATH TORMENT.
And what though MY reason be to the power and splendour of the
Scriptures but as the reflected and secondary shine of the moon
compared with the solar radiance; yet the sun endures the occasional
co-presence of the unsteady orb, and leaving it visible seems to
sanction the comparison. There is a Light higher than all, even THE
WORD THAT WAS IN THE BEGINNING; the Light, of which light itself is
but the shechinah and cloudy tabernacle; the Word that is Light for
every man, and life for as many as give heed to it. If between this
Word and the written letter I shall anywhere seem to myself to find a
discrepance, I will not conclude that such there actually is, nor on
the other hand will I fall under the condemnation of them that would
LIE FOR GOD, but seek as I may, be thankful for what I have--and

With such purposes, with such feelings, have I perused the books of
the Old and New Testaments, each book as a whole, and also as an
integral part. And need I say that I have met everywhere more or
less copious sources of truth, and power, and purifying impulses,
that I have found words for my inmost thoughts, songs for my joy,
utterances for my hidden griefs, and pleadings for my shame and my
feebleness? In short, whatever FINDS me, bears witness for itself
that it has proceeded from a Holy Spirit, even from the same Spirit,
PROPHETS. (Wisd. vii.) And here, perhaps, I might have been content
to rest, if I had not learned that, as a Christian, I cannot, must
not, stand alone; or if I had not known that more than this was
holden and required by the Fathers of the Reformation, and by the
Churches collectively, since the Council of Nice at latest, the only
exceptions being that doubtful one of the corrupt Romish Church
implied, though not avowed, in its equalisation of the Apocryphal
Books with those of the Hebrew Canon, and the irrelevant one of the
few and obscure sects who acknowledge no historical Christianity.
This somewhat more, in which Jerome, Augustine, Luther, and Hooker
were of one and the same judgment, and less than which not one of
them would have tolerated--would it fall within the scope of my
present doubts and objections? I hope it would not. Let only their
general expressions be interpreted by their treatment of the
Scriptures in detail, and I dare confidently trust that it would not.
For I can no more reconcile the doctrine which startles my belief
with the practice and particular declarations of these great men,
than with the convictions of my own understanding and conscience. At
all events--and I cannot too early or too earnestly guard against any
misapprehension of my meaning and purpose--let it be distinctly
understood that my arguments and objections apply exclusively to the
following doctrine or dogma. To the opinions which individual
divines have advanced in lieu of this doctrine, my only objection, as
far as I object, is--that I do not understand them. The precise
enunciation of this doctrine I defer to the commencement of the next
Letter. Farewell.


My dear friend,

In my last Letter I said that in the Bible there is more that FINDS
me than I have experienced in all other books put together; that the
words of the Bible find me at greater depths of my being; and that
whatever finds me brings with it an irresistible evidence of its
having proceeded from the Holy Spirit. But the doctrine in question
requires me to believe that not only what finds me, but that all that
exists in the sacred volume, and which I am bound to find therein,
was--not alone inspired by, that is composed by, men under the
actuating influence of the Holy Spirit, but likewise--dictated by an
Infallible Intelligence; that the writers, each and all, were
divinely informed as well as inspired. Now here all evasion, all
excuse, is cut off. An infallible intelligence extends to all
things, physical no less than spiritual. It may convey the truth in
any one of the three possible languages--that of sense, as objects
appear to the beholder on this earth; or that of science, which
supposes the beholder placed in the centre; or that of philosophy,
which resolves both into a supersensual reality. But whichever be
chosen--and it is obvious that the incompatibility exists only
between the first and second, both of them being indifferent and of
equal value to the third--it must be employed consistently; for an
infallible intelligence must intend to be intelligible, and not to
deceive. And, moreover, whichever of these three languages be
chosen, it must be translatable into truth. For this is the very
essence of the doctrine, that one and the same intelligence is
speaking in the unity of a person; which unity is no more broken by
the diversity of the pipes through which it makes itself audible,
than is a tune by the different instruments on which it is played by
a consummate musician, equally perfect in all. One instrument may be
more capacious than another, but as far as its compass extends, and
in what it sounds forth, it will be true to the conception of the
master. I can conceive no softening here which would not nullify the
doctrine, and convert it to a cloud for each man's fancy to shift and
shape at will. And this doctrine, I confess, plants the vineyard of
the Word with thorns for me, and places snares in its pathways.
These may be delusions of an evil spirit; but ere I so harshly
question the seeming angel of light--my reason, I mean, and moral
sense in conjunction with my clearest knowledge--I must inquire on
what authority this doctrine rests. And what other authority dares a
truly catholic Christian admit as coercive in the final decision, but
the declarations of the Book itself--though I should not, without
struggles, and a trembling reluctance, gainsay even a universal

I return to the Book. With a full persuasion of soul respecting all
the articles of the Christian Faith, as contained in the first four
classes, I receive willingly also the truth of the history, namely,
that the Word of the Lord did come to Samuel, to Isaiah, to others;
and that the words which gave utterance to the same are faithfully
recorded. But though the origin of the words, even as of the
miraculous acts, be supernatural, yet the former once uttered, the
latter once having taken their place among the phenomena of the
senses, the faithful recording of the same does not of itself imply,
or seem to require, any supernatural working, other than as all truth
and goodness are such. In the books of Moses, and once or twice in
the prophecy of Jeremiah, I find it indeed asserted that not only the
words were given, but the recording of the same enjoined by the
special command of God, and doubtless executed under the special
guidance of the Divine Spirit. As to all such passages, therefore,
there can be no dispute; and all others in which the words are by the
sacred historian declared to have been the Word of the Lord
supernaturally communicated, I receive as such with a degree of
confidence proportioned to the confidence required of me by the
writer himself, and to the claims he himself makes on my belief.

Let us, therefore, remove all such passages, and take each book by
itself; and I repeat that I believe the writer in whatever he himself
relates of his own authority, and of its origin. But I cannot find
any such claim, as the doctrine in question supposes, made by these
writers, explicitly or by implication. On the contrary, they refer
to other documents, and in all points express themselves as sober-
minded and veracious writers under ordinary circumstances are known
to do. But perhaps they bear testimony, the successor to his
predecessor? Or some one of the number has left it on record, that
by special inspiration HE was commanded to declare the plenary
inspiration of all the rest? The passages which can without violence
be appealed to as substantiating the latter position are so few, and
these so incidental--the conclusion drawn from them involving
likewise so obviously a petitio principii, namely, the supernatural
dictation, word by word, of the book in which the question is found
(for, until this is established, the utmost that such a text can
prove is the current belief of the writer's age and country
concerning the character of the books then called the Scriptures)--
that it cannot but seem strange, and assuredly is against all analogy
of Gospel revelation, that such a doctrine--which, if true, must be
an article of faith, and a most important, yea, essential article of
faith--should be left thus faintly, thus obscurely, and, if I may so
say, OBITANEOUSLY, declared and enjoined. The time of the formation
and closing of the Canon unknown;--the selectors and compilers
unknown, or recorded by known fabulists;--and (more perplexing still)
the belief of the Jewish Church--the belief, I mean, common to the
Jews of Palestine and their more cultivated brethren in Alexandria
(no reprehension of which is to be found in the New Testament)--
concerning the nature and import of the [Greek text which cannot be
reproduced] attributed to the precious remains of their Temple
Library;--these circumstances are such, especially the last, as in
effect to evacuate the tenet, of which I am speaking, of the only
meaning in which it practically means anything at all tangible,
steadfast, or obligatory. In infallibility there are no degrees.
The power of the High and Holy One is one and the same, whether the
sphere which it fills be larger or smaller;--the area traversed by a
comet, or the oracle of the house, the holy place beneath the wings
of the cherubim;--the Pentateuch of the Legislator, who drew near to
the thick darkness where God was, and who spake in the cloud whence
the thunderings and lightnings came, and whom God answered by a
voice; or but a letter of thirteen verses from the affectionate ELDER
at no period was this the judgment of the Jewish Church respecting
all the canonical books. To Moses alone--to Moses in the recording
no less than in the receiving of the Law--and to all and every part
of the five books called the Books of Moses, the Jewish doctors of
the generation before, and coeval with, the apostles, assigned that
unmodified and absolute theopneusty which our divines, in words at
least, attribute to the Canon collectively. In fact it was from the
Jewish Rabbis--who, in opposition to the Christian scheme, contended
for a perfection in the revelation by Moses, which neither required
nor endured any addition, and who strained their fancies in
expressing the transcendency of the books of Moses, in aid of their
opinion--that the founders of the doctrine borrowed their notions and
phrases respecting the Bible throughout. Remove the metaphorical
drapery from the doctrine of the Cabbalists, and it will be found to
contain the only intelligible and consistent idea of that plenary
inspiration, which later divines extend to all the canonical books;
as thus:- "The Pentateuch is but ONE WORD, even the Word of God; and
the letters and articulate sounds, by which this Word is communicated
to our human apprehensions, are likewise divinely communicated."

Now, for 'Pentateuch' substitute 'Old and New Testament,' and then I
say that this is the doctrine which I reject as superstitious and
unscriptural. And yet as long as the conceptions of the revealing
Word and the inspiring Spirit are identified and confounded, I assert
that whatever says less than this, says little more than nothing.
For how can absolute infallibility be blended with fallibility?
Where is the infallible criterion? How can infallible truth be
infallibly conveyed in defective and fallible expressions? The
Jewish teachers confined this miraculous character to the Pentateuch.
Between the Mosaic and the Prophetic inspiration they asserted such a
difference as amounts to a diversity; and between both the one and
the other, and the remaining books comprised under the tithe of
Hagiographa, the interval was still wider, and the inferiority in
kind, and not only in degree, was unequivocally expressed. If we
take into account the habit, universal with the Hebrew doctors, of
referring all excellent or extraordinary things to the great First
Cause, without mention of the proximate and instrumental causes--a
striking illustration of which may be obtained by comparing the
narratives of the same event in the Psalms and in the historical
books; and if we further reflect that the distinction of the
providential and the miraculous did not enter into their forms of
thinking--at all events not into their mode of conveying their
thoughts--the language of the Jews respecting the Hagiographa will be
found to differ little, if at all, from that of religious persons
among ourselves, when speaking of an author abounding in gifts,
stirred up by the Holy Spirit, writing under the influence of special
grace, and the like.

But it forms no part of my present purpose to discuss the point
historically, or to speculate on the formation of either Canon.
Rather, such inquiries are altogether alien from the great object of
my pursuits and studies, which is to convince myself and others that
the Bible and Christianity are their own sufficient evidence. But it
concerns both my character and my peace of mind to satisfy
unprejudiced judges that if my present convictions should in all
other respects be found consistent with the faith and feelings of a
Christian--and if in many and those important points they tend to
secure that faith and to deepen those feelings--the words of the
Apostle, rightly interpreted, do not require their condemnation.
Enough, if what has been stated above respecting the general doctrine
of the Hebrew masters, under whom the Apostle was bred, shall remove
any misconceptions that might prevent the right interpretation of his
words. Farewell.


My dear friend,

Having in the former two Letters defined the doctrine which I reject,
I am now to communicate the views that I would propose to substitute
in its place.

Before, however, I attempt to lay down on the theological chart the
road-place to which my bark has drifted, and to mark the spot and
circumscribe the space within which I swing at anchor, let me first
thank you for, and then attempt to answer, the objections--or at
least the questions--which you have urged upon me.

"The present Bible is the Canon to which Christ and the Apostles


"And in terms which a Christian must tremble to tamper with?"

Yea. The expressions are as direct as strong; and a true believer
will neither attempt to divert nor dilute their strength.

"The doctrine which is considered as the orthodox view seems the
obvious and most natural interpretation of the text in question?"

Yea, and nay. To those whose minds are prepossessed by the doctrine
itself--who from earliest childhood have always meant this doctrine
by the very word Bible--the doctrine being but its exposition and
paraphrase--Yea. In such minds the words of our Lord and the
declarations of St. Paul can awaken no other sense. To those on the
other hand who find the doctrine senseless and self-confuting, and
who take up the Bible as they do other books, and apply to it the
same rules of interpretation--Nay.

And, lastly, he who, like myself, recognises in neither of the two
the state of his own mind--who cannot rest in the former, and feels,
or fears, a presumptuous spirit in the negative dogmatism of the
latter--he has his answer to seek. But so far I dare hazard a reply
to the question--In what other sense can the words be interpreted?--
beseeching you, however, to take what I am about to offer but as an
attempt to delineate an arc of oscillation--that the eulogy of St.
Paul is in nowise contravened by the opinion to which I incline, who
fully believe the Old Testament collectively, both in the composition
and in its preservation, a great and precious gift of Providence;--
who find in it all that the Apostle describes, and who more than
believe that all which the Apostle spoke of was of Divine
inspiration, and a blessing intended for as many as are in communion
with the Spirit through all ages. And I freely confess that my whole
heart would turn away with an angry impatience from the cold and
captious mortal who, the moment I had been pouring out the love and
gladness of my soul--while book after book, law, and truth, and
example, oracle, and lovely hymn, and choral song of ten thousand
thousands, and accepted prayers of saints and prophets, sent back, as
it were, from heaven, like doves, to be let loose again with a new
freight of spiritual joys and griefs and necessities, were passing
across my memory--at the first pause of my voice, and whilst my
countenance was still speaking--should ask me whether I was thinking
of the Book of Esther, or meant particularly to include the first six
chapters of Daniel, or verses 6-20 of the 109th Psalm, or the last
verse of the 137th Psalm? Would any conclusion of this sort be drawn
in any other analogous case? In the course of my lectures on
Dramatic Poetry, I, in half a score instances, referred my auditors
to the precious volume before me--Shakespeare--and spoke
enthusiastically, both in general and with detail of particular
beauties, of the plays of Shakespeare, as in all their kinds, and in
relation to the purposes of the writer, excellent. Would it have
been fair, or according to the common usage and understanding of men,
to have inferred an intention on my part to decide the question
respecting Titus Andronicus, or the larger portion of the three parts
of Henry VI.? Would not every genial mind understand by Shakespeare
that unity or total impression comprising and resulting from the
thousandfold several and particular emotions of delight, admiration,
gratitude excited by his works? But if it be answered, "Aye! but we
must not interpret St. Paul as we may and should interpret any other
honest and intelligent writer or speaker,"--then, I say, this is the
very petitio principii of which I complain.

Still less do the words of our Lord apply against my view. Have I
not declared--do I not begin by declaring--that whatever is referred
by the sacred penman to a direct communication from God, and wherever
it is recorded that the subject of the history had asserted himself
to have received this or that command, this or that information or
assurance, from a superhuman Intelligence, or where the writer in his
own person, and in the character of an historian, relates that the
WORD OF THE LORD CAME unto priest, prophet, chieftain, or other
individual--have I not declared that I receive the same with full
belief, and admit its inappellable authority? Who more convinced
than I am--who more anxious to impress that conviction on the minds
of others--that the Law and the Prophets speak throughout of Christ?
That all the intermediate applications and realisations of the words
are but types and repetitions--translations, as it were, from the
language of letters and articulate sounds into the language of events
and symbolical persons?

And here again let me recur to the aid of analogy. Suppose a life of
Sir Thomas More by his son-in-law, or a life of Lord Bacon by his
chaplain; that a part of the records of the Court of Chancery
belonging to these periods were lost; that in Roper's or in Rawley's
biographical work there were preserved a series of dicta and
judgments attributed to these illustrious Chancellors, many and
important specimens of their table discourses, with large extracts
from works written by them, and from some that are no longer extant.
Let it be supposed, too, that there are no grounds, internal or
external, to doubt either the moral, intellectual, or circumstantial
competence of the biographers. Suppose, moreover, that wherever the
opportunity existed of collating their documents and quotations with
the records and works still preserved, the former were found
substantially correct and faithful, the few differences in nowise
altering or disturbing the spirit and purpose of the paragraphs in
which they were found; and that of what was not collatable, and to
which no test ab extra could be applied, the far larger part bore
witness in itself of the same spirit and origin; and that not only by
its characteristic features, but by its surpassing excellence, it
rendered the chances of its having had any other author than the
giant-mind, to whom the biographer ascribes it, small indeed! Now,
from the nature and objects of my pursuits, I have, we will suppose,
frequent occasion to refer to one or other of these works; for
example, to Rawley's Dicta et Facta Francisci de Verulam. At one
time I might refer to the work in some such words as--"Remember what
Francis of Verulam said or judged;" or, "If you believe not me, yet
believe Lord Bacon." At another time I might take the running title
of the volume, and at another the name of the biographer;--"Turn to
your Rawley! HE will set you right;" or, "THERE you will find a
depth which no research will ever exhaust;" or whatever other strong
expression my sense of Bacon's greatness and of the intrinsic worth
and the value of the proofs and specimens of that greatness,
contained and preserved in that volume, would excite and justify.
But let my expressions be as vivid and unqualified as the most
sanguine temperament ever inspired, would any man of sense conclude
from them that I meant--and meant to make others believe--that not
only each and all of these anecdotes, adages, decisions, extracts,
incidents, had been dictated, word by word, by Lord Bacon; and that
all Rawley's own observations and inferences, all the connectives and
disjunctives, all the recollections of time, place, and circumstance,
together with the order and succession of the narrative, were in like
manner dictated and revised by the spirit of the deceased Chancellor?
The answer will be--must be--No man in his senses! "No man in his
senses--in THIS instance; but in that of the Bible it is quite
otherwise; for (I take it as an admitted point that) it IS quite

And here I renounce any advantage I might obtain for my argument by
restricting the application of our Lord's and the Apostle's words to
the Hebrew Canon. I admit the justice--I have long felt the full
force--of the remark--"We have all that the occasion allowed." And
if the same awful authority does not apply so directly to the
Evangelical and Apostolical writings as to the Hebrew Canon, yet the
analogy of faith justifies the transfer. If the doctrine be less
decisively Scriptural in its application to the New Testament or the
Christian Canon, the temptation to doubt it is likewise less. So at
least we are led to infer; since in point of fact it is the apparent
or imagined contrast, the diversity of spirit which sundry
individuals have believed themselves to find in the Old Testament and
in the Gospel, that has given occasion to the doubt;--and, in the
heart of thousands who yield a faith of acquiescence to the contrary,
and find rest in their humility--supplies fuel to a fearful wish that
it were permitted to make a distinction.

But, lastly, you object that--even granting that no coercive,
positive reasons for the belief--no direct and not inferred
assertions--of the plenary inspiration of the Old and New Testament,
in the generally received import of the term, could be adduced, yet--
in behalf of a doctrine so catholic, and during so long a succession
of ages affirmed and acted on by Jew and Christian, Greek, Romish,
and Protestant, you need no other answer than:- "Tell me, first, why
it should not be received! Why should I not believe the Scriptures
throughout dictated, in word and thought, by an infallible
Intelligence?" I admit the fairness of the retort; and eagerly and
earnestly do I answer: For every reason that makes me prize and
revere these Scriptures;--prize them, love them, revere them, beyond
all other books! WHY should I not? Because the doctrine in question
petrifies at once the whole body of Holy Writ with all its harmonies
and symmetrical gradations--the flexile and the rigid--the supporting
hard and the clothing soft--the blood WHICH IS THE LIFE--the
intelligencing nerves, and the rudely woven, but soft and springy,
cellular substance, in which all are imbedded and lightly bound
together. This breathing organism, this glorious panharmonicon which
I had seen stand on its feet as a man, and with a man's voice given
to it, the doctrine in question turns at once into a colossal
Memnon's head, a hollow passage for a voice, a voice that mocks the
voices of many men, and speaks in their names, and yet is but one
voice, and the same; and no man uttered it, and never in a human
heart was it conceived. WHY should I not?--Because the doctrine
evacuates of all sense and efficacy the sure and constant tradition,
that all the several books bound up together in our precious family
Bible were composed in different and widely-distant ages, under the
greatest diversity of circumstances, and degrees of light and
information, and yet that the composers, whether as uttering or as
recording what was uttered and what was done, were all actuated by a
pure and holy Spirit, one and the same--(for is there any spirit pure
and holy, and yet not proceeding from God--and yet not proceeding in
and with the Holy Spirit?)--one Spirit, working diversely, now
awakening strength, and now glorifying itself in weakness, now giving
power and direction to knowledge, and now taking away the sting from
error! Ere the summer and the months of ripening had arrived for the
heart of the race; while the whole sap of the tree was crude, and
each and every fruit lived in the harsh and bitter principle; even
then this Spirit withdrew its chosen ministers from the false and
guilt-making centre of Self. It converted the wrath into a form and
an organ of love, and on the passing storm-cloud impressed the fair
rainbow of promise to all generations. Put the lust of Self in the
forked lightning, and would it not be a Spirit of Moloch? But God
maketh the lightnings His ministers, fire and hail, vapours and
stormy winds fulfilling His word.

INHABITANTS THEREOF--sang Deborah. Was it that she called to mind
any personal wrongs--rapine or insult--that she or the house of
Lapidoth had received from Jabin or Sisera? No; she had dwelt under
her palm tree in the depth of the mountain. But she was a MOTHER IN
ISRAEL; and with a mother's heart, and with the vehemency of a
mother's and a patriot's love, she had shot the light of love from
her eyes, and poured the blessings of love from her lips, on the
people that had JEOPARDED THEIR LIVES UNTO THE DEATH against the
oppressors; and the bitterness, awakened and borne aloft by the same
love, she precipitated in curses on the selfish and coward recreants
AGAINST THE MIGHTY. As long as I have the image of Deborah before my
eyes, and while I throw myself back into the age, country,
circumstances, of this Hebrew Bonduca in the not yet tamed chaos of
the spiritual creation;--as long as I contemplate the impassioned,
high-souled, heroic woman in all the prominence and individuality of
will and character,--I feel as if I were among the first ferments of
the great affections--the proplastic waves of the microcosmic chaos,
swelling up against--and yet towards--the outspread wings of the dove
that lies brooding on the troubled waters. So long all is well,--all
replete with instruction and example. In the fierce and inordinate I
am made to know and be grateful for the clearer and purer radiance
which shines on a Christian's paths, neither blunted by the
preparatory veil, nor crimsoned in its struggle through the all-
enwrapping mist of the world's ignorance: whilst in the self-
oblivion of these heroes of the Old Testament, their elevation above
all low and individual interests,--above all, in the entire and
vehement devotion of their total being to the service of their divine
Master, I find a lesson of humility, a ground of humiliation, and a
shaming, yet rousing, example of faith and fealty. But let me once
be persuaded that all these heart-awakening utterances of human
hearts--of men of like faculties and passions with myself, mourning,
rejoicing, suffering, triumphing--are but as a Divina Commedia of a
superhuman--O bear with me, if I say--Ventriloquist;--that the royal
harper, to whom I have so often submitted myself as a MANY-STRINGED
INSTRUMENT for his fire-tipt fingers to traverse, while every several
nerve of emotion, passion, thought, that thrids the flesh-and-blood
of our common humanity, responded to the touch,--that this SWEET
PSALMIST OF ISRAEL was himself as mere an instrument as his harp, an
AUTOMATON poet, mourner, and supplicant;--all is gone,--all sympathy,
at least, and all example. I listen in awe and fear, but likewise in
perplexity and confusion of spirit.

Yet one other instance, and let this be the crucial test of the
doctrine. Say that the Book of Job throughout was dictated by an
infallible intelligence. Then re-peruse the book, and still, as you
proceed, try to apply the tenet; try if you can even attach any sense
or semblance of meaning to the speeches which you are reading. What!
were the hollow truisms, the unsufficing half-truths, the false
assumptions and malignant insinuations of the supercilious bigots,
who corruptly defended the truth:- were the impressive facts, the
piercing outcries, the pathetic appeals, and the close and powerful
reasoning with which the poor sufferer--smarting at once from his
wounds, and from the oil of vitriol which the orthodox LIARS FOR GOD
were dropping into them--impatiently, but uprightly and holily,
controverted this truth, while in will and in spirit he clung to it;-
-were both dictated by an infallible intelligence?--Alas! if I may
judge from the manner in which both indiscriminately are recited,
quoted, appealed to, preached upon by the routiniers of desk and
pulpit, I cannot doubt that they think so--or rather, without
thinking, take for granted that so they are to think;--the more
readily, perhaps, because the so thinking supersedes the necessity of
all afterthought. Farewell.


My dear friend,

You reply to the conclusion of my Letter: "What have we to do with
routiniers? Quid mihi cum homunculis putata putide reputantibus?
Let nothings count for nothing, and the dead bury the dead! Who but
such ever understood the tenet in this sense?"

In what sense then, I rejoin, do others understand it? If, with
exception of the passages already excepted, namely, the recorded
words of God--concerning which no Christian can have doubt or
scruple,--the tenet in this sense be inapplicable to the Scripture,
destructive of its noblest purposes, and contradictory to its own
express declarations,--again and again I ask:- What am I to
substitute? What other sense is conceivable that does not destroy
the doctrine which it professes to interpret--that does not convert
it into its own negative? As if a geometrician should name a sugar-
loaf an ellipse, adding--"By which term I here mean a cone;"--and
then justify the misnomer on the pretext that the ellipse is among
the conic sections! And yet--notwithstanding the repugnancy of the
doctrine, in its unqualified sense, to Scripture, Reason, and Common
Sense theoretically, while to all practical uses it is intractable,
unmalleable, and altogether unprofitable--notwithstanding its
irrationality, and in the face of your expostulation, grounded on the
palpableness of its irrationality,--I must still avow my belief that,
however fittingly and unsteadily, as through a mist, it IS the
doctrine which the generality of our popular divines receive as
orthodox, and this the sense which they attach to the words.

For on what other ground can I account for the whimsical
subintelligiturs of our numerous harmonists--for the curiously
inferred facts, the inventive circumstantial detail, the complemental
and supplemental history which, in the utter silence of all
historians and absence of all historical documents, they bring to
light by mere force of logic? And all to do away some half score
apparent discrepancies in the chronicles and memoirs of the Old and
New Testaments--discrepancies so analogous to what is found in all
other narratives of the same story by several narrators--so analogous
to what is found in all other known and trusted histories by
contemporary historians, when they are collated with each other (nay,
not seldom when either historian is compared with himself), as to
form in the eyes of all competent judges a characteristic mark of the
genuineness, independency, and (if I may apply the word to a book),
the veraciousness of each several document; a mark, the absence of
which would warrant a suspicion of collusion, invention, or at best
of servile transcription; discrepancies so trifling in circumstance
and import, that, although in some instances it is highly probable,
and in all instances, perhaps, possible that they are only apparent
and reconcilable, no wise man would care a staw whether they were
real or apparent, reconciled or left in harmless and friendly
variance. What, I ask, could have induced learned and intelligent
divines to adopt or sanction subterfuges, which neutralising the
ordinary criteria of full or defective evidence in historical
documents, would, taken as a general rule, render all collation and
cross-examination of written records ineffective, and obliterate the
main character by which authentic histories are distinguished from
those traditional tales, which each successive reporter enlarges and
fashions to his own fancy and purpose, and every different edition of
which more or less contradicts the other? Allow me to create chasms
ad libitum, and ad libitum to fill them up with imagined facts and
incidents, and I would almost undertake to harmonise Falstaff's
account of the rogues in buckram into a coherent and consistent
narrative. What, I say, could have tempted grave and pious men thus
to disturb the foundation of the Temple, in order to repair a petty
breach or rat-hole in the wall, or fasten a loose stone or two in the
outer court, if not an assumed necessity arising out of the peculiar
character of Bible history?

The substance of the syllogism, by which their procedure was
justified to their own minds, can be no other than this. That,
without which two assertions--both of which MUST be alike true and
correct--would contradict each other, and consequently be, one or
both, false or incorrect, must itself be true. But every word and
syllable existing in the original text of the Canonical Books, from
the Cherethi and Phelethi of David to the name in the copy of a
family register, the site of a town, or the course of a river, were
dictated to the sacred amanuensis by an infallible intelligence.
Here there can be neither more nor less. Important or unimportant
gives no ground of difference; and the number of the writers as
little. The secretaries may have been many--the historian was one
and the same, and he infallible. This is the MINOR of the syllogism,
and if it could be proved, the conclusion would be at least
plausible; and there would be but one objection to the procedure,
namely, its uselessness. For if it had been proved already, what
need of proving it over again, and by means--the removal, namely, of
apparent contradictions--which the infallible Author did not think
good to employ? But if it have not been proved, what becomes of the
argument which derives its whole force and legitimacy from the

In fact, it is clear that the harmonists and their admirers held and
understood the doctrine literally. And must not that divine likewise
have so understood it, who, in answer to a question concerning the
transcendant blessedness of Jael, and the righteousness of the act,
in which she inhospitably, treacherously, perfidiously murdered
sleep, the confiding sleep, closed the controversy by observing that
he wanted no better morality than that of the Bible, and no other
proof of an action's being praiseworthy than that the Bible had
declared it worthy to be praised?--an observation, as applied in this
instance, so slanderous to the morality and moral spirit of the Bible
as to be inexplicable, except as a consequence of the doctrine in
dispute. But let a man be once fully persuaded that there is no
difference between the two positions: "The Bible contains the
religion revealed by God," and "Whatever is contained in the Bible is
religion, and was revealed by God," and that whatever can be said of
the Bible, collectively taken, may and must be said of each and every
sentence of the Bible, taken for and by itself, and I no longer
wonder at these paradoxes. I only object to the inconsistency of
those who profess the same belief, and yet affect to look down with a
contemptuous or compassionate smile on John Wesley for rejecting the
Copernican system as incompatible therewith; or who exclaim
"Wonderful!" when they hear that Sir Matthew Hale sent a crazy old
woman to the gallows in honour of the Witch of Endor. In the latter
instance it might, I admit, have been an erroneous (though even at
this day the all but universally received) interpretation of the
word, which we have rendered by WITCH; but I challenge these divines
and their adherents to establish the compatibility of a belief in the
modern astronomy and natural philosophy with their and Wesley's
doctrine respecting the inspired Scriptures, without reducing the
doctrine itself to a plaything of wax; or rather to a half-inflated
bladder, which, when the contents are rarefied in the heat of
rhetorical generalities, swells out round, and without a crease or
wrinkle; but bring it into the cool temperature of particulars, and
you may press, and as it were except, what part you like--so it be
but one part at a time--between your thumb and finger.

Now, I pray you, which is the more honest, nay, which the more
reverential proceeding--to play at fast and loose in this way, or to
say at once, "See here, in these several writings one and the same
Holy Spirit, now sanctifying a chosen vessel, and fitting it for the
reception of heavenly truths proceeding immediately from the mouth of
God, and elsewhere working in frail and fallible men like ourselves,
and like ourselves instructed by God's word and laws?" The first
Christian martyr had the form and features of an ordinary man, nor
are we taught to believe that these features were miraculously
transfigured into superhuman symmetry; but HE BEING FILLED WITH THE
HAD BEEN THE FACE OF AN ANGEL. Even so has it ever been, and so it
ever will be with all who with humble hearts and a rightly disposed
spirit scan the sacred volume. And they who read it with AN EVIL
HEART OF UNBELIEF and an alien spirit, what boots for them the
assertion that every sentence was miraculously communicated to the
nominal author by God himself? Will it not rather present additional
temptations to the unhappy scoffers, and furnish them with a pretext
of self-justification?

When, in my third letter, I first echoed the question "Why should I
not?" the answers came crowding on my mind. I am well content,
however, to have merely suggested the main points, in proof of the
positive harm which, both historically and spiritually, our religion
sustains from this doctrine. Of minor importance, yet not to be
overlooked, are the forced and fantastic interpretations, the
arbitrary allegories and mystic expansions of proper names, to which
this indiscriminate Bibliolatry furnished fuel, spark, and wind. A
still greater evil, and less attributable to the visionary humour and
weak judgment of the individual expositors, is the literal rendering
of Scripture in passages, which the number and variety of images
employed in different places to express one and the same verity,
plainly mark out for figurative. And lastly, add to all these the
strange--in all other writings unexampled--practice of bringing
together into logical dependency detached sentences from books
composed at the distance of centuries, nay, sometimes a millennium
from each other, under different dispensations, and for different
objects. Accommodations of elder Scriptural phrases--that favourite
ornament and garnish of Jewish eloquence; incidental allusions to
popular notions, traditions, apologues (for example, the dispute
between the Devil and the archangel Michael about the body of Moses,
Jude 9); fancies and anachronisms imported from the synagogue of
Alexandria into Palestine, by or together with the Septuagint
version, and applied as mere argumenta ad homines (for example, the
delivery of the Law by the disposition of angels, Acts vii. 53, Gal.
iii. 19, Heb. ii. 2),--these, detached from their context, and,
contrary to the intention of the sacred writer, first raised into
independent theses, and then brought together to produce or sanction
some new credendum for which neither separately could have furnished
a pretence! By this strange mosaic, Scripture texts have been worked
up into passable likenesses of purgatory, Popery, the Inquisition,
and other monstrous abuses. But would you have a Protestant instance
of the superstitious use of Scripture arising out of this dogma?
Passing by the Cabbala of the Hutchinsonian School as the dotage of a
few weak-minded individuals, I refer you to Bishop Hacket's sermons
on the Incarnation. And if you have read the same author's life of
Archbishop Williams, and have seen and felt (as every reader of this
latter work must see and feel) his talent, learning, acuteness, and
robust good sense, you will have no difficulty in determining the
quality and character of a dogma which could engraft such fruits on
such a tree.

It will perhaps appear a paradox if, after all these reasons, I
should avow that they weigh less in my mind against the doctrine,
than the motives usually assigned for maintaining and enjoining it.
Such, for instance, are the arguments drawn from the anticipated loss
and damage that would result from its abandonment; as that it would
deprive the Christian world of its only infallible arbiter in
questions of faith and duty, suppress the only common and
inappellable tribunal; that the Bible is the only religious bond of
union and ground of unity among Protestants and the like. For the
confutation of this whole reasoning, it might be sufficient to ask:
Has it produced these effects? Would not the contrary statement be
nearer to the fact? What did the Churches of the first four
centuries hold on this point? To what did they attribute the rise
and multiplication of heresies? Can any learned and candid
Protestant affirm that there existed and exists no ground for the
charges of Bossuet and other eminent Romish divines? It is no easy
matter to know how to handle a party maxim, so framed, that with the
exception of a single word, it expresses an important truth, but
which by means of that word is made to convey a most dangerous error.

The Bible is the appointed conservatory, an indispensable criterion,
and a continual source and support of true belief. But that the
Bible is the sole source; that it not only contains, but constitutes,
the Christian Religion; that it is, in short, a Creed, consisting
wholly of articles of Faith; that consequently we need no rule, help,
or guide, spiritual or historical, to teach us what parts are and
what are not articles of Faith--all being such--and the difference
between the Bible and the Creed being this, that the clauses of the
latter are all unconditionally necessary to salvation, but those of
the former conditionally so, that is, as soon as the words are known
to exist in any one of the canonical books; and that, under this
limitation, the belief is of the same necessity in both, and not at
all affected by the greater or lesser importance of the matter to be
believed;--this scheme differs widely from the preceding, though its
adherents often make use of the same words in expressing their
belief. And this latter scheme, I assert, was brought into currency
by and in favour of those by whom the operation of grace, the aids of
the Spirit, the necessity of regeneration, the corruption of our
nature, in short, all the peculiar and spiritual mysteries of the
Gospel were explained and diluted away.

And how have these men treated this very Bible? I, who indeed prize
and reverence this sacred library, as of all outward means and
conservatives of Christian faith and practice the surest and the most
reflective of the inward Word; I, who hold that the Bible contains
the religion of Christians, but who dare not say that whatever is
contained in the Bible is the Christian religion, and who shrink from
all question respecting the comparative worth and efficacy of the
written Word as weighed against the preaching of the Gospel, the
discipline of the Churches, the continued succession of the Ministry,
and the communion of Saints, lest by comparing them I should seem to
detach them; I tremble at the processes which the Grotian divines
without scruple carry on in their treatment of the sacred writers, as
soon as any texts declaring the peculiar tenets of our Faith are
cited against them--even tenets and mysteries which the believer at
his baptism receives as the title-writ and bosom-roll of his
adoption; and which, according to my scheme, every Christian born in
Church-membership ought to bring with him to the study of the sacred
Scriptures as the master-key of interpretation. Whatever the
doctrine of infallible dictation may be in itself, in THEIR hands it
is to the last degree nugatory, and to be paralleled only by the
Romish tenet of Infallibility--in the existence of which all agree,
but where, and in whom, it exists stat adhuc sub lite. Every
sentence found in a canonical Book, rightly interpreted, contains the
dictum of an infallible Mind; but what the right interpretation is--
or whether the very words now extant are corrupt or genuine--must be
determined by the industry and understanding of fallible, and alas!
more or less prejudiced theologians.

And yet I am told that this doctrine must not be resisted or called
in question, because of its fitness to preserve unity of faith, and
for the prevention of schism and sectarian byways! Let the man who
holds this language trace the history of Protestantism, and the
growth of sectarian divisions, ending with Dr. Hawker's ultra-
Calvinistic Tracts, and Mr. Belsham's New Version of the Testament.
And then let him tell me that for the prevention of an evil which
already exists, and which the boasted preventive itself might rather
seem to have occasioned, I must submit to be silenced by the first
learned infidel, who throws in my face the blessing of Deborah, or
the cursings of David, or the Grecisms and heavier difficulties in
the biographical chapters of the Book of Daniel, or the hydrography
and natural philosophy of the Patriarchal ages. I must forego the
means of silencing, and the prospect of convincing, an alienated
brother, because I must not thus answer "My Brother! What has all
this to do with the truth and the worth of Christianity? If you
reject a priori all communion with the Holy Spirit, there is indeed a
chasm between us, over which we cannot even make our voices
intelligible to each other. But if--though but with the faith of a
Seneca or an Antonine--you admit the co-operation of a Divine Spirit
in souls desirous of good, even as the breath of heaven works
variously in each several plant according to its kind, character,
period of growth, and circumstance of soil, clime, and aspect; on
what ground can you assume that its presence is incompatible with all
imperfection in the subject--even with such imperfection as is the
natural accompaniment of the unripe season? If you call your
gardener or husbandman to account for the plants or crops he is
raising, would you not regard the special purpose in each, and judge
of each by that which it was tending to? Thorns are not flowers, nor
is the husk serviceable. But it was not for its thorns, but for its
sweet and medicinal flowers that the rose was cultivated; and he who
cannot separate the husk from the grain, wants the power because
sloth or malice has prevented the will. I demand for the Bible only
the justice which you grant to other books of grave authority, and to
other proved and acknowledged benefactors of mankind. Will you deny
a spirit of wisdom in Lord Bacon, because in particular facts he did
not possess perfect science, or an entire immunity from the positive
errors which result from imperfect insight? A Davy will not so judge
his great predecessor; for he recognises the spirit that is now
working in himself, and which under similar defects of light and
obstacles of error had been his guide and guardian in the morning
twilight of his own genius. Must not the kindly warmth awaken and
vivify the seed, in order that the stem may spring up and rejoice in
the light? As the genial warmth to the informing light, even so is
the predisposing Spirit to the revealing Word."

If I should reason thus--but why do I say IF? I have reasoned thus
with more than one serious and well-disposed sceptic; and what was
the answer?--"YOU speak rationally, but seem to forget the subject.
I have frequently attended meetings of the British and Foreign Bible
Society, where I have heard speakers of every denomination, Calvinist
and Arminian, Quaker and Methodist, Dissenting Ministers and
Clergymen, nay, dignitaries of the Established Church, and still have
I heard the same doctrine--that the Bible was not to be regarded or
reasoned about in the way that other good books are or may be--that
the Bible was different in kind, and stood by itself. By some indeed
this doctrine was rather implied than expressed, but yet evidently
implied. But by far the greater number of the speakers it was
asserted in the strongest and most unqualified words that language
could supply. What is more, their principal arguments were grounded
on the position, that the Bible throughout was dictated by
Omniscience, and therefore in all its parts infallibly true and
obligatory, and that the men whose names are prefixed to the several
books or chapters were in fact but as different pens in the hand of
one and the same Writer, and the words the words of God Himself: and
that on this account all notes and comments were superfluous, nay,
presumptuous--a profane mixing of human with divine, the notions of
fallible creatures with the oracles of Infallibility--as if God's
meaning could be so clearly or fitly expressed in man's as in God's
own words! But how often you yourself must have heard the same
language from the pulpit!"

What could I reply to this? I could neither deny the fact, nor evade
the conclusion--namely, that such is at present the popular belief.
Yes--I at length rejoined--I have heard this language from the
pulpit, and more than once from men who in any other place would
explain it away into something so very different from the literal
sense of their words as closely to resemble the contrary. And this,
indeed, is the peculiar character of the doctrine, that you cannot
diminish or qualify but you reverse it. I have heard this language
from men who knew as well as myself that the best and most orthodox
divines have in effect disclaimed the doctrine, inasmuch as they
confess it cannot be extended to the words of the sacred writers, or
the particular import--that therefore the doctrine does not mean all
that the usual wording of it expresses, though what it does mean, and
why they continue to sanction this hyperbolical wording, I have
sought to learn from them in vain. But let a thousand orators blazon
it at public meetings, and let as many pulpits echo it, surely it
behoves you to inquire whether you cannot be a Christian on your own
faith; and it cannot but be beneath a wise man to be an Infidel on
the score of what other men think fit to include in their

Now suppose--and, believe me, the supposition will vary little from
the fact--that in consequence of these views the sceptic's mind had
gradually opened to the reception of all the truths enumerated in my
first Letter. Suppose that the Scriptures themselves from this time
had continued to rise in his esteem and affection--the better
understood, the more dear; as in the countenance of one, whom through
a cloud of prejudices we have at least learned to love and value
above all others, new beauties dawn on us from day to day, till at
length we wonder how we could at any time have thought it other than
most beautiful. Studying the sacred volume in the light and in the
freedom of a faith already secured, at every fresh meeting my sceptic
friend has to tell me of some new passage, formerly viewed by him as
a dry stick on a rotten branch, which has BUDDED and, like the rod of
Let these results, I say, be supposed--and shall I still be told that
my friend is nevertheless an alien in the household of Faith?
Scrupulously orthodox as I know you to be, will you tell me that I
ought to have left this sceptic as I found him, rather than attempt
his conversion by such means; or that I was deceiving him, when I
said to him:-

"Friend! The truth revealed through Christ has its evidence in
itself, and the proof of its divine authority in its fitness to our
nature and needs; the clearness and cogency of this proof being
proportionate to the degree of self-knowledge in each individual
hearer. Christianity has likewise its historical evidences, and
these as strong as is compatible with the nature of history, and with
the aims and objects of a religious dispensation. And to all these
Christianity itself, as an existing power in the world, and
Christendom as an existing fact, with the no less evident fact of a
progressive expansion, give a force of moral demonstration that
almost supersedes particular testimony. These proofs and evidences
would remain unshaken, even though the sum of our religion were to be
drawn from the theologians of each successive century, on the
principle of receiving that only as divine which should be found in
all--quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus. Be only, my friend!
as orthodox a believer as you would have abundant reason to be,
though from some accident of birth, country, or education, the
precious boon of the Bible, with its additional evidence, had up to
this moment been concealed from you;--and then read its contents with
only the same piety which you freely accord on other occasions to the
writings of men, considered the best and wisest of their several
ages! What you find therein coincident with your pre-established
convictions, you will of course recognise as the Revealed Word,
while, as you read the recorded workings of the Word and the Spirit
in the minds, lives, and hearts of spiritual men, the influence of
the same Spirit on your own being, and the conflicts of grace and
infirmity in your own soul, will enable you to discern and to know in
and by what spirit they spake and acted--as far at least as shall be
needful for you, and in the times of your need.

"Thenceforward, therefore, your doubts will be confined to such parts
or passages of the received Canon as seem to you irreconcilable with
known truths, and at variance with the tests given in the Scriptures
themselves, and as shall continue so to appear after you have
examined each in reference to the circumstances of the writer or
speaker, the dispensation under which he lived, the purpose of the
particular passage, and the intent and object of the Scriptures at
large. Respecting these, decide for yourself: and fear not for the
result. I venture to tell it you beforehand. The result will be, a
confidence in the judgment and fidelity of the compilers of the Canon
increased by the apparent exceptions. For they will be found neither
more nor greater than may well be supposed requisite, on the one
hand, to prevent us from sinking into a habit of slothful,
undiscriminating acquiescence, and on the other to provide a check
against those presumptuous fanatics who would rend the URIM AND
private divination from each letter of each disjointed gem,
uninterpreted by the Priest, and deserted by the Spirit, which shines
in the parts only as it pervades and irradiates the whole."

Such is the language in which I have addressed a halting friend--
halting, yet with his face toward the right path. If I have erred,
enable me to see my error. Correct me, or confirm me. Farewell.


Yes, my dear friend, it is my conviction that in all ordinary cases
the knowledge and belief of the Christian Religion should precede the
study of the Hebrew Canon. Indeed, with regard to both Testaments, I
consider oral and catechismal instruction as the preparative provided
by Christ himself in the establishment of a visible Church. And to
make the Bible, apart from the truths, doctrines, and spiritual
experiences contained therein, the subject of a special article of
faith, I hold an unnecessary and useless abstraction, which in too
many instances has the effect of substituting a barren acquiescence
in the letter for the lively FAITH THAT COMETH BY HEARING; even as
the hearing is productive of this faith, because it is the Word of
God that is heard and preached. (Rom. x. 8, 17.) And here I mean
the written Word preserved in the armoury of the Church to be the
sword of faith OUT OF THE MOUTH of the preacher, as Christ's
ambassador and representative (Rev. i. 16), and out of the heart of
the believer from generation to generation. Who shall dare dissolve
or loosen this holy bond, this divine reciprocality, of Faith and
Scripture? Who shall dare enjoin aught else as an object of saving
faith, beside the truths that appertain to salvation? The imposers
take on themselves a heavy responsibility, however defensible the
opinion itself, as an opinion, may be. For by imposing it, they
counteract their own purposes. They antedate questions, and thus, in
all cases, aggravate the difficulty of answering them satisfactorily.
And not seldom they create difficulties that might never have
occurred. But, worst of all, they convert things trifling or
indifferent into mischievous pretexts for the wanton, fearful
difficulties for the weak, and formidable objections for the
inquiring. For what man FEARING God dares think any the least point
indifferent, which he is required to receive as God's own immediate
Word miraculously infused, miraculously recorded, and by a succession
of miracles preserved unblended and without change?--Through all the
pages of a large and multifold volume, at each successive period, at
every sentence, must the question recur:- "Dare I believe--do I in my
heart believe--these words to have been dictated by an infallible
reason, and the immediate utterance of Almighty God?"--No! It is due
to Christian charity that a question so awful should not be put
unnecessarily, and should not be put out of time. The necessity I
deny. And out of time the question must be put, if after enumerating
the several articles of the Catholic Faith I am bound to add:- "and
further you are to believe with equal faith, as having the same
immediate and miraculous derivation from God, whatever else you shall
hereafter read in any of the sixty-six books collected in the Old and
New Testaments."

I would never say this. Yet let me not be misjudged as if I treated
the Scriptures as a matter of indifference. I would not say this,
but where I saw a desire to believe, and a beginning love of Christ,
I would there say:- "There are likewise sacred writings, which, taken
in connection with the institution and perpetuity of a visible
Church, all believers revere as the most precious boon of God, next
to Christianity itself, and attribute both their communication and
preservation to an especial Providence. In them you will find all
the revealed truths, which have been set forth and offered to you,
clearly and circumstantially recorded; and, in addition to these,
examples of obedience and disobedience both in states and
individuals, the lives and actions of men eminent under each
dispensation, their sentiments, maxims, hymns, and prayers--their
affections, emotions, and conflicts;--in all which you will recognise
the influence of the Holy Spirit, with a conviction increasing with
the growth of your own faith and spiritual experience."



My dear friend,

In my last two Letters I have given the state of the argument as it
would stand between a Christian, thinking as I do, and a serious
well-disposed Deist. I will now endeavour to state the argument, as
between the former and the advocates for the popular belief,--such of
them, I mean, as are competent to deliver a dispassionate judgment in
the cause. And again, more particularly, I mean the learned and
reflecting part of them, who are influenced to the retention of the
prevailing dogma by the supposed consequences of a different view,
and, especially, by their dread of conceding to all alike, simple and
learned, the privilege of picking and choosing the Scriptures that
are to be received as binding on their consciences. Between these
persons and myself the controversy may be reduced to a single

Is it safer for the individual, and more conducive to the interests
of the Church of Christ, in its twofold character of pastoral and
militant, to conclude thus:- The Bible is the Word of God, and
therefore, true, holy, and in all parts unquestionable? Or thus:-
The Bible, considered in reference to its declared ends and purposes,
is true and holy, and for all who seek truth with humble spirits an
unquestionable guide, and therefore it is the Word of God?

In every generation, and wherever the light of Revelation has shone,
men of all ranks, conditions, and states of mind have found in this
volume a correspondent for every movement toward the better, felt in
their own hearts, the needy soul has found supply, the feeble a help,
the sorrowful a comfort; yea, be the recipiency the least that can
consist with moral life, there is an answering grace ready to enter.
The Bible has been found a Spiritual World, spiritual and yet at the
same time outward and common to all. You in one place, I in another,
all men somewhere or at some time, meet with an assurance that the
hopes and fears, the thoughts and yearnings that proceed from, or
tend to, a right spirit in us, are not dreams or fleeting
singularities, no voices heard in sleep, or spectres which the eye
suffers but not perceives. As if on some dark night a pilgrim,
suddenly beholding a bright star moving before him, should stop in
fear and perplexity. But lo! traveller after traveller passes by
him, and each, being questioned whither he is going, makes answer, "I
am following yon guiding star!" The pilgrim quickens his own steps,
and presses onward in confidence. More confident still will he be,
if, by the wayside, he should find, here and there, ancient
monuments, each with its votive lamp, and on each the name of some
former pilgrim, and a record that there he had first seen or begun to
follow the benignant Star!

No otherwise is it with the varied contents of the Sacred Volume.
The hungry have found food, the thirsty a living spring, the feeble a
staff, and the victorious warfarer songs of welcome and strains of
music; and as long as each man asks on account of his wants, and asks
what he wants, no man will discover aught amiss or deficient in the
vast and many-chambered storehouse. But if, instead of this, an
idler or scoffer should wander through the rooms, peering and
peeping, and either detects, or fancies he has detected, here a
rusted sword or pointless shaft, there a tool of rude construction,
and superseded by later improvements (and preserved, perhaps, to make
us more grateful for them);--which of two things will a sober-minded
man,--who, from his childhood upward had been fed, clothed, armed,
and furnished with the means of instruction from this very magazine,-
-think the fitter plan? Will he insist that the rust is not rust, or
that it is a rust sui generis, intentionally formed on the steel for
some mysterious virtue in it, and that the staff and astrolabe of a
shepherd-astronomer are identical with, or equivalent to, the
quadrant and telescope of Newton or Herschel? Or will he not rather
give the curious inquisitor joy of his mighty discoveries, and the
credit of them for his reward?

Or lastly, put the matter thus: For more than a thousand years the
Bible, collectively taken, has gone hand in hand with civilisation,
science, law--in short, with the moral and intellectual cultivation
of the species, always supporting, and often leading, the way. Its
very presence, as a believed Book, has rendered the nations
emphatically a chosen race, and this too in exact proportion as it is
more or less generally known and studied. Of those nations which in
the highest degree enjoy its influences it is not too much to affirm,
that the differences, public and private, physical, moral and
intellectual, are only less than what might be expected from a
diversity in species. Good and holy men, and the best and wisest of
mankind, the kingly spirits of history, enthroned in the hearts of
mighty nations, have borne witness to its influences, have declared
it to be beyond compare the most perfect instrument, the only
adequate organ, of Humanity; the organ and instrument of all the
gifts, powers, and tendencies, by which the individual is privileged
to rise above himself--to leave behind, and lose his individual
phantom self, in order to find his true self in that Distinctness
where no division can be--in the Eternal I AM, the Ever-living WORD,
of whom all the elect from the archangel before time throne to the
poor wrestler with the Spirit UNTIL THE BREAKING OF DAY are but the
fainter and still fainter echoes. And are all these testimonies and
lights of experience to lose their value and efficiency because I
feel no warrant of history, or Holy Writ, or of my own heart for
denying, that in the framework and outward case of this instrument a
few parts may be discovered of less costly materials and of meaner
workmanship? Is it not a fact that the Books of the New Testament
were tried by their consonance with the rule, and according to the
analogy, of faith? Does not the universally admitted canon--that
each part of Scripture must be interpreted by the spirit of the
whole--lead to the same practical conclusion as that for which I am
now contending--namely, that it is the spirit of the Bible, and not
the detached words and sentences, that is infallible and absolute?
Practical, I say, and spiritual too; and what knowledge not practical
or spiritual are we entitled to seek in our Bibles? Is the grace of
God so confined--are the evidences of the present and actuating
Spirit so dim and doubtful--that to be assured of the same we must
first take for granted that all the life and co-agency of our
humanity is miraculously suspended?

Whatever is spiritual, is eo nomine supernatural; but must it be
always and of necessity miraculous? Miracles could open the eyes of
the body; and he that was born blind beheld his Redeemer. But
miracles, even those of the Redeemer himself, could not open the eyes
of the self-blinded, of the Sadducean sensualist, or the self-
righteous Pharisee--while to have said, I SAW THEE UNDER THE FIG-
TREE, sufficed to make a Nathanael believe.

To assert and to demand miracles without necessity was the vice of
the unbelieving Jews of old; and from the Rabbis and Talmudists the
infection has spread. And would I could say that the symptoms of the
disease are confined to the Churches of the Apostasy! But all the
miracles, which the legends of Monk or Rabbi contain, can scarcely be
put in competition, on the score of complication, inexplicableness,
the absence of all intelligible use or purpose, and of circuitous
self-frustration, with those that must be assumed by the maintainers
of this doctrine, in order to give effect to the series of miracles,
by which all the nominal composers of the Hebrew nation before the
time of Ezra, of whom there are any remains, were successively
transformed into AUTOMATON compositors--so that the original text
should be in sentiment, image, word, syntax, and composition an exact
impression of the divine copy! In common consistency the
theologians, who impose this belief on their fellow Christians, ought
to insist equally on the superhuman origin and authority of the
Masora, and to use more respectful terms, than has been their wont of
late, in speaking of the false Aristeas's legend concerning the
Septuagint. And why the miracle should stop at the Greek Version,
and not include the Vulgate, I can discover no ground in reason. Or
if it be an objection to the latter, that this belief is actually
enjoined by the Papal Church, yet the number of Christians who road
the Lutheran, the Genevan, or our own authorised, Bible, and are
ignorant of the dead languages, greatly exceeds the number of those
who have access to the Septuagint. Why refuse the writ of
consecration to these, or to the one at least appointed by the
assertors' own Church? I find much more consistency in the
opposition made under pretext of this doctrine to the proposals and
publications of Kennicot, Mill, Bentley, and Archbishop Newcome.

But I am weary of discussing a tenet which the generality of divines
and the leaders of the religious public have ceased to defend, and
yet continue to assert or imply. The tendency manifested in this
conduct, the spirit of this and the preceding century, on which, not
indeed the tenet itself, but the obstinate adherence to it against
the clearest light of reason and experience, is grounded--this it is
which, according to my conviction, gives the venom to the error, and
justifies the attempt to substitute a juster view. As long as it was
the common and effective belief of all the Reformed Churches (and by
none was it more sedulously or more emphatically enjoined than by the
great Reformers of our Church), that by the good Spirit were the
spirits tried, and that the light, which beams forth from the written
Word, was its own evidence for the children of light; as long as
Christians considered their Bible as a plenteous entertainment, where
every guest, duly called and attired, found the food needful and
fitting for him, and where each--instead of troubling himself about
the covers not within his reach--beholding all around him glad and
satisfied, praised the banquet and thankfully glorified the Master of
the feast--so long did the tenet--that the Scriptures were written
under the special impulse of the Holy Ghost remain safe and
profitable. Nay, in the sense, and with the feelings, in which it
was asserted, it was a truth--a truth to which every spiritual
believer now and in all times will bear witness by virtue of his own
experience. And if in the overflow of love and gratitude they
confounded the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, working alike
in weakness and in strength, in the morning mists and in the
clearness of the full day; if they confounded this communion and co-
agency of divine grace, attributable to the Scripture generally, with
those express, and expressly recorded, communications and messages of
the Most High which form so large and prominent a portion of the same
Scriptures; if, in short, they did not always duly distinguish the
inspiration, the imbreathment, of the predisposing and assisting
SPIRIT from the revelation of the informing WORD, it was at worst a
harmless hyperbole. It was holden by all, that if the power of the
Spirit from without furnished the text, the grace of the same Spirit
from within must supply the comment.

In the sacred Volume they saw and reverenced the bounden wheat-sheaf
that STOOD UPRIGHT and had OBEISANCE from all the other sheaves (the
writings, I mean, of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church), sheaves
depreciated indeed, more or less, with tares,

"and furrow-weeds,
Darnel and many an idle flower that grew
Mid the sustaining corn;"

yet sheaves of the same harvest, the sheaves of brethren! Nor did it
occur to them, that, in yielding the more full and absolute honour to
the sheaf of the highly favoured of their Father, they should be
supposed to attribute the same worth and quality to the straw-bands
which held it together. The bread of life was there. And this in an
especial sense was BREAD FROM HEAVEN; for no where had the same been
found wild; no soil or climate dared claim it for its natural growth.
In simplicity of heart they received the Bible as the precious gift
of God, providential alike in origin, preservation, and distribution,
without asking the nice question whether all and every part were
likewise miraculous. The distinction between the providential and
the miraculous, between the Divine Will working with the agency of
natural causes, and the same Will supplying their place by a special
fiat--this distinction has, I doubt not, many uses in speculative
divinity. But its weightiest practical application is shown, when it
is employed to free the souls of the unwary and weak in faith from
the nets and snares, the insidious queries and captious objections,
of the Infidel by calming the flutter of their spirits. They must be
quieted, before we can commence the means necessary for their
disentanglement. And in no way can this be better effected than when
the frightened captives are made to see in how many points the
disentangling itself is a work of expedience rather than of
necessity; so easily and at so little loss might the web be cut or
brushed away.

First, let their attention be fixed on the history of Christianity as
learnt from universal tradition, and the writers of each successive
generation. Draw their minds to the fact of the progressive and
still continuing fulfilment of the assurance of a few fishermen, that
both their own religion, though of Divine origin, and the religion of
their conquerors, which included or recognised all other religious of
the known world, should be superseded by the faith in a man recently
and ignominiously executed. Then induce them to meditate on the
universals of Christian Faith--on Christianity taken as the sum of
belief common to Greek and Latin, to Romanist and Protestant. Show
them that this and only this is the ordo traditionis, quam
tradiderunt Apostoli iis quibus committebant ecclesias, and which we
should have been bound to follow, says Irenaeus, si neque Apostoli
quidem Scripturas reliquissent. This is that regula fidei, that
sacramentum symboli memoriae mandatum, of which St. Augustine says:-
noveritis hoc esse Fidei Catholicae fundamentum super quod edificium
surrexit Ecclesiae. This is the norma Catholici et Ecclesiastici
sensus, determined and explicated, but not augmented, by the Nicene
Fathers, as Waterland has irrefragably shown; a norm or model of
Faith grounded on the solemn affirmations of the Bishops collected
from all parts of the Roman Empire, that this was the essential and
unalterable Gospel received by them from their predecessors in all
the churches as the [Greek text which cannot be reproduced] cui, says
Irenaeus, assentiunt multae gentes eorum qui in Christum credunt sine
charta et atramento, scriptam habentes per Spiritum in cordibus suis
salutem, et veterum traditionem diligenter custodientes. Let the
attention of such as have been shaken by the assaults of infidelity
be thus directed, and then tell me wherein a spiritual physician
would be blameworthy, if he carried on the cure by addressing his
patient in this manner:-

"All men of learning, even learned unbelievers, admit that the
greater part of the objections, urged in the popular works of
infidelity, to this or that verse or chapter of the Bible, prove only
the ignorance or dishonesty of the objectors. But let it be supposed
for a moment that a few remain hitherto unanswered--nay, that to your
judgment and feelings they appear unanswerable. What follows? That
the Apostles' and Nicene Creed is not credible, the Ten Commandments
not to be obeyed, the clauses of the Lord's Prayer not to be desired,
or the Sermon on the Mount not to be practised? See how the logic
would look. David cruelly tortured the inhabitants of Rabbah (2 Sam.
xii. 31; 1 Chron. xx. 3), and in several of the Psalms he invokes the
bitterest curses on his enemies: therefore it is not to be believed
iv. 9). Or, Abijah is said to have collected an army of 400,000 men,
and Jeroboam to have met him with an army of 800,000 men, each army
consisting of chosen men (2 Chron. xiii. 3), and making together a
host of 1,200,000, and Abijah to have slain 500,000 out of the
800,000: therefore, the words which admonish us that IF GOD SO LOVED
US, WE OUGHT ALSO TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER (1 John iv. 11), even our
enemies, yea, TO BLESS THEM THAT CURSE us, and to DO GOOD TO THEM
THAT HATE us (Matt. v. 44), cannot proceed from the Holy Spirit. Or:
The first six chapters of the book of Daniel contain several words
and phrases irreconcilable with the commonly received dates, and
those chapters and the Book of Esther have a traditional and
legendary character unlike that of the other historical books of the
Old Testament; therefore those other books, by contrast with which
the former appear suspicious, and the historical document (1 Cor. xv.
1-8), are not to be credited!"

We assuredly believe that the Bible contains all truths necessary to
salvation, and that therein is preserved the undoubted Word of God.
We assert likewise that, besides these express oracles and immediate
revelations, there are Scriptures which to the soul and conscience of
every Christian man bear irresistible evidence of the Divine Spirit
assisting and actuating the authors; and that both these and the
former are such as to render it morally impossible that any passage
of the small inconsiderable portion, not included in one or other of
these, can supply either ground or occasion of any error in faith,
practice, or affection, except to those who wickedly and wilfully
seek a pretext for their unbelief. And if in that small portion of
the Bible which stands in no necessary connection with the known and
especial ends and purposes of the Scriptures, there should be a few
apparent errors resulting from the state of knowledge then existing--
errors which the best and holiest men might entertain uninjured, and
which without a miracle those men must have entertained; if I find no
such miraculous prevention asserted, and see no reason for supposing
it--may I not, to ease the scruples of a perplexed inquirer, venture
to say to him; "Be it so. What then? The absolute infallibility
even of the inspired writers in matters altogether incidental and
foreign to the objects and purposes of their inspiration is no part
of my creed: and even if a professed divine should follow the
doctrine of the Jewish Church so far as not to attribute to the
Hagiographa, in every word and sentence, the same height and fulness
of inspiration as to the Law and the Prophets, I feel no warrant to
brand him as a heretic for an opinion, the admission of which disarms
the infidel without endangering a single article of the Catholic
Faith."--If to an unlearned but earnest and thoughtful neighbour I
give the advice;--"Use the Old Testament to express the affections
excited, and to confirm the faith and morals taught you, in the New,
and leave all the rest to the students and professors of theology and
Church history! You profess only to be a Christian:"--am I
misleading my brother in Christ?

This I believe by my own dear experience--that the more tranquilly an
inquirer takes up the Bible as he would any other body of ancient
writings, the livelier and steadier will be his impressions of its
superiority to all other books, till at length all other books and
all other knowledge will be valuable in his eyes in proportion as
they help him to a better understanding of his Bible. Difficulty
after difficulty has been overcome from the time that I began to
study the Scriptures with free and unboding spirit, under the
conviction that my faith in the Incarnate Word and His Gospel was
secure, whatever the result might be;--the difficulties that still
remain being so few and insignificant in my own estimation, that I
have less personal interest in the question than many of those who
will most dogmatically condemn me for presuming to make a question of

So much for scholars--for men of like education and pursuits as
myself. With respect to Christians generally, I object to the
consequence drawn from the doctrine rather than to the doctrine
itself;--a consequence not only deducible from the premises, but
actually and imperiously deduced; according to which every man that
can but read is to sit down to the consecutive and connected perusal
of the Bible under the expectation and assurance that the whole is
within his comprehension, and that, unaided by note or comment,
catechism or liturgical preparation, he is to find out for himself
what he is bound to believe and practise, and that whatever he
conscientiously understands by what he reads is to be HIS religion.
For he has found it in his Bible, and the Bible is the Religion of

Would I then withhold the Bible from the cottager and the artisan?--
Heaven forfend! The fairest flower that ever clomb up a cottage
window is not so fair a sight to my eyes as the Bible gleaming
through the lower panes. Let it but be read as by such men it used
to be read; when they came to it as to a ground covered with manna,
even the bread which the Lord had given for his people to eat; where
he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little
had no lack. They gathered every man according to his eating. They
came to it as to a treasure-house of Scriptures; each visitant taking
what was precious and leaving as precious for others;--Yea, more,
says our worthy old Church-historian, Fuller, where "the same man at
several times may in his apprehension prefer several Scriptures as
best, formerly most affected with one place, for the present more
delighted with another, and afterwards, conceiving comfort therein
not so clear, choose other places as more pregnant and pertinent to
his purpose. Thus God orders it, that divers men (and perhaps the
same man at divers times), make use of all His gifts, gleaning and
gathering comfort as it is scattered through the whole field of the
Scripture." Farewell.


You are now, my dear friend, in possession of my whole mind on this
point--one thing only excepted which has weighed with me more than
all the rest, and which I have therefore reserved for my concluding
letter. This is the impelling principle or way of thinking, which I
have in most instances noticed in the assertors of what I have
ventured to call Bibliolatry, and which I believe to be the main
ground of its prevalence at this time, and among men whose religious
views are anything rather than enthusiastic. And I here take
occasion to declare, that my conviction of the danger and injury of
this principle was and is my chief motive for bringing the doctrine
itself into question; the main error of which consists in the
confounding of two distinct conceptions--revelation by the Eternal
Word, and actuation of the Holy Spirit. The former indeed is not
always or necessarily united with the latter--the prophecy of Balaam
is an instance of the contrary,--but yet being ordinarily, and only
not always, so united, the term, "Inspiration," has acquired a double

First, the term is used in the sense of Information miraculously
communicated by voice or vision; and secondly, where without any
sensible addition or infusion, the writer or speaker uses and applies
his existing gifts of power and knowledge under the predisposing,
aiding, and directing actuation of God's Holy Spirit. Now, between
the first sense, that is, inspired revelation, and the highest degree
of that grace and communion with the Spirit which the Church under
all circumstances, and every regenerate member of the Church of
Christ, is permitted to hope and instructed to pray for, there is a
positive difference of kind--a chasm, the pretended overleaping of
which constitutes imposture, or betrays insanity. Of the first kind
are the Law and the Prophets, no jot or tittle of which can pass
unfulfilled, and the substance and last interpretation of which
passes not away; for they wrote of Christ, and shadowed out the
everlasting Gospel. But with regard to the second, neither the holy
writers--the so-called Hagiographi--themselves, nor any fair
interpretations of Scripture, assert any such absolute diversity, or
enjoin the belief of any greater difference of degree, than the
experience of the Christian World, grounded on and growing with the
comparison of these Scriptures with other works holden in honour by
the Churches, has established. And THIS difference I admit, and
doubt not that it has in every generation been rendered evident to as
many as read these Scriptures under the gracious influence of the
spirit in which they were written.

But alas! this is not sufficient; this cannot but be vague and
unsufficing to those with whom the Christian religion is wholly
objective, to the exclusion of all its correspondent subjective. It
must appear vague, I say, to those whose Christianity as matter of
belief is wholly external, and like the objects of sense, common to
all alike; altogether historical, an opus operatum--its existing and
present operancy in no respect differing from any other fact of
history, and not at all modified by the supernatural principle in
which it had its origin in time. Divines of this persuasion are
actually, though without their own knowledge, in a state not
dissimilar to that into which the Latin Church sank deeper amid
deeper from the sixth to the fourteenth century; during which time
religion was likewise merely objective and superstitious--a letter
proudly emblazoned and illuminated, but yet a dead letter that was to
be read by its own outward glories without the light of the Spirit in
the mind of the believer. The consequence was too glaring not to be
anticipated, and, if possible, prevented. Without that spirit in
each true believer, whereby we know the spirit of truth and the
spirit of error in all things appertaining to salvation, the
consequence must be--so many men, so many minds! And what was the
antidote which the Priests and Rabbis of this purely objective Faith
opposed to this peril? Why, an objective, outward Infallibility,
concerning which, however, the differences were scarcely less or
fewer than those which it was to heal; an Infallibility which taken
literally and unqualified, became the source of perplexity to the
well-disposed, of unbelief to the wavering, and of scoff and triumph
to the common enemy, and which was, therefore, to be qualified and
limited, and then it meant so munch and so little that to men of
plain understandings and single hearts it meant nothing at all. It
resided here. No! there. No! but in a third subject. Nay! neither
here, nor there, nor in the third, but in all three conjointly!

But even this failed to satisfy; and what was the final resource--the
doctrine of those who would not be called a Protestant Church, but in
which doctrine the Fathers of Protestantism in England would have
found little other fault, than that it might be affirmed as truly of
the decisions of any other bishop as of the Bishop of Rome? The
final resource was to restore what ought never to have been removed--
the correspondent subjective, that is, the assent and confirmation of
the Spirit promised to all true believers, as proved and manifested
in the reception of such decision by the Church Universal in all its
rightful members.

I comprise and conclude the sum of my conviction in this one
sentence. Revealed religion (and I know of no religion not revealed)
is in its highest contemplation the unity, that is, the identity or
co-inherence, of subjective and objective. It is in itself, and
irrelatively at once inward life and truth, and outward fact and
luminary. But as all power manifests itself in the harmony of
correspondent opposites, each supposing and supporting the other; so
has religion its objective, or historic and ecclesiastical pole and
its subjective, or spiritual and individual pole. In the miracles
and miraculous parts of religion--both in the first communication of
Divine truths, and in the promulgation of the truths thus
communicated--we have the union of the two, that is, the subjective
and supernatural displayed objectively--outwardly and phenomenally--
AS subjective and supernatural.

Lastly, in the Scriptures, as far as they are not included in the
above as miracles, and in the mind of the believing and regenerate
reader and meditater, there is proved to us the reciprocity or
reciprocation of the spirit as subjective and objective, which in
conformity with the scheme proposed by me, in aid of distinct
conception and easy recollection, I have named the Indifference.
What I mean by this, a familiar acquaintance with the more popular
parts of Luther's works, especially his "Commentaries," and the
delightful volume of his "Table Talk," would interpret for me better
than I can do for myself. But I do my best, when I say that no
Christian probationer, who is earnestly working out his salvation,
and experiences the conflict of the spirit with the evil and the
infirmity within him and around him, can find his own state brought
before him, and, as it were, antedated, in writings reverend even for
their antiquity and enduring permanence, and far more and more
abundantly consecrated by the reverence, love, and grateful
testimonies of good men, through the long succession of ages, in
every generation, and under all states of minds and circumstances of
fortune, that no man, I say, can recognise his own inward experiences
in such writings, and not find an objectiveness, a confirming and
assuring outwardness, and all the main characters of reality
reflected therefrom on the spirit, working in himself and in his own
thoughts, emotions, and aspirations, warring against sin and the
motions of sin. The unsubstantial, insulated self passes away as a
stream; but these are the shadows and reflections of the Rock of
Ages, and of the Tree of Life that starts forth from its side.

On the other hand, as much of reality, as much of objective truth, as
the Scriptures communicate to the subjective experiences of the
believer, so much of present life, of living and effective import, do
these experiences give to the letter of these Scriptures. In the one
received the SPIRIT OF ADOPTION; in the other our spirit bears
witness to the power of the Word, that it is indeed the Spirit that
proceedeth from God. If in the holy men thus actuated all
imperfection of knowledge, all participation in the mistakes and
limits of their several ages had been excluded, how could these
writings be or become the history and example, the echo and more
lustrous image of the work and warfare of the sanctifying principle
in us? If after all this, and in spite of all this, some captious
litigator should lay hold of a text here or there--St. Paul's CLOAK
LEFT AT TROAS WITH CARPUS, or a verse from the Canticles, and ask,
"Of what spiritual use is this?"--the answer is ready:- It proves to
us that nothing can be so trifling, as not to supply an evil heart
with a pretext for unbelief.

Archbishop Leighton has observed that the Church has its extensive
and intensive states, and that they seldom fall together. Certain it
is, that since kings have been her nursing fathers, and queens her
nursing mothers, our theologians seem to act in the spirit of fear
rather than in that of faith; and too often, instead of inquiring
after the truth in the confidence that whatever is truth must be
fruitful of good to all who ARE IN HIM THAT IS TRUE, they seek with
perverse and distempered minds may pretend, whose whole Christianity-
-do what we will--is and will remain nothing but a pretence.

You have now my entire mind on this momentous question, the grounds
on which it rests, and the motives which induce me to make it known;
and I now conclude by repeating my request: Correct me, or confirm



Faith may be defined as fidelity to our own being, so far as such
being is not and cannot become an object of the senses; and hence, by
clear inference or implication to being generally, as far as the same
is not the object of the senses; and again to whatever is affirmed or
understood as the condition, or concomitant, or consequence of the
same. This will be best explained by an instance or example. That I
am conscious of something within me peremptorily commanding me to do
unto others as I would they should do unto me; in other words a
categorical (that is, primary and unconditional) imperative; that the
maxim (regula maxima, or supreme rule) of my actions, both inward and
outward, should be such as I could, without any contradiction arising
therefrom, will to be the law of all moral and rational beings.
This, I say, is a fact of which I am no less conscious (though in a
different way), nor less assured, than I am of any appearance
presented by my outward senses. Nor is this all; but in the very act
of being conscious of this in my own nature, I know that it is a fact
of which all men either are or ought to be conscious; a fact, the
ignorance of which constitutes either the non-personality of the
ignorant, or the guilt; in which latter case the ignorance is
equivalent to knowledge wilfully darkened. I know that I possess
this knowledge as a man, and not as Samuel Taylor Coleridge; hence,
knowing that consciousness of this fact is the root of all other
consciousness, and the only practical contradistinction of man from
the brutes, we name it the conscience, by the natural absence or
presumed presence of which the law, both Divine and human, determines
whether X Y Z be a thing or a person; the conscience being that which
never to have had places the objects in the same order of things as
the brutes, for example, idiots, and to have lost which implies
either insanity or apostasy. Well, this we have affirmed is a fact
of which every honest man is as fully assured as of his seeing,
hearing, or smelling. But though the former assurance does not
differ from the latter in the degree, it is altogether diverse in the
kind; the senses being morally passive, while the conscience is
essentially connected with the will, though not always, nor indeed in
any case, except after frequent attempts and aversions of will
dependent on the choice. Thence we call the presentations of the
senses impressions, those of the conscience commands or dictates. In
the senses we find our receptivity, and as far as our personal being
is concerned, we are passive, but in the fact of the conscience we
are not only agents, but it is by this alone that we know ourselves
to be such--nay, that our very passiveness in this latter is an act
of passiveness, and that we are patient (patientes), not, as in the
other case, SIMPLY passive.

The result is the consciousness of responsibility, and the proof is
afforded by the inward experience of the diversity between regret and

If I have sound ears, and my companion speaks to me with a due
proportion of voice, I may persuade him that I did not hear, but
cannot deceive myself. But when my conscience speaks to me, I can by
repeated efforts render myself finally insensible; to which add this
other difference, namely, that to make myself deaf is one and the
same thing with making my conscience dumb, till at length I became
unconscious of my conscience. Frequent are the instances in which it
is suspended, and, as it were, drowned in the inundation of the
appetites, passions, and imaginations to which I have resigned
myself, making use of my will in order to abandon my free-will; and
there are not, I fear, examples wanting of the conscience being
utterly destroyed, or of the passage of wickedness into madness; that
species of madness, namely, in which the reason is lost. For so long
as the reason continues, so long must the conscience exist, either as
a good conscience or as a bad conscience.

It appears, then, that even the very first step--that the initiation
of the process, the becoming conscious of a conscience--partakes of
the nature of an act. It is an act in and by which we take upon
ourselves an allegiance, and consequently the obligation of fealty;
and this fealty or fidelity implying the power of being unfaithful,
it is the first and fundamental sense of faith. It is likewise the
commencement of experience, and the result of all other experience.
In other words, conscience in this its simplest form, must be
supposed in order to consciousness, that is, to human consciousness.
Brutes may be and are scions, but those beings only who have an I,
scire possunt hoc vel illud una cum seipsis; that is, conscire vel
scire aliquid mecum, or to know a thing in relation to myself, and in
the act of knowing myself as acted upon by that something.

Now the third person could never have been distinguished from the
first but by means of the second. There can be no He without a
previous Thou. Much less could an I exist for us except as it exists
during the suspension of the will, as in dreams; and the nature of
brutes may be best understood by considering them as somnambulists.
This is a deep meditation, though the position is capable of the
strictest proof, namely, that there can be no I without a Thou, and
that a Thou is only possible by an equation in which I is taken as
equal to Thou, and yet not the same. And this, again, is only
possible by putting them in opposition as correspondent opposites, or
correlatives. In order to this, a something must be affirmed in the
one which is rejected in the other, and this something is the will.
I do not will to consider myself as equal to myself, for in the very
act of constructing myself _I_, I take it as the same, and therefore
as incapable of comparison, that is, of any application of the will.
If, then, I MINUS the will be the THESIS, Thou, PLUS will, must be
the ANTITHESIS, but the equation of Thou with I, by means of a free
act, negativing the sameness in order to establish the equality, is
the true definition of conscience. But as without a Thou there can
be no You, so without a You no They, These, or Those; and as all
these conjointly form the materials and subjects of consciousness and
the conditions of experience, it is evident that conscience is the
root of all consciousness--a fortiori, the precondition of all
experience--and that the conscience cannot have been in its first
revelation deduced from experience.

Soon, however, experience comes into play. We learn that there are
other impulses beside the dictates of conscience, that there are
powers within us and without us ready to usurp the throne of
conscience, and busy in tempting us to transfer our allegiance. We
learn that there are many things contrary to conscience, and
therefore to be rejected and utterly excluded, and many that can
coexist with its supremacy only by being subjugated as beasts of
burthen; and others again, as for instance the social tendernesses
and affections, and the faculties and excitations of the intellect,
which must be at least subordinated. The preservation of our loyalty
and fealty under these trials, and against these rivals, constitutes
the second sense of faith; and we shall need but one more point of
view to complete its full import. This is the consideration of what
is presupposed in the human conscience. The answer is ready. As in
the equation of the correlative I and Thou, one of the twin
constituents is to be taken as PLUS will, the other as MINUS will, so
is it here; and it is obvious that the reason or SUPER-individual of
each man, whereby he is a man, is the factor we are to take as MINUS
will, and that the individual will or personalising principle of free
agency ("arbitrement" is Milton's word) is the factor marked PLUS
will; and again, that as the identity or co-inherence of the absolute
will and the reason, is the peculiar character of God, so is the
SYNTHESIS of the individual will and the common reason, by the
subordination of the former to the latter, the only possible likeness
or image of the PROTHESIS or identity, and therefore the required
proper character of man. Conscience, then, is a witness respecting
the identity of the will and the reason, effected by the self-
subordination of the will or self to the reason, as equal to or
representing the will of God. But the personal will is a factor in
other moral SYNTHESIS, for example, appetite PLUS personal will =

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