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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

Flotsam and Jetsam. — Reminiscences of Argumentative Conversations held at sundry times between James Auldlicht and John Dubious, mostly regarding things spiritual. Written and collated by me the aforesaid John Dubious. — Chapter IV

Flotsam and Jetsam.

Reminiscences of Argumentative Conversations held at sundry times between James Auldlicht and John Dubious, mostly regarding things spiritual. Written and collated by me the aforesaid John Dubious.

Chapter IV.

Private Interpretation—Edinburgh Encyclopedia unanswerable—Stupendous Panic in the Tenth Century over the Universal Annihilation Doctrine.

John.—As the subject of prayer is, however, diverging from our present rgument, we will, if you please, Mr. Auldlicht, defer it for a future occasion.

page 279

James.—As ye like, John; but I maun tell ye this, an' weel wad it be for ye, as I tauld ye afore, if ye wad follow my example in prayin' for grace frae day to day. Does na' my fallen and corrupt natur', always prone to sin, require me to pray for forgievness thro' the atonin' bluid o' our Saviour?

John.—Pause there, friend James: you have started two fresh themes Our corrupt and fallen nature, and a vicarious atonement, which, with prayer, will make three points for future discussion. In the meantime you will please return to the point at issue.

James.—Before we gang ony farther wi' this argument, John, I wad hae ye maist deestinctly to understan' this,—that altho' I listen to ye, it only gangs in at the ane lug an' oot at the ither, for I hae the authority o' Peter in sayin', "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation" (2 i. 20). Moreover, does na' Peter also assign the reason o' that assertion, or raither, as I think, gangs intil a further an' fuller explanation o' what he had said, "For the prophecy cam' na' in auld time by the will o' man (that is, ye'll observe, John, it was na' o' human invention,—it did na' express the conjectures o' men), but holy men o' God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." Noo, by what authority can ye interpret for yersel' contrair' to the received opinions o' holy men wha hae flourished durin' the last auchteen hundred years? Men of God wha were content wi' the passages o' Scriptur' as they fand them, an' forbye that, did na' want to forge new links i' the chain o' ony prophecy, nor yet———

John.—One moment, please, Mr. Auldlicht, before you get lost in the mists of ages. Allowing the fact (whatever my private opinion may be) that the Bible was written by men inspired of God to write it, is there any just reason why it should not be of private interpretation? Does the circumstance that God gave them the thoughts—that he even suggested to them the words in which they should clothe them—render the production so unintelligible, or so equivocal in its meaning, that a private individual cannot be trusted to read it? This would be tantamount to saying that God cannot make himself understood as men can!

James.—Ye'll observe this, hooever, that Peter restricts us only in the matter o' prophecy.

John.—In other words, you mean this,—the prophecies are especially inspired vaticinations, therefore too obscure and ambiguous to be of private interpretation! Inspired, therefore unintelligible! It is a wonder you do not affirm that this identical verse itself (2 Peter i. 20) is not to be subjected to private interpretation!

James.—Noo, John, I just want ye to listen to the followin' extract frae the article "Christianity," in the Edinburgh Encyclopedia. "Whatever is dictated to us by God himself, or by men who are divinely inspired, must be believed with full assurance. Reason demands us to believe whatever divine Revelation dictates, for God is perfectly wise, and cannot be deceived. He is faithful and good, and will not deceive his creatures. When Reason has found out the certain marks or credentials of divine authority, which belong to any proposition, there remains no further inquiry to be made. God can dictate nothing but what is worthy of himself, and agreeable to his own nature and divine perfections." I'm thinkin', freend John, ye'll find that vera kittle to be ans'ered.

John.—It may seem unanswerable to you, but did the early Christians "find out the certain marks or credentials of divine authority," which belonged to the proposition, that the last day was at hand? They evidently considered there was no further inquiry to be made when they preached the immediate Destruction of the World in Judea and other eastern countries in the first centuries of Christianity, when men by thousands became converts to it from fear. The Christians also of the tenth century evidently considered there was no further inquiry to be made regarding the doctrine which created such a panic in their day. Mr. Waddington, a writer who cannot for a moment be supposed adverse to the interests of Christianity, in his History page 280 of the Church, speaking of an occurrence which took place only 911 years ago, or nearly a thousand years after Christ, says that "a very wild and extraordinary delusion arose and spread itself, and at length so far prevailed as not only to subdue the reason, but to actuate the conduct of vast multitudes. About the year 960, one Bernhard, a hermit of Thesingia, boldly promulgated (on the faith of a particular revelation from God) the certain assurance that at the end of the thousandth year mentioned in the Book of Revelation (xx. 2, 3), the fetters of Satan should be broken, and after the reign of Antichrist should be terminated, the world should be consumed with a sudden conflagration. The clergy, without delay, adopted the doctrine; the pulpits loudly resounded with it; it was diffused in every direction with astonishing rapidity, and embraced with an ardour proportioned to the obscurity of the subject and the greediness of human credulity. The belief pervaded every tank, not as a cold and indifferent assent, but as a motive for the most important undertakings. Many, among whom were bishops, nobles and princes, abandoned their friends and their families, and hastened to the shores of Palestine, with the pious persuasion that Mount Sion would be the throne of Christ when he should descend to judge the world; and these, in order to æoure a more partial sentence from the God of Mercy and Charity, usually nade over their property, before they departed, to some adjacent Church or Nonastery. Others, whose pecuniary means were thought, perhaps, insuffcient to bribe the justice of heaven, devoted their personal service to the same establishments, and resigned their very liberty to those holy mediators, whose pleadings, they doubted not, would find favour at the eternal judgment-eat. Others permitted their lands to lie waste and their houses to decay, or terrified by some unusual phenomenon in the heavens, betook themselves in lasty flight to the shelter of rocks and caverns, as if the temple of Nature was destined to preservation, amidst the wreck of man and his works." This listorian goes on to state that "the year of terror arrived and passed away without any extraordinary convulsion, that the people returned to their lomes, repaired their buildings, and resumed their former occupations; and he only lasting effect of this stupendous panic was the augmentation of the temporal prosperity of the Church."

(To be continued.)

Audialterampartem Creek.

Urtica Urens.