NOW that the political campaign is ended, the preachers are finding time between the filling of their … pulpits and laying plans to get control of the government, to discuss the question of the infallibility of the Bible. As the Bible says nothing about political campaigning or getting control of the civil power pertaining to the work of the Christian ministry, but speaks distinctly to the contrary, it is perhaps not stranger to find the question of its infallibility should have become a … point.
Foremost in the ranks of dissenters from this cardinal principle of orthodoxy, is the Rev. Lyman Abbott, of Plymouth Church, Brooklyn. Dr. Abbott discourses seem to be in the main a statement of his beliefs in regard to the Scriptures. He does not believe Genesis—that has been known ever since he became successor of Henry Ward Beecher. Not long ago he had a laugh in his congregation over the idea of the fish in the Book of Jonah; and a little later he announced his disbelief in another portion of the sacred volume as to what parts of the Bible—if any—he places out in the realm of fiction, it would be difficult to judge from his discourses. One thing he does believe in, however, and that is a strict Sunday law. In the February Christian Endeavorer, we find him saying:—
“I think that experience demonstrates that a day of rest must be secured not merely by private agreement, but by legislative enactments vigorously enforced.”
Some of the papers have been drawing comparisons between Dr. Abbott’s words concerning the Book of Jonah and the words of Thomas Paine on the same subject, and discover such a similarity of language as to come to the conclusion that it is a case of teacher and pupil. The only difference is that in Paine’s day infidelity did not presume to speak from the “Christian” pulpit.
What has made the question of the Bible’s inferiority especially prominent just now, however, is a discussion which took place at a meeting of about three hundred prominent Methodist ministers at the Methodist Book Concern, New York City, February 15. There an editor of the leading Methodist journal in America, Mr. Buckley, stated that he did not believe in the infallibility of the Bible in the English version. This announcement created considerable disorder, in the midst of which Mr. Buckley maintained his position and demanded that the question be put to vote. This was finally done, with the result that only one vote was obtained for the view that the Bible, in English, is infallible.
Of course, the practical effect of this attitude of this representative Methodist body will be to lessen confidence in the Bible, as read by the masses in English-speaking countries. And since the latter can read no other, they are from this latest Methodist standpoint left without any Bible at all; for a Bible that is fallible is not the Word upon which we can depend for salvation. Faith being the indispensable requisite to salvation, and demanding unquestioning belief of the Word of God, we must have that Word itself, or derive no benefit from the plan of salvation.
And the same is of course true of the German, French, and any other Bible, since all these are but translations of the original text, and therefore as fallible as the English Bible. The work of the British and Foreign Bible Society and similar bodies in giving the Bible to the nations and places of the world, must be discounted, since they have only furnished translations, which are therefore fallible and even if we would go back to the original text for an infallible authority, we are met by the fact that there are nothing but copies of the original writings now in existence; and of course a copyist is just as fallible as a translator.
Hence the doctrine that the Bible, in the English or other tongues, is not infallible, is equivalent to a denial of the infallibility of any Bible known to the world to-day. The real nature of this objection may be understood from the fact that this is one of the leading points sought to be made against the Bible by the author of the “Age to Reason.”
As the AMERICAN SENTINEL stands for liberty, for justice, for equal rights to all men, so it stands for the Christian’s Bible, against the traditions, customs, and popery which have sought to take the place of the Word, and which have ever been a menace to the liberties and rights of the people. The less reverence men have for the Bible, the more reverence they have for tradition and the opinions of men in higher station than themselves; and the more this reverence finds expression, the nearer do men come to the full realization of popery.
We believe it would be well for the clergy to settle the question of their belief in the Bible’s infallibility before proceeding further with the scheme to take control of the Government and make the “revealed will of Christ” the supreme authority in our civil affairs. Are they sure that we have the “revealed will of Christ” in the “fallible” English Bible? This is a question which ought, with them, to take precedence of all others.