The Progress Of Doctrine In The New Testament -- By: Charles Edward Smith

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 073:291 (Jul 1916)
Article: The Progress Of Doctrine In The New Testament
Author: Charles Edward Smith


The Progress Of Doctrine In The New Testament

Charles Edward Smith

The classic on this subject which has never been surpassed or even approached, to my knowledge, is the Bampton Lectures of Thomas Dehany Bernard, a fellow of Oxford, and an English rector. To the edition of 1867, Dr. Hovey, President of Newton Theological Seminary, supplied a short preface in which he said that these lectures “are as nearly perfect both in substance and in form as any human production can well be made.” An essay on this subject, therefore, must necessarily derive most of its matter from this masterly work; and if this essay should impel those who read it to go for themselves to the volume of which it can give only a most meager idea, it will have served its best purpose. After such an acknowledgment, however, it is only justice to myself to add that I have done some thinking for myself along these lines, and this essay is not a mere collection of extracts, since Bernard’s contributions to it have had to pass, for better or worse, through the medium of my own mind.

By doctrine Bernard meant divine teaching, and the progress which he ascribes is the order in which divine communications of truth, not obtainable from human sources, are found in the New Testament. This is not at all the chronological order in which the books of the New Testament first

became known to the church, but the order in which they have been arranged in the Canon. At first, and for a long time, they were a heterogeneous collection of independent writings prepared by authors far from each other in time and space, and having no conception of any plan in which their productions were to have their appropriate places. But when all were ready and were generally known to the church, they proved to be adaptations to a plan in which each had its proper place, and all together constituted a perfect whole. As the different parts of the Tabernacle, made at different times by persons who had no knowledge of each other’s work, when brought together were found capable of adjustment into a perfect tent. Or as the stones cut for Solomon’s Temple by isolated workmen in various quarries, when brought to Jerusalem, were built into a magnificent structure in which no part, however peculiar its form, was wanting. That this could be done with the books of the New Testament, that it actually was done by the Christians of the first centuries, and that we can now recognize the fitness of part to part, and of each part to the whole, proves that each writer wrought unconsciously according to a plan in the mind of God, and that the early Christians were providentially guided in the discovery of that plan, and divinely influenced in arranging the documents ...

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