The Moral Difficulties Of The Old Testament -- By: J. H. McIlvaine

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 034:136 (Oct 1877)
Article: The Moral Difficulties Of The Old Testament
Author: J. H. McIlvaine


The Moral Difficulties Of The Old Testament

Rev. J. H. McIlvaine

Nothing is gained, but much is lost, by unwarranted claims in behalf of any good thing. Such claims, it will hardly be denied, have sometimes been made even for the Holy Scriptures themselves; and in so far as this is true, its influence must have tended to weaken, rather than to strengthen, their authority. In fact, it has proved a fruitful source of scepticism and infidelity. For, just as the attempt to interpret all scriptural allusions to physical phenomena so as to express the results of modern science has been a great obstacle to faith, so the groundless assumption that the morality which is tolerated in the Old Testament must be regarded as precisely on a par with that of the New has loaded them both with a weight which they were never intended to bear. Hence the whole subject of the relation between these two parts of the sacred canon requires to be thoroughly reworked, if God would only send us a man capable of doing it any sort of justice. Meanwhile, all that we can undertake is to throw a little light upon it for the relief of our faith from some of those moral difficulties of the Old Testament which are deeply felt by almost all students and readers of the Bible.

But before entering upon this somewhat extended discussion, it seems necessary, in order to guard against misunderstanding, that we should declare the faith which we hold in common with all Christians, that the Scriptures, both of the old and new dispensations, are, in their substance and true import, and in a sense which can be predicated of no other writings, the word of God. For, beyond controversy, this has been the faith of the church ever since these books have been in her possession. Moreover, it is a faith which

has become so inrooted in the Christian mind, and so fully identified with the growth of civilization, that we have no fears of its ever being eradicated. It is like the granite which underlies the superincumbent strata of the earth’s crust — like the great mountains whose foundations defy the earthquake. It will take a great deal more than even modern scepticism has ever dreamed of to overthrow it.

For the evidences upon which it rests are such as can never lose their force. The claims to divine inspiration which the sacred writers make for themselves with such unwavering assurance; the corresponding simplicity and elevation of their style; their moral characters and manifest aims to do good; the consciousness of God, in his holiness, justice, goodness, and truth, which they everywhere express; the character of the revelations which they represent him as communicating through them to mankind; the unity of purpose and of doctrine which...

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