The Book Of Acts And The Historical Method Of Interpretation -- By: James Brand
BSac 52:206 (April 1895) p. 259
The Book Of Acts And The Historical Method Of Interpretation
WHEN Peter visited Cornelius at Caesarea, a great step was taken in the historical development of Christian doctrine. The apostle himself received such an enlargement of his ideas of the character of God and the scope of Christianity as made him a different man for the rest of his life. Possibly he never had really thought God was a “respecter of persons,” but it is one thing to know a truth theoretically and quite another to experience that truth in real life, or to apply it in a case where it” conflicts with all our preconceived notions of society. Peter’s mind was evidently tremendously impressed with his new view of the divine plan and the world-wide reach of the gospel. And that great discovery through the vision of the sheet, and the visit to Caesarea, naturally put the apostle, and ought to put all men in every age, into an attitude of readiness to welcome new truth. He learned that the gospel, as applied to human life, is full of surprises; that we are constantly to expect new developments of truth, new and larger and truer interpretations of truth, and new applications of truth to life, as the history of the world unrolls. Such scriptures, therefore, are a standing rebuke to the narrow idea that no new light is for us beyond that of our fathers. There is such a thing as the progress of doctrine. Not that the Bible changes, not that we read more, merely between the lines, not that we put into the Bible what was not there before; but, as taught by God’s ever-new providential events, we dis-
BSac 52:206 (April 1895) p. 260
cover a larger meaning, The apostles themselves, from their first acquaintance with Jesus till the last one of them had suffered martyrdom, were constantly enlarging their views and modifying their interpretations of Scripture. It has been so with the church ever since, and will be to the end. While the great cardinal truths of revelation have remained clear and settled, the views of scholars and commentators have been changing and enlarging in regard to many principles and applications of Scripture. In other words, God interprets his own word by his providences. Therefore the historical method of interpretation is the only true one. We need to stand, as Peter did, with mind ever open, and expectant of new views and larger meanings of the Bible, as time goes on.
Now, in accordance with, and in illustration of, this historical development of truth, we may find some marked changes and enlargements of idea, in the treatment of revelation.
In the first place, Christian men in their interpretation of Scripture now appeal to reason, more than in former ages. We do not mean to imply th...
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