God's Twofold Witness
"The testimony of two men is true," says the "Faithful Witness." He appeals to the law for this, and the law speaks as follows: "One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, of all that one sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses shall a matter be established." (Deut. 19:15.) The apostle also cites this law of witness, to which God has very plainly conformed His manifestation of Himself to man. For nature and Scripture are just this twofold testimony in its full breadth; while yet He has so constructed His Word as to be itself twofold, and so sufficient. The Old Testament thus unites with the New, and who that has considered it in the least but must appreciate the power of this for conviction? For such power in twofold witness proceeds largely from the diversity of character and interest that they present. They are otherwise different, — contrasted; yet here they agree: different in such sort that you realize there is no collusion between them, no treachery; nothing but the necessary unity of truth could made them one. And how will this be strengthened in proportion as the contrast is manifold, and yet the unity pervasive: and this in the two Testaments is what so demonstrates them to be of God.
The Old Testament is in Hebrew, the language of a special people, with whose history it has grown up, and to whom it addresses itself. It is the religion of a nation, one of the families of the earth, its horizon earthly, its sanctuary a worldly one, its services ritualistic, ornate, elaborate, intrusted to a special priesthood. God is here behind a vail which none can penetrate; man — all men — are shut out; none can see Him and live; for merciful as He is, He cannot clear the guilty, and who (let him do his best) is not guilty?
This legal, sacerdotal, exclusive system, the incarnation of conscience, but a bad conscience, in what utter contrast is it to the free, spiritual, all-embracing spirit of Christianity! "The Lord hath said that He would dwell in thick darkness," says Solomon on the day of the dedication of the temple. (1 Kings 8:12.) "We walk in the light, as God is in the light," answers the apostle. (1 John 1:7.) "Who can by no means clear the guilty," says the Old Testament voice. (Ex. 34:7.) "That justifieth the ungodly," says again the New Testament. (Rom. 4:5.) "No man can see Me and live," is the elder utterance. (Ex. 33:20.) "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father," are His words who is Himself the spirit incarnate of the New. (John 14:9.)
Here are two witnesses how diverse: can it be that after all under these statements, so seemingly conflicting, there is nevertheless a perfect unity? can there be a fullness of truth which embraces and harmonizes all? Yes, surely: admit what the New Testament so abundantly affirms and illustrates, the essential opposition between law and grace, and yet that the first is handmaid to the other; — then, on the basis of law, all the Old Testament utterances are but the sentence of God upon the self-righteousness of man; while the New Testament reveals the heart of God in grace, upon the basis of a righteousness by which the law also is magnified and made honorable, and able to forego its penal claim.
Thus they can be reconciled; but is this reconciliation an after-thought? Is it perhaps a human, though wonderfully wise, contrivance for adjusting matters between them? Are there perhaps yet two authors instead of one; and these still human, not divine? This question, so necessary to be answered, receives from the Old and New Testaments together its full and entire satisfaction in the consideration of that typical system which pervades everywhere the former, while it anticipates and prophesies the latter.
This typical system is, all through the Old Testament, the complement and corollary of the strictly legal part. If a soul stricken with the conviction of sin sought for relief and acceptance from God, it was shut up to sacrifice, the ordained way of approach for every one who would draw near to Him; and here he found what, except in its typical teaching, contained no ray of light. Why should the blood of an animal shed by the hand of the offerer avail before God for the sin of him who shed it? You must illumine that with the light of the gospel before you can understand it. Understood, it is then the illumination of all else: it is the establishment of law; it is the vindication of grace; it is the heart of God bursting out over all the barriers that man's sin could oppose to it, — God who is light, now in the light, revealed.
Yes, the witnesses are one; their testimony is one; they have one Author; grace is no afterthought. The later word, addressed in his own language to the Gentile, is but the necessary development and issue of the earlier one. The earlier is interpreted by the later: the typical communication by the plain speech now.
Thus, then, as to the testimony of the written Word. But now if there be another testimony to God, and the book of nature be also His book, — and Scripture itself affirms this, yea, who that believes in God could deny it? — then these two witnesses must also agree in one, and that which is enigmatical and obscure be interpreted by the clearer, — the earlier, therefore, once more by the later, and not the reverse. Notice, too, that there is no ground for wonder, if the two should seem not only diverse in character, as they are, but contradictory even, which they are not. We might expect this; while, by the analogy of Scripture, we may expect also that this apparent contradiction will end in clearer agreement at last, and in greater breadth and fullness of testimony.
Even as we consider this now, the reality of the analogy between the book of Nature and the Old Testament comes into fuller light, and gains assurance. If the Old Testament be the proclamation of law, and this be its supreme characteristic, how easy it is to see that Nature is even more emphatically in some sense the kingdom of Law. This is, in the eyes of more than Prof. Drummond, what gives to it order and solidity. Grace here assuredly seems, at first sight, to have no place, nay, to be in contradiction, until we are reminded that in the elder book of Revelation it is in symbol and type that we find the teaching of this, and are led to realize that Nature itself, more entirely even than the Old Testament, is an object lesson, a divine hieroglyph, a type-teaching. This it surely is; and although as a whole we may not as yet have the full key, yet in all ages nevertheless its lessons have been taught and learnt, — in the earliest perhaps most simply. As we grow older we lose the unsuspecting faith of childhood, which in many respects is the truest wisdom; our very language, which was at first pictorial, becomes hard and abstract, its symbols merely arbitrary and algebraic, divested of the heart and pathos which men drank in first from nature's breast, and now have learnt to be ashamed of as the babble of the nursery.
But we are coming back to Nature! perhaps: yea, to such extreme faith in it that now our one knowledge is to be that of natural science, and beyond it we are agnostics — know-nothings. If that were so, it would be but the surest proof that the old faith in nature nevertheless is dead. I may use the words, but scarcely realize the thing, when I speak of faith in laws, or faith in a machine. Here, too, the law is not of faith." The factory-rattle reason may interpret perhaps; but faith is of the heart, and there is no heart. We have got back to the old mythology, and understand how Chronos (Time) produces and devours again his children; but do not ask me, then, to confide in Chronos. No: vanity of vanities, all is vanity. Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.
Yet here a hint from that old Jewish law in which we have already found the character of a true witness may appeal to us. It was when man found himself as it might seem, in the grip of the law, and without hope from it, — when, though with the consciousness of sin upon him, he sought in his distress to God, — the law itself referred him to that typical system, in which the heart he sought in God was found. Is it not so again, that when we turn to Him it is, and only so, that nature reveals her really illuminated side, and warms and kindles as with a summer breath? Assuredly, it is so: and reason itself cannot rest satisfied short of that which satisfies heart, conscience, mind alike — not a part only, but the whole of man