Sunday, June 27, 2010

Go, Read the Book, Repeat the Stories Old

Robert Sempill, The Sempill Ballates (1872 ed.), p. 32:

Quhair is the wittis wont to reule Scotland?
Go, reid the buik, repeit the storyis auld.

Horatius Bonar, Catechisms of the Scottish Reformation, pp. x-xiv:

Christianity, say many among us, is a life, not a dogma; and they reckon this the enunciation of a great and unappreciated truth. It is, however, a mere truism, or it is an unmeaning antithesis, or it is an absolute falsehood. It sounds oracular and great; it is only pompous.

Christianity is both a life and a dogma; quite as much the one as the other.

But it is a dogma before it is a life; it cannot be the latter till it has been the former. It is out of the dogma that the life emerges; not the dogma out of the life; and the importance that is attached in Scripture to knowledge, -- right knowledge, -- should make us cautious in disparaging doctrine, as if it were harmless when wrong, and impotent or uninfluential when right....

...Creeds, they say, are dungeons for the old; catechisms are fetters for the young; and doctrine in general, at least if precise and defined, is inconsistent with liberty of thought and expansion of intellect....
Now, disguise it as we may, truth is dogma. Let men sneer at catechisms and creeds, as bondage and shackles, let them call them skeletons, or bones, or something more offensive still, these formularies are meant to be compilations of truth. In so far as they can be shewn to contain error, let them be amended or flung aside; but in so far as they embody truth, let them be accepted and honoured as most helpful to the Christian life; not simply sustaining it, but also giving it stability and force; preventing its being weakened or injured by change, caprise, love of novelty, or individual self-will.

The Bible is a book of dogmas and facts; these two parts making up the one book, as soul and body make up the one man. The facts are the visible embodiment of the dogmas, the dogmas the spiritual interpretation of the facts. Religious life or piety is the result or product of these; -- the effect produced upon man by the right knowledge and use of these. Faith transfers them from the exterior region of our being to the interior; and, thus transferred, they issue in religious life, -- life comprehending both the inner spirituality and the outer walk. To oppose life and dogma to each other, is not so much to depreciate creeds as to misunderstand the Bible, and to represent life and the Bible as antagonistic to each other.

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