From Whitla’s introduction to Isaac Newton, Observations Upon The Prophecies Of Daniel and The Apocalypse Of St. John – Back to Table of Contents of the Introduction
IN seeking an explanation of the spreading growth of unbelief, it is therefore, as we have seen, not to be found in any antagonism between faith and the rapid advance of scientific discovery; we must look in another direction. It unquestionably will be found in the teaching of the Higher Criticism.
Here at the start there must be no room left for misunderstanding. There are two distinct kinds of Higher Criticism. The Bible, especially the Old Testament, has been much illuminated by severe and searching criticism in the light of the increased knowledge of the day, especially in the researches made in the domains of ancient history, philology, monumental discovery, and the unearthing of the sites of past civilizations. It would be a poor guide to erring man if the sacred book failed to respond to the ordeal of the most exacting scrutiny upon the same principles of strict and severe criticism as are to-day being applied to writings of a merely secular character. The grand old book comes out of this test as gold refined in the furnace. As far as one has been able to judge, not a single inscription unearthed from the ruins of the cities of Babylonia, Assyria, Egypt or Palestine has contradicted any statement in the Divine record. On the contrary, the monumental evidences hidden for thousands of years under the ruins of the cities of the East are now testifying to the accuracy of, or casting fresh light upon, the inspired chronicles. It is true we may have had to alter our views about the dates, arrangements or structure and even in a few cases of the authorship of one or two of the books in the Old Testament, as for example there is a very considerable agreement amongst scholars that the book of Isaiah was not all written by the son of Amoz, and that a section of it was written at a later date than that of the prophet’s lifetime.
This change of view should however excite no fear or uneasiness in the mind of any Christian. It may afford some comfort to those who are not familiar with this kind of criticism if I say that after a careful survey of the results of this minute examination of the Bible, line by line, I find my own faith strengthened and not weakened. Moreover, I am absolutely convinced that the results of this severe, but fair scrutiny of the sacred volume has never made one believer into an infidel or atheist. Therefore I am compelled to say that we must still look in another direction for the cause of the spread of unbelief in these days.
I cannot however leave the subject of this kind of criticism which starts with the sole object of testing and illuminating the truth without urging a caution. It may sound absurd and presumptuous in a layman to attempt a criticism of those scholarly men who have devoted their whole lifetime to the study of the Bible, and of the ancient languages interwoven in its fabric. It chanced to happen that before I commenced to look into the subject of the Higher Criticism I had been deeply interested in the endless controversy about the authorship of the works of Shakespeare, the dates and composite nature of some of the plays. I would not intrude this subject upon you were it not that it bears most closely upon any consideration of the question of judging the accuracy of the Bible from its own internal evidence.