|« Prev||Chapter XI. The Scriptures of the Old and New…||Next »|
THE SCRIPTURES OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT, WERE WRITTEN BY THE INSPIRATION OF GOD; AND THIS INSPIRATION, HOWEVER IT MAY BE DISTINGUISHED, WAS PLENARY; THAT IS, THE WRITERS WERE UNDER AN INFALLIBLE GUIDANCE, 130TH AS IT RELATES TO THE IDEAS AND WORDS: AND YET, THE ACQUIRED KNOWLEDGE, HABITS, AND PECULIAR DISPOSITIONS OF THE WRITERS, WERE NOT SUPERSEDED.
HAVING endeavored to establish the authenticy of the Scriptures, I come now to say something respecting the inspiration of the writers of the several books. These two subjects are, it is true, involved, in each other; and many of the arguments for the former, are conclusive in favor of the latter; but still, there is a distinction which it is important to observe. A book may be authentic, without having the least claim to inspiration, as are all true narratives of facts, written by men of veracity, in the exercise of their unassisted powers. The gospel history may be established on the common principles of human testimony, in the same manner, as any other history. Indeed, this must be done, in the order of proof, before any convincing argument can be formed, in favor of divine revelation. Accordingly, all judicious writers on the Evidences of Christianity, first attempt to establish the facts recorded in the Gospels, by an appeal to merely human testimony. 217This distinction is so clear, and practically so important, that many persons believe in the facts—miracles as well as others—and yet have no conviction that the history of these events was written by divine inspiration. This is understood to be the case in regard to most of those called Unitarians. Dr. Priestley, in his “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” has established the authenticity of the facts, recorded by the evangelists, with great force of reasoning; and yet, in the same work, he utterly denies the plenary inspiration of these writers; but alleges, that they were men of veracity, and that their testimony should be received, just as we receive that of other credible historians; but without ascribing infallibility to them The same opinions have been maintained by many others. The authenticity of the facts is sufficient to demonstrate, that the Christian religion is of divine origin; but it does. not follow, as a matter of course, that the historian who gives an account of the facts orr which it rests, was inspired. This is a distinct inquiry; and, although, not so vitally important as the former, yet is of great moment, and deserves a serious and impartial consideration.
It may be proper, also, in this place, to distinguish between inspiration, and that illumination, which every true Christian must receive, and which is the foundation of that saving faith which is produced in the mind, by the operation of the Holy Spirit. The distinction is, that the object of inspiration is commonly to reveal some new truths; or more clearly to reveal such as were before but obscurely revealed; or, it is intended, to direct the mind, in a supernatural way, to write and speak certain things; and so superintends or strengthens its faculties, that it is enabled to communicate, with unerring certainty, 218truths before known; or, to form ideas and adopt expressions so sublime, as to be above the range of the natural powers of the person. But the illumination of the Holy Spirit communicates no new truths, but enables the soul spiritually to apprehend truths already revealed. Here then is the grand distinction between those spiritual influences which all Christians enjoy, and enthusiasm, which claims something of the nature of inspiration. The sober Christian can appeal to the word of God, as containing all the ideas by which his mind is affected, in its highest elevations of joy and love: but the enthusiast departs from the written word, and trusts to impulses, impressions on the imagination, immediate suggestions, dreams, or supposed visions. If these impulses or suggestions were from the Spirit of God, they would be strictly of the nature of inspiration. And, accordingly, most fanatics believe themselves to be inspired; but however strong their persuasion, we are not bound to believe in their pretensions, unless they can exhibit these external proofs, by which God is pleased to give attestation to those communications which he makes to men.
There is also a difference between inspiration, and revelation. All revelations are not made by a suggestion of truth to the mind of an individual. God often spike to people of old, by audible voices; and communicated his will by the missions of angels. Many persons have thus received divine revelations, who had no pretensions to inspiration. All the people of Israel, who stood before God at Mount Sinai, heard his voice, uttering the ten commandments, and yet no one would say, that all these were inspired. So, also, when Christ was upon earth, in more instances than one, a voice was heard declaring, that he was the beloved Son of God. 219Indeed, all who had the opportunity of hearing Christ’s discourses, might be said to receive a revelation immediately from God; but it would be absurd to say, that all these were inspired. Dr. Dick is of opinion, that the word revelation would be more expressive, as being more comprehensive than suggestion, which last conveys the idea of an operation on the mind; whereas, truth, in many cases was made known, in other ways. But for the reasons stated above, it would not do to substitute the word revelation for inspiration; inasmuch as, multitudes received revelations, who had no claim to inspiration. And when inspiration is confined to those who wrote the books of Scripture, no other word would so clearly express the idea.
Inspiration has, by theologians, been distinguished into three kinds; that of superintendence, of suggestion, and elevation. The first of these takes place, when a historian is influenced, by the Holy Spirit, to write, and in writing is so directed as to select those facts and circumstances, which will answer the end proposed; and so assisted and strengthened in the narrative of events, as to he preserved from all error and mistake. The facts need not be revealed, because they may be well known to the writer from his own observation, and may be deeply impressed on his memory; but, no man can avoid inaccuracies and mistakes, in a narrative of facts, long past. If it is important that such a narrative be exempt from error, the writer must be inspired. But as the chief object of inspiration is, to communicate truths before unknown; so, the inspiration of suggestion is requisite, in all such eases; as when the prophets were inspired to predict the revolutions of empires; or, to communicate a message from God to a whole people, or to an individual, the ideas must of course, have been 220immediately suggested, by the Holy Spirit. The third species of inspiration, is, when, by a divine influence, persons are enabled to bring forth productions, in speaking or writing, far more sublime and excellent, than they could have attained, by the exercise of their own faculties. Thus, often, women, under the inspiration of God, have instantly uttered, in elevated strains of poetry, discourses in praise of God, which, by their unassisted powers, they could never have produced. In these compositions, there may be no revelation of new truth; nor is there a mere superintendence of the human faculties, as in the first case, was described; but the powers of the mind, are, for the occasion, wonderfully elevated above their common level, so that the conceptions are more vivid and sublime, and expressed in language more appropriate and striking, than would have naturally occurred to them. By an inspiration of this sort, David wrote the Psalms, and Solomon the Proverbs, and the Speakers in the book of Job, the sublime discourses, which are there recorded. Many things of this kind, are also found in the writings of the prophets.
Here, another question of some perplexity, demands our attention. It is, whether the words of Scripture, as well as the ideas, were given by inspiration. On the one hand, it is alleged, that there is no necessity for supposing that the words used in communicating revealed truth, should be suggested by the Holy Spirit; and that the fact proves that no such inspiration existed, because the style of each of the writers is peculiar, and accords precisely with his education, disposition, and turn of mind. But on the other hand, it is argued that unless the words were inspired, as well as the ideas we cannot be certain, that the writer has, in any case, communicated accurately, the mind of the Spirits; for, 221men are liable to mistake, in the selection of appropriate words, as much as in any thing else; and as men often fail in conveying their own ideas, in language which correctly expresses their meaning; so, also, they might make similar mistakes in the use of language, to express ideas received by inspiration; if in this matter they were left to the guidance of their own minds. It has also been plausibly urged in favor of inspiration extending to the words, that we can scarcely conceive of a revelation of truths to the mind, without supposing, that they were clothed in language. We cannot even think distinctly, much less reason conclusively, on any subject, without the intervention of words.
Now, it is probable, that, that has occured in this controversy, which has in many others; namely, that both parties are right; or, rather, that the truth will be fully possessed, by adopting the views entertained on both sides, and endeavoring to reconcile them. The fact is, that the same principles which apply to the ideas, may, without any alteration, be applied to the words. When the truths revealed were before unknown to the inspired person; and, especially—as seems often to have been the case with the prophets—when they did not fully comprehend the import of what was revealed, it is necessary to suppose, that the words, as well as ideas, were immediately suggested by the Holy Spirit. This was remarkably the case, when the apostles and others received the gift of tongues; which was nothing else but the inspiration of words, as they were needed, for the communication of the truths of the Gospel.
But as in the narration of well-known facts, the writer did not need a continual suggestion of every idea, but only to be so superintended, as to be preserved 222from error; in the use of language, in recording such familiar things, there existed no necessity that every word should be inspired; but there was the same need of a directing and superintending influence, as in regard to the things themselves. Here then, we see, that the language of the sacred writers might be preserved from impropriety, and inaccuracy; and yet, all the characteristics of style, peculiar to each writer, be retained. Just as if a master should so guide the hand of a child in writing, that the pen should be actually moved by the pupil; but governed and directed by the master, so as not to transgress the limits prescribed. Or, this superintendence, both as to ideas and words, may be illustrated, by the case of a father conducting a child along a narrow path. The child walks by its own activity, and takes steps according to its ability; but the father preserves it from falling, and keeps it in the straight path. Just so it is with men, when under the superintending influence of the Holy Spirit. Their own powers of understanding, memory, and invention, are not superseded, but only directed, and preserved from inaccuracy and error; but the man pursues his own peculiar method of thinking, reasoning, and expression. Ile speaks or writes in the language which he has learned, and uses that idiom and style, which have become habitual; so that inspired men, will, according to this theory, retain their peculiarity of style and expression, just as fully as if they were writing or speaking, without inspiration.
Some object to this theory of superintendence, under the impression, that it is less perfect, than if every thing was inspired by direct suggestion of the Holy Spirit. But there is really no foundation for this objection. It certainly is a matter of no consequence, how 223our knowledge is obtained, if only it is rendered infallibly certain. There are many things, concerning which we could not acquire a greater degree of assurance than we already possess, by inspiration of any kind: and such knowledge, acquired by the exercise of reason or intuition, is not the less valuable, because it has been obtained in a natural way. Indeed, these natural faculties, by which we are so constituted as to be capable of certain knowledge of the first principles of truth, are the gift of God, as much as any inspiration can be; and the clear intuitive knowledge, which we .possess of certain truths, may be considered as a sort of permanent inspiration; for, suppose a man, by a constant plenary inspiration, to be made absolutely sure of the truth of certain propositions, so that he could not entertain any doubt respecting them, in what respect would there be any difference between this, and the intuitive perception of self-evident principles, which every rational man by nature possesses? There would, then, be nothing gained by the inspiration of direct suggestion, in regard to our knowledge of those things, of which we already possess intuitive certainty; so, it is also evident, that in relation to all our knowledge acquired by experience, or testimony, we only need such an influence, as will enable us to communicate what ought to be recorded, for the benefit of the church, and to do this without error, either as to matter or manner.
Some, who do not deny the inspiration of the sacred writers, in the general, have thought it necessary to make concessions on this subject, which are not called for, from the nature of the case, and have thus involved the cause which they defend, in real difficulties. They have granted, that while, in all matters of real importance, 224the penmen of the Scriptures were guided by a plenary inspiration; yet, in trivial matters, and the relation of unimportant circumstances, they were left to their own unassisted powers; and in such matters; have, therefore, fallen into mistakes, such as are incident to other honest historians, in similar circumstances. Now, no evil or inconvenience would result from this hypothesis, if the line could be definitely drawn, between the parts of the book, written by inspiration, and those in which the writers were left, to themselves. But as no human wisdom is sufficient to draw this line, the effect of this opinion is, to introduce uncertainty and doubt, in a matter, concerning which assurance is of the utmost importance. And it is in itself an improbable supposition, that the spirit of God should infallibly guide a writer in some parts of his discourse, and forsake him in other parts. If we find a witness mistaken in some particulars, it weakens our confidence in his general testimony. And could it be shown, that the evangelists had fallen into palpable mistakes, in facts of minor importance, it would be impossible to demonstrate, that they wrote any thing by inspiration.
The case of Paul is often adduced to prove, that a writer, who, for the most part, was inspired, may, in particular cases, be left to follow his own opinions.4545 See 1 Cor. vii. 12-40. If the meaning here ascribed to this apostle, and which, perhaps, is the most obvious, should be admitted, yet it. would riot authorise the opinion which we are now opposing. It would only follow, that in these few excepted cases, Paul was not inspired; which would leave us to enjoy full confidence in what he says, in all other cases, as being spoken by divine inspiration. But 225it may well be doubted, whether this was the true meaning of the apostle. It is much more probable, that all that he intended to teach, was, that our Lord Jesus Christ had delivered no opinion on the point which he was treating; but that he, by the aid of the spirit which was in him, expressed an opinion, which evidently he intended should be authoritative. And he plainly intimates, that be spoke by inspiration, when he says, “And I think also that I have the spirit of God.” The import of this declaration, according to the usage of the New Testament, is, that Paul was persuaded that he was inspired, in uttering the sentiments which he did. The words “I think” should not be interpreted as signifying any doubt or uncertainty, for that is not at all the meaning of the original; but as being the expression of the conviction of his own mind. There is, therefore, no need to suppose, that Paul intended to intimate, that lie wrote any thing without the aid of divine inspiration. It would be strange, indeed, that lie who was inspired for all other purposes, should be left to himself in this one instance: and this is not to be reckoned among the least important matters which have fallen from his pen.
The true doctrine of inspiration then, is, SUCH A DIVINE INFLUENCE ON THE MINDS OF THE SACRED WRITERS, AS RENDERED THEM EXEMPT FROM ERROR, BOTH IN REGARD TO THE IDEAS AND WORDS.
This is properly called PLENARY inspiration. Nothing can be conceived more satisfactory. Certainty, infallible certainty, is the utmost that can be desired, in any narrative; and if we have this, in the sacred Scriptures, 226there is nothing more to be wished, in regard to this matter.
That the Scriptures of the Old Testament were appealed to, and constantly spoken of; as inspired, and as free from error, is capable of the clearest proof. Christ said to the Jews, “Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, but they are they which testify of me.” “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me.” On another occasion, he said, “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures,” where, it is evidently implied, that the Scriptures are an unerring rule. In the same chapter, it is recorded, that Jesus confounded the Pharisees by asking them, how David could, IN SPIRIT, call Christ, Lord, when he was his son. Again, Christ, after his resurrection, expresses this sentiment in the strongest terms: “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you; THAT ALL THINGS MUST BE FULFILLED, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understandings, that they should understand the Scriptures; and said unto them, thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, on the third day.” In the preceding part of the same discourse, this idea is also clearly exhibited. “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all. the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself. And they said one to another, did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to 227us the Scriptures?” So, also, in the garden of Gethsemene, our Lord in addressing Peter, said, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be.” The same infallible authority is ascribed to the Old Testament, by Christ, in his dispute with the Jews, recorded in the tenth chapter of John. “Jesus answered them, is it not written in your law, I said ye are gods? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came; and THE SCRIPTURE CANNOT BE BROKEN.” We have, besides, many passages, in which the evangelists refer to the Holy Scriptures, as an infallible standard of truth. “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him, that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake—Lord, who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” “Therefore, they could not believe, because that Esaias said again—he hath blinded their eyes,” &c. “For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, a bone of him shall not be broken. And again, another Scripture saith, they shall look on him whom they have pierced.”
The apostles are not less explicit, in testifying to the inspiration of the Scriptures of the Old Testament, than Christ and the evangelists. Paul, in his second epistle to Timothy, puts him in mind, “that from a child he had known the Holy Scriptures, which were able to make him wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus;” and then adds, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished 228unto all good works.” The Scriptures, which Timothy knew from his childhood, must have been the books of the Old Testament, for, at that time, no others had been written: but when Paul goes on to declare, that “all Scripture was given by inspiration of God,” he might have included under this general expression, all the books of the New Testament, which had been published, before his second imprisonment at Rome; and this would comprehend, probably, the first three Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and all his own epistles, besides; for this seems to have been the last of Paul’s writings; for in the close of this epistle, he says, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” And that, about this time, the writings of Paul were, by the Church, reckoned among the sacred Scriptures, we learn from the second epistle of Peter, which was probably written about this time, or a little before. His words are remarkable, as containing the only clear testimony, on record, of one apostle, to the writings of another. “And account,” says he, “that the long suffering of our Lord is salvation, even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you. As, also, in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood; which they that are unlearned and unstable pervert, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Hence, it would appear, that Paul’s epistles were now well known, and were reckoned among the other Scriptures, by the apostle Peter. Certainly, then, Paul himself might have included them, as well as the other published books of the New Testament, under the phrase “all Scripture;” and if so, this passage will contain a strong testimony to the inspiration 229of the whole of the Old Testament, and a large part of the New Testament. And admitting the facts, of Paul’s miraculous conversion, divine mission as an apostle, and that he was richly endowed with the gifts of tongues, of healing, of prophecy, &c., we cannot deny that he is a witness, in this case, on whom we may repose the most perfect confidence.
The apostle Peter has also given the most unequivocal testimony, to the inspiration of the prophets who penned the Old Testament. He had been speaking concerning the wonderful scene of which he was a witness, on the mount of transfiguration, whereupon, he goes on to say, “We have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” There is another testimony of this apostle, in his first epistle; in which he clearly speaks of the inspiration of the prophets. “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired, and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you; searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it certified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves but unto us, they did minister the things which are now reported unto you, by them that have preached the Gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.”
That the Scriptures of the Old Testament were continually recognized by4he apostles, as given by inspiration 230of God, is so evident from every mention of them, that it may seem to be a waste of time, to adduce the testimonies; but the subject is exceedingly important, and we cannot too frequently have these evidences set before our eyes.
In the epistle to the Hebrews, there are many clear testimonies, some of which I will bring forward. In the very first sentence, it is said, “God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days, spoken unto us by his Son.” Whatever is spoken by the prophets is represented throughout this book, as spoken by God himself. Thus, in the same chapter, it is declared, “And when he bringeth the first begotten into the world, HE saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And to the angels, HE saith, who maketh his angels spirits—but to the Son, HE saith, thy throne O God is for ever and ever.” Now, all these passages, where God is said to speak, are quotations from the Psalms. Certainly then, we may conclude, that whatever is spoken in this book of Psalms, is from the inspiration of God. The same is the fact, in the next chapter, where a large part of the eighth Psalm is quoted, and applied to Christ. So, also, the Captain of our Salvation is represented as saying certain things, which are found written in the Old Testament. “Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren”—“And again, I will put my trust in him.” And in the third chapter of this epistle, we have a quotation from the Psalms in the following remarkable words, “Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” And in the fourth chapter, the same style is used as before.” For HE spake in a certain place of the seventh day, in this 231wise, and God did rest the seventh day from all his works.” And in the fifth. “But HE said unto him, thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, thou art a priest, forever after the order of Melchisedek.” And God is represented as the speaker; not only in what is written in the Psalms, but in the prophets also. Thus, in the eighth chapter, we have a long quotation from Jeremiah, which is declared to be, the word of the Lord. “Behold the days come saith the Lord,” &c. One more testimony from this book shall suffice. In the tenth chapter, it is said, “Wherefore the Holy Ghost also is a witness unto us; for after that he had said before, this is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord.”
Nothing can be more evident then, than that as the writers of the Old Testament declared themselves to speak what they received from the Lord, so the whole of the Scriptures are continually referred to, and recognized, as given by inspiration; insomuch, that it would he difficult to find a single passage, in which these Scriptures are mentioned, in which this idea is not expressed, or clearly implied. And it will be shown, hereafter, that the writers of the New Testament claim inspiration for themselves.
lf, as has been shown, the Old Testament was written by inspiration, and if the New Testament contains a revelation from God, not less important; and which, in fact, is the completion of the Old, can we believe, that. while prophets were inspired to write the former, the latter was left to be marred and obscured, by the weaknesses of uninspired men?
To accomplish the purpose intended by revelation, it 232seems necessary, that the writers who communicate it to posterity, should be guided by inspiration. The end of revelation is, to convey to men, a certain knowledge of truth, to guide their faith and practice. But if the book which contains such a revelation, is composed by erring, fallible men, we never can be sure, in any particular case, that we are in possession of the truth revealed. The men may be honest and faithful, but we know that all men are liable to errors and mistakes; and all men are more or less under the influence of prejudices and prepossessions. It is evident, therefore, that the purpose of giving a revelation, would be, in a great measure defeated, unless inspired men were employed to make the record by which it is to be transmitted to the various nations of the earth, and to posterity.
Again, when we carefully consider the subject matter of the books of the New Testament, we cannot repose implicit confidence in what is taught, unless we have evidence that the pens of the writers were under the guidance of inspiration. To record the discourses which a man hears, and transactions which he sees, seems, at first sight, to require nothing more than veracity and integrity, in the historian. This might, to a certain extent, be admitted, if the witness instantly noted down what he heard, or saw; but who can believe, that after the lapse of eight, fifteen, or fifty years, the evangelists would be able to record, with perfect accuracy, long discourses of their Master; and, to relate correctly, all the circumstances of the miracles, of which they have given an account? It may be said, indeed, that they could give, substantially, the facts of which they were witnesses; but this is far from being satisfactory. Such a record would lose a portion of that reverence which it ought to receive, to give it a commanding authority over the 233conscience, and to be a solid foundation for unshaken confidence, And in regard to mysterious and sublime doctrines, which the apostles teach in their epistles, if once we admit the idea, that they were fallible men, we shall continually be liable to doubt;—we shall be afraid that they have misapprehended, or forgotten, what they had heard: or, that under the bias of prejudice or inclination, they may have been led, insensibly, to give a distorted view of the truths which they inculcate.
But we are not left to conclude, from the necessity of the case merely, that the writers of the New Testament were inspired, by the Holy Ghost. We have clear and abundant proof, that our blessed Lord promised infallible guidance to his disciples, whom he chose to be his witnesses to the world; and to whom he committed the propagation of his religion, through all nations, and all ages, “And I will pray the father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever: even the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” And that the Holy Spirit here promised, was to guide the apostles in delivering their testimony, may be inferred from what is said in the xv. chapter. “But when the COMFORTER is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me. And ye shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.” The promise of plenary inspiration is, however, more explicitly given, in the xvi. chapter of John. “Howbeit, when he the Spirit of truth is come, HE WILL GUIDE YOU INTO ALL TRUTH; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will 234show you things to come. He shall glorify me; for be shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the father hath are mine; therefore, said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.” Christ also promised the inspiration of immediate suggestion to his disciples, when called to answer before kings and rulers, and commanded them not to premeditate what they should say, for it would be given to them at the moment what they ought to say, “For,” said he, “It is not you that speak, but the Holy Ghost who speaketh in you.” Now we may argue, with irresistible force, if plenary inspiration was granted to the apostles to enable diem to make a proper defence, when arraigned at a human tribunal, surely they would not be abandoned to their own weakness, when preparing a record of Christ’s words and actions, which was, through all ages, to be the guide of his church? If the apostles were ever inspired, we may be sure that it was, when directed to finish and record the testimony of God. The very idea, that every book of the Old Testament was given by inspiration, but that the whole of the New was composed without this aid, is revolting to the reason of man. And this will appear the more unreasonable, when we consider, that the light of the new dispensation is seven-fold clearer than that of the Old. The very forerunner of Christ, was superior to all the prophets that preceded him: but the least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than he. Then, certainly, if all the prophets only spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, the apostles, who were the chosen witnesses of Christ, and chief officers of his kingdom, were not left without this infallible guidance, when engaged in performing the most important part of the responsible duty assigned them; when executing that 235part of their commission, which was most effectual in extending and perpetuating his spiritual kingdom? Accordingly, the apostles claim to be inspired men; and speak with an authority which would be arrogant, if they had not written under an infallible guidance. They do not merely express their own private opinions, and endeavor to support them by argument; but they speak as men assured of the truth of what they deliver; and decide with authority and without hesitation, questions, which none but men inspired by the Holy Spirit could undertake thus positively to determine, without, exposing themselves to the charge of dogmatism and self-sufficiency.
Besides, some parts of the New Testament—like much of the old—are prophetic; and if true, could be written in no other way, than by inspiration. The Apocalypse, or Revelation given to John, is either a mere enthusiastic fable, or, it was written by inspiration; and such is the majesty of the ideas here presented, and the awful sublimity of the style, that even Dr. Priestly, was constrained to acknowledge, that it bore on its face, marks of a superhuman origin. And if we bad time to compare the prophetic representations .of this singular book with authentic history, there would arise an evidence of its inspiration, which could not be easily contradicted. Such men as, Sir Isaac Newton, Dr. Clarke, bishop Hurd, bishop Newton, and a multitude of others, have seen in this book, the most convincing .proof of divine inspiration. The same may be said of all the prophecies of the Old and New Testament. if there is any truth, whatever, in them, they must be inspired; for, none but inspired men can foretell future, contingent events. Indeed, in all the 236cases, where Moses and others declare, that God spoke to them, and communicated instructions, or laws, they must be considered as divinely directed, unless we deny their veracity. But we are now reasoning on the hypothesis, that the books are authentic, and written by men of truth and honesty.
The style of the evangelists has often been adduced as an evidence of their inspiration. Not that they write with an elegance and sublimity which cannot be imitated; but because they write as persons divested of the feelings which commonly belong to men. They write with an unaffected simplicity, and with an impartial, dispassionate regard to truth, that has no parallel, and has never been successfully initiated. How could illiterate men produce such works as the Gospels, without inspiration? Select a thousand sensible men, but unaccustomed to composition, and set them to write a simple history of the most remarkable transactions with which they have been conversant, and there will not be in any one of them, an approximation to the characteristic manner of the evangelists. Others, and men possessed of more learning than the apostles, have undertaken, without inspiration, to write Gospels, as if composed by some one or other of these holy men; but you cannot place the evidence of the inspiration of the genuine Gospels, in a stronger light, than by contrasting them with any, or all the apocryphal writings, under the names of the apostles.
But we are in danger here of repeating what has already been said, under the head of the Internal Evidences of Christianity. The truth is, that the whole of the arguments from this source, for divine revelation, are directly in point, to prove the doctrine of 237inspiration; and, therefore, instead of going over the ground a second time, I would refer to what has been said, in the preceding chapter.
Miracles, also, furnish the most conclusive proof of inspiration, where it can be ascertained, that the writer of any book of Scripture possessed the power of performing such works; for, the very end for which miracles were exhibited, was to prove that the person speaking was sent from God, to deliver some message. As Nicodemus properly said, “We know that thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do the miracles which thou doest, unless God be with him.” Well, if miracles are sufficient to prove the truth of an oral communication, will they not also be equally conclusive, in favor of a written declaration? If there be any difference, it is in favor of the latter, because it is much more important, that a written discourse, intended for the instruction of all ages, should be well attested, than a discourse from the lips, which is heard by few, and can never be recovered after it has been spoken.
In the whole of what has been said on the subject of inspiration, the truth of the facts recorded in the New Testament has been taken for granted; and, also, that the Scriptures contain a divine revelation. We are not arguing with infidels, but with those, who, while they acknowledge the divine origin of the Christian religion, doubt, or deny, that the persons who wrote the books of the Old and New Testament, were guided by a plenary inspiration. Now, as these persons admit that the apostles and evangelists were men of veracity and integrity, their testimony, on this subject, ought to be decisive. If they claim inspiration, we cannot deny it to them, without invalidating all the strongest evidences of the truth of Christianity. 238Why were they endowed with the power of working miracles, but that full credence might be given to what they testified; and when they declare, that they were moved by the Holy Ghost; and that what they delivered, was not the word of men but the word of God, received by divine revelation, do not these miraculous powers which they possessed, as fully confirm what they wrote, as what they spoke?
Having before shown, that the apostles furnish ample testimony to the inspiration of the Old Testament, we shall now adduce a few texts to prove, that they claimed inspiration for themselves. Their message is every where called THE WORD OF GOD; and Paul declares, that what he preached, he received not from man, but “from the revelation of Jesus Christ.” that the things which he wrote, were “The commandments of the Lord;” and that the things which he and his brethren taught, “God had revealed them to them by his Spirit.” He, therefore, declared, “He who despiseth the things which he taught, despised not men but God.” Peter ranks “the commandments delivered by the apostles, with the words of the Holy Prophets; and as has been before remarked, reckons the epistles of Paul, with the other Scriptures.” John says, “We are of God; he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God, heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”
The only thing wanting to complete the evidence of the inspiration of the New Testament, and consequently that of the Old, is to show, that these writings were received unanimously by the Christian Church, as inspired writings. But although, there exists abundant evidence of this fact, yet to pursue it would lead., us too much into detail, and would not comport with the 239studied brevity of this work. And I am the less inclined to enter on the labor of collecting this testimony, here, because I have attempted this in another work. I may say, however, that in the early ages of the Church, no Christian ever called in question the inspiration of the sacred volume; but all held this as a fundamental point, in their religion. It was left for those, who chose to style themselves rationalists, in modern times, to admit the authenticity of the facts recorded in the Bible; while they utterly deny the plenary inspiration of the writers. But this is ground on which no consistent reasoner can long stand. The truth is, if the miracles and prophecies of the Scriptures be acknowledged, and the divine origin of Christianity be admitted, the inspiration of the penmen of these books must follow as a corollary. It cannot be denied without the greatest inconsistency. And, on the other hand, if inspiration be denied, the authenticity of the miracles and prophecies will soon Le abandoned. The course of theological opinion among the neologists of Germany, for a number of years past, furnishes a striking illustration of the truth of the aforesaid observations. For a while, the assault, in that country, was merely upon the doctrine of inspiration; but no sooner was that ground conceded, than the critics directed their artillery against the authenticity of the miraculous facts and prophecies.
There is no end to the objections which may be started against the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, just as is the fact in regard to the visible universe, as. the work of God; and it cannot be denied, that there is a striking analogy between the mode of reasoning pursued by atheists and deists. But the foundation of all their arguments is human ignorance and they cannot, form the conception of a creation, by a Being of almighty 240power and infinite wisdom, and of a supernatural revelation from such a being, which would not be liable. to as great, and much greater objections, than they are able to bring forward against his works and word, as they do actually exist. If such men could be induced,. in a calm and unprejudiced manner, to examine this subject, I would recommend to them a careful perusal of Butler’s Analogy, between Natural and Revealed Religion; and to the deist, I would especially recommend the seventh chapter, of the second Part, where. the author, in a manner peculiar to himself, makes first, some observations ON THE PARTICULAR EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY, and then, in the close, exhibits a view of the evidence arising from a general survey of the contents of the Bible. The argument, as presented in this last form, is so original and striking, that I would insert it in this place, were I not afraid of swelling this volume to an inconvenient size. The whole of the second book of the Analogy may be considered as the most satisfactory method of meeting the popular objections to divine revelation, which was ever adopted.
And in regard to particular objections, arising from apparent discrepancies, from extraordinary facts, and from mysterious doctrines, found in the sacred volume, it will be sufficient to refer the inquisitive reader, to the first volume of Horne’s Introduction, and to Dr. Dick’s deservedly popular work, on Inspiration; and also, to learned commentators, some of whom have taken much pains to reconcile seeming contradictions, and to elucidate obscure passages, by an application of the rules of sacred criticism. I would only further remark, in relation to the usual objections to the inspiration of the Scriptures, that they militate as fully against the authenticity of the facts, as against, the 241inspiration of the writers; and, therefore, do not require to be considered and obviated under this head.
A summary of the whole evidence for the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, of the Old and New Testament, is as follows:—All the Internal Evidences of Christianity, whether arising from the peculiar excellence of the matter, or the simplicity and sublimity of the style—from the perfection of the character ascribed to Jesus Christ—from the continual recognition of the over-ruling Providence of God—from the pure and elevated spirit of devotion which breathes through the sacred pages—from the penetrating and transforming efficacy of the Holy Scriptures—and from, their adaptation to the constitution of the human mind,. and to the existing relations among men;—go to prove, that they were written under the infallible guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Again, every prophecy which has been fulfilled, furnishes undoubted and independent evidence of the inspiration of that particular part of the Scriptures; and all the laws which proceeded from the mouth of Jehovah, must be considered as infallible precepts, unless we should call in question the whole truth of the narrative.
The writers, for the most part, were endued with the power of working miracles. These facts, it is admitted, prove that God spake by them; and if the: prophets and apostles were inspired in the discourses, which they delivered, then a fortiori, they must have been inspired in preparing those writings which were intended to guide the faith and practice of believers, through all ages.
Moreover, the sacred writers, generally lay claim to inspiration. They speak authoritatively in the name 242of the Lord. They call their message, the WORD OF GOD and Christ has set his seal to the plenary inspiration of all the Scriptures of the Old Testament. The apostles and evangelists, in the most explicit manner; declare the same truth.
Besides, Christ promised plenary inspiration to his disciples; and they professed to be under the guidance of the Spirit, in what they wrote.
And, finally, while some of the apostles were living, their writings were classed with the divine Scriptures; and were universally received as inspired, and as the infallible word of God, by the whole primitive Church.
We cannot but conclude, therefore, that all the books of the Old and New Testament, were written by the inspiration of God; and contain an infallible rule, to guide the faith and practice of the church, to the end of the world.243
|« Prev||Chapter XI. The Scriptures of the Old and New…||Next »|