Page images

their reproofs and their predictions, with a Thus saith the Lord. By all these modes of expression, they solemnly profess to have written not according to their own will, but as they were directed and moved by the Divine Spirit. And this testimony of the prophets to their own inspiration is fully confirmed by the united testimony of the apostles. Peter says, “ No prophecy of the 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." And Paul says, “ 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 unto all good works." The apostle here asserts that all scripture in general is given by inspiration of God; and that all parts of scripture in particular, which are profitable either for doctrine, or reproof, or correction, or instruction, are given by the same inspiration. These parts taken together, evidently comprise all the history, all the biog. raphy, all the poetry, all the prophecy, and all the precepts, promises and threatenings, to be found in the law and the prophets. This passage, therefore, testifies to the immediate inspiration of the whole, and of every part of the Old Testament writings. And the same apostle gives as ample testimony to the inspiration of the writers of the New Testament. He speaks of his own inspiration with great assurance.

66 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me, is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." In another passage he more fully and expressly asserts that both he and the other apostles were favored with the inspiration of suggestion. “But, as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them to us by his Spirit; - which things also we speak; not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” The apostle John also professes to have been divinely taught and directed, in writing his Revelation. “ The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John; who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.” Thus the apostles and prophets profess to have written under the immediate inspiration of God, who dictated the matter, manner and style of their writings. And from this and the other considerations which have been offered, we have sufficient reason to believe that the Bible was written from beginning to end, by the inspiration of suggestion.

But since this is a very important subject, which claims a fair and full discussion, it may be proper to take particular notice of the most weighty objections which may be made against the plenary inspiration of the holy scriptures.

1. It may be said, there appears a great diversity in the manner and style of the sacred penmen, which cannot be easily reconciled with the supposition of their being equally and constantly guided by the inspiration of suggestion.

It is true, indeed, we plainly discover some variety in the manner and style of the sacred writers. Isaiah and Paul, as well as Moses, David and Solomon, who were men of education and refinement, write in a more pure and elevated style than the prophet Amos, who lived among the herdmen of Tekoah, and ihe apostle John, who lived among the fishermen of Galilee. But this is easy to be accounted for, by only supposing that God dictated to each sacred penman a manner and style corresponding to his own peculiar genius, education, and manner of living Were a parent to dictate a letter for a child, would he not dictate it in a manner and style somewhat agreeable to the age, genius, and attainments of the child ? And is there not as much reason why God should dictate a different manner and style to the different authors of the Old and New Testament, as why he should employ so many men of such different degrees of knowledge and refinement to write the sacred scriptures? We do not discover, therefore, any greater diversity in the manner and style of the sacred penmen, than we might reasonably expect to find, in case they wrote exactly as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

But on the other hand, we find a much greater similarity in their manner and style than could be reasonably expected on supposition of their writing agreeably to their own genius and taste, without the suggesting influences of the Spirit. That great christian philosopher, Robert Boyle, and many other excellent judges of good composition, have justly observed that there is not only a simplicity, but a sublimity, in the style of scripture, which cannot be found in any other writings. This is not all. The sacred penmen have a manner, as well as a style, which is peculiar to themselves. They seem to avoid the common modes and forms of uninspired writers. They write in the most free, easy and authoritative manner. They enter upon their subjects without any formal introduction; they pursue their subjects without any formal arguments or dissertations; and they conclude their subjects without any formal reflections and recapitulations. Herein they not only differ from others, but agree with one another. And this general similarity of manner, as well as of style, is a stronger evidence in favor of their plenary inspiration, than any inaccuracy or inelegance of language is, against it.

Besides, the manner and style of the sacred writers were of too much importance to be left to their own unassisted discretion and integrity. Will any wise general permit an under officer to deliver his special orders to the army, without dictating the expressions to be used? Or will any public body send an important message to any other public body, without dictating the words of the message? Can it be supposed, then, that God would suffer his imperfect, fallible creatures to publish his will, without dictating the manner and style in which his will should be published ?

2. It may be said that the mistakes and contradictions to be found in the scriptures plainly refute the notion of their being written under the inspiration of suggestion.

To this it may be replied in general, that most of the supposed mistakes and contradictions to be found in the scriptures may be only apparent; and so might be fully reconciled or removed, if we were better acquainted with the original languages in which the sacred books were written, and with the customs and manners of the different ages and places in which the sacred penmen lived. But the direct and decisive answer to this objection is, that it operates with equal force against every kind of inspiration. This all must allow, who suppose that there are more kinds of inspiration than one; and who maintain that all those parts of scripture which were not written by the inspiration of suggestion, were written either by the inspiration of superintendency, or the inspiration of elevation., For, so long as God especially superintended, or especially elevated the minds of the sacred penmen, he must have effectually preserved them from all real contradictions and mistakes. Indeed, this objection refutes itself. For, if nothing short of the inspiration of suggestion could have preserved the sacred writers from falling into real errors, then it must be supposed that they were constantly dictated to by the Holy Ghost. And if they wrote under this plenary inspiration, then the merely apparent errors to be found in their writings must be placed to our own ignorance; and all the real contradictions and mistakes must be imputed to the ignorance, or inattention, or unfaithfulness, of transcribers and of translators.

3. It may be said, since God originally intended that the Bible should be transcribed by different hands and translated into different languages, there was no occasion for his suggesting every thought and word to the sacred penmen; because, VOL. IV.


after all, their writings must be subject to human defects and imperfections.

İt is sufficient to observe here, that every transcription and translation is commonly more or less perfect, in proportion to the greater or less perfection of the original. And since the scriptures were designed to be often transcribed and translated, this made it more necessary, instead of less, that they should be written, at first, with peculiar accuracy and precision. Men always write with great exactness, when they expect their writings will be frequently copied, or translated into various languages. The instructions to an ambassador at a foreign court are usually written with extraordinary care and attention; because it is naturally expected that such writings will be often transcribed and translated. And upon this ground, we may reasonably suppose that the Divine Spirit dictated every thought and word to the sacred penmen, to prevent gross errors and mistakes from finally creeping into their writings by frequent transcriptions and translations.

4. It may be said that the apostle Paul seems to acknowledge, in the seventh chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians, that he wrote some things in that chapter according to his own private opinion, without the aid or authority of a plenary inspiration. In one verse he says, “I speak this by permission, and not of commandment." And in another verse he says, “ To the rest speak I, not the Lord.”

If we understand these expressions literally, then we must suppose that the apostle and all the other sacred penmen always wrote under a plenary inspiration, only when they gave intimations to the contrary. If it were proper for one of these writers, then it was proper for all of them, to give notice when they wrote without a plenary inspiration.

And if it were proper to give such notice in one instance, then it was proper in every instance, when they wrote by permission, and not of commandment. But we find no such notice given, except in the chapter under consideration; and therefore we may justly conclude that all the other parts of scripture were written by the immediate inspiration of God.

But if, in the second place, we understand the apostle as speaking ironically in the verses before us, then his expressions will carry no idea of his writing without divine aid and authority. And there is some ground to understand his words in this

He was not made a subject of special grace, nor called to be an apostle, until some time after Christ's ascension to heaven. This gave his enemies occasion to insinuate that he was inferior to the other apostles, in point of divine authority. And he knew that some of the Corinthians had imbibed this


prejudice against him; for he says, they sought a proof of Christ speaking in him. Hence we find in the close of this chapter, after he had been speaking ironically of his own inspiration, he says seriously, “ I think also that I have the Spirit of God." That is, I think I have the supernatural and suggesting influences of the Spirit of God, as well as the rest of the apostles, whom you acknowledge to be divinely inspired. This explains his doubtful expressions, and ascertains the divine influence under which he wrote this chapter, and this and all his other epistles.

There is, however, a third answer to this objection, which appears to be the most satisfactory; and that is this. The apostle is here speaking upon the subject of marriage ; and he intimates that he has more to say upon this subject than either of the prophets, or Christ had said upon it. Accordingly he

“ I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. To the rest speak I, not the Lord.” By these expressions, he means to distinguish what he said from what other inspired teachers had said, upon the same subject.. And to convince the Corinthians that he had not been speaking his own private opinion in reference to them in particular, but had been delivering, by divine authority, such precepts as should be universally and perpetually binding upon christians in general, he makes this explicit declaration in the seventeenth verse :

66 And so ordain I in all the churches."

On the whole, there appears no solid objection against the plenary inspiration of any part of the sacred scriptures; but, on the other hand, every argument which proves them to be partly, equally proves them to be altogether, given by the immediate inspiration of God.



1. If the Bible contains the very ideas and sentiments which were immediately suggested to the sacred penmen by the Divine Spirit, then great caution and circumspection ought to be used in explaining scripture. The words of scripture may not be lightly altered, nor expunged, nor supplied, nor wrested from their plain and obvious meaning according to the connection in which they stand. Some have used great freedom with the Bible, and treated it with less deference than they would have dared to treat an ancient Greek or Latin author. They have supplied places, where they imagined words were wanting. They have transposed not only words, but sentences, paragraphs, and even whole chapters. And all this has commonly been done, to support some favorite error, or to evade

« PreviousContinue »