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The full inspiration of the Holy Scriptures is a weighty and an interesting topic. The most industrious and successful inquiries regarding their genuineness and authenticity prove almost abortive, if it be still impracticable to establish their complete inspiration; or if, after all, they consist merely of inspired and uninspired portions, betwixt which no line of distinction can with certainty be drawn.
Whilst the press teems with treatises written in defence of the credibility of the Sacred Volume, its Plenary and Verbal Inspiration has been discussed less frequently and less amply than the importance of the subject demands. The number of publications peculiarly devoted to this question is comparatively small; and some even of these, though otherwise able and excellent, have been thought to exhibit a vehemence and asperity, that lessen their value and obstruct their usefulness. The religious public seem generally to feel, that, whatever has been accomplished in this department of investigation respecting Christianity, the ground remains open, and the labours of succeeding writers are by no means superseded.
The author of the following Essay has, therefore, endeavoured to contribute his mite towards the vindication of the truth. His aim is to furnish a methodical, dispassionate, and somewhat ample defence of verbal inspiration, unencumbered by disquisitions foreign to the point.
From express acknowledgments that occur in the course of this Essay, it will be seen that he is not insensible of his obligations to those who have preceded him in the same field of inquiry. To have forborne making use of texts and arguments essential to the discussion, merel; because they had been previously employed by others, would, in his opinion, have savoured more of a false scrupulosity than of a cordial attachment to truth. He is unconscious, however, of having servilely borrowed from any source; and even ventures to cherish the hope, that the plan of illustration adopted, and the points of view in which various considerations pertaining to the question are placed, may perhaps serve to render this performance somewhat better adapted to the instruction and establishment of several classes of readers, than the works of some other writers, possessing far higher claims to learning and originality.
The subject has confessedly its difficulties; and it has been viewed in different lights by men of intelligence and principle. To differ in some respects in opinion from persons whose character he esteems, or whose memory he venerates, affords no pleasure to the writer; but he claims to himself the same liberty of judgment which he cheerfully allows to others. He sincerely wishes, meanwhile, that, on an article so momentous as the verbal inspiration of the Bible, all the friends of revelation were enabled to “ see eye to eye.” Aware of his own deficiencies, but animated by the persuasion, that “ Not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of Hosts, the cause of truth and the best interests of mankind are advanced, he commends this humble attempt in favour of religion to the blessing of God, and to the candid judgment of Christians.
Kennoway, October 6, 1834.
PLENARY AND VERBAL INSPIRATION OF THE
GENERAL ACCOUNT OF THE INSPIRATION OF THE SCRIPTURES, IN ITS
ORIGIN, NATURE, AND EVIDENCE.
The terms inspire and inspiration carry an allusion to wind or breath. These words are applied to a variety of topics. “ There is a spirit in man,” says Elihu, referring to the rational soul with which man is endowed; "and the inspiration, the breath, of the Almighty giveth them understanding Similar language is often employed among men, when they allude to the intellectual or moral qualities for which individuals are distinguished. We say, for example, that the patriot is inspired with a warm attachment to his country, the hero with a noble intrepidity, the philosopher with an unquenchable love of science, the artist with an exquisite taste for curious workmanship, and the poet with a keen sensibility to the beauties of nature. By a tacit acknowledgment of superior agency, mankind attribute inspiration to every one who displays a genius or an elevation of soul, by which he is
capable of lofty sentiments, or magnanimous deeds.
The term is still more distinctively applied to those spiritual excellencies which characterise the children of God. Admiration of the divine perfections, gratitude for redeeming love, zeal for the advancement of true religion, and disinterested benevolence to mankind, are spoken of as holy principles or feelings, with which they are inspired. Nor is this mode of expressing ourselves unsupported by the highest authority; for while Bezaleel and Aholiab are said to have been “ filled with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass;"* those amiable graces which adorn the Christian are uniformly ascribed to the special agency of the Divine Spirit. Conformably to the promise, “ I will put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live,”† these precious graces are, by an omnipotent energy, breathed into the soul which, previously, was estranged from every holy feeling, and “dead in sin.”
* Job xxxii, 8.
The inspiration, however, to which our attention is now to be directed, is a miraculous gift. It is that supernatural power by which men were enabled infallibly to declare the will of God. With regard to this wonderful endowment, as communicated to holy men who committed Divine revelation to writing, the Apostle Paul makes the following memorable statement:-“ All SCRIPTURE IS OSOFTVEUSOS, GIVEN BY INSPIRATION OF GOD"f-or, as the term is interpreted by Parkhurst, “breathed or inspired by God, divinely inspired, given by divine inspiration.
Without either attempting a more full and exact definition of the term Inspiration, or examining the various definitions of it given by others, we shall endeavour to elucidate this important subject by the following observations.
1. Inspiration, while it is the gift of God, is peculiarly ascribed to the Holy Spirit as its author.
We are taught, in general, to adore the same glorious Being who has granted us the powers of reason, and “ wisdom in the inward parts,” s as the source of those distinct revelations that have been graciously vouchsafed to mankind. “ Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever," said the prophet Daniel immediately after he had been favoured with a most seasonable and surprising communication from above, “ for wisdom and might are his . . . . He giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding; he revealeth deep and secret things; he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him." But with regard to the revelation of divine truth, and the recording of it in the Scriptures, as well as other works of God, relating to the salvation of the human family, Exod. xxxi. 3, 4. † Ezek. xxxvii. 14. $ 2 Tim. ii. 16.
Job xxxviii. 36. | Dan. ii. 20–22.
we are often called to contemplate the great mystery of Threein-One, and to recognise the distinct operations of each divine person. To the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is represented as the contriver and proposer of the plan of redemption, and as having fore-ordained, sent forth, and sealed his Son, and accepted his mediatorial work-due honour is also ascribed, as the Father of lights from whom Prophets and Apostles received their inspiration and authority. * 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."--"I have given unto them,” said our Lord, in a solemn address to his Father, “the words which thou gavest me."* To the Son of God also our attention is frequently directed, as the eternal Word, the messenger of the covenant, the interpreter, one among a thousand, who publishes the good tidings of that salvation he procured with his blood ; and to whom all other prophets stand indebted for their call and commission, endowments and success. man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” | The same Holy Scriptures, which are denominated “ the word of God," are styled “the word of Christ." I “ The glorious Gospel of the blessed God,” is often designated the Gospel of Christ."
Inspiration is specially attributed, however, to the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit, whom we are instructed to consider as sustaining at once a subordinate and an authoritative capacity; as acting in the name of the Father and Son, yet ex- , ercising his own sovereign and irresponsible authority. “ Now there are diversities of gifts," says the Apostle, “but the same Spirit." _“ All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. S
Let the following passages suffice as a specimen of the numerous instances in which the inspiration of the sacred writers is peculiarly ascribed to the Spirit:—“The sweet Psalmist of Israel said, “ The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.' Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. “Searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ that was in them did signify, when he testified before-hand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” “ Men and brethren, this Scripture must needs have been fulfilled,
• Heb. i. 1- John, xvii. 8. | Jobn, i. 18. I Col. iii. 16.