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means improve their opportunity; but let not the unlettered Christian complain, that to him the precious Bible is a sealed book. The Holy Scriptures, even when contemplated through the medium of a human translation, still exhibit the workmanship of their Divine Author; shine forth in their native beauty and glory; bear vivid characters of consummate wisdom, and sovereign authority; and, by the concurring influence of the promised Spirit, “ are able to make us wise unto salvation, through faith that is in Christ Jesus." **



Having, in the foregoing chapter, taken a general view of the Inspiration of the Scriptures, we now go forward to discuss the question chiefly contemplated in this Essay.

The divine inspiration of the Bible is absolutely denied, not only by avowed infidels, but, strange to tell, by a class of men who claim the honourable name of Christians. “I think," says Dr Priestley, “that the Scriptures were written without any particular inspiration, by men who wrote according to the best of their knowledge, and who, from their circumstances, could not be mistaken with respect to the greater facts of which they were proper witnesses; but (like other men subject to prejudice) might be liable to adopt a hasty and ill-grounded opinion, concerning things which did not fall within the compass of their own knowledge, and which had no connection with any thing that was so.”—“ Setting aside all idea of the inspiration of the writers, I consider Matthew and Luke as simply historians, whose credit must be determined by the circumstances in which they wrote, and the nature of the facts which they relate.” And again, when he is speaking of a particular doctrine, in proof of which some passages in the Epistles are generally adduced, Dr Priestley says, “It is not from a few casual expressions in epistolary writings, which are seldom composed with so much care as books intended for the use of posterity, that we can be authorised to infer that such was the serious opinion of the Apostles. But if it had been their real opinion, • 2 Tim. ü. 16.

† Note B.

it would not follow that it was true, unless the teaching of it should appear to be included in their general commission."

The author of these statements may have had the boldness to hazard the following observation :-* That the books of Scripture were written by particular divine inspiration, is a thing to which the writers themselves make no pretensions.”+ The sacred penmen, however, as we have seen, expressly represent themselves as inspired by the Holy Spirit; and by consequence, the statements in question amount to an open contradiction of their testimony on this radical point. According to Dr Priestley's scheme, their claim to inspiration was false and ill-founded. It must, of course, have been either a deliberate lie, or a gross mistake. If they arrogated inspiration to themselves, while conscious of having been honoured with no such endowment, they were base deceivers, and none of their assertions on any topic can be worthy of credit. If their minds were so heated by enthusiasm, that they ignorantly and precipitately, although sincerely, thought themselves inspired, and pertinaciously held fast the flattering delusion, they were incompetent teachers of religion, and of all men the least capable of “ speaking forth the words of truth and soberness.” Yet the man who can persuade himself that the obviously intelligent writers of the Old and New Testament Scriptures were universally involved in such hallucinations, must surely have acquired a large portion of credulity.

The inspiration of the sacred writers was not only possible and desirable, but indispensably necessary. Without “particular inspiration,” they could not have detailed facts that

preceded the creation of man, as most of those narrated in the first chapter of Genesis; nor predicted the events of futurity; nor unfolded the amazing purpose of mercy which, from eternity, lay hid in the bosom of God. Inspiration was requisite to enable them to record, without the possibility of error or mistake, long discourses delivered, interesting conversations held, and singular occurrences that happened in their own presence; and to prepare a volume entitled to the unbounded and perpetual confidence of all mankind, as the supreme standard of faith and practice. Only let the genuineness and authentieity of their writings be established—a preliminary

History of Early Opinions, vol. iv. pp. 5, 58; vol. i. p. 70, as quoted by Dr George Hill, Lect. on Divinity, vol. i. pp. 306, 307.

† Priestley's Letters to the Philosophers and Politicians of France, quoted by Dr Dwight in his Theology, vo ser. 48.

I Pages 447, 448.

point which has been incontestably accomplished and their full inspiration is the inevitable consequence. Why, then, did Dr Priestley affirm that the Scriptures were “written without any particular inspiration?” And why do the followers of that noted leader discover the same reckless confidence on this most essential article? The reason is clearly this, that whilst they cherish a determined hostility against certain prominent doctrines of the Prophets and Apostles, they are desirous to possess some specious pretext for receiving or rejecting their announcements at pleasure. Accordingly, we have seen above the daring language of the leader relative to the Apostolical writings, with the sentiments they contain; and we find his devoted followers boldly detecting “ far-fetched analogies and inaccurate reasonings” in an Epistle written by inspiration of God. *

Some general proofs, however, as well internal as external, of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, have already been concisely adverted to. We have now to contend, not with them who entirely deny inspiration, but with those who refuse to admit it in its full extent. To delineate and examine the several theories of inspiration proposed by various writers, point out the shades of difference betwixt them, and balance their comparative merits, would neither suit our intended limits, nor possibly tend much to satisfy our minds on the subject. We shall endeavour only to establish the PLENARY, in opposition to those who maintain merely a partial and occasional inspiration of the sacred books; and their VERBAL inspiration, in opposition to those who hold that only the sentiments or matter, and not the words, are inspired.

Partial and occasional inspiration has been maintained not only by GROTIUS, EPISCOPIUS, LE CLERC, and other learned authors of former times, but also by a great number of later writers. Dr Beattie, who earned a high reputation by his

• See the note on Heb. xiii. 25, in the Improved Version of the New Testament.

† Le Clerc was the reputed author of "Five Letters concerning the Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, translated out of the French," published in the year 1690, which proved exceedingly offensive to British Christians, and were ably replied to by William Lowth, B.D., of Oxford, Dr Edmund Calamy, and others. Dr Calamy, having mentioned that work in the Preface to his Sermons on Inspiration, adds, “ there is more of subtlety and artifice in those Letters than in any thing of the kind I ever yet met with; and I have not passed by any of his objections that appeared to me to be material.”

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able vindication of Truth against the subtle attacks of scepticism, cannot be included in the list of advocates of plenary inspiration; for in his elegant volumes on the Evidences of the Christian Religion, in replying to the objection founded on the seeming discrepancies betwixt

the narratives of the Evangelists, he represents the inspiration of the sacred writers as applicable, in all probability, merely to their doctrine. * Similar concessions have been made by many excellent men of the present day. A distinguished living author of the Church of England, in one of his Lectures on the Evidences of Christianity, has suffered a variety of unguarded statements to slip from his pen. He zealously contends for a varied inspiration, tended to every part of the Canonical writings, in proportion as each part stood related to the religion.” Whilst making an adventurous attempt to apply his graduated scale to particular books and passages, he has this remark regarding the inspiration of superintendence :-“ Even the slight allusions to proverbial sayings, to the works of nature, to history, were possibly not entirely out of the range of the watchful guardianship of the Holy Spirit.”_“ How far," adds he, "the inspiration of the Scriptures extends to the most casual and remote allusions of an historical and philosophical kind, which affect in no way the doctrines or duties of religion, it is not, perhaps, difficult to determine.”+ In these last words the author appears, unhappily, to betray an apprehension, that some passages of Scripture cannot stand the scrutiny of history and philosophy; and he endeavours to provide for its credit, by suggesting that it was intended only to teach the doctrines and duties of religion.

To these examples we take the liberty to add the statements of another English theologian, with those of a different author, whom he quotes with approbation.

“ But whatever distinctions we may make,” says Bishop TOMLINE, “ with respect to the sorts, degrees, or modes of inspiration, we may rest assured that there is one property which belongs to every inspired writing, namely, that it is free from error– I mean material error; and this property must be considered as extending to the whole of each of those writings, of which part only is inspired.”! After expressing his opinion

Evidences of the Christian Religion, vol, ii. chap. 3, sect. 4. | Lectures, &c., by the Rev. Dan. Wilson, now Bishop of Calcutta, Lect. xiii., as quoted by Carson in his Theories of Inspiration, pp. 17, 22, 25.

I Elements of Christian Thcology, by George Tomline, D.D., F.R.S.,

with respect to the historical portions of the Old Testament, he thus continues :-_“We may, in like manner, suppose that some of the precepts, delivered in the books called the Hagiographa, were written without any supernatural assistance, though it is evident that others of them exceed the limits of human wisdom; and it would be equally impossible, as in the historical Scriptures, to ascertain the character of particular passages, which might be proposed. But here again a discrimination would be entirely useless. The books themselves furnish sufficient proofs that the writers of them were occasionally inspired; and we know also that they were frequently quoted, particularly the Psalms, as prophetical, by our Saviour and his Apostles, in support of the religion which they preached.”* The learned author's observations on the inspiration of the New Testament discover the same laxity of sentiment. “ If we believe,” says he, “ that God sent Christ into the world to found an universal religion, and that, by the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, he empowered the Apostles to propagate the Gospel, as stated in these books, we cannot but believe that he would, by his immediate interposition, enable those whom he appointed to record the Gospel, for the use of future ages, to write without the omission of any important truth, or the insertion of any material error.”t. The Bishop afterwards occupies five pages with an extract from a little work, which he warmly recommends to his "young readers, as containing plain and excellent remarks upon the subject of inspiration.” The tenor of the extract is to represent the inspiration imparted to the writers of the New Testament, as infallibly preventing mistake, only as to every religious sentiment which they taught mankind.

The few following sentences will furnish a sufficient specimen of the whole passage extracted:-“ Another advantage, says Mr PARRY, “attending the above view of the Apostolic inspiration is, that it will enable us to understand some things, in their writings, which it might be difficult to reconcile with another view of the subject. If the inspiration and guidance of the Spirit respecting the writers of the New Testament, extended only to what appears to be its proper province, mat

Lord Bishop of Lincoln, 12th edit. of vol. i., 9th of vol. ij., pp. 22, 23. vol. i.

* Ibid. pp. 27, 28. † Ibid. p. 283.

| This work is entitled, “ An Enquiry into the Nature and Extent of the Inspiration of the Apostles, and other writers of the New Testament,” by Mr William Parry.

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