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ters of a religious and moral nature, then there is no necessity to ask, whether every thing contained in their writings were suggested immediately by the Spirit or not; whether Luke was inspired to say, that the ship in which he sailed with Paul was wrecked on the island of Melita ;* or whether Paul was under the guidance of the Spirit, in directing Timothy to bring with him the cloak he left at Troas, and the books, but especially the parchments;† for the answer is obvious: these were not things of a religious nature, and no inspiration was necessary concerning them.” I
We are sorry to observe, that the same loose views of inspiration seem to be adopted by two valuable writers on biblical criticism—the Rev. THOMAS H. Horn, who, in his Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, gives large extracts from Tomline and Parry;s and Dr Pre Smith, who, when alluding to several writers on inspiration, assigns the palm to Mr Parry; and who speaks of the inspired character of EVERY THING that is sacred or religious in the Hebrew writings."||
In rebutting the doctrine of Partial Inspiration, it does not strictly form part of our task to expose the obnoxious proceedings of those authors who, without hesitation, cut off entire books from the Canon of Scripture. The candid reader, however, will excuse us for briefly expressing our concern at the bold achievements of this description, which have been exhibited recently, as well as in former ages. We neither wish to see Apocryphal writings exalted to that place of dignity and authority which belongs exclusively to the oracles of God, nor any books divinely inspired degraded from their proper rank. Amongst the Old Testament Scriptures, the Song of Solomon, and the book of Esther, in particular, have experienced, both anciently and of late, the most rude and unmerited treatment. Both, however, were confessedly numbered among the books ascribed to divine inspiration by the Jewish church, and referred to, in that character, by Christ and his Apostles. The internal evidence in favour of both, too, is strong and satisfac
In spite of the cavils thrown out against the Song of So-
Acts xxviii. 1. + 2 Tim. iv. 13.
those, who esteem it a truly sacred composition, representing the blessed union and intercourse betwixt the Saviour and the Church; and few portions of the inspired volume, we believe, have been more abundantly blessed for the purpose of elevating the devout affections of plain upright Christians towards the blessed Jesus, than several passages of that inimitable Song. The celebrated President Edwards, a man no less distinguished for an accurate and penetrating judgment than for a pious heart, describes it as a Song, “representing the great love betwixt Christ and his spouse, the church, particularly adapted to the disposition and holy affection of a true Christian soul towards Christ, and representing his grace and marvellous love to, and delight in, his people.” *
The inspiration of the book of Esther has been contested on this score, that from the chain of surprising incidents detailed in its pages, it wears the appearance of an ingenious fiction or tragi-comedy.t Were objections of this kind, however, to be regarded, they would go far to disparage the history of Joseph, the history of David, the history of our Saviour himself; and indeed to reduce all sacred history, both in the Old and the New Testament, to one continued mass of fiction; for who does not see that a vast proportion of the events recorded, are of a surprising and extraordinary character? Mr Lowth, in his reply to the author of Letters on Inspiration, makes a very satisfactory remark. After adverting to one particular reason for rejecting the theory of that subtle writer, he adds: “ But besides this, there is another objection, which, I confess, has more weight with me, and seems quite to turn the scales, and make his remarks appear mere fancy and fiction, viz. the feast of Purim was really observed by the Jews, in memory of the deliverance recorded in this book. And it will be a hard matter to make me believe that a whole nation should keep an anniversary feast, as ’tis certain they did, without some real ground for it. And if this was not the true occasion of it, as he seems to insinuate, I desire either he would prove the feast to be as very a fiction, as he supposes the history is, or else inform us how the whole nation of the Jews came to be so far imposed upon as to observe it; for till he does one of these two things, I shall still be of opinion that the one was a real feast, and the other a true history."#
• History of the Work of Redemption, &c., p. 190. † Five Letters concerning Inspiration, pp. 164, 169.
Lowth's Vindication of the Divine Authority and Inspiration of the Old and New Testament, pp. 227, 228.
It has been gravely urged as another reason for dismissing the whole book of Esther from the Canon, that it nowhere expressly mentions the name of God. But this objection is frivolous and gratuitous. It is founded on the puerile assumption, that a certain frequency in the repetition of the divine name is an essential characteristic of an inspired communication. On this principle, the Bible must not only be shorn of the Song of Solomon and the book of Esther, but of many long sections in other books, where the same omission may be traced. On this subject, let us hear the observations of a learned and pious Professor of Divinity, who, amongst other excellent writings, published an interesting Exposition of the book in question:
“ Is the name of God not in this book? If the wonderful works of God declare his name to be near, it is written in large characters in the book of Esther, which gives us an account of one of the most wonderful interpositions of God in ancient times for the salvation of his people. Is the name of our Lord Jesus Christ not to be found in this book? Are we not taught very plainly by Moses, and the Prophets who followed him, that the Son of God, the Angel of his presence, in whom his name is, was the Saviour of Israel in every age i Was he not then the Author of the great deliverance wrought for his people in the days of Esther? And do we not learn the glory of his grace, and wisdom, and power, from this work of his hand ? -For what end did God cause his ancient oracles to be written? Asaph informs us, Psalm lxxviii. 5-8. And do we find any of the books of the Old Testament better fitted for the important purpose there mentioned? Do we not learn from this book, if we are not absolutely unteachable, to set our hope in God, and not to forget the works of God, but to keep his commandments ?'”+
Similar attempts have been made to mutilate the Canon of the New Testament. Michaelis, and other modern critics, have rashly proposed to eraze the Gospels of Mark and LUKE from the list, on the ground that these writers sustained merely the office of Evangelists, and not that of Apostles. Even Luther, at one time, was disposed to deny the inspiration of
• Exod. iii. 23_Gen. xlviii. 6, 7–Ps. Ixviii. 18, 19_compare Ephes. iv. 9.
† Discourses on the Whole Book of Esther, by George Lawson, D.D., pp. 2, 3, second edit.
I See the truly satisfactory vindication of the Gospels of Mark and Luke, in Dr Alexander's Canon of the New Testament, Part ii. sect. vii. pp. 112-119.
the Epistle of James, and called it an “ Epistle of straw;" because, on the grand article of justification, its doctrine appeared to him contrary to that of Paul—a supposition which many subsequent advocates of truth have shown to be utterly groundless.* The same great reformer questioned the genuineness and divine origin of the APOCALYPSE; though, as characterized by a late writer, it is the sublimest of all books,” and though the indisputable accomplishment of some of its most extraordinary prophetic visions ought, in spite of their partial obscurity, to satisfy every inquirer. Some men of erudition have denounced the Epistle to the HEBREWS, notwithstanding its rich illustrations of the Mosaic ritual and of evangelical truth; chiefly because the Apostle Paul has not prefixed his name to that writing as to his other Epistles, whilst good reasons can be assigned for this deviation from his usual practice.f To mention only one instance more of those bold and sweeping amputations of the sacred volume.—At a very early period of the Christian church, it was proposed by some to set aside the beautiful and instructive Epistle to Philemon, because it relates merely to the private history of a poor slave, who had eloped from his master, and in consequence of undergoing a happy change of character by the divine blessing on the ministry of Paul, piously determined to return. Jerome, when treating this subject, makes the remark, that to reject the Epistle to Philemon, on the pretence that it relates to matters of little importance, is altogether wrong; for, says he, “ If they do not believe that small things can have the same Author with things of a more elevated nature, it'behoves them to affirm, with Valentine, Marcion, and Apelles, that he who created ants, worms, and grasshoppers, is not the same Being as the creator of heaven and earth, of the sea, and of angels." I
We now return from this digression, if it be one, to the subject immediately before us. The doctrine of Partial Inspiration, as shall afterwards be evinced, is diametrically contrary to the assertions of the sacred writers themselves. It is also quite unsatisfactory, and even serves to involve the serious reader of the Scriptures in overwhelming and inextricable difficulties. The abettors of that scheme, indeed, kindly undertake to obviate every perplexity, by alleging, that to distinguish betwixt the inspired and uninspired portions is altogether unnecessary. “ If it be asked,” says an author referred to above, “ by what rule are we to distinguish the inspired from the uninspired parts of these books, I answer, that no general rule can be prescribed for that purpose. Nor is it necessary that we should be able to make any such discrimination. It is enough for us to know that every writer of the Old Testament was inspired, and that the whole of the history it contains, without any exception or reserve, is true.”*
* See, on the harmony betwixt Paul and James, Dr Owen's Treatise on Justification, and Rawlin's Sermons on that topic.
† See Dr Owen's Exercitations prefixed to his Exposition of the Hebrews, Exer. ii.
I Quoted from La Theologic Chretienne par Ben. Pictet, Tome Premier, p. 87.
On this vitally'interesting point, however, “every one who trembles at the words of the God of Israel” will not be so easily satisfied as was the learned Bishop. If the inspiration of the writers of the Old and New Testaments be only partial and occasional, and if it be confessedly impossible, in numerous instances, to distinguish betwixt inspired and uninspired parts, how can we be sure that the whole, “ without exception or reserye, is true?”
The inspired passages, bearing the stamp of divine wisdom and veracity, must, of course, be unquestionably true; but of the uninspired, since they rest merely on human authority, all that can be absolutely affirmed is, that they may be true, or may be false. Viewed in the most favourable light, they are entitled to no higher regard than the declarations of other wise and good men, who flourished in ancient times. Our faith, so far as these passages are concerned, must stand in the wisdom of men, not in the power of God.f Nay, further, whatever implicit confidence might, otherwise, have been due to the inspired parts, the untoward circumstance that they are intermixed with passages of a quite different origin and cast, impairs their credit and neutralizes their utility. The divine and the human portions being thus inseparably and undistinguishably blended, unwavering confidence, strong consolation, complete certainty, in reference alike to the ground of hope, and the path of duty, are entirely precluded. Well may the reflecting Christian express himself in the following terms:
If my Bible consists of such a medley, I cannot depend, with an unstaggering faith, on any one part of it as incontestably divine. Those very portions where I had found, as I fondly imagined, a secure resting-place in the prospect of eternity, * Tomline's Elements of Christian Theology, vol. i. p. 27.
| Compare I Cor. ij. 5.