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men! Nay, a considerable proportion of the most learned and refined, after accomplishing an extensive course of reading in a variety of languages, and after perusing the most admired historians, philosophers, and poets, both ancient and modern, have acknowledged the superior majesty and beauty of holy writ. In the most decided terms, they have spontaneously transferred the palm from Homer, Xenophon, Cicero, and Milton, to Moses, David, Solomon, and Isaiah. That spiritual discernment which, in a higher or a lower measure, is the privilege of all that are taught of God and blessed with “ an unction from the Holy One,” is, however, a more excellent and penetrating faculty than either the natural sensibility which may be found amongst men of every grade, or that elegant taste which is the boast of polite and literary classes. The real Christian, owing to this gracious discernment, has a peculiar relish both for the sacred truths and precepts, and for the divine expressions of the Bible, not less beneficial in its permanent effects, than pleasing in its immediate sensations. “ How sweet are thy words unto my taste!” says the Psalmist,
yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. ' Amongst the numerous sublime and beautiful
portions of Scripture, we may specify the few following: Exodus xv.; Job iv. xxxvii. xxxviii.; Psalm cxxxix.; Isaiah xiv. xl.; Habbakkuk iii.; 1 Corinthians xii.; 2 Peter üü.; Revelation i. xx.
One consideration particularly merits our attention. The language in which the sacred writers clothe their ideas, is in various instances far superior to that which their early education and habits might have led us to expect. We can recognise traits of grandeur, not only in the writings of Isaiah, who most probably was educated in a manner befitting a youth nearly allied to the throne, but also in those of Amos, who was taken from gathering sycamores and tending the flock. How lofty is the following description of the Almighty, supplied by this prophet I—" Prepare to meet thy God, o Israel; for, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, Jehovah, the God of Hosts is his name.”ť Many have noticed the allusions of Amos to the humble scenes of the
pastoral life, to which he had been habituated from his youth; but the examples of sublimity in conception and language, that his prophecies present, should not be overlooked. In perusing
* Psalm cxix. 103, 104. † Amos iv. 12, 13.
the New Testament, too, we are struck with the touches of natural eloquence, not only in the writings of Paul, whose education was somewhat liberal, but in those of Matthew, who was originally a tax-gatherer, and of Peter and John, who had pursued the lowly occupation of fishermen. Not to mention the lofty visions and splendid imagery which adorn the Apo calypse, we should conclude, that full verbal inspiration was indispensably necessary to enable Matthew and John to detail the transactions of our Saviour's life in a style, which, though having no pretensions to Attic elegance, is excellently suited to the glorious theme; equally adapted to the instruction of rich and poor; and powerfully calculated, by the divine blessing, to interest every heart, and to bring all men to the knowledge of him who is the way, the truth, and the life.”
IX. Once more: Plenary and Verbal Inspiration was essential to the design of the Scriptures, as an infallible and perpetual rule of faith and practice.
The purposes for which the sacred volume was given to the world are most gracious and important. It was intended to display the character and perfections of God; to instruct, sanctify, and save mankind; and to serve as the accredited standard of truth and duty. It is a standard, canon, or rule, characterized by attributes peculiar to itself. Infallible, it cannot err; it can, in no instance, deceive or mislead. Supreme, it has authority to try every other standard, while it is itself liable to be tried and corrected by none. Universal, its dominion extends, and its salutary lessons are adapted alike to Jew and Gentile, high and low, learned and unlearned, bond and free. Perpetual, it is appointed to regulate the sentiments and conduct, the fears and hopes of mankind in all ages, to the end of the world. Prepared by that Spirit who “ searcheth all things,” and to whom all things past, present, and to come, are continually naked and open, it is admirably suited to every state of things that can possibly arise in any country, and in any age. Though local and incidental circumstances originally gave occasion to the writing of particular passages, or even of the
whole Books of Scripture, those very passages and books are found of extensive application for the benefit of men; for “ He fashioneth their hearts alike;" * and in times and places widely distant from each other, similar necessities, obligations, difficulties, and trials, often occur among Christians, both in an individual and a social capacity.
* Psalm xxxiji. 15.
The authority of the Hebrew Scriptures, as a standing rule to the Church, which no man was at liberty, in any shape, to alter, is often declared: “What things soever I command you, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it"_“ Add thou not to his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar."* Our Lord and his Apostles make frequent appeals to these ancient Scriptures, as of infallible authority.“ Search the Scriptures,” said Jesus, " for in them ye think ye have eternal life”—“ If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead"_“ Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God."| The perfect ease and simplicity with which the New Testament writers constantly refer to the Old, is highly instructive. While ever and anon they use such expressions as these—“ Wot ye not what the Scripture saith,” “ It is written," “ Moses saith," “ Isaias is very bold, and saith,” “ The Holy Ghost saith,”—their language clearly indicates the deep veneration due to the sacred books as an authoritative and decisive test, from which lies no appeal. Terms equally strong and conclusive, too, are used, as we have seen, *with regard to the authority, infallibility, and perpetuity of the
New Testament Scriptures. It may suffice to quote that solemn and awful admonition with which the Apocalypse and the whole Bible is shut up: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if
any man shall take
from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." I
Now, is it at all credible that a volume invested with this paramount, extensive, and lasting authority, was nothing more than partially and imperfectly inspired? If Prophets and Apostles had, in the course of their writing, been but occasionally under divine inspiration; or if the Spirit had only suggested the leading ideas, and exercised a superintendence that preserved them from material error, their works could not have obtained a place so immeasurably higher than the rank allotted to all other valuable books on religion. We may go farther and affirm, that had not inspiration been verbal, it could scarcely
Deut. xii. 32_ Prov. xxx. 6_See also Is. viji. 20---Mal. iv. 4. † John v. 39_Luke xvi. 31--Mat. xxii. 29. | Rev. xxii. 18, 19 See also Mat. x. 40; ch. xxvii, 19, 20_Luke x. 16-John xx. 22, 23,
have been plenary, or to say the least, it would have been difficult for us to believe that it is altogether so. “ In relation to the language of the Holy Scriptures,” it is observed in a public Testimony to the truth formerly referred to, "unless the words can be depended upon as infallibly conveying the mind of the Spirit, the matter of Revelation must be quite undetermined; and to have left us to this uncertainty would neither have been worthy of the goodness of God, which disposed him to grant such a communication to men, nor of his wisdom, which always selects adequate means for accomplishing his purposes."
The importance of appropriate terms, and correct arrangement, in every communication of moment, is universally admitted. The omission, addition, transposition, or change of a single word or particle, will often materially affect the meaning of a sentence. A few verbal, and apparently slight alterations, are sufficient essentially to mar the tenor and subvert the object of a whole discourse. In the instructions addressed by a proprietor to his steward, by a prince to his servants, by a state to its ambassadors, generals and admirals; in the laws enacted for the government of nations; and in evidence laid before courts of justice, on which the destination of valuable property, and the fortune, character, and life of individuals depend—the necessity of the most rigid verbal accuracy has often been felt. But no human instructions, laws, or testimony, are comparable, in importance, to that Revelation, in which the dearest interests of the Divine glory, and the immortal welfare of mankind, are equally concerned. Here, assuredly, we have to do with a writing of unequalled and incalculable magnitude. Here, far more than any where else, it is indispensable that the sentiments be fully and correctly expressed; that the terms be properly chosen and arranged; that not one jot or tittle in the precious communication be either defective, or redundant, or altered, or misplaced.
Can it then be alleged that the inspiration of the words was neither necessary, nor calculated to serve any valuable purpose? Was not the dictation to the sacred penmen of “acceptable words, even words of truth," as well as the suggestion of weighty sentiments, a work altogether worthy of the wisdom and goodness of God? If we regard the sacred volume as wholly Divine both in matter and expression, we shall repose an unbounded confidence in it, as an infallible and satisfactory standard. But if, on the contrary, we hesitate to embrace it as thus fully inspired, we need a new revelation to explain the
Testimony of the United Synod, p. 96.
old; we can form no certain conclusions with regard to principles to be believed, or duties to be done; we still labour under deplorable uncertainty and perplexity respecting the allimportant concerns of God and eternity. “We are still left, as an excellent writer expresses it, “to make the voyage
of life in the midst of rocks and shelves and quicksands, with a compass vacillating and useless, and our pole-star enveloped in mists and obscurity.”
These, then, are Proofs of the Plenary and Verbal Inspiration of the Holy Bible; the express statements of Scripture itself on the subject; the direct promises of our Lord to his Apostles; the various designations and epithets applied to the sacred volume; the undeniable verbal inspiration of some portions of Scripture; the manifest importance of the inspiration of the words in all the various modes of writing which the Scriptures exhibit; the emphasis not unfrequently attached by the sacred writers to short phrases and single terms; the intimate connection that subsists betwixt thoughts and the words by which they are expressed; the indisputable excellence of scripture diction; and, in fine, the grand purpose which this volume was intended to serve, as an infallible and perpetual rule of faith and practice.
Let each of these arguments be allowed its proper weight; let a just estimate be formed of their united force; let gratuitous assumptions and ill-founded prepossessions be laid aside; above all, let the mind be cordially disposed to acquiesce in the testimony of the All-wise Author of the Bible in reference to his own book-and we cannot but anticipate a conclusion, on the part of the reader, correspondent to the views we have endeavoured to advocate.
Dr Gregory's Letters on the Evidence, Doctrines, and Duties of Religion, vol. i., Let. 10.