Page images
PDF
EPUB

mits of an easy explanation. Those writers who found an exception against Plenary Inspiration, on the manner in which the Old Testament Scriptures are quoted, argue that the same passages are variously cited by the different Evangelists, contracted by one, and enlarged by another. Sufficient reasons, however, may be assigned for this diversity. Luke, for ex ample, when quoting, in his third chapter, from the fortieth of Isaiah, cites no fewer than three verses of that Prophet, concluding with the words, “ All flesh shall see the salvation of God; ;"* while Matthew and Mark quote only one of these verses. Now it must be remarked, that Luke wrote immediately for the benefit of the Gentiles, and that his ample quotation was calculated to afford them the cheering assurance, that Gentiles as well as Jews were to share the privileges of that new dispensation of grace, which was announced by the Baptist. Again, Mark and Luke but slightly allude to a passage in Isaiah relative to the spiritual judgments in reserve for unbelieving Jews;f while Matthew and Paul, on the contrary, produce the quotation at full length. The difference, however, is easily accounted for, by noticing that it was the immediate design of Matthew and of Paul to administer admonition and reproof to the Jews.

It is very possible to specify a probable reason for many other variations that occur in the writings of the Evangelists. It was not at random, but on good grounds, and under the impulse of a full inspiration, that they severally omit some facts and expressions, and insert others. Luke, for instance, in his record of Christ's prophetical discourse relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, omits a number of sentences correspondent to certain verses in Matthew and. Mark's accounts of that discourse;|| but similar sentences had previously occurred in our Lord's exhortations, as rehearsed by Luke in his twelfth and seventeenth chapters. That distinguished prophecy, too, we may observe, is entirely omitted by John, and very properly omitted; for not only was it fully reported by the three preceding Evangelists, but as John wrote his Gospel after the fall of Jerusalem, his silence precludes the allegation which the enemies of Christianity might have been apt to throw out, that

[ocr errors]

Luke iii. 4, 5, 6, compared with Is. xl. 3, 4, 5. † Mat. iii. 3— Mark i. 3. # Mark iv. 12_ Luke vjij. 10. $ Mat. xiii. 14, 15— Acts. xxviii. 26, 27. i Luke xxi. compared with Mat. xxiv. 36–51--Mark xiii. 32-37, 9 Luke xii. 35-48; ch. xvii. 20-37.

his prophecy was formed after the event had happened. John, on the other side, records at length many spiritual and sublime discourses of our Saviour, which do not appear in any of the foregoing Gospels; and which signally tended, not merely to promote the comfort and edification of every Christian reader, but to establish the peculiar doctrines of Christianity in opposition to certain dangerous errors that, at the time of his writing, had begun to infest the church.

With regard to seeming contradictions observed in the New Testament, whether in reference to facts or doctrines, an attempt to discuss them in detail would carry us far beyond the bounds of this little work. The discussion, too, perhaps, instead of directly pertaining to the subject of this Essay, falls rather within the province of writers on the authority of Scripture. Let the slight notice, therefore, of the harmony of the sacred penmen, formerly given,* be considered sufficient here; and let individuals who are desirous of minute information on the subject, avail themselves of those valuable publications in which difficulties of that description are amply and satisfactorily solved.t

Meanwhile, let the following remark made by Mr Fuller, when describing the singular characteristics of the inspired writers—a remark similar to one of Chrysostom's, referred to before 1-produce its proper impression on our minds :

They discover no anxiety to guard against seeming inconsistencies, either with themselves or one another. In works of imposture, especially where a number of persons are concerned, there is need of great care and caution, lest one part should contradict another; and such caution is easily perceived. But the sacred writers appear to have had no such concern about them. Conscious that all they wrote was true, they left it to prove its own consistency. Their productions possess consistency; but it is not a studied one, nor always apparent at first sight: it is that consistency which is certain to accom

pany truth.”

We have now replied to every objection we have seen against Verbal Inspiration, that appears to have any weight. Several others, which it was once intended to answer, are only specious cavils, scarcely entitled to a serious refutation. Of this description, in our view, are those derived from the vast number of various readings in ancient copies and versions, and from the allegation that the doctrine of the inspiration of words serves to diminish the authority and value of translations. These objections have been partly obviated by the last remark in the first chapter of this Essay; and whoever wishes to see more on the subject, will find them thoroughly canvassed and keenly exposed in another work."

* Pages 456-458.

| Dr Dick's Essay on Inspiration, ch. vii. $ 4.—Horne's Introd. vol. i. Append. No. iii. pp. 529_597. | Page 458.

Gospel its own Witness, part ii. ch. 3. pp. 161, 162.

The reader, it is expected, will find peculiar satisfaction in an extract on this topic from an able review in the CHRISTIAN INSTRUCTOR, which appeared some years since in that periodical, while it was conducted by the late celebrated Dr ANDREW Thomson, and was very possibly his own composition. In this extract the most considerable arguments of our opponents are concentrated in one point, and a decisive answer is returned, founded on the general analogy of the works of God.

A good cause has often appeared to disadvantage from the incapacity or inadvertence of its advocates. Let it be remembered, then, that whatever defects or mistakes may be detected in the above replies to objections against Plenary and Verbal Inspiration, no one is entitled to infer that these objections are quite unanswerable. Nor should it be forgotten that it is possible to invent and set forth a fair semblance of arguments against the most incontrovertible truths.

To start difficulties and objections is one of the easiest tasks that were ever attempted. Were mankind to embrace no tenets but those against which it is impracticable to produce allegations with some colour or pretence, the articles of their creed would be few indeed; rather, they would plunge into universal scepticism. Even in those branches of philosophy and science, whose principles admit of the strictest demonstration, difficulties that cannot be particularly explained will occur to a penetrating intellect. In religion, too, the highest of all concerns, God has been pleased, for wise and salutary purposes, to ordain, that difficulties, less or more appalling, should present themselves at almost every step. With regard to the very existence of the Supreme Being, many puzzling questions may be asked, sufficient to stagger the unwary, and to disquiet the feeble-minded. The truth of revelation, in like manner, with its n:ost essential facts and most vital doctrines, may be assailed by its enemies with fair appearances of rationality and force. A vast multiplicity of impoisoned arrows have in fact been aimed against the whole body of the Christian system, and thousands have confidently anticipated its utter extinction. It cannot then be regarded as surprising that specious objections have been devised, and strenuous efforts put forth, against the doctrine of plenary inspiration.

* Carson's Theories of Inspiration, pp. 54-56, 89–91, 117–132. + See note H.

But what part ought the Christian to act in reference to this opposed and reprobated doctrine? If he find it expressly taught in sacred writ, and established by cogent scriptural arguments, he should certainly receive and retain it, despite of the ridicule with which it may be loaded, or even the most perplexing ditficulties that can be urged to its discredit. Such firniness and decision are deemed reasonable and necessary in other cases. The considerate mathematician will not abandon propositions founded on indisputable axioms, and demonstrated by a compact chain of evidence, because a sciolist can point out seeming inconsistencies betwixt those propositions and other admitted truths. The judicious historian will not cast a doubt on the reality of facts which stand confirmed at once by ancient and striking memorials, and by the most copious and unexceptionable testimony, merely on the ground that certain cynics, who wish that those facts had never taken place, have collected a variety of difficulties in relation to a few circumstances of minor importance. The sound theist will not relinquish his belief in the doctrine of an all-wise and all-powerful Being, whose existence and whose glorious perfections the whole universe proclaims, with whatever effrontery determined atheists may pretend to discover deficiencies and blunders in his works, or to deduce objections from the incomprehensible mode of his essence. The sober-minded Christian will not make shipwreck of faith, and utterly renounce the oracles of God, with all the heavenly truths and precepts they contain, from deference to infidels and sceptics, who, with shameless audacity and indefatigable industry, have busied themselves in mustering and exhibiting, in dread array, a host of scruples, contradictions, littlenesses, obscurities, and absurdities. The well-informed believer is fully aware that the objections of deism generally originate in ignorance, prejudice, or perversity; that most of them, though still repeated, have been long since triumphantly refuted by the advocates of Christianity; and that with regard to any difficulties which may not hitherto have been clearly or particularly solved, they are as the small dust in the balance opposed to the overpowering weight of solid arguments by

which the authenticity and truth of Scripture are confirmed. " Objections, for the most part,” says a learned writer, are impertinent to the purpose for which they are designed, and do not at all affect the evidence which is brought in proof of the Scriptures; and if they were pertinent, yet unless they could confute that evidence, they ought not to determine us against them.”* Dr Campbell, too, somewhere makes this important remark: “ To believe without proper evidence, and to doubt when we have evidence sufficient, are equally the effects, not of the strength, but of the weakness of the understanding."

Now let the same principle be applied to the point immediately before us. The man who has learned, from infallible testimony, that the Inspiration of the Bible is not partial but Plenary and Verbal, and that Prophets and Apostles “ spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” will not suffer himself to be carried away from these views by any subtle argument that is conjured up to shake his persuasion. Its opponents may say—“Your contracted notion is encumbered with many difficulties which you will at once get rid of, if you

embrace the more liberal sentiment of Partial Inspiration.” But he stands prepared to reply; “ What you call my notion, illiberal and enthusiastic as you deem it, is not mine. It is not an idea invented or lightly taken up by me; it is the doctrine of my Heavenly Father, which I 'am' bound to hold fast, whatever plausible argumentation may be used to its detriment. Besides, whatever sentiments I shall hold on this point, it is impossible, I see, entirely to avoid difficulties. Admitting that the system you recommend would extricate me from several difficulties attached to my belief, it would instantly surround me with others, far more embarrassing than those I had escaped. It would overwhelm me, in short, with uncertainty, respecting the most essential articles of faith; it would unsettle the foundation of my dearest hopes; it would rob me of the sovereign antidote of all my fears and sorrows; it would go the source of my sweetest joys.”

It is mortifying to find a late celebrated author express himself in the following terms, with regard to “ what has been called the inspiration of suggestion, i.e. that every thought was put into their mind (the mind of the sacred writers), and every

word dictated to them by the Spirit of God.”—“ This opinion,” says he, “which is probably entertained by many well-meaning Christians, and which has been held by some

* Horne's Introd. vol. i. ch. 5, $ 6, p. 491.

far to dry up

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »