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cumstances being equal, to cultivate a still more tender mutual affection, and to experience a still more intense delight in holding brotherly fellowship with each other, both in the social exercises of religion and in the whole intercourse of life. The blessed consummation solemnly requested by our divine Mediator ought, on numerous accounts, to be greatly longed for by the Church: “ Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may
be one, as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”
The Holy Scriptures constitute, unquestionably, a powerful mean of accomplishing a union so dear to the Saviour's heart; and right views of their plenary inspiration are obviously conducive to this glorious object.
An advocate of partial inspiration asserts, indeed, “ that by admitting this (his own) hypothesis, we may terminate many great disputes among Christians, which have risen from the false subtilty of divines, interpreting too mysteriously the expressions of the Holy Scriptures, as if every syllable had been dictated by God.” † The author appears to allude, in this quotation, to the disputes that have taken place among divines with regard to the peculiarities of the evangelical system, which are confessedly countenanced by the expressions of Scripture, understood in their literal and obvious sense; and his hopes of the termination of these disputes seem to rest on the assumption that, were his chosen hypothesis to prevail
, evangelical divines and their followers might be expected to relinquish their views, and to embrace a less spiritual and mysterious creed. Suppose that this abardonment of the truth should prove the result, it would be no real benefit, but a pernicious injury, to the church. The hypothesis of partial inspiration, nevertheless, has a great and manifest tendency, not to terminate, but to perpetuate, differences and disputes among Christians. Should they all resolve, with one consent, to regard the sacred oracles as neither fully nor verbally inspired, but as consisting of a heterogeneous mass, partly divine and partly human, partly infallible and partly doubtful, an unbounded liberty in the interpretation of Scripture is thus permitted and encourayed; and an endless diversity of sentiment, with respect to matters of faith and practice, may justly be anticipated as the natural consequence. How can Christians be expected to be
John xvii. 20, 21.
of “one faith," or even to approximate each other in their sentiments, unless they agree to adopt the Bible as the rule of their faith? or—which amounts to very nearly the same thing -unless they agree to make the Bible their rule, according to the natural and just interpretation of its words and pass
But let Christians cordially believe the Plenary and Verbal Inspiration of the sacred volume; let them only regard “all Scripture as given by inspiration of God,” and determine, with the simplicity of little children, to receive instructions on every point from the mouth of God himself; and then we shall see them “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. On articles clearly revealed and expressly decided in this supreme and common standard, they would discover complete unanimity; and with respect to other points, no man would usurp dominion over his brother. Lordly dictation, ungenerous surmisings, violent invectives, and angry contentions, would universally cease; and the lovely scene exhibited by the primitive church of Jerusalem would again be realized, when the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.” †
“ Though I neglect not,” says the celebrated Boyle, “those clear passages or arguments that may establish the doctrine of that church I most adhere to, yet I am much less busied and concerned to collect those subtle glosses or inferences that can but enable me to serve one sub-division of Christians against another, than heedfully to make such observations as may solidly justify to my own thoughts, and improve in them, a reverence for the Scripture itself, and Christianity in general; such observations as may disclose to me in the Bible, and the grand articles clearly delivered in it, a majesty and an excellency becoming God himself, and transcending any other author; and such observations as may unveil to me in the Scripture, and what it treats of, that manifold wisdom of God, which even the angels learn by the church.”—“ I use the Scripture,” he adds, “ not as an arsenal to be resorted to only for arms and weapons to defend this party or defeat its enemies, but as a matchless temple, where I delight to be, to contemplate the beauty, the symmetry, and the magnificence of the structure, and to increase my awe, and excite my devotion to the Deity there preached and adored.”I * 1 Cor. i. 10.
† Acts iv. 32. Considerations on the Style of the Scriptures, by the Hon. Robert Boyle, pp. 76–78
VIII. It should be added, as no inconsiderable advantage flowing from the belief of Plenary Inspiration, that it tends to animate our zeal for the preservation of the purity and integrity of the sacred Canon.
A very cursory notice of this weighty topic is all that we intend. The importance of preserving the Bible entire was formerly adverted to;* and how can the man who sincerely believes its verbal inspiration do otherwise than take the liveliest interest in its being kept unbroken, undiminished? It excites his indignation and regret, to see one jot or tittle of God's word despised or set aside; much more to behold whole books of Scripture displaced on frivolous pretexts, and on grounds that would equally justify the rejection of various other books, if not the whole Canon of Divine Revelation.t
The purity of Scripture is injured when it is mixed up with human additions, pretending or appearing to possess the same authority with it; and in particular, when compositions that have no title, either from external or internal evidence, to be regarded as part of the Canon, are intermixed with or appended to it, or in any respect treated as integral portions of the sacred volume.
The Apocrypha, it is well known, has unhappily received this distinction, to the dishonour of God, and to the incalculable injury of mankind in their most valuable interests. Amongst the numerous corruptions of the Popish Church, it is none of the least that, according to a decree of the Council of Trent, several Apocryphal books, containing a variety of passages, highly favourable to some of her most pernicious tenets, are sanctioned as of equal inspiration and authority with the Old and New Testaments. The countenance which many professed Protestants have incautiously shown to the Apocrypha, is much to be deplored. This abuse, however, in its culpable nature and dangerous tendency, has been so fully exposed by others, that it is unnecessary for us to discuss the subject. The attention which the question has providentially met with, it is hoped, will prove ultimately conducive to the cause of truth. It cannot admit of a doubt, in the mean time, that avowed leanings to the doctrine of partial inspiration have, in many instances, been connected with a disposition to justify or to palliate the unmerited honours bestowed on the Apocryphal writings; and that, on the contrary, a decided attachment to the principle of full and verbal inspiration is inseparably combined with a keen disapproval of every measure, calculated to uphold the ill-founded and arrogant claims of that human compilation.
Pages 471-474. # Carson on Theories of Inspiration, pp. 173–175.
| See Haldane's Evidence and Authority of Divine Revelation, vol. i. ch. iv. pp. 97-117; and Dr Dickson's Notes to Dr Alexander on the True Canon of Scripture, pp. 67-72.
IX. Among the numerous benefits attending the belief of Plenary Inspiration, we must also include its tendency to stimulate us to active exertions for the wide diffusion of pure scriptural truth.
Every one who feels the value of revealed truth to his own soul, becomes sincerely concerned for its dissemination among others. Having seen its glory, tasted its sweetness, and experienced its power, he cannot but wish that it may be more fully known, and more justly appreciated, in countries professedly Christian, and that its cheering light may speedily illuminate “ the dark places of the earth. His disposition to foster active efforts for the universal diffusion of the Bible, and of the joyful sound proclaimed by the heralds of the Cross, is strengthened by every motive that piety and benevolence can suggest. And none can be expected to enter more heartily into labours of this description, than those who are persuaded of the Plenary Inspiration of Scripture.
That professing Christians who question full and verbal inspiration must, without exception, be decidedly hostile or perfectly indifferent to this glorious cause, we should be sorry to allege. An allegation to this effect would be at variance with indubitable facts. Nevertheless, the Bible, considered as wholly divine, we have seen, is more highly valued by its possessors than a Bible esteemed partly divine and partly human; and it is reasonable to imagine that the interest felt for the circulation of the Book, will bear some proportion to the degree in which it is prized. Besides, lax ideas of inspiration evidently lead to lukewarmness regarding the state of purity and integrity in which the Scriptures are disseminated amongst mankind; and the fearful evils which this lukewarmness is calculated to create, it is unnecessary to specify. The lovers of the unadulterated Scriptures and Scriptural truths, on the contrary, are exceedingly desirous to see them cordially embraced, in their purity and simplicity, by their own kindred and countrymen, and by men of all nations and tongues. It is their fervent wish that the waters of the sanctuary, pure and untainted by any deleterious ingredient or foreign infusion, like " the pure river of the
water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb,” may diffuse themselves with increasing rapidity, till they cover the whole earth. By their zealous and active exertions, they give evidence that they have adopted the prayer of the Psalmist—“ God be merciful unto us and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us; that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.
X. Let it be remarked, in fine, that the cordial belief of the Plenary Inspiration, will lead to a frequent perusal and a practical improvement, of the Holy Scriptures.
The diligent reading of the Bible is an exercise expressly enjoined, largely exemplified, and amply recommended by its many happy effects. It constitutes an important branch of the devotional employments of the sanctuary, the family, and the closet. The careful perusal of a portion of Scripture every morning and every evening, is one of the laudable practices that prevailed amongst the early Protestants, and that well deserve to be retained by their posterity. Whatever demands are made on our time by secular affairs, and whatever attractions other writings, religious, political, or literary, may present, the reading of the Book of God, at the proper seasons, ought not to be lightly postponed. This excellent habit should be formed in childhood, and continued till the day of our death. The increasing delight which many serious Christians have found in this exercise under the growing infirmities of age, and the holy eagerness with which, amid the approaches of the last enemy, they have clung to their precious, precious Bible, after all other books had been wholly or almost wholly given up, are fitted strongly to impress our minds with a conviction of its superlative value and utility. A pious writer on the Inspiration of the Scriptures, mentions the following instances of the efficacy attached, by the blessing of God, to the perusal of his own word:
“ The reading of the first chapter of St John's Gospel turned Junius from atheism to serious religion; the reading the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah has turned many Jewish Rabbies from their Judaism to Christianity; the reading that passage of St Paul, “ The night is far spent, the day is at hand," &c., Rom. xiii. 12-14, turned St Austin from a loose and sinful to an eminently holy life; and the reading that of the Psalmist, “ Unto the wicked God saith, What hast
* Ps. lxvii. 1, 2.