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REPLIES TO OBJECTIONS.
It is not our intention to enter the lists with those determined adversaries of revealed religion, who utterly deny the divine inspiration of the Scriptures. The tenor of this Essay makes
almost wholly to confine our remarks to the objections urged by the professed friends of the Bible against Plenary and Verbal Inspiration. That nothing specious, or even do thing possessing some degree of force, can be alleged in opposition to the doctrine maintained in the preceding Chapter, we do not venture to affirm. Yet much of the reasoning employed by our opponents appears to be futile, and the most appalling difficulties they can muster, admit, it is hoped, of a satisfactory solution.
1. It is said, “The Scriptures contain a variety of quotations from human books, and a multitude of mere human words, including sinful speeches uttered both by men and devils. With what propriety, then, can it be asserted that they are fully and verbally inspired?”
The circumstances from which this objection is drawn are readily admitted. The Scriptures do contain quotations from human books, as those from the heathen writers, Aretas, Menander, 5 and Epimenides, the poet of Crete. Proverbial sayings are sometimes appealed to. Human words occur, at one time, in the form of an oral address, as in Gamaliel's advice to the Jewish Council; at another, in the shape of a letter, as in the communication by Claudius Lysias, the chief captain, to Felix the Governor. ** The sacred writers have, in reality,
• Amongst the valuable answers to the objections of Deists composed by many excellent writers, the concise reply by the late Dr Dick, in the seventh chapter of liis Essay on the Inspiration of the Scriptures, is entitled to marked approbation. It is luminous, forcible, and satisfactory. + Acts xvii. 28.
I 1 Cor. xv. 35. $ Tit. i, 12. 1 Sam. xxiv. 13-Luke iv. 23.
Acts v. 34-40. ** Acts xxiii. 26-30.
recorded a vast number of highly culpable speeches, both diabolical and human. Of this sort are the blasphemous speeches pronounced by the devil, when he tempted our first mother Eve; when he preferred calumnious accusations against Job; and when he assaulted our blessed Lord in the wilderness. Such also are the ungodly expressions of Cain and Pharoah; the outrageous harangue addressed by Rabshakeh to the servants of Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and, in fine, the various speeches uttered by good men on some unhappy occasions, when they spoke unadvisedly with their lips, as those of Moses and Jonah, and the eloquent speeches of Job's three friends, in which palpable mistakes are mingled with excellent instructions.
From all these concessions, however, no consequence unfavourable to full and Verbal Inspiration can justly be deduced. If common proverbs are referred to, and if sentences are taken from human writings, and even from heathen poets, it was by inspiration of the Spirit, and to answer important ends, that these proverbs and sentences were quoted. If the words of Gamaliel and the letter of Lysias are cited, the citation is divine. Nay, the very worst speeches of men and devils, found within the limits of the Bible, form necessary parts of the inspired historical accounts; and it is for salutary purposes that they are faithfully rehearsed. The horrid impiety, pride, and malignity of the great enemy of God and man are thus fearfully exposed; the depravity of fallen human nature, the deplorable wickedness of the unregenerate, and the remaining darkness and weakness of the godly, are usefully displayed. In all that they wrote, the Prophets and Apostles acted under the immediate impulse and guidance of the Spirit, who taught them what to omit and consign to oblivion, and what to insert and transmit to posterity.
It is vain to pretend that it necessarily follows from the doo trine of Verbal Inspiration, that all the speakers introduced in the Scriptures, not excepting the Old Serpent himself, were inspired; or that all the sayings and speeches recorded met the approbation of the Spirit. The sacred history, indeed, comprehends much that was both said and done in direct contradiction to the divine law, and which it would be criminal to imitate. It is by the appointment of God, nevertheless, that these narratives were written; and, as recorded by the Holy Spirit, they communicate inspired and important instruction. How contrary soever to each other, in their character and tendency, the mildest remonstrances of Moses, and the unadvised expressions, which, in a moment of irritation, escaped him; the blasphemies of Rabshakeh, and the prayers of Hezekiah, or the consequent prediction of Isaiah; the black suggestions of the devil, and our Saviour's admirable answers; the malignant taunts and revilings indulged in by the priests and the populace while Jesus hung on the cross, and the solemn supplications and appeals which then proceeded from the lips of the Redeemer himself:—yet, as recorded in the page of revelation, they are all equally dictated by the Spirit of Godthey constitute alike integral portions of that invaluable book which is able to make us wise unto salvation.
II. It is alleged “ that the sacred writers often fail to assume the authority belonging to inspired men; and that in some instances they even disclaim inspiration, or express doubts with regard to their possessing it.”
This objection may, without difficulty, be repelled. The terms in which it has been sometimes urged are very obviously extravagant. “ If the same Spirit had rendered them infallible,” says a subtle disputant, " they had right to declare to the world the doctrine of salvation, with the same power, and to speak as authoritatively as Jesus Christ; but we see the contrary in their writings." It was certainly not to be expected that the Apostles would arrogate to themselves an equality with Christ, in personal dignity, in official qualifications, or in sovereign authority. The humility and modesty becoming his attached disciples and loyal subjects, could not fail to characterize their style and their deportment. The uniform scope of their writings shows that they usurped no dominion over the faith of mankind, and that they left it “ to the man of sin and son of perdition” to assume blasphemous titles and pretensions. Yet the same writings clearly manifest, as we have seen, that they did claim power and authority as the accredited servants of Christ, inspired by his Spirit, and constituted infallible teachers in his church.
That the Apostles frequently appeal to the native evidence of their statements, and argue from maxims acknowledged by those whom they instruct, is readily allowed. “ I speak as to wise men,” says Paul; “ judge ye what I say.”+ And in his reasonings with the Hebrews, he often avails himself of principles they were known to concede, or could not rationally dispute.f These modes of arguing, however, while well calculated to produce conviction, were by no means at variance with a decided claim to a full inspiration. Christ himself often made use of similar arguments for convincing the Jews of the truth of his doctrine; * but who will dare to conclude from this circumstance, that He did not represent his authority as infallible, or his words as divine?
• Five Letters conceruing Inspiration, p. 61. + 1 Cor. x. 15.
| Heb. i. 4; ch. vi. 16; ch. vii. 12; ch. viii. 13; ch. ix. 16, 17; ch. x. 4.
The sacred penmen, it is further conceded, sometimes expressly alluded to their own opportunities of witnessing the facts and hearing the speeches they record, or to authentic information they received concerning them; but that they thus throw discredit, in any degree, on the inspiration by which they wrote, we positively deny. John repeatedly speaks of himself in his Gospel, as bearing testimony to things which he had seen and heard.t Luke's introduction to his narrative, where he refers to information supplied by those who “ from the beginning were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the word,"I has often, in particular, been appealed to by the opponents of plenary inspiration. Those appeals, however, are vain. Whether Luke was a Jewish or a Gentile convertwhether he belonged, or did not belong, to the number of the Seventy Disciples whom Christ immediately called to the office of preachers—and whether, in the preamble to his Gospel just alluded to, he intimates that he had by personal observation acquired an accurate knowledge of the matters he relates, or else that, in so far as human means of information were concerned, he had been entirely indebted to the communications of others; all these are controverted questions which it is unnecessary for us here to discuss. Nor do we hesitate to state that we cannot adopt the suggestion of the judicious and worthy Dr Guyse, who thought that the adverb § rendered in the common version, from the very first, should have been translated from above, and that, by the use of this word, he explicitly claimed inspiration.
To us it appears, that while all the four Evangelists were conscious of their own inspiration, and that while their four Gospels were all speedily and unanimously recognised in the Christian church as inspired, and the only inspired histories of the Saviour's life, their conduct, in declining to insert in these
* Mat. ix, 5, 6, 15, 16, 17; ch. xii. 25, 26; ch. xix, 5, 6; ch. xxii. 20, 21, &c.
† John xix. 35; ch. xx. 30, 31; ch. xxi. 24, 25. | Luke i. 1-4. S.'Avwday.
|| Dr Guyse's Paraplirase on Luke i. 3, rote; and his Sanding Use of Scripture, pp. 208, 209.
writings a direct avowal of their inspiration, was marked by “a delicate propriety.” It was proper, first of all, to fix the attention of their readers on the wonderful facts they relate, as established by valid human testimony, and thus to prepare them for admitting the impression that the Christian system is truly from above, and that the New Testament writers were divinely inspired. On this subject, an esteemed writer makes the following judicious remarks. Referring to the argument founded on what is said by Luke, ch. i. 3, 4, he says :
“ It may be observed that the facts respecting our Lord's miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension to glory, on the authenticity of which the truth of Christianity depends, are attested to us by human as well as by divine testimony. This was necessary to confront the infidel, who will admit of nothing but mere human evidence; and at the same time to lay a solid foundation for the faith of the true believer, which stands not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. The disciples of Jesus, therefore, who had an accurate knowledge of these things from their own observation, had a peculiar fitness for being employed by the Spirit, as the spirit of inspiration, for furnishing the church with a divine and infallible record of these things; seeing they could combine his testimony, which was divine and supernatural, and of which they were only the organs, with their own testimony, founded on their personal observation, and thus act up to the injunction of their Lord and Master. When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me. And YE also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning;' John xv. 26, 27. The doctrine of plenary inspiration, therefore, does not suppose that the prior knowledge which inspired men had from other sources, of these things about which they spoke and wrote under divine suggestion, was either suppressed, or rendered of no farther use to them as witnesses for the truth. All that is supposed is, that, speaking or writing as inspired teachers, they were not left to proceed upon their previous acquaintance with these things, but were furnished by divine suggestion, both as to matter and words, in giving an infallible rule of faith to the church."*
By a most unhappy misinterpretation, the Apostle Peter has been represented as somewhat disparaging the apostolic testimony regarding the Saviour. Having given an account
Stevenson's Treatise on the Offices of Christ, pp. 55, 56.