« AnteriorContinuar »
it be done by ignorance? Can ignorance instruct and enlighten ignorance? If not, then the importance of a thorough knowledge of the gospel system must be readily seen-and that all who take the Scriptures for their guide, should be ready to give a reason of the hope that is within them with meekness and fear. Hence the importance of understanding the subject of this essay-the plenary divine inspiration of the sacred Scriptures. This implies an extraordinary and divine dictation, by which the writers of the sacred Scriptures obtained ideas of divine things of which they were previously ignorant, and to which they could not arrive by any natural
One very apparent and legitimate offspring of depravity is, to cover its enormity by lessening the criminality of those actions it generates. Hence it has led men to derogate from the word of God its authority, and repudiate all just notions of veneration. And to effect this desired end, infidels have made their most deadly thrust at the inspiration of the Scriptures. And it is to be lamented that men of morality and religion, and some whom the church has clothed with authority and influence, have forgotten the great responsibility of their station and the demand God had on them for a tenacious adherence to all the principles of religion; or proud of their popularity, and desiring its perpetuity and increase, have yielded many important points essentially necessary to secure the ultimate triumphs of the kingdom of God. Among all the errors of the professed friends of the Bible, there is, perhaps, none more fatal to its influence, or detrimental to the accomplishment of the designs of its Author, than to wrest from it the authority it gains by the acknowledgment of the fact that it was given by the inspiration of God. But I would not be understood to advance the idea that all the sacred writers possessed the same degree of inspiration, or that they possessed the same degree at all times; but that they received at all times all their work demanded: and were, therefore, always invariably secured by divine dictation and guidance from all error or mistake. It must, however, be admitted, that there are some books contained in the collection called the Bible, which, though they are to be received as the productions of men endowed with an extraordinary share of divine illumination, yet do not contain that spiritual sense claimed by the absolute word of God, and hence cannot be the result of that plenary inspiration which does and must characterize other portions of the Bible. Plenary inspiration must, for the time, take the entire possession of the faculties of the sacred writers; so that it may be emphatically said, "They spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." But it does not follow from this that they were thus moved always. This does not appear to have been a permanent gift; and, therefore, after the important message had been delivered to the world they were left in their ordinary state. Those "books admitted into our canon of Scripture which were not inspired in the fullest sense," appear, for the most part, to have been composed by persons who were endowed with such a degree of illumination by the Spirit of God as to discern in the "plenarily inspired" class of writings the doctrines suited to the dispensation of divine truth under which they lived, and which they were raised up to assist in establishing; such of them as lived under the Jewish dispensation, the doctrine of the
Jewish church; and such of them as were raised up to establish Christianity, the doctrine of the Christian church: and the writings of the latter are justly taken by the Christian church as authoritative declarations of her authentic doctrines. Besides the doctrinal writings of this class, there are also some historical ones. All writings of this class are to be interpreted by their literal sense alone; allowing, however, for their occasional use of figurative expressions, and of words and phrases taken from those scriptures which have a spiritual sense, and which, of course, must bear the same meaning when excerpted as in their original repository.
It may not now be unimportant, before entering upon the direct proof of the inspiration of the Scriptures, to spend a few moments in considering the manner in which it was granted; and though little can be expected on this subject, yet it should receive at least a passing notice. God, in this, as in all his works, does nothing without an infinite reason to justify his conduct. And it is not the prerogative of men to dictate the manner of his action. He is unlimitedly free in the choice of the instrumentality to which he would reveal his will, and equally so in regard to the manner of doing it. It appears from the Scripture that this was done "by a dream or trance, or in a vision, or by a voice from heaven, or by the secret suggestions of the Holy Ghost." Thus it will be seen that “ God spake in divers manners," and, it is equally apparent, "at sundry times," to the fathers by the prophets. It is evident that the exigences of the world governed the manner and time of divine revelation. If the sinner were to be rebuked and warned, the slumberer awaked, the mourner comforted, the holy encouraged-according to the moral condition and wants of the world-so was the revelation of the divine will made known to those to whom it was originally addressed; and in view of the fact that sin and holiness are alike immutable in their nature and consequences, that revelation which was adapted to those to whom it was primarily given, must be equally so to all the subsequent generations of men. As it respects the manner of communicating the inspired word, as above stated, I can see no just ground for objection. For all who believe in the existence of the Supreme Deity, must believe him to be infinitely free in all his volitions; and that, therefore, he can address himself to man as he sees fit and proper. In respect to dreams and trances, cannot God, when "deep sleep falleth upon man," converse with the sleepless soul, and by the impressiveness of the scene demonstrate conclusively to the mind of his chosen servant the source of the phenomenon, and indelibly register the whole transaction upon his mind? And cannot he who has created and given the outward senses to man as mediums of wisdom and knowledge, suspend them, and lift up the soul of his servant in an ecstasy to things before unknown-to things above the reach of the senses, and represent before his mind things that shall be hereafter? Is it too great a work for him who properly "inhabiteth eternity, with whom a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day," and "who calleth those things that be not as though they were," to unscale the eyes of the seer, that he may see light in his light," and see things as he sees them, and to extend his vision through the vista of ages, fixing it on the persons and actions of the morally free, the rise and fall of kingdoms, "the wreck of matter, and the crush
of worlds?" Cannot he who spake, and nonentity was pregnant with the universe—who gave laws to chaos-who said, "Let there be light, and there was light"—and to whose word all inanimate matter is subject-cannot he address the ear of man from heaven in language that shall be understood? And why cannot that infinite, all-pervading energy make such suggestions to the inspired penman as his wisdom shall dictate and the wants of the world demand? There can be no insurmountable barrier in respect to the manner of granting divine inspiration in any mind that is not criminally devoted to unbelief and atheism for all who believe man to be the workmanship of God, must believe that he who could create him has all power to announce to him his will in all or any of the above-mentioned ways; and to make such an impression on the mind of him to whom he declared his will as should enable him clearly to discriminate between the knowledge thus received, and that received in the ordinary way. It was necessary for the prophet, or inspired person, to be assured that his message was from God that he might feel the weight of his responsibility, and that he might promptly and boldly discharge his duty. And it was equally important that the message should be believed by those to whom it was addressed. But the credence given to it by the inspired person himself, could not command the faith of those who were not favored as he was with supernatural evidence of its divinity. Therefore it was absolutely necessary that some outward and tangible evidence, or miracles, should be given or wrought to prove the message divine, and that the person chosen to declare it was aided and supported by a supernatural power.
This leads me, more particularly, to notice the arguments which go to prove the doctrine of the inspiration of the sacred Scriptures. It is an acknowledged fact, that the Scriptures either originated with man, or they came forth from God through the instrumentality of man. But it would be absolute puerility to suppose they were the invention of men, though this is often affirmed by the opposers of truth: because, if they originated with men, it must be of necessity with the most depraved class of men; for men of even common probity could not have been guilty of such gross duplicity as characterizes the writers of the Bible-if that book were the production of unaided men. But there is nothing discoverable in the sacred volume that exhibits any ground for even the presumption that it is probable for we should have supposed that men, actuated by nefarious principles, as they must have been if they originated the Bible, would have endeavored to produce a work that would pal. liate their crimes, or justify their wickedness. But is it so indeed? Does not the Bible threaten death to them on every page? Does it not condemn every evil thought and all evil practice in the world? and thunder the anathema of eternal separation from God in the world to come? If this were not the object, was it to enrich themselves, and obtain honor from the sale and spread of their sentiments? If so, we should expect to see a work suiting the taste of the people of the age in which they lived. We should expect to see man shorn of his tremendous responsibility, and no distinction made between virtue and vice; as we see in most of the productions of ancient unaided philosophers. We should expect to see the heart unchained, and every barrier to corruption removed. But how are we disappointed in perusing this work of depraved man-this result of combined priestcraft!
What could have been the expectation of men in presenting such a book as the Bible to the world? a book that enters into no compromise with sin—that opposes every thing the heart of man naturally loves-that demands every idol-that cuts off every prospect of real happiness from all earthly pursuits-that teaches the absolute necessity of a complete revolution in the heart, an entire change of spirit and conduct that assails every bright spot where depravity revels— and darkens the entire path of corruption with the shades of eternal death. All must see that the transgressor would never originate laws that would arrest and condemn himself; that impurity does not beget purity, and that, therefore, it is absolutely impossible for the Bible to have been the production of unassisted men: and, of consequence, the Bible must have been given by the inspiration of God. How can we account, in reason, for the existence of the Scriptures, without acknowledging they were given by inspiration? For they relate things that were past, which they could not relate without the aid of revelation and there are events predicted which could not be known, but to Him who "sees the end from the beginning." There must of ne cessity, therefore, have been a connection between the writers of the Bible and the Divine Being, in order to predict future events. There are also things in the Scriptures above the power of man to originate. The sacred writers do not pretend to use their own language or com. mands: but, "Thus saith the Lord" heads the important messages announced to the world.
Now, if the veracity of the writers were not questioned, the conquest were won without farther argument. But as this is the case, I will proceed to prove that none could do the works or speak the truths that they did, "except God were with them." It is acknowledged by all but the stupid atheist, that God is the creator and governor of the world-that he governs the world by those laws which are infinitely above the control of every unaided creature -that he "upholdeth all things by the word of his power." If he alone established the laws of matter, he alone can suspend them, or cause them to deviate from the established order of things. If, therefore, there be any suspension of, or deviation from the laws of nature, it must be caused or permitted by him who hath appointed to the sun his "circuit," and whose fostering goodness rears the most inconsider. able plant of the field. "Order and invariable regularity are the result of those laws, and every palpable deviation from the constitution of the natural system, and the correspondent course of events in that system, is called a miracle." A miracle has been defined to be "an effect or event contrary to the established constitution or course of things, or a sensible suspension, or controlment of, or deviation from the known laws of nature, wrought either by the immediate act, or by the concurrence, or by the permission of God, for the proof or evidence of some particular doctrine, or in illustration of the authority of some particular person." The miracles said to be wrought by the inspired writers agree with the above definition. They were per formed either by God himself to attest the divine mission of particular persons, and to give authority to their doctrine, or God commissioned beings of a superior order, or miracles were wrought by the persons who professed divine authority, to establish the fact that they received that authority from God. Thus the doctrines were authenticated, and the persons who delivered them rescued for ever from every just
charge of hypocrisy or imposition. All who acknowledge the existence of a First Cause, must admit that He who created and gave laws to matter has an infinite right to suspend the operations of those laws at pleasure. Hence miracles are possible. That a miracle may be understood as such, presupposes that witnesses have a previous knowledge of those laws of nature which are violated on the occasion, and that the miraculous work is seen to be inconsistent with them, and, therefore, could not be produced by them. Is not this true of all the miracles wrought by the writers and first publishers of the word of God? If so, how vain is it for infidels to say, that "no power can supersede the laws of nature," or that "they cannot be interrupted or disturbed," or that these "rare events," or miracles, happen in consequence of some laws to us unknown? For, according to the above statements, if what we term miracles happen from unknown laws, it follows of course that there have never been any wrought: because, a miracle supposes a palpable suspension of, or deviation from, the known laws of nature. But is it not a singular occurrence, that persons professing divine authority to perform miracles should happen to pitch upon the spot where and the time when these phenomena would result from those laws they knew not themselves, nor any one else, and never mistake the time or place? For instance, Moses happened to lift up his rod over the Red Sea just at the time the unknown laws of nature operated. So Joshua was equally fortunate when he commanded the sun to stand still. And those unknown laws chanced to serve him just at the time he and all Israel wished to cross the waters of Jordan. The absurdity of this objection must be apparent to all. What tenable ground is there against miracles in any mind that be. lieves in the existence of a supreme Creator? That they are altogether different from the common course of events is granted. Neither have miracles been permitted to remedy any imperfection in nature, and nothing embraced in the proper definition of them proposes any such end. But their end is purely and only moral. Miracles are stated as facts-facts that were witnessed by multitudes. As such they might be reported to others: and testimony on this subject ought to be received with the same degree of credence as it would be on other subjects unless it can be shown that those laws that were suspended or controlled were unknown, above the comprehension of the witnesses. The absurdity of the former has already been shown; and the latter presents no insuperable barrier, when we understand the nature of the evidence required. It is not required of the witnesses, to make their testimony valid, that they relate the manner how the miraculous work was performed; but that they relate the facts that precede and follow it. Are not the miracles, said to be performed under the Mosaic and the gospel dispensation, supported by this evidence? Do not the accounts given of them refer to the state of things preceding and following the miracle? And are not the facts that preceded and followed the miracles recorded in the Bible, as simple and palpa. ble as any that ever transpired? For instance, we will notice the raising from the dead the widow's son. There could be nothing new or uncommon to the witnesses of this miracle preceding its occurrence. It was known that it was the common lot of man to die, and turn to corruption. There could be nothing, therefore, in the life or mortality of man out of the common course of events. It was known that the 21
VOL. IX.-April, 1838.