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DIVINE INSPIRATION OF THE WORD OF GOD.
Th; Author of The Domestic CoMMENTARY being fully persuaded of the Divine Inspiration of the written Word of God, and the whole of the remarks made upon each chapter, throughout the Sacred Volume, being based upon that important doctrine, it may be proper to offer a few observations to the Christian reader upon this subject, before he enter upon the practical use of the following pages. In speaking of the Divine Inspiration of the Sacred Volume, he begs to state, first of all, that Divine Inspiration, rightly understood, can only mean what the terms employed both state and imply; that is, not only a positive, but a plenary inspiration. Any thing short of this could not be considered as being of that character; nor could it be regarded as answering the declared design for which these inspired writings are given; namely, to make us wise unto salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. For, if we admit degrees of inspiration in regard to these Sacred Writings; or, in other words, if we allow that the Sacred Volume is but an inspired production to a certain extent; that it is partly the inspired Word of God, and partly the personal production of man ; that God inspired only the matter which the sacred writers were to record, and that they, as human agents, supplied the manner in which the record is given; and what follows 2 We are at once thrown upon the wide sea of the most painful uncertainty. The question then would immediately arise, How far does the infallible testimony of God extend? and how much of the fallible testimony of man may be mixed up with that which is infallible? And since it would be utterly impossible for any human being to define the limits of each respective province, nothing but doubt and uncertainty of the most painful description, in every thing which concerns our present and eternal welfare, could prevail. The more the mind were exercised upon the subject, the more perplexed would it be; nor could there be any unerring standard of appeal by which the point may be determined. The conclusion which of necessity would thus inevitably ensue, as a matter of fair deduction in the course of argument, has always been most painfully verified in the experience of those who have unhappily imbibed such derogatory views and erroneous conceptions of the true character of the Sacred Volume; and is, at the same time, the true cause of many, if not most, of the prevalent errors and pernicious evils of the present day. Assuming, then, that the view of a partial inspiration of the Word of God can never reach the proper standard of that Sacred Book, and that nothing but what is termed the Plenary Inspiration of those Sacred Writings, can be considered as suited to their character, or answerable to their design, it becomes our bounden duty to shew on what grounds, and by what authority we assert and maintain the plenary character of the sacred and inspired narrative throughout. Of course, the bare assertion of any man upon this subject, one way or the other, goes for nothing, except as a correlative or auxiliary, as the fact may be. The doctrine must be tested, not by any human wisdom or authority; but by the inherent testimony of that divine inspiration itself. Such testimony, once discovered and fairly examined, ought to convince every impartial mind; and by this united testimony and verdict we are quite willing to abide. In this matter, there will be no necessity for dwelling upon the well-known saying, that
bad men could never have written such a holy book, even if they made the attempt, or wished to deceive; nor, if it were untrue, would good men have combined to palm off such a fraud upon the world; and that, therefore, arguing from either way, it must come from God, and be both inspired and divine. The truth of this remark must be obvious to all. Nor is there any need of calling in to our aid the character of the book itself, in all its parts and bearings, as evincing a much higher than any human source; and that, therefore, in this respect also, it must be regarded as inspired and divine. For our argument is, not so much whether the Sacred Volume be inspired at all, but to what extent is it inspired; whether partly, or wholly; whether it be a partial, or a plenary inspiration under which the Word of God comes to us, as the guide to our feet, and the lamp to our path. If the written Word of God be divinely inspired, and if that inspiration be of the plenary character which we are prepared to maintain, that book itself will furnish the evidence of its being so; and when that evidence is once discovered, there can be no longer any question on the subject. Our duty will be to obey the sacred voice, rejoicing in the assurance that we have such an infallible guidance for our safety and peace. On the other hand, if such evidence cannot be furnished from its own inherent resources, then of course the question is terminated; and we must receive the Sacred Volume upon the best authority we may find; and make the most of what would then be its very uncertain aspect in all its relations to mankind. We assert, then, two things. First, that the written Word of God is divinely inspired; and secondly, that it is plenarily inspired. We assert and maintain, that not only did the sacred penmen receive from God, by direct inspiration, what they were commanded to write; but that God himself, by his Spirit, did teach, direct, and guide them in the manner in which they were to record those facts; that the very words, in which they narrate the things written and recorded, as well as the very things in which they were so taught, directed, and guided, came equally from Him by direct inspiration; and that, consequently, the whole Sacred Writings of the Holy Scriptures, contained in the Old and New Testament, are the inspired Word of God from beginning to end. Not that we mean to assert, by affirming this doctrine, that all the words and deeds spoken and done, which are recorded in the Sacred Volume, are the words spoken and the things done by God himself; nor that all such actions and words are inspired by Him, or pleasing in His sight; for there is a vast variety of human speech and action, and some good and some evil, recorded therein, as well as the actions and words of the Almighty. In speaking of the plenary inspiration of the Sacred Volume, our position is, that the writing or record of those words and deeds, of both descriptions, is not only infallibly inspired, but is thus infallibly inspired to the full, in regard to every thing done and every word spoken, as thus written, from first to last. Take, for example, the kind and condescending address of God to Cain, and that wicked man's impious reply. These are alike infallibly inspired, and recorded by Moses under a special inspiration; and every word thus recorded becomes part and parcel of the Sacred Volume, so far as those words and deeds extend in the inspired narrative or testimony. That the Book of God is inspired in some sense, none but avowed infidels will venture to deny. That it is inspired only to a certain degree, or in a certain limited sense, is, indeed, affirmed by some; but those persons are generally found to be either very superficially acquainted with its experimental blessings, or least of all disposed to yield to its authority, and follow its directions to the full, if indeed at all. Their testimony, therefore, can carry but little weight with considerate minds; and their example, it is hoped, will find but few imitators.
In all ages, the persons who have most loved the Bible, most prized its blessings, and most of all walked in its ways, have been most decided in their convictions of the plenary character of its Divine inspiration. Believing it to be the inspired Word of God speaking to their heart, they have always realised its Divine power and blessing.
They attained this persuasion from that Divine Word itself, in their peaceful and impartial study of it; and as the Spirit of God opened and applied it to their heart. And to impart such a persuasion to the humble, prayerful, and persevering reader and hearer, is the general prerogative of this Divine Word.
Does the Word of God itself assert that it is thus divinely and fully inspired ? It does. The words of David clearly attest it. In 2 Sam. xxiii. 2, among his “last words” he says, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.”
This was spoken by David, as the “sweet psalmist of Israel ;” and in these words we have the double fact, that the written Word of God is both inspired, and fully inspired. In all those sweet compositions, it was “the Spirit of the Lord,” and not David, who spake; and it was “his Word,” and not David's, which was in “his tongue,” and which dropped from his pen throughout the whole. This, we affirm, is plenary inspiration.
In like manner, St. Peter speaking of the prophets and the prophecy of the Old Testament, says (2 Peter i. 21), “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man ;” and if not by the will, then not by the word, of man; “but holy men of God spake," and if they spake, then they wrote, “as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” And this, you will observe, is given by the inspired apostle, as the reason why those "holy men of old,” in speaking of "the grace that should come unto us,” “ searched what, and what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” And what does this fact teach us, but the plenary inspiration of the Word of God ?
The truth thus brought to light of the manner in which the psalmist and the prophets spake and wrote in their several portions of the Divine Word, equally applies to the apostles, as the inspired messengers of our Lord. That Christ“ breathed” into them, or inspired them with “the Holy Ghost,” is a positively recorded fact. We have it, John xx. 22, and we are equally assured that he had previously commanded them, when they should be "delivered up, and brought before governors and kings for his sake," that they should take “no thought how or what they should speak,” promising that “it should be given them in that same hour what they should speak ;" and adding, “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matt. x. 19, 20.) And what, again we ask, do these things teach us, but the plenary character of the inspired Scriptures, in the New as well as in the Old Testament ?
In one sense, indeed, they spake, and yet, at the same time, not they ; because it was the Spirit of God who spake in them; and they spake to others just what the Spirit of God spake in and to them, and nothing more. In like manner they wrote what the Spirit of God spake to them; and they thus wrote the very words in which the Holy Spirit thus spake to them. Thus their word spoken, and their word written, was the word spoken and written by the Spirit of God. And here, again, we have another proof of the plenary inspiration of the written Word of God.
This is further illustrated by the apostle Paul in 1 Cor. i. 8-16, where we find hiin speaking of those things which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man,” even “the things which God hath prepared for them that love him," and saying that “God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit;” adding as a reason, that “the Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God;" that as “the things of a man knoweth no man, but the spirit of man which is in him; even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” And then he goes on further to say, that “we have received the Spirit of God, that we might know the things which are freely given to us of God;” adding, “which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” Now, surely we cannot ascribe to this language a less inspired character than that which is plenary as well as divine. Nothing, but what the Spirit spake, did they speak; nor did they use any other language, in so speaking, but what the Spirit taught them. In this manner the apostles preached the Gospel of Christ. They preached, wherever they went, not what they thought of themselves; but what they were taught of God to make known. Thus, St. Paul says, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the Word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” (1 Thess. ii. 13.) This includes the whole message which they declared in preaching the Gospel of Christ. So that, not only what they preached, but the mode, and manner, in which they preached in proclaiming the Gospel of our salvation, was the Word of God; all equally and fully inspired. And this is what St. Peter means, when he speaks of preaching the Gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven (1 Pet. i. 12); not merely in a miraculous manner (as in Heb. ii. 4); but in an inspiring, effectual, and saving manner, as well in teaching the heralds of its mercies what they should say, as how they should deliver their message, which HE, the same Divine Spirit, would make efficacious for the conversion and salvation of sinners. The same observation equally applies to the Evangelists in recording their several relations of our Lord's history in his conception, birth, miracles, doctrines, life, death, resurrection, and glory, and also to the authors of the several Epistles. All their respective writings were given by inspiration of God. They all wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; both as regards what they were to write, and how they wrote it. Reverting to the testimony of David, as “the sweet psalmist of Israel,” what he affirms (2 Sam. xxiii. 2) of “the Spirit of the Lord speaking by him,” and of “His Word being in his tongue,” and guiding his pen (for, as we shall soon see, speaking and writing the Word of God are considered in the same light in respect of inspiration and authority) we find plainly attested in the New Testament. Thus, in Acts i. 16, when the eleven were assembled together for the purpose of selecting a successor to Judas, who had fallen by his own sin, and gone to his own place, they selected one of David's psalms (Ps. xli. 9; also, lxix. 25; and civ. 8) for their guidance in what they did; and they introduced the consultation, which they were about to hold, with this remark: “Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.” First, David says, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue;” and then the apostle says, “The Holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, spake” the same things. Thus the fact of the inspiration and the plenary inspiration of the Word of God is clearly attested. In the same manner spake and wrote the apostle Paul. In Acts xxviii. 25, where he is rebuking his brethren at Rome for their unbelief and hardness of heart, in rejecting the sacred testimony concerning Jesus Christ and his salvation, he quotes a passage from Isaiah, as especially applicable to their case. “Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive.” (Isa. vi. 9.) St. John (in ch. xii. 37–40), quotes the same passage, and for the same purpose, in reference to the personal ministrations of the Saviour, as the “saying of Esaias the prophet, which he spake.” So the speaking, and the writing, of Isaiah affirmed by John, is the speaking and writing of the Holy Ghost, as quoted by Paul. Isaiah spake what the Spirit said to him; and Paul quoted, by divine inspiration, what the prophet wrote as the Spirit spake to and by him. In other words, here is a distinct and plenary inspiration.
This fact is still further corroborated by what the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, on the subject of unbelief, when cautioning them to beware of the peril into which others had fallen. In Hebrews iii. 7-12, after having exhorted them to “give the more earnest heed to the things which they had heard, lest at any time they let them slip,” he says, quoting from the ninety-fifth Psalm, “Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart.” This psalm David had written ; but it was “the Spirit of the Lord, who spake by him, and it was his word that was in his tongue;" and the apostle, guided by the same inspiration, tells us, that it was the “Holy Ghost " who spake these words by the mouth of David. So that, in this respect also, David wrote, and the apostle quotes what “the Spirit of the Lord” spake; and they both did so in the very words which the Spirit of the Lord had spoken.
This is what we are to understand when we meet with such expressions as these in the records of the ancient prophets, “Thus saith the Lord.” “The word of the Lord came unto me,” &c. When the prophets thus wrote and spake, it was the Lord who was speaking to them, and by them; and what the Lord thus spake, they spake and wrote, and nothing more. So that the Word, thus spoken and written, is altogether the Word of God; and not the word of men any further than as the sacred penmen were the channel through which the testimony was conveyed, and the agency by which that testimony was infallibly given and recorded.
Nor does this doctrine at all militate against the agency of the instruments so employed. Every one of those inspired penmen, in speaking and writing in the manner they did, spake and wrote just as the inspired matter came into their mind, and just as the inspired words were conceived in their thoughts, and dropped from their tongue, or pen; the Lord superintending and guiding the whole.
Neither does this important truth divest these sacred writers of the faculties, or sensibilities, which they each possessed. When they spake and wrote of sin, they trembled at its consequences ; and when they spake and wrote of Christ, they rejoiced and were glad. Even when they spake and wrote of distant events, before the accomplishment of which ages would elapse, and which they might not, at the moment, probably, fully comprehend; yet still predicted calamities clothed them with sorrow, whilst blessings foretold filled every corner of their heart with joy. It was just the same with the inspired prophets and apostles, when made willing by the Spirit to speak and write the Lord's revealed Word and will; as it is with the sinner, in fleeing from the wrath to come, and seeking the life of his soul, when he is made willing, in the day of the Lord's power, for that blessed end.
To these reflections, by way of illustration, may be added, the case of Moses, the first of all the inspired historians, when the Lord would overcome his reluctance to enter upon the work assigned him (Exod. iv. 10-16), and impart the needful preparation for its due execution. Moses complained, by way of excuse, that he was not eloquent; not a man of words; but was of slow speech, and of a slow tongue. But what said the Lord in reply? “Who hath made man's mouth, or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind ? have not I the Lord ? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.” The Lord would not only “teach him what he should say;" but he would be with his mouth," to teach him how he should deliver his message. And when Moses further wished to avoid this mission, notwithstanding this gracious assurance, by