« EdellinenJatka »
his preaching was "in demonstration of the Spirit and power," but that his writings also were of divine origin. "If any man," said he, "think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord :" 1 Cor. xiv, 37.
Nor was the authority thus claimed by Paul, as attaching to the contents of his Epistles, higher than that which was attributed to them by his brethren. "Account that the long-suffering of our Lord," said the apostle Peter, "is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you; as also in all his Epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction:" 2 Pet. iii, 15, 16. From this passage we again learn that Paul wrote not according to his own mind, but according to the wisdom given to him; and further, that his Epistles formed a part of those sacred writings which were allowed to be of divine origin, and which, by way of preeminence, were denominated then, as they are now, the Scriptures. As it was with Paul, so unquestionably must it have been with the other apostles. Immediate inspiration was common to them all; and the sacred influence under which they wrote, as well as preached, was such as imparted to their genuine compositions an undoubted claim to be reckoned with "the other Scriptures."
The inspiration of the apostles, it is to be remembered, was of no subordinate or secondary description. That it was high in its degree, and plenary in its operation, may be concluded from a fact, of which we have already noticed the credibility, and which by Christians is universally admitted to be truenamely, that they were endued with the power of working miracles. "So then after the Lord had spoken unto them," (the apostles), says the evangelist Mark, "he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following:" ch. xvi, 19, 20; comp. Heb. ii, 3, 4. Miracles wrought by a teacher of religion are allowed to be an unquestionable sign that the doctrine which he promulgates in connection with them is of divine authority. The Lord Jesus appealed to his own miracles, in proof that he was sent of his Father; and Christians are still unanimous in receiving them as a conclusive evidence of the same truth. Thus it was also with the apostles: the work of God confirmed the word of God; the signs and wonders
which the Lord wrought by them afforded a sufficient and satisfactory proof that it was he also who inspired their doctrine, in whatsoever form that doctrine was communicated to mankind.
Thus far we have adverted solely to that major part of the New Testament which was written by the apostles. Does the same character of inspiration, it may be asked, attach to the remaining part of that volume; namely, to the writings of Mark and Luke?
From the testimony of Eusebius, who describes the Gospel of Luke, and the Acts of the Apostles, as "two divinely-inspired books,"—from that of the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 365), which included them, together with the Gospel of Mark, in the canon of Scripture, and from some other documents of yet greater antiquity,—we learn, that these writings were received by the early Christian church as of an authority not inferior to that of the rest of the New Testament: Euseb. Hist. Eccles., lib. II, 4; Lardner, 4to ed. vol. ii, p. 414; Iren. adv. Her. lib. II, cap. i. Accordingly the evidences adduced to prove that the rest of the New Testament was given by inspiration, although of most certain application to the writings of the apostles, are by no means inapplicable to those of Mark and Luke. The high and extraordinary endowments of the Spirit, during the earliest periods of Christianity, were by no means confined to the apostles of Jesus Christ. Our Lord sent forth his seventy disciples, as well as his twelve apostles, endued with the power of working miracles. The deacons were men full of the Holy Ghost; and Stephen, in particular, was gifted in a very eminent degree, with supernatural powers Acts vi, 8. On the day of Pentecost there were no less than one hundred and twenty persons assembled together; " and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance:" Acts ii, 4. It is evident, therefore, that, on the first introduction of Christianity, many persons, besides the apostles, possessed those supernatural endowments which rendered them fit instruments for the peculiar work of establishing a new religion in the world; nor were there, we may presume, any individuals more likely to enjoy those endowments than Mark and Luke; the one, the beloved companion of Peter (1 Pet. v, 13,); the other, the intimate and celebrated associate of Paul: 2 Cor. viii, 18.*
* A minute investigation of the subject will, I believe, go far towards satisfying every impartial inquirer, that the Epistle to the He
In support of our position, that the New Testament was gi-` ven by inspiration, there remains to be adduced another external evidence of no inconsiderable importance; namely, the universal consent of the Christian church; for, respecting the divine authority of all the acknowledged writings of the evangelists and apostles, there appears to have prevailed among Christians, in ancient times, the same clearness and general accordance of sentiment as in the present day. The judgment of the early church, on this subject, may be collected from a variety of sources: viz. from direct declarations in the works of the fathers-from canons of Holy Scripture, published both by individuals and by general councils-from the usage established so early as the second century, of reading the New as well as the Old Testament in their public assemblies for worship-and lastly, from the practice, so universally prevalent among the fathers, even at a very early date, of quoting passages from the New Testament, as of decisive and divine authority, for the settlement of all questions connected with religious truth.*
brews was written by Paul. It is probably to that Epistle particularly that the apostle Peter referred, when he classed the writings of Paul with the other Scriptures; and, if Paul was its author, its canonical authority is, of course, unquestionable. On the less probable supposition, however, that Paul was not its author, there is still good reason to believe that this Epistle was given by inspiration. Addressed, as it was, during the apostolic age, to the parent church at Jerusalem, it is distinguished by an exalted tone of authority, and even of rebuke, upon which, it may be presumed, no one in those favoured days would have ventured, who was not known to have enjoyed especial inspiration: and this inference is satisfactorily confirmed by the doctrinal importance and remarkable practical weight of the treatise itself.
* From the commencement of the third century, the testimonies of the church to the divine authority of the New Testament extend and multiply in every direction; but it is of particular importance to observe, that even during the first and second centuries the same principle was plainly recognized. A few instances will elucidate and justify the assertion. The author of that very ancient Epistle which is supposed by many persons to be the genuine production of Barnabas, prefaces his citation of Matt. xx, 16, by the words, "as it is written,"-words which, throughout the New Testament itself, designate quotation from the inspired writings: Lardner, 4to. vol. 1, 285. Clement of Rome, (A.D. 96) in addressing the Corinthians, appeals to the authority of "the Epistle of the blessed apostle Paul," who, he says, wrote to them "by the Spirit:" ch. xlvii. Lardner, i, 293. Polycarp, (A.D. 108) in his Epistle to the Philippians, thus refers to Ephes. iv, 26: "For I trust ye are well exercised in the Sacred Writings; for in those Scriptures it is said, 'Be ye angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath': ch. xii. Lardner i, 327. Hegesippus (A.D. 173) quotes Matt. xiii, 16, as from the divine Scriptures: Photii Biblioth.
Now, this general consent of the Christian church, during the several periods of its history, to the doctrine that the writings of the apostles and evangelists (like those of the patriarchs and prophets) are Holy Scripture-that is, that they were given by inspiration of God,-affords a strong presumption that the evidences on which that doctrine was originally established were plain, reasonable, and convincing: nor can any thing appear to the mind of the Christian much more improbable than that a sentiment so universally admitted by his fellow-believers in all ages, and so clearly held by them all to be essential to the fabric of their faith, should have no other foundation than error.
III. Such are some of the external evidences (derived principally from the Gospels and Epistles, considered only as genuine and authentic works) which lead to the conclusion that both the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God. And now, before we proceed to consider some additional proofs of a different description, it may be desirable to offer a few remarks respecting the nature of that inspiration which the sacred writers enjoyed. Much discussion has arisen among theologians, respecting the degree in which it was imparted, and the mode in which it operated; and the distinctions which have been formed on the subject are at once refined and numerous.
Inspiration, I would submit, is the communication to the minds of men of a divine light and influence, by which they are either miraculously informed of matters before unknown to them, or by which ideas already acquired through natural means are presented to their memory, and impressed on their
893; Lardner, i, 358. Theophilus of Antioch (A.D. 181) quotes John i, 1, and Rom. xiii, 7, 8, as from the Holy Scriptures and the divine Word Lardner i, 335, 386. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 194) abounds in citations from almost all the books of the New Testament, and he expressly denominates those books, Scripture, divine Scripture, divinelyinspired Scripture, the Scriptures of the Lord, the true evangelical canon : Lardner, i, 405. Lastly, we may adduce the testimony of Irenæus, (A.D. 178) that most eminent of the early fathers of the western church, who is not only abundant in his quotations from the New Testament, but asserts that the evangelists and apostles, after having preached the Gospel, "handed it down to us, by the will of God, in their writings, to be the foundation and pillar of our faith:" Adv. Hær. lib. 111, cap. i. Lardner, i, 365. It is evident that the writings thus handed down could be regarded by Irenæus as the foundation and pillar of our faith only on the principle that their authors were actually inspired. Accordingly, that writer adds, "He who refuses his assent to them, (the apostles and evangelists) despises not only those who knew the mind of the Lord, but the Lord Christ himself, and the Father."
feelings, with an extraordinary degree of clearness and force; and by which, further, they are often led to promulgate to others, either in speaking or in writing, that which has been thus imparted to themselves. Such being a general definition of inspiration, it must evidently vary in degree, and in the method of its operation, according to the circumstances under which it acts, and the subjects to which it is applied.
When the ideas communicated to the inspired person, and by the inspired person to others, were altogether new, and his knowledge of them attained only through an immediate and supernatural discovery, it seems probable that the very words in which those ideas were communicated to others must also have been suggested by the Holy Spirit. Such I conceive to have been the case with the prophets, when they found themselves constrained to predict events which were not only concealed in the bosom of futurity, but were of so singular a nature, that they were probably very little understood by those who predicted them: see, for example, Isa. vii, 14; ix, 6; liii. Such also may probably have been the case with Moses when he described the creation of the world, and with the apostles when they communicated to their disciples those doctrinal mysteries, of which their knowledge was derived exclusively or principally from immediate revelation. But, as far as relates to the more simple didactic parts of Scripture, as well as to the greater part of its historical narrative, we may presume that the sentiments and facts impressed upon the minds of the writers, were promulgated by them in their own words, under the especial and extraordinary superintendence of that divine Remembrancer, who by no means superseded their natural talents and acquired knowledge, but enlarged, strengthened, protected and applied them.* Now, although the inspiration, under which the several parts of Scripture were written, may have been differently modified, according to their respective characteristics, yet, if these premises are correct, we may safely deduce from them the general inference, that the whole contents of the Bible are of divine authority.
* It is obvious that the inspiration of the sacred writers did not prevent their making use both of the dialects, and of the styles, to which they were severally accustomed. In the case of the inspiration of superintendence, this was to be expected. And even in that of actual verbal inspiration, it can be no matter of just surprise, that the divine communication should be made to the inspired person, under that form which was the most familiar and intelligible to himself. The object of inspiration is not the improvement of language, or the perfecting of eloquence; but the promulgation of divine truth. And yet, what writers are more eloquent than some of the prophets and apostles?