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ON THE INSPIRATION OF THE SCRIPTURES.
March 31, 1828.
[No. III.] The advocates of the popular tenet of the Inspiration of the Scriptures, should pause, to ask themselves, Are there any and what disadvantages in maintaining this doctrine ? :- I speak exclusively of the common opinion of the sub, ject; which opinion raises great, not to say insuperable, difficulties in the way of those who study the evidences of Revelation.
Examples of discrepancy in the sacred historians, may, assuredly, be found.* At the same time, they are neither important nor extremely numerous. Far from affecting the credit of the narrative, they, in one view, even confirm it, by exhibiting circumstantial variety in the midst of sub stantial truth, and thus obviating all suspicion of collusion and of fraud.t Yet how can the variety be explained agreeably to the received notion of Inspiration? It avails nothing to allege that the dissonance is minute and immaterial. If the memory be aided by an immediate and spe. cial operation of Divine agency, it cannot be defective in any measure or in any way.
It. therefore appears that by not subscribing to the general sentiment concerning the inspiration of Scripture, we best defend and honour Revealed Religion.
The progress of scriptural knowledge has been retarded by the prevalence of that sentiment. In other words, many persons decline to examine the books of the Old and New Testament, or, however, do not examine them with the fairness and candour essential to a successful investi. gation of their contents, because they look upon them as being in no degree subject to the rules by. which other grave and ancient writings must be interpreted. The his.
* Matt. viii. 28–34, compared with Mark v. 1-20, and Luke viii. 26-30; Matt. xvii. I, and Mark ix. 1, 2, compared with Lake ix. 27, 28, Matt. xxvii. 44; Mark xv. 32, compared with Luke xxiii. 39–44. These are only a few out of many instances, which present themselves to a careful reader of the Scriptures.
† The subject is most admirably and satisfactorily illustrated by Paley, in his “ Evidences of Christianity," Part III. Ch, i.
tory of biblical and scriptural criticism evinces the justness of this remark. To the erroneous judgment, against which these observations are directed, we must, in part, ascribe the lów state of theological literature among us : while a classical author-it may be, a Greek or Roman“ play: book” *-engrosses the sagacity and erudition of accom. plished scholars, the writings of prophets, evangelists and apostles continue to be neglected.
In the eyes of the upreflecting, that is, of the majority of mankind, the cause even of truth itself suffers by an attempt to prove too much. For the interests of the Christian religion, it is enough to be persuaded that the books of the Old and New Testament are the genuine records of revelation, and that, in the main, they have come down to us as they were originally written and received.
If it be contended, that something more was necessary. for rendering them authoritative guides in matters of re, ligious belief and practice, we might naturally ask, whe, ther the plenary inspiration under which they are, by one class of men, said to have been framed, was not as essential to those who copied as to those who translated them? Their credit, value and efficacy, depepd not on their free, dom from all literal errors, but on the strong evidence which proves that they are the faithful depositaries of the facts and doctrines of Revealed Religiou..
The current notions of the inspiration of the Bible are particularly embarrassing to those who aim at becoming well acquainted with the epistles, nor least with Paul's. All the doctrines which an apostle teaches, in virtue of his office, whether he communicate them orally or by writing, are divine. If, however, we imagine that his reasonings, illustrations, and prudential directions, are not strictly his own, we are extremely unjust both to himself and to the religion of which he is the advocate. The heavenly treasure was committed and this in more than one seuse-to earthen vessels ; consequently, the peculiar cast of the Sa, cred Author's mind will be visible in his works, and will even mark them as his, will discriminate them from those
Biog. Brit., (2nd ed.,) art. BENTLEY, Note N. I have stated facts; but am far from meaning to depreciate the study of the classical writers of antiquity, which indeed is requisite, and should ever be made subservient, to the accurate study of the Scriptures,
of other men; an advantage which could not exist, did Inspiration belong to his pen as well as to his official character.
To Jesus Christ alone the Spirit was given without measure : on his apostles, and among these on the apos. tle of the Gentiles, it largely rested; without, however, being unrestricted, inasmuch as it was bestowed on them occasionally and partially. We have the authority of Paul himself for making this distinction : he did not profess to be in all cases inspired, but the contrary; and yet less did he lay claim to perpetual and complete inspiration as a writer. If we study his letters with care, we perhaps sball arrive at the conclusion, that his arguments are highly pertinent and forcible: iu most if not all the instances where an opposite judgment has been formed, I have suspected an error in the annotator, rather than in the author, who is the subject of his comments.* How. ever this be, sure I am that between the mission and office of an apostle and the quality of his arguments and of his incidental remarks there can be no indissoluble connexion.
With the view of illustrating these observations, let me entreat the reader to open, for a few moments, a very memorable chapter in the former of Paul's letters to the Corinthians : I mean, the seventh chapter. The apostle there begins his reply to some inquiries which, during his absence, these his converts had addressed to him, in wri. ting: · What diligent and capable reader can fail of admiring the exquisite good sense, the delicacy, and the knowledge of human nature, with which he answers their question? But who does not, at the same time, perceive that this author, as to much of what he now says, disclaims apostolic inspiration ; that he draws a line between permission and commandment (ver. 6), between the Lord and himself (ver. 10 and 12), between the commandment of the Lord and his own judgment (ver. 25, 40); that in one instance he thinks he has the spirit of. God concurring with his advice and decision (ib.), yet evidently alludes here not to his inspiration in the character of an apostle, but to that in which he participated together with most of the Christians of his age ?
* See Locke's " Essay for the understanding of Paul's Epistles ;" and some admirable remarks by Dr. Sykes, in the Introduce tion to his Paraphrase, &c., of the Epistle to the Hebrews, p. li.
It is a current and a gross mistake to imagine that the accuracy of the prevailing views of the Inspiration of the Scriptures, has been questioned by one set of men for the sake of more conveniently supporting their tenets as to the object of worship, the rank of Jesus Christ, the terms of salvation, and other points of doctrine. In reply, it will be sufficient to enumerate some distinguished writers.
Among the advocates of the received sentiments concerning the Inspiration of the Bible, Lowth * and Whitby stand deservedly eminent.
Grotius [Theol. Works, Lond. 1679, IV, 772, 773] disa criminated between the case of the prophets and that of the evangelists.
Archbishop Tillotson [Works, 1712, II. 448, 449] did not think Inspiration necessary to the credible relation of the bistory and discourses of Christ.
Nor did J. D. Michaelis, though a member of the Lutheran Church, and the advocate of what is deemed an orthodox creed, consider belief in the Inspiration of Scripture as requisite to a solid faith in Christianity.t
Jerom, Erasmus and Episcopius, who differed from each other in many of their theological opinions, agreed together in not admitting the necessity of a plenary Inspiration.
This list, which might be greatly enlarged, shall be closed with the names of Benson,ß Kiddell, ll and Wake, field : 1 and the whole of it will shiew that, in fact as well as principle, there is no inviolable affinity between a man's theological faith and his judgment on the subject of Inspiration.
• The Rev. William Lowth, father of Bishop Lowth. + Introd. to N. T., (Cambridge, 1793,] Vol. I. 72 (and Marsh's note, pp. 377, 378). Ib. pp. 87,
88, 96, &c. &c. 1 Doddridge's Lect. 8vo. II. 57.
$ Essay on Inspiration, in Paraphrase of the Epistles, &c., Vol. I. pp. 318, &c.
|| Three Dissertations on the Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, &c. : and Mon. Repos. Vol. V. pp. 276, 277.
[ Essay on Inspiration, considered chiefly with respect to the Evangelists.
Among writers on the subject of these papers, Castalio should not be omitted. See J. J. Wetstein : N. T. Vol. II. pp. 884, &c.; and Lindsey's First Address to the Students, &c., pp. 125, &c.
CONTROVERSIAL LECTURES AT LEICESTER.
Sir, At the request of several friends to the cause of truth, I take up my pen to lay before you and your readers a specimen of orthodox lecturing in this town. For some time past, the Rev. C. Berry has been delivering a course of lectures on Theological subjects, which has caused a great stir among other denominations ; so much so, that there is scarcely a minister, either in or out of the Established Church, who has not exerted himself to counteract his useful labours. In confirmation of the above remarks, I will relate the substance of a lecture (of which public notice was given) intended to justify the worship of Christ, by the Rev. S. Wigg, minister of a General Baptist Chapel in Leicester. As I had never heard this subject separately defended, I embraced this opportunity. His text was Luke xxiii. 42, 43 : “ Lord, remember me when tbou comest into thy kingdom,” &c. After stating the beneficial effects of controversy, when conducted with propriety, he said, the term “ Lord," &c., implied religious worship. He then quoted Gen. xviii. and xix. to prove that Abraham and Lot worshiped one of the men (or angels) who appeared to them; also, Gen. xxxii. 24—30, for the same purpose ; and to confirm this, Hosea xii. 245. He then observed, that the term angel was an unhappy translation, which he had no doubt misled many Socinians; and a learned author (whom he did not name) said, the Hebrew warranted the term angel, in the 4th verse, Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed,” to be equivalent to
-“ even the Lord of hosts,” in the 5th verse; then it would read, the angel Jehoval. I must leave your
learned correspondents to this, as I am ignorant of the Hebrew language. I will only add, that this minister is frequently condemning Socinians for perverting the Scriptures to their own views. He next quoted Judges xiii. 13—15, 21st, 22d verses, and said it would be more proper to read the words, “angel of the Lord," the “ angel God," thereby corresponding with the 22d verse, in which “Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God;" which (he said) was no other than the Lord Jesus Christ, and that those patriarchs worshiped God-Man.' Likewise, Isa, vi. 1-3, to prove that Isaiah