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THE INSPIRATION OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
2 Tim. iii. 14–17. But continue thou in the things which thou hast
learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them. And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness : That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
WE concluded in the last lecture the series of arguments for the divine authority of the Christian religion. The Holy Scriptures are proved to contain a revelation from God to man. We now proceed to consider the aid and guidance of the Holy Spirit afforded to the sacred authors, by which their books are consti
tuted the word of God, the unerring standard of truth, the divinely-inspired writings-or, in the terms of the text, the scripture given by inspiration of God."
We might have conceived, indeed, that no question could have been raised on this topic. As the Christian religion has been proved to be divine, and to have been committed to writing by those who received the revelation and first promulgated it with the attestation of miraculous powers, we might have supposed that no doubt would have existed concerning the character of what they thus wrote. If the scriptures are the records of the Christian religion and were written by the Apostles, (as we have fully proved,) then undoubtedly those records have the same inspiration as the other communications made by the same persons, from the same authority, and on the same great subject. And thus the case was viewed for sixteen or seventeen centuries. The New Testament was universally considered as the infallible word of God. It is only in modern days that its plenary inspiration has been disputed. Many considerable writers on the evidences of Christianity of late, have satisfied themselves with proving its divine authority generally, and
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INSPIRATION [LEct. XII. have tacitly, but most inconsistently, given up or denied the infallibility of the books in which it is recorded. They speak of authenticity, veracity, credibility, but not inspiration, Some have limited the assistance of the Spirit to the prophetical parts. Others have extended it to the doctrinal, but excluded the historical. Whilst many have lowered the whole notion of inspiration to a mere aid occasionally afforded to the sacred penmen. Thus the impression left on the minds of their readers has been, that the Bible is authentic indeed, and credible, and contains a revelation from God; but that it was indited by good and pious men only, with little more of accuracy than would belong to them as faithful historians. An intermixture of human infirmity and error is thus by no means excluded ; and the scriptures are considered as the work of fallible writers, doing their best, and entitled in all their main statements to full belief, but not under that immediate and plenary influence of the Holy Spirit, which renders all they write concerning religion, the unerring word of God.
The question, then, before us is of unspeakable importance.
It is true, that even on the lowest ground that can be taken, the conscience is bound to re
"e and obey the scriptures. If they were
written only with the same degree of fidelity as ordinary faithful historians, no man could reasonably reject them. The chief facts are so prominent, and the doctrines and duties are so repeatedly and fully detailed, and the whole style and manner are so perspicuous and forcible, that they would guide every sincere enquirer into the way of truth. No man could be misled who came to them honestly for religious instruction.
But still, such is the ignorance and weakness of man, that we must not esteem lightly the declarations of Almighty God as to the infal. lible inspiration under which the books of scripture were written. If it be once granted that they are, in the revelation which they communicate, alloyed with error, however small, an opening is made for the admission of every imaginable corruption. For who can guarantee from mistake even the best and wisest of men, in their conceptions of a religion so new, so mysterious, as that of the Bible, and in the representations they have given of it in their writings? Who is to distinguish their incidental errors, and separate them from the facts and doctrines with which they are interwoven ? If the Bible be not divinely inspired throughout, we are still in want of an infallible standard, to which all other books and instructions of every
kind may be referred, with which they may be compared, and by which they may be judged.
Here then we must make a decided stand.
The question is, in what sense are the Holy Scriptures said to contain a divine revelation ? Is it merely because the sacred penmen communicate a revelation received from God, according to their best judgment, and of course with some intermixture of human frailty ? Or is it because these penmen communicate a revelation under a plenary direction and superintendence of the Spirit of God, so as to have been preserved from every kind and degree of error relating to the religion, and to have indited books, in the strictest sense of the terms, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost?
Now nothing can be more easy than the determination of this question, because we have arrived at a part of our general argument which admits of an immediate appeal to the sacred writers themselves, and which renders their decisions authoritative and final. A divine revelation they received-a divine authority is at the foundation of all their communications. We have only therefore to study the books themselves. We have only to open the pages of the New Testament and see what is there stated upon the subject. All previous matters have been proved-authenticity, credibility,