« AnteriorContinuar »
gesting influences of the Spirit. That great christian philosopher, Robert Boyle, and many other excellent judges of good composition, have justly observed, that there is not only a simplicity, but a sublimity, in the style of Scripture, which cannot be found in
other writings. This is not all. The sacred Penmen have a manner, as well as a style, which is peculiar to themselves. They seem to avoid the common modes and forms of uninspired Writers. They write in the most free, easy, and authoritative manner. They enter upon their subject, without any formal introduction; they pursue their subjects, without any formal arguments, or dissertations; and they conclude their subjects, without any formal reflections, or recapitulations. Herein they not only differ from others, but agree with one another. And this general similarity of manner, as well as of style, is a stronger evidence in favor of their plenary inspiration, than any inaccuracy or inelegance of language is against it.
Besides, the manner and style of the sacred Writers were of too much importance, to be left to their own Onassisted discretion and integrity. Will any wise general permit an under officer to deliver his special orders to the army, without dictating the expressions to be used? Or will any public body send an important message to any other public body without dictating the words of the message? Can it be supposed, then, that God would suffer his imperfect, fallible creatures to publish his will, without dictating the manner and style, in which his will should be published?
2. It may be said, that the mistakes and contradic tions to be found in the Scriptures, plainly refute the notion of their being written under the inspiration of Suggestion
To this it may be replied in general, that most of the supposed mistakes and contradictions to be found in the Scriptures, may be only apparent; and so might be fully reconciled or removed, if we were better acquainted with the original languages, in which the sacred books were written, and with the customs and manners of the different ages and places, in which the sacred Penmen lived. But the direct and decisive answer to this objection is, that it operates with equal force against every kind of inspiration. This all must allow, who suppose, that there are more kinds of inspiration than one; and who maintain, that all those parts of Scripture, which were not written by the inspiration of Suggestion, were written either by the iaspiration of Superintendency, or the inspiration of Elevation. For, so long as God especially superintended, or especially elevated the minds of the sacred Penmen, he must have effectually preserved them from all real contradictions and mistakes. Indeed, this objection refutes itself. For, if nothing short of the inspiration of Suggestion could have preserved the sacred Writers from falling into real errors, then it must be supposed that they were constantly dictated by the Holy Ghost. And if they wrote under this plenary inspiration, then the merely apparent errors to be found in their writings must be placed to our own ignorance; and all the real contradictions and mistakes must be imputed to the ignorance, or inattention, or unfaithfulness of transcribers and of translators.
3. It may be said, since God originally intended, that the Bible should be transcribed by different hands, and translated into different languages, there was no occasion for his suggesting every thought and word to the sacred Penmen; because, after all, their writ
ings must be subject to human defects and imperfections.
It is sufficient to observe here, that every transcription and translation is commonly more or less perfect, in proportion to the greater or less perfection of the original. And since the Scriptures were designed to be often transcribed and translated; this made it more necessary, instead of less, that they should be written, at first, with peculiar accuracy and precision. Men always write with great exactness, when they expect their writings will be frequently copied, or translated into various languages. The instructions to an Ambassador at a foreign Court, are usually written with extraordinary care and attention; because it is naturally expected that such writings will be often transcribed and translated. And upon this ground, we may reasonably suppose, that the divine Spirit dictated every thought and word to the sacred Penmen, to prevent gross errors and mistakes from finally creeping into their writings by frequent transcriptions and translations.
4. It may be said, that the Apostle Paul seems to acknowledge, in the seventh chapter of his first Epistle to the Corinthians, that he wrote some things in that chapter, according to his own private opinion, without the aid or authority of a plenary inspiration, In one verse he says, “I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.” And in another verse he says, “To the rest speak I, not the Lord.”
If we understand these expressions literally, then we must suppose, that the Apostle and all the other sacred Penmen always wrote under a plenary inspiration, only when they gave intimations to the contrary. If it were proper for one of these Writers, then it was proper for all of them, to give notice when
they wrote without a plenary inspiration. And if it were proper to give such notice in one instance, then it was proper in every instance, when they wrote by permission, and not of commandment. But we find no such notice given, except in the chapter under consideration; and therefore we may justly conclude, that all the other parts of Scripture were written by the immediate inspiration of God.
But if, in the second place, we understand the Apostle as speaking ironically in the verses before us, then his expressions will carry no idea of his writing, without divine aid and authority. And there is some ground to understand his words in this sense. He was not made a subject of special grace, nor called to be an Apostle, until some time after Christ's ascension to heaven. This gave his enemies occasion to insinuate, that he was inferior to the other Apostles, in point of divine authority. And he knew, that some of the Corinthians had imbibed this prejudice against him; for he says, “they sought a proof of Christ speaking in him.” Hence we find in the close of this chapter, after he had been speaking ironically of his own inspiration, he says seriously, “I think also that I have the spirit of God.” That is, I think I have the supernatural and suggesting influences of the Spirit of God, as well as the rest of the Apostles, whom you acknowledge to be divinely inspired. This explains his doubtful expressions, and ascertains the divine influence, under which he wrote this chapter, and this and all his other Epistles.
There is, however, a third answer to this objection, which appears to be the most satisfactory: and that is this. The Apostle is here speaking upon the subject of marriage; and he intimates, that he has more to say upon this subject, than either the Prophets, or Christ had said upon it. Accordingly he says, “I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. To the rest speak I, not the Lord.” By these expressions, he means to distinguish what he said from what other inspired Teachers had said, upon the same subject. And to convince the Corinthians, that he had not been speaking his own private opinion in reference to them in particular; but had been delivering, by divive authority, such precepts as should be universally and perpetually binding upon christians in general, he makes this explicit declaration in the seventeenth Verse: "And so ordain 1 in all the churches."
On the whole, there appears no solid objection against the plenary inspiration of any part of the sacred Scriptures; but on the other hand, every argument which proves them to be partly, equally proves them to be altogether, given by the immediate inspiration of God.
1. If the Bible contains the very ideas and sentiments, which were immediately suggested to the sacred Penmen, by the divine Spirit; then great caution and circumspection ought to be used in explaining Scripture. The words of Scripture may not be lightly altered, nor expunged, nor supplied, nor wrested from their plain and obvious meaning according to the connexion in which they stand. Some have used great freedom with the Bible, and treated it with less deference, than they would have dared to treat an ancient Greek or Latin author. They have supplied places, where they imagined words were wanting. They have transposed not only words, but sentences, paragraphs, and even whole chapters. And all this has commonly been done, to support some favorite error,