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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 rot 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 I 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,
or to evade some disagreeable doctrine. The advocates for Arminianism, Arianism, Socinianism, and Universalism, have done great violence to Scripture in this way. Their systems of religion are so contrary to the plain and literal sense of the Bible, that they have found themselves under the disagreeable necessity of distorting and disjointing the Scriptures, in order to read them into their preconceived and preadopted schemes. But there is not, I believe, any es sential or important doctrine of the Bible, which is to be found in such dark or doubtful texts only, as require a great deal of learning and criticism to explain. If any scheme of religious sentiments cannot be discovered and supported by plain and intelligible passages of Scripture, there is great reason to suspect the truth of it. If, for instance, no man can determine, that all men will be saved, without reading the New Testament through repeatedly and critically in the original language, there is great reason to doubt whether the doctrine of universal salvation, is really contained in the Bible. The most important doctrines of the gospel are so necessarily connected, and so repeatedly and plainly expressed, in different parts of Scripture, that all men of common knowledge, and of common honesty, may easily discover them. And every person ought to be very cautious how he adopts any religious sentiments, which seem to contradict the general current of Scripture, and which cannot be maintained, without denying, or explaining away, the plain and obvious meaning of many passages in the Bible.
2. If the divine Spirit suggested every word and thought to the holy Penmen; then it is not strange, that they did not understand their own writings. These the Apostle tells us, in our context, they did not
understand. "Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified before hand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven." By this it appears, that the prophets did not understand those things, which they wrote under the immediate influence and suggestion of the Spirit of Christ. And it is easy to conceive, that the sacred Writers should be ignorant of many things, in their own writings, if they were not left to write according to their own natural and unassisted abilities. They might, by the aid of the Spirit, write precepts, predictions, promises, and threatenings, of whose import they were ignorant, that should be very intelligible and very useful, in future ages. They wrote not for themselves, but for others; not for present, but future times. And this affords an additional evidence of the plenary inspiration of all the sacred writings.
3. If the Bible was written under the Inspiration of Suggestion, then it is an infallible rule of faith, and the only standard, by which to try our religious sentiments. When we are in doubt about our own religious opinions, or the religious opinions of others, we ought to carry them to the Law and to the Testimony, and abide the divine decision. Those sentiments, which are agreeable to the Bible, are to be received as true; but those, which are neither found in the Bible, nor are agreeable to it, are to be rejected as false. There is no other standard of superior authority, to
which we can appeal. We may not appeal from Scripture to reason, if Scripture be the word of God. But if it be not, then we may, with propriety, appeal from Scripture to reason. Accordingly, we find, that those who deny the plenary Inspiration of the Bible, take the liberty of appealing from Scripture to reason. Dr. Priestley, Mr. Lindsay, and others, when they are pinched with Scripture arguments against their Socinian sentiments, appeal from the opinion of the Apostles, to the superior authority of Reason. They consider the New Testament writers as fallible men, who wrote their own sentiments honestly, but, who, being destitute of the Inspiration of Suggestion, might make mistakes in the most important doctrines of religion. And if it be allowed, that the prophets and the Apostles, did write the prophetical, historical, and doctrinal parts of the Bible, without the suggesting influences of the Spirit, then there is no more harm, nor impropriety, in appealing from their writings to reason, than in appealing from the writings of other men to that superior standard. But, if what we have endeavored to prove be true, that every word and sentiment in the Bible was immediately suggested to the sacred Penmen, by the Holy Ghost, then their writings are, strictly speaking, the word of God; and to appeal from their writings to reason, is the same as to appeal from God to man; which is absurd and criminal in the highest degree.
4. If holy men of old wrote as they were moved by God, then it is reasonable to expect, that the Bible should bear clear and strong marks of its divine Author. Every human composition bears marks of human imperfection. A divine composition, therefore, will as infallibly bear marks of divine perfection. Accordingly, when we look into the Bible, we