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The conclusions to which we thus come fulfil, as Mr. Lee would say, the first conditions of the Bible. They are conclusions to which the serious, earnest student of the Bible, judging from its phenomena, could not fail to come.
And it is important that both these conclusions should be consistently adhered to. Nearly all the errors which have been broached on the subject of inspiration, have originated precisely here. Inspiration has a Divine side, and a human side. It is a work which concerns both God and men. If now we take the Divine side of this work and push it out to an extreme, as some have done, we run into what has been called the mechanical theory of inspiration; a theory which supposes God to do all, and man little or nothing; which supposes the natural exercise of the human faculties to have been suspended under the theopncvstia, and the very words, phrases, figures, grammatical construction, everything, to have been directly suggested and dictated by God. On this theory, there would be little or nothing human about the Bible. The style xtfould all be much the same, and none of it the style of man. In short, it would not be written (except mechanically) by men, or for men, and would be scarcely intelligible to the human understanding. Now every one sees that such a theory does not meet the conditions, the facts of the case. Such is not the Bible_ whic h God has given us; and, of course, such is not the kind of inspiration under which it was written.
Suppose then we take what may be called the human side of this work of inspiration, and push it out to an extreme, as many have done, and are doing now. We at once arrive at those lax theories of inspiration which are floating around us, which either make nothing of the special work of God, or reduce it to the very minimum of its existence ami operation. We come to say, that the sacred writers were inspired only as all good men are inspired; or that their inspiration extended only to some particular subjects, and in these, not at all to the style or the language. There is a revelation in the Bible, of which every one must judge for himself; and the record of it, being entirely human, is subjected like other human works, to imperfection and error.
The theory of inspiration presented by Mr. Lee, and which he calls the dynamical theory, avoids both these extremes and errors, and meets as we have seen all the conditions of the case. It supposes the Bible to be the work both of men and God; and that in producing it, the Divine Spirit wrought in and by the human faculties, so as not to cause any suspension or interruption of their regular exercise. Men thought and wrote, each in his own natural way, while their pens were so supervised or directed, that each wrote according to the mind and the will of God.
It shows the possibility of this view of inspiration, and is at the same time a recommendation of it, that it conforms to God's method of operating in other things. It is in God that " we live, and move, and have our being;" yet in giving us life, and breath, and being, God interrupts not the regular exercise of our faculties, but rather sustains them. The conversion and sanctification of the soul, too, is the work of God; yet in this work, there is no interference with the normal activities of him who is the subject of it. God VJorketh in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure, while we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. And just so in the matter of inspiration. God supervises, guides, restrains, suggests, and does all that is necessary that the utterance or the record may be complete; and yet the subject of it thinks his own thoughts, exercises his own faculties, and speaks or writes much after his own natural method.
We come now to consider another fact or distinction, which strikes us in looking into the Bible. A very considerable portion of it, if true at all, must have been directly revealed from heaven. It could have been known in no other way. Such are the numerous predictions in the Bible. Such are the disclosures of God's mind and will respecting the coming destiny of our race. Such are the descriptions of scenes and events in the future world. What could men know respecting subjects such as these, except by a direct revelation?
There is also much in the Bible which is not revelation, certainly not in the high sense of which we have just spoken. It came to the knowledge of the writers, — for it could not have been otherwise, — in the ordinary exercise of their own powers. Such was the knowledge which Moses had of events which took place under his own eyes in Egypt, and in the wilderness. Such was the knowledge which the four evangelists had of most of the events recorded in the gospels. Two of these evangelists wrote what they had " seen and heard, and handled of the Word of Life." The other two "had a perfect understanding" of much that they wrote, through intercourse and conversation with the apostles.
Some parts of the Bible, therefore, are necessarily revelation, and some are not. But those parts which are not revelation, are not to be regarded on that account as unimportant. They are of scarcely less importance to us than the other parts. What portions of holy writ can have a higher importance than the personal histories of Moses, and of Christ? We might infer, therefore, d priori, that God would take care that we should have a faithful record, not only of his direct revelations, but of all the other parts of Scripture. We might infer that all Scripture, whether revelation or not, would be written under such a Divine guidance and direction as would effectually secure its human authors from mistake, and enable them to write just what God would have them write, and in just the manner in which he would have it written. And this is what we mean, specifically, by the inspiration of the Scriptures: that degree of assistance afforded to the writers, which was necessary to preserve them from imperfection and error, in making the record of God's truth and will.
And here we have the distinction, so much insisted on by Mr. Lee, between revelation and inspiration; a distinction of which he is not the original discoverer, but which is of great importance in the discussion before us. Revelation is the direct impartation of truth to the mind of the prophet or the seer; truth of which he could in no other way obtain a knowledge. Inspiration denotes the assistance afforded in the utterance of God's truth, or in recording what. God was pleased to have written in his word. All Scripture is not Divine revelation; but all Scripture is written under a Divine inspiration, and consequently is an infallible record of what God would have recorded for our "instruction in righteousness."
There are passages in the Bible which are not true, and of course are not a revelation of God's truth: for example, the speech of the serpent to our first mother; the message of Rabshakeh to the Jews in the days of Hezekiah; the spiteful letter of Sanballat to Nehemiah; the plea of Tertullus against Paul; and the false reasonings and reproaches of Job's three friends. Yet all these and the like Scriptures may have been written under a Divine inspiration, and undoubtedly were so. We have a true and inspired account of them, however false they may be in themselves.
It should be understood, however, that when speaking of the inspiration of the sacred writings, we refer only to the original copies. We refer to them as they were when they came from the hands of the inspired penmen. We do not believe in the inspiration of transcribers, or translators, or interpreters. A copy (and we have none but copies now in existence) is a fair subject for criticism,— to ascertain, not whether the original writer made mistakes, but whether we have an accurate copy, — whether some mistake or error has not been introduced by the transcriber. And so is a translation a fair subject for criticism. We do not hold to the perfection of the Septuagint, or of our English version, or of any other version. Here, however, as before, the inquiry should be, not whether the original was right, but is the translation right? Does it accurately and adequately give the. sense? And so also of interpreters, and their works. We trust not implicitly to Augustine, or Luther, or Calvin, or the Pope of Rome. We go to the original Scripture,— having first ascertained that we have a reliable copy, — and see whether the interpreter has given the true sense.
We have said that inspiration denotes the special assistance afforded to the sacred speaker or writer, in giving utterance to the Divine xoord. A single caution may be necessary here. The apostles were not inspired at all times, — in all that they said and did. They could not be; for they were sometimes stupid, ignorant, and at variance among themselves. But when actually employed, according to their Divine commission, in publishing the gospel message to those around them, or in recording it for the benefit of after ages, they had the promise of an infallible guidance, and we doubt not that they enjoyed it.
It will be seen that inspiration, as we have defined it, is a subject by itself. Other subjects are intimately connected with it, but yet are distinct from it; and should be kept distinct. They cannot be confounded with it, without embarrassing the question. First, there is the canon of Scripture, a subject of great importance, relating to the books to be acknowledged as divine. Then there is the authenticity of Scripture, relating to the authorship of the particular books, and the times when they were respectively written. Then there is the integrity of the sacred text, going into the question of copies, and versions, and various readings. Then there is the credibility and Divine authority of Scripture. Are its statements true? And has God stamped it with his own authority? Does it contain, as it claims to> revelations from him? Now each and all of these questions are of the last importance, requiring to be well considered and settled, before the Bible can be intelligently received. And yet neither of them touches directly the question of inspiration. That, as we said before, is a subject by itself, having its own connections and bearings, and requiring its own specific methods of proof. We may settle the canon of Scripture ever so satisfactorily; and settle the authenticity and integrity of our sacred books; and satisfy ourselves that they are true, and contain revelations from God; but the question still remains: What kind of record have we of