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fore, let itself completely down to the weaknesses and necessities of our actual condition.1
But again, spiritual, religious truth is not abstract, ideal truth, but it is the ideal conjoined with the real. It is truth in being and not merely truth in thought and speculation. We cannot well conceive the possibility of a revelation of divine truth in this sense, except in connection with history and with actual facts; except in connection with a series of such facts, wherein the abstract will and purposes of the Divine mind, if we may so express it, with regard to man, are plainly demonstrated and placed beyond all mistake, by a well-authenticated record of His actual dealings with men directly; a record in which the part relating to man, in the whole manifestation of his character as ignorant and depraved, would be quite as important as the part relating to God and His truth; since the one could be clearly shown only in connection and by contrast with the other. But Scripture, being precisely such a record and nothing else, should therefore be looked upon as constituting and not merely containing, a revelation.
By comprehending the whole body of Scripture together, as the record of a special revelation, we no longer feel constrained to look upon the supernatural as the -««natural. Miracles belong, as a matter of course, to the order of such a special revelation. They constitute a necessary part of it, and are altogether in their proper place. The continuity and connection of the facts depend on them. Wiihout them, the series of events in such a system of special revelation would be quite unnatural and inexplicable.
No theory of aspecial revelation can long stand its ground, which seeks in any way or from any motive, however good in itself, to explain away any of the facts belonging to it. There are some who have thought it absolutely necessary, in order to maintain the doctrine of plenary inspiration, to institute the distinction between a literal and a spiritual sense of scriptural language. The literal is that which is
* La eloire de l'Evungile n'est pas seulomont d'avoir divinise la veriie, mais de Pavoir humanise'e.— Vinet, Etudes, sur B. I'ascuL p. 216.
the first to present itself; but there is another lying beneath this, which is the spiritual and true sense. In one way of understanding it, we might accept this principle without hesitation; in that, namely, of the apostle who said: "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." As in all other writings, so also in Scripture, which must be subject to the same general rules of interpretation, we axe not to be held bound by the letter, but to penetrate to the real sense which it expresses. But the principle of the double sense to which we refer, is quite another thing.1 According to it, Scripture has really two meanings, one on the face of it, another underneath. In a word, it is throughout a sort of allegory, in which one thing is said, but another signified. By understanding the matter thus, we have a ready way of removing every perplexing difficulty and of reconciling what we find written, with that, notion of infallibility, according to which, in the language of a late writer on Inspiration, it was not the inspired penmen themselves who wrote, "further than as to the mere motion of the finger, but God Himself who wrote with their hands." But if the inspired penmen never recorded what they themselves actually saw, heard or felt, but it was God Himself who wrote with their hands, then, since they generally express themselves as if they were recording such things; since Luke, for example, professes
1 In such a connected whole as revelation, it is not necessary to suppose that each individual sacred writer was conscious of the full inclining of his own language, or even that he was always conscious of its true meaning. The following remarks of Bishop Butler are here in point: "To suppose that the Scriptures and the things contained in them can have no other nor farther meaning, than those persons thought they had. who first recited or wrote them, is evidently saying that those persons were the original, proper and sole authors of tho-c books, i. e. that they arc not inspired. . . . Till this be determined, it must in all reason be supposed, not indeed that they have, for this is taking for granted that they are inspired, but that they may have, some further meaning than what the compilers saw or understood. And, upon this supposition, it is supposablc alsoi that this further meaning may be fulfilled. Now, events corresponding to prophecies, interpreted in a different meaning from that in which the prophets arc supposed to have understood them; this affords, in a manner, the same proof that this different sense was originally intended, as it would have afforded, if the prophets had not understood their predictions in the sense it is supposed they did; because there is no presumption of their sense of them being the whole sense of them. — Butler's Works, I. 316.
to give us his perfect understanding of all things from the very first; since the Psalmists write as men giving expression to the trials and struggles of their own inward experience;— nothing remains for it, but that we must put all this down as belonging to the primary and literal sense, while the true sense lies veiled under these expressions of human confidence or human infirmity. But what a singular notion of revelation is this! How mechanical, stiff, and unvital! How entirely divested of all that character which bespeaks our human interest and sympathies; and which does so solely because we feel quite assured that what is said to us comes from the very mind and heart of the writer, expressing just what he means and nothing else. But, happily, no such theory as this is required in order to defend the divine authority of the Bible as an infallible rule of faith against every serious objection. With simpler views of the manner in which God has seen fit to reveal His truth to mankind, we get rid of hall" the difficulties and objections of unbefief at once. By complicating the matter we but increase the number of questions to be answered and doubts to be resolved.
Considering revelation, then, as one simple and connected system of supernatural divine teaching, by word and fact, of which the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the faithful record, let us next inquire what is meant by Inspiration. Inspiration may be shortly defined as that guidance from above, whereby the sacred penmen, in committing this divine revelation to writing, were preserved from all such error as would interfere with the end which God, in giving this revelation to man, proposed.
Two questions here arise: first, as to the end of a written revelation; second, as to the means necessary to secure it. With regard to the first point, it is obvious to remark, that the essential conception of a revelation being such as we have represented, it could exist without being committed to writing at all. God revealed himself to Adam, to Noah, and to the patriarchs; but we have no reason to suppose that the revelations then made were preserved down to the time of Moses, otherwise than by tradition. We know for a certainty that the revelation by Christ was preserved in the church for many years, only by the accounts of eye witnesses and the testimony of the Apostles. It was long before these accounts and this testimony were reduced to the form of written records. During all this period, revelation certainly depended for its integrity upon oral tradition; so that it does not appear to be absolulely necessary to the existence and knowledge of a revelation, that it should stand in the form of written documents. But it is, at the same time, equally evident, that a revelation depending solely upon tradition for its preservation could not long retain its character of infallibility. First, because it could not be referred with certainty to authentic records capable of being verified beyond all reasonable question; secondly, because oral tradition becomes, in process of time, an altogether unsafe mode of transmission. It is plainly necessary, therefore, that a revelation should be committed to writing in order to secure it against all uncertainty as to its origin, and against all danger of being altered and corrupted in its transmission from one place or one age to another. The question now presents itself: What constitutes the authentic and trustworthy report of a revelation? For although a revelation is of necessity infallible when given, being some express manifestation of God in his relation to man, yet so far as it has been exposed to any possibility of mistake in the reporting or the recording of it. its original infallibility can be of no avail to procure and preserve for it that character of absolute authority, with which it was invested at the first. What is necessary to perpetuate the authority of a revelation once given? — since we can conceive of no other purpose of its being committed to writing. The sacred writers themselves answer 1his question by saying: " All scripture is given by inspiration of God ;" "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." It. was not enough that the writers should be good and holy men, upon whose honest intentions and faithful care, in recording what was entrnsted to them, all reliance could be placed; they must also be inspired and moved by an influence from above — even that of the Holy Ghost. So we have it upon the authority of these writers themselves; and there they are content to leave the matter. We are not told precisely in what this influence consisted, nor how far it extended; whether it was an influence which superseded, or which only regulated and guided the natural powers of the soul; whether it was an influence of immediate dictation, or only of general supervision; whether it differed altogether in kind, or only in its special application, from those gifts of inspiration and illumination which characterized the first converts to Christianity ; nor are we informed in what way or by what tokens they who were under such influence of the Holy Ghost, as qualified them for this special service, were assured of the fact. We are only given clearly to understand, that " no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation ;" in other words, that no written record of a revelation has resulted from any private and subjective interpretation of divine truth, but everything has been presented precisely after that form in which it was designed to be presented by Infinite Wisdom. Thus far, and no further, does Scripture itself go, in declaring its title to our implicit confidence, its claim to be regarded as an infallible record of divine truth. Holy men spake — not however, to utter their own private or subjective opinions; they spake only as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
It is certain, that there are two ways in which this language, taken by itself, might be understood, without any great overstraining; since, in a written revelation, while the truths are divine, the words must be human, this language might be understood as referring mainly or exclusively to the words, which being human and therefore fallible, needed to be directly suggested, in order that the writer, in communicating the divine meaning, might be preserved from all possibility of mistake. Such, perhaps, would be the view of inspiration most likely to be entertained by almost any mind whose interest was chiefly directed to the single point of maintaining the absolute infallibility of the Scriptures. But since evidently there can be no revelation except where