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speak in his own peculiar, natural way. And so, on the theory of inspiration which we adopt, we might suppose it would be. If as some have believed, the sacred writers, while under the influence of the Spirit, had been deprived of the regular exercise of their own powers, so as to be mere passive instruments in the hands of God, there would be some reason for connecting the idea of inspiration with great uniformity in point of style. But if, as we hold, they were left to the natural exercise of their own powers, while they were instructed, guided, superintended by the Spirit, and led by him to write that, and only that, which was agreeable to his will, then the differences of style which appear in their writings are no objection to the idea of their inspiration. They are just what we might reasonably expect.
That these differences of style are consistent even with a verbal inspiration, is evident from the Scriptures themselves. In many parts of Scripture, we find God speaking in his own person. Whole chapters of this nature occur not unfrequently in the prophets. Now such chapters, as we have before remarked, must have been written under a verbal inspiration. The very words must have been suggested to the minds of the writers. And yet we find the same differences of style here, as in the other parts of the Scripture. God, speaking in his own person by the mouth of Hosea or Amos, adopts the natural style of these men; but when speaking by the mouth of Isaiah or Joel, he adopts the higher and more poetical diction of these latter prophets.
The proof of inspiration, we have seen, rests mainly on the testimony of the sacred writers. Now it has been objected by some, that these writers when under the influence of the Spirit, may not have been conscious of his presence with them, and consequently were not prepared to give a valid testimony in the case. But it is evident from the Scriptures.that the sacred writers did know when they were under the inspiration of the Spirit. They were not in the Spirit at all times, and when the inspiration was upon them, and God was speaking by them, they must have known it. Did not Moses know when God met him, and give him his messages to Pharaoh? Did he not know, when he was writing out the law, that he was writing God's words, and not his own? And when it is said so many times over by the prophets, " The word of the Lord came unto me;" did they not know whereof they affirmed?
Of the particular state of the prophet's mind, while under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, we can have no accurate knowledge, having had no experience or observation of the same. Perhaps they were not all affected in the same way. But that there was a peculiarity about their state of which they were fully conscious, and which enabled them to give a decided and valid testimony, there can be no doubt. "I am full of power," says the prophet Micah, " by the Spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and unto Israel his sin." (Chap. 3: 8.)
Jeremiah resolved, on one occasion, that he would not again make mention of the Lord, or speak any more in his name. "But his word," says he, " was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones. I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay." (Chap. 20: 9.) On another occasion, Jeremiah says: "I am full of the fury of the Lord; I am weary with holding in; I will pour it out upon the children, and upon the assembly of young men." (Chap. 6: 11.)' Ezekiel too, says: "The Spirit lifted me up, and took me away: and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me." (Chap. 3: 14.) We see in these Scriptures how little reason there is to call in question the testimony of the sacred writers, on the ground that they could not know when they were inspired, or whether they were inspired or not.
It has been thought by some that this whole question of inspiration amounts to but little, since we have naught in our hands, at present, but transcripts and translations, the original copies, which alone were inspired, having long been lost. But we do think it of great importance to have had an inspired and infallible original. From such an original, all the existing copies and versions came; and, though we have not the autographs with which to compare them, still we can compare them one with another; we can judge of differences, where they exist; we can judge wherein they differ, if at all, from the inspired copies; and can thus approximate, at least, to the true standard. The original copies of the ancient classics have all passed away; yet we like to know that there were such copies, and by careful revision, comparison, and criticism, we can measurably restore them.
A copy of the Scriptures, or a version, as I have said before, is a proper subject of criticism. We may properly inquire, not whether the original writers made mistakes, but whether mistakes have not occurred since; whether the copy or the version conforms to the original. Thus far may human criticism lawfully go in this direction; but no farther. If it may transcend this limit; if it may go to the original itself, or to what is decided, on sufficient grounds, to have been the original, to pass upon mistakes and errors there; then we have no standard left.
The criticism of copies and versions has come to be "a science of well defined principles, which has been rewarded and enriched by proud results. But the criticism of prophets and apostles, the sitting in judgment upon those who preached and wrote by inspiration, and to whom the Spirit of God brought all things to remembrance, — this is a new science, one upon which we do not care to venture, and the results of which we should distrust and dread."
It is objected to the idea that " all Scripture is given by inspiration of God," that there are things of small importance in the Bible, — things not worthy to be inspired. But we are not suitable judges always as to the greatness or smallness of events. Things may seem small to us which, in their connections, are of vast importance. Great effects flow often from little causes. "The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments." No one can tell at this day of how great importance it may have been to Paul, the close prisoner at Rome, to get his cloak, his books, and his parchments.
But granting that there are small things in the Bible; do we not find the same in nature? Yet who would conclude from this circumstance, that God was not the author of nature? The resemblance in this respect between the Bible and nature indicates that both may have proceeded from the same hand.
Again; it is said that there are indelicate expressions, vulgarities, in the Bible, which forbid_ the idea that it should all have been inspired. But are we fully competent to judge in regard to this matter? Shall we set ourselves up as a standard of delicacy for all ages and people? In regard to this matter, as with most others, the notions of people vary, in different places, and at different times. What would be sufficiently delicate to an Oriental now, and would have been so regarded by our own fathers and mothers two hundred years ago, may strike us differently. Besides, words and phrases often become indelicate, as they become common, and there is a necessity for changing them for those which are less common. But here is a book of which the words and phrases, as they stand in the original, must remain unchanged. They must stand the same in all periods of time. This, doubtless, is a principal reason why some few of the words of Scripture, to a modern ear, may seem indelicate.
But it is urged that there is false philosophy in the Bible. It speaks of the sun's rising and setting, and standing still. It represents the firmament as a shining canopy over our heads, and the opaque moon as one of the lights of heaven. In reply to this, it is enough to say, that the Bible was never designed to teach us philosophy. It is not a book of natural science. In describing natural, visible objects, the writers were directed, and for the best reasons, to speak phenomenally, to use the current phraseology of the times, to write according to invariable appearances, without any philosophical theory whatever. And we should as soon think of charging a writer with falsehood now, who should speak of the sun's rising and setting, and of the moon as one of the lights of heaven, as to prefer the like charge against Moses, Vol. XV. No. 57. 5
and insist that he could not be inspired, because such language occurs in his writings.
It is further objected that there are contradictions in the Bible. That there are a few seeming inconsistencies, passages which, with our means of knowledge, we may not be able fully to harmonize, need not be denied. But that there are any real contradictions in the original Scriptures, as they came from God, js what no believer in Divine inspiration can admit, and no denier of it can prove. We speak advisedly on this subject, having had occasion, within the last few months, to examine most, if not all, the cases which have been alleged. Some are the result, obviously, of mistake in transcribing, translating, or interpreting; while others, in all probability, might be harmonized at once, if attendant circumstances were fully known. Mr. Lee gives an instance from civil history, to show how instantly apparent discrepancies disappear, so soon as we come to a knowledge of attendant circumstances. "The medals struck for the coronation of Louis XIV. give a different day from that upon which all contemporary historians agree, in fixing the date of that event. Of all these writers, one only has noticed a circumstance which accounts for the discrepancy. The coronation had been appointed to take place on the day given by the medals, — which were prepared accordingly; but circumstances caused a delay, until the date assigned by the historians." (p. 363.)
With regard to alleged contradictions in the Bible, most cordially do we acquiesce in the following declaration of Justin, in his dialogue with Trypho: "I dare not either imagine or assert that the Scriptures contradict each other; but were any passage to be adduced which has the appearance of being opposed to another, being altogether persuaded that no such opposition really exists, I will rather confess, that I do not myself understand what is said." (Chap. 65, p. 162.)
It has been objected to the inspiration of the New Testament, that its writers sometimes make quotations from the Old Testament incorrectly, and apply them improperly.