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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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the conveying of certain extraordinary and supernatural notices or thoughts into the soul; or it denotes any supernatural influence of God upon the mind of a rational creature, whereby he is formed to a degree of intellectual improvement, to which he could not have attained in his present circumstances in a natural way. In the first and highest sense, the prophets, evangelists, and Apostles are said to have spoken and written by divine inspiration. This inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures is so expressly attested by our Lord and his Apostles, that among those who receive them as a divine revelation the only question relates to the inspiration of the New Testament. On this subject it has been well observed:—

1. That the inspiration of the Apostles appears to have been necessary for the purposes of their mission; and, therefore, if we admit that Jesus came from God, and that he sent them forth to make disciples, we shall acknowledge that some degree of inspiration is highly probable. The first light in which the books of the New Testament lead us to consider the Apostles, is, as the historians of Jesus. After having been his companions during his ministry, they came forth to bear witness of him; and as the benefit of his religion was not to be confined to the age in which he or they lived, they left in the four Gospels a record of what he did and taught. Two of the four were written by the Apostles Matthew and John. St. Mark and St. Luke, whose names are prefixed to the other two, were probably of the seventy whom our Lord sent out in his life time; and we learn from the most ancient Christian historians, that the Gospel of St. Mark was revised by St. Peter, and the Gospel of St. Luke by St. Paul, and that both were afterward approved by St. John; so that all the four may be considered as transmitted to the church with the sanction of apostolical authority. Now, if we recollect the condition of the Apostles, and the nature of their history, we shall perceive that, even as historians, they stood in need of some measure of inspiration. Plato might feel himself at liberty to feign many things of his master Socrates, because it mattered little to the world whether the instruction that was conveyed to them proceeded from the one philosopher or from the other. But the servants of a divine teacher, who appeared as his witnesses, and professed to be the historians of his life, were bound by their office to give a true record. And their history was an imposition upon the world, if they did not declare exactly and literally what they had seen and heard. This was an office which required not only a love of the truth, but a memory more retentive and more accurate than it was possible for the Apostles to possess. To relate, at the distance of twenty years, long moral discourses, which were not originally written, and which were not attended with any striking circumstances that might imprint them upon the mind; to preserve a variety of parables, the beauty and significancy of which depended upon particular expressions; to record long and minute prophecies, where the alteration of a single phrase might have produced an inconsistency between the event and the prediction; and to give a particular detail of the intercourse which Jesus had with his friends and with his enemies;—all this is a work so very much above the capacity of unlearned men, that, had they attempted to execute it by their own natural powers, they must have fallen into such absurdities and contradictions as would have betrayed them to every discerning eye. It was therefore highly expedient, and even necessary, for the faith of future ages, that, beside those opportunities of information which the Apostles enjoyed, and that tried integrity which they possessed, their understanding and their memory should be assisted by a supernatural influence, which might prevent them from mistaking the meaning of what they had heard, which might restrain them from putting into the mouth of Jesus any words which he did not utter, or omitting what was important, and which might thus give us perfect security, that the Gospels are as faithful a copy as if Jesus himself had left in writing those sayings and those actions which he wished posterity to remember.

But we consider the Apostles in the lowest view, when we speak of them as barely the historians of their Master. In their epistles they assume a higher character, which renders inspiration still more necessary. All the benefit which they derived from the public and the private instructions of Jesus before his death had not so far opened their minds as to qualify them for receiving the whole counsel of God. And he who knows what is in man declares to them, the night on which he was betrayed, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now," John 15:12 .

The purpose of many of his parables, the full meaning even of some of his plain discourses, had not been attained by them. They had marvelled when he spake to them of earthly things. But many heavenly things of his kingdom had not been told them; and they who were destined to carry his religion to the ends of the earth themselves needed, at the times of their receiving this commission, that some one should instruct them in the doctrine of Christ. It is true that, after his resurrection, Jesus opened their understandings, and explained to them the Scriptures; and he continued upon earth forty days, speaking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. It appears, however, from the history which they have recorded in the book of Acts, that some farther teaching was necessary for them, Acts 1. Immediately before our Lord ascended, their minds being still full of the expectation of a temporal kingdom, they say unto him, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" It was not till some time after they received the gift of the Holy Ghost, that they understood that the Gospel had taken away the obligation to observe the ceremonies of the Mosaic law; and the action of St. Peter in baptizing Cornelius, a devout Heathen, gave offence to some of the Apostles and brethren in Judea when they first heard it, Acts 11. Yet, in their epistles, we find just notions of the spiritual nature of the religion of Jesus as a kingdom of righteousness, the subjects of which are to receive remission of sins, and sanctification through his blood, and just notions also of the extent of this religion as a dispensation the spiritual blessings of which are to be communicated to all, in every land, who receive it in faith and love. These notions appear to us to be the explication both of the ancient predictions, and of many particular expressions that occur in the discourses of our Lord. But it is manifest that they had not been acquired by the Apostles during the teaching of Jesus. They are so adverse to every thing which men educated in Jewish prejudices had learned and had hoped, that they could not be the fruit of their own reflections; and therefore they imply the teaching of that Spirit who gradually impressed them upon the mind, guiding the Apostles gently, as they were able to follow him, into all the truth connected with the salvation of mankind. As inspiration was necessary to give the minds of the Apostles possession of the system that is unfolded in their epistles, so many parts of that system are removed to such a distance from human discoveries, and are liable to such misapprehension, that unless we suppose a continued superintendence of the Spirit by whom it was taught, succeeding ages would not have sufficient security that those who were employed to deliver it had not been guilty of gross mistakes in some most important doctrines.

Inspiration will appear still farther necessary, when we recollect that the writings of the Apostles contain several predictions of things to come. St. Paul foretels, in his epistles, the corruptions of the church of Rome, and many other circumstances which have taken place in the history of the Christian church; and the Revelation is a book of prophecy, of which part has been already fulfilled, while the rest will no doubt be explained by the events which are to arise in the course of Providence. But prophecy is a kind of writing which implies the highest degree of inspiration. When predictions, like those in Scripture, are particular and complicated, and the events are so remote and so contingent as to be out of the reach of human sagacity, it is plain that the writers of the predictions do not speak according to the measure of information which they had acquired by natural means, but are merely the instruments through which the Almighty communicates, in such measure and such language as he thinks fit, that knowledge of futurity which is denied to man. And although the full meaning of their own predictions was not understood by themselves, they will be acknowledged to be true prophets when the fulfilment comes to reflect light upon that language, which, for wise purposes, was made dark at the time of its being put into their mouth.

Thus the nature of the writings of the Apostles suggests the necessity of their having been inspired. They could not be accurate historians of the life of Jesus without divine inspiration, nor safe expounders of his doctrine, nor prophets of distant events.

2. Inspiration was promised by our Lord to his Apostles. It is not unfair reasoning to adduce promises contained in the Scriptures themselves, as proofs of their divine inspiration. It were, indeed, reasoning in a circle, to bring the testimony of the Scriptures in proof of the divine mission of Jesus. But that being established by sufficient evidence, and the books of the New Testament having been proved to be the authentic genuine records of the persons whose names they bear, we are warranted to argue, from the declarations contained in them, what is the measure of inspiration which Jesus was pleased to bestow upon his servants. He might have been a divine teacher, and they might have been his Apostles, although he had bestowed none at all. But his character gives us security that they possessed all that he promised. We read in the Gospels that Jesus ordained twelve that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, Mark 3:14 . And as this was the purpose for which they were first called, so it was the charge left them at his departure. "Go," said he, "preach the Gospel to every creature: make disciples of all nations," Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:19 . His constant familiar intercourse with them was intended to qualify them for the execution of this charge; and the promises made to them have a special reference to the office in which they were to be employed. When he sent them, during his life, to preach in the cities of Israel, he said, "But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you," Matthew 10:19-20 . And when he spake to them in his prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, of the persecution which they were to endure after his death, he repeats the same promise: "For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist," Luke 21:15 . It is admitted that the words in both these passages refer properly to that assistance which the inexperience of the Apostles was to derive from the suggestions of the Spirit, when they should be called to defend their conduct and their cause before the tribunals of the magistrates. But the fulfilment of this promise was a pledge, both to the Apostles and to the world, that the measure of inspiration necessary for the more important purpose implied in their commission would not be withheld; and, accordingly, when that purpose came to be unfolded to the Apostles, the promise of the assistance of the Spirit was expressed in a manner which applies it to the extent of their commission. In the long affectionate discourse recorded by St. John, when our Lord took a solemn farewell of the disciples, after eating the last passover with them, he said, "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him. But ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come," John 14:16-17; John 14:26; John 16:12-13 . Here are all the degrees of inspiration which we have seen to be necessary for the Apostles:

the Spirit was to bring to their remembrance what they had heard; to guide them into the truth, which they were not then able to bear; and to show them things to come; and all this they were to derive, not from occasional illapses, but from the perpetual inhabitation of the Spirit. That this inspiration was vouchsafed to them, not for their own sakes, but in order to qualify them for the successful discharge of their office as the messengers of Christ, and the instructers of mankind, appears from several expressions of that prayer which immediately follows the discourse containing the promise of inspiration; particularly from these words: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me," John 17:20-21 . In conformity to this prayer, so becoming him who was not merely the friend of the Apostles, but the light of the world, is that charge which he gives them immediately before his ascension: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world," Matthew 28:19-20; I am with you alway, not by my bodily presence; for immediately after he was taken out of their sight; but I am with you by the Holy Ghost, whom I am to send upon you not many days hence, and who is to abide with you for ever.

The promise of Jesus, then, implies, according to the plain construction of the words, that the Apostles, in executing their commission, were not to be left wholly to their natural powers, but were to be assisted by that illumination and direction of the Spirit which the nature of the commission required; and we may learn the sense which our Lord had of the importance and effect of this promise from one circumstance, that he never makes any distinction between his own words and those of his Apostles, but places the doctrines and commandments which they were to deliver upon a footing with those which he had spoken: "He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me," Luke 10:16 . These words plainly imply that Christians have no warrant to pay less regard to any thing contained in the epistles than to that which is contained in the Gospels; and teach us that every doctrine and precept clearly delivered by the Apostles, comes to the Christian world with the same stamp of the divine authority as the words of Jesus, who spake in the name of him that sent him.

The Author of our religion having thus made the faith of the Christian world to hang upon the teaching of the Apostles, gave the most signal manifestation of the fulfilment of that promise which was to qualify them for their office, by the miraculous gifts with which they were endowed on the day of pentecost, and by the abundance of those gifts which the imposition of their hands was to diffuse through the church. One of the twelve, indeed, whose labours in preaching the Gospel were the most abundant and the most extensive, was not present at this manifestation; for St. Paul was not called to be an Apostle till after the day of pentecost. But it is very remarkable that the manner of his being called was expressly calculated to supply this deficiency. As he journeyed to Damascus, about noon, to bring the Christians who were there bound to Jerusalem, there shone from heaven a great light round about him. And he heard a voice saying, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. And I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; and now I send thee to the Gentiles to open their eyes," Acts 26:12-18 . In reference to this manner of his being called, St. Paul generally inscribes his epistles with these words: "Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will" or "by the commandment of God;" and he explains very fully what he meant by the use of this expression, in the beginning of his epistle to the Galatians, where he gives an account of his conversion: "Paul, an Apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. I neither received the Gospel of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Heathen: immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were Apostles before me; but I went into Arabia," Galatians 1:1; Galatians 1:12; Galatians 1:15-17 . All that we said of the necessity of inspiration, and of the import of the promise which Jesus made to the other Apostles, receives very great confirmation from this history of St. Paul, who, being called to be an Apostle after the ascension of Jesus, received the Gospel by immediate revelation from heaven, and was thus put upon a footing with the rest, both as to his designation, which did not proceed from the choice of man, and as to his qualifications, which were imparted, not by human instruction, but by the teaching of the Author of Christianity. The Lord Jesus who appeared to him might furnish St. Paul with the same advantages which the other Apostles had derived from his presence on earth, and might give him the same assurance of the inhabitation of the Spirit that the promises, which we have been considering, had imparted to those.

3. Inspiration was claimed by the Apostles: and their claim may be considered as the interpretation of the promise of their Master. We shall not find the claim to inspiration formally advanced in the Gospels. This omission has sometimes been stated by those superficial critics, whose prejudices serve to account for their haste, as an objection against the existence of inspiration. But if you attend to the reason of the omission, you will perceive that it is only an instance of that delicate propriety which pervades all the New Testament. The Gospels are the record of the great facts which vouch the truth of Christianity. These facts are to be received upon the testimony of men who had been eye-witnesses of them. The foundation of Christian faith being laid in an assent to these facts, it would have been preposterous to have introduced in support of them that influence of the Spirit which preserved the minds of the Apostles from error. For there can be no proof of the inspiration of the Apostles, unless the truth of the facts be previously admitted. The Apostles, therefore, bring forward the evidence of Christianity in its natural order, when they speak in the Gospels as the companions and eye-witnesses of Jesus, claiming that credit which is due to honest men who had the best opportunities of knowing what they declared. This is the language of St. John: "Many other signs did Jesus in the presence of his disciples. But these are written that ye may believe; and this is the disciple which testifieth these things," John 20:30-31; John 21:24 . The Evangelist Luke appears to speak differently in the introduction to his Gospel, Luke 1:1-4; and opposite opinions have been entertained respecting the information conveyed by that introduction.

There is a difference of opinion, first, with regard to the time when St. Luke wrote his Gospel. It appears to some to be expressly intimated that he wrote after St. Matthew and St. Mark, because he speaks of other Gospels then in circulation; and it is generally understood that St. John wrote his after the other three. But the manner in which St. Luke speaks of these other Gospels does not seem to apply to those of St. Matthew and St. Mark. He calls them many, which implies that they were more than two, and which would confound these two canonical Gospels with imperfect accounts of our Lord's life, which we know from ancient writers were early circulated, but were rejected after the four Gospels were published. It is hardly conceivable that St. Luke would have alluded to the two Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark without distinguishing them from other very inferior productions; and therefore it is probable that when he used this mode of expression, no accounts of our Lord's life were then in existence but those inferior productions. There appears, also, to very sound critics, to be internal evidence that St. Luke wrote first. He is much more particular than the other evangelists in his report of our Lord's birth, and of the meetings with his Apostles after his resurrection. They might think it unnecessary to introduce the same particulars into their Gospels after St. Luke. But if they wrote before him, the want of these particulars gives to their Gospels an appearance of imperfection which we cannot easily explain.

The other point suggested by this introduction, upon which there has been a difference of opinion, is, whether St. Luke, who was not an Apostle, wrote his Gospel from personal knowledge, attained by his being a companion of Jesus, or from the information of others. Our translation certainly favours the last opinion; and it is the more general opinion, defended by very able critics. Dr. Randolph, in the first volume of his works, which contains a history of our Saviour's life, supports the first opinion, and suggests a punctuation of the verses, and an interpretation of one word, according to which that opinion may be defended. Read the second and third verses in connection: Καθως παρεδοσαν ημιν οι απ ' αρχης αυτοπται και υπηρεται γενομενοι του λογου ‘Εδοξε καιμοι , παρακολουθηκοτι ανωθεν πασιν ακριβως καθεξης σοι

γραψαι , κρατιστε Θεοφιλε , "Even as they who were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word from the beginning delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having accurately traced," &c. By ημιν is understood the Christian world, who had received information, both oral and written, from those that had been αυτοπται και υπιρεται , "eye-witnesses and ministers." Καιμοι means St. Luke, who proposed to follow the example of those αυτοπται in writing what he knew; and he describes his own knowledge by the word παρακολουθηκοτι , which is more precise than the cicumlocution, by which it is translated, "having had understanding of all things." Perfect understanding may be derived from various sources; but παρακολουθεω properly means," I go along with as a companion, and derive knowledge from my own observation." And it is remarkable that the word is used in this very sense by the Jewish historian, Josephus, who published his history not many years after St. Luke wrote, and who, in his introduction, represents himself as worthy of credit, because he had not merely inquired of those who knew, but παρηκολουθηκοτα τοις γεγονοσιν , which he explains by this expression: Πολλων μεν

αυτουργος πραξεων , and to state in the third verse that he, πλειστων δ ' αυτοπτης γενομενος , an actor in many things, and an eye-witness of most. If this interpretation is not approved of, then, according to the sense of those verses which is most commonly adopted, St. Luke will be understood to give in the second verse an account of that ground upon which the knowledge of the Christian world with regard to these things rested, the reports of the "eye-witnesses and ministers," having collected and collated these reports, and employed the most careful and minute investigation, he had resolved to write an account of the life of Jesus. Here he does not claim inspiration: he does not even say that he was an eye- witness. But he says that, having, like others, heard the report of eye- witnesses, he had accurately examined the truth of what they said, and presented to the Christian world the fruit of his researches.

The foundation is still the same as in St. John's Gospel, the report of those in whose presence Jesus did and said what is recorded. To this report is added,

(1.) The investigation of St. Luke, a contemporary of the Apostles, the companion of St. Paul in a great part of his journeyings, and honoured by him with this title, "Luke, the beloved physician," Colossians

Luke 4:14 .

(2.) The approbation of St. Paul, who is said, by the earliest Christian writers, to have revised this Gospel written by his companion, so that it came abroad with apostolical authority.

(3.) The universal consent of the Christian church, which, although jealous of the books that were then published, and rejecting many that claimed the sanction of the Apostles, has uniformly, from the earliest times, put the Gospel of St. Luke upon a footing with those of St. Matthew and St. Mark: a clear demonstration that they who had access to the best information knew that it had been revised by an Apostle.

As, then, the authors of the Gospels appear under the character of eye- witnesses, attesting what they had seen, there would have been an impropriety in their resting the evidence of the essential facts of Christianity upon inspiration. But after the respect which their character and their conduct procured to their testimony, and the visible confirmation which it received from heaven, had established the faith of a part of the world, a belief of their inspiration became necessary. They might have been credible witnesses of facts, although they had not been distinguished from other men. But they were not qualified to execute the office of Apostles without being inspired. And therefore, as soon as the circumstances of the church required the execution of that office, the claim which had been conveyed to them by the promise of their Master, and which is implied in the apostolical character, appears in their writings. They instantly exercised the authority derived to them from Jesus, by planting ministers in the cities where they had preached the Gospel, by setting every thing pertaining to these Christian societies in order, by controlling the exercise of those miraculous gifts which they had imparted, and by correcting the abuses which happened even in their time. But they demanded from all who had received the faith of Christ submission to the doctrines and commandments of his Apostles, as the inspired messengers of Heaven. "But God hath revealed it," not them, as our translators have supplied the accusative, "revealed the wisdom of God, the dispensation of the Gospel unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things which are freely given us of God; which things, also, we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth," 1 Corinthians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 . "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord," 1 Corinthians 14:37; that is, Let no eminence of spiritual gifts be set up in opposition to the authority of the Apostles, or as implying any dispensation from submitting to it. "For this cause, also, thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God,"

1 Thessalonians 2:13 . St. Peter, speaking of the epistles of St. Paul, says, "Even as our beloved brother Paul, also, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you," 2 Peter 3:15 . And St. John makes the same claim of inspiration for the other Apostles, as well as for himself: "We are of God: he that knoweth God, heareth us: he that is not of God, heareth not us," 1 John 4:6 .

The claim to inspiration is clearly made by the Apostles in those passages where they place their own writings upon the same footing with the books of the Old Testament; for St. Paul, speaking of the ιερα γραμματα , "Holy Scriptures," a common expression among the Jews, in which Timothy had been instructed from his childhood, says, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God," 2 Timothy 3:16 . St. Peter, speaking of the ancient prophets, says, "The Spirit of Christ was in them," 1 Peter 1:11; and "The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," 2 Peter 1:21 . And the quotations of our Lord and his Apostles from the books of the Old Testament are often introduced with an expression in which their inspiration is directly asserted: "Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias;" "By the mouth of thy servant David thou hast said," &c, Acts 1:16; Acts 4:25; Acts 28:25 . But with this uniform testimony to that inspiration of the Jewish Scriptures, which was universally believed among that people, we are to conjoin this circumstance, that St. Paul and St. Peter in different places rank their own writings with the books of the Old Testament. St. Paul commands that his epistles should be read in the churches, where none but those books which the Jews believed to be inspired were ever read, Colossians 4:16 . He says that Christians "are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets," επι τω θεμελιω των αποστολων και προφητων , Ephesians 2:20 : a conjunction which would have been highly improper, if the former had not been inspired as well as the latter; and St. Peter charges the Christians to "be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the Apostles," 2 Peter 3:2 . The nature of the book of Revelation led the Apostle John to assert most directly his personal inspiration; for he says that "Jesus sent and signified by his angel to his servant John the things that were to come to pass;" and that the divine Person, like the Son of man, who appeared to him when he was in the Spirit, commanded him to write in a book what he saw. And in one of the visions there recorded, when the dispensation of the Gospel was presented to St. John under the figure of a great city, the New Jerusalem, descending out of heaven, there is one part of the image which is a beautiful expression of that authority in settling the form of the Christian church, and teaching articles of faith, which the Apostles derived from their inspiration: "The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb,"

Revelation 1:1; Revelation 1:10-19; Revelation 21:14 .

These are only a few of the many passages to the same purpose which occur in reading the New Testament. But it is manifest, even from them, that the manner in which the Apostles speak of their own writings is calculated to mislead every candid reader, unless they really wrote under the direction of the Spirit of God. So gross and daring an imposture is absolutely inconsistent not only with their whole character, but also with those gifts of the Holy Ghost of which there is unquestionable evidence that they were possessed; and which, being the natural vouchers of the assertion made by them concerning their own writings, cannot be supposed, upon the principles of sound theism, to have been imparted for a long course of years to persons who continued during all that time asserting such a falsehood, and appealing to those gifts for the truth of what they said.

4. The claim of the Apostles derives much confirmation from the reception which it met with among the Christians of their days. It appears from an expression of St. Peter, that at the time when he wrote his second epistle, the epistles of St. Paul were classed with "the other Scriptures," the books of the Old Testament; that is, were accounted inspired writings, 2 Peter 3:16 . It is well known to those who are versed in the early history of the church, with what care the first Christians discriminated between the apostolical writings and the compositions of other authors however much distinguished by their piety, and with what reverence they received those books which were known by their inscription, by the place from which they proceeded, or the manner in which they were circulated, to be the work of an Apostle. In Lardner's "Credibility of the Gospel History," will be found the most particular information upon this subject; and it will be perceived that the whole history of the supposititious writings which appeared in early times, conspires in attesting the veneration in which the authority of the Apostles was held by the Christian church. We learn from Justin Martyr, that, before the middle of the second century, "the memoirs of the Apostles, and the compositions of the prophets," were read together in the Christian assemblies. We know, that from the earliest times, the church has submitted to the writings of the Apostles as the infallible standard of faith and practice; and we find the ground of this peculiar respect expressed by the first Christian writers as well as by their successors, who speak of the writings of the Apostles as "divine writings from the inspiration of the Holy Ghost."

To this general argument we may add that right views on the subject of the inspiration of the sacred writers are also necessary, because even some Christian writers have spoken obscurely and unsatisfactorily on the subject, dividing inspiration into different kinds, and assigning each to different portions of the holy volume. By inspiration we are to understand, that the sacred writers composed their works under so plenary and immediate an influence of the Holy Spirit, that God may be said to speak by those writers to man, and not merely that they spoke to men in the name of God, and by his authority; and there is a considerable difference between the two propositions. Each supposes an authentic revelation from God; but the former view secures the Scriptures from all error both as to the subjects spoken, and the manner of expressing them. This, too, is the doctrine taught in the Scriptures themselves, which declare not only that the prophets and Apostles spake in the name of God, but that God spake by them as his instruments. "The Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake." "Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet." "The prophecy came not of old time, by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." For this reason, not only that the matter contained in the book of "the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms," (the usual phrase by which the Jews designated the whole Old Testament,) was true; but that the books were written under divine inspiration, they are called collectively by our Lord and by his Apostles, "The Scriptures," in contradistinction to all other writings:—a term which the Apostle Peter, as stated above, applies also to the writings of St. Paul, and which therefore verifies them as standing on the same level with the books of the Old Testament as to their inspiration: "Even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you: also in all his epistles, speaking of these things, in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction." The Apostles also, as we have seen, expressly claim an inspiration, not only as to the subjects on which they wrote, but as to the words in which they expressed themselves. Farther, our Lord promised to them the Holy Spirit "to guide them into all truth;" and that he was not to fulfil his office by suggesting thoughts only, but words, is clear from Christ's discourse with them on the subject of the persecutions they were to endure for "his name's sake:"

"And when they bring you into the synagogues, and unto magistrates and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say; for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say; for it is not ye that speak; but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you." This inspiration of words is also asserted by St. Paul as to himself and his brethren, when he says to the Corinthians, "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth; but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." Thus we find that the claim which the sacred writers make on this subject is, that they were in truth what they have been aptly called, "the penmen of the Holy Ghost;" and that the words in which they clothed "the wisdom given unto them" were words "taught" by the Holy Spirit.

But it may be asked, How are we to account for that difference of style which is observable in each? that manner, too, so natural to each, and so distinct in all? with those reasonings, recollections of memory, and other indications of the working of the mind of each writer in its own character and temperament? Some persons, indeed, observing this, have concluded their style and manner to be entirely human, while their thoughts were either wholly divine, or so superintended by the Holy Ghost as to have been adopted by him, and therefore, although sometimes natural, to be of equal authority as if they had been exclusively of divine suggestion. This, indeed, would be sufficient to oblige our implicit credence to their writings, as being from God; but it falls below the force of the passages above cited, and which attribute to a divine agency their words also. The matter may be rightly conceived by considering, that an inspiration of words took place either by suggesting those most fit to express the thoughts, or by over- ruling the selection of such words from the common as if they had been exclusively of divine suggestion. This, indeed, would be sufficient to oblige our implicit credence to their writings, as being from God; but it falls below the force of the passages above cited, and which attribute to a divine agency the store acquired by, and laid up in, the mind of each writer, which is quite compatible with the fact, that a peculiarity and appropriateness of manner might still be left to them separately. To suppose that an inspiration of terms, as well as thoughts, could not take place without producing one uniform style and manner, is to suppose that the minds of the writers would thus become entirely passive under the influence of the Holy Spirit; whereas it is easily conceivable that the verbiage, style, and manner of each, was not so much displaced, as elevated, enriched, and controlled by the Holy Spirit; and that there was a previous fitness, in all these respects, in all the sacred penmen, for which they were chosen to be the instruments under the aid and direction of the Holy Ghost, of writing such portions of the general revelation as the wisdom of God assigned to each of them. On the other hand, while it is so conceivable that the words and manner of each might be appropriated to his own design by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, it by no means follows that both were not greatly altered, as well as controlled, although they still retained a general similarity to the uninfluenced style and manner of each, and still presented a characteristic variety. As none of their writings on ordinary occasions, and when uninspired, have come down to us, we cannot judge of the degree of this difference; and therefore no one can with any just reason affirm that their writings are "the word of God as to the doctrine, but the word of man as to the channel of conveyance." Certain it is, that a vast difference may be remarked between the writings of the Apostles, and those of the most eminent fathers of the times nearest to them; and that not only as to precision and strength of thought, but also as to language. This circumstance is at least strongly presumptive, that although the style of inspired men was not stripped of the characteristic peculiarity of the writers, it was greatly exalted and influenced.

But the same force of inspiration, so to speak, was not probably exerted upon each of the sacred writers, or upon the same writer throughout his writings, whatever might be its subject. There is no necessity that we should so state the case, in order to maintain what is essential to our faith,—the plenary inspiration of each of the sacred writers. In miracles there was no needless application of divine power. Traditional history and written chronicles, facts of known occurrence, and opinions which were received by all, are often inserted or referred to by the sacred writers.

There needed no miraculous operation upon the memory to recall what the memory was furnished with, or to reveal a fact which the writers previously and perfectly knew: but their plenary inspiration consisted in this, that they were kept from all lapses of memory, or inadequate conceptions, even on these subjects; and on all others the degree of communication and influence, both as to doctrine, facts, and the terms in which they were to be recorded for the edification of the church, was proportioned to the necessity of the case, but so that the whole was authenticated or dictated by the Holy Spirit with so full an influence, that it became truth without mixture of error, expressed in such terms as he himself ruled or suggested. This, then, seems the true notion of plenary inspiration, that for the revelation, insertion, and adequate enunciation of truth, it was full and complete.

The principal objections to this view of the inspiration of words are well answered by Dr. Woods, an American divine, in a recent publication, from which, as the subject has been lately debated in this country, the following extracts will be acceptable, although there is in them a repetition of some of the preceding observations:—

"One argument which has been urged against the supposition that divine inspiration had a respect to language, is, that the language employed by the inspired writers exhibits no marks of a divine interference, but is perfectly conformed to the genius and taste of the writers. The fact here alleged is admitted. But how does it support the opinion of those who allege it? Is it not evident, that God may exercise a perfect superintendency over inspired writers as to the language they shall use, and yet that each one of them

shall write in his own style, and in all respects according to his own taste? May not God give such aid to his servants, that, while using their own style, they will certainly be secured against all mistakes, and exhibit the truth with perfect propriety? It is unquestionable, that Isaiah, and St. Paul, and St. John might be under the entire direction of the Holy Spirit, even as to language, and, at the same time, that each one of them might write in his own manner; and that the peculiar manner of each might be adopted to answer an important end; and that the variety of style, thus introduced into the sacred volume, might be suited to excite a livelier interest in the minds of men, and to secure to them a far greater amount of good, than could ever have been derived from any one mode of writing. The great variety existing among men as to their natural talents,

and their peculiar manner of thinking and writing may, in this way, be turned to account in the work of revelation, as well as in the concerns of common life. Now, is it not clearly a matter of fact, that God has made use of this variety, and given the Holy Spirit to men, differing widely from each other in regard to natural endowments, and knowledge, and style, and employed them, with

all their various gifts, as agents in writing the Holy Scriptures? And what colour of reason can we have to suppose, that the language which they used was less under the divine direction on account of this variety, than if it had been perfectly uniform throughout?

"To prove that divine inspiration had no respect to the language of the sacred writers, it is farther alleged, that even the same doctrine is taught and the same event described in a different manner by different writers. This fact I also admit. But how does it prove that inspiration had no respect to language? Is not the variety alleged a manifest advantage, as to the impression which is likely to be made upon the minds of men? Is not testimony, which is substantially the same, always considered as entitled to higher credit, when it is given by different witnesses in different language, and in a different order? And is it not perfectly reasonable to suppose, that, in making a revelation, God would have respect to the common principles of human nature and human society, and would exert his influence and control over inspired men in such a manner, that, by exhibiting the same doctrines and facts in different ways, they should make a more salutary impression, and should more effectually compass the great ends of a revelation? All I have to advance on this part of the subject may be summed up in these two positions:

1. The variety of manner apparent among different inspired writers, even when treating of the same subjects, is far better suited to promote the object of divine revelation, than a perfect uniformity.

2. It is agreeable to our worthiest conceptions of God and his administration, that he should make use of the best means for the accomplishment of his designs; and, of course, that he should impart the gift of inspiration to men of different tastes and habits as to language, and should lead them, while writing the Scriptures, to exhibit all the variety of manner naturally arising from the diversified character of their minds.

"But there is another argument, perhaps the most plausible of all, against supposing that inspiration had any respect to language; which is, that the supposition of a divine influence in this respect is wholly unnecessary; that the sacred writers, having the requisite information in regard to the subjects on which they were to write, might, so far as language is concerned, be left entirely to their own judgment and fidelity. But this view of the subject is not satisfactory. For whatever may be said as to the judgment and fidelity of those who wrote the Scriptures, there is one important circumstance which cannot be accounted for, without supposing them to have enjoyed a guidance above that of their own minds; namely, that they were infallibly preserved from every mistake or impropriety in the manner of writing. If we should admit that the divine superintendence and guidance afforded to the inspired writers had no relation at all to the manner in which they exhibited either doctrines or facts; how easily might we be disturbed with doubts, in regard to the propriety of some of their representations! We should most certainly consider them as liable to all the inadvertencies and mistakes, to which uninspired men are commonly liable; and we should think ourselves perfectly justified in undertaking to charge them with real errors and faults as to style, and to show how their language might have been improved; and, in short, to treat their writings just as we treat the writings of Shakspeare and Addison. ‘Here,' we might say, ‘Paul was unfortunate in the choice of words; and here his language does not express the ideas which he must have intended to convey.' ‘Here the style of St. John was inadvertent; and here it was faulty: and here it would have been more agreeable to the nature of the subject, and would have more accurately expressed the truth, had it been altered thus.' If the language of the sacred writers did not in any way come under the inspection of the Holy Spirit, and if they were left, just as other writers are, to their own unaided faculties in regard to every thing which pertained to the manner of writing; then, evidently, we might use the same freedom in animadverting upon their style, as upon the style of other writers. But who could treat the volume of inspiration in this manner, without impiety and profaneness? And rather than make any approach to this, who would not choose to go to an excess, if there could be an excess, in reverence for the word of God?

"On this subject, far be it from me to indulge a curiosity which would pry into things not intended for human intelligence. And far be it from me to expend zeal in supporting opinions not warranted by the word of God. But this one point I think it specially important to maintain; namely, that the sacred writers had such direction of the Holy Spirit, that they were secured against all liability to error, and enabled to write just what God pleased; so that what they wrote is, in truth, the word of God, and can never be subject to any charge of mistake either as to matter or form. Whether this perfect correctness and propriety as to language resulted from the divine guidance directly or indirectly, is a question of no particular consequence. If the Spirit of God directs the minds of inspired men, and gives them just conceptions relative to the subjects on which they are to write; and if he constitutes and maintains a connection, true and invariable, between their conceptions and the language they employ to express them, the language must, in this way, be as infallible, and as worthy of God, as though it were dictated directly by the Holy Spirit. But to assert that the sacred writers used such language as they chose, or such as was natural to them, without any special divine superintendence, and that, in respect to style, they are to be regarded in the same light, and equally liable to mistakes, as other writers, is plainly contrary to the representations which they themselves make, and is suited to diminish our confidence in the word of God. For how could we have entire confidence in the representations of Scripture, if, after God had instructed the minds of the sacred writers in the truth to be communicated, he gave them up to all the inadvertencies and errors to which human nature in general is exposed, and took no effectual care that their manner of writing should be according to his will?

"Let us then briefly examine the subject, as it is presented in the Holy Scriptures, and see whether we find sufficient reason to affirm that inspiration had no relation whatever to language. 1. The Apostles were the subjects of such a divine inspiration as enabled them to speak ‘with other tongues;' here inspiration related directly to language. 2. It is the opinion of most writers, that, in some instances, inspired men had not in their own minds a clear understanding of the things which they spake or wrote. One instance of this, commonly referred to, is the case of Daniel, who heard and repeated what the angel said, though he did not understand it, Daniel 12:7-9 . This has also been thought to be in some measure the case with the prophets referred to, 1 Peter 1:10-12 . And is there not reason to think this may have been the case with many of the prophetic representations contained in the Psalms, and many of the symbolical rites of the Mosaic institute? Various matters are found in the Old Testament, which were not intended so much for the benefit of the writers, or their contemporaries, as for the benefit of future ages. And this might have been a sufficient reason why they should be left without a clear understanding of the things which they wrote. In such cases, if the opinion above stated is correct, inspired men were led to make use of expressions, the meaning of which they did not fully understand. And, according to this view, it would seem that the teaching of the Spirit which they enjoyed, must have related rather to the words than to the sense. 3. Those who deny that the divine influence afforded to the sacred writers had any respect to language, can find no support in the texts which most directly relate to the subject of inspiration. And it is surely in such texts, if any where, that we should suppose they would find support. The passage, 2 Peter 1:21 , is a remarkable one. It asserts that ‘holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.' There is surely nothing here which limits the divine influence to the conceptions of their minds. They were moved by the Holy Ghost to speak or write. ‘All Scripture is divinely inspired,' 2 Timothy 3:16 . Does this text afford any proof that the divine influence granted to the inspired penmen was confined to their inward conceptions, and had no respect whatever to the manner in which they expressed their conceptions? What is Scripture? Is it divine truth conceived in the mind, or divine truth written? In Hebrews 1:1 , it is said that ‘God spake to the fathers by the prophets.' Does this afford any proof that the divine guidance which the prophets enjoyed related exclusively to the conceptions of their own minds, and had no respect to the manner in which they communicated those conceptions? Must we not rather think the meaning to be, that God influenced the prophets to utter or make known important truths? And how could they do this, except by the use of proper words?

"I have argued in favour of the inspiration of the Apostles, from their commission. They were sent by Christ to teach the truths of religion in his stead. It was an arduous work; and in the execution of it they needed and enjoyed much divine assistance. But forming right conceptions of Christianity in their own minds, was not the great work assigned to the Apostles. If the divine assistance reached only to this, it reached only to that which concerned them as private men, and which they might have possessed though they had never been commissioned to teach others. As Apostles, they were to preach the Gospel to all who could be brought to hear it, and to make a record of divine truth for the benefit of future ages. Now is it at all reasonable to suppose, that the divine assistance afforded them had no respect to their main business, and that, in the momentous and difficult work of communicating the truths of religion, either orally or by writing, they were left to themselves, and so exposed to all the errors and inadvertencies of uninspired men? But our reasoning does not stop here. For that divine assistance which we might reasonably suppose would have been granted to the Apostles in the work of teaching divine truth, is the very thing which Christ promised them in the texts before cited. I shall refer only to Matthew 10:19-20 , ‘When they shall deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in the same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.' This promise, as Knapp understands it, implies, that divine assistance should extend not only to what they should say, but to the manner in which they should say it. It is not, however, to be understood as implying, that the Apostles were not rational and voluntary agents in the discharge of their office. But it implies that, in consequence of the influence of the Spirit to be exercised over them, they should say what God would have them to say, without any liability to mistake, either as to matter or manner. From the above-cited promise, taken in connection with the instances of its accomplishment which are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, it becomes evident that God may exert his highest influence upon his servants, so as completely to guide them in thought and in utterance, in regard to subjects which lie chiefly within the province of their natural faculties. For in those speeches of the Apostles which are left on record, we find that most of the things which they declared, were things which, for aught that appears, they might have known, and might have expressed to others, in the natural exercise of their own faculties. This principle being admitted, and kept steadily in view, will relieve us of many difficulties in regard to the doctrine of inspiration. The passage, 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 , already cited as proof of the inspiration of the Apostles, is very far from favouring the opinion that inspiration had no respect whatever to their language, or that it related exclusively to their thoughts.

‘Which things we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.' The Apostle avoided the style and the manner of teaching which prevailed among the wise men of Greece, and made use of a style which corresponded with the nature of his subject, and the end he had in view. And this, he tells us, he did, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. His

language, or manner of teaching, was the thing to which the divine influence imparted to him particularly referred. Storr and Flatt give the following interpretation of this text: Paul, they say, asserts that the doctrines of Christianity were revealed to him by the almighty agency of God himself; and, finally, that the inspiration of the divine Spirit extended even to his words, and to all his exhibitions of revealed truths. They add, that St. Paul clearly distinguishes

between the doctrine itself, and the manner in which it is communicated."

Copyright Statement
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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Inspiration'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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