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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.
. Thirdly. 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 Pet. i. 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. 2 Tim. iii. 16. - All Scripture is divinely inspired.” 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 Heb. i. 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?
s 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 Matt. x. 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 connexion 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 Cor. ii. 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 “ Paul clearly distinguishes between the doctrine itself, and the manner in which it is communicated.”
"I quote the following passages from the same learned and judicious authors, as a further illustration of the views which have been exhibited in this discussion.
66The apostles doubtless thought for themselves; that is, exercised their natural faculties, and communicated their own thoughts, both in their oral and written instructions. Still, their instructions are to be considered rather the instructions of God, than of the apostles : for the substance or matter of them was, for the most part, communicated to them, if not at the moment when they were speaking or writing, yet previously, either by Christ during his abode with them on earth, or by the Spirit of God. Moreover, this perpetual coadjutor exercised a constant superintendence over all their communications, both oral and written ; and where any thing had escaped their memory, recalled it; and where there was ignorance or error in their views, afforded them the necessary instruction ; thus preventing the omission of any thing which the Spirit of God would have them communicate, and guarding them effectually against imperfect or erroneous exhibitions of those truths which they had received from the Lord.”_" As the apostles were to be infallible teachers, and their instructions to be received as coming from God,- to ensure perfect accuracy in their communications, the superintending influence of the Spirit might be necessary, even when they were communicating doctrines which had been revealed to them at a former period, or which they had learned in some other way."--"By the Spirit of God, their inseparable assistant, the apostles were preserved from adullerating the revelations which they received from God. The Spirit, for example, prevented them from using expressions suggested by the additions which their reasonings might make to the revelations they received from God. He excited in them a suspicion of all such ideas as originated from themselves, and thus led them to select other expressions, which, while they accorded with their own ideas and habits of expression, harmonized perfectly with the truth, and with the purposes of the divine Spirit. In this way it may be seen that, while the Spirit of God prevented any false propositions or expressions from escaping them, opportunity was afforded, even in the communication of truths immediately inspired, for each Apostle to manifest that peculiarity of thought and expression, by which he was distinguished from others.”
• If, after all, it should be thought by any to be an objection to the views I have expressed, that there is no appearance of any thing superhuman, or preternatural, in the language of Scripture; I would ask, what appearance of this there could be, on the supposition that the Divine Spirit actually superintended, or even prompted, the lan. guage employed. The language, in order to answer the end, must still be human. The modes of speech, the figures, and every thing relating to the style, must be conformed to common usage. They must be so, even if God himself should make a communication directly, by uttering a voice from heaven. Such a direct communication he actually made in the testimony he gave to Christ at his baptism. And he made a direct communication in another form, when he wrote the ten commandments on tables of stone. And yet, in both of these, the language was, in all respects, according to common usage. Why then should it not be so, where he makes a communication through human agency? Why should we suppose he would depart from the common modes of speech? And admitting that the common modes of speech are used, why should we suppose that God would set aside the natural powers of the writers, and would make thoughts and words for them, without any use of their minds, or their organs of speech ? Far be it from us to entertain so strange and senseless an imagination.
pp. 99–104. We have never before seen this view of the subject so forcibly put and so ably supported ; and we feel persuaded that our readers will peruse these observations with equal pleasure and profit.
Valuable and satisfactory, however, as a refutation of the error they are meant to expose, they must be considered as relating to the mode of the Divine agency, rather than to the simple question of fact. Nor do we feel sure that the distinction between an inspiration of conceptions and an inspiration of words, is so important as it may at first sight appear, or that it is philosophically sound. The connexion between distinct conceptions and words is so close, we think so much through the medium of language, and inspired thoughts would so certainly and infallibly find appropriate utterance, that it must come to much the same thing, whether we believe the words to be the matter of inspiration or simply governed by it. The supposition that error or inadvertency might attend the communication of the truths of religion, if the Divine influence related only to the conceptions of the speaker or writer, has no solid foundation: the case would still be impossible. When men fail to make themselves understood, or fall into verbal error, the defect is always to be traced up to a deficiency of clearness or accuracy in their conceptions at the time. The only question of real importance is, Were the Apostles constantly under the guidance of Inspiration in what they taught ? Inadvertency of expression would imply the suspension of that guidance. That the inspiration was, if we may so speak, virtually verbal, it would be wholly unreasonable to deny.
More than this, however, is contended for by many persons, who, by verbal and plenary inspiration, would have us understand the actual dictation, ipsissimis verbis, to the inspired writers, of every word contained in the Old and New Testaments. Instead of holy men speaking as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, the abettors of this notion represent them as merely reciting or recording the words spoken to them by the Holy Ghost. Instead of Scripture being beóniveUSTOS, Divinely inspired, this notion would make it a verbal communication, from first to last, independent of the mind of the writers ;- not inspired, but dictated.
This opinion ill accords either with Scripture or with fact. But waiving the objections which lie against this extreme representation,-a representation which, while it seems to exalt the Bible as the word of God, detracts from the qualifications of the Apostles as the depositaries of the heavenly knowledge, -We would especially draw attention to this point; that those who so peremptorily insist upon a Verbal Inspiration of this description, are, after all, contending not for the doctrine of Inspiration, but merely for their own explanation of the specific mode of the Divine agency in the work of inspiration. In other words, they are mixing up with an article of faith, a philosophical hypothesis. Dr. Woods's reasoning affords no support or countenance to the dogma referred to.
So far as the mode of the Divine agency can be ascertained from the Scriptures, it has been various and multiform. There have been “ diversities of operations”; and God has spoken “in divers manners” *. The Jewish rabbies make four degrees of prophetical inspiration, of which the highest is the gradus Mosaicus or ruach hakkodesh; the lowest degree is called bath colt. And they held, that the same prophet did nat always prophesy in the same degree. All visions were held to be perfect prophecy’; but with regard to many of the songs found in the writings of the prophets, they considered them as ordered or dictated by the
sacred penmen themselves, together with the superintendency of the Holy Spirit.'| And this Divine inspiration, they distinguished from the higher kind which was technically called prophecy. Abarbanel moreover thus distinguishes between the inspiration of Moses and that of the Prophets: "The prophets did not prophesy in the same manner as Moses did; for he prophesied from God immediately, from whom he received not • only the prophesy, but the very words and phrases; and accordingly as he heard them, so he wrote them in the book of the
law, in the very same words which he heard from God. But, • as for the rest of the prophets, they beheld in their visions the
things themselves which God made known to them, and both * declared and expressed them in their own phraseology.'S The accuracy of this distinction, (invented, probably, for the sake of exalting the pre-eminence of the great Legislator of Israel,) may justly be questioned; since many of the Prophets appear to have received Divine communications totidem verbis, as Moses did the Decalogue, and probably by the same angelic medium. And the Talmudists maintain 'true prophecy' to have been communicated by angels. But whatever may be thought of the propriety of these Rabbinical distinctions, they must be admitted to be not wholly without foundation, as regards the different mode of the Divine influence, and the varied character of the specific instrumentality employed. To this source we may trace the analogous distinction insisted upon by Christian divines, between the inspiration of superintendence and that of suggestion. According to this view of the subject, however, the phrase theopneustos-divinitus inspirata, -would by no means intimate the highest kind of prophetic inspiration; nor would what the Apostle predicates of the profitableness of inspired writings adequately express the supreme authority and ultimate purpose of Divine Revelation.