Page images
PDF
EPUB

and the demand founded upon it, let it be observed that there are two forms in which a testimony regarding inspiration might be given.

It is an ascription which either might be given to the author, or which might be given to his work. The affirmation might be made that Solomon was inspired to write the book of Ecclesiastes; or, without the mention of Solomon at all, it might be affirmed, that the book of Ecclesiastes is the product of inspiration. And in like manner, we may know nothing of the human authorship of the books of Joshua, and Judges, and Ruth, and Samuel, and the Kings, and Chronicles; and yet, we might have abundant evidence of their divine authorship—for though nothing may have been said of the penmen of these books, viewed as writers; enough may have been said of the books themselves, viewed as works. Now it is this which gives such mighty importance to the voces signatæthe special designation that rested exclusively, and by appropriation, on the Hebrew selection of sacred writings, and were applied to none others. No one, of our own day, would misunderstand either the application or extent of that most familiar of all names, the Bible; and every one knows that Ruth, and the Lamentations, and Zechariah, form parts of the Bible. And the name of scripture, or scriptures, or do you pai, or τα ιερα γραμματα, or τα λογια του Θεου, stood expressly in the place, and answered all the purposes of our own names the Bible, and the Holy scriptures, or the Old and New Testament. We, of the present age, might not know the author of Ruth; but we know that Ruth is in the Bibleand, without being informed who the author of this particular book was, without even the information of it in particular being inspired, we, if credibly informed that the whole Bible was inspired, would thenceforth believe in the inspiration of the book of Ruth, as part and parcel of that Bible. And the very question on which we have been engaged, when labouring to determine whether this one and that other book was canonical, is, whether it entered as a constituent, or formed an integral part of the Jewish scriptures. If first we have testimony for the book of Kings being in scripture, even that scripture recognised by all the Jews, quoted by the apostles, and sanctioned by the Saviour himself; and afterwards have the information which can be depended on, that all scripture is inspired—we require nothing further to be satisfied of the inspiration of the book of Kings. Once its rightful place in the canon of scripture is determined; and then, whatever qualities of worth and perfection belong to scripture generally, must belong to this book particularly. The settlement of the question whether or not a book is canonical, leads, by a direct transition, to the settlement of the question whether or not that book is inspired.

6. There is a two-fold advantage in those testimonies, which speak, not of the powers imparted to the writer, but of the properties impressed upon the book; and, more especially, when these are predicated, not of one particular book, but of the whole collection comprised under the general name of scripture. The first is that we learn, what is the amount of homage that we might render, and what the degree of confidence we might repose, even in those parts of the Bible of which the authors have not been named, and of whose qualifications as messengers from God to man we have never been told. The writings of the prophets themselves have a fulness of credit given to them from testimonies of this form, which they might not otherwise have possessed. For though repeatedly told of their supernatural converse with heaven, we are not told that the whole of their respective books were penned under the guidance of inspiration. But the term scripture covers the whole of their books, and comprehends also the historical and the poetical. From the lack of testimonies in one particular form, we are left uncertain who the authors were of most of the historical books, and are nowhere told of the inspiration of the writers; but this is completely made up by the abundance of testimonies in another particular form, and which speak to us most distinctly and decisively of the inspiration of the writings. We are not told of particular books, that they were written by God's messengers. But we are told of the books themselves, that they form God's message.

In fact, the second is a better form than the first. A book

may

be written by a divine messenger, and yet may not have been written, or at least not all of it have been written by him in that capacity; and so, for ought we know, there might be a mixture in it of the human with the divine, of the earthly with the

a divine

heavenly. Not so when informed, generally and without any specified exceptions, of the book being

message ; for then we read the whole of it with equal reverence, or at least with equal reliance on all its contents-- with equal faith in one and all of its passages.

7. But another and no less important advantage of testimonies regarding inspiration in the second form, is that they supersede all the unwarrantable, and we would say all the senseless and unphilosophical speculation, in which the impugners, and occasionally even the defenders of a plenary inspiration, have indulged, on the modes and degrees of inspiration. In much that has been said by these scholastics, not of the middle ages but of the last and even of the present century, on the subjects of guidance and superintendence and elevation and infusion, we can perceive nothing but an illegitimate attempt to lift that veil, which screens from our discernment the arcana of a hidden operation—reminding us somewhat of the hopeless and irrational attempts, in other days, to seize upon and to define the occult qualities of matter. Instead of being satisfied to know of the virtues and properties of the resulting commodity, nothing will appease their spirit of ambitious inquiry, till discovery has been made of the process of the manufacture. Now enough for us to know of the result. For the imaginations of men as to the modus operandi, we infinitely prefer the palpable testimonies of Christ and his apostles as to the qualities of the opus operatum ; and, without prying into the distinctions of Christian, in every way as fanciful as those of Jewish doctors of old, between one kind of inspiration and another it is enough for us to learn, that the Bible out and out is perfect, that the Bible is an infallible rule both of faith and manners.

8. Now in regard to the first of these advantages, how does the matter stand ? There is a book of special designation, and claiming from the earliest times to stand apart from all human compositions, and that because of the high character which it assumes as the word of God. From the age of miraculous evidence, there has been a distinct and a definite title to mark this book, and signalize it from all others, just as effectually as that appellative the Bible is understood by every peasant in Christendom, to specialize a certain volume which professes to be the word of God, and in this respect to hold an infinite superiority over all the other authorship in the world. But, é Bißros, the Bible, does not separate this volume more from all other books, than a ygacar, the writings in the days of the Old Testament, separated a part of that volume, or in the days of the apostles and Christian fathers separated the whole of it from all other writings. This designation was applied zat' ežoxon to the Jewish Scriptures, by the Hebrews; to both the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures by the disciples of Jesus; and, by general consent and estimation on their part, stood distinguished from all the other writings in the world—as being the product of God's own wisdom and will, instead of being either framed by the wisdom or brought into existence by the

« PreviousContinue »