Page images

tellectual faculties, to receive and retain his divine impressions. So a man tunes the strings of an instrument that it may receive the impressions of his finger, and give out the sound he intends. He did not speak in them, and leave it to their natural faculties to understand, remember, and report what he had spoken ;-but he himself acted their faculties, making use of them as his organs to express his words, and not their own conceptions. And this he did, with that light evidence of his power, as left them under no suspicion whether their minds were under his influence or not. Men are liable so to fall under the power of their own imaginations; and Satan has often so imposed on the minds of some, that they have mistaken them for supernatural revelations ; but in the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, he gave them infallible assurance that it was himself alone by whom they were acted. If any shall ask, What were these infallible tokens? I must plainly say, I cannot tell; for these are things of which we have no experience. Nor is any thing of this nature pretended to by those who profess to experience the ordinary influences of the Spirit; though some have falsely imputed it to them. But this I say, it was the design of the Spirit to give those who were extraordinarily inspired an assurance, sufficient to bear them out in the discharge of their duty, that they were acted by himself alone. They were often called to encounter various dangers, and some of them to lay down their lives in the work; which they would not have done, without as full evidence of their inspiration as the nature of man is capable of, and such as secured them from all fear of delusion. On the word they delivered to others, there were such characters of divine truth, as rendered it worthy of belief; and not to be re. jected without the greatest guilt; much more then was there such an evidence in it to the persons inspired. The case of Abraham fully confirms it. The Holy Ghost also guided the very organs of their bodies, whereby they expressed his revelations. He guided their tongues, as the mind of a man guides his hand in writing. Hence David says, "My tongue is the pen of a ready writer, Ps. xlv. 1. And so with respect to the pattern of the temple, and the whole worship of it, he says, “ All this the Lord made me to understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the work of this pattern.' i Chron. xxviii. 12. The Spirit guided him in writing it, as plainly as if every particuTar had been expressed in writing by the finger of God.

It remains, that we consider those means by which the Spirit communicated his mind to the prophets; and these were chiefly voices, dreams, and visions : accompanied at times with symbolical actions and local changes.

1. God sometimes made use of an Articulate Voice. So • he spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend.' Exod. xxxiii. 11. And perhaps the whole revelation made to him, was in this manner. So God spake to Elijah, to Samuel, to Jeremiah, and probably to all the prophets at their first entrance into their ministry. These voices were either immediately created by God himself, or by the ministry of angels : but the divine certainty of their minds was from an immediate internal work of the Spirit; without which they might have been imposed upon by external sounds.

2. Dreams were also made use of under the Old Testament; and to them also I refer those visions which they had in their sleep, though not called dreams. Hence that promise, I will pour out my Spirit-your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams,' Acts ii. 17. Not that God intended to make much use of these under the New Testament ; but the promise intends a plentiful effusion of that Spirit who acted by those means under the Old. Yet they were sometimes used; Paul had a vision in the night, Acts xvi. 10 :--but of old they were more frequent. God made a signal revelation to Abraham, when ' a deep sleep fell upon him and an horror of great darkness. Gen. xv. 12. Daniel also heard 6. a voice and words in a deep sleep.' But this sleep, I conceive, was not natural; but caused of God in a peculiar manner, that therein he might represent the image of things to their imaginations. And this way of revelation was so common, that one who pretended to prophesy would cry out, I have dreamed, I have dreamed !

3. God revealed himself by visions to the prophets ; hence they were called Seers. Isaiah terms his whole glorious prophecy the vision which he saw ;' partly from the representation made to him (ch. vi.) and partly from the evidence of the things revealed to him ; which were as clear to his mind as if he had had an ocular inspection of them. Now these visions were either outward representations of things to their bodily eyes, or inward representations to their minds. (1.) There were sometimes appearances of persons, or things, made to their outward senses, in which God employed the ministry of angels. Thus three men appeared to Abraham (Gen. xviii. 2.); one of whom was the Son of God himself; the other two' ministering angels. Of the same kind was the burning bush which Moses saw ;-the man that Joshua saw at the siege of Jericho ;-—the seething-pot, the almond tree, and basket of figs, seen by Jeremiah, &c. (2.) They were sometimes made only to their minds. When Peter saw the vision of a sheet let down from Heaven, it is said (Acts X. 10.) he was in a trance or ecstacy ; whereby for a season he was deprived of the use of his bodily senses. And to this head I refer Daniel's and the A polyptical visions ; and especialiy all those visions wherein any representation was made of God himself and his glorious throne ; as in 1 Kings xxii. 19. Isa. vi. 1. Ezek. i. 3, &c. In all these there was no use of the bodily senses of the prophets ; but their minds were impressed with ideas and representations of things: but this was so effectual, that they understood not but that they had also made use of their visive faculty. Now these visions were granted to the prophets, to confirm their minds, and affect their hearts with a clear and forcible apprehension of those things which they were to communicate to others. But it was necessary, in order to render these visions direct parts of divine revelation, that the minds of the prophets should be elevated in a due manner by the Holy Spirit for the reception of them; and that they should be enabled faithfully to retain, and infallibly to declare, what was so represented to them.

4. Symbolical actions were sometimes enjoined on the propbets., Isaiah was commanded to walk naked and barefoot; Jeremiah to dispose of a linen-girdle ;. Ezekiel to lie on his side in the siege. Now some of these things being against the light of nature and the law of God, cannot be supposed to have been actually done, but represented to them in visions, to make the deeper impression on them. As to most other instances, they might be really performed, and not in vision only. 5. Their revelations were accompanied with local mutár

tions, or being transported from one place to another, as Ezekiel was (Ezek. viii. 3, and xi. 21.); and it is expressly said, that it was in the visions of God. Falling into a trance, or ecstacy, wherein the exercise of their outward senses was suspended, their minds were carried in a holy rapture from one place to another ; which was effected only by a divine representation of things, which were done in places from whence they were really absent. Now all these belong to the manifold variety of divine revelations, mentioned Heb. i. 10.

The writing of the Scripture was another effect of the Holy Ghost. The Apostle tells us, that the Scripture, or writing itself (nypzon) was by inspiration from God.' 2 Tim. ii. 16. This ministry was first committed to Moses. There were many prophets before him ; but he was the first who committed the will of God to writing, after God himself, who wrote the law in tables of stone, which was the beginning and pattern of the Scripture. The writers of the historical books of the Old Testament are unknown; but it is certain they were of the number of holy men who spake and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." Hence they are called Prophets ; for though they wrote historically, yet it was not from their own memory, nor from tradition, nor from records (though they might be furnished with these); but by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Three things concurred in this work. 1. The inspiration of the minds of the prophets, with the knowledge of the things communicated to them: 2. The suggestion of words to express the conceptions of their minds : 3. The guidance of their hands in setting down the words suggested. If either of these were wanting, the Scripture could not be absolutely divine and infallible. Some indeed think, from the variety of style observable in the Scriptures, that the substance only was given them; and that the words were left to their own abilities. I shall only say, that this variety arises chiefly from the variety of the subjects treated of; and can give no countenance to the profaneness of this opinion; for the Holy Ghost does not put a force on the minds of men, but acts on them agreeably to their nature and endowments. The words therefore which he suggests are such as are familiar to themselves. We grant, that they used their own abilities in

the choice of words; but the Holy Spirit, who is more intimate to the minds of men than they are themselves, so guided them, that the words they fixed on were as certainly from him as if they had been spoken to them by an audible voice ; otherwise they could not be said to speak as they were moved by the Holy Ghost ; nor could their writing be of divine inspiration. Hence in the original, great senses and significations often depend on a single letter, as in the change of Abram's name to Abraham ; and our Saviour affirms, that every apex and iota of the law is under the care of God. Matt. v.

The third sort of the extraordinary operations of the Holy Ghost are miracles; such as were wrought by Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Elisha, and others. Now these were all the immediate effects of the divine power of the Holy Ghost ; for by miracles we mean such effects as are really beyond and above the power of natural causes, however applied. It is expressly said of Christ himself, that he wrought miracles (casting out devils for instance) by the Holy Ghost; and if their immediate production was by his power in the human nature of the Son of God, how much more must it be granted, that it was by him alone that they were wrought by mere men ; and, therefore, when they are said to be wrought by the hand or finger of God, it is the person of the Spirit which is intended. And the persons by whom they were wrought, were never the real subjects of the power whereby they were wrought, as though it should reside or be inherent in them (Acts ii

. 12, 26.); only they were infalliby directed by the Holy Ghost, by word or action, to pre-signify their operation. Thus, when Joshua commanded the sun and moon to stand still, there was no power in him to influence the whole frame of nature ; only he had a divine warrant to speak that which God himself would effect; whence it is said, "God hearkened to the voice of a man*,' So in all other miraculous operations, even

* Some of the Jewish writers interpret this passage to signify, merely the speed of Joshua in subduing his enemies before the close of the day, and this they do, lest Joshua should be thought to have wrought a greater miracle than Moses. Our author also observes that some Christian writers countenance this fiction. To remove a variety of difficulties which have been started from this remarkable Hory, the Editor begs leave to transcribe the following elucidation of

« PreviousContinue »