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"God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."—Gen. ii. 7.
"Prophesying came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."— 2 Peter i. 21.
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for
correction, for reproof," &c.—2 Tim. iii. 16. '' Search the Scriptures ; for in them ye think ye have eternal life. But
ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."—John V. 39.
TNSPIRATION means etymologically a breathing into—a breathing into man by God. It is distinctly the teaching of the Bible that all men are inspired. "God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Our mind, soul, spirit, ego, self, personality—however we may please to term it—is, so to speak, the breath of God. You will observe that this expres
sion is a metaphor,—a material metaphor for a spiritual fact. Mind is not, and cannot be, a chemical combination of gases. Our essential self is something very different from the breath of our lungs. What the old Hebrew writer meant was simply that our being was derived from God's,— that it was in kind identical with God's. Every man is inspired; every man is himself an inspiration; he has been, so to speak, begotten by God; he is the outcome of God; his real nature is in germ divine.
In germ divine. This limitation is necessary to cover the fact that there is such infinite diversity observable among men. The mind which any one possesses to start with, is but the germ of what it may eventually become. Its development is different in different individuals, so different that we are apt to forget their common origin. When compared with men of genius, average men seem commonplace and undivine. It is the former only whom we should generally speak of as inspired. And even in their case we should not apply the word indiscriminately to all they said and did, but we should restrict it to the most remarkable of their achievements.
There is another restriction which has become common among religious people. They have frequently thought to honour religion by depreciating everything else. God has nothing to do, they imagine, with the productions of art, with the discoveries of science, with the meditations of the philosopher, with the labours of the philanthropist. God, they believe—though curiously enough they think at the same time that He was the Creator of the world—God, they believe, is a religious Being only, and never influences men except for the purpose of conveying religious instruction. They therefore restrict the term inspiration to the most remarkable religious writers, and, I may add, to most remarkable religious writers of the past; for somehow or other, I cannot make out how, they have come to the conclusion that all inspiration is at an end. In Christendom the term is generally applied to Biblical writers, and denied to all others even though, in some cases, what they have written is practically the same.
Now I want you to examine this current doctrine. I would remark, in the first place, that it is the outcome of self-conceit. Men have delighted to imagine themselves the special favourites of the Almighty, to believe that He did for them what He would not do for others. But the more we study history, the more clear becomes the folly of all such notions, the more certain do we feel that, however much men's circumstances may differ, God's dealings with them are always and everywhere the same. An unjust Deity would be a contradiction in terms. Nothing but self-conceit could ever have led men to the conclusion that their own scriptures were not only superior to all others, but that they owed their origin to a unique act of mercy on the part of the Almighty.
Those who have adopted this irrational doctrine have tried to find reasons for it in the Scriptures themselves. In John v. 39 they read, " Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life." The passage answered their purpose better by the omission of "ye think," which they accordingly proceeded to omit, and henceforth quoted the text as, "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye have eternal life." Now, as a matter of fact, Christ said just the opposite. Instead of "search," the translation should be "ye search"; and what Christ said was this, "Ye search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: but ye have not; they testify of me, and ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." In other words, the religious life is something very different from the worship of a book. In this passage Christ is not praising, but emphatically condemning, bibliolatry.
There is another text by which the current view