« PreviousContinue »
knowledge of the words of the language in which he writes, art to arrange, and, what is still more difficult, a fluency of expression, and facility of composition. To the writers of Scripture History, inspiration of words was as necessary as inspiration of facts. But had they been the most perfect masters of language and composition, to write a history that might be perfectly relied on as a part of the word of God, inspiration of every word was necessary." Pp. Ill, 112.
On the same ground that the term 'Scripture' includes the thoughts and words, so also does it necessarily comprehend the style in which it is written; which is in fact nothing more than the choice and arrangement of the words. This point is also insisted upon by our Authors, in opposition to Mr. D. Wilson and others, who object, that the diversity of style, which is conspicuous in the different books of Scripture, prove that the writers were in a measure left to themselves. Messrs. Haldane and Carson contend, that though the style does peculiarly belong to each writer; yet, that it is a part of divine wisdom to use this style; and that the writers are as much under the influence of the Spirit in this, as in their conception of the most important doctrine.
"That a human style (says Mr. C.) may, in another sense, be divine, may be made intelligible to a child by an illustration. Suppose, to give greater popularity to a work of genius, a writer should choose to imitate the style and manner of Sir Walter Scott; and that the imitation should be so perfect, that the public could not distinguish. Now, such a style would be, in one sense, the style of Sir Walter; but in another, it would be the style of the author. In like manner, the style of the Scriptures is the characteristic style of the different writers, but God is the author of it. The style is as truly God's, as the matter; for if He has employed the style of different writers, he has likewise employed the expressions, thoughts, reasonings, and arguments of the different writers." "That the different styles of the writers of Scripture may, in a certain
sense, be ascribed to God, is clear even from the concession of the author. He admits, that the prophetic part of Scripture needed the inspiration of words; and that in this, as well as in the rest of the Scriptures, we have a characteristic style. If then we have the style of Isaiah, even when all the words with their collocation and syntax were chosen of God, is not the style his also? For what is style abstracted from the words that express it? The distinction, then, between the matter and manner of Scripture, as having different authors, is visionary and groundless.'' Pp. 15 and 16.
Mr. Haldane on this subject
"The objection to verbal inspiration, taken from the variety of style among the sacred writers, though at first sight it may seem plausible, is, in reality, both unfounded and absurd. It is taking for granted, that two or more accounts of the same thing, differing in phraseology, though substantially agreeing, cannot all be the words of inspiration,—a notion which has not the smallest foundation in truth. If variety of expression in relating the same things in the Gospel, would not affect the truth of the narrative, on the supposition that the writers were uninspired men, why is it presumed that it would affect it on the supposition of their, being inspired? and why should it be thought improper for the Holy Ghost to make use of that variety? Or, because one peculiar cast of style distinguishes every man's writings, is it thought impossible that the Spirit of God can employ a variety of styles; or is it supposed that He must be confined to one single mode of expression? The simple statement of such an idea contains its refutation. It is evident, too, that variety of style militates no more against verbal inspiration, than against the supposed inspiration of superintendence; for if the Holy Spirit sanctioned variety, it was equally consistent to dictate variety. And it might be shown, that such variety is of essential importance in the Gospel narratives, in bringing out very interesting views, that could not be exhibited in a single narrative." P. 96.
Exception is also taken by some to the circumstance, that the same fact is often variously worded by different writers of the Scriptures: which is thus put by the writer in the Eclectic Review. "Those pertf sons, therefore, (the advocates of "plenary verbal inspiration,) do not "shrink from maintaining, that the "variations, equally with the coin"cidences, even those which appa"rently are the most unsusceptible "of being bent to reconciliation, all "proceeded from one and the same "source, the verbal prescription of "the Spirit of truth.'' In reply to which Mr. Carson says :—
"I have distinctly avowed the sentiment here alluded to; and I do not shrink from defending any tiling I have advanced on the subject. I have said, that any variety that is warrantable in the different rehearsals of the same fact by an honest witness in the things of man, is equally warrantable in the different relations of the same fact by the Holy Spirit. It is a fanatical misconception of the nature of truth and falsehood, to suppose, that what is consistent with veracity in the language of man, would be inconsistent with it in the language of God. To repeat a narrative with the exactness of a message in Homer's heralds, is not required by truth in the language of either God or man. And if there are any discrepancies in the accounts of the Evangelists, which do not come under the protection of this shield, but are real errors, I maintain that they overturn the inspiration of the Scriptures altogether, and are inconsistent with the declaration, that 'All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God.'" P. 91.
Two or three other objections to this view are thus noticed :—
"It has been objected, that if the verbal inspiration of the whole of the Scriptures could be proved, it would follow, that the words of all the speakers, who are introduced in them, (such as those of Job's friends, although their opinions were erroneous; nay, even the words of the devil himself,) were inspired. This objection is so absurd, that unless it had been sometimes gravely urged, it would be too trifling to be noticed. Is it not sufficiently plain, that while God dictated to the sacred penmen the words of those referred to, he dictated them to be inserted, not as his words, but as their words? Every
thing contained in the Bible, whether the words of the penmen, that contain the mind of God, or the words of others, that are inserted for the purpose of giving such information as he is pleased to impart, is equally, according to the express declarations of Scripture, dictated by God. It should, however, be observed, that it is not at all implied by the assertion of plenary verbal inspiration, that every example recorded in Scripture, without any judgment expressed with regard to the conduct of good, or even inspired men, should be for imitation." Hald. P. 98.
On which point we add from Mr. Carson's work—
"This has no more difficulty when it applies to the advice of Gamaliel, or the letter of Claudius Lysias, the chief Captain, than when it applies to the Sermon on the Mount. That every word of Scripture has been inspired, does not imply that every speech or sentiment recorded there should be inspired. The Letter of Claudius Lysias was not inspired, but it is inserted in the Scriptures by inspiration; and for a purpose useful for the edification of the man of God. To this view of inspiration I have never met an objection that could detain me for a moment." P. 71.
In regard to another exception Mr. Haldane says :—
It is no valid objection to verbal inspiration, that the sacred writers were often acquainted beforehand with those facts which they recorded, and that they were directed to refer to this knowledge to establish their credibility. This no more proves that their relating these facts originated in themselves, than the previous knowledge of a messenger of the contents of the message he bears, proves that it originated with himself, or detracts from its truth or authority. Nor does it form any objection, that the penmen of Scripture often appeal, in support of what they advance, to its own evidence; or that they reason from principles granted by those whom they addressed. This was practised by the Lord himself; of whose words, no christian will affirm, that they are not the words of God." P. 99.
Mr. Haldane afterwards supports his position by a most imposing weight of testimony from Scripture, for which we must refer the Reader to the Treatise itself. The nature of this testimony is as follows: "That the holy men of old spake as "they were moved by the Holy "Ghost;"—" that God at sundry "times, and in divers manners, spake "in time past unto the fathers by the "prophets"—"that the disciples "on the day of Pentecost began to "speak as the Spirit gave them "utterance"—"Which things we "speak (saith St. Paul) not in the "ivords which man's wisdom teach<c eth, but which the Holy Ghost "teacheth." The prophets also, it is urged, continually introduce their messages with "Thus saith the Lord;" and in some instances they speak more directly in the person of the Deity; as Elijah to Ahab,— "Behold I will bring evil upon thee :" on which Mr. Scott observes, "Elijah was the voice, the Lord was the speaker." And the Apostles repeatedly quote the words of the Prophets and of the Psalms as being "spoken by the Lord," or as those "which the Holy Ghost spake by the mouth of his servant David." The nature of the promises, both to Prophets and Apostles, are further alleged, as exemplifying the same point: e. g. "I will be with thy mouth and teach thee what thou shalt say;" (Exod. iv. 11, 12,) and "I will give you a mouth and wisdom, &c," (Luke xxi, 15.) So completely indeed do our Lord and the Apostles treat the Scriptures, and argue from them, on the ground that every jot and tittle in them is inspired, that Mr. Haldane justly inquires—
"On what principle but that of the verbal inspiration of Scripture, can we explain our Lord's words, John x, 35, 'The Scripture cannot be broken P Here the argument is founded on one word, ' gods,' which without verbal inspiration might
not have been used; and if used improperly, might have led to idolatry. In proof of the folly of their charge of blasphemy, he refers the Jews to where it is written in their law, * I said ye are gods.' The reply to this argument was obvious: —The Psalmist, they might answer, uses the word in a sense that is not proper. But Jesus precluded this observation, by affirming, that * the Scripture cannot be broken,' that is, not a word of it can be altered, because it is the Word of Him with wThom there is no variableness. Could this be said if the choice of words had been left to men? Here, then, we find our Lord laying down a principle, which for ever sets the question at rest. The Apostles, in like manner, reason from the use of a particular word. Of this we have an example, Hebrews ii, 8, where the interpretation of the passage referred to depends on the word ' all.'* Again, Galatians iii, 16, a most important conclusion is drawn from the use of the word * seed,' in the singular, and not in the plural number. A similar instance occurs, Hebrews xii, 27, in the expression * once more,1 quoted from the prophet Haggai." P. 138.
Thus, although the manner of communicating the revelation may differ, and though the instrument may sometimes be voluntary and conscious, and sometimes not, God is nevertheless the author of the revelation in the fullest and most absolute sense. "In the words "spoken by the ass of Balaam, we "have an example of this com"munication, through an uncon"scious and involuntary instrument. "In Balaam himself we have an "example through one, who, in the "declaration he made respecting Is"rael, was conscious, but involun"tary. In Caiaphas, through one "who was voluntary in what he "said, but unconscious of its im"port. And in the Writers of the "Scriptures we have an example of "agents both voluntary and con"scious, but equally actuated by (< the Spirit of God." Touching which examples Mr. Haldane sarcastically asks; <' Under which of "the kinds of inspiration that have "been so ingeniously forged did the 11 ass of Balaam speak? Was it "under that of Elevation? Or <( shall the truth of the fact be re"jected altogether, because it is "attended with difficulties?"
IV. We shall notice another point, which is likewise frequently insisted upon from the text so frequently recurring ;—viz. 'that all Scripture is profitable/
Mr. Haldane, in regard to some of the historical parts, the edification of which is denied by many, first refutes the opinion, that they were wrritten by men acquainted with the facts recorded, under a divine superintendence only, by which they were prevented from falling into any errors; and next gives an edifying sketch of the importance of the different historical parts ;—whether they contain events of magnitude, or subjects of minor detail; whether elaborately treated or slightly touched upon ;—arguing as much for the instructiveness of Scripture when it is silent on some jDoints, as for the information it communicates on others, which we might deem better suppressed. One or two passages in this account appear to us to possess so much beauty and interest, that we cannot forbear extracting them. Again quoting " All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable, &c." he continues:
"The above comprehensive declarations include the historical as well as the prophetical and doctrinal parts of the Sacred Oracles, in short the whole of them. The object, therefore, of the historical records in the Scriptures, is essentially different from that of all other histories. They are not given to preserve the memory of certain occurrences, in order to promote the knowledge of what may be useful in regard to the affairs of this world, and to extend the sphere of human intelligence and experience; but exclusively to teach the knowledge of God and salvation. Scripture history is conducted in such a manner, that, like the doctrinal parts of the
Bible, it is foolishness to the men of the world. It not only disappoints them in the nature of the facts which it relates, but also in the manner in which they are exhibited. Owing to the truth and impartiality of its narrations, the character of the people of Israel appears to them greatly worse than that of the grossest idolaters; and the accounts given in Scripture of men, whose conduct on the whole stands approved by God, seems to them to sink below that standard of moral rectitude, to which they imagine that they themselves, and many of those who make no pretensions to religion, have attained. It not only records truth, without the smallest mixture of error; but also invariably keeps in view the agency of God in every occurrence,—in events the most minute, as well as the most considerable; and thus it furnishes a perpetual comment on the sublime description of the Apostle, when, penetrated with admiration of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, he exclaims,—' Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things; to whom be glory for ever. Amen.'"
"Had the wisest and best informed of the Scripture historians not been inspired of God, but simply superintended, so as to prevent them from falling into error, the histories recorded by them would be very unlike those which they have actually transmitted. Many of their narrations that exist would never have appeared, and others of them would have been very differently modified. We might have discovered in them the self-approving wisdom of man, but not the seeming 'foolishness of God.' Would the united sagacity of all the wise men in the world have led them to relate the history of the creation of the universe in one chapter of a book, as Moses has done, and of the erection of the tabernacle in thirteen? Woidd the fond prejudices of the Jewish nation, or the general desire fostered by so many of the learned, to support what is called the dignity of human nature, in both which Moses no doubt participated, have permitted him to record so base an action as the selling of their brother Joseph as a slave by the Jewish patriarchs,—the incest of Judah, whose tribe was to be always pre-eminent,—and the treachery and revenge of Levi, from whom was to descend the whole priesthood of Israel?
That there was a higher hand which directed the pens of Moses, and of the other writers of sacred history, may be sufficiently manifest to all who have seen in what that history has issued. There is besides a combination and a harmony in the historical parts, both of the Old and New Testaments, which we have sufficient ground to believe in a great measure escaped the notice of the writers, as has also been the case with thousands of those who have read them—a variety and a unity which irresistibly prove that One only— He who knows the end from the beginning —is the author of the whole; who employed various individuals to produce a uniform work, of which none of them either comprehended all that he had contributed to it, or knew for what reason he was directed to record one thing and to omit another.
Considering the purpose which the historical parts of the Scriptures were intended to serve, in exhibiting the character and power of God, and his uninterrupted agency in the government of the world, and in pointing to Him who is the end of the law, we have sufficient reason to be convinced, that neither Moses, nor the other sacred historians, nor all the angels in heaven, though acquainted with all the facts, and under the direction, and with the aid, both of superintendence and elevation, were competent to write the historical parts of the Word of God. They neither possessed foresight nor wisdom sufficient for the work." Pp.l26--128.
Besides the objections to many of the historical parts, certain passages are sometimes singled out as not being of a religious nature, and therefore not inspired. Two passages in Timothy may be instanced; viz. " Drink no longer water, &c." and "The cloak which I left at Troas, &c."—the vindication of which is waived by Dr. Doddridge in terms highly censurable, as not only yielding the point of their inspiration, but as in some measure deriding it. With obj ections against these texts, he says, he has no concern; "because they affect only "such a degree of inspiration, as I "think it not prudent, and I am "sure it is not necessary to assert. "I leave them therefore to be "answered by those, if any such
"there be, who imagine that Paul '' would need an immediate revelation "from heaven, or a miraculous dic"tate of the Holy Ghost, to remind "Timothy of the cloak and writings "which he left at Troas, or to ad"advise him to mingle a little wine '' with his water." t> These passages however in Timothy Mr. Haldane sets forth in a manner so instructive, educing from them so great a variety of solemn, useful, and affecting considerations, that the pleasure afforded to us by this one portion of Ins book alone, has amply repaid us for its cost. He concludes his notice of this subject, with the following important observations :—
"The levity, not to say profaneness, of this manner of treating the Holy Scriptures, ought to be held in abhorrence. Their paramount, authority, and their unity as the Word of God, are thus set aside. The Bible is converted into another book; and another revelation, were such licentious principles of interpretation admitted, would become indispensable to teach the humble christian, who takes it for ' a lamp unto his feet, and a light unto his path,' what portion of it he is to consider as from God, and what portion as from man,—what parts of it are of ' a religious nature,' from which he may derive edification, and in which he may converse with God,—and what parts relate only to 'common or civil affairs,' with which he has no concern, and which it would not be prudent to speak of, as inspired. If, in this manner, inspiration is first denied to the words, and next to such things as are supposed not to be 'of a religious nature/ the progress to the non-inspiration of whole books of Scripture is perfectly easy and natural; and, if whole books are rejected, then, both the authenticity and inspiration of the whole of the Scriptures are subverted. For, if the canon has admitted one uninspired book, there is no security that it has not admitted more; and if that canon has been recognised by Jesus Christ with one uninspired book, every book in the collection may be uninspired, notwithstanding that recognition. The discovery, likewise, of one single pas
Dissertation on Inspiration, p. 58.