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Inspiration of Mark and Luke. [Ess. v. Accordingly, the evidence adduced to prove that the rest of the New Testament was given by inspiration, although of most certain application to the writings of the apostles, are by no means inapplicable to those of Mark and Luke. The high and extraordinary endowments of the Spirit, during the earliest periods of Christianity, were by no means confined to the apostles of Jesus Christ. Our Lord sent forth his seventy disciples, as well as his twelve apostles, endued with the power of working miracles. The deacons were men full of the Holy Ghost; and Stephen, in particular, was gifted, in a very eminent degree, with supernatural powers : Acts vi, 8. On the day of Pentecost there were no less than one hundred and twenty persons assembled together; " and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the spirit gave them utteránce:” Acts ii, 4. It is evident, therefore, that, on the first introduction of Christianity, many persons, besides the apostles, possessed those supernatural endowments which rendered them fit instruments for the peculiar work of establishing a new religion in the world; nor were there, we may presume, any individuals more likely to enjoy those endowments than Mark and Luke; the one the beloved companion of Peter (1 Pet. v, 13); the other, the intimate and celebrated associate of Paul: 2 Cor. viii, 18.9
• A minute investigation of the subject will, I believe, go far towards satisfying every impartial inquirer, that the Epistle to the Hebrews was written by Paul. It is probably to that Epistle particularly that the apostle Peter referred, when he classed the writings of Paul with the other Scriptures; and, if Paul was its author, its canonical authority is, of course, unquestionable. On the less probable supposition, however, that Paul was not its author, there is still good reason to believe that this Epistle was given by inspiration. Addressed, as it was, during the apostolic age, to the parent church at Jerusalem, it is distinguished by an exalted tone of authority, and even of rebuke, upon which, it may be presumed, no
Universal Consent of the Church. 95 In support of our position, that the New Testament was given by inspiration, there remains to be adduced another external evidence of no inconsiderable importance; namely, the universal consent of the Christian church ; for, respecting the divine authority of all the acknowledged writings of the evangelists and apostles, there appears to have prevailed among Christians in ancient times, the same clearness and general accordance of sentiment as in the present day. The judgment of the early church, on this subject, may be collected from a variety of sources: viz. from direct declarations in the works of the fathers
-from canons of Holy Scripture, published both by individuals and by general councils—from the usage established so early as the second century, of reading the New as well as the Old Testament in their public assemblies for worship-and lastly, from the practice, so universally prevalent among the fathers, even at a very early date, of quoting passages from the New Testament, as of decisive and divine authority, for the settlement of all questions connected with religious truth.
one in those favoured days would have ventured, who was not known to have enjoyed especial inspiration : and this inference is satisfactorily confirmed by the doctrinal importance and remarkable practical weight of the treatise itself.
4 From the commencement of the third century, the testimonies of the church to the divine authority of the New Testament extend and multiply in every direction ; but it is of particular importance to observe, that even during the first and second centuries the same principle was plainly recognized. A few instances will elucidate and justify the assertion. The author of that very ancient Epistle which is supposed by many persons to be the genuine production of Barnabas, prefaces his citation of Matt. xx, 16, by the words, “as it is written,”-words which, throughout the New Testament itself, designate quotation from the inspired writings: Lardner, 4to. vol. I, 285. Clement of Rome, (A.D. 96) in addressing the Corinthians, appeals to the authority of “the Epistle of the blessed apostle Paul,” who he says, wrote to them by the Spirit:" ch. xlvii. Lardner, i, 293, Polycarp, (A.D. 108) in his Epistle to the Philippians, thus refers to
96 Universal Consent of the Church.
[Ess. v. Now this general consent of the Christian church, during the several periods of its history, to the doctrine that the writings of the apostles and evangelists (like those of the patriarchs and prophets) are Holy Scripture,--that is, that they were given by inspiration of God,—affords a strong presumption that the evidences on which that doctrine was originally established were plain, reasonable, and convincing: nor can any thing appear to the mind of the Christian much more improbable than that a sentiment so universally admitted by his fellow-believers in all ages, and so clearly held by them all to be essential to the fabric of their faith, should have no other foundation than error.
III. Such are some of the external evidences (derived principally from the Gospels and Epistles, considered only as genuine and authentic works) which lead to the conclusion that both the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God. And
Ephes. iv, 26 : “ For I trust ye are well exercised in the Sacred Writings; for in those Scriptures it is said ' Be ye angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath:'" ch. xii, Lardner, i, 327. Hegesippus (A.D. 173) quotes Matt. xiii, 16, as from the divine Scriptures : Photii Biblioth., 893; Lardner, i, 358. Theophilus of Antioch (A.D. 181) quotes John i, 1, and Rom. xiii, 7, 8, as from the Holy Scriptures and the divine Word : Lardner, i, 385, 386. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 194) abounds in citations from almost all the books of the New Testament, and he expressly denominates those books, Scripture, divine Scripture, divinely-inspired Scripture, the Scriptures of the Lord, the true evangelical canon : Lardner, i, 405. Lastly, we may adduce the testimony of Irenæus, (A.D. 178) that most eminent of the early fathers of the western church, who is not only abundant in his quotations from the New Testament, but asserts that the evangelists and apostles, after having preached the Gospel, “handed it down to us, by the will of God, in their writings, to be the foundation and pillar of our faith : Adv. Hær. lib. iii, cap. 1, Lardner, i, 365. It is evident that the writings thus handed down could be regarded by Irenæus as the foundation and pillar of our faith only on the principle that their authors were actually inspired. Accordingly, that writer adds, “He who refuses his assent to them, (the apostles and evangelists) despises not only those who knew the mind of the Lord, but the Lord Christ himself, and the Father."
Ess. v.] Nature of Inspiration; its Variations. 97 now, before we proceed to consider some additional proofs of a different description, it may be desirable to offer a few remarks respecting the nature of that inspiration which the sacred writers enjoyed. Much discussion has arisen among theologians, respecting the degree in which it was imparted, and the mode in which it operated ; and the distinctions which have been formed on the subject are at once refined and numerous.
Inspiration, I would submit, is the communication to the minds of men of a divine light and influence, by which they are either miraculously informed of matters before unknown to them, or by which ideas already acquired through natural means are presented to their memory, and impressed on their feelings, with an extraordinary degree of clearness and force; and by which, further, they are often led to promulgate to others, either in speaking or in writing, that which has been thus imparted to themselves. Such being a general definition of inspiration, it must evidently vary in degree, and in the method of its operation, according to the circumstances under which it acts, and the subjects to which it is applied.
When the ideas communicated to the inspired person, and by the inspired person to others, were altogether new, and his knowledge of them obtained only through an immediate and supernatural discovery, it seems probable that the very words in which those ideas were communicated to others must also have been suggested by the Holy Spirit. Such I conceive to have been the case with the prophets, when they found themselves constrained to predict events which were not only concealed in the bosom of futurity, but were of so singular a nature, that they were probably very little understood by those who predicted them: see, for example, Isa. vii, 14; ix. 6; liii. Such also
98 Exceptions in the Epistles of Paul. [Ess. v. probably have been the case with Moses when he described the creation of the world, and with the apostles when they communicated to their desciples those doctrinal mysteries, of which their knowledge was derived exclusively or principally from immediate revelation. But, as far as relates to the more simple didactic parts of Scripture, as well as to the greater part of its historical narrative, we may presume that the sentiments and facts impressed upon the minds of the writers were promulgated by them in their own words, under the especial and extraordinary superintendence of that divine Remembrancer, who by no means superseded their natural talents and acquired knowledge, but enlarged, strengthened, protected, and applied them.5 Now, although the inspiration, under which the several parts of Scripture were written, may have been differently modified, according to their respective characteristics, yet, if these premises are correct, we may safely deduce from them the general inference, that the whole contents of the Bible are of divine authority.
Some little exception, however, attaches to this general inference, as it relates to the Epistles of Paul, which were all of them. addressed either to particular churches, or to individuals. Since, notwithstanding his inspiration, the natural situation of the apostle continued unaltered, he was undoubtedly at liberty to reply to the inquiries of his friends, to the best of his
5 It is obvious that the inspiration of the sacred writers did not prevent their making use both of the dialects, and of the styles, to which they were severally accustomed. In the case of the inspiration of superintendence, this was to be expected. And even in that of actual verbal inspiration, it can be no matter of just surprise, that the divine communication should be made to the inspired person, under that form which was the most familiar and intelligible to himself. The object of inspiration is not the improvement of language, or the perfecting of eloquence; but the promulgation of divine truth. And yet, what writers are more eloquent than some of the prophets and apostles ?