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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 indivi. duals. 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 ability, even on points respecting which he had received no direct illumination from his divine Master. Accordingly, in part of his reply to certain practical questions addressed to him by his disciples at Corinth, we find him expressly declaring, that he delivers not the commandments of the Lord, but the conclusions of his own judgment: 1 Cor. vii. On this subject it needs only be remarked, that the care which the apostle has displayed in marking those particulars of his answer, in which it was not the Lord who spake, but himself, affords a powerful confirmation of other more positive evidences that, in the rest of his religious communications, it was not he that spake, but the Lord.
But there are other passages in Paul's Epistles, respecting which the apostle has made no such distinction, but for which, since they relate to matters of a circumstantial and subordinate description such as, the salutation of many individuals, the course of his intended journeys, and commissions to be executed—it is supposed that inspiration was wholly needless. Since, however, there is nothing in these passages inconsistent with truth, there is nothing in them which proves that the apostle, when he wrote them, was not inspired ; and, since even these · parts of his Epistles are by no means destitute of practical
importance, it is not unreasonable to suppose that they were actually written under a divine influence proportioned to the occasion. There are few or none of them from which we may not derive some lesson of Christian kindness, courtesy, and friendship ; and, inferior as they may be considered when compared with other more essential parts of the apostle's writings, they nevertheless fall in with the harmony of divine truth, and help to constitute that perfect whole, which every impartial observer must trace to the hand of God.
It is, in the second place, urged as an objection against the universal inspiration of Scripture, that a considerable diversity of statement, and sometimes an appearance of actual contradiction, is to be observed in reference to several minor particulars, in the historical narratives of the four evangelists. On the subject of this objection, the limits of the present work preclude my entering at large. I would remark, however, that the inspiration of the evangelists by no means prevented
the use of their natural observation and acquired information
that hence, in the selection of their subjects, and in their mode of narration, considerable variety would necessarily arise that the same scene might be presented to different witnesses in different points of view; and that the several parts of that scene would of course be impressed on them respectively, with different degrees of force-that most of the apparent contradictions referred to in the objection have been satisfactorily reconciled on critical grounds and that the few which cannot now be so readily explained would probably be found, were all the circumstances precisely known, to involve no real error. On the whole, therefore, we may safely accede to the sentiments of Archbishop Newcome, who, in the preface to his harmony of the Greek Testament, expresses himself as follows : “ The result of my thoughts and inquiries is, that every genuine proposition in Scripture, whether doctrinal or historical, contains a truth, when it is rightly understood ; that the evangelists conceived alike of the facts related by them, but sometimes place them in different lights, and make a selection of different circumstances accompanying them ; and that their seeming variations would instantly vanish, were the history known to us in its precise order, and in all its circumstances."*
Now, if there be nothing trivial in the Epistles of Paul, and nothing really erroneous in the Gospels, the objections made on the opposite supposition, to the divine origin of the whole Scriptures, will fall to the ground at once. Let us, however, take up that opposite supposition, and grant, for a moment, that one or more of the evangelists have actually fallen into mistake, in their statement of some minor circumstances, and that certain parts of Paul's Epistles are so abso
* It has been remarked in a former Essay, that the apparent differences in the narratives of the four evangelists have served an invaluable purpose in promoting the cause of Christianity; for they afford a decisive evidence that the four Gospels, (plainly coincident as they are with respect to all matters of importance) have proceeded from witnesses essentially independent of one another, and that, therefore, the history which they contain is credible and true. Might not this be the very reason why such apparent differences were permitted to exist, and why the inspiration of the evangelists was not so directed as to prevent them? A similar inquiry applies to those familiar parts of Paul's Epistles which are deemed by some persons below the mark of inspiration ; for the comparison of some of these very passages with others in the book of Acts has established, on the clearest grounds, the credibility of that important history, as well as the genuineness of the apostle's letters.
lutely destitute of weight, that they could not have been given by inspiration. Such facts, if facts they were, could not be pleaded against the divine authority of the Bible in general. We are in possession of positive evidence, of a highly satisfactory nature, that the writers of the Scriptures were inspired, and inspired for the purpose of promulgating religious truth; and this evidence is by no means counteracted by the supposed circumstance, that, in the composition of certain small parts of their works, considered to be non-essential in reference to that object, they were left to the unassisted exercise of their natural powers. As far as the great practical purposes of Scripture are concerned, it appears from our premises to be unquestionable that these sacred authors wrote under the immediate and extraordinary influence of the Holy Ghost. These purposes are, “ doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction, in righteousness.” Every thing, therefore, in the Bible, whether historical or didactic, essentially connected with the promulgation of religious truth; every thing which has a practical bearing ; every thing which is important for doctrine, reproof, correction, or instruction in righteousness; every thing which affects those questions in morals and divinity, which Christians are accustomed to submit to the decision of Scripture; remains unalterably stamped with the seal of divine inspiration.
IV. We may now proceed briefly to consider some of the principal internal evidences of the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures.
The precision, in the first place, with which so many of the prophecies contained in the Bible have been fulfilled, not only affords a proof that the religion which these prophecies attest is divine, but may also be considered as strongly indicating, that the very words in which they have been handed down by Scripture, from generation to generation, proceeded from the Spirit of God.
On a similar ground, in the second place, the arguments employed to prove the divine origin of Christianity, from the wisdom of its moral law, and from the weight of its doctrines, evince, with no less clearness, that of the Christian Scriptures. We believe that the Bible was given by inspiration, because, in the Bible only are originally recorded that pure and perfect law, those exalted principles of piety and devotion, and that Gospel placed far beyond the scope of human discovery, and yet entirely adapted to the wants of mankind, which are in themselves from their own peculiar and intrinsic excellence sufficient to satisfy every serious inquirer, that our religion has proceeded from God. Here, more especially, it ought to be remarked, that the Holy Scriptures are distinguished from all other writings, by the wonderfully comprehensive information which they impart to us respecting the true character of the Supreme Being himself. Although some important traces of that character may be found, as has already been remarked, in the pages of ancient heathen pbilosophy, it is in the Bible only that the Deity is portrayed, with any thing like an adequate degree of clearness, in all his glorious attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, holiness, justice, wisdom, and love. And hence we derive a specific and very substantial evidence, that, of this Sacred Volume, God himself was the author.
Another evidence that the Scriptures were given by inspiration arises from that unbroken spiritual harmony which prevails among the sacred writers—a harmony the more astonishing, because those writers were numerous, lived at many and distant periods, and were often very little connected with one another. One sacred tone of sentiment pervades the whole volume of the Bible; and if there are any statements in it, on points of doctrine, apparently contradictory, (such as those of the apostles Paul and James, on the subject of justification) they are found, on closer investigation, to make up together a perfect whole, and to rest on the same unalterable principles. It forms no real exception to the observation now offered, that divine truth was progressive, and that more abundant ligbt, on both moral and doctrinal points, was enjoyed by the writers of the New than by those of the Old Testament. The progress of divine truth may, indeed, be regarded as one of the principal characteristics of the harmony of Scripture. How perfect, for example, is the adaptation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is revealed in the New Testament, to the injunctions of the law, and to the declarations of the prophets ! In such an adaptation, and in the substantial accordance subsisting amongst all the component parts of the Bible, what Christian does not perceive a conclusive evidence, that the writers of that sacred volume, distinguished as they were from one another by differences of talent, character, and circumstance, were all instrncted by the same Heavenly Guide to promulgate, in its several successive stages, the same essential and efficacious system of vital religion?
The harmony of Scripture is the more admirable, because it accompanies an almost endless diversity of subject. In the history which the Bible presents to us of events connected with religion, and of the people of God, from the beginning of the world-in its account of the moral government of the Deity, commencing in this life, and completed in the life to comein its representations of a multitude of characters, some intended for example, and others for warning—in its descriptions of religious experience--in its exercises of devotion, its prayers, praises, and thanksgivings-in its types, prophecies, and doctrines—in its holy and heavenly law-in its luminous statements respecting the attributes of the Almighty--in its manifold delineations of that Saviour, of whom the patriarchs, the prophets, and the apostles, unite in testifying—we are furnished with an inexhaustible variety of divine instruction, with which the spiritual mind is continually refreshed and nourished, but never satiated.
In accordance with this observation, it only remains for me to adduce, in evidence of the divine origin of the Scriptures, the practical effect which (under the influence of the Spirit) they actually produce: namely, the conversion of sinners, and the sanctification and edification of believers. As these effects are to be attributed primarily to God, as their author, and secondarily to Christianity, as the religious system which he has adapted to these ends, so are they found, in a multitude of instances, to arise immediately out of the use of that holy book, in which christianity is embodied. The Scriptures are able to make wise unto salvation, “ through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Such is the declaration of an apostle, and such is the fact. Now, the believer who experiences this effect to be produced in his mind, and is able to trace it to the Bible as the instrumental cause, enjoys an evidence that the Sacred Volume has proceeded from God, which is entirely satisfactory to himself, and of which the most ingenious arguments and cavils will never be able to dispossess him. He finds in that volume a mine of wisdom, from which he is constantly deriving instruction, consolation, and spiritual improvement. He resorts to it as to his daily food; he reverts again and again to the same passages, without any wearisome sense of sameness, and seldom without deriving from thein important practical lessons, with which he was before less perfectly acquainted. Thus is he encouraged and strengthened to pursue his Christian course ; and the more his knowledge of divine things, and the limits of his own religious experience, are extended the more fully is he persuaded that the contents of Scripture are no cunningly devised fables, but celestial truths. He finds in himself a witness of their reality.
It may indeed be observed, that the evidence of the divine origin of Scripture, which the Christian derives from the source now mentioned, is, in some measure, confined to him