« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
churches. They have in possession and in daily use a number of writings which have been sent them by the apostles and evangelists, the greater part of them by St. Paul himself. It is well known to the latter that those writings are universally revered and read as holy Scriptures. In these circumstances he declares that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God." How are they to understand him? Shall they say, he speaks in that passage only of the Jewish Scriptures? His primary reference was unquestionably to them. But in what sense can his assertion be true of all Scripture, if so large a part as that comprising the New Testament, and which was universally denominated Scripture, came only "by the will of man?" But this is not all that the apostles did to promote the belief of the inspiration of their writings.
The Christian churches were accustomed to appeal to the Old Testament as an inspired volume. A large number of their members had been educated in the Jewish faith, and by habit, as well as reflection, always associated the idea of divine inspiration with that of a book of Scripture. Consequently, when the writings of the New Testament were received, when they came to occupy, in regard to the Christian church, a corresponding place to that of the Old Testament books in regard to the Jewish church, when they were honored by universal consent with the same title of "holy Scriptures" as was applied to the sacred books of the former dispensation, it was extremely natural that the churches should treat them precisely
as they treated the older books, and believe them also to have been written by inspiration of God. That they did thus regard them is indisputable. Clement bishop of Rome, a contemporary of the apostles, says, "Look into the holy Scriptures, which are the true words of the Holy Ghost. Take the epistle of the blessed Paul the apostle into your hands: verily he did by the Spirit admonish you." The primitive Christians rejected from the canon of Scripture certain books, because, though true and edifying, they were not inspired by the Holy Ghost. They habitually spoke of the New Testament, as "the word of God," "the voice of God," "the oracles of the Holy Ghost."
Now, in such circumstances, how would the apostles, as men of common honesty and candor, have acted, in case they did not consider their writings to be inspired? Knowing the natural tendency and the actual state of public opinion among the churches, could they have been even silent on this subject? Must they not have warned their disciples against a disposition so dangerous, and a heresy so conspicuous? Would not the most ordinary measure of humility and faithfulness have impelled them to draw the line of distinction too plainly to be mistaken, between what they had written by their own wisdom, and what holy men of old had written "as they were moved by the Holy Ghost?" What course do they pursue? Not only do they allow the natural disposition of those accustomed to attach inspiration to the Scripture to have its way; not only do they say nothing having the least tendency to correct the universal impression
of the churches on so vital a point; but they adopt the very course which was calculated directly to confirm all their prepossessions. They introduce their writings in a manner of authority precisely similar to that of the inspired men of older times. Witness the beginning of the epistle to the Galatians: "Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead, unto the churches of Galatia." Peter, speaking of the epistles of Paul as familiarly known among Christians, expressly numbers them among "the Scriptures," and puts them upon a level with "the other Scriptures," which Jews and Christians alike considered to have been written by inspiration. Paul speaks of the writings of the "apostles and prophets," as constituting together that good foundation on which Christians were built, "Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone." And after Peter has particularly included the epistles of St. Paul among the Scriptures, the latter publishes his declaration, that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God."
If those holy men did not intend to promote the belief of the inspiration of their writings-if they were desirous of teaching the churches to make a wide distinction between their works, as merely human and fallible, and those of Moses and the prophets, as divine and infallible, how singularly did they mistake the way; how exactly did they inculcate what they wished to contradict, and build up what they were bound to destroy!
* 2 Pet. 3:16.
+ Eph. 2:20.
In what manner the primitive churches understood their instructions is manifest; and on the supposition that the apostles taught that their writings were not inspired, it forms a singular proof of the great obscurity with which they must have expressed themselves. Justin Martyr, a contemporary with St. John, says that "the gospels were written by men full of the Holy Ghost." Irenæus, a few years, later, declares that "the Scriptures were dictated by the Spirit of God, and that therefore it is wickedness to contradict them, and sacrilege to alter them." "The gospel," he says, "was first preached, and afterwards by the will of God committed to writing, that it might be for time to come the foundation and pillar of our faith."
Enough, it is believed, has now been exhibited to satisfy any reasonable mind that it was the intention of the writers of the New Testament, and of their blessed Master, that the church should regard their works as having been dictated and rendered infallible by divine inspiration. To those who acknowledge that Christ and his apostles were commissioned and taught of God, this is perfect evidence of the great doctrine at which we have been arriving. For those who, after all that has been said in our preceding lectures, shall still refuse to acknowledge the Lord Jesus and his apostles as divinely commissioned and endowed, we have no more argument. Much additional reasoning might be offered; but such is the conclusiveness of what has been adduced, that it may be said without presumption, if they believe not upon
such evidence, "neither would they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.”*
We may now conclude a course of lectures, which has already extended far beyond the anticipations of the author. Having arrived at the divine authority of Christianity, and the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, we have not only a religion revealed from God, but an infallible expression of its doctrines and duties. We have the guide, as well as the way to everlasting life, both equally certain, equally divine.
Let us be thankful for such unspeakable gifts. Next to the mercy of a Saviour, able and ready "to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him," is the book of the inspiration of God, which, as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, conducts to such a Friend, and teaches us without mistake all that we must do to be saved.
Let us consider our obligation to study this blessed book with most serious attention and care. What can be more ungrateful, more disobedient, more sinful in the sight of God, than the total neglect or the careless reading of a volume which his own Spirit indited for our express guidance and consolation? "Search the Scriptures," is the injunction as well of our reason as of the Lord Jesus. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom," is a com
* For a much more extended and able view of the inspiration of the New Testament, see Dick on the Inspiration of the Scriptures, and Lectures on the same by Leonard Woods, D. D., Andover.