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without any of those intermediate processes or links of communication, by which we usually receive enlightenment. The ideas necessary to be imparted, are infused directly and immediately from the Great Mind of the universe into our own minds, and the conviction necessary for their full belief, if not for their full understanding, comes with it to seal the testimony.
Nor does there seem anything unphilosophical, as there is certainly nothing unscriptural in this. Mind is so obviously constituted and intended to tell upon mind, that there would be no need of the intervention of any physical machinery, if contact could be secured without it.
It has, indeed, been contended that in some cases we should really do better without bodies than with them, as there seems nothing inconsistent with sound philosophy in supposing that God can infu se ideas into the mind by a method of his own, of which we know nothing; or, in other words, can impart inspiration.
And certainly there is nothing unscriptural in the idea that God may commune with our minds independently of the outward
The end of all evidence is conviction, and if that conviction be imparted at once, without having been arrived at through the ordinary stages of argument and instruction, there can be no need of all the apparatus usually employed in weighing and sifting evidence. In other words, the ordinary means of acquiring knowledge, and the influences connected with it, may be dispensed with when it comes to us direct from the God of all knowledge. Hence, we find Job professing a belief of his personal interest in a Redeemer, and a resurrection, in the strongest possible terms; and Paul, a man little likely to be led away by a spurious enthusiasm, declaring in hyperbolic language, his steadfast persuasion that nothing could separate him from the love of Christ. Now, though, as abstract truths, the doctrines involved in these statements might have been embraced by any one: their individual application could be known only by express revelation.
Viewing these ideas, therefore, in connection with the fact that inspiration can be no evidence to any one beyond the party immediately spoken to, we are inclined to consider that one of its chief ends was to convey that overpowering conviction and assurance which would be necessary to impress upon the recipient, the most implicit and unwavering belief in its truth. And in this light it appears to have been regarded by Dr. Watts. “Inspiration," says he, “is when an overpowering impression of any proposition is made upon the mind by God himself, that gives a convincing and indubitable evidence of the truth and divinity of it: so were the prophets and the apostles inspired."
That in some cases, it was little more than this, appears evident from the fact that the writer, or speaker was so far overborne by the authority of the message as to declare truths with which he had no sympathy whatever, as in the case of Balaam. Nor were these conditions confined to bad men. In no instance did the Scriptures come by the will of man, unaided and unenlightened from above ; but holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. And even when their piety was beyond all question, they were sometimes profoundly ignorant of the meaning of those messages of which they were made the vehicles. They knew perfectly, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister ; and searched diligently but unsuccessfully, what the spirit of Christ, which was in them, did signify, and in what manner the times of the Messiah's coming were shadowed forth.
There are but two texts in the Bible, in which the word “ Inspiration” occurs ; and these appear to be mutually illustrative. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.”— (2 Tim. iii. 16.) “There is a spirit in man; and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." (Job xxxii. 8 )
The first of these texts defines the limit of inspiration. The second, in some sense, describes its nature, the inspiration of the Parent mind gives understanding to the product mind-that understanding, is therefore the result – the consequence, not merely of an inspiration, but precisely of that inspiration-(the inspiration of God, or of the Almighty,) by which the sacred Scriptures were written.
Now what is Understanding? “To understand,” says Dr. Johnson, “is to comprehend fully.” It is, therefore, a still larger term than comprehension. Comprehension implies the laying hold of, and bringing together, all the points and bearings, the why and wherefore, the pro and con of any argument. To comprehend a question is to be, in fact, perfectly master of it-to understand not merely the matter, but the manner of a thing to know all about it that can be known; and this understanding, we are told, originates in the inspiration of the Almighty.
Accepting this interpretation of the term, and connecting it with our preceding remarks, we touch, as it were, both extremes of the question of inspiration. In the one case we make it to consist of an entire absorption of the individual intellect and will, into the Divine Mind: and in the other, of their highest and fullest development. Man, under the influence of inspiration, is in the first instance, an unconscious, irresponsible, and sometimes unwilling instrument: and in the second, the entire master of his subject, and acting in the full light and liberty of an understanding, whose capacity appears to be boundless.
What then is the obvious inference from these two facts ? The only natural mode of harmonizing them would seem to be this that the measure of inspiration is just the measure of man's requirement; and that, instead of the term implying necessarily that God gives in all instances, either everything, or next to nothing :-it simply implies, that He gives so much as the varying circumstances of each particular case demand, and neither more nor less.
But this point belongs more properly to the second part of our subject—the extent of inspiration. On this subject there exist many different opinions, some supposing this inspiration to extend to every word and letter, to every jot and tittle, of the Bible; and others reducing it to a mere nonentity, by contending that the superintending agency put forth extended only to the selection, collocation, arrangement, and supervision of materials already extant, either in the records of history or the minds of the narrators. Some indeed, have gone even farther in both these opposite directions, insisting on the one hand, that even our own English translation, with all its imperfections, should command the most servile and superstitious homage: and on the other, that no inconsiderable portion of the Old Testament, and some of the New, is a mere collection of myths, or traditional histories and allegories, superior perhaps, to the old fables of India, Greece, or Rome, but mainly valuable as a psychological curiosity of great antiquity.
It will be at once obvious, that this latter opinion strikes at the root of our faith, whilst the other, by asking too much, makes the advocates of a good cause appear ridiculous, and places its opponents on the vantage ground of a partial triumph.
Extremes are generally unwise and unsafe ; and the subject of inspiration offers no exception to the rule, especially as there seems to be no reason for supposing that either party must be altogether right, or altogether wrong. It by no means follows, that because God did not make use of man as an unconscious or unwilling instrument in declaring his will, he left him almost to his unassisted reason ; nor is it at all derogatory to the character of his inspired word, to believe that its several writers were not so far caught away from themselves as to lose their individuality, or part with all their natural gifts, acquirements, or characteristics. On the other hand, indeed, it appears quite reasonable to suppose, that if God thought fit to employ man at all, he would enlist him into his service as man, well knowing what was in him, and with the full intention, not of remoulding all his mental and moral qualifications, but of using them as he found them; in some cases, perhaps, subliming, informing, controlling, and directing them, but still leaving them to work naturally whenever and wherever he saw no adequate cause for special interference. We find, accordingly, on the most casual examination of holy writ, that the several writers often preserve their identity of character, speaking in exact accordance with the circumstances of their birth, education, calling, and position in society.
Yet although we have taken this comparatively low estimate of inspiration, we can by no means sympathize with those objectors who would get rid of its necessity on one or both of the grounds following—that no Divine teaching could be necessary in compiling a mere volume of history; and that such a volume, if compiled, could be of no practical benefit to mankind, and was not likely therefore to have engaged the attention of Deity.
To the first of these objections we would reply by glancing at the circumstances under which the Pentateuch, for example, was written.
We have good ground for believing that our earth, as regards the present constitution of things, has existed about six thousand years. Moses, the earliest of our sacred writers, lived only three thousand three hundred years ago ; Herodotus, our first profane historian, just a thousand years afterwards. For the two thou. sand seven hundred years which elapsed before the time of Moses, the history of the world was consequently unrecorded, except in the traditional remembrances of the antediluvians and the patriarchs. And yet the events which transpired during that interval were the most important and influential ever enacted upon the surface of the earth, as we shall see when we come to the consideration of our second objection.
We are aware that this absence of written or unwritten testimony existing prior to the time of Moses, has been doubted by some, and flatly denied by others. There are not wanting, indeed, men who will tell us that in the laws and institutions of the Jews there is little originality, and that their rites and ceremonies were, to a great extent, but modified or improved adaptations of heathen customs previously existing. But it seems exceedingly improbable that God would condescend to make use of imperfect and erroneous documents, or refine upon rites, to say the least, of very questionable character, in order to set before his people a lesson of separation from the world, or instruct them in the things which happened aforetime for their instruction.
A serious, and to our minds, insurmountable difficulty, indeed, stands in the way of our conceding this. We believe, after a long and wearisome investigation of the subject, that no such customs obtained in the very early times to which we are referring; and that instead of their having been the types on which the Jewish ritual was based, they are one and all misunderstood and distorted copies of that wonderful code of religious observances. And as to documents, it could be easily shewn that the
very idea of writing was unknown before the giving of the law, and that Moses was not only the first historian in point of majesty and importance, but in respect to time as well.
If the correctness of these reasonings be admitted, we know of no process short of a direct and immediate revelation from heaven, by which the great facts narrated in the books of Moses could have been put on record ; and that the communication of them to the world and the church was really necessary, we shall see in discussing the merits of our second objection.