Inspiration

<41022E> 260

J. N. Darby.

(Notes and Comments Vol. 1.)

There is this character in inspiration - I do not speak of the Old Testament now, which is not in general, properly speaking, doctrinal or a revelation of God, but of His acts and ways on the earth - there is a revelation of such truth relating to the glory of Christ, or of God in Christ, as could be had by no human knowledge, and this, though new truth, yet when known we see to be necessary truth, He being what all the rest of Scripture declares, so that it falls in with, and connects itself with an infinite number of other truths, and consequences, and relationships which apply to and are connected with His Person.

Thus, take Colossians 1 - we have a revelation of the glory of Christ as Son - all things were created by Him and for Him; now no man but can see here that it is a declaration of truths or doctrines relative to Christ, which can be known only by relation, are given as such, and have this character. Yet it is clear that, if He created all things and all things were created for Him, if He takes a place amongst creatures (e.g., as man), He must when He has, be, as to final purpose, the Head of them; yet this connects itself, though an independent revelation, with Psalm 8, unfolded by the Apostle in Hebrews 2 - the doctrine of the Headship and exaltation of Christ, in resurrection, at the close of Ephesians 1 - His heirship of all things as Son, Hebrews 1, and a multitude of passages which link together the whole body of doctrine as to Christ, as a whole.

Take again the Epistle to the Hebrews; here we have a definite revelation of the priesthood of Christ, and His ascension into heaven, in the presence of God the Father, to exercise it. Now this presents itself as a definite positive revelation, yet it connects itself, though quite on a different subject, with the whole doctrine of our heavenly standing, which is so characteristic of real Christianity and so contrary to Judaism, see chapter 7:26, 27, yet links it with our present known and felt infirmity, and gives us the bearing, aim, and key to the whole Levitical system, while it sets it aside entirely. It is connected, too, with the numerous passages which unfold, on the one hand, the divine nature and glory of Christ, and at the same time His elevation to heaven - noticed historically in the Gospels and the Acts, doctrinally in the Epistles - and at the same time employs in the fullest way all His humiliation and suffering, whether for righteousness and love as living, or for sin as dying, yet it copies and repeats none of the history we have of these, nor even cites them. It is a divine communication which identifies itself with them - it is a divine whole. I give these merely as examples of what I can express very imperfectly, but the spiritual mind will apprehend me.

261 There is another mark which I do not enlarge on, as often noticed - the absence of mere human persuasion, and the divine authority with which the Word speaks to man, not which it assumes for its own credit, as fearing it might not be accepted, but as never needing anything for this authority acting in love for man, and woe to him who does not! It is what the centurion said was sufficient - eipe logo (say in a word) - I speak of this character. Mohammed claimed this, but he proved, supposed it would be denied, justified it. Scripture, while asserting it if needed for edification, leaves itself to its own expression of what it is.

Another point I observe is its reality, i.e., it really deals with men's souls. You may find good writings pressing things on men, founding themselves on Scripture, using the authority of God to deal with men, and speaking as men; you may find spurious works pretending to give communications of Peter or Paul, etc., but they are written to prove the excellence of Peter or Paul, piously or evilly, for there are both, but none have the smallest appearance of God really dealing with men, as God, if He be God, must deal with living, real men's consciences, and with love as well as truth, as God a Saviour. It is a real, present, living, actual declaration and dealing of God with men, according to what both are, and bearing all the consequences of such a dealing.

I may unfold truth - I may urge even conduct as a matter of exhortation - but when good men have done this, divine communications are owned; but divine writings, as a direct communication addressed to souls, imply in their non-reception the rejection of God in the truth which He reveals as an eternal necessity to the soul, and in the authority of His word which conveys it. It is the present basis of relationship between God and the soul, and cannot but be so as revealing God to it.

If such Epistles as Philemon and 2 and 3 John be excepted from the first character in a measure, not only they have this last fully, but they are the touching application, and securing of what is largely revealed elsewhere, and guide souls in the application of it, and the faithful maintenance of it according to its importance as grace and truth from God, and that in the ordinary, actual, practical circumstances of life, when it was difficult for man, and kind men, or yet more, perhaps a woman, to do it. They are the tempered mortar which bind the great stones of which the wall is built, and all the little ones, too, together - the wall is not the less complete for that.

262 There is a character in the Scriptures very remarkable, besides the blessed fact of its being the truth - there is not a wandering of the human mind - a device of the enemy - an elaborate system of error - those immense systems which flow from a mixture of depraved original truth or knowledge of God, and the workings of the human mind, and craving after what it had not of God. There is not one of the things which the enemy has raised, by tradition and human imagination, into high-flown deception, which are not judged, and their true character told in unmistakable terms - this is very remarkable. They are immense and elaborate - high flown - wrought out - puffed up, so as to engross and amaze and mystify man. A few words of God break the whole spell; vast as they are they are all described in an unmistakable way - their immense and imposing vastness puffed out into swollen power, forms of piety and professed wisdom shrink into the evident certain truth which gives the key to them all.

This, in more than one way - they are morally accurately described in every element of their character, the facts are told with matchless simplicity, while they are but the idle exaggeration of as fabulous ghost stories, when some simple fact is known; and this in so few words, so true, so perfectly telling everything about them, that the divine character of the Word is marked in the most wonderful way. Hence, I apprehend the Mosaic history was written after the schemes of idolatry were afloat, and the institutions of the Levitical law took up all that had been abused, and gave it in its true place, even in symbols, and associated it with the true knowledge of God.

There was a difference as to Christianity in this - the early knowledge of God, though true was of course not full as now; hence there was opportunity of man's seeking out, when fallen and under the enemy's influence, many inventions. Moses - God's word and revelation - comes after, and takes up all the symbolical expressions and puts them in their place - judged if evil, or rightly used if divinely expressive, or gives the facts which accounted for all that deluded man had made gods of. Christianity is a perfect revelation of God - the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth - the Lord has not only appeared, but been glorified, and the heavenly things themselves revealed, the veil rent, and the Holy Ghost given. This does not of course hinder those who are not converted, who are without God, from framing like systems, nor the enemy from deceiving by traditions connected with these truths, and the sources they historically flow from; yet could there not be another revelation for the full one is given. The Lord Jesus has been glorified, and in every way but seen glory - fully revealed God, and has in every sense completed all truth. Hence these things are prophetically told of, as a part of needed truth, through the goodness of God, only indeed when they had a proper moral character, so as to vex the Church and try its faith. God allowed their germ to appear in the Apostles' days that the divine Word might shew them out - other than shewing them thus, they are dealt with in judgment when the glory of the Son, which they deny, is revealed.

263 The Apocalypse, which treats of the corporate and open form of such evil in the world, is hence all through a book of judgment, and though indeed all so - I speak now from chapter 4 out - and the evil is so dealt with, even when a witness is given by men, fire goes out of their mouths and judges. It is not like Christ at the Samaritan village, but connects itself with judgment, and the divine announcement of the everlasting Gospel is that the hour of His judgment is come. Hence the Spirit does not speak expressly, as in the Epistles, but symbolically - we are on the ground of earthly dealings where alone Jesus is not owned, but Gentiles in power - such is the key to the use of symbolical prophecy, I believe - but this by-the-bye. The great principle, I speak of, gives, besides the blessed positive truth, a singularly remarkable character to the Word of God.

As to inspiration, it is a mistake to suppose that the reception of texts, which declare inspiration, do not affect the credibility of the history, because they show the writers, if not true, to be fanatics or impostors, and thus their facts cannot be trusted, at any rate as an adequate revelation of God. No doubt historical veracity and exactness are quite different from inspiration, and it may be very useful, for persons at a loss, to prove the veracity of the inspired historians, but you cannot really separate the history from the design and intention of God, if it be inspired at all. God does not set man to write a history, which is to reveal Himself, without a purpose.

264 Again, much of the history of Genesis could be known only by inspiration, or even revelation; so even of the Gospel history, and while I quite admit the historical veracity may be rightly shown, or rather the folly and unreasonableness of those who dispute it, and that the human character is manifested in the inspired authors, yet I must, if I sit down to read it as Scripture, I must estimate it as a divine work

Manifested power in the agents, by word and deed, founded Christianity, not Scripture in the first activities, save in the Old Testament, but, in the last days, Scripture is the safeguard and then I must have it "inspired of God."

Evidently belief in Christianity may be brought about, not without the Word, but without any estimate or personal examination of the Scripture; but if I take Scripture up inspiration is directly involved in its own account of itself, and gives it its value - you cannot read it as Scripture, as a record of what a religion is, but as an inspired statement. Is it to be alleged that the histories of Scripture do not reveal heavenly or heaven-given truth? If the Gospels do not rightly present Christ, but only a human estimate of Him, where am I? If the creation be not inspired, where am I? Or the whole history of Genesis, or if the accounts of Israel's history be not according to God, how have God's righteousness in judgment?

The discourses of our Lord - their historical occasion and bearing - (and they are generally abstracts) if not given as God would give them, cannot possibly teach me aright - they will mislead me with the authority of Christ. They are His teaching, as the wisdom of the Holy Ghost recorded it, for the Church in all ages.

My faith in Christianity may not depend on the Gospels at all - no one's did at first - but if I have them, and their contents do not give me a divine revelation of Christ, I have no divine ground of faith left, save as God's sovereign grace may keep me without any known ground. I admit the human element for men, but I cannot do so to the enfeebling the divine. God uses each Gospel to present the truth of Christ's history by a human instrument, quite independent of the other human instrument, but not of God - each gave what he knew to be the truth, the Holy Ghost called it, in fit place, to his remembrance.

265 You have four witnesses, but you have God making each of them perfect, and sure in his own place. Christ distinguishes the testimony of the Apostles and the Holy Spirit, but He also says that the Holy Ghost would make their testimony perfect, bringing to their remembrance what He had said.

I admit the human element fully - it is most interesting, and Christ tells us the talent was given according to every man's ability, and still more, the working of the Spirit in the inspired authors in the order of the dispensation they were in, even to the difference of the apostolic writers; but it is utterly* unfaithful and false to tell us to read them as authentic human writings - an element or form of expression, because the Holy Ghost was acting in the circumstances to which the form applied, is not a human writing.

{*See Birk's Treatise on Inspiration. He is afraid of rationalists in combating them.}

In meeting unbelief I may show the rationalists to be unreasonable on their own ground, and if they are genuine they are for him so many confirming testimonies, but if they are authentic human writings, and I read them as such, I exclude the divine element while so taking them, and half of it becomes tradition or hearsay. I take the first chapter of Genesis - as an authentic human writing, what is it? I take the first chapter of John - as an authentic human writing, what is it? Who can authenticate the Word being with God, and being God? What is the Revelation as a human writing? Why even the different order of events, if a mere human writing? All the revelations preclude this - authentic writings, if you please, and by men, but authentic human writings I cannot receive.

The Holy Ghost may bring things to the remembrance of the witnesses, and only certain things, and in a certain order, and, when brought, they distinctly remember them, yet the whole be the fruit of the Spirit's work, and that in detail as it stands. Besides, many things are in the Gospels of which the writer was not eye-witness - all the birth part - even Gethsemane - Matthew gives what he did not witness, and not what he did, it is not therefore consulting his own memory, though the Holy Ghost may act in that memory, when He sees fit.

266 But as regards the human element in inspiration, especially in the New Testament, we have one or two passages which express it clearly.

The Old Testament gave a testimony to Christ, besides the historical basis of the whole matter, in the history of man and God's people; He was the subject and object of their testimony, but Christ's and, through grace, our testimony, is different - His testimony was the expression of the thing in Himself, so ours, though imperfect - the life of Jesus manifested in our mortal bodies, the epistle of Christ written by the Spirit of the living God on the fleshy tables of the heart.

Now the New Testament inspiration partook of this, though there was also, in tongues and prophecy, dictated utterances; that is, the full blessing of the thing revealed was conveyed to the heart and understanding. How was Paul made an Apostle and minister of the Church? By the revelation of Christ in glory to him, for his own conversion, through grace; so he speaks, "When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood" - so in 2 Corinthians 4, "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give (out) the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" - so indeed in 1 Corinthians 2:12-14, they had received the Spirit to know; only, when it was to be for divine communication also, they spoke it in words taught of the Holy Ghost. And this is the instruction of the Lord Himself on the subject, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink, and, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him should receive." The streams which flowed forth for others, were the fruit of what had been drunk for self; this is true of all so ministering, only, as we have seen, for what is properly called inspiration, the words were given by the Holy Ghost also.

The very nature of Christianity is God manifest in the flesh, entering personally into all our sorrows, temptations, and trials, manifesting God's perfect goodness in them, and then, through redemption, raising man to the elevation of which Christ's Person and work were worthy in glorifying God, the divine glory, likeness to Christ as He is, gone in, in virtue of it, to heaven. And such is the character of Inspiration, or work of the Holy Ghost as to the revelation of it, and indeed necessarily must be, i.e., it enters into the whole place and circumstances of man, reveals the glory into which he is to be brought, God glorified perfectly in Christ, being the holy and eternal ground. Hence nothing is too great for man - still man, for he is brought into the glory of God like Christ the Son - and in righteousness, and partaker of the divine nature, nothing too little for God, because He is entered into the sympathy of love, with all that man is, and introduces divine life itself into every detail - words - what? The tone of a man's voice - counts the hairs of his head! It will enter into the case of a runaway slave and his master - of the health of the children of an elect lady, it will take up everything in which divine life can exercise itself, and give a tone to our ways, children and parents, masters and slaves - and there is nothing in which divine life does not show itself.

267 It is the blessed truth that first in Person, then in inspired doctrine, and the life of Christ in us, God is entered into everything in which the heart of man is engaged. I find God and in grace, where the unhappy rationalist finds only a cloak.