No considerate Christian will question the momentous weight of Inspiration, both in itself and as it bears on every question arising in things divine. It is no disparagement to scripture that we need also a new nature, a purged conscience, and a heart purified by faith. Let us add the Holy Spirit given, as He is now, to know the only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He sent. For this is life eternal, inseparable from the object of our faith, of the Father's delight, and of the Holy Spirit's testimony. "He that believeth hath life eternal;" he has life in Christ the Son, as truly as the apostle John, who wrote expressly to the family of God for all, babes no less than fathers in Christ, that they might know that, believing on the name of His Son, they have life eternal (1 John 5:13).
When thus assured of a portion precious beyond reckoning, we are in a condition to appreciate the scriptures as becomes children of God. What a contrast between the rich grace that shines in Christ, the personal Word, for every believer to enjoy, and the hesitating spirit among the baptised to appropriate these divine communications! Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! didst Thou not bless every child of Thine with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ? Are they not today for the most part questioning whether they are Thine or not? Are they not in doubt whether their sins be really all forgiven for His name's sake? And is not this painful uncertainty as plain in the third or fourth century after Christ, as in the eighteenth or nineteenth? And why is it, but that souls then as now were in general as feeble in believing God's written warrant as in receiving God's salvation by Christ and His work? How sad that a saint should even seem to be always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth!
Undoubtedly in God's mercy there are all over the world simple-hearted believers, in the aggregate a great multitude, who rest with cloudless confidence in the grace and truth that came by Jesus Christ; who accept for themselves, and attest for all others that believe, the absolute reliableness of God's love and Christ's redemption; who know the Holy Spirit's presence with and in us for ever. Hidden ones too far beyond our thoughts there may have been, in all ages since our Lord died and rose, to profit by faith; whereas the recognised leaders prove by their remains how quickly and far the christian profession departed from their proper privileges and divine joys. For it would be intolerable to doubt that those who express what prevailed were as real in Catholic times of old, as in Anglican or Puritan times nearer us. Far be the thought! The fall from grace was deep and wide-spread; the truth was clouded with dark traditions of men, ancient and modern. Scripture itself is plain how soon such changes came in even among the best-taught confessors of Christ. And the inspired men, Paul and Peter, John and Jude, prepare us for profound departure without one promise of restoration, still less of progress, for Christendom. These facts accentuate the all-importance of the written word, which then as now is the standard of truth and the sole means of recovery, applied by God's Spirit to remove obstructions, that Christ might give them light once more, yea that He should be formed in them.
Thus it is sadly, humblingly, true that God has been dishonoured throughout christian times by unbelief of their best blessings in those who have borne the Lord's name; as, not least of all, we were warned of false teachers among them as of false prophets in Israel. In teachers and taught our own day beholds the bold and growing development of what is nothing less than sheer and systematic infidelity. This assumes the euphemistic name of "higher criticism," and puts forward the plea of fuller inquiries into the literary history of the scriptures. If we listen to themselves, it is in conflict neither with Christianity as a whole nor with any articles of the faith. But it is really a system as imaginative for the process they call the building up of (at least the earlier books of) the Bible, as is the Darwinian hypothesis for excluding God from creating species in the natural world, and for assigning this process to Time, the late Mr. D.'s great god, and to Natural Selection, his goddess. When souls are thus seduced to abandon the divine authority of scripture and to deny its inspiration in any real sense, it is no consolation to feel that deceivers are themselves deceived. Nor indeed is there a fact more notorious, than that the men beguiled to disbelieve God's word readily show themselves the most credulous of mankind,
Take an instance clear and sufficient. In hardly any thing are the "higher critics" more unanimous or jubilant than as to Astruc's theory of Elohistic and Jehovistic documents, and the audacious consequences deduced from that assumption. But if it have any apparent sense as applied to the Pentateuch, how does it bear on Job? How on the Psalms? on Proverbs? on Ecclesiastes? or on the prophets, say Jonah for example? Did then Ezra and Nehemiah (or the inspired writers of these books) compile the annals of their own days from Elohistic and Jehovistic documents? If the theory hung together, to this absurdity it would fairly lead. The truth of God, conveyed by the admirable propriety with which inspiration employs these and other divine names, is wholly lost by such superficial guess-work. But this short introduction is not a suitable occasion to go into the minute and full proofs, on the one hand of the rationalist blunder, and on the other of the divine wisdom and beauty displayed in the inspired choice of the divine designations, in all scripture from Genesis to the Revelation, as well as in the books of Moses.
These considerations make it an urgent duty to survey the subject afresh, and with such a measure of precision and comprehensiveness as grace may supply for guarding souls in this increasingly evil day. The Christian wants divine certainty in his relations with God. Probability is all that man, as man, seeks or can have because he knows not God. But believers have ever craved and ever taken the wholly different ground of divine certainty by God's word. They had it and were blessed in it by faith long before there was a single scripture. Abel knew it, and Enoch, and Noah before the deluge, not to speak of other elders conspicuous in Heb. 11 for the various characteristics of their faith. So it is with all that are taught of God. All rest on His word, whatever the special result in each by grace. It wrought long before there was a people of God like Israel. It remained vigorous when, on the temporary ruin of the Jews, God formed the church the body of Christ, calling out of Gentiles as well as a remnant of Israel. Thus every believer as of old, only now with immensely superior privileges, stands on ground of divine certainty, and not on probability however reinforced or strong.
It is here that the Tractarian party proved the unsoundness of their position. So Dr. J. H. Newman lets us know in his "Apologia." Mr. J. Keble, with all his melodious strains, was no better in principle. They were alike and all along on a plane which inclined to Romanism, the former being more consistent than the latter in going to Rome at last. Hence N.'s attempt to supplement probability, "the guide of life" (61, 62), with faith and love within, to give it more force (69). Of natural life it may be so with conscience as the monitor. The question is of our new life in Christ, of which philosophy takes no account. But no assemblage of concurring and converging helps of whatever kind can raise probability to absolute certainty. God's testimony received by faith does, and alone can, give divine certainty.
The Cardinal though professedly at the opposite pole of thought, was really in the same quagmire as his sceptical brother, Prof. F. W. N. It is the case with all rationalists, be they superstitious or profane. Their ground is human, not divine. There are found the "higher critics" with any others who renounce God for man. Reasoning may predominate here, imagination and religious sentiment there; as others betake themselves to erudite speculation. But in no case is it the faith of God's elect, even if ensnared believers yield to it. What the word, and now the written word, was given to produce by the living operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer's heart, is divine certainty. But it is exactly what the "higher criticism" tends to destroy, even more directly than do the rank weeds of superstition which choke the good seed.
Such are the two schools which are today struggling for the mastery. They unite, as we have seen, in untiring effort to withdraw men if they can, from simple thorough subjection to God's word in faith. Of this they are alike jealous, and alike they cast scorn on it, though such faith alone becomes man, alone honours God. For it finds the God-given centre in Christ, full cleansing by His work, life's exercise in His service, and its joy in His love and the Father's, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Nor is this all. For by one Spirit were we all baptised into one body, and therein have our place and fellowship as worshippers, no less than as saints, one with another. Those on the ground of probability can never breathe this pure atmosphere freely; they have never emerged from the fog of nature. They betray their dark state by their inability, whether natural or religious rationalists, even to understand what is meant by such a scripture as "the worshippers, having been once cleansed, would have no more conscience of sins." Yet it is simply the common christian position in this respect (but to both those classes unintelligible), because it is the fruit of Christ's perfecting work, made known to the Christian only, above man's intellect and beyond his conscience, though faith enjoys its divine certainty. Confidence (one may not say faith) in the church can no more impart it, than reliance upon criticism higher or lower. It is the will of God now established, the work of Christ now finished and accepted, and the witness of the Holy Spirit now received in full assurance of faith according to scripture. Hence all joy and peace in believing is as unknown to the gloomy man of superstition, as to the airy higher critic.
GOD'S INSPIRATION OF THE SCRIPTURES.
We open the Bible. Its first words are necessarily either a revelation or an imposture, either God's word or man's guess claiming His authority. A middle ground here is impossible.
The first and in extent the greatest of all miracles is revealed. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." There is no specific date given. It is expressly indefinite. Many have confounded ver. 3 with ver. 1, with feelings some hostile, others friendly, to revelation. Both were inexcusably wrong, because both carelessly overlooked the scripture before their eyes. For these words of God, even were there no others confirmatory, affirm in ver. 1 the original creation of the universe, then in ver. 2 its chaotic condition. The earth was not created empty and waste when first called into being (Isa. 45:18). It may have become so often, if able geologists are to be heeded. It certainly was so immediately before the days of man's world began, which commenced, not with creating light, but with its activity renewed after ruin and darkness. "And God said, Light be, and light was."
Thus ver. 2 does not describe God's creation like ver. 1, but a state of utter contrast with it, when total disorder ensued for the earth. Neither the one fact nor the other called for more than passing notice, as being physical and in no direct way the sphere of God's moral dealings with man. Yet was it of moment to have facts of deep interest briefly disclosed, which were entirely beyond the ken of man, lost in contending dreams of eternal matter in the West, and of emanations in the East, illusion and falsehood both of them into which evolution, the fashion of our day, no less surely entices unwary souls. Whatever of detail Gen. 1 may furnish is solely about the formation of the world as it was prepared for the human race; eventually for Christ the Man of God's counsels. It was no speculation of some "Hebrew Descartes" or Newton, but God's account of His own work by His servant and prophet Moses. It is worthy of God, deigning in love to communicate what man could not discover and yet ought to know.
Science is powerless to speak of the beginning of things. So the inductive philosophers own, ashamed as they may well be of all the cosmogonists, Egyptian, Phoenician, Greek, Oriental, or any others. There stands God's revelation, simple, majestic, and complete for His purpose, without even a rival throughout all ages, against which the pride of man can allege nothing but his own errors of haste and misapprehension. How could such a chapter have been written but by divine revelation? Search, ye men of science, ransack all your stores; scrutinise the reports and transactions of the most renowned societies. Did not your wisest own himself but as a child picking up a pebble here and there on the ocean shore? Did not he own reverently this inspired record of creation?
But is there not what some foolishly call a "second account" in Gen. 2? The first chapter reveals simply that which Elohim "created to make," closing with the sabbath He blessed and hallowed (Gen. 2:1-3). Then follows from ver. 4 Jehovah Elohim presenting man, formed specially and in moral relationship to Himself, and so not merely (as in Gen. 1) the head of creation. Hence it is that here only, not before, we have the garden with every tree pleasant and good for food, and the trees of solemn import to humanity, life and responsibility — the last, a moral test applied to a condition of innocence; man exercising his lordship over all the lower creation, yet with no like helpmate; and then woman's peculiar formation out of man. These things and more pertain to God as moral governor (Jehovah Elohim), and therefore demand as they have a new section of scripture with a new and suited name of God.
How quickly the fall brought in death and ruin on man, an outcast from paradise! But grace revealed the Second man, the woman's Seed, to crush the old serpent, the tempter. Clearly then, far from being another and inconsistent narrative, Gen. 2:4 as a new subject begins the moral trial of Adam, and in it his wife too playing so grave a part, in that scene of paradise formed, no less than themselves, to give it the best effect in His wisdom Who put man to the proof.
Hence Genesis 3 under the same divine title reveals the result, so glorifying to God, so humbling to the creature, yet a needed key to all that followed here below, with assured hope of the conqueror of Satan in a bruised Saviour to be born of woman. It continues what began in chap. 2.
In all the Bible there is not, save in Christ's person and work, a fact so momentous as the fall, nor a revelation more essential than Gen. 2, 3. God alone could have given us the truth as there made known. It is monstrous to conceive the guilty pair adequate witnesses of all said and done there. Who then else but God?
There it is, the unadorned truth, still more profound morally than chapter 1, in Christ revealing the grace of God to the utmost, God's glory in His person with man's ultimate deliverance, and thus of the highest moment to the salvation, well-being, and happiness of the believer. All comes out in plain facts, such as a child could take in, yet involving principles truer and deeper than any ideas evolved by the most philosophic of mankind. Herein lies an essential difference between revealed truth and all its rivals. Take Vedaism, Brahmanism, Buddhism, Lamaism, or aught else in India and the adjacent lands; take Confucianism, Taoism, Foism, in China; take Sabaism, Jovism, Fetishism ancient and modern: can any one of these systems allege a single fact as its basis? The religion of the Bible, Old or New Testament, Judaism or Christianity, rests on distinct realities, not on mere ideas of man's mind.
Whether a partial dealing of a moral nature by law within a particular people, or the full world-wide revelation of grace and truth in the Lord Jesus Christ, God's word was the divine communication of immensely momentous facts. The related divinely inspired writings are precisely those which rationalists, claiming to be Christians, devote their efforts to discredit, dislocate, and destroy, like Pagan philosophers of old. Like fallen Adam, I am born and have lived an outcast from God. Revelation, God's revelation, His word, is the only possible way of making God known to me. Now rationalism has not, more than Paganism or its philosophy, any just sense of the fall, or of sin, or of God's remedy for it in Christ. Here in the earliest revelation we have the fact unmistakeably brought out in its relation to present government on the earth, with light sufficient for faith to higher and everlasting things, as we see in Abel, Enoch, etc.
Nor is it otherwise with the law any more than the promises. As the latter was no mere aspiration proceeding from the heart of the fathers by the Spirit, but an objective revelation made to Abram, Isaac, and Jacob; so still more manifestly was the giving of the law by Moses for the sons of Israel. Not the least detail was left to the genius of that great man: everything was presented and regulated by the commandment of Jehovah.
So it is in Christianity, wherein is the revelation to us by the Holy Spirit of what is wholly beyond man's eye, ear, and heart; in the written word is the unswerving standard as well as the richest means of communicating all. All is established on sure and infinite facts; for the Incarnation, the Ministry, the Atoning death, the Resurrection, and the Ascension, of the Lord Jesus are grand realities. No doubt, now that the believer's conscience is purged, they may well exercise heart and mind, even to the uttermost by the word and Spirit of God. Still they are facts, attested by divine testimony to God's glory through man and for man, to be made good also in man by faith and love, by experience and obedience, by life-service and worship. There can scarce be a stronger contrast than between law and gospel, the earthly calling and the heavenly. But this at least is common to them both, that their groundwork is one of facts, not mere thoughts of the mind; and these facts are communicated to us with the known certainty of God's mind and word, such as the Holy Spirit alone could give.
Hence we may observe there is no formal claim in the opening of the Bible. The great of this world may enter with a flourish of trumpets, naturally if not necessarily. Not so the divine record. Who could speak of creation but God? or tell it adequately in its relational light but Himself taking His relative name to His people? Who but He in both ways could fully let us know the cause, history, and consequences of the deluge? Who else, what led to the rise of nations, languages, etc.? or to the call of Abram and the fathers who followed of His chosen and separate people? Yet even here throughout we have "Elohim said" and wrought; and so with His name as "Jehovah," wherever suited and requisite. He is an enemy who denies its absolute truth and divine authority.
Then comes Exodus, where the redemption of His people appears first, with the bitter bondage and oppression that preceded and brought judgment on their enemies, and His dwelling in their midst that followed, with the law but not without the shadow of the good things to come. Here accordingly we have His name of relationship specially bestowed (Ex. 6:3). Here yet more abundantly "Jehovah said" and acted. But, whether historically, or when His nature is introduced, it is "God" as such, i.e. Elohim. No man or varying document has the least to do with this, but His own wisdom in the inspired word. The book must be a romance or imposture like the Koran, if it be not God through Moses. The peculiarities of it (such as reserving to Ex. 30, where it even looks out of order, the altar of incense, the atonement-money, the holy anointing oil, and the holy compound for Jehovah) flow from the deep design of God, instead of the blunder of legends, or the incapacity of an editor, to which the imbecility of "higher criticism" rashly and ignorantly ascribes them. The repetitions, as of the sabbath, etc., which they regard as self-evidence of several scribes, are due to a like divine design; and those only learn and profit who bow to divine authority.
Leviticus is even more manifestly "Jehovah" speaking from first to last, with the least of history in it, but quite as manifestly by divine authority. It deals with access to Him, and hence begins with sacrifices and offerings, and priesthood. Thence it treats of unclean things and state; of the central truth of the Day of Atonement, and of blood reserved to God; then of evil relationships and holy ones; of the feasts, etc.
Numbers is a book too varied for so brief a notice as the present; but it treats of the people's journeyings, and its characteristic moral facts are selected by the inspiring Spirit for God's permanent record, above all the wisdom of the writer or of any man at any time. The apostle in 1 Cor. 10 declares the typical character of the events recorded, for which God alone was competent, to say nothing of copious and special injunctions to Moses, to Aaron, and to both, or of the wondrous predictions Jehovah spoke through Balaam compelled to bless Israel.
Deuteronomy has not only its task of rehearsal in a way beyond human thought, but is anticipative of their possession of the land, and solemnly insists on obedience to Jehovah's word, and on a covenant distinct from that of Horeb. But we need not say more than express the horror which a believer unsophisticated by the spirit of the age must and ought to feel at the blasphemous denial of the N.T. testimony to Moses as the writer, and of its divine authority.
It would be too much to glance at every book, as we have at those which compose the Pentateuch. But all else in the O.T. as in the New has the same authority of God. Hence the O.T. scriptures are called as a whole by the apostle Paul (Rom. 3:2) "the oracles of God;" as Moses is said by Stephen (Acts 7:38) to have received "living oracles" (not dead legends) to give unto God's people. And the Lord Jesus when risen said to the disciples, "These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses and prophets and psalms concerning me" (Luke 24:44). This covers the entire Hebrew O.T. as the Jews present it to us. And herein the Latin church has proved a faithless guardian by adding apocryphal Greek writings to that Canon, which even Jerome in his Prologus Galeatus to the Vulgate admits to be not properly included. So similar unfaithfulness was essayed in early days by reading publicly uninspired writings, and joining them, as an Appendix, to the copies of the Greek N. T. But even Rome did not commit itself to so gross an imposture as this last.
The great apostle in his First Epistle to Timothy (1 Tim. 5:18) quotes Deut. 25:4 and Luke 10:7 as "the scripture." He might have quoted Matt. 10:10 from one an apostle like himself; he was led of God to quote from one who was a prophet, not an apostle. For we are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). This stamps Luke as no mere amanuensis expressing Paul's mind, according to the tradition of Eusebius, but as an inspired writer whom the apostle cites when writing in the Spirit. So 2 Peter 3:15-16 shows us the apostle of the circumcision referring in this inspired document to Paul's Epistles as part of the scriptures. Thus we learn the unerring and far-seeing provision of allusion, which might to some seem casual, but is the fruit of infinite wisdom, and weightier to faith than a world of human reasonings. Indeed the intrinsic character of the N.T. is so unequivocally self-evidencing, that only the pride of unbelief in Jew or Gentile can account for one who accepts the Old as divine hesitating about the New as no less.
We are not left to facts however momentous, nor to incidental statements though abundant, plain, and reliable. The N.T. pronounces the most distinct and conclusive doctrine on so all-important a subject. For it concerns not man only but God's honour, and the character of His word in both Testaments so called. "For thou hast magnified thy word [saying] above all thy name" (Psalm 138). Let us weigh a few of these testimonies.
The Lord Himself in John 14-16 prepared the way not for fresh promises, but for the fullest revelation of the truth by the Pentecostal gift of the Spirit. It was indeed to comprehend the power of enjoying every privilege and of supplying every need for the new creation, for the children of God, once scattered, now to be gathered together into one. "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth; for he shall not speak from himself, but whatsoever things he shall hear shall he speak; and he shall declare to you the things that are to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall take of mine and shall declare it to you." He had already announced that the Paraclete or Advocate, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father would send in His name, should teach them all things, and bring to their remembrance all that He said to them. At Pentecost He came and made all this good.
1 Cor. 2 is remarkably full as well as precise. The O.T. left "secret things" belonging to God, which were then unrevealed: so intimated the law (Deut. 29:29); and the greatest of the prophets acknowledged that it was not theirs to lift the veil (Isa. 64:4). The apostle refers to this last, and contrasts the silence of old with what the Holy Spirit was now disclosing. "But to us God revealed [them] through the Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, even the depths of God. For who of men knoweth the things of the man, except the spirit of the man that is in him? Thus also the things of God knoweth no one except the Spirit of God. But we received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God; which [things] also we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom but in [those] Spirit-taught, communicating spirituals by spirituals. But a natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him; and he cannot know [them] because they are spiritually examined. But the spiritual examineth all things, while he is examined by no one. For who knew Jehovah's mind that he shall teach Him? But we have Christ's mind" (vers. 10-16).
Here in fact is the whole case. God by His Spirit revealed what had been hidden, even His depths, which He only knows. We, says the apostle, received His Spirit that the things freely given to us by Him we may know as they are. The first is revelation of the truth, of His counsels. Next comes the making known to others what God thus revealed: "Which things also we speak not in words taught of man's wisdom but in Spirit-taught, expounding spiritual [things] by spiritual [words]." Thirdly, follows the necessary spiritual condition to apprehend them. For a natural man neither receives nor can know what is scanned spiritually. It is the Spirit of God Who works in the Christian, the last stage, as He wrought in the first and the second. Thus we have God's gracious power by His Spirit, first in revealing divine things, next in communicating them verbally, and lastly in real reception or communion. Thereby have we Christ's mind, beyond even prophets of old.
The chief question lies in the word (ver. 13) translated "comparing." As it undoubtedly has this meaning in 2 Cor. 10:12, it was a natural temptation to understand it similarly here. But notoriously words are modified by their context; and as we have no other occurrence in the N. T., we must search into the usage of the LXX or the like. For the sense of "comparing" is wholly unsuitable to the intermediate process, of which the apostle treats, though it might well form part of that which pertains to the reception or understanding of what was already written. Now in the Septuagint the most prevailing application of the word in its cognate forms is to the expounding or explanation of what God was pleased to reveal (Gen. 40:8, 12, 16, 18, 22; Gen. 41:12, 15), as in vision or dream (Dan. 2:2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 16, 24, 25, 26, 30, 36, 45; Dan. 4:3, 4, 6, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21; Dan. 5:7, 8 13, 16, 18, 20, 28; Dan. 7:16).* As however in our text it is no question of a dream or vision to be interpreted, the sense naturally admits of a larger modification, and hence in this instance requires "communicating" or some such equivalent.
* It is also used in Num. 15:34 with the sense of "determined," or "decided."
This accordingly and perfectly falls in with the bearing of the clause and the demands of the context. For the clause is occupied, not with the spiritual man's apprehension of what is propounded, but with the conveying it to him in words taught by the Spirit. They were as to this expressly not left to man's wisdom or ability. Not only divine ideas were seen in the Spirit, but moreover the wording was no less taught by the Spirit. Herein "comparing" has no propriety and is therefore inadmissible. And though "interpreting," "expounding," or "determining" might convey the sense in substance, none of them seems to give it at this stage so unambiguously as "communicating." The connected words also acquire a definite force, free from the liability to different meanings which add nothing of moment. For "comparing" opens the door to vague and uncertain adjuncts; whereas with "communicating" the sense is fixed to "spiritual [things] by spiritual [words]." He had already spoken of the things of God, here designated "spiritual things," and he had also treated of words Spirit-taught; now brought together briefly in communicating "spiritual [things] by spiritual [words]." "To spiritual men" would be premature in ver. 13; for he takes up this question only in the verses that follow.
His latest Epistle (2 Tim. 3) gave the apostle the fitting occasion to lay down the distinct and full dogmatic decision of the Holy Spirit on the scriptures. He had himself been raised up, not only as "minister of the gospel" but as "minister of the church," to fill up the word of God, as he tells us in Col. 1:23-25. To Timothy he writes in view of difficult times to prevail in the last days, men who presented its evil traits being already there to turn away from. For if they had a form of piety, they denied its power. They had their prototypes in those who withstood Moses, and their folly should be quite manifest to all, as theirs too became. But Timothy had followed up Paul's teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, long-suffering, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings; what things befell him at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions he endured, and the Lord delivered him out of all. But wicked men and impostors shall advance to worse, leading and led astray. "But abide thou in the things thou didst learn and wast assured of, knowing of whom thou didst learn, and that from a babe thou knowest sacred writ that is able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus."
Here we learn the safeguard to be in no way the church's witness; for therein it is that we see the awful spectacle of a veneered Christian form, yet a moral heathenism, with hypocrisy added, the grossest ways only concealed or withdrawn (cf. Rom. 1). The man of God rests on no Unnamed one, great or small. He was well aware of whom he learnt the truth, even the apostles; as he thoroughly knew what sort of life was his with whom he had the closest intimacy. For what is teaching without practice akin? Here it was maintained in face of persecutions and sufferings, with the marked deliverances of the Lord throughout; as indeed all should expect persecution who desire to live piously in Christ Jesus. Thus was manifested a marked difference in the later revelation as compared with the earlier. For its witnesses and instruments were contemporaries, bringing out the truth finally and together by the Spirit after Christ's advent and redemption; as the earlier writers had done their piece-meal work, spread over more than a thousand years, yet with a unity most marked.
But was it not the O.T. that Timothy knew from a babe? Unquestionably. Would any one with wicked heart of unbelief thence seek to question or lower the N.T.? Let him learn that the apostle, while upholding God's ancient oracles as "sacred writ" (ἱερὰ γράμματα), is careful to affirm in the most comprehensive terms the divine authority of all, or rather "every," scripture, not old merely but new. For he reserves the due appropriated word, γραφὴ, which he declares in its every part to be inspired of God, or God-breathed, as is no other writing. It runs through the four Gospels, the Acts, and the apostolic Epistles in this sense alone, singular and plural.
The more general sense was expressed by γράμμα, a writing, which might mean a "bill" (Luke 16:6-7), or "letter" in the abstract (Rom. 2:27, 29, Rom. 7:6; 2 Cor. 3:6), "alphabetic characters" (Luke 23:38; 1 Cor. 3:7; Gal. 6:4), "epistles" (Acts 28:28), "letters" or learning (John 7:15; Acts 26:24), or "writings" (John 5:47), which needed the epithet ἱερὰ, sacred, etc. to stamp them as scriptures. But γραφὴ in Greek N. T. usage means nothing else, even without the article here or elsewhere, as our idiom also bears.
"Every scripture [is] God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped completely for every good work" (vers. 16, 17). The Revisers, like some others, take "inspired of God," not as the predicate but as qualifying the subject; and the clause would then run, "Every scripture inspired of God [is] also profitable." But who will say that this is the natural meaning? who can deny that it involves a twofold awkwardness, but both by withholding the understood copula where one cannot but look for it, and by supposing it where it jars with the flow of the sentence? None of the constructions within or without the N. T. cited by Dean Alford approaches the one before us. One near in some respects is 1 Tim. 4:4, where it would be intolerable to make καλὸν (good) part of the subject. Still nearer perhaps is Heb. 4:13, where nobody doubts that "naked and laid open" is the true predicate; if so, "God-breathed and profitable" ought to be thus taken here.
The truth appears to be that the conjunction καὶ though indubitably genuine was overlooked by early versions, as the Memphitic, Peschito-Syr., and many of the Latin copies, besides the Clem. Vulgate: so too some fathers Greek and Latin. This error necessitated, one may say, the view that "God-breathed" belonged to the subject. Other Latin copies, with the Gothic, Harklean-Syr., Arm. and Aeth., interpreted καὶ in the sense of "also" as introducing the predicate. Taken thus, καὶ is here feeble, and so superfluous that it was easily forgotten; whereas, wherever it is correctly so taken, it has an emphatic or supplementary force, as in Luke 1:36, Rom. 8:29, 34, Gal. 4:7. It would certainly become those who contend for their construction to produce a sentence where a like severance occurs, or indeed can be, between two adjectives ostensibly connected by a conjunction.
But, if possibly allowed as grammatical, can this rendering be counted tenable on internal grounds? For if θεόπνευστος be treated as part of the subject, it must be taken either as an assumption, or as a condition. If it be assumed that scripture is God-inspired, nothing is gained by those who favour so harsh a construction. The sense is substantially alike, whether you assume or assert the inspiration of every scripture. But if the aim be to understand a condition (i.e. "if divinely inspired," rather than "being divinely inspired)," you are confronted with the acknowledged fact that γραφὴ in the N. T. is appropriated to scripture and spoken of no other writing. Hence the conditional construction, in order to apply, contradicts the known usage, and would require the wholly unauthorised sense of mere "writing:" "every writing, if inspired of God, is also profitable," etc. If we understand γ., as we must, in the sense of "scripture," and take the epithet with the subject, we gain nothing but a strangely incoherent phrase, yet in substance agreeing with its natural sense: "every scripture, being inspired of God, is also profitable," etc., as in fact Origen long ago took it, but not Athanasius, nor Greg. Nyss, nor Chrysostom, who held as the A.V.
The R. V., whether intentionally or not, is ambiguous: "every scripture inspired of God [is] also profitable," etc. If it was not meant to raise a doubt, why was it so left? If it was, is it possible to conceive an object more opposed to the context? For the Spirit of God is furnishing the invaluable and needed safeguard against the difficult times of the last days; and after dwelling among the rest on the fact of Timothy's privilege in knowing from a babe the sacred writ of the O.T., he crowns all with the universal principle (which applies to the N.T. no less than to the O., and to what might yet be written as well as to what was), "every scripture [is] God-inspired, and profitable for teaching," etc.
The apostle gives first, as was most reverent and worthy, its relation to God, the Author of this incomparable boon as of all others; next, its profitable uses for the blessing of the man of God. For as no creature but man in virtue of his spirit can know the things of man, no more can one know the things of God save by the Spirit of God, Who both revealed and communicated them, and enables the believer to discern them, as we have already seen. Scripture teaches us in our ignorance, convicts us of obstinacy or errors, corrects us when shirking or straying, and disciplines us in righteousness inward and outward, that in our stand for God we might be complete on every side, and with equal fulness furnished for every good work.
A learned dignitary (in loco) speaks of "God-inspired" not excluding verbal errors or possibly historical inaccuracies, and those of human transmission and transcription. But is not this doubly a mistake of grave import? It would first make the written word a divine guarantee of untruth, both originally as well as in its dissemination. Next, how he could mix up the two points is hard to say; for clerical blunders have nothing to do with the question of God's inspiration, solely with man's responsible use of its fruit. The former is a virtual denial of "God-inspired," unless the God of truth can lie: if He sanction errata in trifling matters, why not in greater things? But "scripture cannot be broken," said the Lord. Compromise is unworthy of faith. "It is written" was His answer to Satan's temptations, and is the guide and standard of all saints since grace gave scripture. It is not a question of man's spirit, but of God's, Who is beyond doubt able to secure the truth absolutely, as the Lord and the apostles and the prophets everywhere assume and assert. To imply such weakness in man as is beyond the power of God is a feeble, not the full, inspiration, taught in the Bible. But when philosophy is sought as the ally of divine truth, the issue cannot but be vacillating, inconsistent, and misleading. "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God." It is a singularly loose comment on "every scripture is also inspired of God," etc. One can scarce doubt that a rendering so halting and strange tempts to a hesitating interpretation, even though not a whisper be given that they hold any scripture to be uninspired. Yet it is a plain and peremptory utterance of the apostle, calling for a version and a comment of no uncertain sound.
In ordinary thoughts and discussion on inspiration it is not always remembered that the apostle claims it authoritatively for "every scripture." This goes far beyond what men uttered from God, moved or borne along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). For we are taught, not only what the Holy Spirit gave by His living instruments, but that what is written by Him abides now of at least equal divine authority. It is painful to see the readiness of any Christian to allow the compatibility of this divine power with historical or any other inaccuracies, natural enough to man's spirit. But the apostle Paul in the text before us leaves no room for evasion or uncertainty. "Every scripture" is either assumed, as some argue, or asserted as others believe, to be God-inspired. Does He fail to exclude verbal errors? Is He capable of historical or any other inaccuracies?
The imputation really leaves God out, as every measure of scepticism does. It dwells on human infirmity and ignorance, which no believer ought for a moment to forget. But God's inspiration of "every scripture" gives to faith the certainty that no such inaccuracies attach to the written word as it came from Him; and this is all that plenary inspiration means. It in no way excludes mistakes in transcription, translation, or interpretation. But it is an abuse of language, calculated to deceive the simple and gratify the enemy, if one allow divine plenary inspiration in word and then annul it in deed. For as God cannot lie, so He does not pledge His inspiration so as to sanction errors ever so small. He used men of God as the vehicle for carrying out His purpose in giving His word; He employed their mind and heart as well as their language and style; but He communicated His own wisdom in fulfilment of His design beyond the measure of the instrument, and in absolute exclusion of mistake.
For any then to contend that plenary inspiration admits of "leaving" inspired men to themselves in any respect is really to leave out God, and to blow hot and cold in the same breath. It is openly and absolutely to contradict the apostolic canon here laid down. Not only were the writers moved by the Holy Spirit, but "every scripture is God-inspired." Scripture is no mere accident, nor simply a providential arrangement, where blemishes may naturally be. If it was God's purpose to give us His word, the Holy Spirit wrought to effectuate it in a wisdom, power, order, and end which bespoke Himself. One can understand unbelief blind even to the grace and the truth which came through Jesus Christ, and seeing only discrepancies and blunders in the Gospels, where spiritual intelligence finds the deepest demonstration of the divine mind, and a perfect result produced to Christ's glory before the eyes of faith. How strange and distressing that any who hear that word and believe Him Who sent the Lord fail to perceive that, of all theories, none is less satisfactory, tenable, or reverent! For it means that the Holy Spirit Who inspired the evangelists recalled facts and words imperfectly to their remembrance, and stamped misleading memoirs with the authority of God's word. What more inexplicable than that there should be no less than a divine Person for such compilations, supposed to be mutually inconsistent as well as defective in small points?
Here is not the place to show, not only how baseless is this unbelief, but the divinely admirable truth which the Holy Spirit set out in these inspired accounts of our Lord as everywhere else in the Bible. It would demand volumes and can be found by those who seriously enquire. But such speculations ought never to have been entertained for a moment. Their source is evil, though good men be ensnared by them. "Every scripture is God-inspired." We are entitled as believers to set one's seal to it that He is true; so is His word. We are bound in simple faith to deny errors or discrepancies in scripture as He wrote it. We may not be able to answer every objection, or to clear up every difficulty which ingenious ill-will or even weakness may muster; for this depends on our intelligence, which may be small. But if we believe the apostle's deliverance on the Bible to be "the commandment of the Lord" (as he claims generally and for smaller things in 1 Cor. 14), we are warranted to rest in the peaceful certainty that "every scripture is inspired of God."
So our Lord acted with friend or foe. So He taught His own, as He had confronted the great enemy. "It is written" was the conclusive answer to temptation and to question; and if scripture were perverted, "It is written again" is the short and best refutation. What an example for us, so ready to trust in our dialectic skill of defence or in dissecting an adversary's ignorance and error! The simplest believer can reckon on the word and Spirit of God. This honours Him and His word, and is for us the humblest, holiest, and safest ground.
In vain then do men argue that there are many things in the scriptures which the writers might have known, and probably did know, by ordinary means; that for some things they must have been supernaturally endowed; and that other things again required nothing less than direct revelation. The aim of this is unconsciously to lower scripture, and bring as much as possible within man's capacity. Now no believer need question God's use of means, if He pleases, or rising above them if for His glory. But "every scripture is inspired of God" settles all questions. We have there wicked men's hypocritical words, and their rebellious ones; we have even Satan's temptations and his accusations in scripture; but "every scripture is God-breathed." To present the least fact, to record the simplest word in scripture, was as truly of God's inspiration, as to reveal "the mystery" or to disclose the future glory of heaven and earth. Documents or none, the insertion in scripture was God-inspired: else the apostolic rule were infringed. But as our Lord said (John 10:35), "the scripture cannot be broken."
As Jehovah magnified His saying above all His name, so did our Lord take His stand on the written word, the scriptures, as the most authoritative of all testimonies. All scripture, every part of it even, is God-inspired for permanence, and the true end of controversy for those that believe; while such as believe not must learn their sin and folly in the judgment. The question is in no way, whether the writers knew or did not know what they wrote (for both are found abundantly in scripture), but whether they were inspired of God to write it. And "very scripture" is so inspired. This alone makes it God's word, not its known truth or usefulness, but His inspiring it; and this we have in every scripture. Some writers may be sublime and others simple; some may be pathetic and others severe; but all are God-inspired; and the plain proof is that they are part of the scriptures. In the N.T. we have differences as wide as sever the Epistle of James from those of Paul, and the Gospel of Mark from that of John. But inspired they are equally, as their writings are part of the scriptures. Inspiration of God is a fact, and does not admit of varying degrees.
It is quite within the power of the Holy Spirit in giving God's word to adopt the style of each individual writer. But no effort on a writer's part could make his words to be God's. Even before any adversary the Lord told the twelve to have no anxiety how or what to speak, for in the hour of need it should be given. "For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you" (Matt. 10:20). How much more was that divine energy wanted and given, when not their vindication was in question, but the communication of God's mind and will for His own and for ever! Indeed it is no more than the certain fact; for every scripture is God-inspired.
Speculation into the "how" of inspiration is a prying into what is not revealed, and therefore unwise and unbecoming. We are not told how God inspired the writers of the scriptures. It is probable that none could know save those who were so energised. Theories "mechanical" or "dynamical," so called, are out of place and explain nothing. As 1 Cor. 2 maintains the principle, the necessity, and the fact of Spirit-taught words, so 2 Tim. 3:16 speaks, not of the revelation before the mind only, but of "scripture;" and decides for it as inspired of God. This is the all-important truth conveyed. It is God Himself in scripture removing all doubt about scripture, and even about every part of it. One can conceive no other communication more distinct or conclusive. The language is as plain as its aim is spiritually momentous; and its intimation is of the utmost practical interest and value.
We have dwelt the longer on the claim demanded by the great apostle for "every scripture," because it really settles for the believer all the questions which the busy mind of man can raise. For we are not now debating with the Atheist or even the Deist, who openly disbelieves a revelation from God, but meeting the difficulties raised among professing Christians, though it may be too often originated by real sceptics. Doubts are more guilty now than in the days of our Lord Who reproached the Sadducees with not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God. For not only was He come as the True Light to shed light on every man, and to give an understanding that we might know Him that is true, but the entire book of the final revelation from God has been added since by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven. And it is in one of these latest communications of divine truth that we have God attesting His own inspiration of "every scripture."
This was as it should be in view of man's need, and especially for the safeguard of believers, soon to be left without the living presence of apostles. But from the beginning of revelation God took care that they who read or heard His word should be assured that it was His truth in His power and by His authority, that His people might believe and obey Him. Thus in that last book of the Pentateuch, which it is a modern fashion to imagine of late date, in Deut. 4:2 we read, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Jehovah thy God which I command you." As with the Law, so it was with the Prophets: "Jehovah hath spoken," though by Isaiah (Isa. 1:2); "The words of Jeremiah . . . to whom the word of Jehovah game" (Jer. 1:1-2); and so with the others. It did not differ with the Psalms, as their chief writer says, ''The Spirit of Jehovah spoke by me, and his word was in my tongue" (2 Sam. 23:2).
The Lord Jesus when here set the scripture in the clearest light, in the simplest way, and on the firmest ground. He repels Satan's temptation with "It is written"; and when Satan uses the word, He answers by its right use, "It is written again." It is remarkable and instructive, that all these replies are taken from Deuteronomy: the book that reveals the obedience of faith when the people should be ruined through failure under the law. He appealed to the earliest history (Gen. 2) as God's word. He also prepared His disciples for those new communications of grace and truth which the Holy Spirit would come to make on His own departure (John 14, 15, 16): these we have now in what is called the New Testament. So the apostles themselves declare (Rom. 16:25-26; 1 Cor. 2, 1 Cor. 14:36; 2 Cor. 13:2-3; Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 2:13, 1 Thess. 5:27; Heb. 1:1-2, Heb. 2:1-4, Heb. 12:25; 2 Peter 3:2, 15-16; 1 John 4:6). 2 Tim. 3:16 has been already before us. Apparently "occasional and fragmentary," the writings of the N. T. have a real completeness unmistakably divine.
It is because this divine character of all scripture is not held in simple faith that men, and even pious men, have yielded to human thoughts which dishonour God's word and have opened the door to sceptical evil more and more ungodly. As the O.T. consists of the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets, so does the N.T. of the Gospels and Acts, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse. Its basis is grace and truth come through Jesus Christ, Who on His own departure sent the Holy Spirit as the other Paraclete to be with and in us for ever. Again, the Epistles form quite as characteristic a part of the New Testament as the Gospels, following up those memoirs with the truth dogmatically (which saints could not bear before redemption); as in the Acts we have historically the Holy Ghost's action when personally descended and present.
Hence the contrast is greatest with the Psalms or poetic portion of the O.T.; and it is the Epistles, which to us stand over against them: of all compositions the most familiar and intimate. Therein it is no longer outpourings which anticipate Messiah's coming, sufferings, and reign in Zion, with groans and cries meanwhile; but heart communicating to heart in the Spirit the grace and the glory of the Son of God already come and gone, but about to come again to have us with Himself in the Father's house as well as to appear and reign, as we shall with Him, in that day. No wonder that a new walk (Eph. 2:10), and a higher, nearer worship, go along with the new relationship most fully brought out in the Epistles. The closest analogue to the O.T. is in the Apocalypse, which alone answers to the Prophets but rises above while it confirms them, completing the whole to the glory of God and the Lamb.
The development of all, whether in the Old Testament or in the New, gives occasion to the most delightful variety in God's communications through His chosen instruments. But this only the more strikingly manifests the unity of the Divine Author. "Every scripture is God-inspired." No notion can be more false or superficial than to infer from their variety of matter and manner a difference in the degree of inspiration. Neither the revealed facts nor the revealed doctrine allow an idea so baseless, unreasonable, and dangerous. Scripture pronounces that "every scripture is inspired of God." One can understand cavils or disbelief about its parts, or even the whole where scepticism is extreme; but, for any one who admits scripture to be from God, a varying inspiration is negatived by divine authority.
This suffices to prove without further ado the egregious error of the late D. Wilson, Bishop of Calcutta, in his Evidences of Christianity (i. 508). "By the inspiration of suggestion is meant such communications of the Holy Spirit, as suggested and detailed minutely every part of the truths delivered. The inspiration of direction is meant of such assistance as left the writers to describe revealed truth in their own way, directing only the mind in the exercise of its power. The inspiration of elevation added a greater strength and vigour to the efforts of the mind than the writer could otherwise have attained. The inspiration of superintendency was that watchful care which preserved generally from anything being put down derogatory to the revelation with which it was connected." There are no such kinds of inspiration taught in the Bible, which speaks of God's inspiration pure and simple, and predicates it of "every scripture" alike. Dr. W.'s first kind is the only real inspiration, though even it is not fully stated. The other three are not the inspiration of any scripture, but such direction, elevation, and superintendency as His servants look for, and not in vain, day by day. But none of these is true inspiration, which conveys God's mind or will as perfectly as it excludes every error of man.
Doctors Dick (Essay on Inspiration), Pye Smith (Ser. Test. to the Messiah i.), Henderson (Lect. on Inspir. 36 sec.), and others have put forth a similar hypothesis of different degrees in inspiration, influenced partly by the free thinking of modern Germans, partly by a name so respectable as that of Dr. Doddridge (Works v.) of older date. There is modification; for Henderson makes five degrees, while Doddridge states no more than three. But all agree in the hypothesis of differences which oppose the authoritative declaration of the apostle, without the semblance of warrant from any other scripture.
To what source then are we to attribute these unbelieving speculations? It would seem mainly to Moses Maimonides (A.D. 1131-1204), from whom B. Spinoza borrowed much, followed in that at least by Le Clerc, as Grotius derived it directly from Jewish channels. In his "Moreh Nebochim" Maimonides conceives eleven "degrees of Prophecy." These the Portuguese Jew, Abarbanel (A.D. 1437-1508), melted into three degrees of inspiration for the O.T., answering to the three divisions of the sanctuary and its court: the Thorah, the Nebiim, and the Ketubhim, the Law, the Prophets, and the rest of the O.T. or Hagiographa. That Moses personally enjoyed the divine Presence, as no ordinary prophet did, is certain: Num. 12 and Deut. 34 are as to this explicit. John the Baptist (and we have our Lord's authority for it) was a prophet, and greater than a prophet. None of woman-born was greater than he; yet he neither wrote a line nor wrought a miracle. But whosoever wrote, inspiration is a fact, and admits of no varying measures. "Every scripture is God-inspired;" and God is equally true at all times and by all persons He employed to write or even speak His word. It was certainly a monstrous position of the Jewish scheme that the lowest in the scale of the inspired should be assigned to the Holy Spirit; for He, as we know, is the divine agent in man of all divine inspiration, and He does not differ from Himself.
Such then is the murky ditch whence the Jews have derived their chief theory on the books of the O.T. Such men abide still in the unbelief for which the branches were broken off from the olive-tree of promise. No other origin perhaps can be assigned to the low and debasing influences, otherwise enlarged, which are in our day working to greater ungodliness among professing Christians. Can any thing be more humbling to one who loves Christ and the church? How all-important to cleave to God and the word of His grace! This, and nothing else at bottom, is able to build us up (instead of leaving us a sport to every wind of doctrine), able also to give us an inheritance among all those that are sanctified. It is the truth, the Father's word, that sanctifies His children. Error, all error, defiles. What error more poisonous, next to heterodoxy on Christ's Person and work, than the dishonour of God's word, the great means of making divine truth known to us? How imminent and far-reaching the peril of tampering with humanitarianism as to scripture!