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secure to this society faithful preaching for a long time; whereas a refusal will entail Unitarianism upon it, perhaps for centuries.
Suppose a large number, even a majority, in a parish, are in the habit of holding a weekly meeting for the purpose of gaming, song-singing, story-telling, and intemperate drinking; and they should come to the conclusion, that it would be desirable to have their minister occasionally join them in these carousals; and since they assist in his support, suppose they should insist upon his attendance as a right. If he will only yield in this one point, they are willing to continue his support, and shall not object to his preaching the 'strictest morality and sobriety of conduct. But if he refuses, they are determined to dismiss him, and settle over them one, who will not only comply with their wishes in this respect, but who will preach to them conformably to their own sentiments, that is, universal salvation. Now these are distressing consequences of a refusal; yet no conscientious man would hesitate to risk them. And why? Simply because a compliance would seem to him directly contrary to the revealed will of God. And this is precisely the reason why the Orthodox minister cannot exchange with Unitarians. Why should apprehended consequences be regarded more in the latter, than in the former case ? The exchange might not, indeed, be as gross a violation of decency and of the divine command, as joining in the carousal; yet to the consistently Orthodox man, it would be as real.
We have already alluded to the manner in which Christ and his apostles acted in similar circumstances. They knew that if they urged the peculiarities of the Gospel, as indispensable to salvation, the most unhappy divisions and contentions would follow; so violent, indeed, as to bring on them and their followers all the horrors of a persecution unto death : for wherever they had thus preached, such were the almost invariable effects. But their business was to follow the will of God, and leave the consequences with him. So we preach, said Paul, not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth the hearts : for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. A forgetfulness of this apostolic example, and an attempt to trace out the labyrinth of consequences, have exerted a most unfavorable influence upon the usefulness of many pious ministers, and produced strange inconsistency of conduct. And we cannot believe, that any Orthodox clergyman, who acknowledges that a belief of certain truths is indispensable to salvation, would consent to exchange with a minister who denies them, unless, in his alarm about consequences, he forgets the revealed will of God.
But who is answerable for the alienations, divisions, and contentions, that result from a refusal on the part of the Orthodox to exchange? If none of our churches or ministers had departed from the faith in which our Pilgrim Fathers founded the churches VOL. I.
it is obvious that none of these unhappy effects would take place. Those, therefore, who have made this departure, are accountable for the unhappy consequences that follow. The refusal of those, who still adhere to the faith of the Pilgrims, to exchange with Unitarian ministers, is one of the effects of their rejection of Evangelical religion; and hence, they, not the Orthodox, are the original authors of all the evils that grow out of that refusal. They may be sincere in this departure, yet are they nevertheless answerable for the consequences; because they, not the Orthodox, are the innovators.
Several inferences, deducible from the general principles we have endeavored to establish, and more or less connected with the particular point that has been under discussion, will be added in conclusion.
(To be continued.)
THE INSPIRATION OF THE SCRIPTURES. NO. II.
Mistakes to be avoided, and cautions to be observed. Before proceeding to exhibit the proof of inspiration, I think it important to guard against several of the most common prepossessions and mistakes, relating to the subject, and to suggest some of the cautions, which it is most important to observe. In this way I hope to do something towards freeing the mind of the reader from unnecessary perplexity and difficulty, and preparing him more justly to weigh the arguments which will be offered in support of the doctrine under consideration.
1. We are not to suppose that we can exactly understand the manner in which the mind is affected by inspiration of God, or how any man knows that he is under infallible divine guidance, and that his declarations are clothed with divine authority.
We have never been the subjects of a supernatural inspiration ourselves, and of course we cannot understand the subject by our own experience. Isaiah, and Paul, and others, had, probably, as real and definite a consciousness of the peculiar state of their minds, and the manner in which they were affected, when under the supernatural influence of the Spirit, as at any other time. But the effect produced upon their thoughts, and the general state of their minds, when under that supernatural influence, must have been widely different from anything which we ever experienced; and we may be as unable to form any definite conception of it, as of the peculiar state of an angel's mind, or the manner in which he thinks and acquires knowledge. How is it possible for us to have any clear and certain notion of the manner in which the mind is affected by inspiration, without being inspired ourselves ? Indeed, how can we form a clear conception of any state of mind, without being the subjects of it?
If any one should say, that we can learn the manner in which divine inspiration affects the mind, from a description of it by those who know what it is by experience; it would be sufficient to reply, that we have no such description. Neither Paul, nor Isaiah, nor any other, has informed us how his mind was affected by the supernatural influence which acted upon him, or in what way it was made certain to his mind, that he was divinely inspired. And even if an inspired writer had given a particular description of the effect of inspiration on his mind; the nature of the subject is such, that, in all probability, we should find, that no description could convey any just notion of it to our minds. As it is a fact then, that we never had the state of mind produced by inspiration ; and as no exact description has been given of that state of mind in others; and as we should probably be unable to understand the real import of the language by which an inspired man might attempt to describe his state of mind to us; we must be content to remain without any exact knowledge of the subject. And we have good reason to apprehend, that any attempt of ours to form definite conceptions of it will lead us into error.
If these views are correct, then our inability to understand exactly the manner of inspiration should not be suffered to diminish our confidence in its reality, or its practical results. On the ground of the evidence which we possess, we ought to entertain as full a belief of the fact, that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and consequently, that the doctrines and laws which it contains are marked with infallibility and divine authority, as though we knew perfectly how supernatural divine influence affected the minds of the writers, or even as though we ourselves had written the Scriptures under a guidance which we knew to be infallible and divine.
2. We are not to assume, that the only influence of inspiration upon the writers of Scripture was, that it revealed to them new truths, or prompted them to make known new truths to others.
In many instances, it may be as suitable and important that God should influence his servants to declare old truths, as new ones, provided those old truths are as valuable as new ones, and as necessary to promote the best interests of man. Is not the supposition perfectly reasonable, that God may have as real an agency in moving his prophets to write truths with which they were before acquainted, and in affording them such guidance as to secure them against all fallibility, and render their communications exactly agreeable to his will, as in enabling them to write truths never before made known ? Christ promised to give his apostles a heavenly Teacher, who should enable them rightly to perform every part of their office, and among other things, to assist their memories. It seems to have been a principal object of that promised assistance of the Spirit, so to guide the apostles, that they should truly recollect the things which they had before seen and heard, and should infallibly, and in the best manner, communicate them, or necessary parts of them, both orally and by writing, for the benefit of others.
This principle, if well fixed in our minds, will be of great use in relieving us from needless difficulties respecting the inspiration of various parts of the Bible. There is much reason to think that the historical books of the Old Testament, generally, were composed either from traditions with which the writers were familiar, or from pre-existent records. But what difficulty can this circumstance occasion, in regard to their inspiration? Was it not important that the Holy Spirit should assist the memories and other faculties of the writers, in making a suitable record of that with which they were already acquainted? Was it not important that he should so influence and guide them, that they should write just so much, and in just such a manner, as he saw to be best adapted to answer the ends of revelation? What reason have we to suppose that they would ever have done all this, without divine guidance? If we examine the public addresses of the apostles which are recorded in the Scriptures, we shall find they were composed, for the most part, of facts, and arguments, and conclusions, which, in all probability, had been familiar to the apostles before? Be it so. There is no difficulty in supposing that the divine Spirit afforded them such direction, that they judged, with infallible wisdom, what was proper to be said, and, in all respects, spoke according to the will of God. The Spirit was promised for this very purpose. “Take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” The influence of the Spirit was not to be limited to the revelation of things before unknown. He was to guide them in giving their testimony to truths which they had before learned, and to enable them to do it without any liability to error. He was to teach them both “how and what they should speak,” in reference to any portion of divine truth which the occasion should call for. The same as to other parts of Scripture. For what human wisdom would be competent, in all cases, to determine, just as divine wisdom does, what and how men should write for the benefit of all future ages? How widely different would be the judgment of any man now living, from the wisdom which presided over the writing of the Scriptures? If left to form an opinion on the subject independently of what we know to be the decision of divine wisdom, every man would think that some things included in the sacred volume ought to have been omitted. As an instance, I might mention those naked histories of human weakness, folly, and
common de subject of any and all bithe best many
impurity, at which common decency is ashamed, and which infidelity has so often made the subject of profane ridicule. God, who perfectly knows the nature of man, and all his wants and dangers, and how to promote his eternal interests in the best manner, doubtless saw that important ends would be answered by those parts of Scripture, which we should have thought least calculated to do good. And I am fully persuaded that we can, in no way, account satisfactorily for the writing of such a book, by such men, or by any men, without the supposition of a special divine interference.
It will be remembered that my reasoning here has nothing to do with infidels. It is meant for those, who believe that the Bible is the word of God, and that it is, in all respects, what the wisdom of God chose that it should be; of course, that it is free from faults, and perfectly adapted to promote the ends of a divine revelation. It is with those who believe this, that is, with Christians, that my reasoning is concerned. Now, in my view, Christians can have no reason to presume, that the agency of the divine Spirit in the sacred writers must have been confined to the single purpose of revealing new truths; and no reason to object to the position, that those writers were constantly under the direction of divine wisdom, even in making a record of those things with which they were before acquainted. For in making this record, so as perfectly to answer the ends of infinite wisdom, it was necessary there should be such a selection of form, and such an adaptation to the exigencies of the church in all ages, as must have required the presiding influence of an omniscient mind, -required it as really, as the first communication of those truths which lay beyond the discovery of human reason. It is evident, therefore, that it can never be a valid objection against the inspiration of any parts of the Bible, that those parts contain no truths, except what the writers might have known, either by natural means, without the help of any divine revelation, or by means of a revelation before made to others. Accordingly, if the sacred writers declare, without suggesting any qualification, that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God; we shall have no good reason so to qualify and restrict the meaning of their declaration, that it shall apply to those parts only in which a revelation of new truths was made.
3. It is no objection against the doctrine of inspiration, that the Scriptures were written in a language completely human, and that they exhibit all the varieties in the mode of writing, which are common in other works.
If God gives instruction to men, he must give it in language which men can understand. Should divine instruction be conveyed in language which is superhuman, it would then become necessary, either that it should be translated into human language, or else that the human mind should be enabled to understand it by some