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able by a simple elevation of the faculties, because they were not deductions from the principles of rea
or from truths already discovered, but were frunded in the free determinations of the will of God, and his prescience of human affairs. With the abilities of an angel we could not explore the thoughts and purposes of the divine mind. This degree of inspiration we attribute to those who were empowered to reveal heavenly mysteries, " which eye had not seen, and ear had not heard;" to those who were sent with particular messages from God to his people; and to those who were employed to predict future events. The plan of redemption being an effect of the sovereign counsels of heaven, it could not have been known but by a communication from the Father of lights.
This kind of inspiration has been called the inspi. ration of suggestion. It is needless to dispute about a word; but suggestion seeming to express an immediate operation on the mind, by which ideas are excited in it, is of too limited signification to denote the various modes in which the prophets and apostles were made acquainted with supernatural truths. God revealed himself to them, not only by suggestion, but by dreams, visions, voices, and the ministry of angels. This degree of inspiration, in strict propriety of speech, should be called revelation ; a word preferable to suggestion, because it is expressive of all the ways in which God communicated new ideas to the minds of his servants. It is a word, too, chosen by the Holy Ghost himself, to signify the discovery of truths formerly unknown to the apostles. The last book of the New Testament, which is a collection of prophecies, is called the
revelation of Jesus Christ. Paul says that he received his gospel by revelation ; that “ by revelation the mystery was made known to him, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it was then revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;" and, in another place, having observed, that “ eye had not seen, nor ear heard, neither had entered into the heart of man the things which God had prepared for them that love him," he adds, “ But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit."*
I have not names to designate the two other kinds of inspiration. The names used by Doddridge and others, superintendence, elevation, and suggestion, do not convey the ideas stated in the preceding particulars; and are liable to material objections, as we have already shewn, with respect to the first and the last of them. Superintendence does not include the notion of a moving or exciting influence on the minds of the sacred writers, and consequently cannot denote any kind of inspiration ; and suggestion being of too limited a meaning to express all that is intended, ought to give place to a more appropri. ate word, furnished by the Holy Spirit himself. By those, who use the term elevation, to signify a particular kind of inspiration, it is confined to such parts of scripture as are lofty and sublime ; whereas, it is easy to perceive, that there must have been, in some cases, an elevation of the faculties, or a raising of them above their usual degree of vigour, even when the province of the writer was simple narrative. This hath been proved, by a particular reference to
* Rev. i. 1. Gal. i. 12. Eph. ii. 3, 5. 1 Cor. ii. 9, 10.
the evangelists. Tlie account, which hath been now given of the inspiration of the scriptures, has, I think, these two recommendations, that there is no part of them, which does not fall under one or other of the three foregoing heads; and that it carefully discriminates the different kinds or degrees of the agency of the Divine Spirit on the minds of the different writers.*
Some men have adopted very strange and danger'ous notions respecting the inspiration of the scriptures. Dr. Priestley denies, that they were written by a particular divine inspiration, and asserts, that the writers, though men of the greatest probity, were fallible, and have actually committed mistakes in their narrations and their reasonings. We must not anticipate the arguments which refute this opinion, whether advanced by a heretic or an infidel; and I shall, therefore, only observe, that this man and his followers find it their interest to weaken, and set aside the authority of the scriptures, as they have adopted a system of religion, from which all the distinguishing doctrines of revelation are excluded. Others consider the scritures as inspired in those places, where they profess to deliver the word of God; but in other places, especially in the historical parts, they ascribe to them only the same authority which is due to the writings of well-informed and upright men. But as this distinction is perfectly arbitrary, having no foundation in any thing said by the sacred writers themselves, so it is liable to very serious objections. It represents our Lord and his apostles, when they spoke of the Old Testament, as having attested, without any exception or limitation, a number of books as divinely inspired, while some of them were partly, and some were almost entirely human compositions. It supposes the writers of both Testaments to have profanely mixed their own productions with the dictates of the Spirit; and to have passed the unhallowed compound on the world as genuine. In fact, by denying that they were constantly under infallible guidance, it leaves us utterly at a loss to know when we should, or should not believe them.
* According to the Jews, there were three kinds of inspiration, or inodes of revelation. The books of Moses they ascribe to that kind of revelation, which they call mouth to mouth, or face to face, and in proof of which they quote, Numb. xii. 8. Some other books of the Old Testament proceeded from the gift of prophecy, of which they fancy several degrees corresponding to the different methods, which God used in revealing himself to the prophets. The remaining books were written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; and to these they give the wame of the holy writings. That there was a difference in the kind, or degree of inspiration must be adınitted ; but this way of expressing it is inaccurate and absurd. The whole scripture, and not a particular part of it only, was written by the inspiration of the Spirit. Can any thing be more ridiculous than to say, that the two books of Kings were written by the spirit of prophecy ; but that the two books of Chronicles, which so much resemble them, were written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost?
If they could blend their own stories with the revelations made to them, how can I be certain, that they have not, on some occasions, published, in the name of God, sentiments of their own, to which they were desirous to gain credit and authority ? Who will assúre me of their perfect fidelity in drawing a line of distinction, between the divine and the human parts of their writings ? The denial of the plenary inspiration of the scriptures tends to unsettle the foundations of our faith ; involves us in doubt and perplexity; and leaves us no method of ascertaining how much we should believe, except an appeal to reason. But when reason is invested with the authority of a judge, not only is revelation dishonoured, and its Author insulted, but the end for which it was given, is completely defeated. Instead of being admitted as the supreme standard of human opinions and practices in religion, it is degraded into a subordinate rule, and possesses no more authority than the fallible and capricious wisdom of men will allow it to exercise. A revelation, which must be subjected to a discussion of its contents as well as of its evidence, prior to its reception, could not serve any valuable purpose, which might not have been attained without it.
From the preceding account of inspiration, it is easy to perceive, in what sense the scriptures in general may be pronounced to be the Word of God. We give them this designation, because all the parts of which they consist have been written by persons, moved, directed and assisted by his Holy Spirit ; but we do not mean, that all the sentiments contained in them are just, and all the examples are worthy of imitation. In the sacred writings, we meet with sayings and actions, which are neither wiser nor better for being found in them, than if they had occurred in any ordinary history. I apprehend, that some persons, from want of reflection, fall into a mistake in this matter. They quote a sentiment as authoritative, because they read it in the scriptures, without waiting to consider, by whom it was uttered; and draw arguments for the regulation of their own conduct and that of others, from an action, without previously examining, whether it received the divine approbation or not. Yet it is certain, not only that wicked men and wicked spirits, are often introduced as speaking and acting, but that, as the saints of whom mention is made, were