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Title: Inspiration - Its Nature and Extent
Author: Hoare, Edward N.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Inspiration - Its Nature and Extent" ***

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Transcribed from the 1877 Hatchards edition by David Price, email

                          ITS NATURE AND EXTENT.

                                * * * * *

                            THE REV. E. HOARE,


                                * * * * *

                             Second Edition.

                                * * * * *

                          HATCHARDS, PICCADILLY.

                                * * * * *

                       PRINTED BY JOHN STRANGEWAYS,
                         Castle St. Leicester Sq.

                                * * * * *


INTRODUCTION                   1
THE DIVINE ELEMENT             7
THE HUMAN ELEMENT             32
THE COMBINATION               37
DIFFICULTIES                  44


IT is quite impossible to over-estimate the deep importance of this great
subject, for on our conclusions respecting it must depend our confidence
in all the great mysteries of the Gospel.  There is a sphere within which
the human mind is capable of astonishing achievement, and I would be the
last to undervalue human intellect.  It has done vast things already, and
is doing great things now.  But there is a limit beyond which it has no
power to pass; a world in which it has no means of investigation; an
unseen kingdom which lies quite outside its range.  Yet, though unseen,
this kingdom is all important; and, though an undiscovered country, it is
one in which we are all most deeply concerned, for we are all rapidly
hastening thither, and He who is our Father, our Creator, our Redeemer,
our Lord, our life, is the great and unseen Head of it.  Thus, no science
can ever inform us as to the nature of the Godhead, the plan of
salvation, or eternal life; and it is altogether unphilosophical and
unscientific to attempt to reduce such subjects to the ordinary rules of
science and philosophy.  God’s plan of salvation can only be known from
God Himself; so that, if He has not imparted to us all needful knowledge
respecting it, there is no human power that can ever supply the
deficiency, and we must live and die convinced of the soul’s immortality,
but still in utter ignorance of the plan which God has arranged for its
safety.  Hence the inexpressible value of the inspired word of Scripture.
It is the communication from God to man respecting the deep things of the
unseen world.  It supplies that which lies beyond the reach of human
investigation, and gives us exactly that information which dying man
requires.  It unfolds to us the eternal nature of God, and the plan of
salvation which He has prepared in tender mercy for a fallen world.  If
therefore our Bible fail us, our whole hope fails with it, and if we
cannot rely on its sacred statements, we are left without any trustworthy
information as to all those great truths which most deeply concern us.
If we cannot rely on Scripture as a communication from God we have
nothing to take its place; and all our present joy, as well as our future
hopes, must melt away into utter ignorance respecting all that lies
beyond the range of science, and utter hopelessness as to all beyond this
present world.

It is not my present object to attempt to prove the inspiration of
Scripture.  It is a great and noble subject, and one which I should
rejoice to investigate.  But it is not the subject of this paper.  My
object is to examine the extent and nature of inspiration, and to that I
must exclusively confine myself.  I take it for granted therefore that
inspiration is an admitted fact, so that my only business is to consider
how far it carries us, and what security it gives us for certain,
reliable, infallible truth, in all the statements of the inspired word.

It has been said that ‘Inspiration is that idea of Scripture which we
gather from the knowledge of it,’ {5a} and an attempt has been made to
show how by such a definition all difficulties are overcome.  I freely
grant that such a theory does present a very easy and ready method of
getting rid of difficulty, for, if we decide on reducing the authority of
Scripture to our own ideas respecting it, it is not likely that there
will be much left to embarrass us.  There is however one difficulty, and
that a most important one, which it cannot solve.  It can give no solid
foundation for the anxious soul to rest on, and must leave us floating
into eternity with no better support than a vague idea of our own

St. Peter differs very widely from the author of that essay; for though
the author boldly asserts that {5b} ‘for any of the higher or
supernatural views of inspiration there is no foundation in the Gospels
or Epistles,’ St. Peter broadly and plainly asserts that ‘Holy men of God
spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.’ (2 Pet. i. 21.)  Here then
we have the Apostolic definition of the work of inspiration, and by that
definition we are taught that there are two distinct elements to be
considered, the divine and the human; the divine, for the Holy Ghost
moved the writers; and the human, for the communication did not come as a
direct voice from heaven, but holy men spake as they were moved.

In order therefore fully to investigate the subject, it will be necessary
to examine (1) the divine element, (2) the human element, and (3) the
combination of the two; after which we may consider some of the
difficulties which have been thought to lie against the doctrine.


I NEED scarcely say that this divine element is the great subject of
modern controversy.  But I hope we may meet the points more especially
agitated, by considering four questions.

  I.  Does it extend over the whole book?

  II.  Is it equal?

  III.  Is it verbal?

  IV.  Does it render the word infallible?

I.  Does it extend over the whole book?

Our first inquiry, then, must relate to the area covered by it; or, in
other words, to the question, Is the whole inspired?  Were all the
writers of Scripture thus moved by the Holy Ghost? or merely some of
them, and those in certain books only?

Now, taking the language of St. Paul in 2 Tim. iii. 16, as our guide, we
have a clear and decisive answer; for it is here written, ‘All Scripture
is given by inspiration of God.’  It is stated by Dr. Lee {8} that the
word ‘Scripture’ occurs either in the singular or plural no less than
fifty times, and in every single instance it is employed solely with
reference to that collection of writings which were regarded as the
oracles of God.  Everything therefore included in that collection is here
declared to be θεοπνευστος, or given by inspiration.

The only possible question therefore is, How much was included?

Now, whatever men may think of the doctrine of inspiration, all must
admit as an historical fact, that when St. Paul wrote these words, the
whole of the Old Testament was included in the Jewish canon.  The Jews,
notwithstanding all their faults, were admirable guardians of Scripture,
and there was no doubt in the mind of any pious Jew as to what books
together formed his Bible.  He was much clearer on that subject than many
of our modern writers.  When therefore St. Paul spoke of ‘All Scripture,’
there is no doubt in the world that he included in his statement every
line and letter of the Old Testament, and he taught us in those words
that the whole, from first to last, from the first of Genesis to the last
of Malachi was given by inspiration of God.

In saying this, I make no exception whatever with reference to the
historical books.  I think it has been clearly shown that those
historical writings which are not in the Pentateuch are included in that
part of Scripture called the Prophets.  In which case the language of St.
Peter, already quoted, refers to history as well as prediction.  Nay,
more!  I do not hesitate to say, that if I were called upon to prove
inspiration, there is no portion of the whole volume on which I should be
better pleased to meet an opponent than the historical portions of the
Old Testament.  So strong is the argument in their favour, that although
by so saying I may startle some, I am prepared, after the most careful
deliberation, to affirm that I cannot separate them from the word of God
without at the same time abandoning the whole of my Christianity.  My
reason for this statement is, that our Lord Himself in His own teaching
has most distinctly sanctioned them.  Men cavil at the strange miracles
recorded in them, but, while men cavil, He refers to no less than nine of
these miracles as facts.  The flood, the destruction of Sodom and
Gomorrah, the death of Lot’s wife, the burning bush, the manna, the
brazen serpent, the cure of Naaman, the preservation of the widow of
Sarepta, and the rescue of Jonah, are all endorsed by His divine
authority.  To the books of Moses, which are chiefly historical, He
perpetually refers as to the word of God, describing their testimony as
more worthy of credit than that of men risen from the dead.  And as for
the much-despised first chapter of the book of Genesis, the speculation,
as we are now taught, of some ancient Hebrew Descartes, He actually
quotes the 27th verse as descriptive of the fact of creation.  I am
brought therefore to the conclusion that if there is any portion of the
whole volume which may pre-eminently be said to have the broad seal and
stamp of our Lord’s authority placed upon it with His own hand, that
portion is the Pentateuch.  All, therefore, I am thoroughly persuaded,
must rise and fall together.  If we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we
must receive the books of Moses as inspired Scripture; and never can we
abandon them till we are prepared to admit that in His own sacred
teaching the Lord Himself has misled His people, or, in other and plainer
words, till we cease to be believers in Jesus.

But are we to limit this language of St. Paul to the Old Testament?  I
think it has been clearly shown that we are not.  For although the canon
of the New Testament was not complete when St. Paul wrote these words, we
must remember that the second Epistle to Timothy was one of the latest
epistles, and that, according to Horne’s list, the whole of the New
Testament, or very nearly the whole, except the writings of St. John,
were written at or about the time of its publication.  The only question
is, whether these writings were then regarded as Scripture: for, if they
were, they were clearly included in the declaration that all Scripture is
given by inspiration of God.  Now, one thing is perfectly clear, namely,
that St. Paul claimed the authority of Scripture for his own epistles:
for after having carefully drawn the distinction between his private
opinions and inspired decisions, he distinctly says, ‘Yet not I, but the
Lord’ (1 Cor. vii. 10).  It is equally clear that St. Peter classed the
apostles with the prophets, 2 Pet. iii. 2.  It is equally clear again,
that the Gospel of St. Luke was already admitted as Scripture, for in 1
Tim. v. 18, St. Paul quotes two passages, one from Deuteronomy and one
from St. Luke, declaring of both equally that they were taken from
Scripture.  ‘For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that
treadeth out the corn.  And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.’
(Deut. xxv. 4; Luke, x. 7.)  It is equally clear again, that St. Paul’s
Epistles were included by St. Peter in the canon; for he clearly regarded
them as Scripture when he wrote his second epistle.  He saw some
difficulties in them, but that did not affect his opinion of their
admitted inspiration, when he said (2 Pet. iii. 15, 16), ‘Even as our
beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath
written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these
things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that
are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures,
unto their own destruction.’

New Testament therefore, as well as Old, was included in the declaration,
‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God;’ and the conclusion to
which I am irresistibly brought is, that we have no right to pick and
choose amongst the various portions of the word of God.  I believe the
whole to be arranged as a whole for the accomplishment of God’s great
purpose, that the whole is included in ‘the Scriptures,’ and that the
parts are so interwoven one with another, and so beautifully fitted into
each other by God’s divine hand, that there will be found ultimately to
be no intermediate path between receiving the whole as the word of God,
or sweeping away the whole, and launching forth on a sea of scepticism,
without a Bible, without a Saviour, and, as the last step, without a God.

                                * * * * *

II.  Is it equal?

I need scarcely say that many persons, and some of them most excellent
men, have entertained the idea of a graduated scale of inspiration, and
hence the great importance of the question.  Is it equal throughout?  Or
is it variable?

In attempting an answer to this question, it is essential that we observe
the wide distinction between the authorship and the subject-matter of the
book, for, if not, we shall soon get into confusion.

Now Christian brethren must not be startled by my stating that in the
subject-matter there are the widest possible distinctions.  It appears
indeed to consist of three distinct classes of subjects, or rather three
distinct kinds of matter.

In the first place, there are direct communications, communicated from
heaven without the use of the mind of man.  Of this class are the ten
commandments, the words, ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well
pleased,’ and the discourses of our Lord.  Such words were not given by
inspiration, for they did not pass through the medium of the human mind,
but came direct from heaven.  In them there was no inspiration, but

There is a second large class of passages which were given by
inspiration.  The human mind was employed as the medium for conveying
God’s will and purpose.  This was the case with the prophets, the Psalms,
and other similar passages.  Here was inspiration, and the words so
uttered were divine words, though given through the human medium, and not
in direct communication.

But there is a third large class of passages in which there is neither
inspiration nor communication.  There are various sayings and doings of
uninspired men, good actions and bad actions, good words and bad words,
interspersed with miracles and other wonders of God’s hand.  Now no one
supposes that all these persons spoke by inspiration, and it is utterly
unfair to quote such passages as inconsistent with the inspiration of
Scripture, for no one asserts that they are inspired.  It is utterly
unfair, for example, of Mr. Coleridge to quote the language of Job’s
friends, and to attack the inspiration of the book by the assertion that
it is impossible to believe them to be inspired.  Of course it is, for,
if we believed them to be inspired, we should be flying in the face of
the inspired book itself which records the divine communication, ‘Ye have
not spoken of me the thing that is right’ (Job, xlii. 7.)  We do not
claim inspiration for those words, but for the authorship of the book
which declares that the speakers spoke those words, and that in doing so
they were wrong.

In the subject-matter then we have three divisions, direct
communications, inspired writings, and the miscellaneous sayings and
doings of uninspired men.  But in addition to this there is the question
of authorship, which is clearly totally distinct from the matter, and it
is the inspiration of the author which makes the book the word of God.
Whatever the matter be if the author is inspired the book becomes
inspired scripture.  The sayings of uninspired men may be put on record
by an inspired author, and our Heavenly Father may have shown just as
much mercy in directing His prophets to record the sins of bad men for
our warning, as the actions of His chosen servants for our guidance and
encouragement.  Now, so far as the authorship is concerned, we find no
distinction whatever.  All alike is called ‘Scripture;’ all ‘the word of
God;’ all is included in the statement, ‘Whatsoever things were written
aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and
comfort of the scripture might have hope;’ and all is stamped by divine
authority in the words, ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God.’

                                * * * * *

III.  Is it verbal?

I am now approaching a difficult subject, and I should be sorry to speak
rashly.  But at the same time, I must not speak with hesitation, for the
more I have studied the subject the more firmly am I brought to the
deliberate and fixed conviction that the whole book, including words as
well as thoughts, is to be received by the believer as the word of God.
Let me briefly state my reasons.

1.  I can draw no other conclusion from the title given to it, viz. ‘The
word of God.’  When I find it especially mentioned as God’s _word_; when
I meet with such a passage as ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by
every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,’ I find it hard to
believe that the _words_ are not included in the act of inspiration, and
that the divine inspiration extends no farther than to the thoughts.  If
the expression were ‘the truth of God,’ or ‘the will of God,’ I could
understand a reference to His mind without the necessity of applying
inspiration to the language; but I cannot exclude the idea of inspired
words from that book whose title is ‘the _word_ of God.’

2.  I find certain quotations, the whole value of which entirely depends
on verbal accuracy.  In Gal. iii. 16, St. Paul quotes from Gen. xii. 7,
and his whole argument turns on the distinction between the singular and
plural number in one word contained in the promise made to Abraham: ‘He
saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed,
which is Christ.’  So in Matt. xxii. 32, our Lord quotes the words spoken
to Moses in Exod. iii. 6, and rests his whole argument on the present
tense of the substantive verb: ‘I _am_ the God of Abraham, and the God of
Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  God is not the God of the dead, but of the
living,’ proving by that present tense that Abraham was at that time an
existing person awaiting the resurrection.  It may perhaps be said that
both these instances occur in direct divine communications; but we must
remember that we have to consider the inspiration of Moses who recorded
that communication, and surely the quotation proves that the historical
inspiration of the author might be trusted for verbal accuracy.

3.  There are many passages in which the words are quoted quite
independently of the thoughts of the context.  As an illustration, refer
to our Lord’s quotation of Isa. lvi. 7.  The whole of that passage refers
simply to the admission of the sons of the stranger into the covenant.
The emphatic words of the prophecy are ‘for all people,’ and the one idea
of the context is the admission of all people to the covenant.  But, in
unfolding this truth, the prophet was led to express the prophecy in the
words, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer;’ and this expression
our Lord extracts from the prophecy, and makes it the groundwork of His
stern rebuke when He cleared the temple.

4.  Once more.  It seems perfectly clear that the prophets in many cases
did not understand their own writings.  We are sometimes told that we
must only understand the prophecies as the prophets themselves did.  But
if we were to act on that rule, it must follow that in many cases we
could not understand them at all; for we know, in fact, that Daniel had
to pray for an understanding of the prophecy just conveyed through his
own lips, and we are distinctly taught by St. Peter that the prophets
inquired and searched diligently into the meaning of their own
prophecies. (1 Pet. i. 11.)  ‘Searching what, or what manner of time the
Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified
beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.’
This also I have no doubt is the meaning of the expression, ‘No prophecy
is of any private interpretation’ (2 Pet. i. 20), ἰδίας ἐπιλύσεως οὐ
γίνεται, ‘Has not arisen out of private interpretation,’ and is not the
result of the writer’s own thoughts, ‘but holy men of God spake as they
were moved by the Holy Ghost.’  But, if this were the case, the whole
prophecy must depend on verbal accuracy.  If they were employed to speak
words which had a certain deep, hidden meaning, unknown to themselves,
and intended by God to remain unknown until their meaning should be made
manifest by fulfilment at the coming of the Lord, surely we must admit
that it was the words and not the thoughts which God inspired.  The
thoughts were actually withheld from the prophets, but they were moved to
utter words which required events then unknown to bring out their true

5.  But it may be said that this applies to the predictive portions of
Scripture only, and not to the historical.  It possibly may, and the last
argument clearly does.  But have we any thing to lead us to suppose that
there is one kind of inspiration for the predictive, and another for the
historical portions?  Are they not all spoken of as one book?  Are not
many of these verbal quotations included in the historical portions, as
_e.g._ the promise made to Abraham?  Unless, therefore, it can be proved
to me that there is such a distinction drawn by divine authority, I feel
it my privilege to regard the whole as one, to receive the whole with
equal reverence, and to accept the whole, prediction, psalm, history,
facts, thoughts, and words, as the inspired Word of the living God.

But after some measure of careful study, I have been led to the
conviction that the question of verbal inspiration is not the one really
at issue.  For no one believes that, if there be any inaccuracy, it took
place in the words only.  It must have taken place in the thoughts, in
the matter, in the facts.  If, _e.g._, there is a variation between St.
Matthew and St. Luke, no one supposes that they meant to convey the same
thoughts, but made a mistake in accidentally selecting different words.
The real point of the controversy is the infallible accuracy of the
matter.  And this leads to my last question.

                                * * * * *

IV.  Is it infallible?

On the answer to this question must depend our confidence in Scripture.
Some excellent men tell us it is infallible in so far as divine truth is
involved.  But I freely confess that this does not satisfy my own mind.
I do not like that limitation.  I am prepared to receive the whole book
as invested with infallible accuracy from God Himself, and in taking this
view of the subject, I feel the great satisfaction of believing that I am
in harmony with the mind of St. Paul, St. Peter, and our great Head

For St. Paul’s mind, I would refer to his words in Acts, xxviii. 25, and
Heb. x. 15.  In the Acts he is quoting from Isaiah, and says, ‘Well spake
the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet,’ and in the Hebrews he is quoting
from the prophet Jeremiah; but instead of saying, ‘whereof Jeremiah is a
witness to us,’ he says, without mentioning Jeremiah, ‘Whereof the Holy
Ghost also is a witness to us,’ taking the word, as it were, out of the
hands of fallible man, and placing it in those of the infallible Spirit.
These passages place inspiration on an equal footing with direct
communication.  But if inspired writings were spoken of as the actual
words of the Holy Ghost just as much as if they had been direct
communications; if inspiration was of such a character as to render the
words the words of the Spirit Himself, can we believe that those words
were capable of error?

For St. Peter’s testimony, I would refer to his language in 2 Pet. i. 19,
in the context of which passage he is assuring his hearers that he had
not followed cunningly devised fables.  And now mark the threefold
evidence which he produces.  First, there is vision, ‘We were
eye-witnesses of his majesty.’  Secondly, there is hearing, ‘The voice
from heaven we heard.’  But lastly, there is an evidence more clear, more
true, more trustworthy, than either the sight of his own eyes, or the
hearing of his own ears.  That evidence is Scripture.  ‘We have also a
more sure word of prophecy.’

For the testimony of our Lord Himself, refer to two passages, the one
referring to a nice point in a quotation from the Psalms, John, x. 35;
the other to the whole word in its sanctifying power, John, xvii. 17.
Now what is His language?  In the one, ‘The scripture cannot be broken.’
In the other, ‘Thy word is truth.’

With these statements of our blessed Lord, I am content to leave this
portion of our subject.  In these words of Scripture, I believe that God
Himself has spoken to man, and therefore in the midst of all the world’s
disappointments, and in all the failures of even the Church of God, we
have here that on which the soul may calmly, peacefully, and fearlessly
repose.  And whether we look at history or prediction, at promises or
judgments, at prophecies understood by those who uttered them, or
language veiled in mystery until the divine purpose is developed in
history, we receive the whole as inviolable truth, for all has the stamp
of the Spirit Himself, and all is given by inspiration of God.  We
receive it, we honour it, we submit to it, we acknowledge its divine
authority, and welcome with heartfelt thanksgiving its infallible
promises.  Yes, we receive it not merely with the deepest conviction of
our most deliberate judgment: but we welcome it to our soul with all the
deep feelings of a thankful heart, and say with the inspired Psalmist,
‘Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it.’


BUT there is a human element in the book as well as a divine.  ‘Holy men
spake as they were moved.’  We shall take, therefore, a very partial view
of the whole subject if we neglect to consider the action of the holy men
as well as the moving of the Holy Ghost.  What then are the plain,
obvious facts of the case?  Are they not that the books contain as much
evidence of human mind, and human character as if they were uninspired
books?  The human authorship is as prominent and conspicuous as the
divine, and any theory of inspiration which excludes it is, I cannot but
think, opposed to the facts of Scripture.

1.  There is distinctive _character_ in the different writers.  Compare
St. Paul and St. John, St. Peter and St. James, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and
you see the most transparent variety, a variety which renders it
impossible to suppose that they were merely pens, machines, or copyists.

2.  There is the use of _natural powers or gifts_.  St. Paul was a
well-educated, intellectual man, with great reasoning powers, so he
supported truth by argument.  David was a poet, so he breathed out as the
sweet psalmist of Israel the hallowed outpourings of a sanctified heart.

3.  There is the use of _feeling_.  All the emotions of the human heart
may be found in Scripture.  There is no deep feeling of which man is
capable which is not expressed there.  There is love, sorrow in some of
its most tender and touching forms, depression of spirits, joy, hope,
longing desire, deep contrition, calm faith, and perfect peace.  All
these you find, not merely described by the inspired authors, but forming
part and parcel of the inspired word.  They are the very word itself, and
are expressed as naturally as if there were no such thing as inspiration.

4.  There is the use of _memory_.  Our Lord’s promise to His Apostles in
John, xiv. 26, applies clearly to this point, and shows that the gift of
the Holy Ghost, so far from superseding memory, would quicken it, and
give it the power of recalling with accuracy the words intrusted to it.
‘He shall bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said
unto you.’

5.  There was also the use of _personal experience_, as, _e.g._, when St.
John said, ‘The word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld
his glory’ (John, i. 14); and again, ‘That which we have seen and heard
declare we unto you.’ (1 John, i. 1, 3)

And lastly, and it is a very deeply interesting point, there was the
diligent _use of collected information_.  See Luke, i. 1–3, where Luke
does not claim to write original matter, but to have received it from
those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the
word.  It was because he had a perfect understanding from them that he
undertook to write out in order the events of the narrative.

It is clear, therefore, that in the composition of Scripture there was
the free use of the human mind.  The Pentateuch is the word of Moses as
well as the word of God, for when our Lord quotes the fifth commandment
in Mark, vii. 10, He introduces it by the words ‘Moses said;’ although
when He condemns His hearers for the breach of it, he says, they were
‘making the Word of God of none effect by their tradition.’ (Mark, v.
13.)  The human element is therefore as plain as the divine.  We have not
in our Bible a voice speaking from heaven in accents so strange to human
ears that it could only serve to amaze and terrify; but we have God’s
will presented to us through the medium of human language, human feeling,
human thought, and human inquiry; human in all respects but one, and that
is, as we have already found, that it is free from human error.


I TRUST, then, that I have shown clearly the existence of the divine and
human elements in Scripture, but it still remains for us to consider the
third point, namely, THE COMBINATION OF THE TWO.

How is the union between the divine and human to be explained?

1.  Not by supposing that the writers were mere pens, or machines.  This
is sometimes termed the mechanical theory, but it is clearly inconsistent
with facts.  Pens never think, argue, remember, weep, or rejoice, and all
these things were done by the writers of Scripture.

2.  Not by supposing them to be mere copyists or amanuenses employed to
write down the words of the Spirit, as Baruch took down the words of
Jeremiah.  This may have been the case when they received direct
communication, as when Moses wrote out the ten commandments at the
dictation of God: but it will not apply to inspiration, as it gives no
scope for variety of character.  The one dictating mind would be the only
one to appear on such a theory.

3.  We will not attempt to explain it by constructing any artificial
theories as to the action of the Spirit on the mind of men.  Some have
endeavoured to classify the modes in which they consider the Spirit may
have acted, as, _e.g._, supervision, elevation, direction, and
suggestion.  All this may be right, and it may be wrong; for we are
taught (Heb. i. 1) not merely that God spake in divers times, but in
_divers __manners_ unto the fathers by the prophets.  But all such
distinctions are unsupported by Scripture, and therefore we may leave

My own belief is, that the safest course for the believer is to take the
word as he finds it, and to attempt no explanation at all.  The fact is,
that the question lies in the midst of a class of subjects which have
always baffled man’s inquiry, I mean those relating to the points of
contact between the mind of God and the mind of man.  The real point is,
how has the mind of God acted on the mind of man, and how can there be
union in one book between his mind which is infinite and infallible, and
the mind of man which is finite and fallible?  That question I cannot
solve.  But I cannot there leave the inquiry; for it appears to me that
we have an analogous case of the deepest possible importance, I mean the
corresponding union in the person of our blessed Saviour.

Remember, then, that there are two channels through which God has
manifested His will, viz., the incarnate word, and the written word; and
surely we are justified in expecting that there will be something of the
same character in the two manifestations.

Now, how is it with the incarnate word?  In Him there is a perfect
Godhead and a perfect manhood, so that He becomes the perfect daysman
between God and the sinner.  His Deity does not neutralise His humanity,
for, though Himself the Creator, He was wearied, He wept, He prayed, He
trusted, He died; and so He can be touched with the feelings of those who
in this suffering world are called to weep, to suffer, to pray, and to
die now.  But neither, on the other hand, did His humanity neutralise His
Deity, for in the midst of His weakness He could rise in His omnipotence,
and bid the dead arise and the waves be still.  If you ask how it is that
the one did not neutralise the other, I cannot say.  All I know is that
God so ordered it, and that He so formed the union that the perfection of
the Godhead did not destroy the manhood, nor the perfection of the
manhood take one jot or one tittle from the attributes of the Godhead.
And if men reply that they cannot understand it, I can only say that they
have no right to expect to do so, for are we not assured in Scripture,
‘Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest
in the flesh?’

But now, passing from the first manifestation of God’s will to the
second, _i.e._ from the incarnate Word to the written word, are we to be
surprised if we meet with a similar union and a similar difficulty?  If,
in short, we find the self-same combination of the divine and human
elements?  Can I wonder if it is presented to us in a form so divine that
it is infallibly true, and yet so human that it is full of the workings
of the human intellect and human heart?  No, I wonder not, and I
speculate not.  But, as I thank God for an incarnate Redeemer, who has
all the omnipotent and infinite attributes of God, while at the same time
He has so true a manhood that I may appeal to His sympathy on the ground
of His experience of all the trials of the flesh, so I thank God also
that He has given us a Bible so perfect, so divine, so authoritative, so
infallible, that I may trust it without the shadow of a doubt as the
unerring word of the living God, while at the same time it is so
completely human, and thereby so exactly adapted to the human heart’s
requirements, that I can welcome it as a word spoken for myself, and
admire the love of our Heavenly Father who has been pleased to combine in
one book a perfect divinity and a perfect humanity, the infallible truth
of a perfect Godhead combined by God’s mysterious power with the
heart-touching utterance of a true and perfect manhood.


BUT, while we rejoice in the great doctrine of a complete, plenary, and
infallible inspiration, we should be wanting in Christian candour if we
were to ignore the existence of certain difficulties connected with the
subject.  There are difficulties we freely acknowledge, some of which
have been felt, not merely by sceptical, but by devout and Christian
minds; and these difficulties I now propose to consider.

1.  The first of these has been already met.  It arises from the variety
of mind and character in the inspired writers.  This is thought to be
inconsistent with the divine inspiration of the whole book by one
inspiring Spirit; and it would be a difficulty if we believed, according
to the mechanical theory, that the writers were merely pens, machines, or
copyists.  But on the principle that there is a perfect manhood combined
with a perfect Godhead, instead of remaining a difficulty, it becomes one
of the chief beauties of the book, and is the very thing that renders it
so pre-eminently suited to the wants of the human heart.

2.  A second difficulty arises from the idea that the language of
Scripture is opposed to modern science.  The principle of this difficulty
is contained in the words, ‘Any true doctrine of inspiration must conform
to all well-ascertained facts of history or of science.’ {45}

Now, in the first place, we enter our solemn protest against the
Scripture being regarded as a scientific treatise.  Its object was no
more to teach us science than to teach us medicine.  It is therefore
utterly unfair to bring its language to the test of scientific
experiments.  If the allusions of Scripture to surrounding nature were
not altogether in harmony with the discoveries of modern science, it
would not in the least affect my own idea of inspiration; for in making
use of men to convey His own divine message, I could not expect anything
but that our Heavenly Father should make use of such language as men
understood at the time the book was written; and it seems utterly
unreasonable to suppose that He should render His revelation
unintelligible to those to whom it was given, by going out of His way to
anticipate discoveries which were about to be made some thousands of
years afterwards.  But, though the Scriptures are not given to teach
science, and no one has a right to doubt their inspiration because he
does not find scientific accuracy in their language, we are still
prepared to meet the scientific man on his own ground, and fearlessly to
affirm that there is nothing in Scripture opposed to the well-ascertained
discoveries of science.

For mark well.  There is nothing in a miracle opposed to the laws of
science.  Science refers to those laws of nature which are within reach
of our investigation; but if, at any time, the Creator should displace
them, either by the action of higher laws unknown to us, or by the simple
power of His will, science knows nothing of that displacement.  It is the
office of science to investigate existing laws; but science knows nothing
of any interruptions of those laws by the sovereign will of Him who
founded them.  Such interruptions lie altogether beyond its province.
All, for example, that science can say is, that we know of no law which
could cause the sun to stand still on Gibeon.  But does Scripture ever
assert that it was done by any law within our knowledge?  Is it not
represented as the act of God’s omnipotence suspending known laws?  And
is not that suspending power altogether beyond the reach of scientific
inquiry?  The miracle therefore, lies beyond the reach of science, and
cannot be opposed to it.

But as for the well-ascertained laws of nature and well-established
scientific facts, we fearlessly assert that there is nothing in Scripture
opposed to them.

Let us consider for a moment the two cases most commonly quoted as
involving contradiction: the description of the sun standing still on
Gibeon, and the Mosaic account of the creation.

With reference to the former there are two objections urged.  The first
is that of the infidel who denies the possibility of the miracle, but
with that I have nothing to do, as I have already shown that miracles are
not within the range of science.  The second is founded on the language
of the narrative, which is thought to imply an ignorance of the earth’s
rotation on its axis.  But really this is so childish that it is scarcely
worth our notice.  Is there any one in his senses who would have expected
Joshua to say, ‘Earth, suspend your rotation round your axis;’ or to have
framed his language in any other way so as to describe that rotation?
And if Joshua ought to have so expressed himself, why do not astronomers
and other learned men alter their own language now according to their own
science?  Or are we to suppose that after all they know nothing about
astronomy, because they speak like ignorant men, and say, like the rest
of us, ‘the sun rises and the sun sets?’

The other case, however, is more important, for it is the object of the
first chapter of the Book of Genesis to give an account of creation, and
it is perfectly reasonable therefore to expect to find it in harmony with
geological facts.  But mark.  There is a great difference between being
in harmony with geological _facts_, and in harmony with every geological
_theory_ that is started.  We must confine the argument to what is known,
and we have nothing to do with what people think.  True science is a
rigid thing, and relates to facts, not opinions.  When, _e.g._, people
tell us that there could not be light before the sun, they are thoroughly
unscientific in so saying, for they know nothing of the kind.  There is a
vast amount of light at this present time quite independent of the sun,
and the idea that there could be none before it is nothing more than an
unscientific conjecture.  No! we must keep rigidly to facts, to facts
really established by trustworthy evidence; and, keeping stedfastly to
such facts, I have not the least shadow of anxiety respecting geological
discovery.  On the contrary, I believe that the first chapter of Genesis
will furnish us, and is even already furnishing us, with one of the
grandest arguments ever yet produced for the divine inspiration of the
book of Scripture.  I cannot but think that that first chapter is placed
in the forefront of the book in order to present us, at the outset of the
whole, with an unanswerable evidence of the divinity of its origin.

For what is the present position of geology?  In the first place, it is a
very young science, one of scarcely more than fifty years’ growth.  The
most profound geologists are most convinced how much there is still to be
learned, and they are learning more every day.  No really wise man
therefore would give up the inspiration of Scripture in deference to
these present conclusions, even if those conclusions should at first
sight seem to be opposed to the inspired word.

But they are not opposed to it.  There may be a difference of opinion
among Christian men as to which is the right principle of harmony, but
there is no difficulty in harmonizing all geological facts with the
plain, literal, straightforward, honest interpretation of every sentence
of the sacred record.  Nay more!  There is one remarkable point of
harmony clearly established, viz., this, that in its great outlines the
order of events recorded in the book of Scripture is the same as the
order as exhibited in the record of the rocks.  Moses describes a certain
order in creation.  Three thousand years after Moses, learned men began
to investigate the earth’s crust, and in the rocks which form that crust,
they have discovered the outlines of a certain order.  They have come to
the conclusion that certain great events must have succeeded each other
in the creation of the world.  Here therefore you have two records, one
from the rocks, and one from Moses: one only just now discovered, and one
given more than three thousand years ago.  But place them side by side.
Do not be afraid of comparing them, for truth is never afraid of
investigation.  But in comparing them what do we find?  That the order in
the rocks in all its broad features corresponds step by step with the
order in the Mosaic record; and though there are still some minor
difficulties, still in the great, grand, broad facts there is a
magnificent harmony.  But whence did Moses learn that order?  The events
must have taken place millions and millions of years before ever man trod
this earth.  There were no geologists in his day to teach him.  How then
could he have known the order of events which took place ages before
man’s being?  There is only one answer to be given, and that is, that he
must have been taught it by God Himself.  Thus we may thank our modern
geologists, as many of them delight in believing, for having in these
days of infidelity dug out from the bowels of the earth a fresh and noble
proof, which had lain buried there for centuries, that the first chapter
of the Book of Genesis was given to Moses by inspiration of God.

But we may go further still with reference to science, and remark that
there are many expressions in Scripture remarkably in harmony with it,
and which almost appear to indicate a mind far in advance of the
knowledge of the day.  Take, _e.g._, the distinction drawn by Moses
between rain and dew in Deut. xxxii. 2, ‘My doctrine shall drop as the
rain, and my speech shall distil as the dew.’  Or the language of Job
respecting the weight of the atmosphere, a scientific truth unknown till
the days of Galileo: ‘To make the weight for the winds.’ (Job, xxviii.
25.)  Many similar passages might be quoted, but these are sufficient to
show that, although it was not the purpose of the book to teach science,
there lay hidden within the book the germs of the truest science, waiting
there unobserved till scientific men should discover the facts, and so by
their science bring to light a fresh evidence of the divine inspiration
of the book.

3.  It is alleged that the sacred writers differed in some instances from
secular historians.  The favourite instances adduced are the date of the
governments of Cyrenius in Syria, and that of Lysanius at Abylene.  The
one is placed by Josephus about eleven years after the birth of our Lord,
and the other about the same distance of time before the commencement of
John the Baptist’s ministry.  It is a real pleasure to find men fixing on
such minute points, and to see them obliged to leave unassailed the vast
amount of accumulated evidence to the accurate fidelity of the sacred
records.  I confess that the simple fact of their fastening on such
points proves very clearly to my own mind that they have nothing very
substantial on which to fasten.  Suggestions have been thrown out, which,
if true, may meet the difficulty; but with our limited information, after
an interval of one thousand eight hundred years, it is impossible to be
sure that they are correct.  But suppose there is a difference.  Suppose
the chronology of Josephus is at variance with that of St. Luke.  Suppose
that one or the other is in error.  Is it impossible, I ask, that
Josephus may be wrong?  Is he infallible?  Are his writings guaranteed
from error?  And why should the Christian tamely surrender the point, and
quietly submit to the conclusion that St. Luke is wrong and Josephus
right?  I protest against such a surrender, and, till there is clearer
evidence than we have obtained at present, I shall venture to believe
that Josephus is mistaken if in anything he really differs from the
inspired word.

4.  But I have left to the last that which to many minds is the greatest
difficulty.  I mean the variations, or as some would call them, the
apparent discrepancies, between the sacred writers themselves.

Now I have no wish to deny the existence of such variations, though I
dislike the term ‘discrepancies,’ for I do not believe there is
discrepancy.  And in dealing with this difficulty, there are, I conceive,
three principles to be kept clearly in mind.

1.  The narratives are very short and fragmentary in their character.
They never attempt to record the whole.  Hence one gives one fragment,
and another a second, and these fragments are often like the fossil bones
of a skeleton.  Ignorant men, which we all are, cannot fit them together;
but we must not on that account assert them to be contradictory; for when
the structure of the whole is once discovered, they will all fit into
their proper places, and all the scattered fragments be combined in
perfect symmetry.

2.  There is the widest possible distinction between variation and
contradiction.  If two writers give an account of the same event, they
will each regard it from their own point of view, and describe it as it
impressed themselves.  Hence one will bring into prominence certain facts
which are altogether omitted by another.  But such a variation is totally
different from contradiction.  An excellent illustration of this is found
in the case of the inscription over the cross, a case which Dean Alford
considers decisive against verbal inspiration.  Now I am quite ready to
admit that, if there were contradiction, it would be decisive.  But I
deny that there is any contradiction whatever.  There is variation, but
nothing more.  All agree in the emphatic point—’The king of the Jews,’
and the only difference is that some give in addition a few more words
than others.  But these added words are not at variance with each other.
On the contrary, they all combine in one sentence, which probably formed
the real inscription.  That sentence is Οὔτός ἐστιν Ἰησους ὄ Ναζαραίος ὄ
Βασιλεὺς των Ἰουδαίων.  ‘This is Jesus of Nazareth the king of the Jews.’
Now, supposing that to have been the real sentence, so that each of the
evangelists omitted some of the explanatory words, while all preserved,
‘The king of the Jews,’ which was the real point of the inscription,
there was no discrepancy or contradiction in such omissions, nor anything
to affect our full and complete reliance in the verbal accuracy of all
the four evangelists.

3.  It is also most important for us to remember that such variations are
essential to the value of a fourfold testimony.  If God had seen fit to
impart His truth by direct communication only, then I freely grant that I
should have expected a _verbatim_ agreement in the narratives.  But in
that case there would have been no employment of the human element.  Nay
more; if the life of our Lord had been so reported, the evidence would
have become single, instead of fourfold.  Even, as it is, it has been
argued that the resemblance is so accurate as to show that the
evangelists copied from one common tradition, and must not be regarded as
independent witnesses.  The variation therefore becomes almost as
important to us as the agreement, and, instead of shaking our
convictions, confirms them.  That blessed Redeemer is the corner-stone of
our hopes, and therefore, instead of two witnesses, which under the law
were sufficient, He has given us two pair of witnesses.  And in the
inspiration of their words He has given so much scope to the human
element that there are all the variations inseparable from independent
testimony; while, on the other hand, He has so guided, directed, and
controlled the whole, that, notwithstanding all the cavils of sceptics,
there is no real contradiction in their statements.  There is variation
enough to prove the independence of their evidence, while there is such a
depth in their complete agreement, as can only be explained by the fact
that they were taught by God’s Spirit to convey to us infallible truth.

Other objections have, I know, been urged; but all, I firmly believe, may
be fully and fairly met by the principle that it has pleased God in His
own wisdom to combine in the one book the divine and human element.  In
some cases the mind of the man may be more conspicuous than the mind of
the Spirit, while in others the mind of the Spirit seems completely to
overrule the mind of the author who wrote the words.  In some passages
the thoughts are so far within man’s compass that no inspiration appears
to be necessary, while in others they dive so deep into hidden mysteries
that they far outstep the utmost range of the human intellect.  Thus God
has given us a record of what man has felt, as well as a statement of His
own hidden will.  He has given it through the medium of minds of the same
nature as our own; but by His own mysterious power He has given their
writings such a divine authority that they claim our unwavering trust; so
that, notwithstanding the cavils of infidels, and the sneers of those who
despise us as bibliolaters, we heartily thank God for our Bibles, and
receive as divine all that God has taught in them, believing without
reserve the statement of St. Peter, that ‘Holy men of God spake as they
were moved by the Holy Ghost.’

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

          Printed by JOHN STRANGEWAYS, Castle St. Leicester Sq.

                                * * * * *


{5a}  _Essays and Reviews_, p. 347.

{5b}  Ibid. p. 345.

{8}  _Inspiration of Holy Scripture_.

{45}  _Essays_, p. 348.

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