The Inspiration of the Scriptures: Introduction

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No considerate Christian will question the momentous weight due to this truth, 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 5:1313These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (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 baptized 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 to-day for the most part hesitating 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 he 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 forever. 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 recognized 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 fail 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 dishonored throughout Christian times by unbelief of their best blessings in those who have borne the Lord's name; as we were warned, not least of all by false teachers among them as by 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 men.
Take an instance clear and sufficient. In hardly anything 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 an 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 the 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 marked 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.
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 the 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 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 probabilities can raise probability to absolute certainty. God's testimony received by faith does and alone can give divine certainty.
Dr. J. H. N., though professedly at the opposite pole of thought, was really in the same quagmire as his skeptical brother, Prof. F. W. N. It is the case with the rationalists, be they superstitious or profane. Their ground is human, not divine. There are found the “higher critics” with all 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 to-day 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 honors God. For it finds the God-given center in Christ, full cleansing by His work, its 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 baptized 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 profane 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 confidence in 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, according to scripture, now received in full assurance of faith. Hence all joy and peace in believing is unknown to the gloomy man of superstition, and to the airy higher critic. (To be continued, D.V.)