Part 02 Bibliology’s Theopneustia
BY L. GAUSSEN, D.D.,
PROFESSOR OF SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY, ORATOIRE, GENEVA.
Table of Contents
Theopneustia: The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures
L. Gaussen, D.D.
Edinburgh & London: Johnstone & Hunter, 1850. pp.365.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Definition of the Theopneustia, or Divine Inspiration 23
Chapter 2: Scriptural Proof of Divine Inspiration 58
Chapter 3: Brief Didactic Abastract of the Doctrine of the Divine Inspiration 106
Chapter 4: Examination of Objections 153
Chapter 5: Examination of Evasions 275
Chapter 6: On Sacred Criticism, in Relations it Bears to Divine Inspiration 323
Chapter 7: Conclusion 349 – 365
Note: * Footnote numbers do not match those of the original.
Links to the originally published chapters from https://biblicalstudies.org.uk
BY L. GAUSSEN, D.D.,
PROFESSOR OF SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY, ORATOIRE, GENEVA.
Quæritur an In scribendo, ita acti et inspirati fuerint a Spiritu Sanoto, et quoad
res ipsas, et quond verba, ut ab omni errore immunes fuerint: Adverearii negant:
F. TURRETINI, Theol. elenct., t. I., Ioc. ii., 9.4.
TRANSLATED FROM THE LATEST EDITION, REVISED AND
ENLARGED BY THE AUTHOR.
JOHNSTONE & HUNTER, 15 PRINCES STREET;
AND 26 PATERNOSTER ROW,
TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE v
PREFATORY OBSERVATIONS 5
DEFINITION OF THE TIIEOPNEUSTIA, OR DIVINE INSPIRATION.
Section I. 23
Section II. 24
Section III. 26
Section IV. 32
Section V. – On the Individuality of the Sacred Writers 38
SCRIPTURAL PROOF OF THE DIVINE INSPIRATION.
Section 1. – All Scripture is Divinely Inspired 58
Section II. – All the Prophetic Utterances are given by God 59
Section III. – All the Scriptures of the Old Testament are Prophetic 67
Section 1V. – All the Scriptures of the New Testament are Prophetic 73
Section V. – The Examples of the Apostles, and of their Master, attest
that in their view all the Words of the Holy Books are given by
BRIEF DIDACTIC ABSTRACT OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE DIVINE INSPIRATION.
Section I. – Catechetical Sketch of the Main Points of the Doctrine 106
Section II. – On the Adversaries and Defenders of the Doctrine 139
EXAMINATION OF OBJECTIONS.
Section I. – The Translations 153
Section II. – Use of the Septuagint Translation 161
Section III. – The Various Readings 164
Section IV. – Errors of Reasoning or of Doctrine 197
Section V. – Errors in the Narratives – Contradictions in the Facts 207
Section VI. – Errors contrary to Natural Philosophy 244
Section VII. – The Declarations of Paul himself 271
EXAMINATION OF EVASIONS.
Section I. – Might not Inspiration pertain to the Thoughts only,
without extending to the Words? 275
Section II. – Should we except from Inspiration the Historical Books? 286
Section III. – Will the apparent insignificance of certain Details in the
Bible authorize their being excepted from Inspiration? 306
ON SACRED CRITICISM, IN THE RELATIONS IT BEARS TO DIVINE INSPIRATION.
Section I. – Sacred Criticism is a Scientific Inquirer, and not a Judge 324
Section II. – Let Sacred Criticism be an Historian, not a Soothsayer 330
Section III. – Sacred Criticism is the Doorkeeper of the Temple, not
its God 336
Section I. – Retrospect 349
Section II. 355
Soon after the first publication of the Theopneustia, the late Rev. Dr Welsh wrote to me,
urging me to translate it for the press. A series of other engagements prevented me from doing
so for several years. At last, in answer to a call for a cheaper and less bulky translation than
one that had meanwhile appeared in London, I applied myself to the task, and had completed
it before seeing what my predecessor had published in the south. The present translation being
from the latest French edition, has the advantage of all the author’s improved arrangement.
The importance of the subject, the high character of the author, and the admirable manner in
which he has acquitted himself, required that no ordinary pains should be bestowed in doing
him justice. These pains I have not spared.
I have endeavoured, as far as I could, to give the texts quoted from Scripture in the precise
words of our authorized version, and to secure the utmost possible correctness in the
references. The headings at the top of the pages will, it is hoped, be of considerable use to the
After consulting an eminent authority as to the propriety of the change, “plenary inspiration,”
“divine inspiration,” or “verbal inspiration,” have been substituted throughout for the term
Theopneustie, borrowed by the author from the Greek, and retained on the title-page. It was
thought that the frequent recurrence of so unusual a word might repel ordinary readers, and
make it appear that the book was exclusively for the learned.
At a time when almost all religious controversies seem to turn, more or less, on the question,
How far the Holy Scriptures are inspired? and when persons of all ranks and classes are called
upon to arm themselves against various errors, having their root in false or inadequate views
on this subject, it seems hardly possible to overrate the value of the work now before the
reader. Nor is it only as a work of controversy that it is invaluable. It is imbued throughout
with a spirit of affectionate earnestness and glowing piety, which, even when it makes the
greatest demand on the intellect, never suffers the heart to remain cold. Add to this, the
wonderful copiousness of the illustrations, which the author seems to borrow with equal case
from the simplest objects in nature, the deepest wells of learning, the remotest deductions of
science, and the history at once of the most ancient and most modern times. In short, as we
accompany him from page to page and chapter to chapter, we seem not so much to be reading
a book, as to be listening to a devout and accomplished friend, expatiating on a favourite
subject a subject of the very greatest importance, and one amid all the details of which he is
quite at home.
DAVID D. SCOTT.
Sept. 20, 1850.
A glance at this book and its title may have prepossessed certain minds against it, by creating
two equally erroneous impressions. These I would fain dissipate.
The Greek title “Theopneustia,” although borrowed from St Paul, and although it has long
been used in Germany, from not having found its way into our language, may, no doubt, have
led more than one reader to say to himself of the subject here treated, that it is too learned and
abstruse (scientjfique) to be popular, and too little popular to be important.
Yet I am bold to declare, that if any thing has given me at once the desire and the courage to
undertake it, it is just the double conviction I entertain of its importance and its simplicity.
And, first of all, I do not think that, after we have come to know that Christianity is divine,
there can be presented to our mind any question bearing more essentially on the vitality of our
faith than this: “Does the Bible come from God? is it altogether from God? or may it not be
true, as some have maintained, that there occur in it maxims purely human, statements not
exactly true, exhibitions of vulgar ignorance and ill-sustained reasoning? in a word, books, or
of books, foreign to the interests of the faith, subject to the natural weakness of the writer’s
judgment, and alloyed with error?” Here we have a question that admits of no compromise, a
fundamental question – a question of life! It is the first that confronts you on opening the
Scriptures, and with it your religion ought to commence.
Were it the case, as you whom I now address will have it, that all in the Bible is not
important, does not bear upon the faith, and does not relate to Jesus Christ; and were it the
case, taking another view, that in that book there is nothing inspired except what, in your
opinion, is important, does bear upon the faith, and does relate to Jesus Christ; then your
Bible is quite a different book from that of the Fathers, of the Reformers, and of the Saints of
all ages. It is fallible; theirs was perfect. It has chapters or parts of chapters, it has sentences
and expressions, to be excluded from the number of the sentences and expressions that are
God’s; theirs was “all given by inspiration of God,” “all profitable for doctrine, for reproof,
for correction, for instruction in righteousness, and for rendering the man of God perfect by
faith in Christ Jesus.” In that case, one and the same passage is, in your judgment, as remote
from what it was in theirs as earth is from heaven.
You may have opened the Bible, for example, at the 45th Psalm, or at the Song of Songs; and
while you will see nothing there but what is most human in the things of the earth – a long
epithalamium, or the love communings of a daughter of Sharon and her young bridegroom –
they read there of the glories of the Church,
the endearments of God’s love, the deep things of Jesus Christ – in a word, all that is most
divine in the things of heaven; and if they found themselves unable to read of those things
there, they knew at least that they were there, and there they tried to find them.
Suppose now that we both take up one of St Paul’s epistles. While one of us will attribute such
or such a sentence, the meaning of which he fails to seize, or which shocks his carnal sense, to
the writer’s Jewish prejudices, to the most common intentions, to circumstances altogether
human; the other will set himself, with profound respect, to scan the thoughts of the Holy
Ghost: he will believe these perfect even before he has caught their meaning, and will put any
apparent insignificance or obscurity to the account of his own dulless or ignorance alone.
Thus, while in the Bible of the one all has its object, its place, its beauty, and its use, as in a
tree, branches and leaves, vessels and fibres, epidermis and bark even, have all theirs; the
Bible of the other is a tree of which some of the leaves and branches, some of the fibres and
the bark, have not been made by God.
But there is much more than this in the difference between us; for not only, according to your
reply, we shall have two Bibles, but no one can know what your Bible really is.
It is human and fallible, say you, only in a certain measure; but who shall define that
measure? If it be true that man, in putting his baneful impress upon it, have left the stains of
humanity there, who shall determine the depth of that impression, and the number of those
stains? You have told me that it has its human
part; but what are the limits of that part, and who is to fix them for me? Why, no one. These
every one must determine for himself, at the bidding of his own judgment; in other words, this
fallible portion of the Scriptures will be enlarged in the inverse ratio of our being illuminated
by God’s light, and a man will deprive himself of communications from above in the very
proportion that he has need of them; in like manner as we see idolaters make to themselves
divinities that are more or less impure, in proportion as they themselves are more or less
alienated from the living and holy God! Thus, then, every one will curtail the inspired
Scriptures in different proportions, and making for himself an infallible rule of that Bible, so
corrected by himself, will say to it: “Guide thou me henceforth, for thou art my rule!” like
those makers of graven images of whom Isaiah speaks, “who make to themselves a god, and
say to it, Deliver me, for thou art my god.” – (Isa. xliv. 17.)
But this is not all; what follows is of graver import still. According to your reply, it is not the
Bible only that is changed, – it is you.
Yes, even in presence of the passages which you have most admired you will have neither the
attitude nor the heart of a believer! How can that be, after you have summoned these along
with the rest of the Scriptures before the tribunal of your judgment, there to be pronounced by
you divine, or not divine, or semi-divine? What authority for your soul can there be in an
utterance which for you is infallible only in virtue of yourself? Had it not to present itself at
your bar, along with other sayings of the same book, which you have pro-
nounced to be wholly or partly human? Will your mind, in that case, put itself into the humble
and submissive posture of a disciple, after having held the place of a judge? This is
impossible. The deference you will show to it will be that perhaps of acquiescence, never that
of faith; of approval, never of adoration. Do you tell me that you will believe in the divinity of
the passage? but then it is not in God that you will believe, but in yourself! This utterance
pleases, but does not govern you; it stands before you like a lamp; it is not within you as an
unction from above – a principle of light, a fountain of life! I do not believe there ever was a
Pope, however possessed with notions of the importance of his own priestly office, who could
confidently address his prayers to a dead person, whom he had himself, by canonizing him of
his own plenary authority, raised to the rank of the demigods. How, then, shall a reader of the
Bible, who has himself canonized a passage of the Scriptures, however possessed with a high
idea of his own wisdom, possibly have the disposition of a true believer with regard to such a
passage? Will his mind come down from his pontifical chair, and humble itself before this
utterance of thought, which, but for himself, would remain human, or at least doubtful? No
one tries to fathom the meaning of a passage which he has himself legitimated, only in virtue
of a meaning which he thinks he has already found. One submits only by halves to an
authority which he has had it in his power to decline, and which he has once held to be
doubtful. One worships but imperfectly what he has first degraded.
Besides, and let this be carefully noted, inasmuch as
the entire divinity of such or such a passage of the Scriptures depends. in your view, not on its
being found in the book of God’s oracles, but on its presenting certain traits of spirituality and
wisdom to your wisdom and your spirituality, the sentence that you pass cannot always be so
exempt from hesitation as that you shall not retain, with regard to it, some of the doubts with
which you set out. Hence your faith will necessarily participate in your uncertainties, and will
be itself imperfect, undecided, conditional. As is the sentence, so will be the faith; and as is
the faith, so will be the life. But such is not the faith, neither is such the life of God’s elect.
But what will better show the importance of the question which is about to occupy us is, that
if one of the two systems to which it may lead has, as we have said, all its roots imbued with
scepticism, its fruit inevitably will be a new unbelief.
How do we come to see that so many thousands can every morning and. evening open their
Bibles without once perceiving there doctrines which it teaches with the utmost clearness?
How can they thus, during many a long year, walk on in darkness with the sun in their hands?
Do they not hold these books to be a revelation from God? Yes, but prepossessed with false
notions of the divine inspiration, and believing that there still exists in Scripture an alloy of
human error – fain to find in it, nevertheless, its reasonable utterances of thought, in order to
their being authorized to believe these divine – they make it their study, as if unconsciously, to
give these a meaning that their own wisdom approves; and thus not only do they render
incapable of recognising therein the wisdom of God, but they sink the Scriptures in their own
respect. In reading St Paul’s epistles, for example, they will do their utmost to find in them
man’s justification by the law, his native innocence and bent towards that which is good, the
moral omnipotence of his will – the merit of his works. But, then, what happens? Alas! just
that after having given the sacred writer such forced meanings, they find his language so illconceived
for his assumed object, such ill-chosen terms for what he is made to say, and such
ill-sustained reasonings, that, as if in spite of themselves, they lose any respect felt for the
letter of the Scriptures, and plunge into rationalism. It is thus that, after having commenced
with unbelief; they reap a new unbelief as the fruit of their study; darkness becomes the
recompense of darkness, and that terrible saying of Christ is fulfilled, “From him that hath
not, shall be taken away even that which he hath.”
Such, then, it is evident, is the fundamental importance of the great question with which we
are about to be occupied.
According to the answer which you, to whom we now address ourselves, make to it, the arm
of God’s Word is palsied for you; the sword of the Spirit has become blunted – it has lost its
temper and its power to pierce. How could it henceforth penetrate your joints and marrow?
How could it become stronger than your lusts, than your doubts, than the world, than Satan?
How could it give you energy, victory, light, peace? No! It possibly may happen, at wide
intervals of time, by a pure effect of God’s unmerited favour, that, in spite of this dismal state
of a soul, a divine utterance may come
and seize it at unawares; but it does not remain the less true, that this disposition which judges
the Scriptures, and doubts beforehand of their universal inspiration, is one of the greatest
obstacles that we can oppose to their acting with effect. “The word spoken,” says St Paul
(Heb. iv. 2), “did not profit, not being mixed with faith in them who heard it;” while the most
abundant benedictions of that same Scripture were at all times the lot of the souls which
received it, “not as the word of man, but which it is truly, as the word of God, working
effectually in them who believe.” – (l Thess. ii. 13.)
It will thus be seen, that this question is of immense importance in its bearing upon the vitality
of our faith; and we are entitled to say, that between the two answers that may be made to it,
there lies the same great gulf that must have separated two Israelites who might both have
seen Jesus Christ in the flesh, and both equally owned him as a prophet; but one of whom,
looking to his carpenter’s dress, his poor fare, his hands inured to labour, and his rustic
retinue, believed further, that he was not exempt from error and sin, as an ordinary prophet;
whilst the other recognised in him Immanuel, the Lamb of God, the everlasting God, our
Righteousness, the King of kings, the Lord of lords.
The reader may not yet have admitted each of these considerations; but he will at least admit
that I have said enough to be entitled to conclude that it is worth while to study such a
question, and that, in weighing it, you hold in your hands the most precious interests of the
people of God. This is all I desired in a preface. It was the first point to which I wished to
direct the reader’s attention beforehand, and now comes the second.
If the study of this doctrine be the duty of all, that study is also within the reach of all; and the
author scruples not to say, that in writing his book, the dearest object of his ambition has been
to make it level to the comprehension of all classes of readers.
Meanwhile, he thinks he hears many make this objection. You address yourself to men of
learning, they will say; your book is no concern of ours: we confine ourselves to religion, but
here you give us theology.
Theology no doubt! but, what theology? Why, that which ought to be the study of all the heirs
of eternal life, and with respect to which a very child may be a theologian.
Religion and theology! let us explain what we mean; for often are both these terms abused to
the injury of both, by people presuming to set the one against the other. Is not theology
defined in all our dictionaries as “the science which has for its object, God and his
revelation?” Now, when I was a boy at school, the catechism of my childhood made this the
designation of my religion. “It is the science,” it told me, “that teaches us to know God and
his Word, God and his counsels, God in Christ.” So, then, there is no difference between
them, in object, means, or aim. Their object is truth; their means, the Word of God; their aim,
holiness. “Sanctify them, O Father, by thy truth: thy Word is truth!” Such is the aim
contemplated by both, as it was that of their dying Master. How, then, shall we distinguish the
one from the other? By this alone – that theology is religion studied more methodically, and
with the aid of more perfect instruments.
Men have contrived, no doubt, to make, under the
name of theology, a confused compound of philosophy, or the traditions of men with God’s
word; but that was not theology – it was only scholastic philosophy.
It is true that the term Religion is not always employed in its objective sense, to signify the
science that embraces the truths of our faith; but it is used also, with a subjective meaning, to
designate rather the sentiments which those truths foster in the hearts of believers. Let these
two meanings be kept distinct. This is what we may do, and ought to do; but to oppose the
one to the other, by calling the one Religion, the other Theology, were a deplorable absurdity.
This would be to maintain, in other terms, that one might have the religious sentiments
without the religious doctrines from which alone they spring; this would imply that you would
have a man to be moral without having any religious tenets, pious without belief, a Christian
without Christ, an effect without a cause – living without a soul! Deplorable illusion! “holy
Father, this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ
whom thou host sent.”
But even were it rather in its objective sense that people set themselves to oppose religion to
theology – that is to say, the religion a Christian learns in his native tongue in his Bible, to the
religion which a more accomplished person would study in the same Bible with the aid of
history and of the learned languages – still I would say, even in this case, Distinguish between
the two; don’t oppose them to each other! Ought not every true Christian to be a theologian as
far as he can? Is he not enjoined to be learned in the Word of God, nurtured in sound doctrine,
rooted and established
in the knowledge of Jesus Christ? And was it not to the multitude that Our Lord said, in the
midst of the street, “Search the Scriptures.”
Religion, then, in its objective meaning, bears the same relation to theology that the globe
does to astronomy. They are distinct, and yet united; and theology renders the same services
to religion that the astronomy of the geometricians offers to that of seamen. A ship captain
might, no doubt, do without the Mécanique Céleste in finding his way to the seas of China, or
in returning from the Antipodes; but even then it is to that science that, while traversing the
ocean with his elementary notions, he will owe the advantage he derives from his formulas,
the accuracy of his tables, and the precision of the methods which give him his longitudes,
and set his mind at ease as to the course he is pursuing. Thus too, the Christian, in order to his
traversing the ocean of this world, and to his reaching the haven to which God calls him, may
dispense with the ancient languages and the lofty speculations of theology; but, after all, the
notions of religion with which he cannot dispense, will receive, in a great measure, their
precision and their certainty from theological science. And while he steers towards eternal life
with his eyes fixed on the compass which God has given him. Still it is to theology that he
will owe the certainty that that heavenly magnet is the same that it was in the days of the
apostles – that the instrument of salvation has been placed intact in his hands, that its
indications are faithful, and that the needle never varies.
There was a time when all the sciences were mysterious, professing secresy, having their
their sacred language, and their freemasonry. Physical science, geometry, medicine, grammar,
history – every thing was treated of in Latin. Men soared aloft in the clouds, far above the
vulgar crowd; and would drop now and then from their bark sublime a few detached leaves,
which we were bound to take up respectfully, and were not allowed to criticise. Now-a-days,
all is changed. Genius glories in making itself intelligible to the mass of mankind; and after
having mounted up to the ethereal regions of science, there to pounce upon truth in her
highest retreats, it endeavours to find a method of coming down again, and approaching near
enough to let us know the paths it has pursued, and the secrets it has discovered. But if such
be at present the almost universal tendency of the secular sciences, it has been at all times the
distinctive character of true theology, That science is at the service of all. The others may do
without the people, as the people may do without them; true theology, on the contrary, has
need of flocks, as they again have need of it. It preserves their religion; and their religion
preserves it in turn. Woe to them when their theology languishes, and does not speak to them!
Woe to them when the religion of the flocks leave it to go alone, and no longer esteems it We
ought then, both for its sake and for theirs, to hold that it should speak to them, listen to them,
study in their sight, and keep its schools open to them as our churches are.
When theology occupies the professor’s chair in the midst of Christian flocks, its relations
with them, constantly keeping before its eyes the realities of the Christian life, constantly
recall to it also the realities of
science: man’s misery, the counsels of the Father, the Redeemer’s cross, the consolations of
the Holy Ghost, holiness, eternity. Then, too, the Church’s conscience, repressing its
wanderings, overawes its hardihood, compels it to be serious, and corrects the effects of that
familiarity, so readily running into profaneness, with which the science of the schools puts
forth its hand and touches holy things. In speaking to it, day after day, of that life which the
preaching of the doctrines of the Cross nourishes in the Church (a life, without the knowledge
of which all its learning would be as incomplete as the natural history of man were it derived
from the study of dead bodies), the religion of the flocks disengages theology from its
excessive readiness to admire those branches of knowledge which do not sanctify. It often
repeats to it the question addressed by St Paul to the perverted science of the Galatians:
“Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” It disabuses it of
the wisdom of man; it imbues it with reverence for the Word of God, and (in that holy Word),
for those doctrines of the righteousness of faith which are “the power of God our Saviour,”
and which ought to penetrate the whole soul of its science. Thus does it teach it practically
how to associate, in its researches, the work of the conscience with that of the understanding,
and never to seek after God’s truth but under the combined lights of study and prayer.
And, on the other hand, theology renders in its turn, to Christian flocks, services with which
they cannot long dispense without damage. It is it that watches over the religion of a people,
to see that the lips of the
priest keep knowledge, and that the law may be had from his mouth. It is it that preserves
purity of doctrine in the holy ministry of the gospel, and the just balancing of all truths in
preaching. It is it that assures the simple against the confident assertions of a science
inaccessible to them. It is it that goes for its answers to the same quarters whence those
assertions have come; which puts its finger on the sophisms of the adversaries of truth,
overawes them by its presence, and compels them, before the flocks, to avoid exaggeration,
and to put some reserve on the terms they employ. It is it that gives the alarm at the first and
so often decisive moment, when the language of religion among a people begins to decline
from the truth, and when error, like a rising weed, sprouts and grows into a plant. It then gives
timely warning, and people hasten to root it out.
It has ever happened that when flocks have been pious, theology has thriven. She has
accomplished herself with learning; she has put due honour on studies that require vigorous
effort; and, the better to capacitate herself for searching the Scriptures, not only has she
desired to master all the sciences that can throw light upon them, but she has infused life into
all other sciences, whether by the example of her own labours, or by gathering around her
men of lofty minds, or by infusing into academical institutions a generous sentiment of high
morality, which has promoted all their developments.
Thus it is that, in giving a higher character to all branches of study, she has often ennobled
that of a whole people.
But, on the contrary, when theology and the people have become indifferent to each other,
and drowsy flocks have lived only for this world, then theology herself has given evident
proofs of sloth, frivolity, ignorance, or perhaps of a love of novelties; seeking a profane
popularity at any cost; affecting to have made discoveries that are only whispered to the ear,
that are taught in academies, and never mentioned in the churches; keeping her gates shut
amid the people, and at the same time throwing out to them from the windows doubts and
impieties, with the view of ascertaining the present measure of their indifference; until at last
she breaks out into open scandal, in attacking doctrines, or in defying the integrity or the
inspiration of certain books, or in giving audacious denials to the facts which they relate.
And let a man beware of believing that the whole people do not erelong feel the consequences
of so enormous a mischief. They will suffer from it even in their temporal interests, and their
national existence will be compromised. In degrading their religion, you proportionally lower
their moral character; you leave them without a soul. All things take their measure, in a
nation, according to the elevation that is given to heaven among the people. If their heaven be
low, every thing is affected by it even on the earth. All there becomes erelong more confined
and more creeping; the future becomes narrowed; patriotism becomes materialized; generous
traditions drop out of notice; the moral sense loses its tone; material wellbeing engrosses all
regard; amid all conservative principles, one after another, disappear.
We conclude then, on the one hand, that there exists the most intimate union, not only
between a people’s welfare and their religion, but between their religion and true theology;
and, on the other hand, that if there have always been most pertinent reasons for this science
being taught as such, for all and before all, never was this character more necessary for it than
when treating of the doctrine which is about to occupy us. It is the doctrine of doctrines; the
doctrine that teaches us all others, and in virtue of which alone they are doctrines; the doctrine
which is to the believer’s soul what the air is to his lungs – necessary for birth in the Christian
life – necessary for living in it – necessary for advancing in it to maturity, and persevering in
Such, then, has been the twofold view under which this work has been composed.
Every part of it, I trust, will bear testimony to my serious desire to make it useful to Christians
of all classes.
With this object I have thrown off the forms of the school. Without entirely relinquishing, I
have abstained from multiplying, quotations in the ancient tongues. In pressing the wonderful
unanimity of Christian antiquity on this question, I have confined myself to general facts. In
fine, when I have had to treat the various questions that bear upon this subject, and which
must be introduced in order to complete the doctrine which it involves, I have thrown them all
into a separate chapter. And even there, against the advice of some friends, I have employed a
method considered by them out of harmony with the general tone of the book, but which to
me has seemed fitted to enable the
reader to take a clearer and more rapid view of the subject.
It is, then, under this simple and practical form that, in presenting this work to the Church of
God, I rejoice that I can recommend it to the blessing of Him who preached in the streets, and
who, to John the Baptist, pointed to this as the peculiar character of his mission: “To the poor
the gospel is preached.”
Well will it be if these pages confirm in the simplicity and the blissfulness of their faith those
Christians who, without learning, have already believed, through the Scriptures, in the full
inspiration of the Scriptures! Well will it be if some weary and heavy-laden souls are brought
to listen more closely to that God who speaks to them in every line of his holy book! Well
will it be if, through any thing said by us, some travellers Zion-ward (like Jacob on his
pilgrimage at the stone of Bethel), after having reposed their wearied being with too much
indifference on this book of God, should come to behold at last that mysterious ladder which
rises from thence to heaven, and by which alone the messages of grace can come down to
their souls, and their prayers mount up to God! Would that I could induce them, in their turn,
to pour the sacred unction of their gratitude and their joy, and that they also could exclaim:
“Surely the Lord is in this place! this is the house of God, and the gate of heaven!”
For myself, I fear not to say, that in devoting myself to the labour this work has cost me, I
have often had, to thank God for having called me to it; for while engaged in it, I have more
than once beheld the divine majesty fill with its brightness the whole temple of the
Scriptures. Here have I seen all the tissues, coarse in appearance, that form the vesture of the
Son of man, become white, as no fuller on earth could whiten them; here have I often seen the
Book illuminated with the glory of God, and all its words seem radiant; in a word, I have felt
what one ever experiences when maintaining a holy and true cause, namely, that it gains in
truth and in majesty the more we contemplate it.
O my God, give me to love this Word of thine, and to possess it, as much as thou has taught
me to admire it!
“All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man is as the flower of the grass: the grass
withereth, the flower thereof fadeth, but the word of God abideth for ever; and it is this word
which, by the gospel, has bean preached unto us.”
Converted to pdf format by Robert I Bradshaw, August 2004. http://www.biblcalstudies.org.uk/
PLENARY INSPIRATION OF THE HOLY
Our object in this book is, with God’s help, and on the sole authority of his Word, to set forth,
establish, and defend, the Christian doctrine of Divine Inspiration.
This term is used for the mysterious power which the Divine Spirit put forth on the authors of
the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, in order to their composing these as they have
been received by the Church of God at their hands. “All Scripture,” says an apostle, “is
This Greek expression, at the time when St Paul employed it, was new perhaps even among
the Greeks; yet though the term was not used among the idolatrous Greeks, such was not the
case among the Hellenistic Jews. The historian Josephus,2 a contemporary of St Paul’s,
employs another closely resembling it in his first book against Apion, when, in speaking of all
the prophets who composed, says he, the twenty-two sacred books of the Old Testament,3 he
adds, that they wrote according to the pneustia (or the inspiration) that comes from God.4 And
the Jewish philosopher Philo,5 himself a contemporary of Josephus, in the account he has left
us of his embassy to the emperor Caius, making use, in his turn, of an expression closely
resembling that of St Paul, calls the Scriptures “theochrest oracles;”6 that is to say, oracles
given under the agency and dictation of God.
Theopneustia is not a system, it is a fact; and this fact, like every thing else that has taken
place in the history of redemption, is one of the doctrines of our faith.
1 2 Tim. iii. 16. (Theopneust, less euphonious, would be more exact.)
2 P. 1036, edit. Aurel. Allob. 1611.
3 See on this number our chap. iii. sect. 2, ques. 27.
4 Kat¦ t¾n ™pipnoion t¾n apÕ Qeoà.
5 P. l022, edit. Francof.
6 QeÒcrhsta (™n crhsmù Qeoà).
Meanwhile it is of consequence for us to say, and it is of consequence that it be understood,
that this miraculous operation of the Holy Ghost had not the sacred writers themselves for its
object – for these were only his instruments, and were soon to pass away; but that its objects
were the holy books themselves, which were destined to reveal from age to age, to the
Church, the counsels of God, and which were never to pass away.
The power then put forth on those men of God, and of which they themselves were sensible
only in very
different degrees, has not been precisely defined to us. Nothing authorizes us to explain it.
Scripture has never presented either its manner or its measure as an object of study. What it
offers to our faith is solely the inspiration of what they say – the divinity of the book they have
written. In this respect it recognises no difference among them. What they say, they tell us, is
theopneustic: their book is from God. Whether they recite the mysteries of a past more ancient
than the creation, or those of a future more remote than the coming again of the Son of man,
or the eternal counsels of the Most High, or the secrets of man’s heart, or the deep things of
God – whether they describe their own emotions, or relate what they remember, or repeat
contemporary narratives, or copy over genealogies, or make extracts from uninspired
documents – their writing is inspired, their narratives are directed from above; it is always
God who speaks, who relates, who ordains or reveals by their mouth, and who, in order to
this, employs their personality in different measures: for “the Spirit of God has been upon
them,” it is written, “and his word has been upon their tongue.” And though it be always the
word of man, since they are always men who utter it, it is always, too, the word of God,
seeing that it is God who superintends, employs, and guides them. They give their narratives,
their doctrines, or their commandments, “not with the words of man’s wisdom, but with the
words taught by the Holy Ghost;” and thus it is that God himself has not only put his seal to
all these facts, and constituted himself the author of all these commands, and the revealer of
all these truths, but that, further, he has caused them to be given to his Church in the order,
and in the measure, and in the terms which he has deemed most suitable to his heavenly
Were we asked, then, how this work of divine inspiration has been accomplished in the men
of God, we should reply, that we do not know; that it does
not behove us to know; and that it is in the same ignorance, and with a faith quite of the same
kind, that we receive the doctrine of the new birth and sanctification of a soul by the Holy
Ghost. We believe that the Spirit enlightens that soul, cleanses it, raises it, comforts it, softens
it. We perceive all these effects; we admire and we adore the cause; but we have found it our
duty to be content never to know the means by which this is done. Be it the same, then, with
regard to divine inspiration.
And were we, further, called to say at least what the men of God experienced in their bodily
organs, in their will, or in their understandings, while engaged in tracing the pages of the
sacred book, we should reply, that the powers of inspiration, were not felt by all to the same
degree, and that their experiences were not at all uniform; but we might add, that the
knowledge of such a fact bears very little on the interests of our faith, seeing that, as respects
that faith, we have to do with the book, and not with the man. It is the book that is inspired,
and altogether inspired: to be assured of this ought to satisfy us.
Three descriptions of men, in these late times, without disavowing the divinity of Christianity,
and without venturing to decline the authority of the Scriptures, have thought themselves
authorized to reject this doctrine.
Some of these have disowned the very existence of. this action of the Holy Ghost; others have
denied its universality; others, again, its plenitude.
The first, like Dr Schleiermacher,7 Dr De Wette, and many other German divines, reject all
miraculous inspiration, and are unwilling to attribute to the sacred writers any more than
Cicero accorded to the poets –
affiatum spiritûs divini – “a divine action of nature, an interior power resembling the other
vital forces of nature.”8
The second, like Dr Michaelis,9 and like Theodore of Mopsuestia,10 while admitting the
existence of a divine inspiration, would confine it to a part only of the sacred books: to the
first and fourth of the four evangelists, for example; to a part of the epistles, to a part of
Moses, a part of Isaiah, a part of Daniel. These portions of the Scriptures, say they, are from
God, the others are from man.
The third class, in fine, like M. Twesten in Germany, and like many divines in England,11
extend, it is true, the notion of a divine inspiration to all parts of the Bible, but not to all
equally (nicht gleichmaessig). Inspiration, as they understand it, might be universal indeed,
but unequal; often imperfect, accompanied with, innocent errors; and carried to very different
degrees, according to the nature of different passages: of which degrees they constitute
themselves, more or less, the judges.
Many of these, particularly in England, have gone so far as to distinguish four degrees of
divine inspiration: the inspiration of superintendence, they have said, in virtue of which the
sacred writers have been constantly preserved from serious error in all that relates to faith and
life; the inspiration of elevation, by which the Holy Ghost, further, by carrying up the
thoughts of the men of God into the purest regions of truth, must have indirectly stamped the
same characters of holiness and grandeur on their words; the inspiration of direction, under
the more powerful action of which the sacred writers were under God’s guidance in regard to
what they said and abstained from saying; finally,
7 Schleiermacher, der Christliche Glaube, band i. s. 115.
8 De Wette, Lehrbuch Anmerk. Twesten, Vorlesungen über die Dogmatik, tome i. p. 424, &c.
9 Michaelis, Introd. to the New Testament.
10 See our chap. v. sect. 2, quest. 44.
11 Drs Pye Smith, Dick, Wilson.
the inspiration of suggestion. Here, they say all the thoughts, and even the words, have been
given by God by means of a still more energetic and direct operation of his Spirit.
“The Theopneustia,” says M. Twesten, “extends unquestionably even to words, but only when
the choice or the employment of them is connected with the religious life of the soul; for one
ought, in this respect,” he adds, “to distinguish between the Old and New Testament, between
the Law and the Gospel, between history and prophecy, between narratives and do between
the apostles and their apostolical assistants.”
To our mind these are all fantastic distinctions; the Bible has not authorized them; the Church
of the first eight centuries of the Christian era knew nothing of them; and we believe them to
be erroneous in themselves, and deplorable in their results.
Our design then, in this book, in opposition to these three systems, is to prove the existence,
the universality, and the plenitude of the divine inspiration of the Bible.
First of all, it concerns us to know if there has been a divine and miraculous inspiration for the
Scriptures. We say that there has. Next, we have to know if the parts of Scripture that are
divinely inspired are equally and entirely so; or, in other terms, if God has provided, in a
certain though mysterious manner, that the very words of his holy book should always be
what they ought to be, and that it should contain no error. This, too, we affirm to be the case.
Finally, we have to know whether what is thus inspired by God in the Scriptures, be a part of
the Scriptures, or the whole of the Scriptures. We say that it is the whole Scriptures:- the
historical books as well as the prophecies; the Gospels as well as the Song of Solomon; the
Mark and Luke, as well as those of John and Matthew; the history of the shipwreck of St Paul
in the waters of the Adriatic, as well as that of the shipwreck of the old world in the waters of
the flood; the scenes of
Mamre beneath the tents of Abraham, as well as those of the day of Christ in the eternal
tabernacles; the prophetic prayers in which the Messiah, a thousand years before his first
advent, cries in the Psalms, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? – they have
pierced my hands and my feet – they have cast lots upon my vesture – they look and stare at
me” – as well as the narratives of them by St John, St Mark, St Luke, or St Matthew.
In other words, it has been our object to establish by the Word of God that the Scripture is
from God, that the Scripture is throughout from God, and that the Scripture throughout is
entirely from God.
Meanwhile, however, we must make ourselves clearly understood. In maintaining that all
Scripture is from God, we are very far from thinking that man goes for nothing in it. We shall
return in a subsequent section to this opinion; but we have felt it necessary to state it here.
There, all the words are man’s; as there, too, all the words are God’s. In a certain sense, the.
Epistle to the Romans is altogether a letter of Paul’s; and in a still higher sense, the Epistle to
the Romans is altogether a letter of God’s.
Pascal might have dictated one of his Provincial Letters to some Clermont artisan, and
another to the Abbess of Port-Royal. Could the former have been on that account less
Pascailan than all the rest? Undoubtedly not. The great Newton, when he wished to hand over
to the world his marvellous discoveries, might have employed some Cambridge youth to write
out the fortieth, and some college servant the forty-first proposition of his immortal work, the
Principia, while he might have dictated the remaining pages to Barrow and Halley. Should we
any the less possess the discoveries of his genius, and the mathematical reasonings which lead
us to refer to one and the same law all the movements in the universe? Would the whole work
be any the less his? No, undoubtedly. Perhaps, however, some one at his leisure might have
some interest in knowing what were the emotions of those two great men, or the simple
thoughts of that boy, of the honest musings of that domestic, at the time that their four pens,
all alike docile, traced the Latin sentences that were dictated to them. You may have been told
that the two latter, as they plied the quill, allowed their thoughts to revert indifferently to past
scenes in the gardens of the city, or in the courts of Trinity College; while the two professors,
following with the most intense interest every thought of their friend, and participating in his
sublime career, like eaglets on their mother’s back, sprang with him into the loftiest elevations
of science, borne up by his mighty wings, soaring with delight into the new and boundless
regions which he had opened to them. Nevertheless, you may have been told, among the lines
thus dictated, there may have been some which neither the boy nor even the professors were
capable of understanding. These details are of little consequence, you would have replied; I
will not waste any time upon them; I will study the book. Its preface, its title, its first line, and
its last line, all its theorems, easy or difficult, understood or not understood, are from the same
author, and that is enough. Whoever the writers may have been, and however different the
respective elevation of their thoughts, their hand, faithful to its task, and superintended while
engaged in it, has equally traced their master’s thoughts on the same roll of paper; and there I
can always study, with equal confidence, in the very words of his genius, the mathematical
principles of Newton’s philosophy.
Such is the fact of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures (nearly to this extent, that in causing
his books to be written by inspired men, the Holy Ghost has almost always, more or less,
employed the instrumentality of their understanding, their will, their memory, and all the
powers of their personality, as we shall erelong have occasion to repeat). And it is thus that
God, who desired to make known to his elect, in a book that was to
last for ever, the spiritual principles of divine philosophy, has caused its pages to be written,
in the course of a period of sixteen hundred years, by priests, by kings, by warriors, by
shepherds, by publicans, by fishermen, by scribes, by tentmakers, associating their affections
and their faculties therewith, more or less, according as he deemed fit. Such, then, is God’s
book. Its first line, its last line, all its teachings, understood or not understood, are by the same
author; and that ought to suffice for us. Whoever may have been the writers – whatever their
circumstances, their impressions, their comprehension of the book, and the measure of their
individuality in Ibis powerful and mysterious operation – they have all written faithfully and
under superintendence in the same roll, under the guidance of one and the same Master, for
whom a thousand years are as one day; and the result has been the Bible. Therefore I will not
lose time in idle questions; I will study the book. It is the word of Moses, the word of Amos,
the word of John, the word of Paul; but still the thoughts expressed are God’s thoughts, and
the words are God’s words. “Thou, Lord, hast spoken by the mouth of thy servant David.”
“The Spirit of the Lord spake by me,” said he, “and his word was in my tongue.”12
12 Acts iv. 25; 2 Sam. xxiii. 1, 2. See our chap. ii. sect. 2.
It would then, in our view, be holding very erroneous language to say – certain passages in the
Bible are man’s, and certain passages in the Bible are God’s. No; every verse without
exception is man’s; and every verse without exception is God’s, whether we find him speaking
there directly in his own name, or whether he employs the entire personality of the sacred
writer. And as St Bernard has said of the living works of the regenerated man, “that our will
does nothing there without grace, but that grace does nothing there without our will;” so ought
we to say, that in the Scriptures God has done nothing but by man, and man has done nothing
but by God.
In fact, it is with divine inspiration as with efficacious grace. In the operations of the Holy
Ghost while causing the sacred books to be written, and in those of the same divine agent
while converting a soul, and causing it to advance in the ways of sanctification, man is in
different respects entirely active and entirely passive. God does all there; man does nil there;
and it may be said for both of these works what St Paul said of one of them to the Philippians,
“It is God that worketh in you to will and to do.”13 Thus you will see that in the Scriptures the
same operations are attributed alternately to God and to man. God converts, and it is man that
converts himself. God circumcises the heart, God gives a new heart; and it is man that should
circumcise his heart, and make himself a new heart. “Not only because, in order to obtain
such or such an effect, we ought to employ the means to obtain such or such an effect,” says
the famous President Edwards in his admirable remarks against the errors of the Arminians,
“but because this effect itself is our act, as it is our duty; God producing all, and we acting
Such, then, is the Word of God. It is God speaking in man, God speaking by man, God
speaking as man, God speaking for man! This is what we have asserted, and must now
proceed to prove. Possibly, however, it will be as well that we should first give a more precise
definition of this doctrine.
In point of theory, it were allowable to say that a religion might be divine without the books
that teach it being miraculously inspired. It were possible, for example, to figure to ourselves
a Christianity without divine inspiration; and one might conceive, perhaps, that all the
miracles of our faith have been performed
with the single exception of this one. On this supposition (which nothing authorizes), the
everlasting Father would have given his Son to the world; the creating Word, made flesh,
would have submitted for us to the death of the cross, and caused to descend from heaven
upon his apostles the spirit of understanding and the power of working miracles; but, all these
mysteries of redemption once consummated, he might have relinquished to these men of God
the care of writing, according to their own wisdom, our sacred books; and their writings
would thus have presented no more than the natural language of their supernatural
illuminations, of their convictions, and their charity. Such an order of things, no doubt, is but
an idle supposition, directly opposed to the testimony which the scriptures have rendered to
13 Phil. ii. 13.
14 Edwards’ Remarks, &c., p. 251.
what they are. But without saving here that it resolves nothing, and that, miracle for miracle,
that of illumination is not less inexplicable than that of inspiration; without saying, farther,
that the ‘Word of God possesses a divine power which belongs to it alone – such an order of
things, granting it were a reality, would have exposed us to innumerable errors, and plunged
us into the most dismal uncertainty. Upon what testimony could, in that case, our faith have
rested? On something said by men? But faith is founded only on the Word of God. – (Rom. x.
17.) In such a system, then, you would only have had a Christianity without Christians.
Deprived of any security against the imprudence of the writers, you could not even have given
their books the authority at present possessed in the Church by those of Augustine, Bernard,
Luther, and Calvin, or of so many other men whom the Holy Ghost enlightened with a
knowledge of the truth. We are, in fact, sufficiently aware how many imprudent expressions
and erroneous propositions have found their way into the midst even of the finest pages of
those admirable doctors. And yet the apostles (on the supposition we have made) would have
been far more subject to
serious mistakes even than they were, since they would not have had, like the doctors of the
Church, a Word of God by which to direct their own; and since they themselves would have
had to compose the whole language of religious science. (A science is more than half formed
when its language is formed.) What deplorable and inevitable errors must have necessarily
accompanied, in their case, this revelation without divine inspiration! and in what deplorable
doubts would their hearers have been left! – errors in the selection of facts, errors in the
appreciation of them, errors in the statement of them, errors in the mode of conceiving the
relations they bear to doctrines, errors in the expression of those very doctrines, errors of
omission, errors of language, errors of exaggeration, errors in adopting certain national
prejudices, or prejudices arising from a man’s rank or party, errors in the foresight of the
future, and in judgments pronounced upon the past.
But, thanks be to God, it is not thus with our sacred books. They contain no error; they are
written throughout by inspiration of God. “Holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy
Ghost;” they did so, “not with words that man’s wisdom teacheth, but with words which the
Spirit of God taught;” in such sort, that not one of these words should be neglected, and that
we are called to respect them and to study them, even to their smallest iota and their slightest
jot: for “this Scripture is pure, like silver refined seven times: it is perfect.”
These assertions, which are themselves testimonies of the Word of God, have already
comprised our last definition of Divine Inspiration, and lead us to characterise it, finally, as
“that inexplicable power which the Divine Spirit put forth of old on the authors of holy
Scripture, in order to their guidance even in the employment of the words they used, and to
preserve them alike from all error and from all omission.”
This new definition, which might appear complex, is not so really; for the two traits of which
it is com-
posed are equivalent, and to admit the one is to accept the other.
We propose them disjunctively to the assent of our readers, and we offer them the alternative
of accepting either. One has more precision, the other more simplicity, in so far as it presents
the doctrine under a form more disengaged from all questions relative to the mode of
inspiration, and to the secret experiences of the sacred writers. Let either be fully accepted,
and then there will have been rendered to the Scriptures the honour and the credit to which
they are entitled.
What we propose, therefore, is to establish the doctrine of Divine inspiration under one or
other of these two forms:-
“The Scriptures are given and warranted by God, even in their language;” and, “The
Scriptures contain no error – (whereby we understand that they say all that they ought to say,
and that they do not say what they ought not to say).”
Now. how shall a man establish this doctrine? By the Scriptures, and only by the Scriptures.
Once that we have recognised these as true, we must go to them to be taught what they are;
and once that they have told us that they are inspired of God, it belongs to them farther to tell
us how they are so, and how far they are so.
To attempt the proof of their inspiration a priori – by arguing from that miracle being
necessary for the security of our faith – would be to adopt a feeble mode of reasoning, and
almost to imitate, in one sense, the presumption which, in another sense, imagines a priori
four degrees of divine inspiration. Further; to think of establishing the entire inspiration of the
Scriptures on the consideration of their beauty, their constant wisdom, their prophetic
foresight, and all the characters of divinity which occur in them, would be to build on
arguments no doubt just, but contestable, or at least contested. It is solely on the declarations
of holy Scripture, therefore, that we have to take our stand.
We have no authority but that for the doctrines of our faith; and divine inspiration is just one
of those doctrines.
Here, however, let us anticipate a misapprehension. It may happen that some reader, still but
feebly established in his Christianity, mistaking our object, and thinking to glance through our
book in search of arguments which may convince him, might find himself disappointed, and
might conceive himself authorized to charge our line of argument with some vicious
reasoning, as if we wanted to prove in it the inspiration of the Scriptures by the inspiration of
the Scriptures. It is of consequence that we should put him right. We have not written these
pages for the disciples of Porphyry, or of Voltaire, or of Rousseau; and it has not been our
object to prove that the Scriptures are worthy of belief. Others have done this, and it is not our
task. We address ourselves to men who respect the Scriptures, and who admit their veracity.
To these we attest, that, being true, they say that they are inspired; and that, being inspired,
they declare that they are so throughout: whence we conclude that they necessarily must be
Certainly, of all truths, this doctrine is one of the simplest and the clearest to minds meekly
and rationally submissive to the testimony of the Scriptures. No doubt modern divines may be
heard to represent it as full of uncertainties and difficulties; but they who have desired to
study it only by the light of God’s Word, have been unable to perceive those difficulties, or to
find those uncertainties. Nothing, on the contrary, is more clearly or oftener taught in the
Scriptures than the Inspiration of the Scriptures. Accordingly, the ancients knew nothing on
this subject of the embarrassments and the doubts of the doctors of the present day; for them
the Bible was from God, or it was not from God. On this point antiquity presents an admirable
unanimity.15 But since the moderns, in imitation of
the Talmudistic Jews and Rabbins of the middle ages, have imagined learned distinctions
between four or five different degrees of inspiration, who can wonder that for them
difficulties and uncertainties have been multiplied? Contesting what the Scriptures teach, and
explaining what the Scriptures do not teach, it is easy to see how they come to be
embarrassed; but for this they have only their own rashness to blame.
So very clear, indeed, is this testimony which the Scriptures render to their own inspiration,
that one may well feel amazed that, among Christians, there should be any diversities of
opinion on so well-defined a subject. But the evil is too easily explained by the power of
preconceived opinions. The mind once wholly preoccupied by objections of its own raising,
sacred passages are perverted from their natural meaning in proportion as those objections
present themselves; and, by a secret effort of thought, people try to reconcile these with the
difficulties that embarrass them. The plenary inspiration of the Scriptures is, in spite of the
Scriptures, denied (as the Sadducees denied the resurrection), because the miracle is thought
inexplicable; but we must recollect the answer made by Jesus Christ, “Do ye not therefore err,
because ye know not THE SCRIPTURES, nor THE POWER OF GOD?” – (Mark xii. 24, 27.)
It is, therefore, because of this too common disposition of the human mind, that we have
thought it best not to present the reader with our scriptural proofs until after having completed
our definition of divine inspiration, by an attentive examination of the part to be assigned in it
to the individuality of the sacred writers. This will be the subject of the following section. No
less do we desire being able to present the reader with a more didactic expression of the
doctrine that occupies us, and of some of the questions connected with it: but we have thought
that a more fitting place might be found for
this development elsewhere, partly because it will be more favourably received after our
scriptural proofs shall have been considered; partly because we have no desire, by employing
the forms of the school, to repel, at the very threshold, unlearned readers who may have taken
up these pages with the idea of finding something in them for the edification of their faith.
The individuality of the sacred writers, so profoundly stamped on the books they have
respectively written, seems to many impossible to be reconciled with a plenary inspiration.
No one, say they, can read the Scriptures without being struck with the differences of
language, conception, and style, discernible in their authors; so that even were the titles of the
several books to give us no intimation that we were passing from one author to another, still
we should almost instantly discover, from the change of their character, that we had no longer
to do with the same writer, but that a new personage had taken the pen. This diversity reveals
15 See on this subject the learned dissertation in which Dr Rudelbach establishes the sound doctrines on
inspiration historically, as have sought to establish them by Scripture. (Zeitschrift für die gesamute Lutherische
Theologie und Kirche, von Rudelbach und Guericke, 1840.)
itself even on comparing one prophet with another prophet, and one apostle with another
apostle. Who could read the writings of Isaiah and Ezekiel, of Amos and Hosea, of Zephaniah
and Habakkuk, of Jeremiah and Daniel, and proceed to study those of Paul and Peter, or of
John, without observing, with respect to each of them, how much his views of the truth, his
reasonings, and his language, have been influenced by his habits, his condition in life, his
genius, his education, his recollections – all the circumstances, in short, that have acted upon
his outer and inner man? They tell us what they saw, and just as they saw it. Their memory is
put into requisition, their imagination is called into exercise, their affections are drawn out –
their whole being is at work, and their
moral physiognomy is clearly delineated. We are sensible that the composition of each has
greatly depended, both as to its essence and its form, on its author’s circumstances and
peculiar turn of mind. Could the son of Zebedee have composed the Epistle to the Romans, as
we have received it from the apostle Paul? Who would think of attributing to him the Epistle
to the Hebrews? And although the Epistles general of Peter were without their title, who
would ever think of ascribing them to John? It is thus, likewise, with the evangelists. All four
are very distinctly recognisable, although they all speak of the same Master, profess the same
doctrines, and relate the same acts. Such, we are told, is the fact, and the following
consequences are boldly deduced from it
1. Were it God who speaks alone and constantly in the Scriptures, we should see, in their
various parts, an uniformity which is not to be found there.
2. It must be admitted that two different impulses have acted at the same time on the same
authors, while they were composing the Scriptures; the natural impulses of their individuality,
and the miraculous impulses of inspiration.
3. There must have resulted from the conflict, the concurrence, or the balanced action of these
two forces, – an inspiration variable, gradual, sometimes entire, sometimes imperfect, and oft
times even reduced to the feeble measure of a mere superintendence.
4. The variable power of the Divine Spirit, in this combined action, must have been in the
ratio of the importance and the difficulty of the matters treated of by the sacred author. He
might even have abstained from any intervention when the judgment and the recollections of
the writer could suffice, inasmuch as God never performs useless miracles.
“It belongs not to man to say where nature ends, and where inspiration begins,” says Bishop
“The exaggeration we find in the notions which some have entertained of inspiration,” says
Dr Twesten, “does not consist in their having extended them to all, but in their having
extended them to all equally. If inspiration does not exclude the personal action of the sacred
authors, no more does it destroy all influence proceeding from human imperfection. But we
may suppose this influence to be more and more feeble in the writers, in proportion as the
matter treated of is more intimately related to Christ.”17
16 Lectures on the Evidences of Christianity, p. 506.
17 Vorles. ueber die Dogmatik, tome i.
Dr Dick recognises three degrees of inspiration in the holy Scriptures:- “1. There are many
things in the Scriptures which the writers might have known, and probably did know, by
ordinary means . . . . . . . In these cases, no supernatural influence was necessary to enlighten
and invigorate their minds; it was only necessary that they should be infallibly preserved from
error. 2. There are other passages of Scripture, in composing which the minds of the writers
must have been supernaturally endowed with more than ordinary vigour . . . . . 3. It is
manifest, with respect to many passages of Scripture, that the subjects of which they treat
must have been directly revealed to the writers.”18
5. Hence it follows, that if this plenary inspiration was sometimes necessary, still, with respect
to matters at once easy and of no religious importance, there might be found in the Scriptures
some harmless errors, and some of those stains ever left by the hand of man on all he touches.
While the energies of the divine mind, by an action always powerful, and often victorious,
enlarged the comprehension of the men of God, purified their affections, and led them to seek
out, from among all their recollections of the past, those which might be most usefully
transmitted to the Church of God, the natural energies of their own minds, left to themselves
in so far as regarded all details of no consequence either
to faith or virtue, may have led to the occurrence in the Scriptures of some mixture of
inaccuracy and imperfection. “We must not therefore,” says M. Twesten, “attribute an
unlimited infallibility to the Scripture, as if there were no error there. No doubt God is truth,
and in matters of importance all that is from him is truth; but if all be not of equal importance,
all does not then proceed equally from him; and if inspiration does not exclude the personal
action of the sacred authors, no more does it destroy all influence of human imperfection.”19
All these authors include in their assumptions and conclusions the notion, that there are some
passages in the Scriptures quite devoid of importance, and that there are others alloyed with
error. We shall erelong repel with all our might both these imputations; but this is not yet the
place for it. The only question we have to do with here, is that respecting the living and
personal form under which the Scriptures of God have been given to us, and its alleged
incompatibility with the fact of a plenary inspiration. To this we proceed to reply.
1. We begin by declaring how far we are from contesting the fact alleged, while, however, we
reject the false consequences that are deduced from it. So far are we from not acknowledging
this human individuality stamped throughout on our sacred books, that, on the contrary, it is
with profound gratitude – with an ever-growing admiration – that we contemplate this living,
actual, dramatic, humanitary character diffused with so powerful and charming an effect
through all parts of the book of God. Yes (we cordially unite with the objectors in saying it),
here is the phraseology, the tone, the accent of a Moses; there, of a John: here, of an Isaiah;
there, of an Amos: here, of a Daniel or of a Peter; there, of a Nehemiah, there again of a Paul.
We recognise them, listen to them, see them. Here, one may say, there is no room for mistake.
We admit the fact; we delight in studying it;
we profoundly admire it; and we see in it, as we shall have occasion more than once to repeat,
one additional proof of the divine wisdom which has dictated the Scriptures.
18 See an Essay on the Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by the late John Dick, D.D. Fourth edition. Glasgow,
1840. Chapter 1.
19 Ut supra.
2. Of what consequence to the fact of the divine inspiration is the absence or the concurrence
of the sacred writers’ affections? Cannot God equally employ them or dispense with them? He
who can make a statue speak, can he not, as he pleases, make a child of man speak? He who
rebuked by means of a dumb animal the madness of one prophet, can he not put into another
prophet the sentiments or the words which suit best the plan of his revelations? He that caused
to come forth from the wall a hand, without any mind of its own to direct it, that it might write
for him those terrible words, “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin,” could, he not equally guide the
intelligent and pious pen of his apostle, in order to its tracing for him such words as these: “I
say the truth in Christ, and my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have
great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to
the flesh, and who are Israelites?” Know you how God acts, and how he abstains from
acting? Will you teach us the mechanism of inspiration? Will you say what is the difference
between its working where individuality is discoverable, and its working where individuality
is not discoverable? Will you explain to us why the concurrence of the thoughts, the
recollections, and the emotions of the sacred writers, should diminish aught of their
theopneustia? and will you tell us whether this very concurrence may not form part of it?
There is a gulf interposed betwixt the fact of this individuality and the consequence you
deduce from it; and your understanding is no more competent to descend into that gulf to
contest the reality of theopneustia than ours is to explain it. Was there not a great amount of
individuality in the language of Caiaphas, when that wicked man, full of the bitterest spite,
abandoning himself to
the counsels of his own evil heart, and little dreaming that he was giving utterance to the
words of God, cried out in the Jewish council, “Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is
expedient for us that one man should die for the people?” Certainly there was in these words,
we should say, abundance of individuality; and yet we find it written that Caiaphas spake this
not of himself (¢f’ ˜autoà), but that, being high priest for that year, “he prophesied,”
unconsciously, that Jesus should die, “in order that he might gather into one the children of
God that were scattered abroad.” – (John xi. 49-52.)
Why, then, should not the same Spirit, in order to the utterance of the words of God, employ
the pious affections of the saints, as well as the wicked and hypocritical thoughts of his most
3. When a man tells us that if, in such or such a passage, the style be that of Moses or of Luke,
of Ezekiel or of John, then it cannot be that of God – it were well that he would let us know
what is God’s style. One would call our attention, forsooth, to the accent of the Holy Ghost –
would show us how to recognise him by the peculiar cast of his phraseology, by the tone of
his voice; and would tell us wherein, in the language of the Hebrews or in that of the Greeks,
his supreme individuality reveals itself!
4. It should not be forgotten, that the sovereign action of God, in the different fields in which
it is displayed, never excludes the employment of second causes. On the contrary, it is in the
concatenation of their mutual bearings that he loves to make his mighty wisdom shine forth.
In the field of creation he gives us plants by the combined employment of all the elements –
heat, moisture, electricity, the atmosphere, light, the mechanical attraction of the capillary
vessels, and the manifold operations of the organs of vegetation. In the field of providence, he
accomplishes the development of his vastest plans by means of the unexpected concurrence of
a thousand millions of human
wills, alternately intelligent and yielding, or ignorant and rebellious. “Herod and Pilate, with
the Gentiles and the people of Israel” (influenced by so many diverse passions), “were
gathered together,” he tells us, only “to do whatsoever his hand and counsel had determined
before to be done.” Thus, too, in the field of prophecy does he bring his predictions to their
accomplishment. He prepares, for example, long beforehand, a warlike prince in the
mountains of Persia, and another in those of Media; the former of these he had indicated by
name two hundred years before; he unites them at the point named with ten other nations
against the empire of the Chaldeans; he enables them to surmount a thousand obstacles; and
makes them at last enter the great Babylon, at the moment when the seventy years, so long
marked out for the captivity of the Jewish people, had come to a close. In the field of his
miracles, even, he is pleased still to make use of second causes. There he had only to say, “Let
the thing be, and it would have its being;” but he desired, by employing inferior agents, even
in that case to let us know that it is he that gives power to the feeblest of them. To divide the
Red Sea, he not only causes the rod of Moses to be stretched out over the deep – he sends
from the east a mighty wind, which blows all night, and makes the waters go back. To cure
the man that was born blind, he makes clay and anoints his eyelids. In the field of redemption,
instead of converting a soul by an immediate act of his will, he presents motives to it, he
makes it read the Gospel, he sends preachers to it; and thus it is that, while it is he who “gives
us to will and to do according to his good pleasure,” he “begets us by his own will, by the
word of truth.” Well, then, why should it not be thus in the field of inspiration (theopneustia)?
Wherefore, when he sends forth his Word, should he not cause it to enter the understanding,
the heart, and the life of his servants, as he puts it upon their lips? Wherefore should he not
associated their personality with what they reveal to us? Where –
fore should not their sentiments, their history, their experiences, form part of their inspiration
5. What may, moreover, clearly expose the error involved in this alleged difficulty, is the
extreme inconsistency shown in the use that is made of it? In fact, in order to impugn the
plenary inspiration of certain portions of the Scriptures, the individuality with which they are
marked is insisted on; and yet it is admitted that other parts of the sacred books, in which this
character is equally manifest, must have been given directly by God, even to the most minute
details. Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the author of the Apocalypse, have each
stamped upon their prophecies their peculiar style, features, manner – in a word, their mark;
just as Luke. Mark, John, Paul, and Peter have been able to do in their narratives, or in their
letters. There is no validity, then, in the objection. If it proved any thing, it would prove too
6. What still farther strikes us in this objection and in the intermittent system of inspiration
with which it is associated, is its triple character of complication, rashness, and childishness.
Complication; for it is assumed that the divine action, in dictating the Scriptures, intermitted
or fell off as often as the passage falls in the scale of difficulty, or in the scale of importance;
and thus God is made to retire or advance successively in the mind of the sacred writer during
the course of one and the same chapter, or one and the same passage! Rashness; for the
majesty of the Scriptures not being recognised, it is boldly assumed that they are of no
importance, and require no wisdom beyond that of man, except in some of their parts. We add
childishness; one is afraid. it is alleged, to attribute to God useless miracles, – as if the Holy
Ghost, after having, as is admitted, dictated, word for word, one part of the Scriptures, must
find less trouble in doing nothing more elsewhere than aiding the sacred author by
enlightening him, or leaving him to write by himself under mere superintendence!
7. But this is by no means all. What most of all makes us protest against a theory according to
which the Scriptures are classed into the inspired, the half-inspired, and the uninspired (as if
this sorry doctrine behoved to flow from the individuality stamped upon them), is its direct
opposition to the Scriptures. One part of the Bible is from man (people venture to say), and
the other part is from God. And yet, mark what its own language on the subject is. It protests
that ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” It points to no exception. What right, then,
can we have to make any, when itself admits none? Just because people tell us, if there be in
the Scriptures a certain number of passages which could not have been written except under
plenary inspiration, there are others for which it would have been enough for the author to
have received some eminent gifts, and others still which might have been composed even by a
very ordinary person! Be it so; but how does this bear upon the question? When you have
been told who the author of a book is, you know that all that is in that book is from him – the
easy and the difficult, the important and the unimportant. If, then, the whole Bible “is given
by inspiration of God,” of what consequence is it to the question that there are passages, in
your eyes, more important or more difficult than others? The least among the companions of
Jesus might no doubt have given us that 5th verse of the 11th chapter of St John, “Now Jesus
loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus;” as the most petty schoolmaster also might have
composed that first line of Athalie, “Into his temple, lo! I come, Jehovah to adore.” But were
we told that the great Itacine employed some village schoolmaster to write out his drama, at
his dictation, should we not continue, nevertheless, still to attribute to him all its parts – its
first line, the notation of the scenes, the names of the dramatis personæ, the indications of
their exits and their entrances, as well as the most sublime strophes of his choruses? if, then,
God himself declares to us
his having dictated the whole Scriptures, who shall dare to say that that 5th verse of the 11th
chapter of St John is less from God than the sublime words with which the Gospel begins, and
which describe to us the eternal Word? Inspiration, no doubt, may be perceptible in certain
passages more clearly than in others; but it is not, on that account, less real in the one case
than in the other.
In a word, were there some parts of the Bible without inspiration, no longer could it be truly
said that the whole Bible is divinely inspired. No longer would it be throughout the Word of
God, It would have deceived us.
8. Here it is of special importance to remark, that this fatal system of a gradual, imperfect, and
intermittent inspiration, has its origin in that misapprehension to which we have more than
once had occasion to advert. It is because people have almost always wished to view
inspiration in the man, while it ought to have been seen only in the book. It is “ALL
SCRIPTURE,” it is all that is written, that is inspired of God. We are not told, and we are not
asked, how God did it. All that is attested to us is, that He has done it. And what we have to
believe is simply that, whatever may have been the method he took for accomplishing it.
To this deceptive point of view, which some have thought good to take in contemplating the
fact of inspiration, the three following illusions may be traced.
First; in directing their regards to inspiration in the sacred author, people have naturally been
led to figure it to themselves as an extraordinary excitation in him, of which he was
conscious, which took him out of himself; which animated him, after the manner of the
ancient Pythonesses, with an afflatu divino, a divine fire, easily discernible; in such sort, that
wherever his words are simple, calm, familiar, they have been unable to see how divine
inspiration could be attributed to him.
Next; in contemplating inspiration in persons, peo-
ple have farther been led to attribute to it different degrees of perfection, seeing they knew
that the sacred authors had themselves received very different measures of illumination and
personal holiness. But if you contemplate inspiration in the book, then you will immediately
perceive that it cannot exist there in degrees. A word is from God, or it is not from God. If it
be from God, it is not so after two different fashions. Whatever may have been the spiritual
state of the writer, if all he writes be divinely inspired, all his words are from God. And (mark
well) it is according to this principle that no Christian will hesitate, any more than Jesus
Christ has done, to rank the scriptures of Solomon with those of Moses, any more than those
of Mark or of Matthew with those of the disciple whom Jesus loved – nay, with the words of
the Son of God himself. They are all from God.
Finally; by a third illusion, from contemplating inspiration in the men who wrote the
Scriptures, not in the Scriptures which they wrote, people have been naturally led to deem it
absurd that God should reveal miraculously to any one what that person knew already. They
would, on this ground, deny the inspiration of those passages in which the sacred writers
simply tell what they had seen, or simply state opinions, such as any man of plain good sense
might express without being inspired. But it will be quite otherwise the moment inspiration is
viewed, not as in the writer, but as in that which is written. Then it will be seen that all has
been traced under God’s guidance – both the things which the writer knew already and those
of which he knew nothing. Who is not sensible, to give an examples that the case in which 1
should dictate to a student a book on geometry, altogether differs from that in which, after
having instructed him more or less perfectly in that science, I should employ him to compose
a book on it himself under my auspices? In the latter work, it is true, he would require my
intervention only in the difficult propositions; but then, who would think of
saying the book was mine? In the former case, on the contrary, all parts of the book, easy and
difficult alike, from the quadrature of the transcendental curves to the theory of the straight
line or of the triangle, would be mine. Well, then, so is it with the Bible. It is not, as some will
have it, a book which God employed men, whom he had previously enlightened, to write
under his auspices. No – it is a book which he dictated to them; it is the word of God; the
Spirit of the Lord spake by its authors, and his words were upon their tongues.
9. The style of Moses, Ezekiel, David, St Luke, and St John, may be at the same time God’s
style, is what a child might tell us.
Let us suppose that some modern French author had thought good, at the commencement of
the present century, to aim at popularity by borrowing for a time the style, we shall say, of
Chateaubriand; might it not then be said with equal truth, but in two different senses, that the
style was the author’s and yet the style too of Chateaubriand? And if, to save the French from
some terrible catastrophe by bringing them back to the Gospel, God should condescend to
employ certain prophets among them, by the mouths of whom he should proclaim his
message, would not these men have to preach in French? What, then, would be their style, and
what would you require in it, in order to its being recognised as that of God? If such were his
pleasure, one of these prophets might speak like Fénélon, another like Bonaparte; in which
case there is no doubt that it would be, in one sense, the curt, barking, jerking style of the
great captain; also, and in the same sense, the sustained and varied flow of the priest of
Cambray’s rounded eloquence; while in another, and a higher and truer sense, it would, in
both these mouths, be the style of God, the manner of God, the word of God. No doubt, on
every occasion on which he has revealed himself, God might have caused an awful voice to
resound from heaven, as of old from the top of Sinai, or on the
banks of the Jordan.20 His messengers, at least, might have been only angels of light. But even
then what languages would these angels have spoken? Evidently those of the earth! And if he
behoved on this earth to substitute for the syntax of heaven and the vocabulary of the
archangels, the words and the constructions of the Hebrews or the Greeks, why not equally
have borrowed their manners, style, and personality?
10. This there is no doubt that he did, but not so as that any thing was left to chance. “Known
unto him are all his works from the beginning of the world;”21 and just as, year after year, he
causes the tree to put forth its leaves as well for the season when they respire the atmospheric
elements, and, cooperating with the process at the roots, can safely draw nourishment from
their juices, as for that in which the caterpillars that are to spin their silk on its branches are
hatched and feed upon them; just as he prepared a gourd for the very place and the very night
on which Jonah was to come and seat himself to the cast of Nineveh, and when the next
morning dawned, a gnawing worm when the gourd was to be withered; so, too, when he
would proceed to the most important of his doings, and cause that Word to be written which is
to outlast the heavens and the earth, the Lord God could prepare long beforehand each of
those prophets, for the moment and for the testimony to which he had foreordained them from
eternity. He chose them, in succession, for their several duties, from among all men born of
women; and, with respect to them, fulfilled in its perfection that saying, “Send, O Lord, by the
hand thou shouldst send.”22
As a skilful musician, when he would execute a long score by himself, takes up by turns the
funereal flute, the shepherd’s pipe, the merry fife, or the trumpet that summons to battle; so
did Almighty God, when he would make us hear his eternal word, choose out from
of old the instruments which it seemed fit to him to inspire with the breath of his spirit. “He
chose them before the foundation of the world, and separated them from their mother’s
Has the reader ever paid a visit to the astonishing organist, who so charmingly elicits the
tourist’s tears in the Cathedral at Freiburg, as he touches one after another his wondrous keys,
and greets your ear by turns with the march of warriors on the riverside, the voice of prayer
20 Exod. xix.; John xii. 39.
21 Acts xv. 18.
22 Exod. iv. 13.
23 Gal. 1.15; Eph. i. 4.
sent up from the lake during the fury of the storm, or of thanksgiving when it is hushed to
rest? All your senses are electrified, for you seem to have seen all, and to have heard all. Well,
then, it was thus that the Lord God, mighty in harmony, applied, as it were, the finger of his
Spirit to the stops which he had chosen for the hour of his purpose, and for the unity of his
celestial hymn. He had from eternity before him all the human stops which he required; his
Creator’s eye embraces at a glance this range of keys stretching over threescore centuries; and
when he would make known to our fallen world the everlasting counsel of his redemption,
and the coming of the Son of God, he put his left hand on Enoch, the seventh man from
Adam,24 and his right on John, the humble and sublime prisoner of Patmos. The celestial
anthem, seven hundred years before the flood, began with these words, “Behold, the Lord
cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all;” but already, in the
mind of God, and in the eternal harmony of his work, the voice of John had answered to that
of Enoch, and closed the hymn, three thousand years after him, with these words, “Behold, he
cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him! Even so,
Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen!” And during this hymn of thirty centuries, the Spirit of God
never ceased to breathe in all his messengers; the angels, an apostle tells us, desired to look
into its won-
drous depths.25 God’s elect were moved, and life eternal came down into the souls of men.
Between Enoch and St John, listen to Jeremiah, twenty-four centuries after the one, and seven
hundred years before the other, “Before I formed thee in the belly,” saith the Lord, “I knew
thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a
prophet unto the nations.”26 In vain did this alarmed man exclaim, “Ah, Lord God! behold, I
cannot speak: for I am a child.” The Lord answers him, “Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt
speak whatsoever I command thee;” and the Lord put forth his hand and touched his mouth,
“Behold,” said he, “I have put my words in thy mouth.”
Between Enoch and Jeremiah, listen to Moses. He, too, struggles on Mount Horeb against the
call of the Lord, “Alas, O my Lord, I am not eloquent; send, I pray thee, by the hand of him
whom thou wilt send.” But the anger of the Lord is kindled against Moses. “Who hath made
man’s mouth?” he says to him. “Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and will
teach thee what thou shalt say.”27
Between Jeremiah and John, listen to Paul of Tarsus, “When it pleased God, who separated
me from my mother’s womb, to reveal his Son in me, he called me by his grace, that I might
preach him among the heathen.”28
You see, then, it was sometimes the artless and sublime simplicity of John; sometimes the
impassioned, elliptical, rousing, and logical energy of Paul; sometimes the fervour and
solemnity of Peter; it was Isaiah’s magnificent, and David’s lyrical poetry; it was the simple
and majestic narratives of Moses, or the sententious and royal wisdom of Solomon – yes, it
was all this; it was Peter, it was Isaiah, it was Matthew, it was John, it was Moses; yet it was
24 Jude 14.
25 1 Peter i. 12.
26 Jerem. i. 5-7.
27 Exod. iv. 10, &c. &c.
28 Gal. i. 5.
“Are not all these which speak Galileans?” the people exclaimed on the day of Pentecost; yes,
are so; but the message that is on their lips comes from another country – it is from heaven.
Listen to it; for tongues of fire have descended on their heads, and it is God that speaks to you
by their mouths.
11. Finally, we would fain that people should understand that this human individuality to
which our attention is directed in the Scriptures, far from leaving any stain there, or from
being an infirmity there, stamps upon them, on the contrary, a divine beauty, and powerfully
reveals to us their inspiration.
Yes, we have said that it is God who speaks to us there, but it is also man:- it is man, but it is
also God. Admirable Word of God! it has been made man in its own way, as the eternal Word
was! Yes, God has made it also come down to us full of grace and truth, like unto our words
in all things, yet without error and sin! Admirable ‘Word, divine Word, yet withal full of
humanity, much-to-be-loved Word of my God! Yes, in order to our understanding it, it had of
necessity to be put upon mortal lips, that it might relate human things; and, in order to attract
our regard, behoved to invest itself with our modes of thinking, and with all the emotions of
our voice; for God well knew whereof we are made. But we have recognised it as the ‘Word
of the Lord, mighty, efficacious, sharper than a two-edged sword; and the simplest among us,
on hearing it, may say like Cleopas and his friend, “Did not our hearts burn within us while it
spoke to us?”
With what a mighty charm do the Scriptures, by this abundance of humanity, and by all this
personality with which their divinity is invested, remind us that the Lord of our souls, whose
touching voice they are, does himself bear a human heart on the throne of God, although
seated on the highest place, where the angels serve him and adore him for ever! It is thus,
also, that they present to us not only that double character of variety and unity which already
embellishes all the other works of God, as Creator of the heavens and the earth; but, further,
that mingling of familiarity and
authority, of sympathy and grandeur, of practical details and mysterious majesty, of humanity
and divinity, which is recognisable in all the dispensations of the same God, as Redeemer and
Shepherd of his Church.
It is thus, then, that the Father of mercies, while speaking in his prophets, behoved not only to
employ their manner as well as their voice, and their style as well as their pen; but, further,
often to put in operation their whole faculties of thought and feeling. Sometimes, in order to
show us his divine sympathy there, he has deemed it fitting to associate their own
recollections, their human convictions, their personal experiences, and their pious emotions,
with the words he dictated to them; sometimes, in order to remind us of his sovereign
intervention, he has preferred dispensing with this unessential concurrence of their
recollections, affections, and understanding.
Such did the Word of God behove to be.
Like Immanuel, full of grace and truth; at once in the bosom of God and in the heart of man;
mighty and sympathizing; heavenly and of the earth; sublime and lowly; awful and familiar;
God and man! Accordingly it bears no resemblance to the God of the Rationalists. They, after
having, like the disciples of Epicurus, banished the Divinity far from man into a third heaven,
would have had the Bible also to have kept itself there. “Philosophy employs the language of
the gods,” says the too famous Strauss of Ludwigsburg, “while religion makes use of the
language of men.” No doubt she does so; she has recourse to no other; she leaves to the
philosophers and to the gods of this world their empyrean and their language.
Studied under this aspect, considered in this character, the Word of God stands forth without
its like; it presents attractions quite unequalled; it offers to men of all times, all places, and all
conditions, beauties ever fresh; a charm that never grows old, that always satisfies, never
pails. With it, what we find with respect to human books is reversed; for it pleases and
extends and rises in your regard the more assiduously you read it. It seems as if the book, the
more it is studied and studied over again, grows and enlarges itself, and that some kind unseen
being comes daily to stitch in some fresh leaves. And thus it is that the souls, alike of the
learned and the simple, who have long nourished themselves on it, keep hanging upon it as
the people hung of old on the lips of Jesus Christ.29 They all think it incomparable; now
powerful as the sound of mighty waters; now soft and gentle, like the voice of the spouse to
her bridegroom; but always perfect, “always restoring the soul, and making wise the
To what book, in this respect, would you liken it? Go and put beside it the discourses of Plato,
or Seneca, or Aristotle, or Saint Simon, or Jean Jacques. Have you read Mahomet’s books?
Listen to him but for one hour, and your ears will tingle while beaten on by his piercing and
monotonous voice. From the first page to the last, it is still the same sound of the same
trumpet; still the same Medina horn, blown from the top of some mosque, minaret, or warcamel;
still sybilline oracles, shrill and harsh, uttered in an unvarying tone of command and
threat, whether it ordain virtue or enjoin murder; ever one and the same voice, surly and
blustering, having no bowels, no familiarity, no tears, no soul, no sympathy.
After trying other books, if you experience religious longings open the Bible; listen to it.
Sometimes you find here the songs of angels, but of angels that have come down among the
children of Adam. Here is the deep-sounding organ of the Most High, but an organ that serves
to soothe man’s heart and to rouse his conscience, alike in shepherd’s cots and in palaces; alike
in the poor man’s garrets and in the tents of the desert. The Bible, in fact, has lessons for all
conditions; it brings upon the scene both the lowly and the great; it
reveals equally to both the love of God, and unveils in both the same miseries. It addresses
itself to children; and it is often children that show us there the way to heaven and the great
things of Jehovah. It addresses itself to shepherds and herdsmen; and it is often shepherds and
herdsmen who lift up their voices there, and reveal to us the character of God. It speaks to
kings and to scribes; and it is often kings and scribes that teach us there man’s wretchedness,
humiliation, confession, and prayer. Domestic scenes, confessions of conscience, pourings
forth of prayer in secret, travels, proverbs, revelations of the depths of the heart, the holy
29 Luke xix. 48: Ð laÕj ¤paj ™xekršmato.
30 Ps. xix. 7.
courses pursued by a child of God, weaknesses unveiled, falls, recoveries, inward
experiences, parables, familiar letters, theological treatises, sacred commentaries on some
ancient Scripture, national chronicles, military annals, political statistics, descriptions of God,
portraits of angels, celestial visions, practical counsels, rules of life, solutions of cases of
conscience, judgments of the Lord, sacred hymns, predictions of future events, narratives of
what passed during the days preceding our creation, sublime odes, inimitable pieces of poetry;
– all this is found there by turns; and all this meets our view in most delightful variety, and
presenting a whole whose majesty, like that of a temple, is overpowering. Thus it is, that,
from its first to its last page, the Bible behoved. to combine with its majestic unity the
indefinable charm of human-like instruction, familiar, sympathetic, personal, and the charm
of a drama extending over forty centuries. In the Bible of Desmarets, it is said, “There are
fords here for lambs, and there are deep waters where elephants swim.”
But behold, at the same time, what unity, and, lo! what innumerable and profound harmonies
in this immense variety! Under all forms it is still the same truth; ever man lost, and God the
Saviour; ever man with his posterity coming forth out of Eden and losing the tree of life, and
the second Adam with his people re-entering paradise, and regaining possession of the
tree of life; ever the same cry uttered in tones innumerable, “O heart of man, return to thy
God, for he pardoneth! We are in the gulf of perdition; let us come out of it; a Saviour hath
gone down into it he bestows holiness as he bestows life.”
“Is it possible that a book at once so sublime and so simple can be the work of man?” was
asked of the philosophers of the last century by one who was himself too celebrated a
philosopher. And all its pages have replied, No – it is impossible; for every where, traversing
so many ages, and whichever it be of the God-employed writers that holds the pen, king or
shepherd, scribe or fisherman, priest or publican, you every where perceive that one same
Author, at a thousand years’ interval, and that one same eternal Spirit, has conceived and
dictated all; – every where, at Babylon as at Horeb, at Jerusalem as at Athens, at Rome as at
Patmos, you will find described the same God, the same world, the same men, the same
angels, the same future, the same heaven:- every where, whether it be a poet or a historian that
addresses you, whether it be in the plains of the desert in the age of Pharaoh, or in the prisons
of the capitol in the days of the Caesars – every where in the world the same ruin; in man the
same impotency; in the angels the same elevation, the same innocence, the same charity; in
heaven the same purity, the same happiness, the same meeting together of truth and mercy,
the same mutual embracing of righteousness and peace; the same counsels of a God who
blotteth out iniquity, and who, nevertheless, doth not clear the guilty.
We conclude, therefore, that the abundance of humanity to be found in the Scriptures, far
from compromising their divine inspiration, is only one farther mark of their divinity.
Converted to pdf format by Robert I Bradshaw, August 2004.
Let us open the Scriptures. – What do they say of their inspiration?
We shall commence by reproducing here that oft-repeated passage, 2 Tim. iii. 16, “All
Scripture is given by inspiration of God!”1 that is to say, all parts of it are given by the Spirit
or by the breath of God.
This statement admits of no exception and of no restriction. Here there is no exception; it is
ALL SCRIPTURE; it is all that is written (p©sa graf¾); meaning thereby the thoughts after
they have received the stamp of language. – No restriction; all Scripture is in such wise a work
of God, that it is represented to us as uttered by the divine breathing, just as human speech is
uttered by the breathing of a man’s mouth. The prophet is the mouth of the Lord.
The purport of this declaration of St Paul remains the same in both the constructions that may
be put upon his words, whether we place, as our versions do, the affirmation of the phrase on
the word qeÒpneustoj; (divinely inspired), and suppose the verb to be under
stood (all Scripture is divinely inspired, profitable . . .); or, making the verb apply to the
words that follow, we understand qeÒpneustoj (divinely inspired) only as a determinative
adjective (all Scripture divinely inspired of God, is profitable . . .). – This last construction
would even give more force than the first to the apostle’s declaration. For then, as his
statement would necessarily relate to the whole Scripture of the holy Letters (t¦ †era
gr¦mmata), of which he had been speaking, would assume, as an admitted and incontestable
principle, that the simple mention of the holy Letters implies of itself that Scriptures inspired
by God are meant.
Nevertheless it will be proper to give a farther expression of this same truth, by some other
declaration of our holy books.
1 See further upon this passage, our Chap. III. question 27.
St Peter in his second epistle, at the close of the first chapter, thus expresses himself:
“Knowing this first, that no Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came
not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the
Holy Ghost.” – Note on this passage:
1. That it relates to written revelations (profhte…a grafÁj);
2. That never (oÙ pÒte) did any of these come through the impulsion or the government of a
will of man;
3. That it was as urged or moved by the Holy Ghost tbat those holy men wrote and spoke;
4. Finally, that their writings are called by the name of prophecy.
It. will be proper then, before we proceed farther, to have the scriptural meaning of these
words prophecy, prophesy, prophet (aybn), precisely determined; because it is indispensable
for the investigation with which we
are occupied, that this be known, and because the knowledge of it will throw much light on
the whole question.
Various and often very inaccurate meanings have been given to the biblical term prophet; but
an attentive examination of the passages in which it is employed, will soon convince us that it
constantly designates, in the Scriptures, “a man whose month utters the words of God.”
Among the Greeks, this name was at first given only to the interpreter and the organ of the
vaticinations pronounced in the temples (™xhght¾j œnqewn mante…wn). This sense of the
word is fully explained by a passage in the Timæus of Plato.2 The most celebrated prophets of
pagan antiquity were those of Delphos. They conducted the Pythoness to the tripod, and were
charged with the interpretation of the oracles of the god, or the putting of them into writing.
And it was only afterwards, by an extension of this its first meaning, that the name of prophet
was given among the Greeks to poets, who, commencing their songs with an invocation of
Apollo and the Muses, were deemed to give utterance to the language of the gods, and to
speak under their inspiration.
A prophet, in the Bible, is a man, then, in whose mouth God puts the words which he wishes
to be heard upon earth; and it was farther by allusion to the fulness of this meaning that God
said to Moses,3 that Aaron should be his prophet unto Pharaoh, according as he had told him
2 Tom. IX. ed. Bipont., p. 392.
3 Exod. vii. 1.
(at chap. iv. ver. 16): “He shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead
Mark, in Scripture, how the prophets testify of the Spirit that makes them speak, and of the
wholly divine authority of their words: you will ever find in their language one uniform
definition of their office, and of their inspiration. They speak; it is, no doubt, their
voice that makes itself heard; it is their person that is agitated; it is, no doubt, their soul also
that often is moved; – but their words are not only theirs; they are, at the same time, the words
“The mouth of the Lord hath spoken;” – “ the Lord hath spoken,” they say unceasingly.4– “I
will open my mouth in the midst of them,” saith the Lord to his servant Ezekiel. – “The Spirit
of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue,” said the royal psalmist.5 – “Hear
the word of the Lord!” It is thus that the prophets announce what they are about to say.6 –
“Then was the word of the Lord upon me,” is what they often say. – “The word of God came
unto Shemaiah;” – “the word of God came to Nathan;” – “the word of God came unto John in
the wilderness;”7 – “the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord;”8 – “the burden of the
word of the Lord by Malachi;”9 – “the word of the Lord that came unto Hosea;”10 “In the
second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord by Haggai, the prophet.”11
This word came down upon the men of God when it pleased, and often in the most unlookedfor
It is thus that God, when he sent Moses, said to him, “I will be with thy mouth;”12 and that,
when he made Balaam speak, “he put a word in Balaam’s mouth.”13 The apostles, too,
quoting a passage from David in their prayer, express themselves in these words: “Thou,
Lord, hast said by the mouth of thy servant David.”14 And St Peter, addressing the multitude
of the disciples: “Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the
GHOST, BY THE MOUTH OF DAVID, spake before concerning Judas.”15 The same apostle
also, in the holy place, under Solomon’s porch, cried to the people of Jerusalem, “But those
4 Micah iv. 4; Jer. ix. 12, xiii. 15, xxx. 4, 1. 1, ii. 12; Isa. viii. II; Amos iii. 1; Exod. iv. 30; Deut. xviii. 21, 22;
Josh. xxiv. 2.
5 2 Sam. xxiii. 1, 2.
6 Isa. xxviii. 14; Jer. xix. 20, x. 1, xvii. 20.
7 1 Kings xii. 22; 1 Chron. xvii. 3; Luke iii. 2.
8 Jer. xi. 1, vii. 1, xviii. 1, xxi. 1, xxvi. 1, xxvii. 1, xxx. 1; and in many other places. See Ezek. i. 2; Jer. i. 1, 2, 9,
14; Ezek. iii. 4, 10, 11; Hos. i. 1, 2, &c.
9 Mal. i. 1
10 Hos. 1. 1, 2.
11 Hag. 1. 1.
12 Exod. iv. 12, 13.
13 ™nšbalen (oƒ Ò); Num. xxiii. 3.
14 Acts iv. 25.
15 Acts i. 16.
things which God before HAD SHOWED BY THE MOUTH OF ALL HIS PROPHETS, that
Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.”16
In the view of the apostles, then, David in his psalms, and all the prophets in their writings,
whatever might be the pious emotions of their souls, were only the mouth of the Holy Ghost.
It was David who SPOKE; it was the prophets WHO SHOWED; but it was also God THAT
SPARE BY THE MOUTH of David, his servant; it was God WHO SHOWED BY THE
MOUTH of all his prophets. – (Acts i. 16, iii. 18-21, iv. 25.)
And, yet again, let the reader be so good as carefully to examine, as it stands in the Greek, that
expression which recurs so often in the Gospel, and which is so conclusive, “That it might be
fulfilled which was spoken BY THE PROPHET, – (and even) which was spoken OF THE
LORD BY THE PROPHET, (DIA toà prof»tou, – and even – UPO toà kurˆou DIA toà
It is in a quite analogous sense that holy scripture gives the name of prophets and of false
prophets to impostors, who lied among the Gentiles, in the temples of the false gods, whether
they were only common cheats, falsely pretending to visions from God, or whether they were
really the mouth or an occult power, of a malevolent angel, of a spirit of Python.18
And it is, farther, in the same sense that St Paul, in quoting a verse of Epimenides, a poet,
priest, and soothsayer among the Cretans, called him “one of their prophets;” because all the
Greeks consulted him as an oracle; because Nicias was sent into Crete by the Athen-
ians to fetch him to purify their city; and because Aristotle, Strabo,19 Suidas,20 and Diogenes
Laertius,21 tell us that he undertook to foretell the future, and to discover things unknown.
From all these quotations, accordingly, it remains established, that in the language of the
Scriptures the prophecies are “the words of God put into the mouth of man.”
Accordingly, it is by a manifest abuse also, that in common language people seem to
understand no more by that word than a miraculous prediction. The prophecies could reveal
the past as well as the future; they denounced God’s judgments; they interpreted his Word;
they sang his praises; they consoled his people; they exhorted souls to holiness; they testified
of Jesus Christ.
And as “no prophecy came by the will of man,”22 a prophet, as we have already intimated,
was such only at intervals, “and as the Spirit gave him utterance.” – (Acts ii. 4.)
16 Acts. iii. 18.
17 Matt. i. 22, ii. 5, 15, 23, xiii. 35, xxi. 4, xxvii. 9, iv. 14, viii. 17, xii. 17.
18 Acts xiii. 6; Jer. xxix. 1-8; 2 Kings xviii. 19. The LXX. often render ) aybn by yeudoprof»thj. (Jer. vi. 13,
xxvi. 7, 8, 11-16, xxvii. 1, xxix. 1-8; Zech. xiii. 2).
19 Georg. lib. x.
20 In voce Ep…men
21 Vita Epimen.
22 2 Pet. 1. 21.
A man prophesied sometimes without foreseeing it, sometimes too without knowing it, and
sometimes even without desiring it.
I have said, without foreseeing it; and often at the very moment when he could least expect it.
Such was the old prophet of Bethel. – (1 Kings xiii. 20.) I have said, without knowing it; such
was Caiaphas. – (John xi. 51.) Finally, I have said, without desiring it; such was Balaam,
when, wishing three times to curse Israel, he could not, three successive times, make his
mouth utter any words but those of benediction. – (Numb. xxiii. xxiv.)
We shall give other examples to complete the demonstration of what a prophecy generally is,
and thus to arrive at a fuller comprehension of the extent of the action of God in what St Peter
calls written prophecy (profhte…an grafÁj).
We read in the 11th of Numbers (25th to the 29th verses), that, as soon as the Lord made the
Spirit to rest upon the seventy elders, “they prophesied;” but (it is added) “they did not
continue.” The Spirit, then, came upon them at an unexpected moment; and after he had thus
“spoken by them,” and his word “had been upon their tongue,” (2 Sam. xxiii. 1, 2), they
preserved nothing more of this miraculous gift, and were prophets only for a day.
We read in the First Book of Samuel (xii.), with what unforeseen power the Spirit of the Lord
seized young king Saul at the moment when, as he sought for his father’s she-asses, he met a
company of prophets who came down from the holy place. “What is this that is come to the
son of Kish,” said they one to another; “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
We read at the 19th chapter, something still more striking. Saul sends to Ramah men who
were to take David; but no sooner did they meet Samuel and the company of prophets over
whom he was set, than the Spirit of the Lord came upon these men of war, and “they also
prophesied.” Saul sends others, and “they also prophesy.” Saul at last goes thither himself,
and “he also prophesied all that day and all that night before Samuel.” “The Spirit of God,”
we are told, “WAS UPON HIM.”
But it is particularly by an attentive study of the 12th and 14th chapters of the First Epistle to
the Corinthians, that one obtains an exact knowledge of what the action of God, and the part
assigned to man severally, were in prophecy.
The apostle there gives the Church of Corinth the rules that were to be followed in the use of
this miraculous gift. His counsels will be found to throw a deal of light on this important
subject. One will then recognise at once the following facts and principles:-
1. The Holy Ghost at that time conferred upon the faithful, for the common advantage, a great
variety of gifts (xii. 7-10); – to one that of miracles; to another
that of healing; to another, discerning of spirits; to another, divers kinds of tongues, which the
man himself did not understand when he spoke them; to another, the interpretation of tongues;
to another, in fine, prophecy – that is, uttering with his own tongue words dictated by God.
2. One and the selfsame Spirit divided severally as be would these different miraculous
3. These gifts were a just subject of Christian desire and ambition. (zhloàte, xiv. 1, 39.) But
the one that was to be regarded as the most desirable of all, was that of prophesying; for one
could speak an unknown tongue without edifying any body, and that miracle was “useful
rather to the unbelievers than to believers;” whereas “he that prophesied spoke unto men to
edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” – (l Cor. xiv. 1-3.)
4. That prophecy – that is to say, those words that fell miraculously on the lips that the Holy
Ghost had chosen for such an office – that prophecy assumed very different forms. Sometimes
the Spirit gave a psalm, sometimes a doctrine, sometimes a revelation; sometimes, too, it was
a miraculous interpretation of that which others had miraculously expressed in strange
5. In those prophecies there was evidently a work of God and a work of man. They were the
words of the Holy Ghost; but they were also the words of the prophet. It was God that spoke,
but in men, by men, for men; and there you would have found, as on other occasions, the
sound of their voice – perhaps also the habitual peculiarities of their style – perhaps, moreover,
allusions to their own experience, to their position at the time, to their individuality.
6. These miraculous facts continued in the primitive Church throughout the long career of the
apostles. St Paul, who wrote his letter to the Corinthians twenty
years after the death of Jesus Christ, speaks of them as a common and habitual order of things,
for some time existing among them, and which ought still to continue.
7. The prophets, although they were the mouth of God to make his words heard, were not,
however, absolutely passive while engaged in prophesying.
“The spirits of the prophets,” says St Paul, “are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor. xiv. 22); that
is to say, that the men of God, while his prophetic word was on their lips, could nevertheless
check its escape by the repressive action of their own wills; nearly as a man suspends, when
he wishes to do so, the almost involuntary course of his respiration. Thus, for example, if any
revelation came upon one of those that were sitting, the first that spoke had then “to hold his
peace, sit down, and let him speak.”
Let us now apply these principles and these facts to the prophecy of Scripture (tÍ profhte…v
grafÁj), and to the passage of St Peter, for the explanation of which we have adduced them.
No prophecy of the Scripture,” says he “is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy
came not in old time by a will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the
Holy Ghost.” – (2 Pet. i. 21.)
23 Verse ii. See also Eph. iv. 7; and Acts xix. 1 to 6.
24 Ver. 26 to 31; and 1 Sam. x. 6; xviii. 10.
Here, then, we have the plenary and entire inspiration of the Scriptures clearly established by
the apostle; here we have the SCRIPTURE assimilated to those prophecies which we have
just defined. It “came not by a will of man;” it is entirely dictated by the Holy Ghost; it gives
us the very words of God; it is entirely (›nqeoj and qeÒpneustoj) given by the breath of God.
Who would dare then, after such declarations, to maintain, that in the Scriptures the
expressions are not inspired? They are WRITTEN PROPHECIES (p©sa profhte…a
grafÁj). One sole difficulty, accordingly, is all that can any longer he opposed to our
conclusion. The testimony and the reasoning on which it rests, are so clearly valid, that one
can elude them only by this objection. We agree, it will be said, that written prophecy
(profhte…a grafÁj) has, without contradiction, been composed by that power of the Holy
Ghost which was put forth in the prophets; but the rest of the book, the Epistles, the Gospels,
and the Acts, the Proverbs, the Books of Kings, and so many other purely historical writings,
are not entitled to be put in the same rank.
Here, then, let us pause; and, before replying, see clearly the extent of our argument.
It ought already to be fully acknowledged, that all that part of the Scriptures at least called
PROPHECY, whatever it be, has been completely dictated by God; so that the words as well
as the thoughts have been given by him.
But who now will permit us to establish a distinction between any one of the books of the
Bible, and all the other books? Is not all given by prophecy? Certainly all has equally God’s
warrant; this is what we proceed to prove.
And, first of all, all the Scriptures are without distinction called THE WORD OF GOD. This
title is sufficient of itself to demonstrate to us, that if Isaiah began his prophecies by inviting
the heavens and the earth to give ear because the Lord had spoken,25 the same summons ought
to come forth for us from all the books of the Bible, for they are all called “The Word of
God.” “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord hath spoken!”
Nowhere shall we find a single passage that permits us to detach one single part of it as less
divine than all the rest. When we say that this whole book is the Word of God, do we not
attest that the very phrases of which it is composed have been given by him?
25 Isa. i. 2.
But the whole Bible is not only Called “The Word of God,” (Ð lÒgoj toà qeoà); it is called,
without distinction, THE ORACLES OF GOD (t¦ toà qeoà).26 Who knows not what oracles
were held to be in the ideas of men in ancient times? Was there a word that could more
absolutely express a verbal and complete inspiration? And as if this term, which St Paul
employs, were not sufficient, we farther hear Stephen, filled with the Holy Ghost, call them
the LIVING ORACLES (lÒgia zînta); “Moses,” he says, “received the lively oracles, to
give them unto us.” – (Acts vii. 38.)
All the Scriptures then, without exception, are a continuous word of God; they are his
miraculous voice; they are his written prophecies and his lively oracles. Which of their
various parts, then, would you dare to cut off? The apostles often distinguish two parts in
them, when they call them “Moses and the Prophets.” Jesus Christ distinguished them into
three parts27 when he said to his apostles, “That all things must he fulfilled which were
written in Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me.” According to this
division, then, in which our Lord speaks according to the language of that time, the Old
Testament would he made up of these three parts, – Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms; as
the New Testament is composed of the Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles, and the Book of the
Revelation. Which, then, of these three parts of the Old Testament, or which of these four
parts of the New, would you dare to withdraw from the Scripture of the prophets (profhte…aj
grafÁj), or from the inspired Word (™nqšou lÒgou – grafÁj qeopneÚstou)?
Would it be Moses? But what more holy and more divine, in the whole Old Testament, than
the writings of that man of God? He was in such sort a prophet that his holy books are placed
above all the rest, and are called emphatically THE LAW. He was in such sort a prophet, that
another prophet, speaking of his
books alone, said, “The law of the Lord is perfect” (Ps. xix. 7); “The words of the Lord are
pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” – (Ps. xii. 6.) He was in
such sort a prophet of God, that he is compared by himself to none but the Son of God. “This
is that Moses,” it is written, “who said to the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your
God raise up unto you of your brethren, LIKE UNTO ME; him shall ye hear.” – (Acts vii. 37.)
He was is such sort a prophet, that he was accustomed to preface his orders with these words:
“Thus saith the Lord.” He was in such sort a prophet, that God said to him, “Who hath made
man’s mouth? have not I, the Lord? Now therefore go; and I will be with thy mouth, and teach
thee what thou shalt say.” – (Exod. iv. 11.) Finally, he was in such sort a prophet, that it is
written, “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew
face to face.” – (Deut. xxxiv. 10.)
What other part of the Old Testament, then, would you exclude from the prophetic Scriptures?
Shall it be the second ? – that which Jesus Christ calls The Prophet?, and which comprises all
the Old Testament, exclusive of Moses and the Psalms, and sometimes exclusive of Moses
alone? It is well worth noting, that Jesus Christ, and the apostles, and the whole people,
habitually call by the name of prophets all the authors of the Old Testament. They were wont
to say, in order to designate the whole Scriptures, “Moses and the prophets.” – (Luke xxiv. 25,
27, 44; Matt. v. 17, vii. 12, xi. 13, xii. 40; Luke xvi. 16, 29, 31, xx. 42; Acts i. 20, iii. 21, 22,
26 Rom iii. 2.
27 Luke xxiv. 44.
vii. 35, 37, viii 28, xxvi. 22, 27, xxviii. 23; Rom. i. 2, iii. 21, x. 5, &c. &c.) Jesus Christ called
nil their books The Prophets:- they were prophets. Joshua, then, was a prophet; the authors of
the Chronicles were prophets, quite as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, and all the
rest were, down to Malachi.
They wrote then, all of them, the prophetic Scriptures (profhte…an grafÁj); all, the words
of which St
Peter has said, “that none of them came by a will of man;” all, those ƒer¦ gr£mmata, those
holy letters, which the apostle declares to be “divinely inspired.”28 The Lord said of all of
them as of Jeremiah, “Lo, I have put my words in thy mouth;”29 and as of Ezekiel, “Son of
man, go, speak unto them MY words: speak unto them, and tell them, Thus SAITH THE
And that all the phrases, all the words, were suggested to them by God, is demonstrated by a
fact stated to us more than once, and in the study of their writings frequently brought under
our eye, to wit – that they were charged to transmit to the Church oracles, the meaning of
which was to remain veiled to their own minds. Daniel, for example, declares more than once,
that he was unable to seize the prophetic meaning of the words that proceeded from his own
lips, or were traced with his hand.31 The types, impressed by God on all the events of
primitive history, were not to be recognised till many centuries after the death of the men who
were commissioned to relate to us their leading features; and the holy Ghost informs us that
the prophets, after having written out their sacred pages, set themselves to study them with
the, most respectful attention, as they would have done with the other Scriptures, “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.”32 Behold,
then, these men of God bending over their own writings. There they ponder the words of God
and the thoughts of God. Can this cause you any surprise, seeing that they have written for the
elect of the earth, and for the principalities and powers of heaven, the doctrines and the glories
of the Son of God, and seeing these are things “into which the angels desire to look ?”33
So much for Moses and for the Prophets; but what will you say of the Psalms? Shall we
consider these less given by the spirit of prophecy than all the rest? Are not the authors of the
Psalms always called prophets?34 And if they are sometimes, like Moses, distinguished from
the other prophets, is it not evidently in order that a place of greater eminence may be
assigned them? “David was a prophet,” says St Peter. – (Acts ii. 30.) Mark what he himself
says he is: “The Spirit of the Lord SPAKE BY ME,” says he, “and HIS WORD WAS UPON
MY TONGUE.” – (2 Sam. xxiii. 1, 2.) “What David wrote,” and even his words in detail, “he
wrote SPEAKING BY THE HOLY Ghost,” said our Lord. – (Mark xii. 36.) The apostles also,
28 2 Tim. iii. 16.
29 Jer. i. 1,2, 9.
30 Ezek. iii. 10, 11.
31 Dan. xii. 4, 8, 9, viii. 27, x. 8, 21.
32 1 Pet. i. 10,11, 12.
33 Eph. iii 10, 11.
34 Matt. xiii. 35; for Asaph (Ps. lxxvii.)
quoting him (in their prayer), take care to say, “This Scripture must needs have been fulfilled
which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake.” – (Acts i. 16.) “Lord, thou art God, who
by the mouth of thy servant David hast said.” – (Acts iv. 25.) What do I say? These psalms
were to such a degree all dictated by the Holy Ghost, that the Jew’s, and the Lord Jesus Christ
himself, call them by the name of THE LAW;35 all their utterances had the force of law; their
smallest words were from God. “Is it not written in your LAW?” said Jesus while quoting
them, and in quoting them even for a SINGLE WORD (as we shall soon have occasion to
The whole Old Testament then is, in a scriptural sense of the expression, a WRITTEN
PROPHECY (profhte…a grafÁj). It is plenarily inspired therefore by God, seeing that,
according to the testimony of Zachariah, “it is God who spake by the mouth of his holy
prophets, which have been since the world began;36 and
because, according to that of Peter, “they spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”37
It is true that thus far our reasonings, and the testimonies on which they are founded, directly
relate to the books of the Old Testament only; and it might possibly be objected to us that as
yet we have proved nothing for the New.
We shall begin, before we reply, with asking, If it were likely that the Lord could have
designed giving successive revelations to his people, and that, nevertheless, the latest and the
most important of these should be inferior to the first? We would ask, If it be rational to
imagine that the first Testament, which contained only “the shadows of things that were to
come,” could have been dictated by God in all its contents; while the second Testament,
which sets before us the grand object to which all those shadows relate, and which describes
to us the works, the character, the person, and the sayings even of the Son of God, was to be
less inspired than the first? We would ask, If one can believe that the Epistles and the
Gospels, which were destined to repeal many of the ordinances of Moses and the Prophets,
could be less divine than Moses and the Prophets; and that the Old Testament could be
throughout an utterance of thought on the part of God, while it was to be replaced, or at least
modified and consummated, by a book emanating partly from man and partly from God?
But there is no need even of our having recourse to these powerful inductions in order to
establish the prophetic inspiration of the Gospel; nay, its superiority to Moses and the
35 John x. 34. St Paul (Rom. iii. 19) calls the whole Old Testament equally by the name of LAW, and more
especially Isaiah, the Proverbs, and the Psalms (which he quotes). This remark has not escaped Chrysostom
(Homil. viii.): ™ntaàqa touj yalmoÝj NÒmon ™k£lesen and Theophalact adds, kaˆ t¦ toà ‘Hsa…ou.
36 Luke i. 70.
37 2 Pet. I. 21. See also Matt. I. 22, xxii. 43; Mark xii.36.
The whole tenor of Scripture places the writers of the New Testament in the same rank with
the prophets of the Old; and even when it establishes any difference between them, it is
always in putting the last in date above the first, in so far as one of God’s sayings is superior
(not doubtless in divinity, not in dignity, but in authority) to the saying that preceded it.
Let the reader be so good as attend to the following passage of the apostle St Peter. It is very
important, inasmuch as it lets us see that, in the lifetime of the apostles, the book of the New
Testament was already almost entirely formed, in order to make one whole together with that
of the Old. It was twenty or thirty years after the day of Pentecost that St Peter felt gratified in
referring to ALL THE EPISTLES OF PAUL, his beloved brother, and spoke of them as
sacred writings which, even so early as his time, formed part of the Holy Letters (ƒerîn
gramm£twn), and behoved to be classed with THE OTHER SCRIPTURES (æj kaˆ t¦j
loip¦j, graf¦j). He assigns them the same rank, and declares that “unlearned men can wrest
them but to their own destruction.” Mark this important passage; “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.”38
The apostle, at the second verse of the same chapter, had already placed himself, along with
the other apostles, on the same rank, and assumed the same authority, as the sacred writers of
the Old Testament, when he said:
“That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken BEFORE by the holy PROPHETS,
and of the commandment OF US the APOSTLES of the Lord and Saviour.”
The writings of the apostles, then, were that which those of the Old Testament were; and these
being a WRITTEN PROPHECY – that is to say, something spoken altogether by God – the
latter are no less so.
But we have said the Scripture goes much farther in the rank it assigns to the writers of the
New Covenant. It teaches us to consider them as even superior to those of the Old, whether as
respects the importance of their mission, or the glory of the promises made to them, or the
greatness of the gifts conferred on them – or, in fine, the eminence of the rank assigned to
1. First, let us distinctly perceive what their mission was, compared with that of the ancient
prophets; and it will at once be seen, from passages bearing on this point, that their inspiration
could not be inferior to that of their predecessors.
When Jesus sent the apostles whom he had chosen (it is written), he said to them: “Go ye
therefore, and teach all nations; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have
commanded you: and, lo, I AM WITH YOU alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”39
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be
38 2 Peter iii. 15, 16.
39 Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.
witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost
part of the earth?”40 “Peace be unto you: as my Father HATH SENT ME, even SO SEND I
Such was their mission. They were the immediate envoys (¢postÒloi) of the Son of God;
they went to all nations; they had the assurance that their Master would be present with the
testimony they were to bear to him in the holy Scriptures. Did they require, then, less
inspiration for their going to the ends of the earth, and
to make disciples of all nations, than the prophets required “forgoing to Israel and teaching
that one people, the Jews?” Had they not to promulgate all the doctrines, all the ordinances,
all the mysteries of the kingdom of God? Had they not to bear “the keys of the kingdom of
heaven” in such sort, that whatsoever they should bind or loose on earth should be bound or
loosed in heaven?”42 Had not Jesus Christ expressly conferred the Holy Ghost upon them for
this end, that sins might be remitted or retained with regard to those to whom they should
remit or retain them? Had he not breathed upon them, saying, “Receive the Holy Ghost?” Had
he not to reveal to them the wondrous character of the Word made flesh, and of the Creator so
abased as to take upon him the form of a creature, and even to die upon the cross? Had they
not to report his inimitable words? Had they not to perform on earth the miraculous
intransmissible functions of his representatives and of “his ambassadors, as if it had been
Christ that spoke by them?”43 Were they not called to such a glory, “that, in the great final
regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, they also should sit
upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel?”44 If, then, the prophetic Spirit was
necessary for the former men of God, in order to show the Messiah under the shadows, was it
not much more necessary for them, in order to their bringing him out into the light, and to
their evidently setting him forth as crucified amongst us,45 “in such a manner that he that
despiseth them despiseth him, and he that heareth them heareth him?”46 Let one judge by all
these traits what the inspiration of the New Testament behoved to have been, compared with
that of the Old; and let one say whether, while the latter was wholly and entirely prophetic,
that of the New could be any thing less.
2. But this is not all; listen further to the promises
that were made to them for the performance of such a work. No human language can express
with greater force the most absolute inspiration. These promises were for the most part
addressed to them on three great occasions: first, when sent out for the first time to preach the
kingdom of God;47 next, when Jesus himself delivered public discourses on the gospel before
40 Acts 1. 8.
41 John xx. 21.
42 Matt. xviii. 18, xvi. 19.
43 2 Cor. v. 20.
44 Matt. xix. 28.
45 Gal. iii. i.
46 Luke x. 16; Matt. x. 40.
47 Matt. x. 19, 20.
an immense multitude, gathered by tens of thousands around him;48 third, when he uttered his
last denunciation against Jerusalem and the Jewish nation.49
“But when they deliver you up, take no thought HOW or WHAT ye shall speak (pîj À t…),
for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not YE that speak, but
the SPIRIT OF YOUR FATHER WHICH SPEAKETH IN YOU.”
“And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates and powers, TAKE YE
NO THOUGHT HOW or WHAT thing ye shall answer, or WHAT ye shall say; for the Holy
Ghost shall teach you IN THE SAME HOUR what ye ought to say.” “Take no thought beforehand
what ye shall speak, NEITHER DO YE PREMEDITATE, but WHATSOEVER
shall be GIVEN you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is NOT YE THAT SPEAK, but the
On these different occasions, the Lord assured his disciples that the fullest inspiration would
regulate their language in the most difficult and important moments of their ministry. When
they should have to speak to princes, they were to feel no disquietude; they were not even to
premeditate, they were not even to take thought about it, because there would then be
immediately given to them by God, not only the things they were to say, but the words also in
which those things were to be expressed; not only t…, but pîj lal»sontai. – (Matt. x. 19,
20.) They behoved to cast themselves entirely on him; it would be given them entirely; it
would be given them by Jesus; it would be given them in that
same hour; it would be given them in such a manner, and in such plenitude, that they should
be able then to say that it was no more they, but the Holy Ghost, the SPIRIT OF THEIR
FATHER, which spoke IN THEM;50 and that then also it was not only an irresistible wisdom
that was given them, it was a mouth.51
“Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer; for I will give
you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist.”
Then (as with the ancient prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) it shall be the Holy Ghost that
will speak by them, as God spoke by his holy prophets since the world began.52 In one sense,
indeed, it was they that were to speak; but it shall be the Holy Ghost who will teach them
(Luke xii. 12) in that same hour what they are to say; so that, in another sense, “it was to be
the Holy Ghost himself that was to speak by their lips.”
We ask if it were possible, in any language, to express more absolutely the most entire
inspiration, and to declare with more precision, that the very words were then vouched by
God and given to the apostles?
No doubt, in these promises there is no direct reference to the support which the apostles were
to receive as writers; and that they bear rather on what they were to expect, when they had to
48 Luke xii. 12.
49 Mark xiii. 11; Luke xxi. 14, 15.
50 Matt. x. 20; Mark xiii. 14.
51 Luke xxi. 14, 15.
52 Acts iii. 21.
appear before priests, before governors, and before kings. But is it not evident enough, that if
the most entire inspiration were assured to them53 for passing exigencies, to shut the mouths
of some wicked men, to conjure the perils of a day, and to subserve interests of the narrowest
range; if it were promised them, notwithstanding that the very words of their answers should
then be given to them by means of a calm, mighty, but inexplicable operation of the Holy
Ghost, – is it not evident enough that the same assistance could not be refused to those same
men, when, like the ancient prophets, they bad to continue the book of
God’s oracles; and so to hand down to all succeeding ages the laws of the kingdom of heaven,
and describe the glories of Jesus Christ and the scenes of eternity? Can any one suppose that
the mea who, before Ananias, or Festus, or Nero, were in such sort “the mouth of the Holy
Spirit,” that then it was no longer they that spoke, but that Spirit, should, when writing the
everlasting Gospel, have returned to the condition of ordinary beings merely enlightened,
denuded of their previous inspiration, no longer speaking by the Holy Ghost, and
thenceforward employing only words dictated by human wisdom, (qel¾mati ¢ndrèpou kaˆ
™n didakto‹j ¢ndrwp…nhj sof…aj lÒgoij)? This is quite inadmissible.
3. See them, further, commencing their apostolic ministry on the day of Pentecost: see what
gifts they received.
Tongues of fire descend on their heads; they are filled with the Holy Ghost; they leave their
upper chamber, and a vast multitude hears them proclaim, in fifteen different languages, the
wonderful works of God; they speak AS THE SPIRIT GIVES THEM UTTERANCE;54 they
speak (it is said) THE WORD OF GOD (™l£loun tÕn lÕgon toà qeoà.)55 Assuredly, the
words of those foreign languages must have been then supplied to them as well as the things,
the expression as well as the thoughts, the pîj as well as the t… – (Matt. x. 19.; Luke xii. 11.)
Now then will it be believed, that the Spirit could have taken care to dictate all that they
behoved to say, for preachings at the corners of the streets, for words which passed away with
the sound of their voices, and which, after all, reached only some thousands of hearers; while
those same men, when they came afterwards to write for all earth’s nations, and for all ages of
the Church, “the lively oracles of God,” were to be deprived of their first assistance? Will it
be believed, that after having been more than the ancient prophets as respects preaching in
public, they were to be less than those
prophets, and were to become ordinary men, when they took the pen to finish the Book of the
Prophets, to write their Gospels, their Epistles, and the Book of the Revelation? The
unreasonableness and inadmissibility of such a supposition are felt at once.
4. But here we have to say something still more simple and more peremptory. We would
speak of the rank that is assigned them; and indeed, after what we said of the prophets of the
Old Testament, we might even have limited ourselves to this simple fact, that the apostles
were all of them PROPHETS, and MORE THAN PROPHETS.
53 Luke xii. 12.
54 Acts II. 2.
55 Acts iv. 31
Their writings, therefore, are WRITTEN PROPHECIES (profhte…a grafÁj), as much, and
even more, than those of the Old Testament; and hence we are led to conclude once more, that
all Scripture in the New Testament, as well as in the Old, is inspired of God, even to its
1 have said that the apostles were all prophets. They often declare this; but, not to multiply
quotations unnecessarily, we content ourselves here with appealing to the two following
passages of the apostle St Paul.
The first is addressed to the Ephesians (iii. 4, 5): “Whereby,” he tells them, “when ye read
WHAT I WROTE before in a few words, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of
Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is NOW revealed
unto his holy APOSTLES AND PROPHETS by the Spirit.”
One clearly sees, then, here the apostle and prophet Paul, the apostles and prophets Matthew,
John, Jude, Peter, James, received by the Spirit the revelation of the mystery of Christ; and
wrote about it as PROPHETS.
Further, it is of the same mystery, and of the writings of the same prophets, that that same
apostle speaks in the second of the passages we have indicated, that is, in the last chapter of
his Epistle to the Romans.56
“Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of
Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world
began, but now is made manifest, and by the SCRIPTURES OF THE PROPHETS (di£ te
grafîn profhtikîn), according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known
to all nations for the obedience of faith: to God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for
Here, then, we have the authors of the New Testament again called PROPHETS; we have
their writings called PROPHETICAL WRITINGS (grafaˆ profhtika…, the equivalent of the
profhte…a grafÁj; of St Peter). And Since we have already Seen that “no prophecy ever
came by the will of him that uttered it, but that it was as moved and impelled by the Holy
Ghost that holy men of God spake;” the prophets of the New Testament spoke therefore like
those of the Old, and according to the commandment of the everlasting God. They were all of
But we may advance a step farther; for, as we have said, they were MORE THAN
PROPHETS. Here again we have a remark of the learned Michaelis.58 Loose as are his
principles on the inspiration of a part of the New Testament, this has not escaped his notice. It
is clear, according to him, looking to the context, that, in the judgment pronounced by Jesus
Christ on John Baptist (Matt. xi. 9, 11), the terms great and little of the 11th verse, apply only
to the title of prophet which precedes; them at the 9th verse; so that Jesus Christ there he
dares, that if John Baptist is the greatest of the prophets – if he is even more than a prophet –
56 Rom. xvi. 25, 27
57 See further Luke xi. 49; Eph. ii. 20, iii. 5, iv. 11; Gal. i. 12; I Pet. i. 12; 1 Cor. xii. 28; 1 Thess. ii. 15.
58 Introd., t. 1. p. 118, French edition.
still the least of the prophets of the New Testament is greater than John Baptist; that is to say,
greater than the greatest of the Old Testament prophets.59
Besides, this superiority of the apostles and prophets
of the New Testament, is more than once attested to us in the apostolical writings.
Every where, when mention is made of the different offices established in the Churches, the
apostles are placed above the prophets.
Take, for example, a very remarkable passage of the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians. The
apostle’s object is to make known to us the gradations of excellence and dignity among the
several miraculous charges constituted by God in the primitive Church, and he expresses
himself as follows:- “And God hath set some in the Church, first APOSTLES, secondarily
PROPHETS, thirdly TEACHERS, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps,
governments, diversities of tongues.60
At the fourth chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians, at verse ii, he again puts the apostles
ABOVE the prophets.
At chapter ii. ver. 20, he calls the apostles, APOSTLES and PROPHETS. And at chapter xiv.
of the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, he places himself ABOVE the prophets whom God had
raised up in that Church. His wish is, that every one of them, if he have really received the
Holy Ghost, should employ the gifts he has received in acknowledging that the things that he
wrote unto them were the commandments of the Lord; and so fully convinced is he that what
he writes is dictated by inspiration of God, that, after having dictated ORDERS to the
Churches, and concluded them with these words, which nothing short of the highest
inspiration could sanction, It is thus I ORDAIN in all the Churches, he goes farther, he
proceeds to rank himself ABOVE THE PROPHETS; or rather, being himself a prophet, he
calls upon the spirit of prophecy in them to acknowledge the words of Paul as the words of the
Lord; and he ends with these remarkable expressions:- “What? came the word of God out
from you? ….. If any man think himself to be a PROPHET, or SPIRITUAL, let him acknow-
ledge that the things that I WRITE UNTO YOU are the COMMANDMENTS OF THE
The writings of the Apostles, then, are (like those of the ancient prophets) the commandments
of the everlasting God; they are “written prophecies” (profhte…a grafÁj) as much as the
Psalms, and Moses, and the prophets (Luke xxiv. 44); and all their authors then could say with
St Paul, CHRIST SPEAKS IN ME (2 Cor. xiii. 3; 1 Thess. ii. 13); what I say is the word of
God, and the things I speak are taught me by the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. ii. 13); quite as David
before them had said, “The spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.”62
59 Ib., and Luke vii. 28-30.
60 1 Cor. xii. 28.
61 PneumatikÕj, 1 Cor. xiv. 37; See too xv. 45, and Jude 19.
62 2 Sam. xxiii. 2.
Mark, besides, their own words, when they speak of what they are. Would it be possible to
declare more clearly than they have done, that words as well as subject have been given them
by God. “As for us,” they say, “we have the mind of Christ.” – (1 Cor. ii. 16.) “For this cause
also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received THE WORD OF God which
ye heard of us, ye received not the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the WORD OF GOD.” –
(l Thes. ii. 13.) “He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given
unto us his holy Spirit.” – (l Thes. iv. 8.)
Such then, in fine, is the word of the New Testament. It is like that of the Old, a word uttered
by prophets, and by prophets greater even than those that preceded them; in such sort, for
example, as has been very well remarked by Michaelis,63 that an epistle commencing with
these words, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ,”64 thereby gives us a higher attestation of his
divine authority and his divine inspiration, than could have been given even by the writings of
the most illustrious prophets of the Old Testament when they began with these words, “Thus
saith the Lord”65 – “The
vision of Isaiah” – “The word that Isaiah saw”66 – “the words of Jeremiah ….. to whom the
word of the Lord came”67 – “Hear the word of the Lord” – or such like analogous expressions.
And if there be in the New Testament some books where such inscriptions are not to be found,
their inspiration is no more compromised thereby than this or that book of the Old Testament
(the second or the ninety-fifth psalm, for example);68 which, although they have not the names
of the prophets that composed them, are not the less quoted as divine by Jesus Christ and his
The objection has sometimes been started that Luke and Mark were not apostles, properly so
called; and that consequently they did not receive the same inspiration as the other sacred
writers of the New Testament. True, they were not apostles; but they were certainly prophets,
and they were even greater than the greatest of those of the Old Testament. – (Luke vii. 26,
Without insisting here on the ancient traditions,69 which say that both were of the number of
the seventy disciples whom Jesus sent at first to preach in Judea, or at least of those one
hundred and twenty on whom the tongues of the Holy Ghost descended on the day of
Pentecost; are such objectors not aware that the apostles had received the power of conferring,
by the imposition of hands, miraculous gifts on all who believed, and that they exercised this
power in all the countries and all the cities whither they directed their steps? And since St
Luke and St Mark were, amid so many other prophets, the fellow-workers chosen by St Paul
and St Peter, is it not clear enough that these two apostolic men must have bestowed upon
such associates the gifts which they dispensed to so many besides who had believed? Do we
63 Introd. tome 1, p. 118, 119, &c., French edition.
64 Rom. 1, i; GaL 1.1; Cor. i.I., &c.; 1 Pet. 1.1; 2 Pet. i.1.
65 Isa. lvi. I; xlii. 1, and passim.
66 Isa. i. 1, ii. 2, and elsewhere.
67 Jer. i. 2.
68 Acts iv. 25, xiii. 33; Heb. I. 5, iii. 7, 17, iv. 3, 7, v. 5.
69 Epiph., Heeres., 51 and others – Orig., De recta in Deum fide. Doroth. in Synopsi. – Procop. Diacon., apud
Bolland., 25th April.
not see Peter and John first go down to Samaria to confer these gifts on the believers of that
followed by Peter coming to Cesarea, there to shed them on all the Gentiles who had heard the
word in the house of the centurion Cornelius?70 Do we not see St Paul bestow them
abundantly on the believers of Corinth, on those of Ephesus, on those of Rome?71 Do we not
see him, before employing his dear son Timothy as his fellow-labourer, causing spiritual
powers to descend upon him?72 And is it not evident that St Peter must have done as much for
his dear son Mark,73 as St Paul did for his companion Luke?74 Silas, whom St Paul had taken
to accompany him (as he took Luke and John. whose surname was Mark), Silas was a prophet
at Jerusalem.75 Prophets abounded in all the primitive churches. Many were seen to come
down from Jerusalem to Antioch;76 a great many were to he found in Corinth;77 Judas and
Silas were prophets in Jerusalem. Agabus was such in Judea; farther, four daughters, still in
their youth, of Philip the evangelist, were prophetesses in Cesarea;78 and in the Church of
Antioch, there were to be seen many believers who were prophets and doctors;79 among
others Barnabas (St Paul’s first companion), Simeon, Manaen, Saul of Tarsus himself; and,
finally, that Lucius of Cyrene, who is thought to he the Lucius whom Paul (in his Epistle to
the Romans) calls his kinsman,80 and whom (in his Epistle to the Colossians) he calls Luke
the physician;81 in a word, the St Luke whom the ancient fhthers call indifferently Lucas,
Lucius, and Lucanus.
From these facts, then, it becomes sufficiently evident that St Luke and St Mark ranked at
least among the prophets whom the Lord had raised up in such numbers in all the Churches of
the Jews and the Gentiles,
and that from among all the rest they were chosen by the Holy Ghost to be conjoined with the
apostles in writing the sacred books of the New Testament.
But, moreover (and let this be specially noticed), the prophetical authority of St Mark and St
Luke is far from resting solely on these inductions. It rests on the testimony even of the
apostles of Jesus Christ. It ought not to be forgotten, that it was under the long protracted
government of those men of God, that the divine canon of the Scriptures of the New
Testament was collected and transmitted to all the Churches. By a remarkable dispensation of
God’s providence, the lives of the greater number of the apostles were prolonged to a great
many years. St Peter and St Paul lived to edify the Church of God for above thirty-four years
70 Acts viii. 15, 17.
71 Acts xix. 6, 7; 1 Cor. xii. 28, xiv; Horn. 1. 11, xv. 19, 29.
72 I Tim. iv. 14; 2 Tim. i. 6.
73 1 Pet. v. 13.
74 Acts xiii. 1, xvi. 10, xxvii. 1; Rom. xvi. 21; Col. iv. 11; 2 Tim. iv.11; Philem. 24; 2 Cor. viii. 18.
75 Acts xv. 32.
76 Acts xi. 38.
77 1 Cor. xii. 19, 20 xiv. 31, 39.
78 Acts xi. 28, xxi. 9, 10.
79 Acts xiii. 1 2.
80 Rom. xvi. 21
81 Col. iv. 14.
after the resurrection of their Master; nay, St John continued his ministry, in the province of
Asia, in the centre of the Roman empire, for more than thirty years longer, after their death.
The book of the Acts, which was written by St Luke subsequently to his Gospel,82 had been
already diffused through the Church a long while (I mean to say, for ten years at least) before
the martyrdom of St Paul. But St Paul, even long before going to Rome, had already diffused
the gospel abundantly from Jerusalem ns far as Illyricum.83 The apostles maintained a
constant correspondence with the Christians of all countries; they were daily called to meet
the cares they had to sustain with respect to all the Churches.84 St Peter, in his second letter,
addressed to the catholicity of God’s Churches, spoke to them even then of ALL THE
EPISTLES of St Paul as incorporated with the Old Testament. And for more than half a
century, all the Christian Churches were formed and conducted under the superintendence of
these men of God. It was, accordingly, with the assent, and under the prophetic government,
of these apostles, called as they were to bind and to
loose, and to become, next to Christ, the twelve foundations of the universal Church, that the
canon of the Scriptures was formed, and that the new people of God received its lively
oracles, to transmit them to us.85 And it is thus that the Gospel of Luke, that of Mark, and the
book of Acts, have been received by common consent, on the same authoritative grounds, and
with the same submission as the apostolical books of Matthew, of Paul, of Peter, and John.
These books, then, have the same authority for us as all the rest; and we are called upon to
receive them equally, “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God, which
worketh effectually in all that believe”86
We venture to believe that these reflections will suffice for enabling the reader to comprehend
how little ground there is for the distinction which Michaelis,87 and some other German
doctors, have made bold to establish with respect to inspiration, between the two evangelists
and the other writers of the New Testament. It even appears to us, that it was in order to
obviate any such supposition that Luke took care to place at the head of his gospel the four
verses that serve as a preface to it. You see, in fact, that his object there is to contrast the
certainty and divinity of his own account with the uncertainty and the human character of
those narrations, which many (pollo…) had taken in hand to set forth (™pece…rhsan
¢nat£xasqai) on the facts connected with the gospel – facts, he adds, most surely believed
among us, that is to say, among the apostles and prophets of the New Testament (tîn
peplhroforhmšnwn ™n ¹min pragm£twn, the word in the original signifying the highest
degree of certainty, as may be seen, Rom. iv. 21; xiv. 5; 2 Tim. iv. 5, 17.) And therefore, adds
St Luke, it seemed good to ME also, having had perfect understanding of all things88 FROM
ABOVE, to write of them unto thee in order.
82 Acts i. 1.
83 Rom. xv. 19.
84 2 Cor. xi. 28.
85 Acts vii. 83; Rom. iii. 2.
86 1 Thes. ii. 13.
87 Introd., vol. i. pp. 112-129, English ed.
88 ParhkolouqhkÒti. – Thus Demosthenes de Corona, i. 55. Parakolouqhkëj to‹j pr£gmasin ¢p ¢rcÁj.
Theophrast., Char. Proem, 4: SÕn d• parakolouqÁsai kaˆ e„dÁsai, e„ Ñrqîj l˜gw – Josephus, in the first
lines of his book against Apion, opposes this same word parakolouqhkÒta (diligenter assecutuat) to tù
punqanomšnJ (sciscitanti ab aliis).
St Luke had obtained this knowledge FROM ABOVE; that is to say, by the wisdom which
comes from above, “and which had been given him.” It is very true that the meaning
ordinarily attached to this last expression, in this passage, is from the very first, as if instead of
the word ¥nwqen (from above), there were here the same words ¢p’ ¢rcÁj (from the
commencement), which we find in verse second. But it appears to us that the opinion of
Erasmus, of Gomar, of Henry, of Lightfoot, and other commentators, ought to be preferred as
more natural, and that we must take the word ¥nwqen here in the sense in which St John and
St James have used it, when they say: “Every perfect gift cometh from above (James i. 17) –
“Thou couldst have no power against me, except it were given thee from above” (John xix.
11) – “Except a man be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John iii. 3) –
“The wisdom that cometh from above is first pure.” – (James iii. 15, 17.)
The prophet Luke, then, “had obtained from above a perfect understanding of all things that
Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up.”
Meanwhile, whatever translation one may prefer giving to these words, it is by other
arguments that we have shown how Luke and Mark were prophets, and how their writings,
transmitted to the Church by the authority of the apostles, are incorporated with those of the
apostles, as well as with all the other books of the everlasting Word of God.
Such, then, is the extent to which our argument has conducted us, and this is, we have had to
acknowledge, on the very authority of holy Scripture. It is, first of all, that the inspiration of
the words of the prophets was entire; that the Holy Ghost spake by them, and that the Word of
the Lord was upon their tongue. It is,
next, that whatever was written in the Bible, having been so written by prophecy, all the
sacred books are holy letters (ƒer¦ gr£mmata), written prophecies (prophte…ai grafÁj):
and Scriptures given by divine inspiration (grafaˆ qeÒpneustw.) Every thing there is from
Nevertheless, the reader will be pleased to remember (we once more repeat it here, although
we have had occasion more than once to say it already), that it does not necessarily follow that
the prophets of the Old and New Testament were thrown into a state of excitation and
enthusiasm, which took them out of themselves; we must, on the contrary, beware of
entertaining any such idea. The ancient Church attached so much importance even to this
principle, that under the reign of the emperor Commodus, according to what Eusebius says,
Miltiades (the illustrious author of a Christian Apology) “composed a book for the express
purpose of establishing,” against Montanus and the false prophets of Phrygia, “that true
prophets ought to be masters of themselves, and ought not to speak in ecstasy.”89 The action
of God was exerted upon them without their passing entirely out of their ordinary condition.
“The spirits of the prophets,” says St Paul, “are subject to the prophets.”90 Their intellectual
faculties were at the time directed, not suspended. They knew, they felt, they willed, they
89 Hist. Eccles., lib. v. c. 17. – ‘En ú ¢pode…knusi perˆ toà mhdšna Prof»thn ™n ekst£sei lale‹n. – See also
Niceph., lib. iv. c. 24. See the same principles in Tertullian (against Marcion, lib. iv. c. 22); in Epiphan. (Adv.
hæreses, lib. ii. hæres., 48, c. 3); in Jerome (Prœmium in Nahum.); in Basil the Great (Commentar. in Esaiam,
90 1 Cor. xiv. 32.
recollected, they understood, they approved. They could say, “It seemed good to me to write;”
and, as apostles, “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us to write.”91 And the words as
well as the thoughts were given them; for, after all, words are themselves but second thoughts
relating to language, and having recourse to it for the selection of expres-
sions. In both cases, to explain the gift is equally easy and equally difficult.
Meanwhile, as respects inspiration, there is something in holy Scripture that strikes us if
possible still more than all those declarations of the apostles and of Jesus Christ himself, and
that is the examples they present to us.
SECTION V. THE EXAMPLES OF THE APOSTLES AND OF THEIR MASTER ATTEST THAT, IN THEIR VIEWS ALL THE WORDS OF THE HOLY BOOKS ARE GIVEN BY GOD.
First of all, consider what use is made by the apostles themselves of the Word of God, and the
terms in which they quote it. See how, in doing this, they not only think it enough to say,
“God hath said;”92 “the Holy Ghost saith;”93 “God saith in such a prophet;”94 but observe,
farther, when they quote it, with what respect they speak of what are for them its smallest
particles; how attentively they weigh every word; with what a religious assurance they often
insist on a single word, in order to deduce from it the most serious consequences, and the
most fundamental doctrines.
For ourselves, we confess nothing more strongly impresses us than this view of the subject;
nothing has begot in us so deep and firm a confidence in the entire inspiration of the
The preceding reasonings and testimonies seem of themselves sufficient to carry conviction to
every attentive mind; but if we felt conscious of any need on our own part of having our belief
of this truth fortified, we feel that we should not go so far in search of reasons. It would be
enough for us to inquire what holy Scrip-
ture was in the view of God’s apostles, and how far, according to their apprehension, its
language was inspired. What, for example, were St Paul’s sentiments on the subject? For we
make no pretension to be more enlightened divines than the twelve apostles. Cleaving to the
dogmatical theology of St Peter and the exegetical of St Paul, among all the systems ever
91 Acts i. 3, xv. 28.
92 Eph. iv.8; Heb. i. 8.
93 Acts xiii. 2, xxviii. 23; Heb. iii. 1, x. 25, and elsewhere.
94 Rom. ix. 25.
broached on the inspiration of the Scriptures, theirs is what we have decidedly resolved to
Hear, then, the apostle Paul when he quotes them, and proceeds to comment upon them. On
such occasions he discusses their minutest expressions; and often, when about to deduce the
most important consequences from them, he employs arguments which, were it we that should
employ them in discussions with the doctors of the Socinian school, would be treated as
childish or absurd. For such a respect for the words of the text, we should be sent back to the
sixteenth century with its gross orthodoxy and its superannuated theology. Mark with what
reverence the apostle dwells upon their most minute expressions; with what confidence he
expects the submission of the Church, while he notes the use of such a word rather than of
such another; with what studiousness and affection he as it were presses every one of them in
his hands till the last drop of meaning has been obtained from it.
Among so many examples which we might adduce, let us confine ourselves, for brevity’s
sake, to the Epistle to the Hebrews.
See how, at verse 8th of chapter ii., after quoting these words, “Thou hast put all things under
his feet,” the sacred author argues from the authority of the word all.
See how, at the 11th verse, in quoting the 22d Psalm, he argues from the expression my
brethren, that the Son of God behoved to put on the nature of man.
See how, at the 27th verse of chapter xii., in quoting the prophet Haggai, he argues from the
word once more, “Yet once more.”
See at the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th verses, how
largely he argues from these words my son, of the 3d chapter of the Proverbs, “My son,
despise not thou the chastening of the Lord.”
See how, at the 10th chapter, in quoting the 40th Psalm, he argues from the words Lo I come,
set against the words. “Thou wouldest not.”
See how, at chapter viii., from the 8th to the lath verses, in quoting Jeremiah xxxi. 31, he
argues from the word new.
See, at chapter iii. 7-19, and iv. 2-11, with urgency in quoting the 95th Psalm, he argues from
the word “to-day,” from the words “I have sworn,” and, above all, from the words “my rest,”
illustrated by that other expression of Genesis, “ And God rested on the seventh day.”
See how, at verses 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, he argues from these words servant and my house, taken
from the book of Numbers, “My servant Moses, who is faithful in all my house.”
See, especially at chapter vii., the use he makes successively of all the words of the 110th
Psalm; mark how he takes up each of its expressions, one after another, in order to deduce
from them the very highest doctrines: “The Lord hath sworn;” “he hath sworn by himself;”
Thou art a priest;” “Thou art a priest for ever;” “Thou art a priest after the order of
Melchisedec;” “of Melchisedec king of Sedec,” and “of Melchisedec king of Salem.” The
exposition of the doctrines contained in each of these words will be found to occupy three
chapters, the 5th, the 6th, and the 7th.
But here I pause. Can we fail to conclude from such examples, that, in the view of the apostle
Paul, the Scriptures were inspired by God, even to their most minute expressions? Let each of
us, then, place himself in the school of the man to whom and been given, by the Spirit of God,
the knowledge of the mystery of Christ, as to a holy apostle and prophet.95 One must
necessarily either account him an enthusiast, and reject in his person the testimonies of the
Holy Bible, or receive with him the precious and fruitful doctrine of the plenary inspiration of
O ye who read these lines, to what school will ye attach yourselves? to that of the apostles, or
to that of the doctors of this age? “If any man take away from the words of this book” (this I
testify, says St John), “God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life, and out of the
holy city, and from the things which are written in this Book.”96
But, farther, let us turn from the apostles, prophets as they are – men sent by God for the
establishment of his kingdom, the pillars of the Church, the mouths of the Holy Ghost,
ambassadors of Jesus Christ; let us, for an instant, turn from them as men who had not yet
quite thrown off their Jewish traditions and clownish prejudices, and let us go to the Master.
Let us inquire of him what the Scriptures were in his view of them. Here is the grand question.
The testimonies to which we have appealed are peremptory, no doubt; and the doctrine of a
plenary and entire inspiration is taught as clearly in Scripture as that of the resurrection of the
dead can be; that ought of itself to he enough for us; but we repeat, nevertheless, here is an
argument which for us renders all else superfluous. How did Jesus Christ appeal to the Holy
Bible? What were his views of the letter of the Scriptures? What use did he make of it, he who
is its object and inspirer, beginning and end, first and last? he whose Holy Spirit, says St
Peter, animated all the prophets of the Old Testament (2 Peter i. 21), who was in heaven in the
bosom of the Father at the same time that he was seen here below, dwelling among us and
preaching the gospel to the poor? Among the most ardent defenders of their verbal inspiration,
we know not one that ever expressed himself with more respect for the altogether divine au-
thority and everlasting endurance of their most minute expressions than was done by the man
Jesus. And we scruple not to say, that were any modern writer to quote the Bible, as Jesus
Christ did, with the view of deducing from it any doctrine, he would forthwith have to be
ranked among the most zealous partisans of the doctrine we defend. I am asked, What is your
view of the Holy Letters? I answer, What thought my Master of them? how did he appeal to
them? what use did he make of them? what were their smallest details in his eyes?
Ah! speak to them thyself, Eternal Wisdom, Un-created Word, Judge of judges! and as we
proceed to repeat to them here the declarations of thy mouth, show them the majesty in which
95 Eph. iii. 4, 5.
96 Rev. xxii. 18, 19.
the Scriptures appeared to thee – show them the perfection thou didst recognise in them, that
everlasting endurance, above all, which thou didst assign to their smallest iota, and which will
make them outlast the universe, after the very heavens and the earth have passed away!
We are not afraid to say it: when we hear the Son of God quote the Scriptures, every thing is
said, in our view, on their divine inspiration – we need no farther testimony. All the
declarations of the Bible are, no doubt, equally divine; but this example of the Saviour of the
world has settled the question for us at once. This proof requires neither long nor learned,
researches; it is grasped by the hand of a child as powerfully as by that of a doctor. Should
any doubt, then, assail your soul, let it turn to the Lord of lords; let it behold him in presence
of the Scriptures!
Follow Jesus in the days of his flesh. With what serious and tender respect does he constantly
hold in his hands “the volume of the Book,” to quote every part of it, and note its shortest
verses. See how one word, one single word, whether of a psalm or of an historical hook, has
for him the authority of a law. Mark with what confident submission he receives the whole
Scripture; without ever contesting its sacred
canon; for he knows that “salvation cometh of the Jews,” and that, under the infallible
providence of God, “to them were committed the oracles of God.” Did I say, he receives
them? From his childhood to the grave, and from his rising again from the grave to his
disappearance in the clouds, what does he bear always about with him, in the desert, in the
temple, in the synagogue? What does he continue to quote with his resuscitated voice, just as
the heavens are about to exclaim, “Lift up your heads, ye everlasting doors, and the king of
glory shall come in?” It is the Bible, ever the Bible; it is Moses, the Psalms, and the prophets:
he quotes them, he explains them, but how? Why, verse by verse, and word by word.
In what alarming and melancholy contrast, after beholding all this, do we see those misguided
men present themselves in our days, who dare to judge, contradict, cull, and mutilate the
Scriptures. Who does not tremble, after following with his eyes the Son of Man as he
commands the elements, stills the storms, and opens the graves, while, filled with so profound
a respect for the sacred volume, he declares that he is one day to judge by that book the quick
and the dead? Who does not shudder, whose heart does not bleed, when, after observing this,
we venture to step into a Rationalist academy, and see the professor’s chair occupied by a
poor mortal, learned, miserable, a sinner, responsible, yet handling God’s Word irreverently;
when we follow him as he goes through this deplorable task before a body of youths, destined
to be the guides of a whole people – youths capable of doing so much good if guided to the
heights of the faith, and so much mischief if tutored in disrespect for those Scriptures which
they are one day to preach? With what peremptory decision do such men display the
phantasmagoria of their hypotheses; they retrench, they add, they praise, they blame, and pity
the simplicity which, reading the Bible as it was read by Jesus Christ, like him clings to every
syllable, and never dreams of finding error in the
Word of God! They pronounce on the intercalations and retrenchments that Holy Scripture
must have undergone – intercalations and retrenchments never suspected by Jesus Christ; they
lop off the chapters they do not understand, and point out blunders, ill-sustained or illconcluded
reasonings, prejudices, imprudences, and instances of vulgar ignorance.
May God forgive my being compelled to put this frightful dilemma into words, but the
alternative is inevitable! Either Jesus Christ exaggerated and spoke incoherently when he
quoted the Scriptures thus, or these rash wretched men unwittingly blaspheme their divine
majesty. It pains us to write these lines. God is our witness that we could have wished to
recall, and then to efface them; but we venture to say, with profound feeling, that it is in
obedience, it is in charity, that they have been penned. Alas! in a few short years both the
doctors and the disciples will be laid in the tomb, they shall wither like the grass; but not one
jot or tittle of that divine book will then have passed away; and as certainly as the Bible is the
truth, and that it has changed the face of the world, as certainly shall we see the Son come in
the clouds of heaven, and judge, by his eternal Word, the secret thoughts of all men!97 . . .
“All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and
the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the
word which by the gospel is preached unto you;”98 this is the word which will judge us.
Now, then, we proceed to close our proofs, by reviewing, under this aspect, the ministry of
Jesus Christ. Let us follow him from the age of twelve to his descent into the grave, or rather,
to his passing into the cloud, in which he went out of sight; and throughout the whole course
of that incomparable career, let us see what the Scriptures were in the eye of Him who
“upholds all things by the word of his power.”
First of all, let us contemplate him at the age of twelve years. He grew, like one of the
children of men, in wisdom and in stature; he is in the midst of the doctors in the temple of
Jerusalem; he ravishes with his answers those who hear him; for, said they, “he knows the
Scriptures without having studied them.”99
Behold him from the time he commenced his ministry. See him filled with the Holy Ghost; he
is led into the wilderness, there to sustain, as the first Adam did in Eden, a mysterious contest
with the powers of darkness. The impure spirit dares to approach him, bent on his overthrow;
but how will the Son of God repel him, even he who had come to destroy the works of the
Devil? Solely with the Bible. His only weapon, three successive times, in his divine hands, is
the sword of the Spirit, the Bible. He quotes, thrice successively, the Book of
Deuteronomy.100 On every fresh temptation, he, the Word made flesh, defends himself by a
sentence of the oracles of God, and by a sentence, too, the whole force of which lies in the use
of a single word, or of two words; first of these words (¥rtJ mÒnJ), bread alone; then of
those words, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord (oÙk ™kpeir£seij KÚrion);” then, finally, of
these two words (qeÕn proskun»seij), Thou shalt worship God.
What an example for us! His whole reply, his whole defence is this:- “It is written;” “Get thee
behind me, Satan, for it is written;” and as soon as this terrible and mysterious contest closed,
the angels drew near to minister to him.
97 Rom. ii. 16; John xii. 48; Matt. xxv. 31.
98 1 Pet. i. 24, 25.
99 John vii. 15.
100 Deut. vii. 3, vi. ]3, x. 20; Matt. iv. 1, 11.
But, mark this farther, such was the respect of the Son of man for the authority of every word
of the Scriptures, that the impure spirit himself, powerful as he was in evil, and who knew
what all the words of the Bible were in his antagonist’s eyes, could fancy no surer means of
shaking his will than by quoting to him (but at the same time mutilating) a verse of the 91st
psalm; and forthwith Jesus Christ, to confound him, thinks it is enough to reply once more
with, “It is written.”
See how his priestly ministry commenced – with the use of the Scriptures; and see how his
prophetic ministry commenced soon after – with the use of the Scriptures.
Once engaged in his work, let us follow him as he goes from place to place doing good,
displaying in his poverty his creative power ever for the relief of others, never for his own. He
speaks, and it is done; he casts out devils, he turns the storm into a calm, he raises the dead.
Yet, amid all these tokens of greatness, observe what the Scriptures are to him. The Word is
ever with him; not in his hands, for lie knows it thoroughly, but in his memory and in his
incomparable heart. Mark how he speaks of it! When he unrols the sacred volume, it is as if
an opening were made in heaven, that we may hear Jehovah’s voice. With what reverence,
with what submission, does he expound the Scriptures, comment upon them, quote them word
by word! See how it becomes his grand concern to heal men’s diseases and to preach the
Scriptures, as it was afterwards to die and to fulfil the Scriptures!
See who comes, “as his custom was,” into the synagogue on the Sabbath-day; for we are told
he taught in their synagogues.101 He goes into that at Nazareth; and what do we find him doing
there – he, the everlasting Wisdom, possessed by Jehovah in the beginning of his way, brought
forth when there were no depths, before the mountains were settled, and before the hills?102
He rises and takes the Bible, opens it at Isaiah, reads some words there; then having closed the
book, he sits down, and while the eyes of all that are in the synagogue are fastened on him, he
begins to say, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”103
See him as he passes through Galilee, and mark how
he employs himself there. “The volume of the book” is still in his hands; he explains it line by
line, word by word; he points out to our respect its most minute expressions, as he would
those of “the ten words” uttered on Sinai.
See him once more in Jerusalem, before the pool of Bethesda; what do we find him saying to
the people? “Search the Scriptures.” – (John v.)
See him in the holy place, in the midst of which he had dared to say aloud, “In this place is
one greater than the holy place.” – (Matt. xii. 6.) Follow him into the presence of the
Sadducees and the Pharisees, while he reprehends them successively with these words, “It is
written,” as he had done in the case of Satan.
101 Luke iv. 15, 16.
102 Prov. viii. 22, 25.
103 Luke iv. 21.
Listen to his reply to the Sadducees who denied the resurrection of the body. How does be
refute them? By ONE SOLE WORD of an HISTORICAL passage of the Bible; by a single
verb in the present tense, instead of that same verb in the past tense. “Ye greatly err,” said he
to them, “NOT KNOWING THE SCRIPTURES. Have ye not read that which was spoken
unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham!” It is thus that he proves to them the
doctrine of the resurrection. God, on Mount Sinai, four hundred years after the death of
Abraham, says to Moses, not “I was,” but “I am” the God of Abraham; I am that now (shda
ytla ykna), which the Holy Ghost translates – (‘Egè e„mi Ð QeÕj ‘Abra¦m). There is a
resurrection, then; for God is not the God of a few handfuls of dust, the God of the dead, the
God of nothing: he is the God of the living. Those men therefore are, in the view of God, still
Next, behold him in the presence of the Pharisees. It is again by the letter of the Word that he
proceeds to confound them.
Some had by this time followed him into the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan, and came to him
asking to be informed what were his doctrines on the subject of
marriage and divorce. Now, what followed on the part of Jesus Christ? He might certainly
have given an authoritative reply, and announced his own laws on the subject. Is he not
himself the King of kings and Lord of lords? But no; it was to the Bible that he made his
appeal, still for the same purpose of making it the basis of doctrine; it was to these simple
words taken from a purely historical passage in Genesis,105 – “HAVE YE NOT READ, that he
which made them at the beginning made them male and female; so that they twain shall be
one flesh? What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”106
But listen to him, especially when in the temple he would prove to other Pharisees, by the
Scriptures, the divinity of the expected Messiah. Here likewise, to demonstrate this, he still
insists on the use of A SINGLE WORD, which he proceeds to take from the Book of Psalms:
“If the Messiah be the son of David,” said he, “how doth David, BY THE SPIRIT, call him
LORD; saying (at the 110th Psalm), The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit. thou on my right hand?
If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?”
How happens it, that among those Pharisees none was found to say in reply, “What! do you
mean to insist on a single word, and still more on a term borrowed from a poesy eminently
lyrical, where the royal Psalmist might, without material consequence, have employed too
lively a construction, high-flown expressions, and words which, doubtless, he had not
theologically pondered before throwing them into his verses? Would you follow such a mode
of minutely interpreting each expression as is at once fanatical and servile? Would you
worship the letter of the Scriptures to such an extreme? Would you build a whole doctrine
upon a word?”
104 Matt. xxii. 31, 32.
105 Gen. i. 27, ii. 24.
106 Matt. xix. 4, 5, 6.
Yes, I do, is Christ’s reply; yes, I will throw myself on a single word, because that word is
to cut short all your objections, I tell you that it is BY THE SPIRIT that David wrote all the
words of his hymns; and I ask you “how, if the Messiah be his son, David, BY THE SPIRIT,
can call him his Lord, when he says, The Lord said unto my Lord?”
Students of God’s Word, and you especially who are to be his ministers, and who, as your
preparation for preaching it, would desire first of all to have received it into a good and honest
heart, behold what every saying, every single word of the Book of God, was in the regard of
your Master. Go and do likewise!
But more than this. Again let us listen to him, even on the cross. There he poured out his soul
as an offering for sin; all his bones were out of joint; he was poured out as water; his heart
was like wax, melted in the midst of his bowels; his tongue cleaved to his jaws; be was about
to give up his spirit to his Father. But, previous to this, what do we find him do? He desires to
collect his remaining strength, in order to recite a psalm which the Church of Israel had sung
on her religious festivals for a thousand years, and which told over, one after another, all his
sorrows and all his prayers: “ Eli, Eli, lama sabachththani (my God, my God, why hast thou
forsaken me)?” He does even more than this: listen to him. There remained in the Scriptures
one word which had not yet been fulfilled. Vinegar had still to be given him on that cross (this
the Holy Ghost had declared a thousand years before in the 69th Psalm). “After this,” it is
written, “Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be
fulfilled, saith, I thirst. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished:
and having bowed his head, he gave up the ghost.”107
When David sang the 69th Psalm on Sosannim, and the 17th Psalm on Ajeleth, did he know
the prophetic meaning of all these words, of those hands and feet
that were pierced, of that gall poured out, of that vinegar, of those garments that were parted,
of that vesture on which a lot was cast, of that mocking populace, wagging their heads and
making mouths? It matters little to us his understanding it; the Holy Ghost at least understood
it, and David spake BY THE SPIRIT, said Jesus Christ. The heaven and the earth shall pass
away; but there was not in that book a jot or tittle that could pass away till all was fulfilled. –
(John x. 35; Matt. v. 18).
Meanwhile, behold something, if possible, more striking still. Jesus Christ rises from the
tomb; he has overcome death; he is about to return to the Father, there to resume that glory
which he bad with the Father before the world began. Let us follow him, then, during those
fleeting moments with which he would still favour the earth. What words are now about to
proceed from that mouth, again restored to life? Why, words from Holy Scripture. Still he
quotes it, explains it, preaches it. See him, first of all, on the way to Emmaus, walking with
Cleopas and his friend; afterwards in the upper chamber; and, later still, on the borders of the
lake. How is he employed? In expounding the sacred books; he begins with Moses, he
107 John xix. 25-30.
continues through all the Prophets and the Psalms; he shows them what had been said
concerning him in all the Scriptures; he opens their minds to understand them; he makes their
hearts burn within them as he speaks of them.108
But we have not yet done. All these quotations show us what the Holy Bible was in the eyes
of Him “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. ii. 3); and “by
whom all things subsist” (Col. i. 17). But on the letter of the Scriptures, listen further to two
declarations, and a last example of our Lord.
“It is easier,” says he, “for heaven and earth to
pass, than for one tittle (kera…a) of the law to fall;109 and by the law Jesus Christ understood
the whole of the Scriptures, and even, more particularly, the Book of Psalms.110 What terms
could possibly be imagined capable of expressing, with greater force and precision, the
principle which we defend; that is to say, the authority, the entire divine inspiration, and the
perpetuity of all the parts, and of the very letter of the Scriptures? Ye who study God’s Word,
here behold the theology of your Master! Be ye then divines after his manner; be your Bible
the same as that of the Son of God! Of that not a single tittle can fall.
“Till heaven and earth pass,” saith he, “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law,
till all be fuffilled.” – (Matt. v. 18.) All the words of the Scriptures, accordingly, even to the
smallest stroke of a letter, are no less than the words OF JESUS CHRIST; for he hath also
said, “heaven and earth shall pass away; but my words shall not pass away.” – (Luke xxi. 33.)
The impugners of these doctrines ask us if we are bold enough to maintain that Holy Scripture
is a law of God even in its words, as hyssop, or as an oak, is a work of God even in its leaves.
We reply, with all the Fathers of the Church, Yes, even in its “words, even to („îta Ÿn, À m…a
kera…a) one jot or one tittle!”
But, passing from these two declarations, let us finally direct our attention to a last example
given by our Lord which we have not yet adduced.
It is still Jesus Christ who is about to quote the Scriptures, but claiming for their smallest
words such an authority, that one is compelled to rank him among the most ardent partisans of
verbal inspiration, and that we do not think, that had we before us all the writings of divines
the most uncompromising in their orthodoxy, we should any where find an example of more
profound respect for the letter of Scripture, and for the plenitude of their divine inspiration.
It was winter. Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s (the eastern) porch; the Jews came
about him, upon which he said to them, “I give eternal life unto my sheep, and they shall
never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand: I and the Father are one.” People
were astonished at such language; but he assumed a still bolder tone, until at last the Jews,
108 Luke xxiv. 21, 44.
109 Luke xvi. 17.
110 John x. 34, as did also the Jews, xii. 34; Rom. iii. 19.
exclaiming that it was blasphemy, took up stones to stone him, telling him they did so,
“because thou, being a man, makest thyself God.”111
Now then, let the reader carefully mark the several points involved in the answer made by
Jesus Christ. He quotes a saying taken from one of the psalms, and proceeds to rest the whole
of his doctrine on that single saying: for “he made himself equal with God;” says John
elsewhere (v. 18). In maintaining the most sublime and most mysterious of his doctrines, and,
in order to legitimitize the most extraordinary of his pretensions, he appeals to certain words
in the 82d Psalm. But, mark well! before pronouncing the words he takes care to interrupt
himself; he pauses in a solemn parenthesis, and exclaims in a tone of authority, And the
Scripture cannot be broken (kaˆ oÙ dÚnatai luqÁnai ¹ graf»)!
Has sufficient attention been paid to this? Not only is our Lord’s argument here founded
entirely on the use made by the Psalmist of a single word, and not only does he proceed to
establish the most astonishing of his doctrines on this expression; but further, in thus quoting
the Book of Psalms in order to make us understand that in his eyes the whole book was
dictated by the Holy Ghost, and that every word of it carried the authority of the law, Jesus
calls it by the name of LAW, and says to the Jews, “Is it not written in your law, I have said
ye are gods?” These words are placed in the middle of a hymn; they might seem to have
escaped from the unreflecting fervour of the prophet
Asaph, or from the burning raptures of his poetry. And were we not to admit the full
inspiration of all that is written, one might be tempted to tax them with indiscretion, since the
imprudent use which the Psalmist may have made of them, might have led the people to
usages elsewhere censured by the Word of God, and to idolatrous imaginations. How then,
once more we ask, was there no rationalist scribe from the universities of Israel to be found
there, under Solomon’s porch, to say to him, “You cannot, Lord, claim the authority of that
expression. The use that Asaph makes of it can have been neither considerate nor becoming.
Although inspired as respects the thoughts suggested by his piety, he no doubt did not
maturely weigh every little word with a very scrupulous regard to the use that might possibly
be made of them a thousand years after his own day.. It were rash, therefore, to insist upon
But now, let the reader mark, how our Lord anticipates the profane rashness of such an
objection. Observe well: he solemnly reproves it; he proceeds to pronounce words concerning
himself which would be blasphemy in the mouth of an archangel. “I and the Father are one;”
but he interrupts himself, and immediately after saying, “Is it not written in your law, ye are
gods?“ he stops, and, fixing his eyes with a look of authority on the doctors who surround
him, he exclaims, “AND THE SCRIPTURE CANNOT BE BROKEN!” As if he had said,
“Beware! there is not in the sacred books a single word to be found fault with, nor a single
word that one can neglect. This which I cite in this 82d Psalm, has been traced by the hand
that made the heavens.” If then, he has been willing to give the name of gods to men, in so far
as they were christ’s (anointed ones), and types of the true Christ, who is emphatically the
Anointed One, and taking care nevertheless to call to mind “that they should die like men,”
how shall it not still more appertain to me to take that name to myself? I, “the everlasting
111 John x. 27, and following verses.
Father,”112 Emmanuel, the God-man, who do the works of my Father, and on whom the
Father hath put his seal?
Here, then, we ask of every serious reader (and our argument, be it well observed, is
altogether independent of the orthodox meaning or the Socinian meaning people may choose
to give to the words of Jesus Christ); we ask, Is it possible to admit that the Being who makes
such a use of the Scriptures DOES NOT BELIEVE TN THEIR PLENARY VERBAL
INSPIRATION? And if he could have imagined that the words of the Bible were left to the
free choice and pious fancies of the sacred writers, would he ever have dreamed of founding
such arguments on such a word? The Lord Jesus, our Saviour and our Judge, believed then in
the most complete inspiration of the Scriptures; and for him the first rule of all hermeneutics,
and the commencement of all exegesis, was this simple maxim applied to the most minute
expressions of the written word, “AND THE SCRIPTURE CANNOT BE BROKEN.”
Let, then, the Prince of Life, the light of the world, reckon all of us as his scholars! What he
believed let us receive. What he respected let us revere. Let us press to our sickly hearts that
Word to which he submitted his saviour heart, and all the thoughts of his holy humanity, and
to it let us subject all the thoughts of our fallen humanity. There let us look for God, even in
its minutest passages; in it let us daily dip the roots of our being, “like the tree planted by the
rivers of waters, which bringeth forth his fruit in his season, and his leaf shall not wither.”
Converted to pdf format by Robert I Bradshaw, August 2004.
112 Isa. ix. 6, vii. H; John vi. 27.
It has been our desire that this work should not bear so strictly theological a character, as that
Christian women, or other persons not conversant with certain studies, and not acquainted with
the sacred languages, should be deterred from the perusal of it. Nevertheless, we should be
wanting to part of our object if the doctrine were not, on some points, stated with more
precision. We have to request, therefore, that in order to avoid being led off, under another
form, into an excessive length of development, we may be allowed to exhibit it here in a more
didactic shape, and to sum it up in a short catechetical sketch. We will do little more than
indicate the proper place of the points already treated; and will enter somewhat at large into the
consideration of those only that have not yet been mentioned.
I. What, then, are we to understand by divine inspiration?
Divine inspiration is the mysterious power put forth
by the Spirit of God on the authors of holy writ, to make them write it, to guide them even in
the employment of the words they use, and thus to preserve them from all error?
II. What are we told of the spiritual power put forth on the men of God while they were writing
their sacred books?
We are told that they were led or moved (f™rÒmenoi) “not by the will of man, but by the Holy
Ghost; so that they set forth the things of God, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but
which the Holy Ghost teacheth.”1 “God,” says the apostle,2 “spake BY THE PROPHETS at
sundry times, and in divers manners (polumerîj kai polutrÒpwj);” sometimes enabling
them to understand what he made them say; sometimes without doing so; sometimes by
dreams3 and by visions which he afterwards made them relate; sometimes by giving them
1 2 Peter i. 21; 1 Cor. ii. 13.
2 Heb. i. 1.
3 Num. xii. 6; Job xxxiii. 15; Dan. i. 17, ii. 6, vii. 1; Gen. xx. 6, xxxi. 10; 1 Kings iii. 5; Matt. 1. 20, ii. 12, 22; Acts
words internally (lÒgJ ™ndi£qetJ), which he caused them immediately to utter; sometimes by
words transmitted to them externally (lÒgJ profÒrikJ), which he caused them to repeat.4
III. But what passed in their hearts and minds while they were writing?
This we cannot tell. It is a fact which, subject besides to great varieties, could not be for us an
object either of scientific inquiry or of faith.
IV. Have not modern authors, however, who have written on this subject, often distinguished
in the Scriptures three or four degrees of inspiration (superintendence, elevation, direction,
This is but idle conjecture; and the supposition,
besides, is in contradiction with the Word of God, which knows but one kind of inspiration.
Here, there is none true but suggestion.
V. Do we not see, however, that the men of God were profoundly acquainted, and often even
profoundly affected, with the sacred things which they taught, with the future things which
they predicted, with the past things which they related?
No doubt they might be so – nay, in most instances they were so – but they might not have been
so; this happened in different measures, of which the degree remains to us unknown, and the
knowledge of which is not required of us.
VI. Wbat then must we think of those definitions of divine inspiration, in which Scripture
seems to be represented as the altogether human expression of a revelation altogether divine; –
what, for example, must we think of that of Baumgarten,5 who says, that inspiration is but the
means by which revelation, at first immediate, became mediate, and took the form of a book
(medium quo revelatio immediata, mediata facta, inque libros relata est?)
These definitions are not exact, and may give rise to false notions of inspiration. I say they are
not exact. They contradict facts. Immediate revelation does not necessarily precede inspiration;
and when it precedes it, it is not its measure. The empty air prophesied;6 a hand coming forth
from a wall wrote the words of God;7 a dumb animal reproved the madness of a prophet.8
Balaam prophesied without any desire to do so; and the believers of Corinth did so without
even knowing the meaning of the words put by the Holy Ghost on their lips.9
4 Nurn. xx. 6, xxiv. 4; Job vii. 14; Gen. i. 15, xx. 3; Ps. lxxxix. 19; Matt. xvii. 9; Acts ii. 17, ix. 10-12, x. 3, 17, 19,
xi. 5, xii. 9, xvi. 9, 10; 2 Cor. xii. 1, 2.
5 De Discrimine Revelat. et Inspirationis.
6 Gen. iii. 14, &c., iv. 6; Exod. iii. 6, &c., xix. 3, &c.; Deut. iv. 12; Matt. iii. 17, xvii. 5.
7 Dan. v. 5.
8 2 Pet. ii. 16.
9 1 Cor. xiv.
I would next observe, that these definitions produce or conceal false notions of inspiration. In
fact, they assume its being nothing more than the natural expression of a supernatural
revelation; and that the men of God had merely of themselves, and in a human way, to put
down in their hooks what the Holy Ghost made them see in a divine way, in their
understandings. But inspiration is more than this. Scripture is not the mind of God elaborated
by the understanding of man, to be promulgated in the words of man; it is at once the mind of
God and the word of God.
VII. The Holy Ghost having in all ages illuminated God’s elect, and having moreover
distributed miraculous powers among them in ancient times, in which of these two orders of
spiritual gifts ought we to rank inspiration?
We must rank it among the extraordinary and wholly miraculous gifts. The Holy Ghost in all
ages enlightens the elect by his powerful inward virtue; he testifies to them of Christ;10 gives
them the unction of the Holy One; teaches them all things, and convinces them of all truth.11
But, besides these ordinary gifts of illumination and faith, the same Spirit shed extraordinary
ones on the men who were commissioned to promulgate and to write the oracles of God.
Divine inspiration was one of those gifts.
VIII. Is the difference, then, between illumination and inspiration a difference of kind or only
It is a difference of kind, and not of degree only.
IX. Nevertheless, did not the apostles, besides inspiration, receive from the Holy Ghost
illumination in extraordinary measure, and in its most eminent degree?
In its most eminent degree, is what none can affirm; in an extraordinary degree, is what none
The apostle Paul, for example, did not receive the gospel from any man, but by a revelation
from Jesus Christ.12
He wrote “ALL HIS EPISTLES,” St Peter tells us,13 not only in words taught by the Holy
Ghost,14 as had been the OTHER SCRIPTURES (of the old Testament), but according to a
wisdom which had been given to him.15 He had the knowledge of the mystery of Christ.16
Jesus Christ had promised to give his disciples, not only “a mouth, but wisdom to testify of
him.”17 David, when he seemed to speak only of himself in the Psalms, KNEW that it was of
the Messiah, that his words were to he understood: “Being a prophet, and knowing that of the
fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, God would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.”18
10 John xv. 26.
11 1 John ii. 20-27; John xiv. 16-26; vii. 38, 39.
12 Gal. i. 12-16; 1 Cor. xv. 3
13 2 Pet. iii. 15, 16.
14 1 Cor. xi. 13.
15 2 Pet. iii. 15, 16.
16 Eph. iii. 3.
17 Luke xxi. 15.
18 Acts ii. 30.
X. Why, then, should we not say that divine inspiration is but illumination in its most exalted
and abundant measure?
We must beware of saying so; for thus we should have but a narrow, confused, contingent, and
constantly fluctuating idea of inspiration. In fact, –
1. God, who often conjoined those two gifts in one man, often also saw fit to disjoin them, in
order that he might give us to understand that they essentially differ, the one from the other,
and that, when united, they are independent. Every true Christian has the holy Ghost,19 hut
every Christian is not inspired, and such an one who utters the words of God, may not have
received either life-giving affections or life-giving light.
2. It may be demonstrated by a great many examples, that the one of these gifts was not the
measure of the other; and that the divine inspiration of the prophets did not observe the ratio of
their knowledge, any more than that of their holiness.
3. Far, indeed, from the one of those gifts being the measure of the other, one may even say
that divine inspiration appeared all the more strikingly the more that the illumination of the
sacred writer remained in arrear of his illumination. When you behold the very prophets, who
were most enlightened by God’s Spirit, heading over their own pages after having written
them, and endeavouring to comprehend the meaning which the Spirit in them had caused them
to express, it should become manifest to you that their divine inspiration was independent of
4. Even supposing the prophet’s illumination raised to its utmost pitch, still it did not reach the
altitude of the divine idea, and there might be much more meaning in the word dictated to them
than the prophet was yet cognisant of David, doubtless, in hymning his psalms, knew20 that
they referred to “Him who was to be born of his loins, to sit upon his throne forever.” Most of
the prophets, like Abraham their father, saw the day of Christ, and when they saw it, were
glad;21 they searched what the Spirit of Christ, which was in them, did signify, when it testified
beforehand of the sufferings of the Messiah, and the glory that should follow.22 Yet
notwithstanding all this, our Lord attests to us that the simplest Christian, the least (in
knowledge) in the kingdom of God, knows more on that subject than the greatest of the
5. These gifts differ from each other in essential characters, which we will presently describe.
6. Finally, it is always the inspiration of the book that is presented to us as an object of faith,
never the inward state of him that writes it. His knowledge or ignorance nowise affects the
confidence I owe to his words; and my soul ought ever to look not so much to the lights of his
understanding as to the God of all
19 1 John ii. 20-27; Jer. xxxi. 34; John vi. 43.
20 Acts ii, 30.
21 John viii. 56.
22 1 Peter i. 11.
23 Mat. xi. 11. Michaelis Introd. tome i. p. 116-129, French translation. (That author thinks, that in this passage the
least means the least prophet.)
holiness, who speaks to me by his mouth. The Saviour desired, it is true, that most of those
who related his history should also have been witnesses of what they related. This was, no
doubt, in order that the world might listen to them will, the greater confidence, and might not
start reasonable doubts as to the truth of their narratives. But the Church, in her faith, looks
much higher than this: to her the intelligence of the writers is imperfectly known, and a matter
of comparative indifference – what she does know is their inspiration. It is never in the breast
of the prophet that she goes to look for its source; it is in that of her God. “Christ speaks in
me,” says St Paul, “and God bath spoken to our fathers in the prophets.”24 “Why look ye so
earnestly on us,” say to her all the sacred writers, “as though by our own power or holiness we
had done this work?”25 Look upwards.
XI. If there exist, then, between these two spiritual graces of illumination and inspiration a
specific difference, in what must we say that it consists?
Though you should find it impossible to say what that difference is, you would not the less be
obliged by the preceding reasons to declare that it does exist. In order to be able fully to reply
to this question, it were necessary that you should know the nature and the mode of both these
gifts; whereas the Holy Ghost has never explained to us, either how he infuses God’s thoughts
into the understanding of a believer, or how he puts God’s words into the mouth of a prophet.
Nevertheless, we can here point out two essential characters by which these two operations of
the Holy Ghost have always shown themselves to be distinct: the one of these characters
relates to their duration, the other to their measure.
In point of duration, illumination is continuous, whereas inspiration is intermittent. In point of
sure, illumination admits of degrees, whereas inspiration does not admit of them.
XII. What are we to understand by saying that illumination is continuous, and inspiration
The illumination of a believer by the Holy Ghost is a permanent work. Having commenced for
him on the day of his new birth, it goes on increasing, and attends him with its rays to the
termination of his course. That light, no doubt, is but too much obscured by his acts of
faithlessness and negligence, but never more will it leave him altogether. “His path,” says the
wise man, “is like the shining light, shining more and more unto the perfect day.”26 “When it
pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, to reveal his Son in me,”27 he
preserves to the end the knowledge of the mystery of Jesus Christ, and can at all times set
forth, its truths and its glories. As it was not flesh and blood that had revealed these things to
him, but the Father,28 that unction which he received from the Holy One29 abides in him, says
24 2 Cor. xiii. 5; Heb. i. 1 (™n).
25 Acts iii. 12.
26 Prov. iv. 18.
27 Gal. i. 15.
28 Matt. xvi. 17.
St John, and he needs not that any man teach him; but as the mine anointing teacheth him of all
things, and is truth, so, even as he hath been taught by it, he will remain in it. Illumination,
therefore, abideth on the faithful; but it is not so with miraculous gifts, nor with the divine
inspiration, which is one of those gifts.30
As for miraculous gifts, they were always intermittent with the men of God, if we except the
only man who “received not the Spirit by measure.”31 The apostle Paul, for example, who at
one time restored Eutychus to life, and by whom God wrought such special miracles32 (so as
that it sufficed that handkerchiefs and aprons should touch his body and be laid upon the sick,
in order to cures being effected); at other times could not relieve either his colleague
Trophimus or his
beloved Epaphroditus, or his son Timothy.33 It is the same with inspiration, which is only the
most excellent of miraculous gifts. In the Lord’s prophets, it was exerted only by intervals. The
prophets, and even the apostles, who (as we shall show) were prophets, and more than
prophets,34 did not prophesy as often as they pleased. Inspiration was sent to them by intervals;
it came upon them according as the Holy Ghost saw fit to give it to them (kaqëj tÕ Pneàma
™d…dou aÙto‹j ¢pofqšggesqai);35 for “ never did prophecy come by the will of man,” says St
Peter;36 “but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the holy Ghost.” God spake in the
prophets (™n to‹j prof»taij), says St Paul, when he wished to do so, at sundry times
(polumerîj), as well as in divers manners (polutrÒtwj). On such a day, and at such a time, it
is often written, “the word of Jehovah was upon such a man (wylA hwt–ybr yhyw).” “In the
tenth year, on the twelfth day of the tenth month, the word of Jehovah came to me,” said the
prophet.37 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the word of the Lord came unto John,
the son of Zacharias (™gšneto ·Áma Qeoà ™pˆ ‘Iw£nnhn);38 and on the eighth day, Zacharias,
his hither, was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying. . . .39
So then we ought not to imagine that the divine infallibility of the language of the prophets
(and even of the apostles), lasted longer than the times in which, they were engaged in their
miraculous task, and in which, the Spirit caused them to speak. Without divine inspiration,
they were in most instances enlightened, sanctified, amid preserved by God, as holy and
faithful men, in our own days may still be; but then they no more spoke as moved by the holy
Ghost; – “their language might still be worthy of the most respectful at-
tention; but it was a holy man that spoke; it was no longer God: they again became fallible.”
29 1 John ii. 20-27.
30 1 Cor. xiv. 1; Acts xix. 6.
31 John iii. 34.
32 Acts xix. 11, 12.
33 2 Tim. iv. 20; Philip. ii. 27; 1 Tim. v. 23.
34 Eph. iii. 4, 5, iv. 11; Rom. xvi. 25, 27.
35 Acts ii. 4.
36 2 Peter 1. 21.
37 Jer. i. 2, xxix. 30, and elsewhere.
38 Luke iii. 1, 2.
39 Luke i. 59, 67, 41, 42.
XIII. Can any examples be adduced of this fallibility being attached to their language, when
unaccompanied with Divine inspiration?
A multitude of instances occur. Men are often, after having been for a time the mouth of the
Lord, seen to become false prophets, and mendaciously to pretend to utter the words of
Jehovah, after the Spirit had ceased to speak in them; “although the Lord sent them not, neither
commanded them, neither spake unto them.” “They speak a vision of their own heart, not out
of the mouth of the Lord.”40
But without referring to those wicked men, or to the profane Saul, or to Balaam, who were for
some time numbered among the prophets, shall it be thought that all the words of king David
were infallible during the course of that long year which he passed into adultery? Yet “these,”
saith the Scripture, “be the last words of David, the sweet psalmist of Israel: THE SPIRIT OF
THE LORD SPAKE BY ME, AND HIS WORD WAS IN MY TONGUE.”41 Shall it be
thought that all the words of the prophet Solomon still continued infallible, when he fell into
idolatry in his old age, and the salvation of his soul became a problem for the Church of God?
And to come down to Christ’s holy apostles and prophets (Eph. iii. 5), shall it he thought that
all the words of Paul himself were infallible and that he still could say that “Christ spoke by
him”42 when there was a sharp contention (paroxusmÕj) betwixt him and Barnabas;43 or
when, in the midst of the council, under a mistaken impression with regard to the person of the
High Priest, he “spoke evil of the Ruler of his people,” and cried, “ God shall strike thee, thou
whited wall;” or further (since there may remain some doubt us to the character of this
reprimand), shall it be thought that all the words
of the apostle St Peter were infallible, when, at Antioch, hue showed himself “so much to be
blamed” (kategnwsmšnoj); when he feared those that came from St James; when he
dissembled; and when he forced the apostle St Paul “to withstand him to his face before them
all, because he walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel (oÙk Ãn
XIV. What, then, are we to conclude from this first difference which we have recognised as
existing between illumination and inspiration, with respect to the duration of those gifts?
We must conclude from it,
1. That these two operations of the Holy Ghost differ in their essence, and not in their degree
2. That the infallibility of the sacred writers depended not on their illumination (which,
although raised to aim extraordinary measure in the ease of some of them, they nevertheless
enjoyed in common with. all the saints), but solely on their divine inspiration.
40 Jer. xiv. 14, xxiii. 11, 16; Ezek. xiii. 2, 3.
41 2 Sam. xxiii. 1, 2.
42 2 Cor. xiii. 3
43 Acts xv. 39.
44 See Gal. ii. 11, 14.
3. That divinely-inspired words, having been miraculous, are also all of them the words of
4. That as our faith in every part of the Bible rests no longer on the illumination of the writers,
but on the inspiration of their writings, it may dispense henceforth with the perplexing study of
their internal state, of the degree in which they were enlightened, or of that of their holiness;
but must stay itself in all things on God, in nothing on man.
XV. If such have been the difference between illumination and inspiration in the prophets and
the apostles, as respects the duration of those gifts, what has it been as respects their measure?
Illumination is susceptible of degrees; inspiration does not admit of them. A prophet is more or
less enlightened by God; but what he says is not more or
less inspired. It is so, or it is not so; it is from God, or it is not from God; here there is neither
measure nor degree, neither increase nor diminution. David was enlightened by God; John
Baptist more than David; a simple Christian possibly more than John Baptist; an apostle was
more enlightened than that Christian and Jesus Christ more than that apostle. But the inspired
word of David, what do I say? the inspired word of Balaam himself is that of God, as was that
of John Baptist, as was that of St Paul, as was that of Jesus Christ! IT IS THE WORD OF
GOD. The most enlightened of the saints cannot speak by inspiration, whilst the most wicked,
the most ignorant, and the most impure of men, may speak not of his own will (¢f’ ˜autoà
Ñuk ™ipe‹n), but by inspiration (¢ll¦ profhteÚsai).45
In a man who is truly regenerated, there is always the divine spirit and the human spirit, which
operate at once – the one enlightening, the other darkening; amid the illumination will be so
much the greater, the more that of the divine Spirit surpasses that of the human spirit. In the
prophets, and, above all, in the apostles, these two elements also are to be found. But, thanks
be to God, our faith in the words of Scripture nowise depends on the unknown issue of that
combat which was waged between the Spirit and the flesh in the soul of the sacred writers. Our
faith goes directly to the heart of God.
XVI. Can much harm result from the doctrine according to which the language of inspiration
would be no more than the human expression of a superhuman revelation, and, so to speak, of
a natural reflection of a supernatural illumination?
One or other of two evils will always result from it; either the oracles of God will be brought
down to the level of the words of the saints, or these last will be raised to the level of the
This is a deplorable consequence, the alternative involved in which has been reproduced in all
ages. It became unavoidable.
45 John xi. 51.
All truly regenerated men being enlightened by the Holy Ghost, it would follow, according to
this doctrine, that they would all possess, though in different degrees, the element of
inspiration; so that, according to the arbitrary idea which you would form to yourselves of their
spiritual condition, you would be led inevitably sometimes to assimilate the sacred writers to
them, sometimes to raise them to the rank of writers inspired from above.
XVII, Might religious societies be mentioned in which the former of these two evils is
realized; I mean to say, where people have been led, by this path, to lower the Scriptures to the
level of the sayings of saints?
All the systems of the Protestant doctors who assume that there is some mixture of error in the
Holy Scriptures, are based on this doctrine; from Semler and Ammon to Eichhorn, Paulus,
Gabler, Schuster, and Restig; from M. de Wette to the more respectable systems of Michaelis,
Rosenmüller, Scaliger, Capellus, John he Clerc, or of Vossius. According to these theories, the
divine light with which the intellects of the sacred writers was enlightened, might suffer some
partial eclipses, through the inevitable effect of their natural infirmities, of a defect of memory,
of innocent ignorance, of popular prejudice; so that traces of these have remained in their
writings, and so that we can perceive in these where their shadows have fallen.
XVIII. Might religious societies be mentioned also, where the latter of these evils has been
consummated; I mean to say, where, in consequence of buying been willing to confound
inspiration with illumination, saints and doctors have been elevated to the rank of divinely
Of these, two in particular may be mentioned, the Jews and the Latins.
XIX. What have the Jews done?
They have considered the rabbins of the successive ages of the Dispersion as endowed with an
infallibility which put them on a level with (if not above) Moses rind the prophets. They have,
to be sure, attributed a kind of divine inspiration to holy Scripture; but they have prohibited the
explanation of its oracles otherwise than according to their traditions. They have called the
immense body of those commandments of men the oral law (hp luk? hrwh), the Doctrine, or
the Talmud (rwmlh), distinguising it into the Mishna, or Second Law (hb?m), and Gémara,
compliment or perfection (armg). They have said that it passed from God to Moses, from
Moses to Joshua, from Joshua to the prophets, from the prophets to Esdras, from Esdras to the
doctors of the great Synagogue, and from them to the rabbins Antigone, Soccho, Shemaia,
Hillel, Scbammai, until at last Juda the saint deposited it in the traditions or repetitions of the
law (hwyb?m, deuterèseij), which afterwards, with their commentary or complement (the
gémara), formed, first, the Talmud of Jerusalem, and afterwards that of Babylon.
“One of the greatest obstacles that we have to encounter in dealing with the Jews,” says the
missionary MacCaul, “is their invincible prejudice in favour of their traditions and of their
commentaries, so that we cannot prevail on them to buy our Bibles without notes or
46 Letter from Warsaw, 22d March 1827.
The law they say is salt; the mishna, pepper; the talmuds, aromatics:” “the Scripture is water;
the mishna, wine; the gémara, spiced wine.” “My son,” says rabbi Isaac, “learn to pay more
attention to the words of the scribes than to the words of the law.” “Turn away your children”
(said rabbi Eleazar, on his death bed, to his scholars, who asked him the way of life), “turn
away your children from the study of the Bible, and place them at the feet of the wise.” “ Learn
son,” says the rabbi Jacob, “ that the words of the scribes are more agreeable than those of the
XX. And what has been the result of these monstrous principles?
It is, that by this means millions and millions of immortal souls, although wandering upon the
earth, although weary and heavy laden, although every where despised amid persecuted, have
contrived to carry the book of the Old Testament, intact and complete, among all the nations of
the whole world, without ceasing to read it in Hebrew every Sabbath, in thousands of
synagogues, for the last eighteen hundred years . . . . without, notwithstanding all this,
recognising there that Jewish Messiah whom we all adore, and the knowledge of whom would
be at this day their deliverance, as it behoves one day to be their happiness amid their glory!
“Full well,” said Jesus to them, “full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may
keep your own tradition.”48
XXI. And what have the Latins done?
They have considered the fathers, the popes, and the councils of the successive ages of the
Roman Church, as endowed with an infallibility which puts them on a level with Jesus, the
prophets, and the apostles, if not above them. They have differed greatly, it is true, from each
other on the doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures; and the faculties of Douay and
Louvain, for example, have vigorously opposed49 the opinion of the Jesuits, who would see
nothing in the operation of the
Holy Ghost but a direction preserving the sacred writers from error; but all have forbidden the
explanation of the Scriptures otherwise than by their traditions,50 They have thought
themselves entitled to say, in all their councils, as did the apostles and prophets at Jerusalem,
“It hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.” They have declared that it appertained to
them to pronouce upon the true meaning of holy Scripture. They have called the immense body
of those commandments of men, the oral law, the unwritten traditions, the unwritten law. They
47 In the Talmud of Jerusalem – Encycl. Method, at the word Juifs.
48 Mark vii. 9, see also xiii. and Matt. xv. 3-9. The mischief of those traditions begins at last to reveal itself to the
Jews of our days: “The time is come,” says the Israelite doctor Creissenach (Entwickelungs Geschichte des
Mosaischen Ritual Gesetzes, Pref.), “the time is come when the Talmud will precipitate the Jewish religion into
the most profound and humiliating downfall, if all the popular teachers of the Jews do not loudly declare that its
statutes are of human origin, and may be changed.”
49 Censure of 1588.
50 Council of Trent, session 4, 2d decree of 28th April 1546. – Bellarmin. De Eccl. lib. iii. cap. 14; lib. iv. cap. 3,
5, 6, 7, 8. – Coton, lib. ii. cap. 24, 34, 35. – De Perron contre Tilenus.
have said that they have been transmitted by God, and dictated by the mouth of Jesus Christ, or
of the Holy Ghost, by a continual succession.
“Seeing,” says the Council of Trent,51 that the saving truth and discipline of manners are
contained in the written books amid the unwritten traditions, which, having been received by
the apostles from the mouth of Jesus Christ, or from the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, by
succession of time are come down to us, following the example of the apostolic fathers, the
Council receives with the same affection and reverence (pari pietatis et reverentiæ affectu),
and honours all the books of the Old and New Testament (seeing that God is their author), and
together with them the TRADITIONS relating to faith as well as manners, as having been dictated
by the mouth of Jesus Christ or of the holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church
by continual succession.” “If any one receive not the whole of the said books, with all their
parts, as holy and canonical as they have been wont to be read in the Catholic Church, and in
the old vulgate translation” (that of Jerome,52 which, especially in Job and the Psalms is
crammed with very numerous, very serious, and very evident errors, amid has even been
corrected abundantly since by other popes),53 “or knowingly despises the said traditions, let
him be accursed!”
They have thus put the bulls of the bishops of Rome, and the decrees of their synods, above the
Scriptures. “Holy Scripture,” say they, “does not contain all that is necessary for salvation, and
is not sufficient.”54 “It is obscure.”55 “It does not belong to the people to read Holy
Scripture.”56 “We must receive with obedience of faith many things that mire not contained in
Scripture.”57 “We must serve God, according to the tradition of the ancients.”58
The bull Exsurge of Leo X.59 places in the number of Luther’s heresies his having said, “That it
is not in the power of the Church, or of the Pope, to establish articles of faith.”
The hull Unigenitus60 condemns to perpetuity, as being respectively false, captious,
scandalous, rash, suspected of heresy, savouring of heresy, heretical, impious, blasphemous,
&c., the following propositions:- it is profitable at all times, in all places, and for all sorts of
persons, to study the Scriptures, and to become acquainted with their spirit, piety, and
mysteries,” (on 1 Cor. xvi. 5.)61 “The reading of Holy Scripture in the hands of a man of
business, and a financier, shows that it is intended for every body,” (on Acts viii. 28.)62 “The
holy obscurity of the Word of Cod is no ground for the laity’s being dispensed from reading
51 Council of Trent, first decree, session 4.
52 It was in vain that the Abbot Isidore Clarius represented at the Council that there was temerity in ascribing
inspiration to a writer who himself assures us that be had none (Father Paul, Hist, of the Council of Trent, p. 148
of Edition London, 1676).
53 See Thomas James, Bellum Papale sive Concordia Discors Sexti V. et Clementis VIII.
54 Bellarmin. De Verbo Dei, lib. iv.
55 Idem, lib. iii. – Charron, Verite 3. – Coton, lib. ii. cap. 19. – Bayle, traité.
56 Bellarmin. De Verbo Dei, Jib. ii. cap. 19.
57 Bellarmin. lib. iv. cap. 3, and De Perron contre Tilenus. – Coton, lib. ii. cap. 24.
58 Id. Bellarmin. lib. iv. cap. 5. – Coton, Jib. ii. cap. 34, 35. – Council of Trent, sess. 4.
59 1520, Concil., Harduini, t. ix. p. 1893.
60 Clement XI. of 8th September 1713.
61 Proposition 79.
62 Proposition 80
Acts viii. 39.) “The Lord’s day ought to be sanctified by the reading of books of piety, and
especially of the Scriptures. They are the milk which God himself, who knows our hearts, has
supplied for them. It is dangerous to desire being weaned from it.” – (Acts xv. 29. “It is a
mistake to imagine that the knowledge of the mysteries of religion ought not to be
communicated to that sex (women) by the reading of the holy books, after this example of
confidence with which Jesus Christ manifests himself to this woman (the Samaritan).” “It is
not from the simplicity of women, but from the proud learning of men, that abuse of the Scriptures
has arisen, and heresies have been generated.” – (John iv. 26.) “It amounts to shutting the
mouth of Christ to Christians, and to wresting from their hands the holy book, or to keep it shut
to them by depriving them of the means of hearing it.” – (l Thess. v. 2.) “To interdict Christians
from reading it, is to interdict children from the use of light, and to subject them to a kind of
excommunication,” (on Luke xi. 33.)63
Still more lately, in 1824, the encyclical epistle of Pope Leo XII. mournfully complains of the
Bible Societies, “which,” it says, “violate the traditions of the fathers (!!!) and the Council of
Trent, by circulating the Scriptures in the vernacular tongues of all nations.” (“Non vos latet,
venerandi fratres, societatem quamdam, dictam vulqo BIBLICAM, per totum orbem audacter
vagari quæ spretis S. S. Patrum traditionibus (!!!) et contra notissimnum Tridentini Concilii
decretum in id collatis viribus ac modis omnibus intendit, ut in vulgrares linguas nationum
omnium sacra vertantur vol potius pervertantur Biblia.”) “In order to avert this pest,” he says,
“our predecessors have published several constitutions, . . . tending to show how pernicious for
the faith and for morals this perfidious institution (the Bible Society) is! (et ostendatur
quantopere fidei et moribus vaferrimum hocce inventum noxium sit!)”
XXII. And what has been the result of these monstrous principles?
It is this, that millions and millions of immortal souls in France, in Spain, in Italy, in Germany,
and in America, and even in the Indies, although they carry every where intact and complete
the New Testament, although they have not ceased to read it in Latin, every Lord’s day, in
thousands and thousands of churches, for twelve hundred years . . . . have been turned away
from the fountains of life, have, like the Jews, “paid more attention to the words of the scribes
than to those of the law;” have diverted their children, according to the counsel of Eleazer,
“from the study of the Bible, to place them at the feet of the wise.” They have found, like rabbi
Jacob, “the words of the scribes more agreeable than those of the prophets.” It is thus that they
have contrived, for twelve centuries, to maintain doctrines the most contrary to the Word of
God,64 on the worship of images;65 on the exaltation of the priests; on their forced celibacy; on
their auricular confession; on the absolution which they dare to give; on the magical power
which they attribute even to the most impure among them, of creating his God with three Latin
words, opere opcrato; on an ecclesiastical priesthood, of which Scripture has never said a
word; on prayers to the dead; on the spiritual pre-eminence of the city which the Scripture has
63 Exod. xx. 4, 5.
64 Exod. xx. 4, 5.
65 Quisquis ehanguerit erga venerabilium imaginum adorationem (proskÚnhsin), hune anathemizat sancta nostra
et universialis synodus! (was written to the Emperor, in the name of the whole Second Council of Nice). (Concil.,
tom. vii, p. 585).
called Babylon; on the use of an unknown tongue in worship; on the celestial empire of the
blessed but humble woman to whom Jesus himself said, “Woman, what have I to do with
thee?” on the mass; on the taking away of the cup; on the interdiction of the Scriptures to the
people; on indulgences; on purgatory; on the universal episcopate of an Italian priest; on the
interdiction of meals; so that just as people
annul the sole priesthood of the Son of man by establishing other priesthoods by thousands,
just as they annul his divinity by acknowledging thousands of demi-gods or dead men, present
in all places, hearing throughout the whole earth the most secret prayers of human beings,
protecting cities and kingdoms, working miracles in favour of their worshippers; . . . just so,
also, they annul the inspiration of Scripture, by acknowledging by thousands other writings
which share in its divine authority, and which surpass and swallow up its eternal infallibility!
It was in opposition to the very similar tenets maintained by the heretics of his time, that Saint
Irenaeus said, “For when convicted by the Scriptures, they turn about and accuse the Scriptures
themselves, as if they were imperfect, and wanting in authority, and uncertain, and as if one
could not find the truth in them, if ignorant of tradition; for that was given, not in writing, but
by the living voice.”66
“Full well,” says Jesus to them too, “ye reject the commandments of God, that ye may keep
your own traditions! Bene irritum facitis præceptum Dei, ut traditionem vestram servetis!” –
(Mark vii. 9.)
XXIII. Without pretending anyhow to explain how the holy Ghost could dictate the thoughts
and the words of the Scriptures (for the knowledge of this mystery is neither given to us, nor
asked of us), what is it that one can perceive in this divine action?
Why, two things; first, an impulsion, that is, an action on the will of the men of God, in order
to make them speak and write; and, secondly, a suggestion, that is to say, an action on their
understandings amid on their organs, in order to their producing, first, within them
more or less exalted notions of the truth they were about to utter; and, then, without them such
human expressions as were most divinely suitable to the eternal thought of the Holy Ghost.
XXIV. Meanwhile, must it be admitted that the sacred writers were no more than merely the
pens, hands, and secretaries of the Holy Ghost?
They were, no doubt, hands, secretaries, and pens; but they were, in almost every case, and in
very different degrees, living pens, intelligent hands, secretaries docile, affected by what they
wrote, and sanctified.
XXV. Was not the Word of God, however, often written as suggested by the occasion?
66 Adv. Hæres., lib. iii. cap. 2. “Cum enim ex Scripturis arguuntur, mu accusatioinem convertuntur ipsarum
Scripturarum, quasi non recte habeant, neque sint ex auctoritate, et quia varie sunt dictæ, et quia non possit ex his
inventiri veritas ab his qui nescient traditionem. Non enim per litteras traditam illam, sed per vivam vocem.”
Yes no doubt; and the occasion was prepared by God, just as the writer was. “The Holy
Ghost,” says Claude,67 “employed the pen of the evangelists … and of the prophets. He
supplied them with the occasions on which they wrote; he gave them the wish and the strength
to do so; the matter, form, order, economy, expressions, mire from his immediate inspiration
XXVI. But do we not clearly recognise, in the greater part of the sacred books, the individual
character of the person who writes?
Far from disowning this, we, on the contrary, admire its being so. The individual character
which comes from God, and not from sin and the fall, was prepared and sanctified by God for
the work to which it had been destined by God.
XXVII. Ought we, then, to think that all has been equally inspired of God, in each of the books
of Holy Scripture?
Scripture, in speaking of what it is, does not admit any distinction. All these sacred books,
ception, are the word of the Lord. ALL SCRIPTURE, says St Paul (p©sa graf¾), IS
INSPIRED BY GOD.
This declaration, as we have already said, is susceptible of two constructions, according as we
place the verb, not expressed but understood, before or after the Greek word which we here
translate inspired by God; – both these constructions invincibly establish, that in the apostle’s
idea, all without exception, in each and all of the books of the Scriptures, is dictated by the
Spirit of God. In fact, in both the apostle equally attests that these HOLY LETTERS (t¦ ƒer¦
gr£mmata), of which he had been speaking to Timothy, are all divinely inspired Scriptures.
Now, we know that in the days of Jesus Christ, the whole Church meant ONE SOLE AND
THE SAME COLLECTION OF BOOKS by the Scripture, the Holy Scripture or the
Scriptures, or the Holy Letters, or the Law and the Prophets, (graf¾,68 ¾ graf¾ ¡g…a,69 aƒ
grafaˆ,70 or Ð nÒmoj kaˆ oƒ prof»tai,71 or t¦ ƒera gr£mmata72). These were the twentytwo
sacred books which the Jews held from their prophets, and on which they were all
This entire and perfect divine inspiration of all the Scriptures of the Jews was so fully, in the
days of Jesus Christ, the doctrine of the whole of that ancient people of God (as it was that of
Jesus Christ, of Timothy, and of St Paul), that we find the following testimony to it in the
works of the Jewish general Josephus (who had reached his thirtieth year74 at the time when
67 Claude. Œuvres Posthumes, vol. iv. p. 228
68 Peter i. 20; John xix, 37.
69 John x. 35, xvii. 12; Rom. i. 2.
70 John v. 39; Matt. xxi. 42, xxvi. 54; Rom. xv. 4; 1 Con xv. 3.
71 Acts xxiv. 14; Luke xvi. 16, 29, 31; Matt. v. 17, 18; John x. 34.
72 2 Tim. iii. 15.
73 See Krebs and Læsner, on 2 Tim. iii. 15.
74 He was born in the year 37. See his Life, Edim. Aureliae Allobr. p. 999.
the Apostle Paul wrote his Second Epistle to Timothy). “Never” (says he, in speaking of “the
twenty-two books”75 of the Old Testament, which he calls t¦ „d…a
gr£mmata, as St Paul calls them here t¦ ƒer¦ gr£mmata), “never, although many ages have
elapsed, has any one dared either to TAKE AWAY, or to ADD, or to TRANSPOSE in these
any thing whatever;76 for it is with all the Jews, as it were an inborn conviction (PASI de
sÚmfutÒn ™stin), from their very earliest infancy,77 to call them GOD’S TEACHNGS, to
abide in them, and, if necessary, to die joyfully in maintaining them.”78
“They are given to us” (he says further) “by the inspiration that comes from God (kat¦ t¾n
™pipnoian t¾n ¢pÕ toà Qeoà); but as for the other books, composed since the times of
Artaxerxes, they are not thought worthy of a like faith.”79. . . . .
These passages from Josephus are not quoted here as aim authority for our faith, but as an
historical testimony, showing the sense in which the apostle St Paul spoke, and attesting to us
that, in mentioning the holy letters (t¦ „er¦ gr£mmata), and in saying that they are all
divinely inspired Scriptures, he meant to declare to us that, in his eyes, there was nothing in the
sacred. books which was not dictated by God.
Now, since the books of the New Testament are „er¦ gr£mmata, Holy Scriptures, the
Scriptures, the Holy Letters, as well as those of the Old; since the apostles have put their
writings, and since St Peter, for example, has put ALL THE LETTERS OP PAUL (p£saj t¦j
™pistol¦j) in the same rank with the REST OF THE SCRIPTURES (æj kaˆ t¦j loip¦j
GRAFLS), hence we ought to conclude that all is inspired by God in all the books of the Old
and New Testament.
XXVIII. But if all the sacred books (t¦ „er¦ gr£mmata) are divinely inspired, how can we
discover that such and such a book is a sacred book, and that such another is not one?
This, in a great measure, is a purely historical question.
XXIX. Yet, have not the Reformed Churches maintained that it was by the Holy Ghost that
they recognised the divinity of the sacred books; and, for example, has not the Confession of
Faith of the Churches of France said in its 4th article, that we know these books to be
canonical, and a very certain rule of our faith, not so much by the common accord and
75 Contra Apion, lib. i. p. 1837. (dÚo mÒna prÕj to‹j ™…kosi bibl…a). Our Bibles reckon thirty-nine books in
mime Old Testament; but Josephus and the ancient Jews, by making one book each of the two books of Samuel,
of Kings, and of Chronicles, by throwing together Ruth and Judges, Esdras and Nehemiah, Jeremiah and
Lamentations, and finally, Hosea and the eleven minor prophets that follow respectively, into one book, reduced
our modern calculation of their sacred books by seventeen units.
76 ‘OÚte PROSQEINAI tij oÙd•n oÜte AFELEIN a¢tîn, oÛti METAQEINAI tetÒlmhken.
77 EÙQÝj ™k tÁj prèthj genšsewj Ñnom£zein ¢ut¦ QEOU DOGMATA (according to others: from the first
78 `Up•r aÙtîn e„ dšoi zn»skein ºdšwj.
79 P…stewj d• ouc’ Ðmo…as ºx…wtai.
agreement of the Church, as by the testimony and the persuasion of the Holy Ghost, which
enables us to discern between them and the other ecclesiastical books?
This maxim is perfectly true, if you apply it to the sacred books as a whole. In that sense the
Bible is evidently an ¢utÒpistij book, which needs itself only in order to be believed. To the
man, whoever he be, that studies it “with sincerity and as before God,”80 it presents itself
evidently, and of itself, as a miraculous book; it reveals mill that is hidden in men’s
consciences; it discerns the thoughts and affections of the heart. It has foretold the future; it has
changed the face of the world; it has converted souls; it has created the Church. Thus it
produces in men’s hearts “an inward testimony and conviction of the Holy Ghost,” which
attests its inimitable divinity, independently of any testimony of men. But we do not think that
our Churches ever ventured to affirm that one might be content to abide by this mark for
discerning such or such a book, or such or such a chapter, or such or such a verse of the Word
of God, and for ascertaining its celestial origin. They think that for this detail one must look, as
they did, “to the common accord and agreement of the Church.” We ought to admit as divine
the entire code of the
Scriptures, before each of its parts has enabled us to prove by itself that it is of God. It does not
belong to us to judge this book; it is this book which will judge us.
XXX. Nevertheless, has not Luther,81 starting from a principle laid down by St Paul82 and by
St John,83 said, that “the touchstone by which one might recognise certain scriptures as divine,
is this: Do they preach Christ or do they not preach him?”84 And among the moderns, has not
Dr Twesten also said, “that the different parts of the Scriptures are more or less inspired,
according as they are more or less preaching; and that inspiration does not extend to words and
historical matters beyond what has a relation to the Christian conscience, beyond what
proceeds from Christ, or serves to show us Christ.”85
Christ is, no doubt, the way, the truth, and the life; the spirit of prophecy, no doubt, is the
testimony of Jesus;86 but this touchstone might in our hands prove fallacious: 1st, Because
many writings speak admirably of Christ without being inspired; 2d, Although all that is to be
found in the inspired Scriptures relates to Jesus Christ, possibly we might fail to perceive this
divine character at a first glance; and 3d, In fine, because we ought to BELIEVE before
SEEING it, that all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for Correction, and for
instruction in righteousness: that the man of God n-may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto
all good works.87
XXXI. ‘What reasons have we, then, for recognising as sacred each of the books which, at the
present day, form for us the collection of the Scriptures?
For the Old Testament we have the testimony of the
80 2 Cor. Ii. 17.
81 In his preface to the Epistles of James and Jude.
82 1 Cor. iii. 9, 10.
83 1 John iv. 2.
84 Oh sic Christum treiben, oder nicht.
85 Vorlesungen über die Dogmatik, 1829, I. B. p. 421-429.
86 John xiv. 6 – Apoc., xix. 10.
87 2 Tim. iii. 16.
Jewish Church; and for the New Testament the testimony of the Catholic Church.
XXXII. What must here be understood by the testimony of the Jewish Church ?
We must understand by it the common opinion of all the Jew’s, Egyptian and Syrian, Asiatic
and European, Sadducean and Pharisees,88 ancient and modern, good and bad.
XXXIII. ‘What reason have we to hold for divine, the books of the Old Testament which the
Church of the Jews has given us as such?
It is written, “that unto them were committed the oracles of God;”89 which means, that God in
his wisdom chose them for being, under the Almighty government of his providence, sure
depositories of his written word. Jesus Christ received their sacred code, and we accept of it as
XXXIV. Shall our faith then depend upon the Jews?
The Jews often fell into idolatry; they denied the faith; they slew their prophets; they crucified
the King of kings; since that they have hardened their hearts for near two thousand years; they
have filled up the measure of their sins, and wrath “is come upon them to the uttermost.”90
Nevertheless, to them were committed the oracles of God. And albeit that these oracles
condemn them, albeit that the veil remains on their hearts when they read the Old
Testament;”91 albeit they have for ages despised the Word of God, and worshipped their
Talmud; they HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE not to
give us the book of the Scriptures intact and complete; and the historian Josephus might still
say of them what he wrote eighteen hundred years ago: “After the lapse of so many centuries
(posoÚtou g¦r a„înoj ½dh parJchkÒtoj) no one among the Jews has dared to ADD or to
TAKE AWAY, or to transpose any thing in the sacred Scriptures.”92
XXXV. What, then, have been the warranty, the cause, and the means of this fidelity on the
part of the Jews?
We shall reply to this question in but a very few words. Its warranty is to be found in the
promises of God; its cause in the providence of God; and its means in the concurrence of the
five following circumstances
88 See Josephus agt. Appion, liv. i. p. 1037. Philo in Eichorn. Joseph. in Nov. Repert., p. 239. De Ægypticis
Judæis; cf. Eichorn-Einheit ins A. T. R. I., § 21, p. 73, 89, 91, 113, 114, 116;. De Sadducceis, § 35, p. 95. And
Semler (App. ad liberal., V. T. interpret., p. 11.) Eichorn Alg. Bibl. der Bibi. Litterat. T. IV. p. 275, 276.
89 Rom. iii, 2.
90 1 Thess. ii. 16.
91 2 Cor. iii. 15.
92 See this quotation at question 27.
1. The religion of the Jews, which has carried their respect for the very letter of Scriptures even
to a superstitious length.
2. The indefatigable labours of the Masorethes, who so carefully guarded its purity, even to the
3. The rivalry of the Judaical sects, none of which would have sanctioned any want of
faithfulness on the part of the others.
4. The extraordinary dispersion of that people in all countries long before the ruin of
Jerusalem; for “of old time,” says St James,93 “Moses hath in every (pagan) city them that
preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath-day.”
5. Finally, the innumerable copies of the sacred book diffused among all nations.
XXXVI. And with respect to the New Testament, what are we now to understand by the
testimony of the Catholic Church?
By this we are to understand the universal agreement
of the ancient and modern Churches, Asiatic and European, good and bad, which call on the
name of Jesus Christ; that is to say, not only the faithful sects of the blessed Reformation, but
the Greek sect, the Arminian sects, the Syrian sect, the Roman Sect, and perhaps we might add
the Unitarian sects.94
XXXVII. Should our faith then be founded on the Catholic Church?
All Churches have erred, or might have erred. Many have denied the faith, persecuted Jesus
Christ in his members, denied his divinity, made his cross of none effect, restored the worship
of statues and graven images, exalted the priests, shed the blood of the saints, interdicted the
use of the Scriptures to the people, committed to the flames those of the faithful who desired to
read them in the vernacular tongue, tongue set up in the temple of God him who sits there as a
God, have trampled upon the Scriptures, worshipped traditions, warred against God, and cast
down the truth. Nevertheless, the new oracles of God have been committed to them, as those of
the Old Testament were to the Jews. And albeit these oracles condemn them; albeit for ages
they have despised the Scriptures and almost adored their traditions; – they have NOT BEEN
ABLE not to give us the Book of the Scriptures of the New Testament intact and complete;
and one may say of them, as Josephus said of Jews, “After the lapse of so many ages, never
has any one in the Churches dared either to add or take away any thing in the Holy Scriptures.”
They have been compelled, in spite of themselves, to transmit them to us in their integrity.
XXX VIII. Nevertheless has there not been in
93 Acts xv. 21. Josephus often attests the same fact.
94 Following the example of the Scripture, we believe no may employ the word church as denoting, sometimes all
that are enclosed in the nets of the Gospel, sometimes only all that in these is pure and living. And as for the word
sect (a†resij, Acts xxiv, 11; xxvi. 5; xxxviii 22), following the apostle’s example, we employ it here neither in a
good sense nor in a bad sense.
Christendom one powerful sect, which for three hundred years has introduced into the canon of
the Scriptures the Apocryphal Books, disavowed as they have been by the Jews95 (as even
Pope St Gregory himself attests),96 and rejected by the fathers of the ancient Church97 (as St
This, it is true, is what was done for the Latin sect by the fifty-three persons who composed, on
the 8th of April 1546, the famous Council of Trent, and who pretended to be the
representatives of the CHURCH UNIVERSAL OF JESUS CHRIST.98 But they could do it for
the Old Testament only, which was entrusted to the Jews and not to the Christians. Neither that
Council, nor any even of the most corrupt and idolatrous Churches, have been able to add a
single Apocryphal Book to the New Testament. God has not permitted this, however
mischievous may have been their intentions. It is thus that the Jews have been able to reject the
New Testament, which was not committed to them; while they HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE
to introduce a single book of man into the Old Testament. God has never permitted them to do
so; and, in particular, they have always excluded from it those which the fifty three
ecclesiastics of Trent were daring enough to cause to be inserted in it, in the name of the
XXXIX. And what have been the warranty, the cause, and the means of that fidelity, which the
universal Church has shown in transmitting to us the oracles of God in the New Testament?
To this question we shall reply but in a very few words.
The warranty has lain in the promises of God; the cause in the providence of God; and the
means principally in the concurrence of the following circumstances:-
1. The religion of the ancient Christians, and their extraordinary respect for the sacred texts; a
respect shown on all occasions in their churches,99 in their councils,100 in their oaths,101 and
even in their domestic customs.102
95 Joseph. agt. Ap. book I. 8. Euseb. H. E. lib. III., c. ix. x.
96 Exposition of the Book of Job. See Father Paul’s Hist. of the C. of Trent, book ii. p. 143. (London, 1676.)
97 Origen (Euseb. H. E. lib. iv. c. 26). St Athanasius (Pascal Epistle). St Hilary (Prolog. in Psalmos, p. 9. Paris,
1693.) St Epiph. (Lardner, vol. iv. p. 312.) St Gregory Nazianzen (Carm. 33, Op. tom. ii. p. 98).
98 In praef. ad libr. Regum; sive Prologo-galeato. (See Lard. vol. v. p. 16-22). Judith, et Tobiæ et Macchabæorum
libros legit quidem Ecclesia: sed eas inter canonicas Scripturas non recipit (Præfat. in Libros Salom-Epist. 115).
See also Symbolum Ruffini, tom. ix. p. 186 (Paris, 1602). “Some thought it strange that five cardinals and fortyeight
bishops should so easily define the most principal and important points of religion, never decided before,
giving canonical authority to books held for uncertain and apocryphal,” &c. – Father Paul’s Hist. of the C. of
Treat, book ii. p. 153 (London, 1676). Most were Italians.
99 Plotius contra Manich., t. i.; apud Wolf. anecd., p. 32 sq. I. Ciampini Rom. vetera monum., i. p. 126 sq. All the
Christian congregations in the East, even the poorest, kept a collection of the sacred books in their oratories. See
100 Cyrill. Alex. in Apol. ad Theodos., imp. Act. Concil. ed. Mansi, t. vi. col. 579, vii. col. 6, ix. col. 187, xii. col.
1009, 1032, al. Prohition, under pain of excommunication, against selling the sacred book to druggists, or other
merchants, who don’t buy them to read (6th Council, in Trullo. Can. 68).
101 Corb, byz., i. p. 422, al.
102 See St Jerome, pref. on Job. S. Chrysost. Hom. 19, De Statuis. Women, says he, are wont to suspend copies of
the Gospels from their children’s necks. See the 68th canon of the VI. Coun. in Trullo.
2. The pains taken by learned men in different ages to preserve the purity of the sacred text.
3. The many quotations made from Scripture by the fathers of the Church.
4. The mutual jealousy of the sects into which the Christian Church has been subdivided.
5. The versions made from the first ages in many ancient tongues.
6. The number and abundant dissemination of manuscripts of the New Testament.
7. The dispersion of the new people of God as far as the extremities of Asia, and to the farthest
limits of the west.
XL. Does it then result from these facts that the authority of the Scriptures is founded for us, as
Bellarmin has said, on that of the Church?
The doctors of Rome, it is true, have gone so far as to say, that without the testimony of the
Church the Scripture has no more authority than Livy, the Alcoran, or Æsop’s fables;103 and
Bellarmin, horrified no doubt at such impious opinions, would fain distinguish the authority of
the Church in itself and with respect to us (quoad se, et quoad nos). In this last sense, he says,
the Scripture has no authority except by the testimony of the Church. Our answer will be very
Every manifestation having three causes, an objective cause, a subjective cause, and an
instrumental cause, one may say also that the knowledge that we receive of the authority of the
Scriptures has, first of all, for its objective cause, the Holy Bible itself, which proves its
divinity by its own beauty, and by its own doings; in the second place, for subjective or
efficient cause, the Holy Ghost,104 who confirms and seals to our souls the testimony of God;
and in fine, in the third place, for instrumental cause, the Church, not the Roman, not the
Greek, more ancient than the Roman, not even the Syriac, more ancient than either, but the
The pious St Augustine expresses this triple cause, in his book against the Epistle of
Manicheus, called Fundamenti. In speaking of the time at which he was still a Manichean, he
says:105 “I should not have
103 Hosius contra Brentium, lib. iii. Eckius, de auth. Ecclesiæ. Bayli Tractat. i., Catech., 9. 12. Andradius, lib. iii.
Defens. Conc, Trident. Stapleton, adv. Wittaker, lib. i. c. 17.
104 Isa. liv. 13, lix. 21.
105 Evangelio non crederem (according to the African usage for credidissem, as confession, lib. ii. c. 8: Si lunc
amarem, for amavissem) nisi me Ecclesiæ commoveret (commovisset) authoritas (ch. 5). (This, besides, is very
classical Latin: Non ego hoc ferrem, says Horace, for tulissem, lib. iii. ode 14). Eos sequamur qui nos invitant
prius credere, quum nondum valemus intueri, ut ipsâ fide valentiores facti, quod credimus intelligere mereamur,
non jam hominibus, sed ipso Deo intrinsecus mentem nostram firmante et illuminante (c. 14). Opera August.,
Paris, Mabillon, t. viii.
believed in the gospel had I not been drawn to it by the authority of the Church;” but he takes
care to add: “Let us follow those who invite us first to believe, when we are not yet in a state to
see: in order that, being rendered more capable (valentiores) by faith itself, we may deserve to
comprehend what we believe. Then it will no more be men, it will be God himself within us,
who will confirm our souls and illuminate them.”
In this affair, then, the Church is a servant and not a mistress; a depositary and not a judge. She
exercises the office of a minister, not of a magistrate, ministerium non magisterium.106 She
delivers a testimony, not a judicial sentence. She discerns the canon of the Scriptures, she does
not make it; she has recognised their authenticity, she has not given it. And as the men of
Sichem believed in Jesus Christ by means of the impure but penitent woman who called them
to him, we say to the Church: “Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we have heard
him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”107 We have
believed, then, per eam, not propter eam, through her means, not on her account. We found her
on her knees; she showed us her Master; we recognised him, and we knelt down along with
her. Were I to mingle in the rear of an imperial army, and should I ask those around me to
show me their prince, they would do with respect to him, for me, what the Church has done
with regard to the Scriptures. They would not call their regiment the ecumenical army; above
all, they would not say that the emperor has no authority but what is derived from its
testimony, whether as it respected itself or with respect to us; whether quoad se or quoad nos
(to use Bellarmin’s language). The authority of the Scriptures is not founded, then, on the
authority of the Church: it is the Church that is founded on the authority of the Scriptures.
XLI. If the authenticity of the Scriptures is proved in a great measure by history, how is their
Solely by the Scriptures.
XLII. But is such an argument rational? Does it not involve a begging of the question, and the
proving of inspiration by inspiration?
There would be a begging of the question here, if, in order to prove that the Scriptures are
inspired, we should invoke their testimony while assuming them to be inspired. But we are far
from adopting this process. First of all, the Bible is viewed solely in the light of an historical
document, deserving our respect from its authenticity, and by means of which one may know
the doctrine of Jesus Christ, nearly as one would learn that of Socrates from the books of Plato,
or that of Leibnitz from the writings of Wolff. Now this document declares to us, in all its
pages, that the whole system of the religion which it teaches, is founded on the grand fact of a
miraculous intervention of God in the revelation of its history and its doctrines.
The learned Michaelis, who held such loose principles on inspiration, himself declares that the
inspiration of the apostolic writings necessarily results from their authenticity. There is no
other alternative, says he; if what they relate is true, they are inspired; if they were not inspired,
they would not be sincere; but they are sincere, therefore they are inspired.
There is nothing in such reasoning that can be thought like a begging of the question.
106 Turretini, Theohogia elenct., vol. i. loc 2, quæst. 6.
107 John iv. 42.
XLIII. If it be by the Bible itself that we establish the dogma of a certain inspiration in the
sacred books, by what can it be proved that that inspiration is universal, and that it extends to
the minutest details of the instructions they convey?
If it be the Scriptures that tell us of their divine inspiration, it is they too that will be able to
in what divine inspiration consisted. In order to our admitting their inspiration on their own
sole testimony, it should have sufficed for us to be assured that they were authentic; but, in
order to our admitting their plenary inspiration, we shall have something more; for we shall
then be able to invoke their testimony as writings already admitted to he divine. It will no
longer be authentic books only that say to us, I am inspired; but books, both authentic and
inspired, will say to us, I am so altogether. The Scriptures are inspired, we affirm, because,
being authentic and true, they say of themselves that they are inspired; but the Scriptures are
plenarily inspired, we also add, because, being inspired, they say that they are so entirely, and
without any exception.
Here, then, there is neither more nor less than a doctrine which the Bible will teaches us, as it
teaches us all the rest. And just as we believe, because it tells us so, that Jesus Christ is God,
and that he became man; so also we believe that the Holy Ghost is God, and that he dictated
the whole of the Scriptures.
XLIV. Who are the divines that have impugned the doctrine of the divine inspiration?
We have one general remark to make before enumerating them here, namely, that with the
single exception of Theodore of Mopsuestia, that philosophical divine whose numerous
writings, so strongly tainted with Pelagianism, were condemned for their Nestorianism in the
fifth ecumenical council (Constantinople, 553), and whose principles on the divine inspiration
were very loose, – with the exception, we say, of Theodore of Mopsuestia, it has been found
impossible to produce, in the long course of the EIGHT FIRST CENTURIES OF CHRIS-
TAINITY, a single doctor who has disowned the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, unless it
be in the bosom of the most violent heresies that have tormented the Christian Church; that is
to say, among the Gnostics, the Manicheans, the Anomeans, and the Mahometans. St Jerome
himself, who sometimes permitted himself, while speaking of the style of certain parts of the
sacred books, to use a language whose temerity will be censured by all pious persons,108
108 Qui solœcismos in verbis facit, qui non potest hyperbaton reddere, sententiamque concludere. (Comment. in
epist. ad Titum. lib. i [ad cap. i. 1.] Et ad Ephes., lib. ii. [ad cap. iii. 1.] See also his, Comment on the Ep. to the
nevertheless maintains, even for such passages, the entire inspiration of all the parts of the
sacred Scripture;109 and in that he further sees, under what he calls the grossness of the
language and the seeming absurdity of the reasonings, intentions on the part of the Holy Spirit
full of profound art and wisdom. And if, transporting ourselves from the days of St Jerome to
four hundred years farther down, we come to the celebrated Agobard, who is alleged by Dr Du
Pin to have been the first of the fathers of the Church that abandoned the doctrine of a verbal
inspiration,110 it is most unjustly, says Dr Rudeibach, that such a charge has been brought
against that bishop. It is true, that in disputing with the Abbot Fredigise,111 touching the
latitude to be allowed to Latin translators of the sacred text, he maintains that the dignity of the
Word of God consists in the force of meaning, not in the pomp of words; but he took care to
add, that the authority of the apostles and the prophets remains intact, and that no one is
permitted to believe that they could have placed a letter otherwise than they have done; for
their authority is stronger than heaven and earth.112
If, then, we would class, in the order of time, the men who controverted the entire divine
inspiration of our sacred books, we must place:-
In the 2d cemetery, the Gnostics (Valentine, Cerdo, Marcio, his disciple, &c.) They believed in
two equal principles, independent, contrary, and co-eternal; the one good and the other bad; the
one the father of Jesus Christ, and the other the author of the law; and, entertaining this idea,
they rejected the Pentateuch, at the same time admitting no more of the New Testament than
the gospel of Luke, and part of Paul’s epistles.
In the 3d century Manes or Manicheus, who, calling himself the paraclete promised by Jesus
Christ, corrected the books of the Christians, and added his own.
In the 4th century, the Anonmeans or Ultra-Arians (for Arius himself held a more reserved
language), who maintained, with their leader Ætius, that the Son, a created intelligence,
unlike113 to the Father, took to himself a human body without a human soul. They spoke of the
Scriptures with an irreverence tantamount to the denial of their entire inspiration. “When
pressed with Scriptural reasons,” says St Epiphanius, “they escape by saying: That it was as a
man that the apostle said those things;” or, “Why do you bring the Old Testament against me?”
And what does the holy bishop add? “It was to be expected that those who denied the glory of
Christ, should deny still more that of the apostles.”114
In the 5th century, Theodore of Mopsuestia, chief of the Antioch school, an able philosopher,
and learned but rash divine. All that remains to us of his numerous works, is some fragments
only, preserved to us by other authors. His books, as we have said, were condemned (two
hundred years after his death) at the Council of Constantinople. There were quoted there, for
example, his writings against Appollinarius, in which he had said that the book of Job is
merely a poem derived from a pagan source; that Solomon had no doubt re-
109 Proem, in Ep. ad Galat., lib. ii.
110 Du Pin, doctor of the Sorbonne. Prolegom. on the Bible, liv. i. v. 256.
111 Agobard, adv. Fredeg. lib. c. 9-12.
112 Rudelbach, Zeitschrift, 1st part, 1840, p. 48.
113 ‘AnÒmoioj: hence their name.
114 Epiphan., Advers. hær., LXX. vi. Ætii salutat. Confut,, vi.
ceived lÒgon gnèsewj, but not lÒgon sof…aj; that the Song of Songs is but a long and
insignificant epithalamium, without any character prophetical, historical, or scientific, and in
the manner of the Symposion of Plato, etc, etc.115
In the 7th century, Mahonmet (whose false religion is nothing more than a heresy of
Christianity, and who speaks of Christ at least as honourably as most part of the Socinians
have done,) – Mahomet acknowledged, and often quoted as inspired, the books of the Old and
New Testament; but he said they had been corrupted, and, like Manes, he added his own.
In the 12th and 13th centuries, as it would appear, there sprang up and took a regular shape,
first among the Talmudist Jew’s,116 the system of those modern doctors who have thought fit to
class the various passages of holy Scripture under various orders of inspiration, and to reduce
the divine inspiration to more or less natural proportions. It was under the double influence of
the Aristotelian philosophy, and of the theology of the Talmud, that the Jews of the middle
ages, differing much in this from the ancient Jews,116 imagined this theory. That was the time
of the Solomon Jarchis, the David Kimchis, the Averroeses, the Aben-Ezras, the Joseph Albos;
and above all of Moses Maimonides, that Spanish Jew who has been called. the eagle of the
doctors. Maimonides, borrowing the vague terms of the peripatetic philosophy, taught that
prophecy is not an exclusive product of the action of the Holy Ghost. Just, says he, as, if the
intellectus agens (the intellectual influence that is in man) associate itself more intimately with
reason, there results from it the secta sapienturn speculatorum; and as, if that agent operates
more on the imagination, there results from it the secta politicorum, legislatorum, divinatorum,
et præstigiatorum; so also, when this
superior principle exercises its action in a more perfect manner on those two faculties of the
soul at once, the result is the secta prophetarurn. Almost all the modern Jewish doctors have
adopted the ideas of Maimonides; and there, also, seems to have originated Schleiermacher’s
modern system of inspiration. It is in starting from these principles that the doctors have
admitted several degrees of inspiration in the prophets. Of these, Maimonides reckoned
sometimes eight, sometimes eleven. Joseph Albo reduced them to four, and Abarbanel to three.
They applied these distinctions of different degrees of inspiration to the division of the Old
Testament into Law, Prophets, and Hagiographa (hdwt sybwhbw syaybn) The kethubim,
according to him, had not received the prophetic spirit (hawkn twr), but only the Holy Spirit
(?dqh twr), which, according to him, was no more than a human faculty, by means of which
mm mail pronounced words of wisdom and holiness.117
The modern German school of the adversaries of inspiration, seems accordingly to be a mere
reproduction of the theory of the rabbins of the 13th century, or a borrowing from the
Talmudist doctors of our own days.
In the 16th century, Socinus118 and Castellio119 maintained that the sacred writers sometimes
show a failure of memory, and might err on subjects of slight importance.
115 Acta concilii Constantinop., ii. 65, 75, apud Harduin. Acta Concil., tom. iii. p. 87-89.
116 See Josephus agt. Apion. lib. i. c. 7, 8; and Phibo, cd Hæschel, p. 515, and p. 918.
117 Mosis Maimonidcs, More Nebuchim, part ii. c. 37, et 45. Rudelbach (ut supra) p. 53.
118 De Author. Script.
In the 17th century, three orders of adversaries, according to the celebrated Turretine,120
combated inspiration. These were, besides the infidels properly so-called (atheos et gentiles):
1. the fanatics (enthusiastæ), who charged Scripture with imperfection in order to exalt their
own particular revelations; 2. those of the Pope’s sect (pontificii), who scrupied not, says he, to
betray the cause of Christianity by alleging the corruption of the original text (fontium), in
order to exalt their Vul-
gate translation; 3. The rationalists of different classes (libertini), who, without going out of
the Church, unceasingly attempted to shake the authority of the Scriptures, by pointing to
difficult passages and apparent contradictions (¥pora kaˆ ™nantiofanÁ).
In the latter half of the 18th century, this last class of adversaries became very numerous in
Germany. Semler gave the first impulsion to what he called the liberal interpretation of the
Scriptures; he rejected all inspiration, denied all prophecy, and treated all miracle as allegory
and exaggeration.121 Ammon, more lately, laid down positive rules for this impious manner of
explaining the miraculous facts.122 The writings of a legion of doctors no less daring, Paulus,
Gabler, Schuster, Restig, and many others, abound in practical applications of these principles.
Eichhorn, more recently still, has reduced into system the rationalist doctrine of prophecy.123
De Wette, in his Preliminary Manual, appears not to see any true prediction in the prophets,
and not to find any difference between those of Israel and those of the Pagan nations, beyond
the spirit of morality and sincerity which characterises monotheism, and which, says he,
purified Hebrew prophecy, while it was wanting to the seers among the pagans.124 Hug, in his
Introduction to the New Testament Scriptures,125 nowhere speaks of inspiration. Michaelis
admits it for a part of the Scriptures, and rejects it for the other. So did John Leclerc in the last
century.126 Rosenmüller is still more wavering in his sentiments.
Of late years, however, there have been German di-
vines more reverentially inclined, who have admitted different degrees of inspiration in the
different parts of the Scriptures; by distinguishing the passages which do not relate say they, to
salvation; and making bold to see in them, as Socinus and Castellio did of old, slips of
memory, and errors, on subjects which, in their eyes, seemed of little importance.
Among the English, too, there have been seen, of late years persons otherwise respectable, who
have allowed themselves to range the sentences of God’s Word under different classes of
119 In Dialogis.
120 Theol. Elenct., loc. 2, quæst. 5.
121 Preface to Schultens’s Compendium, on the Proverbs, by Vogel. Halle, 1769, p. 5.
122 De interpret. narrationum mirabii. N. N. (at the beginning of his Ernesti.)
123 Einleitung in das alte Testament; 4 edit., Gœting., 1821, tom. iv. p. 45.
124 Zweyte Verbesserte Auflage. Berlin 1822, p. 276. Lehrbuch. Anmerkungen.
125 Einleimung, &c., 2d edit. 1821.
126 Sentiments de quelques theologiens de Holland. Lett. XI. XII. La Chamb., Traité de Ia Religion, tom. iv. p.
159, amid the following.
XLV. Can many illustrious doctors of the Church be mentioned as maintaining the plenary
inspiration of the Scriptures?
It is the uniform doctrine of THE WHOLE CHURCH down to the days of the Reformation.
“Hardly,” says Rudelbach, “is there a single point with regard to which there reigned, in the
eight first ages of the Church, a greater or more cordial unanimity.”127
To the reader who wishes to consult these testimonies of history, we recommend the
dissertation lately published on this subject by the learned doctor of Ghogau, already
mentioned. The author, commencing with a review of the first eight hundred years of the
Christian era, establishes the following principles there, by very numerous quotations from the
Greek and Latin fathers.
1. The ancient Church, with one unanimous voice, teaches that all the canonical writings of the
Old and New Testaments ARE GIVEN BY THE HOLY SPIRIT of God; and it is on this sole
foundation (and independently of the fragmentary information that human im-
perfection may acquire from them) that the Church founded her faith on the perfection of the
2. The ancient Church, following out this first principle, no less firmly maintains the
INFALLIBILITY of the Scriptures as their sufficiency (aÙt£rkeian) and their plenitude. She
attributes to their sacred authors not only axiopistia, to wit, a fully deserved credibility, but
also autopistia, to wit, a right to be believed, independently of their circumstances or of their
personal qualities, and on account of the infallible and celestial authority which caused them to
3. The ancient Church, viewing the whole Scripture as an utterance, on the part of God,
addressed to man, and dictated by the Holy Ghost, has ever maintained that there is NOTHING
ERRONEOUS, nothing useless, nothing superfluous there; and that in this divine work, as in
that of creation, one may always recognise, amid the richest plenty, the greatest and the wisest
economy. Every word there will be found to have its object, its point of view, its sphere of
efficacy. “Nihil otiosum, nec sine signo, neque sine argumnento apud eum.” – (Irenæus); p©n
·Áma … ™rgazÒmenon tÕ ˜autoà œrgon. – (Origen.) It is in vigorously establishing and
defending both these characters of the Scriptures, that the ancient Church has shown the
elevated and profound idea she entertained of their divine inspiration.
4. The ancient Church has always maintained that the doctrine of holy Scripture is the SAME
THROUGHOUT, and that the Spirit of the Lord gives utterance in every part of it to one and
the same testimony. She vigorously opposed that science, falsely so called (I Tim. vi. 20),
which even in the first ages of her history, had taken a regular shape in the doctrines of the
Gnostics, and which, daring to impute imperfection to the Old Testament, made it appear that
127 Kaum ist irgend em Punct, worüber irn Alterthume eine grössere und freudigere Einstimmigkeit herrschte.
(Zeitschrift vorm Rudelhaeh und Guerike, 1840, 1st vol. p. 1-47. Die lebre von der Inspiration der heiligen
Schrift, mit Berücksichtigung der neuesten Untersuchungen darüber, von Schleiermacher, Twesten und Steudel.)
there were contradictions between one apostle and another apostle, where there were really
5. The ancient Church thought that inspiration ought chiefly to be viewed, it is true, as a
passive state, but as
a state in which the human faculties, FAR FROM BEING EXTINGUISHED or set aside by
the action of the Holy Ghost, were exalted by his virtue, and filled with his light. She has often
compared the soul of the prophets and of the apostles to “a stringed instrument, which the Holy
Ghost put in motion, in order to draw out of it the divine harmonies of life. – (Athenagoras.)128
“What they had to do, was simply to submit themselves to the powerful action of the Holy
Ghost, so that, touched by his celestial influence, the harp, though human, might reveal to us
the knowledge of the mysteries of heaven.” – (Justin Martyr.)129 But, in their view, this harp,
entirely passive as it was as respects the action of God, was the heart of a man, the soul of a
man, the understanding of a man, renewed by the Holy Ghost, and filled with divine life.
6. The ancient Church, while it maintained that there was this continued action on the part of
the Holy Ghost in the composition of the Scriptures, strenuously repelled the false notions
which certain doctors, particularly among the Montanists, sought to propagate respecting the
activity of the Spirit of God, and the passiveness of the spirit of man in divine inspiration; as if
the prophet, ceasing to have the mastery of his senses, had been in the state which the pagans
attributed to their sibyls (man…v or ™kst£sei) . While the Cataphrygians held that an inspired
man, under the powerful influence of the divine virtue, loses his senses (excidit sensu,
adumbratus, silicet, virtute divina),130 the ancient Church maintained, on the contrary, that the
prophet DOES NOT SPEAK IN A STATE OF ECSTASY (non loquitur in ™kst£sei)131 and
that one may distinguish by this trait false prophets from the true. This was the doctrine held
by Origen against Celsus (liii. vii. c. 4); as also
of Miltiades, of Tertullian, of Epiphanius, of Chrysostom, of Basil, and of Jerome, against the
7. The ancient Church in her endeavours, by means of OTHER DEFINITIONS, which we
shall not indicate here, to give greater clearness to the idea of divine inspiration, and to
disentangle it from the difficulties with which it was sometimes obscured, still further showed
how much she cherished this doctrine.
8. The ancient Church thought that if the name of action on the part of God is to be applied to
inspiration, it must be understood to extend TO WORDS as well as to things.
9. The ancient Church, by her constant MODE OF QUOTING the Scriptures, in order to the
establishment and defence of her doctrines; by her manner, too, of EXPOUNDING and
COMMENTING on them; and, in fine, by the USE which she recommends all Christians,
128 Legatio pro Christianis, c. 9.
129 Ad Græcos cohortatio, c. 8.
130 Tertullian adv. Marcion. lib. iv. ch. 22.
131 Hieronym., Proem. in Nahum. Præfat. in Habak. in Esaiam. Epiphan. adv. hæreses, lib. ii. Hæres., 48, c. 3.
without exception, to make of them as a privilege arid a duty; the ancient Church, by these
three habitual practices, shows, still more strongly, if it be possible, than she could have done
by direct declarations, how profoundly attached she was to the doctrine of a verbal inspiration.
And it is not only by her exposition of the Word that the ancient Church shows us to what
point she held the entire inspiration of the Scriptures, as an incontrovertible axiom; she will
show you this still more strongly, if you will follow her while she is engaged IN
RECONCILING THE APPARENT CONTRADICTIONS sometimes presented by the Gospel
narratives. After having made an essay of some explanation, she does not insist upon it; but
hastens to conclude, that whatever be its validity, there necessarily exists some method of
reconciling those passages, and that the difficulty is only apparent, because the cause of that
difficulty lies in our ignorance, and not in Scripture. “Whether it be so, or otherwise (she says
with Julius Africanus), it matters not, the Gospel remains entirely true (tÕ mšntoi ™uaggš-
lion p£ntwj ¢lhqeÚei)!132 This is her invariable conclusion as to the perfect solubility of all
the difficulties that one can present to her in the Word of God.
10. The ancient Church was so strongly attached to the doctrine of the personality of the Holy
Spirit, and of his sovereign action in the composition of the whole Scriptures, that she made no
difficulty in admitting at one and the same time the greatest variety and the GREATEST
LIBERTY in the phenomena, in the occasions, in the persons, in the characters, and in all the
external circumstances, under the concurrence of which that work of God was accomplished.
At the same time that she owned with St Paul, that in all the operations of this Spirit, it is one
and the self-same Spirit that divideth to every man severally as he will (1 Cor. xii. 11), she
equally admitted that in the work of divine inspiration, the divine causation was exercised
amid a large amount of liberty, as respects human manifestations. And be it carefully
remarked, that you will nowhere find, in the ancient Church, a certain class of doctors adopting
one of these points of view (that of the divine causation and sovereignty), and another class of
doctors attaching themselves exclusively to another (that of human personality, and of the
diversity of the writer’s occasions, affections, intelligence, style, mind other circumstances).
“If this were so,” says Rudelbach, “one might justly accuse us of having ourselves forced the
solution of the problem, instead of faithfully exhibiting the views of the ancient Church.” But
no; on the contrary, you will often see one and the same author exhibit, at once and without
scruple, both of these points of view: the action of God and the personality of man. This is
what we see, for example, abundantly in Jerome, who, even when speaking of the specialties of
the sacred writers, never abandons the idea of a word introduced by God into their minds.
This we farther remark in Irenæus, who, while he insists more than any one else on the action
of God in the inspiration of the Scriptures, is the first of the fathers of the Church that relates in
detail the personal circumstances of the Evangelists. This is what you will find again in St
Augustine; this is what you will see even in the father of Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius of
Cæsarea, who gives so many details on the four authors of the Gospels, and who, nevertheless,
professes the most rigorous principles on the plenary inspiration of the Canonical Scriptures.
132 In his letter to Aristides, on the agreement of the Gospels that relate the two genealogies of Jesus Christ. –
(Euseb., Hist. Eccl. lib. i. c. 7.)
11. The ancient Church shows us more completely still, by two other traits, the idea she had
formed of divine inspiration, by the care she took, on the one hand, TO FIX THE
RELATIONS which the doctrine of divine inspiration bore to the doctrine of the gifts of grace;
and, on the other, To EXHIBIT THE PROOFS of inspiration.
In fine, although the ancient Church presents this spontaneous (ungesuchte) and universal
agreement in the doctrine of inspiration, we must not imagine that this great phenomenon is
attached, as some have been fain to say, to some particular system of theology, or may be
explained by that system. No more must we regard this wonderful agreement as the germ of a
theory that was to establish it, at a later period in the Church. No. The very assertions of an
opposite opinion which, from time to time, made themselves heard on the part of the heretics
of the first centuries, and the NATURE OF THE REPLIES that were put forth by the ancient
Church, clearly demonstrate, on the contrary, that this doctrine was deeply rooted in the
Church’s conscience. Every time that the fathers, in defending any truth by passages from
Scripture, succeeded so far as to drive their adversaries into the impossibility of defending
themselves, otherwise than by denying the full inspiration of the divine testimonies, the
Church thought the question was decided. The adversary was tried; he had no more to say for
himself; he denied the Scripture to be the Word of God! What more remained to be done, but
pel him to look his own ill-favoured argument in the face and to say to him, See what you have
come to! as one would bid a man who has disfigured himself; look at himself in a glass? And
thus the fathers did.
Such are facts of the case; such is the voice of the Church.
We had at first brought together, with the design of giving them here, a long series of passages,
taken first from Irenæus,133 Tertullian,134 Cyprian,135 Origen,136 Chrysostom,137 Justin
Martyr,138 Epiphanius,139 Augustine,140 Athanasius,141 Hilary,142 Basil the Great,143 and Gregory
the Great,144 Gregory of Nyssa,145 Theodoret,146 Cyril of Alexandria;147 then, the most revered
133 Advers. Hæreses, lib. ii. c. 47. Lib. iii. c. 11. Lib. iv. c. .34.
134 De animâ, c. 28, Advers. Marcion. lib. iv. c. 22. De Præscript. advers. hæret., c. 25. Advers. Hermog. c. 22.
135 De Opere et eleemos. p. 197-201. Adv. Quirin., Adv. Judæos, præfat.
136 Hom. xxxix. in Jerem (quoted here ch. VI. sect. 1.) Homil. ii. in cumd. (cap. xix. & I.) Homil. xxv. in Matth.
Ejusdem Philocalia, lib. iv. Commentar. in Matth. p. 227-428, (edit. Huet.) Homil. xxvii. in Numer. – in Levit.,
137 Homil. xlix. in Joan. Homil. xl., in Joan. v. Homil. ix., in 2 Tim. iv. Serm. 33, de utilit. lect. Script. Serm. 3, de
138 Apol. 1. c. 53, and 35, 50, 51. Dial. cont. Tryph., cap. 7. Ad Græcos cohort., c. 8.
139 SÚntomoj lÒgoj perˆ p…stewj. De doctrin. Christi. lib. ii. c. 9. De Pastor., cap. 2. Epist. xlii.
140 Epist. xcvii. (ad Hieronym.) Do unitate Ecclesiæ. c. iii. t. ix., p. 341. (Paris, 1694.)
141 Contra Gentes, t. b. p. 1. De Incarnat. Christi. (Parisiis 1627.)
142 Ad Constant. Aug., p. 244. De Trinit. lib. 8. (Parisiis, 1652.)
143 Comment, in Isaiam, t. i. p. 379. (Ed. Bened.) Homil. xxix, advers. calumniantes S. Trinit. In Ethicis regni xvi.
lxxx., cap. 22.
144 Moralia in Job, præfat., c. i.
145 Dialog. de anima et resurrectione, t. i. edit. Græcolat. p. 639. Do cognit. Dei cit. ab. Eutthymnio in Panoplia, t.
146 Dial. i. ‘\Atrept. Dial. ii. ‘AsÚgcut. In Exod., Qu. xxvi. In Gen., Quest. xlv.
147 Lib. vii. cont. Jul. Glaphyrorum in Gen. lib. ii.
fathers of after centuries; and, finally, the most holy doctors of the Reformation.148 But we
soon perceived that all these names, were we to give them by themselves, would seem nothing
better than an idle appeal to the authority of
men; and were we to give them along with the passages referred to, in full, we should run into
an excessive multiplication of words.
We shall proceed, therefore, with a careful examination of the difficulties and the systems that
are opposed to the doctrine of a plenary inspiration. Those difficulties constitute what are
objections, and those systems what are rather evasions. The two next chapters we shall devote
to the study of both.
Converted to pdf format by Robert I Bradshaw, August 2004.
148 See Lardner, vol. ii. p. 172, 488. 475, Haldane, The Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, p. 167 to 176.
It is objected that the fallibility of the translators of the Bible, renders the infallibility of the
original text illusory; that the fact of the apostles having availed themselves of the merely
human version made by the Seventy, renders their divine inspiration more than questionable.
Objections are grounded on the various readings presented by different manuscripts, on the
imperfections observed in the reasonings and in the doctrines, and on errors discovered in
matters of fact. Objectors tell us that the laws of nature, now better understood than formerly,
give the lie to certain representations of the sacred authors. Finally, we are told to look to what
objectors are pleased to call the admissions made by St Paul. To these difficulties we proceed
to reply, taking them one after another; and we can afterwards examine some of the theories,
by the help of which some have sought to rid themselves of the doctrine of a plenary
The first objection may be stated thus. It is sometimes said to us, You assert that the inspiration
of the Scriptures extended to the very words of the original text; but wherefore all this verbal
exactness of the Holy Word, seeing that, after all, the greater number of Christians can make
use of such versions only as are
more or less inexact? Thus, then, the privilege of such an inspiration is lost to the Church of
modern times; for you will not venture to say that any translation is inspired.
This is a difficulty which, on account of its insignificance, we felt at first averse to noticing;
but we cannot avoid doing so, being assured that it has obtained some currency among us, and
some credit also.
Our first remark on this objection must he, that it is not one at all. It does not bear against the
fact of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures; it only contests the advantages of that
inspiration. With regard to the greater number of readers, it says, the benefit of such an
intervention on the part of God, would. be lost; because, instead of the infallible words of the
original, they never can have better than the fallible words of a translation. But no man is
entitled to deny a fact, because he does not at first perceive all the use that may be made of it;
and no man is entitled to reject a doctrine for no better reason than that he has not perceived its
utility. All the expressions, for example, and all the letters of the Ten Commandments were
certainly written by the finger of God, from the aleph with which they commence, to the caph
with which they end; yet, would any one venture to say that the credibility of this miraculous
fact, is weakened by most unlettered readers, at the present day, being under the necessity of
reading the Decalogue in some translation? No one would dare to say so. It must be
acknowledged, then, that this objection, without directly attacking the dogma which we
defend, only questions its advantages: these, it tells us, are lost to us, in the operation of
translating from the original, and in that metamorphosis disappear.
We proceed, then, to show how even this assertion, when reduced to these last terms, rests on
no good foundation.
The divine word which the Bible reveals to us, passes through four successive forms before
reaching us in a translation. First, it was from all eternity in the mind
man. In the third place, under the operation of the Holy Ghost, and by a mysterious process, it
passed from the prophets’ thoughts, into the types and symbols of an articulate language; it
took shape in words. Finally, after having undergone this first translation, alike important and
inexplicable, men have reproduced and counter-chalked it, by a new translation, in passing it
from one human language into another human language. Of these four operations, the three
first are divine; the fourth alone is human and fallible. Shall it he said, that because the last is
human, the divinity of the three former should he a matter of indifference to us? Mark,
however, that between the third and the fourth – I mean to say, between the first translation of
the thought by the sensible signs of a human language, and the second translation of the words
by other words – the difference is enormous. Between the doubts that may cleave to us
respecting the exactness of the versions, and those with which we should be racked with
respect to the correctness of the original text (if not inspired even in its language), the distance
is infinite. It is said; of what consequence is it to me that the third operation is effected by the
Spirit of God, if the last be accomplished only by the spirit of man? in other words, what avails
it to me that the primitive language be inspired, if the translated version be not so? But people
forget, in speaking thus, that we are infinitely more assured of the exactness of the translators,
than we could be of that of the original text, in the case of all the expressions not being given
Of this, however, we may become perfectly convinced, by attending to the five following
1. The operation by which the sacred writers express with words the mind of the Holy Ghost,
is, we have said, itself a rendering not of words by other words, but of divine thoughts by
sensible symbols. Now this first translation is an infinitely nicer matter, more mysterious and
more liable to error (if God puts not his
hand to it) than the operation can be afterwards, by which we should render a Greek word of
that primitive text, by its equivalent in another tongue. In order to a man’s expressing exactly
the thought of God, it is necessary, if he be not guided in his language from above, that he have
thoroughly comprehended it in its just measure, and in the whole extent and depth of its
meaning. But this is by no means necessary in the case of a mere translation. The divine
thought being already incarnated, as it were, in the language of the sacred text, what remains to
be done in translation is no longer the giving of it a body, but only the changing of its dress,
making it say in French what it had already said in Greek, and modestly substituting for each
of its words an equivalent word. Such an operation is comparatively very inferior, very
immaterial, without mystery, and infinitely less subject to error than the preceding. It even
requires so little spirituality, that it may be performed to perfection by a trustworthy pagan who
should possess in perfection a knowledge of both languages. The version of an accomplished
rationalist who desires to be no more than a translator, I could better trust than that of an
orthodox person and a saint, who should paraphrase the text, and undertake to present it to me
more complete or more clear in his French than he found it in the Greek or in the Hebrew of
the original. And let no one be surprised at this assertion; it is justified by facts. Thus, is not De
Wette’s translation, among the Germans, preferred at the present day to that even of the great
Luther? At least, is there not greater confidence felt in having the mind of the Holy Ghost in
the lines of the Basel professor than in those of the great reformer; because the former has
always kept very close to the expressions of his text, as a man of learning subject to the rules
of philology alone; while the latter seems at times to have momentarily endeavoured after
something more, and sought to make himself interpreter as well as translator? The more, then,
one reflects on this first consideration, the
more immeasurable ought the difference to appear between these two orders of operations; to
wit, between the translation of the divine thoughts into the words of a human language, and the
translation of the same thoughts into the equivalent terms of another language. No longer,
therefore, be it said, “What avails it to me, if the one be human, that the other is divine?”
2. A second character by which we perceive, how different these two operations must be, and
by which the making of our versions will be seen to be infinitely less subject to the chances of
error than the original text (assuming that to be uninspired), is, that while the work required by
our translations is done by a great many men of every tongue and country, capable of devoting
their whole time and care to it – by men who have from age to age controlled and checked each
other, and who have mutually instructed and perfected each other – the original text, on the
contrary, behoved to be written at a given moment, and by a single man. With that man there
was none but his God to put him right if he made a mistake, and to supply him with better
expressions if he had chosen imperfect ones. If God, therefore, did not do this, no one could
have done it. And if that man gave a bad rendering of the mind of the Holy Ghost, he had not,
like our translators, friends to warn, predecessors to guide, successors to correct, nor months,
years, and ages in which to review and consummate his work. It was done by one man, and
done once for all. This consideration, then, further shows how much more necessary the
intervention of the Holy Ghost was to the sacred authors than to their translators.
3. A third consideration, which ought also to lead us to the same conclusion, is, that while all
the translators of the Scriptures were literate and laborious persons, and versed in the study of
language, the sacred authors, on the contrary, were, for the most part, ignorant men, without
literary cultivation, without the habit of writing their own tongue, and liable, from that very
circumstance, if they expressed fallibly the divine revelation, to give us an infallible thought in
a faulty way.
4. A fourth very powerful consideration, which will make one feel still more sensibly the
immense difference existing between the sacred writers and their translators, is, that whereas
the thought from God passed like a flash of lightning before the soul of the prophet; whereas
this thought could nowhere be found again upon earth, except in the rapid expression which
was then given to it by the sacred writer; whereas, if he have expressed it ill, you know not
where to go in search of its prototype in order to recover the thought meant to he conveyed by
God in its purity; whereas, if he have made a mistake, his blunder is for ever irreparable; it
must last longer than heaven and earth, it has blemished the eternal book remedilessly, and
nobody on earth can correct it; – it is quite otherwise with translators. These, on the contrary,
have always the divine text at hand, so as to be corrected and re-corrected, according to the
eternal type, until they have become an exact counterpart of it. The inspired word leaves us
not; we need not to go in search of it to the third heaven; it is still upon the earth, just as God
himself first dictated it to us. You may thus devote ages to its study, in order that the human
process of our translation may be subjected to its immutable truth. You can now, after the lapse
of a hundred and thirty years, correct Osterwald and Martin, by means of a closer comparison
of them with their infallible standard; after the lapse of three hundred and seventeen years, you
can correct the work of Luther; after that, of fourteen hundred and forty years, that of St
Jerome. God’s phraseology is still before us, with which to confront our modern versions, as
dictated by God himself, in Hebrew or in Greek, on the day of its being revealed; and, with our
dictionaries in your hand, you may, age after age, return to the examination of the infallible
expression which it has been his good pleasure to give to the divine thought, until you become
assured that the language of the modern ones
has truly received the counter impression, and given you the most faithful fac-simile of it for
your own use. Say no more then, What avails it to me, that the one is divine since the other is
human? If you would have a bust of Napoleon, would you say to the sculptor, What avails it to
me that your model has been moulded at St Helena on the very face of Bonaparte, seeing that,
after all, your copy cannot have been so?
5. In fine, what further distinguishes the first expression which the mind of God has received in
the individual words of the sacred book, from its new expression in one of our translations, is
that, if you assume the words of the one to be as little inspired as those of the other,
nevertheless, the range of conjectures which you might make on their possible faults would be,
as respects the original text, a space without bounds and ever enlarging itself; while that same
range, as respects the translations, is a very limited space, which is constantly diminishing the
longer you remain in it.
If some friend, returning from the East Indies, where your father has, at a great distance from
you, breathed his last, were to bring you from him a last letter, written with his own hand, or
dictated by him, word for word, in Bengalee, would that letter’s being entirely from him be a
matter of indifference to you, because you arc not acquainted with the Bengalee language, and
can read it only in a translation? Don’t you know that you can cause translations of it to be
multiplied, until they leave you no more doubt of the original meaning than if you had been a
Hindoo? Will you not allow, that after each of these new translations your uncertainties will he
always growing less and less, until they cease to be appreciable, as is the case in arithmetic
with those fractionary and convergent progressions, the last terms of which are equivalent to
zero; while, on the contrary, if the letter were not from your father himself, but from some
stranger, who says he has only reproduced his thoughts, then you would find no limits to
possible suppositions; and your uncertainties, transported
into spheres new and boundless, would go on increasing the more you allowed your mind to
dwell upon them; as is the case in arithmetic with those ascending progressions, the last terms
of which represent infinitude. It is the same with the Bible. If 1 believe that God has dictated
the whole of it, my uncertainties with respect to its translations are confined within a very
narrow range; and even in this range, in proportion as it is re-translated, the limits of doubt are
constantly drawn in more closely. But if left to think, on the contrary, that God has not entirely
dictated it, and that human infirmity may have had its share in it, where shall I stop in
assuming that there may be errors? I know not. The apostles were ignorant – shall I say, they
were illiterate – they were Jews; they had popular prejudices; they judaized; they platonized; . .
. . I know not where to stop. I will begin like Locke, and end like Strauss. I will first deny the
personality of Satan, as a rabbinical prejudice; I will end with denying that of Jesus Christ, as
another prejudice. Between these two terms, in consequence, moreover, of the ignorance, on
many points, to which the apostles were subject, I will proceed, as so many others have done,
to admit, in spite of the letter of the Bible, and with the Bible in my hand, that there is no
corruption in men, no personality in the Holy Ghost, no divinity in Jesus Christ, no expiation
in his blood, no resurrection of the body in the grave, no eternity in future punishments, no
anger in God, no devil, no miracle, no damned souls, no hell. St Paul was orthodox, shall I
say? as others have done; but he misunderstood his Master. Whereas, on the contrary, if all
have been dictated by God in the original, and even to the smallest expression, “to the least iota
and tittle,” who is the translator that could seduce me, by his labours, into any one of these
negations, and make even the least of these truths disappear from my Bible?
Accordingly, who now can fail to perceive the enormous distance interposed by all these
between those two texts (that of the Bible and that of the translations), as respects the
importance of verbal inspiration? Between the passing of the thoughts of God into human
words, and the simple turning of these words into other words, the distance is as wide as from
heaven to earth. God was required for the one; man sufficed for the other. Let it no longer be
said, then, What would it avail to us that we have verbal inspiration in the one case, if we have
not that inspiration in the other case? for between these two terms, which some would put on
an equality, the difference is almost infinite.
People insist and say, We agree that the fact of these modern translations does not at all affect
the question of the first inspiration of the Scriptures; but we have much more to urge. The
sacred authors of the New Testament, when they themselves quote the old Hebrew Scriptures
in Greek, employ for that purpose the Greek translation, called that of the Seventy, executed at
Alexandria two centuries and a half before Jesus Christ. Now, no one among the moderns will
dare to affirm (as was done in former times) that the Alexandrine interpreters were inspired.
Would a man any more dare to contend that that version, still human at the time of Jesus
Christ, acquired, by the sole fact of the apostolic quotations, a divinity which it did not
previously possess? Would not this strange allegation resemble that of the Council of Trent,
when, it pronounced to be divine apocryphal writings, which the ancient Church rejected from
the canon, and which St Jerome called “fables, and a medley of gold and clay;”1 or when it
pronounced that translation by St Jerome to he authentic, which, at first, in the opinion of St
Jerome himself, and thereafter in that of the Church for above a thousand years, was no more
than a human work, respectable, no doubt, but imperfect? Would it not further resemble the
silly infallibility of Sixtus V., who declared his edition of 1590 to he authentic; or that of his
successor, Clement VIII., who, finding the edition of Sixtus V. intolerably incorrect,
suppressed it in 1592, in order to substitute in its place another very different, and yet still
Here we gladly recall this difficulty; because, like many others, when more closely examined,
it converts the objections into arguments.
No more is required, in fact, than to study the manner in which the apostles employ the
Septuagint, in order to see in it a striking sign of the verbal inspiration under which they wrote.
Were a prophet to be sent by God in our day to the churches speaking the French tongue, how
shall it be thought he would act in quoting the Scriptures? He would do so in French no doubt;
but according to what version? As Osterwald and Martin’s are those most extensively
circulated, he would probably make his quotations in the words of one or other of them, in all
cases where their translation should seem to him sufficiently exact. But also, notwithstanding
our habitual practice and his, he would take care to abandon both those versions, and translate
in his own way, as often as the thought intended to be conveyed by the original did not seem to
him to be rendered with sufficient fidelity. Nay, he would sometimes even do more. In order to
our being enabled to comprehend more fully in what sense he meant to make for us the
application of such
or such a Scripture, he would paraphrase the passage quoted, and in citing it, follow neither the
letter of the original text nor that of the translations.
This is precisely what has been done by the sacred writers of the New Testament with respect
to the Septuagint.
Although it was the universal practice of the Hellenistic Jews, throughout the whole of the
East, to read in their synagogues and to quote in their discussions the Old Testament according
1 Caveat omnia apocrypha. . . . Sciat multa his admixta vitiosa, et grandis esse prudentiæ aurum in luto quærere.
See Epist. ad Lætam. Prolog. Galeat. sive Præfat. ad. lib. Regum. Symbol. Ruffini, tom. ix. p. 186. See Lardner,
vol. v. p. 18-22.
2 See Korholt. De Variis S. Scripturæ editionibus, p. 110-251. Thomas James, Bellum Papale, sive Concordia
Discors Sixti V. etc., Lond. 1600. Hamilton’s Introduction to the Reading of the Hebrew Scriptures, p. 163, 166.
to that ancient version,3 the apostles show us the independence of the Spirit that guided them,
by the three several methods they follow in their quotations.
First, when the Alexandrine translators seem to them correct, they do not hesitate to conform
to the recollections of their Hellenist auditors, and to quote the Septuagint version literatim and
Secondly, and this often occurs when dissatisfied with the work of the Seventy, they amend it,
and make their quotations according to the original Hebrew, translating it more correctly.
Thirdly, in fine, when they would point out more clearly in what sense they adduce such or
such a declaration of the holy books, they paraphrase it in quoting it. It is then the Holy Ghost
who, by their mouth, quotes himself, modifying at the same time the expressions which he had
previously dictated to the prophets of his ancient people. One may compare, for example, Mic.
v. 2 with Matt. ii. 6; Mal. iii. 1 with Matt. xi. 10; Mark i. 2, and Luke vii. 27, &c. &c.
The learned Horne, in his “Introduction to the Critical Study of the Bible” (vol. i. p. 503,) has
ranged under five distinct classes, relatively to the Septuagint version, the quotations made in
the New Testament from the Old. We do not here warrant all his distinctions, nor all his
figures; but our readers will comprehend the force of our argument, on our informing them
that that learned author reckons eighty-eight verbal quotations that agree with the Alexandrine
translations; sixty-four more that are borrowed from them, but with some variations; thirtyseven
that adopt the same meaning with them without employing their words; sixteen that
differ from them in order to agree more nearly with the Hebrew; and, finally, twenty that differ
from both the Hebrew and the Septuagint, but in which the sacred authors have paraphrased
the Old Testament, in order that the sense in which they quote it may be better understood.
These. numerical data will sufficiently enable the reader to form a just idea of the
independence claimed by the Holy Ghost with regard to human versions, when he desired to
quote, in the New Testament, that which he had previously caused to be written in. the Old.
Accordingly, they not only answer the objection – they convert it into a testimony.
We must give up the translations, then, other opponents will say, and admit that they nowise
affect the question of the primary inspiration of the original text. But in that very text there are
numerous differences among the ancient manuscripts which our Churches consult, and on
which our printed editions are based. Confronted with proofs of such a fact, what becomes of
the doctrine of verbal inspiration, and what purpose can it serve?
3 The Talmud even forbids the translation of the Scriptures, except into Greek. (Talmud Megillah, fol. 86.)
Here, too, the answer is easy. We might say at once of the various readings of the manuscripts,
what we have said of the translations: Why confound two orders of facts that are absolutely
distinct: that of the first inspiration of the Scriptures, and that of the present integrity of the
copies that have been made of
them? If it was God himself that dictated the letter of the sacred oracles, that is a fact past
recall; and no more can the copies made of them, than the translations given to us of them,
undo that first act.
When a fact is once consummated, nothing that happens subsequently can efface it from the
history of the past. There are here, then, two questions which we must carefully distinguish.
Was the whole of Scripture divinely inspired? – this is the first question it is that with which we
have now to do, Are the copies made of it many centuries afterwards by doctors and monks
correct? or are they not correct? – that is the second question. This last can nowise affect the
other. Don’t proceed, then, to subject the former, by a strange piece of inattention, to the latter;
they are independent of each other. A book is from God, or it is not from God. In the latter
case, it were idle for me to transcribe it a thousand times exactly – I should not thereby render
it divine; and in the former case, I should in vain take a thousand incorrect copies; – neither
folly nor unfaithfulness on my part, can undo the fact of its having been given by God. The
Decalogue, yet once more we repeat it, was entirely written by the finger of Jehovah on two
tables of stone; but if the manuscripts that give it to me at the present day present some various
readings, this second fact would not prevent the first. The sentences, words, and letters of the
Ten Commandments, would not the less have been all engraven by God. Inspiration of the first
text, integrity of the subsequent copies – these are two orders of facts absolutely different, and
separated from each other by thousands of stadia, and thousands of years. Beware, then, of
confounding what logic, time, and space compel you to distinguish.
It is by precisely a similar process of reasoning, that we reprove the indiscreet lovers of the
apocryphal writings. The ancient oracles of God, we tell them, were committed to the Jewish
people, as the new oracles were committed afterwards to the Christian people. If, then,
the Book of Maccabees was a merely human book in the days of Jesus Christ, a thousand
decrees of thee Christian Church could not have any such effect thereafter as that, in 1560,
becoming what it had never been till then, it should be transubstantiated into a divine book.
Did the prophets write the Bible with the words which human wisdom dictated, or with words
given them by God? – such is our question. But have they hence faithfully copied from age to
age, from manuscripts into manuscripts? – this is yours, perhaps. It is very important no doubt;
but it is entirely different from the first. Do not, then, confound what God has separated.
It is true, no doubt, will people say, that the fidelity of one copy does not make the original
divine, when it is not so; and the incorrectness of another copy will not make it human, if it
was not so. Accordingly, this is not what we maintain. The fact of the inspiration of the sacred
text in the days of Moses, or the days of St John, cannot depend upon the copies which we
shall have made of it in Europe and Africa, two or three thousand years after them; but though
the second of these facts does not destroy the first, it at least renders it illusory, by depriving it
of its whole worth and utility.
Now, then, mark to what the objection is confined. The question is no longer about the
inspiration of thee original text – the whole attack here is directed against its present integrity.
It was first a question of doctrine: “Is it declared in the Bible that the Bible is inspired even in
its language?” But it is no more now than a question of history, or of criticism: “Have the
copyists copied faithfully? are the manuscripts faithful?” Accordingly, we might say nothing
now on a position of which we are not here called upon to undertake the defence; but the
answer is easy; I will say more – God has rendered it so triumphant that we will not restrain
ourselves from giving it. Besides, the faith of simple minds has been so often disquieted on this
subject by a phantasmagoria of learning, that we consider
it useful here to expose its hollowness. And, although this objection in some sort withdraws us
from the field which we had traced out for our ourselves, we will follow it, for the purpose of
No doubt, lead this difficulty been presented to us in the days of Anthony Collins and the Free
Thinkers, we should not have been left without reply, but we should have felt perhaps some
embarrassment, because full light had not then been thrown upon the facts, and because the
field of conjectures, as yet unexplored, remained undefined. We know the perplexities of the
excellent Bengel on this question; and we know that these led, first, to his laborious researches
on the sacred text, and, next, to his pious wonder and gratitude at the preservation of that text.
Of what use, one might have said, is the assurance that the original text was dictated by God
eighteen hundred years ago if I heave no longer the certainty that the manuscripts of our
libraries still present it to me in its purity, and if it be true (as we are assured) that the various
readings of these rolls are at least thirty thousand in number?
Such is the old objection: it was specious; but nowadays it is known, by all who have studied
it, to be a mere illusion. The Rationalists themselves have admitted that it can no longer be
made, and must be given up.
The Lord has watched miraculously over his Word. This the facts of the case have
In constituting as its depositaries, first, the Churches of the Jewish people, and then those of
the Christian people, his providence lead by this means to see to the faithful transmission of
the oracles of God to us. It has done this; and he order to the attainment of this result, it has put
different causes in operation, of which we shall have again to speak afterwards. Late learned
researches have thrown the clearest light on this great fact. Herculean labours have been
bestowed during the whole of the last century (particularly in its last half) and the first part of
this, on the task of bringing
together all the various readings that either the detailed examination of the manuscripts of holy
Scripture preserved in the different libraries of Europe, or the study of the most ancient
versions, or the searching out of the innumerable quotations made from our sacred books in all
the writings of the fathers of the Church, could furnish; and this immense toil has ended in a
result wonderful by its insignificance, and (shall I say?) imposing by its nullity.
As respects the Old Testament, the indefatigable investigations and the four folios of Father
Houbigant; the thirty years’ labours of John Henry Michaelis; above all, the great Critical
Bible and the ten years’ study of the famous Kennicott (who consulted five hundred and
eighty-one Hebrew manuscripts); and, in fine, Professor Rossi’s collection of six hundred and
eighty manuscripts; – as respects the New Testament, the no less gigantic investigations of
Mill, Bengel, Wetstein, and Griesbach (who consulted three hundred and thirty-five
manuscripts for the Gospels alone); the latest researches of Nolan, Matthaei, Lawrence, and
Hug; above all, those of Scholz (with his six hundred and seventy-four manuscripts for the
Gospels, his two hundred for the Acts, his two hundred and fifty-six for the Epistles of Paul,
his ninety-three for the Apocalypse, (without reckoning his fifty-three Lectionaria): all these
vast labours have so convincingly established the astonishing preservation of that text, copied
nevertheless so many thousands of times (in Hebrew during thirty-three centuries, and in
Greek during eighteen hundred years), that the hopes of the enemies of religion, in this quarter,
have been subverted, and as Michaelis has said, “They have ceased henceforth to look for any
thing from those critical researches which they at first so warmly recommended, because they
expected discoveries from them that have never been made.”4 The learned Rationalist Eichhorn
himself also owns that the different
readings of the Hebrew manuscripts collected by Kennicott hardly offer sufficient interest to
compensate for the trouble they cost!5 But these very misreckonings, and the absence of those
discoveries, have proved a precious discovery for the Church of God. She expected as much;
but she is delighted to owe it to the labour of her very adversaries. “In truth,” says a learned
man of our day, “but for those precious negative conclusions that people have come to, the
direct result obtained from the consumption of so many men’s lives in these immense
researches may seem to amount to nothing; and one may say that in order to come to it, time,
talent, and learning have all been foolishly thrown away.”6 But, as we have said, this result is
immense in virtue of its nothingness, and all-powerful in virtue of its insignificance. When one
thinks that the Bible has been copied during thirty centuries, as no book of man has ever been,
or ever will be; that it was subjected to all the catastrophes and all the captivities of Israel; that
it was transported seventy years to Babylon; that it has seen itself so often persecuted, or
forgotten, or interdicted, or burnt, from the days of the Philistines to those of the Seleucidæ; –
when one thinks that, since the time of Jesus Christ, it has had to traverse the first three
centuries of the imperial persecutions, when persons found in possession of the holy books
were thrown to the wild beasts; next the 7th, 8th, and 9th centuries, when false hooks, false
legends, and false decretals, were everywhere multiplied; the 10th century, when so few could
read, even among princes; the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries, when the use of the Scriptures in
the vulgar tongue was punished with death, and when the books of the ancient fathers were
mutilated, when so many ancient traditions were garbled and falsified, even to the very acts of
the emperors, and to those of the councils; – then we can perceive how necessary it was that
providence of God should have always put forth its mighty power, in order that, on the one
hand, the Church of thee Jews should give us, in its integrity, that Word which records its
4 Michaelis, t. ii. p. 266.
5 Einleitung, 2. Th. s. 700.
6 Wiseman’s Discourses on the Relations, etc., ii. Disc. 10.
revolts, which predicts its ruin, which describes Jesus Christ; and, on the other, that the
Christian Churches (the most powerful of which, and the Roman sect in particular, interdicted
the people from reading the sacred books, and substituted in so many ways the traditions of the
middle ages for the Word of God) should nevertheless transmit to us, in all their purity, those
Scriptures, which condemn all their traditions, their images, their dead languages, their
absolution; their celibacy; which say, that Rome would be the seat of a terrible apostasy, where
“the Man of Sin would be seen sitting as God in the temple of God, waging war on the saints,
forbidding to marry, and to use meats which God hind created;” which say of images, “Thou
shalt not bow down to them” – of unknown tongues, “Thou shalt not use them” – of the cup,
“Drink ye all of it” – of the Virgin, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” – and of marriage,
“It is honourable in all.”
Now, although all the libraries in which ancient copies of the sacred books may be found, have
been called upon to give their testimony; although the elucidations given by the fathers of all
ages have been studied; although the Arabic, Syriac, Latin, Armenian, and Ethiopian versions
leave been collated; although all the manuscripts of all countries and ages, from the third to the
sixteenth century, have been collected and examined a thousand times over, by countless
critics, who have eagerly sought out some new text, as the recompense and the glory of their
wearisome watchings; although learned men, not content with the libraries of the West, have
visited those of Russia, and carried their researches into the monasteries of Mont Athos,
Turkish Asia, and Egypt, there to look for new instruments of the sacred text; – “Nothing has
been discovered,” says a learned person, already quoted, “not
even a single reading, that could throw doubt on any one of the passages before considered as
certain. All the variantes, almost without exception, leave untouched the essential ideas of
each phrase, and bear only on points of secondary importance;” such as the insertion or the
omission of an adjective or a conjunction, the position of an adjective before or after its
substantive, the greater or less exactness of a grammatical construction.
And would we be less rigorous in our demands with respect to the Old Testament? – the
famous Indian manuscript, recently deposited in the Cambridge library, will furnish an
It is thirty-three years since the pious and learned Claudius Buchanan, while visiting, in the
Indian peninsula, the black Jews of Malabar (who are supposed to be the remains of the first
dispersion under Nebuchadnezzar), saw in their possession an immense roll, composed of
thirty-seven skins, tinged with red, forty-eight feet long, twenty-two inches wide, and which, in
its originally entire state, must have had ninety English feet of development. The Holy
Scriptures had been traced on it by different hands. There remained one hundred and seventeen
columns of beautiful writing; and there was wanting only Leviticus and part of Deuteronomy.
Buchanan succeeded in having this ancient and precious monument, which served for the
worship of the synagogue, committed to his care, and he afterwards deposited it in the
The impossibility of supposing that this roll had been taken from a copy brought by European
Jews, was perceived from certain evident marks. Now, Mr Yeates lately submitted it to the
most attentive examination; and took the trouble to collate it, word by word, letter by letter,
with our Hebrew edition of Van der Hooght. He has published the results of his researches.
And what have they been? Why, this: that there do not exist, between the text of India and that
of the West,
above forty small differences, not one of which is of sufficient importance to lead to even a
slight change in the meaning and interpretation of our ancient text; and that these are but the
additions or retrenchments of an y or a w – letters the presence or absence of which, in Hebrew,
cannot alter the import of the word.7
We know the peculiar character, among the Jews, of those Massorethes, or doctors of tradition,
whose whole profession consisted in transcribing the Scriptures, we know to what a pitch these
learned men carried respect for the letter; and when we read the rules that regulated their
labours, we can comprehend what use the providence of the Lord, who had “committed his
oracles to the Jewish people,” knew to make of their reverential respect, their strictness, and
even their superstition. In each of the books they counted the number of verses, of words, of
letters: they could have told you, for example, that the letter appears forty-two thousand three
hundred and seventy-seven times in the Bible, the letter thirty-eight thousand two hundred and
eighteen times, and so on: they would have scrupled at changing the position of a single letter
evidently displaced; they would only have called your attention to it on the margin, and would
have supposed some mystery involved in it; they would have told you the middle letter in the
Pentateuch, and that which is in the middle of each of the particular books of which it is
composed: they never would permit themselves to retouch their manuscript; and if any mistake
had escaped from them, they would have rejected the papyrus or the parchment which it had
spoilt, and would have begun anew; for they were equally interdicted from ever correcting any
of their blunders, and from preserving for their sacred volume a parchment or skin that had
suffered any erasure.
This intervention of God’s providence in the preser-
vation of the Old Testament becomes still more striking in our eyes, if we compare the
astonishing integrity of the original Hebrew (at the close of so many centuries) with the rapid
and profound alteration which the Greek version of the Septuagint had undergone in the days
of Jesus Christ (after the lapse of only two hundred years). Notwithstanding that that book had
acquired throughout the whole East, after the almost universal propagation of the Greek
language, a semicanonical authority, first among the Jews and then among the Christians;
notwithstanding its being afterwards the only text to which the fathers of thee East and of the
West (with the exception of Origen and of Jerome) had recourse for what they knew of the Old
Testament, the only one that was commented on by the Chrysostoms and the Theodorets – the
only one whence such men as Athanasius, Basil, and Gregory of Nazianzus drew their
arguments; notwithstanding that the Western no more than the Eastern world had any better
source of illumination, during so many ages, than that borrowed light (seeing that the ancient
Italian Vulgate, which was in universal use, had been translated from the Greek of the
Septuagint, and not from the Hebrew of the original); yet hear what the learned tell us of the
alteration of that important monument – of the additions, changes, and interpolations to which
7 See Christian Observer, vol. iii. p. 170. Examen d’un exemplaire Indien du Pentateuque, p. 8. Horne’s
Introduction and Appendix, p. 95, edition 1818.
it had been subjected, first through the doings of the ancient Jews before the days of Jesus
Christ, after that by the unbelieving Jews, and later still through the heedlessness of Christian
copyists: “The evil was such (mirum in modum),” says Dr Lee, “that in certain books thee
ancient version could hardly be recognised; and when Origen, in the year 221, had devoted
twenty-eight years of his noble life in searching for different manuscripts of it, with the view
of doing for that text (in his Tetrapla and his Hexapla) what modern critics have done for that
of the Old and New Testaments, not only could he not find any copy that was correct, but he
further made matters worse. Through the unskilfulness of the copy-
ists (who neglected the transcriptions of his obelisks, asterisks, and other marks), the greater
number of his marginal corrections found their way into the text; so that new errors having
spread there, one could no longer, in the time of Jerome, distinguish between his annotations
and the primitive text.”8 We repeat, these facts, placed in contrast with the astonishing
preservation of the Hebrew text (older than that of the LXX. by more than twelve hundred
years), proclaim loudly enough how necessary it was that the mighty hand of God should
intervene in the destinies of the sacred book.
So much for the Old Testament. But let it not he thought that the Providence that watched over
that sacred book, and which committed it to the Jews (Rom. iii. 1, 2), has done less for the
protection of the oracles of the New Testament, committed by it to the new people of God. It
has not left to the latter less cogent motives to gratitude and feelings of security.
Here we would appeal, by way of testimony, to the late experience of the authors of a version
of the New Testament which has just been published in Switzerland, and in the long labours of
which we ourselves had a part. A single trait may enable all classes of readers to understand
how very insignificant are the different readings presented by the manuscripts. The translators
to whom we refer followed, without the smallest deviation, what is called the received edition,
that is to say, the Greek text of Elzevir, 1624, so long adopted by all our Churches; but as, in
conformity with the original plan of the work they had undertaken, they had first of all to
introduce into their original text the various readings that have been most approved by the
criticism of the last century, they very often found themselves embarrassed, from perceiving
the impossibility of expressing, even in the most literal
French, the new shade of meaning introduced by that correction into their Greek. The French
language, in the most scrupulous version, has not flexibility enough to enable it to assume
these differences of manner, so as to put them in proper relief; just as the casts taken from the
face of a king reproduce in brass his noble features, yet without being capable of marking
every vein and wrinkle.
We desire, however, to give such of our readers as are strangers to sacred criticism, two or
three other and still more intelligible means of estimating that providence which has for thirty
centuries watched over our sacred texts.
8 Proleg. in Bibl. Polyglott. Bagsteriana (iv. sect. 2.)
The first is as follows: We would bid them compare the two Protestant translations by
Osterwald and Martin. There are few modern versions that come so close to each other. The
old version of the Geneva pastors having been taken as the basis of both – both having been
written at nearly the same time and in the same spirit – they differ so little, especially in the
New Testament, that our Bible societies distribute them indifferently, and that one finds it hard
to say which of the two ought to be preferred. Nevertheless, if you take the trouble to note their
differences, taking all things into account, as has been done on comparing our four hundred
manuscripts of the New Testament, the one with the other, we affirm beforehand (and rather
think that in this we under-state the truth), that these two French texts are three times, and in
many chapters ten times, wider from each other than the Greek text of our printed editions is,
we will not say only from the least esteemed of the Greek manuscripts of our libraries, but
FROM ALL THEIR MANUSCRIPTS PUT TOGETHER. Hence we will venture to say, that
were some able and ill-meaning person (such as we may suppose the wretched Voltaire or the
too celebrated Anthony Collins to have been in the last century) to study to select at will, out
of all the manuscripts of the East and the West, when placed before him, the worst read-
ings and the variations most remote front our received text, with the perfidious intention of
composing at pleasure the most faulty text – such a man, we say (even were he to adopt such
various readings as should have in their favour no more than ONE SOLE manuscript out of the
four or five hundred of our libraries), could not, in spite of all his mischievous inclination,
produce a Testament, as the result of his labours, that would be less close to that of our
Churches than Martin is to Osterwald. Further, you might send it abroad instead of the true
text, with as little inconvenience as you would find in giving French Protestants Martin rather
than Osterwald, or Osterwald rather than Martin; and with far less scruple than you would feel
in circulating De Sacy’s version among the followers of the Church of Rome.
No doubt these hast books are only translations, whereas all the Greek manuscripts profess to
he original texts; and it must be admitted that, in this respect, our comparison is very
imperfect: but it is not less fitted to re-assure the friends of the Word of God, by enabling them
to understand the extreme insignificance of the various readings.
Meanwhile, what follows is something more direct and more precise.
In order to give all our readers some measure at once of the number and of the harmlessness of
the readings that have been collected together in the manuscripts of our libraries, we proceed to
present two specimens of these. It will consist, first, of a schedule containing the first eight
verses of the Epistle to the Romans, with ALL THE VARIOUS READINGS relating to these
IN ALL THE MANUSCRIPTS of the East and of the West. This will be followed by a
schedule of the whole epistle, with ALL THE CORRECTIONS that the celebrated Griesbach,
the oracle of modern criticism, thought he ought to introduce into it.
We have taken these passages at random, and declare that we have not been led to make choice
in preference to others, by any reason bearing upon our argument.
We feel gratified at placing these short documents before the eyes of persons who are not
called by their position to follow out, of themselves, the investigations of sacred criticism, and
whose minds, nevertheless, may have been somewhat discomposed by the language, at once
mysterious and imposing, which the rationalists of the last century have so often employed on
the subject. To hear them speak, would you not have said that modern science was about to
give us a new Bible, to bring down Jesus Christ from the throne of God, to restore to man,
when calumniated by our theology, all his titles to innocence, and to set to rights all the
dogmas of our old orthodoxy?
As a first term of comparison, our columns will present first of all, in the eight first verses of
the Epistle to the Romans, the differences betwixt the one text of Martin (1707) and the one
text of Osterwald, (Bagster’s edition), while the following columns, instead of comparing any
one sole manuscript with any other sole manuscript whatsoever, will present the differences
between our received text and ALL THE MANUSCRIPTS that one has been able to collect
down to Griesbach. That learned and indefatigable person, for the Epistle to the Romans,
scrutinized first of all seven manuscripts written WITH UNCIAL LETTERS (or Greek
capitals), and it is thought, from thirteen to fourteen centuries old, (the Alexandrine in the
British Museum; that of the Vatican, and that of Cardinal Passionei at Rome; that of Ephrem at
Paris; that of St Germain, that of Dresden, and that of Cardinal Coislin); and after that, a
hundred and ten manuscripts in small letters, and thirty others, brought for the most part from
Mount Athos, and consulted by the learned Matthei, who travelled long for that purpose in
Russia and the East.
For the four Gospels, the same Griesbach had opportunities of consulting as many as three
hundred and thirty-five manuscripts.
OSTERWALD’S TEXT MARTIN’S TEXT (1707.)
Ver. 2. qu’il.
… 3. de la race de la senence.
… 4. et qui salon I’Esprit …
et qul a été selon, …
a été declare. a été pleinement declaré.
avec puissance. en puissance.
par sa resurrection. par Ia resurrection.
L’Esprit de sainteté. l’Esprit de sanctification.
Savoir. c’est a dire.
J. C. notre Seigneur. notre Seigneur J. C.
… 5. afin d’amener tous les
Gentils a l’obeissance
de la foi.
afin qu’il y ait obeissance de
foi parmi tous les Gentils.
… 6. du nombre desquels entre lesquels
vous êtes aussi, vous aussi vous etes, vous
qui avez eté appelés. qui etes appelés.
… 7. appelés et saints. appelés á etre saints.
la grace et la paix grace vous soit et paix
vous soiènt données vous soient données
do in pact do Dieu notre
de par Dieu notre père
et de et de par
notre Seigneur J. C. le Seigneur J. C.
… 8. Avant toutes choses. Premierement.
au sujet de vous tous. touchant vous tous.
est celebre. est renommée.
These differences between the two French texts are sufficiently insignificant; and were one to
tell us that, in all these verses, one or other of the two is inspired of God, our faith would
receive great aid from this. Now it will be seen that the various readings of the Greek
manuscripts are still more insignificant.
Let us now examine, on the same verses, the table containing the received text, compared with
all the different readings that could be presented by the hundred and fifty Greek manuscripts
collected and consulted for the Epistle to the Romans.
Here we shall not point out either the differences presented by the ancient translations, or those
that belong only to the punctuation (that element being almost null in the most ancient
We shall translate the first column (that of the received text) according to the old version,
which is more literal than Osterwald’s; and we shall also endeavour to render the Greek
readings of the second column as exactly as possible.
THE RECEIVED TEXT – (THAT OF
VARIOUS READINGS, COLLECTED
FROM AMONG ALL THE GREEK
Ver 1. No difference.
… 2. by his prophets. by the prophets.
(In a single Parisian manuscript.)
… 3. who was made. who was begotten.
(In a single Upsala manuscript,
and by the mere change of two
… 4. and declared. and predeclared.
(In only one of the twenty-two
manuscripts of the Barberini
… 5. No difference.
… 6. No difference.
… 7. that be in Rome, beloved
of God, called.
who are in the love of God, called.
(A single manuscript – that of
Dresden, in uncial letters.)
that be in Rome, called.
(Only two manuscripts – that of
St Germain, in uncial letters,
and a Roman one, in small letters.)
from God our Father. from God the Father.
(A single Upsala manuscript.)
… 8. First. First.
(The difference untranslatable. It
is to be found in only one manuscript.)
for you all. with respect to you all.
Here we have nine or ten different readings, of no importance in themselves; and, moreover,
they have in
their favour only one or two manuscripts of the hundred and fifty open to consultation on those
eight verses, with the exception of the last (“for you all,” instead of “with respect to you all”),
which reckons in its favour twelve manuscripts, four of which are in uncial letters.
The differences between Osterwald’s and Martin’s translations are three times as numerous;
and, generally speaking, these differences are far more important in point of meaning. This
comparison, were we to continue it through the whole New Testament, would bear the same
character, and become even still more insignificant.
Nevertheless, those of our readers who have hitherto been strangers to such researches will not
be displeased, we believe, at our offering, in a third table, a fresh method of estimating the
harmlessness of the variations, and the nullity of the objection that has been drawn from them.
This last table will present the totality of the corrections which, according to the learned
Griesbach, the father of sacred criticism, ought to be introduced into the text of the Epistle to
the Romans, after the prolonged study of the extant manuscripts to which he had devoted
himself; and after all that had been done by his predecessors in the same field of research.
No one who has not entered on these researches, can form a just idea of the immensity of those
Before perusing this third table, however, we would have the reader to know –
First, That Griesbach is, in general, charged by the learned (such as Mattæi, Nolan, Lawrence,
Scholz, and others) with an excessive eagerness for the admission of new readings into the
ancient text. This tendency is explained by the habits of the human heart. The learned Whitby
had, before that, charged Dr Mill, not without some foundation, with the same fault, although
he had never ventured on so many corrections as Griesbach.
Secondly, Observe, further, that in this table we give
not only those corrections which the learned critic was fully persuaded people ought to adopt,
but those also which he has said were ns yet only doubtful in his eyes, and not to be
confidently preferred to the generally received text.
GRIESBACH’S CORRECTIONS, EXTENDING TO THE WHOLE OF
THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS.
RECEIVED TEXT. – SUBSTANTIALLY
OUR ENGLISH VERSION.
NEW TEXT. – CORRECTED BY
Ver. 13. that I might have some
that I might have some fruit.
(There is here a mere inversion of
… 16. I am not ashamed. I am not ashamed.
(Difference cannot be explained
– the gospel of Christ. the gospel.
… 19. for God. for God.
(Difference cannot be explained.)
… 21. glorified him not. glorified him not.
(Difference one of orthography.)
… 24. Wherefore God also. Wherefore God.
… 27. And likewise And likewise.
(Difference not translatable.)
… 29. with all unrighteousness,
with all unrighteousness, wickededness.
… 31. without natural affection,
without natural affection, unmerciful.
Ver. 8. indignation and wrath. wrath and indignation.
… 13. the hearers of the law. the hearers of the law.
(The mere absence of the
Ver. 22. unto all and upon all
them that believe.
unto all them who believe.
… 25. through the faith. through faith.
… 28. Therefore we conclude,
that a man is justified
by the faith.
In fact we conclude, that a
is justified by faith.
… 29. is he not. is he not.
Ver. 1. What shall we then say
that Abraham hath
What shall we then say,
Abraham our father. Abraham our ancestor.
… 4. as a debt. as debt.
… 12. in the circumcision. in circumcision.
… 13. heir of the world. heir of the world.
(A difference that cannot
… 19. And being not weak in
faith, he considered
and did not, weak in the
Ver. 14. to Moses. to Moses.
(Deference in spelling.)
Ver. 1. Shall we continue. Shall see continue.
– not expressed.)
… 11. yourselves to be dead.
through Jesus Christ,
through Jesus Christ.
… 12. that ye should obey it
in the lusts thereof.
that ye should obey it.
… 16. whether of sin unto
death, or of obedience
whether of sin, or of
Ver. 6. the law by which….
being dead to the law by which.
… 10. the commandment
the commandment which.
(Difference of a simple accent.)
… 14. Carnal. carnal.
(Difference of a letter.)
… 18. I find not. I find not.
(Difference of orthography.)
Ver. 1. to them which are in
Jesus Christ, who walk
not after the flesh but
after the Spirit.
To them which are in Christ
(The words left out here re-occur
at verse 4.)
… 11. by his Spirit that dwelleth
on account of his Spirit that
dwelleth in you.
… 26. our infirmities, our infirmity.
what we should pray for, what we should pray for.
(Difference cannot be rendered.)
maketh intercession for
us with groanings.
maketh intercession with groanings.
… 36. For thy sake. for thy sake.
… 38. nor angels, nor principalities,
nor things present, nor
things to come.
nor angels, nor principalities, nor
things present, nor things to
come, nor powers.
Ver. 11. neither good nor evil
that the purpose, according
to the election
neither good nor evil that the
purpose of God according to
(Differences not easily rendered.)
… 15. He saith to Moses. he saith to Moses.
(Difference in spelling.)
… 32. as it were by the works
of the law.
as it were by works.
for they stumbled. they stumbled.
… 33. whosoever believeth on he that believeth on him.
Ver. 1. prayer to God for lsrael. prayer to God for them.
that they might be
that they might be saved.
(Difference cannot be expressed.)
… 5. Moses. Moses.
… 15. bring glad tidings. bring glad tidings.
(Difference cannot be translated.)
… 19. Did not Israel know? Did it not know, Israel?
(Difference in spelling.)
Ver. 2. against Israel, saying: against Israel: Lord….
… 3. and they have digged
down the altars.
they have digged down the altars.
… 6. And if by grace, then it
is no more of works;
otherwise grace is no
more grace. But if
it be of works, then it
is no more grace;
otherwise work is no
And if by grace, then it is no
more of works; otherwise grace
is no more grace.
… 7. he hath not obtained. he hath not obtained.
(Difference not translatable.)
… 19. The branches were broken
branches were broken off.
… 21. spare not thee. spare not thee.
(Difference cannot be rendered.)
… 23. And they also. and they also.
(Difference in spelling.)
… 30. and as ye have been
yourselves in times
and as ye have been in times
Ver. 2. And be not conformed,
… but be ye transformed.
And that ye be not conformed..
.. but that ye be transformed.
by the renewing of your
by the renewing of the mind.
… 11. serving the Lord. serving the occasion.
(The difference lies but in two
letters the one changed, the other
… 20. Therefore if thine enemy
if thine enemy hunger.
Ver. 1. but of God; and the
powers that be.
but from God, and those that be.
are ordained of God. are ordained of God.
(Difference not translatable.)
… 8. but that ye love one
but that ye one another love.
… 9. thou shalt not steal,
thou shalt not bear
false witness, thou
shalt not covet.
Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt
Ver. 9. Christ both died, and
rose, and revived that.
Christ both died and lived that.
(The difference lies only in adding
… 14. Nothing is unclean of
Nothing is unclean of itself
Ver. 1. We then that are strong
(Griesbach thinks that probably
here ought to be placed the three
verses at the end of the Epis-
tle:) Now, to him . . . We
then who are strong ought to.
(The question is merely about a
transposition; and one which
Scholz has not adopted.)
… 2. Let every one of us
(A difference that cannot be rendered.)
… 4. For whatsoever things
were written aforetime
… were written.
(A difference that cannot be rendered.)
… 8. Now I say. for l say.
… 19. by time power of the Spirit
by the power of the Spirit
… 24. I will come to you whensoever
I take my journey
into Spain, and I
hope that I shall see
whensoever I take my journey
into Spain, I hope that I shall
… 29. in the fulness of the
blessing of the gospel
in the fulness of the blessing of
Ver. 2. for she hath been a
(The difference cannot be rendered.)
… 3. Priscilla. Prisca.
… 5. Who is the first fruits
Who is the first fruits of Asia.
… 6. Who bestowed much
labour on us.
Who bestowed much labour on
… 18. serve not our Lord Jesus
Serve not our Lord Christ.
… 20. The grace of our Lord
Jesus Christ be with
the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
be with you.
… 25. Now to him that is of
(These words according to (Griesbach,
ought rather to be placed
at the beginning of chapter XV..
Here, then, the thing is evident: such is the real insignificance of the various readings about
which so much noise was made at first. Such has been the astonishing preservation of the
Greek manuscripts of the New Testament that have been transmitted to us.
After the copying and recopying of the sacred text, whether in Europe, in Asia, or in Africa,
whether in monasteries, on in colleges, or in palaces, or in the houses of the clergy (and this,
too, almost without interruption, during the long course of fifteen hundred years); – after that
during the three last centuries, and, above all, in the hundred and thirty years that have just
elapsed, so many noble characters, so many ingenious minds, so many learned lives have been
consumed in labours hitherto unheard of for their extent, admirable for their sagacity, and
scrupulous as those of the Massorethes; – after having scrutinized all the Greek manuscripts of
the New Testament that are buried in the private, or monastic, or national libraries, of the East
and of the West; – after these have been compared, not only with all the old translations, Latin,
Armenian, Sahidic, Ethiopic, Arabic, Selavonian, Persian, Coptic, Syrian, and Gothic, of the
Scriptures, but further, with all the ancient fathers of time Church, who have quoted them in
their innumerable writings, in Greek and in Latin; – after so many researches, take this single
example, as a specimen of what people have been able to find!
Judge of the matter by this one epistle which you have before you. It is the longest and most
important of the epistles of the New Testament, “the golden key of the Scriptures” (as it has
been called), “the ocean of Christian doctrine.” It contains four hundred and thirty-three verses,
and in these four hundred and thirty-three verses, ninety-six Greek words that are met with
nowhere else in the New Testament. And how many (admitting even all the corrections that
have been adopted, or only preferred by Griesbach), how many have you found, in these, of
readings that go to change, even slightly, the meaning of some phrase? You have
seen five such! And, further, what are these? We shall repeat them; they are as follows:-
The first (chap. vii. 6) instead of “That in which… being dead,” Gnieshach reads, “Being dead
to that in which.” And note well that here in the Greek, the difference depends only on the
change of a single letter (an o instead of an e); and besides that, the greater number of
manuscripts were so much in favour of the old text that, since Griesbach’s time, Mr Tittman, in
his edition of 1824, has rejected this correction, and Mr Lachman has done so also, in his
edition of 1831 (Scholz, however, has retained it).
The second is as follows, chapter xi. 6:-
Instead of, “And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace; but
if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work,” Griesbach takes
away the latter half of this phrase.
The third is as follows, chapter xii. 11:-
Instead of, “Serving the Lord,” Griesbach reads, “Serving the occasion.” Note that the
correction depends only on the change of two letters in one of the Greek words, and that,
moreover, it does not appear to be justified by the number of the manuscripts. Further here,
Whitley told Mill that more than thirty manuscripts, that all the ancient translations, that
Clement of Alexandria, St Basil, St Jerome, all the scholiasts of the Greeks, and all those of the
Latins with the exception of Ambrose, followed the old text; and the two learned men whom
we have just named (Lachman and Tittman), the one labouring at Berlin, the other a professor
at Leipsic, have restored time old text, in their respective editions of the New Testament. This
has been done also by Scholz, in his edition of 1836, which the learned world seems to prefer
to all that leave preceded it.
The fourth is as follows, chapter vi. 16:-
Instead of, “Whether of sin unto death or of righteousness,” Griesbach reads, “ Whether of sin
righteousness;” but he himself puts at the place the simple sign of a feeble probability; and
Tittman and Lachman, in their respective editions, have further rejected this correction. Scholz,
following their example, has equally rejected it.
The fifth is as follows, chapter xvi. 5:-
Instead of, “The first fruits of Achaia,” Griesbach reads, “The first fruits of Asia.”
Here we have taken no notice of the words that are taken away from the first paragraph of
chapter viii., because we find them again at the 4th verse.
We see, then, the amount of the whole: such is the admirable integrity of the Epistle to the
Romans. According to Griesbach five insignificant corrections, in the whole epistle –
according to more modern critics ONLY TWO, and these the most insignificant of the five; –
and according to Scholz THREE!
We repeat, that we have chosen the Epistle to the Romans, as a specimen, only because of its
length and its importance. We have not given ourselves the time to examine whether it presents
more or fewer various readings than any other part of the New Testament. We have run over,
for example, in Griesbach, while reviewing these last pages, the EPISTLE TO THE
GALATIANS, written at the same time and on the same subject with the Epistle to the
Romans; and there we have been unable to find snore than the three following corrections that
can affect the sense, or, to speak more correctly, the form of the sense:-
Chap. iv. 17. “They would exclude us” – say, “They would exclude you.”
Chap. iv. 26. “She is the mother of us all” – say, “ She is the mother of us.”
Cheap. v. 19. ” Adultery, fornication, uncleanness” – say, “Fornication, uncleanness.”
These simple schedules, in our opinion, will speak more loudly to our readers than all our
general assertions could do. Of this we ourselves have felt the happy experience. We had read,
no doubt, what others
before us have been able to say on the insignificance of the different readings presented by the
manuscripts; and we had often studied the various readings of Mill and thee severe reproaches
of his adversary Whitby;9 we had examined the writings of Wetstein, of Griesbach, of
Lachman, and of Tittman; but when, on two occasions, while taking part in the work of a new
translation of the New Testament, we have been called upon to correct the French text
according to the most esteemed various readings, first to introduce these into it, and afterwards
to remove them out of it again, and to replace there in French the sense conveyed by the old
reading; then we have had on two occasions, as it were, an intuition of that astonishing
preservation of the Scriptures, and we have felt ourselves penetrated with gratitude towards
that wonderful providence which has not ceased to watch over the oracles of God, in order to
preserve their integrity to this point.
9 Examen variantium lectionum, J. Millii. Lond. 1710.
Let its true value be then assigned to the objection that has been made to us.
Let it be shown us, for example, how three or four various readings that we have passed under
review in the Epistle to the Romans, and which, in the opinion of the most modern critics, are
reduced to two or to three, could render the fact of its original inspiration illusory for us.
No doubt, in these three or four passages, as well as in those of the other sacred books where
the true word of the text might be contested, no doubt there, and there alone, of the two
different readings of the manuscripts, one is the inspired word, and not the other; no doubt
people must in this small number of cases divide or suspend their confidence between two
expressions; but such is the extent that uncertainty reaches; such the point beyond which it
must not go.
It is reckoned, that of the seven thousand nine hundred and fifty-nine verses of the New
hardly exist ten or twelve in which the corrections that have been introduced by the new
readings of Griesbach and Scholz, as the result of their immense researches, have any weight at
all. Further, in most instances they consist but in the difference of a single word, and
sometimes even of a single letter.
We should be doing well, perhaps, to point these out here also, as an addition to those to which
we have directed the reader’s attention in the Epistle to the Romans.
The twelve or thirteen following have usually been regarded as the most important among the