1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

Evidences of Christianity, in their external, or historical, division ... online

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Old Testament which Jews and Christians at present unite
in receiving as divine oracles ; consequently, we have apos-
tolic. authority in proof that they were all "given by inspira
tion of God."

Much additional evidence to the same point might be
added ; but with any who acknowledge the argument of the
previous lectures, and thence believe that whatever St. Paul
asserted, as a doctrine of Christianity, is true, the above sim-
ple reasoning will be amply sufficient for the divine inspira-
tion of the Old Testament.

II. Let us proceed to the second division of our subject,
arid carry our inquiry to the books of fhe New Testament.

1st. The inspiration of the New Testament may he natu
rally atid reasonably inferred from thai of the Old. In this,
we argue by analogy. No reason can be given why those
holy men of old, who composed the books of the other Tes-
tament, should have written, not " by the will of man," but
" as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," that does not apply
with much greater force to the writers of the later volume.
The economy of the Old Testament was to cease at the
advent of Christ ; that of the New will endure to the end of
the world. The former was intended only for a single nation,
and adapted but to a country of narrow boundaries. The
latter was framed to include all nations, and is intended of
God to be coextensive with thn globe. The law had only



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898 LECTURE Xlll.

''a shadow of good things to come;'' the gospel has ^'the
very image of the things ;" the first was a system of types,
" which stood only in meats, and drinks, and divers washings,
and carnal ordinances imposed, until the time of reforma-
tion f the second (the time of reformation being come) is a
system of direct revelation ; the veil has been rent in twain,
so that it may be said, in comparison with the previous dis-
pensation, that we " no longer see through a glass, darkly, but
face to face." One grand distinction of the economy of the
gospel is, that it is the dispensation of the Spirit That pecu-
liar feature in which its covenant is " a better covenant, estab-
lislied upon better promises" — " a new covenant" — is found
in this, that it is a spiritual covenant ; its promises, its privi-
leges, its duties, its parties, are all spiritual. Jts character, in
this respect, is seen in that stipulation of its Divine Author :
" I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their
heaHs^ So much, therefore, does this " ministration of righ-
teousness exceed in glory" all that preceded it, that although
there had never risen, under the Old Testament system, a
greater than John the Baptist ; yet " he that is least in the
kingdom of God (i. e. under the New Testament system,) is
greater than he."

Now, is it supposable that, under a dispensation so hmited
in extent and duration as that of the law ; so carnal in its
ordinances ; so obscure in its revelations ; serving only " unto
the example and shadow of heavenly things ;" the sacred
books should have been given by inspiration of God ; and
yet, that under the far better covenant of the gospel, designed
for all mankind, and to stand while the world endures ; a
dispensation so eminently distinguished for the outpouring
of the Spirit ; for the spiritual gifts of its earliest ministers,
and the spiritual duties and blessings of all its members ; we
should be left to a standard of truth and duty, dictated only by
the wisdom, composed only under the superintending care, of
fallible men ? Surely the inspiration of the New Testament
is naturally and reasonably inferred from that of the Old.



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LECTURE XIII. 3d9

2d. The same conclusion necessarily arises from the
evident inspiration of the apostles in their preaching and
other official actions.

It was expressly promised by the Lord, that when they
should stand before enemies, in defence of the. gospel, they
should speak by inspiration of God. In such circumstances,
their direction was: "Take no thought how or what ye
shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of
your Father which speaketh in you." " The Holy Ghost
shall teach you in that same hour, what ye ought to say.''
"I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your
adversaries shall not be able to gainsay, nor resist."* We
have no reason to suppose that these promises of inspiration
were confined to the special circumstances referred to in the
passages above quoted. The apostles were to be placed in
many others for which they would be quite as needful.
Certain circumstances were particularly spoken of by the
Lord ; because in them the faith of his apostles would be
particularly tried.

But inspiration was promised by the Saviour, in terms of
the most comprehensive kind. A little before his crucifixion,
when the hearts of his disciples (Judas having left them)
were greatly troubled at the assurance that he was soon to
be taken from them ; he promised to send them a Comforter
— ^the Holy Spirit — who should abide with them for ever.
This blessed Person, he called repeatedly "the Spirit ot
truth." He was distinctly promised to the apostles, as a
substitute, in all respects, for the presence, the guidance, the
instructions of their Lord himsel£ The great consolation
of such a substitute consisted in his being to the apostles,
invisibly^ just what Jesus had been to them, visibly ; so that
they might consider themselves to be divinely directed and
instnict^ under his influence, in a manner quite as direct
and infallible, as if they had still the Master's voice to hear,
and his footsteps to follow. They were assured that " the

♦ Mai. X. 19, 20. Luke xii. 12; and xxi. 15.

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400 LECTURE XIII.

Spirit of truth" would teach them whatever knowledge their
duties might require, "flfe shall teach you ail things^
« He will lead you into all truth:' Had they forgotten any
pjrtion of their Lord's instructions ? " The Spirit of trvth^
said he, " shall bring all things to yovr remembrance what-
soever I have said unto you^' " Ih shcUl take of miney and
shall show it unto youP Even the knowledge of the future
was promised to the apostles, by the inspiration of the Holy
Ghost. " He will show you things to cqmsP They were
directed to tarry in Jerusalem after his death, until they
should receive ^^ power from on highP Now all these
promises are positive proofs that the apostles were inspired
in their ministry, as soon as their fulfilment took place.
Thus, when the day of Pentecost was fully come, and the
Spirit descended upon them, " they were all filled with the
Holy Ghost," and " began to speak as the Spirit gave them
utterance." By this inspiration, they were enabled to preach,
in all languages, the wonderful works of God. The sermon
of Peter, on that day, was spoken under this influence. By
the same help, he discerned the spirit of Ananias and
Sapphira. Their Ue was unto the Holy Ghost, in as much
as, it was unto one whom the Holy Ghost inspired. Directed
by the same Spirit, Peter journeyed from Joppa to the house
of Cornelius, and first opened the door of faith to the Gen-
tiles. Paul, by inspiration, went forth on his mission from
Antioch to the lesser Asia ; being " fiiU of the Holy Ghost,"
he searched the conscience of Elymas, the sorcerer, and
l)unished his wickedness with blindness. When the apostles,
and elders, smd brethren were assembled in council about the
question sent up firom Antioch for their decision; they
consulted and determined as they were guided by inspiration
of God. " It seemeth good to the Holy Ghost,'' was the
solemn sanction annexed to their sentence. They claimed
to be always received, as inspired. Their speech and their
preaching, they asserted, were " in demonstration of the
Spirit ;" " not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth,



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LECTURK XIII. 401

but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.'* It is expressly declared
by St. Peter, that his brethren and himself " preached the
gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven." All
these statements, and many others which might be adduced,
abundantly confirm the position, that the apostles, in their
preaching and other ofiicial actions, were in the highest sense
inspired*

Hence it would seem to be very naturally and reasonably
inferred, that when they tprote for the permanent guidance
of the churches, they were inspired also. Can it be supposed
that St. Paul, in preaching to the Ephesians or Corinthians,
spake as he was moved by the Holy Ghost ; and yet was
entirely bereft of that divine aid, when he sat down to the
much more important work of composing epistles to those
churches? When it is considered how entirely all the oral
communications of the apostles ceased to be remembered, in
a short time after they were uttered, except as they were
recorded in the scriptures ; and how their written communi-
cations to the churches have remained unmutilated, these
eighteen hundred years ; and are now circulated in upwards
of one hundred and seventy languages ; and will continue
to be the guide and treasure of the church to the end of the
world ; can it be believed that in these the apostles were left
to their own fallible wisdom, though guided in the others by
the inspiration of God? Such an opinion would be absurd
in the extreme.

It seems to be a necessary conclusion, from the above
premises, that the authors of the New Testament were
divinely inspired, as well when writing for all people and
all ages, as when speaking to the congregation of a single
synagogue.

3d. If the apostles did not intend to impress the church
with a belief that they wrote by divine inspiration, they
adopted the very means that were most likely to lead its
members into a most important heresy. St. Paul, in an
epistle to Timothy, which he knew would be universally cir-

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40S LECTURE XIII.

culated, puj]ished the broad assertion: ^^ All scripture ts
given hy inspiration of GodP Now it is worthy of note,
that the epistle, containing this declaration, is generally sup-
posed to* have been written after all the other works of St.
Paul, and but a short time before his martjrrdom at Rome.
At any rate, it was one of his latest works. The Gkwspel of
St. Matthew had been written and circulated at least twenty
years. Those by St. Mark and St. Luke were already in
the possession of the churches. The same is true of the
Acts of the Apostles. We know of no part of the whole
New Testament that was written subsequently to the uttering
of the above declaration, except the gospd, epistles, and
Revelation by St. John.

In connexion with this, be it observed, that when the
primitive christians received an epistle or gospel from one of
the apostles or evangehsts, they regarded it as a portion of
holy scripture. By this familiar name, it was universally
known, and with this high honour, it was always treated.
Precisely as the writers of the New Testament speak of the
books of the Old Testament, calUng them the scriptures^ do
the christian writers, who were contemporaneous with the
apostles, continually quote their books. This cannot be
questioned. Then, consider the circumstances of the church-
es. They have in possession, and in daily use, a number of
writings which have been sent them by the apostles and
evangehsts, the greater part of them by St. Paul himself. It
is well known to the latter, that those writings are universally
revered and read as holy scriptures. In these circumstances,
he declares that " all scripture is given by inspiration of Grod."
How are they to understand him? Shall they say: He
speaks in that passage only of the Jewish scriptures ? His
primary reference was unquestionably to them. But in what
sense can his assertion be true of all scripture, if so large a
part as that comprising the New Testament, and which was
universally denominated scripture^ came only "by the will



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LECTURE XIII. MB

of man ?" But this is not all that the apostles did to promote
the belief of the inspiration of their writings.

The christian churches were accustomed to appeal to the
Old Testament as an inspired volume. A large number of
their members had been educated in the Jewish faith, and by
habit, as well as reflection, always associated the idea of
divine inspiration with that of a book of scripture. Conse-
quently, when the writings of the New Testament were
received ; when they came to occupyj in regard to the chris-
tian church, a coitesponding place to that of the Old Testa-
ment books in regard to the Jewish church ; when they were
honoured by universal consent, with the same title of " holy
scriptures" as was applied to the i^acred books of the former
dispensation; it was extremely natural that the churches
should treat them precisely as they treated the older books,
and believe them also to have been written by inspiration of
God. That they did thus regard them is indisputable.
Clement, bishop of Rotne, a contemporary of the apostles,
says : " Look into the holy scriptures, which are the true
words of the holy Ghost. Take the epistle of the blessed
Paul, the apostle, into your hands; verily he did by the
Spirit admonish you." The primitive christians rejected
from the canon of scripture certain books, because, though
true and edifying, they were not inspired by the Holy Ghost.
They habitually spoke of the New Testament as *' The
Word of God," " The Voice of God," " The Oracles of the
Holy Ghost."

Now, in such circumstances, how would the apostles, as
men of common honesty and candour, have acted in case
they did not consider their writings to be inspired? Know-
ing the natural tendency and the actual state of public opin-
ion among the churches, could they have been even silent
on this subject? Must they not have warned their disciples
against a disposition so dangerous, and a heresy so conspicu-
ous ? Would not the most ordinary measure of humility
and faithfulness have impelled them to draw the Une of dis-



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404 LECTURE XIII.

tinction, too plainly to be mistaken, between what they had
written by their own wisdom, and what holy men of old had
written " as they were moved by the Holy Ghost ?" What
course do they pursue ? Not only do they allow the natural
disposition of those accustomed to attach inspiration to the
scripture to have its way ; not only do they say nothing hav-
ing the least tendency to correct the imiversal impression of
the churches on so vital a point ; but they adopt the very
course which was calculated directly to confirm all their
prepossessions. They introduce their writings in a manner
of authority precisely similar to that of the inspired men of
older times. Witness the beginning of the Epistle to the
Galatians : " Paul an apostle (not of men, neither by man,
but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him
from the dead) unto the churches of Galatia," &c. Peter,
speaking of the epistles of Paul, as familiarly known among
christians, expressly numbers them among " the scriptures,"
and puts them upon a level with "/Ae other scriptures,^
which Jews and Christians alike considered to have been
written by inspiration. Paul speaks of the writings of the
" apostles and prophets^^ as constituting together that good
foimdation on which christians were built, "Jesus Christ
himself being the chief comer stone."t And after Peter has
particularly included the epistles of St. Paul among the
scriptures, the latter publishes his declaration that " aU scrip-
ture is given by inspiration of God."

If those holy men did not intend to promote the behef of
the inspiration of their writings; if they were desirous of
teaching the churches to make a wide distinction between
their works, as merely human and fallible, and those of
Moses and the prophets, as divine and infallible ; how singu-
larly did they mistake the way! how exactly did they
inculcate what they wished to contradict, and build up what
they were bound to destroy !

In what manner the primitive churches understood their
♦ 2 Peter, iii. 16. t Ephesians, ii. SO.

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LECTURE XIII. 405

instructions, is manifest; and on the supposition that thd
apostles taught that their writings were not inspired^ it forms
a singular proof of the great obscurity with which they must
have expressed themselves. Justin Martyr, a contemporary
with St. John, says that " the gospels were written by men
full of the Holy Ghost." Irenaeus, a few years later, declares
that "the scriptures were dictated by the Spirit of God, and
that, therefore, it is wickedness to contradict them, and sacri-
lege to alter them." "The gospel," he says, "was first
preached, and afterwards, by the will of God, committed to
writing; that it might be, for time to come, the foundation
and pillar of our faith."

Enough, it is believed, has now been exhibited to satisfy
any reeisonable mind that it was the intention of the writers
of the New Testament, and of their blessed Master, that
the church should regard their works as having been
dictated and rendered infallible by divine inspiration. To
those who acknowledge that Christ and his apostles were
commissioned and taught of God, this is perfect evidence of
the great doctrine at which we have been arriving. For those
who, after all that has been said in our preceding lectures,
shall still refuse to acknowledge the Lord Jesus and his
apostles as divinely commissioned and endowed, we have no
more argument. Much additional reasoning might be offered ;
but such is the conclusiveness of what has been adduced, that
it may be said without presumption, if they believe not upon
such evidence, " neither would thpy believe though one rose
from the dead."*

We may now conclude a course of lectures, which has
already extended far beyond the anticipations of the author.
Having arrived at the divine authority of Christianity, and
the divine inspiration of the scriptures, we have not only a
religion revealed from God, but an infallible expression of

♦ For a much more extended and able view of the inspiration of the New
Testament, sec Dick on the Inspiration of the Scriptures^ and Lectures on
the same by Leonard Woods. D. />., Andover.

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406 I^KCTURE XIII.

Hs doctrines and duties. We have the guide, as well as
the way, to eyerlasting life— both equally certain, equally
diyine.

Let us be thankful for such un^qpeakable giAs. Next to the
mercy of a Saviour — able and ready "to save to the utter-
most all that come unto God by Him" — is the book of the
inspiration of God, which, as a lamp to our feet, and a light
to our path, conducts to such a Friend, and teaches us, with-
out mistake, all that we must do to be saved.

Let us consider our obligation to study this blessed book,
with most serious attention and care. What can be more
ungrateful, more disobedient, more sinful, in the sight of God,
than the total neglect, or the careless reading of a volume
which His own Spirit indited for our express guidance and
consolation ? " Search the scriptures !" is the injimction, as
well of our reason, as of the Lord Jesus. " Let the word of
Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom," is a command as de-
lightfiil in its obedience, as it is authoritative in its declaration.

Let us yield implicit sutoiission to the decisions of the
scriptures. In them we read the oracles of God — the mind
of the Spirit — infallible wisdom. As inspired pages, their
authority is absoli^te. It is plain duty, therefore, to bring
every question of truth or practice to their judgment ; and to
bow, without a question, or a murmur, or the least reserve
of mind or heart, to whatever they require. To proceed on
any other principle ; to bring any thoughts of ours into the
least competition with the decision of the scriptures ; to sub-
mit to one portion of the Bible, more than to another ; to
withhold assent to any of its doctrines, till we can fiiUy per-
ceive their necessity, or reasonableness, or their consistency
with certain notions of human wisdom, is a practical denial
of the divine authority of the whole volume, and deserves no
other name than that of unbelief.

Let us search the scriptures dailf/; for they were made to
be daily " profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and in-



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LECTURE XIII. 40y

struction in righteonsness." It Is only when taken as an
intimate companion and friend, tliat the Bible throws off its
reserve, and appears in all its excellence. Theti it speaks to
the heart, and begins to develope treasures of consolation as
numerous as the wants of sinners, as endless as the grace of
their Saviour. We can well perceive the hand of God
in the general construction of Christianity, while standing
without, and looking only upon its walls and bulwarks ; but,
like the temple of Jerusalem, we must enter within the holy
place to "behold the fair beauty of the sanctuary ;" the fine
gold of its workmanship; and the glory of Him "who
dwelleth between the cherubim." " The secret of the Lord
IS with them that fear him ; and he will show them his
covenant."

Let us search the scriptures with prayer; " praying always
with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit," that we may
be " filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and
spiritual understanding." The key of the ark, in which are
laid up the tables of testimony, is prayer. By this alone can
we get into "the secret place of the Most High," and be
taught of God. He who, without prayer, should seek to
enter within the veil, and obtain a view of the divine glory
as it shines within the scriptures, would act no less pre-
sumptuously, than Aaron, the high priest, had he attempted,
without his brazen censer and his incense, to pass the veil of
the holy of holies, and stand before the mercy-seat. " My
son," saith the scripture, " if thou criest after knowledge, and
Uftest up thy voice for understanding ; if thou seekest her as
silver, and searchest for her as hid treasures ; then shalt thou
understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of
God."

We began these lectures with prayer to God for his Holy
Spirit to guide our way and help our infirmities, that all of us
might see and embrace the truth. We recommended prayer
as one of the chief means to be used by all who would study
the evidences of Cl.ristianily in a right spirit. We are now

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408 LECTURE XIII.

just at the last words of a course, which, we trust, God has
not permitted to be heard by you without precious benefit, as
well in increasing your impression of the solemn claims of the
gospel upon your hearts and lives, as in strengthening your
conviction of its truth as a revelation from God for the salva-
tion of men. Take, we beseech you, the Holy Scriptures,
wherein Grod speaks, by his Spirit, to every generation, as
your unfailing guide, your most dear treasure, the appointed
means by which, as the inspired vehicle of God's truth, it is
His revealed purpose to carry on, through the inworking of the
Holy Ghost, the sanctification of them that believe in the name
of His only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ !



" Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy scrip-
tures to be written for our learning, grant that we
may, in such wise, hear them, read, mark, learn, and
inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort
of thy Holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold
fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou
hast given us in our Saviour, Jesus Christ." Amen



THE END.



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Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriEvidences of Christianity, in their external, or historical, division ... → online text (page 35 of 36)