George Hill.

Lectures in divinity (Volume 1) online

. (page 23 of 32)
Online LibraryGeorge HillLectures in divinity (Volume 1) → online text (page 23 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

guilty of gross mistakes in some most important doc-

Inspiration will appear still further necessary,
when you recollect that the writings of the apostles
contain several predictions of things to come. Paul
foretells, in his epistles, the corruptions of the Church
of Rome, and many other circumstances which have
taken place in the history of the Christian Church :
and the Revelation is a book of prophecy, of which
part has been already fulfilled, while the rest, we
trust, will be explained by the events which are to
arise in the course of Providence. But prophecy is
a kind of writing which implies the highest degree
of inspiration. When predictions, like those in
Scripture, are particular and complicated, and the
events are so remote and so contingent as to be out
of the reach of human sagacity, it is plain that the
writers of the predictions do not speak according to
the measure of information which they had acquired
by natural means, but are merely the instruments
through which the Almighty communicates, in such
measure and such language as he thinks fit, that
knowledge of futurity which is denied to man. And
although the full meaning of their own predictions
was not understood by themselves, they will be ac-
knowledged to be true prophets, when the fulfilment
comes to reflect light upon that language, which, for
wise purposes, was made dark at the time of its be-
ing put into their mouth.


Thus the nature of the writings of the apostles
suggests the necessity of their having been inspired.
They could not be accurate historians of the life of
Jesus without one degree of inspiration ; nor safe
expounders of his doctrine without a higher ; nor
prophets of distant events without the highest. As
all the three degrees are equally possible to God, it
is natural to presume, from the end for M^hich the
apostles were sent, that the degree which was suited
to every part of their writings was not withheld ;
and we find the promise of Jesus perfectly agreeable
to this presumption.

II. Inspiration of the apostles was promised by
our Lord. It is not unfair reasoning to adduce
promises contained in the Scriptures themselves, as
proofs of their divine inspiration. It were, indeed,
reasoning in a circle, to bring the testimony of the
Scriptures in proof of the divine mission of Jesus.
But that being established by the evidence which
has been stated, and the books of the New Testa-
ment having been proved to be the authentic ge-
nuine records of the persons whose names they
bear, we are warranted to argue from the declara-
tions contained in them, what is the measure of
inspiration which Jesus was pleased to bestow upon
his servants. He might have been a divine teacher,
and they might have been his apostles, although he
had bestowed none at all. But his character gives
us security that they possessed all that he promised.
We read in the Gospels, that Jesus " ordained
twelve that they should be with him, and that he
might send them forth to preach."* And as this

* Mark iii. M.


was the purpose for which they were first called, so
it was the charge left them at his departure — " Go,"
said he, " preach the gospel to every creature ;
make disciples of all nations."* His constant fami-
liar intercourse with them was intended to qualify
them for the execution of this charge ; and the pro-
mises made to them have a special reference to the
office in which they were to be employed. AVhen
he sent them during his life to preach in the cities
of Israel, he said, " But when they deliver you up,
take no thought how or what ye shall speak, 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."f And
when he spake to them in his prophecy of the de-r
struction of Jerusalem, of the persecutions which
they were to endure after his death, he repeats the
same promise : " For I will give you a mouth and
wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able
to gainsay nor resist." :j: It is admitted that the
words in both these passages refer properly to that
assistance, "vfhich the inexperience of the apostles
was to derive from the suggestions of the Spirit,
when they should be called to defend their conduct
and their cause before the tribunals of the magis-
trates. But the fulfilment of this jDromise was a
pledge, both to the apostles and to the world, that
the measure of inspiration necessary for the more
important purpose imjilied in their commission
would not be withheld ; and accordingly, when that

* Mark xvi. l6 ; Matt, xxviii. I9. See original.
+ Matt. X. 19, 20. See original.
X Luke xxi. 15.


purpose came to be unfolded to the apostles, the
promise of the assistance of the Spirit was expressed
in a manner which applies it to the extent of their
commission. In the long affectionate discourse re-
corded by John, when our Lord took a solemn fare-
well of the disciples, after eating the last passover
with them, he said, " And I will pray the Father,
and he shall give you another Comforter, that he
may abide with you for ever ; even the Spirit of
truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it
seeth him not, neither knoweth him. But ye know
him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in
you. The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost,
whom the Father will send in my name, he shall
teach you all things, and bring all things to your
remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. I
have yet many things to say unto you, but you can-
not bear them now. Howbeit, when he the Spirit
of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth ;
for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he
shall hear that shall he speak ; and he will show
you things to come."* Here are all the degrees of
inspiration which we found to be necessary for the
apostles : the Spirit was to bring to their remem-
brance what they had heard — to guide them into the
truth, which they were not then able to bear — and
to show them things to come ; and all this they
were to derive, not from occasional illapses, but
from the perpetual inhabitation of the Spirit. That
this inspiration was vouchsafed to them, not for their
own sakes, but in order to qualify them for the suc-
cessful discharge of their office as the messengers of

* John xiv. 16, 17, 20; xvi. 12, 13. See original.


Christ, and the instructors of mankind, appears
from several expressions of that prayer which im-
mediately follows the discourse containing the pro-
mise of inspiration ; particularly from these words,
" Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also
which shall believe on me through their word ; that
they all may be one, as thou. Father, art in me, and
I in thee ; that they may be one in us ; that the
world may believe that thou hast sent me."* In
conformity to this prayer, so becoming him who was
not merely the friend of the apostles, but the light
of the world, is that charge which he gives them
immediately before his ascension, " Go ye, there-
fore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Ghost : teaching them to observe all things whatso-
ever I have commanded you : and, lo, I am with
you alway, even unto the end of the world," — the
conclusion of the age that has been introduced by
my appearance. I am with you alway, not by my
bodily presence, for immediately after he was taken
out of their sight, but I am with you by the Holy
Ghost, which I am to send upon you not many
days hence, and which is to abide with you for

The promise of Jesus then implies, according to
the plain construction of the words, that the apos-
tles, in executing their commission, were not to be
left wholly to their natural powers, but were to be
assisted by that illumination and direction of the
Spirit which the nature of the commission required ;
and you may learn the sense which our Lord had of

* John xvii. 20, 21. t Matt, xxviii. 19, 20. See original.


the importance and effect of this jDromise from one
circumstance, that he never makes any distinction
between his own words and those of his apostles,
but places the doctrines and commandments which
they were to deliver upon a footing with those
which he had spoken : " He that heareth you, liear-
eth me ; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me ;
and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent
me."* These words plainly imply, that Christians
have no warrant to pay less regard to any thing
contained in the Epistles than to that which is con-
tained in the Gospels ; and teach us, that every doc-
trine and precept clearly delivered by the apostles,
comes to the Christian world with the same stamp
of divine authority as the words of Jesus, who
spake in the name of him that sent him.

The author of our religion, having thus made the
faith of the Christian world to hang upon the teach-
ing of the apostles, gave the most signal manifesta-
tion of the fulfilment of that promise which was to
qualify them for their office, by the miraculous gifts
with which they were endowed on the day of Pente-
cost, and by the abundance of those gifts which the
imposition of their hands was to diffuse through the
church. One of the twelve indeed, whose labours
in preaching the Gospel were the most abundant
and the most extensive, was not present at this
manifestation, for Paul was not called to be an apos-
tle till after the day of Pentecost. But it is very
remarkable, that the manner of his being called was
expressly calculated to supply this deficiency. As
he journeyed to Damascus, about noon, to bring the

* Luke X. 16.


Christians who were there bound to Jerusalem, there
shone from heaven a great light round about him.
And he heard a voice, saying, I am Jesus whom
thou persecutest. And I have appeared unto thee
for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a wit-
ness, both of these things which thou hast seen, and
of those things in the which I will appear unto
thee ; and now I send thee to the Gentiles to open
their eyes.* In reference to this manner of his be-
ing called, Paul generally inscribes his epistles with
these words : Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ, by
the will or by the commandment of God ; and he
explains very fully what he meant by the use of this
expression, in the beginning of his epistle to the
Galatians, where he gives an account of his conver-
sion. " Paul an apostle, not of men, neither by man,
but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised
him from the dead. I neither received the Gospel
of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revela-
tion of Jesus Christ. When it pleased God, who
separated me from my mother's womb, and called
me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I
might preach him among the heathen ; immediate-
ly I conferred not with flesh and blood, neither
went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apos-
tles before me ; but I went unto Arabia." f All
that we said of the necessity of inspiration, and of
the import of the promise which Jesus made to the
other apostles, receives very great confirmation from
this history of Paul, who, being called to be an
apostle after the ascension of Jesus, received the
Gospel by immediate revelation from heaven, and

* Acts xxvi. 12—18. t Gal. i. I, 12, 15, l6, 17-



was thus put upon a footing with the rest, both as
to his designation, which did not proceed from the
choice of man, and as to his qualifications, which
were imparted not by human instruction, but by the
teaching of the author of Christianity. The Lord
Jesus, who appeared to him, might furnish Paul
with the same advantages which the other apostles
had derived from his presence on earth, and might
give him the same assurance of the inhabitation of
the Spirit that the promises, which we have been
considering, had imparted to those.

III. Inspiration was claimed by the apostles, and
their claim may be considered as the interpretation
of the promise of their Master.

You will not find the claim to inspiration formally
advanced in the Gospels. This omission has some-
times been stated by those superficial critics whose
prejudices serve to account for their haste, as an ob-
jection against the existence of inspiration. But if
you attend to the reason of the omission, you will
perceive that it is only an instance of that delicate
propriety which pervades all the New Testament.
The Gospels are the record of the great facts which
vouch the truth of Christianity. These facts are to
be received upon the testimony of men who had
been eye-witnesses of them. The foundation of
Christian faith being laid in an assent to these facts,
it would have been preposterous to have introduced
in support of them, that superintendence of the
Spirit which preserved the minds of the apostles
from error. For there can be no proof of the in-
spiration of the apostles, unless the truth of the facts
be previously admitted. The apostles, therefore,


bring forward the evidence of Christianity in its
natural order, when they speak in the Gospels as the
companions and eye-witnesses of Jesus, claiming
that credit which is due to honest men who had the
best opportunities of knowing what they declared.
This is the language of John.* " Many other signs
did Jesus in the presence of his disciples. But these
are written that ye may believe, and this is the dis-
ciple which testifieth these things." The evangelist
Luke appears to speak differently in the introduc-
tion to his Gospel ;f and opposite opinions have
been entertained respecting the information convey-
ed by that introduction.

There is a difference of opinion, first, with regard
to the time when Luke wrote his Gospel. It ap-
pears to some to be expressly intimated that he
wrote after Matthew and Mark, because he speaks
of other Gospels then in circulation ; and it is gen-
erally understood that John wrote his after the
other three. But the manner in which Luke speaks
of these other Gospels does not seem to apply to
those of Matthew and Mark. He calls them many,
which implies that they were more than two, and
which would confound these two canonical Gospels
with imperfect accounts of our Lord's life, which
we know from ancient writers were early circulated,
but were rejected after the four Gospels were pub-
lished. It is hardly conceivable that Luke would
have alluded to the two Gospels of Matthew and
Mark without distinguishing them from other very
inferior productions ; and therefore it is probable,
that when he used this mode of expression, no ac-

* John XX. 30, 31, and xxi. 24. t Luke i. 1 — 4..


counts of our Lord's life were then in existence but
those inferior productions. There appears also to
very sound critics to be internal evidence that Luke
wrote first. He is much more particular than the
other evangelists in his report of our Lord's birth,
and of the meetings with his apostles after his re-
surrection. They might think it unnecessary to in-
troduce the same particulars into their Gospels after
Luke. But if they wrote before him, the want of
these particulars gives to their Gospels an appear-
ance of imperfection which we cannot easily ex-

The other point suggested by this introduction,
upon which there has been a difference of opinion,
is, whether Luke, who was not an apostle, wrote
his Gospel from personal knowledge, attained by his
being a companion of Jesus, or from the information
of others. Our translation certainly favours the
last opinion ; and it is the more general opinion,
defended by very able critics. Dr. Randolph, in
the first volume of his works, which contains a his-
tory of our Saviour's life, supports the first opinion,
and suggests a punctuation of the verses, and an in-
terpretation of one word, according to which that
opinion may be defended. Read the second and
third verses in connexion. Kaduc ^a^sdoffav 7i/j,iv o) w^r a^^vjg

auTO?rr«/ xat hvYi^rai yivojMivoi rou Xoyou ILdc^s -/.ccfjM, 'jra^rjxoXovdrjxon
avudiv Taffiv az^/Zag xa^s^rig doi yga-^at, K^aria-rs &so(piXe. By

7]/Miv is understood the Christian world, who had re-
ceived information, both oral and written, from those
that had been auroorra/ %«; vTri^irai. Kcc/mi means Luke,
who proposed to follow the example of those avrovrai
in writing what he knew ; and he describes his own
knowledge by the word vasyixoXov^rrMTf^ which is more


precise than the circumlocution, by which it is trans-
lated, " having had perfect understanding of all
things." Perfect understanding may be derived from
various sources ; but Ta^a^c&Xou^aw properly means, I go
along with as a companion, and derive knowledge
from my own observation. And, it is remarkable,
that the word is used in this very sense by the Jew-
ish historian Josephus, who published his history
not many years after Luke wrote, and who in his
introduction represents himself as worthy of credit,
because he had not merely inquired of those who
knew, but TairizoXoudrixora roig ys/ocotr/i/, which he explains

by this expression, '^roXXuv f^iv aurov^yog cr^a^sw;, 'ttXciotuv

SauTO'TTTii yivoiMivog. If tliis interpretation is not ap-
proved of, then, according to the sense of those verses
which is most commonly adopted, Luke will be un-
derstood to give in the second verse, an account of
that ground upon which the knowledge of the Chris-
tian world with regard to these things rested, the re-
ports of the a-o7i7Tui Tint v'Trigsrai ; and to state in the
third verse, that he, having collected and collated
these reports, and employed the most careful and
minute investigation, had resolved to write an ac-
count of the life of Jesus. Here lie does not claim
inspiration : he does not even say that he was an
eye-witness. But he says that, having like others
heard the report of eye-witnesses, he had accurately
examined the truth of what they said, and presented
to the Christian world the fruit of his researches.

The foundation is still the same as in John's gos-
pel, the report of those in whose presence Jesus did
and said what is recorded. To this report are added,
1. The investigation of Luke, a contemporary of the
apostles, the companion of Paul in a great part of


his joiirneyings, and honoured by him with this
title, " Luke the beloved physician."* 2. The ap-
probation of Paul, who is said by the earliest Chris-
tian writers to have revised this gospel, written by
his companion, so that it came abroad with aposto-
lical authority. 3. The universal consent of the
Christian church, which, although jealous of the
books that were then published, and rejecting many
that claimed the sanction of the apostles, has uni-
formly, from the earliest times, put the Gospel of
Luke upon a footing with those of Matthew and
Mark ; a clear demonstration that they who had
access to the best information knew that it had been
revised by an apostle.

As then the authors of the Gospels appear under
the character of eye-witnesses, attesting what they
had seen, there would have been an impropriety in
their resting the evidence of the essential facts of
Christianity upon inspiration. But after the respect
which their character and their conduct procured to
their testimony, and the visible confirmation which
it received from heaven, had established the faith of
a part of the world, a belief of their inspiration be-
came necessary. They might have been credible
witnesses of facts, although they had not been dis-
tinguished from other men. But they were not
qualified to execute the office of apostles without be-
ing inspired. And therefore, as soon as the circum-
stances of the church required the execution of that
office, the claim which had been conveyed to them
by the promise of their Master, and which is im-
plied in the apostolical character, appears in their

* Coloss. iv. 14.


writings. They instantly exercised the authority
derived to them from Jesus, by planting ministers
in the cities where they had preached the gospel, by
setting every thing pertaining to these Christian so-
cieties in order, by controlling the exercise of those
miraculous gifts which they had imparted, and by
correcting the abuses which happened even in their
time. But they demanded, from all who had re-
ceived the faith of Christ, submission to the doc-
trines and commandments of his apostles, as the in-
spired messengers of heaven. " But God hath re-
vealed it," not them^ as our translators have supplied
the accusative, revealed the wisdom of God, the dis-
pensation of the Gospel " unto us by his Spirit ; for
the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things
of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the
world, but the Spirit which is of God ; that we
might know the things which are freely given us of
God ; which things also we speak, not in the words
which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy
Ghost teacheth."* " If any man think himself to
be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that
the things that I write unto you are the command-
ments of the Lord :" i. e. Let no eminence of spirit-
ual gifts be set up in opposition to the authority of
the apostles, or as implying any dispensation from
submitting to it. f " For this cause also thank we
God without ceasing, because when ye received the
word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it
not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the
word of God." \ Peter speaking of the epistles of

1 Cor. ii. 10, 12, 13. t 1 Cor. xiv. 37.

+ 1 Tliess. ii. 13.


Paul, says, " Even as our beloved brother Paul also,
according to the wisdom given unto him, hath writ-
ten unto you." * And John makes the same claim
of inspiration for the other apostles, as well as for
himself. " We are of God : he that knoweth God,
heareth us ; he that is not of God, heareth not us."f
The claim to inspiration is clearly made by the
apostles in those passages, where they place their
own writings upon the same footing with the books
of the Old Testament ; for Paul, speaking of the
hga y^afi/jbara, a common expression among the Jews
for their scriptures, in which Timothy had been in-
structed from his childhood, says, " All scripture is
given by inspiration of God.":j: Peter speaking of
the ancient prophets, says, " The Spirit of Christ
was in them ;" and " 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." ^ And the
quotations of our Lord and his apostles from the
books of the Old Testament are often introduced
with an expression in which their inspiration is di-
rectly asserted. " Well spake the Holy Ghost by
Esaias ;" " By the mouth of thy servant David thou
hast said," || &c. &c.

With this uniform testimony to that inspiration
of the Jewish scriptures, which was universally be-
lieved among that people, you are to conjoin this
circumstance, that Paul and Peter in different places
rank their own writings with the books of the Old
Testament. Paul commands that his epistles should

* 2 Pet. iii. 15. t 1 John iv. 6.

t 2 Tim. iii. l6. § 1 Pet. i. 11. 2 Pet. i. 21.

II Acts i. l6. iv. 25. xxviii. 25.


be read in the churches, where none but those books
which the Jews believed to be inspired were ever
read. * He says that Christians " are built upon
the foundation of the apostles and prophets ;" et' r(fj
^ifisXitfj Tuv avogroXuv %ai T^opjjTwi;, j- a Conjunction which
would have been highly improper, if the former had
not been inspired as well as the latter : and Peter
charges the Christians, to " be mindful of the words
which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and
of the commandment of us the apostles." | The na-
ture of the book of Revelation led the apostle John
to assert most directly his personal inspiration ; for
he says that " Jesus sent and signified by his angel
to his servant John the things that were to come to
pass ;" and that the divine person, like the Son of
Man, who appeared to him when he was in the spi-
rit, commanded him to write in a book what he saw :
and in one of the visions recorded in that book.
Rev. xxi. 14, when the dispensation of the gospel
was presented to John under the figure of a great

Online LibraryGeorge HillLectures in divinity (Volume 1) → online text (page 23 of 32)