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only exhibit a part of his art on a violin of two strings, and
only on the full-stringed instrument can bring all his powers
into play, so the holy playing of inspiration that sounds in our
ears, is entirely different, far richer, and infinitely more inten-
sive, when God makes use of a David or a Paul than when
Nahum comes from the woods or James' epistle is unrolled
before us. There are certainly degrees of inspiration. Hab-
akkuk affects one more mightily than Haggai. And with
the same organs of revelation inspiration is at one time much
richer and fuller than at another time, which undoubtedly
depends again upon the mood of the singer or writer. But
however necessary the close study of these degrees may be,
and however often we may be permitted to connect them
with the subjective disposition of the instrument used, never-
theless, to derive inspiration itself from this, can never be
allowed. All these differences may modify, specialize, and
graduate the effect of inspiration, but inspiration itself does
not proceed from the consciousness of man, but always from
the consciousness and the will of God. All efforts to ex-
plain inspiration ethically is a passing into another genus,
and is a leap from the ethical into the abstract life of our

Finally, there may be added the ready help which every
later inspiration found in that which had gone before, as well


as in the progress of the revelation of salvation, to which it
ran parallel. The content of inspiration is not aphoristic.
The one rather builds upon the other. In its beginnings,
therefore, inspiration is mostly concentric and deep, and only
gradually passes over into detail and moves upon the surface.
As a rule, at least, the person to be inspired knew what
had formerly been inspired to others, and with these earlier
inspirations his own inspiration formed a concatenation of
ideas. It connected itself with these. It found in them a
thread which it spun to greater length. It is no inspiration
now in China, then again in Rome, presently in India or in
Elam, but an inspiration which uses men from one and the
same milieu of life, and which historically exhibits a certain con-
tinuity. For which reason the very images perpetuate them-
selves with a certain continuity, and certain forms and ways
of speech pass on from one to the other. Just bring to mind
the Boot, the Shepherd and the "sheep of his pasture." If on
account of this, numerous factors were present in the conscious-
ness of the person about to be inspired for the use of Him
who inspires, the same applies to the actual dispensation of
grace in Israel. There is not merely a disclosing of the
holy world above to the consciousness, but the creation as
well of a reality in Israel, which bears a holy character.
This has its beginning already in the wondrous birth of
Isaac. This reality establishes itself in the people, accent-
uates itself in the tribe of Judah and in the house of
David; in its usages and institutions; in its holy ceremo-
nials, and in the types which point to the full reality
to be realized by the Incarnation. From the nature of the
case, this reality also exerted an influence, moulded and fash-
ioned the more finely disposed spirits in Israel, and enriched
the consciousness of those who were to be inspired with
those ideas and representations and images, which were fit
in every way to do service in inspiration. It made the lan-
guage, in which Jehovah was to interpret His Divine thoughts,
altogether a richer vehicle for inspiration.


The third factor which claims our attention in inspiration
is that which is inspired : — Id quod inspiratur. This content
of inspiration is not accidental. It does not consist of
magic sentences, nor yet of enigmatical communications
concerning secret powers or incidental events. The whole
content of what is inspired is taken from the counsel of
God, and is dominated by the supreme thought of how
the profaned majesty of God, both in man and in the
cosmos, may again come to its theodicy. We have pur-
posely taken pains to state the case in these definite terms,
because the limitation of that content to the salvation of
man's psychical life both is irrational and is contradicted by
the Holy Scripture. The latter needs no explanation, and
so far as the first is concerned, it would be irrational to
intend exclusively the salvation of our psychical life, since
the conditions of our somatical life are equally disabled.
Irrational, to fix the eye upon the salvation of man alone,
since man is an organic part of the cosmos. And it would be
equally irrational to find the end of inspiration in man, since
either the confession of God must be abandoned, or all things
must find their end in Him. At this very point the effort
falls away to seek the content of what was inspired exclu-
sively in what is ethical-religious. This ethical-religious
does not exist in isolation. In the case of the individual
person it touches his body and circumstances as well ; in the
case of a people, its earthly existence, its history, and its
future. Separation, therefore, is here impossible. Even as
you cannot find a man except in his body, you cannot expect
to find what is inspired except it is alike psychical, somatical
and cosmical. However, it may and must be granted that
the content of what is inspired does not lend itself to this
cosmical, except in so far as it stands in central connec-
tion with the work of the Holy Spirit. Not because the rest
is indifferent, but because inspiration has a purpose of its
own ; viz. to introduce into the consciousness of the Church
of God that world of thought which belongs to palingenesis.
What lies outside of this is not received by the Church as
such, but by the members of the Church, as "men and citi-


zens," in a natural way. And the question, whether the nat-
ure of this content joins itself to what God who inspires
finds on hand in the person whom He inspires is answered
as follows : that the restoration of what was profaned of ne-
cessity joins itself to the condition of the profaned, and that
the organs of revelation, whose own condition was that of
depravity, and who themselves lived in this desecrated cosmos,
found, both in themselves and in that cosmos, the canvas
stretched on which the floral designs of grace were to be em-

§ 84. The Forms of Inspiration

Man received in his creation more than one string to the
harp of his soul, and according to the nature of the objects
that hold his attention his mood changes, he strikes a different
key, and his mental action assumes new phases. The lyrical
world differs in principle from the epical ; the dramatic im-
pulse far exceeds both in creative power ; while, on the other
hand, poetical inspiration accentuates itself least in didactic
poetry. Thus the human mind is disposed by nature to a
7nultiformity of expression, which sustains connection with the
multiformity of material that engages our attention. And
since there is a wide difference in the material that consti-
tutes the content of Revelation, it is entirely natural that
the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has made use of that
multiformity of our spiritual expression, and thus assumes
at one time a lyric character, at another time an epical, some-
times even a dramatic, but especially also one that is didactic.
To some extent one may even say that in these aesthetic
variegations certain fundamental forms are given for inspi-
ration, and if need be the entire content of the Scripture
might be divided after these four fundamental types. Since,
however, outside of the Scripture also these four fundamental
types continually overlap each other and give rise to mixed
forms, it is more advisable to borrow the division of these
types from the content of the Scripture itself. This we do
when we distinguish between lyric, ehokmatic, prophetic and
apostolic inspiration, among which the inspiration of the


Christ stands as univoeaU and to which is added the later
graphic inspiration in the narrower sense.

Let each of these types be separately considered.

Lyric inspiration comes first, because lyric itself, to some
extent, bears an inspired character, and so offers us the
most beautiful analogy to holy inspiration, and really sup-
plies the only trustworthy key for the correct interpretation
of the lyrical parts of the Scripture. Real lyric, worthy of
the name, is not the passionate cry which describes in song
the concrete, personal experience of sorrow or of joy, but
appears only when, in the recital of concrete and personal
experience, the note is heard of that which stirs the deeper
depths of the hidden life of the universal human emotions,
and for this reason is able to evoke a response from other
hearts. In his Aesthetik, ii., p. 568 (3d Ausg. Lpz. 1885),
Carriere states it thus : " That which is entirely individual
in lyric poetry obtains the consecration of art only by being
represented as it answers to the nature of man, and by strik-
ing the chord of something universally human, whereby it is
reechoed in the hearts of others." Even this statement is
not sufficiently full ; for when, by his personal emotions, the
lyric poet has descended to the depths wdiere his own life
mingles with the waters of human experience, he has not
reached the deepest bottom of this ocean. That which is
common in the emotional life of humanity is not grounded
in itself, but derives its powers of life from the immanence
of God, whose Divine heart is the source of the vital breath
that stirs and beats this ocean. Von Hartmann QPhilosophie
des Schonen, ii., p. 736) very properly observes that there is
"a mode of feeling which transcends the purely anthropologi-
cal^''' which, from his Pantheistic point of view, he explains
more closely as " an extension of self -feeling (Selbstgef iihl)
unto a form of universal sympathy (Allgefiihl), the outreach
of this sympathy (Weltschmerz) toward the world-ground,
i.e. its expansion into the intuition of the Divine (Gottes-
schmerz)." Reverse this, and say that his concrete feeling
is governed by the universal human feeling, and that, so far
as it affects him, this universal human feeling is governed


by the vital emotions in God, and the pathway of lyric inspi-
ration is cleared. In every lyric poet you find first a con-
siderable commotion of feeling, occasioned by his own joy or
sorrow, or by the weal or woe of that which he loves. Sec-
ondly, that sense of solidarity, by which in his personal
emotions he discerns the wave-beat of the human heart.
And finally, there works in him a dominant j)Ower, which,
in this universal human emotion-life, effects order, reconcilia-
tion, or victory. However subjective the lyric may be, it
always loses the personal subject in the general subject, and
in this general subject the Divine subject appears dominant.
Since we may speak to this extent of a certain Divine in-
spiration in the case of all higher lyric, it is readily seen how
naturally lyric lent itself as a vehicle for holy inspiration, and
required but the employment in a special way of the Holy
Spirit, to effect the lyric inspiration of the Psalmist.

The lyric poet does not merely sing for the sake of sing-
ing, but from the thirst for deliverance. Under the weight
of unspeakable joy or of consuming sorrow he is near being
overcome. And now the spirit arouses itself within him,
not to shake himself free from this feeling of sorrow or joy,
but, luctor et emergo, to raise the head above those waves of
the ocean of his feeling, and either pour oil upon the seeth-
ing waters, that shall quiet their violence, or bring those
waves into harmony with the wave-beat of his own life, and
thus effect reconciliation, or, finally, with power from on high
to break that wave-beat. This is always done in two stages.
First, by his descent from the personal into the solidary-
human. He aptly remarks : I am not alone in these sorrows ;
there are "companions in misery" (consortes doloris) ; hence
that sorrow must have deeper causes. And secondly, from
this " companionship in misery " he reaches out after the liv-
ing God, who does not stand as a personified Fate over against
this necessity, but with Sovereign Authority bears rule over it.
It is evident, that God the Lord has led His lyric singers per-
sonally into bitter sorrows, and again has made them leap for
joy with personal gladness. But it also appears, in the second
place, that these experiences of deep sorrow and high-strung


gladness almost never came to them in concrete-individual,
and, therefore, to a certain extent, accidental circumstances,
but that almost always their lot in life was interwoven with
the lot of their people, and thus from the start bore a solidary
character. David views even his sicknesses as standing in
connection with the combat he wages for God and His people.
However, you observe, in the third place, that in and through
the utterance of personal feeling, once and again a higher and
a more general subject, and, if you please, another ego, sup-
plants the ego of the singer, and often ends by God Himself
in the Messiah testifying through the mouth of the singer.
This makes a confusing impression on him who does not
understand lyric, and is the cause of many an error in
exegesis. But this phenomenon, which at first sight seems
somewhat strange, becomes entirely clear when in this in-
stance also you allow the antithesis to be duly emphasized
between sinful and sanctified humanity, between humanity
in its state of depravity and humanity in the palingenesis.
The lyric poet who stands outside of the palingenesis can-
not descend deeper than the emotional life of fallen human-
ity, and if from thence he presses on to God, he can do
nothing more than was done by Von Hartmann, who, be-
ing depressed by sorrow, through the world-sorrow (Welt-
schmerz) reached the supposed God-sorrow (Gottesschmerz),
and thus falsified the entire world of the emotions. Such,
however, was not the case with the singers of Israel. From
their personal joy and grief, they did not descend to the gen-
eral human feeling, but to the emotion-life of humanity in the
palingenesis, i.e. of God's people. And when in God they
sought the reconciliation between this higher life of the palin-
genesis and actual conditions, their God appeared to them in
the form of the Messiah, that other subject, who sang and
spake through them, and caused them simultaneously to expe-
rience the reconciliation and the victory over sorrow and sin.
In the imprecatory Psalms, especially, this is most strongly
apparent. Applied to our human relations in general, the
imprecatory Psalm is, of course, a most grievous offence to
our feelings, and entirely beneath the nobility of lyric. If,


on the other hand, you place the lyric singer of the impre-
catory Psalms under the absolute antithesis between that
which chooses for and against God ; if you separate him from
his temporal-concrete surroundings, and transfer him to the
absolute-eternal, in which everything that sides with God lives
and has our love, and everything that chooses eternally against
God bears the mark of death and rouses our hatred, then the
rule, " Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee ? " becomes
the only applicable standard, and whatever departs from this
rule falls short of love for God. When Jesus speaks of the
man who should have a millstone hanged about his neck, that
he may be drowned in the depths of the sea, the same fun-
damental tone which sounds in all the imprecatory Psalms is
sounded also by Him. As unholy and repulsive as the im-
precatory Psalms are in the lips of those who apply them to
our relative universal human life, they are solemnly true and
holy when you take your stand in the absolute palingenesis,
where God's honor is the keynote of the harmony of the hu-
man heart. This is naturally denied by all those who refuse
to believe in an eternal condemnation of those who continue
in their enmity against the Almighty ; but he who in unison
with the Scripture speaks of " a going into everlasting pain,"
from this absolute point of view cannot resent the imprecatory
Psalm, provided it is taken as a lyric.

(2) Chohnatic inspiratiori certainly belongs to didactic
poetry, but forms, nevertheless, a class by itself, which, out-
side of the domain of poetry, can make its appearance in
prose. Under Chokmatic inspiration, the parables, too, are
classed, and other sayings of Christ which are not handed down
to us at least in a fixed form. When the question is asked
in what particular didactic poetry distinguishes itself from
non-didactic, eesthetici say that the didacticus first thinks,
and then looks for the image in which to clothe his thoughts,
while the non-didactic lyricist, epicist, or dramatist feels the
initiative arise from phantasy, and only derives the form from
the ideal image. In itself, inspiration is much less strong


with the didacticus, and there are didactic poets with whom,
poetical inspiration is altogether wanting. With this kind
of poetry, inspiration is not in the feeling, neither in the
iraaghiation, or in the heroic impulse, but exclusively in the
sway of the consciousness. Not as a result of his discursive
thought, but by an impulse of his perception, the real didac-
ticus is impelled to song. By his immediate perception he
understands what he sees the other does not understand,
and this he communicates to him in song. Subsidiarily to
this, is added that the didacticus, since he does not speak
as one who is learned, but sings as one who is wise, is, at the
same time, in sympathy with symbolism which unites the spir-
itual with the material world, and therefore expresses himself
in the form of nature-illustrations and parables. In the Chok-
mah, this universal human phenomenon obtained a character
of its own. Even as the prophet, the "wise man" was an iso-
lated phenomenon in Israel. Similarly to didactic poetry, this
Chokmah confines itself mostly to the domain of the life of
nature and to the natural relationships of life. That life of
nature and of man, in its rich unfolding, is the realization
of a thought of God. It is not accidental, but develops
itself after the Divine ordinances, which, even as the exist-
ence of life, are the outflow of a Chokmah in God. Nature
does not observe this, but man perceives it because, created
after God's image, he is himself an embodiment of that thought
of God, and is therefore himself a microcosmos. In his per-
ception lies a reflected image of this Chokmah, which by
nature is Wisdom, and not science, but which only by analy-
sis and synthesis can become science. The purer and clearer
that glass of his perception is, the purer and clearer will
the image of that Chokmah reflect itself in him. For this
reason, Adam was created, not merely in justice and holiness,
but also in original wisdom. By sin, however, this percep-
tion became clouded. There was a twofold cause for this.
First, it reacts no longer accurately, and again, because
nature itself and man's life in nature have become entangled
in much conflict and confusion. For this reason, this natural
Chokmah does no longer give what it ought to give ; it works


most effectively with simple folk, to whom only separate
problems present themselves, but it refuses its service to the
more richly developed mind, which faces all problems at once,
and thus necessitates it by way of analysis to seek refuge in
close thought. Palingenesis meanwhile presents the possibil-
ity of resuscitating again this original wisdom in fallen man,
and, at the same time, of giving him an insight into the order
and harmony which hide behind the conflicts of our sinful
life, and are active to provide the cleansing of them. This
does not happen to everybody, not even though the enlight-
ening has entered in, but it takes place with those individuals
whom God has chosen and inspired for this purpose, and
these are the real, specific, wise men, and what they produce
is called the Chokmah. In this, therefore, we deal with an
activity of the Holy Spirit, which directs itself to this orig-
inal sense-of-life, to this practical consciousness of nature
and life, and clarifies this, so that the wise man discerns
again the wisdom which is apparent in God's creation and in
life, is affected by it, and proclaims it in parable or song.
This Chokmah, however, does not appear to him as arising
from his subjective consciousness, but as addressing him
from another subject, such as Wisdom, which must not be
taken as a personification, but as the pure word in God (see
1 Cor. i. 30), that to him coincides with the image of the
Messiah. This does not imply that for this reason the solu-
tion of all problems, as for instance the problem of the incon-
gruity in the suffering servant of God, stands clear and plain
before his eyes. On the contrary, there are conflicts, which
cannot be explained on chokmatic ground, but the impres-
sion of the Chokmah is, nevertheless, so overwhelming that
the interrogation mark after these problems bears in itself
the prophecy that it shall sometime disappear. Hence the
"wise man " stands over against the " scorner," the " fool," and
the " ungodly," who think after their fashion to have found a
solution in cynicism, but have abandoned God and faith in
his wisdom. To the wise man, on the other hand, the fear
of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. God must not be
wiped out for the reason that we are not able to indicate


harmony between Him and the world ; but from Him every
departure must be made, even though by doing this we
should lose the world. This assertion may not methodisti-
cally be applied to discursive thought. It only applies to
that Wisdom of which it is asked in Job xxxviii. 36, " Who
hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given
understanding to the mind?" The entire action, by which
this wisdom is quickened, follows along the inward way, and
does not come from without. For which very reason it could
become a vehicle of inspiration. This also applies to its form,
which is almost always symbolical, entirely apart from the
question whether it is more commonly lyrical, epic, or dra-
matic. Its form is and remains that of the Proverb (7^S2),
the utterance of a thouglit in its material analogy. In the
"riddle" (riTH) and "enigma" (n2£^7X2), which words indi-
cate entwining and intertwisting, the symbolical character
may be less clearly apparent; in both forms, however, lies the
same symbolical tendency. The phenomena are significant
of something, they are reminders of a thought, which comes
from God, and can be understood by us ; not by these phe-
nomena themselves, but by the affinity of our spirit to Him
who speaks in them. And since this Wisdom does not consist
of thoughts loosely strung together, but forms one organic
whole, and needs the light of grace, by which to solve the
problems of sorrow and of sin, this Wisdom at length concen-
trates itself in Christ Jesus, whom finally the apostle places
over against the foolishness (/iw/jta) of the world as the in-
carnated Wisdom (Chokmah or <To<^Ca).

(3) So far as its result is concerned. Prophetic inspiration
is distinguished from the lyric and chokmatic chiefly by the
fact that in general it exhibits a conscious dualism of subject,
whereby the subject of the prophet has merely an instru-
mental significance, while the higher subject speaks the
word. That other higher subject appears sometimes in
lyrics (Ps. ii. et al.} and in the Chokmah (Prov. viii. et al.^,
but where it does this appearance bears no dualistic charac-


ter. and at least never becomes antithetic as in prophecy
(JtT. XX., Ezek. iii., et ah). In the lyric and in the Chok-
niah there is " Konsonanz " of subjects, never " Dissonanz."
In prophecy, on the other hand, duality of subject is the
starting-point for the understanding of its working, and is even
present where it is not expressly announced. Nothing can
be inferred concerning this from the word «"'33. The ety-

Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 49 of 64)