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are not brought, by the profession of their religion, to the embracing, practically, of the vital principle of their creed: nay, that many of them, as Dr. Beveridge has likewise observed, have no better grounds for being Christians, than a Turk has for being a Mohammedan: fourthly, that the Protestant Church, for 200 years, had done little or nothing towards establishing the first elementary principles of its belief, upon any logical foundation.
Yet is all this enquiry but secondary or preliminary, when compared with the great investigation, into the inspiration of the Scriptures. These Scriptures are inspired—that is the general, and doubtless the true belief. But, on what grounds does it rest? Is it a matter of very simple demonstration, or one which proves itself almost intuitively? If you wish to satisfy yourselves on this point, take up the writings of authors who have treated of their inspiration, and you will be astonished, I am sure, to find how exceedingly difficult it is to bring such arguments as will satisfy an unbeliever. I will venture to say, that, having perused, with great attention, all that has fallen in my way, from Protestant writers, on this subject; I have hardly found one single argument, advanced by them, that is not logically incorrect; so, that, if I had not higher grounds on which to rest my belief, they could not have led me to
There are two classes of proofs generally advanced in favour of inspiration; internal arguments, drawn from the books themselves, and external ones, from the testimony of others. Now, regarding the first; it is not fair to consider the Sacred Volume, when under this examination, as forming an individual whole. Many of its books stand, necessarily, on different grounds from the rest. For instance, learned Protestant divines, especially on the Continent, have excluded from inspiration the writings of St Luke and St Mark, for this reason, that according to them, the only argument for inspiration in the New Testament, is, the promise of divine assistance given to the apostles. But these vere not apostles, they were not present at the promise, and if
you extend that privilege beyond those who were present, and to whom the promise was personally addressed, the rule will have no farther limit. If you admit disciples to have partaken of the privilege, on what ground is Barnabas excluded, and why is not, his epistle held canonical? Therefore, if argument is drawn from the character of those who wrote, it is evident that that they do not all rest upon the same proof.
Further, in examining the inspiration of the two Testaments, we stand upon different ground, For the Old, as having been receivedas inspired by our Saviour and his apostles, we have all the evidence which we require. But the New must be proved upon evidence, other than that of persons themselves inspired. For nowhere does our Saviour tell his apostles, that whatever they may write shall enjoy this privilege, nor do they anywhere claim it. We are, therefore, driven to the enquiry, was all that an apostle wrote necessarily inspired, or were only those books which we possess? If the former be the case, then we have surely lost many inspired works; for no one, I should think, can doubt, but that St Paul wrote many more epistles or letters than have been preserved. If the latter, I would ask what internal mark of inspiration can we discover in the third epistle of St John, to show that the inspiration, sometimes accorded, must have been granted here? Is there anything in that epistle, which a good and virtuous pastor of the primitive ages might not have written? anything superior in sentiment or doctrine, to what an Ignatius or a Polycarp might have indited?
It is unfair, then, in the extreme, as I before intimated, to consider the New Testament, and still more the entire Bible, as a whole;
and to use internal arguments from one book to another; to assume, for instance, that the Song of Solomon has internal evidence of inspiration, because the book of Jeremiah, which is in the same volume, contains true prophecies; or that the Epistle to Philemon is necessarily inspired, because the Apocalypse by its side, is a revelation. Yet, such is a come
mon way of arguing. If internal evidence have to decide the question, show it me for each book in that sacred collection.
A popular opponent of the Catholic belief, on a late public occasion, summing up the arguments for the inspiration of Scripture, reduces the internal evidences to such heads as these; the exalted character given to God,—the description of human nature, the provision revealed in it to man after his fall, its morality, and its impartiality.* Now I would appeal to any man of unbiassed judgment, whether these considerations would amount to a convincing argument, in the inind of one who had yet to believe the great, supernatural, fact of a divine inspiration? For, observe, the entire mass of proofs consists in an assumption of the disputed point. For, whether, the morality of the Bible, and its doctrines regarding God, and the soul, are proofs of inspiration, must depend upon our previous con
* Rev. Mr Tottenham, Downside Discussion, )). 144.—He divides the evidences into three classes, the bistorical, of which something will be said in the text, the internal, and the experimental. This consists in the effects produced by the Bible in changing the character of men. Here is an error; for the Bible, as a book, has not that effect; but only the doctrines it contains. These, if preached, will be often more effectual in changing the lives of sinners, than if read. And as such conversions de not prove the preacher's sermon to be inspired, but only the doctrines which he teaches to be good, and if you please, divine; so neither can a similar fact prove the Bible inspired, but merely its doctrines to be holy and salutary. The “Imitation of Christ” may be thus proved to be an inspired work. Mr Tottenham quotes a passage from Abbot, to show that, as a boy would know phosphorus, from his learning from good authority wliere it was bought, from its looking like phosphorus, and from its burning, so may we know the Scriptures to be inspired from similar arguments, but principally from the last. Here is the error repeated. A boy may have seen phosphorus a thousand times already; he has a term of comparison. We have no other Bible or inspired work, of which to say, our Bible is inspired, because it has the qualities of inspiration known to exist in that. But Protestants first, from the very book under examination, assume the characteristics of inspiration, and then apply them as evidence or tests to itself. What is meant by the “universal and irresistible power of the Bible, in changing the character and saving from suffering and sin," I do une rstand. Grace, I should imagine, is the effectual agent in these acts, and how the Bible is proved to be inspired, by being a channel and instrument of grace, any more than an effectual sermon which brings the sinner to repentance, is not very clear. For I cannot for one moment suppose, that "power" is supposed by these writers to reside in the material book, or its letters; though there is some reason to fear that such image-worship is far from uncommon in this country.
viction, that the systems of these things, there taught, are true We have learnt from the Bible that man fell, we have imbiben from it the idea that the best and only remedy for his state was an atonement; and then we conclude that the Book must be inspired, which gives so consistent a remedy, of whose aptitude or even possibility we never should or could have thought, but for the very Book, whose inspiration we are establishing
But, these proofs will be as nothing to the unbeliever, whom you wish to gain to a belief in this ground-work of the Protestant faith, and who knows or believes not that man is fallen, and needed a provision; or that the character of human nature is so much more correct in the Bible, as to have necessarily been dictated by God. The Hindoo brings every one of the same heads of evidence for his Vedas;* and the Mohammedan for his Koran. But two classes of arguments this writer throws among
the historical ones, which prove
still further the weakness of his reasoning. The first is "miracles, which were wrought in attestation of their doctrine, by the writers of the books of Scripture.”—Yes, in favour of the truth of their doctrines, but not of the inspirations of their writings: for the facts are perfectly distinct. Barnabas, too, wrought miracles in proof of the Christian doctrine; but not, therefore, has his epistle been considered canonical, even by those who think it genuine; Tertullian, Eusebius, and others, speak of miracles wrought by early Christians, to prove their faith; yet not, therefore, were their writings inspired.
His second proof is the prophecies recorded in Scripture. These may, indeed, prove any book to be inspired, which is composed of them, but not, surely, any wherein they are merely recorded.
But, no one perhaps, has more completely betrayed the impossibility of proving the inspiration of Scripture, upon mere
* See the Rev. A, Duff's “ Church of Scotland's India Mission ; Edinburgh, 1835, n. 4.
Protestant grounds, than one who has been most laborious in the task. The Rev. Hartwell Horne has devoted a very long chapter of his “ Introduction to the critical study of the Holy Scriptures,” to the proofs of inspiration. Now mark the very heading of this chapter, or rather of its leading section. “The miracles related in the Old and New Testaments, are proofs that the Scriptures were given by inspiration of God.” And the substance of the chapter corresponds with its title, for it is taken up with proving, that the miracles recorded in the Gospel are true miracles.* True miracles! Yes, certainly, but there are true iniracles related in the writings of Josephus, and in ecclesiastical history, yet are not they proved thereby to be inspired. The argument is treated by Horne, under a complicated variety of heads, so that it is not easy to discover the line of argument that conducts him through it; but the result amounts to this, that the Scripture is inspired, because true miracles are recorded in it.
I leave it to you to judge whether this reasoning be sound. Such recorded miracles might satisfy me, that those who wrote the records of them would tell the truth, if they should ever say that they were inspired; because God's working miracles to support their assertions would give the sanction of His authority to what they wrote. But show me where St Matthew or St Mark say that they have written their books under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; or by the command of God, or for any other than human purposes? Unless you can show this, any miraculous evidence of their character will prove that whatever they wrote is true; but not that it was written under the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
Precisely of a similar form is his argument drawn from prophecy; it is never attempted to be shown how the prophecies recorded in the New Testament, were intended to prove the in-spiration of the books which contain them; how, for instance, the truth of our blessed Redeemer's prophecy, touching the destruction of Jerusalem, can demonstrate that the Gospel of St Matthew must be inspired, because it relates it.f * Vol. i. p. 204, seventh ed.
+ Ibid. p. 272.