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I never had, nor never took, an opportunity of looking into Dupin's Life of Christ, till about a year ago, long after the publication of the second edition of my Paraphrase on the Evangelists : But then I found, to my agreeable surprise, a more perfect agreement between his scheme of the harmony and mine, than I expected any where to have met with; and particularly, in the story of the resurrection.
Of the 203 sections, into which I have divided the evangelists, we differ only in the order of 29 : And as several of these are inseparably connected, there are only, on the whole, stories or discourses, in which there is a variety in our order.
The first, sect. 12. The wise-men's visit to Christ; which he places before the presentation, sect. 11.
The second, sect. 37–43. Matthew's account of the sermon on the mount; which he supposes to have been coincident with that in Luke, sect. 53, 54. which I consider as a repetition
The third, sect. 69, 70. The stilling the tempest, and dispossessing legion, which he places before the calling of Matthew, and immediately after sect. 36.
The fourth, sect. 96. Christ's reproving John for an instance of the narrowness of his spirit; which, as a similar and undetermined fact, he subjoins to sect. 93. Christ's checking the ambition of his disciples.
The fifth, sect. 106. The return of the seventy ; which he connects with the story of their mission, sect. 97.
The sixth, sect. 118. Christ's urging the necessity of striving for heaven, &c. which he strangely introduces between sect. 154, and 158.
The seventh, the discourses and facts, sect. 126-135. which he scatters promiscuously, after sect. 105. and elsewhere.
The eighth, sect. 170. The intimation of Judas's treachery; which he introduces after the eucharist, sect. 172.
And the last, sect. 181. The warning Christ gave of Peter's denying him ; which he joins with sect. 171, though I take them to be two different predictions of the same event.
The reader may see my reasons for the order, in which I have placed most of these sections, in the notes upon them : But I cannot forbear thinking, that such a coincidence in all the rest, where the one could not write from the other, is a strong presumption in favour of both.
THE INSPIRATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT,
PROVED FROM THE FACTS RECORDED IN THE
HISTORICAL BOOKS OF IT.
OTHING can be more evident, than that a firm and cor. dial belief of the inspiration of the sacred scripture is of the highest moment; not only to the edification and peace of the church, but in a great measure to its very existence. For if this be given up, the authority of the revelation is enervated, and its use destroyed : The star which is to direct our course, is clouded; our compass is broke to pieces; and we are left to make the voyage of life in sad uncertainty, amidst a thousand rocks, and shelves, and quicksands. I hope, therefore, I may perform a service acceptable to God and my christian brethren, , while I endeavour, as plainly and as briefly as I can, to place some leading proofs of it in a convincing view. And I undertake the task the more willingly, as in the preface to the first volume of my Family Expositor I laid myself under an obligation, several years ago, to attempt something of this kind, and have often been reminded of it by persons, for whom I have the highest regard.
I then proposed to handle the subject in a few sermons, to be added to those, long since published, on the evidences of the gospel. But on a review of that particular connection, which the argument I am here to pursue, has, with the history of the New Testament, I apprehend, it could no where appear better, than at the end of my exposition on the books which contain it. The reader will, I hope, recollect, that in the sermons just now mentioned, I have endavoured to demonstrate the truth of that history; and every year convinces me more and more, of the unanswerable force of the evidence there displayed. It is with great pleasure that I reflect on the divine blessing, which hath seemed to attend those discourses ; and it is a great
encouragement to me to hope, that, what I am now to offer may be a means of establishing some of my readers in that regard to the sacred oracles, which will be their best preservative against the errors and the vices of that licentious age in which Providence bath cast our lot; whereby our fidelity and our zeal are brought to a trial, which few ages but those of martyrdom could hare afforded.
It will be my business, First, to state the nature of inspiration in general, and of that kind of it, which, as I apprehend, we are to ascribe to the New Testament: I shall then prove, that it was undoubtedly written by such Inspiration And after this, I shall briefly hint at the influence, which this important truth ought always to have upon our temper and conduct; by inforcing which, I apprebend, I shall take the best method to promote a growing persuasion of the truth I am labouring to establish.
I will only premise, That I do not intend this, as a full discussion of the subject; but only, as such a compendious view of the chief proofs, as may suit the place in which it stands; and as may, from the easiest and plainest principles, give rational satisfaction to the minds of common christians; who have not leisure, nor perhaps ability, to enter into all the niceties of theological and scholastical controversy. 1. I shall state the nature of Inspiration, and of that kind of it,
which we are to ascribe to the New Testament.
In this I shall be more particular, as I apprehend, the want of a sufficient accuracy here has occasioned some confusion in the reasoning of several worthy persons, who have treated this important subject more largely, than I must here allow myself to do. I shall not, however, criticise on their account of the matter, but plainly lay down what seems to me intelligible, right, and safe.
By Inspiration in general, I would be understood to mean, Any supernatural influence of God upon the mind of a rational creature, where it is formed to any degree of intellectual improvement, beyond what it would, at that time, and in those circumstances, have attained in a natural way, that is, by the usual exercise of its faculties, unassisted by any special divine interposition.” Thus, if a man were instantaneously enabled to speak a language which he bad never learned, how possible soever it might have been for him to have obtained an equal readiness in it by degrees, I believe few would scruple to say, that he owed his acquaintance with it to a divine inspiration. Or if he gave a true and exact account of what was doing at a distance, and published a particular relation of what he neither saw nor heard, as some of the prophets did; all the world would own, if the affair were too complex, and the account too circumstantial, to be the result of a lucky guess, that he must be inspired with the knowledge of it; though another account equally exact, given by a person on the spot, would be ascribed to no inspiration at all.
But of this supernatural influence on the minds of men, forming them to such extraordinary intellectual improvements and abilities, there are various sorts and degrees, which it will be of importance for us accurately to distinguish from each other.
If a person be discoursing either in word or writing, and God do miraculously watch over his mind, and, however secretly, direct it in such a manner, as to keep him more secure from error in what he speaks or writes, than he could have been merely by the natural exercise of his faculties, I should say, he was inspired; even though there should be no extraordinary marks of high genius in the work; or even though another person, with
stronger memory, or relating a fact more immediately after it happened, might naturally have recounted it with equal exactness. Yet still, if there was in this case any thing miraculous, we must, on the principles above, allow an inspiration ; and I would call this, to distinguish it from other and higher degrees, an inspiration of superintendency.
If this influence should act in such a degree, as absolutely to exclude all mixture of error in a declaration of doctrines or facts so superintended, we might then call it a plenary superintending inspiration; or, as I would chuse for popular use to express myself in this discourse, a full inspiration.
Now it will from hence follow, and I desire that it may be seriously attended to, that a book, the contents of which are entirely true, may be said to be written by a full inspiration, even though it contain many things which the author might have known and recorded merely by the use of his natural faculties, if there be others which he did not so well know, or could not without miraculous assistance have so exactly recollected; or if, on the whole, a freedom from all error would not, in fact, have been found, unless God had thus superintended or watched over his mind and pen. And in regard to such a production, it would be altogether impertinent and insignificant to enquire, how far did natural memory or natural reason operate, and in what particular facts or doctrines did supernatural agency prevail. It is enough, if I know, that what the author says or writes is true, though I know not particularly how he came by this or that truth : For my obligation to receive it arises from its being known truth, and not merely from its being made known this or that way. And should God miraculously assure me, that any particular writing contained nothing but the truth; and should he at the same time tell me, it had been drawn up without any miraculous assistance at all, though I could not then call it inspired, I should be as much obliged to receive and submit to it on its being thus attested by God, as if every single word had been immediately dictated by him.
It will farther follow from what is said above, that a book may be written by such full inspiration as I have described, though, the author being left to the choice of his own words, phrases, and manner*, there may be some imperfection in the style and method, provided the whole contents of it are true; if the subject be so important, as to make it consistent with the divine wisdom miraculously to interpose, to preserve an entire credibility as to the exact truth of facts recorded, and doctrines delivered as divine. If indeed God were represented, as declaring such a book to be intended by him as an exact
standard for logic, oratory, or poetry, every apparent defect Sin either would be an internal objection against it. But if it be
represented only as intended to teach us truth, in order to its having a proper influence on our temper and actions, such defects would no more warrant or excuse our rejecting its authority, than the want of a ready utterance or a musical voice would excuse our disregard to a person, who should bring us competent evidence of his being a messenger from God to us.
I have been more particular in stating this kind of inspiration, becanse it is that, which I shall endeavour to assert to the sacred books of the New Testament, and this, without any exception or limitation, as they came out of the hands of the apostles; though I allow it is possible, they may, in this or that particular copy, and in some minuter instances which now perhaps affect all our remaining copies, have suffered something by the injuries of time, or the negligence of transcribers, as well as printers : Which, that they have in some particulars, suffered, is as notorious a fact, as that there is a written or a printed copy of them in the world ; yet is at the same time a fact, which no man of common sense or honesty can seriously urge against their authority.
* It is very evident, that the learned Maimonides thought this to be the case with regard to the prophets ; though I think it least of all to be apprehended in such oracles. See Maimon. Mor. Ner. Lib. ii. cap. 29.