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The Inspiration of the Scriptures.
THE historical books of the Old Testament, the books of Moses, of Joshua, &c. contain the records of many prophetical declarations, of many immediate revelations to various persons. If the books are genuine (of which I am thoroughly persuaded), the authenticity of their records follows of course; but when the prophecy had come by inspiration, when a revelation had been made, there could be no necessity for another inspiration to record them. The person to whom the prophecy or the revelation had been imparted, bad only to remember what had been revealed, and to record it himself, or dictate to others. Many of the prophecies have been already verified by their subsequent fulfilment.* Part of the narrative which Moses has given of the creation of the world, must have been known by revelation, especially that part which records the transactions previous to the formation of Adam. Most probably, this was all known to the Patriarchs before the birth of Moses, and the remainder he might have received from oral tradition. Adam, Methuselah, and Shem, lived in each other's times, and might have carried down the history to the fiftieth year of Isaac, and thus the account might be continued till it came down to his own time and observation; something, however, must have been added by some other hand, respecting the death of Moses. But having thus gained a knowledge of the facts, he did not stand in need of inspiration to record them. He was inspired when he prophesied, or when he dictated the Jewish law; but does it follow, that he must be again inspired when he committed them to writing? He might be incited to record his knowledge; the same may be said now, of the authors of many valuable and useful works. But, as it is not said in any part of the Pentateuch, that the whole and every part of it was dictated by God, written by immediate inspiration, or that nothing which it contains could otherwise have been known, I do not see why we should be called upon to believe it on any inferior authority.
The Jews of old, called the Law and the Prophets the Scriptures, by way of eminence; and preferred them to
* Gen. xv. 4; xviii. 17; xxii. 16; xlix. 10, &c.
their other holy writings. They made a distinction between "the lively Oracles of God," written by the finger of God himself, or by his immediate direction,* (which were kept in the ark, or laid up in the side of it) and other useful books, either historical or of moral instruction. They never questioned the truth or the value of these latter writings; but they did not consider them as having any claim to inspiration.
What are the books of Ruth, Kings, Chronicles, Esther, &c. but merely human records, collected out of larger histories, which have since been utterly lost, and these abbreviations only preserved?
With respect to other books, Job is a rich treasure of divine knowledge, and highly venerable for its antiquity. It is wholly poetic. Job and his friends are not described as of the Jewish Church, as descendants of Abraham by Sarah. They were Arabians; and from what is recorded of them, we may perceive what sense of religion was disseminated in the world before the written law. Who was the author of this book, is still a matter of uncertainty; but whoever he was, he does not, in any part, lay claim to divine inspiration: nor does he express himself as if he were promulgating any divine intructions, except that the principles of moral equity, and of acquiescence in the will of God, which are illustrated, are equally obligatory on all mankind. In the disputes which are recorded between Job and his friends, some things were said on each side that were not just. Each by turns mistook the subject, and wrongly applied to Job, what was in itself abstractedly considered, just and true. This is inconsistent with inspiration.
The writings of Solomon contain many excellent moral instructions. The book of Canticles is indeed obscure; it is a dramatic poem; and it is said, that it represents, in a poetical manner, the communion between God and the Jewish Church, often referred to in other parts of the Scriptures, as his espoused people. But I think this is by no means clear, certainly not obvious to any reader of plain common sense: nor can there be found throughout the book, any intimation of its referring to the promised
Exodus xvii. 14; xxxiv. 1, 27; Isaiah viii. 1; Jer. iii. 2; Hab. ii. 2. x. 35; 1 Chron. xxix. 39, 50; Josh. x.
Deut. xxxi. 19; Psalms cii. 18;
Messiah, or of its having any allegorical or prophetical meaning. How does it appear that this book is inspired? The book of Proverbs is highly valuable. It is a collection of precepts-the truth and usefulness of which, are indubitable and incontrovertible. It appears that they were selected out of many more, which were selected by Solomon,* part of them transcribed by Hezekiah's secretaries. In the book of Ecclesiastes, there are some questionable passages; but, on the whole, it contains many highly valuable and useful instructions with respect to the vanity of all sublunary things, but it never puts in any claim to immediate inspiration; on the contrary, the author himself asserts, that the composition was the result of his own diligence and religious observation.-Chap. xii. verse 9, 10.
The books of Ecclesiasticus, and the Wisdom of Solomon, are generally regarded as Apocryphal. The authors are not known; but whoever they were, the books themselves contain instruction not inferior to what we find in other books, acknowledged as canonical. The books of the Maccabees contain much valuable historical information; and, unquestionably, a great deal that is contained in the other books generally called Apocryphal, may well be considered as the Word of God, if by that expression we understand divine truth. But I cannot, by the utmost stretch of credulity, bring myself to believe, or even to suppose, that the eternal salvation of any one is endangered, because he cannot, by the perusal of any book, distinguish intuitively between what is Apocryphal and what is canonical; or, because he cannot believe that every book, chapter, and verse, in the Bible is of immediate inspiration-that all has the signature of God himself, as a divine written law, indited by the immediate afflation of the Holy Spirit.
Who was it that arranged the books of the Old Testament in their present order? At one time, it appears, only one copy of the book of the law was to be found.‡ Who was it that put the Psalms together, composed by different pious persons? Who was it that added the sayings of Agur to those of Solomon?§ or those of Lemuel, part of which, it appears, was the Catechism taught him
* 1 Kings iv. 32, 34.
+ Prov. xxv. 1.
2 Kings xxii. 8, 11.
by his mother?* Who was it that compiled, into one book, the several books of the Prophets, uttered at various times, considerably distant from each other? And who put all the books together which are now called the Scriptures? Was this done by divine Inspiration? These books, how different soever in time, nature, and circumstances, were all wisely preserved by the Jews, and all together acknowledged as the standard of the true religion, as the only records of the Revelation of the Will of God. They were appealed to by our Saviour and his Apostles, in all their addresses to the Jews. Appeal was also sometimes made to other writings, when they expressed any truth. These appeals were chiefly made to the Prophets, for the proof that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ foretold and promised; but, in thus confining their appeals, they did not condemn the other parts of the Sacred Writings as false, corrupted, or unsound: all may not be alike prophetic, yet all may be instructive and useful in their kind. They are all, taken together, a faithful record of those circumstances in which God has held any communication with mankindof all those intimations of his will, which, at any time, he may have made, in an extraordinary manner, to any individual.
The hopes and experience of the truly pious, are things that may well be recorded for the instruction of others, though nothing of Inspiration may appear, no immediate direction from God to record them any more than in any pious writings of the present day, in which we certainly abound much more than they did. There is a marked difference between the feelings and hopes of the best of men respecting a future state, resting on the deductions of reason only, and those of men who have been blessed with a divine Revelation on the subject. Much comfort may be derived from the experience and hopes of good men-much instruction from their sense of duty but all that is recorded of this sort, in the Old Testament, never amounts to a promise of future life. For a Revelation of the Will of God respecting futurity, we must look farther; nothing is there taught on the subject as a doctrine of Revelation.
(To be Continued.)
* Prov. xxxi. 1, &c. + Acts xvii. 28; 1 Cor. xv. 33; Titus i. 12. Psalms lxvi. 16, 19; 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8, &c.
The Proceedings of the Synod of Ulster.
THE Unitarian is charged with degrading Christ, and teaching that he is a mere man. Believing him to be in person a human being, on the testimony of Scripturereceiving him as one like unto Moses,* whom that servant of God, as well as the Prophets, spoke of as Jesus of Nazareth the son of Josepht-we, on the same testimony, believe him to be the well-beloved Son of God,‡ his Anointed, the appointed Mediator,|| Saviour, ¶ and Judge of the world.** How this is to be reconciled with his being a mere man, we must leave to our adversaries to elucidate; denying the calumnious accusation, we feel not the difficulty, and therefore are indifferent as to the result. Our heresy is in perfect agreement with popular Orthodoxy,tt as to the human nature of Jesus; this is common ground; but when Orthodoxy presses us to believe in a mysterious union of divine nature therewith, we pause, refusing to leave the doctrines of Scripture, for Platonic philosophy and the reveries of the Alexandrian school. Revelation being vouchsafed to man, we feel no desire to become wise above what is written; we are content with that Gospel, which, emanating from a Deity who is the perfection of reason, cannot, therefore, outrage the dictates of common sense; and we prefer to mould our belief, and regulate our lives, by its precepts, rather than by those perplexing, contradictory, and fallible dogmas, the offspring of the learning of this world. We"look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."‡‡ We believe him to be "the way, and the truth, and the life,"§§ through whom only is access to the Father; §§ and we place our humble dependence for salvation, on the holy promises of God, through him, by endeavouring, in obedience to his instructions, to keep his commandments,|||| and thus to manifest our love¶¶ for that
+ Mark i. 11, Acts v. 31.
*Acts iii. 22, and Deut. xviii. 15. and 2 Peter i. 17. § Acts x. 38. ** Acts x. 42; xvii. 31. tt "If the ecclesiastics had not created a virtue called Orthodoxy, the world would never have heard of a crime called heresy.' -R. Robinson. ++ Heb. xii. 2. ŞŞ John xiv. 6.
John xv. 10-14 11 John xiv. 23, 24.
+ John i. 45. 1 Tim. ii. 5.