Skeletons of a Course of
By Charles G. Finney
Inspiration Of The Bible.
First. What is not implied in the inspiration of the Bible.
1. It is not implied in the inspiration of the Bible, that the several writers received every thing which they recorded by direct revelation from God. Many things which they recorded may have been known by them, irrespective of divine inspiration. In these cases inspiration was concerned only in directing them what to write and how to write.
2. The inspiration of the scriptures does not imply that the writers were passive instruments, without using their own powers of moral agency in writing.
3. It does not imply that the sacred writers did not preserve their own style and peculiar manner of writing and expressing their thoughts, for this would naturally be true under the direction of the omniscient Spirit of God, whether he merely suggested the thoughts, and left them to the selection of their own words, or whether he suggested the words as well as the thoughts. For in employing human agency, it is as easy for the Spirit of God to conform himself entirely to the habits, education, and natural style of the writer, as to dictate in any other manner. And this would be just what we should expect him to do, to accommodate himself to the habits of that mind which he employed, rather than to set aside those habits.
4. Nor does the inspiration of the sacred writers imply, that they recorded no circumstance of comparatively little importance; for if they were really inspired by the omniscient God, it might be expected that they would write in a very natural and easy manner. And if the connection or circumstances demanded it, that they would mention some things which in themselves are of comparatively little importance.
5. Nor does the inspiration of the Bible imply that no various readings have crept into the text through the carelessness of transcribes.
6. Nor does it imply, that every part of the bible is equally intelligible to beings in our circumstances.
7. Nor does it imply, that we shall be able infallibly to understand in this age of the world, everything which they wrote.
8. Nor does it imply. that the writers themselves understood, in all cases, the import of what they wrote.
9. Nor that the different writers would of course notice the same particulars in recording the same transaction. For in relating the same occurrence, some might naturally notice some particulars of the transaction and others other particulars.
10. Nor that we may not, in our circumstances, find some difficulty in some instances in reconciling the different writers with each other. But --
Second. The inspiration of the Bible does imply:
1. That there is a real substantial agreement among all the writers, and that when rightly understood, they do not in any thing contradict each other.
2. It implies, that the several writers always wrote under such a degree of divine illumination and guidance, whether of suggestion, elevation, or superintendence as to be infallibly secured from all error.
3. That they not only wrote nothing false, but that they communicated authoritatively the mind and will of God.
Third. How not proved.
1. A question of this kind cannot be settled by an appeal to tradition.
2. Nor by an appeal to history.
3. Nor by an appeal to the miraculous power of the writers, independently of their own assertions in respect to their inspiration. Miracles are God's testimony that what they say is true. But the question is, what do they say?
4. Nor can this question be settled by the assertion of the several writers, unless they were endued with miraculous powers. It has been common in every age of the world, for men to be deceived in regard to their own inspiration. Should those writers therefore insist upon their own inspiration, and should their perfect honesty be admitted, it would not conclusively prove their inspiration of God, without the power of miracles, for they might be deceived.
5. The inspiration of the Bible cannot be proved by any appeal to the elevated and what might seem to us super human style, in which different parts of it may be written; for that might seem super human to us, which after all was only the effect of a highly excited though natural state of mind.
6. Nor can the inspiration of the Bible be proved by an appeal to the doctrines it contains.
7. Nor can it be proved, independently of the style and doctrines. Both the style of the sacred writers, and their doctrines, may be and ought to be taken into the account, in the discussion and decision of this question. But neither of them by itself would amount to proof. For if the doctrines were true, and it were admitted that they are the truths of God, it would no more prove the inspiration of the writers of the Bible, than the fact that thousands of other men have written the truths of God, would prove that they were inspired.
Fourth. How this question can be proved.
1. The question in respect to the inspiration of the Bible is not a controversy with professed infidels, but with Unitarians, and those who profess to believe the truth of the Bible.
2. In discussing this subject with them, the authenticity, genuineness, and credibility of the Bible may be taken for granted.
3. The integrity of the several writers may also be taken for granted.
4. Not only may these things be taken for granted, but let it be remembered, that in the preceding lecture, on the divine authority of the Bible, these points have also been proved.
I will now remark, that the proof of this question may be made out with entire satisfaction, by showing:
1. That Christ promised his Apostles both the gift of miracles and of inspiration.
2. They actually possessed miraculous power.
3. They affirm their own inspiration.
4. Their admitted honesty.
5. Their style.
6. Their doctrines.
7. The prophecies which they uttered.
8. Their substantial agreement with each other and with all known facts in history and science.
9. The purity, power, and success of their writings. These, when put and viewed together, will amount to a conclusive argument in favour of the inspiration of the scriptures.
Fifth. Prove that the Bible is an inspired book.
1. By referring to the promises of Christ, when He first sent the Apostles forth to publish his religion. Matthew 10:19, 20: "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."
2. When he gave them their commission. Luke 12:11, 12.
3. When he predicted the destruction of Jerusalem. Mark 13:1; Luke 21:14 15.
4. In his last address to his disciples, in the 14th and 16th chapters of John.
5. Christ promised that the Spirit should reveal to them many things which he had not taught them. John 16:12 15.
6. He promised that the Holy Spirit should instruct them in every thing. John 18:26.
7. That he should reveal to them future events. John 16:13.
8. That he would give them all the instruction they should need as Apostles and publishers of his religion. John 16:12, & 14:26, & 14:17, & 15:26, 27, & 16:13.
9. Christ endued the Apostles with miraculous powers. Matthew 10:1; Mark 16:15, 17, 18; Luke 9:1.
II. By the Apostles and writers of the New Testament.
1. The writers of the New Testament unqualifiedly assert their own inspiration, and God confirms their testimony by miracles. Galatians 1:11, 12; 1 Corinthians 2:10, 12, 13, & 14:37; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13, & 4:8; 1 John 4:6.
2. The writers of the New Testament put their own writings upon a level with those of the prophets and Old Testament writers. Ephesians 2:20; 2 Peter 3:15, 16.
3. It has been generally admitted, that the oral instructions of the Apostles were inspired. But they considered their writings as of the same authority with their oral instructions John 20:31; 1 John 1:1 4; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 15:1; Ephesians 3:3; Acts 15:28.
4. They consider their own writings as of such high authority that an unqualified reception of them and obedience to them, is every where made by them an indispensable condition of salvation.
5. The belief that the Old Testament was given by inspiration of God was universal among the Jews, and Christ and the Apostles invariably confirm this opinion. Luke 24:27, 44; 2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16.
6. They speak of the Old Testament as the word of God. This is so common with them that I need not cite instances.
7. Christ and the Apostles speak of the entire Old Testament as of equal authority; quoting from all parts of the Old Testament, as from the word of God.
8. The Old Testament writings are called the commandments, testimonies, and ordinances of the Lord.
9. Every act of obedience or disobedience to the Old Testament writers, is considered by Christ and the Apostles as obedience or disobedience to God.
10. There is not an instance in which Christ or the Apostles intimate that a single sentence of the Old Testament is either spurious or uninspired.
11. This is incredible if both Christ and his Apostles did not regard the Old Testament as given by the inspiration of God.
12. It was also dishonest in them thus to treat those writings, if they were not what they were supposed by the Jews to be.
13. In addition to what has been said, let it be remembered that the strict integrity of the writers of the New Testament is admitted and if it were not, it is so apparent on the very face of their writings that it could not reasonably be questioned.
14. Add to this the fact that the style in which the scriptures are written, entirely favours the idea of their inspiration.
15. The doctrines contained in the Bible, must, to say the least, many of them have been given by inspiration, either to the Apostles, or to those from whom they received them, as without a direct revelation from God they could not have been known to men.
16. The prophecies both of the Old and New Testaments are a demonstration of the inspiration of the writers so far as those parts of scripture are concerned.
17. There is beyond all contradiction a substantial agreement among all the writers of the Bible with each other, and with all known facts.
18. The purity, power, and success of the gospel, is corroborative of their claim to inspiration.
These facts when taken together seem to establish the inspiration of the scriptures, beyond doubt.
Sixth. Answer objections.
I. Objection. It is objected that Mark and Luke were not Apostles, and therefore the promises of inspiration and of miraculous power, did not extend to them.
1. That these promises of miraculous power, and of inspiration were not confined to the Apostles, is evident from the fact that multitudes besides the Apostles, actually possessed the power of working miracles, and doubtless the gift of inspiration.
2. The gospels of Mark and Luke must have been written under the eye of the Apostles. Or at least the Apostles must have been familiar with them, as Luke was the companion of Paul, and I believe it is generally conceded that Mark was the companion of Peter.
3. If the Apostles had not approved and confirmed these gospels, they could not have been so universally received by the Church as of divine authority from the very first. This seems to be evident from the fact that so many gospels or histories of Christ were at that time rejected by the Church as not inspired.
These considerations are to my own mind satisfactory in regard to these gospels.
II. Objection. It is objected, that the Apostles seldom make any direct claim to inspiration.
This is easily accounted for by the fact that their claims were already so abundantly established as to render the frequent assertion of their inspiration, not only unnecessary, but improper, inasmuch as it would have had the appearance, either of ostentation or of suspicion that their claim to inspiration was doubtful.
III. Objection. It is objected, that Paul, in some instances, seems to declare that he was not inspired.
1 Corinthians 7:10, 12, 25, 40. "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord." "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord."--"Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful." "And I think also that I have the Spirit of God." 2 Corinthians 8:8, 10, 11, 17. "I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love." --; "And herein I give my advice." --
Upon these passages I remark,
1. If Paul really intended to notify his readers that in these instances, he did not write under the influence of a divine inspiration, it greatly confirms the fact of his actual inspiration in all other cases. For why should he be so careful in these particular instances, to guard his readers against the supposition that he spoke by divine authority, if in other cases, he did not in fact do so.
2. But Paul might, and probably did mean nothing more in these instances than that the Lord had given no express command in respect to these particulars, as no universal rule in relation to such matters could be adopted in the then circumstances of the Church, and that he therefore, as an inspired Apostle, did not mean to give a command in the name of the Lord, but simply give his inspired advice as one who had the Spirit of the Lord.
3. In 2 Corinthians 11:17, he says, "That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting."
The Apostle seems here to have meant that he felt embarrassed by the circumstances under which they had placed him, and was constrained therefore to speak not after the example of the Lord, in respect to speaking in his own defence, but was obliged to speak as it were foolishly, as if he were a confident boaster. This does not imply that he did not consider himself inspired, but that his inspiration made it necessary under the circumstances, for him to say what might appear immodest, and as inconsistent with Christian humility.
1. The question of the inspiration of the Bible, is one of the highest importance to the Church and to the world.
2. The necessities of the Church plainly demand an authoritative, and unerring standard, to which they can appeal in all matters of faith and practice.
3. Those who have called in question the plenary inspiration of the Bible, have, sooner or later, frittered away nearly all that is essential to the christian religion.
4. Our faith in the divine inspiration of the Bible is so abundantly supported by evidence, that every Christian should be able to give a reason for his confidence in its inspiration.