For no prophecy was ever brought about through human initiative, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
I. THE BIBLE TEACHES MAN WHAT HE IS.
1. Everywhere in Scripture man is represented as a moral, spiritual, and accountable being. Other literature, properly enough, deals with man under other aspects of his nature - represents him as susceptible of emotions incidental to human relationships, as grief and joy, fear and hope; as capable of exertion, of self-denial, with a view to obtaining earthly objects. But every careful and discerning reader of Scripture feels that in every book of the volume human nature is depicted as moral, as affected, on the one hand, by temptation to a lower life, and, on the other hand, by stimulus and encouragement to a higher life; as capable of obedience and holiness, or of transgression and ungodliness. Never is man represented by the inspired writers as a mere animal, as a sentient nature moved, like the brutes, only by instinct and appetite. On the contrary, he is represented as akin to God, as dependent upon God, as responsible to God.
2. Everywhere in Scripture man is convicted of being sinful and guilty in character and habit. Such a state is, indeed, a violation of his original and proper nature; but the fact of human sinfulness cannot be concealed or palliated without injustice and flattery. It is this fact which accounts for very much of the contents of the sacred volume. This is the explanation of the Law, which is not for the righteous, but for sinners; and of the ceremonies and sacrifices of the old covenant, which symbolically set forth the impurity and depravity of man's heart and life. In this light we must read the history of the Hebrew nation, which occupies so large a part of the Old Testament. It is a record of Israel's faults, defections, and apostasy; and it is a record also of God's displeasure with sin, embodied in acts of chastisement, and especially in the afflictions which repeatedly befell the nation as a whole. Here, too, is the explanation of the fact that Scripture contains so many biographies of bad men, and of good men who have been tempted and have fallen into sin. The intention is to exhibit human frail, ties and errors, and to impress upon the mind of every reader the undeniable power and curse of sin. It would appear that the same purpose is subserved by the descriptions of the diseased and the demoniacs, which abound in the narratives of the evangelists.
II. THE BIBLE TEACHES MAN WHO GOD IS. The profound need and the pressing urgency and importance of such knowledge must be admitted by all, and are felt by those whose spiritual instincts are aroused to activity. And in nothing is the Bible more manifestly its own witness and evidence than in its incomparable and sublime revelation of God.
1. In Scripture the Personality of the living God pervades every book. Not only is there no pantheism and no polytheism; there is a pure and impressive theism throughout the sacred volume. Even those who deny to the Bible the character of a supernatural revelation, acknowledge the debt of humanity to the representation of monotheism given by the Hebrew prophets and apostles.
2. The righteous government and the holy character of the Eternal are set forth in the Bible, not only by means of statements, but by means of lessons conveyed in the form of history. His hatred of sin, in both private and public life, is effectively declared in his righteous judgments. His moral government is a great reality. In the Scriptures, the Divine Ruler is never exhibited as either indifferent to moral distinctions or capricious in his treatment of moral agents. None who acknowledges the authority of the Bible can expect to escape the eye or to evade the judgment of the righteous Governor.
3. God's interest in man, and his design for man's welfare, are portrayed in the Bible, as in no other professedly sacred and inspired book, and indeed as nowhere else in literature. From the opening pages of Genesis, where God is represented as walking and as speaking with men in the garden, down to the epoch of redemption, when "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us," the Scriptures are full of evidence of the Divine interest in man's welfare. Whilst exhibiting the majestic dignity of the Eternal, in such a way as to call forth our reverence, the sacred volume beyond anything else makes God near to us, and leads us to feel that he is round about us in all our ways.
4. Especially does the Bible impress upon the mind of the reader the redemptive purposes of the Supreme; it shows him to be man's Saviour. His character is set forth as compassionate and merciful, and he is represented as using the means to give effect to his gracious intentions towards sinful man.
(1) In the Old Testament history we have proofs of this, especially in the deliverance of Israel from the bondage in Egypt, and in the restoration of Israel from the captivity in the East. These great events were both manifestations of God's mercy towards a nation, and prophetic anticipations of the greater deliverance in the future.
(2) For the New Testament is undoubtedly the fulfillment of the Old. What was done politically for a people was in Christ done morally and actually for the race. The Gospels and Epistles set forth before us Jesus as the Son of God and as the Saviour of mankind. "He that hath seen me," said Christ, "hath seen the Father;" and this has respect, not simply to his peerless character, but also to the mighty power and to the gracious purposes to which the world is indebted for the temporal deliverance and for the eternal hope. - J.R.T.
No prophecy... is of any private interpretation.
(G. D'Oyly, D. D.)
Holy men of God spake as they were moved
I. THE INSPIRATION FROM GOD. It was not a vision of their own heads, but they "spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
1. Consider the infallible completion of things long before prophesied in their due seasons (1 Kings 13:2).
2. Consider that their being hath continued from Moses unto this day. This is miraculous — that in so great hurly-burlies and alterations they should not be lost!
3. That the scope of it should be to build up no worldly thing, but only the kingdom of heaven, and to direct us to Jesus Christ.
4. That it should pass with credit through the whole world, and find approbation of all languages, nations, and places, and where it meets with oppositions should make way through them as thunder through the clouds.
5. That the Hebrew tongue, wherein the Old Testament was written, doth so excel all tongues, in antiquity, sanctity, majesty.
6. The majesty of the style, which yet is not only powerful in words, but effectual in working (Hebrews 4:12).
7. From the very baseness of falsehood, we learn to admire the lustre of truth. To disgrace and weaken the credit of the Scriptures Satan had his poets and fabulists, whose mythologies were obtruded for true reports.
8. This is an argument of the finger of God and supernatural power in Holy Writ, that the penners of it renounced all affectation and delivered the true message even against then" own reputations.
II. THE CONSCRIPTION. Although not by the will of man, yet was it done by the hand of man.
1. "Men." Why did not God choose some other nature of greater authority and credit?(1) That no glory might be ascribed to the means (2 Corinthians 4:7).(2) In commiseration of man's weakness (Exodus 20:19).(3) For the security of our souls. If our preacher were an angel, Satan could transform himself into that shape.(4) In fit respondence to the work of our redemption (Acts 3:22).
2. "Men of God." This is an ancient attribute (1 Kings 17:18; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 3:17). But especially they are called men of God because their dispensation comes from God (1 Corinthians 2:13).
3. "Holy men." The Lord who sent them qualified them.
III. THE EXPOSITION, which is by no private spirit, but by the Holy Spirit's illumination of man's mind and directing the Church. He that expounds the Scripture upon the warrant of his own spirit only doth lay the brands of the fire together without the tongs, and is sure at least to burn his own fingers.
(A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)
I. Let us INQUIRE WHAT IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD BY THE INSPIRATION OF SUGGESTION. Some suppose there are three kinds of inspiration, which they distinguish from each other by calling the first the inspiration of superintendency, the second the inspiration of elevation, and the third the inspiration of suggestion.
1. It was necessary that the sacred penman should be conscious of Divine inspiration all the while they were writing. It was not sufficient for them barely to know that they began to write under the influence of the Spirit. For nothing short of a constant realising sense of His motion and direction, could give them full assurance that what they wrote was the infallible Word of God, which they might honestly present to the world under the sanction of Divine authority.
2. The Supreme Being was as able to afford them the highest as the lowest kind of inspiration.
3. That the sacred penmen were utterly incapable of writing such a book as the Bible without the constant guidance of the Holy Ghost.
4. To suppose that they sometimes wrote without the inspiration of suggestion, is the same as to suppose that they sometimes wrote without any inspiration at all. The distinguishing of inspiration into three kinds is a mere human invention, which has no foundation in Scripture or reason. And those who make this distinction appear to amuse themselves and others with words without ideas.
5. That the sacred penmen profess to have written the Scriptures under the immediate and constant guidance of the Holy Ghost.
II. It may be proper to take particular notice of THE MOST WEIGHTY OBJECTIONS WHICH MAY BE MADE AGAINST THE PLENARY INSPIRATION OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
1. It may be said there appears a great diversity in the manner and style of the sacred penmen, which cannot be easily reconciled with the supposition of their being equally and constantly guided by the inspiration of suggestion. It is true, indeed, we plainly discover some variety in the manner and style of the sacred writers. But this is easy to account for, by only supposing that God dictated to each sacred penman a manner and style corresponding to his own peculiar genius, education, and manner of living. But on the other hand, we find a much greater similarity in their manner and style than could be reasonably expected on supposition of their writing agreeably to their own genius and taste, without the suggesting influences of the Spirit.
2. It may be said that the mistakes and contradictions to be found in the Scriptures plainly refute the notion of their being written under the inspiration of suggestion. To this it may be replied in general, that most of the supposed mistakes and contradictions to be found in the Scriptures may be only apparent, and so might be fully removed, if we were better acquainted with the original languages in which the sacred books were written, and with the customs and manners of the different ages and places in which the sacred penmen lived. But the direct and decisive answer to this objection is that it operates with equal force against every kind of inspiration.
3. It may be said, since God originally intended that the Bible should be transcribed by different hands and translated into different languages, there was no occasion for His suggesting every thought and word to the sacred penmen; because, after all, their writings must be subject to human defects and imperfections. It is sufficient to observe here that every transcription and translation is commonly more or less perfect, in proportion to the greater or less perfection of the original. And since the Scriptures were designed to be often transcribed and translated, this made it more necessary, instead of less, that they should be written, at first, with peculiar accuracy and precision.
4. It may be said that the Apostle Paul seems to acknowledge, in 1 Corinthians 7., that he wrote some things in that chapter according to his own private opinion, without the aid or authority of a plenary inspiration. In one verse he says, "I speak this by permission, and not of commandment." And in another verse he says, "To the rest speak I, not the Lord." If we understand these expressions literally, then we must suppose that the apostle and all the other sacred penmen always wrote under a plenary inspiration, only when they gave intimations to the contrary. But we find no such notice given, except in the chapter under consideration; and therefore we may justly conclude that all the other parts of Scripture were written by the immediate inspiration of God. But if, in the second place, we understand the apostle as speaking ironically in the verses before us, then his expressions will carry no idea of his writing without Divine aid and authority. And there is some ground to understand his words in this sense. There is, how ever, a third answer to this objection, which appears to be the most satisfactory; and that is this: the apostle is here speaking upon the subject of marriage; and he intimates that he has more to say upon this subject than either the prophets or Christ had said upon it. Accordingly he says, "I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. To the rest speak I, not the Lord." By these expressions he means to distinguish what he said from what other inspired teachers had said upon the same subject. On the whole there appears no solid objection against the plenary inspiration of any part of the Sacred Scriptures; but, on the other hand, every argument which proves them to be partly, equally proves them to be altogether, given by the immediate inspiration of God. Improvement:
1. If the Bible contains the very ideas and sentiments which were immediately suggested to the sacred pen men by the Divine Spirit, then great caution and circumspection ought to be used in explaining Scripture. The words of Scripture may not be lightly altered, nor expunged, nor supplied, nor wrested from their plain and obvious meaning according to the connection in which they stand.
2. If the Divine Spirit suggested every word and thought to the holy pemnen, then it is not strange that they did not understand their own writings. These the apostle tells us, in our context, they did not under stand. They might, by the aid of the Spirit, write precepts, predictions, promises, and theatenings, of whose import they were ignorant, that would be very intelligible and very useful in future ages. They wrote not for themselves, but for others; not for present, but future times. And this affords an additional evidence of the plenary inspiration of all the sacred writings.
3. If the Bible was written under the inspiration of suggestion, then it is an infallible rule of faith, and the only standard by which to try our religious sentiments.
4. If holy men of old wrote as they were moved by God, then it is reasonable to expect that the Bible should bear clear and strong marks of its Divine author. Accordingly, when we look into the Bible, we find the image and superscription of the Deity on every page. It displays all the perfections of God.
5. If the Bible be the immediate revelation of God's mind and will to men, then it is a most precious book.
6. If the Bible contains the mind and will of God, then all who enjoy it may know in this world what will be their state in the next. It clearly describes both heaven and hell, and the terms upon which we may obtain the one and escape the other.
7. If the Bible be indeed the Word of God, then it is not strange that it has had such a great influence over the minds of men.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)— "Men spake — from God" (R.V.). It is a definition of inspiration. A definition simple, precise, exhaustive. "Men spoke" — spoke, without ceasing to be men; spoke with all those characteristics of phrase and style, of thought and mind, of position and history which mark and make the man; yet "spoke from God," with a message and mission, under an influence and an impulse, a control and a suggestion, which gave to the word spoken a force and a fire, a touch and a contact, a sight and an insight, unlike other utterances because of a breath of God in it, the God of the spirits of all flesh. "Men spake." "Human beings," St. Peter says — the "men" is emphatic. Shall we blame those who, first of all, would ask, Who? would busy themselves in the endeavour, by examination and comparison, to learn what can be learnt of the authorship of particular books; and would then go on to ask, What? in other words, to bring every appliance, of manuscript and version and ancient quotation, to bear upon the text of Scripture. Inquiries like these are only for the learned. But let us, who can but look on or listen, at least refrain from denunciations of a process for which we ought to have the deepest respect. Men spake. And does not St. Peter as good as say, And remained men in the speaking? Where is the authority for supposing that the inspiring Spirit levelled the intellects, obliterated the characteristics, overwhelmed the peculiarities, of the several writers? Men spake. And one of them has told us how. By a careful investigation of various writings going before, and an earnest endeavour to arrange in their true order the facts of the history which he was to chronicle. Men spake — and men wrote — and they were men still. Matters which toil and pains could ascertain — matters which lay in the province of intellect, whether in the way of research or in the way of discovery — matters for which God had provided the instrument of knowledge in the human being as by Him created, even though ages and generations might come and go before the actual knowledge was made his own — on these things inspiration was silent. Men spake, and in speaking were men still. Even their message, even the thing they were sent to tell, must be expressed in terms of human speech, through a medium therefore of adaptation and accommodation, Men spake — from God. "Moved by the Holy Ghost." The two halves of the text are dependent upon each other. Not angels — or they had no sympathetic, no audible voice for man. Not machines — or speech (which is, by definition, intelligence in communication) had been a contradiction in terms. These human beings spake from God; for He had something to say, and to say to man. There is something which God only can say. There is something which reason cannot say, nor experience, nor discovery, nor the deepest insight, nor the happiest guessing, nor the most sagacious foresight. There is a world of heaven, which flesh and blood cannot penetrate. There is a world of spirit, impervious even to mind. There is a world beyond death, between which and the living there is an impassable gulf fixed. More than this — there is a world of cause and consequence, which no moralist can connect or piece together. There is a world of providence, which gives no account of itself to the observer. More yet than this. There is a fact of sin, inherited and handed on, working everywhere in hearts and lives, spoiling God's work and ruining man's welfare. Who can tell, concerning this, whether indeed there is any recovery from this deep, this terrible, this fatal fall? And yet man needs to hear of these things. And confess now, you who have gone with us thus far, how utterly beside the mark of such a work as this would have been an inspiration of science, or an inspiration of geography, or an inspiration of history, or an inspiration of geology, astronomy, botany, or chemistry. Men spake, and they spake from God. He had that to tell which men by searching could not find out. He set this human being to tell it to his fellows. But oh, trust God to do the right thing! Do not mistrust Him, and summon Him to the bar of your poor intellect every time that you cannot quite see what He was about. How can you account for a slaughter of twenty thousand men in one tiny battlefield in Beth-horon or on Mount Ephraim? how can you explain the dumb ass speaking with man's voice, and Samuel coming up again at the bidding of the witch of Endor, etc. Say, if you are wise, with the three Israelites to King Nebuchadnezzar, "I am not careful to answer thee in this matter." Men spake — and, while they spake, they were men still. But they spake from God — and what they said from Him was truth and nothing but truth, and in it, thus spoken, is the very light of my life. Never will I part with that light till I reach a world which no longer wants it, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the light thereof.
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