Inspiration of the Bible -- Definition, Extent and Proof*
by Rev. James M. Gray, D.D.
In this paper the authenticity and credibility of the Bible are
assumed, by which is meant (1), that its books were written by the
authors to whom they are ascribed, and that their contents are in all
material points as when they came from their hands; and (2), that those
contents are worthy of entire acceptance as to their statements of
fact. Were there need to prove these assumptions, the evidence is
abundant, and abler pens have dealt with it.
Let it not be supposed, however, that because these things are assumed
their relative importance is undervalued. On the contrary, they
underlie inspiration, and, as President Patton says, come in on the
ground floor. They have to do with the historicity of the Bible, which
for us just now is the basis of its authority. Nothing can be settled
until this is settled, but admitting its settlement which, all things
considered, we now may be permitted to do, what can be of deeper
interest than the question as to how far that authority extends?
This is the inspiration question, and while so many have taken in hand
to discuss the others, may not one be at liberty to discuss this? It is
an old question, so old, indeed, as again in the usual recurrence of
thought to have become new. Our fathers discussed it, it was the great
question once upon a time, it was sifted to the bottom, and a great
storehouse of fact, and argument, and illustration has been left for us
to draw upon in a day of need.
For a long while the enemy's attack has directed our energies to
another part of the field, but victory there will drive us back here
again. The other questions are outside of the Bible itself, this is
inside. They lead men away from the contents of the book to consider
how they came, this brings us back to consider what they are. Happy the
day when the inquiry returns here, and happy the generation which has
not forgotten how to meet it.
I. DEFINITION OF INSPIRATION
1. Inspiration is not revelation. As Dr. Charles Hodge expressed it,
revelation is the act of communicating divine knowledge to the mind,
but inspiration is the act of the same Spirit controlling those who
make that knowledge known to others. In Chalmer's happy phrase, the one
is the influx, the other the efflux. Abraham received the influx, he
was granted a revelation; but Moses was endued with the efflux, being
inspired to record it for our learning. In the one case there was a
flowing in and in the other a flowing out. Sometimes both of these
experiences met in the same person, indeed Moses himself is an
illustration of it, having received a revelation at another time and
also the inspiration to make it known, but it is of importance to
distinguish between the two.
2. Inspiration is not illumination. Every regenerated Christian is
illuminated in the simple fact that he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit,
but every such an one is not also inspired, but only the writers of the
Old and New Testaments. Spiritual illumination is subject to degrees,
some Chrisitans possessing more of it than others, but, as we
understand it, inspiration is not subject to degrees, being in every
case the breath of God, expressing itself through a human personality.
3. Inspiration is not human genius. The latter is simply a natural
qualification, however exalted it may be in some cases, but inspiration
in the sense now spoken of is supernatural throughout. It is an
enduement coming upon the writers of the Old and New Testaments
directing and enabling them to write those books, and on no other men,
and at no other time, and for no other purpose. No human genius of whom
we ever heard introduced his writings with the formula, "Thus saith the
Lord," or words to that effect, and yet such is the common utterance of
the Bible authors. No human genius ever yet agreed with any other human
genius as to the things it most concerns men to know, and, therefore,
however exalted his equipment, it differs not merely in degree but in
kind from the inspiration of the Scriptures.
In its mode the divine agency is inscrutable, though its effects are
knowable. We do not undertake to say just how the Holy Spirit operated
on the minds of these authors to produce these books any more than we
undertake to say how He operates on the human heart to produce
conversion, but we accept the one as we do the other on the testimony
that appeals to faith.
4. When we speak of the Holy Spirit coming upon the men in order to the
composition of the books, it should be further understood that the
object is not the inspiration of the men but the books --
not the writers but the writings. It terminates upon the
record, in other words, and not upon the human instrument who made it.
To illustrate: Moses, David, Paul, John, were not always and everywhere
inspired, for then always and everywhere they would have been
infallible and inerrant, which was not the case. They sometimes made
mistakes in thought and erred in conduct. But however fallible and
errant they may have been as men compassed with infirmity like
ourselves, such fallibility or errancy was never under any
circumstances communicated to their sacred writings.
Ecclesiastes is a case in point, which on the supposition of its
Solomonic authorship, is giving us a history of his search for
happiness "under the sun." Some statements in that book are only
partially true while others are altogether false, therefore it cannot
mean that Solomon was inspired as he tried this or that experiment to
find what no man has been able to find outside of God. But it means
that his language is inspired as he records the various feelings and
opinions which possessed him in the pursuit.
This disposes of a large class of objections sometimes brought against
the doctrine of inspiration -- those, for
example, associated with the question as to whether the Bible is the
Word of God or only contains that Word. If by the former be meant that
God spake every word in the Bible, and hence that every word is true,
the answer must be no; but if it be meant that God caused every word in
the Bible, true or false, to be recorded, the answer should be yes.
There are words of Satan in the Bible, words of false prophets, words
of the enemies of Christ, and yet they are God's words, not in the
sense that He uttered them, but that He caused them to be recorded,
infallibly and inerrantly recorded, for our profit. In this sense the
Bible does not merely contain the Word of God, it is the Word of God.
Of any merely human author it is the same. This paper is the writer's
word throughout, and yet he may quote what other people say to commend
them or dispute them. What they say he records, and in doing so he
makes the record his in the sense that he is responsible for its
5. Let it be stated further in this defnitional connection, that the
record for whose inspiration we contend is the original
record -- the autographs or parchments of Moses,
David, Daniel, Matthew, Paul or Peter, as the case may be, and not any
particular translation or translations of them whatever. There is no
translation absolutely without error, nor could there be, considering
the infirmities of human copyists, unless God were pleased to perform a
perpetual miracle to secure it.
But does this make nugatory our contention? Some would say it does, and
they would argue speciously that to insist on the inerrancy of a
parchment no living being has ever seen is an academic question merely,
and without value. But do they not fail to see that the character and
perfection of the God-head are involved in that inerrancy?
Some years ago a "liberal" theologian, deprecating this discussion as
not worth while, remarked that it was a matter of small consequence
whether a pair of trousers were originally perfect if they were now
rent. To which the valiant and witty David James Burrell replied, that
it might be a matter of small consequence to the wearer of the
trousers, but the tailor who made them would prefer to have it
understood that they did not leave his shop that way. And then he
added, that if the Most High must train among knights of the shears He
might at least be regarded as the best of the guild, and One who drops
no stitches and sends out no imperfect work.
Is it not with the written Word as with the incarnate Word? Is Jesus
Christ to be regarded as imperfect because His character has never been
perfectly reproduced before us? Can He be the incarnate Word unless He
were absolutely without sin? And by the same token, can the scriptures
be the written Word unless they were inerrant?
But if this question be so purely speculative and valueless, what
becomes of the science of Biblical criticism by which properly we set
such store today? Do builders drive piles into the soft earth if they
never expect to touch bottom? Do scholars dispute about the scripture
text and minutely examine the history and meaning of single words, "the
delicate coloring of mood, tense and accent," if at the end there is no
approximation to an absolute? As Dr. George H. Bishop says, does not
our concordance, every time we take it up, speak loudly to us of a once
inerrant parchment? Why do we not possess concordances for the very
words of other books?
Nor is that original parchment so remote a thing as some suppose. Do
not the number and variety of manuscripts and versions extant render it
comparatively easy to arrive at a knowledge of its text, and does not
competent scholarship today affirm that as to the New Testament at
least, we have in 999 cases out of every thousand the very word of that
original text? Let candid consideration be given to these things and it
will be seen that we are not pursuing a phantom in contending for an
inspired autograph of the Bible.
II. EXTENT OF INSPIRATION
1. The inspiration of scripture includes the whole and every part of
it. There are some who deny this and limit it to only the prophetic
portions, the words of Jesus Christ, and, say, the profounder spiritual
teachings of the epistles. The historical books in their judgment, and
as an example, do not require inspiration because their data were
obtainable from natural sources.
The Bible itself, however, knows of no limitations, as we shall see:
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God." The historical data,
most of it at least, might have been obtained from natural sources, but
what about the supernatural guidance required in their selection and
narration? Compare, for answer, the records of creation, the fall, the
deluge, etc., found in Genesis with those recently discovered by
excavations in Bible lands. Do not the results of the pick-axe and the
spade point to the same original as the Bible, and yet do not their
childishness and grotesqueness often bear evidence of the human and
sinful mould through which they ran? Do they not show the need of some
power other than man himself to lead him out of the labyrinth of error
into the open ground of truth?
Furthermore, are not the historical books in some respects the most
important in the Bible? Are they not the bases of its doctrine? Does
not the doctrine of sin need for its starting point the record of the
fall? Could we so satisfactorily understand justification did we not
have the story of God's dealings with Abraham? And what of the
priesthood of Christ? Dismiss Leviticus and what can be made of
Hebrews? Is not the Acts of the Apostles historical, but can we afford
to lose its inspiration ?
And then, too, the historical books are, in many cases, prophetical as
well as historical. Do not the types and symbols in them show forth the
Saviour in all the varying aspects of His grace? Has not the story of
Israel the closest relation as type and anti-type to our spiritual
redemption? Does not Paul teach this in 1 Cor., 10:6-11? And if these
things were thus written for our learning, does not this imply their
Indeed, the historical books have the strongest testimony borne to
their importance in other parts of the Bible. This will appear more
particularly as we proceed, but take, in passing, Christ's use of
Deuteronomy in His conflict with the tempter. Thrice does He overcome
him by a citation from that historical book without note or comment. Is
it not difficult to believe that neither He nor Satan considered it
Thus without going further, we may say, with Dr. DeWitt of Princeton,
that it is impossible to secure the religious infalliability of the
Bible -- which is all the objector regards as
necessary -- if we exclude Bible history from
the sphere of its inspiration. But if we include Bible history at all,
we must include the whole of it, for who is competent to separate its
2. The inspiration includes not only all the books of the Bible in
general but in detail, the form as well as the substance, the word as
well as the thought. This is sometimes called the verbal theory of
inspiration and is vehemently spoken against in some quarters. It is
too mechanical, it degrades the writers to the level of machines, it
has a tendency to make skeptics, and all that.
This last remark, however, is not so alarming as it sounds. The
doctrine of the eternal retribution of the wicked is said to make
skeptics, and also that of a vicarious atonement, not to mention other
revelations of Holy Writ. The natural mind takes to none of these
things. But if we are not prepared to yield the point in one case for
such a reason, why should we be asked to do it in another?
And as to degrading the writers to the level of machines, even if it
were true, as it is not, why should fault be found when one considers
the result? Which is the more important, the free agency of a score or
two of mortals, or the divinity of their message? The whole argument is
just a spark from the anvil on which the race is ever trying to hammer
out the deification of itself.
But we are insisting upon no theory -- not even
the verbal theory -- if it altogether excludes
the human element in the transmission of the sacred word. As Dr. Henry
B. Smith says, "God speaks through the personality as well as the lips
of His messengers," and we may pour into that word "personality"
everything that goes to make it -- the age in
which the person lived, his environment, his degree of culture, his
temperament and all the rest. As Wayland Hoyt expressed it,
"Inspiration is not a mechanical, crass, bald compulsion of the sacred
writers, but rather a dynamic, divine influence over their
freely-acting faculties" in order that the latter in relation to the
subject-matter then in hand may be kept inerrant, i. e., without
mistake or fault. It is limiting the Holy One of Israel to say that He
is unable to do this without turning a human being into an automaton.
Has He who created man as a free agent left himself no opportunity to
mould his thoughts into forms of speech inerrantly expressive of His
will, without destroying that which He has made?
And, indeed, wherein resides man's free agency, in his mind or in his
mouth? Shall we say he is free while God controls his thought, but that
he becomes a mere machine when that control extends to the expression
of his thought?
But returning to the argument, if the divine influence upon the writers
did not extend to the form as well as the substance of their writings;
if, in other words, God gave them only the thought, permitting them to
express it in their own words, what guarantee have we that they have
An illustration the writer has frequently used will help to make this
clear. A stenographer in a mercantile house was asked by his employer
to write as follows:
"Gentlemen: We misunderstood your letter and will now fill your order."
Imagine the employer's surprise, however, when a little later this was
set before him for his signature:
"Gentlemen: We misunderstood your letter and will not fill your order."
The mistake was only of a single letter, but it was entirely subversive
of his meaning. And yet the thought was given clearly to the
stenographer, and the words, too, for that matter. Moreover, the latter
was capable and faithful, but he was human, and it is human to err. Had
not his employer controlled his expression down to the very letter, the
thought intended to be conveyed would have failed of utterance.
In the same way the human authors of the Bible were men of like
passions with ourselves. Their motives were pure, their intentions
good, but even if their subject-matter were the commonplaces of men, to
say nothing of the mysterious and transcendent revelation of a holy
God, how could it be an absolute transcript of the mind from which it
came in the absence of miraculous control?
In the last analysis, it is the Bible itself, of course, which must
settle the question of its inspiration and the extent of it, and to
this we come in the consideration of the proof, but we may be allowed a
final question. Can even God Himself give a thought to man without the
words that clothe it? Are not the two inseparable, as much so "as a sum
and its figures, or a tune and its notes?" Has any case been known in
human history where a healthy mind has been able to create ideas
without expressing them to its own perception? In other words, as Dr.
A. J. Gordon once observed: "To deny that the Holy Spirit speaks in
scripture is an intelligible proposition, but to admit that He speaks,
it is impossible to know what He says except as we have His Words."
III. PROOF OF INSPIRATION
1. The inspiration of the Bible is proven by the philosophy, or what
may be called the nature of the case.
The proposition may be stated thus: The Bible is the history of the
redemption of the race, or from the side of the individual, a
supernatural revelation of the will of God to men for their salvation.
But it was given to certain men of one age to be conveyed in writing to
other men in different ages. Now all men experience difficulty in
giving faithful reflections of their thoughts to others because of sin,
ignorance, defective memory and the inaccuracy always incident to the
use of language.
Therefore it may be easily deduced that if the revelation is to be
communicated precisely as originally received, the same supernatural
power is required in the one case as in the other. This has been
sufficiently elaborated in the foregoing and need not be dwelt upon
2. It may be proven by the history and character of the Bible, i. e.,
by all that has been assumed as to its authenticity and credibility.
All that goes to prove these things goes to prove its inspiration.
To borrow in part, the language of the Westminster Confession, "the
heavenliness of its matter, the efficacy of its doctrine, the unity of
its various parts, the majesty of its style and the scope and
completeness of its design" all indicate the divinity of its origin.
The more we think upon it the more we must be convinced that men
unaided by the Spirit of God could neither have conceived, nor put
together, nor preserved in its integrity that precious deposit known as
the Sacred Oracles.
3. But the strongest proof is the declarations of the Bible itself and
the inferences to be drawn from them. Nor is this reasoning in a circle
as some might think. In the case of a man as to whose veracity there is
no doubt, no hesitancy is felt in accepting what he says about himself;
and since the Bible is demonstrated to be true in its statements of
fact by unassailable evidence, may we not accept its witness in its own
Take the argument from Jesus Christ as an illustration. He was content
to be tested by the prophecies that went before on Him, and the result
of that ordeal was the establishment of His claims to be the Messiah
beyond a peradventure. That complex system of prophecies, rendering
collusion or counterfeit impossible, is the incontestable proof that He
was what He claimed to be. But of course, He in whose birth, and life,
and death, and resurrection such marvelous prophecies met their
fulfilment, became, from the hour in which His claims were established,
a witness to the divine authority and infallible truth of the sacred
records in which these prophecies are found. --
(The New Apologetic, by Professor Robert Watts, D. D.)
It is so with the Bible. The character of its contents, the unity of
its parts, the fulfilment of its prophecies, the miracles wrought in
its attestation, the effects it has accomplished in the lives of
nations and of men, all these go to show that it is divine, and if so,
that it may be believed in what it says about itself.
A. ARGUMENT FOR THE OLD TESTAMENT
To begin with the Old Testament, (a) consider how the writers speak of
the origin of their messages. Dr. James H. Brookes is authority for
saying that the phrase, "Thus saith the Lord" or its equivalent is used
by them 2,000 times. Suppose we eliminate this phrase and its necessary
context from the Old Testament in every instance, one wonders how much
of the Old Testament would remain.
(b) Consider how the utterances of the Old Testament writers are
introduced into the New. Take Matthew 1:22 as an illustration, "Now all
this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord
through the prophet." It was not the prophet who spake, but the Lord
who spake through the prophet.
(c) Consider how Christ and His apostles regard the Old Testament. He
came "not to destroy but to fulfill the law and the prophets." Matt.
5:17. "The Scripture cannot be broken." John 10:35. He sometimes used
single words as the bases of important doctrines, twice in Matthew 22,
at verses 31, 32 and 42-45. The apostles do the same. See Galatians
3:16, Hebrews 2:8, 11 and 12:26, 27.
(d) Consider what the apostles directly teach upon the subject. Peter
tells us that "No prophecy ever came by the will of man, but men spake
from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21, R. V.).
"Prophecy" here applies to the word written as is indicated in the
preceding verse, and means not merely the foretelling of events, but
the utterances of any word of God without reference as to time past,
present or to come. As a matter of fact, what Peter declares is that
the will of man had nothing to do with any part of the Old Testament,
but that the whole of it, from Genesis to Malachi, was inspired by God.
Of course Paul says the same, in language even plainer, in 2 Timothy
3:16, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is
profitable." The phrase "inspiration of God" means literally
God-breathed. The whole of the Old Testament is God-breathed, for it is
to that part of the Bible the language particularly refers, since the
New Testament as such was not then generally known.
As this verse is given somewhat differently in the Revised Version we
dwell upon it a moment longer. It there reads, "Every scripture
inspired of God is also profitable," and the caviller is disposed to
say that therefore some scripture may be inspired and some may not be,
and that the profitableness extends only to the former and not the
But aside from the fact that Paul would hardly be guilty of such a weak
truism as that, it may be stated in reply first, that the King James
rendering of the passage is not only the more consistent scripture, but
the more consistent Greek. Several of the best Greek scholars of the
period affirm this, including some of the revisers themselves who did
not vote for the change. And secondly, even the revisers place it in
the margin as of practically equal authority with their preferred
translation, and to be chosen by the reader if desired. There are not a
few devout Christians, however, who would be willing to retain the
rendering of the Revised Version as being stronger than the King James,
and who would interpolate a word in applying it to make it mean, "Every
scripture (because) inspired of God is also profitable." We believe
that both Gaussen and Wordsworth take this view, two as staunch
defenders of plenary inspiration as could be named.
B. ARGUMENT FOR THE NEW TESTAMENT
We are sometimes reminded that, however strong and convincing the
argument for the inspiration of the Old Testament, that for the New
Testament is only indirect. "Not one of the evangelists tells us that
he is inspired," says a certain theological professor, "and not one
writer of an epistle, except Paul."
We shall be prepared to dispute this statement a little further, but in
the meantime let us reflect that the inspiration of the Old Testament
being assured as it is, why should similar evidence be required for the
New? Whoever is competent to speak as a Bible authority knows that the
unity of the Old and New Testaments is the strongest demonstration of
their common source. They are seen to be not two books, but only two
parts of one book.
To take then the analogy of the Old Testament. The foregoing argument
proves its inspiration as a whole, although there were long periods
separating the different writers, Moses and David let us say, or David
and Daniel, the Pentateuch and the Psalms, or the Psalms and the
Prophets. As long, or longer, than between Malachi and Matthew, or Ezra
and the Gospels. If then to carry conviction for the plenary
inspiration of the Old Testament as a whole, it is not necessary to
prove it for every book, why, to carry conviction for the plenary
inspiration of the Bible as a whole is it necessary to do the same?
We quote here a paragraph or two from Dr. Nathaniel West. He is
referring to 2 Timothy 3:16, which he renders, "Every scripture is
inspired of God," and adds:
"The distributive word 'Every' is used not only to particularize each
individual scripture of the Canon that Timothy had studied from his
youth, but also to include, along with the Old Testament the New
Testament scriptures extant in Paul's day, and any others, such as
those that John wrote after him.
"The Apostle Peter tells us that he was in possession, not merely of
some of Paul's Epistles, but 'all his Epistles,' and places them,
canonically, in the same rank with what he calls 'the other
scriptures,' i. e., of equal inspiration and authority with the 'words
spoken before by the Holy Prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and
Savior, through the Apostles.' 2 Peter 3:2, 16.
"Paul teaches the same co-ordination of the Old and New Testaments.
Having referred to the Old as a unit, in his phrase 'Holy Scriptures,'
which the revisers translate 'Sacred Writings,' he proceeds to
particularize. He tells Timothy that 'every scripture,' whether of Old
or New Testament production, 'is inspired of God.' Let it be in the
Pentateuch, the Psalms, the Prophets, the Historical Books, let it be a
chapter or a verse; let it be in the Gospels, the Acts, his own or
Peter's Epistles, or even John's writings, yet to be, still each part
of the Sacred Collection is God-given and because of that possesses
divine authority as part of the Book of God."
We read this from Dr. West twenty years ago, and rejected it as his
dictum. We read it today, with deeper and fuller knowledge of the
subject, and we believe it to be true.
It is somewhat as follows that Dr. Gaussen in his exhaustive
"Theopneustia" gives the argument for the inspiration of the New
(a) The New Testament is the later, and for that reason the more
important revelation of the two, and hence if the former were inspired,
it certainly must be true of the latter. The opening verses of the
first and second chapters of Hebrews plainly suggest this: "God, who at
sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers
by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son * *
* Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which
we have heard."
And this inference is rendered still more conclusive by the
circumstance that the New Testament sometimes explains, sometimes
proves, and sometimes even repeals ordinances of the Old Testament. See
Matthew 1:22, 23 for an illustration of the first, Acts 13:19 to 39 for
the second and Galatians 5:6 for the third. Assuredly these things
would not be true if the New Testament were not of equal, and in a
certain sense, even greater authority than the Old.
(b) The writers of the New Testament were of an equal or higher rank
than those of the Old. That they were prophets is evident from such
allusions as Romans 16:25-27, and Ephesians 3:4, 5. But that they were
more than prophets is indicated in the fact that wherever in the New
Testament prophets and apostles are both mentioned, the last-named is
always mentioned first (see 1 Cor. 12:28, Ephesians 2:20, Ephesians
4:11). It is also true that the writers of the New Testament had a
higher mission than those of the Old, since they were sent forth by
Christ, as he had been sent forth by the Father (John 20:21 ) . They
were to go, not to a single nation only (as Israel), but into all the
world (Matthew 28:19). They received the keys of the kingdom of heaven
(Matthew 16:19). And they are to be pre-eminently rewarded in the
regeneration (Matthew 19:28). Such considerations and comparisons as
these are not to be overlooked in estimating the authority by which
(c) The writers of the New Testament were especially qualified for
their work, as we see in Matthew 10:19, 20, Mark 13:11, Luke 12:2, John
14:26 and John 16:13, 14. These passages will be dwelt on more at
length in a later division of our subject, but just now it may be
noticed that in some of the instances, inspiration of the most absolute
character was promised as to what they should speak --
the inference being warranted that none the less would
they be guided in what they wrote. Their spoken words were limited and
temporary in their sphere, but their written utterances covered the
whole range of revelation and were to last forever. If in the one case
they were inspired, how much more in the other?
(d) The writers of the New Testament directly claim divine inspiration.
See Acts 15:23-29, where, especially at verse 28, James is recorded as
saying, "for it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, to lay upon
you no greater burden than these necessary things." Here it is affirmed
very clearly that the Holy Ghost is the real writer of the letter in
question and simply using the human instruments for his purpose. Add to
this 1 Corinthians 2:13, where Paul says: "Which things also we speak,
not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost
teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual," or as the margin
of the Revised Version puts it, "imparting spiritual things to
spiritual men." In 1 Thessalonians 2:13 the same writer says: "For this
cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the
word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of
man, but as it is in truth the word of God." In 2 Peter 3:2 the apostle
places his own words on a level with those of the prophets of the Old
Testament, and in verses 15 and 16 of the same chapter he does the same
with the writings of Paul, classifying them "with the other
scriptures." Finally, in Revelation 2:7, although it is the Apostle
John who is writing, he is authorized to exclaim: "He that hath an ear
let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches," and so on
throughout the epistles to the seven churches.
C. ARGUMENT FOR THE WORDS
The evidence that the inspiration includes the form as well as the
substance of the Holy Scriptures, the word as well as the thought, may
be gathered in this way.
1. There were certainly some occasions when the words were given to the
human agents. Take the instance of Balaam (Numbers 22:38, 23:12, 16).
It is clear that this self-seeking prophet thought, i. e., desired to
speak differently from what he did, but was obliged to speak the word
that God put in his mouth. There are two incontrovertible witnesses to
this, one being Balaam himself and the other God.
Take Saul (1 Samuel 10:10), or at a later time, his messengers
(19:20-24). No one will claim that there was not an inspiration of the
words here. And Caiaphas also (John 11:49-52), of whom it is expressly
said that when he prophesied that one man should die for the people,
"this spake he not of himself." Who believes that Caiaphas meant or
really knew the significance of what he said?
And how entirely this harmonizes with Christ's promise to His disciples
in Matthew 10:19, 20 and elsewhere. "When they deliver you up take no
thought (be not anxious) how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be
given you in that hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak
but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you." Mark is even more
emphatic: "Neither do ye premeditate, but whatsoever shall be given you
in that hour, that speak ye, for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy
Take the circumstance of the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4-11), when the
disciples "began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them
utterance." Parthians, Medes, Elamites, the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in
Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, in the
parts of Libya about Cyrene, the strangers of Rome, Cretes and Arabians
all testified, "we do here them speak in our tongues the wonderful
works of God!" Did not this inspiration include the words? Did it not
indeed exclude the thought? What clearer example could be desired?
To the same purport consider Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 14 about
the gift of tongues. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue, in the
Spirit speaketh mysteries, but no man understandeth him, therefore he
is to pray that he may interpret. Under some circumstances, if no
interpreter be present, he is to keep silence in the church and speak
only to himself and to God.
But better still, consider the utterance of 1 Peter 1:10, 11, where he
speaks of them who prophesied of the grace that should come, as
"searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was
in them did signify when He testified beforehand the sufferings of
Christ and the glory that should follow, to whom it was revealed," etc.
"Should we see a student who, having taken down the lecture of a
profound philosopher, was now studying diligently to comprehend the
sense of the discourse which he had written, we should understand
simply that he was a pupil and not a master; that he had nothing to do
with originating either the thoughts or the words of the lecture, but
was rather a disciple whose province it was to understand what he had
transcribed, and so be able to communicate it to others.
"And who can deny that this is the exact picture of what we have in
this passage from Peter? Here were inspired writers studying the
meaning of what they themselves had written. With all possible
allowance for the human peculiarities of the writers, they must have
been reporters of what they heard, rather than formulators of that
which they had been made to understand." -- A.
J. Gordon in "The Ministry of the Spirit," pp. 173, 174.
2. The Bible plainly teaches that inspiration extends to its words. We
spoke of Balaam as uttering that which God put in his mouth, but the
same expression is used by God Himself with reference to His prophets.
When Moses would excuse himself from service because he was not
eloquent, He who made man's mouth said, "Now therefore go, and I will
be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say" (Exodus
4:10-12). And Dr. James H. Brookes' comment is very pertinent. "God did
not say I will be with thy mind, and teach thee what thou shalt think;
but I will be with thy mouth and teach thee what thou shalt say. This
explains why, forty years afterwards, Moses said to Israel, 'Ye shall
not add unto the word I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought
from it.' (Deut. 4:2.)" Seven times Moses tells us that the tables of
stone containing the commandments were the work of God, and the writing
was the writing of God, graven upon the tables (Exodus 31:16).
Passing from the Pentateuch to the poetical books we find David saying,
"The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue" (2
Samuel 23:1, 2). He, too, does not say, God thought by me, but spake by
Coming to the prophets, Jeremiah confesses that, like Moses, he
recoiled from the mission on which he was sent and for the same reason.
He was a child and could not speak. "Then the Lord put forth His hand
and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold I have put My
word in thy mouth" (Jeremiah 1:6-9).
All of which substantiates the declaration of Peter quoted earlier,
that "no prophecy ever came by the will of man, but man spake from God,
being moved by the Holy Spirit." Surely, if the will of man had nothing
to do with the prophecy, he could not have been at liberty in the
selection of the words.
So much for the Old Testament, but when we reach the New, we have the
same unerring and verbal accuracy guaranteed to the apostles by the Son
of God, as we have seen. And we have the apostles making claim of it,
as when Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:12, 13 distinguishes between the
"things" or the thoughts which God gave him and the words in which he
expressed them, and insisting on the divinity of both; "Which things
also we speak," he says, "not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth,
but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." In Galatians 3:16, following the
example of His divine Master, he employs not merely a single word, but
a single letter of a word as the basis of an argument for a great
doctrine. The blessing of justification which Abraham received has
become that of the believer in Jesus Christ. "Now to Abraham and his
seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many;
but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ."
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews bases a similar argument on
the word "all" in chapter 1:8, on the word "one" in 1:11, and on the
phrase "yet once more" in 12:26, 27.
To recur to Paul's argument in Galatians, Archdeacon Farrar in one of
his writings denies that by any possibility such a Hebraist as he, and
such a master of Greek usage could have argued in this way. He says
Paul must have known that the plural of the Hebrew and Greek terms for
"seed" is never used by Hebrew or Greek writers to designate human
offspring. It means, he says, various kinds of grain.
His artlessness is amusing. We accept his estimate of Paul's knowledge
of Hebrew and Greek, says Professor Watts, he was certainly a Hebrew of
the Hebrews, and as to his Greek he could not only write it but speak
it as we know, and quote what suited his purpose from the Greek poets.
But on this supposition we feel justified in asking Dr. Farrar whether
a lexicographer in searching Greek authors for the meanings they
attached to spèrmata, the Greek for "seeds," would not be
inclined to add "human offspring" on so good an authority as Paul?
Nor indeed would they be limited to his authority, since Sophocles uses
it in the same way, and Aeschylus. "I was driven away from my country
by my own offspring" (spèrmata) --
literally by my own seeds, is what the former makes one of his
Dr. Farrar's rendering of spèrmata in Galatians 3:16 on the
other hand would make nonsense if not sacrilege. "He saith not unto
various kinds of grain as of many, but as of one, and to thy grain,
which is Christ."
"Granting then, what we thank no man for granting, that spèrmata
means human offspring, it is evident that despite all opinions to the
contrary, this passage sustains the teaching of an inspiration of Holy
Writ extending to its very words."
3. But the most unique argument for the inspiration of the words of
scripture is the relation which Jesus Christ bears to them. In the
first place, He Himself was inspired as to His words. In the earliest
reference to His prophetic office (Deut. 18:18), Jehovah says, "I will
put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak * * * all that I shall
command Him." A limitation on His utterance which Jesus everywhere
recognizes. "As My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things;" "the
Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment what I should say, and
what I should speak;" "whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father
said unto Me, so I speak;" "I have given unto them the words which Thou
gavest Me;" "the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they
are life.'" (John 6:63; 8:26, 28, 40; 12:49, 50.)
The thought is still more impressive as we read of the relation of the
Holy Spirit to the God-man. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because
He hath annointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor;" "He through the
Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles;" "the revelation
of Jesus Christ which God gave unto Him;" "these things saith He that
holdeth the seven stars in His right hand;" "He that hath an ear let
him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (Luke 4:18; Acts 1:2;
Rev. 1:1; 2:1, 11). If the incarnate Word needed the unction of the
Holy Ghost to give to men the revelation He received from the Father in
Whose bosom He dwells; and if the agency of the same Spirit extended to
the words He spake in preaching the gospel to the meek or dictating an
epistle, how much more must these things be so in the case of ordinary
men when engaged in the same service? With what show of reason can one
contend that any Old or New Testament writer stood, so far as his words
were concerned, in need of no such agency." --
The New Apologetic, pp. 67, 68.
In the second place He used the scriptures as though they were inspired
as to their words. In Matthew 22:31, 32, He substantiates the doctrine
of the resurrection against the skepticism of the Sadducees by
emphasizing the present tense of the verb "to be," i. e., the word "am"
in the language of Jehovah to Moses at the burning bush. In verses
42-45 of the same chapter He does the same for His own Deity by
alluding to the second use of the word "Lord" in Psalm CX. "The LORD
said unto my Lord * * * If David then call him Lord, how is he his
son?" In John 10:34-36, He vindicates Himself from the charge of
blasphemy by saying, "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are
gods? If He called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the
scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath
sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said,
I am the Son of God?"
We have already seen Him (in Matthew 4) overcoming the tempter in the
wilderness by three quotations from Deuteronomy without note or comment
except, "It is written." Referring to which Adolphe Monod says, "I know
of nothing in the whole history of humanity, nor even in the field of
divine revelation, that proves more clearly than this the inspiration
of the scriptures. What! Jesus Christ, the Lord of heaven and earth,
calling to his aid in that solemn moment Moses his servant? He who
speaks from heaven fortifying himself against the temptations of hell
by the word of him who spake from earth? How can we explain that
spiritual mystery, that wonderful reversing of the order of things, if
for Jesus the words of Moses were not the words of God rather than
those of men? How shall we explain it if Jesus were not fully aware
that holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost?
"I do not forget the objections which have been raised against the
inspiration of the scriptures, nor the real obscurity with which that
inspiration is surrounded; if they sometimes trouble your hearts, they
have troubled mine also. But at such times, in order to revive my
faith, I have only to glance at Jesus glorifying the scriptures in the
wilderness; and I have seen that for all who rely upon Him, the most
embarrassing of problems is transformed into a historical fact,
palpable and clear. Jesus no doubt was aware of the difficulties
connected with the inspiration of the scriptures, but did this prevent
Him from appealing to their testimony with unreserved confidence? Let
that which was sufficient for Him suffice for you. Fear not that the
rock which sustained the Lord in the hour of His temptation and
distress will give way because you lean too heavily upon it."
In the third place, Christ teaches that the scriptures are inspired as
to their words. In the Sermon on the Mount He said, "Think not that I
am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy,
but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass,
one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be
Here is testimony confirmed by an oath, for "verily" on the lips of the
Son of Man carries such force. He affirms the indestructibility of the
law, not its substance merely but its form, not the thought but the
"One jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law." The "jot" means
the yod, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, while the "tittle"
means the horn, a short projection in certain letters extending the
base line beyond the upright one which rests upon it. A reader
unaccustomed to the Hebrew needs a strong eye to see the tittle, but
Christ guarantees that as a part of the sacred text neither the tittle
nor the yod shall perish.
The elder Lightfoot, the Hebraist and rabbinical scholar of the
Westminster Assembly time, has called attention to an interesting story
of a certain letter yod found in the text of Deut. 32:18. It is in the
word teshi, to forsake, translated in the King James as "unmindful."
Originally it seems to have been written smaller even than usual, i.
e., undersized, and yet notwithstanding the almost infinite number of
times in which copies have been made, that little yod stands there
today just as it ever did. Lightfoot spoke of it in the middle of the
seventeenth century and although two more centuries and a half have
passed since then with all their additional copies of the book, yet it
still retains its place in the sacred text. Its diminutive size is
referred to in the margin, "but no hand has dared to add a hair's
breadth to its length," so that we can still employ his words, and say
that it is likely to remain there forever.
The same scholar speaks of the effect a slight change in the form of a
Hebrew letter might produce in the substance of the thought for which
it stands. He takes as an example two words, "Chalal" and "Halal,"
which differ from each other simply in their first radicals. The "Ch"
in Hebrew is expressed by one letter the same as "H," the only
distinction being a slight break or opening in the left limb of the
latter. It seems too trifling to notice, but let that line be broken
where it should be continuous, and "Thou shalt not profane the Name of
thy God" in Leviticus 18:21, becomes "Thou shalt not praise the Name of
thy God." Through that aperture, however small, the entire thought of
the Divine mind oozes out, so to speak, and becomes quite antagonistic
to what was designed.
This shows how truly the thought and the word expressing it are bound
together, and that whatever affects the one imperils the other. As
another says, "The bottles are not the wine, but if the bottles perish,
the wine is sure to be spilled." It may seem like narrow-mindedness to
contend for this, and an evidence of enlightenment or liberal
scholarship to treat it with indifference, but we should be prepared to
take our stand with Jesus Christ in the premises, and if necessary, go
outside the camp bearing our reproach.
IV. DIFFICULTIES AND OBJECTIONS
That there are difficulties in the way of accepting a view of
inspiration like this goes without saying. But to the finite mind there
must always be difficulties connected with a revelation from the
Infinite, and it can not be otherwise. This has been mentioned before.
Men of faith, and it is such we are addressing, and not men of the
world, do not wait to understand or resolve all the difficulties
associated with other mysteries of the Bible before accepting them as
divine, and why should they do so in this case?
Moreover, Archbishop Whately's dictum is generally accepted, that we
are not obliged to clear away every difficulty about a doctrine in
order to believe it, always provided that the facts on which it rests
are true. And particularly is this the case where the rejection of such
a doctrine involves greater difficulties than its belief, as it does
For if this view of inspiration be rejected, what have its opponents to
give in its place? Do they realize that any objections to it are slight
in comparison with those to any other view that can be named? And do
they realize that this is true because this view has the immeasurable
advantage of agreeing with the plain declarations of Scripture on the
subject? In other words, as Dr. Burrell says, those who assert the
inerrancy of the scripture autographs do so on the authority of God
Himself, and to deny it is of a piece with the denial that they teach
the forgiveness of sins or the resurrection from the dead. No amount of
exegetical turning and twisting can explain away the assertions already
quoted in these pages, to say nothing of the constant undertone of
evidence we find in the Bible everywhere to their truth.
And speaking of this further, are we not justified in requiring of the
objector two things? First, on any fair basis of scientific
investigation, is he not obliged to dispose of the evidence here
presented before he impugns the doctrine it substantiates? And second,
after having disposed of it, is he not equally obligated to present the
scriptural proof of whatever other view of inspiration he would have us
accept? Has He ever done this, and if not, are we not further justified
in saying that it cannot be done? But let us consider some of the
1. There are the so-called discrepancies or contradictions between
certain statements of the Bible and the facts of history or natural
science. The best way to meet these is to treat them separately as they
are presented, but when you ask for them you are not infrequently met
with silence. They are hard to produce, and when produced, who is able
to say that they belong to the original parchments? As we are not
contending for an inerrant translation, does not the burden of proof
rest with the objector?
But some of these "discrepancies" are easily explained. They do not
exist between statements of the Bible and facts of science, but between
erroneous interpretations of the Bible and immature conclusions of
science. The old story of Galileo is in point, who did not contradict
the Bible in affirming that the earth moved round the sun but only the
false theological assumptions about it. In this way advancing light has
removed many of these discrepancies, and it is fair to presume with Dr.
Charles Hodge that further light would remove all.
2. There are the differences in the narratives themselves. In the first
place, the New Testament writers sometimes change important words in
quoting from the Old Testament, which it is assumed could not be the
case if in both instances the writers were inspired. But it is
forgotten that in the scriptures we are dealing not so much with
different human authors as with one Divine Author. It is a principle in
ordinary literature that an author may quote himself as he pleases, and
give a different turn to an expression here and there as a changed
condition of affairs renders it necessary or desirable. Shall we deny
this privilege to the Holy Spirit? May we not find, indeed, that some
of these supposed misquotations show such progress of truth, such
evident application of the teaching of an earlier dispensation to the
circumstances of a later one, as to afford a confirmation of their
divine origin rather than an argument against it?
We offered illustrations of this earlier, but to those would now add
Isaiah 59:20 quoted in Romans 11:26, and Amos 9:11 quoted in Acts
15:16. And to any desiring to further examine the subject we would
recommend the valuable work of Professor Franklin Johnson, of Chicago
University, entitled "The Quotations in the New Testament from the Old."
Another class of differences, however, is where the same event is
sometimes given differently by different writers. Take that most
frequently used by the objectors, the inscription on the cross,
recorded by all the evangelists and yet differently by each. How can
such records be inspired, it is asked.
It is to be remembered in reply, that the inscription was written in
three languages calling for a different arrangement of the words in
each case, and that one evangelist may have translated the Hebrew, and
another the Latin, while a third recorded the Greek. It is not said
that any one gave the full inscription, nor can we affirm that there
was any obligation upon them to do so. Moreover, no one contradicts any
other, and no one says what is untrue.
Recalling what was said about our having to deal not with different
human authors but with one Divine Author, may not the Holy Spirit here
have chosen to emphasize some one particular fact, or phase of a fact
of the inscription for a specific and important end? Examine the
records to determine what this fact may have been. Observe that
whatever else is omitted, all the narratives record the momentous
circumstances that the Sufferer on the cross was THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Could there have been a cause for this? What was the charge preferred
against Jesus by His accusers? Was He not rejected and crucified
because He said He was the King of the Jews? Was not this the central
idea Pilate was providentially guided to express in the inscription?
And if so, was it not that to which the evangelists should bear
witness? And should not that witness have been borne in a way to dispel
the thought of collusion in the premises? And did not this involve a
variety of narrative which should at the same time be in harmony with
truth and fact? And do we not have this very thing in the four gospels?
These accounts supplement, but do not contradict each other. We place
them before the eye in the order in which they are recorded.
This is Jesus THE KING OF
THE KING OF THE JEWS
This is THE KING OF THE JEWS
Jesus of Nazareth THE KING OF THE
The entire inscription evidently was "This is Jesus of Nazareth the
King of the Jews," but we submit that the foregoing presents a
reasonable argument for the differences in the records.
3. There is the variety in style. Some think that if all the writers
were alike inspired and the inspiration extended to their words, they
must all possess the same style -- as if the
Holy Spirit had but one style!
Literary style is a method of selecting words and putting sentences
together which stamps an author's work with the influence of his
habits, his condition in society, his education, his reasoning, his
experience, his imagination and his genius. These give his mental and
moral physiognomy and make up his style.
But is not God free to act with or without these fixed laws? There are
no circumstances which tinge His views or reasonings, and He has no
idiosyncrasies of speech, and no mother tongue through which He
expresses His character, or leaves the finger mark of genius upon His
It is a great fallacy then, as Dr. Thomas Armitage once said, to
suppose that uniformity of verbal style must have marked God's
authorship in the Bible, had He selected its words. As the author of
all styles, rather does he use them all at his pleasure. He bestows all
the powers of mental individuality upon His instruments for using the
scriptures, and then uses their powers as He will to express His mind
Indeed, the variety of style is a necessary proof of the freedom of the
human writers, and it is this which among other things convinces us
that, however controlled by the Holy Spirit, they were not mere
machines in what they wrote.
Consider God's method in nature. In any department of vegetable life
there may be but one genus, while its members are classified into a
thousand species. From the bulbous root come the tulip, the hyacinth,
the crocus, and the lily in every shape and shade, without any cause
either of natural chemistry or culture. It is exclusively attributable
to the variety of styles which the mind of God devises. And so in the
sacred writings. His mind is seen in the infinite variety of expression
which dictates the wording of every book. To quote Armitage again, "I
cannot tell how the Holy Spirit suggested the words to the writers any
more than some other man can tell how He suggested the thoughts to
them. But if diversity of expression proves that He did not choose the
words, the diversity of ideas proves that He did not dictate the
thoughts, for the one is as varied as the other."
William Cullen Bryant was a newspaper man but a poet; Edmund Clarence
Stedman was a Wall Street broker and also a poet. What a difference in
style there was between their editorials and commercial letters on the
one hand, and their poetry on the other! Is God more limited than a man?
4. There are certain declarations of scripture itself. Does not Paul
say in one or two places "I speak as a man," or "After the manner of
man?" Assuredly, but is he not using the arguments common among men for
the sake of elucidating a point? And may he not as truly be led of the
Spirit to do that, and to record it, as to do or say anything else? Of
course, what he quotes from men is not of the same essential value as
what he receives directly from God, but the record of the quotation is
as truly inspired.
There are two or three other utterances of his of this character in the
7th chapter of 1 Corinthians, where he is treating of marriage. At
verse 6 he says, "I speak this by permission, not of commandment," and
what he means has no reference to the source of his message but the
subject of it. In contradiction to the false teaching of some, he says
Christians are permitted to marry, but not commanded to do so. At verse
10 He says, "Unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord,"
while at verse 12 there follows, "but to the rest speak I, not the
Lord." Does he declare himself inspired in the first instance, and not
in the second? By no means, but in the first he is alluding to what the
Lord spake on the subject while here in the flesh, and in the second to
what he, Paul, is adding thereto on the authority of the Holy Spirit
speaking through him. In other words, putting his own utterances on
equality with those of our Lord, he simply confirms their inspiration.
At verse 40 he uses a puzzling expression, "I think also that I have
the Spirit of God." As we are contending only for an inspired record,
it would seem easy to say that here he records a doubt as to whether he
was inspired, and hence everywhere else in the absence of such record
of doubt the inspiration is to be assumed. But this would be begging
the question, and we prefer the solution of others that the answer is
found in the condition of the Corinthian church at that time. His
enemies had sought to counteract his teachings, claiming that they had
the Spirit of God. Referring to the claim, he says with justifiable
irony, "I think also that I have the Spirit of God" (R. V.). "I think"
in the mouth of one having apostolic authority, says Professor Watts,
may be taken as carrying the strongest assertion of the judgment in
question. The passage is something akin to another in the same epistle
at the 14th chapter, verse 37, where he says, "If any man think himself
to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things I
write unto you are the commandments of the Lord."
Time forbids further amplification on the difficulties and objections
nor is it necessary, since there is not one that has not been met
satisfactorily to the man of God and the child of faith again and again.
But there is an obstacle to which we would call attention before
concluding -- not a difficulty or objection, but
a real obstacle, especially to the young and insufficiently instructed.
It is the illusion that this view of inspiration is held only by the
unlearned. An illusion growing out of still another as to who
constitute the learned.
There is a popular impression that in the sphere of theology and
religion these latter are limited for the most part to the higher
critics and their relatives, and the more rationalistic and
iconoclastic the critic the more learned he is esteemed to be. But the
fallacy of this is seen in that the qualities which make for a
philologist, an expert in human languages, or which give one a wide
acquaintance with literature of any kind, in other words the qualities
of the higher critic, depend more on memory than judgment, and do not
give the slightest guarantee that their possessors can draw a sound
conclusion from what they know.
As the author of "Faith and Inspiration" puts it, the work of such a
scholar is often like that of a quarryman to an architect. Its entire
achievement, though immensely valuable in its place, is just a mass of
raw and formless material until a mind gifted in a different direction,
and possessing the necessary taste and balance shall reduce or put it
into shape for use. The perplexities of astronomers touching Halley's
comet is in point. They knew facts that common folks did not know, but
when they came to generalize upon them, the man on the street knew that
he should have looked in the west for the phenomenon when they bade him
look in the east.
Much is said for example about an acquaintance with Hebrew and Greek,
and no sensible man will underrate them for the theologian or the Bible
scholar, but they are entirely unnecessary to an understanding of the
doctrine of inspiration or any other doctrine of Holy Writ. The
intelligent reader of the Bible in the English tongue, especially when
illuminated by the Holy Spirit, is abundantly able to decide upon these
questions for himself. He cannot determine how the Holy Spirit operated
on the minds of the sacred penmen because that is not revealed, but he
can determine on the results secured because that is revealed. He can
determine whether the inspiration covers all the books, and whether it
includes not only the substance but the form, not only the thoughts but
We have spoken of scholars and of the learned, let us come to names. We
suppose Dr. Sanday, of Oxford, is a scholar, and the Archbishop of
Durham, and Dean Burgon, and Professor Orr, of Glasgow, and Principal
Forsyth, of Hackney College, and Sir Robert Anderson, and Dr. Kuyper,
of Holland, and President Patton, of Princeton, and Howard Osgood of
the Old Testament Revision Committee and Matthew B. Riddle of the New,
and G. Frederick Wright and Albert T. Clay, the archaeologists, and
Presidents Moorehead and Mullins, and C. I. Scofield, and Luther T.
Townsend, for twenty-five years professor in the Theological School of
Boston University, and Arthur T. Pierson of the Missionary Review of
the World, and a host of other living witnesses --
Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Congregationalists,
Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Reformed Dutch.
We had thought John Calvin a scholar, and the distinguished Bengel, and
Canon Faussett, and Tregelles, and Auberlen, and Van Oosterzee, and
Charles Hodge and Henry B. Smith, and so many more that it were
foolishness to recall them. These men may not stand for every statement
in these pages, they might not care to be quoted as holding technically
the verbal theory of inspiration for reasons already named, but they
will affirm the heart of the contention and testify to their belief in
an inspiration of the Sacred Oracles which includes the words.
Once when the writer was challenged by the editor of a secular daily to
name a single living scholar who thus believed, he presented that of a
chancellor of a great university, and was told that he was not the kind
of scholar that was meant! The kind of scholar not infrequently meant
by such opposers is the one who is seeking to destroy faith in the
Bible as the Word of God, and to substitute in its place a Bible of his
The Outlook had an editorial recently, entitled "Whom Shall We
Believe?" in which the writer reaffirmed the platitudes that living is
a vital much more than an intellectual process, and that truth of the
deeper kind is distilled out of experience rather than logical
processes. This is the reason he said why many things are hidden from
the so-called wise, who follow formal methods of exact observation, and
are revealed to babes and sucklings who know nothing of these methods,
but are deep in the process of living. No spectator ever yet understood
a great contemporary human movement into which he did not enter.
Does this explain why the cloistered scholar is unable to accept the
supernatural inspiration of the scriptures while the men on the firing
line of the Lord's army believe in it even to the very words? Does it
explain the faith of our missionaries in foreign lands? Is this what
led J. Hudson Taylor to Inland China, and Dr. Guinness to establish the
work upon the Congo, and George Müeller and William Quarrier to
support the orphans at Bristol and the Bridge of Weirs? Is
this -- the belief in the plenary inspiration of
the Bible -- the secret of the evangelistic
power of D. L. Moody, and Chapman, and Torrey, and Gipsy Smith, and
practically every evangelist in the field, for to the extent of our
acquaintance there are none of these who doubt it? Does this tell why
"the best sellers on the market," at least among Christian people, have
been the devotional and expository books of Andrew Murray, and Miller
and Meyer, and writers of that stamp? Is this why the plain people have
loved to listen to preachers like Spurgeon, and McLaren, and Campbell
Morgan, and Len Broughton and A. C. Dixon and have passed by men of the
other kind? It is, in a word, safe to challenge the whole Christian
world for the name of a man who stands out as a winner of souls who
does not believe in the inspiration of the Bible as it has been sought
to be explained in these pages.
But we conclude with a kind of concrete testimony --
that of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church
of America, and of a date as recent as 1893. The writer is not a
Presbyterian, and therefore with the better grace can ask his readers
to consider the character and the intellect represented in such an
Assembly. Here are some of our greatest merchants, our greatest
jurists, our greatest educators, our greatest statesmen, as well as our
greatest missionaries, evangelists and theologians. There may be seen
as able and august a gathering of representatives of Christianity in
other places and on other occasions, but few that can surpass it. For
sobriety of thought, for depth as well as breadth of learning, for
wealth of spiritual experience, for honesty of utterance, and virility
of conviction, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in
America must command attention and respect throughout the world. And
this is what it said on the subject we are now considering at its
gathering in the city of Washington, the capital of the nation, at the
"THE BIBLE AS WE NOW HAVE IT, IN ITS VARIOUS TRANSLATIONS AND
REVISIONS, WHEN FREED FROM ALL ERRORS AND MISTAKES OF TRANSLATORS,
COPYISTS AND PRINTERS, (IS) THE VERY WORD OF GOD, AND CONSEQUENTLY
WHOLLY WITHOUT ERROR."
Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth' edited by R. A. Torrey
**The author Rev. James M. Gray, D.D. was Dean of Moody Bible
Institute, Chicago, Ill.