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Art. I. - THE BIBLE, INSPIRED AND INSPIRING.
The question of the inspiration of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures is one of those great moral problems, which never are, but always are to be, solved. It was discussed in the earliest, and probably will be in the latest ages. For it is in part an historical inquiry, and different principles of historical judgment will lead to different conclusions. It is an intellectual and spiritual question, and therefore all the complexities of mental culture and moral character will come into play, and determine each person to his result. But perchance new words will not be thrown away on such a rich and sublime theme, pertaining to the point where the mind of God has connected itself with the mind of man. Today, as in the morning prime of the Church, when learned fathers mused and wrote, the fresh dew rests upon it, and glistens bright to heaven. Ever new, as ever old, the march of human affairs, the novel experiences of the race, the arrival of new geniuses, and the successive cri. ses of Christianity, cannot drain dry of interest to every conscientious mind the magnificent question.
Man still asks, and will for ever ask, as if it were too good news to be true, Has the Infinite Intelligence in any sense spoken? Is there a Word of God? Is there
VOL. LVI. — 4TH. S. VOL. XXI. NO. II. 15
a whisper of the Eternal Wisdom, a breath of the Allbrooding Love? And if there is, is it worthy of its amazing origin, and fit for its glorious mission ? Have the serene heavens articulated to the ear of the laboring Earth their lofty truths, and explained her dark secret? Has this little globe, where man sins in haste and repents at leisure, in all its revolutions through boundless space, ever gazed on the golden shores of immortality ? Or, has no other light ever fallen from the sky but that of sun, moon, and stars; no other voice spoken in the great silence above, than that of the deep-toned thunder; and no other spirit stirred in the bosom of man than his own restless heart? The ear of Mercy suffers not the cry of the young ravens to go unheard; has it not caught as faithfully " the still, sad music of humanity," and vibrated with answering compassion ? In reply to such interrogations, we answer, in the first place, generally, Yes; there is a Word of God, more articulate than the lessons of the creation; the Highest has spoken, not with the accents of a mortal tongue, but by the revelation of wisdom and love, less clearly unfolded in the law by Moses, but shining forth in full effulgence in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.
But as soon as we advance beyond this general proposition, we alight upon a hotly contested arena of theological warfare, where several theories find their several champions. First, we have the doctrine of the plenary verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, or of the major part of them, and generally held by the Trinitarian churches. According to this view, the sacred writers were amanuenses to the Holy Ghost, to record whatever was dictated to them, word by word, and sentence by sentence. The New Church, or Swedenborgians, hold a similar theory, modified by the doctrine of an internal sense, and correspondences, and also by the rejection of the historical books of the Old Testament, and the Epistles of the New, as uncanonical. The Roman Church adheres to a literal and infallible inspiration of the books of the Bible; but then the truth thus conveyed is only to be administered in homeopathic doses to the mass of mankind, as they are able to bear it, under the lock and key of St. Peter, and his unerring successors in the papal chair. The belief in natural inspiration, – the inspira. tion of truth and love given to every man, the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world, but given to some more than others, shining more clearly in Moses and in Christ, in David and Paul, than in others, but shining also in Socrates and Seneca, — this belief is extensively diffused in Germany, and has strong advocates in England and America. By this rule all inspiration is of one and the same kind, and differs only in degree. But the doctrine we prefer is what may be called a moral inspiration; special, miraculous, supernatural, but not unnatural; above reason, but not irrational; a spiritual even more than an intellectual afflatus, vouchsafed in different degrees according to the age and its wants, from the baptism of the cloud to that of water, and thence to that of fire and the Holy Spirit, the dove and the cloven tongues. But according to this view, the Bible itself is not the identical inspiration, but a record of inspirations; a history, a monument, of that golden age, when the blind Earth, after all her far, solemn voyagings around the universe, put as it were into port, saw a vision of angels from the heavenly hills, and heard as the mighty sound of many waters the voice of her Sovereign.
We would remark, before commencing the argument in favor of any one of these theories, that this multifarious state of the question does not stagger our faith in the speciality of inspiration, and its uncounted value to mankind. For all great spiritual subjects must lie from the nature of the case in indefinite and wavering outlines upon the general mind. Some will draw the circle here, others there. God, Jesus Christ, the soul, duty, truth, immortality, are all subject to this imperfect conception, and conflicting realization, and degrees of faith. Some ask, What precisely is inspiration? How much of it is in the Scriptures, or in particular books ? What is the exact limit where the natural ceases, and the supernatural begins ? We cannot tell any more than we can say exactly what reason, what genius, is. These points are in litigation as well as that of inspiration. One man says, genius is self-excitement; another, that it is the power of lighting its own fire ; another, that it is transcendental intuition ; and yet an· other, that genius is study; it is that in the mind which studies. But these various definitions cannot destroy our faith in the gift of God called genius, however hard it may be to define it. The doctrine of inspiration, or of supernatural genius, like the rest of its class, is neither definable, nor demonstrable, by a multiplication, but by a moral, table.
Some one has said, that many men are convinced, but few are persuaded; the one being more exclusively a mental, and the other a combined mental and moral state. The fact of inspiration is based on impregnable intellectual grounds, but full justice is not done to it, until it makes its appeal to the deep spiritual experiences and moral sentiments of our being. “ Spiritual things are spiritually discerned.” “In his light we see light.” “ He that doeth his will shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God," or not. It is all the better, not the weaker, for this class of truths, that they cannot be decided by Euclid and the blackboard, but address the whole living man through the entire range of his faculties, and put to the test every drop of his manhood, be it in head, or heart, or hand. Give us, we say, these moral questions, which inclose in their discussion education, character, lise, conscience, as well as bold thought; for their agitation does us more good than other questions can by their settlement. Welcome the themes that overcome us with a new emotion, break the rusty chains of monotony, and lead us up to a mount of mystic Transfiguration. With human beings in every conceivable attitude toward the Infinite and Eternal, from defiant rebellion to adoring trust, how should any rigid uniformity of belief as to the nature, quantity, or mode of that aid by which God assists his striving children be possible? That must be a poor and small, not a well-nigh boundless question, which can be solved with absolute certainty, can be put into the scales and weighed with a pound of tea, or set down upon the slate and worked out by the rule of three. We make these remarks because the tendency of our material times is to be impatient of moral uncertainties and contingencies, and to call nothing true which cannot be proved, and nothing good which will not pay. Better the reign of the schoolmen again, than that our vast and varied being should be shrivelled up to the materialism
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