By James H. Brookes
INSPIRATION OP APOSTLES.
Our Lord said to His apostles, when they should be called to appear in His behalf, “Take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you,” Matt. x. 19, 20. On another occasion He said, “Take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, 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 Ghost,” Mark xiii. 11. On still another occasion He said, “Take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say,” Lu. xii. 11, 12. Can a promise be more explicit and unmistakable in its meaning?
Observe that they were not to think beforehand, nor to premeditate. They were not to arrange their arguments, nor to plan their defence, nor to give themselves any more concern about the issue, than if they were helpless infants brought into Court. It would be very foolish for men, now, to dismiss all preparation to appear in public as witnesses for Christ; but the original apostles were positively forbidden to consider for a moment what thoughts or words it would be proper to utter. The reason is, “It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaketh in you”; “whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost”; “the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” If this is not the assurance of plenary, verbal, inerrant inspiration, it is nothing.
Still later, when the gathering storm was soon to burst on Jerusalem, He said, “Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist,” Lu. xxi. 15. It was not only wisdom, but a mouth, or speech, He was to give them, which would leave them unbeaten and undaunted in the conflicts and controversies that lay before them. They were unlearned and ignorant men, entirely unacquainted with Higher Criticism, but in after years their enemies “took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus,” Acts iv. 13.
They had something, however, better than learning, for their Lord had said, “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you,” Jno. xiv. 26. “When He, the Spirit of truth shall come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you,” Jno. xvi. 13, 14. With the promise of the Spirit, to teach them all things, to re-call to remembrance the Saviour's words, to guide them into all truth, they were thoroughly equipped for their ministry.
Accordingly on the day of Pentecost they were all with one accord in one place, and “suddenly a voice, as of a mighty breathing borne along, was heard,” and the appearance as of fire was seen: “and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance,” Acts ii. 1-4. Then follows the statement that people from fifteen or sixteen different countries and provinces “were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language”; and said in amazement to one another, “Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?. . . We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God,” Acts ii. 7-11. It is Obvious that the words of the apostles were inspired, for they knew nothing whatever, one hour before, of the various languages in which they addressed the crowd.
The apostle Paul writes, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth,” 1 Cor. ii. 12, 13. That is, the Holy Ghost taught him the words he used in communicating the divine revelation. Dr. Charles Hodge truly remarks, “This is verbal inspiration, or the doctrine that the writers of the Scriptures were controlled by the Spirit of God in the choice of the words which they employed in communicating divine truth. This has been stigmatized as ‘the mechanical theory of inspiration/ degrading the sacred penmen into mere machines. It is objected to this doctrine that it leaves the diversity of style which marks the different portions of the Bible, unaccounted for. But, if God can control the thoughts of a man without making him a machine, why cannot He control His language?”
The apostle had so low an opinion of his worthiness, that he speaks of himself as “the least of the apostles,” 1 Cor. xv. 9; and five or six years later as “the least of all saints,” Eph. iii. 8; and two years later shortly before his death, in alluding to saved sinners, he adds, “Of whom I am chief,” 1 Tim. i. 15. But when it comes to his apostolic office he puts himself on an equality with Jesus Christ. There were certain questions about marriage which the Lord had settled, 1 Cor. vii. 10. There were other questions which he himself authoritatively settled, 1 Cor. vii. 12; and with sharp sarcasm he rebuked those who claimed that they acted under the direction of the Holy Spirit, “I think that I also have the Spirit of God,” 1 Cor. vii. 40. Hence he could positively direct: “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord,” 1 Cor. xiv. 37.
There was revealed to him truth, not made known to Old Testament prophets, Eph. iii. 4-6; and about all his teachings be could say, “When ye received the word of God, which ye beard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe,” 1 Thess. ii. 13. Hence “he that rejecteth, rejecteth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit,” 1 Thess. iv. 8. There can be no doubt, therefore, concerning the apostle Paul's distinct assertion that, when he made known the doctrines contained in his writings, he and his words were directly under the control of the Spirit of God.
So it is with the other apostles. Peter writes to his brethren; “That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour,” 2 Pet. iii. 2. tie tells us in the first chapter that “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost”; and here he places the commandment of the apostles side by side with these Spirit-spoken words, on the same high level of divine authority. He also mentions the epistles of “our beloved brother Paul;. . . in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction,” 2 Pet. iii. 15, 16. Peter does not hesitate to put the Epistles of Paul along with “the other Scriptures,” thus fully recognizing their supernatural Origin and inerrant inspiration.
James says, “Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain, the Spirit that He placed in ns jealously desireth us?” Jas. iv. 5. He represents the Scripture as saying, arming it with the attributes of personality. John says, “We are of God: he that knoweth God, heareth us; he that is not of God, heareth not ns. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error,” 1 Jno. iv. 6. It was a mark of truth, then, to hear the apostle, as if it was the voice of God speaking. Jude says, “Judas, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: Mercy unto you and peace be multiplied. Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you, exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints,” Jude 1, 2.
It is a faith once for all time, for all lands, for all people, delivered unto the saints, and hence the manner of its delivery must have been inerrant, or else it could have been of no value. The same apostle adds, “Beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Jude 17. He does not bid us remember the “concept” or the thoughts of the apostles, but the words, because it is only through the words we can get at the concept.
There are hundreds of expressions in the Bible that, at first glance, seem almost alike, and yet the difference is as wide as heaven is from hell in their meaning. “Dead to sin” and “dead in sin,” may be hastily read without noticing the prepositions; yet what a mighty distinction I Bishop Westcott, among the first of living scholars, has recently said in a lecture, “The whole force of the revelation in the Bible is contained just in two letters—the Greek preposition for ‘in.’” No number of writers, if left to themselves, could have used that little word en, which occurs more than 2,700 times, with such unanimous and unfailing precision. Suppose the sacred writers had been left to their own choice in the selection of words, how easy it would have been through carelessness, or ignorance, or a “slip of memory,” as the Higher Critics delight to say, for any or all of them to have blundered, and to wreck souls by their mistakes. But they never once use the wrong word; and if anyone imagines that he can write more accurately, or in better style, let him select any verse he is pleased to choose, and try his hand.
There are two little Greek particles, each consisting of two letters, and both of which are translated not. One is called the objective negative, and simply implies a denial, without expressing a purpose or will, as when one says on a cloudless day, “it is not raining.” The other always expresses purpose or will, as when one says, “I will not do it,” “I shall not go.” The objective negative is found more than 1,500 times, the subjective more than 650 times, and often together in the compass of a single verse; and yet in not a single instance are they used carelessly, or is one unintentionally employed for the other. For example, “He that believeth on Him is not [objective negative] condemned: but he that believeth not [subjective negative] is condemned already, because he hath not [subjective negative] believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God,” Jno. iii. 18. That is, he hath not believed, because he would not believe.
How did it happen that these uneducated fishermen employed words with far greater precision than the most accomplished literary men, never making a single mistake, never expressing themselves at hap-hazard? If they had blundered even in the use of one letter, the result might have been as disastrous as in the case, reported some years ago, in the newspapers. It is said that a business firm telegraphed to a customer in a distant State, inquiring about the standing of a man, who wished to purchase of them a large bill of goods. The friend replied by wire, “Not good for any amount.” The telegraph operator made a mistake, and sent the message, “Not good for any amount.” The firm brought suit against the Telegraph Company, and recovered damages.
But notice the accuracy of the apostles in other particulars. Clement, who is mentioned by the apostle Paul in terms of commendation, Phil, iv. 4, wrote an epistle to the Corinthians, which is generally considered genuine, and in that epistle he discusses the doctrine of the resurrection. He rebukes their doubts by telling them of the phoenix, a bird of Spain which lives to be six hundred years old, flies over to Egypt when the time comes to die, builds a nest, sets fire to it, and perishes in the flame of its own kindling, while another young phoenix emerges from the ashes, and thus the species is perpetuated. This, at least, is something like the story, for it has been years since the epistle was read, and it is not at hand just now.
Dr. Halsey, Emeritus Professor in McCormick Theological Seminary was present once when the statement about Clement was made. He looked it up in the literature of the so-called Fathers, who wrote in the early centuries of the Christian era, and afterwards said that many of the first writers use the same illustration to prove the reasonableness of the doctrine that the dead must rise. How comes it that Paul did not use the same illustration in the sublime chapter of 1 Cor. xv. that is read hundreds of times every day at funerals? He and the other apostles lived at a time when the most learned men were ignorant of a thousand facts, which modern research has brought to light, and although every topic is touched by the New Testament in all the relations of life here and hereafter, science is challenged in vain to lay its finger upon one verse or word that is known to be untrue.
Let the skeptic or Higher Critic account for the fact that in geography, geology, astronomy, history, biography, in the mention of dates, names and places, the keenest scrutiny for eighteen centuries has not detected a single mistake in either of the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, or one of the remaining Epistles. A few years ago a reward was publicly offered from, the pulpit in the presence of a well known infidel “Society man,” who had a high conception of his intellect and literary attainments, for the discovery of any contradiction or scientific blunder in the New Testament. At length the gentleman sent up to the pulpit a card on which he had written, “Matthew says, ‘he that is not with me is against me’; Luke says, ‘he that is not against us, is for us.’” The preacher read it to the congregation with the remark, “Such a discovery is not entitled to the promised reward of $500.”
A large book called “The Harmony of the Bible with Science” was recently published by Samuel Kinns, Ph. D., F. R. A. S.; Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society; Member of the Biblical Archaeological Society; Principal of the College, Highbury New Park. Among the subscribers to the work are ten Earls and Lords, fourteen who sign their name Lord Bishop, beside a number of other titled dignitaries. The author says, “One hears so frequently that Science and Revelation are at variance, that it seems to be taken for granted that scientific men are, as a rule, disbelievers in inspiration. I have often, in the course of my lectures, pointed out that this is indeed a great mistake, and that, though there are some few men of high talent and of deep research who ignore the authenticity of the Scriptures, all philosophers are not of the same school; and I contend that not only are sceptical physicists in the minority, but also that men of the highest eminence in every branch of science have been, and still are, sincere believers.”
That is, men of the highest eminence in every branch of science find nothing in the Bible that will prevent their sincere confession, “God spake all these words.”