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we may observe, that there is scarcely a book in the Old Testament, which is not repeatedly quoted in the New, as of divine authority.
When it is said that Scripture is divinely inspired, it is not to be understood that God suggested every word, or dictated every expression. It appears from the different styles in which the books are written, and from the different manner in which the same events are related and predicted by different authors, that the sacred penmen were permitted to write as their several tempers, understandings, and habits of life, directed; and that the knowledge communicated to them by Inspiration upon the subject of their writings, was applied in the same manner as any knowledge acquired by ordinary means. Nor is it to be supposed that they were even thus inspired in every fact which they related, or in every precept which they delivered. They were left to the common use of their faculties, and did not upon every occasion stand in need of supernatural communication; but whenever, and as far as, divine assistance was necessary, it was always afforded. In different parts of Scripture we perceive that there were different sorts and degrees of Inspiration: God enabled Moses to give an account of the creation of the world; he enabled Joshua to record with exactness the settlement
ment of the Israelites in the land of Canaan; he enabled David to mingle prophetic information. with the varied effusions of gratitude, contrition, and piety; he enabled Solomon to deliver wise instructions for the regulation of human life; he enabled Isaiah to deliver predictions concerning the future Saviour of mankind, and Ezra to collect the sacred Scriptures into one authentic volume; "but all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will (h)." In some cases Inspiration only produced correctness and accuracy in relating past occurrences, or in reciting the words of others; in other cases it communicated ideas not only new and unknown before, but infinitely beyond the reach of unassisted human intellect; and sometimes inspired prophets delivered predictions for the use of future ages, which they did not themselves comprehend, and which cannot be fully understood till they are accomplished. But whatever distinctions we may make with respect to the sorts, degrees, or modes of Inspiration, we may rest assured that there is one property which belongs to every inspired writing, namely, that it is free from error I mean material error ;-and this property must be considered as extending to the whole of each of those
(h) I Cor. c. 12. v. II,
writings, of which a part only is inspired; for we cannot suppose that God would suffer any such errors, as might tend to mislead our faith or pervert our practice, to be mixed with those truths, which he himself has mercifully revealed to his rational creatures as the means of their eternal salvation. In this restricted sense it may be asserted, that the sacred writers always wrote under the influence, or guidance, or care of the Holy Spirit, which sufficiently establishes the truth and divine authority of all Scripture.
These observations relative to the nature of Inspiration are particularly applicable to the historical books of the Old Testament. That the authors of these books were occasionally inspired is certain, since they frequently display an acquaintance with the councils and designs of God, and often reveal his future dispensations in the clearest predictions. But though it is evident that the sacred historians sometimes wrote under the immediate operation of the Holy Spirit, it does not follow that they derived from Revelation the knowledge of those things, which might be collected from the common sources of human intelligence. It is sufficient to believe, that by the general superintendence of the Holy Spirit, they were directed in the choice of their materials, enlightened to judge of the truth and importance
of those accounts from which they borrowed their information, and prevented from registering any material error. The historical books appear, indeed, from internal evidence, to have been chiefly written by persons contemporary with the periods to which they relate; who, in their description of characters and events, many of which they witnessed, uniformly exhibit a strict sincerity of intention, and an unexampled impartiality. Some of these books, however, were compiled in subsequent times from the sacred annals mentioned in Scripture as written by prophets or seers, and from those public records, and other authentic documents, which, though written by uninspired men, were held in high estimation, and preserved with great care by persons specially appointed as keepers of the genealogies and public archives of the Jewish nation. To such well known chronicles we find the sacred writers not unfrequently referring for a more minute detail of those circumstances which they omit as inconsistent with their design. For "these books are to be considered as the histories of revelations, as commentaries upon the prophecies, and as affording a lively sketch of the œconomy of God's government of his se lected people. They were not designed as national annals, to record every minute particular and
and political event that occurred; but they are rather a compendious selection of such remarkable occurrences and operations as were best calculated to illustrate the religion of the Hebrew nation; to set before that perverse and ungrateful people an abstract of God's proceedings, of their interests and duties; as also to furnish posterity with an instructive picture of the divine attributes, and with a model of that dispensation on which a nobler and more spiritual government was to be erected; and moreover, to place before mankind the melancholy proofs of that corruption, which had been entailed upon them, and to exhibit in the depravity of a nation highly favoured, miraculously governed, and instructed by inspired teachers, the necessity of that redemption and renewal of righteousness, which was so early and so repeatedly promised by the prophets. It seems probable, therefore, that the books of Kings and Chronicles do not contain a complete compilation of the entire works of each contemporary prophet, but are rather an abridgment of their several labours, and of other authentic public writings, digested by Ezra after the Captivity, with an intention to display the sacred history under one point of view; and hence it is that they contain some expressions, which evidently result from contemporary description,