Home >> British Encyclopedia >> Inflammation to Language 1 >> Inspiration


sacred, mind, spirit, god, writers and plenary

INSPIRATION, among divines, &c. im plies the conveying of certain extraordi nary and supernatural notices or motions into the mind ; or it denotes any superna tural influence of God upon the mind of a rational creature, whereby he is formed to any degree of intellectual improve ments, to which he could not, or would not, in fact, have attained in his present circumstances, in a natural way. Thus the prophets are said to have spoken by divine inspiration.

Some authors reduce the inspiration of the sacred writers to a particular care of Providence, which prevented any thing they had said from failing or coming to nought ; maintaining, that they never were really inspired either with know. ledge or expression. According to others, inspiration is no more than a direction of the Holy Spirit, which never permitted the sacred writers to be mistaken. It is a common opinion, that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit regards only the matter, not the style or words.

Theological writers have enumerated several kinds of inspiration ; such as "an inspiration of superintendency," in which God does so influence and direct the mind of any person, as to keep him more se cure from error in some various and com plex discourse, than he would have been merely by the use of his natural faculties ; " plenary superintendent inspiration," which excludes any mixture of error from the performance so superintended ; " in spiration of elevation," where the facul ties act in a regular, and, as it seems, in a common manner, yet are raised to an extraordinary degree, so that the compo ser shall, upon the whole, have more of the true sublime or pathetic, than natu ral genius could have given ; and " inspi ration of suggestion," when the use of the faculties is superseded, and God does, as it were, speak directly to the mind, mak ing such discoveries to it, as it could not otherwise have obtained, and dictating the very words in which such discoveries are to be communicated, if they are de signed as a message to others.

It is generally allowed, that the New Testament was written by a superintend ent inspiration ; for without this the dis courses and doctrines of Christ could not have been faithfully recorded by the Evangelists and Apostles ; nor could they have assumed the authority of .speaking the words of Christ, and evinced this au thority by the actual exercise of miracu lous powers ; and, besides, the sacred writings bear many obvious internal marks of their divine original, in the ex cellence of their doctrineS, the spiritual ity and elevation of their design, the ma jesty and simplicity of their stile, the agreement of their various parts, and their efficacy on mankind ; to which may be added, that there has been in the Christian church, from its earliest ages, a constant tradition, that the sacred books were written by the extraordinary assis tance of the Spirit, which must at least amount to superintendent inspiration ; but it has been controverted, whether this in spiration extended to every minute cir cumstance in their writings, so as to be in the most absolute sense plenary. Jerome, Grotius, Erasmus, Episcopius, and many others, maintain, that it was not : whilst others contend, that the emphatical man ner in which our Lord speaks of the agen cy of the spirit upon them, and in which they themselves speak of their own writ ings, will justify our believing that their inspiration was plenary, unless there be very convincing evidence brought on the other side to prove that it was not : and if we allow, it is said, that there were some errors in the New Testament, as it came from the hands of the Apostles, there may be great danger of subverting the main purpose and design of it ; since there wil I be endless room to debate the importance both of facts and doctrines. See Dod dridge's Lectures.