Essay On Inspiration -- By: Joseph Torrey

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 015:58 (Apr 1858)
Article: Essay On Inspiration
Author: Joseph Torrey


Essay On Inspiration

Joseph Torrey

It is noticed by a late writer in the North British Review, as a prominent and remarkable feature in the controversy respecting Inspiration, that “in the vocabulary of recent discussions the terms revelation and inspiration have so entirely changed their significance as to mean the very opposite, well nigh, of what they meant before;” and he adds that “under the shelter of this ambiguity, a considerable portion of the argument or declamation of recent opponents of Scripture infallibility, amounts to not much more than an attempt,—oftentimes a dexterous, though it may be an unconscious one, — to shift the conditions of the problem and misstate the status quæstionis.” How far this representation may be true as to fact, we are not concerned at present to inquire; but of the evil which must unavoidably result, in discussing the question of inspiration, from looseness or ambiguity in the use of the most important terms relating to the subject, we do not entertain a doubt. At the same time, the laying down of definitions for which the way has not been prepared by some previous opening of the subject in hand, showing their necessity, seems to us a rather unsatisfactory mode of proceeding, except within the domain of pure science. We shall not, therefore, at the beginning of this essay,

undertake to give a precise definition either of the term revelation or inspiration but, taking them both for the present in the somewhat vague, but for our immediate purpose sufficiently distinct, sense in which they have ever been used by believers and unbelievers in common, when affirming or denying a source of divine knowledge higher than any furnished by the light of nature, we shall first speak of revelation as an historical fact which has been recognized in all ages of the world, and attempt to show the necessity of admitting the truth of this fact, in order to a satisfactory explanation of the grand course of events shadowed forth by history from the beginning.

The general fact of the recognition of a revelation, and the necessity in this particular case of supposing the reality of that which has always been recognized, having been clearly established on historical grounds, it will then be time to inquire more minutely into the nature of inspiration, and in so doing to lay down all the distinctions which may be found necessary for the purpose of showing how it differs from revelation and from everything else with which it ever has been, or is likely to be, confounded.

Our fundamental position then is this: that revelation, or if you please inspiration, in the sense of a direct communication of religious truth from God to ma...

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