By: John Nelson Darby

One of the great efforts of the enemy in these days is against the written word of God. Ecclesiastical office and orthodoxy is in its nature no barrier against this inroad. In its most pretentious forms and highest claims it is injurious to true confidence in scripture, because the authority of the Church, not that of the word, lies at the root of these pretensions. Divinely given authority is its first principle; not divine truth from God.

If its true principle be scrutinised beneath conventional habits and fears, it will be found that the authority of the word is founded, according to this system, on the authority of the Church — that is, the word has none properly divine in itself. I say this, not with a view to controversy with that system, but as a warning that, in the struggle which is going on, such a barrier against unbelief is not to be trusted to.

The confidence in man and his intellectual powers and progress, which characterizes another considerable portion of the professing Church, is surely no security against man’s assuming to judge what does and will surely judge him. The word has its authority from God; and God will make good and prove that authority in judgment, as He blesses us with it now in grace. The word, if it be the word of God at all, calls for submission. It forms, as a means, the link of renewed connection with God, granted to us by sovereign mercy when sin and flesh had separated us from God. It is sent out from Him, as was the living and eternal Word, as a point of contact in mercy and power for man with God; which comes to him where he is, deals with man exactly in the state man is in, and reveals God — and as He is pleased to reveal Himself — to man in that state. But for this God must be its author — none but God can rightly reveal Himself. Otherwise that word cannot bear witness of the love, the purpose of love, which is in God.

It cannot have the wise adaptation to the end which that love proposes to itself, and the gracious consideration for all the infirmities, all the varied circumstances, of those to whom it is addressed, so as to reveal divine love and truth, divine love and plans, to and in spite of those infirmities, if the purpose of doing so be not there — ἁρχὴ τῆς θεωρίας τέλος τῆς πράξεως. Now I meet a great deal which takes the form of condescension to believers in divine inspiration, while it really assumes human intellectual powers to be on superior ground on this question, and adapts its reasonings, with great deference to their claims, to the theory of inspiration, so as to save something for the more feeble-minded. Help is allowed on God’s part, the aiding the memory according to the Lord’s promise. It is thought much to rescue such points as these from the invading grasp of rationalism. Now I do not doubt that the Holy Ghost did help — did recall to the memory of the New Testament writers what our Lord had said. But who was the author of the New Testament? How came it to be written? Is there no purpose in the history and other writings of the New Testament? and if so, whose purpose was it? Whence do the writings flow? Is the existence of the New Testament an accident, which has its origin in the will or circumstances of four men (I speak particularly now of the Gospels, though the principles apply to the whole New Testament, and with increasing force when it is looked at as a whole) who were afterwards, when they thought fit to undertake the work, graciously assisted? Or is the scripture New Testament history the consequence of a purpose of God, a fruit of a divine intention and plan, of whose execution the Holy Ghost is the author?

360 We read in Peter, Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:21 Here we have the source — the motive power in this work. The word of the Lord came to them. I have no theory as to the manner in which the New Testament writers were inspired. I recognize, in the fullest way, the diversities of style and the stamp of individuality in the different writers. The Lord was pleased to use men. But when I say that, it implies that He used them. I see the Lord declaring that He would use their memories. I see the apostle preferring an inspired communication in which his understanding had a part. But it is evident that if God recalled, by the Holy Ghost, certain events to the memory of a writer, He could recall them in such a way and form as He pleased; or as it had particularly struck the writer at the time the event happened; or while the facts were presented anew to his memory, with such additional apprehensions as the spiritual state of the writer made him capable of at the time of writing, and according to that peculiar form of apprehension wrought by His power and presence in the writer. He might recall these events to the writer’s mind in the succession He thought fit, so as to produce a given order in the narration. But all this supposes the action and purpose — the will — of a divine Author, who acts with a plan and wisdom suited to its accomplishment. The wisdom of such an author might (by the combination of the events in a given order, and the selection of such as He recalled) produce a result from them, as a whole, which had a bearing and gave a witness to Christ entirely beyond the thoughts of the writer, though he might in every part be used according to the state of his own mind under the influence of the Spirit of God.

Inspiration of the Scriptures….