The Plenary Inspiration of the Scriptures
2 Peter 1:20-21
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.…

That the book which we emphatically call the Bible was written by the inspiration of suggestion.

I. Let us INQUIRE WHAT IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD BY THE INSPIRATION OF SUGGESTION. Some suppose there are three kinds of inspiration, which they distinguish from each other by calling the first the inspiration of superintendency, the second the inspiration of elevation, and the third the inspiration of suggestion.

1. It was necessary that the sacred penman should be conscious of Divine inspiration all the while they were writing. It was not sufficient for them barely to know that they began to write under the influence of the Spirit. For nothing short of a constant realising sense of His motion and direction, could give them full assurance that what they wrote was the infallible Word of God, which they might honestly present to the world under the sanction of Divine authority.

2. The Supreme Being was as able to afford them the highest as the lowest kind of inspiration.

3. That the sacred penmen were utterly incapable of writing such a book as the Bible without the constant guidance of the Holy Ghost.

4. To suppose that they sometimes wrote without the inspiration of suggestion, is the same as to suppose that they sometimes wrote without any inspiration at all. The distinguishing of inspiration into three kinds is a mere human invention, which has no foundation in Scripture or reason. And those who make this distinction appear to amuse themselves and others with words without ideas.

5. That the sacred penmen profess to have written the Scriptures under the immediate and constant guidance of the Holy Ghost.


1. It may be said there appears a great diversity in the manner and style of the sacred penmen, which cannot be easily reconciled with the supposition of their being equally and constantly guided by the inspiration of suggestion. It is true, indeed, we plainly discover some variety in the manner and style of the sacred writers. But this is easy to account for, by only supposing that God dictated to each sacred penman a manner and style corresponding to his own peculiar genius, education, and manner of living. But on the other hand, we find a much greater similarity in their manner and style than could be reasonably expected on supposition of their writing agreeably to their own genius and taste, without the suggesting influences of the Spirit.

2. It may be said that the mistakes and contradictions to be found in the Scriptures plainly refute the notion of their being written under the inspiration of suggestion. To this it may be replied in general, that most of the supposed mistakes and contradictions to be found in the Scriptures may be only apparent, and so might be fully removed, if we were better acquainted with the original languages in which the sacred books were written, and with the customs and manners of the different ages and places in which the sacred penmen lived. But the direct and decisive answer to this objection is that it operates with equal force against every kind of inspiration.

3. It may be said, since God originally intended that the Bible should be transcribed by different hands and translated into different languages, there was no occasion for His suggesting every thought and word to the sacred penmen; because, after all, their writings must be subject to human defects and imperfections. It is sufficient to observe here that every transcription and translation is commonly more or less perfect, in proportion to the greater or less perfection of the original. And since the Scriptures were designed to be often transcribed and translated, this made it more necessary, instead of less, that they should be written, at first, with peculiar accuracy and precision.

4. It may be said that the Apostle Paul seems to acknowledge, in 1 Corinthians 7., that he wrote some things in that chapter according to his own private opinion, without the aid or authority of a plenary inspiration. In one verse he says, "I speak this by permission, and not of commandment." And in another verse he says, "To the rest speak I, not the Lord." If we understand these expressions literally, then we must suppose that the apostle and all the other sacred penmen always wrote under a plenary inspiration, only when they gave intimations to the contrary. But we find no such notice given, except in the chapter under consideration; and therefore we may justly conclude that all the other parts of Scripture were written by the immediate inspiration of God. But if, in the second place, we understand the apostle as speaking ironically in the verses before us, then his expressions will carry no idea of his writing without Divine aid and authority. And there is some ground to understand his words in this sense. There is, how ever, a third answer to this objection, which appears to be the most satisfactory; and that is this: the apostle is here speaking upon the subject of marriage; and he intimates that he has more to say upon this subject than either the prophets or Christ had said upon it. Accordingly he says, "I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. To the rest speak I, not the Lord." By these expressions he means to distinguish what he said from what other inspired teachers had said upon the same subject. On the whole there appears no solid objection against the plenary inspiration of any part of the Sacred Scriptures; but, on the other hand, every argument which proves them to be partly, equally proves them to be altogether, given by the immediate inspiration of God. Improvement:

1. If the Bible contains the very ideas and sentiments which were immediately suggested to the sacred pen men by the Divine Spirit, then great caution and circumspection ought to be used in explaining Scripture. The words of Scripture may not be lightly altered, nor expunged, nor supplied, nor wrested from their plain and obvious meaning according to the connection in which they stand.

2. If the Divine Spirit suggested every word and thought to the holy pemnen, then it is not strange that they did not understand their own writings. These the apostle tells us, in our context, they did not under stand. They might, by the aid of the Spirit, write precepts, predictions, promises, and theatenings, of whose import they were ignorant, that would be very intelligible and very useful in future ages. They wrote not for themselves, but for others; not for present, but future times. And this affords an additional evidence of the plenary inspiration of all the sacred writings.

3. If the Bible was written under the inspiration of suggestion, then it is an infallible rule of faith, and the only standard by which to try our religious sentiments.

4. If holy men of old wrote as they were moved by God, then it is reasonable to expect that the Bible should bear clear and strong marks of its Divine author. Accordingly, when we look into the Bible, we find the image and superscription of the Deity on every page. It displays all the perfections of God.

5. If the Bible be the immediate revelation of God's mind and will to men, then it is a most precious book.

6. If the Bible contains the mind and will of God, then all who enjoy it may know in this world what will be their state in the next. It clearly describes both heaven and hell, and the terms upon which we may obtain the one and escape the other.

7. If the Bible be indeed the Word of God, then it is not strange that it has had such a great influence over the minds of men.

(N. Emmons, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

WEB: knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation.

The Inspiration, Conscription, and Exposition of Scripture
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