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sider them, as in that case, subject to a supernatural influence, by which their minds are moulded and fashioned alike. Those pens which have described letters so exactly similar, must have been guided by the same hand ; those instruments, which conspire to form so sweet a concord, must have been tuned by the same artist. The spirit of error and imposture could not, in such circumstances, have assumed the distinguishing attribute of truth, immutability.
VI. The last argument for the inspiration of the scriptures, is founded in their wonderful, and I may add, miraculous preservation. · The sacred books of the Egyptians, the Chaldeans, and other ancient nations, have perished, though no means were ever used to destroy them. The leaves of the Sibyl have long since been scattered by the winds *; and of her oracles, which were consulted with such reverence, and preserved with such superstitious care, I know not whether a. fragment remain. Those which are quoted by the fathers are clumsy fabrications of some christian, more zealous than honest. It is more than three thousand years since the first of our sacred books, and nearly two thousand since the last of them was written ; and yet not one of them, nor even, I may venture to assert, a single sentence of them hath been lost. f
* Vid. Virgilii Æneid. Lib. iii. lin. 441–452. † Large collections of various readings of the scriptures have been made by the industry of critics. - But of these, some are merely conjectural ; others are absurdly, in my opinion, taken from ancient versions"; others are trifling, as they relate to syllables and words of little nioment, and are undeserving, therefore, of the pains with which they have been gathered, and the pomp with which they are displayed; and the most important of them do not deprive us of one article of faith, nor establish any heresy or error.
Very ancient books, it must be acknowledged, have come down to us through a long succession of ages ; but their case, when attentively considered, will appear to be very different from that of the scriptures. Against those books no person had conceived any ill-will, nor did any man feel himself interested in suppressing them, because they neither contradicted his prejudices, nor opposed any obstacle to the gratification of his passions, and the success of his schemes ; whereas kings and emperors, both before, and since the coming of Christ, have been the determined enemies of the scriptures, and have employed all their authority, and the utmost severity of persecution, to accomplish their destruction. Antiochus Epiphanes, in the prosecution of his design to establish the idolatrous worship of the Greeks, in Judea, caused all the copies of the law which could be found, to be, burnt, and forbade, under the penalty of death, any Jew to retain the scriptures in his possession.* The furious persecution of Diocletian commenced by an order to demolish the churches of the christians, and burn the scriptures.t Bishops and presbyters were cruelly tortured to constrain them to deliver up their sacred books; and those, who were overcome by fear or pain, received, from their more courageous and indignant brethren, the infamous appellation of traditors. Besides the lusts of men; have, in all ages, been at war with the scriptures ; and the patrons of heresies and errors have experienced them to be the chief impediments to the
* 1 Maccab. i. 56, 57. | Vide Euseb. Lib. viii. cap. 2. Lactan. de mortibus perseoutorum, cap. 12.
progress and triumph of their opinions. Their hand, to allude to the description of Ishmael, hath been against all ungodly men, who held the truth in unrighteousness ; and it was natural, therefore, that the hands of all ungodly men should be against them. A book which pronounced the wisdom of the world to be folly, treated its most serious and important pursuits as childish and criminal, and branded with the odious name of vice its favourite indulgences, was likely to be proscribed with indignation, and persecuted with unrelenting revenge.
Amidst so many enemies, we could not have been surprised, if the Bible had shared the fate of many other books once venerated, and reputed divines which have long since disappeared. Surely, had it been a work of man, its memorial must have perished from the earth. But of its preservation amidst the dangers which threatened it, we ourselves are witnesses. With whatever earnestness multitudes may have 'wished to destroy a book, which thwarted their measures, and disturbed them in the practice of iniquity, few have been so daring as to lay their sacrilegious hands upon it ; those who have been guilty of this audacious attempty have been disappointed in their hopes, whether they aimed at its total destruction, or at the adulteration of its contents; and it remains to this day an object of veneration and dread to the very men, whose errors it condemns, and against whose evil ways it denounces the righteous vengeance of heaven. Notwithstanding the triumph of Arianism, we still meet with all those passages, which were ever alleged to prove the equality of the Son with the Father; and though for several ages Antichrist reign
ed in the plenitude of power, and enjoyed the most favourable opportunities, amidst the gross ignorance and unsuspecting credulity of mankind, to corrupt the scriptures, we are able from them alone, without the aid of the writings of the fathers, to convict the church of Rome of apostacy, and to prove its peculiar doctrines and usages to be false and superstitious. Not one jot or one tittle of revelation hath perished.
The care, then, of Divine Providence with regard to the scriptures is manifest. We see the hand of God preserving them from all injury with incessant vigilance ; and we infer, that they are a revelation of his will, and the only means, by which men can attain the true knowledge of his nature and counsels, and of the acceptable manner of serving him. The patronage which God hath afforded to this book is a testimony that he recognises it as his own. Had it been a human composition, providence would not haye lent its aid to support its impious pretensions, and to make an imposture pass in the world as a genuine revelation from the Father of lights. “ It is apparent,” says an eminent divine,“ that God in all ages hạth had a great regard unto it, and acted his power and care in its preservation. Were not the Bible what it pretends to be, there had been nothing more suitable to the nature of God, and more becoming Divine Providence, than long since to have blotted it out of the world. For to suffer a book to be in the world, from the beginning of times, falsely pretending his name and authority, seducing so great a portion of mankind into a pera nicious and ruinous apostacy from him, as it must do, and doth, if it be not of a divine original, and
exposing inconceivable multitudes of the best, wisest, and soberest among them, unto all sorts of bloody miseries which they have undergone in the behalf of it, seems not so consonant unto that infinite goodness, wisdom, and care, wherewith this world is governed from above. But, on the contra ry, whereas the malicious craft of Satan, and the prevalent power and rage of mankind hath combined, and been set at work, to the ruin and utter suppression of this book, proceeding sometimes so far as that there was no appearing way for its escape ; yet, through the watchful care and providence of God, sometimes putting itself forth in miraculous instances, it hath been preserved unto this day, and shall be so to the consummation of all things."*
These are the general arguments, which I proposed to bring forward in favour of the inspiration of the scriptures. They are of sufficient strength to establish this point, independently of any other proof; but when added to the particular arguments advanced in support of the divinity of the Old and the New Testament, they compose a body of evi. dence, which cannot fail to remove the doubts of every candid inquirer, and to obtain his assent to the important truth, which it hath been the design of the foregoing chapters to illustrate and confirm:
BY the arguments in the preceding chapters, it may be expected, that a conviction of the divine authority of the scriptures will be produced in the
. Dr. Owen’s Reason of Faith, page 29, 30.