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mony? Would not the suspicion of error in their writings have rendered it necessary, before we received them, to try them by the standard of reason ; and would not the authority and the design of revelation have thus been overthrown ? We must conclude, therefore, that the words of scripture are from God, as well as the matter ; or we shall charge him with a want of wisdom, in transmitting his truths through a channel, by which they might have been, and most probably have been polluted.
To the inspiration of the words, the difference in the style of the sacred writers seems to be an objection ; because, if the Holy Ghost were the author of the words, the style might be expected to be uniformly the same. But, in answer to this objcction, it may be observed, that the Divine Spirit, whose operations are various, might act differently on different persons, according to the natural turn of their minds. He might enable one m'an, for instance, to write more sublimely than another, because he was naturally of a more exalted genius than the other, and the subject assigned to him demanded more elevated language; or, he might produce a difference in the style of the same man, by raising, at one time, his faculties above their ordi. nary state, and by leaving them, at another, to act according to their native energy, under his inspection and control. We should not suppose, that inspiration, even in its higher degrees, deprived those, who were the subjects of it, of the use of their faculties. They were, indeed, the organs of the Spirit; but they were conscious, intelligent organs. They were dependent, but distinct agents; and the operation of their mental powers, though
elevated, and directed by superior influence, was analogous to their ordinary mode of procedure. It is easy, therefore, to conceive, that the style of the writers of the scriptures should differ, just as it would have differed, if they had not been inspired. A perfect uniformity of style could not have taken place, unless they had all been inspired in the same degree, and by inspiration their faculties had been completely suspended ; so that divine truths were conveyed by them, in the same passive manner, in which a pipe affords a passage to water, or a trumpet to the breath.
The opinion, which I have thus endeavoured to support, is not singular, It has been maintained by men of talents and learning; and seems to be the hypothesis, which a due reverence for the scriptures will ultimately lead us to adopt. It would not have been consistent with the goodness, any more than with the wisdom of God, to subject a revelation of his will to the risk of being misrepresented by imperfect and inaccurate expressions, in consequence of which mankind would have been exposed to the inevitable danger of error. If, to evade this objection, it be granted, that a superintendence was exercised over the sacred writers, to preserve them from blunders in language, the point in question is virtually conce ded. That superintendence implying, it is manifest, an influence on their minds, by which they were led to employ words and phrases, that would not have naturally occurred to them, rendered the style not properly their own, as it was confessedly different from what they would have used, if they had been left at full liberty to express themselves as they pleased. They did not write as their own genius freely prompted them; but under the secret direction and control of the Divine Spirit, who moulded their conceptions and guided their pens, in complete subservience to his own designs.
Inspired Books ......... Apocryphal Books.
HAVING fixed the sense, in which we assert that certain writings are inspired, we proceed to ascertain what those writings are. Many books have appeared in the world claiming a heavenly origin ; and there are many books, which, though they advance no such claim, contain nothing but the pure doctrines, and holy precepts of religion. Yet, among all this number, we ascribe inspiration to those alone, which are commonly called the scriptures of the Old and New Testament; the first of these collections beginning with Genesis, and ending with Malachi ; the second beginning with Mat-, thew, and ending with the Revelation.
But why, it may be asked, do we acknowledge these books, and these alone, to be divinely inspired? Why from a multitude of claimants do we select a few individuals, and allow them the exclusive possession of that authority, to which all make equal pretensions ? The oniy answer, which in this stage of our inquiry, it is necessary to give, is, that no other books have been handed down to us as inspired by the church, of whose duty it is an essential part, to point out to the observation of mankind
that genuine revelation, which hath been committed to her care. We deny, indeed, that the authority of the scriptures depends on her testimony ; but, as they were entrusted to her as a sacred deposit, we consider her testimony as furnishing a strong argument in favour of their inspiration. The ancient church undoubtedly observed what books were delivered to her by prophets and apostles ; and as we have no reason to think, that she suffered herself to be deceived, so there is no ground to suspect any design, on her part, to impose upon us.* It is, then, to those books, which come to us recommend. ed and attested by catholic and uninterrupted tradition, that our attention must be directed.
I shall separately inquire into the grounds on which we receive the books contained in the Old and the New Testament, to the exclusion of all others.
In ascertaining the genuineness of the christian scriptures, we must employ the same method which we follow, when the genuineness of any other book is the subject of investigation. As it is only by testimony, that this question can be determined, it is necessary to appeal to those, who, from the time when they flourished, were competent to judge, and, from their circumstances, felt themselves peculiarly interested in examining the evidence with diligence and caution. The christian writers of the first ages are the witnesses to whom we must ap
* We find Cyril of Jerusalem directing those, to whom he addressed his catachetical discourses, to learn from the church the inspired books, as distinguished from the apocryphal. Kad φιλομαθώς επίγνωθι παρά της εκκλησίας, ποίας μέν εισιν αι της παλαιάς Διαθήκης βιβλοι, ποϊαι δε της καινης» και μου μηδεν τον αποκρύφων αναγίνωσκε. Cyril. Cataches. IV.
ply for information with respect to the books, which were composed by the immediate disciples and apostles of Christ, and by them were delivered to the world as an authentic account of the gospel and its Author. The task of searching the records of antiquity hath been undertaken by learned men, and executed with great industry and zeal. The result of their inquiries is, that the books of the New Testament which we now receive, are cited by the early writers as books of divine authority; that lists were drawn up by private individuals and by councils, in which these books are inserted ; that they were read in the churches or religious assemblies of the christians, not merely as pious and useful compositions, like the epistle of Clement and the Shepherd of Hermas, but as the dictates of inspiration ; and that they were carefully distinguished from every spurious production.*
There is no reason to suspect, that the christians, in the primitive times, were careless in an affair of such magnitude, and received books into the canon, or rejected them, at hazard. To insinuate that they suffered themselves to be imposed upon by artful men, who wished to make their own compositions pass for a divine revelation, is contrary to all probability; and being a supposition without the slightest evidence, might, with equal propriety, be brought forward to invalidate the strongest testimony in any other case, Whether the scriptures of the New Testament were inspired or not, their inspiration was by them universally believed. They regarded
* See Lardner's Credibility of the Gospel History, Part i.Jones' New and Full Method of settling the Canonical Authority of the New Testament.