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none of them go to the proof of a wicked and unprincipled heart. The reverse was the character of a Jacob, a David, and a Peter, who of all others have been treated with the most freedom. And as the general tenor of these men's lives establishes their integrity and piety beyond a doubt, so the ingenuous sorrow they felt and expressed for sins into which they were precipitated by temptation, will not fail to disarm every prejudice of resentment, except that of deep-rooted infidelity. And now what becomes of this boasted argument against the divine authority of Scripture ? Again,
Thirdly, “ Certain historical facts here related, such as those of Balaam, Samson, and the like," have been treated as idle romantic tales, which none but weak and bigotted people could credit.
But the general answer to this objection, without entering into a particular examination of the facts referred to, is such as fully establishes their probability and authenticity, while it fails not to reflect dishonour on the objector. For whoever considers the usages of eastern countries, which differ greatly from those among us; the characters too and manners of ancient times, as drawn by some of the earliest pagan writers; the relation which the facts animadverted upon bear to the general thread of the story; and above all, the manifest utility and importance of an extraordinary interference of Providence on those occasions; whoever, I say, takes these considerations into view will at once see, that the ridicule with which these facts are treated, owes all its force to a total ignorance of antiquity, and a puerile attachment to modern customs and man
Let any one, for instance, read Homer with attention, and he will not only find his difficulties on these subjects instantly vanish, but will derive from the similarity between the usages there mentioned and those of the same age in the Bible, a strong presumptive evidence in favour of the truth of Scripture history
And I must not omit here to observe, that the connection between sacred and profane history from the beginning down to the Christian era, is such as affords a most illustrious and irrefragable proof of the authenticity of the Old Testament
scriptures. Some questions of a chronological kind may be started which we have not lights sufficient to solve, they are however few and of trifling importance.
From hence also I am naturally led to observe, that if the transcribers of ancient copies of the Bible were guilty of some mistakes, here and there dropping a letter, or misplacing a word (which indeed if it had not happened would have been marvellous); yet we may affirm upon the most respectable authority, that those mistakes are not so numerous as might naturally be expected, nor do they affect the essential truths of Christianity. So that upon the whole this venerable book's having escaped those errors, defalcations, and interpolations which most other books have suffered, is itself little less than a miracle.-Once more,
Fourthly, As to “ the form in which the Bible is written," little has been objected on this subject deserving of notice.
It should however be observed, that the mode which infinite Wisdom has chosen for the communication of divine knowledge, is admirably adapted to the various characters, capacities, and conditions of mankind. The sacred writings consist of histories, prophecies, and doctrines. The several truths reducible to one or other of these heads, are not cast into the form of a system, but brought forward to view in such manner as best suited the occasion of their delivery: now in sermons, then in dialogues; now in proverbs and parables, then in psalms, hymns, and other devotional exercises; now in occasional hints and reflections, and then in set discourses or familiar epistles ; but always in a mode the most natural, pleasing, and instructive. The style is sometimes sublime and elevated, and sometimes plain and simple ; but ever in perfect unison with the nature of the subject, the peculiar cast of the writer, and the particular occasion or other circumstances of the discourse.
Thus much observed, it is sufficient to add that the exceptions of unbelievers on these subjects are some of them trifling, and without any foundation in true criticism; and that others are owing to the want of reflecting, that the simplicity of the sacred writings is their glory, and that it is beneath the dignity of a divine revelation to address the passions of men by the arts of human eloquence, where its only object is to inform and convince by the energy of plain truth.
Here then we shall close our reply to the objections urged by infidels against the authenticity and divinity of the Bible. We have seen,—That the pretended impossibility of a divine revelation, or, which is much the same, of our having sufficient evidence of its coming from God, is totally without foundation;
- That its not being universal, which is in one sense false, though in another true, derogates not at all from its authority; -That the peculiarity and abstruseness of some of its doctrines is an insufficient objection : for that by far the greater part of its contents is level to the plainest understanding; and that what there is of difficulty in conceiving of some of its truths, goes not to the proof of absurdity, but is owing to the subļimity of those extraordinary discoveries it makes; to which therefore our assent is demanded upon the ground of evidence suited to their nature. And we have also seen, That those objections which respect matters merely circumstantial, such as, --that this revelation was not given to mankind, in one entire code, at the beginning of time--that the writers, and most eminent characters of it, had their imperfections and failingsthat certain historical facts here related arę scarce credible that there is a difficulty in solving some questions of a chronological kind—that transcribers have been guilty of mistakesthat the form in which this book is written, the manner in which its leading truths are brought forward to view, and its style, are in some instances exceptionable ; these objections, so far as they may be supposed to have any weight in them to invalidate the truth of Scripture, we have shewn to be futile and groundless.
And now I should proceed to consider our other conclusions from the points established in the preceding discourses—“ That the Bible is infinitely preferable to all other revelations ;"" That it is a test by which all opinions in religion are to bę tried and determined ;"_" That it shall surmount all opposition, and effectually attain the great ends of its publication;"_“That it should not be withheld from the people;"— And “ that the most important regards are due to it from those who possess it."
But these heads of improvement must be referred to the consideration of the next Sermon, and this closed with a few reflections on what has now been delivered.
(1.) How much is the folly and impiety of unbelievers to be lamented!
What are men doing when setting up their reason in opposition to revelation ?-racking their invention for arguments to disprove the plainest truths ?-planting their puny artillery against the battlements of heaven?—and attempting to put out the sun with the glimmering light of what they call natural religion? How great the folly, to dictate to supreme wisdom !--the madness to limit almighty power !—and the baseness, to treat the noblest gift of heaven not only with indifference but contempt! Can a man look around him and consider the calamities .which befal the human race, trace them back to sin their true source, and feel his own guilt, helplessness, and misery; and at the same time offer violence to the kind arm stretched forth to his relief? He cannot. Would you then have an explanation of this wonderful phænomenon -infidelity? You must look, not to any failure in the evidence of Christianity, but to inattention to notorious facts, to ignorance of the human heart, to a base subjection to sordid passions, and to insensibility to the noblest.
What harm has the Bible done that it should be treated as an enemy-guarded against with suspicion, and opposed with malice? Why should that noble simplicity which marks every page of its contents, be violated by the lawless hands of insult and ridicule? Why should the concern here shewn to reconcile the claims of justice with the pleas of mercy, be deemed weakness and folly ? Why should the Son of God be trodden under foot, and the blood of the covenant counted an unholy thing a ? Why, in a word, should the earnest and affectionate expostulations of this book on men's present and everlasting interests, be laughed at as the mere effusions of enthusiasm, or the assumed grimace of hypocrisy? Evidence there is enough of the miserable depravity of the human heart in the daily conduct of thousands towards their Maker, their fellow,
a Heb. x. 29.
creatures, and themselves': but the extreme to which it is capable of being carried would perhaps not have been imagined, if there had been no Bible and no infidelity. Let such take heed lest that befal them which befel the unbelieving Israelites, of whom it is said, Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the council of the Most High: therefore he brought down their heart with labour, they fell down and there was none to help a.
(2.) Let us not be offended at free enquiry.
Every man has an undoubted right to judge of the authenticity, meaning, and intrinsic value of this, or any other book, put into his hands. To deny. him that right is absurd. To throw any difficulties in the way of his exercising it, whether by menacés civil or ecclesiastical, is insufferable tyranny. Yea, I will add, such principles and conduct are as irreconcileable with policy as with equity. The real friend of revelation will earnestly recommend it to every man to read this book with attention, and to judge for himself of its contents, not doubting but the event of the severest scrutiny, if impartial, will be conviction. If he who enters the lists with another at single combat, intimates a wish that his adversary were manaeled or deprived of any one advantage common to both,
be fairly pronounced beaten before he begins the at tack. And it affords no small pleasure to an intelligent Christian to reflect, that whatever discouragements may have been thrown in the way of free enquiry in other countries, it hath little cause for complaint in this. No index expurgatorius, no inquisitory process, no anathema ex cathedra, is to be dreaded in our happy land.
And what has been the effect of this lenity ?-lenity I call it, because how clearly soever the civil and religious rights of mankind may be ascertained and demonstrated, they have often been overawed and restrained by authority. What, I say, has been the effect of the freedom which this country has enjoyed? The pens of infidels in great abundance have been drawn against the Scriptures. Every objection that wit or malice could suggest has been brought forward to the view
a Psal. cvii. 11, 12.