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of the world, sometimes in the way of open attack, and sometimes under the insidious form of tenderness if not friendship for this sacred book. But has the Bible sustained any real damage from these assaults? It has not. Like a mighty oak it has stood unmoved, suffering nothing from the noisy wind but the mere rustling of its leaves. Yea, the cause of truth has been availed by these attacks. For they have given birth to such defences of Christianity, as have effectually removed the doubts of sincere enquirers, and at once reflected honour on their authors, and confusion on their opponents.
(3.). That freedom of enquiry which we allow to others let us diligently and conscientiously use ourselves. Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life a. Read the sacred records with attention. Endeavour to come at their true meaning. Take nothing upon trust. See with your own eyes. Allow to every objection its full force. Let the balance be held with an impartial and steady hand. Call in all the aid you can get. And humbly sensible of your liableness to err, make it your daily and most earnest prayer to God, to assist your understanding and judgment, to secure you from the influence of prejudice and passion, and to lead you into all truth.
And while I thus exhort you, my friends, to measures which right reason and conscience cannot but approve, permit me to represent to you, with great seriousness and affection, the infinite importance of your possessing a further evidence of the divinity of the Scriptures--an evidence of which it will not be in the power of sophistry, contempt, or persecution to deprive you.
It is what arises from that savour or relish for the great truths of the Bible, which, mingling itself with your meditations, enquiries, reasonings, intercourses with others, and your prayers to God; will cheer your spirits, fortify your hearts, and make you invulnerable to the attacks of infidelity.
Believe me, the Bible was not given us for the trifling purposes of amusement, criticism, or disputation. It was put into our hands for ends infinitely more important; to inform our
a John v. 39.
understandings, convince our consciences, deliver us from the dominion of sin, and inspire us with the love of God, contempt of the world, and the joyful hope of a blessed immortality. Oh! did we enter into the spirit of our religion, though like David unused to the cumberous armour of boasting combatants, we went out only with our scrip and our sling against the enemy; we should not fail to lay the proud Philistine in the dust—the Philistine who dares defy the armies of the living God. With this witness in ourselves a, and the seasonable aids of divine grace, we should be nobly superior to the contemptuous sneers of unbelievers, and the united force of all the powers of darkness: we should neither be laughed out of our profession by the former, nor be terrified into a desertion of it by the latter. I shall only add,
(4.) And lastly, That it should be our solicitous concern, to . adorn our Christian profession with the pleasant and substantial fruits of love and obedience.
Doubtless there have been many of the opposite description among the professors of religion. But no considerate man will affirm, that their conduct can with any reason be improved into an argument against the divinity of the Bible. Truth is always the same. The only inference that can with justice be drawn from it is, that such unhappy persons are not the men they pretend to be. And indeed it is tremendous to think how awful their condemnation will be in the great day of account ! But it should be observed, on the other hand, that there are innumerable instances of those in whose lives the holy tendency of the gospel is strikingly realized. And if it be true, as it most certainly is, that the grace of God teaches men to live righteously, soberly, and godly in the world b, it is also true that many in all ages have not only learned but practised this doctrine.
As however the considerations of the ill lives of some pro fessing Christians has been, contrary to all reason, pressed into the service of infidelity, and as it may become an occasion of confirming thoughtless people in their sloth and stupidity, we are under the greater obligation to pay a circumspect attention a 1 John v. 10.
b Tit. ii. 12.
to our external conduct. Indeed it is inconceivable how a man of religion can live in a course of sin: were he so to do he would act against the habitual sense and inclination of his heart; a contradiction not to be admitted. Wherefore the apostle John says, He that is born of God sinneth not a, “ does not live in sin, does not allow himself in it.”. Yet good men may by the force of sudden temptation be precipitated into
gross sins, and thereby give occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme b. Be therefore, Christians, on your guard. See you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise c. Nor be content with preserving decent and sober characters: but let it be your concern to excel in the amiable virtues of piety, temperance, and benevolence. By all the noble motives which this book written with the finger of God suggests, be persuaded to let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven d.
OTHER CONCLUSIONS FROM THE FACTS BEFORE STATED
AND PROVED, CONSIDERED.
2 Tim. 11. 16, 17.-All Scripture is given by inspiration of
God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness : that the man of God
may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Having
AVING considered, in some former discourses-What Scripture is—What is meant by inspiration- What proof we have that the Bible is inspired-and What is the proper use of this sacred book, we have proceeded to the improvement of this important subject. To which purpose we have proposed to illustrate the following deductions from the truths before stated and proved,
u 1 John v. 18. c Eph. y. 15.
62 Sam. xii. 14. d Matt. v, 16.
FIRST, " That the objections urged by unbelievers against the authenticity and divinity of the Bible are futile and groundless;"
SECONDLY, “ That the Bible is infinitely preferable to all other pretended revelations;"
THIRDLY, “ That being divinely inspired it is a test by which every opinion in religion ought to be tried and finally determined ;"
FOURTHLY, “ That it shall surmount all opposition, and effectly attain the great ends of its publication;"
FIFTHLY, “ That it ought not be withheld from the people;" and,
SIXTHLY, “ That the most important regards are due to it from all who have the happiness to possess it.”
The objections of infidels we have in the first place considered: and I hope you are convinced,
1. That “the pretended impossibility of a divine revelation, or, which is much the same, the impossibility of our having sufficient evidence of its coming from God," is an objection totally without foundation. You have seen,
2. That “ its not being universal,” which is in one sense false though in another true, does not at all derogate from its authority. You have also seen,
3. That “the peculiarity and abstruseness of some of its doctriness” is an insufficient objection : for the greater part of its contents is level to the plainest understanding; and what there is of difficulty in conceiving of some of its truths, goes not to the proof of absurdity, but is owing to the sublimity 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 further shewn,
4. That all those objections which respect “matters merely circumstantial,” are also groundless, such as—that this revelation was not given to mankind in one entire code, at the beginning of time--that the writers and most cminent characters of the Bible had their imperfections and failings--that certain historical facts here related are of the marvellous kind -that there are some chronological difficulties hard to be solved—that transcribers of manuscripts, and translators, have been guilty of mistakes,--that the form in which the Bible is written, the manner in which its leading truths are brought forward to view, and its style, are on some accounts exceptionable: these objections, so far as they have any the least force to invalidate the truth of Scripture, have been shewn to be futile and groundless.-And now I proceed to the second conclusion from our general argument, which is this,
SECONDLY, That “the Bible is infinitely preferable to all other revelations."
And so it must be, if that comes from God, and these are only the inventions of men. Here I shall not speak of those productions of genius and learning which have drawn the attention of all mankind, and made the fame of their authors immortal, but at the same time have no pretensions to inspiration. I mean only to bring the Bible into comparison with books which have claimed the warrant of divine authority. Of this kind are the Zend of Zoroaster; the five books of Confucius, the Chinese lawgiver; the Koran of Mohammed; the Oral-Law of the Jews, as contained in their Mishna and Targums; to which perhaps might be added the Roman Decretals. In some of these books there are no doubt
excellent things respecting the nature, perfections, and providence of God; duties personal, domestic, and political ; and a future state of retribution. But whatever there is of truth, wisdom, and sublimity in some passages of these books; it has been clearly shewn by learned men, that the writers of them were principally indebted to the Scriptures for their knowledge, and that little, comparatively speaking, is to be set down to the account of genius. Allowing however what you will to genius, there is sufficient internal evidence in each of these books, that they were not written by inspiration, and that the claims of their authors to divine authority were presumptuous and groundless. Of this no one can reasonably doubt who