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AND COMPLETE AT ONCE, to be developed and admired as occasion served, and new exigencies brought to light its innate congruity.
Human legislation is retrospective; it is grounded on the experience of the past : when it attempts to reason à priori on the future, its plans are miserably defective, and soon become inapplicable. Divine Revelation knew what was in man from the first, and provided for it with unerring care.
The Bible was not written after the arts and sciences and civilization had opened all the sources of natural knowledge. No.
No. You must take your stand with Moses, one thousand five hundred years before Christ, and conceive what was the prescient wisdom which adapted his writings to man living at a distance of three or four thousand years. You must go back, with David and Isaiah and Malachi, and then estimate the evidence arising from the suitableness of all their writings, not only to their contemporaries, but to inen of all times. You must imagine yourselves in the company of apostles and evangelists—fishermen, tent-makers—and consider whence they had that wisdom, which one thousand eight hundred years have served only to illustrate. An adaptation extending so wide, and appearing more and more as our experience enlarges, and which yet was infused into the original composition of the Revelation, ages before the occasions could arise for developing it, marks the Divine hand from which it came.
Let it be observed, finally, as THE APPLICATION of the whole subject, that as all this argument rests on the particular circumstances and wants of man-is a consideration of the suitableness of Christianity to his obvious state in this world, therefore,
THE POINT OF VIEW FROM WHICH TO BEHOLD THIS OBJECT ARIGHT, IS FROM THE MIDST OF HUMAN WEAKNESS, MISERY, AND SORROW.
The Bible professes to be a remedy for sin and guilt, for darkness and fear, for forebodings of futurity, and dissatisfaction at earthly sources of happiness. So long as you think yourself not of this number, the gospel is not capable of appearing to you in this branch of its evidence, at least in the most striking and important parts of it, as emanating from a Divine hand.25
I must send you back to the external proofs, or allow you to dwell on those palpable and lower points of suitableness which the authority and the morals of the Christian religion present.
When you begin to feel aright-when, from the external evidences and the general view of the adaptation, you are led to enter practically upon the business of your salvation, to read what the Bible says of your state, your duties, your danger, your obligation to Almighty God, your violation of that obligation a thousand and a thousand times—when you begin to compare those statements with
actual state, and to pray in earnest for grace and direction; that is, when you know and feel your real condition, then will this argument rise upon your view. You will feel the need of an authoritative guide to decide upon what is truth; you will feel the exact correspondence between the description of the Bible and your own state ; you will perceive the magnitude and appropriateness of the remedy which it reveals. Thus you will stand in the right light to catch the beauty and perfections of Revelation, which, if you view it from a false position, will present only a confused mass of unmeaning forms.
I appeal to those devout Christians who are best capable of judging of what is suited to man in all the extent of his wants.-Tell me if you do not find the Scriptures adapted to all your exigencies. Tell me if
25 Bishop Sherlock.
this does not give it a direct, practical authority in your judgment. Tell me if there is not a completeness in the Scriptures which meets every varied case under all imaginable circumstances. Tell me whether, as life flows on and your experience widens, this suitableness doth not appear more and more evident. Tell me whether new views of it do not open upon you, as you arrive at new points of prospect in the journey of life. Tell me whether, in the seasons of affliction, in the times of awakenings of conscience, in the moments of reflection upon your past life, in the conflicts of anxiety and the forebodings as to eternity; -tell me whether, as you ascend the hill, and approach the lofty summit, and command a wider
prospect and a clearer and more unclouded horizon, you do not behold more distinctly the adaptation of Christianity to your state and wants, to the real relation of things, to your fears and sorrows, to your most importunate interests. Tell me, in fine, whether the confirmations arising from this source, do not give to the proofs arising from external evidences a softness and richness of persuasion, a power of communicating repose and peace to the mind, a perception of the excellency and fitness of the remedy of the gospel, which endears it to your heart, and raises to a demonstration your assurance that it is indeed the Revelation of God.
THE EXCELLENCIES OF THE DOCTRINES OF
1 John iv. 8-10.
God is love ; in this was manifested the love of God
towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love ; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Having considered the general suitableness of the Christian Revelation to the obvious state and wants of man, we come now to point out the excellency of its doctrines ; that is, of the leading truths which are made known to us on the authority of the religion. Some of these relate to the being and perfections of the Deity, and others to a stupendous scheme which he has been pleased to reveal for the redemption of
Here, then, the propriety of the limits to which we have confined the internal evidences becoines obvious. For of the counsels of the incomprehensible God, what can man, abstractedly speaking, know? Of the various methods of his dealings with his creatures in
their fallen state, what can human wisdom, of itself, determine ? On such subjects we are silent; and having received the divine communications on the ground of external testimony, we receive the doctrines as converts and disciples, and accept the Revelation itself as an authority for what it contains."
Having done this, we are in a condition to trace out various indications of glory and excellency in the doctrines thus admitted, or rather in certain parts of them; and these indications furnish a source of important subsidiary evidence.
Let us, then, first enumerate, in this view, the CHIEF DOCTRINES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION; and, secondly, point out the particulars in which SOMETHING OF THEIR DIVINE EXCELLENCY MAY
In doing this, it will be impossible not to touch on some of the points noticed under the adaptation of Christianity, in its most general sense, to the wants of man; for the doctrines are only the details of that subject. At the same time, a wide distinction in the conduct and results of the argument will appear.?
I. I propose to review the chief doctrines of the Christian religion.
1. The first relates to the being, PERFECTIONS, AND PROVIDENCE OF THE ONE LIVING AND TRUE God. The Bible begins here. It teaches us that
? A more serious difficulty arises from the necessity of employing terms and referring to doctrines which suppose a knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, and some general acquaintance with Christianity in its chief details. This difficulty attends every branch of the internal evidences, but peculiarly the consideration of the doctrines of Revelation. It will be lessened as the student advances in his inquiry— and with regard to the great body of young people whom I have especially in view, and who have been instructed from infancy in the Christian religion, it scarcely exists.