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and a recompence given to every man according to his works.
Although these principles of religion are not attended with that kind of evidence, which the objects of our external senses generally afford ; yet it is not a little remarkable, that there are scarcely any other subjects, which have obtained such general belief and persuasion amongst mankind; though often mixed with many gross ideas. They are principles so interwoven with our natures, that it seems to indicate an extraordinary debasement, or perversion of mind, not to entertain truths so universally felt and acknowledged. They are, however, principles which may be supported by arguments, drawn from the nature of things; and, notwithstanding the general consent to them, it may be proper to bring forward a few of these arguments.
The existence of a Supreme Being, the Creator of heaven and earth, is evident from the works of creation. The magnificence of some of these works; the regularity and order with which they move in their appointed stations ; the beauty and use attendant upon others, with the important purposes which are accomplished by them, particularly to the animal creation ; evince so clearly both design and power, as to afford an insuperable argument in favour of a GREAT First CAUSE, perfect in wisdom and goodness, as well as unlimited in power. To these considerations may be added, the wonderful arrangement of the animal economy. The different parts adapted to their different purposes with peculiar exactness and advantage, might well induce the pious Psalmist to address his Maker in this emphatic language : “I will praise Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvellous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well."** Thus also a consideration of the
other works of creation, induced the same Psalmist to celebrate his Maker's praise : “ The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech; and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.” * And again : 66 O Lord! how manifold are thy works ; in wisdom hast Thou made them all !" +
Nor are we without arguments for our immortality, and a future state of retribution ; the belief of which is, as it were, the soul of religion : for, when we have entertained suitable ideas of a Supreme Being; when we feel those aspirations unto Him, and those desires to unite with Him, which frequently arise in our hearts; and particularly when we look at the state of the righteous and the wicked in this world ; we have sufficient reason to conclude, that there is a part in man which is immortal; and that there must be a future state, in which virtue and vice will meet with their respective rewards, in a more signal manner than they appear to receive them in this life; thus showing that God is just and equal in all his ways, and righteous in all his thoughts.
But, notwithstanding these and other arguments, which might be adduced in support of those two first principles of religion, the soul seems most fully to rest upon and enjoy them, when they are felt as objects of faith, rather than of reason. They then become like self-evident truths, of which our own feelings are the best support, and which act in
* Psalm xix. 1, 2, 3. . + Psalm civ. 24. If any person should think it irregular, to bring forward passages from the Scriptures, before their authority has been proved ; it may be observed, that these passages are not advanced as arguments, but as elucidations, in the same manner as any other writing might be quoted.
concert with that declaration : 66 Without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is ; and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”* And we ought ever to remember, after all our reasonings on these subjects, that “ Life and immortality are brought to light by the Gospel.” +
* Heb. xi. 6.
+ 2 Tim. i. 10,
ON THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
Nature and design of the Scriptures.—Their claim to our regard, and to the belief of their being Divinely inspired-Objections answered-first to their Genuineness and Truth-next to their Inspiration,- All related of good men not intended for imitation.—Impartiality of the Scriptures.Great judgment necessary in applying them.- Possibility of placing too much dependence on them.-On calling them the Word of God.
These writings are divided into two parts, the Old and the New Testaments. They commence with an account of the Creation of the world, and contain a history of more than four thousand years. Their object appears to be, to exhibit the various dispensations of God to mankind ; to manifest many of his general and particular acts of Providence; to show the good effects of religion and virtue ; and to set forth the lamentable evils, which are the consequence of walking in the paths of irreligion and profaneness. For the prevention of these evils, the Scriptures inculcate those principles of piety and morality, which contribute to the happiness of mankind, both here and hereafter; and there is not any general duty, religious or moral, in which they do not afford instruction and direction.
The Scriptures also contain many remarkable predictions concerning nations and individuals, with several prophecies of the coming of the Messiah, and of the dispensation of the Gospel. Ancient history, both sacred and profane, gives account of circumstances, which show the fulfilling of many of these predictions; and the New Testament particularly
relates the completion of those, which are given concerning “ Him, of whom Moses in the Law, and the prophets did write.” *
When we consider who were the writers of these volumes; what are the subjects, and what appear to be the objects of them; they claim, at first view, a high degree of regard and esteem. But when, as Christians, we believe in a Divine Influence and direction, we find abundant cause to conclude, that this Influence was extended to those who wrote or compiled the Scriptures; and therefore believe with the apostle Paul, that they were given by Inspiration of God;" + and are productive of those important advantages which he attaches to them.
But, notwithstanding the strong belief which is generally entertained of the truth of these writings, and of their having been communicated under the influence of Divine Inspiration, there are persons who do not acknowledge one or both of these claims, to that credibility and reverence which are attached to the Scriptures. It will therefore be necessary to pay some attention to the objections advanced by these persons ; in doing which, it may be proper first to consider those which are made against the authenticity of the Scrip
These objections may be divided into two classes.
1. To the writings, as the genuine productions of the authors to whom they are ascribed.
To the works themselves, as being a true history.
With respect to the objection against their being genuine, in relation to their imputed authors, if it could in some cases
* John i. 45.
+ 2 Tim, iii, 16.