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men and rabbis taught them to despise the spirit of that law, and to prefer the interpretations and traditions of themselves, those rabbis, to an infinitely purer and better law, whereof the Mosaic was but the shadow.
As all the transactions above referred to, are contained in the holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, and as it will be necessary for me to refer you hereafter, for the greater part of what I am to say, to those of the New, we must give a little time to establish the credit of those books as the real word of God himself. Not that I have the smallest distrust of your faith in these sacred books, as coming to you from the fountain of truth, and of every word and doctrine contained in them, as necessary to your virtue and happiness in both worlds; but because I would still farther strengthen that faith in you, and enliven it to a still warmer and closer attention to the means of your own salvation, contained in them. That close attention, that constant perusal, that absolute submission to God, speaking to you in these books, which become you as men of common sense, I am sensible is wanting in you. Somewhat else, I fear, is wanting, namely, ' the armour of God,' to defend you against the assaults of your spiritual enemies, ever on the watch to enfeeble your faith, and throw you off your guard. There only is that armour to be found, that ‘shield of faith,' that sword of the Spirit,' without which you can never be safe against either your own natural corruptions, or the cunning deceivers, that lie in wait to destroy you.
As to the Old Testament, there might be some small appearance of room to suspect that the Jews had forged the books, which make up that volume, if any thing like a reason or design for their so doing could be so much as guessed at; or if those books did not every where record their own infamy before, Neh. ix. &c.; and their own cruelty and blindness since, the coming of Christ. What witness is more credible, than he who knowingly bears witness against himself? Or supposing he does not know or believe, he does this, is not his testimony of great weight, when the truth is brought out of him by a cross examination, the tendency of which he does not see into, till it is too late to draw back? It is true, the later Jews, eight or nine hundred years after Christ, have endeavoured to corrupt some passages of the Old Testament in the original Hebrew, a language then and
now imperfectly understood; but have been shamefully exposed by learned Christians, rather better acquainted than themselves with that language, and by the ancient translations, one made by seventy-two rabbis of their own, two hundred and seventy years before the birth of Christ, into Greek, and quoted almost always by Christ, and the writers of the New Testament ; and by others, about his time, into that, and other languages, as Christianity spread itself among the Syrians, Arabians, and Romans, most of which we have at this day. But after all the Jews did, or attempted to do, the book stands good, and vouches for Christ, and against his enemies, in a manner so convincing, that St. Peter urges its prophecies of Christ as stronger evidences for him, than even his miracles, 2 Peter i. 19; an argument applicable to the Jews only, but no way applicable, or of any force, had it not been a given point by Jews as well as Christians, that the prophecies of the Old Testament were still preserved in their purity, when it was used. It was certainly as much in the power of God, and as worthy of his providence, to preserve the Scriptures in all necessary purity, as it was to carry on, for three or four thousand years, the great scheme of redemption, whereof I have been endeavouring to make you sensible. And yet that great and blessed scheme must have been miserably maimed and impaired, if the Scriptures had been so impaired, or totally lost; had they been, I mean, lost to all the generations of men that have followed, or shall follow the writings of that book, which alone contains a record of the scheme itself, and of all the important facts and instructions employed in it, and conveyed by it. It would, I think, have been more reconcileable with the wisdom and goodness of God to have suffered the whole world to perish, than'to have suffered the means of our redemption, in the loss of these prophecies, to have perished. Are not the souls of mankind of more value in the sight of God, than all the rest of a world, which he undoubtedly created for the mere temporary accommodation of men ? As sure as our souls are intended for eternity, this reasoning is just. All the books we have, written by mere men of the highest talents among the ancients are well preserved, and why not the book of God, compared with which, all other books are trifling, and to a sound judgment, appear as insignificant, as useless, and as foolisb, as the prattling of little children? What hath here been said, may and must be said with double force in favour of the Scriptures contained in the New Testament, their usefulness, and purity ; as in them the completion of divine revelation, and of the work of our redemption, can be easily supported with much greater strength, and so likewise as to reflect at the same time, a very large addition of light on the uncorruptedness of the Old Testament. There is indeed such a connexion between them, that they must stand or fall together, as both together form the book of God: they will stand in spite of men and devils, till the world and time shall be no more. These Scriptures were drawn up and published by men who proved their inspiration by the miracles they wrought, and at a time when thousands were alive to refute, or attest, the transactions therein related, and the doctrines there said to have been delivered, eye or ear-witnesses to both. We have more than sufficient reason to be assured, that none of these thousands made the least objection to the truth of any thing set forth in the Scriptures I am speaking of; but, on the contrary, were ready to die, and many of them did die, for that truth. Now, it cannot be so much as suspected, that men of common sense should so vouch for the truth and importance of writings, which nevertheless they were capable of corrupting, or of suffering others to corrupt; I say suffering, because they had it absolutely in their power to prevent or stifle every attempt of that kind, had it been made. They had the originals, or carefully-compared copies, of those Scriptures in their hands, and had great part of them by rote; insomuch, that had a new copy been any where produced, with a material error or change, it must have been instantly exposed, and the copyist, on whose care and fidelity his bread depended, must have suffered in his character and business. We know, that before printing was invented, copying was a trade, whereby many thousands earned their livelihood, and that of their families. The originals of the evangelists and apostles were preserved for many hundred of years, in their own hand-writings, as the most sacred of all trusts; and when any dispute or suspicion arose, as many did, about a passage
of some consequence in a copy, recourse was immediately had to these originals, and the suspected passage immediately confirmed, or condemned and corrected. That written originals on parchment could be kept a much longer time than I have mentioned, is plain, for we have still a considerable number, above a thousand years old. As soon, however, as Christianity spread, as it did in the very first age after Christ, among many nations of different languages, these Scriptures were closely and faithfully translated into those languages. And now the corrupting of those Scriptures became still more difficult, until, in process of time, as copies, and translations, and as copies of translations, increased to an inconceivable number, material corruptions, humanly speaking, became impossible. I repeat the word, material, because small errors of the pen, as now of the press, were unavoidable, involuntary, and wholly immaterial.
There was, however, somewhat else, which, could I be allowed the expression, did, in a very high degree, add to this impossibility. In the very time of the apostles several heresies and schisms arose in the church, and increased downward through several ages. But all these, as well as the Christians of sounder principles, had constant recourse, by different ways of interpreting, to these very Scriptures, to support their various opinions, and were warmly, nay, sometimes furiously, enraged at each other. Now was the time, when corruptions, adding, or omitting, a text might have served the purpose of a party ; and parties there were then, as there are now, whose consciences would have permitted them to practise any or all the three sorts of deceit mentioned. But common sense makes it evident, that none of them could pass or gain credit. Nobody was fool enough to corrupt, add, or omit, a text, which had nothing to do with his particular opinion; and had he been fool enough to practise on a text that had, every original, every translation, every copy but his own, must have exposed and condemned his attempt, his opinion, his party; and all the thou. sands, who had charged their memories with the passage, a passage too affecting the faith or morals of all Christians, would have cried aloud against, not only the impious corruptor himself, but the villany of his whole party, as unable to support its credit, but by arts, fit only for the father of lies to employ. Such tricks were therefore either never attempted, or were under an absolute impossibility of suc
ceeding. Can we suppose, the fathers, the saints, the martyrs, were always asleep, and inattentive to the written word, of God, by which they lived, for which they died? Or, even supposing this, is it possible to believe, that the providence of God, which neither slumbereth nor sleepeth, should have slept over those books, both of the Old and New Testament, which it cost so much to perfect; which contain all the prophecies, miracles, with the history and religion of his Son; which set forth to us all that we are to believe or do in order to our salvation ; which every where prove themselves, by their holiness and excellence, and by their admirable fitness to supply the most important wants of mankind, to be the works of God himself? Common sense must disclaim a belief like this, which hath proved too hard for the swallow of devils. Now, my dearly beloved in Christ Jesus, let us cast anchor here; let us stand fast on the rock of our salvation ; let us lay these heavenly books before us, and to their plain infallible test bring every thing we think, speak, or do.
Having brought this important subject, as near as I could, to your apprehension (and nearer it need not be brought to that of the most learned) I may now cry out as Isaiah did, * Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken.' To that voice which shakes the heavens and the earth,' who will not listen? That voice which hath
gone out into all lands, and to the ends of the earth i' That voice, whichday uttereth unto day, and night unto night,' in the natural world, every where carrying with it instruction, but raising itself in the word of God to a still louder and clearer tone, and directing itself more immediately to your understanding and wants ? If you wish the Lord should hearken to your voice, when you cry unto him, then hearken you to the voice of his word. If you do, his glory and your happiness, will be the infallible effects. If you do not, he himself will say, “I have nourished and brought up children, , and they have rebelled against me.' You will sink yourselves in his sight to a lower degree of stupidity than that of the beasts that perish, and he will say of you, “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib, but my people do not know, my people do not consider.
Carefully observe now, that the whole history of the