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ON THE DIVINE INSPIRATION OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
It is manifest to all who seriously reflect on the powers and propensities of human nature, that we are formed capable of religion, and have an inward consciousness that we ought to worship some superior Being, on whom our safety and happiness depend: but, at the same time, the state of the world, in all places where the Bible has not been known, unanswerably proves, that we are incapable of discovering for ourselves a religion which is worthy of God, suited to our wants, and conducive to our true interest. The shortness of life also, and the reasonable persuasion that men in general entertain of a future state, concur to shew that our grand concern lies in another world. Yet uncertainty and perplexity, nay palpable error and absurdity, have ever encumbered men's reasonings and conjectures on these important subjects. Even at Athens Jehovah was“ the unknown God,” and all beyond the grave was an unknown world.
The wisest of the pagans, therefore, considered a revelation from the Deity as exceedingly desirable, in order that bewildered mortals might learn the way in which they could worship him with acceptance, and be happy: and some of them entertained
1 Acts xvii. 23.
hopes, that such an inestimable favour would at length be vouchsafed. Indeed confused expectations of this kind have been common in the world ; as is manifest from the reception that has been given to pretended revelations, which otherwise could not have obtained credit and currency.
Various impositions, in this important concern, have been detected by careful investigation : and there is but one book in the world, in behalf of which, as a divine revelation, any thing even plausible can be advanced. This has stood the test. of ages, and undergone the most severe scrutiny ; and, the more carefully serious inquirers have examined it, the fuller conviction have they obtained of its divine authority. No one now ventures forth as an avowed, sober and manly adversary, to dispute its claim in the open field of fair argument: yet few in comparison are practically convinced that it is the unerring word of God; and an increasing number of objectors perplex themselves and others, by discovering supposed inconsistencies and unimportant difficulties ; or by setting up their own reasonings and imaginations in opposition to its doctrines, and making that disagreement à ground of hesitation or rejection. So that scepticism, and a partial, frivolous, disingenuous, carping infidelity, have become exceedingly common; the minds of young persons especially are thus poisoned ; great pains are taken to disseminate these cavils and objections ; (though they have been solidly answered again and again ;) and those persons are treated as weak enthusiasts, or irrational bigots, who simply believe the scriptures as the “sure “testimony of God."
It may, therefore, be seasonable to state, with all possible brevity, some of the most conclusive reasons, by which reflecting men have been induced to submit to the authority of the Bible, and to believe that it is a revelation from the God of truth. By the divine inspiration of the holy scriptures, I mean 'such an immediate and complete discovery, by the Holy Spirit, to the minds of the sacred writers, of those things which could not have been otherwise known; and such an effectual superintendence, as to those matters which they might be informed of by other means ; as entirely preserved them from error, in every particular which could in the least affect any of the doctrines or precepts contained in their books. Every proposition, therefore, is to be considered as “ the “ sure testimony of God," in that sense according to which it is proposed as truth. Those facts occurred and those words were spoken, as to the import of them, and the instruction to be deduced from them, which there stand recorded: but we must judge concerning the morality of men's actions, and the truth of their sentiments, by the preceptive and doctrinal parts of the scriptures. Nor does it at all invalidate the complete inspiration of the sacred writers, to allow that they expressed themselves in common language, and wrote of things as men generally spoke of them, rather than according to philosophical exactness, or in the style that was used in the schools of the learned during the ages in which they lived. Supposed or unimportant errors, or inaccuracies of expression, in such things, are not in the least inconsistent with that entire divine inspiration of which we speak : for the scriptures were not written to render us exact philosophers, or to instruct us in ancient history and geography, but to “make
us wise unto salvation.” Nor do the few immaterial mistakes, which in a long course of
years have crept in through the errors of transcribers, create any difficulty or uncertainty to the humble and teachable inquirer : though they frequently give occasion to the self-sufficient to cavil and object; for “ the Lord taketh the wise in their “ own craftiness."
And let it be well considered, that it is perfectly futile and absurd for any man to dispute against the reasonableness of the doctrines, the credibility of the facts, or the justice of the divine dispensation, as stated in the Bible, while he finds himself unable to answer the plain arguments, which are adduced to prove the whole to be the word of God. Where the premises are undeniable, and the deductions unavoidable, obstinacy and self-conceit alone will persist in incredulity; and ridicule, reviling, subtle insinuations, or witty sarcasms, are, in such a case, certain indications of a proud and bitter enmity to the truth itself. If then the arguments, which shall be adduced, be sufficient to establish the divine authority of the scriptures, I trust the reader will recollect, that, as a reasonable and accountable creature, he is bound to study, believe, and obey them; and to make them the rule and standard of all his principles, affections, and conduct. These things being premised, I observe
I. That vast numbers of wise and good men, through many generations and in distant countries,
have agreed in receiving the Bible as a divine revelation. , Many of them have been noted for seriousness, erudition, penetration, and impartiality in judging of men and things. With much labour and patient investigation, they detected the impostures by which their contemporaries were duped : yet the same assiduous examination confirmed them in believing the Bible to be the word of God; and induced them to recommend it, living and dying, to all others, as the source of wisdom, hope, and consolation.
In this view, even the tradition of the church has much weight: for, whatever abuse has been made of the term, by such as generally were no part of the true church; yet the whole company of those, who have worshipped the living “ God in spirit and
truth,” (including them who ventured and laid down their lives for conscience sake, and who were the most pious, holy, and useful men ir every age,) having unanimously concurred in handing down to us the scriptures as a divine revelation, and having very little differed about the books which constitute that sacred deposit, must be allowed to be a consideration of great importance. And I cannot but suppose, that, if a being of entire impartiality, of a sound mind, and a holy disposition, should be shewn the two companies, of those who have received, and those who have rejected, the scriptures ; and should compare the seriousness, learning, patient investigation of truth, solid judgment, holy lives, and composure in a dying hour, (without unmanly terror or indecent levity,) of the one company, with the character and conduct of the other, he would be induced to