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meaning? I see multitudes differ widely on this subject; and among them many, who are ingenious, learned and able. Whom shall I follow : or shall I follow none of them ?":

This question is certainly rational, as well as important: and the perplexity, out of which it springs, ought, as far as possible, to be removed by a Minister of the Gospel. The task I will now assume, and endeavour to perform.

To the question itself, then, I answer, that the sense, in which the various declarations of God in the Scriptures are to be received by us, is the obvious sense : or that, which readily presents itself to a plain man, of common sense, reading them with seriousness and integrity.

In support of this answer, I adduce the following observations.

1. The Scriptures were almost universally addressed by those, who spoke, and wrote, them, to persons of this class.

Moses wrote the Law for the people at large. This truth is declared in many forms. After God had pronounced the decalogue, the people, terrified by the awful splendours which attended the promulgation of these commands, besought him through the mediation of Moses, that they might hear his voice no more, lest they should die. God approved of their request ; 'and commanded Moses to teach them all the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which he should command him. Accordingly, Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, “ Hear, O Israel, the statutes, and judgments, which I speak in your ears this day; that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them.”

6. These words," said he again unto them, " which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart. Ye shall lay my words in your heart, and in your soul; and bind them for a sign upon your hand; that they may be as frontlets between your eyes : and ye shall teach them to your children; speaking of them, when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up; and thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house." In this manner every Israelile was required to educate his children in the knowledge of the law; and in this manner every Israelitish child was to be educated. The law, therefore, was, with absolute certainty, addressed to every Israelite.

When Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God in mount Ebal, he read all the words of the law to the people. There was not a word, it is subjoined, of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among

them. in the same manner Joshua addressed the words, which God commanded him, to all the tribes of Israel, at Shechem. In the same manner a great part of the speeches, made by priests, prophets and princes, in the Historical Books, were addressed to greater or less portions of the people at large.

The Psalms were not only written for the whole body of the people, but were made a part of their public worship.

The Book of Proverbs was written for the express purpose of giving sublilty to the simple, and to the young man knowledge and discretion.

The Prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah, were addressed directly to the nation of the Jews; and those of Hosea, Amos, Micah, and Malachi, to the people of Israel.

Our Saviour spoke almost every thing, which he said, to the common people.

Matthew wrote his Gospel for the Hebrew Christians. Mark, Luke, and John, wrote theirs for the Christian world at large. To the same persons were addressed the Acts of the Apostles. The Epistles of St. Paul, except those to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, were all written to the respective Churches, whose names they bear; churches, consisting almost wholly of uneducated people. Those of Peter were addressed to a large body of people, of the same sort, in the lesser Asia; and that of James to the Christians among the Hellenistic Jews. The first Epistle of John, as it is commonly called, appears rather to be a religious essay, or a discussion, than a letter: but it is addressed, generally, to Christians at large; and, particularly, to Fathers, or old men, to young men, and to little children. The second was addressed to the elect Lady, and her children ; that of Jude, to Christians at large; and the Apocalypse, to the seven Churches of Asia.

I have gone through this detail with a particular design, that the whole subject might be before you; and that you might see


the truth of the proposition which we are considering not in general, indeterminate expressions, but in the several particulars of which it is made up. From these it appears beyond all doubt, that the books which I have specified, constituting the great body of both the Old and New Testament, and containing all the doctrines found in the Canon, were addressed directly and supremely to that class of mankind, customarily designated by the phrases, the common people, and the people at large. From this fact it follows irresistibly, that these parts of the Scriptures were written in language, which such people could understand ; or, in other words, that the meaning of the language actually used, is such, that those, to whom it was addressed, might, if seriously and honestly attentive, apprehend it without any considerable difficulty, or any danger of any material mistake. It cannot for a moment be admitted by common sense or common decency, much less by a spirit of piety, that God has revealed his will to mankind, and yet that the language of the Revelation is such, that those to whom it is peculiarly addressed, should be unable to understand its meaning. It is presumed, that no sober man, addressing his fellow-men on any business of importance, ever used such words as they could not interpret. Far less can it be believed that prophets of God, that the Saviour, that his Apostles, or that any inspired man, disclosing to maukind the will of God concerning their salvation, should discourse to them in unintelligible phraseology ; unintelligible, I mean, to them. If these writers and speakers have in fact used such language, it was certainly done by design ; unhappily, not the design of men, but of the Spirit of inspiration. “ For,” says St. Paul, speaking of himself and his inspired brethren, “ we speak not in the words, which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” The use of such language is only to perplex, and mislead; or at the best to communicate nothing to those, who hear. Can any sober man attribute this conduct, or the design from which it must have sprung, to the Spirit of God?

But, if the language of the Scriptures was intended to be intelligible to those to whom it was addressed, it was certainly uttered in the customary manner, and with its obvious meaning.

The reason is plain and decisive. These men could not possibly

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find out any other meaning, or understand it in any other manner. If, therefore, it was intended, that any other sense, than the obvious one, should be annexed to the words; whatever was ad. dressed to them was addressed to them in vain. Either they could not understand it at all; or they must understand it falsely, unless prevented by mere accident.

2dly. A great part of the Bible was written by men, who knew no other than plain language, and no other meaning but that, which was customary and familiar. David, Amos, Matthew, Mark, John, Peter, James, and Jude, were all uneducated men: and the same thing is probably true of several other writers in the Sacred canon. It is, however, sufficient for the present purposc, that these were of this character. All the doctrines contained in the Scriptures are, I think it may be safely asserted, found in the writers, mentioned under the former head. All these doctrines, therefore, were originally addressed to plain men. So many of these doctrines are delivered by the writers mentioned under this head, that he, who cordially embraces what they have written, will find little difficulty in believing whatever is found in the Bible. But these men knew no language, beside the plain, familiar language of mankind. The knowledge of uncustomary, technical, or what may be called philosophical, phraseology is an attainment of more learning; and cannot be possessed by an unlearned man. Hence a great part of the doctrines of the Gospel, so many, as evidently to involve the whole, were certainly delivered in the plain language of men; because they were delivered by those who knew no other.

Should it be said, that, although these men knew no other lan. guage of themselves, yet they may have received the knowledge of philosophical language by inspiration ; since Christ promised them, that they should receive a mouth, and speech, which all their adversaries should not be able to gainsay, or resist : 1 answer, that St. Paul, in the passage, just now quoted from 1 Cor. ii. 13, expressly declares, that he and his fellow-apostles did not use this language.

" Which things, also, we speak, not in the words, which man's wisdom teacheth.” The things, here mcntioned, are in the preceding verse styled the things, that are freely given to us of God; and, in the tenth verse, the things, which God hath

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VOL. 1.

revealed unto us by his Spirit, i. e. the things, which were reveal. ed to Paul, and his fellow-apostles, by the Spirit of inspiration. These things, the Apostle declares, they did not speak in words, taught by man's wisdom, or human philosophy. As this is true of the New Testament; so it is beyond all controversy equally true of the Old.

3dly. The Scriptures were written, chiefly, for plain men.
This I argue from three considerations.

The first is, that these constitute altogether the great body of mankind, and are immensely disproportioned in their numbers to all the rest. The souls of all these are, severally, of as much value, as those of the great and learned. From their numbers therefore it is reasonably concluded, that God in revealing his will, and publishing the way of Salvation, had a primary reference to those who were immeasurably more important to his eye, than all others.

Secondly. The Scriptures directly exhibit this truth to us. St. James, censuring the particular respect, paid to the rich and great by the Christians to whom he wrote, says, “ Hearken, my beloved brethren; hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rieh in faith, and heirs of the kingdom ?” Christ declared to the people of Nazareth by a quotation from the Prophet Isaiah his own character and mission, in these remarkable words, “ The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me : for he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor.” When the disciples of John came, to inquire whether Jesus was the Messiah, or not; he gave it, as one decisive proof of his character, that the poor had the Gospel preached to them. Almost all his labours were employed on plain, hum' ble people. Such persons were his companions : such were his Apostles.

Thirdly. Persons of this class have, much more extensively than any other, believed and obeyed the Scriptures. The common people, we are told, heard Christ gladly: and of them almost all his converts were made. Often they were his only defence against the malicious designs of their superiours. Several times, it is said, they would have laid hands on him, but did not, for fear of the people. The Apostles found the same defence: and almost all their converts were of the same class. What was true of those

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