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On the Inspiration of the Scriptures and other Preliminary Inquiries.
T is a question of the greatest importance, nor should any person who opens the sacred page, neglect to put it to his own mind, Upon what authority do I receive, or read this book? Infidelity, like the other evils which beset human nature, differs in kind and degree. Some read the scriptures because they were educated so to do; or because they observe it to be a practice among many serious and re spectable people. Such readers will make it a matter of very little concern. The scriptures come into our hands with the most awful certification they bear testimony to a TRUTH, by which they assure us, we shall be saved, if we keep it in memory. They as plainly declare, The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge you at the last day. This bible, altogether neglected by many, and read by others as a mere matter of decorum or convenience, will either bring eternal life, or misery, to all who hear it. This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and ye have loved darkness * rather than the light.' Well said our Lord to the Jews, If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin.' John xv. 22. The scriptures con tain the words of the living God; and in this capacity address themselves to every man's conscience, As though God did beseech you, we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.'
The external and internal evidence of the divine authority of the scriptures, have employed many able pens; and it is not our purpose to occupy our scanty pages, with retailing that kind of support which may be given them from historical, or collateral circumstances; nof do we mean to enter particularly into that kind of reasoning, which is founded upon outward proofs, because, we are persuaded, that unless the scriptures come to the conscience, with the powerful demons stration of the Spirit of God, any other evidence is of very little cons sequence.
Man, with all his boasted energies and powers, stands before God, a poor, guilty, ignorant, short-sighted being. Deprive him of revelation, and what is he? or what knows he? He bears in his conscience the impressive traces of the finger of God, reminding him, that he is a sinner; that there is a hereafter, and that the judgment of God awaits him. Can his researches give him any consolatory information about hereafter? Can all his reasoning faculties, his knowledge, or his investigation, throw any light upon the grave to him? Can they illu minate the valley and shadow of death? It is fashionable (for there is a fashion in religion, as well as other things) to celebrate the writings of the heathen sages of Greece and Rome. Well, let us hear them. Were ever words more literally applicable, than those of Paul concerning them, Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools? In a word, man, though in the highest seat of worldly honour, and pos. sessed of all the advantages which literature and human knowledge can give him, if he wants the understanding, which the scriptures only can communicate, he is like the beasts that perish,' Psal xlix. 20. Without the light of revelation, he wanders and gropes in darkness, uncertain but the next step may plunge him into the abyss; and perhaps dreaming about annihilation, as his highest hope.
To illuminate man, as to a future state, to discover to him what he has to fear, and what to hope, at that important period, when the body must return to the dust, and the spirit to God who gave it, is the chief and important office of revelation. As she speaks of mat ters known only to God, the mind of man can receive no solid consolation from what she says, but in so far as he is persuaded, that it is God who speaks to him in the scriptures. To those who consider their bible as merely a system of morality, giving them a set of sound regulations for the government of life and conduct, it is a matter comparatively of little moment from what quarter it comes; but to those who open their bible, for an answer. to the important questions Wherewithal shall I appear before God? or What shall I do to be saved?' it is of the greatest importance to know, upon what authority the answers to these questions, which the bible furnishes, rests: Is it from heaven or of men?
Considering the scriptures in this most important point of view, as invested with the power of conveying peace and comfort to guilty man here, and eternal bliss hereafter, it is not without cause that our Lord has said, 'take heed how ye hear;' for we must again repeat, that the scriptures will either be of value to us, or not, in proportion as we are persuaded that they are of God.
When man became a transgressor against his Maker, and death, in all its dreadful consequences, hung over his devoted head, it pleased the Father of mercies to reveal mercy to his mind, by a word of promise. In after ages, this door of hope was laid more and more open to his veiw; God gradually revealing more clearly his gracious plan, till at length, in the fulness of time, the whole mystery of godliness was unfolded God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem us, the gulity children of men, from under the curse of that law. The manner of revelation was varied in different
ages. God spake unto the fathers, at sundry times, and in diverse manners; but it was always suited to the state of the church of God at the time. In Eden, GoD, the WORD, spake directly and immediately to our first parents; and in the patriarchal age, he revealed himself by word or vision. This manner of revelation was suited to the age; for, from their longevity, tradition was much more certain than it can possibly be in different circumstances. When the church of Israel was taken into covenant, revelation was committed to writing; and in the ceremonial law of Moses, it assumed a new form, not only more adapted to the state of the church, but, by means of their ritual, and the writings of their prophets, the doctrines of revelation were carried abroad among the nations. When the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, the Lord himself gave the word, and all that the law and the prophets had foretold began to be fulfilled. But when, in addition to this, after his resurrection, the Holy Spirit was sent down from above, and the apostles were divinely inspired for the purpose, they were directed, not only by their doctrines, but by their writings, to complete and finish all that infinite wisdom sees meet to reveal; all that man needs to know. That same Jesus, who spoke on earth, has sent to testify the truth of the scriptures, with this awful admonition: if any man shall add to what these scriptures reveal, God shall add to him the plagues that are written therein; and • if any man shall take away from them, God shall take, away his part out of the book of life, out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.' Rev. xxii. 18, 19.
But it may be said, the question still remains, How come we to know that the Bible, which we have among our hands, is a faithful copy of God's revealed will? It shall be our study, in examining the different books into which the scriptrues are divided, to attend to this question. At present we may remark, that the faith of God's elect in this respect, that is, the confidence which they have in the scriptures, stands not in the wisdom of men, nor any proofs which their wise reasonings can afford, but in the power of God. And this ap pears chiefly in the following respects:
1. What the scriptures testify of man so exactly corresponds with what every man feels, knows, and experiences in himself, that he is compelled to acknowledge, This could only come from Him who searches the hearts, and tries the reins of men. When the word of God comes to the conscience, quick and powerful, sharper than any two edged sword, it proves its divine original, by piercing, even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, Thus, when Nathan came with divine revelation to David, and applying it thus, thou art the man 3 Nathan had no occasion to adduce any evidence to David that he was really commissioned to speak so to him: David felt in his conscience that the revelation was from God. When the woman of Samaria was conversing with the Lord, he wrought no miracle to satisfy her that it was the Messiah himself who spoke to her: his words pierced to her soul; Come,' said she, and see a man who hath told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?' John iv. 29. The first proof, then, which we adduce, that the scriptures are the word
of God, is this, that when they are brought home to the conscience by the Spirit of God, the conviction of sin which they produce, is what God only could effect.
2. The relief which the awakened conscience of a sinner finds from the truth revealed in the Scriptures, bears ample testimony to their divine origin. Although man, in the hour of health, finds many remedies, or at least palliatives to his diseased mind; yet when God is pleased to draw near to him, and bring the fear of the wrath to come home to his mind, what then can give him ease? Conviction of guilt is the genuine source of suicide, madness and despair; for man can sustain all his other infirmities; but a wounded spirit, who can bear? It is in this situation that the inefficacy of all human aid is experi enced; and it is in this situation that the divine authority of the scriptures is truly seen. When these very scriptures which we have already seen, are alone quick and powerful to penetrate the innermost recesses of the heart, appear mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, &c. and bringing every thought to the obedience of Chirst; the rich relief which these scriptures are calculated to give the guilty heart of man, is the highest pos sible proof that they are of God. When Peter heard his Lord, with the voice of omnipotence, say to the stormy sea, Peace,' and there was a great calm; overwhelmed with the divine power there exhibited, he exclaimed, Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man.* Just so, when the attention of a guilty sinner is drawn to the cross of Christ, and there taught to know God's glorious plan of saving sin. ners, even the chief; when he beholds the eternal God suffering the wages due to the sins of his guilty people, his mind not only tastes of a peace which passeth understanding, but he rejoices with joy unspeakable. Now the scriptures, in administering this consolation to the conscience, by testifying of Christ and him crucified,-working what none other than God could work,-carry irresistible evidence to the mind, that they, like their author, proceeded and came forth from God.
3. We have seen, that the grand object and design of revelation iş to proclaim salvation from the wrath to come, and this by the death and resurrection of the Son of God; so we shall find Moses and the prophets, as well as Christ and his apostles, all bearing testimony to this truth. The antediluvians and patriarchs stood in need of the great salvation as well as we; there never was another name given under heaven, among men, whereby they could be saved, but the name of Jesus. The revelation which God made of himself to them, must therefore preach the same gospel, or one of two consequences, equally profane, will follow, viz. either there was then another way of salvation, or the revelation which God saw meet to give them, and which we have recorded in the book of Genesis, was inadequate to the end. In like manner, as to the Israelites, and all the Old Testa ment saints; these all died in the faith of the Messiah; the ground of their faith was that revelation, which is left on record to us in the scriptures of truth. When we therefore see thesc scriptures, uniting in one common testimony, to the sufferings of Christ, and the glory