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109 Nothing can be more unreasonable, and nothing more dangerous, than to speculate for ourselves on matters of doctrine, which we have no faculties to discover, and then to sit in judgment on the words of the Almighty himself with the result of our speculations.
3. The doctrines of which we find an account in the Bible, principally relate to the character and designs of God; and therefore it forms no objection against the credibility of any of them, that they are above our comprehension. On the contrary, that they should be so, might, from the nature of the case, be reasonably expected. God is an infinite Being; the mode of his existence is unsearchable; and the designs of his providence form an endless chain, of which a very few links only are made subject to human observation. How confined, on the other hand, is our understanding! how narrow are the limits of our knowledge ! Although our reasoning powers are indeed of high use and importance, when directed to objects within their proper scope, in how great a degree do they fail us, when we attempt to speculate on the “ depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” Since, therefore, it has pleased the Supreme Being to communicate to us by revelation certain truths respecting his own character, nature, and designs while, by the most sacred obligations, we are bound to believe that these things are, it is in no degree surprising that the mode in which they are should be placed beyond the reach of our knowledge and comprehension.
If, moreover, we are told that there are many parts of the Bible which even the learned cannot understand, and some, perhaps, which the wicked have perverted to evil purposes, we may observe, in reply, that in this respect there is an obvious analogy between the written word and the works of God; for there is
[Ess. v. much also in the science of nature itself which the wise are unable to fathom, and which the vicious have misapplied to evil. Nor can it be denied that the difficulties presented to us in Scripture are calculated to serve an excellent purpose. They are useful trials of our faith ; useful evidences of our own ignorance. While they teach us that now we see “ through a glass darkly," and know but “in part,” they may often be the means of exciting us to press forward, with greater diligence, towards that better state of being, in which we shall “ see face to face,” and “ know even as we are known.”
4. Lastly, let it be remembered, that the truths recorded in the Holy Scriptures were communicated to mankind, neither to gratify their curiosity, nor to encourage them in useless speculations on their own metaphysics, or on the nature and designs of God, but to teach them how to live in this world, and to prepare them for the next. Now, as far as relates to these great practical purposes, the Bible, by the simplehearted and devotional reader, is found to be clear and explicit. While the law of God is so accordant with the conclusions of profound reasoning, that the most enlightened philosophers have yielded to it their wiling homage, it is also so plain, that “ the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein.” Nor ought we ever to forget that the Spirit of the Lord, by which alone the doctrines taught in the Scriptures are rightly opened to the understanding, and effectually applied to the heart, is freely bestowed on all who diligently seek it.
If, then, we would participate in the benefits of divine truth, nothing is so desirable as to approach the volume of inspiration with a humble and teachable mind, and with earnest prayer that its contents may be blessed to the work of our soul's salvation; no
111 thing so reasonable as a conformity with the apostolic injunction, “ As new born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” Were this the disposition with which professing Christians never failed to enter into the examination of revealed truth, how soon would the pride of a false philosophy be extinguished among them, and the angry spirit of polemics subside into a calm! How certainly would be verified, in their experience, the promise of the Lord Jesus, that, if any man do the Father's will, he shall know of the doctrine of Christ whether it be of God!
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ON THE SCRIPTURAL ACCOUNT OF THE SUPREME BEING.
HAVING, in the preceding Essays, taken a brief survey of the evidences from which it may be safely deduced that Christianity is true, and that the Scriptures contain a divinely-authorized record of all its truths, let us now endeavour to make a diligent use of the written word of God, and let us examine the declarations which it contains respecting the fundamental articles of the Christian faith. What, it may be inquired, in the first place, is the account given by the inspired writers, of the nature and attributes of the Supreme Being ?
The comprehensive character of that account has already been pleaded as affording one evidence, among many, of the divine origin of the Sacred Volume. Certain it is, that the information respecting the Deity, which we derive from the harmonious works of nature, from the course of providence, and from that sense of his own existence and authority, which (however, in numberless instances, it may be depraved and perverted) he appears to have impressed universally on the minds of men, is in a marvellous manner augmented, and for all present practical purposes, appears to be completed, in the records of revelation.
I. The first principle which it is desirable for us to notice, as unfolded and declared in Scripture, in
Ess. vi.] Unity and Eternity of God. 113 relation to the present subject is this: that God is ONE ; that there is no other God but Jehovah ; that, as he is infinitely superior in point of wisdom, authority, and power, to all other beings, so he is the only right object of spiritual adoration. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord : " Deut. vi, 4. “ For though there be that are called Gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods many and lords many) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him:" 1 Cor. viii, 5, 6. “ Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve," was the fundamental principle, not only of the Jewish institution, but of the law of Christ : Matt. iv, 10. “ Thus saith the Lord, that created the heavens ..... I am the Lord, and there is none else ...... They have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save , ... There is no God else beside me ; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth ; for I am God, and there is none else;" Isa. xlv, 18—22.
II. This Supreme Being—this only proper object of worship and spiritual allegiance--is described, in the Holy Scriptures, as eternal and unchangeable. “ Thus saith the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts, 'I am the first, and I am the last :'" Isa. xliv, 6. “I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come : the Almighty :" Rev. i, 8. “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world; even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God :" Ps. xc, 1, 2. “Of old hast