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[Ess. iv. Recapitulation.
79 there may, in my opinion, be observed no unambigu. ous traces of a certain measure of divine illumination; but still there is a total absence of the grand peculiarities of the Gospel, and a corresponding incompleteness in the moral result. In Mahometanism and in modern infidelity, as well as in Judaism, as it is now maintained, there is an intentional and determined omission of those grand peculiarities; and the moral result appears to be this--that, notwithstanding the profession of a belief in one God, the heart is not mended, but generally continues in its original condition of barrenness, hardness, and corruption. Lastly, with respect to the gross and varied idolatry which prevails over so large a portion of the globe, it appears to be productive of no other moral consequence than that of a deep and almost universal degradation.,
Now, this is the strength and perfection of Christianity, that it omits every thing to be found in other moral and religious systems, which has any evil tendency; recognizes, embodies, and completes, all that is really good; and adds certain vast particulars of truth, absolutely peculiar to itself, by means of which it operates with a force altogether new on the souls of men, and obtains a moral efficacy for the production of piety, virtue, and happiness, which is impeded by no intrinsic counteraction--which is at once unrivalled and unalloyed. · In reverting to the heads of the present Essay, we are to recollect that we have been considering the effects produced in real believers by pure Christianity, considered as a whole, consisting of both preceptive and doctrinal parts. These effects are as follows:that unregenerate man, who is ever prone to be ungodly and immoral, and is therefore ever liable to be miserable; is so transformed, that he is brought into the pious exercise of those dispositions and duties
Recapitulation and [Ess. IV. which are required towards the Almighty—that, in his personal character, and in his conduct towards his fellow-creatures, he becomes conformed to the image of his Creator, in imitation of the perfect pattern presented to him in Christ—and lastly, that he is introduced to substantial happiness, and to the hope of such a heavenly inheritance, as consists with the purity and perfection of God. We have, moreover, found occasion to remark that Christianity, regarded as a moral science, was revealed by our Lord and his apostles, in so perfect a state, as never to have received, since that period, the slightest improvementthat its characteristic features are, in various respects, novel, and such as human philosophy could not have imagined that, however opposed and obstructed by circumstances, it is of universal applicability to mankind- and finally, that, on a fair comparison with other schemes of religion, it is found to contain all which they have of good, to reject all which they have of evil, and, in point of moral efficacy, to stand unequalled and alone.
Now, what is the inference which the candid and serious reasoner must deduce from these premises ? In my opinion, it is clearly this: that so extraordinary, so efficacious, so incomparable, a system-a system which, in its practical operation, is found to be entirely worthy of God, and exactly adapted to men, cannot be of earthly origin—that to suppose it to have been invented by a few illiterate fishermen, is to insinuate a proposition than which nothing more monstrous has ever been palmed on human credulity-that, in point of fact, like the beautiful and perfect works of nature, it can justly be ascribed only to the power, the wisdom, and the love, of the Deity himself.
Thus do we once more arrive at the sound conclusion, that Christianity is the religion of God. And
Conclusion. since it is impossible that the God of all truth, in effecting the moral reformation, as well as the happiness, of his reasonable creatures, should employ a mere illusion, we may rest unalterably assured that Christianity, although it may contain some mysteries which we have no capacities to fathom, is true—that its doctrines are real, its hopes substantial, its promises sure, its joys unfading and eternal.
ON THE DIVINE AUTHORITY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
SATISFIED, as I trust we now are, of the divine origin of that holy religion, of which the Law was the introduction, and the Gospel the perfect revelation, it still remains for us to examine a very important question; namely, whether the record of our religion, contained in the Old and New Testaments is also to be regarded as of divine origin-in other words, whether the Holy Scriptures were given by inspiration of God?
It is much to be regretted that some persons, who acknowledge the truth of Christianity, nevertheless appear to entertain unsatisfactory views, or are at least perplexed with considerable doubt and obscurity, in reference to this subject. For my own part, I have long been persuaded that the important question now proposed may safely be answered, as the generality of Christian theologians have long been accustomed to answer it, with a clear affirmative. The grounds of that persuasion I shall endeavour concisely to unfold in the present Essay.
We are, in the first place, in possession of a strong antecedent probability of the divine authority of the Scriptures. The principal object of the revelations acknowledged by Christians was to unfold certain doctrines, and to promulgate certain moral principles. These doctrines and principles were, for the most part,
Ess. v.] Antecedent Probability.
83 intended for permanent and general use among men; and Scripture is the principal means appointed, in the providence of God, by which they are handed down from generation to generation, and by which a knowledge of them is diffused over the world at large. Now, had the writers on whom it devolved to compose the various parts of this Sacred Volume been left to the unassisted exercise of their natural powers, and to the frailty of mere human memory, the revelations themselves, however certainly divine in their origin, would have become comparatively useless : the message of God could not fail to have been obscured and impaired by the infirmity and ignorance of those who delivered it; nor could we, under such circumstances, have been required to yield to it (especially in its deeper and more mysterious parts) that implicit belief and obedience, without which no one can participate in the blessings and privileges of true religion. Since, then, in order to the accomplishment of those ends to which revelation declares itself to be directed, the inspiration of the record, as one link in the chain, appears, on very obvious principles, to have been absolutely indispensable, and since, in the works of the Deity, there is no shortness and inconsistency, it must evidently be deemed in a very high degree probable, a priori, that the record was really inspired.
In considering the positive evidences, by which this antecedent probability is confirmed, and by which the divine authority of the Bible is, in my opinion, ascertained, I shall commence with the Old Testament.
I. We have already found occasion to remark, that, before the coming of the Messiah, the Hebrew Scriptures had been formed into a canon, were carefully preserved in the archives of the temple, and were publicly read in the synagogues of the Jews. Now, it is certain that the Sacred Volume, which was the object