« EdellinenJatka »
in a higher and more plenary operation of the same divine influence. Thus, also, the sentiments which chiefly edify in the writings of modern Christians, are precisely those sentiments, which in their original form have been expressed by prophets and apostles. It is divine truth, as applied to the heart of man by the Spirit of God, which converts, sanctities, and edifies; and of this divine truth, the only authorized record— a record at once original and complete—is the Bible.
Let us now briefly recapitulate the argument of the present essay.
It being an established point, that Christianity is the religion of God, we are in the possession of a strong antecedent probability, that the books by means of which that religion was appointed to be handed down from generation to generation, are of divine authority.
That the Old Testament was given by inspiration, we learn from the testimonies, whether more or less direct, of Jesus Christ and his apostles.
That the New Testament was also of divine origin, we may therefore conclude from analogy.
This conclusion is confirmed by the positive evidences which the authentic narrative of the New Testament affords, that the apostles who wrote the greater part of it, were inspired; and that their inspiration was of a very exalted kind, we infer from the acknowledged fact that they wrought miracles.
It is highly probable, and under all circumstances nearly certain, that similar endowments were enjoyed by Mark and Luke, the only writers of the New Testament who were not apostles.
Inspiration was bestowed on the writers of Scripture in various measures according to circumstances—
110 PROPOSITIONS ON THE AUTHORITY,
yet in such a manner that the whole contents of the Bible (exclusive of a few passages in his writings, expressly excepted by the apostle Paul) are to be regarded as of divine authority.
If however it be supposed, that in the composition of certain subordinate parts of their works, some of the sacred writers were left to the unassisted exercise of their natural powers, everything in the Scriptures, essentially connected with religious truth, (for the promulgation of which its authors were inspired) is nevertheless unquestionably of divine origin. Lastly, that the Bible was given by inspiration, is plainly indicated by the exact fulfilment of its prophecies; by the purity of its law, and the wisdom of its doctrines; by its wonderful moral harmony, in the midst of almost endless variety; and by its practical effects, as the divinelyappointed means of conversion and religious edification.
Having thus considered some of the principal evidences which evince that the Christian Scriptures have the same divine origin as the revelations which they record, we may henceforth consider the Bible as identified with those revelations; and in searching for that which has been revealed, we need no longer hesitate in directing our attention to that which is written. I cannot however satisfactorily conclude the present disquisition, without offering to the reader's attention, by way of corollary to my argument, a few general propositions.
1. Since the authority of divine revelation is, on the subject to which it relates, paramount to all other authority, and since the subject of the Christian revelation is religious truth, it follows, that on all questions connected with religious truth, the clear decisions of Scripture are not only sufficient, but final.
2. It is evident that the Scriptures, like every
other book, must be interpreted according to the
received rules of criticism and philology; but since
they are a divine source of information on all points
connected with Christian doctrine; and since the
declarations of God are unspeakably superior, in point
of validity, to the imaginations of the mind of man,
it is equally evident, that we cannot justly apply to
the interpretation of Holy Writ, any preconceived
and unauthorized opinions of our own on such points.
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 re
112 AND RIGHT USE
specting 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 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
OF SCRIPTURE. 113
the conclusions of profound reasoning, that the most enlightened philosophers have yielded to it their willing 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: nothing 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!