Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

84 ANTECEDENT PROBABILITY.

acknowledged by Christians, was to unfold certain doctrines, and to promulgate certain moral principles. These doctrines and principles were for the most part 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

OLD TESTAMENT. 85

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 of so much care and attention among that people, was universally considered by them to be of divine origin and authority. The reverence with which the early Jews regarded the Hebrew Scriptures was evinced, not only by the titles which they applied to them, such as "the books of holiness," "the holy thing of the Lord," but also by certain practices of a ceremonial nature. It was their custom to kiss the Bible on opening and shutting it, and ever to place it at the top of all other books; nor was it considered lawful to have recourse to it with unwashen hands: see Leusden, Philol. Hebr., diss. I, sect. 1. Philo, the Jewish philosopher, who was cotemporary with Christ, and was deeply versed in the books of the Old Testament, styles them in various parts of his works, the sacred writings, the oracle of God; and in his numerous quotations from both the historical and prophetical parts of the Bible, he very generally notices the divine authority of that which he cites. Josephus also, in his work against Apion, has written on this important subject in very decisive terms: "These writings," he says, in speaking of the Hebrew Scriptures, "contain an account of all time, and are justly held to be divine. It is proved by experience, in what degree we have faith in the writings which belong to us; for although so long a period has now elapsed since they were composed, no one has been so daring as to add any thing to them, or to take any thing away from them. But it is a common princi

86 TESTIMONY

ple, imbibed by all the Jews from their very birth, to consider them as the doctrines of God; to abide by them, and if need be, willingly to die for them:" lib. i, cap. 8.

That the sentiments thus prevalent among the early Jews respecting the divine authority of the Old Testament were correct, appears from the testimony of Jesus Christ and his apostles—a testimony which relates to so plain a subject, which is so worked into the Gospel narrative, and which is so frequently and variously given, that its validity cannot be reasonably disputed by any persons who have already admitted that the New Testament is genuine and authentic, and that Christianity is the religion of God. The de* clarations of Jesus Christ, in reference to such a point, must be fully admitted to be true by all who acknowledge his divine mission; and with regard to the apostles, without any consideration, in the present stage of our argument, of the fact of their inspiration, it is only reasonable to conclude, that they derived their doctrine on the subject from that celestial teacher, to whose service they were entirely devoted.

Our Lord in his discourses, and the evangelists and apostles in their writings, have made frequent mention of the Scriptures, and it must be evident to every attentive reader of the New Testament, that when they employed this term, they did nol*r*efer to writings in general, but solely to that particular collection of writings, which was held sacred by the Jews, and which, by way of preeminence, was so denominated.

Now from the manner in which they quoted from the Scriptures, it is easy to perceive that Jesus and his disciples fully coincided with the Jews, to whom, for the most part, they addressed themselves, respect

OF JESUS CHRIST 87

ing the divine authority of these sacred books, On various occasions, and more especially when his own person, character, and history were the subjects of discussion, the Lord Jesus was accustomed to appeal to the contents of the Old Testament, as affording an unquestionable evidence of the truth. "It was the Scriptures," he declared, "which testified of himself:" John v, 39. "These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you," said he to his disciples, "that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures:" Luke xxiv, 44, 45; see also Matt. xxi, 42. xxvi, 54, &c. Not only indeed did our Lord elucidate, by the declarations of the Old Testament, the events which were then occurring, but sometimes he described the events themselves as happening for the very purpose that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: see John xv, 25. xvii, 12; comp. Matt. viii, 17, &c. Nor was it merely to the statements of the Old Testament respecting himself, that Jesus appealed as prophetically true, and therefore of divine origin. There were occasions on which he cited Scripture as the decisive authority in reference to other points of doctrinal or practical importance. Thus when discoursing with the Sadducees on the subject of a future life, he traced their error of opinion to their ignorance of Scripture, and then confuted them by citing a passage from the book of Exodus: Matt. xxii, 32. Again, when the Jews accused him of blasphemy, because he said he was the Son of God, he silenced their cavils by an appeal to the Sacred Volume, and added an emphatic and most

[ocr errors][merged small]

important declaration: "The Scripture cannot be broken:" John x, 34, 35; see also Mark xi, 17; Luke x, 26.

The apostles and evangelists, in their method of citing from the Old Testament, have closely followed the example of their Divine Master. Thus, when writing on the nature and importance of faith, Paul thus rests his argument on the authority of Holy Writ; "For what saith the Scripture? Ahraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness:" Rom. iv, 3. So the apostle Peter, after enforcing the necessity of coming to Jesus Christ as to a living stone, adds, "Wherefore, also it is contained in the Scripture, 'Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone,'" &c, I Pet. ii, 6; and James, when describing the origin of wars and fightings— the lusts or evil passions of men—confirms his proposition by similar evidence: "Do ye think the Scripture saith in vain, 'The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy:'" iv, 5; comp. Acts xviii, 28; Rom. ix, 17. xi, 8, &c.

Upon all these, and many other similar passages in the Gospels and Epistles, it is necessary to make two observations. First, that in thus quoting from the Old Testament, Jesus Christ and his apostles made no invidious distinctions respecting the particular books of which it was composed. The historical and the prophetical parts of the Bible were alike the object of their deference, the standard of their doctrine; and, although in most of the instances in which they made mention of the Scriptures, they had in their view particular passages of the Bible, there is reason to believe that they adduced these passages as decisive, not because they flowed from the pen of any

« EdellinenJatka »