Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

self; because he obtains it chiefly by watching the condition and progress of his own mind. But this is not the case altogether; for the tree is known by its fruits. It is matter of ex

of his ways, the proud man humbled, and the Christian character formed. It cannot be concealed from others, when the designed effect of an acquaintance with Scripture is actually produced in the individual; when “the man of God is perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works :" nor can any one who entertains a just notion of the moral attributes of the Supreme Being refuse, under such circumstances, to confess that the writings, from the use of which these consequences result, have originated in the power, the wisdom, and the love, of God.

Religious instruction is, indeed, communicated through a variety of channels besides the Scriptures ; such as the more modern writings of pious Christians, and especially the ministry of the Gospel. But the good effect produced by these means affords additional strength to the argument now stated : because they are found by experience to be efficacious for the purposes of conversion and edification, only in as much as they present to the mind the truths already revealed to us in the Bible. It is no inconclusive evidence of the divine origin of the Scriptures, that in them we find both the foundation and the boundaries of all secondary means of religious improvement. That the ministry of the Gospel ought to be exercised under the immediate direction of the great Head of the Church, is a principle which will probably be allowed by many pious Christians ; yet we are not to forget that, when that ministry is most spiritual in its origin, it is still found to dwell on the declarations of Scripture. The purest gifts of the Spirit, as they are now administered, are almost exclusively directed to the application of those materials which originated 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, sanctifies, and edifies ; and of this divine truth the only authorized record-a record at

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 possession of a strong antecedent probabi

lity 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-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, every thing 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 divinely-appointed 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 presont 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 inforination 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 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 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 seo “ 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 simple-hearted. 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 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!

ESSAY VI.

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. .

1. The first principle which it is desirable for us to notice, as unfolded and declared in Scripture, in 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

« ZurückWeiter »