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men would never have ascribed their own inventions to divine inspiration ; especially as such forgeries are most severely reprobated in every part of it.But indeed, it is a work as much exceeding every effort of mere man, as the sun surpasses those scanty illuminations, by which his splendour is imitated, or his absence supplied.
VII. The actual effects produced by the Scriptures evince their divine original. These are indeed far from being equal to their tendency; because, through human depravity, the gospel is not generally or fully believed and obeyed; yet they are very considerable; and we may assert, that even at present there are many thousands, who have been reclaimed from a profane and immoral life to sobriety, equity, truth, and piety, and to a good behaviour in relative life, by attending to the sacred Scriptures. Having been made free from sin, and become the servants of God, they have their fruit unto holiness;" and after“ patiently continuing in well doing," and cheersully bearing various afflictions, they joyfully meet death, being supported by the hope of “ eternal life as the gift of God through Jesus Christ ;"? whilst they, who best know them, are most convinced, that they have been rendered wiser, holier, and happier, by believing the Bible ; and that there is a reality in religion, though various interests and passions may keep them from duly embracing it. There are indeed enthusiasts; but they become such, by forsaking the old rule of faith and duty, for some new fancy: and there are hypocrites; but they attest the
reality and excellency of religion, by deeming it worth their while to counterfeit it.
VIII. Brevity is so connected with fulness in the Scriptures, that they are a treasure of divine knowledge which can never be exhausted. The things which are absolutely necessary to salvation, are few, simple, and obvious to the meanest capacity, provided it be accompanied with a humble, teachable disposition : but the most learned, acute, and diligent student cannot, in the longest life, obtain an entire knowledge of this one volume. The deeper he works the mine, the richer and more abundant he finds the ore; new light continually beams from this source of heavenly knowledge, to direct his conduct, and illustrate the works of God and the ways of men; and he will at last leave the world confessing, that the more he studied the Scriptures, the fuller conviction he had of his own ignorance and of their inestimable value.
IX. Lastly, “ He that believeth hath the witness in himself." The discoveries which he has made by the light of the Scripture; the experience he has had, that the Lord fulfils its promises to those who trust in them; the abiding effects produced by attending to it, on his own judginent, dispositions, and affections; and the earnests of heaven which he has enjoyed in communion with God, put the matter beyond all doubt. And though many believers are not qualified to dispute against infidels, they are enabled, through this inward testimony, to obey, and suffer for the gospel: and they can no more be convinced
by reasonings and objections, that men invented the Bible, than they can be persuaded that men created the sun, while they behold its light and are cheered by its beams.
And now, if an objector could fully invalidate one half, or two thirds, of these arguments, (to which many more might easily be added,) the remainder would be abundantly sufficient. Nay, perhaps any one of them so far decides the question, that were there no other proof of the Bible being the word of God, a man could not reject it, without acting in opposition to those dictates of common sense, which direct his conduct in his secular affairs. But in reali. ty, I have a confidence that not one of these proofs can be fairly answered; at least it has never yet been done : and the combined force of the whole is so great, that the objections, by which men cavil against the truth, only resemble the foaming waves dashing against the deep-rooted rock, which has for ages de- . fied their unavailing fury. Yet though these can effect nothing more, they may beat off the poor shipwrecked mariner, who was about to ascend it, in hopes of deliverance from impending destruction,
The consequences of our present conduct are, according to the Bible, so momentous, that if there were only a bare possibility of the truth of the Scriptures, it would be madness to run the risk of rejecting them, for the sake of gaining the whole world: what then is it, when we have such unanswerable demonstrations that they are the word of God and cannot reasonably doubt it for a moment, to disobey the commands and neglect the salvation revealed in it, for the veriest trifle that can be proposed ? Especially as it may be shown, that (besides the eternal consequences,) the firm belief of the Scriptures, and that conscientious obedience which true faith always produces, will render a man happier in this present life, even amidst trials and self-denying services, than he could be made by all the pomp, pleasure, wealth, power, and honour, which the world can bestow.
On the importance of revealed truth; the duty of
reading the Scriptures; and the manner in which they should be read.
As the Bible may be unanswerably proved to be the word of God, we should reason from it as from self-evident principles or demonstrated truths : for "His testimony is sure, making wise the simple."
Many parts of Scripture accord - so well with the conclusions of our rational powers, when duly exercised, that either they might have been known without revelation, or else men have mistaken the capacity of perceiving truth for that of discovering it. Hence various controversies have arisen about natural religion, which many suppose to be rather taken for granted, than made known by revelation. But the term is ambiguous: for the word natural includes the propensities of our hearts, as well as the powers of our understandings; and the same truths which accord to the latter, are often totally opposite to the former. The Gentiles might have known many things concerning God and his will, if they had “ liked to retain him in their knowledge;" but their alienation of heart from him prevailed to keep them in ignorance, or entangle them in error. So that the religion of reason would express the idea much more intelligibly.
This, however, is obvious, that many truths and precepts which are found in the Bible, have been maintained by persons who were ignorant of divine revelation, or rejected it, or did not choose to own their obligations to it: and many others, who profess to receive the Scriptures as the word of God, assent to some truths contained in them, not so much because they are revealed, as because they think that they may be proved by other arguments; whereas, they discard, neglect, or explain away, those doctrines which are not thus evident to their reason, or level with their capacities. So that at last it comes to this, that they reject all that is thought peculiar to revelation; and refuse to believe the testimony of God, if their own reason will not vouch for the truth of what he says.
It may indeed be questioned, whether those opinions, which men so confidently magnify as the oracles of reason, were not originally, without exception,