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which it would have to encounter"; the various corruptions of Christianity; the idolatry, tyranny, and sanguinary persecutions of Rome, Papal and Imperial; with the existence and continuance of the Christian Religion to this day, after the repeated efforts of its enemies to extirpate it; these remarkable events, which have been fulfilled, afford satisfactory evidence that the writings which contain them are, indeed, the infallible Word of God.
3. The complete harmony which subsists among the Sacred Writers is no inconsiderable argument of their own inspiration, and of the truth of the Divine, Records themselves. They nowhere advance contradictory accounts of the creation of the world, the perfections of God, and the obligations of men. They agree in their representations of the malignity and demerit of sin; and point us to Christ only, for deliverance from its condemning power and polluting effects". They inculcate the same heavenly truths, and apply them to the same practical uses: in a word, they speak of every religious subject relating to our duty and happiness, in such a manner, as to prove that they are all of the same judgment, and strive to establish the same principles. Whence, then, is this entire coincidence? It could not be the result of a preconcerted plan to impose falsehood upon the world; for the Inspired Writers did not all exist at the same time, but succeeded each other, during a long interval of many centuries. Nor could it arise from any similarity in their habits, employments, and education; for there was the greatest diversity amongst them in these respects. Some of them were prophets and kings; others were shepherds, fishermen, and Mat. xvi. 17, 18. 2 Thess. ii.
* Acts xx. 28-31. 1 Tim. iv. 1-4.
artificers. Now, that so exact an agreement should be found in the writings of persons of such different habits, living in ages so remote from one another, is truly unaccountable, unless we admit that they wrote under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit of God. We shall arrive at the same conclusion, from considering the peculiar nature of Scripture doctrines, and the light which they throw upon the characters of mankind.
The incarnate Deity of Jesus Christ; redemption through his vicarious sacrifice; and the mysterious union of Three Divine Persons in the Godhead; are doctrines for which we are solely indebted to Revelation.
The same thing may be observed with regard to the judgment which the Divine Word passes upon our state and conduct. It does not coincide with the false estimate which men generally form of themselves; nor does it condescend to flatter the pride, or to accommodate its requisitions to the wicked propensities, of our fallen nature: on the contrary, it lays open our faults; and whilst it freely censures, it tells us how to escape the punishment due to our offences. The condition of man as a depraved creature is described with so much accuracy in the Bible, that whoever impartially examines his own experience by this standard, will be convinced that the Book which thus discloses the hidden springs of human action must have been written by inspiration of God.
4. Objections have been urged against the Scriptures, because they contain some things which are highly mysterious. It was natural to expect that this would be the case; for a revelation of the Divine Will, without any thing in it above our limited comprehension, would carry its own refutation with it.
God is incomprehensible in all his works, even the most inconsiderable, as the growth of a blade of grass. And can we expect to discover no traces of mystery In the amazing scheme of redemption by Christ, into which angels look with holy astonishment?
But even the mysteries of religion are not without their use and importance. They lay a foundation for our faith,humility, and reverence. Besides, it should be remembered, that the most sublime truths of the Bible, though far above our reason, are not contrary to it. They imply no contradiction in themselves; and, therefore, can never be proved to be impossible and false. And, as God has made an explicit communication of every doctrine necessary to our salvation, let us gratefully acknowledge the benefit, and implicitly receive what is more obscure, upon His authority; waiting patiently for the time, when we shall better understand and estimate it".
5. It has been asserted, that "the Word of God abounds with palpable contradictions." It cannot be denied, that seeming inconsistencies will sometimes strike the superficial reader, which vanish on a more accurate examination. Let but the more difficult passages be fairly compared with others that speak the same truths in more familiar language, and it will be manifest, that Scripture never opposes itself; but, that one part of Sacred Writ sheds light upon another, so as to produce a glorious harmony in its representations of celestial things.
6. Others have objected to the Scripture on account of the supposed poverty of its style, as if it were not written eloquently enough for the wiser part of mankind. Not to insist that several of the most learned men have declared that some portions
a John xiii. 7.
of Holy Writ are expressed in the loftiest strains of sublimity, we conceive that pride lies at the bottom of the objection; for the Scriptures were not written to instruct men in the principles of natural wisdom, but "to make them wise unto salvation." plainly argues, then, the goodness of God, in granting a revelation which is at once adapted to the understanding of all descriptions of men.
7. Furthermore, the powerful tendency of the Scriptures to promote the cause of righteousness in the world, is manifest, not only from its own intrinsic excellence, but from the marked piety of those holy men who have conformed to its precepts. Living in the fear of God, and conscientiously discharging every duty, the primitive Saints and Christians waited for the heavenly inheritance promised to them that obey the Lord.
8. The striking effects which are still produced by the Word of God on the hearts of men shew that its efficacy is Divine. Wherever it is cordially believed, and submitted to, the most beneficial effects invariably follow. The drunkard forsakes the inebriating draught, and becomes sober. Sensual, intemperate, and debauched persons, renouncing their criminal pleasures, cultivate habits of chastity and moderation. The covetous become liberal: the miser, who formerly paid adoration to his gods of silver and gold, is made ashamed of his base devotion, and is ready to communicate to the relief of the necessitous in a word, multitudes, who were addicted to every species of sin, have been reclaimed to a life of justice, sobriety and godliness, by simply perusing the Scriptures, and obeying their directions. The reason why these effects are not more universally produced,
b Hebrews xi. 7-17.
is, because, through the depravity of their hearts, men refuse to walk in the light which Revelation affords them. Were men in their respective stations. always to act according to the dictates of the Bible, what harmony, peace, righteousness, and benevo lence, would everywhere prevail! Murder, oppression, injustice, cruelty, persecution, theft, dishonesty, and avarice, would be unknown; wars, contentions, animosities, implacable hatred, and a thirst of revenge, would cease to exert their deadly influence; and men, regarding each other as brethren, would "live together in unity and godly love.".
9. Several collateral proofs might be brought to confirin the authority of the Bible; such as the integrity and righteousness of the Inspired Writers, which made it impossible for them to deceive others: and the miraculous powers displayed in behalf of their mission evince that they could not be deceived themselves. The resolution with which many of them persisted in their testimony, though it exposed them to the greatest losses and the most shocking deaths, demonstrates that they could have had no other object to answer by it, than the promotion of the Divine glory, and the common benefit of mankind. Moreover, the frequent appeals made to the Scriptures, soon after they were written; the wide circulation of the Sacred Books, which were translated into the various languages of different countries; and the veneration in which they have been constantly held by good men; are presumptive arguments in favour of the inspiration of the Sacred Writings. In addition to the reasons before stated, for believing the inspiration of the Scriptures, another may be subjoined, which See Paley's Theology,in which these proofs are fully discussed.