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before men, to deter them from sin, and excite them to fear and obey God.
Here two things may be observed,
1. What is revealed in the scriptures concerning the perfections and works of God, his laws as the rule of duty, the nature and evil tendency of sin, and the description given of true virtue and religion, and their happy tendency and end, appears so reasonable and evident to every attentive person, when revealed, that this, with the other evidences that have been mentioned, is suffi. cient to convince the reason and judgment of every one, that this is a revelation from God, though their hearts be ever so corrupt and vicious; and has generally proved sufficient, unless where peculiar prejudices by education or otherwise, have taken place.
2. The honest, virtuous mind only, which does discern and relish the beauty and excellence of truth and virtue, will see and feel the full force of this argument for the divinity of the holy scriptures. Such have true discerning to see the wonderful, excellent, glorious things revealed in the holy scriptures, which in themselves carry a most satisfying and infallible evidence of their truth and divinity. They see the divine stamp which this system of truth carries on it, and believe and are sure that this is the true God, and that here is eternal life. They therefore no longer need any other evidence but this which they find in the contents of the holy scriptures ; in this they rest satisfied, and are assured that the writings contained in the Bible are the word of God.
Thus the holy scriptures are attended with the highest possible evidence that they came from God; they carry that external and internal evidence of their divinity, to the reason and conscience of men, which is sufficient to convince them, however corrupt their hearts may be : But the highest internal evidence is fully discerned only by the humble honest mind, which is disposed to relish, love and receive the truth. To such the true light shines from the holy scriptures with irresistible evidence, and their hearts are established in the truth. They believe from evidence they have within themselves; from what they see and find in the Bible. And as all might have this evidence and certainty that the contents of the Bible are from God, did they not exercise and indulge those uureasonable lusts, which blind their eyes to the beauty and excellence of divine truth, unbelief is in every instance and degree of it wholly inexcusable and very criminal.
Having considered the abundant evidence there is that the writings contained in the Bible are given by divine inspiration, the following observations may be made concerning this sacred book.
1. This is a complete, unerring and perfect rule of faith and practice, and the only rule.
This being understood and believed, is sufficient to make men wise unto salvation ; and we have no warrant to believe any religious truth, unless it be revealed, or can be supported by the holy scriptures; and this is the only rule of our duty. We may be certain, if God has given us a revelation, it is in all respects complete, and in the best manner suited to answer the end : And must be the only standard of truth and duty.
2. Whatever may be justly and clearly inferred as a certain consequence from what is expressly revealed in the scriptures, must be considered as contained in divine revelation, as really as that which is expressed. For instance, if from any two or more truths, expressly revealed, another certainly follows, that other truth, by the supposition, is really contained in those expressly revealed, and therefore is in fact revealed or made known, in the revelation of them.
3. The holy scriptures are not to be understood without a constant, laborious attention to them, and a careful examination and search of them, in order to know the mind and will of God therein revealed. This is no evidence that the scriptures are not plain and easy to be understood ; as plain and intelligible, as in the nature of things they can be, and adapted, in the best manner, to give instruction in those things about which they treat: For they cannot be instructed by the best possible means of instruction, who will not attend and take pains. They only who “incline their ear unto wisdom, and apply their heart to understanding ; who cry after knowledge, and lift up their voice for understanding; who seek her VOL. I.
as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures,' understand the sacred writings.
4. The holy scriptures were never designed to be understood, especially in those things that are most important and excellent, by persons of corrupt minds, whose hearts have no relish for these things : but do wholly oppose and hate them, and are determined in a course of disobedience to them. It is impossible indeed, that such should understand the sublime holy truths that relate to the infinitely holy God, his holy law, gospel and kingdom. Therefore their not being understood by such is no argument that they are not sufficiently plain. It is no evidence that the sun does not shine clear and bright, because they who have no eyes, or if they have, refuse to open them, do not see the light, and discern the objects it plainly discovers. It is abundantly declared in scripture, that wicked, evil men, will not understand the things there revealed. “ The wicked know not, neither will they understand: They walk on in darkness.”* « Evil men understand not judgment.”+ " The natural man (that is, the man of a corrupt, carnal mind) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolish unto him : Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”f Christ says to the Jews, “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only !"'And again, “ If any man will do his will, (that is, has an obedient heart ready to comply with the will of God, when it is made known to him) he shall know the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”|| This implies that they who are of a contrary disposition do not understand and know, which is expressly asserted in the following words, “Every one that doth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doth truth cometh to the light.”T Therefore, if the scriptures be dark and unintelligible to any, especially in the most important matters there revealed, it is not owing to any defect or darkness in them ; but the fault is wholly in the persons them
* Psalm xxviii. 5. + Prov. xviii. 5. #1 Cor. ii. 14. S John y. 44. 1 John vii. 17.
John ü. 20, 21.
selves, and they are altogether inexcusable and criminal, in not seeing what is revealed with sufficient clearness.
5. It can therefore be easily accounted for, that these sacred writings should be so little understood by multitudes, and so greatly misunderstood by many ; and that there should be so many different and opposite opinions respecting the doctrines and duties inculcated in the Bible, among those who enjoy this revelation, and profess to make it their rule. This is not the least evi. dence of any defect in the scriptures, or that they are not sufficiently plain, and in the best manner suited to give instruction; but is wholly owing to the criminal blindness, corrupt propensities and unreasonable prejudices of men; who do not attend to the Bible with an honest heart. It is impossible that a revelation should be giv. en, that cannot be misunderstood, and perverted to the worst purposes and to support the greatest errors and delusions, by the prejudices, wicked blindness, and perverse inclinations of artful men. Nothing has taken place, with respect to this, but what might justly be expected, if mankind are naturally as depraved and rebel. lious, as the scriptures represent them to be ; and is perfectly consistent with the perfection of divine revelation. And when men shall in general become honest and vir. tuous to a proper degree, and their hearts shall be turned to the Lord, and to his word, willing and ready to receive the dictates of heaven, the vail of darkness and error will vanish, and the true light which has so long shined in darkness, and so has not been seen and comprehended, shall shine in their hearts, and they, receiving the truth in the love of it, will be “perfectly joined together, in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
This brings another observation into view.
6. The chief and greatest end of divine revelation is not yet answered. The Bible has been greatly neglected and abused, and not understood ; and perverted to evil purposes by most of those who have enjoyed it. This light has hitherto shined, in a great measure, in vain, in the criminal darkness of this world, which has not comprehended, but abused and rejected it. And those few who have in some measure understood and received and practised the truth, have done it in a very imperfect degree ; and the Bible has not been yet fully understood by any : But this same revelation informs us that it shall not always be so; but the time is coming, and is now just at hand, when God will destroy the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations, by causing the gospel to be preached to them all, and giving them a heart to discern and understand the truth. Then “ the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be seven fold, as the light of seven days." And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear, shall hearken. The heart also of the rash or inconsiderate foolish, shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly, and the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." In that time the Bible shall be understood, and all the institutions and ordinances of the gospel shall have their proper, greatest and most'happy effect, in the illumination and salvation of multitudes. All that precedes this time is but preparatory in order to introduce this day of salvation, in the reign of Christ on earth. The word of God shall then have free course and be glorified, as it never was before, and shall fully answer the end for which it was given. *
I. WHAT gratitude do we owe to God for giving such a complete revelation to men, every way suited to give instruction in every necessary and most important truth : and without which mankind must have remained in the grossest darkness ! What gratitude do we owe to God, who has distinguished us from so great a part of mankind, in giving us to enjoy this inestimable privilege, while they are left to grope in the dark !
The enemies to divine revelation have made this an objection against it, and said, if it were from God, it would have been given equally to all mankind, and not confined to so small a part, as this revelation has been.
* See Treatise on the Millennium, at the end of this System.