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ry, had no such events taken place! If then, that generation could not be thus imposed on, when could the belief of these extraordinary transactions be palmed upon the nation? Surely, it would have been impossible in the next age, to persuade them, that their fathers had seen and experienced such wonderful things, when they had never before heard a single word about them; and when an appeal must have been made to them, that these were things well known among them! What credit could have been obtained to such a forgery at any subsequent period? It would have been absolutely necessary, in making the attempt, to persuade the people, that such traditions had always been current among them; that the memory of them had for ages been perpetuated, by days and ordinances observed in every succeeding age by all the nation; and that their whole civil and religious establishment had thence originated: nay, that the very tenure, on which they held their estates was grounded on it! And could this have possibly been effected, if they all had known, that no such memorials and traditions had ever before been heard of among them? The same might be shewn concerning the other miracles recorded in Scripture, especially those of Christ and his apostles; and the sacrament of the Lord's supper in remembrance of his death, and the observance of the Lord's day on the first day of the week, in commemoration of his resurrection, in all ages to this present time. If not instituted at the time, immediately succeeding the events on which they are grounded; at what subsequent period could they have been introduced, so as to persuade multitudes in very many nations, that they and their fathers, and fathers' fathers had always observed them? So that it might be made evident, that the man, who denies that the miracles were actually performed, must believe more wonderful things, without any evidence, than those are which he rejects, though established by unanswerable proof. To evince this, as to one most important instance, namely, the resurrection of Christ, which, being once proved, undeniably establishes the divine original and authority of Christianity, let the reader consult the latter part of the note on John 20: 24 -29.
On this subject, it may again be demanded, When could the belief of the resurrection of Christ, and the miracles wrought by his apostles and disciples in proof of it, have been obtruded on mankind, if they had never happened? Surely not in the age, when they were said to have been witnessed by hundreds of thousands, who were publicly challenge ed to deny them if they could! certainly not in any subsequent age; for the origin of Christianity was expressly ascribed to them, and millions must have been persuaded, that they had always believed those things, of which they had never to that time so much as heard.* We may indeed venture to assert, that no past event was ever so fully proved as our Lord's resurrection; and that it would not be half so preposterous to doubt whether such a man as Julius Cæsar ever existed, as it would be to question whether Jesus actually rose from the dead. What then do they mean, who oppose some trivial apparent variations, in the account given of this event by the four Evangelists, (which have repeatedly been shewn capable of an easy reconciliation,) to such an unparalleled complication of evidence that it did actually take place!
IV. The prophecies contained in the sacred Scriptures, and fulfilling to this day, fully demonstrate that they are divinely inspired. These form a species of perpetual miracles, which challenge the investigation of men in every age; and which, though overlooked by the careless and prejudiced, cannot fail of producing conviction proportioned to the humble and reverential attention paid to them. The prophecies of the Messiah which are found in almost all the books of the Old Testament, when compared with the exact accomplishment of them, as recorded in the authentic writings of the Evangelists, abundantly prove them to have been written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit: while the existence of the Jews as a people differing from all others upon the face of the earth, and their regard to these writings, as the sacred oracles handed down from their progenitors, sufficiently vouch for their antiquity: though that admits of full and clear proof of another kind. According to the predictions of these books, Nineveh has been desolated;t Babylon swept with the besom of destruction;f Tyre become a place to dry nets in;|| Egypt the basest of the kingdoms, which has never since been able “to exalt itself above the nations." These, and many other events, fulfilling ancient prophecies, very many ages after they were delivered, can never be accounted for; except by allowing, that He, who sees the end from the beginning, thus revealed his secret purposes, that the accomplishment of them might prove the Scriptures to be his word of instruction to mankind.
In like manner, there are evident predictions interwoven with the writings of almost every writer of the New Testament, as a divine attestation to the doctrine contained in them. The destruction of Jerusalem, with all the circumstances predicted in the Evangelists; (the narrative of which may be seen in Josephus's History of the Jewish wars;) the series of ages, during which that city has been "trodden down of the gentiles;”T the
• The Jews, at this day, do not deny, that the miracles recorded in the New Testament history were actually performed, but they absurdly ascribe them all to enchantment --See Answer to Rabbi Crooll, by the Author. | Nah. 1: 2: 3:
1 14 13 14:
|| Ez. 26:4,5.
Luke 21: 24
long continued dispersion of the Jews, and the conversion of the nations to Christianity, the many antichristian corruptions of the gospel; the superstition, uncommanded austerities, idolatry, spiritual tyranny, and persecution, of the Roman hierarchy; the division of the empire into ten kingdoms; the concurrence of those who ruled those kingdoms during many ages, to support the usurpations of the church of Rome; and the existence of Christianity to this day, amidst so many enemies, who have used every possible method to destroy it:--all these occurrences, when diligently compared with the predictions of the New Testament, do not come short of the fullest demonstration, of which the case will admit, that the books, which contain those predictions, are the unerring word of God.
There are two further observations, on this subject, which seem of great importance.
1. The predictions of Scripture, if carefully examined, will be found to contain a prophetical history of the world, as to all the grand outlines, from the beginning to this present time; not to speak of such, as are yet unfulfilled. Who can deny, that the history of Abraham's posterity; of Israel especially; of Judah and Joseph, the most renowned sons of Jacob; and of the Jews, in their present dispersions; and their preservation, as a distinct people, "dwelling alone, and not reckoned among the nations,” might be clearly and particularly stated in the very words of prophecy?* Does not almost the whole of ancient profane history, as distinguished from that contained in the sacred Scriptures; and also a large proportion of modern history, consist principally of the records of the four great empires, the Chaldean, the Medo-persian, the Grecian or Macedonian, and the Roman? And are not these predicted in the book of Daniel so exactly and particularly, as to give some plausibility to the objection, which is demonstrated to be unfounded, that they were written after the event?| But especially, the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."| The changes which have taken place in the state of the world, in consequence of the birth of Jesus at Beth-lehem, and of his claim to be the Messiah, the Son of God, which has by some been virulently opposed, by others zealously supported, have been great, extensive, and durable beyond comparison with all other revolutions: but is there one particular, in all the history of Jesus, and of the subsequent establishment of Christianity, with all the opposition made to it, and the corruptions afterwards introduced, which is not expressly predicted in Scripture? And might not a narrative, in many instances very circumstantial, of our Lord, from his birth to his death, be drawn up in the words of prophecy?
2. From the preceding consideration another arises, as inseparably connected with it. The prophecies of Scripture are not detached or insulated predictions, but constitute a grand system of previo.is information, as to the secret designs of Providence, extending from the earliest ages even to the consummation of all things; and accompanied by such distinct notations of order, place, and time, as may well be called the geography and the chronology of prophecy. Insomuch that any one, in any age, who well understood the prophecies extant in his day, might have known what to expect, at the specified times, and in the specified countries. As one prediction received its accomplishment, others were given, connecting prophecy with history;$ till the Revelation of St. John concluded the whole. Events have hitherto, in every age and nation, corresponded with these predictions. This is well known to each individual, in exact proportion to the degree in which he becomes acquainted with Scripture and with historical records, and to the care and impartiality with which he compares the prophecies with those records. As it is the manifest and avowed plan of prophecy, to predict events, occurring in their own place and season to the end of the world; the circumstance of several prophecies being yet unfulfilled, does not in the least deduct from the proof of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, derived from this source: for on such a plan, some must remain unfulốilled, till the end shall come.--It may also be added, that, in respect of the state of the Jews, and in many other particulars, there is an evident preparation made for the accomplishment of all the prophecies, which yet remain to be fulfilled. Now, I ask, is there any thing in the least coincident with such a system of prediction, from age to age, in any other book in the world, except the Bible? And could so many and so extraordinary and improbable events, through so many ages and nations, have occurred, in so undeniable a manner, as foretold in the Scriptures, had not the Omniscient God himself inspired the Scriptures? The grand outline of prophecy generally takes in all that space of time, which was included between the period when the prophet wrote and the end of the world; and as subordinate predictions, concerning Israel and the nations, and which form a kind of episode to the main design, were fulfilled, other prophecies were delivered from age to age; till St. John closed the whole, in The Revelation.. Can any reasonable man conceive that a design of this kind could ever have entered into the thoughts of an uninspired writer; that he could form the astonishing idea into a regular plan; and that during more than
• Notes, Gen. 12:1–3 16:12. 49:8-12,22—26. Num. 23:3. Deut. 28:65-67. Rev. 19:10.
Notes, Is. 41:26-29. 42:8,9. VOL. J.
† Notes, Dan. 2:33–45. 7:8 Note, Is. 41:21-24.
fifteen hundred years, he should have successors, who entered fully into his views, and assisted in carrying them into effect? Or can it be conceived, that such a plan, however formed, could have been so executed, as to have even a plausible appearance of being successful? He, who can believe this, has no right to call those credulous, who receive the Bible as the word of God.
V. The Bible alone, and such books as make it their basis, introduce the infinite God speaking in a manner worthy of himself, with simplicity, majesty, and authority. His character, as there delineated, comprises all possible excellence without any intermixture; his laws and ordinances accord to his perfections; his works and dispensations exhibit them; and all his dealings with his creatures bear the stamp of infinite wisdom, power, justice, purity, truth, goodness, and mercy, harmoniously displayed. The description given in the sacred oracles, of the state of the world and of human nature, widely differs from our previous ideas of them; yet facts on full investigation unanswerably prove it to be exactly true. The records of every nation, the events of every age, and the history of every individual, most entirely confute the self-flattery of man in this respect; and prove that the writers of the Bible knew the human character immensely better, than any philosopher, ancient or modern, ever did. Their account teaches us what men are actually doing, and what may be expected from them: while all, who form a different estimate of human nature, find their principles inapplicable to facts; their theories incapable of being reduced to practice; and their expectations strangely disappointed. The Bible, well understood, enables us to account for those events, which have appeared inexplicable to men in every age: and the more carefully any one watches and scrutinizes all the motives, imaginations, and desires of his own heart, during a length of time; the more manifest will it appear to him, that the Scriptures give a far more just account of his disposition and character, than he himself could have done. In short, man is such a being, and the world is in such a state, as the Scriptures have described: yet multiplied facts, constant observation, and reiterated experience, are insufficient to convince us of it, till we first learn it from the Bible; and then comparing all which passes within us, and around us, with what we there read, we become more and more acquainted with our own hearts, and established in the belief of the divine original of this most wonderful book.
To this we may add, as a most convincing internal proof that the Bible is the word of God, who “knoweth what is in man;" that it is exactly suited to our real state, character, and wants; and proposes an adequate remedy, or supply, to all of them; which in proportion as self-knowledge increases, we see more and more. While others, through ignorance and self-flattery, cannot perceive that its proposals and promises suit their case, the experienced Christian is deeply convinced, that he wants all that is thus proposed and promised, to render him happy, and that he wants nothing more.
The mysteries contained in Scripture rather confirm than invalidate this conclusion: for a book, claiming to be a revelation from God and yet devoid of mystery, would, by this very circumstance, confute itself. Incomprehensibility is inseparable from God and from all his works, even the most inconsiderable; such as, for instance, the growth of a blade of grass. The mysteries of the Scriptures are sublime, interesting, and useful; they display the divine perfections; lay a foundation for our hope; and inculcate humility, rev. erence, love, and gratitude. What is incomprehensible must be mysterious: but it may be intelligible as far as it is revealed; and though it be connected with things above our reason,
may imply nothing contrary to it. So that, in all respects, the contents of the Bible are suited to convince the serious inquirer, that it is “The word of God.'
VI. The tendency of the Scripture constitutes another unanswerable proof. Did all men believe and obey the Bible, as a divine revelation; let us seriously inquire, to what tenor of conduct it would lead them, and what would be the effect on society? Surely if repentance, and renunciation of all vice and immorality, when combined with the spiritual worship of God in his ordinances; faith in his mercy and truth, through the mediation of his Son; and all the fruits of the Holy Spirit, as visible in the life of every true believer, were universal, or even general, they would form the bulk of mankind to such characters, and would produce such effects, as the world has never yet witnessed. Men would then habitually and uniformly do justice, speak truth, shew mercy, exercise mutual forgiveness, follow after peace, bridle their appetites and passions, and lead sober, righteous, and godly lives. Murders, wars, slavery, cruel oppressions, rapine and fraud, and unrestrained licentiousness, would no more desolate the world, or fill it with misery; and bitter contentions would no more destroy domestic comfort: but righteousness, goodness, and truth, would bless the earth with a felicity exceeding all our present conceptions. This is, no doubt, the direct tendency of the scriptural doctrines, precepts, motives, and promises: nothing is wanting to remedy the state of the world, and to fit men for the worship and felicity of heaven, but to believe and obey the Scriptures. And if many enormous crimes have been committed, under color of zeal for Christianity; it only proves the depravity of man's heart: for the Scripture, soberly understood, most expressly forpids such practices; and men do not act in this shameful manner because they duly regard the Bible, but because they will not believe and obey it.
The tendency of these principles is exhibited in the characters delineated in the sacred writings; while the consistency between the doctrines and precepts of Scripture, and the actions of men recorded in it, implies another argument of its divine original. The conduct of ungodly men, as there related, entirely accords to the abstract account given of human nature: and it appears, that believers conducted themselves exactly in that manner, which the principles of the Bible might have led us to expect. They had naturally like passions with other men; but these were habitually restrained and regulated by the fear and love of God, and by other holy affections. Their general behavior was good, but not perfect; and sometimes their natural proneness to evil broke out, and made way for bitter repentance and deeper humiliation: so that they appear constantly to have perceived their need of forgiveness and divine assistance; to have expected felicity from the rich mercy of God; and, instead of making a bad use of that consideration, to have deduced from it motives for gratitude, zeal, patience, meekness, and love to mankind.
But one character is exhibited, in the simplest and most unaffected manner, which is perfection itself. Philosophers, orators, and poets, in their several ways, have bestowed immense pains to delineate a faultless character: and they have given us complete models of their own estimate of excellence, and sufficient proof that they had labored the point to the uttermost of their ability. But the four Evangelists, (whose divine inspiration is now frequently doubted on the most frivolous pretences,) without seeming to think of it, have done that, in which all other writers have failed. They have set before us a perfect human character, by recording facts, without making any comment on them, or shewing the least ingenuity in the arrangement of them. They have given the history of "one, whose spirit, words, and actions were, in every particular, what they ought to have 'been; who always did the very thing which was proper, and in the best manner imagi‘nable; who never once deviated from the most consummate wisdom, purity, benevolence, "compassion, meekness, humility, fortitude, patience, piety, zeal, or any other excellency: and who in no instance let one virtue or holy disposition entrench on another, but exercised them all in entire harmony, and exact proportion.!—This subject challenges investiga'tion, and sets infidelity at defiance. Either these four men exceeded, in genius and ca“pacity, all other writers that ever lived; or they wrote under the guidance of divine in'spiration: for, without labor or affectation, they have performed what hath baffled all
others, who have set themselves purposely to accomplish it.** This is a fact which cannot be denied: no perfect character is elsewhere delineated, and probably no mere man could have drawn one; and no one would have thought of such a character as that of Jesus. This alone, I apprehend, joined to their entire consistency in this respect with one another, demonstrates that the Evangelists wrote under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
It has often been observed, that Satan would never have influenced men to write the Bible; for then he would have been divided against himself; wicked men would not have written a book, which so awfully condemned iheir whole conduct; and good 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 splendor is imitated, or his absence supplied.
VII. The actual effects, produced by the Scripture, evince their divine-original. These are indeed far from being equal to its 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 course of conduct, to sobriety, equity, truth, and piety, and to good behavior in relative lise, simply by attending to the sacred oracles. Having been "made free from sin, and become the servants of God, they have their fruit unto holi ness;" and after patiently continuing in well-doing,” and cheerfully bearing various af fictions, they joyfully meet death, being supported by the hope of eternal life as the gilt of God through Jesus Christ:” while those who best know them, are most convinced, that they have been rendered more wise, holy, and happy, by believing the Bible; and that there is a reality in religion, though various interests and passions may keep them from duly embracing it. What a different nation would Britain become, if all its inhabi tants were rendered as upright, sincere, peaceable, beneficent, and active in doing good to mankind, as a remnant of them are on scriptural principles? How would the state of the whole earth be changed, if'all men every where thus denied ungodliness and worldly luists, and lived soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world?” This alone woul do much towards introducing a state of things, resembling that of the millennium.tThere are indeed enthusiasts; but they become such, by forsaking the old rule of faith
• The author's Answer to Paine's Age of Reason. p. 66, 2 ed.
Note, Rev. 20:4-6.
and duty, for some new imagination: 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 et divine knowledge, which can never be exhausted. The things, that are absolutely necessary to salvation, are few, simple, and obvious to the meanest capacity, provided it be attended by 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 more deeply 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 which 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 judgment, dispositions, and affections; and the earnests of heaven enjoyed by him in communion with God, put the matter beyond all doubt: and though many believers are not at all qualified to dispute against infidels, they are enabled, through this inward testimony, to obey the gospel, and to suffer for it: and they can no more be convinced, by reasonings and objections, that uninspired men invented the Bible, than they can be persuaded, that man created the sun, whose light they behold, and by whose beams they are cheered.
And now, if an objector could fully invalidate more than one half of these arguments, (to which many more might easily be added,) the remainder would be abundantly sufficient.—Nay, perhaps, avv one of them so far decides the question, that, were there no other proof of the Binie: s being the word of God, a man could not reject it, without acting in direct opposi jou to those dictates of common sense, which direct his conduct in his secular affairs.—But in reality, 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 defied their unavailing fury. But, 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,
A very small part of the evidences, which, with combined force, establish the divine original and authority of our holy religion, has here been adduced. Many books have, of late years, been published on the important subject; the writers of which have treated it in different ways: yet, in general, the arguments advanced by each seem separately to be conclusive. It does not appear, that any view of the subject, materially new, remains to be exhibited: but the following particulars have not, as far as the Author has observed, been as yet brought forward, in that prominent manner, and to that advantage, of which they are capable.
1. Many, in these days, allow the sacred writers to have been wise and good men; but they hesitate, and speak doubtfully, as to their divine inspiration. Yet, do not all the prophets, in the Old Testament, speak most decidedly of themselves and of their predecessors, as declaring, not their own words, but the word of God? Do not the apostles, and other writers of the New Testament, speak concerning the prophets who wrote the Old Testament, “as holy men of God, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost???! Do they not adopt language, which, in its most obvious meaning, claims the attention of their readers to their own instructions, as to the WORD OF God? Do they not thus attest and sanction one another's writings?| Do they thus attest and sanction any other books? The answer to these questions at least effectually confutes the sentiment above stated. If the sacred writers were indeed wise men, but not inspired; how were they deluded into the false imagination, that they and their predecessors and coadjutors were inspired? If they were good men, but not inspired, would they have thus confidently asserted their own inspiration, and sanctioned that of each other; knowing that this was contrary to the truth, and that they merely delivered their own private sentiments?
II. There are also very many, who so far reverence the name of our Lord Jesus, as to suppose his words to be divine and infallible; and yet they speak of the writers, both of the Old and New Testament, in more hesitating language. Now our Lord himself, in numerous instances, has quoted and referred to the Old Testament, and the several parts of it, as “of divine authority;" and this in a manner which directly tended to mislead
* Nute, 1 John 5:9,10. 12 Sam. 23:1,2. Neh. 9:30. Ps. 19:7–11. 18. 8:20. Jer. 20:7–9. 25:3,4. 26:12--19. Ez. 1:1--3. 38:16,17. Dan. 9:12,13. Mic. 3:8-12. Zech. 1:5,6.
Notes, Rom. 3:1,2, 2 Tim. 3:14--17. Heb. 1:1,2. 2 Fet. 1.19-21 || Notes, 1 Cor. 7:39,40. 1 Thes, 4:6--8. 5:23-28, d. 27. 2 Pet. 3:1-4,14,16. iJoba 4:46.