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ESSAYS.

ESSAY I.

ON THE DIVINE INSPIRATION OF THE HOLY

SCRIPTURES.

It is manifest to all who seriously reflect on the powers and propensities of human nature, that we are formed capable of religion, and have an inward consciousness that we ought to worship some supe. rior Being, on whom our safety and happiness depend: but, at the same time, the state of the world, in all places where the Bible has not been made known, unanswerably proves, that we are incapable of discovering for ourselves a religion, which is worthy of God, suited to our wants, and conducive to our true interest. The shortness of life, also, and the reasonable persuasion that men in general entertain of a future state, concur to show, that our grand concern lies in another world. Yet uncertainty and perplexity, nay, palpable error and absurdity, have ever encumbered men's reasonings and conjectures on these important subjects. Even at Athens Jehovah was “the unknown God” (Acts xvii. 23), and all beyond the grave was an unknown world.

The wisest of the Pagans, therefore, considered a revelation from the Deity to be exceedingly desirable, in order that bewildered mortals might learn the way in which they could worship him with acceptance, and be happy; and some of them entertained hopes, that such an inestimable favour

would at length be vouchsafed. Indeed, confused expectations of this kind have been common in the world; as is manifest from the reception that hath been given to pretended revelations, which otherwise could not have obtained credit and currency.

Various impositions, in this matter, have been detected by a careful investigation; and there is but one book in the world, which so much as appears to be a revelation from God. This has stood the test of ages, and undergone the most severe scrutiny; and the more it has been examined by serious inquirers, the fuller conviction have they obtained of its authenticity. No man now ventures forth as an avowed adversary, to dispute its claim in the open field of fair argument ; yet few in comparison are practically convinced that it is the unerring word of God; and an increasing number of objectors perplex themselves and others, by discovering supposed inconsistencies, or unimportant difficulties; or by setting up their own reasonings and imaginations in opposition to its doctrines, and making that disagreement a ground of hesitation or rejection. So that scepticism, or a partial, frivolous, disingenuous, carping infidelity, have become exceedingly common; the minds of young persons especially are poisoned by them; great pains are taken to disseminate these cavils and objections (though they have been solidly answered again and again); and those persons are treated as weak enthusiasts, or irrational bigots, who simply believe the scriptures as the sure testimony of God.

It may therefore be seasonable to state, with all possible brevity, some of the most conclusive reasons, by which reflecting men have been induced to submit to the authority of the Bible, and to believe that it is a revelation from the God of truth. By the divine inspiration of the Holy

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Scriptures, I mean such an immediate and complete discovery, by the Holy Spirit, to the minds of the sacred penmen, of those things which could not have been otherwise known, and such an effectual superintendency as to those matters which they might be informed of by other means, as entirely to preserve them from all error, in every particular which could in the least affect any of the doctrines or commandments contained in their writings. Every proposition, therefore, is to be considered as the sure testimony of God, in that sense according to which the sacred penmen proposed it as truth. Thus facts occurred, and words were spoken, as they stand recorded in the scripture, as to the import of them, and the instruction to be deduced from them; but we must judge of those facts, or discourses, by the doctrinal and preceptive parts of the scriptures: nor does it at all invalidate the complete inspiration of the sacred writers to allow, that they expressed themselves in common language, and wrote of things as men generally spoke of them, rather than according to philosophical exactness, or in the style that was used in the schools of the learned during the ages in which they lived. Supposed, or unimportant errors, or inaccuracies of expression in such things, are not in the least inconsistent with that entire divine inspiration of which we speak; for the scriptures were not written to render us exact philosophers, or to instruct us in ancient history and geography, but to make us wise unto salvation. Nor do the few immaterial mistakes which, in a long course of years, have crept in through the errors of transcribers, create any difficulty or uncertainty to the humble and teachable inquirer; though they may give occasion to the self-sufficient to cavil and object; for the “ Lord taketh the wise in their own craftiness."

Moreover, it is futile and absurd for any man

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