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Jury hesitated as to their verdict, sending to them to hasten their decision.
We shall quote a few sentences, which show the state of mind in which Mr. E. bore this infamous persecution. "After two years and a month, I was released from my bonds. But still there remains another and a more righteous judgment, where all, both high and low, shall stand and await the sentence of the Great Judge and Bishop of souls, who will surely reverse all erroneous judgments here: for he will render tribulation to them who have troubled others; but to them who are troubled, rest and peace; and they who conscientiously erred, will surely fare better than those who have persecuted them for such error. For they shall have judgment without mercy, who show no mercy. But I heartily and daily pray, this may never be the portion of any who have injured me; and, as I hope the good God will forgive me if I have erred, since he knows 'tis with sincerity, and that I suffer for what I take to be his truth and glory; so I also hope he will pardon them who have persecuted me only from a mistaken zeal; for they did it ignorantly in unbelief. And even after all, I thank my most merciful God and Father, that he called me not to this lot of suffering, till I was arrived at some maturity of judgment and firmness of resolution; that he supported my spirit to endure this trial of my faith without wavering; that I was never so cast down as to be tempted to renounce the truth; and that he has brought me out of prison; that I have yet food and raiment left me; and, above all, that he has given me a mind, I think, as well contented with it, as ever I was in my greatest prosperity. I am content to want the kind and vain respect of the world, and to give up my name to mistaken reproach, or to lose it, that it may be in silent unregarded obscurity. I have suffered the loss of many things, and do not repent; but upon the review, I do still count it all but dung and dross, if it has in any way advanced the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. It is a further ground of rejoicing, to see the light of important truth breaking forth in many other parts, and spreading abroad its beautiful ray: that God has raised up divers others, bold enough to profess it, and able enough, with his assistance, to defend it."
After his release, Mr. E. returned to London, where a small congregation was formed for him. To them he
preached without stipend, although his fortune was reduced to a narrow income. The liberty of preaching, which he thus enjoyed, gave great offence to several persons; and after some years, his congregation was dissolved by the death of the principal persons who had attended upon his ministry. He retired into silent obscurity, but not to idleness, for the greater part of his life was diligently spent in supporting, by various works, the principles he had embraced, and the cause for which he suffered. These works were collected and published by his son; they have now become exceedingly scarce, and we cannot but wish, on account of their sterling excellence, that they might be given to the public in a new edition. On Friday, July 17, 1743, Mr. E. was suddenly taken ill in the night, but grew so far better as to be able, for some days, to converse with his friends, and to testify the great satisfaction he enjoyed in the consciousness of his integrity. His disorder returning, he departed this life on the 30th day of the month, in the 79th year of his age. He was one of the brightest examples of substantial unaffected piety, of serious rational devotion, of steady unshaken integrity, of undaunted Christian courage, that the annals of Christianity record. His knowledge was profound, his mind comprehensive and acute, and his heart disciplined by good and evil fortune, and imbued with the principles of the Gospel, was fixed upon God, and guided by his spirit.
G. C. S.
The Inspiration of the Scriptures.
Ir was for a long time doubted who were the authors of those Epistles which are called the 2d and 3d of John, the Epistle of St. James, and of St. Jude. This last, indeed, is very little else than a transcript of the 2d of St. Peter, the genuineness of which was also for a long time questioned, and still is scarcely acknowledged by many. After a very diligent search to collect into one body all the writings of the Apostles which could be found, those were preferred which at present stand in the Canon. The writings of the Apostles had preference to those of the other primitive Christians, because they had been with
Christ from the beginning of his public ministry, were eye and ear witnesses of his miraculous powers and heavenly doctrines; because they were immediately commissioned by Christ, and their commission was ratified by God himself, in the bestowing of miraculous gifts.*
These gifts were ultimately designed for the confirmation of that Christian doctrine which they taught. In Heb. ii. 34, we have the sum of their credentials, and how they were confirmed; but that what they wrote, was all immediately inspired by the Holy Spirit, or that they ever asserted that they were so inspired, is a thing entirely destitute of proof. It is readily granted, that they were possessed with a full and clear knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus; that what they taught is true, the doctrine of divine inspiration; that what they spoke, as well as what they wrote, was in words well suited to express their simple meaning.
The Council of Laodicea, A. D. 364, first adjusted the code of the Canon as it is at present received. Their decisions, as to what should, or what should not, be admitted as Scripture, were formed:-1st, From the authority conferred on the Apostles, and on this account, they admitted every letter known to be written by an Apostle which could be found; and, 2dly, with respect to those writings, whose authors were unknown or doubtful, they relied on other reasons common to us and them, and any others, and determined the genuineness according to the degree of probability resulting from a consideration of the
Let any one read the Epistles attentively, and, I think, if prepossession has not obscured his intellectual vision, he must perceive that they contain some things which can never be supposed to be the subject of divine inspiration, or that require revelation. That they had a revelation, and that what was revealed as far as it was necessary for the world to be made acquainted with it, was faithfully recorded, I readily and gratefully acknowledge. But does it appear, that the Apostles had any revelation of any new moral precepts or religious doctrine, which was not either previously known by the light of nature, or taught by Christ himself, while he continued with them
* Luke xxiv. 29; Acts ii. 43; Rom. xv. 18; 2 Cor. xii. 12. +1 Cor. i. 15; ix. 1,5; Gal. vi. 11; Phil. ii. 27; 2 Tim. iv. 13, &c.
upon earth? They were, indeed, inspired with wisdom. and eloquence to declare those precepts and those doctrines with all the power of persuasion and conviction, to perform miracles in confirmation of the truth of those glorious views of immortality, which were brought to light by the Gospel. What they were assured was divinely revealed, they peremptorily declared; but in other things they expressed themselves with diffidence. In many places, indeed, the Gospel was planted by other persons, who spoke as confidently as the Apostles themselves, and without referring to any of the Apostles' writings for authority or proof.
Intellectual light, and a pious disposition, are metonymically called the Law of God; but they are only the knowledge of what is so, and the inclination to practise it. The law itself is uniformly obligatory on all, not variable as men's convictions are, and is either written or unwritten. The question with respect to the Epistles written by the Apostles, is this, Are they like statute books where the lawgiver every where speaks? Is every sentence to be considered as the Word of the Lord? Were the authors so inspired, that they could not possibly be in the dark in any thing, nor under the least mistake? I should be sorry to speak dogmatically, but I wish to suggest a few
In the first place, It does not appear that either of the authors of the Epistles were perfect characters. They were, indeed, excellent men; but they were not, in all respects, free from infirmities. Nor was their knowledge absolutely perfect.
2dly, All that the Apostles taught orally-all that they preached from house to house-was as authentic, and as much the Word of God, as what they wrote, though that must necessarily be lost to us, because oral tradition is a means of conveying precepts and doctrines, which cannot be relied upon. What is the Book of the Acts, but an historical report, from notes taken by St. Luke (who travelled with St. Paul many years, and was also familiarly conversant with St. Peter), of the Apostles' transactions, and of the doctrines which they taught during their first propagation of the Gospel, and early settling of the Churches? And yet I have no hesitation in saying, that the Book of the Acts is more instructive to us, with
Heb. viii. 10. † Gal. ii. 6, 11, 14. Acts xv. 9, 19; xxi. 18, 21, 24.
respect to the fundamentals of Christianity, than all the Epistles, which appear to have been written on several occasions and emergencies, to the Churches which were already settled.
3dly, It does not appear that the Apostles or Evangelists stood in the situation of lawgivers; that their authority was equal to that of Christ; or that he delegated to them any such authority as should ensure to every thing they wrote, the force of divine law, or universal obligation; or that they should be considered as the Amanuenses of the Holy Spirit. They were not lawgivers, but simply ministers of Christ, limited in their commission to the teaching of those things which Christ had commanded them, and to the declaring of his divine authority. They were, indeed, sometimes directed in the execution of their office, by extraordinary guidance and impulse;‡ and in the punc tilios of order and discipline, it appears, that they were left to their discretion, with full power to use it. In such things, reason was sufficient to direct, and they might well be left mutable, to be hereafter altered and arranged, as the circumstances of Christianity might require. Some orders that they made, have long since ceased to be observed.||
4thly, We can only come to a decision on the main subject of inquiry, by a careful search into the full extent of the commission originally given to the Apostles by Christ himself. What was the nature of it, and of the promise of the divine assistance in what they should do, and what they should teach? In what such promises differed from those which were applicable to their successors in the office of teaching, and what was common to them with all Christians? For all have the promise of some help of the Spirit to lead them to the truth. The Spirit certainly never leads any one wrong; but many may err in thinking they are led by it, when, in fact, they are only following a phantom of imagination.**
The sum of their commission was simply to preach the Gospel of Christ to declare the glad tidings of salvation, of the terms and hopes of which he had been the Messenger.++ And in order to assure them of sufficient
1 Cor. i. 13; iii. 5. 1 Tim. i. 12. + Mat. xxviii. 20; Acts x. 42. Acts xix. 33. $1 Cor. xi. 34. James v. 14; 1 Cor. xvi. 20; 1 Pet. v. 14; 1 Tim. v. 9; 1 Cor. xi. 34, &c. &c. Luke xi. 13; 1 John ii. 27. ** 1 Cor. xiii. 9. tt Mat. xxviii. 19, 20; Mark xvi. 15; Luke xxiv. 47; Rom. xv, 8, 9; Heb. iii. 1, 2; 1 Cor. xv. 1, 3, 4; Acts xx. 21, 24.