Page images
PDF
EPUB

ther of an earthly nor an almighty sovereign to convince and hearts, to whose awful beauty we may direct our prayers, persuade his subjects to obedience; and that there are prece- and whose perfect excellence we may, at humble distance dents, to which Spinoza at least could not have objected, emulate! where Jehovah has not in his own person disdained to apply But, though the practice of reasoning with his creatures to the natural reason and former experience of his people be far, very far indeed, from degrading to the Almighty Israel.

Teacher; yet is there much plausibility in one observation of If the question were of power alone, it might, indeed, be- Spinoza, against which Simon heavily inveighs; “that there come the majesty of kings to enforce a blind and mechanical is, in the very act of reasoning, a submission to the sentence obedience to every dictate of their will or wisdom; and it of others; and that arguments, by whomsoever advanced, do, might be sufficient for the King of kings to produce by a sin- inasmuch as they are arguments, challenge refutation.” The gle fiat whatever effect he now produces by the intervention same may be said, indeed, of every mode by which the Allof the human will, and by discovering to his creatures such wise has manifested to mankind his existence, his nature, or motives for action, as, by their free and affectionate service, his will, since, even in the case of a visible glory, the quesmay produce the result desired. But the earthly monarch, tion might arise, whether the vehicle employed were worthy who proposed the first of these as the object of his highest of him whom it represented ; and since, when God condeambition, instead of the leader of men, would be the driver scends for our instruction to become an historian or a law. of cattle only: the Deity who should rule his creatures by giver, he subjects himself, whether he makes use of argument the single operation of necessity, would be degraded into the or no, to those rules of criticism by which we decide on huregulator of a machine. But, if it be more worthy of a right- man compositions. And if in any of those particulars for eous king to make his people subjects than slaves; if a good which human works are condemned, the work which claims God be more excellently glorified by the grateful duty of his to proceed from him be found defective, though it would be offspring, than by the mere accomplishment of certain pur- preposterous impiety to attribute error of any kind to God, it poses by the weight of overruling authority; if goodness and would be a conclusion warranted by every principle of reason wisdom are, both with men and God, more illustrious attri- and reverence, that a composition unworthy of our most exaltbutes than strength or eminent station; it can excite no won- ed ideas of God did not, in truth, proceed from him. Accordder that both should, on certain occasions, convince where ingly, if we produce the Scriptures to the world as a code of they might compel, and persuade where it was in their power laws or narrative of events of divine and infallible authority, to command. If it were unworthy of God to set forth in a we may be reasonably expected to prove against all assailants, true light to mankind the reasonableness of that service which either that the volume which we revere is both in manner and he requires at their hands, or that confidence which it is his matter faultless and unimpeachable, or that the faults of its pleasure that they should place in him; if he could not, with-human promulgators are not inconsistent with that aid and out too much condescension, enforce and explain the motives authority of the Holy Ghost, which the terms of infallibility whereby he seeks to influence us; the same objection would and inspiration in their natural sense imply. lie with equal justice against the proposition of any motives But the objections of the infidel are directed at once against whatever; and the promise of definite rewards, and the threat the style and the matter of those works whose merits we are of definite punishments, would be superfluous alike in him now discussing, since in both, as we are told, is the volume of who might, without warning or explanation, pour forth the the New Testament assailable. “Its language is, at best, full measure of his wrath on those who presumed to doubt or the language of a Jewish Greek: its arguments and asserdisobey. But if it be not unworthy of an allwise Being to tions, by the confession of one of its own prophets, occasiongovern mankind by those passions and those rational powers ally hard to be understood; of its contents there are some which he has implanted in them, no reason can be given why which its authors might have well supplied from their natural the same great Teacher should not illustrate and explain, as recollection or their natural reason only; and some so trifling, seems best to himself, from the principles of human reason that its seems little less than blasphemy to ascribe them to and experience, those discoveries which he proposes to us any higher source than common prudence or civility. Nor whether of his nature or his will.

is this all. There are circumstances, trifling circumstances Accordingly, in the whole tenour of the Old Testament, indeed, and which, if they occurred in a work of human skill, we find that the Almighty has pursued this course with his would be altogether unworthy of reprehension, where the people. It is thus that (before he condemns, by the mouth authority of Scripture is at variance with itself, or with unof Samuel, the disobedience of the first king of Israel) he inspired but credible testimony." enlarges on the benefit which he had in the first instance con- Of these imputations, it would be easy to show, and it has, ferred, and the ingratitude with which Saul had repaid them. in fact, been often shown satisfactorily, that by far the greater It is thus that, in the fifth chapter of Isaiah, Jehovah calls on part of the passages on which they depend will by no means the men of Judah themselves, to judge what more could bear up the consequences which infidelity has sought to raise have been done than he had done for his vineyard ?" Thus, on them. As some however will still be found, which the too, he explicitly invites, in the first chapter of the same best and wisest of men have deemed it easier to evade than prophet, his people to “ reason” with their God, when he explain, it is necessary and it is sufficient to demonstrate, urges on their common sense the inutility of that vain parade that the allegations, where they are accurate, do not apply to of sacrifice and outward honour whereby the wicked hoped their intended purpose, and that we have still ample grounds to conciliate him. Will it be contended, that the prophets in for ascribing to every part of the New Testament, a sufficient these instances speak from themselves and on their own re-though not an equal share of Divine inspiration and authority. sponsibility ? Then are they in the strictest sense of the I say, a sufficient but not equal share, because as the works word impostors; for every one of these passages, no less of which our sacred volume is composed are of many different than innumerable others which might be cited to the same kinds, and have been produced under circumstances extremely effect, are introduced by them as the message, nay, as the dissimilar, it would be unreasonable to expect the same sort words of Jehovah. But would Spinoza have openly ven- or' measure of celestial aid to be accorded to all indiscrimitured to refuse a divine authority to those laws which God in nately; and it is on every principle of argument sufficient, if person pronounced to his assembled nation, under every im- we can show that none of them have been without that deaginable circumstance of supernatural majesty and terror?gree of help which would identify their authority with the If not, then, certainly we need seek no further precedent divine instructions. wherein the Ruler of the world has vouchsafed to argue with And, here, it will be allowed on all hands, that inspiration men, since even then he scorned not to deduce his claim on and infallibility must, in their strictest sense, be predicated their obedience from the mercies which they had received of those expressions which, as they follow in order, have been from him, and to assign as a reason why they should keep his immediaiely dictated by God. Such are those ordinances laws, that he was their God, who had brought them out of and messages in the Book of Moses, and in the ancient prothe house of bondage. The Almighty, doubless, may draw phecies, where the Almighty himself exactly specifies the his children with the cords of a man,” he may hupıble his sentences to be written down; so that, though the translation language to our conceptions, and exact from us a service of such passages into another language be liable, beyond a reasonable as well as implicit, without degrading his dignity doubt, to human error and infirmity, in the original at least, in those dispensations whereby his love is chiefly magnified. not only the purport but the style and arrangement are truly For all which we have received at his hands be to him all and exclusively Divine. And, so far as such passages expraise and glory; but for this above all, that, by enduing us tend, those lofty claims to literal inspiration for which the with power to know him in part -as he is, he has called forth Jews are ridiculed by Warburton, and the proverbs and paraand concentrated the best and most pleasurable affections of bles whereby they were accustomed to illustrate and enforce our nature, and enabled us to build an image to him in our the sanctity, not of the words alone but of the letters and

[graphic]
[graphic]

particles of letters, “every jot and tittle of their law,” were no less numerous and striking than infidels pretend, would justifiable, undoubtedly, and laudable, inasmuch as that form be no solid objection to the hypothesis, that's all Scripture of words, which God had himself made use of, must needs was given by the inspiration of God.” It may be thought, have been, of all others, the best, and best suited to his indeed, that, as the Hellenistic dialect which is imputed to purpose.

the New Testament was the usual language of the race for And, though there are very few passages, (two or three at whose instruction it was, in the first instance, intended; so most there are,) in the course of the New Testament, which are it could never be expected that the Almighty should miracugiven as the very words of the Almighty Father, or as proceed- lously interfere to perplex the Jews of Macedon and Asia ing from either of the other Persons of the Trinity, in their with refinements of which they could not feel the force, and divine and eternal nature; yet can there be no doubt that the with peculiarities which, however consecrated in our opinion words of the Son while on earth are, no less than these, the by the talent and elegance of Athens, were to them unusual, accents of infinite wisdom and goodness, and that they merit and, if I may use the expression, barbarous. Nor are Chrisas much of reverence from his followers as those which, be-tians compelled to maintain, on the one hand, the purity of fore his incarnation, he addressed to the tribes in Horeb, or every passage in the written Word, nor to confess, on the which, after his exaltation, he spake to St. Paul or St. John. other, that the Holy Ghost has dictated solecisms. With a Were error, then, detected' here, the most reverent conclusion becoming zeal for the honour of the sacred text; with a due which we could draw would be, that the Apostles had mis- admiration of the real beauties of Scripture; but confessing taken their Master; a conclusion at once decisive against the with Augustin, that the matter, not the words, of Revelation inspiration of the work which they have given us. But, con- is entitled to the epithet of Divine; they may watch, with cerning the sentiment and wisdom of our Lord's discourses, we much composure, the harmless malice of their enemies exhave not, even with infidels, any controversy. And, as these hausted on those peculiarities of language and of style, which, divine expressions were, when uttered, in a different language as specimens of Greek, may, perhaps, offend, but, as evidence from that in which they are transmitted to our time, the of the Hebrew extraction of their authors, are, in themselves, question of their style and grammatical accuracy must natu- a sufficient proof, that the volume of our Scripture is really rally fall under another branch of our inquiry, since, how the production of those Apostles who only, of the Hebrew ever, the followers of Christ profess to have been divinely race, had authority with Gentile believers. assisted in the recollection of their Master's words, they, in no The observations which I have made on the grammatical instance that I am aware of, lay claim to any celestial aid in incorrectness of Scriptural language will apply with equal their translation.

force to its real or supposed obscurity. It is no part of my Nor will this admission in the slightest degree contravene present purpose to enter into the disputed question, whether the inspired authority of the New Testament, since, secondly, the words of St. Peter refer to the mysterious nature of those a written document may properly be called inspired, when circumstances which his brother Apostle had imperfectly the sentiments and ideas which its words convey are sug-explained to the faithful, or to the darkness of his style in gested by the Holy Ghost; though the words in which those speaking of them. It is sufficient for my argument to have sentiments are clothed be entirely left to the human and un-shown, that admitting to its full extent the cavil of the infidel assisted genius of the writer. And this is that species of objector, its consequences could not affect the Divine authority assistance which was especially promised by Christ to the of Scripture, inasmuch as a composition may merit the name original teachers of his Gospel, whom the Comforter was to of inspired, though the ideas only, and not the forms of exguide, we are told, into all religious truth, but of whom it is pressing them, be suggested by the Spirit of God. And it is no where said, that the Spirit should put his power in their apparent, that as, on the one hand, we cannot, from the lips, or that he should enable them to express to others their necessity of the case, and the constant deference which the own internal perceptions with supernatural force of sacred Apostles claim to their written sentiments, deny this share eloquence. Nor is that opinion either improbable in itself, at least of Divine assistance to the doctrinal and controveror inconsistent with the pretensions of the sacred writers, sial treatises of the New Testament; so will even this be which apprehends that the Holy Ghost might thus illumi- completely sufficient for those ends for which only inspiranate the inward man with knowledge which the favoured tion has ever been accorded, “ for doctrine,” that is, for individual was not necessarily qualified to disclose to man- reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." kind, with all that energy or clearness of diction which, if But, thirdly, a composition is also inspired, when circumthe same good Spirit had so pleased, it was, doubtless, instances to which we have ourselves been formerly witnesses his power to have conferred. If a prophetic vision were ex- are preserved or renewed in our recollection, by the influence hibited to Amos, the herdsman of Tekoa, it by no means fol- of the Almighty, in more vivid colours and with an accuracy lowed that he should be able to describe what he had seen more perfect than was possible to our unassisted faculties. in the same pomp of diction and glow of colouring as the For, as that which we have forgotten may be, undoubtedly, high-born poet Isaiahı. Had Newton been, in other respects, no less properly a subject of inspiration than that which we uneducated, his discoveries in astronomy would neither have have never known; so is the wonder no less, and the Divine improved his elocution nor his style. And if we suppose, interposition as immediate, which prevents us from forgetting what we cannot help supposing, that the ideas communicated that which we could not, without such an aid, have rememby Almighty power would affect the mind precisely in the bered. And, in the case of our Saviour's discourses while same manner with those which are generated by memory or on earth, there is an absolute promise that the apostles should reflexion, it is apparent that the process by which ideas are be assisted with this supernatural and infallible power of represented or combined is altogether distinct from that by collection or memory, inasmuch as the Comforter was not which they are clothed in those conventional signs, which only to guide them into truth, but “to bring all things to convey to other men the result of our internal ineditation. their remembrance, whatsoever their Lord had said unto How often do we conceive with force and clearness, what we them.” And, though a miracle be, doubtless, never wrought are unable at the moment to express with elegance or fluency ? unnecessarily, yet would nothing less than a miracle be, apAnd what closer connexion does there exist between the parently, required, to enable men of no extraordinary parts, original conception and the choice of words, than between the and strangers, as were the apostles, to those arts and habits choice of words and the hand-writing? It was possible, then, whereby only we acquire the power of accurately reporting to be inspired with a knowledge of celestial truth, without conversations, to retain, after twenty or forty years interval, any corresponding improvement in natural or artificial elo- with that degree of accuracy which the nature of the case dequence. That wisdom which committed, in the first instance, manded, those words of our Saviour on which so many leadto earthen vessels, the treasures of eternal life, might be ex- ing features of the Christian faith depend. Nor will any pected, by a parity of reason, to leave the vessels earthen doubt remain of this necessity to those who shall reflect' how still; and the fisherman of Galilee, when elevated into a pro- few persons are to be found, I will not say among peasants phet, might retain, nevertheless, all the original simplicity only, but among those who are most in the habits of attention of his character, and all the imperfections of his education. and correctness, who, even a single month after they had

Accordingly, though the Apostles were full of the Holy once heard it, would be able to repeat or write down a disGhost, that internal illumination did not prevent the Sanhe-course like that which Jesus held on the mountain, or that drim from reading in their manners and dialect their original yet more difficult one from which the words of my text are ignorance and obscurity; and the revelation entrusted to St. taken. Paul would no more make him a Demosthenes, than the Where facts are concerned, there is not, indeed, the same revelation of which Moses was the minister, correcred his necessity for Divine assistance as in the case of words ; imperfect utterance.

since not only are facts more easily committed to memory The defects, then, of Scriptural language, were they really and more stubbornly retained than words or arguments can

be; but since the errors which might be expected in their de- consider his testimony as on that account less valuable, nor, tail are of far less importance than those which may arise as I conceive, less genuine and authentic. The manner in from a mistaken turn of expression or from the omission, in which the knowledge was first obtained is the single point on a sentence, of any connecting or explanatory meinber.–For which the question of originality depends; and, let the help one person in the lower or middling ranks of society who is be what it may by which that knowledge has been preserved competent to repeat the exact expressions of another, five or refreshed, that help can do no more than add probability or thousand may be found who are adequate witnesses to what certainty to the natural recollection of the witness. they see him do or suffer; if the supernatural influence And there is yet another way in which the assistance of of the Holy Ghost were necessary to enable the apostles to the Holy Ghost may be useful and necessary, even where all remember and relate the discourses of their Lord with the ac- our knowledge had been acquired and retained by our outcuracy which such blessed instruction merited, it might seem, ward experience and natural abilities; and that is by suggeston the other hand, that they could hardly, without a miracle, ing, out of several circumstances or expressions of which all forget any material circumstance of those most wonderful are equally remembered, the selection of those particulars facts - which their eyes had seen and their hands had han- which are best adapted to the instruction and advantage of dled.” It may be thought, therefore, with some apparent ourselves, or of those for whom we are writing. Nor can we reason, that when we have proved the miraculous nature of think it improbable that in this manner also, the narratives of the assistance given to the apostles in the doctrinal parts of the apostles are inspired, since, in the circumstances which the New Testament,—we have already proved all which is they have recorded of the life and conversation of Christ, so necessary to the faith or practice of Christians, and that, little is to be found whereby mere curiosity is gratified; and while the words of Christ are reported to us by supernatural since, notwithstanding the brevity of the Gospels, the picand infallible authority, we may safely commit the certainty ture which they afford of the character of Jesus is at once so of his actions to that same human evidence on which we at complete and instructive. It is possible, therefore, for infirst believed them.

spiration to be useful and even necessary, though the circumMichaelis accordingly maintains, and I myself was once stances which we relate are such as we have in our own perof the same opinion, that though the promise of our Lord is sons witnessed ; and there is no room for saying that, when express as to the Holy Ghost assisting the apostles to recol- we suppose the grant of God's assistance to the narratives of lect his words, yet we have not the same grounds in Scripture Matthew and John, we suppose a needless miracle. for supposing that, in relating every particular occurrence of It is, at the same time, certain that, wherever the aid of the his life, they were to possess the same infallible accuracy. Holy Ghost is bestowed, whether to suggest, or preserve, or Bu: though the promise, it must be allowed is not so explicit, discriminate, the results of such aid will be of an authority and though the necessity, it will be granted readily, is neither alike divine, and the doctrine or example which they convey so urgent nor so uniform, of divine assistance in relating his-alike imperatively binding on the obedience and the faith of torical events as it has been shown to be in the case of oral Christians. Though the propositions which are thus selected communications; yet it is certain that the Spirit's guidance and approved should have been in the first instance, advanced into all truth must imply a perfect accuracy in every circum- by human craft or wisdom, yet will the choice of the Holy stance, at least, where religious truth is concerned : and that, Ghost establish them as the adopted word of God; nor will as there is no recorded action of our Lord which can be re-that be less infallible to which he has set the seal of his asgarded as unimportant to the belief or imitation of his follow-sent, than that which immediately proceeded from him. Ifaceers,-so are there some facts relating to him recorded in the lestial messenger had recommended to our faith and obedience New Testament, which, without celestial illumination it was some certain pasages in Plato or in Porphyry, would it be doubtimpossible its authors should have known; others, of whiched that, whatever were the general character of those authors it is not, perhaps, too much to say, that no human testimony or their productions, the words thus cited would be, thenicewould be of itself, sufficient to establish them; and others, forth, the laws of the Most High? At the same time, though yet more, where a human error in the narrative would have such particular passages would be thereby invested with diconducted to consequences exceedingly dangerous to our faith vine authority, it is plain that the question would remain unor practice. And as, in all these instances, the necessity of touched, whether the writings from which they were taken the case would induce us to expect that they would not be de- were inspired or no, and whether they were, in truth, the proprived of divine assistance,-so there is a case exactly in duction of those authors whose names they bore. And we point, from the analogy of which we may infer that such as thus may understand how the human learning and human disistance has been actually, in these instances, accorded to ligence of an apostle might, no less than the use of previous them. When Paul was to be instructed, as an apostle, in the documents, be perfectly consistent with the internal dictacircumstance of our Saviour's life and doctrine, it might have tion of God's Spirit, and that whatever truth was found in an appeared to men to be sufficient had God referred him for in- apocryphal or heathen writer might be suggested by their ceformation to his elder brethren in the Church and to those who lestial guide to James or Jude or Paul, without subscribing to themselves had eaten and drank in the presence of his Son. the general contents or prophetic dignity, whether of the books But though, as it should seem, an adequate knowledge might of Enoch or Aratus or Epimenides. have been thus acquired of Christ's behaviour during the last That any part of Scripture can be found where inspiration supper,-yet we find that these particulars were not entrusted was an useless or superfluous blessing, is a doctrine, then, not to the memory of even an apostle, but were made the subject easy to be maintained. Undoubtedly, it will be difficult to to St. Paul of an immediate revelation from the Lord. An show that those passages in the Epistles which have been equal help, we may reasonably conclude, would be given chiefly instanced as too trivial to call down a celestial interwherever it was equally important; and in relating the deeds ference, were really unimportant to the persons whom they, in no less than the words of Christ, the recollection of the sa- the first instance, concerned, or in the instruction which the cred writers would be, absolutely, therefore, infallible. Church might, in after ages, draw from them. The saluta

And it may be, at the same time observed, that such assist- tions which St. Paul, in his official writings, addresses to parance as is here described, since it does not amount to the in-ticular believers, may have produced a moral effect of the ternal suggestion of a new idea to the soul, but simply to the strongest and most beneficial character, as so many testimonies preservation or revival of an idea originally suggested by the of that approbation with which the Holy Ghost himself beheld natural and external process, is, therefore, perfectly consistent their inward feelings and their outward conduct. The books with that character to which the Evangelists lay claim, of and garment which were left at Troas have furnished more witnesses speaking from their own distinct experience and than one important lesson to the Christian world; and where recollection, and by their separate testimonies, confirming the the apostle reproves, in his epistle to Timothy, the excessive veracity of each oiher. For, the promise of our Lord is not abstinence of his disciple, a testimony is borne which a Prothat the Holy Ghost should prompt to the Apostles what tes- phet might fitly bear against those ascetic doctrines which

imony they ought to bear, in which case l'am ready to al- were, thus early, invading Christianity, and which imposed, low that the Holy Ghost himself, and not his human organ, at length, on the faithful a yoke of unprofitable restrictions, as would be the person who bore witness ;) but that the Holy grievous and as manifold as the burden of that law which they Ghost should enable them to give better and more accurate had cast down. evidence of what they had heard than they could otherwise have been considered or expected to be. But if, of two wit- relinement, I can perceive no inconsistency with that charac

Should this be thought, however, to savour of scholastic nesses, the one had, by an artificial system of memory, or by ter to which the Scriptures lay claim as an inspired and infalnotes taken at the time, acquired the power of speaking after lible rule of faith and practice, if, in circumstances where ions than his companion could do, we should, certainly, not sufficient to answer the purposes of Providence, we should a lapse of years, more positively to certain facts or express-the unassisted powers of the writer's intellect were amply admit that the Prophet was left to his private judgment. whom Christ foretold, and by those blessed aids which When the counsel was given, or the discovery made, which he has for Christ's sake dispensed to mankind, the faithful of it was the object of the Holy Ghost to enforce or communi- every age and nation are, no less than the Apostles themcate, it can excite no surprise, that, though the heavenly selves, infallibly conducted to that truth which is in Jesus: voice was silent, the Apostle might still conclude his letter and that “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for inwith the usual forms of salutation to his friends, or with the struction in righteousness,” the Scriptures of the last, no less mention of his private necessities. Where the Evangelist than of the former covenant, is “given by the inspiration of was already in perfect possession of the fact, or where a God. trifling inaccuracy could have no practical effect on the faith Nor do we expect, nor do we desire those further aids to or life of his brethren, the tenor of the history might proceed, knowledge and to holiness which the Romanists would seek it may be thought, as before, though the historian had in that for in the authority whether of their collective Church, or of instance to depend on himself alone. All that can be in such a single ecclesiastical officer. To us it seems presumptuous case required is, that celestial aid should be supplied, and unreasonable, when a rule has been given by God himwherever human authority was insufficient; and that a broad self, to go on demanding at his hands another and yet another and competent line of demarcation should be established be- criterion ; to peer about, in the full blaze of sunshine, for the tween such divine and earthly ingredients as might mingle in beams of a supplementary star; or to subject the inspiration the same treatise or bistory. "And while we are assured of the of the immediate Apostles of our Lord to the authoritative first of these necessary circumstances by the promise, that decision of their, surely, less enlightened successors. Bnt, the Spirit of God should guide us into all needful truth : so neither in the ancient synagogue, nor in that primitive Church the reason of the case, and our knowledge of those definite which the Messiah formed on its model, is any claim to be objects which Scripture has in view, might seem amply suffi- found, when their language is rightly apprehended, to a pricient for the second.

[graphic]

vilege so extraordinary as that of themselves interpreting the If, then, it be objected, lastly, against the divine authority charter whence they derived their authority. In things inof the New Testament, that, in the narratives which the different, and in controversies between the brethren, the senEvangelists have severally furnished, there are certain difficul- tence of the Church was unquestionably binding on the ties which the followers of Christ have not yet been able to conscience of all its members. But where God and man reconcile, we may demand, in explanation of this charge, were parties, they could express their opinion only; and the whether the circumstances objected to can properly be said to most awful denunciation which they had it in they power to belong to the actions or doctrines of our Saviour, or whether utter, is a confession of their own incompetency. The anathey are not, on the other hand, of a nature strictly secular, thema, of which so formidable ideas are entertained, is in its and very slightly and incidentally, if at all, connected with very terms no other than an appeal to the final judgment of the Life and Gospel of Jesus Christ?

that Lord who shall hereafter come in glory; that Lord before On the first of these suppositions the Christian is, indeed, whom, as before his proper Master, every individual must very deeply concerned to vindicate the integrity of that work stand or fall; and whose laws must be applied by every inwhich is his charter to immortal life. In the second case, it dividual for himself to his own case, and at his own exceedwill be enough to reply that, if the infallibility of the Apos- ing peril. tles extended to every single circumstance in which their mis- If, then, the Scriptures be, as these pretend, obscure, they sion was interested ; it was neither to be expected nor desired, are obscure to those who perish. No remedy was provided

. nor does their Heavenly Teacher ever give us to understand that under the elder covenant for those to whose instruction neithe same supernatural accuracy should be possessed by them ther Moses nor the prophets sufficed; nor does St. Peter in in their incidental mention of men and topics unconnected the New (though in a case where he admits the difficulty of with that errand for the due performance of which alone they God's word) direct the ignorant and unstable to apply for either needed or hoped for inspiration. It was the history further light to himself or his Roman successors. Nor, inand doctrines of the Son of God which they profess to give deed, is it intelligible, even on the established principles of to the world :-and it is something too much to impeach the popery, in what manner the rescripts of their pontiff, and the divine authority of their narrative on subjects worthy of ce- decrees of their council, could produce, any more than the lestial interposition, because, on points of no importance they ancient books of Scripture, the effects which they fondly were, possibly, left to themselves.

ascribe to them. Unless the inspired interpreter were omIt is certain, however, that the seeming inaccuracies of the nipresent as well as infallible, his edicts must, no less than Evangelists and whatever variations have been most insisted every other composition, whether human or divine, be liable on by infidels in the accounts which those Evangelists have to perversion or cavil. If the secular arm be withdrawn, it severally furnished, belong exclusively to such details as, may be suspected that the sentence of a council will not very whether true of false, are neither subjects capable of a reli- greatly avail with those by whom the words of Peter or Paul gious faith,-nor by any possibility affecting our practice ; are evaded or despised ; nor will any solid satisfaction be variations which can do no more, at most, than leave their afforded by the cumbrous mazes of the canonists and schoolreader under some degree of hesitation as to the hour of the men, to those weak brethren who have already lost their way crucifixion, the title on the cross, or the year in which our in the narrow compass of one little volume. Saviour drove forth the money-changers from his temple. I But, in the essentials of salvation, and to those who do not mean that the difficulties which I have instanced may sincerely desire to be taught of God, are the Scriptures not be, and have not been satisfactorily solved, and that without really obscure? Let those bear witness, whom, by these impeaching in the smallest degree the accuracy of the sacred means alone, the Spirit of God has guided into all necessary historian ; nor will I dissemble that confidence which a Chris- truth! Let those bear witness who have fled from the pertian may be well allowed to feel, that such discrepancies as turbed streams of human controversy to this source of living yet remain to try our faith and our humility will, hereafter, water, whereof “ if a man drink he shall never thirst again.' in God's good time receive their perfect solution. It is a Let the mighty army of the faithful bear witness, who, beproverb of the Jews, that when Elias shall come, every knot lieving no less than they find, and desiring to believe no more, of their sacred book shall be loosed; and we may safely have worshipped in simplicity of heart, from the earliest ages trust that a greater than Elias will vindicate at his second com- of the Messiah's kingdom, the Father, the Son, and the coming the truth of his written word, and that of the genuine fortable Spirit of God! I do not, God forbid that I should Gospel, as of the genuine Pentateuch, no jot or tittle shall in this place, and before so many of those who must hereafter pass away. Meantime, however, I am most anxious to prove, unite their amplest stores both of classical and sacred learnthat mistakes in points where inspiration did not properly ing in his cause from whom we have received all things!—I apply can by no means derogate from the inspired character do not deny the efficacy, the propriety, the absolute necessity of a work in those respects where inspiration was either of offering our choicest gifts of every kind on the altar of that needed or promised. I am desirous to impress on your minds religion to whose ministry we are called, and of concentrating that circumstances, which, whether true or false, have no all the lights of history and science to the illustration of these possible bearing on the doctrine or character of Christ, may wonderful testimonies. But, though, to illustrate and defend belong, indeed, to his history, but are no essential parts of the faith, such aids are, doubtless, needful, the faith itself his Gospel ; and that we may admit the New Testament as can spring from no other source than that volume which an unerring and imperative rule in every point of belief or of alone can make men wise to everlasting salvation, that enpractice, though we should be for ever ignorant of the year grafted word which, though the ignorant and unstable may in which Cyrenius governed Syria, or whether the apostate wrest it to their own destruction, is, to those who receive it Judas met his fearful end by strangulation or by rupture. with meekness and with faith, the wisdom and the power of Above all it has been mine aim to show that by the Comforter God.

VOL. II.-20

By this book the Paraclete has guided the church into Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the spiritual gift, whatever truths the church of Christ has, at any time, be- seeing that we have not followed after cunningly devised falieved or known; by this book and the doctrine which it bles, let us, each in his station, abound in the labour of the contains, he has convinced the world of sin, and justified the Lord, diffusing as we may that saving knowledge, the posSon of Man from the malicious slanders of his enemies; by session of which alone could make it expedient for the discithis book he consoles us for the absence of our Lord, and in- ples of Christ that their Master should depart and leave them! structs us in things to come; by this he reigns; where this And let us pour forth, above all, our fervent prayers to that is found his kingdom reaches also; by this weapon, proceeding Almighty Spirit, who hath given us these Holy records of from the month of God, shall the enemies of his Christ be at his will, that, by his supporting grace, they may bring forth length extirpated from the world; and by this, it may be in us the fruit of holiness, and the harvest of life withont end, thought, as by the rule of God's approbation, shall the secrets through the mercies of the Father, the merits of the Son, and of all hearts be, finally, made known, in that day when the strong protection of the Comforter. “ whosoever is not found written in the book of life, shall be cast into the lake of fire."

The notes to the above Lectures, consisting chiefly of quotations from the Greek and Latin Fathers bave been omitted.Ed. Ch. Lib.

« PreviousContinue »