Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

in which he professes to put his whole trust, and which he holds as the only rule of faith, is really a volume of divine revelation. If it be the duty of every one to take the word of God as his only and sufficient rule, that rule thereby becomes universal in its application, being the rule of every individual member of the Christian Church. The grounds, therefore, on which it rests must be equally universal, and within the reach of all. If all men, even the most illiterate, have a right to study the word of God, if it be not only the right, but the duty of even the most ignorant to study that word, and thence to draw his belief; it is likewise his duty to satisfy himself that it is the word of God; and the process by which to arrive at that reasoning, must be naturally so simple, that none who is obliged to use it can be debarred from its construction.

The investigation whereby he reaches the conclusion, that the Sacred Volume, put into his hand, is really the Word of God, is of a two-fold character. In the first place, before any one can even commence the examination of that rule, which his Church proposes to him, he must have satisfied himself, that all these books or writings, which are collected together, in that volume, are really the genuine works of those whose names they bear; and that no such genuine work has been excluded, so that the rule be perfect and entire ; and, in the second place, he must satisfy himself by his own individual examination, that this Book is inspired by God.

Now, my brethren, allow me to ask you, how many of those who profess the Protestant religion, have made these examinations? How many can say, that they have satisfied themselves, in the first place, that the Canon of Scripture put into their hands, or that collection of Sacred Treatises which we call the Bible, the old and new Testament, really consists of the genuine, authentic works of their supposed writers, and excludes none that have a claim to equal authenticity? I do not intend to show you the difficulties of this process, on my own authority; I do not intend to maintain that it is not practised by Protestants, on my own assertion; nor do I intend to de won.6 -0''

eo

mi vede Bi 1, monstrate, that it is the duty of every Protestant to search and satisfy himself, by my bare word,-- but, I will quote to you the authority of two among the most learned and eminent men, in that department of sacred literature, which the Protestant Church has produced.

The first whom I will quote, is the Reverend Jeremiah Jones, a celebrated Nonconformist divine, at the commencement of the last century, as he died in 1724. He published a very learned and profound, and I will say, a difficult treatise, entitled “A new and full method of settling the Canonical authority of the New Testament.” The Reformation had, then, lasted a great many years, and yet, it was only then, that he finds out a new and full way of establishing that Book, called the New Testament, on Canonical authority. But, to the first volume, he prefixes a long dissertation, on the importance and difficulties of this subject; and, I will simply read to you the heads of the sections or essays, which compose it, as summed up at its commencement. I quote the edition published at Oxford, in 1827; in the first page of which, we have the following heads : “ First, that the right settling of the Canonical authority of the Books of the New Testament is attended with very many and great diffi- ulties. Second, that it is a matter of the greatest consequence and importance. Third, that a great number of Christians are destitute of any good arguments for their belief of the Canonical authority of the Books of the New Testament. Fourth, that very little has been done on this subject."

After this, we have an enumeration of the reasons why it is exceedingly difficult to prove the authenticity of all the Books which compose the New Testament. The first is, the immense number of works, professing to be written by apostles and evangelists, which are to be excluded from the Canon; for Tyndal, in his celebrated Amyntor, enumerates eighteen books which are condemned, and consequently, not now received ;; and Mr. Jones remarks that the list is very far from being complete. Then there are a great many other works acknow

[ocr errors]

ledged to be written by disciples of the apostles; by persons in the same situation as St. Luke and St. Mark; such are Barnabas and Hermes, whose writings, accordingly, some divines of the last century, proposed to be received as portions of the Canon of Scripture; and Pearson, Grabe, and others, consider the genuine productions of disciples ; so that, you must know why Barnabas is not to be received, as well as Luke or Mark. These, our author observes, are matters of serious difficulty, and require immense reflection and trouble to be satisfactorily explained. In fact, he occupies three closely printed volumes in examining and discussing them. Yet, all this is only preliminary to the enquiry, whether the Scripture is the Word of God.

The second head, is, “ that it is a matter of the greatest consequence and importance,” and on this he has remarked, precisely, what I have; that it is the duty of every member of the Reformed Church, to satisfy himself, individually, of the grounds on which he receives the Bible. In the third section, he states, “ that a great number of Christians are destitute of any good arguments for their belief of the Canonical authority of these Books ;" and this is completed by the last section, wherein he proves, “ that nothing at all had been done by the Church of England, or the Foreign Reformed Churches, to prove that these were the Scriptures !" I will now quote you some passages, to put his sentiments beyond doubt, and justify all that I have said. In page 12, he speaks thus, “ He who has but the least occasion to acquaint himself with the religious state of mankind, cannot but with surprising concern have observed, how slender and uncertain the principles are, upon which men receive the Scriptures as the Word of God. The truth is, though a very painful one, that many persons commence religious at once, they don't know why, and so with a blind zeal persist in a religion which is they don't know what; and, by the chance of education, and the force of custom, they receive these Scriptures as the Word of God, without making any serious enquiries, and

consequently, without being able to give any solid reasons why they believe them to be such.The greater portion of Protestants, then, according to this divine, believe in the Scriptures without having any foundation for doing so—they receive it gratuitously as the Word of God, without being able to prove it, or ever having heard the reasons on which it can be proved.

Yet this is not so strong a passage, as the one I will now read, from another and a still more celebrated divine, of nearly the same period; I mean the celebrated Richard Baxter, who, in his well known and popular work, “ The Saints' Everlasting Rest,” speaks very feelingly on the subject, and puts a very strong argument into our mouths. In page 197,

he
says,

“ Are the more exercised, understanding sort of Christians able by sound arguments to make good the verity of Scripture ? Nay, are the meaner sort of ministers able to do this ? Let them that have tried judge.” Not only then, according to him, the better exercised and understanding class of Protestants, but even the lower order of ministers or teachers, are not able to prove the truth of Scripture. In page 201, we have the following still more remarkable

passage: :-“ It is strange to consider how we all abhor that piece of Popery, as most injurious to God of all the rest, which resolves our faith into the authority of the Church; and yet that we do, for the generality of professors, content ourselves with the same kind of faith, only with this difference,—the Papists believe Scripture to be the word of God, because their Church saith so, and we, because our Church or our leaders say so. Yea, and many ministers never yet gave their people better grounds, but tell them that it is damnable to deny it, but help them not to the antecedents of faith.Again, in the following page :-“ It is to be understood, that many thousands do profess Christianity, and zealously hate the enemies thereof upon the same grounds, to the same end, and from the same inward corrupt principles, as the Jews did hate and kill Christ. It is the religion of the

country, and every man is reproached that believes otherwise; they were born and brought up in this belief, and it hath increased in them upon the like occasions. Had they been born and bred in the religion of Mahommed, they would have been as zealous for him. The difference between him and the Mahometan is more, that he lives where better laws and religion dwell, than that he hath more knowledge or soundness of apprehension.”

I need not, perhaps, remind you, that the last of these divines, was one of the most zealous upholders of the Established Church ;--that he was, subsequently to the Restoration, chaplain to the king, and that, consequently, he must be supposed to have known, not merely the doctrines of his Church, but the state of its members.

And, I am sure, that the extracts from these two authors, will abundantly demonstrate and justify every assertion I have made. They bear strong testimony to what I advanced last evening, and proved, from Dr. Beveridge. First, that it is the duty of each individual to satisfy himself of the grounds on which he believes and receives his faith. Secondly, that the process whereby the first antecedents of faith are to be demonstrated, is extremely difficult, that the attainment of the first step in the graduated reasoning necessary for establishing the Protestant rule of faith, the fixing its first link, is a complicated and uneasy operation. Thirdly, that the majority of Protestants do live and remain Protestants without ever having gone through that course of conviction which their religion requires as absolutely necessary ; in other words, are not brought, by the profession of their religion, to the embracing, practically, the vital principle of their creed. Nay, that many of them, as Dr. Beveridge has likewise observed, have no better grounds for being Christians, than a Turk has for being a Mohammedan. Fourthly, that the Protestant Church for 200 years had done little or nothing towards establishing the first elementary principles of its belief upon any logical foundation.

« PreviousContinue »