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WORK SO IBRARY
SAMUEL STENNETT, D. D.
PASTOR OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
LITTLE WILD STREET, LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS,
NOW FIRST COLLECTED INTO A BODY; WITH SOME ACCOUNT
OF HIS LIFE AND WRITINGS:
BY WILLIAM JONES,
Cyclopædia, &c. &c.
THE CANON OF SCRIPTURE ASCERTAINED.
2 Tim. 11. 16, 17.-AN Scripture is given by inspiration of
God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God
may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. It is of the last importance to our receiving real profit from the Scriptures, that we are fully persuaded of their divine authority. This must strike every thoughtful person. Had we stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, when Moses descended from thence with the two tables of stone, written on either side with the finger of God a, how curious should we have been, persuaded of this extraordinary fact, to examine the words, the letters, and
circumstance about this venerable monument of divine workmanship! and, above all, how anxious rightly to understand and dutifully to receive the sentiments these records were intended to convey! Every the least degree of inattention and levity would have indicated want of sense as well as piety. The reasoning is exactly the same when applied to the whole Bible. A full persuasion therefore of its divine authority is of no small importance to a right treatment of it, and to our deriving that benefit from it which it was meant to afford.
Now it is a fact that some reject the Bible as an imposture. Since however it claims divine original, and not a few wise and good men have upon the maturest examination admitted the claim, it behoves such persons to consider the miserable risk they run, should it prove to be indeed the Word of God; and how deplorably their consciences will in the end reproach
a Exod. xxxi. 18. xxxii. 15, 16. xxxiv. 1, 28.
them, should it be found that they have not impartially weighed this great question, but suffered their carnal prejudices to preclude inquiry.
There are others who do admit that the Scriptures contain a revelation from God. Their ideas, however, of divine inspiration are so general, indeterminate, and partial, that the Bible makes little impression on their minds : it produces scarce any other effect than that of a mere human composure. So much of its contents as agrees with their pre-conceived reasonings and views they admit: what is opposed thereto they reject. But if the Bible is no otherwise a divine revelation than all other books are which contain truth in them, and if men are at liberty to treat it in such manner as mere whim, conjecture, and prejudice may dictate, it cannot possibly answer the purpose which a revelation from God, if granted, must be designed to answer.
The Bible claims the authority of an infallible Test. To the law and to the testimony, says the prophet Isaiah, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them a. Search the Scriptures, says our Saviour to the Jews-the Scriptures which were written by holy men of God, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost b. And in our text the apostle affirms, that All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. Now if this book be not received as a divine Test, its use, as we before observed, will be of little importance. But this is not all. To admit that some parts of it are a revelation from God, and at the same time to maintain that others are no more than the fallible, conjectural, reasonings of well-disposed men, is in effect to deprive the whole book of the authority of a divine revelation : so it must be, unless such a line is drawn as shall enable us to distinguish between the one and the other.
If indeed any part of Scripture can be proved to be spurious or an interpolation, let it be cashiered. If it cannot, we are not to be told, “ This or that passage does not sound pleasingly in my ear, or is not perfectly agreeable with my creed, and therefore ought to be, and shall be rejected.” Nor are we a Isa, viii. 20.
b John v. 39.—2 Pet. i. 20, 21.
to be told, in order to shake our faith in any particular doctrine of the Bible plainly laid down there, that “although such doctrine might be the opinion of the writer, it is to be presumed he was not divinely inspired in delivering it.” Presumption here will not do: it must be proved that the writer hath positively declared, that in this instance he did not speak by divine inspiration.
Such proof I have a right to demand, and the rather, as we have a clear instance of an inspired writer's thus distinguishing between his own private opinion, and what he had in charge to deliver from God. The case I refer to is that of certain prudential advice which St. Paul gives the Corinthians, upon matters respecting marriage, which he thus guards, I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. And again, The rest speak 1, not the Lord a. If then, in default of such positive proof, we are at liberty to give up any part of our Bible which does not meet our approbation, we are at liberty, if so disposed, to give up the whole. And thus the claim of Scripture to the authority of a divine Test will totally cease, till God is pleased to grant a new revelation, to inform us which part of our Bible is, and which not inspired.
But there is another class of people, and good people too, who push matters to such an extreme the other way, as to create doubts of the credibility of the Bible, which not knowing how to solve greatly perplex and disturb their minds. The works of God, as they come out of his hands, are all perfect. Hence they conclude, and very truly, that the Bible being written by God must be perfect; but consider not at the same time, that the perfection of Scripture consists purely in its perfect suitableness to the end for which it is given. It was not given to instruct us in questions of philosophy, oratory, music, or the like. If it were, any seeming disagreement in this book with the well-known and established principles of those or any other arts and sciences, might naturally create a doubt of its divine authority.
The sole intent of Scripture is to certify us of facts and doctrinės that relate to religion and a future state, and to instruct
a I Cor. vii. 6, 12.