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THE OBJECTIONS OF UNBELIEVERS SHEWN TO BE FU
TILE AND GROUNDLESS.
2 Tim. 111. 16, 17.-AU 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, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. We have enquired into the meaning of the phrase all scripture, and shewn by what rules we are to be guided, and by what evidence determined, in fixing the canon of Scripture.-We have explained the import of the term inspiration. We have proved that the scriptures of the Old and New Testament are inspired of God.—And we have discoursed of the true and proper use of this sacred book.—And it will be our business now,
V. To direct you to the right improvement of these important truths. To which end I propose to illustrate the following conclusions from the points we have established,
FIRST, « That the objections urged by unbelievers against the authenticity and divinity of the Bible, are futile and groundless ;"
SecondLY, “ That the Bible is infinitely preferable to all other pretended revelations ;"
Thirdly, “ That being divinely inspired, it is a test by which all opinions in religion ought to be tried and finally determined ;"
FOURTHLY, “ That it shall surmount all opposition, and effectually attain the great ends of its publication;"
FIFTHLY, “ That it should not be withheld from the laity;" and,
SIXTHLY, “ That it demands the most serious and attentive regards from all who possess it.”
FIRST, It follows from the facts stated and proved, “ That the objections urged by infidels against the authenticity and divinity of the Bible, are futile and groundless.”—These objections it may be proper to take some notice of, and consider the replies which the argument we have so largely discussed furnishes.
1. It has been said by some that “ a revelation from God is impossible.” And why ? “ Because," say they, 66 there is no medium by which it can be proved: for, it being a matter of authority, all appeal to reason must be set aside, and there peither is nor can be sufficient positive testimony to prove it a."
But it clearly appears from what you have heard, that these assertions are false. The idea of a revelation from God being founded on authority, does not preclude an appeal to reason : nor do the Scriptures any where forbid an appeal to it upon the question before us.
Our reason is indeed weak and fallible, so that we often err, and in matters too of great importance. It however clearly teaches, that there is a God, and that we stand in need of further intimations of his will than nature alone can furnish, Upon these grounds we may safely put the following questions to the man, whose understanding is not darkened to the most extreme degree by prejudice and passion, Whether it is not possible for that God who first lighted up reason in the mind of man, to communicate to it further light? Whether such light is not greatly to be desired ? Whether his deigning to communicate it would in the least contradict our natural notions of his moral perfections? And, since he exercises great patience and mercy towards guilty men, Whether it is not highly probable he will do it? To these questions he would answer in the affirmative.
So much admitted, we might venture to put the Bible into his hands, and without hesitation appeal to his reason on the holy and useful tendency of this book. And however he should here meet with discoveries he little expected, and some of them above his full and clear comprehension, I may be bold to add that he would not on this account conclude that it could not come from God. He would on the contrary admit, that the very idea of a revelation from God implies information upon matters not discoverable by the mere light of nature. Upon the questions then of the possibility and probability of a divine revelation, you see there is an appeal to reason.
a Tindal, Collins, Toland, &c.
And an appeal there is to reason too upon the question of testimony. As extraordinary discoveries are here made respecting the nature and will of God, so we affirm that extraor: dinary attestations are given to the divinity of this book. To deny that such attestations can be given, is in other words to ássert that miracle and prophecy are both impossible. And if 80, What kind of being must God be? Nor does it at all help the matter to say, that though miracle and prophecy might be possible, yet there is no possible way of satisfying us as to the reality of either; for this is as unreasonable a limitation of the almighty power of God as the former a. And if you recollect what was said in a former discourse concerning the credibility of the gospel-history, and the fulfilment of scripture-predictions from their delivery down to the present time, you will see that the attestations given to the divine authority of the Bible are of such a kind, as that to reject them is the greatest of all absurdities. For the rejection of them goes to the rejection of all proof from testimony and experience, in matters unusual and marvellous; and so tends to the utter extermination of all improvements in science. Yea, it will carry us, if pursued, to the utmost length of scepticism, that of questioning our own existence. Thus you see how totally groundless the first grand objection of infidels is, that a revelation from God is impossible, or, which is much the same thing, that there can be no satisfactory proof of it.- The next objection we shall take notice of, as having received an answer from what you have heard in the former discourses, is,
2. “ The Bible's not being a universal revelation." “ If," say unbelievers, “God grants a revelation of his will, it is to be expected that all should enjoy it alike; whereas the revelation
a'See this argument treated in a judicious and masterly manner by Dr. Campbell, Principal of the Marischal College, Aberdeen, in his “Dissertation on Miracles, in answer to Mr. Huine's Essay on Miracles."
you speak of is confined to a very few.". But to this it is replied,
First, The fact as stated is not true.
For though the Bible is in the hands of but few comparatively speaking, yet its contents are more generally circulated than is commonly apprehended. The great outlines of the gospel, respecting the mercy of God to penitent sinners through the Mediator, were made known to the ancient
ра» triarchs, and by them communicated not only to their ima mediate descendents, but to the Gentile nations. Melchizedeck, Job, and others were in possession of these leading truths, and no doubt published them abroad in the world. Nor can we well account for the early use of sacrifices, and the notion that every where prevailed of a future state, without tracing the one and the other back to this source. And it is no unnatural conjecture, that all the other doctrines and rites which prevailed in the pagan world, were either corruptions of the true religion or additions to it; in the same manner as the erroneous doctrines and rites of the Romish church, are certainly known to be corruptions of primitive Christianity. The heathens in very early times became vain in their imaginations; but deformed as their religious worship was, it retained certain striking lineaments of truths which came originally from God. And this idea is capable of being improved into a strong collateral evidence of some leading doctrines of Christianity, which too many have endeavoured, by an țural force put upon language, to expunge from their Bible.
Besides all this, it is to be remembered that the world in general bath reaped many advantages both civil and moral, as we have before shewn, from the writings of Moses and the prophets, and in latter times from those of Christ and his apostles; without men's knowing the sources whence they were derived.
So that divine revelation is not restricted within the narrow limits that some would represent. But admitting,
Secondly, That the Bible is, comparatively speaking, but in few hands, it does not from thence follow that it is not divine.
All men have abused their reason, and are become guilty before God. By what dictate then of natural religion is God obliged to grant to any of them, thus circumstanced, further means of knowledge and happiness? And if he does grant these to some, how does it from thence follow that ḥe is obliged to afford them to all. It may
be difficult to enter into the reasons of the divine conduct, in bestowing a greater abundance of the good things of this life on some than others; in separating the Jewish nation to the enjoyment of peculiar privileges civil and religious, while other nations were permitted to wander on in the thick mazes of ignorance and sin; and in securing the final salvation of a part of the human race, while the rest are suffered to perish in their guilt. But it does not follow from the difficulty of accounting for these facts, that therefore they are not true, any more than from the difficulty of accounting for the origin of moral evil, that therefore there is no such thing as moral evil. Upon the same principle then we may reason, that the limiting an extraordinary revelation from heaven to a part of mankind, is no argument against the existence and divine authority of such a revelation ;. unless it can be proved that all mankind have a just claim upon God for it, or that he has no right to dispose of his favours as he sees fit. You see therefore that this objection against the Bible as a divine revelation, proceeds upon a principle as absurd as it is manifestly impious. The next objection urged against the divinity of the Bible is,
3. “ The peculiarity and abstruşeness of some of its doc trines.”
Here it is to be observed, that the greater part by far of its contents is confessedly free from this objection. Its leading doctrines are no way abstruse or mysterious, such as the existence of God, the universal dominion of providence, the immutability and eternal obligation of the divine law, the mercy of God to penitent sinners, and a future state of retribution. These are points level to the understanding of the most illiterate peaşant. And the like is true with respect to the his, tories, precepts, and promises of the Bible.