« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
ciples to draw conclusions. All which plainly intimates, that men, even by nature, are conscious to themselves, that they are wont to be believed no further than they can make proof of what they assert, though the point be never so trivial and insignificant; and therefore, they are sensible how deservedly they should be neglected, should they imagine their sayings to be of any weight or authority in matters of a divine nature, Since this then is the usual method of writing and speaking among men ; and since the compilers of the sacred scriptures were indisputably men of deep penetration and clear understandings; had they expressed their own sentiments only, they would, doubtless, have observed the fame mode as the generality of mankind did; but as their commission was from above, they looked upon
themselves as ambassadors from heaven, and delivered their credentials accordingly. The divine Inspirer of the sacred penmen expects to be believed on his mere authority, even in such points of doctrine, as exceed both the natural belief of those who hear them, and the understanding of all those who attempt to discourse
God, say you, created the heavens and the “ earth ; and man is fallen from his original state of innocence
through fin :”—but who will credit such assertions on human testimonies unsupported by a voice from heaven? The great
Author of the sacred oracles commandeth them to be believed :-he speaks with authority therefore, and not with the art of persuasion. Moreover, no one of a common understanding will expect to be believed upon his bare word, except in such things as lie within his own power and his own knowledge. Whoever then, in things supernatural, we mean in matters concerning God and man's eternal salvation, expects to be believed upon his own simple authority ; yea and to be more believed without, than others with the strongest evidence, must needs be the prince, and father of the universe, and not man.—How gloriously is this state and grandeur preserved throughout the whole body of the sacred scriptures ? Where will R2
other arguments than such majestic ones as these, namely, The LORD HATH SAID.-The LORD HATH SPOKEN. --Which manner of speech is more firm, by far, than any mode of oratory whatever, and as convincing as demonstration itself; for what other book proceedeth in that sort, and, at the same time, that it commands, enforceth obedience. Impostors, indeed, have endeavoured to imitate this stamp of the divinity ; but, upon comparison, any impartial person will soon perceive the infinite distance that there is between them.
There are many books of morality, written by pagan authors, which contain, indeed, a great variety of excellent and useful instructions for the regulation of our conduct :-but in what manner do they proceed against vice, or deal with virtue ?-Why, they define ;~they distinguish ;-they dispute; and if they offend the known laws of logick are afraid of being censured. The laws of God are delivered in more peremptory terms,-"HE THAT STEALETH " SHALL PAY FOURFOLD. HE THAT KILLETH, SHALL BE “ PUNISHED WITH DEATH.”—Is not this as much as to say, that the sanction of holy writ đepends entirely on the power of its author; and that all human compofitions rely altogether on their own proof ?- In short, our speech for the generality extendeth no further than our power ; for which reason, the tutor speaketh after another manner than the pupil, the prince than the subject ; and the judge than the council at the bar. What manner of book then must that be, which speaketh to all men alike ; to kings as to subjects.; to old as to young; to learned as to unlearned ? That surmounteth the capacity not only of the one, but the other also ?-That neither entreats nor persuades any one, but peremptorily bids, or prohibits all mankind ? In what other writings do we read of such never ceasing punishments, and such everlasting rewards ?-And, if every one delivers himself according to his ability, from whence is this fpeech derived, which presumeth to make such. declarations, but
from him, who is himself everlasting - If from a creature, he must either be a good or a bad one. If an evil one, why forbiddeth he evil so rigorously, and commandeth good so expressly ? Or, in other words, how cometh it to pass, that the only marks he aimeth at are God's glory, and man's welfare ?-Or, if good, why doth he challenge to himself that which belongeth to God only, and which cannot be imputed to any created being without the highest act of impiety and presumption ?-And if it be neither the one nor the other, what follows, but that it must, of necessity, be the Creator himself?
But as the strongest confirmation of the truth of the facred wrie tings; we find, that their greatest advocates resigned their lives, and incurred the hatred and disdain of the whole world, rather than they would transgress the laws therein prescribed, or treat them with the least token of disrefpect; being fully persuaded they served such a law-giver, as not only had an absolute power over the body, and this transitory life as other law-givers have; but had also power to confer on them everlasting life, or to consign them to everlasting misery.—Another confirmation of the truth of the question is, that the laws delivered in the facred scriptures affect not the outward man only, but pierce even to the heart. They require facrifices indeed; but then they prefer obedience. They enjoin fasting, it is true ; but then it is from fin. They require circumcision ; but then it is the circumcision of the heart; and who can be a judge of the secrets of the heart, but he who made them?-Or, who can penetrate into the inmost recesses of the soul, but its omniscient Creator ? —And who could therefore prescribe a law to men's thoughts, but the almighty Disposer of all things ? All which, when duly weighed, will, I presume, amount at least to a strong presumption, that he who speaketh so evidently upon authority, and threatens that which exceeds man's ability, must of necessity be more powerful than man.
The holy scriptures are likewise the only source from whence we draw the discovery of such matters, as mere human reason could never have arrived at; yet such as, when once discovered, carry the greatest air of probability and truth along with them. The Supreme Being is of a nature incomprehensible to the last degree, and indeed must, in a great measure, always continue so; yet, in this revelation of himself, we acquire such an insight into this, his incomprehensibility, as, without it, we could never have attained, The light of nature would have taught us, indeed, that there is a Supreme Being; that he is all-powerful, just, and wise; but that God himself should vouchsafe to visit us in person, and suffer for us, in order to make a plenary satisfa&tion to the divine justice, is an act of indulgence beyond any human conception, and must have remained a secret for ever, had not God himself thought fit to reveal it. There are likewise a great many particulars in regard to ourselves ; to which, without the divine aid and assistance, we should have been as utter strangers as to the nature of God himself: but in the sacred scriptures we find as plain, and as rational an account of those otherwise insuperable difficulties, as we are at present capable of conceiving. We should, doubtless, been at a loss to know how this earthly tabernacle could have enjoyed so many, and such valuable faculties ; how we came by these bodily organs, and much more, how we attained the use of them, had we not been informed, that they were framed by an all-powerful Being, who, when he had fashioned them, breathed into our nostrils the breath of life, What less could have told us ; that when this ray of the divinity withdraws from the body, it returns to God that gave it ?-What less could have told us, how it is hereafter to be disposed of, and that they must one time or other be re-united, summoned to give an account of their former joint behaviour, and be consigned together to rewards or punishments, in proportion to their good or ill deportment? The first man, indeed, might know when he was created ;
but how could he have found out when the world was created; and who could have ascertained the first hour or day thereof?
Divers ancient authors, it is true have given us chimerical narratives of the creation of the world; which, if duely considered, will convince any attentive reader, that tradition had handed down to them fome confused ideas of the truth; which they transmitted to posterity obscured with so many idle conceits of their own ; with such a variety of inconsistent fictions, that their most partial admirers could not but reject fo improbable a rhapsody, and conclude it to be the result of human invention : but whoever reads the account that Moses gives will be feelingly convinced, that his book contains the most satisfactory, the best concerted relation of that fact, that history ever produced. Moreover, if he will but give himself time to weigh well the manner in which it is delivered, he will assuredly find so much of majesty and divinity in every line, as must convince him, that none but the spirit, that could frame the world by the word of his power, could possibly entertain such awful, majestic, and worthy notions of that stupendous transaction,
“ What but God!
Inspiring God! who, boundless fpirit all,
SECTION II. IN confirmation of what we in the foregoing Section have afserted, it may not be unacceptable to select some beautiful passages from holy writ, which though they should have no other good effect, will, I am persuaded, contribute in some measure towards the conviction of those, who, through inattention, have entertained an idle notion, that nothing is to be found in those sacred.oracles of truth proper