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into insuperable objections by daring infidels, who triumph without learning, assert without proof, and condemn without understanding.
If then these sacred books were really com, posed by the several persons whose names they bear, let us next examine, whether they were the production of human wit, or whether they were given, as the text expresses it, by the inspiration of God.'
Now with regard to this point we can have little doubt, if we will give any credit to the writings themselves. For we are there expressly told, that they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, who should teach them all things, and bring all things to their remembrance. We are there also told, that when they should be called before the tribunals of men, it should be given them in that hour what they should speak : and surely, if they were to be divinely inspired, when they were to defend the cause of God before earthly judges, it is much more reasonable to suppose, that they were divinely inspired, when they were to deliver in writing those great truths, which contained the charter of man’š salvation, and were to be the standard of the church in all succeeding ages. And, indeed, without laying any stress upon the claim which
these sacred writers themselves every where lay to inspiration, even above the prophets of old, we need only, for proof of this point, appeal to the excellence of the doctrines delivered by them, and the full completion of several remarkable prophecies, which clearly and undeniably demonstrate that they were guided and taught by a Spirit from above.
- But it will be asked then, perhaps, if these holy men were thus guided by the Spirit of God, whence arise those differences, which we find in their narrations of several facts? Can the Holy Spirit be inconsistent with itself, or is it, like man's wisdom, fallible and uncertain ? . .
I answer, first, that these differences are only to be found in trivial and inconsiderable circumstances, which no way touch the certainty of the doctrines of Christianity; and therefore are of no weight. ; ..."
Secondly, that these différences arise from the different views of the several writers; which of course led them to express themselves differently; some relating more fully and at large, whát had 'only been summarily and compendigusly delivered by others. vísu,.,.?;
1. And, thirdly, though we suppose the writers of the New Testament to have been divinely inspired; yet this inspiration was not necessarily extended to the minutiæ of syllables, letters, and circumstances. It is enough that it enabled them to deliver the great truths of the Gospel with certainty and precision, leaving them to the common guidance of their own understanding in matters of an indifferent nature. And, indeed, with ingenuoựs enquirers, these little variations would rather be an argument in favour of the truth and honesty of the sacred writers; since they shew that there was no collusion or confederacy among them to impose a fictitious tale upon the world, in which they certainly would have taken care to have kept up the most scrupulous agreement.
Nor again will the great variety of readings, which we meet with in the different copies of the sacred books, furnish even a most captious infidel with any just ground of exception to their truth and authenticity. For though we readily allow, that these various readings are very numerous, even more than thirty thousand; yet how can this be any objection to them ? Much the greater part of them are in single words of no importance; many in those of small importance; and the rest, though of more conse
quence, yet do not either alter or weaken one single mystery or doctrine of our holy religion.
And after all, they are no more than are cominon to all other ancient books, which in a long course of ages, having passed through the hands of many ignorant or careless transcribers, must of necessity have undergone many alterations. Instead therefore, of wondering at these various readings, we ought rather to bless and adore the guardian providence of God, which has so marvellously preserved this sacred charter of our salvation, thạt, notwithstanding all the attacks and dangers it has felt, we receive it, I had almost said, in its native purity and lustre.
Thus we see, then, the authenticity of the sacred writings is established upon a clear and solid foundation, which no virulence of scoffers or violence of infidels can shake or subvert. In spite of all opposition, they approve themselves to every candid mind to be given by inspiration of God.
How much then does it become us, to whom they are given, to receive them with attention and reverence! And indeed what is there upon earth that can so well deserve our attention? The world itself, with all its joys and honours,
can at best but give us a momentary happiness » but the scriptures hold forth to 'us an eternal one. The pains and torments of life are but for an hour: but the pains of that hell, which the scriptures denounce to the sinner, are for ever, The losses we here sustain, can only afflict a frail and miserable body :but the loss of an im mortal soul is at stake in the concerns of fy, turity.
Let us then take heed, that we do not neglect so great a salvation. For the clearer are the evidences of holy scripture, the more gracious its promises, the more extensive its privileges, the more noble its doctrines, the greater will be our condemnation, if we do not embrace them,
Whilst then we bless God that we enjoy the bright beams of his Gospel, whilst thousands remain in melancholy ignorance of the way of life, let us take care to make a right use of this inestimable blessing. Let the word of God be our constant guide and companion ; let us meditate upon it, when we lie down and when we rise up: let us teack it to our families and children, as the best wisdom, and their securest guard through life.