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of those accounts from which they borrowed their information, and prevented from registering any material error. The historical books appear, indeed, from internal evidence, to have been chiefly written by persons contemporary with the periods to which they relate ; who, in their description of characters and events, many of which they witnessed, unitorinly exhibit a strict sincerity of intention, and an unexampled impartiality. Some of these books, however, were compiled in subsequent times from the sacred annals mentioned in Scripture as written by prophets or seers, and from those public records, and other authentic documents, which, though written by uninspired men, were held in high estimation, and preserved with great care by persons specially appointed as keepers of the genealogies and public archives of the Jewish nation. To such well known chronicles we find the sacred writers not unfrequently referring for a more minute detail of those circumstances which they omit as inconsistent with their design. For 46 these books are to be considered as the histories of revelations, as commentaries upon the prophecies, and as affording a lively sketch of the æconomy of God's government of his selected people. They were not designed as national annals, to record every minute particular
and political event that occurred; but they are rather a compendious selection of such remarkable occurrences and operations as were best calculated to illustrate the religion of the Hebrew nation; to set before that perverse and ungrateful people an abstract of God's proceedings, of their interests and duties; as also to furnish posterity with an instructive picture of the divine attributes, and with a model of that dispensation on which a nobler and more spiritual government was to be erected ; and moreover, to place before mankind the melancholy proofs of that corruption, which had been entailed upon them, and to exhibit in the depravity of a nation highly favoured, miraculously governed, and instructed by inspired teachers, the necessity of that redemption and renewal of righteousness, which was so early and so repeatedly promised by the prophets. It seems probable, therefore, that the books of Kings and Chronicles do not contain a complete compilation of the entire works of each contemporary prophet, but are rather an abridgment of their several labours, and of other authentic public writings, digested by Ezra after the Captivity, with an intention to display the sacred history under one point of view; and hence it is that they contain some expressions, which evidently result from contemporary de
scription, and others which as clearly argue them to have been composed long after the occurrences which they relate (i).”
Since then we are taught to consider the divine assistance as ever proportioned to the real wants of men; and since it must be granted that their natural faculties, though wholly incompetent to the prediction of future events, are adequate to the relation of such past occurrences as have fallen within the sphere of their own observation, we may infer that the historical books are not written with the same uniform Inspiration, which illumines every page of the prophetic writings. But at the same time we are to believe that God vouchsafed to guard these registers of his judgments and his mercies from all important mistakes ; and to impart, by supernatural means, as much information and assistance to those who composed them, as was requisite for the accomplishment of the great designs of his providence. In the antient Hebrew canon they were placed, as has been already observed, in the class of prophetical books; they are cited as such by the evangelical writers; and it must surely be considered as a strong testimony to the constant opinion of the Jews respecting the Inspiration of these books, that they have never (i) Gray.
dared to annex any historical narrative to them since the death of Malachi. They closed the sacred Volume when the succession of Prophets ceased.
If it be asked by what rule we are to distinguish the inspired from the uninspired parts of these books, I answer, that no general rule can be prescribed for that purpose. Nor is it necessary that we should be able to make any such discrimination. It is enough for us to know, that every writer of the Old Testament was inspired, and that the whole of the history it contains, without any exception or reserve, is true. These points being ascertained and allowed, it is of very little consequence, whether the knowledge of a particular fact was obtained by any of the ordinary modes of information, or whether it was communicated by immediate Revelation from God; whether any particular passage was written by the natural powers of the historian, or whether it was written by the positive suggestion of the Holy Spirit.
We may in like manner suppose, that some of the precepts, delivered in the books called Hagiographa, were written without any supernatural assistance, though it is evident that others of them exceed the limits of human wisdom; and it would be equally impossible, as in the his
torical Scriptures, to ascertain the character of particular passages
which might be proposed. But here again a discrimination would be entirely useless. The books themselves furnish sufficient proofs that the writers of them were occasionally inspired; and we know also, that they were frequently quoted, particularly the Psalms, as prophetical, by our Saviour and his apostles, in support of the religion which they preached. Hence we are under an indispensable obligation to admit the divine authority of the whole of these books, which have the same claim to our faith and obedience, as if they had been written under the influence of a constant and universal Inspiration.
But whatever uncertainty there may be concerning the direct Inspiration of any
historical narrative, or of any moral precept, contained in the Old Testament, we must be fully convinced that all its prophetical parts proceeded froin God. This is continually affirmed by the prophets themselves, and is demonstrated by the indubitable testimony which history bears to the accurate fulfilment of many of these predictions; others are gradually receiving their accomplishment in the times in which we live, and afford the surest pledge and most positive security for the completion of those which remain to be ful