« PreviousContinue »
and it may seem on such occasions as if wicked men were ashamed of their animofities, and were all on a sudden become friendly to the followers of Christ. Thus at the Revolution in 1688, those who for more than twenty years had treated the nonconformists with unrelenting severity, when they found themselves in danger of being deprived of their places by a popish prince, courted their friendship, and promised not to persecute them any more.
And thus at the commencement of the French Revolution, deifts, catholics, and protestants, who were engaged in one political cause, seemed to have forgotten their resentments, all amicably uniting together in the opening of a plače for protestant worship. But let not the servants of Christ imagine that any temporary conjunction of interests will extinguish the ancient enmity. It may seem to be fo for a time; and all things being under the controul of providence, such a time may be designed as a season of respite for the faithful : but when felf-interest hath gained its end, if other worldly confiderations do not interpose, things will return to their former channel. The enmity is not dead, but sleepeth.
Finally, the wars which from the earliest period of history have desolated the earth, grievous as they are to a feeling mind, contain in them nothing surprising The Scriptures with fingular propriety describe the world as a great Sea, which is ever casting up its mire and dirt; and great conquerors as so many wild beasts, which in fucceflion rise from its troubled waters and devour the inhabitants of the earth.* Nor is this all : they describe not only the fact, but the cause of it. Wars among men, as hath been already stated, * have their immediate causes in the lufts which war in their members : but befides this, the Scripture leads us to a cause more remote, and of still greater importance. They denominate the sword of war, the sword of the Lord, and constantly intimate that it is one of those means by which he pleadeth with all flesh. A part of the curfe entailed on men for their departure from the living God consists in this, that, till they return to him, they shall not be able for any length of time to maintain amity among themselves.
* Dan. vii.
It appears to be one of those laws by which God governs the world, that peoILE 'ENGAGED IN AN EVIL CAUSE, HOWEVER HARMONIOUTHEY MAY BE IN THE OUTSET, SHALL PRESENTLY BE AT VARIANCE.
Thus it was between Abimelech and the men of Shechem, as Jotham had forewarned them in his parable. Though at first they appeared to rejoice in each other; yet in a little time fire came out from Abimelech and devoured the men of Shechem, and fire came out from the men of Shechem and devoured Abimelech.t Such is commonly the issue of all unprincipled confederacies, traitorous conspiracies, illegal combinations, and illicit amours. Union, in order to be lasting, requires to be cemented with honour.
Where this is wanting, however appearances may for a while be flattering, all will prove tranfitory : mutual jealoufies will produce mutual enmities, which are certain to issue in confusion and every evil work. These remarks are no less applicable to the whole human race, than to par
* Part I. Chap. VII.
+ Judges is.
ticular parts of it. Men have revolted from God; and yet think to live in harmony amongst themselves. God in just judgment appears to have determined the contrary; and that till they return to him, they shall be given up to an evil spirit towards each other, and to the ravages of a fucceffion of ambitious leaders, who shall destroy them in great numbers from the face of the earth. It is morally impossible indeed that it should be otherwise : for the fame principle which induces them to renounce the divine government, diffolves the bands of human fociety. Supreme self-love is the origin of both; and is sufficient to account for all the disorder in the universe.
Candid Reader, review the subject of this Chapter. In the last we traced the agreement of the Holy Scriptures with historic fact; in this we have feen their correspondence with living truth, or with things as they actually exit in the inind, and in the ' world. Similar arguments night also have been drawn from the characters of believers and unbelievers. Not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble were called in the early ages of Chriltianity; and it has been the same in every age.» To the Jews the gospel was from the first a stumbling-block, and to philosophers foolishness; and such it continues to this day. The existence of the Jews as a distinct people—their dispersiontheir attachment to the Old Testament, and rejection of the New-their expectation of a Messiahtheir acknowledgment of the truth of the historical facts concerning our Lord—the malignity of their spirit-in a word, their exact resemblance, even at this remote period, to the picture drawn of them in the New Testament, are facts which cannot be
Atroverted. Judge impartially : Is there any waing in all this that bears the marks of impofture? A connoiffeur will diftinguith between paintings taken from life, and such as are the mere work of imagination. An accurate judge of moral painting will do the same.
If the Scriptures gave falfe descriptions of men and things; if they flattered the vices of mankind, or exhibited the moral state of the world contrary to well-known fact, you would conclude them to be a work of falfehood. On the other hand, If they speak of things as they are; if conscience echo to their charges, and fact comport with their representations, they must have been taken from life; and you must conclude them to be, what they profefs to be, a work of truth. And fince the objects described are many of them beyond the ken of human obfervation, you must conclude that they are not only a work of truth, but, what they also profess to be, the true sayings of God.
The harmony of Scripture with its own professions,
argued from the spirit and dyle in which it is written.
F the Scriptures be what they profefs to be, the word of God, it may be presumed that the. fpirit which they breathe, and even the style in which they are composed, will be different from what are found in any other productions. It is true, that, having been communicated through buman mediums, we may expect them in a measure to be humanized; the peculiar turn and talents of each writer will be visible, and this will give them the character of variety; but amidst all this variety, a mind capable of discerning the divine excellence, will plainly perceive in them the finger of God.
With respect to style, though it is not on the natural, but the moral, or rather the holy beauties of Scripture that I would lay the principal stress; yet fomething may be observed of the other. So far as the beauty of language consists in its freedom from affectation, and in its conformity to the nature of the subject, it may be expected that a: book written by holy men, inspired of God, will be pofseffed of this excellence. A divinely inspired production will not only be free from such blemishes as arise from vanity, and other evil dispositions of the mind, but will abound in those beauties which never fail to attend the genuine exercises of modesty, sensibility, and godly fimplicity. It will reject the meretricious ornaments of art : but it will poffefs the more fubftantial beauties of nature. That this is true of the Scriptures has been proved by feveral able writers.
Mr. Paine, however, can fee nothing great, majestic, or worthy of God, in any part of the Bible. Among the numerous terms of reproach with which he honours it, he is pleased to censure the writings of Isaiah as “bombast, beneath the genius of a schoolboy;" and to compare the command of the great Creator, in the first chapter of Genefis,
* See Blackwall's Sacred Clasics: Melmoth's Sublime and Beautiful of Scripture: to which is adeled Dwight's Disertation on the Poetry, Hif tory, and Eloquence of the Bible.