« PreviousContinue »
connection of moral and natural evil; the vanity of this world and the glory of the next. Here we see inspired shepherds, tradesmen, and fishermen surpassing as much the greatest philosophers as these did the herd of mankind, both in meekness of wisdom and sublimity of doctrine. Here we admire the purest morality in the world, agreeable to the dictates of sound reason, confirmed by the writings which God has placed for himself in our breast, and exemplified in the lives of men of like passions as ourselves. Here we discover a vein of ecclesiastical history and theological truths consistently running through a collection of sixty-six different books, written by various authors, in different languages, during a period of above 1500 years. Here we find, as in a deep and pure spring, all the genuine drops and streams of spiritual knowledge which can possibly be met with in the largest libraries. Here the workings of the human heart are described in a manner that demonstrates the inspiration of the Searcher of hearts. Here we have a particular account of all our spiritual maladies, with their various symptoms, and the method of a certain cure; a cure that has been witnessed by multitudes of martyrs and departed saints, and is now enjoyed by thousands of good men, who would account it an honor to seal the truth of the Scriptures with their own blood. Here you meet with the noblest strains of penitential and joyous devotions, adapted to the dispositions and states of all travelers to Zion. And here you read those awful threatenings and cheering promises which are daily fulfilled in the consciences of men, to the admiration of believers and the astonishment of attentive infidels."
"O may these heavenly pages be
"And still increase in light."
CONTINUATION OF THE SAME SUBJECT.
§ 1. I will proceed now to state the external evidence: The character of the penman will be the first that invites our attention. In comparing their lives with the best and wisest men that ever lived; they appear to excell them in piety, zeal, and usefulness, as much as the sun in the firmament outshines all other luminaries, though himself is not without a spot. These holy men of God declared themselves to be inspired, for they tell us that they had not received cunningly devised fables, but that the word of the Lord came unto them at such a time, and when they spake it is, "Thus saith the Lord." Now, if the sacred Scriptures are not true, then these writers must either have been deceived themselves, or they must have wilfully tried to act the vilest part of impostors. But neither of these can be the case. As for the first, neither Moses nor the prophets, neither the evangelists nor the apostles could be mistaken. Their own senses were witness to the facts they relate; and the memorials which were immediately instituted, and constantly observed, in commemoration of those facts, are a standing monument of their truth and reality. Could Moses be deceived when he tells us that he wrought miracles in Egypt, turning the water into blood, filling the land with thick darkness for the space of three days, and that the Lord slew every first-born, from the king on the throne to the captive in the dungeon? Was it possible for him to deceive the people? Could he persuade 600,000 Israelites that they all came out of Egypt in haste, in one night, carrying their dough upon their shoulders; that they all passed
through the Red Sea on dry foot, and saw their enemies dead on the shore? Could he make them believe, that for the space of 40 years they were daily supplied with manna from heaven, and with water out of a rock, which followed them through the wilderness? If these facts had not been true, could Moses have imposed upon the people such memorials as the institution of the Passover, the pot of manna, the budding rod, the weekly Sabbath, the monthly festivals, and the yearly sacrifices? Of a similar nature are the facts related in the New Testament, and confirmed by the insti tutions of baptism and the Lord's supper. Now, if these things had been false, the writers could by no means pretend an involuntary mistake, but must, in the most criminal and aggravated sense, be found false witnesses of God. But to charge them with so heinous a crime is most unreasonable, if we consider their character, which will clearly show that they are worthy of regard, and will leave no room to imagine that they intended to deceive.
§ 2. The writers of the sacred Scriptures were generally men of common education, taken from their daily avocations as shepherds, fishermen, &c.; their writings were far above their capacity, both as to matter and manner, and could only have flowed from the pen of inspiration. They were pious, humble, and faithful historians. They concealed not their own failings and infirmities. Moses relates his own weakness and inadvertencies, and omits not the blemishes of his family. David did not conceal his awful crimes of adultery and murder. Jonah informs us of his passionate temper in telling the Lord, "I do well to be angry to death." Peter denied his Lord and Master; and Paul's sharp contention with Barnabas is faithfully record-: ed. Surely this is not the manner of proud and unrenewed historians. Their pen was guided by the love of truth.
§ 3. Their motives, too, will bear the strictest scrutiny. They were pure, benevolent, and disinterested. Neither the hope of gain, the desire of honor, nor the gratification of
pleasure, had any influence upon their conduct. Moses, the servant of the most high God, "when he was come to years, refused to be ca..ed the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward." Yea, when the Lord himself proposed to destroy Israel, and to make him a great nation, he refused, preferring the public good of the people to his own advantage. The disci ples of Jesus in like manner forsook all and followed their Master, "who had not where to lay his head," and esteemed it an honor to be counted worthy to suffer hunger and thirst, revilings and persecutions, imprisonment and death, in the cause of their dear Lord and Savior.
§ 4. It is further worthy of our notice, that the writers of the sacred Scriptures were many, and lived at such distance of time and place from each other, that, had they been impostors, it would have been impracticable for them to contrive and carry on a forgery without being detected: and when we consider; on the one hand, the great variety of their natural capacities, of their modes of education, and of their occupations and interest; and on the other hand, the astonishing and unparalleled harmony in the doctrines they delivered, in the precepts they enjoined, and in the arguments and sanctions by which these precepts are enforced ; we are constrained to acknowledge the divine agency by which this agreement was produced. "Did so many and such marks of their veracity ever meet in any other authors ?"
5. Next to the character of the penmen, we will consider the miracles they wrought in confirmation of the truths they delivered. There can be no stronger evidence of a divine mission than this. Hence, when the Lord sent Moses, he expected that Pharaoh would ask for a miracle in proof of his mission, and the Lord directed him what to
do. Ex. 79. For the same reason the Lord Jesus Christ frequently appealed to his miracles as a proof of his mission. The miracles wrought by Moses and the prophets, by Christ and his apostles, were witnessed by hundreds and thousands of enemies as well as friends. As these were real miracles, and of course contrary to the laws of nature, they could not be wrought but by the power of the God of nature; but the God of nature, who is the God of eternal and unchangeable truth, would never have lent his power to sanction and establish the character of an impostor, or to confirm a lie. Nor ought it to be forgotten that at the very time when the authenticity of these miracles was attested by thousands of living witnesses, religious rites were instituted to perpetuate that authenticity. Some of these institutions I have already noticed.
§ 6. Another evidence in favor of the Bible, as a divine revelation, arises from the variety of prophecies which it contains; many of which have already been almost exactly confirmed by occurrence of the events predicted. As none can know the certainty of future events but the omniscient God, who seeth the end from the beginning, so none can foretell them but those to whom he is pleased to reveal them. Every distinct prophecy, therefore, when accomplished, is an evidence of the truth of those who delivered it. Hence the Lord Jesus Christ informed his disciples of the treacherous conduct that one of them would be guilty of, and told them that the reason why he mentioned it was to confirm their faith. John, 13: 19. I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am," i. e. not a mere man, but Jehovah, the omniscient God. Now, my dear brother, allow me to mention but a few out of the many prophecies which have already been fulfilled, and are so many proofs that those who delivered them were inspired by God. Isaiah, ch. 44: 28, mentioned Cyrus by name, who would issue a decree to build Jerusalem, which was fulfilled about 160 years after. Again, the man of God