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THE BIBLE CONSIDERED ALONE.
In endeavouring to unfold “ the portable evidence of Christianity,” it will be well for us in the first instance, to consider the Bible as the single object of our attention, and to take a brief view of its native, inherent, claim to divine authority. Were that sacred volume more of a daily companion and intimate friend to us-did the words which it contains dwell in our hearts—did we “ bind” them “ for a sign” upon our hands, and as “ frontlets” between our eyes—our lingering doubts respecting Christianity and its doctrines, would soon fade away. Not a trace of them would be left to mar our peace or to interrupt our communion with God.
It ought however to be premised, that if we bring to the investigation of Scripture a haughty and self-sufficient spirit, we shall be little likely to form a just estimate of its contents. It is a marked and peculiar feature of the Christian system, and one which
strongly indicates the wisdom of its Contriver
-that God hides the secrets of his love from " the wise and prudent”. (that is from those who account themselves such) and reveals them unto “ babes."i “The meek will he guide in judgment; and the meek will he teach his "S2 way.
Let the humble man study the Scriptures in the remembrance of his own ignorance. Let him, as a matter of course, expect difficulties — knots which he cannot untie—just as every sound philosopher expects them in his investigation of nature. Let him remember that the whole scheme of Christianity professes to be ordained of God, and to be revealed to man, for practical purposes. Let him, in his perusal of the book, honestly endeavour to apply its contents to these its professed ends. Above all, under a sense of his weakness and liability to error, let him fervently pray God to correct and enlighten his understanding and to assist him in his search after truth. What will be the consequence ?
I believe it will inevitably be this — that the more he becomes acquainted with the Scriptures, the clearer will be his view of their beauty, their harmony, and their strength; and the more deeply will he therefore be impressed with the belief that they are the oracles of God.
1 Matt. xi, 25.
2 Ps. xxv, 9.
ON THE EXCELLENCE OF SCRIPTURE, AND ON THE
ACCORDANCE OF ITS PARTS.
There are no writings in the world, which contain history so important, poetry so sublime, delineation of character so instructive, devotional compositions so tender, and maxims so wise and useful, as the Bible. But the moral and spiritual force of the sacred volume is that which chiefly serves to fasten its contents on the mind of every honest enquirer, whether more or less educated, and to produce a settled conviction of its divine origin.
No man can be in the habit of reading the Scriptures with attention, and in a humble devotional spirit, without finding himself the better for the book. It will be the means of exalting his views of the Supreme Being; of awakening his love for the Redeemer; of animating his desires after holiness; and of imbuing him with charity towards his fellow men. Thus on the general principle alluded to in our preface, that what is good is true, his mind will gradually be given up to an unfeigned belief of its contents.
It is especially worthy of remark, that many parts of Scripture are so full of instruction—the mine is so deep and so richly stored—that the treasure is never exhausted. A man may return to the same passage a thousand times, yet never with the feeling of satiety; seldom, perhaps, without deriving from it some fresh lesson, important to the religious life. This may be regarded as one of the sure marks of inspiration.
Another mark of it is the concentration of much and varied instruction within a very small compass.
A single verse, or part of a verse, penned by a prophet or an apostlesingular and original in its character- will often furnish materials for useful and edifying thought to an almost unlimited extent. What a vast field for profitable reflection, for example, may be found in the declaration of David, that “ the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory ;” and again, that “ He will beautify the meek with salvation ;"2 or in the words of Wisdom, “ All they that hate me, love death ;": the doctrine of Paul, “ To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace ;"4 or in the address of Peter,
Elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ;"5 or in the saying of John, “ God is love."6 A surprising number and variety of important ideas are suggested to the mind by each of these passages, and by a multitude of others of a like character. It is true that similar modes of expression are now often used, by unin1 Ps. Ixxxiv, 11.
2 Ps. cxlix, 4. 3 Prov. viij, 36.
4 Rom. viii, 6. 5 1 Pet. i, 2.
6 1 John iv, 16.
spired writers; but this circumstance only strengthens our argument, because the Bible is the original fountain, from which they are derived. It is a text book for moral and religious teaching, which knows no rival, and to the use and application of which there appears to be no limit.
We cannot calculate the amount of good which has been effected since the Christian era, by the ministry of the gospel and by the works of religious authors. Yet no preachers of the gospel, no writers on religion, have ever added any improvement to Christianity as it was first revealed. Whatsoever, in the preaching or writings of modern Christians, has any tendency to convert, purify, and save the souls of men, never fails to be found in its original form, in the Bible. How can we account for this unquestionable fact, except by the inspiration of the sacred writers?
The divine origin of Scripture becomes yet more evident, when we reflect upon its larger masses. The Psalms of David, for example, were composed a thousand years before the Christian era; yet even now, after the lapse of so many ages, they are daily food to multitudes, and are found applicable to Christian experience, the deepest and the most various. Does not this fact afford a palpable proof that they were given by inspiration?
When we meditate on the simplicity, harmony, and edifying tendency, of the four