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THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD.
2 TIM. Ili. 14-17.
Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned, and hast been assured of,
knowing of whom thou hast learned them: And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able
to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God; and is profitable for doctrine,
for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good
works. The word • Scripture,' of which so high a character is given in this passage, signifies, by its derivation, only a writing; but here is put for certain writings, whereof God is supposed to be the author or inspirer. When the apostle tells Timothy, 'he had known these Scriptures, or writings, from a child,' he speaks of the books contained in the Old Testament only, which, as they prophesied of the Messiah, and pointed out him, and his religion, to the reader, were able, therefore, to make that reader wise unto salvation, through faith in Jesus' the Messiah ; but, when he says 'all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, he extends the signification of the word to the writings of the New Testament also, which he took to be the dictates of Divine inspiration, as well as those of the Old.
The books he comprehends under the name of Scriptures, thus eminently understood, speak in the same high strain concerning the inspiration of God, and of its necessity, in order to true and saving wisdom. They acknowledge there is a rational faculty in man, whereby he may attain to knowledge in sensible and temporal things; and whereby also he may judge of higher matters, when God is pleased to instruct him therein; but, as to these latter, they represent God as the only sufficient teacher, and every where send us to him for instruction. There is a spirit in man,' says Elihu, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding ;' Job xxxii. 8. God himself intimates the same by the questions he puts to Job, chap. xxxviii. 36. “Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts ? or who hath given understanding to the heart?' David prays incessantly to God for wisdom : ‘Give me understanding, and I shall live,' Psalm cxix. 144. “Let my cry come near before thee, O Lord; give me understanding, according to thy word ;' ver. 169. Solomon exhorts his readers, on all occasions, to seek for wisdom of God, to whose gift alone he ascribes it, both in himself and others: The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding ;' Prov. ii. 6. Christ thanks his Father,' Luke x. 21, 'for revealing those articles of wisdom unto babes, which he had hid from the wise and prudent;' and promises, chap. xxi. 15, 'to give his disciples a mouth, and wisdom, which all their adversaries should not be able to gainsay, or resist.' . If any of you lack wisdom,' says St. James, chap. i. 5, ‘let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given you.' St. Peter ascribes all prophecy to inspiration : The prophecy,' says he, came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;' 2 Pet. i. 21. A great deal more might be added, to shew, that the penmen of the Bible endeavour to represent God as the fountain of wisdom, true religion; and themselves as only the scribes, who record in writing what God is pleased to dictate.
But whereas every religion lays claim to a divine original, as well as that contained in the books just now mentioned; and whereas Mahometism produces a written record of itself, which it ascribes to God, and his angels, as inspiring or dictating whatsoever Mahomet committed to writing; it is the business of a rational inquirer to examine them all by the rules and signs recommended in the former Discourse, that he may make a competent judgment of their merits, before he finally fixes his choice. To avoid impertinence and prolixity on this occasion, we will suppose this inquiry over in regard to all religions but that of the Bible; and terminated in a rejection of some, for wanting a fixed system of principles properly recorded ; and, of others, not for wanting a record indeed, but for having one stuffed with such absurdities and contradictions as reason cannot possi
bly receive for divine inspiration. Having, by this supposition, left ourselves but one religion to inquire into, we may perhaps in the compass of this Discourse arrive at satisfaction as to that. If any one who hears me is surprised at my saying there is but one religion contained in the Bible, whereas Judaism, or Christianity, hath, or, at least, in different ages of the world, must have had, an equal right to found itself on some part or other of that book; he ought to know, that Christianity, rightly understood, disowns the distinction; and represents itself as the religion given to the first man, and never altered, from the beginning to the publication of the last-written book in the New Testament, as to its great fundamentals, belief in one God, and the Messiah but only in mere modes of worship, and obedience, wherewith God thought proper to diversify, to enlarge, to explain, or to enforce it, at different periods of time. If both Testaments are the work of God, they do, they can, contain but one religion, because there neither is, nor possibly can be, but one true religion; nor is it to be supposed God could ever give any other. Now he who believes God to be the author of the Old Testament, must believe him also the author of the New ; because, if he is not, the prophecies of the Old, relating to the Messiah, which make a great part of it, must be false.
The Jews, who, from Christ's time to this, have mistaken Christianity for a religion essentially different from their own, have, in reality, apostatized from the religion of the Old Testament; and have given the lie to all their prophets, in saying Jesus was not the Messiah; while, at the same time, they confirmed, as far as in them lay, the truth of their predictions, by what they did to him, and have since done, in respect to his religion. It is true, they and the Christians have now two distinct religions; because the former, resting in the exterior and temporary part of the Scriptural religion, which, by its own confession, was only preparatory to a more spiritual and lasting dispensation, rejected that faith they themselves waited for, as the grand accomplishment of all revelation. While they served God in the 'type or shadow,' and hoped for better things yet to come,' at a certain period predicted, they acted consistently with the scheme of religion laid down in their own Scriptures.
But when that period arrived, and those better things were offered, they, mistaking the nature of the promises, refused the things promised; and so, contrary to their own prophecies, adhered still to the type, when they ought to have embraced that which was typified. If God was the author of the Old Testament, they were in the right religion till the time prefixed for the arrival of the Messiah; but departed from it, and took up with another, when they rejected him, and passed the period at which he was to be expected. Since that, their religion consists in a preposterous expectation of an event either actually passed, or never to come: whereas they who embraced Christianity, received the substance of that religion which was prefigured under the law; and, be it right or wrong, are not typically, but really and truly, in the old religion, from which the unbelieving Jews apostatized. This is the very state of the case delivered by St. Paul, in the third of his epistle to the Galatians; where, having shewn, that 'the promise of the Messiah was given to Abraham,' ver. 8, and that the law was afterward added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made,' ver. 19, he then opens the use of the law, and says, 'it was the schoolmaster of the Jews, to bring them unto Christ, that they might be justified by faith,' ver. 24. He accordingly, Rom. x. 4, calls Christ, or the Messiah, * the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Whatever we think of St. Paul's inspiration, as real, or only pretended, we cannot help considering this way of interpreting the promises of the Old Testament, and the Law, and terminating their accomplishment in the Messiah, as just and right; and therefore must regard the religion of St. Paul as that very religion which was prophetically preached in the Old Testament.
Laying it, therefore, down as a point already proved, that there is but one religion set forth in both the Testaments, though under different dispensations or covenants, let us, in order to try whether this is the true religion, examine the writings, wherein it is contained, by the rules prescribed in the former Discourse, that we may judge, if we can, of the divine original and authority pretended to by these writings, which will decide the question about the truth or falsity of the religion they set before us.
In the first place, we have here a written record of the religion under question; which gives us a fair opportunity of examining its merits; an advantage not to be expected in any religion depending merely either on the vague opinions and reasonings of man, or on oral tradition, so liable to be changed and corrupted. And as to the genuineness of this record, it is infinitely less to be suspected, than that of any other history or account of former times; because the people in whose hands it was, always regarded it with the utmost veneration, as the book of God himself; proved their principles, and decided their disputes, by it; and therefore were extremely watchful over the original text, lest any one should mutilate or corrupt it, in order by that means to suppress its evidence against bim, or pervert it for him. It is farther to be observed, that all the other books in the world have not produced so many copies, translations, comments, nor so great a variety of consequent writings, all drawing their matter, their arguments, and illustrations, from thence. In every age since the use of letters and learning flourished in the world, this book hath been the fountain not of a few obscure tracts, but of whole libraries; and hath found employment for more inquirers, readers, writers, disputants, than all other histories, than all other arts and sciences, put together. As all this made the loss of the book itself a thing impossible, so it made the corruption of it a thing next to impossible. He who doubts the genuineness of this book, and yet believes in that of Herodotus, Thucydides, or Livy, ought, for the same reason, to look on them as less genuine than Valerius Maximus, Aulus Persius, or Censorinus; for, by his rule, the more a book is read, considered, and quoted, the more likely it is to be corrupted; or, in other words, the greater its authority was in all former ages, the less it ought to be esteemed in this.
There can indeed be no rational dispute about the antiquity and genuineness of the Old Testament, while we have the Jews to vouch for it, whose origin, whose laws, whose pretensions and expectations, it contains. If these men could be supposed to have corrupted any part of it, the prophecies relating to the Messiah were the most likely to have suffered under their hands; which, nevertheless, still stare them in the face from almost every page of their own Scrip