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To mark particularly the interpositions of divine providence and grace in favour of the Bible, would carry me too far into the history of past times, or I might remind you how it hath escaped the rage of pagan persecutions; how it hath eluded the artful measures of the Romish church to conceal it from the public view; how it hath triumphed over the boasted reasonings of infidelity; and how it hath secured its hold on the hearts of sincere Christians, amidst unwearied endeavours from various quarters to debase the simplicity and diminish the importance of its leading truths.
Nor is this interposition in its favour to be wondered at. A book inspired of God could not but be the constant object of his attention, protection, and support. It could not but be superior to every attack made upon it by the swords of princes, the arts of false philosophy, and the stubborn prejudices of vice and sin. The same inspired lips which have published the gospel to the world, have pronounced a solemn anathema upon him who dares pervert it, even though he were an angel from heaven a. It cannot therefore be doubted that the Bible, with all its important contents, will remain șecure under the guardian care of Heaven to the end of time.
The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek b. Nor will it fail, wherever it comes accompanied with a divine energy, to produce the desired effect on the vessels of mercy, who are by these means prepared unto glory c. How it enlightens the understanding, convinces the conscience, comforts the heart, and renews the affections, we have shewn in a former discourse; and therefore shall only add, that as the grand promise of eternal life, so those subordinate to it-promises adapted to the different exigencies of the Christian in every stage of his profession, shall all be punctually fulfilled.
They are the promises of him who cannot lie, and are ratified by the blood of Jesus Christ his well-beloved Son. When providence frowns, fears arise, and unbelief prevails, the good man may perhaps fetch a sigh, and in the language of the psalmist say, Hath his promise failed? Hath he forgotten to a Gal. i. 7, 8.
b Rom. i. 16.
c Rom. ix. 23.
be gracious a? But this cannot be. The
measures which seem to him scarcely reconcilable with the word of God, are operating to its accomplishment. The promises of the Bible and the events of providence are always in perfect unison. This sometimes appears to the comfort of the Christian in the present life, but every doubt on the matter shall be fully cleared up in the world to come.
Let us however be persuaded in seasons of darkness and sorrow to recur to first principles, to call in the aid of this great leading truth, that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and to yield as firm credit to its gracious declaration, as if we heard them pronounced with an audible voice from heaven. God willing, in this book, more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath : that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us b. How animating these considerations to the humble Christian, firmly persuaded of the divine authority of his Bible !
On the other hand: the sentence denounced in this book on obstinate and incorrigible sinners, shall not fail in due time of being executed. God is not a man that he should lie, nor the Son of man that he should repent : hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good c? His threatenings are not the effusions of hasty passion, but the result of wise and just counsel. The gospel is to some a savovr of death unto death d : a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence e. Whosoever shall fall on this stone, shall be broken : but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder f. What awful denunciations these! Is there an obstinate offender that admits the possibility of the Bible's being an inspired book, and can avoid trembling ? Who knoweth the power of thine anger, O Lord ? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath g.--Again,
a Psal. lxxvii. 8, 9.
b Heb. vi. 17, 18.
c Num. xxiii. 19. f Matt. xxi. 44.
The idea of divine inspiration casts a pleasing solemnity over the predictions of this book, relative to the future state of the church and the world. The revolutions quickly to be expected, are here described in language not easy to be decyphered at present. But the general outlines of them can scarce be mistaken. The church or the cause of truth and piety, like Zion of old, hath long sat in darkness and the shadow of death. She that ought to have been great among nations, and princess among the provinces, hath become tributary. She hath wept sore in the night, and her tears are still on her cheeks : among her lovers she hath had few to comfort her, and her friends have dealt treacherously with her a. But the time is approaching when it shall be said, Arise, O Zion, and shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee b. Thy righteousness shall go forth as brightness, and thy salvation as a lamp that burneth. The Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and kings thy glory c.
A mighty angel shall fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth d. The brightness of his countenance shall enlighten the regions of darkness, and the sentence of his lips set the captive nations at liberty. Ignorance, vice, and oppression shall flee be-. fore him; and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea e. The heathen deities shall bow at the feet of Jesus of Nazareth; and the Koran fall from the hands of the false prophet, and with it the sword that gave him dominion over the deluded nations.
· The man of sin, who exalteth himself above all that is called God, sitting in the temple of God, and shewing himself that he is God;' who reigns over the kings of the earth,' and plants his throne on the consciences, lives, and liberties of mankind; this mystery of iniquity,' this wicked one, who hath been revealed to the astonishment of the whole world, shall be consumed with the spirit of the Lord and the brightness of his coming f.' The scattered sons of Abraham shall be col
a Lam. i. 1, 2. e Isa. xi. 9,
b Isa. lx. 1. c Isa. lxii. 1, 2. d Rev. xiy. 6. f 2 Thess. ii. 3, 4, 7, 8.-Rev. xvii. 18.
lected from the remotest parts of the earth, to the standard of the once crucified but now triumphant Messiah, and henceforth become the willing followers of him whom their ancestors rejected with sovereign contempt. And so shall the mediatorial glories of the Son of God be exhibited to the view of mankind, after a manner unknown before this illustrious period. For the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom, which shall break in pieces and consume all the kingdoms of the earth, but shall never itself be destroyed a.
At length, the designs of Providence respecting this world having been completed, the dead shall be raised, both small and great, stand before God, and be judged every man according to their works. So shall death and hell, and all who are not found written in the book of life, be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death b.'
These predictions, accompanied with various other events, too numerous to be recited here, shall receive their exact accomplishment. And what is it that realizes these prospects, substantiates these hopes, gives certainty to these expectations? It is faith in the holy Scriptures given by inspiration of God.-We go on now to the
Firth conclusion from our general argument, That “the Bible ought on no account to be withheld from the peaple."
Here our business is with the Romish church, who have ever held that the Bible is a book not to be trusted in the hands of the unlearned, or the general body of the people. This opinion they ground upon the words of the apostle Peter, who speaking of the epistles of St. Paul says, In them are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction c. Yes, and true it is that some do wrest the Scriptures, and wrest them to their own destruction. But the conclusion drawn from thence has no force in it at all. For what useful book is there but may be abused by men of corrupt minds? And who will say that, for this reason, the productions of men of science and learning a Dan. ii. 41. b Rev. xx. 12–15.
c 2 Pet. iii. 16.
should be interdicted, and knowledge driven like a frightful spectre out of the world ? The Scriptures no doubt have been abused by infidels and others. But they are not the less to be valued. Nor are they of such doubtful import, as to render the careful perusal of them at all hazardous to the plainest reader.
On the contrary, the Scriptures are able to make men wise unto salvation a : and the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err in his walk through this path of knowledge and truth to final happiness b. Wherefore Christ commands the Jews to search the Scriptures c. And many other passages might be cited which put the question beyond a doubt, that every one has a right to the Bible who has the possible means of procuring it; yea more than this, that it is his indispensable duty to read, and use his best endeavours to understand it.
But what I mean here to shew is, that the right of the people to the Bible, is a necessary consequence of its being a revelation from God. If it was meant for the use of men of all descriptions, they certainly ought to have it. Would I send a letter to a friend, and tell him on the outside of it, that it will be to his peril to open it? No surely. Nor is there on the face of Scripture the least appearance of an exclusive right to any. However sacredly the autograph of the law might be kept in the tabernacle and in the temple afterwards, the people were not denied copies of it. Synagogues there were in which Moses and the prophets were openly read. And the books of the New Testament were evidently published for the instruction of all, and meant to be in universal circulation. Indeed a revelation from God to men manifestly involves in it the idea of general use. “Concealment defeats the purpose of it, and tends directly to excite a doubt of its authenticity.
One would wonder therefore what should induce the friends of revelation, as the Romanists pretend to be, to act a part so injurious to the Bible, and to those who have so just a claim to it. The ostensible reason has been mentioned, the true reason remains to be laid open and exposed. a 2 Tim. iii. 15.
b Isa. xxxv. 8.
c John y. 39.