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It is acknowledged indeed that some of its doctrines are sublime, above the full comprehension of the human mind, and of which in all probability we should have had no idea, if they had not been made known by a revelation from heaven. But this is no presumptive argument against the truth of the Bible: the reverse will on examination be found to be the case. The unity, immensity, and eternity of God; the attribution of true and proper deity to the Father, Son, and Spirit; the union of deity with humanity; the dispensation of pardon and eternal life to men through the propitiatory sacrifice and mediation of the Son of God; the indispensable necessity of a divine operation on their hearts, in order to their final happiness; their amenableness as reasonable beings at the divine tribunal, and the resurrection of the body; these are points, or rather facts, which the Bible asserts in the most clear, plain, and unequivocal manner. Nor can it be denied that it is beyond the power of human reason fully to explain the modus of these facts, and their reconcileableness with each other, But it does not follow from thence that the book which asserts them is not divine.
Could it indeed be proved that these propositions involve in them a contradiction; or that the mind can frame no idea at all of the facts thus reported; or that their being told us answers no important practical purpose; there would in either of these cases be an insurmountable objection against the divine authority of the book that affirms them. But there is no truth in either of these allegations. As to the first, The Bible no where asserts a contradiction. I cannot believe that any being is and is not at the same time: but I can believe that an infinite being may exist after a manner, which if it were asserted of a finite being would be an absolute contradiction. As to the second, There is not one of the propositions just mentioned but I have a clear idea of, though I cannot tell you how these things are, or find out the clue by which they are to be reconciled. And as to the third supposed case, it is equally inapplicable to the matter before us. I plainly perceive the importance of being informed of these facts, though the modus of their existence is mysterious.
All the objection then that is to be urged against a book that affirms these facts, lies in the difficulty of accounting for them. But this is no valid objection at all. For if no fact is to be credited, how competent soever the testimony may be, unless I can fully account for it, many useful experiments in natural philosophy must be rejected, and with them a thousand other facts which all mankind acknowledge to be true. But in the case before us, the presumption against the truth of the Bible on account of the abstruseness of some of its doctrines, is more than balanced by the following plain reasons obvious to every one's understanding.
It is, first of all, most natural to conclude that if God deigos to give an extraordinary revelation of his will, he means to inform us of what we could not know without it. That the discoveries should be sublime and marvellous is no other than might be expected. Would he send an angel from heaven to convince an obstinate fool that two and two make four? Would he send a host of angels from heaven, to inform men of what they might easily come to the knowledge of by the right use of their faculties? No. Something strange, marvellous, immensely grand and magnificent was naturally to be expected. The presumption here therefore is in favour of what is perversely obtruded upon us as an objection.
It is, secondly, to be remembered, that as the matters here aiscoursed of are in their own nature infinitely sublime and glorious, so the human understanding is not competent to a full investigation of them: yea more than this, its natural and regular exertions are often obstructed and contravened by depraved passions and prejudices. So that difficulties are frequetly thrown in the way of our reasoning about divine truths, by pride and sensuality; difficulties that would not otherwise exist.
To this it is to be added, thirdly, that that supreme authority which grants an extraordinary revelation, has an unquestionable right to claim implicit credit to its testimony in every matter, however inexplicable at present, which does not amount to a direct absurdity or contradiction.
Abraham is commanded to offer up his son Isaac. He has clear positive proof that it is the will of God. To that proof he is not to oppose the difficulty of reconciling the command with his own feelings, or with those dictates of natural religion which he could not renounce.
He is to believe that they are reconcilable, though at present he cannot tell how: and so he is to obey. Against hope he believed in hope-and staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God a.
In like manner here, if the reason of the matter proposed to our faith were perfectly clear and demonstrative, we should assent to the proposition upon its own evidence, not the positive testimony of God. But if it be inexplicable, yet if God affirms it, it is most reasonable that we should on that ground yield a full assent to it. And the greater the struggle is in admitting the divine testimony, through the undue influence of prejudice and passion, the greater proof we give of our piety in surmounting that opposition. It follows then, that if there were no other end to be answered by holding up to our view those sublime discoveries before mentioned, than the trial of our piety towards God, it were a very important one.
But it is to be further observed, fourthly, that those peculiarities of the Bible, however abstruse, are its distinguishing glories, and are made known for purposes most beneficial to mankind. Something more was necessary to rouse men from the deep slumbers of sin, and to impel them to the duties of piety, goodness, and temperance, than a mere republication of the law of nature. If the only business were to tell men, a little louder than their reason had told them before, that God is merciful; and to point out to them their duty somewhat more clearly than they had been used to conceive of it, it would have been a problem at least whether a revelation were necessary to those ends.
But a revelation, such as that in the Bible, brought forward in a manner so stupendously grand and magnificent, not by the mediation of prophets or angels only but that of the Son of God; may well be supposed to have that in the bosom of it, which is as marvellously divine and glorious as the evidence by
which it is attested. And whoever attentively revolves the truths just mentioned, must see how wonderfally they are adapted to touch every spring of the human soul, and to bring about a revolution in the character of apostate man, infinitely honourable to God, beneficial to society, and important to himself.
And thus you see that the objection urged against the Bible, on account of “the sublimity and abstruseness of some of its doctrines,” has no weight at all in it, but may rather be converted into a presumptive evidence of its divinity.
4. The next objection to be replied to, respects “ matters merely circumstantial,” upon some of which however no small stress has been laid.
If then it be enquired, First, “Why was not this revelation given, in one entire code, at the beginning of time?" the answer is, it could not in the nature of the thing be.
The appearance and death of the Messiah was the great event upon which, as a hinge, the whole scheme of divine
providence respecting the salvation of apostate men turned. The time fixed for it was of all others the fittest. Till it was accomplished the canon of Scripture could not be closed. And previous to its accomplishment the light advanced in such a gradual progression, as best suited the state and character of the Gentile and Jewish world, prepared the way for the coming of Christ, afforded increasing evidence of his divine mission, and added the most distinguishing glory to the grand event of his death.
When the sun of primeval innocence and happiness set, the morning star of revelation quickly arose, a new day dawned, and the light thus opening, increased by happy degrees through the patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations, till it attained its utmost splendour in the Christian era, and so rendered all further revelations unnecessary.
The idea therefore of the Bible's consisting of broken unconnected fragments, is totally groundless. It is a book whose several parts form one entire and perfect system of the administration of providence and grace in the affairs of this world,
from the beginning to the end of time. And can any thing, I ask, be more grand and noble ?
Sccondly, “ The characters and failings of the writers of the Bible, and other eminent persons here discoursed of,” have been often urged as objections to its divine authority: but with how little success will upon a moment's recollection appear.
It is no imputation surely upon the wisdom, goodness, or power of God, to communicate his will to us through men of like passions with ourselves, and raise up some of them from the lowest rank and condition of life. What if he put a sceptre into the hand of a shepherd, pour the holy oil of prophecy on an herdsman, and call fishermen to the dignified office of apostles and ambassadors ! Who shall object? What symptom is there in such conduct of imprudence, unkindness, or weak
Were these men indeed destitute of probity, benevolence, and piety, their divine mission, amidst all their pretensions to extraordinary powers, might well be suspected. The claims of Mohammed, when contrasted with his bloody wars and soul debaucheries, lose all their force with an unprejudiced and thoughtful mind. Not such the character exhibited to our view in the Bible. These were holy men of God. While they appealed to miracles the most stupendous for the divinity of their mission, they silently submitted the question respecting the uprightness and disinterestedness of their views to the sentence both of friends and enemies, who were intimately acquainted with their actions. The general course of their lives, distinguished not merely by purity of manners but the most generous exertions and painful sufferings, put their sincerity beyond the reach of suspicion.
Yet they were not without their imperfections, failings, and sins: nor are these concealed, excused, or palliated. Be they therefore what they may, the frank open manner in which they are related, secures the Bible from the most distant imputation of countenancing sin. But whoever narrowly examines the faults of these men of God, which have been loaded with the most malicious censure by the sons of infidelity, will see that