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may throw light on the subject before us. The message contained in the scriptures does not relate to things false or doubtful. There are indeed religious impostors, deluded enthusiasts, and priestly usurpations; but all religion is not enthusiasm or priestcraft. General declamations to this effect only prove that men are unable or unwilling to distinguish betwixt the genuine and the counterfeit ; which evinces, that either their understandings or their hearts are very faulty.-The apostle Peter, just before his martyrdom, endeavouring that the disciples might be able after his decease to have the things he had taught them "always in remembrance," added, "For we have not followed cun"ningly-devised fables, when we made known to 66 you the power and coming of the Lord Jesus, "but were eye witnesses of his majesty: for he re"ceived from God the Father honour and glory,
when there came such a voice to him from the "excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom "I am well pleased. And this voice which came "from heaven we heard, when we were with him "in the holy mount." But, aware that the belief of this event depended entirely on his testimony, with that of James and John, he subjoined, "We "have also a more sure word of prophecy; where"unto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and "the day star arise in your hearts."
It may indeed be argued very forcibly, that the public miracles, recorded in scripture, could never have obtained credit among contemporaries, had
12 Peter i. 16-19.
they not been actually performed; and that no future generation of Israelites or Christians could possibly have been persuaded, that their forefathers had always believed them, had the report been afterwards invented and propagated. Would it, for instance, by any method be practicable to bring the inhabitants of this nation to believe, that a hundred years ago the Prince of Orange, at the revolution, marched an army through the German ocean, and that this had always been known and credited?
The argument therefore from miracles openly performed, or publicly attested, before those possessed of power, and engaged by interest, reputation, and inclination to disprove them, is very conclusive and perhaps no past event was ever so fully authenticated as the resurection of Christ, on which the whole fabric of revelation in some respects depends. Yet to us the word of prophecy may be said to be still "more sure:" for a system of predictions of remote events, which no finite mind could possibly foresee, is interwoven with every part of the scriptures, and reaches from the first promise of the seed of the woman to the close of the sacred canon. These have been exactly fulfilling through successive ages, in respect of the Jews and the surrounding nations; the coming of the Messiah, and every circumstance of that grand event; with the subsequent concerns of the church and of the world to this present day. This forms such a demonstration that the Bible is indeed the word of God, that, the more carefully it is examined with a serious and impartial mind, the fuller conviction it must produce. It is indeed a kind of
unobtrusive permanent miracle, which escapes the notice of the careless, but gives entire satisfaction to the diligent inquirer; and to this, all who have doubts on the subject, will" do well to take heed, "as to a light shining in a dark place," till their own experience of the blessed effects produced by the gospel prove an inward witness, the dawn of eternal life in their souls.
We might adduce many other arguments in confirmation of this truth, from the nature and tendency of the sacred oracles; the character of those, in every age, who have most firmly believed them; the efficacy of the pure gospel on the minds and conduct of mankind, in rendering them wise, holy, peaceful, and happy; and the manifold blessed consequences which must follow, if all men did indeed repent of sin, believe in Christ, worship God spiritually, love him supremely, and love one another "with a pure heart fervently." But these few hints are sufficient to shew that our religion is no vain or doubtful matter, but an authenticated revelation from God; and that men oppose it, because it "testifies of them that their works are 66 evil," and cannot be made consistent with the "lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride "of life."
Neither is it a superfluous or unnecessary thing. Whatever plausible and soothing notions students in their retirement may entertain, facts undeniably prove, that reason, untutored by revelation, uniformly leads men into atheism, idolatry, impiety, superstition, or enormous wickedness. Renowned and elegant Greece and Rome sunk as deep into these absurd abominations, as the barbarians whom
they despised. The philosophical Athenians were ignorant worshippers of an "unknown God," amidst their highest improvements; nor have the most celebrated modern unbelievers been preserved from most gross absurdities, or lamentable ignorance. How perplexed and unsatisfactory are their discourses, when they attempt to shew in what way a sinner may be justified before God! Or when they would instruct mankind, in the method of conquering bad habits, resisting strong temptations, overcoming the world, or meeting death with humble, serious, and reflecting composure!
If then unaided reason, in its highest advancement, can give so little satisfactory information on these most important points; what must have been the state of the world at large, if revelation had not been vouchsafed? So far therefore from deeming it unnecessary, we ought to value it unspeakably more than gold and precious stones, and to relish it "as sweeter than honey and the 'honey-comb."
The message of God is "no vain thing," because it is exactly adapted to the condition of mankind, and fully adequate to the case of the most enslaved sinner upon earth. If a man's crimes have been ever so numerous, complicated, and atrocious, during the whole course of a long life; if his propensities, habits, and connexions, expose him to the combined force of many formidable temptations; and if his difficulties and distresses be urgent in the extreme; yet, by attending to the word of the gospel in humble faith, he shall surely be guided into the way of peace, find effec
tual assistance in the path of duty, be extricated from all perplexities, made victorious over all enemies, and finally be brought to the enjoyment of eternal felicity. Indeed, whenever we mistake our duty or our interest, or whenever we are cast down on any account, it may be said to us, "Ye "do err, not knowing the scriptures;" and forget that "thus it is written, and thus it must be." We want no other directions, or encouragements, than such as are contained in the Bible: nothing can be added to this perfect rule of faith and practice. All that we can do in this matter to good purpose, consists in calling the attention of mankind to the scriptures, explaining their contents, and exhorting them to believe and obey the divine message: and, if any one, whether he be a moralist or philosopher, an inventor of superstitions, or a pretender to new revelations, attempt to add to the scriptures, or to amend any thing in them; he may be compared to an optician, who should undertake, by new discoveries, and well-constructed glasses, to improve the light of the sun.
Nor is the message of scripture "a vain thing," or a matter of small importance: Moses therefore added, “because it is your life.” "Whatsoever "a man hath will he give for his life," is a maxim that is generally found true, though it was once spoken by the father of lies. The merchant throws his rich freight into the sea, when it endangers his life; and the patient rewards the surgeon for performing some torturing operation, when it is necessary to rescue him from death. In ordinary computations life is deemed our highest interest; capital punishment is regarded as the most formi