Page images
PDF
EPUB

by prophets, or holy men inspired of God. Hence Peter calls the whole of it "prophecy," 2 Pet. i, 21; delivered by men acted or moved therein by the Holy Ghost. And though there be a distribution made of the several books from their subject matter, into the law, prophets, and psalms, Luke xxiv, 44; and often into the law and prophets, on the same account, Acts XXVI, 22; Rom. iii, 21; yet their penmen being all equally prophets, the whole, in general, is ascribed to them and called “prophecy,Rom. xvi, 26; Luke xxiv, 25; 2 Peter i, 19.

So were the books of the New Testament written by apostles, or men endowed with an apostolical spirit, and in their work equally inspired by the Holy Ghost; whence the church is said to be "built on the founda“tion of the prophets and apostles; Jesus Christ him“self being the chief corner stone, Ephes. ii, 20. If then the author of any writing acknowledgeth himself to be, or may otherwise be convinced to have been neither prophet, nor apostle; nor, endued with the same infallible spirit with them, his work, how excellent soever in other respects, must needs be esteemed a mere fruit of his own skill, diligence, and wisdom, and not any way to belong to the canon of scripture.

Now this epistle is free from this exception: the penman of it doth no where intimate, directly or indirectly, that he wrote by his own ability; which, if he had done so, it must have been incumbent on him to have declared, that he might not lead the church into a pernicious error, in embracing that as given by inspiration from God, which was but a fruit of his diligence and fallible endeavors. But on the contrary, he speaks as in the name of God, referring to him all that he delivers; nor can he, even in any minute instance, be convicted to have wanted his assistance.

[blocks in formation]

$18. (2.) Circumstances of the general argument of a book may also convince it to be of an human, or fallible original. But our epistle is no way obnoxious to any exception of this nature. Yea, the state of things in the churches of God, and among the Hebrews in particular, did at that time administer so just and full an occasion for a writing of this kind, as gives countenance to its being ascribed to the wisdom and care of the Holy Ghost. For, if the corruption of the poisonous brood of heretics, particularly Cirinthus, gave occasion to the writing of the gospel by St. John; and if the dissentions in the church of Corinth deserved two epistles, and if the lesser differences between believers of the Jews and Gentiles had a remedy provided for them in the epistles of St. Paul to them, is it not at least probable, that the same spirit who moved the

penmen of those books to write, and directed them in their so doing, did also provide for removing the prejudices, and healing the distempers of the Hebrews, which were so great, and of so great importance to all the churches of God!

$19. (3.) The most manifest eviction of any writing, pretending to the privilege of Divine inspiration, may be taken from the subject matter of it. God himself being the first, and only essential truth, nothing can proceed from him, but what is absolutely so; and truth being but one, every way uniform and consonant to itself, there can be no discrepancy in the branches of it, nor contrariety in the streams that flow from that one fountain. God is also holy, glorious in holiness,” and nothing proceeds immediately from him, but what bears a stamp of his holiness, as well as his greatness and wisdom. If then, any thing in the subject matter of any writing be untrue, impious, light, or any way contradictory to the ascertained writings of Divine inspiration, all pleas and pretences to that privilege must cease forever. We need no other proof to evince its original, than what itself affords. And by this means do those books commonly called apocryphal, to which the Romanists ascribe canonical authority, destroy their own pretensions. They have all of them, on this account among others, long since been cast out of the limits of any tolerable defence. Now, that no one portion of scripture is less obnoxious to any exception of this kind, from the matter treated of, and doctrines delivered in it, than this epistle, we shall, by God's assistance, manifest in our exposition of the whole.

$20. (4.) The style and method of a writing may be such, as to lay a just prejudice against its claim of canonical authority. For though the matter may be good in the main, and generally suited to the analogy of faith; yet there may be in the manner of its composure, such an ostentation of wit, learning, or eloquence; such an affectation of words and phrases; such rhetorical paintings of things inconsiderable, as may sufficiently demonstrate human ambition, ignorance, pride, or desire of applause, to have been mixt in the forming of it. Much of this Jerome observes in particular, concerning the book entitled the “Wisdom of Solomon;" written as it is supposed, by Philo, an eloquent and learned Jew, (redolet Græcam eloquentiam) it savors of Græcian eloquence.* When therefore, these human failings and sinful infirmities manifest themselves, they cast out the writings where they are, from that harmony and consent, which in general appears amongst all the books of Divine inspiration. Of the style of this epistle we have spoken before. Its gravity, simplicity, majesty, and absolute suitableness to the high, holy, and heavenly mysteries treated of in it, are, as far as I can find, not only very evident, but also acknowledged to be so by all who are able to judge of them.

* Pref. in Prov. Solom.

$21. (5.) Want of catholic tradition in all ages of the church, from the first giving forth of any writing, testifying to its Divine original, is another impeachment of its pretence to canonical authority. And this argument ariseth fatally against the apocryphal books before-mentioned. The suffrage of this kind given to our epistle, we have mentioned before; but we shall give a farther confirmation of its Divine origin, by proving it undeniably to be written by the apostle St. Paul, that eminent penman of the Holy Ghost.

Thus clear stands the canonical authority of this epistle. It is destitute of no evidence needful for the manifestation of it; nor is it obnoxious to any just exception against its claim of that privilege. And hence it comes to pass, that whatever have been the fears, doubts, and scruples of some; the rash objections, conjectures and censures of others; the provident care of God over it, as a part of his most holy word, co-operating with the prevailing evidence of its original implanted in it, and its spiritual efficacy to all the ends of holy scripture, hath obtained an absolute conquest over the hearts and minds of all that believe, and settled it in full possession of canonical authority in all the churches of Christ throughout the world.

EXERCITATION II.

SAINT PAUL THE AUTHOR OF THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS.

$1. Knowledge of the penman not absolutely necessary, yet of

some use. 52–4. That St. Paul was the author of this epistle appears, (I.) from the uncertainty of other suppositions. $5. (II.) From the insufficiency of the argument insisted on to the contrary, (1.) Dissimilitude of style. $6,7. (II.) Its being unsubscribed. 58, 9. (III.) From the testimony given it in other scriptures. $10. (IV.) From considerations taken from the writing itself, compared with St. Paul's writings. $11. (V.) From the testimony of the first churches. $12. (VI.) From reasons and circumstances relating to the epistle itself.

ši. The Divine authority of the epistle having been vindicated, it is of no great moment to inquire scrupulously after its penman. Writings that proceed from Divine inspiration, receive no addition of authority from the reputation or esteem of them by whom they were written; and this the Holy Ghost hath sufficiently manifested, by shutting up

the names of many

of them from the knowledge of the church in all ages. Had any prejudice to their authority ensued, this had not been. Nor were any esteemed to be given by prophecy, because their authors were prophets; but they were known to be prophets by the word which they delivered. If not, they were some other way known to be divinely inspired, as by the working of miracles; or that they were in their days received as such by the church. But neither of these can be asserted: for as it is not known that any one penman of the Old Testament, Moses only excepted, ever wrought any miracles, so it is certain that most of them were rejected and condemned by the church in their days. The only

« PreviousContinue »