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THE EXCELLENCE OF THE DOCTRINE CONTAINED IN THE SCRIP-
THIS is an argument which has great force, independently of other considerations. Thus let us suppose, that the author of the Gospel which goes under i St. Matthew's name, was not known ; and that it was unsupported by the writers of the primitive times : yet such is the unaffected fimplicity of the narrations, the purity of the doctrines, and the sincere piety and goodness of the sentiments, that it carries its own authority with it. And the fame thing may be said in general of all the books of the Old and New Tera taments : so that it seems evident to me, that, if there was no other book in the world besides the Bible, a man could not reasonably doubt of the truth of revealed religion. « The mouth speaks from " the abundance of the heart.” Men's writings and discourses must receive a tincture from their real thoughts, defires, and designs. It is impossible to play the hypocrite in every word and expreffon. This is a matter of common daily observation, that cannot be called in question ; and the more any one thinks upon it, or attends to what passes in himself or others, to the history of the human thoughts, words, and actions, and their necessary mutual connexions, i. e, to the history of association, the more clearly will he see it. We may conclude, therefore, even if all other arguments were set aside, that the authors of the books of the Old and New Tertaments, whoever they were, cannot have made a false claim to the divine authority.
But there is also another method of inferring the divine authority of the Scriptures, from the excellence of the doctrine contained therein; for the Scriptures contain doctrines concerning God, Providence, a future state, the duty of man, &c. far more pure and iublime than can any-ways be accounted for from the natural powers of men, so circumstanced as the sacred writers were. That the reader may see this in a clearer light, let him compare the leveral books of the Old and New Testaments with the contemporary writers amongst the Greeks and Romans, who could not have less than the natural powers of the human mind; but might have, over and above, fome traditional hints derived ultimately from revelation. Let him consider whether it be possible to suppose, that Jewish shepherds, fishermen, &c. fiould, both before and after the rise of the Heathen philosophy, so far exceed the men of the greatelt abilites and accomplishments in other nations, by any other means than divine communications. Nay, we may fay, that no writers, from the invention of letters to the present times, are equal to the penmen of the Books of the Old and New Tera caments, in true excellence, utility, and dignity; which is surely luch an internal criterion of their divine authority, as ought not to be
resisted. And perhaps it never is resisted by any, who have duly cona fidered these books, and formed their affections and actions according to the precepts therein delivered
An objection is fometimes made against the excellence of the doctrines of the Scriptures, by charging upon them erroneous doctrines, established by the authority of creeds, councils, and pare ticular churches. . But this is a manner of reasoning highly unreafonable. The unbeliever, who pays so little regard to the opinions of others, as to reject what, all.churches, receive, the divine mission of Christ, and the evidences for the truth of the Scriptures, ought not at other times to suppose the churches, much less any particular one, better able to i udge of the doctrine ; but should in the latter case, as well as the first;..examine for himself; or, if he will take the doctrine upon trust, he ought much rather to take the evidence so: . . . . 1 .. . If it can be Thewn, either that the true doctrine of the Scriptures differs from that which is commonly received, or that reason teaches something different from what is commonly supposed, or lastly, that we are in fufficient judges what are the real doctrines of Scripture, or reason, or both, and consequently that we ought to wait with patience for farther light; all objections of this kind fall to the ground. One may also add, that the same arguments which prove a doctrine to be very absurd, prove also, for the most part, that it is not the fense of the passage ; and that this is a method of reasoning always allowed in interpreting profane authors.
PROP. XXI. THE MANY AND GREAT ADVANTAGES WHICH HAVE ACCRUED
TO THE WORLD FROM THE : PATRIARCHAL, JUDAICAL, AND -- CHRISTIAN REVELATIONS, PROVE THE DIVINE AUTHORITY • OF THE SCRIPTURES. ..
THESE advantages are of two forts, relating respectively to the knowledge and practice of religion. I begin with the firft.
Now it is very evident, that the Christian Revelation has diffused a much more pure and perfect knowledge of what is called natural religion, over a great part of the world, viz, wherever the profeffion either of Christianity or Mahometism prevails. And the same thing will appear, in respect of the Judaical and Patriarchal revelations, to those who are acquainted with ancient history. It will be found very difficult by such persons to account even for the Pagan religion, without recurring to such Patriarchal communications with God as are mentioned in the Pentateuch, and to the more full revelations made to the Jews. So that one is led to believe, that all that is good in any Pagan or false religion is of divine original ; all that is erroneous and corrupt, the offspring of the vanity, weakness, and wickedness of men ; and that, properly speaking, we have no reason from history to suppose, that there ever was any such thing as mere natural religion, i, e, any true religion, which 'men discovered
to themselves by the mere light of nature. These positions seem to follow from inquiries into the antiquities of the Heathen world, and of their religions. The Heathen religions all appear to be of a derivative nature; each circumstance in the inquiry confirms the scriptural accounts of things, and sends us to the revelations expressly mentioned, or indirectly implied, in the Old Testament, for the real
original of the Pagan religions in their fimple state. This opinion in receives great light and confirmation from Sir Isaac Newton's Chro
It appears also very probable to me, that a careful examination of the powers of human understanding would confirm the same position ; and that, admitting the novelty of the present world, there is no way
of accounting for the rise and progress of religious knowledge, as it IEEN has taken place in fact, without having recourse to divine revelation.
If we admit the Patriarchal, Judaical, and Christian revelations, the progress of natural religion, and of all the false pretences to revelation, will fairly arise (at least appear polible in all cales, and probable
in molt) from the circumstance of things, and the powers of human pri nature ; and the foregoing doctrine of association will caft fome light
upon the subject. If we deny the truth of these revelations, and suppose the Scriptures to be false, we shall cast utter confusion upon the inquiry, and human faculties will be found far unequal to to the task alligned to them. . . . . . . . . *
Secondly, If we confider the practice of true religion, the good effects of revelation are ftill more evident. Every man who believes mult find himself either excited to good, or deterred from evil, in many instances, by that belief; notwithstanding that there may be many other instances, in which religious motives are too weak to reItrain violent and corrupt inclinations. The same observations occur daily with regard to others, in various ways and degrees. And it is by no means conclusive against this obvious argument for the good effects of revelation' upon the morals of mankind, to alledge that the world is not better now than before the coming of Christ. This is a point which cannot be determined by any kind of estimation, in , our power to make; and, if it could, we do not know what circumItances would have made the world much worse than it is, had not Chriltianity interpored. However, it does appear to me very proba
; to lay the least, that Jews and Christians, notwithstanding all meir vices and corruptions, have, upon the whole, been always
etter than Heathens and unbelievers. It seems to me also, that as the knowledad
nowledge of true, pure, and perfect religion is advanced and
ed more and more every day, fo the practice of it corresponds Thereto: but then this, from the nature of the thing, is a fact of a
vious kind; however, if it be true, it will become manifest in due time
time, 'Let us suppose a person to maintain that civil governmankind
le arts of life, medicines, &c. have never been of use to inkind, because it does not appear from any certain calculation, the sum total of health and happiness is greater among the than among the barbarous ones. Would it not be
polite nations than among the
thought a fufficient answer to this, to appeal to the obvious good effects of these things in innumerable inftances, without entering into a calculation impossible to be made ? However, it does here also appear, that, as far as we are able to judge, civilised countries are, upon the whole, in a more happy state than barbarous ones, in all these respects.
Now, as the divine original of revelation may be directly concluded from its being the fole fountain of all religious knowledge, if that can be proved; so it will follow in an indirect way, if we suppose that revelation has only promoted the knowledge and practice of true religion. It is not likely that folly or deceit of any kind should be eminently serviceable in the advancement of wisdom and virtue. Every tree must produce its proper fruit. Enthusiasm and impoiture cannot contribute to make man prudent, peaceable, and moderate, disinterested and sincere.
PROP. XXII. THE WONDERFUL NATURE, AND SUPERIOR EXCELLENCE, OF THE
ATTEMPT MADE BY CHRIST AND HIS APOSTLES, ARE EVIDENCES OF THEIR DININE AUTHORITY.
THIS attempt was that of reforming all mankind, and making si them happy in a future state. And, when we consider, first the attempt itself, and then the assurance of success in it, which appears in all their words and actions, by ways both direct and indirect, there arises from thence alone a strong presumption in their favour, as well as in favour of the authors of the books of the Old Testament, who have concurred in the fame attempt, though less informed of the true nature and full extent of it. For ideas and purposes of this kind could scarce enter into the hearts of weak and wicked men; much Jess could such persons enter upon and prosecute so great an undertaking with such prudence, integrity, and constancy, or form such right judgements both of the opposition they should meet with, and of the prevalence of their own endeavours, and those of their suca ki ceffors, over this opposition. Nay, one may say, that nothing less than supernatural assistance could qualify them for these purposes. No defign of this kind was ever formed, or thought of, till the coming home of Christ; and the pretences of enthusiasts and impostors to the same commission since have all been copied from Christ, as being ne to their succeeding in any measure, since his coming. If it be suport posed to be the true interpretation and meaning of the Scriptures, to publish final redemption, conversion, and falvation to all mankind, even the most wicked, in some distant future ftate, this will add great force to the present argument,
many ages after Moles, amongit the witeit OT the Greeks and Romans,
FOR it appears, that the Scriptures do virtually include, or even expressly assert, all that the modern philosophy has discovered or verified concerning these important subjects; which degree of illumination, as it can with no plausibility be accounted for in illiterate
men in the time of Augustus from natural causes, so much less can it ome in the preceding times, from Christ up to Moses. This proposition is ima included in the 20th ; however, the subject of it is of so much im
portance, as to deserve a separate place.
Here then, first, we may observe, that Mofes commands the Israelites to love God with all the hearts and soul, and might; whereas they are to love their neighbours only as themselves. Now, though this infinite superiority of the love due to God over that due to our neighbour be perfectly agreeable to that infinite majesty and
goodness of God, and nothingness of the creatures, which every new | discovery in philosophy now opens to viewį yet it was so little known,
the wiseft of the Greeks and Romans, thes that we cannot ascribe it to his mere natural fagacity. The natural mer equality of all men, and the self-annihilation implied in the precept
of loving all our brethren as well as ourselves, are also the genuine dictates of true philosophy
Secondly, in order to shew the divine authority of the Scriptures, from the manner in which the love of God is taught in them, we must consider not only the direct precepts concerning this love, but allo all those concerning hope, truit, fear, thankfulness, delight, &c. for all these concur to inculcate and beget in us the love of God. The same may be said of all the scriptural descriptions of God and his attributes, and of the address of good men to him, which are there recorded. God is declared in the Scriptures to be light, love, good. mess, the source of all happiness and perfection, the father and protector of all, 8. And the eminent persons who composed the Pfalms, and other such-like addresses to God, appear to have devoted themselves entirely to him. Now, when we reflect, that there is scarce any thing of this kind in the writings of the philosophers who preceded Christ, and nothing comparable to the Scripture expressions, even in those who came after him; when we farther reflect, that the writings of the abdest and best men of the present times contain nothing excellent of the devotional kind, but what may be found in the Scriptures, and even in the Old Testament; there seems to be a necessity for having recourse to divine inspiration, as the original fource of this great degree of illumination in the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles.
Thirdly, good persons are, in the Scriptures, styled “ Children "of God; members of Christ; partakers of the divine nature ; one
.. " with