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justice, and providence, and a submissive resignation to his will under great afflictions.
From them may be gathered a system of most pure and strict morality, the observance of which, as our Lord de clares, would expose his followers to many inconveniences and much ill usage, and should not be fully recompensed before the next state.
In them are seen his prudence and wisdom in exposing superstition and hypocrisy, in inducing men to repentance, sometimes by amiable representations of God's mercy, sometimes by awful declarations of his justice, and in shunning ostentation and applause.
In them appear charity, condescension, affability, love and pity to mankind.
From his discourses we may conclude that his behaviour was suitable to them; for, if his deeds had contradicted his words, he would have been despised, and could have made no disciples.
It was well observed by Origen ”, that amongst the many slanders which had been forged and uttered against Jesus by Jews and Gentiles, none had dared to accuse him of having offenced in the slightest degree against purity and chastity, and that spite and calumny itself had spared that part of his character.
From his discourses, therefore, and his behaviour, they are recorded in the gospels, we may conclude that he was, as he declared himself to be, the Son of God. If we should suppose him to have been an impostor and a false prophet, a character would arise full of such contradiction and inconsistency, of such prudence and folly, of such knowledge and ignorance, of such goodness and wickedness, as never appeared in the worid before or since.
Another proof which the writings of the New Testament afford of their own authority, arises from the prophecies contained in them. We find there predictions of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the conversion of the
» Ου μηδε οι μυρία κατηγορήσαντες, και ψευδή όσα περί αυτού λές γοντες, δεδύνηνται κατειπείν, ως καν το τυχόν ακολασίας καν επ' ολίγον wrapérou. Contr. Cels. iii. p. 132.
Gentiles by the speedy and extensive propagation of the gospel.
VI. If we should suppose that the writers of the New Testament had no extraordinary assistance from God in composing their books and epistles, the prophetic parts excepted, the truth of the Christian religion in general might still be proved; there would still be sufficient evidence that Christ came from God to teach men to live soberly, righteously, and piously, that he wrought miracles, that he died and rose again, that his apostles received supernatural powers by which they were enabled to propagate the gospel.
The writers of the New Testament were apostles, or companions of the apostles, who had conversed with Christ, who spent their time in converting men to the Christian religion, and in presiding over the Church ; who preached a more perfect morality than had been taught before; who lived suitably to their own doctrines, and many of whom laid down their lives in testimony of the truth. Consequently we may esteem them honest men and faithful historians. But since an honest man may possibly mistake, not indeed in facts which he affirms to be true upon his own knowledge, but in inferences from those facts, in precepts and doctrines, or in delivering the sentiments of others, if we can say no more in behalf of the writers of the New Testament, their authority will be only human. There seems requisite something besides a good life and a mind purified from passion and prejudice, to qualify them to be the first teachers of a new revelation, namely, a divine assistance, which we call inspiration.
How far, and in what degree the apostles were inspired, is not easy to determine, nor, consequently, necessary to be known. Thus much we may affirm, that they were assisted of God o to give us a faithful account of the things which we ought to believe and to perform, that we may obtain eternal life P.
Spiritus sanctus apostolos et evangelistas confirmavit in doctrina evangelica : in cæteris rebus, ut hominibus, reliquit quæ sunt hominum. Grotius ad Act. vii. 3.
The divine Providence hath not judged it proper to conduct us to
For (1.) The apostles had a promise of divine assistance upon certain occasions.
When they deliver you up,' says Christ, “take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your
Father which speaketh in you.' Whence we may reason thus : If the apostles were to receive from the Holy Ghost a skill to speak what was proper when they appeared in public to defend Christianity, we may suppose that they were guided by the same Spirit in their writings; because this was of greater importance, and more worthy of the divine interposition. By speaking justly they might confute some adversaries, preserve themselves and their religion from the contempt of their hearers, and convert and confirm that part of the assembly which had good dispositions ; but their writings were designed for the service not of four or five hundred men, but of all ages
and nations. (2.) Our Saviour promised his apostles that the Holy Ghost should continually abide with them, that he should lead them into all truth, and that in particular he should bring to their remembrance whatsvever Christ had said unto them ; which will appear to have been necessary, if we consider that the gospels consist, in a great measure, of the discourses of Christ, that Christ conversed with
eternal life by operating irresistibly upon our heart, or by offering invincible evidence to our understanding, or by securing us from all mistake, or by delivering us from all doubt. The first teachers of Christianity were not appointed to publish an edition or translation of the Old Testament, which should correct every little transposition, &c., that had entered into it, nor to explain every prophecy and solve every difficulty contained in it, nor to give a catalogue of all the sacred books extant in their time, nor to explain some things which themselves have delivered obscurely and in part, nor to write books in which there should be nothing hard to be understood, and of uncertain signification. The divine Wisdom has not judged it necessary to preserve the copies of the New Testament from the errors of transcribers aud translators, or to raise up a succession of prophets to determine the controversies arising in the church. But the great truths of natural and revealed reli: gion, and the great duties of life, and the divine power, wisdom, and goodness of Jesus Christ, and the miraculous and prophetic testimony of the Holy Ghost, and the sacred authority of the apostles, are clearly taught in the Scriptures, and supported with an evidence sufficient to satisfy a rational inquirer. For those whom this evidence will not move, God has provided no remedy,
them at least for three years, that they had at that time very imperfect notions of the religion which he came to teach, and of the office to which they should be appointed; and that, in all probability, they had not collected materials for the gospels 9, or set down his discourses, whilst he was with them.
(3.) Our Lord told his disciples that they were not then disposed to receive and understand some truths which the Holy Ghost should afterwards reveal to them; and the apostles have taught us some things which are not to be found in the gospels, or are not clearly delivered there; as the design and the abolition of the ceremonial law, certain relative duties, and some particulars concerning the worship of God and the regulation of Christian societies or churches,
It is therefore a vain distinction which some have at. tempted to make between the precepts or doctrines of Christ, and those of the apostles, as if less regard were to be paid to the latter than to the former. Our Saviour seems plainly to equal the apostles to himself, as teachers, commands all men to receive them, to hear them, and to pay
the same deference to them as to him. (4.) Lastly, the apostles", upon several occasions, affirm that they had an extraordinary guidance of the Holy Spirit ; they declare that they had received their doctrines not from men, but from Jesus Christ, and that every one who pretended to inspiration must acknowledge this, or ought to pass for an impostor, if he owned it not. They say that they had the mind of Christ; they call their doctrine the word of God and of Christ, the commandment of God and of the Lord, the wisdom of God, the wisdom which God had revealed to them by his Spirit, and words which the Holy Ghost had taught them, the testimony of God, the Gospel of God, by which men should be judged: they assert that they are of God, that he who knoweth
9 When Christ, after his resurrection, seat forth his apostles, he gave them no command to write.
r Rom. ii. 16. i Cor. ii. 7. 10. 12, 13. xiv. 37. Ephes. iii. 3. 5. 1 Thess. ii. 13. iy. 15. 1 Joh. iv. 6, &c, See Whitby, Gen. Pref. vol. i.
God heareth them, and that he who heareth them not is not of God.
VII. It cannot be denied that the Scriptures s are often obscure and difficult, as for example, where the subject is prophecy or controversy, where words and phrases are used which are not to be found in other authors, and are now become of uncertain signification ; and where doctrines are revealed not fully, but in part.
Besides the obscurity arising from the subject and the style, the Scriptures have other difficulties common to all books which are very antient and written in dead languages.
But many parts of the Scriptures are clear, and particularly those which relate to morality', to practical religion.
When we say that the Scriptures are clear in many places, the meaning is, that they will be clear to those who iake the proper inethods to understand them, and seek instruction, and pray to God for direction and assistance, and are desirous to obey and please him.
Persons of dispositions equally good, will understand more or less of the Scriptures according to their several capacities and opportunities u; and that degree of knowledge which in the poor and illiterate were highly com
• There are those to whom nothing of this kind is obscure, and trho determine the most difficult points without hesitation; happy, in never feeling the uneasiness of doubt and suspense,
· Felices errore suo!' some danger of being elated with pride; as the ears of corn which are emptiest carry their heads the highest.
t In jis quæ unicuique necessaria sunt creditu, speratu, factu, valde est perspicua Scriptura. In cæteris quanta opus sit cognitione linguarum, collatione versionum, quanto labore, experti sunt veteres, et munc expe.iuntur qui in eo desudant. Grotius, Annot. ad Consult. Cassand.
They who say that human learning is of no use in religion, are no more to be disputed with than the honest man in Horace,
Qui se credebat miros audire tragedos,
In vacuo lætus sessor plausorque theatro.'. He who strives and expects to convince and alter such persons, either undervalues his time and pains, or overvalues his abilities.
· Sula Scripturarum ars est,' says Jerome, quam sibi omnes passim