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CHA P. VII.
OBJECTIONS AGAINST THE INSPIRATION OF
Y the arguments in the preceding chapters, it may be expected, that a conviction of the divine authority of the Scriptures will be produced in the mind of every unprejudifed and attentive reader. But though freedom from prejudice be indispensably requifite to an impartial investigation of any subject in debate, and there be no qualification of which infidels talk and boast so much, even infinuating, or boldly afferting, that they alone are poffeffed of it; yet there are no perfons in the world more evidently under the influence of prepoffeffion than they are, when any question relative to revelation is difcuffed. Their preju dices are of two kinds, and may be properly term
ed intellectual, and moral. Certain preconceived notions concerning the divine character and adminiftrations, and the perfection of the human understanding, which are incompatible with the revelation contained in the Scriptures, and indeed, with the very idea of a revelation, determine them to reject it without taking time to ponder, with calmness and deliberation, the evidences in its favour. They think themfelves authorised to treat the evidences as infufficient, without even waiting. till they be laid before them; as a man may safely refufe to hear arguments against axioms, or felfevident principles, because he is fure that they must be fophiftical. They do not examine whether their preconceived notions be true; but af fuming their truth as incontrovertible, they pronounce the doctrine which contradicts them to be falfe, and by confequence, to be the offspring of ignorance or impofture. But thefe are not the only, nor perhaps the frongest prejudices by which the minds of infidels are warped. Thofe which originate in the flate of the heart, in its inclinations and affections, are the most powerful,
· “and contribute in an effectual, though imperceptible manner, to pervert the understanding. There
are certain liberties in which men are naturally fond of indulging; mortifications for which they feel the utmoft averfion and horror; pleafures on which they rush with an impetuofity, to which reason and prudence oppofe their dictates in vain. If revelation restrain thofe liberties, enjoin thofe mortifications, condemn thofe pleafures, it is not furprising that it should meet with an unfriendly reception. When it comes to claim the love and homage of the heart, it finds it pre-occupied. That infidels are naturally or constitutionally more depraved than other men, it would be foolish to affert, nor do I even believe that they are all licen tious in their manners; but while the more fober part, who are comparatively few, are misled by the prejudices of the understanding, the conduct of a great majority discovers that their hoftility to the Scriptures fprings from the corrupt paffions of their hearts. It is not difficult to divine, why the authority of a book, which inculcates the pureft leffons of virtue, is called in question by the votaries of vice.
From the fource of prejudice flow all the objections against revelation, which occur in the converfation and writings of infidels.
reafon has little, or rather no concern in fuggefting them. Some of thefe objections it will now be proper to confider, because they frequently come in our way, and it is wife to have answers to them ready for the preservation of the peace of our own minds, and the defence and honour of the truth. Living in the midst of enemies, we fhould have our weapons always in our hands. The objections are of two kinds. Some are intended to disprove a divine revelation in general; while the more particular aim of others is to fhow, that thofe books, which Jews and Chriftians receive as divine, are falfely faid to be infpired. I fhall take notice only of the chief objections; and from the eafe with which they are: repelled, the reader will be able to judge, how infignificant the other cavils of infidelity muft
I. The firft argument against the inspiration of the Scriptures, is founded on this general principle, that the light of nature is fufficient to teach us our duty, and to conduct us to happinefs. If this principle be true, a revelation is unneceffary; whence it follows, that as God does nothing in
vain, the Scriptures were not dictated by his Spirit, but are the work of men, who have given to their own productions the name of his oracles. As this principle is the bafis on which infidelity refts, and one of the chief caufes why the authority of the Scriptures is fo violently contested, we shall beftow fome attention upon it.
By the light of nature, must be meant thofe discoveries of the perfections and the will of God, which are afforded by the works of creation and -providence, in connection with the ability or power of unaffifted reason, to trace those discoveries, and draw from them the proper conclufions. It is plain, that whatever inferences are deducible from the divine works and difpenfations, if our minds be too feeble to deduce them, we are precisely in the fame fituation, as if we were not furnished with the premises; and we ftand in need of a teacher, or a book to point them out to our attention. The objection fupposes that every man in the world, may, by the exercife of his own faculties, without any affistance from others, acquire juft notions of God, and his duty, and his final deftination; for if this ability be poffeffed only by a few, a revelation is manifeftly useful, and