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CHA P. III.
THE INSPIRATION OF THE NEW TESTA
WE have spoken, in the preceding chapter, of the canonical Scriptures, or those writings which the church hath recognized, as conftituting the only rule of faith and manners to the profeffers of the Chriftian religion. We do not mean, however, that our faith in them is founded in the care, with which the hath difcriminated them from other writings claiming inspiration, and the decrees which she hath published in their favour. It is a paradox, which none could believe, but those who are able to digeft the monstrous figment of tranfubstantiation, that the Scriptures derive all their authority from the church, which derives all her authority from them. On what grounds, it might be asked, does the church affert their infpiration? If it should be answered,
that the present church is poffeffed of traditional evidence from the teftimony of the ancient fathers and doctors; afcending through the intermediate ages, to the time when the books were first prefented to the world, we afk again, by what confiderations the primitive church was induced to receive them as infpired? The evidences which fatisfied the first Chriftians, may fatisfy us; and it is not reasonable to demand, that lefs fhould fuffice us, while our intereft is equally great as theirs in afcertaining the truth. They were too wise to submit, in fo important a matter, to bare authority, or fimple affirmation. Some of the evidences, indeed, which were prefented to them, being tranfient facts, cannot be fubjected to the teft of our fenfes; but if it can be proved, that fuch facts actually took place, the impreffion made upon our minds, though it may not equal in vivacity the impreffion made upon theirs, will he fo ftrong as to produce full conviction. The difadvantage, which may be fuppofed to arise from our not having witneffed the facts, is compensated by a new fpecies of evidence, which is the refult of the progrefs of time, and the evolution of events; but which it was
impoffible, that thofe, to whom the facred books were first presented, could enjoy. The intelligent reader will eafily perceive, that I allude to the evidence of prophecy.
The natural order of the books requires, that I fhould, in the first place, bring arguments in fupport of the infpiration of the Old Teftament. But though this method might, with propriety, be adopted, and, by proving the inspiration of the Jewish, we would pave the way for proving - that of the Chriftian Scriptures; yet it will afterwards appear, that, by beginning with the New Teftament, we fhall more eafily and effectually accomplish our purpose.
In favour of the inspiration of the New Teftament, there are three proofs, which I fhall illustrate in this, and the following chapter. The firft is drawn from the credit, which the verbal testimony of the apoftles concerning Jefus Chrift, obtained in the world; the fecond, from the reception of their writings; and the third, from the contents of those writings.
I. The infpiration of the New Teftament, may be inferred from the credit, which the teftimony concerning
concerning Jefus Chrift, emitted by the writers in the course of their public ministry, obtained. The defign of the prefent argument is to shew, from the reception of their teftimony, that they were accredited, attefted meffengers from God; and, by a natural and obvious inference, to demonftrate the divine authority of their writings. Its force will be more fully perceived from the fubfequent illustration.
The apoftles were competent witneffes of thofe facts which they attefted, and on which the Chriftian religion is founded. Their testimony did not relate to certain abstract points, in forming a judgment of which, they might have been mifled through the fophiftry of others, or erred through their own inadvertence or incapacity; nor to events, which had happened before their birth, or in a distant region of the earth, and of which, therefore, they might have received falfe information. It refpected facts which they had witneffed with their eyes, and with their ears. They had lived with Chrift, during the whole time of his ministry; they had heard all his discourses, and feen all his wonderful works. The advantages which they enjoyed for afcertaining the truth