« AnteriorContinuar »
pervert their judgments, and corrupt their hearts. When the danger increases, our vigilance should be doubled, and our precautions fhould be multiplied. The peril of the prefent times, therefore, loudly calls upon us to examine with care the evidences of our religion, and to acquaint orrfelves with the arguments, by which the inspiration of the Scriptures is demonftrated, that no man may spoil us, "through philofophy and vain deceit," of that precious treasure with which our most valuable earthly poffeffions deserve not to be compared.
I order to affift thofe, who may perufe this effay, in conducting an enquiry fo interesting, I shall obferve the following plan.
FIRST, I fhall give an account of the inspiration of the Scriptures; or fhall fhew in what fenfe I believe them to be infpired.
In the SECOND place, I fhall, point out the writings of which the inspiration is afferted by the Chriftian church; and affign fome reafons why we attribute a divine original to these alone.
In the THIRD place, I fhall prove the infpiration of the Scriptures, by a variety of arguments.
LASTLY, I fhall confider the principal objec tions of infidels against their inspiration.
THE NATURE OF INSPIRATION; OR, THE SENSE IN WHICH WE BELIEVE THE SCRIPTURES TO BE INSPIRED.
I DEFINE infpiration to be fuch an influence of the Holy Ghost on the understandings, imaginations, memories, and other mental powers of the writers of the facred books, as perfectly qualified them for communicating to the world the knowledge of the will of God. The definition is expreffed in general terms; and it will be neceffary, therefore, in order to give clear and precise ideas of the fubject, to defcend to particulars.
Inftead of retailing the opinions of others, I fhall fubmit to the confideration of the reader, the following account of the inspiration of the Scriptures:
I. There are many things in the Scriptures, which the writers might have known, and probably did know, by ordinary means. As perfons poffeffed.
poffeffed of memory, judgment, and the other intellectual faculties which are common to men, they were able to relate certain events, in which they had been perfonally concerned; and to make fuch occafional reflections, as were fuggefted by particular fubjects and occurrences. In thefe cafes, no fupernatural influence was neceffary to invigorate their minds: it was only neceffary, that they should be infallibly preferved from error. It is with respect to fuch paffages of Scripture alone, as it did not exceed the natural ability of the writers to compofe, that I would admit the notion of fuperintendence, if it fhould be admitted at all. Perhaps this word, though of established use, and almost undisputed authority, fhould be entirely laid afide, as infufficient to exprefs even the lowell degree of infpiration. In the paffages of Scripture which we are now confidering, I conceive the writers to have been not merely fuperintended, that they might commit no error, but likewife to have been moved, or excited by the Holy Ghoft to record particular events, and fet down particular obfervations. The paffages written in confequence of the direction, and under the care of the divine Spirit, may be faid, in
an inferior fenfe, to be infpired; whereas if the men had written them at the fuggestion of their own fpirit, they would not have poffeffed any more authority, though they had been free from error, than those parts of profane writings, which are agreeable to truth.
II. There are other parts of the Scriptures, in which the faculties of the writers were fupernaturally invigorated and elevated. It is impoffi ble for us, and, perhaps, it was not poffible for the inspired perfon himself, to determine, where nature ended, and inspiration began. It is enough to know, that there are many parts of Scripture, in which, though the unaffifted mind might have proceeded fome fteps, a divine impulfe was neceffary to enable it to advance. I think, for example, that the Evangelifts could not have written the hiftory of Chrift, if they had not enjoyed miraculous aid. Two of them, Matthew and John, accompanied our Saviour during the space of three years and a half. At the close of this period, or rather feveral years after it, when they, wrote their gofpels, we may be certain that they had forgotten many of his difcourfes and miracles; that they recollected others indiftinctly;