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other evidence than the authority of the writers, before we can yield to them a rational affent. It is evident that fuch a view of the Scriptures would involve us in endless enquiries and difputations, and by giving scope to unreftrained fpeculation, would favour the introduction of the wildeft, and moft contradictory opinions. There would be no fixed ftandard to which we could appeal. But if the facred books be inspired, these inconveniences are obviated. All difcuffion is fuperfeded, except with regard to their meaning; and as they are in general perfpicuous, and easy to be understood, we may, by due application, attain the certain knowledge of the effential doctrines and duties of religion.
An attentive obferver cannot have failed to remark a very ftriking peculiarity of the present times. It is the influence of the principles of infidelity upon many
profeffors of the Chriftian religion. The bold oppofition made to fome doctrines of revelation, renders them afhamed, or afraid to avow them, without, at least, fuch qualifications and changes, as fhall fmpoth their afperities, and leffen their apparent incredibility. In fome inftances fuch conceffions are made, as amount to a com plete furrender of the point in debate.. The infpiration of the Scriptures is an article of our faith, againft which infidels: have directed all the arguments whichtheir ingenuity could furnish, and all the abufe which their malice could invent. What is the confequence? Many profef-fed champions of Chriftianity feem to have concluded that the article is not tenable, because it hath been furiously affailed; and' accordingly they have abandoned it wholly, or in part, to the ene-my. Few writers, indeed, who now un-dertake to defend the caufe of revelation, hold the plenary inspiration of the Scrip-a 3
tures. That idea has become unfashionable; it is claffed with other opinions of our fathers, which are exploded as the fooleries of enthufiafm, and superstitious credulity; and he only is reckoned to think rationally on the fubject, who looks upon the facred books as partly human, and partly infpired; as a heterogeneous compound of the oracles of God, and the ftories and fentiments of men. There are even fome, by whom this partial infpiration is denied, and the Scriptures are regarded as the writings of faith ful, but fallible men, who had nothing to preferve them from error but the accura ey of their information, and the integrity of their hearts. The fpirit of infidelity is: working among Chriftians themselves.
The infpiration of the Scriptures is a point which Chriftians are too generally chargeable with taking upon truft. Few of them ftudy the arguments by which it is evinced, and provide themselves with
anfwers to the objections which infidels oppofe to it. It is a doctrine which hath been received by tradition from their fathers, and which, upon their authority, the greater part believe to be true. We need not wonder, then, that, in a time of trial like the prefent, when the efforts of infidelity are unusually bold and vigorous, there fhould be a great falling away among the profeffors of religion; nor can fuch apoftacy be deplored on any other ground, than as it affects the immortal interests of those who are involved in it. It is attended with no real lofs to the caufe of revelation, and it reflects no difhonour upon it: for of what advantage are numbers, if they be deftitute of principle; and what dif credit can arise to the Scriptures from the desertion of perfons, whofe attachment was lefs the effect of deliberate choice than of accident? There is no reafon for being alarmed, as if fuch an event portended a general defection. Raw,
undifciplined troops may give way at the first onfet; but veterans, fkilled in the art of defence, and accustomed to danger, will keep the field, in defiance of the most furious attacks of the enemy.
It is unquestionably our duty to bewail the progrefs of unbelief and error; but we ought not, even during their greatest triumph, to fuffer our minds to fink into defpondency. The interefts of truth are patronized by the Ruler of the world, who is able to render events, apparently the most adverfe, conducive to their profperity; and who, by a fublime and my Rerious procefs, is continually bringing good out of evil. May we not hope, that at this moment, God is purifying the church, by the agency of her enemies ;, and that, while their endeavours to deftroy Christianity fhall ultimately ferve. to diffuse it more widely, and establish it more firmly, the immediate effect fhall be, to render its friends more fteady and courageous;: