Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

scription, and others which as clearly argue them to have been composed long after the occurrences which they relate (i).

Since then we are taught to consider the divine assistance as ever proportioned to the real wants of men; and since it must be granted that their natural faculties, though wholly incompetent to the prediction of future events, are adequate to the relation of such past occurrences as have fallen within the sphere of their own observation, we may infer that the historical books are not written with the same uniform Inspiration, which illumines every page of the prophetic writings. But at the same time we are to believe that God vouchsafed to guard these registers of his judgments and his mercies from all important mistakes ; and to impart, by supernatural means, as much information and assistance to those who composed them, as was requisite for the accomplishment of the great designs of his providence. In the antient Hebrew canon they were placed, as has been already observed, in the class of prophetical books; they are cited as such by the evangelical writers ; and it must surely be considered as a strong testimony to the constant opinion of the Jews respecting the Inspiration of these books, that they have never (i) Gray

dared

dared to annex any historical narrative to them since the death of Malachi. They closed the sacred Volume when the succession of Prophets ceased.

If it be asked by what rule we are to distinguish the inspired from the uninspired parts of these books, I answer, that no general rule can be prescribed for that purpose. Nor is it necessary that we should be able to make any such discrimination. It is enough for us to know, that every writer of the Old Testament was inspired, and that the whole of the history it contains, without any exception or reserve, is true. These points being ascertained and allowed, it is of very little consequence, whether the knowledge of a particular fact was obtained by any of the ordinary modes of information, or whether it was communicated by immediate Revelation from God; whether any particular passage was written by the natural powers of the historian, or whether it was written by the positive suggestion of the Holy Spirit.

We may in like manner suppose, that some of the precepts, delivered in the books called Hagiographa, were written without any supernatural assistance, though it is evident that others of them exceed the limits of human wisdom; and it would be equally impossible, as in the his

torical

torical Scriptures, to ascertain the character of particular passages which might be proposed. But here again a discrimination would be entirely useless. The books themselves furnish sufficient proofs that the writers of them were occasionally inspired; and we know also, that they were frequently quoted, particularly the Psalms, as prophetical, by our Saviour and his apostles, in support of the religion which they preached. Hence we are under an indispensable obligation to admit the divine authority of the whole of these books, which have the same claim to our faith and obedience, as if they had been written under the influence of a constant and universal Inspiration.

But whatever uncertainty there may be concerning the direct Inspiration of any historical narrative, or of any moral precept, contained in the Old Testament, we must be fully convinced that all its prophetical parts proceeded from God. This is continually affirmed by the prophets themselves, and is demonstrated by the indubitable testimony which history bears to the accurate fulfilment of many of these predictions; others are gradually receiving their accomplishment in the times in which we live, and afford the surest pledge and most positive security for the completion of those which remain to be fulfilled. The past, the present, and the future, have a connected reference to one great plan, which infinite wisdom, prescience, and power, could alone form, reveal, and execute. Every succeeding age throws an increasing light upon these sacred writings, and contributes additional evidence to their divine origin.

filled,

I have thus given an historical detail of the gradual production and preservation of the books of the Old Testament, and of their formation into a regular Canon; I have also stated the grounds of our belief in the integrity of the copies which have been transmitted to us, and the general arguments in favour of the Authenticity and Inspiration of these invaluable writings. But as it is the practice of the sceptics of the present day to endeavour to shake the foundations of Christianity by undermining the authority of the Old Testament; and as their attacks are particularly directed against the genuineness and credit of the Books of Moses, upon which the other antient Scriptures greatly depend, it may be useful to offer some farther considerations to prove, that the Pentateuch was really the work of Moses, and that it is our duty, as St. Paul thought it his,

to believe all things which are written in the law and in the prophets (k)." (k) Acts, C, 24. v. 14.

The

The first argument to be adduced in favour of the genuineness of the Pentateuch, is the universal concurrence of all antiquity. The rival kingdoms of Judah and Israel, the hostile sects of Jews and Samaritans, and every denomination of early Christians, received the Pentateuch as unquestionably written by Moses ; and we find it mentioned and referred to by many heathen authors, in a manner which plainly shews it to have been the general and undisputed opinion in the pagan world, that this book was the work of the Jewish legislator. Nicolaus of Damascus (1), after describing Baris, a high mountain in Armenia, upon which it was reported that many, who fled at the time of the deluge, were saved, and that one came on shore upon the top of it from an ark, which was a great while preserved, adds, “ this might be the man about whom Moses, the legislator of the Jews, wrote (m).” We are told that Alexander Polyhistor (n) mentioned a

(1) A peripatetic philosopher, and a poet, historian, and orator of great eminence, in the time of Augustus, Nothing remains of his works but some fragments preserved in other authors.

(m) Jos. Ant. lib. 1. cap. 3.

(n) He was called Polyhistor from his great knowledge of antiquity. He wrote an Universal History, mentioned by several authors, but now lost. He lived about fifty years before Christ.

history

« AnteriorContinuar »