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for heaven, and eternity; and the greatness of his soul is suited to the dignity of the objects. But he no sooner loses sight of these, and meanly turns his unbounded appetite of grandeur to low and little objects, than he presents us with the ridiculous view of a sage quarrelling for cockle-shells, or an emperor catching flies; proud, if his worthy endeavours succeed; and miserably chagrined, if they fail. There is but one thing in nature commensurate to the wishes of an immortal soul; and the true religion alone shews us how to arrive at that. Nothing else can restore us to the dignity of our nature, can denominate us truly wise, can make us truly great and happy. Why do we esteem ourselves superior to the brute creation, if it is not because we are endued with reason? But what comes of this distinction, if reason serves no better purpose than teaching us to be a little more ingeniously brutal? If in this consists the excellence of our nature, why is it decased to mere animal uses? Why does it not teach us to aspire, through rational piety and love, to the source of all being, all beauty, all excellence, all good? What is man without reason? He is a world inhabited by nothing but serpents, wolves, and lions. And what is reason without religion? It is a lamp not yet lighted; or an eye in the dark; or a country naturally fertile and beautiful, but so blasted, that all above the soil is withered; and all the roots and seeds of useful plants beneath are as totally destroyed, as if some malignant spirit had been preparing it for the habitation of himself, and his hideous associates. The whole creation would be nothing, or worse than nothing, without God. But the rational soul must be the most lost and miserable of all creatures, if cut off from God; for God is the light, the life, the very soul, of the soul. Now nothing but religion can unite the soul to God. And what is religion, but the knowledge, the fear, the love of God, curing the corruptions, and exalting the virtues of the soul to a resemblance of infinite excellence?
But God is not seen as he really is; and consequently cannot be regarded, imitated, or served, as he ought to be, through the medium of a wrong religion, which misrepresents him to the mind, as a wavy uneven glass does all objects to the eye. If he is represented to us as nothing but mercy, he cannot be feared; if as nothing but justice, he
cannot be loved; if he is not both loved and feared, he cannot be worthily served, unless his proper service is supposed to consist in presumption, or despair. If he is set forth as vicious, revengeful, cruel, he cannot be imitated, but to the farther depravation of the soul. If he is exhibited as neither knowing, nor caring for, what his creatures do, as neither a rewarder of virtue, nor a punisher of vice, then religion differs not in effect from Atheism; all law must be imposi tion; all government, tyranny; and the whole world a hell of wickedness and confusion.
Hence it appears, that a false religion is better than no religion, only in proportion as it approaches nearer to the true. And what follows? but that it is the first duty, and the highest interest of a man, to search, with all possible candour, with all possible diligence, for the true religion; and when he hath discovered it, which, I think, such an inquirer cannot fail to do, is it not then as much his duty and interest to give it the absolute government of himself? If he can make himself easy before he hath accomplished this work, let his stupidity in other things be ever so great, I must assure him, his ease of mind on this head is infinitely the highest proof of his folly. What name then shall we give it in him, who, as to all other knowable matters, surprises us with the evident signs of sensibility, judgment, and prudence? Here language fails me, and therefore I shall make an end with
Most humbly beseeching the Father of Lights, and Fountain of Wisdom, to guide us by his Holy Spirit into all truth, that, 'having proved all things, we may hold fast that which is good,' to the eternal salvation of our souls, and the glory of his name; to whom be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now, and for evermore. Amen.
THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD.
2 TIM. III. 14—17.
Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned, and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them:
And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God; and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
THE word Scripture,' of which so high a character is given in this passage, signifies, by its derivation, only a writing; but here is put for certain writings, whereof God is supposed to be the author or inspirer. When the apostle tells Timothy, he had known these Scriptures, or writings, from a child,' he speaks of the books contained in the Old Testament only, which, as they prophesied of the Messiah, and pointed out him, and his religion, to the reader, were able, therefore, to make that reader wise unto salvation, through faith in Jesus' the Messiah; but, when he says 'all Scripture is given by inspiration of God,' he extends the signification of the word to the writings of the New Testament also, which he took to be the dictates of Divine inspiration, as well as those of the Old.
The books he comprehends under the name of Scriptures, thus eminently understood, speak in the same high strain concerning the inspiration of God, and of its necessity, in order to true and saving wisdom. They acknowledge there is a rational faculty in man, whereby he may attain to knowledge in sensible and temporal things; and whereby also he may judge of higher matters, when God is pleased to instruct him therein; but, as to these latter, they represent God as the only sufficient teacher, and every where send us to him for instruction. There is a spirit in man,' says Elihu, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them
understanding;' Job xxxii. 8. God himself intimates the same by the questions he puts to Job, chap. xxxviii. 36. Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given. understanding to the heart?' David prays incessantly to God for wisdom: Give me understanding, and I shall live,' Psalm cxix. 144. Let my cry come near before thee, O Lord; give me understanding, according to thy word ;' ver. 169. Solomon exhorts his readers, on all occasions, to seek for wisdom of God, to whose gift alone he ascribes it, both in himself and others: The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding;' Prov. ii. 6. Christ thanks his Father,' Luke x. 21, 'for revealing those articles of wisdom unto babes, which he had hid from the wise and prudent;' and promises, chap. xxi. 15, to give his disciples a mouth, and wisdom, which all their adversaries should not be able to gainsay, or resist.' 'If any of you lack wisdom,' says St. James, chap. i. 5, 'let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given you.' St. Peter ascribes all prophecy to inspiration: The prophecy,' says he, 'came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;' 2 Pet. i. 21. A great deal more might be added, to shew, that the penmen of the Bible endeavour to represent God as the fountain of wisdom, or true religion; and themselves as only the scribes, who record in writing what God is pleased to dictate.
But whereas every religion lays claim to a divine original, as well as that contained in the books just now mentioned; and whereas Mahometism produces a written record of itself, which it ascribes to God, and his angels, as inspiring or dictating whatsoever Mahomet committed to writing; it is the business of a rational inquirer to examine them all by the rules and signs recommended in the former Discourse, that he may make a competent judgment of their merits, before he finally fixes his choice. To avoid impertinence and prolixity on this occasion, we will suppose this inquiry over in regard to all religions but that of the Bible; and terminated in a rejection of some, for wanting a fixed system of principles properly recorded; and, of others, not for wanting a record indeed, but for having one stuffed with such absurdities and contradictions as reason cannot possi
bly receive for divine inspiration. Having, by this supposition, left ourselves but one religion to inquire into, we may perhaps in the compass of this Discourse arrive at satisfaction as to that. If any one, who hears me is surprised at my saying there is but one religion contained in the Bible, whereas Judaism, or Christianity, hath, or, at least, in different ages of the world, must have had, an equal right to found itself on some part or other of that book; he ought to know, that Christianity, rightly understood, disowns the distinction; and represents itself as the religion given to the first man, and never altered, from the beginning to the publication of the last-written book in the New Testament, as to its great fundamentals, belief in one God, and the Messiah; but only in mere modes of worship, and obedience, wherewith God thought proper to diversify, to enlarge, to explain, or to enforce it, at different periods of time. If both Testaments are the work of God, they do, they can, contain but one religion, because there neither is, nor possibly can be, but one true religion; nor is it to be supposed God could ever give any other. Now he who believes God to be the author of the Old Testament, must believe him also the author of the New; because, if he is not, the prophecies of the Old, relating to the Messiah, which make a great part of it, must be false.
The Jews, who, from Christ's time to this, have mistaken Christianity for a religion essentially different from their own, have, in reality, apostatized from the religion of the Old Testament; and have given the lie to all their prophets, in saying Jesus was not the Messiah; while, at the same time, they confirmed, as far as in them lay, the truth of their predictions, by what they did to him, and have since done, in respect to his religion. It is true, they and the Christians have now two distinct religions; because the former, resting in the exterior and temporary part of the Scriptural religion, which, by its own confession, was only preparatory to a more spiritual and lasting dispensation, rejected that faith they themselves waited for, as the grand accomplishment of all revelation. While they served God in the type or shadow,' and hoped for 'better things yet to come,' at a certain period predicted, they acted consistently with the scheme of religion laid down in their own Scriptures.