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THE PRESERVATION AND TRANSMISSION OF THE SCRIPTURES.
[Pseiched at the opening of the Synod of Fife, October 13. 1778.]
Isaiah, li. 4.—7.
Hearken unto me, my people, and give ear unto me, 0 my nation: for a law Jhallproceed from me, and I will make my judgement to rest for a light of the people. My righteousness is near: my salvation is gone forth; and mine arm shall judge the people: the istes stjall wait upon mey and on mine arm jhall they trust. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath : for the heavens stjall vanish away like smoke, and the earth stjall wax old like a gar-* ment, and they that dwell therein jhall die in like manner: but my salvation stjall be for ever, and my righteousness stall not be abolished.
Glorious things are said of the Gospel of Jesus: whatever is great and excellent in nature, and all the magnificence of the kingdoms of this world, are but faint shadows of "the glory that excelleth when language seems to be exhausted, in describing the surpassing passing majesty and blessedness of the reign of the Messiah, the inspired description of it ends with, it is unspeakable; the heart of man can conceive nothing so perfect or so happy. PART I.
The dawn of the Gospel commenced almost with the beginning of the world. During its progress to the perfect day, kingdoms have arisen and flourished, have decayed and fallen; various revolutions have shaken all nations: but the kingdom of the Messiah is "an everlasting kingdom; his dominion shall *' not be destroyed."
The verses now read assert the perpetuity of the Gospel, and suppose its truth and excellence. These are most important and interesting subjects. Much learning and wisdom have been employed in their illustration. Perhaps it is hardly to be expected that any thing can now be suggested that is entirely new; but if what I mean to offer shall be found satisfying, if it serve to heighten our admiration of the divine Providence, and to confirm our faith in the Gospel of Jesus, this is enough. Did Jews attend to the follow
ing reflections, Jews would become Christians: did Papists attend to them, Papists would become Protestants: did the irreligious attend to them, they would be convinced: by attending to them, believers are more established and confirmed in the faith of the Gospel. Give us any reason to hope for such effects, and we shall be perfectly pleased, without the praise of novelty or ingeniousness.
The transmission of the Scriptures, the manner of their conveyance, the characters of those who have communicated them, are the subjects of this discourse: It is naturally divided into two parts: firjl, The preservation and transmission of the Old Testament; fecond, The preservation and transmission of the New Testament.
The field is extensive too extensive to be travelled over in the time to which I must confine myself. I shall endeavour therefore, to bring together, within a very narrow compass, what might have been extended to a great length.
The preservation and transmission of the Old Testament are to be considered.
To introduce this argument with advantage, it is proper to take a general view of the nature and excellence of the ancient Scriptures. These writings are a collection of doctrines, of laws, of histories, of prophecies. Considering them in each of these points of light, we shall be convinced of their safe transmission from age to age.
In the possession of the Jews, whom some chuse to represent as a rude and barbarous people, are books of unrivalled antiquity, in which we find the sublimest doctrines respecting the divine nature. In them the glory of the Deity is asserted and manifested. He is the Self-existent, All-mighty, All-sufficient; the Creator, the Governor of the universe.
The Mosaic account of the creation of the world, of the origin of evil, of the progress of society, are most rational. When
we we compare with it the cosmology of the Heathens, either by poets or philosophers, and the legends of their historians, we cannot refrain crying out, *' This, this is the truth!" We feel ourselves affected as men are, on emerging from a thick and gloomy wood, where they have long wandered, into light, and a sure and patent way. We leave intricacy and confusion, for regularity and enjoyment. But we find, in the comparison between Scripture-history and heathen'traditions, some degree of analogy; and cannot well hesitate in concluding, that many of them, if not all, proceeded originally from this source; but tinged, and changed, and corrupted, according to the regions through which they flowed. Climate and foil, the peculiar genius and manners of a people, length of time, and such like circumstances, produce great effects of this nature.