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kind should have difficulties to elucidate; or, in other words, that difficulties should always exist. A gradual solution is what the stability of the Christian faith demands, so that the continuance would seem as necessary as the magnitude of some "things hard to be understood."
Lastly, had the difficulties of Scripture been extremely limited in their number, they would have excited but little attention, and so have become comparatively inefficient in either renewing or confirming us in our belief.
For all these reasons, it is clear, that to render Scripture difficulties really and universally beneficial, their present multitude and magnitude could scarce have been safely diminished; whilst to render them permanently useful, it is equally requisite that a considerable portion should remain to be explained by each succeeding age. Not only ought there to be some and slight, but many and great "things hard to be understood;" and they should be found there not only yesterday and to-day, but yesterday, to-day, and for ever. And such in the Bible is actually the case.
The preceding considerations apply, though with different degrees of force, to the existence of every difficulty which bears testimony to the
genuineness and authenticity of the Scriptures. All those obscurities, therefore, which are founded upon the nature of the languages employed; all the geographical, chronological and historical darkness, which arises from that imperfect and indistinct recapitulation of times, and places, and events, so common in the writings of authors contemporary with the facts they record; all the obstacles created by that multiplied, and often remote, allusion to particular manners, and customs, and laws, which is almost unavoidable, when a person is conscious of addressing those who are as thoroughly acquainted with such circumstances as himself; all those difficulties, in short, which depend upon the laws of criticism, or the knowledge of antiquities for their solution, and which so often serve to ascertain the precise period and country in which the different books of the Bible were composed, may now be regarded as having been satisfactorily shewn to be beneficial, by the arguments already urged.
4. But, besides the philological and historical difficulties thus specified, there are many others in the Book of God of a very different character, and originating in sources to which the statements thus far entered into cannot possibly be made to apply. These are the great mysteries of godliness and iniquity; the doctrines of
sanctification and faith; the histories of the fall and redemption of man; and many dark and dubious predictions of events still future, which, together with a multitude of other "hard things," might have been written by men of any country, and in almost every age. Obscurities like these have no immediate connection either with the genuineness or authenticity of the work in which they appear, and must, consequently, be vindicated upon different principles. They are principles, however, the discovery of which will require neither a long nor a laborious search. Of the predictions alluded to, I deem it, indeed, almost unnecessary to speak at all. The obscurity of unfulfilled prophecies has been shewn to be almost essential to their purpose; and though the same cannot be said with regard to the other difficulties enumerated, yet this we may safely affirm;that by clearing away the darkness of all the incomprehensible wisdom of Scripture mysteries, we should have blotted out of the Book of Life one very plausible confirmation of its having proceeded from that omniscient Being who, when he speaks at all, may naturally be expected to speak of matters beyond the grasp of our limited comprehension. It thus appears, therefore, that the very same kind of internal evidence which is afforded by the philological and historical difficulties of the Bible to its genuineness and au
thenticity as a mere human composition, is afforded by what we call its mysteries, to its divine authority as one of the revelations of Heaven. The appearance of these latter, therefore, as well as of the former, is beneficial, and the absence of both would be alike injurious to the internal evidence of the Scriptures.
II. The next benefit which the difficulties of Scripture produce, is that of contributing to the improvement of man's rational nature, and his advancement in the scale of intellectual being, by that exercise of the understanding which their solution requires, and that dignity they confer on every kind of study.
The connection between religion and learning, as a consequence of the existence of things hard to be understood," has been already pointed out; and the necessity both for literature and science, in all their variety and extent, for the elucidation of the Bible obscurities has been concluded and fixed. The benefits resulting from that connection are what we are now concerned to establish; for whatever these benefits may be, they are evidently to be referred, in the last resort, to those obscurities which demand the employment of knowledge for their elucidation.
We may remark then, that the difficulties of Scripture, by linking religion and learning in an inseparable bond of union, have given a dignity and use to every description of knowledge, whether of the polite and ornamental, or of the practical and experimental kind, which without that connection would never have accrued.
1. Half our pleasures, our best pleasures, the most innocent and congenial to our nature as rational beings, are derived from the acquisition of ornamental knowledge, the pursuit of entertaining science, or the practice of elegant arts. So far, therefore, as mental recreation is requisite for man, the study of such things may be justified without referring to any thing but the satisfaction of the individual himself in his vacant hours. But beyond the point of strict necessity for relaxation, this reason will never extend. There must be a higher aim, an honourable and substantial end to be gained before any considerable employment of the powers of the understanding in the acquisition of any lighter species of intellectual attainment can be fairly vindicated; and that vindication the difficulties of Scripture afford. For the golden chain of science is so firmly and admirably formed, that it would be impossible to take away the least link without injuring the strength and beauty of the whole. Since, therefore, the whole body of