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of the genuineness, the authenticity, and the divine authority of the Bible would have been lost: and nothing absolutely essential would have been gained; since all the fundamentals of faith and practice, all that God imperatively demands of his creatures, as the conditions of their eternal happiness, are presumed to have been so plainly and perspicuously revealed, that he who runs with the greatest energy and rapidity towards the mark of the prize of his high calling in Christ Jesus, provided only that he run honestly and sincerely, may both read and understand, believe and do them.
That objection to the truth and authority of the Scriptures which is founded upon the occurrence in them of "things hard to be understood," is thus ultimately found to resolve itself into these two simple questions:-First, Are the Scriptures sufficiently clear upon all the fundamentals of religion, to every willing and ordinary capacity? Secondly, Amongst the various difficulties with which revelation is acknowledged to abound, are there any which, when correctly explained, and temperately and reasonably viewed, would lead a dispassionate and well-disposed mind from "the ways of God's laws, and the works of his commandments?" These
a See the second and third Discourses for an account of these arguments.
two questions form the whole of what we are absolutely interested to determine; for if the former be affirmatively, and the latter negatively answered; if the Bible do really contain with fulness, and convey with clearness, all the essential principles of faith and duty; and if there really be no difficulties which can be justly made to minister to ungodliness in opinions or deeds, then most assuredly its difficulties, however numerous, varied, or inexplicable, are not destructive of its only important object, as a religiously instructive work, the spiritual edification of such as study it as the repository of saving truth, and apply to it as the fountain of eternal life. Let us, then, proceed to pass these two points, in succession, under our review, and consider them with as much brevity as their nature and importance will permit.
1. Let us examine whether the Scriptures be at once both explicit and complete upon all those leading branches of speculative and practical Theology, which are requisite to direct the efforts and fulfil the wants of human nature in her present ruined condition and this transitory life.But upon this subject it is really almost superfluous to debate. Every part of the Gospel contains so much of the great outlines of religion, and details them in such easy and compendious
terms, that we have but to open the New Testament in almost any of its pages, and draw forth a scheme which none could either mistake or doubt. "God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in Spirit and in truth," is the fundamental verity of the Gospel, and it preaches repentance and remission of sins in the name" of the Son of God, declaring, at the same time, that "neither is there salvation in any other for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved"," but only the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. It therefore, "commandeth all men every where to repent and believe the Gospel"," proclaiming "that whosoever believeth in the Son of God, shall not perish, but have everlasting life." Thus intelligible are its doctrines; and in its precepts both prohibitory and positive it is equally distinct. It affirms, that not only "the wicked shall be turned into Hell," but also "all the people that forget God." It proclaims that "neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things
a John iv. 24.
c Acts iv. 12.
e John iii. 16.
1 Cor. vi. 9, 10.
b Luke xxiv. 47.
d Acts xvii. 30 and Mark i. 15.
f Ps. vii. 17.
are true, whatsoever are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise," it beseeches us to "think on these things" and to do them; because he only will be saved" who doeth the will of his Father which is in Heaven":" And lastly, to enable and encourage men in the discharge of these duties, it promises the Holy Spirit to help the infirmities of them that pray for it, and to controul the weakness of the flesh in them that sincerely struggle against its lusts. Thus intelligible are the terms, and thus full and satisfactory the principles which the Scriptures are universally, and under every varied image, and in every possible form of expression, enunciating and inculcating upon the most unlearned and incapable. Nor is this a mere seeming simplicity, or a religion of barren and inoperative speculation. The fruits are visible in the history of the religious opinions of the world, wherever either the Jewish or Christian revelations have been known. Compare the assurance of the meanest Israelite upon the nature of God and what he requires from man, with the doubts, and errors, and fluctuations, even of the wisest of the Heathen Philosophers to whom the Law and the Prophets were un
a Phil. iv. 8.
b Matt. vii. 21.
known, and the superior rectitude of views and sentiments in the uncultivated disciple of Moses, over the most sagacious scholars of Socrates, will stand forth wonderful and confessed. Compare the first Tusculan disputation of Cicero with any of our commonest Christian treatises upon the resurrection of the body and the immortality of the soul, and the difference will appear equally striking. Whilst the Roman Orator proceeds slowly and insecurely, faltering at every step, and evidently doubtful to what his reasonings may lead the Christian enquirer assumes a bolder and more erect attitude, treads the ground as if he felt conscious of its firmness, and keeping the conviction of the truth of a future and eternal life steadily in his eye, as the end at which he aims, hastens, sometimes almost too rapidly, to establish the necessity and certainty of a retributive state. The Heathen seems always striving to learn what is the opinion he ought to form. The Christian talks as one who had already formed his opinion, and was labouring only to find arguments to convince others of its propriety. The one seeks for a conclusion, the other only for premises on which to build it. Such is the change produced upon the thinking and writing part of mankind by the perusal of the clear declarations of Holy Writ; and the unthinking and merely reading or hearing classes of the community have been equally bene