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conviction they must die. By the anguish of that reflection must their last hours be embittered, and they must quit the earth and its inhabitants conscious that they have sown the seeds of infidelity, and eternal death, in many an unwary and unstable soul.

Father of Mercies, save us from this woe, and teach us ever to speak and to write such things only as may be pleasing in thy sight, and profitable to thy people! Great Lord of Light and Life, thou that art the author and the giver of all wisdom, take away, we beseech thee, the darkness of our minds ; enlighten and enliven us with the knowledge of thy truth, and guide our pens, that they err not against the holiness of thy law! And thou, the Eternal Spirit of the Father and the Son, thou that art the ruler and the sanctifier of the heart, cleanse us from all filthiness, both of flesh and of spirit, quench in us the lust of curiosity and praise, “increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of thy great mercy” so govern and direct the works of our understandings, that through them may be ascribed unto the Father, unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, all power, might, majesty, dominion, and praise, now, henceforth, and for evermore! Amen.

90

LECTURES V. AND VI.

ERRORS TO BE AVOIDED IN EXPLAINING

SCRIPTURE DIFFICULTIES.

JEREM. VIII. 9.

Lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord, and what

wisdom is in them?"

From pen to pen, and from age to age, has the same unvaried tone of censure been assumed, with more or less violence, by the Deist, and the same wearisome round of objections been repeated in condemnation of the contents of the Bible: and from pen to pen, and from age to age, have the same answers and arguments been urged by the friends of revelation, with more or less of propriety and vigour, in its support. But, as yet, neither party has confessed itself in the wrong, and both accuse their opponents of having failed in their undertaking. The Christian regards the uniform character of the objections urged by the Deist as implying only his presumptuous obstinacy against the truth. The Deist, in return, , despises the sameness of the Theologian's arguments as a proof of the weakness of his cause,

and the palpable inconclusiveness of his defence; and to such a fearful height has the presumption of unbelievers now grown, that, as I remarked in the conclusion of my last Discourse, they bave taken a tone of the most positive and abusive disrespect, and almost refuse any longer to be confined within the regulations of legitimate reasoning, choosing rather to defy than to dispute with the God of Israel, and to appeal to the passions rather than the understandings of mankind. This could scarcely have occurred had the reasonings of both the Deist and the Christian, been raised upon the same common foundation. This could not but happen where, as is actuallythe case, they have drawn their conclusions from premises essentially different from each other. For unless the combatants in a logical dispute build upon the same common axioms, and admit the same fundamental propositions, they can neither understand each other's statements, nor appreciate each other's sentiments; and so confusion, inconsistency, misapprehension, and strife for ever, must be the necessary result. To ascertain, therefore, those essential principles upon which our endeavours to elucidate the difficulties of Scripture ought uniformly to proceed, it will be expedient not merely to lay down a few arbitrary directions upon the subject; but also to point out, in a clear and satisfactory manner, wherein

the difference between us and our adversaries consists. To this end it must be our aim first, to investigate and correct the errors into which Deistical writers have fallen ; and next, to deduce and defend the proper and necessary rules to be observed in the interpretation of "things hard to be understood:” for by no other means can we hope to reason successfully for the conviction of those whose mistakes or prejudices have led them to take an erroneous bias against the difficulties and mysteries of revelation.

I. Now the contents of any work may, it is clear, be considered and interpreted on two different suppositions. They may be interpreted either with or without regard to the nature and purposes of the work itself, and its mode and place and period of composition. Nor is this an unnecessary or an unimportant distinction. It is one which will in many instances have a material influence upon our conclusions. For instance, if we regard the Eneid of Virgil, or the Commentaries of Cæsar, without any reference to their author, their country, or their age, a great proportion of their pages will still no doubt, be found intelligible and explicable upon the mere common principles of grammar or of criticism ; but there will, at the same time, be

many "things hard to be understood,” which, without such a

reference will seem absurd or objectionable in a high degree. Hence, it is plain, that the character which really belongs to a work, ought always to be taken into the account whenever we are endeavouring to defend it from objections founded on its difficulties. For difficulties can be applied as objections against any work, only as forming an objection to its internal credibility; that is, as proving some inconsistency between what it is, and what it ought to have been, considering the circumstances of the case. Thus obscurities, which could only be removed by supposing them to contain an allusion to some Mahometan custom or opinion, would form a solid objection to a work known to have been written before, but none at all to one known to have been written after the death of Mahomet. For in the latter case the difficulty would, whilst" in the former case it would not be such as it ought to have been, under the circumstances of the case.

But not only are we bound, when elucidating the difficulties of a work, to take into our account the character which is allowed on all hands to be its real character, and the circumstances under which it is known to have been indisputably composed; but we are also required to consider the character which it assumes to belong to itself, and the circumstances under which it

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