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testimony of the gospel, but to those commonly appealed to in support of the divine origin of Scripture—the Church, the Sacred Oracles themselves, and the Holy Spirit. A just discrimination of these witnesses, and an accurate estimate of the value of the testimony of each of them, are confessedly of great importance, not only for suppressing infidelity, but for guarding against the chicanery of the Romish church in regard to the first, the misapprehension of the second, and the delusions apt to be entertained as to the third. The defenders of the church of Rome seldom, in this age of enlightenment, enter into any discussions on the details of their system; but, trusting that the singularity and palpable absurdity of many of these will be concealed by the magnificent forms of their religion, and that they will be commended by the easy footing on which they place the hopes of men for eternity, concentrate the whole force of their argument on the testimony of the church_assuming that the church is solely their own community, and pretending that its testimony alone infallibly determines what is Scripture, what credit is due to traditions or the unwritten word, and consequently what ought to be received as the divine system of truth, of morals, and of all religious worship. Were they to enter on the details of their doctrine and order, or the history of their church, Edgar's VARIATIONS of Popery, or any similar work, would be sufficient to expose them. Their chief argument has been elsewhere assailed by Dr Werenfels, with his usual ability and candour, in two Dissertations on the Right of the People to judge of matters of faith, and on the Power of the Magistrate in regard to matters of conscience; while the first part of the Dissertation on the threefold witness contains a perspicuous statement of the province of the church with respect to the Scriptures, and of the nature and validity of her testimony.
In the second part of the Dissertation, the argument for the divinity of Scripture deduced from the assertion of their own inspiration by the sacred writers, which at first view seems to be of little value in the controversy with infidels, and is therefore seldom adverted to by writers on the evidences of Christianity, is placed in a very clear and striking light.
The last section on the testimony of the Spirit may prove useful in explaining a subject which many are accustomed to speak of, without perhaps possessing any distinct apprehension of what is really meant by it. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth; and it is not by any miraculous operation or exertion of physical energy-it is not by any mysterious impressions produced immediately, and independently of the revealed word, but by means of that truth, of which he is the author, that the effects ascribed to his agency are produced. It is his province to illuminate the mind and impart to it a true discernment of the disclosures contained in Scripture, and to impress them on the heart. If he convinces of sin, it is by enabling us to perceive and appreciate those views of its evil and danger which are presented in the sacred record; if he renews and sanctifies, it is, as our Saviour has testified, by that word which is truth; if he guides and comforts believers, it is by the manifestation of the truth to their mind and conscience; if he bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God, it is by helping us to perceive the correspondence of our character with the marks of regeneration pointed out by the sacred oracles; and, in like manner, if he attests to us the divinity of Scripture, it is by enlightening our minds to perceive the many evident tokens of a heavenly origin discernible in it. As soon might we expect to hear an audible voice from heaven proclaiming the inspiration of the Bible, as that the Spirit, by his secret operations, will impart a conviction of its truth to those who have never examined it. If these things had been candidly attended to by the opponents of the doctrine of divine influence, and if its friends had been careful to avoid that ambiguous, and often inaccurate language, which has furnished occasion for misconstruction, the charge of enthusiasm would not have been so perseveringly urged against them.
THE MOTIVES TO VIRTUE PROPOSED IN THE
In which these Motives are enumerated.
THERE is nothing human in the commendation of which men are more generally agreed than virtue. It is honoured even by those who are little given to the practice of it. They who have preferred virtue to every thing else have always been reckoned the most excellent of philosophers; nor must it be denied, that many praiseworthy precepts of virtue are to be found in their writings.
But it is not enough to commend virtue, to enumerate its precepts, and to point out the right way of practising it. Motives the most powerful, by which men—not only naturally slothful, but exceedingly averse to genuine virtue—may be stirred up and forcibly compelled to enter on the right way, and eagerly to pursue it, are also requisite.
In this respect, the writings of the heathen philosophers are exceedingly feeble and languid. The Holy Scriptures alone exhibit to us motives to virtue, at once numerous and most powerful—to a virtue built on religion and piety as its basis, which alone is genuine virtue; so that, though there had been nothing else peculiar in this divine book, it might have been clearly distinguished from all the works of men by this single characteristic. For whether the mind of man is influenced by the equity, or by the utility, or by the pleasantness of any thing, the whole of Scripture tends ultimately to convince men in the fullest manner, that there is nothing which God can more justly require from them, nothing which brings along with it greater advantage, and nothing which is more agreeable in itself, than that most perfect worship of God, and that concomitant holiness of life and serious pursuit of all virtues, which we have already described in our Dissertation on the Excellence of Revealed Religion.
The Justice of God, in requiring all these things from mankind, is proved first by all those passages of Scripture which, “ at sundry times, and in divers manners,” describe to us his great perfection and excellence, such as it is in itself, and such as it is manifested in the whole of the universe, in all and in each of its parts, all of which he created, all of which he preserves, and all of which he governs with the highest wisdom; especially by those passages in which the Scripture shows how highly God displays his glory in governing men, and particularly in ruling his own church, reconciling it to himself, and uniting it with himself for ever.
In celebrating these subjects, and effectually inculcating them on man, you will discover no book that can be compared with Scripture. Now, its sole object in this must be, that man, full of admiration of God, may form the highest estimate of him in whom he finds every thing that can exalt our conceptions of him, and from whom all things have derived, and constantly derive, whatever value they possess. For who that learns from this book what and how great God is, may not say in his heart, “ Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."* “ Now, to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever, Amen." I
Even although the infinite perfections of God, and his innumerable stupendous works which are so often presented to our notice in Scripture, had no relation to us, yet, from this consideration alone, it would be most equitable to give glory to that Being whom we know to be in himself most worthy of glory. But the Scriptures do not rest here. They point out the interest of man in all that is worthy of admiration in God. If God is in them represented as good, he is good to man; if powerful, wise, omniscient and omnipresent, he is powerful, wise, and every thing else to man. he is the Creator, man * Rev. iv. II.
† 1 Tim. i. 17.
is his chief work, whom alone he has adorned with his own image; if he created other things, he created them for the use of man—we see all things put under his feet; if he superintends the world, it is for the sake of man, who is above every thing the object of his care: in a word, in this book all things pertain to man—God, addressing man, acknowledges himself his God.* Let a book be produced which in this respect resembles the Scriptures, which so clearly and graphically exhibits to our view, and inculcates again and again with so much earnestness the ineffable goodness of God, and all his acts of kindness to man—in which man may so clearly learn to consider what and how much he owes to his God, may learn continually to regard all things within and without, around, beneath and above him, as so many gifts of divine goodness. Who then does not perceive their aim? Doubtless, all the intimations of God's kindness to us contained in Scripture are so many strong cords of love, by which he in the most powerful manner draws the soul of man to himself; that thus overwhelmed with the number and the greatness of the benefits conferred on him, he may feel, wherever he turns himself, unable to tell what he should render unto God; and at length discovering nothing else in himself, may acquiesce in the glorification of a God so good, in the invocation of his name, in the sacrifice of praise, and in the performance of vows.f
Conspicuously, however, above all the favours which God has conferred on man, shines forth the work of redemption, and all those “ spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ," which are connected with that illustrious display of beneficence; such as election, calling, conversion, justification, sanctification, adoption; whatever, in a word, pertains to the reconciliation of a sinner to God, and to his eternal salvation. The Holy Scriptures are chiefly occupied about this work. This the books of Moses and the prophets promise—this the gospel announces as accomplished. Nothing which tends to show the greatness of this act of kindness is omitted in Scripture. Here you obtain a view of the profound misery from which man has been rescued—you see what he was before his deliverance, what he had to fear in regard to futurity. Here the blessed state into which he is brought by the Redeemer,
* [The application and force of what the author here states will be better felt by the reader after he has consulted the admirable discussion and refutation of the infidel objection to the doctrine of Scripture, founded on the apparent insignificance of man, in the essay on The Vastness of the Material Universe in SATURDAY EVENING."-T.]
| Ps. cxvi. 12–14.