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ments of it? or to fence it round so carefully with comments ?—which, again, has given rise to so many rash and irreverent criticisms? to imprudent freedom of concession, on the particular point of “inspiration?” and to that far too great reserve (in some time past) on the great subject of “ original depravity," as vitally necessary to illustrate the Gospel, which seems now to have produced (in part) in our own Church, an overwhelming violence of re-action, such as threatens to confound all men alike in a vague and general spirit of self-crimination, not con- See Lect. v. vincing, because not intelligiblef ?
I assume it to be true, that some such sensi
" eleven in the New, appear to be calculated for the study or “ comprehension of the unlearned.” Maltby, “Thoughts on the Bible Society,” p. 12. London. 1812. .
f I beg to be understood, as not intending to speak disre. spectfully of that scrupulous concern about the Bible just now alluded to : far otherwise. Under very many supposable circumstances ; where we really accept all, thoughtfully, as Christians ought to do, to prefer some portions of holy Writ to others, either for private use, (as it may happen,) or for our own almost exclusive personal meditation, seems a thing much unlike the conduct subjected to that awful threat, which closes the Revelation of St. John. (chap. xxii. 19.) To insist, systematically, upon the reading of all Scripture alike, (with more respect to an artificial order of “chapters,” than to the real state of individual cases,) appears an error, not different in kind from that tyranny, which we so strongly deprecate, (Lect. I.) of “insisting upon a search after difficul“ ties, where the heart is satisfied already."
tive misgivings as these on account of Scripture, and for some such reasons, do exist.
Keeping in mind, then, that the holy Scriptures approve themselves to our acceptance, as a revelation from the only true God, by an accumulated weight of other evidences ; let us now look at them, internally, with a regard to these foregoing considerations.
And if the first be capable of being understood, and be not disallowed, the inference from that will be, that the pervading tone of Scripture, as a whole purporting to be a divine revelation, is quite at variance with our original and natural conception of what a pretended revelation would be likely to be. It appears to me to be altogether improbable; contrary, at once, to the main scope and tenor of all the writings of “classical antiquity;" to the thoughts and wishes of sober-minded, but “ speculative Christians" themselves; and to the conclusions of modern unbelievers, the “ theorists of an ideal perfectibility 8 ;" (and let it be well considered, what the force of that improbability must be, in which the sentiments of three such varieties of persons as these unite :) that “man, writing for his own “ purposes, and from the dictation of his own “ faculties only, should, originally, either have « conceived the prohibitions, or ventured on the “ proposal of a law, involving such a representa“tion of man and human nature, as the code " of the Old Testament exhibits, with a view “ to the conviction, or control, of any persons “ whatsoever." True, certain, as the representations are, man could not have dared to give them utterance, depending on his own strength alone; even if we can suppose it possible, that, at so early a period, he should have had such insight into truth.
8 I mean by this to express an opinion, that it is the prevailing tendency of all these respective classes of writers rather to exalt, than to depress, our estimate of human nature. Even the Satirists of antiquity do not leave an impression on the mind of such debasement, as results from the solemn denunciations of the Bible. And I think it needs no proof, that all more modern speculative reformers, whether they convey their sentiments in the form of professed ro
Again : it would appear, considering the records of Scripture in the light of a “history” only, that it is scarcely conceivable, (if I have not mistaken the common sentiments of mankind in such matters,) that an original historián, narrating, in so great part, the chronicles of his own ancestors, would, by guidance of his own feelings only, have selected such an assemblage of topics, as the earlier Scripture history (in particular) details; or brought them forward in so prominent a manner. For it is no incidental mention of delinquency, occurring mance, or serious theory, assume the existence of a race of beings, much better than men actually are.
here and there, that disturbs us in the narratives of the Old Testament; but a pervading gloominess of colouring, so unlike the apparent ordinary tenor of history, as seems inexplicable, unless attributed to the guidance of no ordinary spirit.
In explanation of which, need we be afraid to ask, whether, divesting holy Scripture of its authority, and of that sacred and inseparable reverence with which it is now encompassed in the believer's heart, we should peculiarly desire to possess it, as a mere volume; or to commend it, as such, to universal circulation at this day?
In this, or any light, the impression severally made by the “Old” and “ New” Testaments, would be very distinct: those made by different parts of either would be very distinct also. But this is not the question. We must remember, that our faith is demanded alike to all. If taken in the mass, therefore, would not the admiration of most minds towards it, as a mere volume, be very circumscribed? while many (for the reasons above given) would shrink from it with an irrepressible aversion. Parents, at least, would not be anxious then to make it an early study of their children: and however much it might be afterwards enjoyed by minds of matured learning and critical taste, or valued as a' curious storehouse of antiquarian research; (which are attractions of a nature to captivate but few
minds, among very many ;) it is certainly a volume, which, without authority, and an indwelling Spirit of its own to secure it from abuse, the instructed could not desire to see, commonly, in the hands of the uninstructed!
I am well aware, that different minds, and constitutions, and habits, will be affected by very different evidences: wherefore, it is to be expected, that the argument now offered will be regarded with very unequal measures of respect. Yet I cannot but think, that a sincere attention to this internal character of Scripture may be profitable; and, when surveyed in all its bearings, may affect many dispositions, as one of the very surest proofs of its original authority
For bring the collected body of the picture, hereby presented, to the mind's eye, at once ; and look at these familiar sights within our own experience.
A thing unpalatable in itself, distasteful, nay, repulsive, is, with one consent, pronounced by all, who have once, in sincerity, accepted it, to be their very health, and strength, and most exquisite relish. A simplicity, open to the bitterest scorn, appears at once transmuted into an enlightened candour; a nakedness, so unconcealed, is at once covered with a veil of modesty; a plainness of speech, manifestly exposed to ridicule, comes to appear the very evidence of re