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experienced, but their truth and reality discerned by them, who have been favoured there with, so that without pretending to inspiration, they had sufficient reason to conclude that they were divine ; certainly when God was pleased to converse with men in such a way, as that which we call inspiration, it was not impossible for them to conclude that they were inspired ; which is an argument taken from the less to the greater.
2. There were some particular instances, in which it seemed absolutely necessary, that they who received intimations from God in such a way, should have infallible evidence that they were not mistaken, especially when some great duty was to be performed by them, pursuant to a divine command, in which it would be a dangerous thing for them to be deceived; as in the case of Abraham's offering up his son; and Jacob's going with his family into Egypt, which was a forsaking the promised land, an exposing them to the loss of their religion, through the influence or example of those with whom they went to sojourn ; and it might be uncertain whether they should ever return or no; therefore he needed a divine warrant, enquired of God with respect to this matter, and doubtless had some way to be infallibly assured concerning the divine will relating hereunto, Gen. xlvi. 2, 3, 4. Moreover, our Saviour's disciples, leaving their families, going into the most remote parts of the world to propagate the gospel, which they had received in this way, evinces the necessity of their knowing themselves to be under a divine inspiration : and if they had been deceived in this matter, would they not have been reproved for it by him, whose intimations they are supposed to have followed in the simplicity of their hearts ?
3. As to the way by which God might convince them, beyond all manner of doubt, that he spake to them who were under divine inspiration, there are various ways, that might have been taken, and probably were. As,
(1.) Sometimes extraordinary impressions were made on the soul of the prophet, arising from the immediate access of God to it: of this we have frequent instances in scripture ; as in that particular vision which Daniel saw, which occasioned his comeliness to be turned into corruption, and his having no strength, Dan. X. 8. and the vision of our Saviour, which John saw, the effect whereof was his falling at his feet as dead, Rev. i. 17. and many other instances of the like nature might be referred to, which were, at least, antecedent to inspiration, and the result of the access of God to the soul, which occasioned such a change in nature, as could not but be discerned after the person had a little recovered himself. But if it be said, that such an effect as this might be produced by an infernal spirit, the answer I would give to that is, that supposing this possible, yet it must be proved that God would suffer it, especially in such an instance, in which his own cause was so much concerned ; and besides, it is not improbable that the soul of the prophut was sometimes brought into such a frame of spirit, as resembled the heavenly state, as much as it is possible for any one to attain to in this world ; such an intercourse as this made Jacob say, This is no other but the house of God, und this the gate of heaven. Gen. xxviii. 17.
(2.) As this converse with God contained in it something supernatural and very extraordinary in the effects thereof, so it is not improbable that God might work miracles, of various kinds, to confirm the prophet's belief as to this matter, though they are not particularly recorded in all the instances in which we read of inspiration ; and this would be as full an evidence as could be desired.
If it be objected, that it is not probable that miracles were always wrought to give this conviction: I would not be too peremptory in pretending to determine this matter, it is sufficient to say they were sometimes wrought; but, however, there were, doubtless, some other concurring circumstances, which put the thing out of all dispute ; for not to suppose this, is to reflect on the wisdom and goodness of God, as well as to depreciate one of the greatest honours which he has been pleased to confer upon men. Thus we have considered the unreasonableness of the charge brought against the inspired penmen of scripture, as though they were imposed on, by mistaking their enthusiastic fancies for divine revelation. We proceed to consider,
2. That they were not imposed upon by the devil, as mistaka ing some impressions made by him on their minds, for divine revelation : this is evident ; for
1. Divine inspiration was not only occasional, or conferred in some particular instances, with a design to amuse the world, or confirm some doctrines which were altogether new, impure, and subversive of the divine glory in some ages thereof, when men were universally degenerate, and had cast off God and religion ; but it was continued in the church for many ages, when they evidently appeared to be the peculiar objects of the divine regard; and therefore,
2. God would never have suffered the devil, in such circunistances of time and things, to have deluded the world, and that in such a degree, as that he should be the author of that rule of faith, which he designed to make use of to propagate his interest therein; so that his people should be beholden to their grand enemy for those doctrines which were transmitted by inspiration.
3. Satan would have acted against his own interest, should he have inspired men to propagate a religion, which has a direct tendency to overthrow his own kingdom ; in which instance, as our Saviour observes, His kingdom would be divided against itself, Matth. xii. 25, 26. As it is contrary to the wisdom and holiness of God to suffer it, so Satan could never have done it out of choice, and he has too much subtilty to do it through mistake ; therefore the inspired writers could not be imposed on by any infernal spirit.
And to this we may add, that this could not be done by a good angel; for if such a one had pretended herein to have imitated, or as it were, usurped the throne of God, he would not have deserved the character of a good angel; therefore it follows, that they could not have been inspired by any but God himself.
Having considered that the penmen of scripture have faithfully transmitted to us what they received by divine inspiration, we must now take notice of some things which are alleged by those who endeavour not only to depreciate, but overthrow the divine authority of the sacred writings, when they allege that they were only inspired, as to the substance or general idea of what they committed to writing, and were left to express the things contained therein in their own words, which, as they suppose, hath occasioned some contradictions, which they pretend to be found therein, arising from the treachery of their memories, or the unfitness of their style, to express what had been communicated to them. This they found on the difference of style observed in the various books thereof; as some are written in an elegant and lofty style, others clouded with mystical and dark expressions ; some are more plain, others are laid down in an argumentative way; all which differing ways of speaking they suppose agreeable to the character of the inspi. red writers thereof : so that, though the matter contains in it something divine, the words and phrases, in which it is delivered can hardly be reckoned so,
And as for some books of scripture, especially those that are historical, they suppose that these might be written without inspiration, and that some of them were taken from the histories which were then in being, or some occurrences which were ob. served in the days in which the writers lived, and were generally known and believed in those times, to which they more immediately relate.
And as for those books of scripture, which are more especially doctrinal, they suppose that there are many mistakes in them, but that these respect only doctrines of less importance ; whereas the providence of God has prevented them from making any gross or notorious blunders, subversive of natural religion; so that the scripture may be deemed sufficient to answer the general design thereof, in propagating religion in the world, though we are not obliged to conclude that it is altogether free from those imperfections that will necessarily attend such a kind of inspiration.
Answ. If this account of scripture be true, it would hardly deserve to be called the word of God; therefore, that we may vindicate it from this aspersion, let it be considered,
1. As to the different styles observed in the various books thereof, it does not follow from hence, that the penmen were left to deliver what they received, in their own words; for certainly it was no difficult matter for the Spirit of God to furnish the writers thereof with words, as well as matter, and to inspire them to write in a style agreeable to what they used in other cases, whereby they might better understand and communicate the sense thereof to those to whom it was first given; as if a person should send a message by a child, it is an easy matter to put such words into his mouth as are agreeable to his common way of speaking, without leaving the matter to him to express it in his own words: thus the inspired writers might be furnished with words by the Holy Ghost, adapted to that style which they commonly used, without supposing they were left to themselves to clothe the general ideas with their own words.(a)
2. As to what is said concerning the historical parts of scripture, that it is not necessary for them to have been transmitted to us by divine inspiration, it may be replied, that these, as well as other parts thereof, were written for our learning, Rom. xv. 4. so that what is excellent in the character of persons, is designed for our imitation; their blemishes and defects, to humble us under a sense of the universal corruption of human nature ; and the evil consequences thereof, to awaken our fears, and dehort us from exposing ourselves to the same judgments which were inflicted as the punishment of sin : and the account we have of the providential dealing of God with his church, in the various ages thereof, is of use to put us upon admiring and adoring the divine perfections, as much as the doctrinal parts of scripture; and therefore it is necessary that we have the greatest certainty that the inspired writers have given us a true narration of things, and consequently that the words, as well as the matter, are truly divine.
3. When, that they may a little palliate the matter, they allow that the inspired writers, though left to the weakness of their memory, and the impropriety of their
style, were, notwithstanding, preserved, by the interposure of divine providence, from committing mistakes in matters of the highest importance ; it may be replied, That it will be very Jifficult for them to assign what doctrines are of greater, and what of less importance, in all the instances thereof, or wherein providence has interposed, to prevent their running into mistakes, and when it has (a) Vide Dadd. Expos. 3 vol. app.--Dick on Insp.--Parry's Enq.-Hawker, &c.
not; so that we are still in an uncertainty what doctrines are de livered to us, as they were received by inspiration, and what are misrepresented by the peninen of scripture; and we shall be ready to conclude, that in every section or paragraph thereof, some things may be true, and others false ; some doctrines divine and others human, while we are left without any certain rule to distinguish one from the other, and accordingly we cannot be sure that
of it is the word of God; so that such a revelation as this would be of no real service to the church, and our faith would be founded in the wisdom, or rather weakness of men, and our religion, depending on it, could not be truly divine; so that this method of reasoning is, to use the word inspiration, but to destroy all the valuable ends thereof.
VI. Another argument, to prove the scriptures to be the word of God, may be taken from their antiquity and wonderful preservation for so many ages; this appears more remarkable, if we consider,
1. That many other writings, of much later date, have been lost, and nothing more is known of them, but that there were once such books in the world; and books might more easily be lost, when there were no other but written copies of them, and these procured with much expense and difficulty, and consequently their number proportionably small.
2. That the scripture should be preserved, notwithstanding all the malice of its avowed enemies, as prompted hereunto by Satan, whose kingdom is overthrown by it. Had it been in his power, he would certainly have utterly abolished and destroyed it; but yet it has been preserved unto this day, which discovers a wonderful hand of providence; and would God so remarkably have taken care of a book, that pretends to advance itself by bearing the character of a divinely inspired writing, if it had not been really so? Which leads us to the next argument, containing an advice, which is more convincing than any other; or, at least, if this be added to those arguments which have been already given, I hope it will more abundantly appear that the scriptures are the word of God; since,
VII. The divine authority thereof is attested by God himself; and if, in other cases, we receive the witness of men, surely. as the apostle observes, the witness of God is greater, 1 John v. 9,
Now the testimony of God to the authority of scripture is twofold; First, Extraordinary ; Secondly, Ordinary; the extraordinary testimony of God is that of miracles; the ordinary is taken from the use which he makes of it, in convincing and converting sinners, and building up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.
1. As to the former of these, God has attested the truth hereof by miracles. A miracle is an extraordinary divine