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work, whereby something is produced, contrary to the common course and laws of nature : thus the magicians confessed, that one of the miracles which Moses wrought was the finger of God, Exod. viii. 19. Of these there are many undeniable instances recorded in scripture, both in the Old and New Testament; and these being above the power of a creature, and works peculiar to God, they contain a divine testimony to the truth that is confirmed thereby, for the confirmation whereof an appeal was made to them. Now when we say that the divine authority of scripture was confirmed by miracles, we mean,
(1.) That God has wrought miracles to testify his approbation of most of the prophets and apostles, who were the inspired writers thereof, whereby their mission was declared to be dirine ; and we cannot think that God, who knows the hearts and secret designs of men, would employ or send any to perform so great and important a work, if he knew them to be disposed to deceive and impose on the world; or that they would in any instance, call that his word which they did not receive from him. The reason why men sometimes employ unfaithful servants about their work is, because they do not know them ; they never do it out of choice; and therefore we cannot suppose that God, who perfectly knows the hearts of men, would do so; therefore, having not only employed the penmen of scripture as his servants, but confirmed their mission, and testified his approbation of them, by miracles, this is a ground of conviction to us that they would not have pretended the scrips tures to be the word of God, if they were not so.
Now that miracles have been wrought for this end, I think, needs no proof; for we are assured hereof, not barely by the report of those prophets, whose mission is supposed to have been confirmed thereby, but it was universally known and received in the church, in those times, in which they were wrought, and it is not pretended to be denied, by its most inveterate enemies; the truth hereof, viz. that Moses, and several other of the prophets, and our Saviour, and his apostles, wrought miracles, can hardly be reckoned a matter in controversy; for it is a kind of scepticism to deny it: and it is certain, that herein they appealed to God for the confirmation of their mission; as Elijah is said explicitly to have done, when he prays to this effect; Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant; and thut I have done all these things at thy word, 1 Kings xviii. 36. and we read, that God answered him accordingly, By the fire from heaven consuming the burnt-sacrifice, &c. ver. 38.
(2.) Such appeals to God, and answers from him, have attained their end, by giving conviction to those who were more immediately concerned; this is evident from what is said; in VOL. I.
that the same prophet, having had his request granted him. when God wrought a miracle, in raising the dead child to life. the woman of Zarephath confessed, that by this she knew thai he was a man of God, and that the word of the Lord, in his mouth, was truth, 1 Kings xvii. 21,—24. And it is not denied by the Jews, the most irteconcileable enemies to Christianity, that what is related in the New Testament, concerning our Saviour's, and his apostles, working miracles, was true in fact; but the only thing denied by them is, that this was a divine testimony, or that they were wrought by the hand of God; and therefore the common reproach which is cast on them is, that they were wrought by magic art, as the Jews of old objected to our Saviour, that he cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils, Matth. xii. 24. and his reply to them was unanswerable, when he said, that this objection would argue Satan divided against himself; intimating, that he would never take such a method as this to overthrow the Christian religion, which he could not but know was more conducive to the establishment of it, than
other that could be used. Object. 1. But if it be objected, that though miracles were wrought to confirm the mission of several of the prophets, yet none were wrought to confirm the divine authority of the subject matter of the scriptures:
Answ. To this it may be easily answered; that it is sufficient, if we can prove that God has given his testimony, that he made choice of those prophets to declare his mind and will to the world ; and that he has accordingly deemed them fit to be credited, and that they were not men liable to any suspicion of carrying on a design to deceive the world; so that if God himself not only styles them holy men, as he does all the inspired writers in general, when he says, 2 Pet. i. 21. Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Gliöst, but also wrought miracles to prove that they were his servants and messengers, employed in this work; this is as convincing a testimony, as though every part of scripture wrote by them had been confirmed by a miracle. Besides, it is not unreasonable to suppose, that the church lived in those ages, in which the various parts of scripture were written, had some extraordinary proofs of their divine authority ; since, in many of them, miracles were very common, and, at the same time that the penmen of scripture had the gift of inspiration, others had, what the apostle calls, a discerning of spirits, 1 Cor. xii. 10. so that they were enabled, by this means, to know whether the prophet, that pretended to inspiration, was really inspired : this, to me seems very probably, the sense of the apostle, when he says, 1 Cor. xiv. 32. The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, for he is discoursing before of prophets speaking by divine re
relation, and others judging thereof: now if there was this ex: traordinary gift of discerning of spirits in the ages, in which particular books of scripture were written, they who were fa. voured herewith, had a convincing testimony of the inspiration of the prophets and apostles, from the same Spirit by whom they were inspired, by which means the divine authority of scripture was infallibly known to them, and so imparted to others for their farther confirmation as to this matter.
Object. 2. We are not now to expect miracles to confirm our faith, as to the divine original of scripture; therefore how can we be said to have a divine testiinony.
Answ. As miracles are now ceased, so such a method of confirming divine revelation is not necessary in all succeeding ages: God did not design to make that dispensation too common, nor to continue the evidence it affords, when there was no necessity thereof. Thus when the scribes and Pharisees came to our Saviour, desiring to see a sign from him, Matt. xii. 38. he would not comply with their unreasonable demand ; and the apostle Paul takes notice of humour prevailing among the Jews in his time, who then required a sign, 1 Cor, i, 22, but, instead of complying with them herein, he refers them to the success of the gospel, which is the power of God to salvą, tion, as the only testimony to the truth thereof that was then needful; and our Saviour, in the parable, intimates, that the truth of divine revelation has been so well attested, that they who believe not Moses and the prophets, would not be persuaded, though one rose from the dead, Luke xvi. 31. Therefore, since we have such a convincing evidence hereof, it is an unreason ble degree of obstinacy to refuse to believe the divine authority of scripture, merely because miracles are not now wrought; since, to demand a farther proof of it, is no other than a tempting God, or disowning that what he has done is sufficient for our conviction; and to say, that for want of this evidence, our faith is not founded on a divine testimony, is nothing to the purpose, unless it could be proved that it is not founded on such a testimony formerly given, the contrary to which is undeniably evident, since we have this truth confirmed by the confession of the church in all the ages thereof, and therefore we have as much ground to believe this matter, as though miracles were wrought every day for its confirmation. This will farther ap
, pear, if we consider the abundant ground we have to conclude that God has formerly given such a testimony to his word; which leads us to enquire how far the testimony of the church, in all the ages thereof, is to be regarded.
The church has given its suffrage, throughout all the ages thereof, to the divine original of scripture, how much soever it has perverted the sense of it. That this argument may be set in a true light, let us consider what the Papists say to this matter, when they appeal to the church, to establish the divine authority of scripture ; and wherein we differ from them; and how far its testimony is to be regarded, as a means for our farther conviction. We are far from asserting, with them, that the church's testimony alone is to be regarded, without the internal evidence of the divine authority of scripture, as though that were the principal, if not the only foundation on which our faith is built. If, indeed, they could prove the infallibility of the church, we should more readily conclude the infallibility of its testimony; but all their attempts of this nature are vain and trifling
Moreover, we do not mean altogether the same thing by the church as they do, when they intend by it a council convened together, to decree and establish matters of faith, by him whom they pretend to be the visible head thereof; and so a majority of votes of a body of men, every one of whom are liable to error, must determine, and, according to them, give a divine sanction to our faith. Nor do we think that those, whom they call the fathers of the church, are to be any farther regarded, than as they prove what they assert, since there is scarce any error or absurdity, but what some or other of them have given into. We also distinguish between the churches testimony, that the scripture was given by divine inspiration, and the sense they give of many of its doctrines; as to the latter of these, it has given us ground enough to conclude, that its judgment is not much to be depended upon ; however, we find that, in all ages, it has given sufficient testimony to this truth, that the scriptures are the word of God, and that they have been proved to be so, by the seal which God has set thereunto, to wit, by the miracles that have been wrought to confirm it. If therefore God has had a church in the world, or a remnant whom he has preserved faithful; and if their faith, and all their religion, and hope of salvation, has been founded, without the least exception, on this truth, that the scriptures are the word of God, we cannot altogether set aside this argument. But there is yet another, which we lay more stress on, namely, the use which God has made of it, which is the second thing to be considered, viz.
2. His ordinary method of attesting this truth; it appears therefore, as is farther obseryed in this answer, that the scriptures are the word of God, from their light and power to convince and convert sinners, and to comfort and build
up believers to salvation. Here let us consider,
1. That the work of conviction and conversion is, and has been at all times, experienced by those who have had any right or claim to salvation; of which there have not only been various instances, in all ages, but the very being of the church, which supposes and depends thereon, is an undeniable proof of it.
2. As this work is truly divine, so the scriptures have been the principal, if not the only, direct means, by which it has been brought about; so that we have never had any other rule, or standard of faith, or revealed religion; nor has the work of grace been ever begun, or carried on, in the souls of any, without it; from whence it evidently appears, that God makes use of it to propagate and advance his interest in the world, and has given his church ground to expect his presence with it, in all his ordinances, in which they are obliged to pay a due regard to scripture; and, in so doing, they have found that their expectation has not been in vain, since God has, by this means, manifested himself to them, and made them partakers of spiritual privileges, which have been the beginning of their salvation.
3. It cannot be supposed that God would make this use of his word, and thereby put such an honour upon it, had it been an imposture, or borne the specious pretence of being instamped with his authority, if it had not been so; for that would be to give countenance to a lie, which is contrary to the holiness of his nature.
Thus we have considered the several arguments, whereby the scripture appears to be the word of God; but since multitudes are not convinced hereby, we have, in the close of this answer, an account of the means whereby Christians come to a full persuasion as to this matter, and that is the testimony of the Spirit in the heart of man, which is the next thing to be considered. By this we do not understand that extraordinary impression which some of old have been favoured with, who are said to have been moved by the Holy Ghost, or to have had an extraordinary unction from the Holy One, whereby they were led into the knowledge of divine truths, in a way of supernatural illumination. This we pretend not to, since extraordinary gifts are ceased ; yet it does not follow from hence, that the Spirit does not now influence the minds of believers in an ordinary way, whereby they are led into, and their faith confirmed in all necessary truths, and this in particular, that the scriptures are the word of God; for we may observe, that no privilege referring to salvation, was ever taken away, but some other, subservient to the same end, has been substituted in the room thereof; especially, unless a notorious forfeiture has been made of it, and the church, by apostacy, has excluded itself from an interest in the divine regard; but this cannot be said of the gospel-church in all the ages thereof, since extraordinary gifts have ceased ; therefore we must conclude, that being destitute of that way, by which this truth was once confirmed, believers have,