« ZurückWeiter »
quity thereof, together with its wonderful preservation, notwithstanding all the endeavours of its enemies to root it out of the world ; and then we shall consider how far the testimony of the church is to be regarded, not as though it contained the principal foundation of our faith, as the Papists suppose'; but yet this may be, if duly considered, an additional evidence to those that have been before given ; and then we shall speak something concerning the witness of the Spirit with the scripture in the heart of man, which inclines him to be persuaded by, and rest in the other arguments brought to support this truth : and if all - these be taken together, they will, we hope, beget a full conviction in the minds of men, that the scriptures are the word of God; which leads us to consider the arguments in particular.
I. From the majesty of the style in which it is written. This argument does not equally hold good with respect to all the parts of scripture; for there is, in many places thereof, a great plainness of speech and familiarity of expression adapted to the meanest capacity, and sometimes a bare relation of things, without that majesty of expression, which we find in other places: thus in the historical books we do not observe such a loftiness of style, as there is in Job, Psalms, Isaiah, and some other of the prophets; so that there are arguments of another nature to prove them to be of divine authority. However, we may observe such expressions interspersed throughout almost the whole scripture, which set forth the sovereignty and greatness of God; as when he is represented speaking immediately himself in a majestic way, tending not only to bespeak attention, but to strike those that hear or read with a reverential fear of his divine perfections ; thus, when he gives a summons to the whole creation to give ear to his words, Hear, o headens; and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken, Isa. i. 2. or, swears by himself, that unto him every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear, chap. xlv. 23. or when it is said, Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool, chap. lxvi. 1. and elsewhere, The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of the isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about him; righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. A fire goeth before him; his lightnings enlightened the world. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord; at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth, Psal. xcvii. 1-5. And when he is represented as casting contempt on all the great men of this world, thus he is said to cut off the spirit of princes, and to be terrible to the kings of the earth, Psal. lxxvi. 12. and to charge even his angels with folly, Job iv. 18. or when the prophet speaks of him, as one who had measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted the heavens with a span, and com
prehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance; and that the nations of the earth are as a drop of the bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance; yea, as nothing, less than nothing and vanity, when compared with him, Isa. xl. 12, 15, 17, It would be almost endless to refer to the many places of scripture, in which God speaks in such a style, as is inimitable by any creature; of this we have several instances in the book of Job, especially in those chapters where he is represented as answering Job out of the whirlwind, and speaking
with such a boftiness of style, as, it may be, the like cannot be found in any human composure, Job, chap. xxxviii. to xli. where such expressions are used, which argue the style to be divine, great and magnificent; so that if it was not immediately from God, it would be the most bold presumption for any creature to speak in such a way: therefore this argument, taken from the majestic style of scripture, is not without its proper weight; however, it may serve to prepare us to receive those other arguments, which, together with this, eyince its divine original.
II. From the purity and holiness of its doctrines, and that either, if we consider it absolutely, or compare it with all other writings, whereby it will appear not only to have the preference to them, but to be truly divine, and so is deservedly styled the holy scripture, Rom. i. 2. and the words thereof pure as silver tried in a furnace, purified seven times, Psal. xii. 6. and to sf k of right things, in which there is nothing froward or pero
Prov, viii. 6, 7, 8. Thus every one that duly weighs t . subject matter thereof, may behold therein the displays of the glory of the holiness of God: here let us consider, that the word of God appears to be divine from its purity and holiness,
1. As considered absolutely, or in itself. For,
(1.) It lays open the vile and detestable nature of sin, to render it abhorred by us. Thus the apostle says, Rom. vii. 7. I had not known sin; that is, I had not so fully understood the abominable nature thereof as I do, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, thou shalt not covet ; and hereupon he concludes, that the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
(2.) It presents to our view the various instances of the divine vengeance, and shews us how the wrath of God is revealed against the unrighteousness of sinners to make them afraid of rebelling against 1-7. Thus it gives us an account how the angels hereby fell fre and lost their first habitation, and are thrust down to hell, .eing reserved in chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day, Jude 6. And also how man hereby lost his primitive integrity and glory, and exposed
himself to the wrath and curse of God due to sin, and all the miseries of this life consequent thereon; and how it has des. troyed flourishing nations, and rendered them desolate. Thus it gives us an account how the Jews were first carried into Babylon for their idolatry, and other abominations, and afterwards cast off and made the sad monument of the divine wrath, as at this day, for crucifying Christ, persecuting his followers, and opposing the Gospel. It also gives an account of the distress and terror of conscience, which wilful and presumptuous sins have exposed particular persons to; such as Cain, Judas and others; this is described in a very pathetic manner, when it is said of the wicked man, who has his portion of the good things of this life, that when he comes to die, Terrors tuke hold
of him as waters, a tempest stealeth him away in the night. The east wind carrieth him away, and he departeth, and a as storm hurleth him out of his place. For God shall cast upon him, and not spare ; he would fain flee out of his hand, Job xxvii. 20, 21, 22.
Moreover, the purity of the Scripture farther appears, in that it warns sinners of that eternal ruin, which they expose themselves to in the other world; Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and front the glory of his power, 2 Thess. i. 9. All these things discover the purity and holiness of the word of God.
(3.) It never gives the least indulgence or dispensation to sin, nor in any of its doctrines, which are pure and holy, doth it lead to licentiousness; it not only reproves sin in the lives and outward conversations of men, but also discovers its secret recesses in the heart, where its chief seat is; obviates and guards against its first motions, tending thereby to regui late the secret thoughts of men, and the principle of all their actions, which it requires to be pure and holy. In this the Scripture excels all other writings with respect to its holiness,
(4.) All the blessings and benefits which it holds forth, or puts us in mind of, as the peculiar instances of divine favour and love to man, are urged and insisted on as motives to ho liness; thus it is said, The goodness of God leadeth theę to repentance, Rom. ii. 4. and when Moses had been putting the Israelites in mind of God's increasing them, as the stars of heaven for multitude, Deut. X. 22. compared with chap, xi, 1. he adds, therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and keep his charge and statutes, his judgments and commandments alway, And when the loving kindness of God has been abused by men, it severely reproves them for their vile ingratitude; as when it is said, Deut. xxxii. 6. Do ye thus requite the Lord, oh foolish people and unwise? Is not he thy Father that bought thee? Hath not he made thee, and established thee?
(5.) All the examples proposed to our imitation therein, are such as savour of, and lead to, holiness; and when it recommends the actions or conversation of men, it is more especially for that holiness which is discovered therein; and, on the other hand, when it gives us the character of wicked men, together with the dreadful consequences thereof, it is that we may avoid and be deterred from committing the same sins that will be their ruin in the end.
(6.) The rules laid down relating to civil affairs in the Old Testament dispensation, and the behaviour of one man towards another, have a vein of holiness running through them all. Thus the government of the Jewish state, as described in the books of Moses, and elsewhere, discovers it to be an holy commonwealth; and they are often called an holy nation, as governed by those laws which God gave them; so the gova ernment of the church in the Gospel-dispensation, is a holy government: visible holiness is a terın of church-communion, and apostacy and revolt from God excludes from it.
(7.) All the promises contained in Scripture, are, or will be certainly fulfilled, and the blessings it gives us ground to expect, conferred; and therefore it is a faithful word, and consequently pure and holy.
2. If we compare the Scripture with other writings, which are of a human composure, it plainly excels in holiness. For,
(1.) If we compare it with the writings of heathen moralists, such as Plato, Seneca, and others, though they contain a great many good directions for the ordering the conversations of men agreeably to the dictates of nature and right reason, yet most of them allow of, or plead for some sins, which the Scripture mentions with abhorrence, such as revenging injuries, and self-murder; several other instances of moral impurity, were not only practised by those who laid down the best rules to inforce moral virtue, but either countenanced, or, at least, not sufficiently fenced against, by what is contained in their writings, and even their strongest motives to virtue or the government of the passions, or a generous contempt of the world, are taken principally from the tendency which such a course of life will have to free us from those things that tend to debase and affict the mind, and fill it with uneasiness; when we consider ourselves as acting contrary to the dictates of nature, which we have as intelligent creatures; whereas, on the other hand, the Scripture leads us to the practice of Christian virtues from better motives, and considers us not barely as men, but Christians, under the highest obligations to the blessed Jesus, and constrained hereunto by his condescending love expressed in all that he has done and suffered for our redemption and salvation; and it puts us upon desiring and hoping for com
munion with God, through him, in the performance of those evangelical duties, which the light of nature knows nothing of, and so discovers a solid foundation for our hope of forgiveness of sin, through his blood, together with peace of conscience and joy resulting from it; it also directs us to look for that life and immortality, which is brought to light through the Gospel; in which respects, it far exceeds the writing of the best heathen moralists, and so contains in it the visible marks and characters of its divine original.
(2.) If we compare the scriptures with other writings among Christians, which pretend not to inspiration, we shall find in these writings a great number of impure and false doctrines, derogatory to the glory of God, in many of the pretended expositions of Scripture. If therefore men, who have the Scripture in their hands, propagate unholy doctrines, they would do so much more were there no Scripture to guide them: thus the doctrine that grace is not necessary to what is spiritually good: the merit of good works, human satisfactions, penances, indulgences, and dispensations for sin, are all impure doctrines, which are directly contrary to Scripture; and, as contraries illustrate each other, so hereby the holiness and purity of Scripture, which maintains the contrary doctrines, will appear to those who impartially study it and understand the sense thereof.
(3.) If we compare the Scriptures with the imposture of Mahomet, in the book called the Alcoran, which the Turks make use of as a rule of faith, and prefer it tu Scripture, and reckon it truly divine, that contains a system not only of fabulous, but corrupt and impure notions, accommodated to men's sensual inclinations. Thus it allows of polygamy, and many impurities in this world, and promises to its votaries a sensual paradise in the next, all which is contrary to Scripture; so that composures merely human, whether they pretend to divine inspiration or not, discover themselves not to be the word of God, by their unholiness; as the Scripture manifests itself to be divine, by the purity of its doctrine; and indeed, it cannot be otherwise, considering the corruption of man's nature, as well as the darkness and blindness of his mind, which, if it pretends to frame a rule of faith, it will be like himself, impure and unholy; but that which has such marks of holiness, as the Scripture has, appears to be inspired by a holy God.
Having considered the holiness of Scripture doctrines, we proceed to shew the weight of this argument, or how far it may be insisted on to prove its divine authority. It is to be confessed, that a book's containing holy things or rules for a holy life, doth not of itself prove its divine original; for then other books might be called the word of God besides the Scripture, which is so called, not only as containing some