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in opposition to the word of God. It is not reason, but our reasoning, that contradicts that glorious standard, from which there is no propriety nor safety in fleeing.
The excellent Dr. Fuller justly remarks, that“ there is a great
difference between reason and reasoning.” The first must accord with the reason and fitness of things; but the last
very fallacious, growing entirely out of our depraved feelings. When the reasoning of men is in opposition to the Bible, we may justly conclude that it is mere sophistry, and a decided testimony of their moral corruption, opposition to God, and to his word. It is a consolàtion, however, to know that there is a standard of truth and duty, on which we may rely; a rule that is not liable to perpetual change, like the capricious imagination of men, and the slippery grounds on which their various and contradictory opinions appear to rest. In matters of faith and practice, we are directed by the Lord of hosts to have recourse “to the law and to the testimony.” Time need not be spent to convince this enlightened auditory, that by “the law and the testimony,” is meant those inspired writings called the Old and the New Testament. When men speak in opposition to these Oracles, our text says, “ It is because there is no light in them.” The marginal reading is, “ There is no morning in them.” No; their hearts are as dark as that eternal night which preceded the morning of time; when “the earth was without form, and void ; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” In the Holy Scriptures, sinners are represented universally as being in a state of total moral darkness. A refusal to submit to their decisions, is a certain evidence of such a state of mind.
On entering into an investigation of this sacred passage, it is designed to show,
1. That the Holy Scriptures are the only certain standard, hy which we are to decide on matters of faith and practice. 11. The various ways in which our opponents refuse to speak according to this rule. And,
III. The reasons of their resorting to other grounds of decision.
These points are of high importance. Your close attention, therefore, is required, while an attempt is made to support and illustrate them. We are,
1. To show, that the Holy Scriptures are the only standard by which we are to decide on matters of faith and practice. In doing this, let it be observed,
1. That such a standard is really necessary.' There are many things relating to God and eternity, which we could never know, without a revelation from on High. The situation of the heathen world may teach us that the light of nature is not a sufficient guide to the human mind, beclouded with sin, enfeebled by disease, deceived by the senses, and incapable of acquiring much information by experience, on account of the shortness of life. Even the unity of God, which appears to be one of the first principles of reason, has been universally overlooked by mankind, when destitute of divine light. Polytheism, or a belief in a multiplicity of gods, has prevailed in every Pagan. land, and through every period of time. If it should be said, however, that some of the heathen philosophers did believe in the Divine Unity, we may reply, that some oblique rays, emitted from that grand source of light, the Bible, glanced upon their minds; and yet they were not so confirmed in the doctrine, as to avow and teach it at the risque of life, and in opposition to the reigning superstition of the times. In relation to the doctrines of the Scriptures in general, they have always been in darkness. As to the immortality of the soul, they have rather wished it to be true, than really believed the doctrine. They were wholly in the dark, how to worship God acceptably,
and to obtain his favor; and some of them have been so ingenuous, as to acknowledge the fact. These truths might be easily proved from their own writings, if it were necessary. The feelings of men are so various, and their reasonings so capricious, that no correct standard of truth and righteousness could ever have been framed by them. Independently of the Holy Scriptures, we should all be in an abyss of moral darkness—without God-and without hope in the world. We should form nô consistent idea of the manner of his existence—the moral perfection of his nature--the designs of his mind about us-how we should serve him-what we are in relation to immortality ; neither could we know whether it would be consistent with his glory to save us from sin and eternal misery.
From these considerations, we may see that a revelation of the Divine will is highly necessary for man.
If there is a criterion of truth on the earth, it must be allowed that it is the Bible. It is reasonable to believe, that God would make some communications on these subjects to men ; and surely, the Scriptures bear the marks of Divinity,above every book that can be named. They could not have been written by wicked men, for they are directly opposed to their feelings and practices; and good men would never have penned a volume of lies, to reform the world, however anxious they might have been to effect such a desirable event.
But, in addition to these arguments, it may be observed, that human ingenuity could never have invented a scheme of things, so mysterious, so deep, so extensive, so consistent with itself, so honorable to God, and so safe and easy for a sinful race of beings, in bringing them to God and holiness. In the view of these truths, we may clearly see that “the world by wisdom knew not God.” This is fully asserted by St. Paul, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians.
Convinced of the fact, he exclaims, “Where is the wise ? where is the scribe ? where is the disputer of this world ? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world ? For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching”—that is, by the simplicity of the instrument“ to save them that believe.” 1 Cor. 1. 20, 21.
There could be no true preaching, without the Scriptures; and, consequently, no salvation. The necessity of them is obvious, therefore, without any farther enlargement. In connection with what has been said, it
appears, 2. That the Scriptures profess to be the only standard of divine truth. They distinctly claim the sublime character of being the real Oracles of God. If this doctrine is not admitted, our text is calculated to deceive the read
Wherefore should we be required to resort “to the law and to the testimony,” if that rule is incompetent to decide religious questions? If the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures is not true, we can repose no confidence in them at all : for they expressly announce this to be a fact. One falsehood, therefore, would completely destroy their whole authority. In this view of the case, saith the Scriptures ?” would be an impertinent question.
But a few passages, which assert the complete inspiration of the Bible, may now be selected, and presented to your view. In 2 Sam. 23. 2, 3, we read, “ The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue; the God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spake to me.” The prophet Isaiah says to the people, “ Thus saith the Lord.” Isa. 43. 1. When the nation of Israel were generally assembled, “ Jehosaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem ; believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.” 2 Chron. 20. 20. It is also
said by St. Paul, that “ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Tim. 3. 16, 17. In relation to this matter, another apostle says, “ Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scriptures is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man ; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Pet. 1. 20, 21. St. Paul says again, “ If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” 1 Cor. 14. 37. St. Peter says, that in the Epistles of Paul, there are “ Some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable; wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” 2 Pet. 3. 16.
These passages are decided testimonies in favor of the full inspiration of the Scriptures. The text which is the present theme, goes on the ground that every part of the Bible is the fruit of the Spirit, and the only rule of faith and practice. Unless this is admitted, we cannot see the propriety of saying, “ to the law and to the testimony ;" and, “ if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” There is an observation, which Christ made himself, that bears directly on the point in question, namely, “ Search the Scriptures, for in them
think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me.” John 5. 39. His direction was altogether improper, unless these writings are of divine authority, and the only criterion of truth and error on all religious subjects. Neither could there, on any other ground, be truth and pertinence in that solemn warning, " I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the