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On the Holy Scriptures.
Nature and Design of the Scriptures.-Their claim to our regard, and to the belief of their being Divinely inspired-Objections answered-first to their Genuineness and Truth-next to their Inspiration.—All related of good men not intended for imitation.-Impartiality of the Scriptures.-Great judgment necessary in applying them.-Possibility of placing too much dependence on them.-On calling them the Word of God.
THESE writings are divided into two parts, the Old and the New Testaments. They commence with an account of the Creation of the world, and contain a history of more than four thousand years. Their object appears to be to exhibit the various dispensations of God to mankind; to manifest many of his general and particular acts of Providence; to show the good effects of religion and virtue; and to set forth the lamentable evils, which are the consequence of walking in the paths of irreligion and profaneness. For the prevention of these evils, the Scrip
tures inculcate those principles of piety and morality, which contribute to the happiness of mankind, both here and hereafter; and there is not any general duty, religious or moral, in which they do not afford instruction and direction.
The Scriptures also contain many remarkable predictions concerning nations and individuals, with several prophecies of the coming of the Messiah, and of the dispensation of the Gospel. Ancient history, both sacred and profane, gives account of circumstances, which show the fulfilling of many of these predictions; and the New Testament particularly relates the completion of those, which are given concerning "Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write."*
When we consider who were the writers of these volumes; what are the subjects, and what appear to be the objects of them; they claim, at first view, a high degree of regard and esteem. But when, as Christians, we believe in a Divine influence and direction, we
* John i. 45.
find abundant cause to conclude, that this influence was extended to those who wrote or compiled the Scriptures; and therefore believe with the apostle Paul, that they were "given by inspiration of God;"* and are productive of those important advantages
which he attaches to them.
But, notwithstanding the strong belief which is generally entertained of the truth of these writings, and of their having been communicated under the influence of Divine inspiration, there are persons who do not acknowledge one or both of these claims, to that credibility and reverence which are attached to the Scriptures. It will therefore be necessary to pay some attention to the objections advanced by these persons; in doing which, it may be proper, first to consider those which are made against the authenticity of the Scriptures.
These objections may be divided into two classes.
1. To the writings, as the genuine productions of the authors to whom they are ascribed.
* 2 Tim. iii. 16.
2. To the works themselves, as being a true history.
With respect to the objection against their being genuine, in relation to their imputed authors, if it could in some cases be well supported, it would by no means invalidate either the truth or the inspirations of these writings; because the books do not always declare their authors. They have, however, been transmitted through so regular a channel of evi dence, by a people for whom they were especially written, and by whom they were religiously preserved, as to render their being written by those to whom they are ascribed, as indubitable as any thing of the kind can be. In some cases the authors may be considered as dubious; and seeing that, in these instances, the books are not imputed in Scripture to any individual, no objection can reasonably be made on this ground.
An objection is sometimes made to the supposed author, on account of his speaking of himself in the third person; but this cannot have much weight, when it is considered that
it is a mode of writing not peculiar to the Scriptures, but one which has been adopted by various historians, whose works have been generally admitted without disputation.
Another more plausible reason for disputing the authors, arises from some places being mentioned by names, which appears to have been given to them subsequent to the alleged writer's existence; or from saying, that a place is called by a particular name "to this day," with other similar expressions. Now all this is easily obviated by considering, what is generally admitted, that, after the Babylonian captivity, Ezra revised the Jewish Scriptures; and it appears, that, in some instances, he either made use of modern names, or added remarks of his own to elucidate the history. He was a religious character, and one whom the Jews considered as acting under Divine direction; they therefore received his comments, and added them, if he himself, to the original text. This is a fact which the Jews acknowledge; and which accounts for the causes of this objection in such a manner, as must, I apprehend, be satisfactory to every impartial mind.
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