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fold strength to the other : and no writings whatever stand on the credit of such numerous and decisive attestations.
Were we therefore to consider them merely as compositions of excellent men, well informed, and faithfully informing us, in the best manner they could, of what it most concerns us to know, we must allow them to be a most valuable blessing; a treasure unspeakably superior to all the other remains of antiquity. But this is much too low an esteem of them : they were written moreover under the special direction of Heaven, and that for an end no less important, than a full supply of our spiritual wants. These two points the apostle asserts plainly in the text : and I shall endeavour to confirm and improve his assertions, by shewing, in some discourses upon it,
I. That all Scripture is of divine authority.
II. That it completely answers every purpose of religion.
III. That we ought to read and study it diligently.
IV. How we may do this to the best effect.
I. That all Scripture is of divine authority, or, in St. Paul's language, given by inspiration of God: a position extremely requisite to be understood in its true sense, and established on its proper foundation. For some have held it to signify, that every sentence and word was dictated from above: and consequently have made room, without intending it, for as many plausible objections, as there are appearances of any thing, which in respect of clearness, elegance, order, strength, exceeds not human power, or falls beneath absolute perfection. Others, especially of late years, partly to guard against this danger, and partly to excuse notions of their own, which are contrary to
Scripture, have imagined, that being inspired meant little more at least in relation to the historical and doctrinal books) than being indued with a large measure of general pious intention : so that, continu'ing to call themselves Christians, and professing a high respect for the sacred writers as good men, they have thought themselves justified in doubting, or even disbelieving, almost as much as they please, of what the Scriptures teach.
To state therefore and defend the sense of the text, I shall begin with explaining the terms. The word, here translated Scripture, denotes frequently in other authors any writing whatever. Whence some ancient versions render the original thus : every writing, given by inspiration of God, is profitable, and so forth: leaving it undetermined, which are so given. But always,' in the Gospels and Epistles, it denotes that collection of writings, which the Church acknowledged for its rule of life and manners. When our Apostle sent this epistle to Timothy, several parts of the New Testament were not published, and scarce any had spread very far: so that he must by Scripture mean chiefly if not solely, the Old Testament. But the books of the New, from their first appearance, obtained the same title every where. St. Peter gives it by the plainest implication to what St. Paul wrote *: and doubtless what he, and the rest of the twelve, wrote, equally deserved it. Inspiration is any particular influence of God on the mind : whence we pray in the communion service, that he would cleanse our hearts by the inspiration of his Holy Spirit. But, in the case before us, it must signify such influence, as will be effectual for the purpose of writing such books. And of this there may be various degrees requisite, and therefore granted, according to the variety of circumstances. Moving a person inwardly to undertake the work is one degree. Superintending him during the execution of it, so as to preserve him from any considerable mistake or omission, is another. Preserving him from all, even the least, is a
2 Pet. ii. 16.
. higher still. Enabling him to express himself in a manner loftier, clearer, more convincing or more affecting, than he could have done otherwise, is yet a further step. Suggesting to him also the matter, which he shall deliver, goes beyond the former, especially if he was unacquainted with it till then. And putting into his mouth the very words he shall use, is the completest guidance, that can be.
Now we say not, that God hath done all these things in every part of Scripture : but so many in each as were needful. That he directed Moses to write his laws*, and Isaiaht, and Ezekiel I, and Habakkuks, part at least of their prophecies, and Jeremiah the whole of his|, and St. John the book of Revelations, they themselves positively assure us : and by parity of reason we may presume it concerning the rest : nor can we doubt, but that, writing in obedience to his command, they wrote so, as he approved. On some occasions perhaps they wanted, and therefore had, no extraordinary assistance. Without this, the historians amongst them might relate several facts from their own personal knowledge, others from authentic records : and Moses might receive his accounts of the earliest ages from undoubted tradition. For tradition was much longer credible, when there were but few things to commit to memory,
* Exod. xxxiv. 27. Comp. xxiv. 4. Deut. xxxi. 9. 22. + Is. viii. 1. xxx. 8. # Ezek. xliii. 11. § Hab. ii. 2. | Jer. xxx. 2. xxxvi. 2. 28. | Rev. i. 11. 19.
and there was no other way of preserving them, and two or three generations lasted many centuries. The writers of the Psalms might often chuse their own subjects, and treat them suitably to their own genius. The wise king and other compilers of the Proverbs, might perpetuate their own maxims. The authors of the Epistles may well be supposed to have given the many small directions, which we find in them, solely from the dictates of their own prudence. The authors of all the books might be trusted very commonly to use their own stile and method, (in which accordingly there is much diversity) nay, even their own illustrations, arguments and reasonings, on the points before them. And yet, amidst all this, the watchful eye of God might sufficiently provide against their misleading into error and sin, or omitting to instruct in any thing essential, those, whom they were appointed to make wise unto salvation *.
That he hath superintended them thus far, is evident from the necessity of his doing it. The patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian revelations, which are contained, with their principal evidences, in these books, could not be known with certainty otherwise than by means of them, after some time, though they might at first by word of mouth. And therefore to prevent his gracious intention towards every succeeding generation from being frustrated, undoubtedly God would take care, that the Scripture should teach us infallibly what he required us to believe and do: which was impossible, if his truths and the imaginations of his creatures were blended in them promiscuously: or indeed, if they were only left to express themselves as they could, properly or improperly, concerning abstruse and difficult matters, (as there
* 2 Tim. iii. 15.
are many such in the sacred writings, where a small error in their phrase might occasion a great one in our belief or conduct. For on this supposition, how should we distinguish with safety in matters of such moment: and where shall they, who reject any one article find a sure place to stop at ? Fatal experience hath proved continually, that they can find none. And consequently our wise and good Maker would effectually preserve writings of such infinite importance, not only from gross errors, but from the very smallest in faith or practice, and, one should think, in arguings and facts also : the former being oft affected by the latter,
But this is not all : he must have interposed much farther. We find passages throughout, so sublime, so pathetic, full of such energy and force upon the heart and conscience; yet without the least appearance of labour and study for that purpose: indeed the design of the whole is so noble, so well suited to the sad condition of human kind; the morals have in them such purity and dignity; the doctrines are many of them so much above reason, yet all of them so reconcileable with it; the expression is so majestic, yet familiarised with such easy simplicity; that the more we read and study these books with pious dispositions and judicious attention, the more we shall see and feel of the hand of God in them; and without fixing distinctly on this or that text, be fully satisfied in the gross, that no mere men, and yet less unlearned men, as several of the writers were, could ever approach to such perfection, (far superior to that of the most admired heathens,) without being raised vastly above themselves by supernatural aid. But then if we consider also the accurate agreement and correspondence of the several parts, though of very dif