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simple ; the thoughts are worthy of that Being, whose majesty and glory are described.
But of examples there is no end. They meet the eye every where, especially in the Psalms, Job, and the prophetical writings ; and they occur, not only in the compositions of David and Isaiah, men, from whose rank and opportunities we might have expected elevation of mind, the former being a king, and the latter, if not one of the royal family, having free access to the court ; but likewise in those of Amos, whose want of education and habits of life promis. ed only the most common thoughts expressed in the homely language of the vulgar. There is nothing more sublime in the scriptures themselves, than the following passage in the prophecies of the herds. man of Tekoah ; nothing which excels or equals it in any human composition : “ For lo ! he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, the Lord, the God of Hosts, is his name.
Examples of the sublime are not so frequent in the New Testament, which is in general written in a plainer style, as it consists, for the most part, of historical narration, in which simplicity is one of the best ornaments; and of epistles composed with a design to instruct those to whom they were addressed, in the doctrines of faith and the duties of the christian life. Yet it would be easy to select a variety of passages describing the glory and perfections of God, and that august and solemn scene which will close all human things, which equal any of those now cited from the Old Testament.* There are three descriptions of the Supreme Being, which, in a few simple words, convey more just and elevated ideas of him, than the most elaborate and splendid compositions of human genius and eloquence. “God is a spirit ;' 66 God is light;"
* Amos iv. 13.
« God is love.”+ In these short sentences, more is taught concerning him than philosophy had ever learned ; more matter is compressed, than was spread over the pages of all the wise men among the Gentiles. It is only necessary to peruse their writings, to be convinced, that none of them ever entertained equal. ly sublime conceptions of the spirituality, the purity, and the benevolence of the Deity.
The inference from all these particulars will occur to every reader. That sentiments so lofty and dignified should flow from the pens of writers who were, for the most part, illiterate ; that they should originate with Jews, who, compared with the polished nations of antiquity, were a rude and barbarous people, is undoubtedly very surprising ; and when we observe, that their writings throw those of all other men into the shade, can we avoid the conclusion, that their faculties were elevated by supernatural influence ; that their thoughts were the dictates of hearenly wisdom, not the offspring of their own minds ; and that the appropriate language, in which they are expressed, was suggested to them by the Spirit of God ? I know, indeed, that some men have dared to arraign the Bible as destitute of either sublimity or beauty, and to prefer to it some
*1 Tim. vi. 15, 16. 1 Thess. iv. 15-17. Rev. XX. 11-15. &c.
John iv. 24. 1 John i. 5. iv. 8.
ancient writings, which, though unquestionably excellent, it hath long been the fashion of pedants to praise beyond the limits of sense and decency; but I know, likewise, that their taste was as corrupted as their impiety was detestable. The Koran of Mahomet hath been celebrated for its eloquence ; and the impostor himself, in the want of real miracles, pretended that the composition was so admirable as to demonstrate its claim to inspiration. But the most sublime passages have been evidently stolen from the scriptures, and have lost a portion of their original dignity by the changes which the deceiver hath made upon them, in order to conceal his depredations. When compared, therefore, with parallel passages in the sacred books, their grandeur is lost 6 in the blaze of a greater light."* " Its loftiest strains," says a writer by no means partial to the scriptures, “ must yield to the sublime simplici. ty of the book of Job, composed in a remote age, in the same country, and in the same language.”+ His idea of the language, in which the book of Job was written, may be disputed ; but his character of its composition, and the preference which he gives it to the Koran, are proofs, that, laying aside for a moment, the prejudices of infidelity, he hath decided according to the dictates of a just taste, and a sound understanding
II. A second argument for the inspiration of the scriptures is drawn from their piety.
The sacred books breathe a spirit of devotion towards God, of holy reverence, of faith, of resigna. tion, of zeal for his glory. Their tendency is to form in our minds just and elevated conceptions of
* White’s Sermons, Sermon vi. † Gibbon's History, chap. La
his nature ; to make us acquainted with the relations in which he stands to us, and to impress upon our hearts a sense of the obligations which flow from thern ; to beget and cherish the disposition and the habit of contemplating him in every object and occurrence, and of referring all things to him ; to inspire us with the sentiments and affections, which correspond to his infinite excellencies, and are a due return for his beneficence ; and to excite us to consecrate ourselves to his service, and to glorify him with our souls and our bodies which are his. They seem to have been written with the express design to lead us to admire the perfections and the works of God; to praise his goodness and adore his justice, in the dispensations of his providence; and to yield cheerful and conscientious obedience to his laws.
In human compositions, atheistical and irreligious sentiments are too often introduced; or the subject of religion is purposely avoided, because disagreeable to the author, or to those whom he wishes to be his readers ; or when it is the avowed intention of the writer to treat of God and our duty to him, ideas are brought forward of a nature fitted to cool and to repress the emotions of piety. While too much, sometimes all, is ascribed to the wisdom and virtue of man, or to the power of natural causes, God is kept out of our view, we lose all sense of our dependence upon him, and our gratitude is weakened or extinguished. This will be found, on due consid. eration, to be the tendency and the real effect even of some writings which profess to be religious. But in the scriptures every thing leads us directly to God. All good is represented as flowing from
his hand ; all events as ordered by his wisdom ; all men as the instruments, which he employs to execute his purposes. We are conducted behind the curtain and shewn the hand which moves all the springs of the mighty machine ; which causes all the revolutions in the universe. One great agent appears, whom creatures animate and inanimate
Their powers, their talents, their virtues, their atchievements, instead of being placed in opposition to him, as advancing a rival claim to our admiration and praise, conspire to display his glory and to elevate our ideas of him, by being exhibited both as the gifts of his bounty, and as the means by which he carries forward his plans to their completion. In short, by the light of the scriptures we behold him in every place and in every event; and their manifest design is, to make him the continual object of our meditation, our confidence, our love, and our homage.
To the scriptures, men are indebted for all their just notions of God; and if there be some places of the earth, where worthy conceptions are formed of his essence, his attributes, his government, his worship, and the obedience which we owe to him, they are those places alone, in which the books, by us held to be inspired, are known. There is hardly any person who is not apprised of the superiority of christian to heathen nations, ancient and modern, in their ideas of religion. The conceptions which a peasant among us entertains of the Divine Being, are more exalted, and the worship which he offers to him is purer and more dignified, than were the conceptions and the worship of the most enlightened and devout philosophers of Greece and Rome.