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cause it hath been furiously assailed ; and accordingly they have abandoned it wholly, or in part, to the enemy. Few writers, indeed, who now undertake to defend the cause of revelation, hold the plenary inspiration of the scriptures. That idea has become unfashionable; it is classed with other opinions of our fathers, which are exploded as the fooleries of enthusiasm, and superstitious credulity; and he only is supposed to think rationally on the subject, who looks upon the sacred books as partly human and partly inspired; as a heterogeneous compound of the oracles of God, and the stories and sentiments of men. There are even some, by whom this partial inspiration is denied, and the scriptures are regarded as the writings of faithful but fallible men, who had nothing to preserve them from error but the accuracy of their information, and the integrity of their hearts. The spirit of infidelity is working among christians themselves.
The inspiration of the scriptures is a point which christians are too generally chargeable with taking upon trust. Few of them study the arguments by which it is evinced, and provide themselves with answers to the objections which infidels oppose to it. It is a doctrine which hath been received by tradition from their fathers, and which, upon their authority, the greater part believe to be true. We need not wonder, then, that, in a time of trial like the present, when the efforts of infidelity are unusually bold and vigorous, there should be a great falling away among the professors of religion ; nor can such apostacy be deplored on any other ground, than as it af. fects the immortal interests of those who are involved in it. It is attended with no real loss to the cause of revelation, and it reflects no dishonour upon it: for of what advantage are numbers, if they be destitute of principle; and what discredit can arise to the scriptures from the desertion of persons, whose attachment was less the effect of deliberate choice than of accident? There is no reason for being alarmed, as if such an event portended a general defection. Raw, undisciplined troops may give way at the first onset; but veterans, skilled in the art of defence, and accustomed to danger, will keep the field, in defiance of the most furious attacks of the enemy.
It is unquestionably our duty to bewail the progress of unbelief and error; but we ought not, even during their greatest triumph, to suf. fer our minds to sink into despondeney. The interests of truth are patronized by the Ruler of the world, who is able to render events apparently the most adverse, conducive to their
prosperity ; and who, by a sublime and mysterious process, is continually bringing good out of evil. May we not hope, that at this moment, God is purifying the church, by the agency of her enemies; and that, while their endeavours to destroy christianity shall ultimately serve to diffuse it more widely, and establish it more firmly, the immediate effect shall be, to render its friends more steady and courageous; to give new vigour to their faith, and new ardour to their zeal ? On the side of infidelity, numbers may increase ; but the faithful will present a closer phalanx, which no menaces can intimidate, and no force can over
When the importance of the subject, and the circumstances of the times, are considered, no apology will be expected, for an attempt to illustrate and defend the inspiration of the scriptures. An apology may be necessary for the imperfect manner in which a point of such magnitude is treated ; but while the author is sensible, that the execution is not equal either to the design, or to his own wishes, he will not, by affecting to depreciate his labours, incur the charge of presenting to the public, what he acknowledges to be unworthy of its notice. Of the reasons which induced him first to discuss the subject, in some sermons preached to the congregation under his carė, * and afterwards to enlarge and throw them into their present form, a detail could serve no valuable end, and shall therefore be suppressed. He has given a concise account of the arguments, which appeared to his own mind to prove, in the clearest and most convincing manner, the divine authority of the books of the Old and the New Testament. His labour will not be lost, if the following Essay be the means of reclaiming any of those unhappy persons, who have exchanged christianity for that mixture of folly and impiety, which is arrogantly styled reason and philosophy; or of enabling any christian, who is exposed to the assaults, and perplexed with the sophistry of unbelievers, to “hold fast the profession of his faith without wavering.'
ESSAY ON INSPIRATION.
INTRODUCTION AND PLAN.
REVELATION, in its progress, bears an analogy to light, which, faintly appearing in the dawn, brightens into the full splendour of noon; or to reason, which, feeble in infancy, and confined in its operations, becomes capable, in manhood, of the most profound researches, and embraces the whole circle of science.
It pleased God to make known his will, not at once, but by gradual discoveries; and, in employing this method, he manifested both his wisdom and his goodness. An intelligent parent, in instructing his children, accommodates himself to the weakness of their faculties; and, beginning with first principles and simple elements, leads them forward, by successive steps, to perfection. According to the same plan, God communicated spiritual information " in various portions,"'* as the circumstances of
* Heb. i. 1, 2, the word, nonujeegws, which we translate, "at sundry times," signifies, “in many parts or portions."