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“ The most ignorant christian," says a sensible wri- : ter, 6 knows more of God, of true religion, and of moral obligations, than the most knowing pagan that ever lived. A modern philosopher would turn a downright adorer of Plato or Cicero, should he find such a lecture in either of them concerning the unity, the omnipresence, the omniscience, the justice, mercy, and power of God, concerning the creation of the world, the degeneracy and corruption of human nature, and the means of its recovery, as a poor tradesman or farmer delivers to his children on a Sunday evening."* Now reason was the same in the Gentiles as in us, and in some of them it existed in higher perfection than in the most of us ; the book of nature was open to their inspection as well as to ours; and their diligence in studying it cannot be exceeded. How, then, shall we account for our superiority ; a superiority which is seen in the lowest of us when compared with the highest of them ? How shall we account for it but by remembering, that, besides the book of nature with which alone they were favoured, we enjoy the book of revo elation ? Some just notions of God prevail among Mahometans ; but they are derived from the scriptures, to which, as we have formerly observed, the Koran is indebted for its purest sentiments, and its sublimest passages.-The argument which is drawn from the piety of the scriptures to prove their inspiration, we shall connect with another argument furnished by
III. Their purity or holiness.
Human writings usually bear evident marks of the moral imperfection of their authors. If there
Deism Revealed, vol. ii. p. 55.
be any exceptions, they are such writings as have been fashioned most exactly after the model of the scriptures. Something is often found in them to provoke and inflame the passions, to justify or palliate their excesses. Even systems of morality are extremely deficient both in precepts and in prohibitions ; some vices are tolerated either in whole or in part, and some virtues are omitted. Virtue is not carried to its highest pitch ; allowances are made for human frailties, which, in plain language, are the irregular passions and inclinations of human nature ; and less respect is paid to the purity of the motives of action than to the action itself. The intelligent reader will perceive that my subject leads me to speak only of such writings as have been drawn up by persons who had not the assistance of revelation. Yet the remarks now made may be extended to too many writings of christians, even to some which have been much admired and celebrated, as teaching the purest religion and morality. The depravity of man is a subtle poison, which insinuates itself into every thing that comes into contact with it, and the operations of which the most powerful antidotes cannot entirely prevent.
On the scriptures there is engraved in legible characters the same inscription which adorned the high priest's mitre, “ Holiness to the Lord.” Indeed, we cannot but consider them as a transcript of the divine purity, when we observe how careful they are to exhibit God as glorious in holiness ; and with what earnestness they recommend conformity to him as our honour and our happiness. To every relation and condition of life they extend their au. thority, and prescribe the duties, which, in that rela
tion, we are bound to perform. They grant no tol-
* Mat. v. 27, 28.
aim at subduing and finally eradicating our sinful appetites and affections ; and at establishing as the supreme law of our thoughts, words and actions, the will of God. - Let us now conjoin these too qualities of the scriptures, and ask from what source a book so pure and so pious hath proceeded. It cannot be the work of
man, because it is too perfect to come from so imperfect a being. All his works of this nature give manifest proofs of his weakness and depravity: If, however, we should admit for a moment that the scriptures are a human production, it is plain that the authors must have been either good or bad men. That they were good men is impossible ; for no good man would act the part of an impious impostor, and pretend a divine inspiration which he did not enjoy. A good man would not speak or act wicked-ly, even for God; and besides, this very book, which persons of this character are supposed to have written, denounces the most dreadful judgments on false prophets, who forge a commission from heaven, and condemns liars of every description to suffer the everlasting torments of hell. Pious frauds, or the use of artifice and falsehood in propagating the truth, and endeavouring to promote the spiritual interests of mankind, though they have been countenanced by the approbation and the practice of some christians, are contrary both to the letter and to the spirit of their religion.* Common sense forbids us to believe, that the writers of the sacred books, if they were impostors, would, without any necessity, have passed sentence on themselves, and inculcated such moral precepts, as were at variance with their own conduct, and must have rendered them, if they were ever detected, the objects of universal execration. It is equally evident, that the scriptures were not fabricated by bad men. Would they have devised the most devout system of religion, and the purest system of morality, which were ever presented to mankind ? Men who hated and disobeyed God, would not have taught us to love and serve him ; they, who took pleasure in sin, would not have represented it as abominable, and employed the most powerful arguments to dissuade us from commiteing it. Nay, I will venture to assert, that bad men have a judgment too inaccurate, and a taste too gross, to be able to compose such a book as the Bible, in which moral distinctions are so refined, the corrupt principle is traced to its inmost recesses and detected under its most specious disguises ; and certain actions which are admired by the world, as the most sube lime efforts of virtue, are pronounced to be of no value. The mode of thinking in morals, which appears in the scriptures, is the most distant imaginable from that of men who were the slaves of vice, It is superior to the ideas even of the most virtuous men, who have not learned to think from it.
* Rom. iii. 5-8.
It being manifest, then, that the scriptures are not the work of men of any description, it remains that we attribute them to God, whose image and superscription they bear. Their piety and purity are features, by which they are known to be his offspring. As it is their uniform aim to communicate just ideas of bis nature, his attributes, and his dispensations ; as they inculcate those sentiments and affections which are suitable to his character, and to the relations which he bears to us; and, as they