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to see reduced to practice by those, on whose good behaviour
interest may depend ? Can they inspire that fortitude which nobly sustains the spirit in adversity ? Have they any sovereign antidote to administer against the fretting, rankling influence of pain and disappointment ? What sanctuary do they open for the reception of the persecuted and forlorn? What consolation do they provide for the oppressed, the poor, the broken hearted; for those who have been wounded by the poisoned shafts of calumny, and for those who are shedding tears of hopeless sorrow over the graves of their friends ?
Of all concerns, there is none so momentous and interesting as that about which you are now called upon to decide ;-whether you shall hold by the scriptures, or adopt any of the modern systems of unbelief. It is a decision for this world and for the next, as virtue or vice, the approbation or the reproaches of your own minds, if they do not lose all sensibility, and final happiness or misery will be the result of your choice. Review, then, with attention, the arguments which have been produced in favour of the Bible. Ask your reason, whether it be possible, that a book so attested and confirmed should be an imposture ; and whether evidence so clear and full should be set aside on account of a few difficulties which you cannot solve, or because some restrictions are imposed, which seem to intrench upon your natural liberty. At the tribunal of free and unbiassed reason, we are willing, that the cause of revelation should be tried. Let truth and duty be the only objects of your inquiries; and the issue will be such as we wish it. " If thou criest after
knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding ; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures ; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God."*
To such of my readers as are fully persuaded of the divine authority of the scriptures, I beg leave to address the few following exhortations.
First, Be thankful for the scriptures. All the proofs of their inspiration conspire to shew you that it is an inestimable treasure of which you are possessed. The Bible is the word of God. It is
more to be desired,” as the psalmist says, 16 than gold, yea, than much fine gold ; it is sweeter than honey, and the honey-comb."'t It is the map which shews the road leading to the heavenly Canaan, and to the Zion above. It is our charter to the everlasting inheritance ; it is the guide of our youth, and the staff of our old age. To the scriptures we are indebted for those views of the divine character which relieve and comfort us. They unfold the excellencies of our Redeemer, the wonders of his love, the immense stores of his grace, the attractive beauties of his example. They supply motives of the sweetest and most powerful nature, which engage our affections, and carry us forward in the service of God, not only with pleasure, but to a degree of perfection, which we could not have attained by a cold sense of duty, or under the influence of fear. They set before us a law, righteous, good, and, through the aid of divine grace, easy, by observing which we glorify God, and promote the peace of our own minds. By their light, the hor
* Prov. ü. 3-5.
+ Psalm xix. 10.
rors of the grave are dispelled, and we descry beyond it another and a better world, where we shall enjoy repose after our toils, find a refuge from all the evils of life, receive the reward of our labours, and rise to the utmost perfection and felicity of which our nature is capable. Are you borne up under a load of sorrows ? are you enabled to triumph over temptation ? do you taste the delights, and feel the raptures of prayer, and holy meditation ? when you languish, are your spirits revived ? when you begin to faint, is your vigour restored ? These are the happy effects of the doctrines, the exhortations, the promises, the examples of the scriptures ; and, as these writings are divine, the dictates of immu. table truth and infinite goodness, the joys which they create are not delusive, and the hopes which they inspire, cannot be disappointed. Be thankful, therefore, for the scriptures.
Secondly, Be on your guard against the attempts of those who would overthrow your faith in the scriptures. Persons engaged in this impious design have appeared in every period of the christian church; but at present they are uncommonly numerous and active. This, we are told, is the age of reason ; and its claim to this high character is proved by hostility to all ancient institutions, whether civil or religious. Innovation is the order of the day ; what is old, is instantly pronounced to be foolish and iniquitous; and the hasty productions of visionary and inexperienced projectors are hailed as the dictates of wisdom. We ought not, therefore, to be surprised, that the unusual fermentation of the human mind has given rise to endeavours to abolish christianity, as well as systems of govern
ment. Let the danger to which you are exposed rouse you to vigilance and activity, in repelling the assaults made upon your faith. It was always necessary, that the friends of the gospel should know the grounds on which they believed it to be a divine revelation; but it is peculiarly necessary at present, when the trial of their faith is uncommonly severe.
Study to be thoroughly acquainted with the manifold excellencies and uses of the scriptures, of which a slight view hath been given in the preceding exhortation. It is not to be wondered at, that they who hardly know any thing about the scriptures but their name, should be easily persuaded to renounce them. Like a blind man, they throw away a diamond which they mistake for a pebble. But he will not so easily part with them, who hath experienced the benefit of their instructions and counsels, on many important occasions; and into whose wounds they have poured the oil and wine of consolation. Infidels are all ignorant of the scriptures; unacquainted with the letter, or with the spirit. Many of them have never read them, but have formed their opinion of them upon trust, from the misrepresentations, and sneers, and falsifications of their brethren in unbelief; and of those who have read them, we may safely say, what was said of Julian, that they did not understand them, because there was a veil of prejudice over their eyes.
Beware of the influence of the world upon your hearts, and of the prevalence of sinful dispositions. It is in the heart more than in the head, in the passions more than in the judgment, that infidels find the means of seduction. They would not, it is probable, have themselves been, unbelievers, if they had not, in the first place, been lovers of sin ; and their arguments would make few converts or none, if they were not assisted by certain inclinations, which the scriptures condemn, but infidelity grants them full permission to indulge. “He that doth evil hateth the light."
Thirdly, Read the scriptures with humility of mind. We are not required to believe their inspiration without evidence ; but having once ascertained this point, we should be satisfied. All that remains is to act the part of humble disciples, who are sensible that they are naturally destitute of spiritual wisdom, and are willing to be taught by him, who cannot err. We must sit down at the feet of Jesus, and receive the law from his mouth. Our reason is no farther necessary than to help us to examine the evidences of revelation, to understand the meaning of the words and phrases in which it is expressed, and to trace the connexion of its several parts. To presume to criticise the scriptures, is, in effect, to deny their inspiration ; for criticism is not applicable to a divine production, but to a work of man, which may be compared with a standard, and may be found to be inaccurately executed.
It would be arrogant to set out in the perusal of the scriptures, with a resolution not to be pleased, unless we fully understand them, and be able satisfactorily to account for every thing. There are mysteries in revelation, which astonish and over. whelm our reason ; there are difficulties, which human wisdom will in vain endeavour to solve. Let us not be surprised and offended, when such things occur. Were we modest, did we consider our own