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his brethren out of their bondage in Egypt, but tells us what poor trifling excuses he made; as when he says, Exod. iv. 10, 13, 19. O Lord, I am not eloquent; and when God answers him, by promising to supply this defect; he obstinately persists in declining this service, and says, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send; that is, by any one but myself ; so that he who expressed such courage and resolution forty years before in defending the oppressed Israelites, and supposed that his brethren would have understood that God, by his hand, would deliver them, but they understood it not, Acts vii. 24, 25. when God really called him to deliver them, he obstinately refused to obey; and, indeed, whatever excuses he might make, the main thing that lay at the bottom was fear, and therefore, as a further inducement to it, God tells him, The men were dead that sought his life. All this he says concerning himself; and elsewhere he tells us, Deut. xxxii. 51, 52. compared with Numb. XX. 10, 11, 12. and Deut. iii. 25–27. that he did not sanctify the name of God in the eyes of the people, but spake unadvisedly with his lips; and that, for this, God would not let him go into the land of Canaan, though he earnestly desired it.
And the prophet Jeremiah tells us, how he was ready to faint, and, in a murmuring way, curses the day of his birth, Jer. XX. 7, 8, 14, 15, 16. and seems almost determined not to make mention of God, nor speak any more in his name, because he had been put in the stocks by Pashur, and was derided and mocked by others, who were, indeed, below his notice.
And David discovered his own sin, though it was a very scandalous one, in the matter of Uriah, Psal. li. the title, compared with ver. 14. and prays, Deliver me from blood guiltiness; which is a confession of his being guilty of murder.
The apostles also discover their infirmities. Thus Paul discovers his furious temper, in persecuting the church, before his conversion, and ranks himself amongst the chief of sinners, 1 Tim. i. 13, 15. And how willing is Matthew to let the world know, that, before his conversion, he was a publican: thus he characterises himself, Matt., X. 3. and says, chap. ix. 9. that when Christ called him, he sat at the receipt of custom, though the publicans were reckoned among the vilest of men for extor. tion, and other crimes, and were universally hated by the Jews.
Moreover as the penmen of scripture expose their own crimes, so they do those of their nearest and dearest friends and relatives, which carnal policy would have inclined them to conceal. Thus Moses tells us how Aaron his brother made the golden calf, and so was the encourager and promoter of the people's idolatry; that it was he that bid them break off the golden ear-rings, which he received at their hand, whereof, he
made a molten calf, and then built an altar before it, Exod. xxxi. 2-5. Though the Jewish historian * was so politic, as to conceal this thing, for the honour of his own nation; and therefore when he tells us, that Moses went up into the mount to receive the law, he says nothing of the scandalous crime, which the people were guilty of at the foot of the mountain at the same time.
Moreover, as they do not conceal their sins, so they some times declare the meanness of their extraction, which shewed that they did not design to have honour from men. Thus Amos tells us, Amos i. 1. He was among the herdmen of Tekoa : and that he was not bred up in the schools of the prophets, which he intends, when he styles himself, no prophet, neither a prophet's son, chap. vii. 14.
And the evangelists occasionally tell the world how they were fisher-men, when called to be Christ's disciples, and so not bred up in the schools of learning among the Jews. (a) 3. They were very far from being crafty or designing men ; neither did they appear to be men that were able to manage an imposture of this nature, or frame a new scheme of religion, and, at the same time, make the world believe that it was from God. For,
• Vid. Joseph Antiq.
(a) Reason will affirm that every effect speaks a cause; then we ask how it sbould happen that a dozen illiterate fishermen and mechanicks of Galilee, after the wisdom of the philosophers had left the world in darkness, should have intro. duced so much light of knowledge, that our children and servants are wiser than the ancient philosophers ? Let no one say, that they only began, what the wisdom of after ages have carried on towards perfection. The writings of the apostles are the same to this day; as is proved by the earliest versions, quotations, and manuscripts. So perfect was the system of morals they left, that no error has been detected in it, and all attempts to build upon or add to it, have only exposed the ignorance of the individuals who have essayed to do so.
How has it happened that whilst learned men have ever been at discord about the nature, and true foundation of the obligation of virtue, these despised fishermen, have shown the true foundation and nature of duty, and have erred in no particular? Is it not strange that whilst the wisdom of the philosophers made their purest virtue but a more refined pride, these poor men laid the ax to the root of that pride, and taught the world that even their virtues brought them under additional obligations to Divine grace? Is it not remarkable that the system taught by these unlearned men should so perfectly coincide with what is discovered in the works of God, that whilst it aims to eradicate sin, it represents it as in every instance eventually productive of the glory of that God, who brings good out of the evil, and light out of the darkness?
How is it to be accounted for, that when the most learned rabbies perverted the law, and knew not its meaning, that a few crude and uninstructed fishermen should remove their false constructions of that law, explain the types, shudows, proniises and prophecies, show how the truth and justice of God might be clear
in the pardon of sin, and set the labouring conscience at rest? How cane the fisher. • menof Galilee to discover to the wise and learned what they had never conjectured,
and truths, which only attentive minds at the present time can acquiesce in, that all things are certain, because foreknown, and foreknown because Divine knowledge must be infinite and eternal, and yet that rational creatures may be capable of choosing and refusing, though they must be wholly dependent? Is it not passing strange that the wisdom of Philosophers, the learning of Rabbies, the power of Kings and Emperors, the influence of thousands of priests, the prejudices of the world, and the malice of the wicked should be overcome by twelve poor fishermen? How is it to be accounted for that these twelve poor illiterate men should have effected such surprising changes, that modern infidels are ashamed of the evi- . dence of their ancient predecessors, and are obliged to borrow from the fishermen of Galilee a portion of the knowledge they have introduced, without which the opposer's of the Gospel must fall into contempt? Is any man so credulous as to imagine men of no better education and opportunities, possessed of themselles all this know. ledge? when or where has the natural world produced such a phænomenon ? they declared that it was not of themselves, but, that such feeble instruments were chosen, that the power might appear to be what it really was, from God. This testimony they confirmed br miracles, and sealed with their blood
(1.) None that read the scriptures can find any appearance of design in the penmen thereof, to advance themselves or families. Moses, indeed, had the burden of government, but he did not affect the pomp and splendor of a king; neither did he make any provision for his family, so as to advance them to great honours in the world, which it was in his power to have done : the laws he gave, rendered those of his own tribe, to wit, that of Levi, incapable of, and not designed for kingly government; and the highest honour of the priesthood, which was fixed in that tribe, was conferred on his brother's children, not his own.
(2.) The prophets were very few of them great men in the world, not advanced to great places in the government; the esteem and reputation they had among the people at any time, was only for their integrity, and the honour conferred on them by God; and the apostles were plain men, who drove on no design to gain riches and honours from those to whom they preached the gospel ; but, on the other hand, they expected nothing but poverty, reproach, imprisonment, and, at last, to die a violent death : therefore, how can it be supposed that they were subtle designing men, who had some worldly advantage in view? It is plain that they had no design but to do what God commanded, and to communicate what they had received from him, and shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God, whatever it cost them. The apostle Paul was so far from endeavouring to enrich himself by preaching the gospel, that he tells the church, I seek not your's, but you, 2 Cor. xii. 14. and how he was fortified against the afflictions, which he foresaw would attend his ministry, when he says, Philip. iv. 11, 12. I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound, to be full, and to be hungry, to abound and to suffer want : and he was not only content to bear afflictions, but, when called to it, he profes
ses himself to take pleasure in reproach, in necessities, in per'ses cutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake, 2 Cor. xii. 10.
Hitherto we have proved, that the penmen of scripture were men of such a character, that they would not designedly impose on mankind. But some will say, might they not be imposed on themselves, and think they were divinely inspired, when they were not?
To this it may be answered, that if they were deceived or imposed on themselves, when they thought they received the scripture by divine inspiration, this must proceed from one of these two causes : either,
1. They took what was the result of a heated fancy, a strong imagination, or raised affections for inspiration, as some of our modern enthusiasts have done, who have prefaced their warnings, as they call them, with, Thus saith the Lord, &c. when the Lord did not speak by them.' And the deists have the same notion of the prophets and inspired penmen of scripture, and esteem their writings no farther than as they contain the law. of nature, or those doctrines that are self-evident, or might have been invented by the reason of man; and as such they receive them, without any regard to divine inspiration. Or,
2. If the inspired penmen of scripture were otherwise imposed on, it must be by a diabolic inspiration, of which, in other cases, the world has had various instances, when Satan is said (to use the apostle's words) to transform himself into an angel of light, 2 Cor. xi. 14. or has been suffered to deceive his followers, not only by putting forth signs and lying wonders, but impressing their minds with strong delusions, whereby they have believed a lie, 2 Thess. ii. 9, 11. as supposing it to proceed from divine inspiration; and, to give countenance thereto, has produced such violent agitations, tremblings, or distortions in their bodies, as have seemed preternatural, not much unlike those with which the heathen oracles were delivered of old, which were called by some, a divine fury ; but this cannot, with any shadow of reason, be applied to the inspired writers, therefore they were not imposed on.
1. They did not inistake their own fancies for divine revelation.
To suppose that they did so, is not only to conclude that all Fevealed religion is a delusion ; but that the church in all ages; and amongst them the wisest and best of men, have been enthusiasts, and all their hope, founded on this revelation, has been no better than a vain dream. But it is one thing to assert, and another thing to prove ; and becaase they who take this liberty to reproach the scripture'n, pretend not to support their charge by argument, it might seem less necessary to make a reply : however, that our faith may be established, we shall brief ly consider this objection. Therefore,
(1.) This charge is either brought against all that ever spake or wrote by divine inspiration, or only against some of them ; if only some of them have been thus deluded, we might demand particular instances of any of the inspired writers, who are liable to this charge, together with the reasons thereof. If it be said that some of them were men of less wisdom, or had not those advantages to improve their natural abilities, as others have had ; this will not be sufficient to support their cause, since God can make use of what instruments he pleases, and endow them with wisdom in an extraordinary way, to qualify them for the service he calls them to, whereby the glory of his sovereignty more appears. If he pleases to chuse the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise, that no flesh shall glory in his presence, 1 Cor. i. 27, 29. shall he for this be called to an account by vain man? And it is certain, that some who have had this gift, have, as the consequence thereof, been endowed with such wisdom, as has tended to confound their most malicious enemies. But we will suppose that they, who bring this charge against the inspired writers, will not pretend to single out any among them, but accuse them all in general of enthusiasm ; and if this charge be grounded on the vain pretensions of some to inspiration in this age, in which we have no ground to expect this divine gift, will it follow, that, because some are deluded, therefore divine revelation, supported by incontestable evi dence, was a delusion? Or if it be said, that some of old, whom we conclude to have been inspired, were called enthusiasts, as Jehu, and his fellow-soldiers concluded the prophet to be, who was sent to anoint him king, 2 Kings ix, 11. nothing can be inferred from thence, but that there were, in all ages, some Deists, who have treated things sacred with reproach and ridicule.
(2.) But if this charge be pretended to be supported by any thing that has the least appearance of an argument, it will be alleged, in defence thereof, that it is impossible for a person certainly to know himself to be inspired at any time; if that could be proved indeed, it would be something to the purpose : and inasmuch as we are obliged to assert the contrary, it will be demanded, how it might be known that a person was under inspiration, or what are the certain marks by which we may conclude that the inspired writers were not mistaken in this matter? I confess, it is somewhat difficult to determine this question, especially since inspiration has so long ceased in the world; but we shall endeavour to answer it, by laying down the following propositions.
1. If some powerful and impressive influences of the Spirit of God on the souls of men, in the more common and ordinary methods of divine providence and grace, have been zot only