« PoprzedniaDalej »
'tures, which so plainly speak of the person and offices of the Messiah ?
2. As to the other part of the objection, that the New Testament hath been corrupted by heretics since our Saviour's time, whatever charge hath been brought against the Arians, and some others, of leaving out some words, or verses, which tend to overthrow their scheme, they have not been able, even when the empire was most favourable to their cause, to alter all the copies; so that their fallacy has been detected, and the corruption amended.
As for those various readings that there are of the same text, these consist principally in literal alterations, which do not much tend to pervert the sense thereof. It was next to impossible for so many copies of scripture to be transcribed without some mistakes, since they who were employed in this work were not under the infallible direction of the Spirit of God, as the first penmen were; yet the providence of God hath not suffered them to make notorious mistakes; and whatever mistakes there may be in one copy, they may be corrected by another; so that the scripture is not, for this reason, chargeable with the reproach cast upon it, as though it were not a perfect rule of faith.
Quest. IV. How doth it appear that the scriptures are the
word of God? Answ. The scriptures manifest themselves to be the word of
God by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers to salvation : but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it, that they are the word of God.
we brought to prove the scriptures to be the word of God, some things may be premised.(a)
(a) “Since God has been pleased to leave us the Records of the Jewish Reli. gion, which was of old the true religion, and affords no small testimony to the Christian religion, it is not foreign to our purpose, to see upon what foundation the credibility of these is built. That these books are theirs, to whom they are ascribed, appears in the same manner as we have proved of our books. And they, whose names they bear, were either Prophets, or men worthy to be credited; such as Esdras, who is supposed to have collected them into one volume, at that time, when the Prophets Haggai, Mniachi, and Zacharias, were yet alive. I will not here repeat what was said before, in commendation of Moses. And not only that first part, delivered by Mures, as we have shewn in the first book, but the
1. When we speak of the scriptures as divine, we do not only mean that they treat of God and divine things; to wit,
latter history is confirmed by many Pagans. *Thus the Phænician annals men. tion the names of David and Solomon, and the league they made with the Tyrians. And Berosus, as well as the Hebrew books, mention Nabuchadonosor, and other Chuld.eans. Vaphres, the king of Egypt in Jeremiah is the same with Apries in Herodotus. And the Greek books are filled with Cyrus and his successors down to Darius ; and Josephus in his book against Appion, quotes many other things relating to the Jewish nation : To which may be added, that we above took out of Strabo and Trogus. But there is no reason for us Christians to doubt of the credibility of these books, because there are testimonies in our books, out of al. most every one of them, the same as they are found in the Hebrew. Nor did Christ when he blamed many things in the teachers of the law, and in the Phari. sses of his time, ever accuse them of falsifying the books of Moses and the Pro. phets, or of using supposititious or altered books. And it can never be proved or made credible, that after Christ's time, the scripture should be corrupted in any thing of moment; if we do but consider how far and wide the Jewish nation, who every where kept those books, was dispersed over the whole world. For first, the ten tribes were carried into Media by the Assyrians, and afterwards the other two. And many of these fixed themselves in foreign countries, after they had a permission from Cyrus to return : the Macedonians invited them into Alexandria with great advantages; the cruelty of Antiochus, the civil war of the Armonæi, and the foreign wars of Pompey and Sossius, scattered a great many; the country of Cyrene was filled with Jews; the cities of Asia, Macedonia, Lycaonia, and the Isles of Cyprus, and Crete, and others, were full of them; and that there was a vast number of them in Rome, we learn from Horace, Juvenal, and Martial. It is impossible that such distant bodies of men should be imposed upon by any art whatsoever, or that they should agree in a falsity. We may add further that almost three hundred years before Christ, by the care of the Egyptian kings, the Hebrew books were translated into Greek by those who are called the Seventy ; that the Greeks might have them in another language, but the sense the same in the main ; upon which account they were the less liable to be altered : And the same books were translated into Chaldee, and into the Jerusalem language; that is, half Syriac; partly a little before, and partly a little after Christ's time. After which followed 'other Greek versions, that of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion; which Origen, and others after him, compared with the seventy Interpreters, and found no difference in the history; or in any weighty matters. Philo flourished in Caliguld's time, and Josephus lived till Vespasian's. Each of them quote out of the Hebrew books the same things that we find at this day. By this time the Christian religion began to be more and more spread, and many of its professors were Hebrews : Many had studied the Hebrew learning, who could very easily have perceived and discovered it, if the Jews had received any thing that was false, in any remarkable subject, I mean, by comparing it with more ancient books. But they not only do this, but they bring very many testimonies out of the Old Testament, plainly in that sense in which they are received amongst the Hebrews, which Hebrews may be convicted of any crime, sooner than (I will not say of falsity, but) of negligence, in relation to these books; because they used to transcribe and compare them so very scrupulously, that they could tell how often every letter came over. We may add, in the first place, an argument, and that no mean one, why the Jews did not alter the scripture designedly; because the Christians prove, and as they think very strongly, that their Master Jesus was that very Messiah who was of old promised to the forefathers of the Jews; and this from those very books, which were read by the Jews. Which the Jews
• Thus the Phoenician Annals, &c.] See what Josephus cites out of them, Book VIII. Chap. 2. of his Ancient History; where he adds, “ that if any one would see the Copies of those Epis. *tles which Solomon and Hirom wrote to each other, they may be procured of the public Keep"ers of the Records at Tyrus." (We must be cautions how we believe this; however, see what I have said upon 1 Kings v.3.) There is a remarkable place concerning David, quoted by Josephus, Book VH. Ch. 6. of his Ancient History, out of the TVth of Damasce nus'. History.
his nature and works, as referring principally to the subject matter thereof; for this may be said of many human uninspired writings, which, in proportion to the wisdom of their authors, tend to set forth the divine perfections. And when, as the consequence hereof, we assert that every thing contained therein is infallibly true, we do not deny but that there are many things, which we receive from human testimony, of which it would be scepticism to entertain the least doubt of the truth ; notwithstanding, when we receive a truth from human testimony, we judge of the certainty thereof, by the credibility of the evidence, and, in proportion thereunto, there is a degree of certainty arising from it: but when we suppose a truth to be divine, we have the highest degree of certainty equally applicable to every thing that is so, and that for this reason, because it is the word of him that cannot lie. Thus we consider the holy scriptures, as being of a divine original, or given by the inspiration of God, or as his revealed will, designed to bind the consciences of men; and that the penmen were not the inventers of them, but only the instruments made use of to convey these divine oracles to us, as the apostle says, 2 Pet. i. 21. Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake, as they were moved by the Holy Ghost: and the apostle Paul says, Gal. i. 11, 12. I certify unto you, that the gospel, which was preached of me, is not after man; neither received I it of man; neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ : the former asserts this concerning scripture in general, and the latter concerning that part thereof which was transmitted to us by him : this is what we mean when we say the scripture is the word of God.
2. It is necessary for us to know and believe the scriptures to be the word of God, because they are to be received by us as a rule of faith and obedience, in whatever respects divine things, otherwise we are destitute of a rule, and consequently our religion would be a matter of the greatest uncertainty; and as this faith and obedience is divine, it is a branch of religious worship, and as such, contains an entire subjection to God, a firm and unshaken assent to whatever he reveals as true, and a readiness to obey whatever he commands, as being influenced by his authority; which is inconsistent with any hesitation or doubt concerning this matter. Moreover, it is only therein that we have an account of the way in which sinners may access to God; the terms of their finding acceptance in his sight, and all the promises of eternal blessedness, on which their hope is founded, are contained therein; if therefore we are not certain that the scriptures are the word of God, our faith and hope are vain; it is herein that life and immortality is brought to light, and, by searching them, we think that we have eternal life.
would have taken the greatest eare should never have been, after there arose a controversy between them and the Christians; if it had ever been in their power to bare altered what they would."
3. As divine revelation is necessary, so it is not impossible, contrary to reason or the divine perfections, for God to impart his mind and will to men in such a way as we call inspiration : these things must be made appear, otherwise it is a vain thing to attempt to give arguments to prove the scriptures to be the word of God; and, in order hereto, let it be considered,
(1.) That divine revelation is necessary; this appears because as religion is necessary, so there are some things contained in it which cannot be known by the light of nature, to wit, all those divine laws and institutions, which are the result of God's expressed will; and these could not be known by the light of nature, or in a way of reasoning derived from it, therefore they must be known by special revelation. Positive laws, as opposed to those that are moral, depend upon a different foundation; the glory of God's sovereignty eminently appears in the one, as that of his holiness doth in the other: now his sovereign pleasure relating thereto could never have been known without divine revelation, and then all that revenue of glory, which is brought to him thereby, would have been entirely lost, and there would have been no instituted worship in the world ; and the gospel, which is called the unsearchable riches of Christ, Eph. iii. 8. must have been for ever a hidden thing, and the condition of those who bear the Christian name would have been no better than that of the heathen, concerning whose devotion, the apostle Paul, though speaking of the wisest and best of them says, Acts xvii. 23. that they ignorantly worshipped an unknown God: and elsewhere, 1 Cor. i. 24. that the world by wisdom knew not God; and the reason is, because they were destitute of divine revelation.
(2.) It is not impossible, contrary to reason or the divine perfections, that God should reveal his mind and will to man, which may be argued from hence; it contains no impossibility, for if it be possible for one creature to impart his mind and will to another, then certainly God can do this, for there is no excellency or perfection in the creature but what is eminently in him; and if it be not unworthy of the divine majesty to be omnipresent, and uphold all things by the word of his power, it is not unbecoming his perfections to manifest himself to intelligent creatures, who, as such, are fit to receive the discoveries of his mind and will; and his endowing them with faculties capable of receiving these manifestations, argues, that he designed that they should be favoured with them; and therefore whatever displays there may be of infinite condescension therein, yet it is not unbecoming his perfections so to do.
(3.) As God cannot be at a loss for an expedient how to discover his mind and will to man, and is not confined to one certain way, so he may, if he pleases, make it known by inspiration; it is not impossible, neither is there any thing in the subjects that should hinder him from impressing whatever ideas he designs to impart, on the minds of men. This a finite spirit may do ; and that there is such a thing as this, will hardly be denied by any, but those who, with the Sadducees, deny the nature and power of spirits : it hence follows, that God can much more impress the souls of men, or immediately communicate his mind to them in such a way, as we call inspiration ; and to deny that there is such a thing as inspiration, is not only to deny the credibility of scripture history, as well as its divine authority, but it is to deny that which the heathen, by the light of nature, have universally believed to be consonant to reason, and therefore they often represent their gods as conversing with men; and they appear, in many of their writings, not to have the least doubt whether there has been such a thing as inspiration in the world.
These things being premised, we are now more particularly to consider those arguments which are brought to prove the scriptures to be the word of God, or that they were given by divine inspiration : these are taken either from the internal evidence we have hereof, viz. the subject matter of scripture, from the majesty of the style, the purity of the doctrines, the harmony or consent of all its parts, and the scope or tendency of the whole to give all glory to God; or else external, taken from the testimony which God himself gave to it, at first by miracles, whereby the mission of the prophets, and consequently what they were sent to deliver, was confirmed, and afterwards, in succeeding ages, by the use which he hath made of it in convincing and converting sinners, and building up believers to salvation. These are the arguments mentioned in this answer, which will be distinctly considered, and some others added, as a farther proof of this matter, to wit, those taken from the character of the inspired writers, particularly as they were holy men, and so they would not impose on the world, or pretend themselves to have been inspired, if they were not; and also, as they were plain and honest men, void of all craft and subtilty, and so could not impose on the world; and, had they attempted to do so, they had a great many subtle and malicious enemies, who would soon have detected the fallacy. To this we shall also add an argument taken from the sublimity of the doctrine, in which respect it is too great, and has too much wisdom in it for men to have invented ; and others taken from the anti