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Scriptures was only general ; that, upon occasions, the apostles were endowed with supernatural knowledge, and gifted with “a mouth and wisdom, which their adversaries would not be able to gainsay or resist;" and that when they sat down to compose those records, which were to be transmitted to after ages, “ all things were brought to their remembrance” necessary to be known ; and all doctrines revealed, and precepts enforced, essential to the propagation and support of vital religion : but that in other points, and with respect to the mode, or terms, in which their information and instruction were to be conveyed, they were left to their own private judgment and natural capacity. This view of the question appears to be not only more rational and unexceptionable, and more reconcilable with the general tenor of Scripture, and the very different style and manner of the different authors, but to be absolutely confirmed by several express declarations of the holy penmen themselves, who make no pretension to this unbounded and unqualified illumination; but, on the contrary, profess themselves, sometimes, doubtful; sometimes, speaking by their own authority; sometimes, by Divine command. “She is happier,"
says St. Paul, “ if she so abide, after my judgment; and I think also that I have the Spirit of God;"—again, “ to the rest speak I, not the Lord”—“this I speak by permission, and not of commandment.” In another place,
In another place, "to the married I command; yet not I, but the Lord,”—“I have no commandment of the Lord; but I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful."
We may then, I think, safely conclude, in the words of the great divine to whom I referred at the beginning of this discourse, “In the prophetic writings, when the whole subject matter was entirely new to the prophet himself, perhaps not understood by him, it is very plain inspiration necessarily means, that the whole was dictated to the inspired writer, either in vision, or by an angel, or otherwise, according as it pleased God to reveal himself at different times and in divers manners. But in the historical and moral books of Scripture, wherein the writers had perfect understanding of the doctrine taught, and perfect knowledge of the facts recorded, it was abundantly sufficient, that they had such assistance of the Holy Spirit, guiding them into all truth, as enabled them to express their own thoughts in their own words, with an effectual security that they should not err in the manner of delivering the doctrine they were commanded to teach.”
Secondly, the sacred volume, thus inspired,“ is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,"—is adapted to promote the knowledge, and facilitate the attainment, of true piety and moral virtue. The fundamental points of religion, so far as relates to the great and adorable Creator,were known, or might have been known, in all ages, and were more clearly revealed and authoritatively established by the Mosaic dispensation; which, to all that reason and reflection could teach, added such rites and external observances, as were fitted to the circumstances of that peculiar nation, selected to preserve the worship of God, and to introduce the more comprehensive and perfect system of Christianity. In the venerable records of the Jewish Church, we have not only a code of moral law, but a long series of prophecy, predicting the leading facts of evangelical history; and planting the vigorous stock of that tree of life, “ whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.” The doctrines of the Gospel illustrate and display, in the strongest colours, the perfections of ALMIGHTY GOD,—the God of the Jews, the God of the world ;—and explain and enforce all the obligations of piety and virtue: they open to us new scenes of hope, new sources of com. fort, new grounds of confidence; new, prevailing, resistless, motives to obedience: they reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment;"—they show the deplorable condition into which apostacy and iniquity had plunged the human race; the unspeakable and inconceivable goodness of their Maker, in rescuing them from this state of misery and ruin, by “ delivering his Son for their offences, and raising him for their justification;" and they vindicate the honour and supremacy of the laws of the final Judge and Ruler of the universe, in the sight of all intelligent creatures, by reconciling justice with mercy. Does man, stubborn and intractable by nature and habit, stand in need of reproof and correction? The Word of God assures us that his constant providence, his most afflictive dispensations, work this salutary purpose ;—He chasteneth us “ as a father the son in whom he delighteth ;” not with any mixture of caprice and humour, but solely " for our profit.” Is man an ignorant, as well as an untoward and corrupt being ? By his Gospel, the invisible Source of all Light and WISDOM dispels the darkness of our understandings.—He gives us the manifestation of his glory in the face of his Son; the knowledge of his will, by a written and unchanging law; the clear perception of eternal truth, by the continued inspiration of his Holy SPIRIT. Every article of Christian faith conducts to rectitude of conduct ; every discovery, which enlarges the understanding, tends to amend the heart: the knowledge of eternal truth, in the great plan of Divine Wisdom, communicated to mortal man by the book of immortality (as far as man has capacity to receive it), conducts him to the study and acquisition of “whatsoever things are true," and leads him to know, to reverence, and to perform, whatsoever things are “just, lovely, and pure.” Thus is all Scripture, “ given by inspiration of God,”—every way, in every degree, and to the utmost extent, "profitable to man :" for, when its doctrines take possession of the mind, they immediately, and by necessary consequence, operate, to expel every vice, and plant every virtue in the soul.