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and to deter from folly and vice. But let it ever keep to its own office, which is certainly, in religious matters, ministerial. It can amuse; it can inform; but it cannot supply the summum bonum; it cannot raise fallen man to his original state. GRACE only can restore man to God's image. If learning could have done it, why were the heathens unrestored? are not the infidels often learned? and would not the advent of our Lord and Saviour have been superfluous, if learning could have repaired the ruins of the fall? · Few (as I have already said) in the mass of mankind are learned. They are perhaps as one to a million. What is to become of the millions then, if the gospel of Jesus Christ, by which alone they can live in the sweet tranquillity of a state of grace, and die with religious hope and confidence, cannot be received, with sufficient evidence, without deep learning, logical and me. taphysical disputation? What is to prove it to them, who have neither books, leisure, nor ability to study, if God himself do not teach them by his SPIRIT? Blessed be his name, he has taught them, and continues to teach them. It is among the learned chiefly that INFIDELITY prevails. She inhabits libraries, and walks abroad in academic groves, but is rarely seen in the cottage, in the field, or in the manufactory. The poor and the unlearned do in general believe in the gospel most firmly. What is the evidence which convinces them? It is the witness of the Spirit; and thanks be to him who said my grace is sufficient for thee. “ He that be“ lieveth on the Son of God hath this witness in him. " self.”
The opinion of a man like Dr. Isaac Watts on the true nature of Christianity, is almost of itself decisive. He was not only a devout and zealous Christian, but a profound scholar, a natural philosopher, a logician, and
a metaphysician. His life and conversation exhibited a pattern of every Christian virtue. Let us hear him.
“Every true Christian,” says he, “ has a sufficient " argument and Evidence to support his faith, without “ being able to prove the authority of any of the cano." nical writings. He may hold fast his religion, and be “ assured that it is divine, though he cannot bring any “ learned proof that the book that contains it is divine “ too; nay, though the book itself should even happen “ to be lost or destroyed: and this will appear, with open “ and easy conviction, by asking a few such questions " as these:
.O. Was not this same gospel preached with glorious “ success before the New Testament was written?
“ Were not the same doctrines of salvation by Jesus “ Christ published to the world by the ministry of the “ apostles, and made effectual to convert thousands, “ before they set themselves to commit these doctrines “ to writing?
“ And had not every sincere believer, every true con“ vert, this blessed witness in himself, that Christianity “ was from God?
“ Eight or ten years had passed away, after the ascen“sion of Christ, before any part of the New Testament “ was written; and what multitudes of Christian con“ verts were born again by the preaching of the word, “ and raised to a divine and heavenly life, long ere this “ book was half finished or known, and that among the “ heathens as well as Jews. Great numbers of the “ Gentile world became holy believers, each of them “ having the epistle of Christ written in the heart, and “ bearing about within them a noble and convincing “ proof that this religion was divine; and that without “ a written gospel, without epistles, and without a Bible.
“ In the first ages of Christianity, for several hundred “ years together, how few among the common people u were able to read! « or the use of a Bibi “ fane books were of ne « few of the populace,
« the art of printing
And yet millions of
« Be convinc
e able to read? How few could get the possession he use of a Bible, when all sacred as well as probooks were of necessity copied by writing? How
the populace, in any large town or city, could “obtain or could use any small part of so
could use any small part of scripture, before ut of printing made the word of God so common?
yet millions of these were regenerated, sanctified, nd saved by the ministration of the gospel. Be convinced then that Christianity has a more
le inward witness belonging to it than is derived om ink and paper, from precise letters and syllaes. And though God, in his great wisdom and
podness, saw it necessary that the New Testament " should be written, to preserve these holy doctrines
uncorrupted through all ages, and though he has been pleased to be the invariable and authentic rule of our Ith and practice, and made it a glorious itstrument
instructing ministers and leading men to salvation " in all these latter times; yet Christianity has a secret “ witness in the hearts of believers, that does not depend "on their knowledge and proof of the authority of the "scriptures, nor of any of the controversies that in lat“ ter ages have attended the several manuscript copies " and different readings and translations of the Bible.
"Now this is of admirable use and importance in the “ Christian life, upon several accounts. First, if we con“ sider how few poor unlearned Christians there are “ who are capable of taking in the arguments which are “ necessary to prove the divine authority of the sacred “ writings; and how few, even among the learned, can 6 well adjust and determine many of the different read“ ings or different translations of particular passages in « scripture. Now a wise Christian does not build his “ faith or hope merely upon any one or two single “ texts, but upon the GENERAL SCOPE, sum and sub" stance of the gospel. By this he FEELS a spiritual “ life of peace and piety begun in him. And here lies « his EVIDENCE that CHRISTIANITY IS DIVINE, and “ that these doctrines are from heaven, though a text “ or two may be falsely written or wrong translated, and 6 though a whole book or two may be hard to be proved « authentic.
“ The learned well know what need there is of turn6 ing over the histories of antient times, of the tradi« tions and writings of the fathers, and all authors pious 16 and profane; what need of critical skill in the holy “ languages and in antient manuscripts; what a wide “ survey of various circumstances of fact, time, place, « style, diction, is necessary to confirm one or another « book or verse of the New Testament, and to answer * the doubts of the scrupulous, and the bold objections “ of the infidel. Now how few of the common rank of “ Christians, whose hearts are inlaid with true faith in " the Son of God, and with real holiness, have leisure, “ books, instruction, advantages, and judgment sufficient “ to make a thorough search into these matters, and to o determine, upon a just view of argument, that these “ books were written by the sacred authors whose “ names they bear, and that these authors were under “ an immediate inspiration in writing them. What a “ glorious advantage is it then to have such an INFAL“ LIBLE TESTIMONY to the truth of the gospel wrought « and written in the heart by renewing grace, as does « not depend on this laborious, learned, and ARGUMEN*< TATIVE EVIDENCE of the divine authority of the Bible, 6 or of any particular book or verse in it! .“ Secondly, if we consider what bold assaults are « sometimes made upon the faith of the unlearned
Christian by the deists and unbelievers of our age, “ by disputing against the authority of the scripture, « by ridiculing the strange narratives and sublime doc“ trines of the Bible, by setting the seeming contradice
$ tions in a blasphemous light, and then demanding, “ How can you prize or how can you believe that this “ book is the word of God, or that thereligion it teaches
is divine?' In such an hour of contest, how happy is " the Christian that can say, “Though I am not able “ to solve all the difficulties in the Bible, nor maintain “ the sacred authority of it against the cavils of wit and “ learning, yet I am well assured that the doctrines of “ this book are sacred, and the authority of them divine; 6for when I heard and received them, they changed “ my nature, they subdued my sinful appetites, they « made a new creature of me, and raised me from death “ to life; they made me Love God above all things, and “ gave me the lively and well-grounded hope of his love. “ Therefore I cannot doubt but that the CHIEF PRINCI< PLES of this book are divine, though I cannot so well « prove that the very words and syllables of it are so “ too; for it is the sense of scripture, and not the mere “ letters of it, on which I build my hope. What if the « scripture should not be divine? What if this gospel « and the other epistles should not be written by inspi“ ration? What if these should be merely the words of “ men, and not the very word of God?-Though I can6 not recollect all the arguments that prove Matthew, “ Mark, and Luke to be divine historians, or Peter and 6. Paul to be inspired writers; yet the substance and “ chief sense of these gospels and their epistles must “ needs be divine; FOR IT HAS BEGUN THE SPIRITUAL “ AND ETERNAL LIFE IN MY SOUL; and THIS IS MY
WITNESS, or rather the witness of the SPIRIT OF GOD « within us, that CHRIST IS THE SON OF GOD, the “ SAVIOUR OF SINNERS, and the religion that I pro« fess and practise is safe and divine.'
“ And though there are many and sufficient argu66 ments drawn from criticism, history, and human " learning to prove the sacred authority of the Bible,