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As to the writings of uninspired men, they are modern compared with the Holy Scriptures. The earliest profane history which is known is that of Herodotus, in Greek; which was written no earlier than the time of Malachi, the last of the Old Testament writers. Somewhat more ancient than Herodotus, are the poems of Homer and Hesiod : the period in which they were written cannot be correctly ascertained ; but those who allow them the remotest antiquity, place Homer only in the days of Isaiah the prophet, and Hesiod in the age of Elijah. It is not, indeed, agreed among the learned, whether there ever was such a person as Hesiod. The books of these ancient, uninspired writers are of a quite different character froin the Holy Scriptures; they are filled with silly and absurd fables, and contain many impurities. They make no discovery of the just character of the only living and true God, though they contain much concerning religion. As to the history by Herodotus, it contains much that is merely fabulous and untrue; but as far as it records the transactions of his own age, or describes the things within the compass of his own observation, or details matters of fact of which he was correctly informed, his statements confirm the faithfulness and accuracy of the records contained in the holy and inspired word of the Lord.
CH. III.—THE EXCELLENCY OF THE BIBLE. That the Bible is the best book, might be proved sufficiently from its sanctifying and transforming influence upon the minds of all its devout readers. But this is manifest inore especially from the fact of its having God for its author : and that God is its author is evident, from its being the only book which teaches every thing that our Creator requires of us, either to know, or believe, or do, that we may escape his deserved displeasure, obtain his sovereign favour, and dwell for ever in the bliss of his immediate presence. 1. It opens to us the mystery of the creation; 2. The nature of God, of angels, and of men; 3. The immortality of the soul; 4. The end for which man was created ; 5. The origin of evil, and the inseparable connection between sin and misery ; 6. The vanity of the present world, and the glory reserved in a future state for the pious servants of God. In the Bible we are taught the purest morality, perfectly accordant with the dictates of sound reason, and confirmed by the witness of our conscience, which God has placed for himself in our breasts. In this volume we see described all the secret workings of the human nd, in a manner whic demonstrates the inspiration of Him, who is the Searcher of hearts. It gives us a particular account of a” the spiritual maladies of man, with their various
symptoms, and the methods of their cure. From this source flow all the pure streams of spiritual and healing knowledge, to bless mankind with recovery from his fallen state, with salvation and immortality.
Although many hundreds of thousands of books have been written in different ages by wise and learned men, even the best of them will bear no comparison with the Bible, in respect either of religion, morality, history, or purity and sublimity of composition. Perhaps no man was ever better qualified to pronounce his judgment in this matter than the late sir William Jones, who was one of the most learned men that ever lived. He says, “I have regularly and attentively read the Holy Scriptures, and am of opinion that this volume, independent of its divine origin, contains more true sublimity, more exquisite beauty, purer morality, more important history, and finer strains both of poetry and eloquence, than could be collected within the same compass, from all other books that were ever composed in any age or nation. The antiquity of those compositions no man doubts, and the unstrained application of them to events long subsequent to their publication, is a solid ground of belief that they were genuine predictions, and consequently inspired."
The commendation which bishop Horne gives to the book of Psalms, is found to be true of the whole Bible, by the devout christian, who, alone, is capable of perceiving its excellency. That pious prelate says,
under the influence of Him, to whom all hearts are known, and all secrets foreknown, they suit mankind in all situations, grateful as the manna which descended from above, and conforined itself to every palate. The fairest productions of human art, after a few perusals, like gathered flowers, wither in our hands, and lose their fragrancy; but these unfading plants of paradise become, as we are accustomed to them, still more and more bea!ltiful; their bloom appears to be daily heightened, fresh odours are emitted, and new sweets are extracted from them. He who hath once tasted their excellences, will desire to taste them yet again; and he who tastes them oftenest, will relish them best."
CH. IV.-THE INSPIRATION OF THE BIBLE. The books of the Old Testament, in the nuinber and order in which we now possess them, were held sacred by the Jewish church. Concerning them especially the apostle Paul declares, “ All scripture is given by inspiration of God," 2 Tim. iii. 16. and the apostle Peter, in reference to the same, testifies, No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the 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," 2 Pet. i. 20, 21.
Being inspired of God, signifies being supernaturally influenced by his Holy Spirit : thus the ancient prophets are said to have spoken by divine inspiration. The inspiration of the sacred writers consisted, 1. In their being infallibly excited and moved to undertake their work; 2. Being furnished by special revelation from God with the knowledge of things which they had not previously possessed; 3. Being directed in the choice of proper words to express their conceptions; and, 4. Being guided in all things to write according to the will of God.
That the Holy Scriptures were inspired, is evident from their divine sentiments in religion ; 1. The glorious character under which they represent Almighty God; 2. The
purity and reasonableness of their morality; 3. The majestic simplicity of their style ; 4. Their wonderful efficacy on the minds of believers ; 5. The faithfulness and disin terestedness of the writers; 6. The miracles by which they confirmed their doctrines ; 7. The astonishing preservation of the several books to our times; and, 8. The fulfilment of their numerous and various prophecies.
“ The inspiration pleaded for extends to all the books of the sacred scriptures, and to all the writers of them, and principal speakers introduced in them; and though all that is contained in them is not of God, or inspired by him, as the quotations from heathen writers, thie words of Satan, the speeches of bad men, and even of good men, in which some things not right are said of God, as by Job and his three friends; yet the writers of the books in which these sayings are, were under a divine impulse, inspiration, and direction to commit these several things to writing ; partly for the truth of historical facts, and partly to show thé malice of devils and wicked men, as well as the weaknesses and frailties of good men, and all are for our caution and instruction." Dr. Gill.
“ Inspiration belongs to the original writings. No one contends for any degree of inspiration to the transcribers in different ages. Accuracy in the copies they have made, is, under God, secured by the fidelity of the keepers of Scripture, by the opposition of parties watching each other, as of Jews and Christians, and various sects, and by the great multiplication of copies and translations into different languages, which took place so early. The agreement among the ancient manuscripts, both of the Old and New Testaments, has been ascertained, by the strict est examination, to be astonishingly exact."
Haldane. It certainly is so as to all points
Ch. V.-The Design OF THE BIBLE.
The Bible having God for its author, and having been given by the special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we may be assured that it has been written for the most
important purposes. The Bible is evidently designed to give us correct information concerning the creation of all things by the omnipotent word of God; to make known to us the state of holiness and happiness of our first parents in Paradise, and their dreadful fall from that condition by transgression against God, which is the original cause of all our sin and misery. Also to show us the duty we owe to him, who is our almighty Creator, our bountiful Benefactor, and our righteous Judge; the method by which we can secure his eternal friendship, and be prepared for the possession of everlasting mansions in his glorious kingdom. The Scriptures are specially designed to make us wise unto salvation througli faith in Christ Jesus ; 1. To reveal to us the mercy of the LORD in him; 2. To form our minds after the likeness of God our Saviour; 3. To build up our souls in wisdum and faith, in love and holiness ; 4. To make us thoroughly furnished unto good works, enabling us to glorify God on earth ; and, 5. To lead us to an imperishable inheritance among the spirits of just men maile perfeet, and finally to be glorified with Christ in heaven.
If such be the design of the Bible, how necessary must it be for every one to pay a serious and proper attention to what it reveals. The word of God invites our attentive and prayerful regards in terms the most engaging and persuasive. It closes its gracious i-ppeals by proclaiming, “ Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely," Rev. xxji. 17. The infinite tenderness of the divine compassion to sinners, flows in the language of the inspired writers with which they address the children of men, and the most gracious promises of the Lord of glory accompany the divine invitations.
But those who oppose the merciful designs of the Bible with all its wondrous grace, will not be held guiltless in the great day of the Lord.
“How shall we escape," says an apostle, “ if we neglect so great salvation ?" Heb.ii. 3. Neglect of the Bible, under the christian dispensation, is despising the pity and tender mercy of God, and the blessings of his gracious covenant. The apostle, by the Holy Spirit, appeals to the careless in those awfully