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ordinary imperceptible aids of Divine grace to render them efficient, we are now to rely.
While therefore we entirely reject pretensions to special illumination of the understanding, as a warrant for obtruding unauthorized interpretations of Holy Writ;while we acknowledge that the age of extraordinary inspiration, as well as that of miracles and prophecy, has long since passed away ;-while we strenuously insist upon the danger of neglecting the ordinary means of improvement which the Providence of God affords
from a vain expectation of more than ordinary gifts of Grace ;-we, nevertheless, are far from depreciating the value of that spiritual aid, which is the assured privilege of every faithful member of Christ, and to which the Scriptures themselves invariably direct us to ascribe whatever proficiency we make in wisdom and in knowledge.
The dispositions, indeed, implied in a sober and well-regulated confidence in this aid, cannot but greatly facilitate the attainment of the object : and to the want
of these we may ascribe much heterodox exposition of Holy Writ, as well as much of that infidelity, which is to be found in Christian countries. And, doubtless, (as bas been already more fully noticed) there is the promise of an especial blessing annexed to such dispositions. For, “ God “ resisteth the proud, but giveth grace “ to the humble.” What wonder then, if they who trust only to human sagacity, and to ingenuity rendered more conspicuous, perhaps, in distorting than in simplifying the truth, should exemplify what the Prophet affirms of such as “ made “ them crooked paths,”—“ We wait for
light, but behold obscurity; for bright
ness, but we walk in darkness'?_What wonder, if the judicial consequences of rash and unhallowed attempts at Scripture-interpretation, by those who are regardless of the ordinary and appointed means of attaining to it, should be that “ strong
delusion," which, the Apostle warns us, may be sent upon them who " receive not « the love of the truth?" s James iv. 6. * Isaiah lix. 8, 9. u 2 Thess. ii. 10, 11.
The distinction, then, between the Fanatic and the sober-minded Christian in this respect is manifest. The former presumes upon the aid of the Spirit, to the neglect of human acquirements : the latter avails himself of both. The former despises the natural gifts of which he is in possession ; expecting preternatural gifts, of which he has no reasonable assurance : the latter diligently cultivates
talent bestowed upon him ; relying, at the same time, for help from above to perfect his endeavours. For this blessing on his labours, he confidently trusts in God; knowing that “who" soever thus believeth in Him shall not 66 be ashamed "."
Thus we have brought to a termination the first general division of our subject, respecting those great leading principles, by which all inquiries into the truths of Revealed Religion, and every specific rule of Scripture-interpretation, are to be regulated and adjusted. We have seen, on the one hand, the errors of those who would set up authorities of their own devising above that of the Oracles of God; and the errors of those, on the other hand, who would reject the means, which the Providence of God has placed in their hands, of guarding the Sacred Word against perversion and misinterpretation. It is to one or other of these extremes, that the Church may justly attribute some of the worst corruptions of the Christian Faith. By the undue elevation of ecclesiastical authority, of human philosophy, or of imaginary inspiration ; sacerdotal, intellectual, and spiritual Pride, have, in their turns, domineered over the faith of mankind, and 66
w Rom. x. 11.
taught for doctrines of God the “ commandments of men *.”. By vilifying all these; by spurning at restraint of every kind; and by closing up all the avenues to wholesome instruction and mental improvement; ignorance, licentiousness, and irreligious apathy, have rendered the Scriptures themselves instrumental to delusion. These prime sources of error being re
moved, the inquirer will come to the investigation of Scripture truth, with a mind free from dangerous prepossessions, and better able to profit by the research.
- Other foundation can no man lay, " than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ"." -He is “ Head over all things to the “ Church?." - His Word " giveth light “ and understanding to the simple.” His Grace “ is sufficient for us b." These are first principles, invariably to be adhered to, and to which every other rule is secondary and subordinate. But in the application of these principles to the purposes of spiritual instruction and improvement, our own cooperation is made requisite by Him who is “ the Author and “ Finisher of our Faith.” He hath taught us that whatever talents, natural or spiritual, are bestowed upon us, must be used in His service; and that with them
Ephes. i. 22.
y 1 Cor. ii. 11.
b 2 Cor. xii. 9,