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“ for understanding; if thou seekest her
as silver, and searchest for her as for hid “ treasures; then shalt thou understand “ the fear of the Lord, and find the know
ledge of God.”
y Prov. ii. 1-5.
1 PETER iv. 11. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles
THE necessity of a constant recurrence to first principles, as a preventive of any deviation from truth, is in no case more apparent than in the study of Holy Writ. For, since the great foundation on which Revealed Religion is established is an absolutely Divine authority, every thing which tends to displace that fundamental basis will endanger the whole system : and the consequences must be infinitely more injurious to the best interests of mankind, than
any similar violation of principles in matters of human science; according to the acknowledged maxims, that the worst of abuses is the abuse of that which is best
in itself, and that no truth can be made more certain than by sufficient evidence that it proceeds from God.
The apostolical injunction in the text evidently rests upon the supposition of this supreme authority of Holy Scripture, as the rule of faith and the interpreter of its own doctrine.
“ If any man speak, let “ him speak as the oracles of God:” let him, both as to the doctrine and the interpretation, be careful to advance nothing contrary to those Sacred Oracles, nothing that may bring into competition with them authority of a different kind.
But however indisputable the principle may appear on which this injunction is founded, it is not only continually violated through ignorance or inadvertency, but a very great portion of the errors and corruptions prevalent in the Christian world evidently spring from systems, virtually, if not formally, opposed to it; from maintaining the necessity of some ulterior tribunal of appeal, for the decision of controversies and for framing unerring standards of interpretation.
Besides the moral dispositions, therefore, already shewn to be requisite in the search after spiritual knowledge, it is necessary to determine this great preliminary question, Whether there be any authority paramount or even equivalent to the Sacred Word, which, either as jointly connected with it or as its judicial supe. rior, may claim our unreserved obedience ? If there be any such, the sincere inquirer after truth must submit to its pretensions. If there be not, to admit such pretensions is not only superfluous but dangerous; as derogating from the authority which possesses the rightful claim.
Upon this head St. Peter's admonition might be deemed decisive: and there are other texts of Scripture which ought to place it beyond dispute. Nevertheless, they who argue on the contrary side would fain allege the sanction of Scripture for their views of the subject : a circumstance, which renders it so much the more necessary to examine their pretensions, lest we stumble at the very threshold of our inquiries.