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sing to see the difference that there generally is, between young and old sinners, in point of candor and attention, in relation to religious subjects. The longer people live in the habit of rebellion against God, the more dense the darkness of the mind becomes. The hearts of many have grown as hard as the adamant stone, in relation to divine doctrines, whose moral character, in the view of men, appears very fair and respectable. Their supposed morality fortifies them against believing in a theological system, that makes salvation to be wholly the effect of free and sovereign grace. This was pre-eminently the case with the Jews, in many periods of time, and especially in the apostolic age. St. Paul, therefore, says“I bear them record, that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant
of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.” Rom. 10. 2, 3. No greater enemies ever appeared to the gospel, than the Scribes and Pharisees and the devout and honorable people of the Jewish nation. Men of this character, conspired to slay the Lord of glory,” and executed a thing which made the earth tremble to its centre, and clothed the very heavens with a garment of the deepeth sackcloth! Rejecting the Scriptures, as the only standard of truth and righteousness, is actually “ breaking” Christ's “ bands assunder, and casting his cords from us.” It is a sin of the highest magnitude. The aged and venerable Eli, the priest of the Lord, said to his dissolute sons—“ If one man sin against another
, the judge shall judge him; but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him ?? Men may, fore, be very moral in respect to their fellow men, be as hostile as fallen angels to God and his word. It is no small degree of depravily that makes people reject a
ber book, which is truth itself, and doctrines that are superlaaltid tively glorious. The Scriptures have a great hold on the che conscience of man, until it becomes “seared as with a hot
iron.” Then he will contend against them with a degree of oft temerity, that is enough to astonish the very heavens! Ev
ery additional sin, serves to harden the heart and darken the understanding, in relation to things of a divine nature. When the word of God is renounced, as being the only
proper guide, and reason, as it is called, placed in its stead, ett then that apostolic saying is literally fulfilled, “ Having
the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them; because of the blindness of their heart."
4. People flee from the Scripture as being the only test of truth, because that relieves their minds from the fear of eternity. That divine saying is strictly true, “ A wounded spirit who can bear ?" Every system of religious falsehood is soothing to the tortured conscience; for it throws a cloud over the divine character--diminishes the evil of sin magnifies the supposed virtues of man, and hides eternal ruin from his view. Some schemes, however, are better adapted to produce a state of indifference, in relation to eternity, than others. The more any given system excludes of divine truth, the better it is calculated to lay the mind asleep. The scheme, to which these sermons are opposed, is well formed to operate as an anodyne, in respect to all religious seriousness. There is no other plan, bearing a Christian name, that I know of, that excludes so much of divine truth. It is, in fact ,simple deism Christianized. It forms a complete veil, that hides every divine object from the sight. It has no concern with the Bible, in any other sense, than as a system of mere ethics. Its greatest difference from complete infidelity, is, in admitting the resurrection of the body. It has no other ter
ror for impenitent sinners, but annihilation.
This can have but little effect on people, who are neither willing to go to heaven nor hell. One of their own writers justly remarks, that the scheme does not consist so much in believing, as in not believing. In a word, it is a system of perfect moral darkness-excluding almost every truth of revealed religion, and the inspiration of the Book which contains it. Thus, the reasons have been assigned for their refusal to speak according to God's word; and, in so doing, they evince, as the text says, that “there is no light in them.” As the Scripture says, “ The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 2 Cor. 2. 14. But let our attention now be turned, to a suitable
1. If the Holy Scripture is the only standard of faith and practice, and is inspired, then we may believe that it must have been under the special care of Divine Providence in every period of time. If it has not been dictated by the Holy Spirit--if it has been interpolated—if it has been mistranslated—if it has been essentially corrupted in any way,
it cannot be considered now as a certain criterion of the Divine will. Every one may receive or reject it at his own pleasure, without any danger of exposing himself to the anger of God on that account. The adversaries of Trinitarian doctrines appear to be very fond of viewing the case in this light. Those people, however, who believe in the plenary inspiration of Scripture, must, of course, believe that the providence of God has preserved it from being essentially injured by the hands of its enemies. No genuine Trinitarian is inclined so much as even to insinuate that the sacred writings are lame, in relation to any
point in the general system of theology. The men who are in the habit of inculcating a belief that the Bible is not the fruit of a plenary inspiration, and that it has been greatly altered from its original form, are endeavoring to support a system of doctrines which require such subterfuges. This book has existed in the midst of its enemies, in every age; and if Divine Providence had not protected it from their rage, there would not be the smallest vestige of it remaining now. That part of mankind whose “mind is enmity against God,” cannot be very friendly to a correct revelation of his character and will. This is the character of every human being, whose heart has not been renewed by the Holy Ghost. We need not be alarmed, therefore, when the cry is raised, that the Scriptures are not divinely inspired, or that they have been corrupted. It is our duty and privilege, my hearers, to abide by “ the law and the testimony;"and if our opponents choose to appeal to any other standard, let them answer it to God. We must believe that his “word is very pure," and the only rule that is of divine authority. It is a fountain of living water, whose transparency has never been discolored by the admixture of any foreign and polluted streams.
2. If the Scriptures are inspired, and are the only rule of doctrine and duty, it will follow, that an attack upon their authenticity is a bold undertaking. It requires such magnanimity as some of the British reviewers ascribed to Dr. Priestley, to attempt the thing without trembling. Men who are equal to this, must possess minds standing above the fear of every divine threatening. But from such magnanimity, may the Lord deliver us!
When men set out with an ardent desire of finding inter
polations, mistranslations, or any other corruptions, in the toi Scriptures, it is an evidence that they are unfriendly to
some of the doctrines contained therein ; and, therefore,
we need not be surprised, if God, in righteous judgment, permits them to think that they have succeeded in their researches, when there is no proof in the case, on which they may consistently rely. It has been noticed already, that the Lord suffers some people, for their wickedness, to fall into “ strong delusions, that they should believe a lie.” The Lord said to Israel, by a prophet, “ Every one, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me, I the Lord will answer him by myself ; and I will set my face against that man, and I will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. And if a prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet ; and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and I will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity : the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him." Ezek. 14. 7-10.
Thus, we see, that when people seek after error, they may be righteously blinded. In criticising upon Scripture, care should be taken, lest we have some wicked end to answer by the thing. If we examine the Divine Oracles with a pure heart, we cannot fail in seeing that they are just like the God of purity and truth. The Scriptures will endure to the end of time; and, therefore, they who keep the nearest to them, are in the safest course. AMEN.