Page:An Exposition of the Old and New Testament (1828) vol 1.djvu/42

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THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE.

from their fathers, plainly show how necessary divine revelation is to the subsistence of religion; for those that had not the word of God, soon lost God himself, became vain in their imaginations concerning him, and prodigiously vile and absurd in their worships and divinations. It is true, the Jews, who had the benefit of divine revelation, lapsed sometimes into idolatry, and admitted very gross corruptions; yet, with the help of the law and the prophets, they recovered and reformed: whereas the best and most admired philosophy of the Heathen could never do any thing toward the cure of the vulgar idolatry, or so much as offered to remove any of those barbarous and ridiculous rites of their religion, which were the scandal and reproach of the human nature. Let men therefore pretend what they will, deists are, or will be, atheists; and those that, under colour of admiring the oracles of reason, set aside as useless the oracles of God, undermine the foundations of all religion, and do what they can to cut off all communication between man and his Maker, and to set that noble creature on a level with the beasts that perish.

III. That divine revelation is not now to be found or expected any where but in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament; and there it is. It is true, there were religion and divine revelation before there was any written word; but to argue from thence, that the scriptures are not now necessary, is as absurd as it would be to argue that the world might do well enough without the sun, because in the Creation the world had light three days before the sun was made.

Divine revelations, when first given, were confirmed by visions, miracles, and prophecy; but they were to be transmitted to distant regions and future ages, with their proofs and evidences, by writing, the surest way of conveyance, by which the knowledge of other memorable things is preserved and propagated. We have reason to think that even the Ten Commandments, though spoken with such solemnity at Mount Sinai, would have been, long before this, lost and forgotten, if they had been handed down by tradition only, and never had been put in writing: it is that which is written, that remains.

The scripture indeed is not compiled as a methodical system of or body of divinity, secundian arterm—according to the rules of art, but in several ways of writing, (histories, laws, prophecies, songs, epistles, and even proverbs,) at several times, and by several hands, as Infinite Wisdom saw fit. The end is effectually obtained; such things are plainly supposed and taken for granted, and such things are expressly revealed and made known, as, being all put together, sufficiently inform us of all the truths and laws of the holy religion we are to believe, and be governed by.

That all scripture is given by inspiration of God, (2 Tim. 3. 16.) and that holy men shake and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, (2 Pet. 1. 21.) we are sure; but who dare pretend to describe that inspiration? None knows the way of the Spirit, nor how the thoughts were formed in the heart of him that was inspired, any more than we know the way of the soul into the body, or how the bones are formed in the womb of her that is with child, Eccles. 11. 5. But we may be sure that the blessed Spirit did not only habitually prepare and qualify the penmen of scripture for that service, and put it into their hearts to write, but did likewise assist their understandings and memories in recording those things which they themselves had the knowledge of, and effectually secure them from error and mistake; and what they could not know but by revelation, (as for instance. Gen. 1. and John 1.) the same blessed Spirit gave them clear and satisfactory information of. And, no doubt, as far as was necessary to the end designed, they were directed by the Spirit, even in the language and expression; for there were words which the Holy Ghost taught; (1 Cor. 2. 13.) and God saith to the prophet. Thou shalt speak with my words, Ezek. 3. 4. However, it is not material to us, who drew up the statute, nor what liberty he took in using his own words: when it is ratified, it is become the legislator's act, and binds the subject to observe the true intent and meaning of it.

The scripture proves its divine authority and original both to the wise and to the unwise: even to the unwise and least-thinking part of mankind, it is abundantly proved by the many incontestable miracles wrought by Moses and the prophets, Christ and his apostles, for the confirmation of its truths and laws: it would be an intolerable reproach to eternal Truth, to suppose this divine seal affixed to a lie. Beside this, to the more wise and thinking, to the more considerate and contemplative, it recommends itself by those innate excellencies which are self-evident characteristics of its divine original. If we look wistly, we shall soon be aware of God's image and superscription upon it. A mind rightly disposed by a humble sincere subjection to its Maker, will easily discover the image of God's wisdom in the awful depth of its mysteries; the image of his sovereignty in the commanding majesty of its style; the