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spite of the disadvantages, of want of learning, and the like, which the sacred penmen laboured under; to ascribe the sentiments in them to Divine Inspiration.
Other objections, as, that the genuineness of some of the books of the Bible has been disputed; those of various readings; of seeming contradictions; of doubtful interpretations; of obscurity in the Scripture Chronology, and the like; all these difficulties are sufficiently cleared up by the learned apologists for Revealed Religion. Nor does it suit the purpose of this work, to obviate all objections. Nor is it indeed necessary for the candid inquirer, into the truth of Divine Revelation, to attend to the various difficulties started by laborious cavillers. It is of very small consequence what circumstantial difficulties may be raised about a scheme whose grand lines and principal figures show its Author to be Divine; as will, it is presumed, appear to every ingenuous mind, on a careful perusal of the following general view of the whole body of Revelation. Some other objections are occasionally obviated in other parts of this fourth book; and for a full view of the controversy between the opposers and defenders of Revealed Religion, the reader may consult the authors on that subject, recommended in page one hundred and sixty. In whose writings he will find full answers to the most trivial objections; and will observe, that the cavils started, from time to time, by the Deistical writers, have all been fully considered, and completely answered, over and over; so that nothing new has been, for many years past, or is likely ever to be, advanced on the subject.
A compendious View of the Scheme of Divine Revelation.
HOLY Scripture comprehends (though penned by a number of different authors, who lived in ages very distant from one another) a consistent and uniform scheme of all things that are necessary to be known and attended to by mankind: nor is there any original writing besides, that does this. It presents us with a view of this world before its changes from chaos into an habitable state. It
gives us a rational account of the procedure of the Almighty Author in forming and reducing it into a condition fit for being the seat of living inhabitants, and a theatre for action. It gives an account of the origination of mankind; representing the first of the species as brought into being on purpose for discipline and obedience. It gives a general account of the various dispensations and transactions of God with regard to the rational inhabitants of this world; keeping in view throughout, and nowhere losing sight of, the great and important end of their creation, the training them up to goodness and virtue, in order to happiness. Every where inculcating that one grand lesson, which if mankind could but be brought to learn, it were no great matter what they were ignorant of, and without which all other knowledge is of no real value; to wit, That obedience to the Supreme Governor of the Universe is the certain, and the only means of happiness; and that vice and irregularity are both naturally and judicially the causes of misery and destruction. It shows innumerable instances of the Divine displeasure against wickedness; and in order to give a full display of the fatal consequences of vice, it gives some account, either historically or prophetically, of the general state of this world in its various periods, from the time of its being made habitable from a chaos, to its reduction again to a chaos by fire, at the consummation of all things. Comprehending most of the great events which have happened, or are yet to happen, to most of the great empires and kingdoms, and exhibiting, in brief, most of what is to pass on the theatre of the world. Setting forth to the view of mankind, for their instruction, a variety of examples of real characters the most remarkable for virtue, or wickedness, with most signal and striking instances of the Divine approbation of, or displeasure against them.
It is only in Scripture, that a rational account of this world is given. For in Scripture, it is represented as God's world. The inhabitants of it are every where spoken of, as no other way of consequence, than in the view of their being his creatures, formed for religion, and an immortal state of happiness after this life, and at present under the laws and rules of discipline, to train them up for the great end of their being. Even in the mere historical
parts, there is always an eye to the true state of things, Instead of informing us, that one prince conquered another, the Scripture account is, that it pleased God to deliver the one into the hand of the other. Instead of ascribing the revolutions of kingdoms and empires to the counsels of the wise, or the valour of the mighty, the Scripture account of them is, that they were the effect of the Divine disposal, brought about by Him, "in whose hand are the hearts of kings, who turns them which way he pleases; and who puts one down, and sets another up; who does in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, whatever seems good to Him, and whose hand none can stay, or say, "What doest thou?" The view given in Scripture of our world, and its inhabitants, and their affairs, is that which must appear to an eye observing from above, not from the earth. For Scripture alone gives account of the original causes of things, the true springs of events, and declares the end from the beginning: which shows it to be given by one who saw through all futurity, and by the same, who has been from the beginning at the head of the affairs of the world, who governs the world, and therefore knew how to give an account, (so far as to his wisdom seemed fit to discover,) of the whole current and course of events from the creation to the consummation.
We have no where, but in Scripture, a display of the wonders of Divine mercy for a fallen guilty race of beings. We have no rational account any where else of a method for restoring a world ruined by vice. In Scripture we have this great desideratum: Holy Scripture shines forth conspicuous by its own native heavenly splendour; enlightening the darkness, and clearing the doubts, which, from the beginning of the world, hung upon the minds of the wisest and best of men, with respect to the important points of the most acceptable manner of worshipping God; of the possibility of gaining the Divine favour and the pardon of sin; of a future state of retribution; and of the proper immortality, or perpetual existence of the soul: giving more clear, rational, and sublime notions of God; teaching a more perfect method of worshipping and serving him; and prescribing to man
kind a distinct and explicit rule of life, guarded with the most awful sanctions, and attended with the most unquestionable evidences, internal and external, of Divine authority. Bringing to light various important and interesting truths, which no human sagacity could have found out; and establishing and confirming others, which, though pretended to have been discoverable by reason, yet greatly needed superior confirmation. Not only enlightening those countries, on which its direct beams have shone with their full splendour; but breaking through the clouds of heathenism and superstition, darting some of its Divine rays to the most distant parts of the world, and affording a glimmering light to the most barbarous nations, without which they had been buried in total darkness and ignorance, as to moral and religious knowledge. Drawing aside the veil of time, and opening a prospect into eternity, and the world of spirits. Exhibiting a scheme of things incomparably more sublime than is any where else to be found; in which various orders of beings, angels, archangels, thrones, domin ions, principalities, and powers, rise in their several degrees, and tower above another, towards the perfection of the Divine nature; in comparison of which, however, they are all as nothing. Holy Scripture, in a word, takes in whatever of great or good can be conceived by a rational mind in the present state; whatever can be of use for raising, refining, and spiritualizing human nature; for making this world a paradise, and mankind angels; for qualifying them for that eternal bliss and glory which was the end of their being. And it is highly probable, that while the world stands, learned and inquisitive men will be from time to time discovering new wonders of Divine wisdom in that inexhaustible treasure. The continual improvement of knowledge of all kinds, and the farther and farther completion of prophecy, give reason to expect this. They who know what amazing lights have been struck out by Mede, Locke, and a few others who have pursued their plan, will readily agree, that as a century or two past have shown us the Bible in a light in which it was probably never seen before, since the apos tolic age; so a century or two to come may (if mankind
do not give over the study of Scripture) exhibit it in a light at present inconceivable.
That it may in a satisfactory manner appear, how important the subjects, how wide the extent, and how noble the discoveries of Scripture are; it may be proper to trace the outlines of the vast and various prospect it exhibits, I mean, to range in order the principal subjects of Revelation, as they lie in the holy books. This I will endeavour to draw out of the Bible itself, in such a manner as onewholly a stranger to our systems and controversies, and who had studied Scripture only, might be supposed to do it.
Holy Scripture begins with informing us, that God was the Author and Creator of the universe; which truth is also consistent with human reason; and the direct consequence to be drawn from it is, That all creatures and things are his, and that all thinking beings ought to dedicate themselves to his service, to whom they owe their existence, and whatever they have, or hope for. As the Almighty Creator is a pure spirit, wholly separate froin matter, or corporeal organs of any kind, it is evident, that what he produces, he does by an immediate act of volition. His power reaching to the performance of all possible things, nothing can resist his will. So that his willing, or desiring a thing to be, is producing it. His saying, or thinkind, Let there be light, is creating light.
Scripture informs us, that the human species begun in two persons, one of each sex, created by God, and by himself put directly in the mature state of life; whereas all the particulars of the species, who have been since produced, have been created indeed by God, but introduced into human life by the instrumentality of parents. We learn from Scripture, that the first of our species were brought into being, not only in a state of innocence or capacity for virtue, but likewise naturally immortal, being blest with constitutions so formed, that they would of themselves have continued uninjured by time, till it should have been thought proper to remove the species to a new and more spiritual state.
The appointment of one day in seven, as a day of rest; the sanctifying a seventh part of our time to religious purposes, was an ordinance worthy of God; and the account