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2 Tim. iïi. 16.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God
THE great Apostle of the Gentiles, who
1 well knew the tempers and inclinations of mankind, their fondness for novelty, and proneness to change, very clearly foresaw the dangers and inconveniencies to which Christianity would be exposed in all ages, from men of unstable or
perverse minds, who should resist the truth, and, · being themselves deceived, would endeavour to
deceive many. To guard, therefore, his beloved son Timothy against the danger of being led away by false doctrines and erroneous opinions, he exhorts him to continue firm and stedfast in the things he had learned, knowing from whence he had learned them; even from the holy scriptures ; which, therefore, he strongly recome mends to his constant perusal by the short but
noble character contained in the words of the text; “ All scripture is given by inspiration of “ God.”
A truth of the utmost importance to all man kind! For since the sacred writings contain the great charter upon which our hopes of immortality are founded, unless we can be fully assured, that they were given by inspiration of God, we must be left in a state of the most perplexing anxiety and suspence.
It can never, therefore, be unreasonable to shew, that we have the strongest évidence possible of their really being the written will of God; especially, since à full conviction of this, at the same time that it removes all scruple and doubtfulness from our minds, cannot fail of inducing us to practise those virtues, upon which the salvation therein contained is offered to us.
· I mean, however, in this short inquiry to confine myself to the scriptures of the New Testanient. For since the writings of the Old Testament do not so immediately affect us, and are also closely connected with the history and learning of remote antiquity, it would be neither šo suitable nor useful to a popular audience to go about to establish their authenticity. Be
sides, if we can clearly evince, that the New Testament was written by the finger of God, it will follow as a necessary consequence, that the Old Testament, which is the basis of the New was derived froin the same almighty Author.
Now the first point of inquiry, which offers itself upon this subject, is; Whether the writers of the New Testament were not themselves deceived and imposed upon, with regard to the several facts and doctrines which they have transmitted down to us ?
In answer to this inquiry, it will be sufficient to observe, first, that we have.no grounds what ever to suppose that they were so imposed upon, and, secondly, that we have the strongest grounds to believe that they were not. That they were men of clear and sound understandings, their writings themselves abundantly de . monstrate; they were not therefore liable to be deluded by any phantasms of a heated or delirious imagination. Nor is it more likely, that they should be deceived any other way; since they were many of them the constant companie : ons of the life and labours of their divine Master, and therefore could not want opportunities of seeing and scrutinizing the facts they relate. Add to this, that the testimony they give is uni
forin and consistent, though derived from very different sources of inforination ; St. Matthew, St. John, and St. Peter having received their information from converse with our Saviour hiinself, and St. Paul and St. John by an immediate revelation from heaven. So that we may very safely conclude, that the sacred writers were not themselves deceived in the accounts they have delivered to us.
But might they not design to deceive others ? I answer, that no man ever formed such a scheme of wickedness without some design of advantage, and some prospect of success.
But, first, what view of advantage, or what temptation could they have? They knew that their doctrine would necessarily expose them to insult and tortures, to pain and death here: . they knew too, that the religion they taught condemned lying and fraud; and therefore they could never, even upon their own principles, be entitled to eternal happiness hereafter. They must therefore have been the greatest of madmen, as well as impostors, to have attenipted to propagate the tenets of Christianity, if they had not really believed them to be true. And besides all this, what prospect of success could they possibly have? They were mean and illiterate