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needful truth: and few have occasion to be told how partial and delusive most histories are, through the passions and misapprehensions of historians.
He observes, in another place, that not only unchangeableness, but even the impossibility of a 'change taking place, by any means or accident whatever, is an idea that must be affixed to what 'we call the word of God.' Now what is this but asserting, without the least proof, that God cannot give a revelation of himself to his creatures? Notwithstanding the imperfections of language, the want of an universal language, the errors of translators, copyists, and printers, authors make a tolerable shift to communicate their sentiments to mankind, (some of them even to remote ages and nations,) with little hazard of material mistakes: yet the Almighty and only wise God cannot communicate his truth and will to mankind, because of these and other like impediments!
Though Mr. P. asserts that translations of revelation can in no degree be depended on, and thence argues against the Bible ;2 yet he thinks translations may very well answer the purpose in respect of natural knowledge, which is his revelation. 'There is now nothing new to be learned 'from the dead languages: all the useful books ' are translated, and the time expended in teaching ' and learning them is wasted.'3 Let this oracular inconsistency be noted.-But translations may not always be exact, and the knowledge of the original languages is, in various ways, very useful. Good versions will suffice to afford the unlearned reader
'P. i. p. 19.
2 P. i. p. 26.
' P. i. p. 37.
a competent knowledge of all that is essential in any book; yet who but learned men can give warning to their neighbours, if a palpably false translation be palmed upon them, of any work which interests mankind in general. Even the dissentions among Christians in this land evince the fairness of our translation of the scriptures; for all parties commonly refer to it. In like manner, the contests between Christians and Jews, and the controversies carried on with real or supposed heretics, warrant our confidence that these contending parties so watched over one another, as to prevent all material alterations in those books to which they agreed in making their appeal.
If any Christians reject reason in receiving revelation, they act as absurdly, as if a man should shut his eyes that he might simply avail himself of the light of the sun; instead of putting out his candle as of no further use. Reason should be humbly and seriously employed in weighing the evidences, and understanding the meaning, of revelation and faith itself, in the common affairs of life, constitutes one important exercise of our rational faculties, and the only one by which we can derive information from testimony, in a variety of cases, with which we could not otherwise be sufficiently acquainted for practical purposes. As far, indeed, as this exercise of our understanding relates to the testimony of God in scripture, it is so connected with the state of the will and affections, and produces such effects upon our whole conduct; that we, as fallen creatures, are morally incapable of it, without the influences of divine grace; and our vain fallible reasonings, with the conclusions de
duced from them, must not be put in competition with the unerring decision of the word of God: nevertheless divine faith is in all respects most reasonable, and one of the highest uses of our rational powers.
Mr. P. seems to consider false revelations as a proof that there is no true revelation: but do forged bank-bills prove that no genuine bank-bills exist? Nay, does not common sense deduce the opposite inference? Indeed false revelations could never have obtained credit, if men had not generally deemed a revelation possible, desirable, and even probable. We should then carefully distinguish between the precious and the vile; and not reject all together.
Revelation may be considered as immediate to the person who receives it from the Lord; and mediate, to all that receive it from him to whom it was first communicated. It relates to doctrines, precepts, or facts; and to things past, and present, (in time though invisible to us,) and future; as the day of judgment and an eternal world. A communication from God of things wholly unknown before, and undiscoverable by other means, is an entirely new revelation: but immediate information concerning things in some measure known before, or discoverable in other ways, is a partial revelation. When new truths were revealed, new ordinances instituted, and material changes in religion introduced; unequivocal miracles were necessary to authenticate them, and to seal the prophet's mission and prove his authority. But,
'P. i. p. 41.
where the messenger, though immediately inspired, was only employed to enforce those truths and precepts which had before been divinely attested, miracles were not absolutely necessary; (though they might be very useful in exciting the attention of the people ;) for the appeal might be made to a preceding authenticated revelation. No apparent miracles can prove the truth of any doctrine which contradicts the essential principles of a former authenticated revelation; such as Jehovah being the one living and true God, and the heinousness of idolatry: but the excellent nature and tendency of a doctrine may be a corroborating evidence of its divine original. These thoughts, however, make way for another subject, which requires a particular consideration.
A MIRACLE, in the scriptural meaning of the word, is a deviation from the ordinary course of nature, or of second causes, effected for wise and holy purposes, by the Omnipotence of the Creator, the First Great Cause of all.
Mr. P., however, endeavours to confound miracles with monsters, absurdities, impossibilities, or natural uncommon events. 'No one thing,' says he, 'is a greater miracle than another; an elephant not a greater miracle than a mite, a moun'tain than an atom!' But whoever conceived any of these creatures to be miracles?! The ascension of a balloon, electricity, magnetism, and the recovery of a drowned person, are said to have every thing in them which constitute the idea of a 'miracle!' Whereas nothing answers the proper idea of a miracle, which well-informed persons can account for on natural principles; though it may answer the purpose of impostors in deceiving mankind. Will any man affirm that the miracles, said to have been wrought when Moses waved his rod, can be thus accounted for? What natural efficacy could fill Egypt with frogs, flies, lice, or locusts, exactly at the time which Moses foretold, and when he gave the signal? or turn the waters
1 P. i. p. 56, 57.