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mcan not to say, that every good man is inspired in precisely the same manner, much less in the same degree as were the prophets and apostles. Yet the Scriptures do assert that God dwells in them'a that love him, and that they are the temples of the living God b. Each of the particulars therefore we have insisted on in this discourse, are, in a sense, applicable to every genuine disciple of Christ.
There is a superintending influence exerted over the minds of good men, to secure them from such errors as may prove fatal to their everlasting interests. He who has assured us, that if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God c; hath also assured us, that they who are of this description are his sheep, who know his voice, and know not that of strangers; and that being in his Father's hand, no one is able to pluck them thence d. And as that anointing which all Christians have received from Godz abideth in them, so it may from thence, I think, be concluded, that that truth which it teaches them, so far as it is essential to their Christian character, shall abide in them e. And since Christ has assured us that God will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him f, I see no reason why a superintending influence exerted over the mind to guard it against errors of a dangerous tendency, may not be considered as included in that promise. And how happily is this consideration adapted to afford divine consolation to the sincere and conscientious Christian !
It is likewise by a divine influence, resembling in a degree the second species of inspiration we have been discoursing of, that the hearts of good men, are on some extraordinary occasions enlivened and elevated. While they are musing on the great truths of religion, the character of the blessed God, the wonders of redemption, and the glories of the future statę; a flame of pure devotion is sometimes kindled in their breasts, and ascends to heaven in the warmest aspirations of love, gratitude, and praise. Inspired, I had almost said, by a divine afflatus, they catch somewhat of the fire which burns incessantly in the bosoms of kindred spirits above. And upon what principle either of reason or religion the influence of the Holy Spirit is to be excluded from all concern in these exercises of exalted piety, I am at a loss to devise.
a I John iv. 16.
6 2 Cor. vi. 16.
c John vii. 17.
As to the last idea of suggestion, I am sensible it has been miserably abused by many enthusiastic pretenders to religion. Yet it appears to me perfectly agreeable with sound reason and the dictates of Scripture, to admit that God is sometimes pleased to apply with peculiar energy the gracious promises of his word to the hearts of Christians, for the important purposes of animating them to duty, fortifying them against temptation, and reconciling them to affliction. Nor is there any danger of their mistakenly imputing this energy to the influence of the Holy Spirit, if the effect of such experience is, as we may be sure it always will be, to produce the genuine fruits of humility, holiness, and benevolence. Let us daily and fervently pray, that our minds may be guarded against error, our affections elevated to heaven, and our hearts enlivened and comforted by that inspiration of the Almighty which giveth understanding a.
a Job xxxii. 8.
THE SCRIPTURES PROVED TO BE DIVINELY INSPIRED.
2 Tim. 11. 16, 17.-AU Scripture is given by inspiration of
God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness : that the man of God
may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. In discoursing upon this important subject I have proposed — to explain the term Scripture, and shew what is comprehended in the phrase of all Scripture—to enquire into the true and proper meaning of divine inspiration—to prove that the Scriptures are thus inspired—to consider their use as described in the text-and then to improve the whole.
The two first of these were the subjects of the two preceding discourses. In the former we ascertained the canon of Scripture, pointing out the grounds upon which the several books of The Old and New Testaments which make up our Bible, are received as Scripture; and on the contrary, the reasons why other books which pretend to divine authority are rejected.
In the last Sermon we discoursed of the nature of divine inspiration. By this phrase is meant “a supernatural influence exerted over the mind, whereby its faculties are instantly improved to a degree they could not have acquired by the mere unassisted powers of nature.” This we exemplified in two or three instances. We then shewed you, that to question the possibility of God's having access to the mind, assisting its faculties, and communicating to it by immediate revelation a clear and compendious view of his will, is most unreasonable. So we passed on to the main point, How this influence was exerted over the minds of the inspired writers ? A physical account of this matter is not to be expected. All attempts to explain the influence itself, the manner of its operation, its degree, limits, and extent, must in the nature of the thing be attended with uncertainty. Which is also evident from the figurative mode of expression used to convey to our minds a general idea of this sublime subject. The word inspiration has evident reference to the wind, which latter term is in Scripture put by analogy for the soul of man, and with the attribute holy for God. From hence we were naturally led to observe three things of that divine affilatus 'of which the Scrip tures so frequently speak—its mysteriousness, which is a reason why we should be modest in our enquiries about it; the different degrees of it in different instances; and the real and important effects resulting from it, which is indeed what we are principally concerned to know.
So we proceeded to a more particular investigation of the subject. Here we considered divine inspiration in three points of view, clearly distinguishable from each other, and sufficiently warranted by Scripture-inspiration of superintendency, of elevation, and of suggestion. These we explained, and considered them as we passed on in reference to historical facts, doctrinal truths, and future events. Such was the business of the last sermon. And now we proceed to the third head of discourse, which is,
III. To prove that the Scriptures of the Old and New Test tament are thus inspired. We shall begin with the New Testament, and so lead you back to the Old. The reason of this inversion of order in proving the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, will appear in the sequel.
First, To begin then with the New Testament.
The New Testament, for the matter of it, consists of three parts-historical-facts-doctrinal truths, by which I mean a declaration of the intent for which those facts took place--and predictions of future events. Now in order to prove, that the writers of the several books of which the New Testament is composed, were divinely inspired, it will be necessary to establish the following Propositions :
1. “ That the grand leading facts reported in these books, and of consequence all the rest, are credible.”
2. “ That it was natural to expect that these facts, and a declaration of the true intent of them, should be committed to writing ;"
3. “ That this could not be done, so as to compass the salutary end proposed, without extraordinary divine assistance ;"
4. “ That such assistance was promised by our Saviour to his apostles, and that they affirmed it was granted them;"
5. “ That this fact was universally admitted by the primitive Christians, and has continued to be acknowledged to the present time;" And,
6. And lastly, “ That there are evident internal characters in these books of divine inspiration.” If these propositions can be made good, the grand point we mean to establish will be proved to a demonstration.
1. “ The leading facts reported in the New Testament are credible.” To
say that the writers of the New Testament were inspired, and therefore the facts they related must be true, would be arguing in a circle. The point to be proved is that the reporters of them were inspired. We must begin therefore with proving the credibility of the facts themselves
the general ground of historical evidence. What then were these facts? By whom were they reported? And what credit did their report gain when first made, and in succeeding ages?
The leading facts, for our time will not allow us to mention them all, were such as these. Jesus, an extraordinary person, who had been foretold by the ancient prophets under the character of the Messiah, and was in the reign of Augustus Cæsar generally expected among the Jews, was conceived in a miraculous manner by a virgin of the family of David. His birth at a town called Bethlehem was announced by a host of angels to a company of shepherds in the neighbourhood of that place. Certain wise men of the east, guided by a star, came thither to pay him divine homage. John, an illustrious prophet, was sent to signify his coming, and to prepare his way before him. At his baptism a voice was heard from heaven, saying, This is MY BELOVED SON, IN WHOM I AM WELL
Anointed by the Holy Spirit, he entered on his