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when we are told, that bottles being then made of skins, as they still are in the eastern countries, those which had been often moistened and dried, and exposed to the heat of the sun, were much more apt to give way than such as had been recently made. But I must bring this subject to a conclusion. I intended only to give you a few hints respecting the means to be employed in the study of the Scriptures. There is, however, one thing of which I would remind you, that the literal ought always to be considered as the true and only sense of Scripture, except in those cases in which it is evident that something more is intended. In parables and allegories, we ought not to rest in the letter, but should search out the hidden meaning. In passages, too, which relate to typical persons and events, a double sense must be admitted; and in general, when figurative language is used, we must attend, not to the literal signification of words, but to the ideas which, by a trope, they are used to represent. But in historical narration, in the enunciation of doctrines, and in moral precepts, the grammatical sense alone is to be considered. The practice of spiritualizing the Scriptures, of finding mysteries in the plainest things, which has long prevailed in the church, is a sad proof of the want of judgment and taste. It should never be indulged, although it may excite the admiration of the ignorant; for with whatever appearance of piety it may be clothed, it is a perversion of the word of God, is calculated to expose it to the ridicule of the profane, and instead of edifying, inflates the minds of men with reveries and dreams.

In studying the Scriptures, we should bear in mind, that they are the only standard of religion. As this idea will inspire us with reverence for their authority, so it will excite us to inquire into their meaning with the utmost care. The church of Rome makes tradition the standard of religion as well as the Scriptures, and explains the latter by the former; thus distracting the attention between the word of God and the word of men, and, in fact, giving greater authority to tradition than to the Scriptures. It is, therefore, of as much importance, at least in that church, to know what the fathers have said, as what the prophets and apostles have taught; and accordingly, their writings are much studied by popish divines, and their sentiments are quoted as decisive in matters of faith and practice. Protestants acknowledge the Scriptures alone as the standard of truth. They have drawn up articles or confessions of faith, to which the title of Standards is given ; but they are called subordinate standards, and it is always in this light that they should be regarded. The great Protestant principle, that all appeals should be ultimately made to the Bible, is not always, I am afraid, practically maintained. There is apt to grow up in the mind an undue reverence for the standards of a church, which, by being never subjected to revision, seem to be considered as absolutely perfect, and as enacted for all time to come, and in this country have acquired an air of inviolable sanctity by certain transactions of our fathers, which seemed to ratify them, as the law of Moses was ratified by the solemn covenant between God and the Israelites. Hence there are some persons who think, that they have answered your objections and refuted your opinions, by quoting a passage from the Confession of Faith, and charge you with the most criminal presumption for daring to suggest a doubt of the truth of any part of it. In the same spirit, the papist refers you to the decrees of councils, and the dogmas of the fathers. When the question is, whether a particular opinion is agreeable to the doctrine of the church, the proper appeal is to the standards of the church ; but when the question is, whether a particular opinion is true, the appeal ought to be to the Scriptures. I care not, nor should any man care, what the church of England, or the church of Scotland, has determined. My business is with the word of God,

which alone is infallible. The supreme judge of all controversies is the Scriptures, or rather the Holy Ghost, speaking in the Scriptures.

It has been a subject of controversy, whether it is lawful to draw inferences from Scripture, and what authority should be assigned to them. It is not easy at first sight to conceive, why there should have been a diversity of sentiment upon a point which seems to admit of no dispute ; for nothing is more plain than that, when a proposition is laid down from which certain inferences naturally arise, it is the office of the understanding to draw the conclusions, and to rest in them with equal confidence as in the premises from which they ‘are deduced. This is the mode of procedure of all intelligent creatures, in the matters to which they turn their attention. Human knowledge would be exceedingly circumscribed and imperfect, if our views were strictly confined to facts; and these would be of little use, if we were not permitted to educe from them, observations and maxims for the regulation of our conduct. Had every thing, which it is necessary for us to know, been delivered in express terms in the Scriptures, the Bible would have been too voluminous for general use; and besides, such minuteness was not necessary. God does not speak in it to children, but to men, who are capable of reasoning on the common affairs of life, and can use this power in matters of religion. It is remarked by Theodoret concerning some persons in his time, who affirmed that we should receive the simple words of Scripture without endeavouring to ascertain their import, that they overturned all human things, divested men of reason, and converted them into brutes. The objection against deducing consequences from Scripture is made with a design to serve a particular purpose; to protect certain opinions, which are contrary to Scripture, by the plea that the opposite opinions are nowhere affirmed totidem verbis. It is a miserable shift, as there is no fundamental error which may not be refuted by the very words of inspiration, without any commentary upon them; but it so far answers their intention, that it leaves them the advantage of concealing their real sentiments, and assuming the appearance of orthodoxy, while they express themselves in the language of Scripture, but secretly affix a meaning to it which is subversive of its obvious import. If you say, that Christ is the Son of God, they will assent; but if you proceed to say, that the only-begotten Son of God, his proper Son, must be a partaker of his essence and perfections, they exclaim that they find no proposition so expressed in the Bible. The true reason why some cry out so loudly against confessions of faith, is, that although they have learned to use the words of Scripture in any sense which best suits them, they find in confessions the doctrines which they controvert, expressed in terms which can by no artifice be twisted to their purpose, and the collected sense of different passages imbodied in articles, by which their systems of error are confronted and demolished. The denial of the lawfulness of drawing consequences from Scripture goes mueh farther than its opponents are aware, and would place them and us in the most awkward and ridiculous situation ; for it would follow, that we must never write or speak about religion but in the words of inspiration, and that all theological books and all sermons should be discarded; for of what do they consist but of inferences from Scripture, when they do not merely retail its words, but attempt to explain their meaning ?

Before concluding, I would call your attention to the conduct of the church of Rome, in reference to the Scriptures. She has interposed her authority to hinder the study of them, in direct opposition to the express command of our Saviour.* While the council of Trent declared the Vulgate, that is, the Latin translation which had been used from the days of Jerome, to be authentic in all public readings, disputations, preachings, and expositions, it did not

• John v, 39.

absolutely discourage versions into the vernacular tongues, but prescribed such regulations as were calculated to limit the use of them. The following is the sum of the fourth of the Rules concerning Prohibited Books, which were drawn up by certain Fathers appointed by the council for this purpose, and were sanctioned by Pope Pius the Fourth : " That since it is manifest from experience, that if the Bible be indiscriminately permitted in the vulgar tongue, more injury than benefit will result through the rashness of men, the use of Catholic versions shall be granted, by the advice of the priest or confessor, to those alone who it is understood will not be hurt by the reading of them, but will be advanced in faith and piety:" Conformable to this virtual proscription of the sacred writings, are the representations which are given of them by Popish divines, with a view to deter men from any attempt to become better acquainted with them. The Bible has been pronounced io be very obscure, and indeed unintelligible ; to have no authority in itself, and were it not for the authority of the church, to be not more credible than Æsop's fables ; to be incapable of making men wise unto salvation, and to be calculated rather to lead them astray; to be the cause, or at least the occasion, of all errors and heresies. If this be the true character of the Scriptures, we cannot wonder that the church of Rome, in her great solicitude for the spiritual and eternal welfare of men, should exert all her power to keep them out of their hands, as we would keep edge tools out of the hands of children. After all, the Bible, according to her, is an imperfect book, containing only a part of revelation, the remainder being laid up in the traditions of the church, without which the Bible cannot be understood, and which we are therefore commanded by the Council of Trent to receive, pari pietatis effectu ac reverentia, with equal reverence and affection as the writings of the prophets and apostles.

I need not spend time in showing how contrary to the obvious design of revelation, as well as to its express principles, are all endeavours, whether by authority or by argument, to prevent it from becoming the subject of general study. The thing, indeed, is so absurd, that it would never have been proposed or thought of, if there had not been some sinister purpose to accomplish. No man is displeased that others should enjoy the light of the sun, unless he be engaged in some design which it is his interest that they should not see; and in this case, he would wish the gloom of midnight to sit down upon the earth, that he might practise his nefarious deeds with impunity. It is an interest contrary to the Scriptures which has impelled the church of Rome to exert her power to hinder the circulation of them, and to open her mouth in blasphemy against the God of heaven, as if he had delivered to the world, as a rule of faith, a book so obscure that it cannot be understood, and so dangerous that, if the common people meddle with it, it will be at their peril. If that church were convinced that her constitution, and doctrines, and religious rites were conformable to the word of God, we cannot doubt, after what we know of her eager desire to establish a universal dominion, that she would not fail to display every where evidence so overpowering. No man will withhold, especially when his claims are controverted, the proofs by which they are substantiated. When the apostate church declaims upon the obscurity of the Scriptures, and the dangerous consequences of putting them into the hands of the people, we seem to hear Milton's Satan telling the sun how much he hates its beams, because they remind him of the splendour from which he has fallen. This is the secret of her opposition to the Scriptures ; and although Papists would willingly conceal it from us, they have not been ashamed to speak of it among themselves : “ Among all the counsels which we can give at this time," said the bishops met at Bononia, to consult for restoring the dignity of the Roman See to Pope Julius the Third, “we have reserved the most weighty to the last. You must strive with all your might, that as little of the Gospel as possible, especially in the vulgar tongue, may be read in the cities under your jurisdiction ; the little which is in the Mass ought to be sufficient, neither should it be permitted to any mortal to read more ; for as long as men were contented with that little, all things went well with them, but quite otherwise since more was commonly read. This book, above all others," they add, " has raised the storms and tempests with which we are carried away. And truly, if any man diligently examine it, and then consider the things which are practised in our churches, he will see that they differ very much from one another, and that our doctrine is altogether different from it, and often contrary. These sheets are therefore to be concealed with great caution and diligence, lest we should be involved in greater troubles and tumults."*

The knowledge of the original languages, and of the rules of interpretation, are necessary to enable us to ascertain the meaning of the Scriptures. They are of essential importance to all who are already employed, or hope to be employed, as teachers of the Christian people. A man is despised who engages in a profession for which he is not prepared ; but an unqualified minister of religion is not only contemptible but criminal, because he has intruded himself into an office to which he was certainly not called; and through his ignorance and incapacity, incalculable injury may be done to those who are unhappily placed under his care. “ The priest's lips should keep knowledge, because the people seek the law at his mouth.” It would be well for the church, if all ministers and students were endeavouring, by diligence, and humble dependence upon the Divine blessing, to answer the description which Solomon has given of himself: “ Moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge ; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words ; and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.”+

But let every one of you consider, that he has a personal interest in the Scriptures, and should study them for his own benefit. He should labour not only to understand their meaning, but to feel their power. They are able to make you wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ; but what will it avail you, if they are not thus received ? By the diligent use of your natural talents, you may preach to the advantage of your hearers, but you will be like a lamp which wastes away as it gives light to others, and then expires. Beware of forgetting your own interests, while you are attending to those of your fellow men.

The Bible addresses itself to you in every page; and it is your duty to listen, with serious attention, to its important and varied lessons. A minister of religion ought not to be like an actor, who recites to others tales which do not affect himself, and seeks the applause of his audience by assuming the appearance of passion which he does not feel. That he may possess genuine animation, and that the warmth of his heart may correspond with the fervour of his language, let him be deeply impressed with the alarming and consoling truths which so often come under review. Let him remember that he cannot, without being self-condemned, call upon his hearers to believe, while he contents himself with a cold assent; and that in this state of mind, his exhortations must freeze upon his lips, or if they are pronounced with earnestness, it is the earnestness of hypocrisy, for which, if any portion of moral sensibility remains, he must in the hour of reflection despise himself

. Happy is he who has the Bible in his head and in his heart! The knowledge of its truths will make him wise, and its inspiring influence will render him eloquent. His discourses will be virtually a detail of his own experience; he will be able to say, “I speak that which I know, and testify that which I believe."

• Consil. de Stabilienda Rom. sede, p. 6, t Ecclesiastes xii. 9, 10. Vol. 1.-18

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LECTURE XIV.

THE DISPENSATION OF RELIGION.

Origin of our Religion-First Promise of a Saviour-Institution of Sacrifices—State of

Religion in Patriarchal Times--Institution of the Jewish State-Its Codes - Design of the Ceremonial Law-Character of the Mosaic Dispensation.

About a hundred years ago, a book was published in England, by the celebrated infidel, Dr. Tindal, bearing this title, “ Christianity as Old as the Creation ;" the object of which was to show that the Gospel is a republication of the law of nature, and that there neither is, nor can be, any revelation distinct from what he calls the internal revelation of that law in the hearts of all mankind. In opposition to this bold and impious assertion, we maintain, with President Forbes in his Thoughts concerning Religion, Natural and Revealed, that Christianity is very near as old as the creation. We deny that it was the primitive religion of mankind; but we are ready to prove, that only a very short time elapsed before it became their religion; or in other words, that substantially the same system of religion which we at present profess, was made known to our first parents, and has been received and acted upon by the people of God in every subsequent age.

As, in consequence of the permanent relations in which man stands to God and his fellow-creatures, the moral law is immutable, and requires the same duties in every new period, and from every successive generation, so to man considered as in a state of guilt and pollution, there could at no time be any essential difference in the mode of intercourse with his Maker, and the only conceivable variety would be in the form. The same views of the divine character were necessary to relieve him from the disquietudes of conscience, and the same promises to encourage his confidence and hope. We are accustomed to give the designation of Christianity to the religion which was published to the world about eighteen hundred years ago, by our blessed Saviour and his apostles, and thus to distinguish it from the preceding revelations; but our design is not to signify that it was a new religion. The church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, holds the truths taught by both, and acknowledges as her Head the same divine Redeemer who is the subject of their united testimony.

Although God at first created the world in a state of perfection, he has since carried on its affairs by second causes, which produce their effect by a regular but gradual process. The full evolution of the human body, from the seminal principle in the womb of the parent, is the work of years, and so is the growth of plants and trees. Light increases slowly, from the faint dawn in ihe east, to the full splendour of noonday; and human reason, rising up amidst the instincts of childhood, developes itself by successive steps, till after a long course of experience and discipline, it attains maturity. Religion has advanced to its present state by a similar progress. At first it was like the seed which the husbandman throws into the soil, which, although containing the germ of the future plant, gave no promise to the eye of what it would be come ; but under the care, and by the renewed influences of Heaven, it has waxed greater and greater, and now it is presented to us in all its luxuriance and beauty.

In this lecture, I shall direct your attention to the dispensation of religion, prior to the coming of Christ.

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