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other evidence than the authority of the writers, before we can yield to them a rational assent. It is evident that such a. view of the Scriptures would involve us: in endless enquiries and disputations, and by giving scope to unrestrained speculation, would favour the introduction of the wildest, and most contradictory opinions. There would be no fixed standard to which we could appeal. But if the facred books be inspired, these inconveniences are obviated. All discussion is superseded, except with regard to their means ing; and as they are in general perspicu. ous, and easy to be understood, we may, by due application, attain the certain knowledge of the essential doctrines and duties of religion.
An attentive observer cannot have fail. ed to remark a very striking peculiarity of the present times. It is the influence of the principles of infidelity upon many
profeffors of the Christian religion. The
bold opposition made to fome doctrines · of revelation, renders them ashamed, or
afraid to avow them, without, at least, such qualifications and changes, as shall smooth their afperities, and lessen their apparent incredibility. In some instances such con. ceflions are made, as amount to a: complete surrender of the point in debate, The inspiration of the Scriptures is an article of our faith; against which infidels have directed all the arguments which their ingenuity could furnish; and all the abuse which their malice could invent. What is the consequence? Many profeffed champions of Christianity seem to have concluded that the article is not tenable, because it hath been furiously assailed ; · and accordingly they have. abandon
ed it wholly, or in part, to the enemy. Few writers, indeed, who now un. dertake to defend the cause of revelation, hold the plenary inspiration of the Scrip-
fures. That idea lias become unfashionable; it is claffed with other opinions of our fathers, which are exploded as the fooleries of enthusiasm, and superstitious credulity; and he only is reckoned to think rationally, on the subject, who looks upon the sacred books as partly human, and partly infpired ; as a heterogeneous compound of the oracles of God, and the stories and sentiments of men. There are even some, by whom this partial inspiration is denied, and the Scriptures are regarded as the writings of faith. ful, but fallible men, who had nothing to preserve them from error but the accura. cy of their information, and the integrity of their hearts. The spirit of infidelity is working among Christians themselves.
The inspiration of the Scriptures is a point which Christians are too generally chargeable with taking upon trust. Few of them study the arguments by which it is evinced, and provide themselves with
answers to the objections which infidels oppose to it. It is a doctrine which hath been received by tradition from their fathers, and which, upon their authority, the greater part believe to be true. We need not wonder, then, that, in a time of trial like the present, when the efforts of infidelity are unusually bold and vigorous, there should be a great falling away among the professors of religion; nor can such: apostacy be deplored on any other ground, than as it affects the immortal interests of those who are involved in it. It is attended with no real loss to the cause of revelation, and it reflects no dishonour upon it:. for of what advantage are numbers, if they be destitute of principle; and what dif. credit can arise to the Scriptures from the desertion of persons, whose attachment was less the effect of deliberate choice than of accident ? There is no reason for being alarmed, as if such an event portended a general defection. Raw,
undisciplined troops may give way at the first onset; but veterans, skilled in the art of defence, and accustomed to danger, will keep the field, in defiance of the most furious attacks of the enemy.
It is unquestionably our duty to bewail the progress of unbelief and error; but we ought not, even during their greatest triumph, to suffer our minds to sink inta despondency. The interests of truth are patronized by the Ruler of the world, who is able to render events, apparently the most adverse, conducive to their prosperity; and who, by a sublime and myserious process, is continually bringing: good out of evil. May we not hope, that at this moment, God is purifying the church, by the agency of her enemies ;, and that, while their endeavours to destroy Christianity shall ultimately serve. to diffuse it more widely, and establish it: more firmly, the immediate effect shall be, to render its friends more steady and