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DESIGN OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
General design of the Scriptures—The happiness and improvement
of mankind-Doctrine of Providence—The Redemption of the soul by Jesus Christ—The directory and rule of faith-Acquaintance with the Scriptures.
DIVINE Revelation in the Holy Scriptures, the inestimable boon from God to mankind, must have been given with the noblest and most benevolent design. Reason dictates this conclusion; and that grand design is acknowledged by every serious reader of the Bible. This cannot but regard the honour and praise of the blessed Donor, while it especially contemplates the improvement and happiness of a world of fallen creatures. Such a boon could not have been bestowed on man without an object altogether worthy of its heavenly origin. But the purpose for which the Holy Scriptures were given may be seen in every page. They are plainly adapted to manifest the glorious perfections and infinite moral excellencies of the blessed God; as they make the sublime discoveries of His divine nature in the holy commands and beneficial precepts which they enjoin; and show his gracious disposition in the “ exceeding great and precious promises” which they offer to relieve the anxieties of sinners, and to make men
heirs of eternal life, through the mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Man being a rational intelligent creature, though sinful and mortal, the sacred writings give all that kind of information which was so much needed by him on the most important subjects. Their teaching is suited to his mysterious nature. They declare the origin of his present corrupt state ; and make known the alternative of his condition in another world. This most desirable knowledge could be derived only from God, who is “the Father of lights," “ the fountain of wisdom," and the source of all our blessings.
Moses, the earliest of the sacred writers, was, therefore, inspired of God with the manifest design of satisfying the natural inquisitiveness of the human mind on subjects the most interesting to our race. For this purpose he commences his first book with a declaration of the origin of all things, as they are existing in the whole universe, especially of those which are visible in the vastly expanded heavens and upon the extended surface of the earth. All these he declares to have been the work of One omnipotent, self-existent, all-wise and beneficent Creator, whose boundless goodness moved Him to create innumerable beings, of various ranks, with intelligent natures, capable of contemplating their glorious Maker- of receiving the kind expressions of His love and favour, and of rendering Him worship, so as to secure the continuance of happiness in His blissful service for time and eternity. This inspired servant of God has, therefore, delivered to us a concise but explicit history of the origin of all things, with a general detail of the progress of the creation, in which were brought forth the various kinds of vegetable existences and of animal natures on earth, subjected to man as their constituted proprietor and lord. He has informed us, also, concerning the originally perfect, holy and happy condition of our first parents in the garden of Eden, where, in loyal obedience, they enjoyed the most delightful intercourse with their bountiful, condescending and gracious Creator.
Divine Revelation was designed to teach us the doctrine of God's universal providence, carried on in wisdom and righteousness, and extending to all His creatures; discovering the source of all the miseries and sorrows of mankind, and of our humiliating mortality. These are shown to be not essential to our nature, but arising as the natural and necessary consequences of disobedience to the holy requirements of the blessed Creator. Moses has, therefore, not only given these historical facts, but instructively illustrated them in the biographies of the early and most famous patriarchs. He has also given the records of repeated intimations from God, concerning a mysterious person who should in due time mercifully appear as an all-sufficient Redeemer. In the book of Genesis are given-a vindication of God's righteous government in the universal deluge, sweeping away the corrupted race of mankind, and a history of the re-construction of society by the establishment of the ancient nations, several of which have continued nearly five thousand years, and are still existing distinct and peculiar in the East. This book declares the wide dispersion of men over the face of the earth; the origin of the diversity of human languages, so truly astonishing, and the endless variety of habits and manners which are seen to distinguish the nations of mankind, especially in the regions surrounding the birthplace of the human family.
Above all these momentous facts and doctrines, Divine Revelation was designed to make known to us the history of God's dispensations regarding the principles and practice of religion. Moses shows us how God honoured with His favour those who in the earliest ages believed in and worshipped Him, characterizing them as “the sons of God.” And, for the preservation of divine truth and the purity of religious ordinances, we learn from the book of Genesis, how the patriarch Abraham was selected, that his family might become the depository of the laws and promises of God. These were delivered in a long succession, written by His inspired servants to promote intelligence and justice, holiness and happiness among the children of men. But all the books of Moses and of the prophets were designed as preparatory to the introduction of another, a new and perfect dispensation of mercy, grace and salvation, which arose by the advent and universal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Generally the Holy Scriptures, as we perceive, are designed to advance the intellectual, the moral and the social improvement of mankind, in the rational and delightful service of God. They relate, therefore, chiefly to spiritual things. They have, however, an ultimate design, which contemplates another, a superior, an immortal state, in the eternal kingdom of God in heaven. They teach us, therefore, that the inspired books have been written with this great purpose especially in view ; and that the sacred volume is, in this respect, to be regarded as worthy the wisdom and grace of its blessed author. This purpose is declared to be, in the emphatic language of the inspired Apostle, to make men“ wise unto salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus.” But in effecting this great work, the Scriptures, especially the books of the New Testament, are the appointed means by which the Holy Spirit enlightens, regenerates and sanctifies believers in the present world, restoring them, even while on earth, to the moral image of their Creator, for the purpose of their enjoying, even here, fellowship with their heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ. But this high privilege is only preparative to a still higher condition, qualifying them to inherit eternal felicity in heaven, where they are to dwell with unnumbered myriads of the holy angels, in the glorious kingdom of God.
“Jesus Christ, and him crucified” for the sins of the world, with all the promises and ordinances relating to His kingdom, form the grand subjects of the books of the New Testament. These books—the work of inspired apostles and evangelists—complete the celestial records in the volume of Divine Revelation. They were written to declare to us the infinite dignity and the glorious divinity of the Saviour, as