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bits the noblest representations of the Supreme Being and a superintending Providence, together with the most admirable lessons of fortitude and submission to the will of God under the severest afflictions that can befal human nature. The Psalms, which follow this book, are full of such exalted strains of piety and devotion, such beautiful and animated descriptions of the power, the wisdom, the mercy and the goodness of God, that it is impossible for any one to read them without feeling his heart inflamed with the most ardent affection towards the Creator and Governor of the universe.
The Proverbs of Solomon, which comes next in order contain a variety of very excellent maxims of wisdom, and invaluable rules of life, which have no where been exceeded except in the New Testament. They afford us, as they profess to do at the very first outset, "the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment and equity. They give subtilty to the simple; to the young man knowledge and discretion."
The same may be said of the greater part of the book of Ecclesiastes, which also teaches us to form a just estimate of this world, and its seeming advantages of wealth, honour, power, pleasure, and science.
The prophetical writings present us with the worthiest and most exalted ideas of the Almighty, the justest and purest notions of piety and virtue, the awfullest denunciations against wickedness of every kind, public and private; the most affectionate expostulations, the most inviting promises, and the warmest concern for the public good. And besides all this they contain a series of predictions relating to our blessed Lord, in which all the remarkable circumstances of his birth, life, ministry, miracles, doctrines, sufferings and death, are foretold in so minute and exact a manner (more particularly in the prophecy of Isaiah) that you would almost think they were describing all these things after they had happened, if you did not know that these prophecies were confessedly written many hundred years before Christ came
into the world, and were all that time in the possession of the Jews, who were the moral enemies of Christianity, and therefore would never go about to forge prophecies, which must evidently prove him to be what he professed to be, and what they denied him to be, the Messiah and the Son of God. It is to this part of Scripture that our Lord particularly directs our attention, when he says, "search the Scriptures, for they are they that testify of me." The testimony he alludes to is that of the prophets; than which no evidence can be more satisfactory and convincing to any one that reads them with care and impartiality, and compares their predictions concerning our Savicur with the history of his life, given us by those who constantly lived and conversed with him. This history we have in the New Testament, in that part of it which goes by the name of GOSPELS.
It is these that recount those wonderful and important events, with which the Christian religion and the divine Author of it were introduced into the world, and which have produced so great a change in the principles, the manners, the morals, and the temporal as well as the spiritual condition of mankind. They relate the first appearance of Christ upon earth; his extraordinary and miraculous birth; the testimony borne to him by his forerunner John the Baptist; his temptation in the wilderness; the opening of his divine commission; the pure, the perfect, the sublime morality which he taught, especially the inimitable sermon from the mount; the infinite superiority which he shewed to every other moral teacher, both in the matter and manner of his discourses; more particularly by crushing vice in its very cradle, in the first risings of wicked desires and propensities in the heart; by giving a decided preference to the mild, gentle, passive, conciliating virtues, to the violent, vindictive, high spirited, unforgiving temper, which has been always too much the favourite character of the world; by requiring us to forgive our very enemies, and to do good to them that hate us; by exclu
ding from our devotions, our alms, and all our other virtues, all regard to fame, reputation, and applause ; by laying down two great general principles of morality, love to God and love to mankind, and deducing from thence every other human duty; by conveying his instructions under the easy, familiar, and impressive form of parables; by expressing himself in a tone of dignity and authority unknown before; by exemplifying every virtue that he taught in his own unblemished and perfect life and conversation; and above all, by adding those awful sanctions, which he alone, of all moral instructors, had the power to hold out, eternal rewards to the virtuous, and eternal punishments to the wicked.
The sacred narrative then represents to us the high character he assumed; the claim he made to a divine original; the wonderful miracles he wrought in proof. of his divinity; the various prophecies which plainly marked him out as the Messiah, the great deliverer of the Jews; the declarations he made, that he came to offer himself a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind';· the cruel indignities, sufferings and persecutions, to which in consequence of this great design, he was ex-posed; the accomplishment of it by the painful and ignominious death to which he submitted; by his resurrection after three days from the grave; by his ascension into heaven; by his sitting there at the right hand of God, and performing the office of a mediator and intercessor for the sinful sons of men, till he comes a second time in his glory to sit in judgement on all mankind, and decide their final doom of happiness or misery forever. These are the momentous, the interesting truths, on which the GOSPELS principally dwell.
The ACTS OF THE APOSTLES continue the history of our religion after our Lord's ascension; the astonishing and rapid propagation of it by a few illiterate tent-makers and fisherman, through almost every part of the world, "by demonstration of the spirit and of power; without the aid of eloquence or of force, and
in opposition to all the authority, all the power, and all the influence of the opulent and the great.
The EPISTLES, that is, the letters addressed by the Apostles and their associates to different churches and to particular individuals, contain many admirable rules and directions to the primitive converts; many affecting exhortations, expostulations, and reproofs; many explanations and illustrations of the doctrines delivered by our Lord; together with constant references to facts, circumstances, and events, recorded in the Gospels and the Acts; in which we perceive such striking, yet evidently such unpremeditated and undesigned coincidences and agreements between the narrative and the epistles, as form one most conclusive argument for the truth, authenticity, and genuineness of both.
The sacred volume concludes with the Revelation of St. John, which, under the form of visions and various symbolical representations, presents to us a prophetic history of the Christian religion in future times, and the various changes, vicissitudes, and revolutions it was to undergo in different ages and countries to the end of the world.
Is it possible now to conceive a nobler, a more comprehensive, a more useful scheme of instruction than this; in which the uniformity and variety, so happily blended together, give it an inexpressible beauty, and the whole composition plainly proving its Author to be divine?
"The Bible is not indeed (as a great writer observes) a plan of religion delineated with minute accuracy, to instruct men as in something altogether new, or to excite a vain admiration and applause; but it is somewhat unspeakably more great and noble, comprehending (as we have seen) in the grandest and most magnificent order, along with every essential of that plan, the various dispensations of God to mankind, for the formation of this earth to the consummation of all things. Other books may afford us much entertainment and much instruction: they may gratify
our curiosity, may delight our imagination, may improve our understandings, may calm our passions, may exalt our sentiments, may even improve our hearts. But they have not, they cannot have that authority in what they affirm, in what they require, in what they promise and threaten, that the Scriptures have. There is a peculiar weight and energy in them, which is not to be found in any other writings. Their denunciations are more awful, their convictions stronger, their consolations more powerful, their counsels more authentic, their warnings more alarming, their expostulations more penetrating. There are passages in them throughout so sublime, so pathetic, full of such energy and force upon the heart and conscience, yet without the least appearance of labour and study for that purpose; indeed the design of the whole is so noble, so well suited to the sad condition of human kind; the morals have in them such purity and dignity; the doctrines, so many of them above reason, yet so perfectly reconcileable with it; the expression is so majestic, yet familiarized with such easy simplicity, that the more we read and study these writings with pious dispositions and judicious attention, the more we shall see and feel of the hand of God in them."
But that which stamps upon them the highest value, that which renders them, strictly speaking, inestimable, and distinguishes them from all other books in the world, is this, that they, and they only, "contain the words of eternal life." In this respect, every other book, even the noblest compositions of man, must fail us; they cannot give us that which we most want, and what is of infinitely more importance to us than all other things put together, ETERNAL LIFE.