|« Prev||Lecture VIII. Preached January 16, 1691.||Next »|
(1.) Now to prove that these books in the days of our Saviour and his apostles, even unto the last of them, went into the account of those Scriptures that were of divine authority: and within this compass, must come the books of the Old and New Testament. We shall give some considerations in reference to this; and shall afterwards in the close of all, (having spoken to the latter proposition too) give you some additional considerations concerning this book as now we find it.
[1.] For the divine authority of the books of the Old Testament, I shall not trouble you here with the various divisions that the Jews made of these books. And here, whereas, they reckon no more of them, than there were letters of their alpha bet, two and twenty, which most apparently excludes the apocryphal books. It would be tedious and trifling to trouble you with the account how they did severally refer all those to the several letters; only it is plain that the minor prophets they made all but one book. But this division only will serve our turn (though they did not strictly hold to it, but varied from it commonly, making a third member which we find no mention made of in the evangelists, or the writings of the New Testament,) that is, the division of the books of the Old Testament into those of Moses and the prophets. The Jews indeed made the Hagiographia, or third class, that is, accounting none prophetic, but those which were sent by special mission from God. And so all those books (besides the five books of Moses, and those written by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the minor prophets,) they called Hagiographia, that is, other holy writings, sacred writings; such as the historical 453parts of Scripture, the books of Job, Proverbs, Canticles, Ecclesiastes and the like. But our Saviour comprehends all under the name of the law and the prophets, or sometimes, Moses and the prophets: (Mat. xxii. 40.) “On these two hang all the law and the prophets:” and that other place (Luke xvi. 29.) “they have Moses and the prophets.” Now take here the books of Moses first, and there can be no doubt at all but he was an inspired person, and that his books were written by very peculiar inspiration. If you do but admit the truth of the historical relation, as to him, and that people he had the conduct of, I say, supposing that there can be no doubt of his having written those books by special inspiration of God, for (admitting the truth of the history) you find how familiarly conversant he was with God, from time to time; that he did nothing of any concernment in reference to that people, but always by divine monition. Nothing then is more unsupposable than that he should do so great a thing as this, digest such records, and stamp them with the name of sacred and divine, and call them the word of the Lord, and the law of the Lord; and all this, without special instinct from God. Do but think how manifest and observable and adorable a divine presence, shewed himself to that person. How peculiarly God took him nigh to himself, sustained him forty days and forty nights together, (whether once or twice I will not here dispute) in the sacred mount, by miracle; sup porting him by his own glory, speaking to him from time to time, giving him free recourse to him, directing him to consult him, and take his responses from him, upon all occasions. And that the history that relates to him, as to the matter of fact, must be true beyond all exception is evident if you consider, such things as these:
First. The very honourable mention that is made of this Moses, and some of the most remarkable things relating to that people (the Jews) whom he had the conduct of, by some of the most ancient and celebrated pagan writers, magnifying him as a most wise and prudent legislator, and a very great man; and remarking very considerable things with reference to this people. I need not trouble you with them; it is known to scholars, what of this kind is written by Diodorus Siculus and others. And,
Secondly. That which is above all demonstration: it is notorious to all the world that the people of the Jews were under the government of a Theocracy for several centuries of years successively, which puts the matter out of all doubt, that the history of that fact must be unquestionable upon which they became so. They were continually directed by God himself; 454 their laws were made by God himself. He appointed the means of being consulted in every place, and it was through a long continued series of time: and so these records in all that time were known to be sacred things, having a divine stamp all along upon them. And again,
Thirdly. It is to be considered that the very matter of the history itself (considered in its circumstances) doth speak its own truth: considered, I say, in its circumstances, that is, the bringing of the people of Israel out of Egypt, and bringing them out by so strong a hand, inflicting so many miraculous plagues upon that Egyptian people and their prince, till they were forced to a manumission of them: the dividing of the red sea, the most stupendous way of giving the law upon mount Sinai, which (with the additional precepts that were given to Moses in the mount itself) make up (you know) the most considerable parts of the Pentateuch. The very matter of itself speaks, (if you consider it clothed with its circumstances) that there could be no fiction as to these things; for there is nobody but must grant, upon an ordinary view and judgment of those characters that do appear of Moses, that he was a prudent man at least, a very prudent man. But certainly he must needs be a madman that would report a fiction of things said to be done by, and before six hundred thousand men. When men do feign and forge things, they do it with the greatest privacy imaginable. As the portentous stories about Mahomet, there are no witnesses quoted, but all goes upon the credit of his word. It is not said, there were such and such thousands that saw such and such things, for then, if it were false, it were the easiest thing in the world to be disproved. Now when the law is said to be given from such a mount, clothed with so terrible and august a glory at that time, and the voice heard uttering those ten words, as they are called, by six hundred thousand men, at once, besides women and children, (for these words are said to be heard spoken from the mount, by all the people; whereupon they could not bear that God should speak to them any longer. “We die,” say they to Moses, “if God speak to us any more, but do thou speak and we will hear,”) no man that hath but the ordinary understanding of a man, can think, that one of common prudence would inform of things that he saith were done in view of so many thousands of witnesses, if they were not done; if there were any design in saying so, that design were presently blasted, and lost out of hand; especially if it be considered that among those ten words there are so express precepts against idolatry; and that people had so marvellous propensions to idolatry, as their frequent relapses into it, 455 and their running into it, even in Moses’ absence, when God ceased to speak with an audible voice, do testify, It had given them the most gladsome opportunity they could have wished for, could they have detected a fraud in the case. When it is said there were such and such, and so many thousand witnesses, they could have said, there was no such thing. Could not this have been transmitted to posterity for a notorious cheat? by a people so prone to idolatry as they were. And when they were urged by the prophets (in a time of great degeneracy) with the authority of the divine law, how easily could they have replied, “No, there was no such law, it was a fiction, and what is said to be given by God’s voice; and our fathers are said to be quoted as witnesses to, they all renounced it, said there was no such thing?” And then,
Fourthly. That holy men succeeding this time, (and unto whose inspiration it hath been sufficiently attested, as we shall see afterwards,) did attest unto Moses, still calling that law written by him, the law of the Lord, and the word of the Lord, and the testimonies and statutes of the Lord. With what reverence and with what delight and complacency do you find them so mentioned in the book of Psalms, in multitudes of places, when there was little else of Scriptures yet extant, besides those books of Moses? Would such a man as David, with adoration have called these writings, the law of the Lord, and the word, and statutes and judgments and testimonies of the Lord, if they had not been most certainly so? And would he have expressed so high delight in them, and veneration for them as such, counting them more precious than thousands of gold and silver, and expressing the heart-breakings and longings of his soul after them from time to time upon all occasions? And then, for what was written by him (David) and other holy men, (besides the prophets) though it is not known who wrote every book, yet there is no doubt but all may (as our Saviour did design they should) be comprehended under the name of the prophets; Moses and the prophets. And for the prophets, that they were reckoned prophets speaks their inspiration; the distinguishing character of true prophets and false, being so well known among that people. And for the things themselves that they prophesied, the accomplished events did from time to time prove the inspiration of the prophets.
But then take the whole Old Testament together, and that hath received its confirmation abundantly from the New: so that if the New can be proved to be of divine authority, all our business is done, the matter is out of question. The whole Old Testament, it is most expressly owned and proved by the New. For,456
What is the New Testament, but a commentary upon the Old? it is an application of the religion of the Old Testament. The Old was nothing but a veiled gospel. The New is nothing else but the same gospel unveiled. And again,
It is plain, that our Lord himself doth frequently and expressly confirm to us the whole Old Testament, taken together under the name of Scripture, or the Scriptures, Moses and the prophets, and the law and the prophets. As when he saith “I am not come to destroy the law: no, I am not come to destroy but to fulfil:” (Matth. v. 17) and in the next verse “Heaven and earth shall pass away before one jot or one tittle of the law pass”—so that he hath confirmed the whole Old Testament to a tittle, to a very tittle, not one tittle but is sacred, it cannot be lost, cannot pass away, it is a more stable thing than heaven itself, and therefore now,
[2.] We pass to the books of the New Testament. And how will it appear that there were such books written by divine inspiration, so as we ought to reckon the authority of them is stampt thereon by God himself? Why,
First. Much of what we find in these writings was delivered by our Lord himself. The most material things contained in the gospels, that is, the doctrinal parts, were his own words still from time to time, upon all occasions.
Secondly. It is very plain that he did inspire his apostles, that were to be witnesses of him, and whose business it must be to be planters and propagators of the Christian faith after wards in the world. He did purposely inspire and direct and authorise them to publish those very things that make up the substance of those books; and therefore, no doubt, did direct them to write those very books themselves; for who can suppose, he having a design that the Christian religion should obtain and take place in all succeeding times to the end of time, but that he should intend that it should be wrote, it should be put into writing, and therefore when he laid that charge upon his apostles, upon whom he breathed at parting, or a little before, saying “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” and to whom he gave this charge, “Go and teach all nations this doctrine;” certainly within the compass of that charge must be comprehended the charge of writing these things, as -one means of publishing them to all nations, and so necessary a means, as that all besides (as to succeeding ages) must be ineffectual. And then,
Thirdly. For the authority of what was contained in these books, or the divinity thereof, he did endow those he made use of, as his apostles and first planters of the Christian faith after 457him, (even their very inspiration itself, their very mission as well as the several parts of that message upon which they were sent) with a power of working stupendous miraculous works: that it might be seen by all men, that a divine power did at test to divine truth, as it was published by those men. And upon this you find that mighty stress laid, that these first propagators of the Christian faith, “preached the gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven,” And the same Holy Ghost that did assist them in preaching, did prompt too, to write the whole New Testament. And that it was the Holy Ghost that did actuate them in all this, was shewn by that power of working miraculous works, which God gave at the same time; because the Holy Ghost is entitled to those works by our Saviour himself, saying, “If I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come unto you,” then is that religion true, and it is the kingdom of God that I am here setting up among you, and hereupon is that great weight laid upon this matter, (Heb. ii. 2. 3. 4.) “If the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” This was the divine seal, the seal of heaven affixed to these writings and what was contained in them: that is, that when men should come abroad upon such an errand, into strange countries and other nations besides their own, and speak things that such and such people had never heard of before, hereupon, suppose it should be inquired of them, “What shall induce us to believe, that what you say is true and comes from God?” Why immediately they do such and such works that could only be done by divine power, and so they testify to men, that this was a divine truth that they uttered to them. They preached such a gospel, and at the same time they healed the sick, by the speaking of a word, and sometimes raised the dead to life, as our Saviour himself did, who had so confirmed the truth before, by that and other most wonderful things that referred to his own person, by his death especially, and by his resurrection. Here was the greatest question among the Jews: he gave himself out to be the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God; all the question was, “Is this the Christ, or is he a deceiver or impostor?” He must be one of the two: either the Christ as he said he was, or one of the most notorious impostors that ever was upon the face of the earth: all the 458 dispute rested upon this one thing: “Whereas, he gave himself out to be the Son of God, is he the Son of God or no?” The means by which many were wrought upon before his death, to believe in him, were his most miraculous works; but I say they were but the means: and to bring any effectually to believe in Christ, there must be something more than external means. When he preached to the multitude, he confirmed his word, sometimes by feeding thousands by very improportionable means; by healing the sick, by opening the ears of the deaf and the eyes of the blind, loosening the tongues of the dumb, and raising up the dead to life and the like: and when at length he came to die, you know with what circumstances his death was accompanied; all the powers of heaven and earth were shaken, the sun withdrew his head, the veil of the temple was rent, the dead arose; and a poor pagan centurion, (who was appointed to guard the execution) upon sight of these things gives up the cause; “Verily this was the Son of God, I see he was in the right, the Jews persecuted him wrongfully,” (for here was the question between them, Was he the Son of God or no?) “They crucified him for a blasphemer, in saying he was the Son of God, which they denied him to be, but now I see he was the Son of God.” And he was afterwards “declared to be the Son of God with power, by the Spirit of holiness by which he was raised from the dead.” Now his apostles’ going forth, in the authority of this divine Person, to testify nothing but what they saw with their eyes, and what they heard with their ears, and being appointed by him to be witnesses of what they saw and heard, and to preach the doctrine which he had preached and delivered to them before; and they themselves working so miraculous works to prove the truth of what he did assert; this proves the matter out of all question, that what was written concerning all this, must be by divine inspiration. And further too,
Fourthly. It manifestly appears how the prophecies of the Old Testament (the greatest and most important of them) did receive their confirmation that they were divine, by the events that fell out in the time wherein the books of the New Testament were written, and which came to be reflected on after wards, by the wisest and most considering, thesuitableest and most competent judges the world had in those days. Many of them were hereupon converted to the Christian faith: and some others that were not so, merely as wanting that opportunity to be informed of matters of fact which the others had had, who yet did acknowledge the convictiveness of the Mediator: as for instance, those prophecies concerning Christ, and that one express 459one, among the rest, of Daniel, about the seventy weeks: that great pagan, (and one of the most considerable enemies for reason and learning that ever the Christian cause had in the world) Porphiry, having opportunity to view over this prophecy said, it must needs have been written after the event, it was so very punctual. So that he only wanted an opportunity to know, that this prophecy had been written above five hundred years before his time, and was four hundred and twenty years before its accomplishment, in the. hands of the Jews, and kept so safe that it was impossible to be a fallacious thing. And therefore, that being his case, (he being a heathen and not a jew and not having opportunity to know) that must (by his own confession) be the only reason of his not being a believer, upon that one single prophecy, so punctually accomplished by the coming of our Lord; and his being cut off at such a time as the prophecy did say concerning the coming of the Messiah, the Prince, and that he was to be cut off at such a time. Well, upon all this there is little doubt to be made as to the first proposition, that is,—that those books that went under the name of Scripture, or the Scriptures, in our Saviour’s and the apostles’ time, to the last survivor of them, were certainly of divine authority.
(2.) But now to the second proposition—that this book that we have now in our hands, containing such and such writings in it, is the same, or those Scriptures are the very same that were so owned and acknowledged for the Scripture, in those days. It may be said, and no doubt will be, by any that shall consider, that if this IDC out of question, the whole business is out of question: for nobody can think, if all that hath been said be true, about these books of the Old and New Testament, (said to be extant together at least within the time of the evangelist John) as to matter of fact, as Was reported, but these books must unquestionably be of divine authority. But how should we do to know that we have the matter of fact rightly deduced and drawn down to us, and so that we have reason to believe the books that we now have are the same? If we could be sure they are the same, it would be unquestionable: now as to that, there is one thing that I must premise to you, and it carries its own evidence with it. That is, that that knowledge that men may “have of any thing by ordinary means, we are never to expect should be given us by extraordinary. Pray do but take this, and weigh it well, as a thing needful here to be forelaid. Whatsoever may be sufficiently evidenced by ordinary means, it is very unreasonable to expect, that God should afford extraordinary means for the evidencing of that thing. If you do but observe the constancy of his methods of government, over this 460 world, how sparing lie hath been of doing extraordinary things, that ought to come by just account into the class of miracles, of miraculous works, you would see, that the divine wisdom and power have been always very sparing of doing such things, unless where the exigency of the case did require it, and where the end was not otherwise attainable. But it is foolish, to think that the wisdom of God and the power of God should be exerted upon no necessity: what is it for? only to please curiosity? That which is done not to answer necessity, can only be supposed to be done to please and gratify curiosity. Now to think that the wisdom of God, should make infinite power, ever and anon, to stoop to do miraculous works, only to please and gratify a vain and curious humour, without any need, this were the most unworthy of God of any thing we could suppose: and therefore, this is never to be looked for. If then there be sufficient ordinary means to beget a certainty concerning this, it would be a very foolish thing to expect that miracles should be wrought to prove it to us at this day, that these books we now have are, for substance, the same that those were, which were owned for divine, in Christ’s and the apostles’ days. For if any one would assert, that it was needful a miracle should be wrought to this purpose, to assure us that these books were the same they were in former times; I would know who it is that should have opportunity of seeing this miracle? Must every one that should be obliged to believe these books to be the same, see such a miracle wrought himself? That were to make miracles more necessary than ever they were, for even in Christ’s and his apostles’ days, it was never thought necessary that every person should have the sight of a miracle himself, but it was enough that it was notoriously known that such and such miracles were done. But if it were not thought necessary in Christ’s and his apostles’ days, that miracles should be wrought in the sight of every person, that every one for his own satisfaction should hare the sight of such a miracle himself, then the testimony of such persons must be relied upon in this case, as it would be supposed could have no inclination or design to deceive others, by misrepresenting things to them: and that is such a testimony as upon which all matters among men do depend. “It is said in your law, (saith our Saviour to the Jews) the testimony of two witnesses is true;” that is, is credible, is not to be doubted: the whole frame of government depends upon witnesses. There would be no law, no justice, no society kept on foot in the world, if the testimony of credible witnesses were not to be respected and attended to. Now if in this way, there must be reliance on credible witnesses 461somewhere, that is, if some few should in our own time see a miracle done, and they make report of it, and their testimony is to be believed, why may we not believe as well the credible testimony of former times, as believe the credible testimony of persons in our own time? If the sober reason of men be yielded to in this case, no man can imagine what reason of difference is assignable, but that we may as well rely upon the testimony of our forefathers, concerning matters of fact, as upon the testimony of those that live in the same age with us; but have seen with their own eyes, what we have not seen with ours. And do not we know that most of the estates in which persons do claim property, do depend upon the testimony of witnesses that are dead a hundred years ago? Certainly, men would have very bad titles to their estates, if the testimony of witnesses, dead many scores of years or some hundreds of years ago, were Hot to be relied on even now. This is plain, that we have the same rational way and method of knowing these books to be the same they were, that is, by such testimony as is the very means of setting on foot all property, and all the administration of law and justice, in civilized nations, all the world over. And we have the same means to know this, as by which we come to know, that any other writings are theirs whose names they bear: such as the writings of Seneca, Aristotle and the like. We have the same means to know this by, as we have for other things that are of greatest importance to mankind in this world, and by which we come to know, other men’s works that we have now in our hands, are the same which were written so many hundred years ago. And if so, then it were the most unreasonable thing, that miracles should now be reckoned necessary to be wrought to prove this thing to us, and if a miracle were now to be wrought, there must be a relying upon present witnesses, upon the testimony of this present age; and why might we not as well rely upon witnesses of the former age, as on witnesses of the present age? No reason can be as signed. Therefore, it would be absurd to expect God should extraordinarily prove this to ns, when it could be sufficiently proved otherwise. That is the first thing to be forelaid.
And being forelaid, this one general consideration will prove, that these books are the same that they were in Christ’s and his apostles’ time, and cannot be otherwise; that is, that material alterations of them were altogether impossible. When I say material alterations, I only mean this, that there may have been some very minute undesigned alteration in transcribing of co pies; a word may have been mistaken, or a letter may have been mistaken, somewhat here or there left out. But this can 462 be no material or hurtful alteration, because they had always other copies to correct such mistakes by, but there could be no material alteration with design, that is the thing I deny to be possible, and assert to be impossible. There could be no designed alteration either of the books of the Old Testament, or of the books of the New Testament, since the time of Christ and his apostles. And,
[1.] Not of the books of the Old Testament.
First. It is impossible they can have been altered, since it is plain they were preserved before, and for a considerable time afterwards, with the greatest care imaginable. And that it is .one of the great wonders of providence that God, for the preservation of these books, should make use of that scrupulous, and I might say, almost superstitious care that was among those Jews, whose office it was to keep the books of the Old Testament. As,
It was known, they used to count all the letters of the Old Testament, that they might be sure never to miss a letter. Again,
In transcribing copies, (which was frequent) every copy was always examined by an appointed number of their wise men, as they termed them. Further,
If any copy should have been found, upon examination, to have four or five faults in it, in one copy of the whole Old Testament, that book was presently adjudged to be buried in the grave of one or other of their wise men. And lastly,
For those books that, upon examination, were found to be punctually true, it was very plain from the history of those times, that there was the greatest reverence paid to them imaginable. They never used to touch those perfect copies (taking them into their hands) without kissing them solemnly; nor to lay them down again without solemn kissing of them. They were never used to sit upon the place where one of those books were wont to be laid. If one of them by casualty fell to the ground, they appointed a solemn fast to be kept for it, as an ill-boding thing, that such a thing should happen. So that it is most plain that these keepers of the books of the Old Testament could never have it in design to corrupt any of them; but it was that which they did abhor above all things. And it was a principle (as Philo tells us, and Josephus much to the same purpose) instilled into the youth of that nation, and even those of the best quality, that they should run the utmost hazard and incur a thousand deaths, rather than they should suffer, to the utmost of their power, any alteration or diminution of any of those books: or that any of them should be lost any 463other way. And then, besides all this scrupulous care of the keepers of the books of the Old Testament, (with which a design of corrupting would no way consist) we may add,
Secondly, That the thing itself was afterwards impossible, simply impossible. If they would before, when it was in their own hands, they could; but afterwards, if they would, they could not; because that in Christ’s, and his apostles’ days, a great number of them were (you know) converted to the Christian faith, who knew all the books of the Old Testament as well as themselves. Therefore, it was impossible now, for the infidel Jews, those that were not converted, to make any alteration, but it must be presently spied and exclaimed against: therefore it was a vain thing for any to attempt it, after so many were converted to the Christian religion. And there upon we may further add,
Thirdly. That the testimonies that were contained in these books against themselves, and with which contained in them, they are transmitted to us, do shew that they never went about to corrupt them. The many testimonies against idolatry, contained in these books, whereby their forefathers from age to age, for many ages, were witnessed against, would have induced them to expunge all things that were therein contained against idolatry, (so tender were they of their reputation) if there had not been a great awe upon their minds, never to at tempt the corrupting or the alteration of any thing in those books. The wickedness of their forefathers was, in these books, so highly remonstrated against, in respect of the testimonies they so often give against their idolatry, and yet these books we find in their own hands, with these testimonies in them, against the Jews and their forefathers, for many foregoing ages through sundry times and divers intervals; though we do not find after the second temple, that people relapsed into that crime. And then, there is the fullest testimony against their infidelity in these books that can be. Who would not wonder that these books should come out of the hands of the Jews, with these testimonies, in the great controversy between the Christians and them? that is, of Christ being the Messiah, in which you have so punctual assertions against them, that nothing can be more. Those many testimonies that do concern the Messiah, particularly that famous prophecy, that the sceptre should not depart from Judah till Shilo should come: and those numerous presages in many of the latter prophets, (Isaiah especially and sundry others,) make it one of the greatest wonders of providence, that such a book should come, with these things in it, out of these men’s hands, against whom they are a continual remonstrance. But however, this proves that they did never design any alteration: either they saw it impossible for one while, and before 464 that, they had no inclination or inducement that would he prevailing with them to go about it, that is, that there should be an alteration with design. And then,
[2.] For the books of the New Testament; that they cannot have been corrupted is most evident too. It is impossible they can, for you must consider in what time they were written: they must be written in Christ’s time and the apostles’; now within the compass of that time, things were brought to that state, that such a corruption was impossible upon two accounts, upon account of the distance of places into which the gospel was spread, and upon account of the divisions that were so early fallen out among christians.
First. Upon account of the distance of places whereinto, in the first century of years, the gospel was spread. That is, into a vast part of Asia, and some considerable parts of Africa and Europe; some think into Britain itself, into our land. There are not very improbable grounds of conjecture, that it was so, even within the compass of Paul’s own age. That made it impossible there could be any designed corruption or alteration in the writings of the New Testament; so considerable a number of men at such a distance from one another, could not agree to make such an alteration; and if they could not agree in it, one part must remonstrate against the other. And,
Secondly. The divisions that so early appeared in the Christian church made it likewise impossible. That passage of the apostle (it may be) is not greatly enough pondered according to the weightiness of the expression, that there must be heresies, there should be heresies, there must be heresies. This great use that hath been of the divisions in Christian churches is not (it may be) considered as it should be by many. But nothing can carry a clearer evidence and demonstration with it, than that, because of those divisions, any depravation of the said records, (that is, any material, general, successful, continued depravation,) is altogether impossible: because the one party would be continually declaiming and crying out against the other: and then how soon would it be espied? So for that particular instance, 1 John v. 7 “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.” It is true it hath been found to be wanting in some few copies; and what an outcry was against it in the Christian church? So that if that alteration was made by the design of the arians, (and if it were by any design at all, it must be by their design) the very supposal of it brings the greatest blot upon them and their cause, that could be imagined; it being very plain that it was to be found in equally ancient 465copies. But it seems more likely, it was never left out by design at all. But because the matter at the beginning of the 8th verse, was just the same with that of the beginning of the 7th verse, a more negligent transcriber, having his eye on the beginning of the 8th verse, might write on and slip over merely casually the whole 7th verse. This being more likely that a verse, beginning as the following verse does, and ending like it, should be left out, than that a verse more than ought, should be put in. And thus, the design of making such an alteration would be defeated upon the attempt; so that upon that consideration it is altogether impossible, that there should be any alteration at all. And therefore that this be stuck to, that there is no designed alteration in these books, and so can have been no material alteration in them.
It is true that in translations, persons have laboured to serve their own purposes, by translating this way and that, as they thought fit. But for alteration of copies, that is what never entered into the mind of any body to attempt; which is a thing so easily spied out, that nothing is more so; and so must needs blast and disserve the cause and interest of that party it was designed to serve, and therefore could never be. And the impossibility of any such alteration, it is easy for any man that useth his understanding, to apprehend from a familiar instance. As thus, do but take any one people that are under the same government, and that have their laws by which they are governed, digested into some system or other; as for instance, our statute book; why suppose any ill-minded men in the nation should have a design to corrupt and alter the statute book; every one would see it to be impossible. Which way should they go to work to impose a false statute book upon a nation, where in every man’s right and property is concerned? And if any such should have such a design, they would soon give it up, as finding it impossible, and a thing not to be done, and therefore a vain thing to attempt. But the difficulty is a thousand times greater, of making any designed alteration of these sacred books and records, that are spread so unspeakably further than a nation, and wherein the concernments of all that have them in their hands are recorded, not temporal only, but eternal. Here is their all for eternity, and another world: so that it must be altogether impossible that there could have been such a thing effected; and therefore it is the most unlikely thing, that such a matter should ever be attempted. And then, I say, if there be that plain evidence, that for that reason, these books must be the same, that they cannot have been altered with design, and consequently not materially, then it were the most unreasonable 466thing in all the world, to expect, that God should confirm it to us otherwise than he hath done, or that the nature of the thing doth admit of: because otherwise, there must have been miracles wrought for every one to see, and take notice of; nay, that would altogether lose the usefulness and significancy of miracles themselves, because it would make miracles so common in such a case. If every man must have a miracle to prove to him, this is God’s book, it would take off that particular thing for which they are only significant with men, that is, because they are rare and extraordinary things: and then they would cease to be so. It might as well be expected that every man should have a Bible reached him down by an invisible hand from heaven, as that there should be a miracle wrought to prove to him, that this was the same book that was so and so confirmed and sealed in our Saviour’s, and his apostles’ time. And therefore I reckon, that upon the grounds that have been laid, it is very plain, both that these books, that were extant, under the name of the Scripture, in our Saviour’s and his apostles’ time, were of divine authority: and that the books that we now have in our hands, are the same with those books, and therefore are of divine authority.
|« Prev||Lecture VIII. Preached January 16, 1691.||Next »|