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MPORTANCE OF CORRECT VIEWS OF THE SYSTEM,
OF REVEALED RELIGION.
THE NECESSITY of a revelation from Heaven, to guide our feet in the way of peace, has been felt and acknowledged by all who have entertained correct views of the perfections of God, and the tallen condition of man. Whatever ideas of the attributes of Deity, and of the moral obligations of intelligent creatures, may have been excited in the mind, by surveying the heavens above, and the earth beneath, with the various orders of created beings subjected to our observation-certain it is, that unassisted reason has never been found competent to determine whether the Supreme Being, to whom holiness and justice necessarily belong, can in any case pardon sin?-or if he can, on what terms his pardoning mercy will be dispensed!
This is a point of unutterable importance to a mind agonized by the consciousness of guilt, and
exclaiming, with all the anxiety which the most fearful apprehensions can excite, 'What must I do to be saved?' And the fact, that God has been pleased to meet and remove this difficulty, by making a perfect revelation of his will to man, will be a subject of exalted praise to all eternity! It is the BIBLE, and the Bible only, which teaches us that "there is one God, and one Mediator between God and man—the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due season!"*
The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul. Whatever instruction we need either in matters of faith or practice, the Bible furnishes. "Thy word," says David," is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." The Bible is our law-book: And the substitution of the authority of the Holy Scriptures, in the place of the long acknowledged infallibility of the Pope of Rome, was one of the happiest results of that spirit of enquiry which produced the Reformation. The Bible which, to the shame of Popery, had long been an obscure book-the dusty inmate of the cloister— was then brought to view; and while it shed heavenly light on the path of Luther, Zuingle, Calvin, and others, in their illustrious march to ecclesiastical reformation, and spiritual freedom, was by them honoured in return, and deservedly raised to the dignity of supreme Judge, whose decisions are final, and from which their lies no appeal.
This is one of the grand principles of the Refor mation, to which all Protestants profess to adhere:
The Bible is the supreme law; and in all matters of faith and duty, the Bible, and the Bible alone, is to decide.' To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
*1 Tim. ii. 5, 6.
Ps. cxix. 105
The establishment of this very correct and important principle has given a new character to the conflicts of the Church since the days of the Reformation. The Bible, to which such high and holy importance was attached, soon became the object of attack, and the target, at which all the fiery darts of the wicked were aimed. Hordes of infidels speedily made their appearance; and with different degrees of talents, learning, and virulence, attempted to resist the claims which had been set up in favour of the inspired volume-to extinguishing the rising light of Christendom,-and to bring down the towering hopes, and poison the sweetest consolations of the children of the Reformation.
This spirit of infidelity, widening in its influence, and strengthened in its energies, put forth its most vigorous exertions, and performed its deadliest works, during the closing years of the last century.
Then emphatically was the age of infidelity. The book of Heaven was subjected to the severest scrutiny. One objected to its chronology; another to its geography; a third found fault with its natural philosophy; while a fourth impugned its history. One tried its purity by the rules of grammar; and another measured its style by the laws of rhetoric. All concurred to denounce it, together with its various and sacred institutions, as vile imposition and abominable priestcraft!
But, through this fiery ordeal-this reign of terror-this hour of the power of darkness-the Bible has passed unhurt; or rather, let me say, greatly confirmed in its claims, as a divine revelation! And while the hosts of infidels have gone down to the grave-their memory forgotten, or only remembered to be execrated-the Bible still lives; and lives to carry on its bloodless triumphs, until the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. *
* Hab. ii. 14.
To this universal ascendancy and triumph the Bible is rapidly advancing in our day. The age in which we live is the age of Bible effort, and Bible triumph. The rich and the poor are bringing their gifts into the Lord's treasury; and the Bible, carried on the wings of mercy, will shortly be conveycd to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.*
But, reader, is it not worthy of enquiry, whether the study of the Bible, and the knowledge of its sacred contents, have in our day borne any just proportion to the exertions which have been made for its general circulation.
It has been asserted, and I would rejoice to be convinced that the assertion was unadvised and incorrect, that "amidst an extensive and powerful excitement on the subject of the Bible, a portentous unconcern overwhelms the churches respecting the doctrines of the Bible: While the number of professors is increasing with an amazing rapidity, zeal for the truth decreases in the same degree; and that there is evidently a greater concern to extend the limits of the church than to improve her members." Certain it is, that the sending of the Bible to others, can never be accepted, as a substitute, for the reading of it ourselves. It cannot, in the least degree, release us from the obligation, to search the Scriptures, which testify of Jesus Christ, and make known the grace of God to man. Much less can the astonishing combination of effort in the Christian world, for the distribution of the Scriptures (so much and so justly applauded in our day,) justify us in countenancing the errors which are pouring in upon us, and in sacrificing the peculiar doctrines of the Christian system on the altar of undefined catholicism. We only dream, if we imagine that the charities and liberal sentiments of our day have put an end to
*Rev. xiv. 6.
+ Strictures on Dr. Mason's Plea, p. 70.