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ON THE PSALMS, LESSONS, EPISTLES, AND GOSPELS.
As the wisdom of the compilers of our Liturgy appears in many remarkable instances, so espeeially in the appointment of large portions of the Holy Scriptures to be read at every season of public worship. They have divided the book of Psalms into thirty parts, that so the Psalter might be read through in every month. • The old Tes⚫tament is appointed for the first lessons at the " morning and evening prayer; so as the most • part thereof will be read over every year once, • as in the calendar is appointed. The new Testament is appointed for the second lessons at • morning and evening prayer, and shall be read over orderly every year thrice, besides the epis⚫tles and gospels; except the Apocalypse, out of which there are only certain proper lessons appointed upon divers feasts." This is the account which our Reformers themselves give of
their procedure in this matter in the Rubric, which precedes the Calendar in our common prayer books. O that, while we are reflecting on the wisdom with which they were endowed for the execution of their pious undertaking, our minds may be elevated to admiration of the goodness of God as apparent in the abundant means of grace, which we so richly enjoy!
The Bible contains a revelation from God to sinners of the human race, concerning matters, the knowledge of which is essential to their holiness and happiness, both in this world and in that which is to come. An inquiry concerning the Author of the sacred volume will discover to us its Divine excellency; for all scripture is given • by inspiration of God.'* We attribute the several parts, of which it consists, to the subordinate instruments, who were employed in conveying it to us, in order to facilitate a distinction between them: but one Divine Author indited the whole. Therefore it is dignified with the august title of the oracles of God ;' because Jehovah-Sabaoth inspired the persons from whose pens we have received it. It is attributed equally to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, because therein these Three co-equal and co-essential Persons bear record, ' and these Three are One.'§ It is the word of Christ" and holy men of old spake as they
• were moved by the Holy Ghost.' When the Scriptures are asserted to be written by inspiration, the least that can be intended is, that a Divine influence in the mind of the person employed as the Amanuensis of the Holy Ghost, so guided his pen, as to preclude all possibility of error. It was not necessary that, in all cases, the use of the natural faculties of the inspired author should be entirely superseded. For where past events are recorded, of which the writer was an eye-witness, it sufficed that his memory was strengthened to retain them, and his understanding assisted in the selection of proper terms, in which to express them. But, in passages of a prophetic nature, and those in which the sublime mysteries of our religion are revealed, it is farther necessary for us to conclude, that the Spirit of God dictated to the writer's mind the very ideas which he was to describe for a manifestation of future events is the prerogative of God only and the things of • God,' such as relate to His being, His mode of subsistence, and His purposes with respect to men or angels, these are things which no man know
eth but the Spirit of God; and, if they are ever known by us, it must be by virtue of a revelation from God Himself. These pages are not designed to be a vindication of the truth of the
Bible. A variety of excellent and able men have beeu raised up in every age of the church, who have been enabled to repel the insidious cavils or open attacks of its enemies. Our adorable Lord declared beforehand, that the gates' (i. e. all the power and policy) of Hell should never prevail against it: and, blessed be His holy name, hitherto the prediction has been verified. The buckler of truth, more impenetrable than the fabled shield of the Grecian hero, has been found proof against the sharpest weapons, which infidelity could employ, though neither malice nor subtilty has been wanting on its side. The walls of salvationt still remain in all their lustre, strength, and glory; though they have been so long besieged by numerous hosts of foes, that compared therewith, the famous siege of Tyre by the army of Nebuchadnezzar◊ shrinks
* See " Doddridge's dissertation on the inspiration of the new Testament, as proved from the facts recorded in its history," in the third volume of his Family Expositor: Leslie's short method with the Deists and Leland's view of Deistical writers. The writings of Mr. Thomas Paine can only deceive those, whose minds are totally unfurnished with theological information. But as there are many such uncultivated minds, and as the subject is of inconceivable importance; the Bishop of Landaff, Mr. Scott, and others, have seen it right to expose the fallacies of this daring blasphemer.
+ Isai. lx. 18.
§ Ezek. xxix. 18. The siege of Tyre, alluded to in the Proph et, lasted thirteen years.....Prid. Connection, vol. 1. p. 12.
into nothing. And surely as the blessed volume, on which all the hopes of fallen man are built, hath stood the test of the several attacks of its enemies for so long a period, we may safely conclude, not only with respect to the past, but also with respect to every future opposer of the truth of God, that his mischief shall return upon ⚫ his own head; and his violent dealings shall • come down upon his own pate.'†
Though controversy with the various deistical writers, either of past ages or the present, is not the business of these pages; there is one observation that may here be properly introduced, viz. that the fortress of unbelief is seated in the human heart, and not in the head. It originates in the will and affections, not in the understanding, which is forced into the service of these tyrannical lords. Reason is made subservient to inclination. If the love of sin were destroyed from among the sons of men, every fibre of that deadly night-shade, Deism, would at the same moment be eradicated. The salutary precepts of the Bible are inimical to the peace and comfort of worldly men, while they continue such. Thereby their practices are condemned; and the state in which they live, is depicted as contrary to the will of God. The awful declarations of the scriptures clash with every principle of the corrupted mind
+ Ps. vii. 16.