« IndietroContinua »
lxEVELATION, when applied to religion, means * something communicated immediately from God to 'man.'* By this definition Mr. P. begs the question: for if revelation means an immediate communication from God to man; then indeed nothing communicated from God to us, by the intervention of other men, whether speaking or writing, can be properly so called. The definition may, however, be admitted, in respect of the original source whence all revelation is derived: but if it pleased God, immediately to communicate to one man, what he meant him to declare to others in his name, and to authenticate by proper credentials; the real, or generally received, sense of the word revelation will be preserved, though it be communicated from one man to another, over the whole earth, and to the latest ages. The doctrine or precept came originally from God, by immediate communication, and was no human discovery or imposition.
• P. i. p. s, «.
Mr. P. allows that God has the power to make such a communication, if he pleases; but thinks it improbable he ever should:* and he is confident that God cannot enable the man, who first receives this communication, to authenticate it to any other person, so as to render belief of it a duty! This is a very extraordinary assertion! I am able to send a message or a letter by a servant, or in some other way; and to give full assurance to a person at a distance, that it comes from me. I can make my will, and so attest it, that, after my death, all parties concerned shall be entirely satisfied it was my act and deed: and yet the omipotent and eternal God cannot send a message or make known his will, by the intervention of any servant or messenger! Is this reason, or absurd and daring presumption? To support such a system, it was necessary to assert that miracles are impossible, and prophecies impostures and lies; and then to affirm, that we ran have no proof but heresay of any supposed revelation! On this ground Mr. P. may stand; provided he can demonstrate his principles: but if they be merely assumed and false, it must sink under him. For if a man comes with the rod of Moses in his hand, as well as with " Thus saith the Loud" in his mouth; the miracles which he performs are the seal of his mission, and his testimony can no longer be called lieresay and assertion.
Mr. P. ventures on another definition of revelation; and says, 'It is communication of something which
the person did not know before.'* If so, then every accession to our knowledge, however obtained, might be called a revelation: which surely will not help us to affix right ideas to words. From this vague proposition our author infers, that all the historical and an'ecdotal part of the Bible is not within the compass of * the word revelation, and therefore is not the word of God.' But surely God may reveal past events, of which no other information could be obtained. "By "faith," and consequently by revelation, " we un." derstand that the worlds were framed by the word "of God."f Whatever traditionary information Moses might receive, concerning the creation, the fall, the deluge, and other events preceding his own time; he might be immediately instructed, and guided by an infallible superintending inspiration, in recording them. This was needful to enable him entirely to distinguish between truth and error in tradition; to know such things as had not been retained in the memory of mankind; and to form a history fully adequate to the ends proposed. In like manner, a similar superintending influence would be requisite, to preserve the sacred historians from falling into error or misrepresentations, through forgetfulness or prejudice, even in respect of those lacts of which they had personal knowledge: and it would be still more necessary, when their information was received from others, either by word or writing. So that the idea of revelation, in its more general meaning, does not suppose the writer to be wholly ignorant of his subject, or to make no use of
• P. i. p. 14. t Heb. xi. 3.
his knowledge and opportunities: but merely, that the infallible superintending inspiration of the Holy Spirit preserved him from errors and prejudices, and all other causes of misapprehension or falsehood; and immediately communicated such things, as he would otherwise have omitted, through ignorance or forgetfulness. - I am induced to stand this ground, in respect of the divine inspiration of every part of the scriptures: because the sacred writers, for themselves and for each other, expressly and constantly claim it; so that their writings are together called the oracles of God. It is evident, that the Jewish Scriptures, in the days of Christ and his apostles, were nearly if not entirely the same as the Old Testament is at present: yet they are continually quoted in the New Testament, in a peculiar manner, as divine inspiration. And if we allow this to the historical part of the Old Testament; we can hardly deny it to the writings of the apostles and evangelists, which contain the only account extant in the world of the origin and success of christianity. The apostle Peter ranks the epistles of Paul among the other Scriptures;* the sacred writers always speak with authority, as in the name of the Lord; and it will appear that their books have been regarded as the word of God, even from the primi. tive times. There seems no alternative, between admitting their claim to inspiration in the fullest sense, and utterly denying it. If some parts of the Scriptures
* 2 Peter iii. 16.
are inspired, but others not: we want either another revelation to enable us to distinguish between the word of God, and the word of man intermixed with it; or else an infallible authority on earth, to which we may appeal: and so we must either have recourse Jo the Pope, who has the title by prescription; or to those learned men, that give up the inspiration of some parts of Scripture in defending that of the rest, and who ought to oblige us by exactly distinguishing between them.
If the whole Scripture be inspired, sober criticism may generally discover the interpolations and variations, which have occurred in a lapse of ages; and thus distinguish the word of God from human additions: and if a few passages still remain doubtful, the cause of truth will not be affected. But if the line be not exactly drawn between the infallible word of God, and human opinions or dubious passages; every one who is put to difficulty in maintaining his sentiments, by the authority of Scripture, will evade the argument, by contending that the text in question is not inspired: thus the standard of truth and duty will be rendered entirely vague and uncertain: and it will not be much worth while to contend for the authenticity or genuineness of these ancient records, if we give up their divine authority, as the infallible rule of our faith and practice.
Mr. P. says, that ' Revelation could not make fic
'tions true.' It might, however, preserve men from
writing fictions, and lead them to record all needful
truth: and few have occasion to be told, how partial
Vol.. III. 31