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their reality or their relations to the doctrines known.' Active and ingenious minds are apt to be bewildered by the mass of confusion thus presented to their inquiry, while those who are possessed of less energy desist from the investigation with listlessness and despair. These evils arrest every man busied in the pursuit of knowledge, when his capacity does not increase in proportion to the number of things presented to him for investigation, and this, after a moderate progress, is never the case with the human mind. Our faculties we know never expand beyond a certain limit, differing somewhat in different men, and in the same man under different advantages; but still in all men there is a bound which none can pass. But the things to be known are literally without number or degree, and the things whose existence we are able to perceive, and whose nature, relations, and dependencies we yet cannot understand, soon multiply and extend, so as to bear no perceivable proportion to the extent of our capacity. Hence all men of enlarged science agree, with a single voice, in declaring that the utmost increase of human knowledge amounts to little more than to know how few things can be known by us; a decision necessarily arising from the disproportionate increase of things to be known beyond that of our capacity to know them.

From these observations it is evident that a revelation made to mankind must, in order to be useful to them, be proportioned, in the number and nature of the things which it discloses, to the human capacity. Were such a revelation written for children only, it must, if it were to be of any use to them, contain generally such things, so few, so obvious, and written in 'some such plain manner as the songs which Dr. Watts has, with singular wisdom and felicity, composed for persons of that age. As the real revelation is designed for men, it must, in a similar manner, be suited to their capacity, and contain such things, and such only, as are fitted to employ and enlighten their understandings, influence their affections, and direct their conduct in the happiest manner. It ought also to communicate such things only as will be useful to us, such as will promote our real interests, and not such as would awaken or gratify that idle and restless curiosity which is ever wandering in

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search of pleasure, and ever uninterested in the attainment of real good. I cannot avoid remarking here that the Scriptures, being designed for persons of all ages and capacities, are formed with such supreme wisdom as in their different parts to be exactly suited to the circumstances of all; to enlighten every understanding, to move every heart, and to regulate every life with the highest advantage.

· In a revelation there are many subjects whose nature and extent must of necessity surpass the understanding, not only of man but of every finite being. Such, for example, are the character and pleasure of God. As these are in their nature and extent infinite, they can evidently be comprehended only by the infinite mind. Yet of these subjects even we can know something, and that something we absolutely need to know. God has accordingly disclosed to us several things concerning them in the Scriptures. As these subjects are in their nature and connection necessarily mysterious, we find our examinations of them attended, from time to time, with difficulties and perplexities, and are apt to believe that if more had been disclosed, our difficulties and perplexities would have been lessened. This-is, however, an entire mistake. Had more things been revealed concerning these subjects, their nature would have seemed more vast, their connections more numerous and perplexing, their consequences more difficult and doubtful, and their mysteriousness more absolute and discouraging. Our minds, therefore, would in this case have been less satisfied and settled than they now are; and the influence of this part of revelation on our hearts and lives would have been less useful and happy. In our present situation we are prone to imagine that if we could see a little farther, and know a little more, we should arrive at certain boundaries where satisfaction and rest could be obtained; but did we reflect with only a moderate degree of attention and candour, we should perceive that our adventures in knowledge are like excursions in space, where the imagined goal at which we intend to stop retires even faster than we advance, and will continue to retire for ever. Thus, from the very nature of the case, it seems evident that the secret things referred to in the text are wisely withheld from us

by our Creator ; that in withholding them he has placed us in a better situation for obeying all the words of his law than if he had revealed them, and that this is one great and not improbably the principal reason for which they are withheld.

That the same valuable end is in the best manner promoted, by the things which are revealed, will probably be rarely if ever questioned by any man who believes in the existence of a divine revelation, and seriously makes the Bible the object of his study. I shall only observe, on this part of the subject, that he who, with a becoming attention and an honest heart, applies himself diligently to this book, will never want a perfect rule to direct him, nor sufficient motives to urge him to every part of his duty.

What our reason thus readily perceives and laments, the wisdom and goodness of God establishes beyond debate. We know that he designed to promote the good of mankind by the revelation which he has given them. That he perfectly knew what it would be best to reveal and what to withhold, will not be doubted, nor that he was perfectly disposed to reveal and to withhold that, and that only, which was perfectly fitted to place them in the best situation to understand and to obey his will, and to obtain their own salvation. Of course the revelation which he has actually given is formed in the best manner to accomplish these great purposes,


I. If the observations which have been made are just, it follows that the Scriptures are a perfect revelation, and are ever to be regarded as such by mankind.

By this I intend that they contain, to use the language of St. Peter, all things pertaining to life and godliness, and that they contain nothing more. Whatever is necessary or useful to our faith or practice, in the attainment of our salvation, is found in them, and nothing which is not useful. Were any thing omitted or added they would be less useful, and our situation less advantageous and desirable than it now is. God disclosed and withheld all that is disclosed and withheld in them, and that as his infinite wisdom and goodness directed. They are therefore a perfect 'revelation, and nothing is to be added to them, nor ought to be diminished from them, according to his frequently repeated commands, commands founded wholly upon this, their absolute perfection. We are not permitted even to wish for such additions or diminutions. Every wish of this nature is a direct opposition to the divine will, and a direct impeachment of the divine wisdom.

These observations are no less applicable to the manner in which the Scriptures are written, than to the matter which they contain. The manner, so far as it affects the sense of what is written, was equally an object of the divine attention with the matter, and is equally fitted to promote the good designed. The Scriptures are written for mankind at large, a great part of whom are ignorant of science and philosophy, and of the language of philosophers, and they are written therefore in plain and popular language. This language is designed to be understood in the plain and popular manner. If it were otherwise, to nine-tenths of the human race they would be unintelligible. From this mode of understanding and interpreting the Scriptures we cannot be excused, and all our attempts to interpret them in

other manner

a mere perversion. Should it be said, in answer to these observations, that the different writers in the Scriptures were each of them plainly left to his own mode of expression, as is evident from the fact that they express themselves in so many different modes, and each in his own mode, I reply, that this very variety, in which each writer adopted his own style, is a part of the perfection specified. Each writer spoke his own language in this sense, that he adopted such a style as was natural to him ; but in this sense he spoke the language of God, i. e. not the words which man's wisdom taught, but which the Holy Ghost taught; that he used in his own style such words as express the true pleasure of God in the best manner, most plainly, most exactly, most forcibly. In both these things combined we have, on the one hand, the pleasure of God most perfectly expressed, and on the other, a clear proof that the Scriptures were written


by many hands, in different ages and circumstances; while at the same time they exhibit a perfect accordance in all concerning the great truths of revelation : an advantage plainly inestimable.

II. It is equally evident that it is the great interest and duty of mankind to use the Scriptures as they are, in the most diligent and faithful manner, that the great ends for which they were intended may be accomplished.

Particularly, we are required to read them daily with profound attention, great care, and unceasing constancy, that we may learn their true import, that we understand them in the same manner, learn from them the same truths and precepts, and gain by means of them the same wisdom and excellence which were designed by their author. To this employment we are, by our interest, as truly as by our duty, required to come with a spirit of entire candour, with humble submission, with a willingness that God should speak in his own manner, and the very things which he has in fact spoken, and without any desire or design to make the Scriptures speak in a different


The things which are contained in the Scriptures are partly truths which are objects of our faith, and partly precepts which are rules of our duty, and both united are means of our salvation.

The truths contained in the Scriptures are in some instances mysterious. In all cases of this nature, there is usually some fact, or some doctrine, declared concerning a subject incapable of being investigated by us. This fact, or doctrine, thus declared, brings up to our view some connection with some other facts or doctrines more or less obscurely shadowed forth to our apprehension. But the nature of these facts or doctrines, and the connection between them, are either very imperfectly or not at all understood. Oftentimes, the nature of the revealed fact it is either very difficult or impossible clearly to understand, and, perhaps, always, completely to comprehend. In such a case, we naturally wish to know more of the subject,--often feel dissatisfied that no more is revealed,-and not unfrequently set

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