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from no other quarter. It must be purely matter of revelation. It must be the substance of a message sent from God, declaring his will and purposes towards man, and could have been derived from no other source of information.

It is, however, matter of notoriety—and moreover, of just self-congratulation, among all who bear the name of Christians—that they are in possession of, what they believe to be, correct information upon these subjects, the importance of which none will venture to deny. And the question with which we are at present concerned, relates to the mode in which that knowledge has been communicated to us, and to the grounds upon which we believe it to be in reality, what it must of necessity be by profession, a message sent from God.

Now, there are various channels through which this knowledge, in less or greater measures, reaches us as individuals ; but there is one general and principal source of that information, from which all other, ought, at least, to profess to be derived, — namely, the Holy Scriptures ; respecting which I observe as follows:

A certain volume reaches our hands; and we look into it; and we find that it professes (under different forms, all however having the same general bearing, and tending to the same object) to furnish full information respecting the above momentous particulars. We see, also, that this volume consists, not of one, but of many parts or separate treatises, bearing the names of different authors. And the first reflection which naturally presents itself to our minds, is obviously the following:—Here is a matter in which I have a deep personal interest. If this volume really is what it professes to be, no words can express the importance of my becoming thoroughly acquainted with its contents, and implicitly following its instructions. The

pretensions of this volume, therefore, require to be investigated by me with all care and diligence.

I may be allowed, therefore,

1. To peruse these books, and examine their contents; and to see whether they are consistent with themselves. I must, of course, in an examination of this kind, lay aside altogether all prejudices of my own, and allow the authors to speak wholly for themselves. I must also take every thing they say, in the sense which it really appears to have been intended to bear, and then candidly judge whether they do or do not agree with themselves throughout. Because nothing, I am sure, can come from God, which has not this character of consistency with itself. I may add, also, that any message coming from God, must also be consistent with the character of the same Holy Being, as exhibited in his works.

I may also be allowed,

2. To inquire into the history of these books, and see whether they did really proceed from their professed authors, whose names they bear; or whether they are a forgery, fabricated for some purpose of imposition.

And I may be permitted in like manner,

3. To inquire whether these authors, with respect to their position and circumstances, were so situated, as to be able to obtain correct information on the particulars which they relate: and further, which is a question of not less importance, whether they were persons of character and credit, whose veracity may be depended upon : so that whatever they relate, whether as a fact or as an opinion, must be held to be true as a reality or as a matter of conviction, simply because they have so related it.

And I may also be permitted,

4. To examine whether these books, in their original languages, are now in a perfect or a mutilated state; whether


they have undergone any alterations, or whether we have them now as they proceeded from the pen of their authors.

Now these, I say, are legitimate subjects of inquiry, respecting the several parts of the volume of Sacred Scripture. They are more :—they are necessary :—they are essential. Such inquiries cannot be dispensed with, nor can they be pursued too far, or prosecuted with a too searching scrutiny; provided only they be undertaken, and followed up in a spirit of candour, and with an anxious desire, not to find support to any favourite system, but to ascertain the truth wherever it may be found to present itself; and a fixed determination to deal honestly with all the evidence, of whatever kind, which may form the subject of examination.

Let us then, brethren, now suppose these inquiries to have been made; and the result of them, in each instance, to be in the affirmative of the several propositions, to which they respectively refer: there will then arise one or two further inferences, out of the very nature of the contents of these books or writings themselves.

It will follow, first, that the lessons of truth or religion, taught in these Scriptures, are of DIVINE AUTHORITY. For these books contain, in some parts, prophecies or predictions of future events; and in other parts, accounts of the fulfilment of those prophecies or predictions, in many instances, after the lapse of centuries: which is proof sufficient, that those persons who delivered such prophecies, were possessed of a wisdom which could only have proceeded from God. And, therefore, whatever lessons of instruction or doctrines they teach us, these doctrines being themselves wise and holy, must have been delivered under a divine sanction, and, therefore, possess divine authority. In like manner these books contain accounts of miracles, or the performance of works which imply a suspension of the ordinary

laws of nature. Now no suspension of the laws which God has established, and maintains in continual operation, could take place otherwise than by the express permission, or rather the co-operation of God himself: and the person, therefore, who performs such miracles, must be acting under the immediate sanction of the great Lord of the Universe; and if he also teach lessons-lessons worthy of God—these lessons undoubtedly come to us clothed with divine authority.

And it will also follow, secondly, that the same writings are INSPIRED of God. Declarations to the effect that their authors were under the guidance of God's Holy SPIRIT, are found in various parts of the writings themselves; which declarations, being themselves already admitted to be true and credible, establish at once the point in question: and it, therefore, follows further, as an additional and very important consequence, that these writings deserve and require to be received as containing the very Word of God; and all the lessons which they contain have precisely the same authority, as if they had proceeded, at once and immediately, from the lips of the Almighty himself.

Hence, then, these writings come to be esteemed Sacred, and to constitute what we call the Caxox of SCRIPTURE. The word Canon is a Greek term, meaning a Rule; and by the use of it in this connexion, it is simply intended to express the idea, that these Sacred SCRIPTURES form the RULE or standard of a Christian's faith and practice. They are the fountain, from which he is to draw the knowledge of all those truths which he must “ believe to the saving of his soul,” and of all those duties in which he is “to walk and to please God.”

But before I proceed to the second part of this discourse, I must return, for a few moments, to one of those

subjects of inquiry, to which I have already referred, as being both legitimate in themselves, and essential to the establishment of the Canon of Scripture. I mean that which relates to the question, whether these writings are now in a perfect or mutilated state; whether, as we have them now, they are the same, without addition, diminution, or material and designed alteration, as they proceeded from the pen of their authors; or, in other words, to the question of the genuineness of the Books of Holy Scripture. And I do this for the purpose of offering some remarks, upon the manner in which an inquiry of this nature must be conducted. Such an inquiry, it is obvious, must relate, directly and immediately, to the Scriptures in their original languages; and it should be remarked, that it is wholly of a literary character, and, in no sort whatever, different from the species of investigation which must be instituted and performed, in order to ascertain the genuineness of the productions of any other author, whether sacred or profane.

Suppose then we have in our hands a copy of one of the gospels, or a copy of some work of any ancient author, and we fix upon some particular passage in that copy, and wish to ascertain whether that passage was really contained in the work at first :-In what manner should we proceed with such an inquiry? This is the question now before us, and to which I wish to invite your close attention.

We live in an age when books are greatly multiplied through the introduction of the art of printing; and the works of authors of note pass through many editions. Well -it would be a method sufficiently obvious, perhaps, to look first, into such various modern printed editions as we can procure, and see whether the passage in question is contained in them. We should then consider ourselves, I conceive, naturally directed next, to former, and then in succession to

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