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"Cease my son from hearing the instruction which causeth to err from the words of knowledge." And a greater than Solomon says, "Take heed what ye hear." In obedience to which St. Paul exhorts Timothy "to withdraw himself from such as taught otherwise." I know how easy it will be to call this bigotry, even though I have used the words of Solomon, Paul, and Christ himself; I know how easy it will be to say in triumph, it must be a weak cause that won't bear to hear both sides; and if this was a law suit between Unitarians and Trinitarians, and you were the jury, then no doubt it would be wrong to decide without hearing both parties; but as it is a matter that concerns the salvation of your own souls, and nothing else, I dare not but follow the example of every prophet and apostle in the Bible, who invariably warned his hearers against even listening to false teachers. Let me therefore solemnly advise you, before God, as you value your peace of mind, and the salvation of your soul, not to read a line of any such publication, that may be given you, and to take care that no one else does, by putting it behind the fire. A little tract that is read in five minutes, may plant a thorn in your heart that may rankle there long; and you have no one but yourself to blame for the injury and pain you suffer from it. When you know the truth, it is tempting God to tamper with error. If you don't want to fall, keep off the ice; if you would not cut yourself, don't play with edged tools; if you would escape the fever, beware of infection. If you have such confidence in the strength of your own constitution, that you think you can take any quantity of poison without being hurt by it, depend upon it, you'll get a dose some day, that will be too strong for you. God will make you feel your own weakness, and the sinfulness of such vain confidence, perhaps by a severe and long fall. Ah! how many instances of this are here before me! How many are there bere, who once would have shuddered at the thought of
• As this advice seems to have given such offence, I must take the opportunity of stating, that after an interval of two months, I am still perfectly satisfied that it was Scriptural and therefore proper advice; and further, that having read it before it was printed to a party of eight or ten clergymen, they every one expressed their unqualified assent to it. I certainly should not have recommended the course that was adopted, namely, tearing them up on the spot, because it might look like an intentional insult; but if it was wrong for a man to read them himself, (which I clearly showed) it must of course have been wrong for him to let any one else do so; and the only certain way of preventing this was either to burn or in some way to destroy them. I need not say that this refers only to given, not to lent, tracts; such should be immediately returned. (See p. 53.)
denying the Deity of their Saviour, or rejecting his atonement, but were not afraid to hear and read what they knew to be false; they were not afraid to parley with the tempter, they must hear what he had to say, and know both sides; and God let them have their own way, and left them to him: so that while they were amusing themselves with examining the net, it was being unconsciously fastened on them, till they were bound hand and foot, "unable to deliver their souls, or to say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?" Do they not cry out to us as with a voice of thunder, "Take heed what ye hear." Dear brethren, listen to the warning. Keep clear yourselves, and implore the Holy Spirit for them, to make his own word sharper than any two-edged sword, to cut the net in pieces, that they may be able to say with gratitude and joy, "The snare is broken, and we are escaped."
ON THE GENUINENESS AND INSPIRATION OF HOLY SCRIPTURE.*
"For I testify unto every man, that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things that are written in this book."-Rev. xxii. 18, 19.
STARTLING words these to people who call this book "a forgery," a "bundle of riddles," and speak of "the so called book of Revelations!" Rather a stern and uncompromising answer to the question we are so often taunted with-Do you think a man cannot be a Christian who does not believe in the book of Revelations? Surely a man should weigh well the claims to authority of a book, which ends with such a sentence as this, before he rejects it! And how thankful ought we to be, that the evidence in its favour is so perfectly overwhelming, that if he does weigh it with any thing approaching to honesty, he cannot doubt. For besides the general evidence there is for it equally with the other books of the Bible, we have further decisive proof in the historical fulfilment of its prophecies. Whatever differences there may be amongst the learned about the interpretation of it, the main outlines of the history both of the Church and the world, for the last 1800 years, are seen there so strikingly and indisputably, that "he who runs may
Some persons may not be aware that in the original language of the Bible, Hebrew and Greek, no stops are used; they are a great help to us, but are not, strictly speaking, part of the Bible, and of course of no inspired authority. Neither, we may add, are the divisions into chapters and verses, the headings of the chapters and pages, or the marginal references.
read." The authority of the whole book might very safely be staked upon the fulfilment of the 9th chapter alone, in the history of the Saracens and Turks: if any one can read Mr. Elliot's explanation of that chapter, in his great work on the Revelations, and have a shadow of a doubt on the inspiration of the book, it would be utterly hopeless to attempt to convince him of any thing. But what is all this, it may be asked, to a poor illiterate person, who can't get at such books, and is totally ignorant of history? This is a question that applies to many other cases, besides the one immediately before us, and will be considered more fully in a future lecture on the Christian ministry. "God hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers."-1 Cor. xii. 28. If therefore you will not condescend to make use of God's ordinance, but are resolved to be your own teachers, any mistake you may fall into through ignorance, must of course come under the condemnation of what St. Peter calis "willing ignorance. You all have opportunities of applying to some Christian minister or other, who will no doubt be glad at any time to show you the proofs of the genuineness and inspiration of this, as well as the other books of Holy Scripture: so that, if at the day of judgment, you should be found to have rejected any part of God's word, from not knowing the evidence for it, you. will be utterly without excuse, because you might have known it. To set up your own judgment against that of the whole Church, without even knowing the grounds on which the Church decided, certainly displays a spirit, the very reverse of that, to which God's direction is promised-"The meek will he guide in judgment." Ps. xxv. 9.
And this leads us to the question, whether the awful words of our text apply only to this book, or to the whole Bible. Now every one must allow that, strictly speaking they belong primarily and in an especial manner to the Revelations alone, nor can their application be proved to any thing else. But for myself, considering their peculiar position, at the close of the last of the inspired books, not one of which has such a warning attached to it, (while there appears no reason why the rejection of this book should incur greater guilt than the rejection of any other, especially before the fulfilment had thrown such an additional weight of evidence in its favour,) 1 cannot doubt for a moment, that this solemn declaration was dictated by the Spirit to St. John, for the express purpose of showing, that the volume of inspiration, which had been gradually filling up and receiving one addition after another for 1500 years, was now closed, and teaching us to guard the sacred treasure with holy awe, that it might be handed down pure and entire from generation to generation. Here a difficulty
may be raised, with regard to the many doubtful passages, and various readings in our Bibles, concerning which the best scholars have always been so divided in opinion. It may be argued, that if a certain passage be genuine, those who reject it must be guilty of taking from the word of God; if it be not genuine, those who receive it must be equally guilty of adding to the word of God, This depends upon circumstances: partly upon the degree of evidence there is for or against the particular text, and partly upon the spirit in which the individual has examined that evidence, and whether he has used all the opportunities that may have been within his reach for coming to a just decision, But whatever doubtful points may arise, there are some which will admit of no doubt; as for instance, when a number of persons with little or no learning, in the teeth of every manuscript and version in the world, and supported only by the groundless assertions and ingenious cavillings of some daring adversary, reject whole books, as the Song of Solomon and the Revelations, merely because they cannot understand them; or whole chapters, as the two first of Matthew and Luke, because what is related in them won't suit their theory. Such persons may contrive to persuade themselves that these are no part of the original Scriptures; but if such wilful ignorance affords them any excuse at the day of judgment for taking from God's word, then assuredly will the Church of Rome be held guiltless for all "the blood of the saints" with which scripture pronounces her "drunken," because, as Jesus foretold, they thought they were thereby doing God service. John xvi. 2.
With regard to the genuineness and inspiration of scripture, the differences amongst Unitarians are endless; but not one of them that ever I met with or heard of, certainly none of their great writers or leading men, acknowledge the full inspiration of the whole Bible. And it is important to observe, that though they so differ, one receiving this part and one that part of scripture, one placing this degree and one that degree of confidence in it, yet they all treat it on exactly the same principle, the very principle on which the avowed Deist treats it. They both admit just as much of the Bible, and yield it as much authority, as they can make agree with their own opinions. The Unitarian thinks he can make a great portion of scripture interpreted with a certain degree of freedom, meet his own views, and therefore he receives it: the Deist sees that none of it will agree with his view, and therefore he rejects it all. The principle is exactly the same. Each of them say practically, We will admit just as much as we can understand, or as we choose to believe, and nothing more. Consequently the lower a Unitarian descends in the scale, that is, the nearer