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TO THE

REV. JABEZ BUNTING, A. M.

THE FOLLOWING WORK

IS

Inscribed

AS A SMALL EXPRESSION OF RESPECT

FOR HIS TALENTS AND VIRTUES,

AND OF THE VALUE

PLACED UPON HIS FRIENDSHIP

BY

THE AUTHOR.

ADVERTISEMENT.

THE object of this Work is to exhibit the EVIDENCES, DocTRINES, MORALS, and INSTITUTIONS of Christianity, in a form adapted to the use of young Ministers, and Students in Divinity. It is hoped also, that it may supply the desideratum of a BODY OF DIVINITY, adapted to the present state of theological literature, neither Calvinistic on the one hand nor Pelagian on the other.

The reader will perceive that the object has been to follow a course of plain and close argument on the various subjects discussed, without any attempt at embellishment of style, and without adding practical uses and reflections, which, however important, it did not fall within his plan to introduce. The various controversies on fundamental and important points, have been introduced; but it has been the sincere aim of the Author to discuss every subject with fairness and candour; and honestly, but in the spirit of "THE TRUTH" which he more anxiously wishes to be taught than to teach, to exhibit what he believes to be the sense of the Holy Scriptures, to whose authority he trusts he has unreservedly subjected all his own opinions.

LONDON, March 26, 1823.

PART I.

EVIDENCES OF THE DIVINE AUTHORITY OF THE

HOLY SCRIPTURES.

CHAPTER I.

Man a Moral Agent.

THE Theological System of the Holy Scriptures being the subject of our enquiries, it is essential to our undertaking to establish their Divine Authority. But before that copious direct evidence which the case admits is adduced, our attention may be profitably engaged by several considerations, which afford presumptive evidence in favour of the Revelations of the Old and New Testaments, and which are of so much weight that they can neither, in fairness, be left out of the general argument, nor easily be resisted by the sincere and impartial enquirer.

The Moral Agency of man is one of those principles on which much depends in such an investigation; and from its bearing upon the question at issue, requires our first notice.

He is a moral agent who is capable of performing moral actions; and an action is rendered moral by two circumstances, -that it is voluntary, and that it has respect to some rule which determines it to be good or evil. "Moral good and evil," says LOCKE, "is the conformity or disagréement of our voluntary actions to some law, whereby good or evil is drawn upon us from the will or power of the law-maker."

The terms found in all languages, and the laws which have been enacted in all states with accompanying penalties, as well as the praise or dispraise which men in all ages have expressed respecting the conduct of each other, sufficiently shew, that man has always been considered as an agent actually performing, or capable of performing moral actions, and as such he has been treated. No one ever thought of making laws to regulate the conduct of the inferior animals, or of holding them up to public censure or approbation.

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The Rules by which the quality of the actions of men has been determined are, however, not those only which have been embodied in the legislation of civil communities. Many actions would be judged good or evil, were all civil codes abolished; and others are daily condemned or approved in the judgment of mankind, which are not of a nature to be recognized in the laws of society. Of the moral nature of human actions there must have been a perception in the minds of men previous to the enactment of laws; upon which common perception all law is founded, and claims the consent and support of society; and in all human legislative codes there is an express or tacit appeal to principles previously acknowledged, as the reasons for their enactment.

This distinction in the moral quality of actions previous to the establishment of civil regulations and independent of them, may in part be traced to its having been observed, that certain actions are injurious to society, and that to abstain from them is essential to its well-being. Murder and theft may be given as instances. It has also been perceived, that such actions result from certain affections of the mind; and the indulgence or restraint of such affections has therefore been also regarded as a moral act. Anger, revenge and cupidity have been deemed evils as the sources of injuries of various kinds; and humanity, self-government and integrity have been ranked among the virtues; and thus both certain actions, and the principles from which they spring have, from their effect upon society, been determined to be good or evil.

But it has likewise been observed by every man, that individual happiness, as truly as social order and interests, is materially affected by particular acts, and by those feelings of the heart which give rise to them; as for instance, by anger, malice, envy, impatience, cupidity, &c.; and that whatever civilized men in all places and in all ages have agreed to call VICE, is inimical to health of body, or to peace of mind, or to both. This, it is true, has had little influence upon human conduct; but it has been acknowledged by the poets, sages, and satyrists of all countries, and is adverted to as matter of universal experience. Whilst therefore there is in the moral condition and habits of man something which propels him to vice, uncorrected by the miseries which it never fails to inflict, there is also something in the constitution of the human soul which renders vice subversive of its happiness, and something in the established law and nature of things, which renders vice incompatible with the collective interests of men in the social state.

Let that then be granted by the THEIST which he cannot consistently deny," that there exists a Supreme Creator, of infinite power, wisdom, goodness and justice, and that he who made men continues to govern them," and the strongest presumption is afforded by the very constitution of the nature of man, and the relations established among human affairs,-which with so much constancy dissociate happiness from vicious passions, health from intemperance, the peace, security and improvement of society from violence and injustice,-that that course of action which best secures human happiness has the sanction of HIS will, or in other words that HE, by these circumstances, has given his authority in favour of the practice of good, and opposed it to the practice of evil. (1)

But though that perception of the difference of moral actions which is antecedent to human laws, must have been strongly confirmed by these facts of experience, and by such observations, we have no reason to conclude that those rules by which the moral quality of actions has, in all ages, been determined, were gathered solely from a course of observation on their tendency to promote or obstruct human happiness; inasmuch as we cannot collect either from history or tradition, that the world was ever without such rules, though often warped and corrupted. The evidence of both, on the contrary, goes to this, that so far from these rules having originated from observing what is injurious and what beneficial to mankind, there has been, almost among all nations, a constant reference to a declared will of the Supreme God, or of supposed deities, as the Rule which determines the good or the evil of the conduct of men; which will has been considered by them as a Law, prescribing the one and restraining the other under the sanction, not only of our being left to the natural injurious consequences of vicious habit and practice in the present life, or of continuing to enjoy the benefits of obedience in personal and social happiness here; but of positive reward and positive punishment in a future life.

Whoever has speculated on the subject of morals and moral obligation in any age, was previously furnished with these general

(1) "As the manifold appearances of design and of final causes, in the constitution of the world, prove it to be the work of an intelligent mind; so the particular final causes of pleasure and pain, distributed among his creatures, prove that they are under his government-what may be called his natural government of creatures endued with sense and reason. This, however, implies somewhat more than seems usually attended to when we speak of God's natural government of the world. It implies government of the very same kind with that which a master exercises over his servants, or a civil magistrate over his subjects.”—Bp. BUTLER.

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