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tion of a country, when conducted in the spirit, and according to the methods of Protestantism, is essentially the same process and having the same footsteps with the Christian education of a family. Both are liable to the same theoretical objection on the principles of Rousseau ;* and both admit of the same practical and the same philosophical vindication.
12. Now apply this to our present question. A given book in scripture may be either canonical and inspired, or it may not. If the former, then this inspiration viewed as a fact, may be ascertained historically; or viewed as a property, may be ascertained experimentally. A person unlearned may not attempt the investigation competent only to a scholar; but, depending on the authority of his church, proceeding on the integrity of the Bible which is in his hands, and told that all is inspired and all is profitable, he, in the act of devoutly reading the part of the Bible in question, makes the trial-a competent thing to every humble and conscientious inquirer. If he be the disciple of a church which admits the Book of Proverbs into its canon and it be right in so doing, he will taste the fruits of its actual inspiration in its moral and spiritual effect upon himself; and this perhaps made so distinct, as to give him the perception of its celestial origin. If he belong to a church which admits the Book of Wisdom into its canon, and it be wrong in so doing, the consequence is that in the reading of it he loses his labour; he is misled into a waste of
Seo our Natural Theology.-Book I. Chap. ii. Art. 22.
attention and effort which yields him no fruit unto life everlasting. He may still acquiesce in the telling of his church; but he himself has no personal manifestation of it. But though what is counterfeit in his Bible may be useless or may be hurtful to him, yet what is genuine in his Bible may still have made him wise unto salvation. The one like wood, hay, and stubble, will be found to have been of no profit ; the other like gold, silver, and precious stones, may have so rewarded the search and the labour after saving knowledge, that he himself may be saved.
13. These two probations, the historical and the experimental, coincide in their result; yet it is of the utmost importance that, between them, there shall be a right order of precedency. We do not say that the same individual should always attempt both; for, if he be unlearned, he is capable only of one of these methods. It is not for him to attempt first the historical, and then the experimental probation; but, for his practical guidance, it seems indispensable, that others for him should have made the historical, and then that he should try the experimental on those books which they have put into his hands. The experimental probation might verify the actually inspired books; but it never could have discovered them. Had there been no history and no tradition regarding the sixty-six pieces of our present collection; and if, instead of being bound up in one volume and handed down as a collection of Sacred Writings, they had lain scattered throughout the multitudinous authorship of the world—then, if left to no
other test than the quality of these compositions, we never, by means of this criterion alone, could have made our way to them, or found them all out. It makes all the difference in the world, when the search is defined and limited to a certain number of books for the purpose of verificationinstead of our being cast abroad on the interminable sea of all authorship; and there left to our own measures, or to steer as we may
for the purpose of discovery. The question, Are these inspired books?-is a truly different one from the question, What books are inspired ? To satisfy the former question, the moral and experimental probation might be altogether competent—while utterly powerless so to guide the inquirer, as that he shall be able to cull and to select the few writings which are inspired, out of the mighty and numerous host which lie around him. It is by the historical probation that we discover the authorship of the Bible and of all its parts—even as at the termination of the middle ages, we discovered the authorship of Homer and Virgil and Cicero. It is by the experimental probation that we verify this authorship.
14. In these circumstances we must perceive the importance of a Church, as an institute for the secure and copious transmission of the records of inspiration. Even though in centuries of corruption and darkness, the use of or demand for the scriptures should have so far subsided, as that all the copies of them, which, in better times, might have been found throughout the habitations of the people, had either been destroyed by the hand of
violence, or perished by their own natural decay,– the same causes of extermination did not take full effect in those numerous establishments, which had been raised for the maintenance and accommodation of ecclesiastics, by the piety or the superstition of other times. They were in fact the monks and men of various sacred orders in the Christian church, who performed the same service in behalf of the scriptures, which, under the old dispensation, was done by the priests and Levites of Israel. It is true that they partook in the general lethargy of the period; and very many of them made little or no use of their sacred records—yet it is well that these found an asylum in the bosom of convents; and were suffered to lie, though perhaps to lie unread, in places of keeping, respected even through the days of fiercest barbarism, and where, if not useful, at least they were safe. And we know that light and learning did not undergo a total extinction among the ecclesiastics of Christendom—insomuch that to their numerous transcriptions, we mainly stand indebted, both for those manifold copies of the Bible, and those precious relics of ancient literature, to which the mind of Europe awoke at the commencement of the middle ages.
It is thus that the scriptures were piloted across this thick and dreary millennium, and that with hundred-fold greater certainty and abundance, than were the best and most respected classics of Greece and Rome. In other words, at the revival of learning, the learned on the priesthood had a hundred-fold better materials for the determination of their questions, respecting the genuine
ness and authorship of the sacred writings—than the learned of general society had, for the genuineness and authorship of all other writings. To the Jewish and the Christian churches respectively, were committed the oracles of God: and so adapted were both institutes, even in spite of the numerous corruptions into which they fell, for the safe custody and the sure transmission of themthat, greatly beyond all the other memorials of past ages, have the Old Testament on the one hand and the New Testament on the other, de scended on a firmer historic pathway and with a far surer light of historical evidence, by which to identify and recognise them.
15. Now at the commencement of the great disunion which took place in Christendom, when the old Papal hierarchy was rent asunder, and new Churches sprung into existence—the controversy did not begin with the unlearned of the people, but with the learned of the priesthood. And in settling the public articles of their respective establishments, more especially the books which they should receive and submit to as the directory of their faith, they were the facts of history, and the external evidence grounded thereupon, which formed the proper weapons of their warfare—as much so indeed, as prophecy and miracles formed the great means, by which the Jewish and Christian dispensations obtained their first acceptance in the world. And, in determining between genuine and apocryphal scriptures, as between those works of Peter by which though dead he yet speaketh, and the spurious composi