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are not willing, merely because of this, to allow that they were divinely inspired. No more should we upon these accounts only, affirm that the bible is a divine book; for such things as these might be the product of natural light, without the assistance of divine revelation. However these things by themselves are sufficient to beger in us a high veneration and esteem of these writings, and to make us believe that they are at least a very excellent composure, if not a divine one. And if we compare the scriptures and heathen authors upon the same subjects, we shall soon find that the former do vastly excel the latr ter. They give us truer and nobler thoughts of God; they teach us a more refined morality, and speak more clearly, and with greater certainty, about a future state of rewards and punishments. If a few of the heathens wrote well upon moral subjects, yet we do not find that their writings were effectual to the reformation of mens manners.
The world was still as corrupt and debauch'd as ever. But what the philosophers could not obtain by their writings, the scriptures have effected even to admisation, By these, multitudes have been
brought over from a most diffolute course of life to the practice of religion and virtue; the ungodly and profane have been made pious and devout; the sensual and impure have been made sober and chaste; the fierce and cruel have been made gentle and hu
And certainly that must be a very excellent book, which produces such effects as these. This alone would incline a man to think that it came from God: but when he looks into it again, and finds that it pretends to be of a divine original, and that there are other evidences of this befides that of its own intrinsick goodness; then he will be fully satisfied of it.
II. Is the word of God fo excellent a preservative from fin? Then we see the reason why good men have always had such a veneration and affection for it. 'Tis needless to take pains to prove the fact. If any man doubts of it, 'cis but referring him to David's psalms, or to the judgment of any pious man, and he cannot fail to be convinced. Now the reason why a good man values his bible so much is, because it gives him such excellent rules for the conduct of life. It teaches him how to carry himself towards his maker, and how to behave to his fellow creatures. It in forms him how he should demean himself in every relation, and in every condition. When he is tempted to any vice, the precepts of this book occur to his mind; and he answers the tempter as Joseph did his mistress, How can I do this great wickedness, and fin against God. Let a temptation present itself to him in the most alluring manner, and promise him the most exquisite pleasure ; he opposes to it the wrath of God, the anguish of a guilty conscience, and the torments of hell, which the word of God declares to be the confequence of sin.' When a good man is ready to sink under affliction of body or mind, he hath recourse to the promises of God's word : and these diffipate his fears ; they comfort and refresh his soul ; they put new life and vigour into his virtuous resolutions ; they enable him to bear present difficulties with courage and bravery, because the time is coming when all the forrows of the righteous shall cease,
ty of mind.
and there shall be no more any pain or fickness of body, any disease or infirmi
No wonder therefore, that the good man so much admires and loves the word of God, since it is so very useful and serviceable to him. 'Tis natural for us to love that which doth us good.
III. Is the word of God fo excellent a preservative from sin ? Then 'tis our duty and our interest to study it carefully. If it is our duty and interest to abstain from fin, and to practise the laws of God; then it must be also our duty and interest to use the means which lead to this end. Now this is a most excellent means. It can hardly be supposed, that a man who constantly reads the word of God will allow him self in fin; for this practice naturally tends to extinguish sinful inclinations, and to fasten good impressions. How can a man who is continually recollecting the ideas of the divine attributes, precepts, promises and threatnings, dare to sin against God? The thing is not probable in reason.
And accordingly we find in experience, that they are generally good men who read the bible
much : and, on the contrary, they are for the most part very wicked men who neglect and despise the facred writings. It was the saying of a good man,
Praying will make a man leave off
finning, or sinning will make him • leave off praying.' I see no reason to confine it to prayer : for I believe it will hold equally true of reading the scriptures, or of any other means of religion, if used with sincerity. Reading the word of God will wonderfully fortify our good resolutions: it will make us religious upon a rational and solid foundation : it will enable us to render a reason of our piety and virtue, and to confound those who would laugh us out of it : it will inspire us with a strange courage and force to resist temptation. A man who is very conversant with the word of God, when he is assaulted by a temptation will be apt to reply, how can I commit this or the other fin, who have just now been contemplating the attributes of God, his holiness, juftice, goodness, and truth; who have been reading the laws which he prescribes, and the sanctions of them by promiles and threatnings? What am I