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If, without offence, I may be allowed to fhould by all means procure this valuable work of Dr. Priestley's; not only for your information and fatisfaction on this weighty point of the infpiration of the fcriptures, and what will fave you much trouble in perusing other authors upon the subject; but as containing much useful matter, needful for the right understanding of the gofpel-history, fome of it not to be met with any other books.
Nor is the account here given, too depreciating, or fuch as reduces the writings of the evangelifts to the level of common hiftories. For they may ftill be termed in fome degree infpired writings, as they contain a faithful detail of the doctrine of Chrift, which he received immediately from God.
So that when we read the teachings of Chrift in the gofpel, or his doctrine as held forth in the epiftles of his first chosen followers, it is the fame as if God himself fpake to us. And we know the doctrine of the apostles, in their feveral writings, to be from God, by its agreement with that
which Chrift delivered; or by their informing us, whenever they declare any new doctrine, that they received it by a particular revelation made to themselves. So St. Paul, for example, informs the chriftians of Corinth, that a part of the human fpecies (r) would be exempted from the common ftroke of death, which all others were deftined to feel; namely, those his true and virtuous followers who fhould be found alive at the fecond coming of Chrift; when by the operation of the divine power, they would be changed, and rendered incorruptible and immortal, at the fame moment, with the innumerable dead fhould be raised to life, who had been, a longer or shorter time, afsleep in their graves.
This way of confidering the inspiration of the penmen of the New Teftament, as confined to the doctrine which they rereceived
(r) Behold I fhew you a myflery; all of us fhall not sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, (for the trumpet shall found) and the dead fhall be raifed incorruptible; and we fhall be changed, Į Cor. xv. 51. 52.
ceived from Chrift, you will find to approve itfelf to you, the more you reflect upon it, and to be most agreeable to fact, and the real state of the facred writings.
We are thus alfo left more at liberty, and more capable of defending our holy religion, when we are not anfwerable for the juftnefs of every word, and the propriety and aptness of every quotation in the New Teftament made from the Old, or the accuracy of the writer's arguments in all refpects. We may then confider the apoftles, what they really appear to have been, as men of good fenfe and the most upright difpofitions, who would not to gain the whole world advance any thing they did not believe to be true; but who alfo were liable to prejudices, and fallible, like other men, and therefore might easily be mistaken in their reafonings on incidental fubjects, and in the interpretation and application of their antient divine law. And any small mistake of this kind would not affect the competency and fufficiency of their evidence to the most important facts on which the gospel stands; viz. the miracles by
which our Lord proved his divine miffion the discovery made by him of the will of the heavenly Father of all, and the way to fecure his favour; the affurance of a resurrection to a future immortal life after death given by him, and confirmed by his own refurrection. Nay, high divine powers communicated, or abfolute infallibility in their reafonings, would add nothing to the apostles' teftimony concerning plain facts, which depends on quite different circumftances.
Dr. Horne, in one place, gives a specimen of his own method of confidering the infpiration of the apoftles, in which he makes you parties as ufual; but from the little that has now been suggested to you, I apprehend you will be far from approving the way he takes.
Speaking of St. Paul's epiftle to the Hebrews, he calls it, p. 40, a divine expofition of the Old Teftament, and not one of the leaft
among the many inftances of God's goodnefs to his church, that he has caufed it
to be written and handed down to us.'
For this however, you have
nothing but his own affertion, which, by itself, can be of no weight.
His notion is built upon the fuppofition, that the law of Mofes was divinely contrived, and appointed, to prefigure, and denote the things concerning Christ, and the gofpel; but in an obfcure manner, and covered with a veil, which he imagines St. Paul here to remove, by a fupernatural knowlege communicated to him.
But as we do not find that Mofes, or the prophets, teach or intimate any thing of the kind, it is not credible, that their divine law should have fuch an important fignification, and be wholly concealed from them.
And ftill farther, St. Paul himfelf never mentions that he had any particular revelation upon this point, to acquaint him, that fuch was the divine intention in the appointment of their law and facrifices: fo that what Dr. Horne fpeaks with fuch confidence concerning it, feems to be mere imagination, without any foundation.