« PreviousContinue »
TO THE “LOVERS OF TRUTH" --WHOEVER IS AFRAID OF SUB. MITTING ANY QUESTION, CIVIL OR RELIGIOUS, TO THE TEST OF FREE DISCUSSION, SEEMS TO ME TO BE MORE IN LOVE WITH HIS OWN OPINIONS THAN WITH TRUTH.-Bishop Watson
OF CHRIST THE 6 God."
THE CHRISTIAN CREED. The right faith is this:—that the omnipotent and all-merciful God condemned all mankind to eternal tort because one had eaten an apple through the temptation of the Devil, who thereby had thwarted the desire of God, in consequence of God's own predetermination; that, repenting him of the evil he had done, God discovered, by the power of his omniscience, that there was but one way of remedying his error; that, in furtherance of this designed redemption, he seduced the betrothed wife of a carpenter, and, without injuring her virginity, begat himself; that his Omnipresence, having lain in the womb the full time of gestation, was at length brought forth in the form of man; and finally that, after submitting to manifold pains and indignities, his immortality endured an ignominious death, and his purpose remained unaccomplished.
This is the Christian creed-A VIRGIN, THE MOTHER OF HER OWN CREATOR: GOD ENGENDERING WITH A WOMAN, BEGETTING HIMSELF“which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.".
All which was done to redeem a miserable fraction of the human race from the misery to which the same beneficent God had condemned them for being unable to contravene his immutable will.
Ecclesiastical History. The scanty and suspicious materials of ecclesiastical history seldom enable us to dispel the dark cloud that hangs over the first age of the church.—Gibbon.
A Churchman's Faith.-That complication of probabilities by which the christian history is attested. The will of God as collected from expediency:
REVELATION. ALLOWING the sometime occurrence of a revelation from God to man, how are we to obtain proof of its authenticity? A asserts that the invisible and immaterial God has appeared to him, and ordered him to demand from B and C a certain sum of money and deference in all matters of opinion. If B and C are possessed of common sense, they will require proof of the honesty of this assertion, and also of the impossibility of deception, before they sacrifice either their reason or their property at his bidding. The first thing to be proved is the existence of this God who is said thus to interfere with their affairs. A has seen something, which he is convinced is God, because God must be an invisible spirit; but neither B nor C has seen him; and they say -A is deceived, or he is lying to get our money. They will not believe him without corroborative evidence: and how is this to be procured? God does not seem to take much interest in the matter, for he will not show himself to the sceptics, and so convince their incredulity : nor is it explained why A should be favoured with visual proof, and B and C be expected to believe without it. A's only resource is the performance of miracles; but even this fails him, for B and C are satisfied, that imposture is more probable than an infraction of the laws of the universe.
Revelation is a communication of something, which the person, to whom that thing is revealed, did not know before. For if I have done a thing, or seen it done, it needs no revelation to tell me I have done it, or seen it, nor to enable me to tell it, or to write it.
Revelation, therefore, cannot be applied to any thing done upon earth of which man is himself the actor or the witness, and consequently all the historical and anecdotal part of the Bible, which is almost the whole of it, is not within the meaning and compass of the word revelation, and therefore is not the word of God.
Suppose I were to say that, when I sat down to write this book, a hand presented itself in the air, took up the pen, and wrote every word that is herein written; would any body believe me? certainly they would not. Would they believe me a whit the more if the thing had been a fact? certainly they would not. Since, then, a real miracle, were it to happen, would be subject to the same fate as the falsehood, the inconsistency becomes the greater, of supposing the Almighty would make use of means that would not answer the purpose for which they were intended, even if they were real.
If we are to suppose a miracle to be something so entirely out of the course of what is called Nature, that she must go out of that course to accomplish it; and we see an account given of such miracle by the person who said he saw it, it raises a question in the mind very easily decided, which is, is it more probable that nature should go out of her course, or that a man should tell a Tie?
It is with prophecy, as it is with miracle. It could not answer the purpose even if it were real. Those to whom the prophecy should be told, could not tell whether the man prophesied or lied, or whether it had been revealed to him, or whether he conceited it: and if the thing that he prophesied, or pretended to prophesy, should happen, or something like it among the multitude of things that are daily bappening, nobody could again know whether he foreknew it, or guessed at it, or whether it was accidental.
Paine's Age of Reason
Modesty of the “ Fathers.”—In the long series of ecclesiastical history, does there'exist a single instance of a saint asserting that he himself possesse'i the gift of niracles?-Gibbon.
MIRACLES. A MIRACLE is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined.
There must be an uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation. And as an uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof from the nature of the fact against the existence of any miracle; nor can such a proof be destroyed, or the miracle rendered credible, but by an opposite proof which is superior.
The plain consequence is, “that no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish: and even in that case there is a mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior only gives us an assurance suitable to that degree of force which remains after deducting the inferior.”
Though the Being, to whom the miracle is ascribed, be Almighty, it does not upon that account become a wbit more probable; since it is impossible for us to know the attributes or actions of such a Being, otherwise than from the experience which we have of his productions in the usual course of nature. This still reduces us to past observation, and obliges us to compare the instances of the violation of truth in the testimony of men, with those of the violation of the laws of nature by miracles, in order to judge which of them is most likely and probable. As the violations of truth are more common in the testimony concerning religious miracles, than in that concerning any other matter of fact, this must diminish very much the authority of the former testimony, and make us form a general resolution, never to lend any attention to it, with whatever specious pretence it may be covered.- Hume.
AUTHENTICITY OF THE SCRIPTURES.
And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe. I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD.
And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shapban read it before the king.
And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes.—2 Kings, chap. 22.
And when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found a book of the law of the Lord given by Moses.
And Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the scribe, 1 bave found the book of the law in the house of the LORD.-2 Chronicles, chap. 34.
The genuineness of the books ascribed to Moses-in which he relates his own death and burial, even the place thereof, which “no man knoweth unto this day,” [Deuteronomy, chap. 34) rests solely upon the above-cited passages; testimony too slight and unsupported to be received as evidence in the most trivial matter, in any court of judicature. The historian declares that the book of the Law was discovered by the high priest, while repairing the temple in the reign of Josiah : it is called the book of the law; the high priest, the king and all the people are astonished at the words of the book. The plain inference is that there was no other copy. What proof have wę, that the whole was not a fabrication of the high priest; and, though the traditions of the law might prevent this, they could not prevent interpolation to a great extent. Before, therefore, we can give a reasonable credence to any portion of those books, proof is required that such portion could not possibly have beea