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by their appearance of abstract grandeur, are soon found to löse themsel 'es in fruitless logomachies and unmeaning subtleties, such as the greater part of the discussions on time, space, and necessary existence; there are others whose difficulty springs from an opposite cause,--from the immense variety of distinct topics and considerations involved in their discussion : of which the divine origination of Christianity, is a striking specimen,-which it has become difficult to treat as it ought to be treated, merely in consequence of the variety and superabundance of its proofs.
On this account, we suspect that this great cause has been not a little injured by the injudicious conduct of a certain class of preachers and writers, who, in just despair of being able to handle a single topic of religion to advantage, for want of having paid a devout attention to the scriptures, fly like harpies to the evidences of Christianity, on which they are certain of meeting with soniething prepared to their hands, whïch they can tear, and soil, and mangle at their pleasure.
Diripiuntque dapes, contactuque omnia foedant. The famine, also, with which their prototypes in Virgil threatened the followers of Æneas, is not more dismal than that which prevails among their hearers. The folly we are adverting 10, did not escape the observation nor the ridicule of Swift, who remarked in his days, that the practice of mooting, on every occasion, the question of the origin of Christianity, was much more likely to unsettle the faith of the simple, than to counteract the progress of infidelity. It is dangerous to fami. liarise every promiscuous audience to look upon religion as a thing which yet remains to be proved,--to acquaint them with every sophism and cavil which il perverse and petulant ingenuity has found out, unaccompanied, as is 100 often the case, with a satisfactory answer; thus leaving the poison to ope. rate, without the antidote, in minds which ought to be strongly imbued with the principles, and awed by the sanctions of the gospel. It is degrading to the dignity of a revelation, established through a succession of ages by indubitable proofs, to be adverting every moment to the hypothesis of its being an imposture, and to be inviting every insolent soplist to wrangle with us about the title, when we should be cultivating the possession. The practice we are now censuring is productive of another inconvenience. The argument of the truth of Christianity, being an argument of accumulation, or, in other words, of that nature that the force of it results less from any separate consideration than from an almost infinite variety of circumstances, conspiring towards one point and terminating
in one conclusion ; this concentration of evidence is broken to pieces, when an attempt is made to present it in superficial descants,--than which nothing can be conceived better calculated to make what is great appear little, and what is pon. derous light. The trite observation that a cause is injured by the adoption of feeble arguments, rests on a basis not often considered, perhaps, by those who most readily assent to its truth. We never think of estimating the powers of the imaginagination on a given subject, by the actual performance of the poet; but if he disappoint us, we immediately ascribe his failure to the poverty of his genius, without accusing his subject or his art. The regions of fiction we naturally conceive to be boundless. But when an attempt is made to convince us of the truth of a proposition respecting a matter of fact or a branch of morals, we take it for granted, that he who proposes it has made himself perfectly master of his argument, and that, as no consideration has been neglected that would favour his opinion, we shall not'err in taking our impression of the cause from the defence of its advocate. If that cause happen to be such as involves the dearest interests of mankind, we need not remark how much injury it is capa. ble of sustaining from this quarter. · Let us not be supposed, by these remarks, to comprehend within our censure the writer, who, amidst the multifarious proofs of revelation, selects a single topic with a view to its more elaborate discussion, providing it be of such a nature that it will support an independent train of thought-such, for example, as Paley has pursued in his Hora Paulinæ; to which a peculiar value ought to be attached, as a clear addi. tion to the body of Christian evidences. All we mean to as. sert is, that it is incomparably better to be silent on the evidences of Christianity, than to be perpetually adverting to them in a slight and superficial manner, and that a question so awful and momentous as that relating to the origin of the Christian religion, ought not to be debased into a trivial common place. Let it be formally discussed, at proper intervals, by such men, and such only, as are capable of bringing to it the time, talents, and information requisite to place it in a commanding attitude.-- That the author of the present performance is possessed of these qualifications to a very great degree will sufficiently appear from the analysis we propose to give of the work, and the specimens we shall occasionally exhibit of its execution.
It is ushered in by a modest and dignified dedication to Colonel Mudge, licytenant governor of that royal military institution, of which the author is so distinguished an orna
ment. The whole is cast into the form of letters to a friend and the first volume, we are given to understand, formed the subject of an actual correspondence. As much of the epistolary stile is preserved as is consistent with the nature of a serious and protracted argument, without ill-judged attempts at refreshing the attention of the reader by strokes of gaiety and humour. The mind of the writer appears to have been too, deeply impressed with his theme, to admit of such excursions, the absence of which will not, we are persuaded, be felt or regretted. .
Before he proceeds to state the direct proofs of the divinity of the Christian religion, he shews, in a very striking manner, the absurdities which must of necessity be embraced by those who deny all pretences to revelation ; enumerating in the form of a creed, the various strange and untenable positions, which form the subject of sceptical belief. In this part of the work, that disease in the intellectual temperament of infidels is placed in a stronger and juster light than we remember to have seen it, which may not improperly be denominated the credulity of unbelievers. This representation forms the contents of the first letter. From the next, which is on the necessity of revelation, we shall take the liberty of extracting the following passage, which will afford a distinct idea of its general scope and design.
• Leave man to himself, (says the author and to his own efforts, even when most actively inclined, and what can he accomplish? He is evidently formed for thinking ; his intellectual part gives dignity to his character: to think correctly constitutes a prime duty; and correct thinking is manifested in contemplating himself, his author, and his end ; and yet how commonly does he neglect these enquiries, to pursue trifling vanities, and “ waste his strength in that which profiteth not.” Or suppose he directs his unassisted intellectual energies into a more suitable channel, what does he effect? He has an idea, an inward perception of truth, not to be effaced by the sophistry of the sceptic ; yet on the most important topics, he has an incapacity of argument, scarcely to be rectified but by supernatural aid. He wishes for truth, and obtains nothing but uncer. tainty. He pants after happiness, and finds only misery in substance, or the vacuity of disappointment. He is incapable of ceasing to wish both for truth and happiness; and yet perceives he is equally incapable of attaining either certainty or felicity. He is also subject to a perpetual war between his reason and his passious. Had he reason without passions, or passions without reason, he might enjoy something like repose : but actuuled as he is by both, he lives in perpetual disquiet ; finding it impossible to yield himself to the guidance of the one, without perceiving the consequences of rebellion to the other. Hence he is always at variance with himself, always under the influence of contending principles, and how is le to emancipate himself from this thraldom? Suppose he seeks for freedom and repose by pursuing the speculations of natural religion. He endeavours to lay the foundations of duty, and establish rules of conduct ; he attempts to put them in practice and fails. He is compelled to acknowledge himself a wanderer, and often doubtless a wilful wanderer from the path of rectitude. He reasons without knowing it, upon the principles of an Apostle, who said, if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and will condemn us also ; and is thus led to institute enquiries relative to the pardon of sin, the nature, duration, misery, or happiness of a future state ; respecting all which, he finds it impossible to remove difficulties, or to be freed from the most trembling anxiety :
The wide, the unbounded prospect lies before him;
But shadows, clouds, and darkness, rest upon it.” The necessity of revelation is still more indisputably evinced, by an appeal to facts, and a survey of the opinions wbich prevailed among the most enlightened heathens, respecting God, moral duty, and a future state. Under each of these heads, our author bas selected, with great judgement, numerous instances of the flagrant and pernicious errors entertained by the most celebrated Pagan legislators, poets and philoso. phers; sufficient to deinonstrate, beyond all contradiction, the inability of unassisted reason, in its most improved and perfect state, to conduct man to virtue and happiness, and the necessity, thence resulting, of superior aid. Much diligence of research, and much felicity of arrangement, are displayed in the management of this complicated topic, where the reader will find exhibited, in a condensed form, the most ma. terial facts adduced in Leland's voluminous work on this sub. ject. All along, he holds the balance with a firm and steady hand, without betraying a disposition, either to depreciate the value of those discoveries and improvements to , which reason really attained, or charging the picture of its aberrations and defects, with deeper shades than justly belong to it. The most eminent amongst the Pagans themselves, it ought to be remembered, who, having no other resource, were best acquainted with its weakness and its power, never dreamed of denying the necessity of revelation : this they asserted in the most explicit terms, and on some occasions seem to have expected and anticipated the communication of such a benefit. We make no apology for citing, from the present work, the following remarkable passage out of Plato, tending both to confirm the fact of a revelation being anticipated, and to evince, supposing nothing supernatural in the case, the divine sagacity of that great author. He says, that this . just person, (the inspired teacher of whom he had been speak
ing) must, be poor and void of all qualifications, but those of virtue alone; that a wicked world would not bear bis instructions and reproofs ; and therefore, within three or four years after he began to preach, he should be perse.
.6cuted, imprisoned, scourged, and at last, be put to death**
In whatever light we consider it, this must be allowed to be a most remarkable passage,--whether we regard it as merely the conjecture of a highly enlightened mind, or as the fruit of prophetic suggestion: nor are we aware of any absurdity in supposing that the prolific spirit scattered, on certain occasions, some seeds of truth amidst that mass of corruption and darkness which oppressed the Pagan world. The opinion we have ventured to advance, is asserted in the most positive terms in several parts of Justin Martyr's second apology. Without pursuing this inquiry further, we shall content ourselves with remarking, that as the sufficiency of mere reason as the guide to truth never entered into the conception of Pagans, so it could never have arisen at all, but in consequence of con. founding its results with the dictates of revelatio!), which, since its publication, has never ceased to modify the speculations, and aid the inquiries of those, who are least disposed to bow to its authority. On all questions of morality and religion, the streams of thought have flowed through channels enriched with a celestial ore, whence they have derived the tincture to which they are indebted for their rarest and most salutary qualities.
Before we dismiss this subject, we would just observe that the inefficacy of unassisted reason in religious concerns appears undeniably in two points; the doubtful manner in which the wisest Pagans were accustomed to express themselves respecting a future state, the existence of which, Warburton is confident none of the philosophers believed ; and their proud reliance on their own virtue, which was such as left no room for repentance. Of a future state, Socrates, in the near prospect of death, is represented by Plato as expressing a hope, accompanied 'with the greatest uncertainty; and with respect to the second point, the lofty confidence in their own virtue, which we have imputed to them, the language of Cicero in one of his familiar letters, is awfully decisive. Nec enim dum ero, 6angor ulla re, cuin omni caream culpa ; et si non ero, sensu
omni carebo.' "While I exist, I shall be troubled at nothing, (since I have no fault whatever, and if I shall not exist, I shall b.be devoid of all feeling. t' So true is it, that life and immor. tality are brought to light by the Saviour, and that until he appeared, the greatest of men were equally unacquainted with their present condition, and their future prospects. · The next letter, which is the fourth in the series, is on mys
* De Republica. L. II, 4. Vol. I. p. 51,