Page images

Art. X. A Series of Discourses, principally on the Evidences of Christiao

nity. By the Rev. M. J, Naylor, B. D. Vicar of Peniston, Lecturer of the Parish Church, Wakefield, and Fellow of Queen's College, Cambridge. 8vo. Price 10s. 6d. pp. 467. Deighton, Cambridge.

Longman and Co. Mawman. 1810. SOME years ago, when infidel sophistry was diligently

disseminated throughout the country, Mr. Naylor thought", it to be his duty to deliver to his charge a set of sermons, in proof of the divine origin of the Christian religion. After he had preached these sermons, the approbation of his friends, together with a desire of doing good, and a hope, of being able thereby more effectually to supply the wants of his fa-, mily, induced him to lay them before the public.

This account of the causes that gave rise to the composing and publishing of these sermons, is very ingenuous and credible. It was certainly very cominendable in Mr. Naylor to endeavour to preserve his flock from the contagion of infidelity, even if he had been less qualified for that task than he appears to be. This was a duty arising from his office, and it was enough if he discharged it to the best of his abilities. · But whether the motives he has specified were sufficient to justify him in making his labours public is not so easy to determine. The general argument in favour of Christianity has already, we take it, been put in the best and strongest light; while the separate parts of it are scarcely susceptible of additional labour or illustration. It is a duty that every Christian owes to his religion, not to attempt to do indifferently what has already been done so well. Nothing, it should seem, can exempt him from this obligation, except it were the malice of, scepticism and infidelity, vamping up old objections in order, to provoke the disciples of Christ to renew a contest which ; may now be considered as decided. : To say there is an advåntage in giving the argument a variety of forms, is to trifle. It has already been varied, and has assumed all the best forms. It cannot be varied now, and put in a new shape, without being debased and enfeebled. On this ground we object to the publication of these Discourses. We do not mean to say that they do not contain reason sufficient to make an impartial man a Christian. They embrace most of the topics employed on such occasions. These topics, indeed, are not stated so, perspicuously or so forciqly as they have been by former ad-, vocates; and from the order in which they are placed, they neither support each other, nor appear as an accumulation of probabilities, each strong by itself, in confirmation of one fact.

But still this rolume contains a considerable portion of information; and, in general, the reasoning of it is logical and conclusive. We object to it not as being a bad book, but as being quite unnecessary ; and as doing, in a very humble and inferior style, what has been executed in the best manner by accomplished masters. 1. In illustration of this, we beg leave to mention the order in which our author has arranged the Evidences of Christianity.

He begins with the character of Christ, then treats of his mi. -racles, his prophecies, bis resurrection, and of his apostles, to afterwards handles the authenticity of the New Testament, the credibility of the first witnesses of Christianity, the publicity of its origin, its rapid spread, its beneficiat influence on the world, and its connexion with Judaism. This procedure looks “very like raising the walls, and putting on the roof, before the .foundation is laid. . The great prout of the truth of Christiani-ty is found in the niracles wrought by Jesus Christ and his

apostles :. and the first inquiry that an impartial and julici. ous mani wonid attempt to solve, on examining into its truth, would be, whetlier these miracles were actually performed.

As this is a question of fact, he would, as in all such ques. ...tions, begin the solution of it by considering the testimony alleged in favour of the miracles. After he was satisfied with the testimony,there is no doubt but he would advert to collateral circumstances, such as the behaviour of those who performed the miracles, the character of the miracles themselves, the reception that the doctrine met with in favour of which they -were wrought, and other auxiliary evidence. Accordingly it sis with great judgement that Dr. Paley laboured, in the first in-stance, to set the direct bistorical evidence in its full light ; being well aware that the other evidence became strong as this was kept in view, as well as accumulated upon its being established. But Mr. Naylor, for the sake of variety, has preposterously inverted this natural and established order. The consequences are, that not one argument has its full force; that the various evidences do not, in a state of union, throw their light and power upon one point; and that the reader is wearied with needless repetitions. · In a note opon part of the first of these discourses, we find our author labouring to evince the innocence, in certain cases, of infidelity. Thus he speaks :

There may be persons, whose general conduct is entitled to our approbation, and who exhibit no defeci of judgment in other respects, yet whose minds are 80 constituted, or have been so prejudiced, by erroneous views of the Christian religion, and by a consideration of the great calamities brought upon the world by the unchristian conduct of some its pro. fessors, that all the arguments adduced in its support are not sufficient to overcome their prejudices, and convince them of its divine original. But of such men what shall we say? Shall we hurt against them the thunder of condemnation ? God forbid ! To their own Master they stand or fall. To him, then, let us leave then. That Great Being, who formed their minds, and who alone is acquainted with all the circumstances which have contributed to prevent their embracing the truth as it is in Jesus, best can judge how far their conduct is descrving of censure.' - In our opinion, the pensons described by our author have no existence ; and the supposition of their existence is in dia orect contradiction to scripture. No man ever rejected Christianity after a diligent and impartial examination of the evi. dence in favour of it. The evidence, it is true, is not demon. strative, the subject t not admitting of demonstration ; but it is such a mass of concurring probabilities, that he -who-weighs it, will be sure to believe that the Christian reeligion is from beaven; except he is biassed in favour of a contrary conclusion, hy criminal prejudices, or passions, or interests. 6. If any man," said the great teacher, “will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or I speak of myself.”* In the New Testament, the rejection of Christianity, is always represented as highly criminal, and ex. posing those who are guilty of it to the displeasure of God. The honesty and diligence of infidels and sceptics are wild chinieras. They are only honest in their desire that Christianity may turn out a fable, and diligent in collecting sophismis to fortify their minds in their unbelief. . : :A contrary representation, it appears to us, is likely to be pro

ductive of very bad consequences. When once it is believed that . a man may innocently reject what there is so much reason to receive as a divine revelation, those who dislike and hate the gospel because it speaks exilof them, will soon conclude that they have the diligence and impartiality that neutralize their infidelity. Their consciences will thus be set at rest by professed advocates of the Christian cause, who invent excuses for what they should unequivocally condeinn. It is of importance to inculcate that Christianity cannot be innocently or safely rejected, in order that an apprehension of the danger of infidelity may be kept up in the minds of wen, and that those who are inclined to renounce the true religion may yet feel the restraint of fear, and bechecked at least by every grave authority.

It is extremely inconsistent in Mr. Naylor to maintain, in any case, the innocence of rejecting the gospel. For, speaking of the conduct of the Bereans, mentioned in the book of

[ocr errors]

me Judoes what he hadion of the erality,

the Acts, the result of their searching of the scriptures, he "says, was, that many of them believed. Every inquiry,' he adds, ' conducted with the same diligence and liberality, must still be productive of a ready reception of the truth, p. 11. Here our author decides what he had before left to the decision of the Supreme Judge; since. if every diligent and liberal inquiry into the evidence of Christianity, must issue in

a ready reception of the truth,' it follows, that there are no unbelievers who have made such an inquiry. prsi In addition to the Discourses on the Evidences of Christianity, this volume contaios two more, the one entitled Recti. itude of Conduct of more Value than Rectitude of Opinion'; and the other, the Danger of Evil Habits, and the Importance of a good Education. • The position which the first is intended to confirm is very

equivocal and liable to great abuse. The conduct of men is only the embodying of their opinions, and sentiments, and dis. -positions. Though a correct behaviour is of vast importance, it should seem that our first care should be to fill the mind with salutary maxims and principles, inasmuch as the means of receiving salubrious streams is to keep the fountain pure and clear, If once the mind is seasoned, if we may so speak, with just and correct opinions, a good life will follow of course, as a good tree brings forth good fruit. .

The reasoning that Mr. Naylor employs, in this sermon, is very singular. It is as follows. Our Lord, in retuting the sophism of the Sadducees in favour of their doctrine respecte ing the resurrection, began by saying, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures :" whereas, in addressing their enemies, he said, “Woe 'unto Scribes and Pharisees hypocrites." Now from this our author infers that a good life is better than a sound creed. He forgets that John the Baptist styled the Sadducees a generation of vipers. It is unfortunate for him that it it was the dispositions, not the conduct, of the Pharisees on which our Lord's condemnation fell with the greatest severity. It was new to us to find the Sadducees exalted into virtuous heretics, and the Pharisees set forth as orthodox persons of vicious lives.

Art. XI. The History of Sumatra, containing an Account of the Gor

vernment, Laws, Customs, and Manners of the Native Inhabitants,

with a Description of the Natural Productions, and a Relation of the : Ancient Political State of that Island. By William Marsden, F.R.S. ' "The third Edition, with Corrections, Additions, and Plates. 4to. pp. 1. about 500. "Longman and Co. 1811.' ' THIS remote island of the Gentiles,' is not one of those dis

*tinguished regions of the earth, the names of which are associated in our minds with so many fascinating : recollections, derived from history or fable, that knowing or imagining something about them already, we are always eager to grasp at something more. Nor does it very evidently appear, that the country here treated of, has any special claim to notice on other grounds. Every part of the world we live in must, however, be more or less an object of curiosity and interest : and if cur readers will listen to what Mr. Marsden bimself has to say upon the subject of this work, they may.very probably be persuaded lo think, that the time bestowed on the perusal of it will not be badly employed, . ?. «The island of Sumatra, which, in point of situation and extent, holds a conspicuous rank on the terraqueous globe, and is surpassed by few in the bountiful indulgence of nature, has in all ages been unaccountably neglected by writers. It is true that the commercial importance of Sumatra has much cieclined. It is no longer the Emporium of Eastern riches, whither the traders of the West resorted with their cargoes, to exchange them for the precious merchandize of the Indian Archipelago : nor does it boast now the political consequence it acquired, when the rapid progress of the

Portuguese successes there first received a check. That enterprising peo- ple, who caused so many kingdoms to shrink from the terrour of their arms, met with nothing but disgrace in their attempts against Achin, whose monarch's made them frenible in their turn. Yet still the importance of this island, in the eye of the natural kistorian, has continued undiminished, and has equally, at all periods, laid claim to an attention, that does not appear, i at any, to have been paid to it.' Pref.

Contemplating the moral condition of the inhabitants, we beg leave to add, that this hitherto neglected spot has likewise its claims upon the attention of the philanthropist and the Christian. Our readers will not have forgotten, that in a recent publication of Dr. Buchanan's, mention is made of certain bar. barous tribes in the East, who are accustomed, it is said, to kill and devour, not only their criminals and prisoners of war, but also their aged relations. These cannibals,' says Dr. B.

inhabit the interior of the island of Sumatra, on the shore of which is the English settleinent, Bencoolen, or Fort-Marlbo- rough. We have been settled there for a long period, and trade with the inhabitants for their spices. In return for the

« PreviousContinue »