Page images
PDF
EPUB

Never were any writings conveyed down with so good evidence of their being genuine as these. Upon their tirst publication, the books of the New Testament, in particular, were put into all hands, scattered into all nations, trauslated into various languages. They have been quoted by innumerable authors, appealed to by all parties of Christians, and made the standard of truth in every question of moment. We can trace them back through every age to the period in which they were written. And extremely remarkable and consolatory is the consideration, that notwithstanding the innumerable times they have been copied, and the various errors, sects, and parties which have arisen, the corruptions which have prevailed in the church, and the revolutions and convulsions which have taken place among the nations, the Bible has continued fundamentally the same; insomuch that from the very worst copy or translation in the world, we may easily learn the genuine doctrines of Christianity. The divisions and squabbles of men have been wonderfully overruled to the establishment of God's truth. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it *

“ But, notwithstanding all the boasted advantages of the Gospel, are not many who profess to believe in Christ, and who attend the ordinances of religion, the arrantest knaves

" Granted. Do you, therefore, infer that the Gospel itself is an imposture? This argument is good for nothing. It

Noah's ark is found, by the most accurate observations of modern geometricians, to have been contrived after the very best form for the purposes for which it was intended ; and its dimensions perfectly well suited to receive the burden designed for it.' It has been calculated to contain upwards of 72,000 tons burden,

Consult DODDRIDGE's Lectures for Heathen Testimonies to the facts of the Old Testament.

* See LARDNER's Credibility passim ; SIMPSON's Essay on the Authenticity of the New Testument, where the evidence is brought into one short view ; and Lord HAILE's Disquisitions concerning the Antiquities of the Christian Church.

The celebrated Philosopher, BONNET, of Geneva, assures us after a very serious and accurate examination of the subject, that there is no ancient history so well attested, as that of the MESSENGER of the Gospel; that there are no historical facts supported by so great a number of proofs ; by such striking, solid, and various proofs, as are those facts on which the religion of JESUS CHRIST is founded.”

is no

proves too much. Some professors of natural religion are bad men: therefore natural religion is an imposture; there

God. Some great pretenders to Philosophy are knaves; therefore Philosophy is all an imposition upon mankind. Some deists are immoral men; therefore the principles of Deism are founded in error and delusion. Was it ever known that any man grew more moral, pious, virtuous, and heavenly minded, after rejecting the Gospel? I could próduce you a thousand instances where men have become better by cordially embracing it; and we may defy you to produce one instance where any man became worse.

Cau any man, of an enlightened and liberal mind, embrace the mysterious doctrines of Ckristianity? What must such an one think of the Trinity, the Atonement, the Incarnation, and those other unaccountable peculiarities of that institution, - which have been a stumbling block to any persons in every age of the church *?"

And are there not also many strange and unaccountable things in the book of nature, and in the administration of Divine PROVIDENCE, the design and use of which we cannot see *? Nay, are there not even some things which to

Consult SIMPSON'S Apology for the Doctrine of the Trinity, on this objection, where the subject is treated at large.

It appears to me indubitable, that all the real doctrines of religion, as contained, not in this or the other human institution, but in the New Testament, are defensible ou the purest principles of reason, without sacrificing any one of its mysterious doctrines. There is no need that we should carry our candour and complaisance so far, to gain the approbation of any mau, or set of men whatever.

The mysterious doctrines of religion have caused some sceptical men to reject those scriptures in which they are contained; others have explained and retined thebi away. So, because the doctrines of religion liave been abused to superstition and folly, abundance of our fellow creatures, without due consideration, are disposed to cast off all religious whatever. Ill judging nen! that is buman nature, without religion? liow horrible the state of the world without religiou ! Le CICERO speak its importance to human happiness : Religione sublata, perturbatio vitæ sequitur, et inagna confusio. Atque haud scio, an pietate adversus Deos sublata, tides etiam te societas lumani generis, et ma excellentissima virtus, justitia, tollalur, De Nai. Deo. 1, 2.

How strongly has this been exemplified in the state of France for some years!

+ What is there should be some incomprehensible doctrines in the Christian religion; soine circumstances, which in their causes, or their consequences, pass the reach of human reason; are they to

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

us seem wrong and ill-contrived? Yet we own the world was created by God, and that he is the GOVERNOUR thereof. be rejected upon that account?—“ Weigh the matier fairly; and consider whether Revealed Religion be pot, in this respect, just upon the same footing, with every other object of your contemplation. Even in mathematics, the science of demonstration itself, though you get over its first principles, and learn to digest the idea of a point without parts, a line without breadth, and a surface with, out thickness, yet you will find yourselves at a loss to compreliend the perpetual approximation of lines, which can never meet; the doctrine of incommensurables, and of an infinity of infinities, each infinitely greater, or infinitely less, not only than. any tinite quantity, but than each other. 'In physics, you cannot comprehend the primary cause of any thing; nor of the light, by which you see; nor of the elasticity of the air, by which you hear; nor of the fire, by which you are warmed. In physiology, you cannot bell, what first gave motion to the heart; nor what continues it; nor why its motion is less voluntary, than that of the lungs, nor why you are able to move your arm, to the right or left, by a simple volition; you cannot explain the cause of animal heat; nor comprehend the principle, by which your body was at first forned, nor by which it is sụstained, nor by which it will be reduced to earth. In natural religion, you cannot comprehend the eternity or omnipresence of the DEITY; nor easily understand, how his prescience can be consistent with your freedom, or his immutability with his government of moral agents; nor why he did not make all his creatures equally perfect; nor why he did not create them sooner; in short, you cannot look into any branch of knowledge, but you will meet with subjects above your comprehension. The fall and the redemption of human kind are not more incompreheysible, than the creation and the conservation of the universe; the infinite Author of the works of providence, and of nature, is equally inscrutable, equally past our finding out in them both. And it is somewhat reiparkable, that the deepest inquirers into nature have ever thought with most reverence, and spoken with most diffidence concerning those things which, in revealed religion, may seem hard to be understood; they have ever avoided the self-sufficiency of knowledge, which springs from ignorance, produces indifference, and ends in Infidelity.

Plato mentions a set of nien, who were very ignorant, and thought themselves extremely wise; and who rejected the arguinent for the being of a GoD, derived from the harniony and order of the universe, as old and trite. There have been men, it seems, in all ages, who in affecting singularity, have overlooked truth : an argument, however, is not the worse for being old; and surely it would have been a more just mode of reasoning, if you had examined the external evidence for the tru h of Christianity, weighed the old arguments from miracles, and from prophecies, before you had rejected the whole account, from the difficulties

you

inet with in it. You would laugh at an Indian, who in peeping into a history of

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

CC

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

And why then shall we not allow that the Scriptures may be from God, notwithstanding these difficulties, and seening incongruities i Indeed, a revelation, which we could fully comprehend, would not appear the production of -an intivite mind : it would bear no resenublance to its heavenly author; and therefore we should have reason to suspect it spurious. It is extremely probable, that the three grand volumes of nature, providence, and grace, should all, in some respect or other, bear the stamp of their being derived from one England, and meeting with the niention of the Thames being frozeu, or of a shower of hail, or of snow, should throw the book aside, as unworthy of his further notice, from his want of ability to comprebend these phænomena."-Bishop WATSON'S Apology for Christianity.

The observations of this learned prelate, in his Apology for the Bible, are equally striking, p. 115.

You are favish in your praise of desim: it is so much better than atheisnı, that I mean not to say any thing to its discredit; it is not however without its difficulties. What think you of an uncaused cause of every thing? Of a being who has no relation to. time, not being older to-day than he was yesterday, nor younger, to-day than he will be to-morrow? who has no relation to space, not being a part here, or a part there, or a whole any where? What think

you of an onniscient being who cannot know the future actions of a inan? or if his omniscience enables him to know them, what think you of the contingency of human actions ? And if human actions are not contingent, what think you of the morality of actions, of the distinction between vice and virtue, crime and innocence, siu and duty? What think you of the infinite goodness of a being who existed through eternity, without any emanation of his goodness, manifested in the creation of sensitive beings? Or, if you contend that there has been an eternal creation, what' think you of an effect coæval with its cause, of matter not posterior to its Maker? What think you' of 'the existence of evil, moral, and natural in the work of an infinite being, powerful, wise, and good? What think you of the gift of freedom of will, when the abuse of freedom becomes the cause of general misery? I could propose to your consideration a great many other questions of a similar tendency, the contemplation of which has driven not a few from deism to atheism, just as the difficulties in revealed religion have driven yourself, and some others, from christianity to deism. For my own part, I can see no reason why' either revealed or natural religion should be abandoned, on account of the difficulties which attend either of them. I look up to the incomprehensible Maker of Heaven and earth with unspeakable admiration, and self-annibilătion, and am'a deist.--I contemplate, with the utmost gratitude and humility of mind, his unsearchable wisdom and goodness in the redemption of the world from eternal death, through the intervention of his Son Jesus Christ, and ani a christian."-EDITOR,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

source. Many things in the volumes of nature and providence far exceed our highest powers to comprehend *; it is not improbable, therefore, that the volume of divine grace should be under a similar predicament. What doth the wisest man upon earth know of the nature of God, but what the Scripture hath told him? Extremely little. It may be questioned whether we should have known any thing of him, had it not been for some original revelation.

“ If CHRIST was so necessary to the salvation of the world, why was he sent no sooner? Why, even according to your own account, were four thousand years suffered to elapse before the Sun of righteousness arose?”.

Very sufficient reasons may be given, and have a hundred times been given, for this wise delay. It may, however, be retorted, if Philosophy be medicinal to a foolish world, why were TAALES, Solon, PYTHAGORAS, Aristotle, ZENO, ANTONINUS, Seneca, and other ancient Heathens, born no soonet, but men suffered to continue so many ages in profound ignorance, little superior to the beasts that perish? Answer this with respect to them, and you are answered with respect to the MESSIAH. I add, moreover, CHRisT was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The efficacy of his death extends from the beginning to the end of time. He is an universal Saviour. When we any of us bet stow a favour upon a fellow-creature, we alone are to determine the time and circumstances of doing that favour.

“ If the Gospel, and our natural passionst, both come from one source, why doth the former oppose the latter:",

It is well known, that while the inferior powers of human nature assume dominion over the superior, no man can be happy. The intention of the Gospel is, therefore, not to

* The dispensations of Divine Providence are ably vindicated from the objectious of Sceptics and Infidels by Dr. SHERLOCK, in his valuable Treatise on that subject. The reader will also find a very pleasing paper in the Spectator to the same purport, which he would do well to consult. It is No. 237, in the third volume.

+ See a most reinarkable deliverance from the dominion of indulged and long continued lust, in the case of Colonel GARDINER). sect. 37, 38, of his Life by Dr. DODDRIDG É. Every man, who is living under the tyrannical dominion of his lusts, and wishes to obe tain deliverance, should not fail to consult this extraordinary emaneipation. Nothing is too hard for divine grace to accomplisha maombi

ссе

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »