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a character have appeared. And what is still more injurious to the cause of religion, some of these in every age have been preachers of the gospel, from Judas, one of the twelve, in a long list of ministers, to the day in which we live.
By such abominable deeds a bad cause would have been utterly ruined; but Christianity has remained unshaken. Persons who wanted an excuse for rejecting the gospel have found it here, and those who would not be at the pains to examine its claims, have thought themselves justified in disowning its authority. But Christians, though grieved beyond measure at these scenes of iniquity, went on unmoved in their way to heaven. The converts, too, of the profligate or hypocritical preachers, while they beheld the man by whose ministry they were brought to the knowledge of the truth, plunged in the mire of sin, or renouncing the Christian doctrine, continued stedfast in the profession of the faith, and in purity of heart and life. Nor will this appear strange to those who consider that the faith of those converts was founded not on the wisdom or goodness of men, but on the truth and power of God; and that they had been taught from his unerring word, that in every age
offences must needs come, and that the Son of man would be betrayed by Judases with a kiss.
Let the cause of the stability and prosperity of the Christian religion, in spite of the weakness and wickedness of some of its professed friends and ministers, be examined by the deist; for it merits a careful examination. The result will be the display of the intrinsic goodness and internal energy of the gospel; and its independence of every thing but its own excellence and the power of the Holy Ghost.
OBJECTIONS AGAINST THE DIVINE AUTHORITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
When a religion professes itself to be necessary to eternal happiness, and demands our consideration, the serious inquirer will desire to have a view of the evidence by which it is supported. If the arguments are satisfactory, he will regard it as entitled to his reception. But this is not the mode usually adopted by those who reject the gospel. They in general begin by raising difficulties and starting objections; and because these cannot be easily solved, they think themselves justified in rejecting the whole,
But this will not, on mature deliberation, be found so rational a conduct as they imagine. Even though it were impossible to answer objections which may be brought forward, the subject may nevertheless have such a weight of evidence in its support, as to insure a general reception, and a firm belief of its truth. A dangerous mistake has found an entrance into the minds of many; they lay it down as an axiom, that if objections which its advocates are unable to solve can be urged against a doctrine, they are warranted to brand the whole
system with falsehood. The establishment of such a rule of judging would destroy the credibility of almost every science. In direct opposition to its authority, they will find that a system or a doctrine may have such force of argument in its favour, that no man of discernment and candour can withhold his assent; when, at the same time, objections may be urged which it is not in the power of any one fully to answer. Whoever takes pains to survey the circle of the sciences, will perceive that there is not one to which difficulties are not attached, and against which objections may not be raised. With regard to the New Testament, this may be expected to be the case in a still greater degree. The subjects on which it treats are of the most exalted kind; and they are connected with things above our comprehension, or revealed
but in part, or entirely veiled. From these and other sources which might be mentioned, how many objections may be raised! But those who profess the principles of natural religion are involved in similar difficulties; and must throw it away as well as the gospel, if a full and satisfactory answer to every objection be essential to their belief; so that the deist is, in this respect, more nearly on a level with the Christian than he was aware.
These remarks are not designed to serve as an apology for declining to answer the objections of deists to the Christian religion, but to impress their minds with this important truth, that for a system to be false, and for a system to have difficulties in some of its parts which we cannot resolve, are two different things. So fully are men convinced of this, that there are doctrines which, if a person did not believe, he would be accounted mad; while there are difficulties respecting them which the wisest of the human race cannot resolve. Under the influence of this sentiment let the evidences of Christianity be weighed: then let the objections be brought forth in order; and it will be seen that they are not so formidable as to shake the foundations of the religion of Jesus. Some of them evidently spring from mistake and error; some from the form of the book, which was composed by men of other times, and manners, and customs; and some from the nature of the subject. Were it impossible to answer them, there still remains sufficient evidence for the truth of Christianity; but it is hoped that such things may be suggested to abate their force as will lead impartial men to conclude, that, if the gospel has sufficient evidence to confirm it, the objections have not such a degree of weight as should influence any to reject its divine authority.
Objection. If we must examine one religion in order to discover its divine
origin, it is reasonable that we should examine all, and weigh their evidence: and this is so tedious as well as arduous a task, chat our lives will be at an end before it can be accomplished.”
This is not so difficult a work as may be at first imagined. The thing wanted is a universal religion, given and designed for the benefit of all mankind. Paganism never, in any one form, laid claim to be the universal religion. The Jewish dispensation was designed peculiarly for one nation, and only for a season, till the Messiah should appear. Mohammedanism alone remains in competition with the gospel. Compare the two, and examine their respective evidences. As for external proofs, the religion of Mohammed has none.
No predictions announced his coming; nor did he work one miracle to prove that he was a teacher sent from God. So far was he from being able to foretel future events, that in hundreds of instances he shows himself ignorant of the past. Instead of imitating Jesus, who gave his life for the sheep, he sheds the blood of others in abundance for the establishment of his own dominion. The Jewish religion contained many discoveries concerning God; the Christian religion had made ample additions to the list. Mohammed, while he acknowledges both to be from heaven, professes to bring us a new revelation; but it has nothing in it that is new; it contains not one valuable truth concerning the divine government, or, in short, on any religious subject, which was not known before. Will such a system stand the test? What is its use? Let it be placed by the side of the gospel, and let reason judge. The comparison has been drawn by a masterly hand : what the result is, observe, and decide. It runs thus:
“ With respect to this instance, I persuade myself it can be no very distracting study to find reasons to determine our choice. Go to your natural religion; lay before her Mohammed and his disciples arrayed in arm ur and in blood, riding in triumph over the spoils of thousands and tens of thousands who fell by his victorious sword; show her the cities which he set in flames, the countries which he ravaged and destroyed, and the miserable distress of all the inhabitants of the earth. When she has viewed him in this scene, carry her into his retirements; show her the prophet's chamber, his concubines and wives; let her see his adultery, and hear him allege revelation and his divine commission to justify his lust and his oppression. When she is tired with this prospect, then show her the blessed Jesus, humble and meek, doing good to all the sons of men, patiently instructing both the ignorant and the perverse. Let her see him in his most retired privacies; let her follow him to the mount, and hear his devotions and supplications to God. Carry her to his table to view his poor fare, and hear his heavenly discourse. Let her see him injured, but not provoked; let her attend him to the tribunal, and consider the patience with which he endured the scoffs and reproaches of his enemies. Lead her to his cross; and let her view him in the agony of death, and hear his last prayer for his persecutors : Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'
“ When natural religion has viewed both, ask which is the prophet of God? But her answer we have already heard; when she saw part of this scene through the
of the centurion who attended at the cross; by him she spake and said, • Truly this man was the Son of God.”” — Sherlock's Disc. Vol. i. Serm. 9.
Objection. Christianity generates a timid passive spirit, and is not cal.
culated for forming great characters, or producing men who will prove eminent benefactors to mankind.”
Force is not one of the engines of the gospel; and to bring about a measure, however commendable, by doing injury to others, it expressly forbids. But while it discourages and condemns all kinds of violence in the disciples of Jesus, it inculcates and actually produces the most energetic dispositions and conduct. Active benevolence, springing from love to God and man, is the very spirit of the gospel. To promote men's present, and especially their eternal happiness, is one of the Christian's great employments; and he is to spare neither labour nor suffering in order to accomplish this end. Christ and his apostles understood the maxims of the gospel, and they acted upon them; they laboured, and they travelled, they endured hunger and thirst, and they suffered the greatest evils, in order to do men good. With how bad a grace then is the objection of a passive spirit adduced !
The accusation of timidity is equally groundless. Christianity forms men of a singular cast, some would say, of singular courage. It teaches them to be afraid of offending God and doing injury to man; but it labours to render them
superior every other fear. They must carry on a constant war against evil; but “the weapons of their warfare are not carnal." Was it a timid character which Christ designed to form, when he sent his disciples through all the world to propagate his religion? They were to penetrate into every country; they were to address men of every nation, and tongue, and language; they were to expose themselves to hunger and nakedness, to ridicule and insult, to persecution and death. None of these things must deter them; they must be daily speaking the word of life, however it may be received, and to whatever dangers it may expose them. They must hazard all for the propagation of truth and righteousness in the world.