« PreviousContinue »
superior to all that was known among men. These are considerations which ought to have much weight with every man against the poison of that virulent Deist's publication, and may be had at the very moderate price of One Shilling.
With this may be coinpared the fine account that Rousseau bas given us of the Gospel, which is the more remarkable, as it is from the pen
of an enemy " I will confess to you,” says he, “ that the majesty of the Scriptures strikes me with admiration, as the purity of the Gospel hath its influence on my heart. Peruse the works of our philosophers with all their pomp of diction : bow mean, how contemptible are they, compared with the Scripture! Is it possible that a book, at once so simple and sublime, should be merely the work of man? Is it possible that the sacred personage, whose history it contains, should be himself a mere man? Do we find that he assumed the tone of an enthusiast or ambitious sectary? What sweetness, what purity in his manner? What an affecting gracefulness in his delivery? What sublimity in his maxims ? What profound wisdom in his discourses! What presence of mind,'wbat subtilty, what' truth in his replies! How great the command over his passions! Where is the man, where the philosopher, who could so live, and so die, without weakness, and without ostentation? When Plato described his inaginary good man, loaded with all the shame of guilt, yet meriting the highest rewards of virtue, be describes exactly the character of JESUS CHRIST: the resemblance was so striking, that all the Fathers perceived it.
“ What prepossession, what blindness must it be, to compare the son of SOPHRONICUS to the son of MARY? What an intinite disproportion there is between them ? SOCRATES, dying without pain or ignorniny, easily supported his character to the last; and if his death, however easy, had not crowned his life, it might have been doubted whether SOCRATES, with all his wisdom, was any thing more than a vain .sophist. He invented, it is said, the theory of morals. Others, however, had before put them in practice; he had only to say therefore what they had done, and to reduce their examples to precepts. ARISTIDES bad been just before SOCRATÈS defining justice; LEONIDAS had given up his life for his country before SOCRATES declared patriotism to be a duty; the Spartans were a sober people before SocRATEs recommended sobriety; before bie had even defined virtue Greece abounded in virtuous wen. But where could JESUS learn, among his competitors, that pure and sublime morality, of which he only hath given us both precept and example. The greatest wisdom was made known among the most bigoted fanaticism, and the simplicity of the most heroic virtues did honour to the vilest people upon earth. The death of SOCRATES, peaceably philosophizing with bis friends, appears the most agreeable that could be wished for; that of Jesus expiring in the midst of agonizing pains, abused, insulted, and accsued by a whole nation, is the most horrible that could be feared. SOCRATES in receiving the cup of poison, blessed indeed the weeping executioner who ad
who calls himself a Philosopher, and wishes to be determined in his judgment only by the reason and nature of things *
" But, is it possible, any reasonable map should be so weak as to suppose the book, called the Bible, can be the Word of God?"
No intelligent Christian will distinguish it by that name, without a large restriction of its contents. All we assert respecting it, is, that it is a collection of writings, containing a history of the divine dispensations to our world, and that the proper Word 4 of God, with numberless other particulars, is interwoven all the way through these most ancient and invaluable writngs.
“ Is it to be conceived by any man, who hath the least pretension to common sense, that the several simple relations recorded in the books of Moses, JOSHUA, JUDGES, and those which follow, can be founded in truth?" ministered it; but Jesus, in the unidst of excruciating tortures, prayed for his merciless tormentors. Yes, if the life and death of SOCRATES were those of a sage, the lite and death of Jesus are those of a God. Shall we suppose tie evangelic history a mere fiction? Indeed, my friend, it bears not the marks of fiction; on the contrary, the history of SocRATEs, which molody prestmies to doubt, is not so well attested as that of JESUS CHRIST. Such a supposition, in fact, only shifts the difficulty without obviating it; it is more inconceivable that a number of persons should agree to write such
a history, than that one only should furnish the subject of it. The Jewish authors were incapable of the diction, and strangers to the morality contained in the Gospel, the marks of whose truth are so striking and inimitable, that the inventor would be a more astonishing character than a hero."--Emilius.
* It is truly remarkable, and highly satisfactory to the serious Christian, that all modern discoveries are so far from proving unfavourable to the truth of the Sacred Writings, that they strongly tend to the illustration and confirmation of them. All
and travels, into the East especially, are particularly usefnl in this point of view. BROCE's Travels throw light upon many biblical cireumistances. MAURICE's Indian Antiquities, and History of Hindostan, are singularly valuable. HARMER's Observations on divers passages of Scripture is a work superior to every thing of the kind, as it contains a selection, from a variety of voyages and travels, of such circumstances as have a tendency to illustrate the meaning of a large number of obscure passages in the Sacred Writings. (A new edition of this work is just published, with numerous additions, by Dr. ADAM CLARKE.]
+ See this matter set in a very proper light in the fourth Letter of Bishop Watson's Apology for the Bible.
Most of our unisapprehensions of this kind arose from not duly considering the infant state of the world, the progressive nature of civil society, and the different viapners of the several ages and countries of the earth. The customs of the eastern nations, where the Bible was originally written, were then, and, indeed, are at this day, extremely different from our own, almost as inuch so as between the manners of the inhabitants of the south-sea islands, and those of this country. And while we are wondering at the simplicity of their customs, they are entertaining theinselves with the novelty of ours *.
“ But then, what occasion was there for a Mediator? Is not God the wise and good parent of all his creatures? and cannot he pardon our offences, and make us happy in the future state, without the interposition of any other being whatever?”
What God can do, what he hath done, and what he will do, are very different considerations. If it were equally consistent with his wisdom and goodness to save mankind with out a Mediator, we may be assured it would have been done. But as the Divine Being hath thought proper to institute the mediatorial scheme, we may be assured there are the best reasons for the appointinent; though we may be incapable of discovering, and even comprehending, what all those reasons are. Indeed, even in this state, few of the blessings of Providence are conveyed to us, except by the intervention of mediators. The whole plan of the world is carried forward by the assistance of others. How many mediators
* This objection is well answered in the first Letter of Bishop WATSON'S Apology.
The characier of Moses and his writings is very amply and satisfactorily vindicated from all the usual objections of Infidels in the first of Bishop Newton's Dissertations on some parts of the Old Testament. Little more either need or can be added to what this learned man hath advanced. If the reader is disposed, he may add GRAY's Key to the Old Testament. After reacling such autbors, it is scarcely possible to avoid entertaining an opimion extremely con. temptible of THOMAS PAINE.
Mr. HERVEY's Remarks on Lord BOLINGBROKK's Letters on the Study and Use of tlistory contain many pious and satisfactory observations on the History of the Old Testament, especially on the writings of Moses.
must there be, before we can be supplied with our daily bread *?
“ If a revelation must be made to mankind, why was it delivered in the historic form? Why was it not rather given in some set and regular composition, worthy of its author"
The reason of this must be resolved into divine wisdom. He, that best knew the nature of man, chose this method in preference to every other; and there is no reason to question, but that the variety of compositions, of which the Bible is formed, is much better adapted to the circumstances of the great bulk of mankind, than any set and regular discourse in the didactic forin.
“ The books of Moses are thought by many to have been written some ayes after his time I?”
The authenticity of these books is unquestionable, and bas been amply viudicated by men every way furnished for the enquiry &.
* See SOAME JENYNG's View of the internal. Evidence of the Christian Religion, and Butler's Analogy, passim, where the doctrine of the mediatorship of MESSIAH is considered at large, with unanswerable evidence.
# Let the reader consult Mr. WAKEFIELD's Evidence of Christienity, where he will find a number of remarks well adapted to display the excellence, recommend the purity, illustrate the character, and evince the authenticity of the Christian religion. See too CoBBOLD's Essay on the Historic form of Scripture.
| LE CLERC was of this opinion in his younger days; but after more readirg and a better informed judgment, he changed his mind, and wrote in defence of ibeir genuineness and authenticity.
The first, and truly original historians," says another learned Tilall, “ are those of the Hebrew Scriptures. The sacred writers, to the unequalled dignity of their subject, unite a majestic simplicity and perspicuity of stile and narration. Moses, tbe most ancient, is the most perfect of liistorians. His stile is copious, even, and clear. Like a deep river, he bears his reader with a calm and majestic course. It was his purpose, to give a body of laws, as well as a thread of history; and by interweaving them together, he bas authenticated both: for it is impossible to forge the civil and religious policy of a great nation.”
The ingenious reader will find much entertainment and instruction, and various difficulties obviated, in BRYANT's Observation on the Plagues of Egypt.
See PRIDEAUX's Connection, b. 6; KIDDER'S Commentary on the Books of Moses ; Witsii Miscellania Sacra ; MARSH's Dise course on the Authenticity of those Books, and Du Pin's Bibliotheca.
“ Though some parts of the books of Moses are written with great beauty and simplicity; yet many of his laws are trifling, and unworthy of a great legislator?"
This objection arises from a want of due attention to the state of the people, for whom those laws were enacted. When the circumstances of the Jews are properly considered, the Mosaic institutions will appear to be adapted with the most consummate propriety to those circumstancest. It is extremely hard that the Bible should be made accountable for our ignorance.
“ The character and conduct of David, who is called a man after God's own heart, can never be defended by any person who has the least regard to truth and moral excellency?"
It is not the business of these papers to enter into a minute defence of all those parts of the Bible, which may seem objectionable. The character of David, however, stands high in our estimation, except in the case of Uriah; and as it has been virulently attacked by some considerable men, so it has heen no less ably defended. And to such defence, we beg leave to refer those readers who find themselves concerned +
+ Consult LOWMAN's Dissertation on the civil Government of the HEBREWS, und Dr. RANDOLPH's Excellency of the Jewish Luw vindicated. See too Forbes's Thoughts on Religion.
DELANY's Historical Account of the Life and Reign of DAVID is valuable.-Bishop Porteus's Sermon on the Character of DAVID abounds with just remarks.--But CHANDLER’s Critical History of the Life of DAVID enters at large into the subject, and is particularly satisfactory.. Another learned man says :
• If we consider DAVID, in the great variety of his fine qualifications; the ornaments of his person, and the far more illustrious endowments of bis mind; the surprising revolutions in bis fortune; sometimes reduced to the lowest ebb of adversity; sometiines riding upon the highest tide of prosperity;- his singular dexterity in extricating himself from difficulties, and peculiar felicity in accommodating hiúself to all circumstances;-—the prizes he won, as a youthful champion; and the victories he gained, as an experienced general; his masterly hand upon the barp, and his inimitable talent for poetry; - the admirable regulations of his royal government, and the incoinparable usefulness of his public writings ;---the depth of his repentance, and the height of his devotion ;-the vigour of his faith in the divine promises, and the ardour of his love to the divine MAJESTY: -If we consider these, with several other marks of honour and grace, which ennoble the history of his life ; we still see such an