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THE EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY.
1. How may the evidences authenticating the truth of Christianity be classified ?
They have been most commonly classified as, Ist. External, ie., Those evidences which accompanied the persons who acted as the organs of revelation and authenticated their claims, e.g., miracles and prophecy. 2d. Internal, i.e., Those evidences which are inherent in the divine message and in the inspired records thereof, such as may be decided without any reference to external sources of fact and testimony, e. 9., the moral perfection of the Christian system, the miraculous harmony of all the books, the supernatural intelligence they discover, the spiritual power of the truth, etc., etc.
Another classification, less common, but more exact, may be founded upon the distinction between the different principles of the human soul to which the several kinds of evidence are addressed. Thus, Ist. The rațional evidence, or that which presents itself to the rational faculties of man. This class embraces the evidence of history, miracles, prophecy, undesigned coincidences, general harmony of records, etc. 2d. The moral evidence, or that. which presents itself to the judgment of the moral sense. 3d. Spiritual evidence, or that which can be judged only by the spiritual man as the result of his personal experience of the power of these truths when spiritually discerned.
A third classification may be presented thus, 1st. These various sources of evidence theoretically considered, i. e., treated by the understanding as the basis of a theoretical judgment. 2d. That practical evidence which results from putting the principles of Christianity, its precepts and promises to the test of practical experience.
Without following either of these principles exclusively, I shall attempt to establish the following positions in the order.
1st. God and human nature, being what they are clearly known to be in the mere light of reason and experience, a special revelation from God to man is antecedently in the highest sense probable.
2d. The Old and New Testaments, whether the word of God or not, are, beyond question, both genuine and authentic historical records.
3d. The miracles alleged in evidence of the Christian religion are established as facts by abundant testimony, and when admitted as facts they invincibly demonstrate the religion they accompany to be from God.
4th. The same is true with regard to the prophesies contained in the Scriptures. The truth of Christianity is established also
5th. By the miraculous harmony of all the books, and by the other phenomena of supernatural knowledge which they present.
6th. By the character of the moral system they teach.
8th. By the spiritual power of Christianity, as testified in the religious experience of its individual subjects, and also by its wider influence over communities and nations in successive generations.
9th. By the history of its early successes.
2. How can it be proved that a supernatural revelation from God to man is antecedently probable ?
We have already exhibited the evidences derived from the evident traces of design in the creation, and from the no less evident character of that design in its relation to sensitive creatures, and from the phenomena of conscience, that God is infinitely intelligent, benevolent, and righteous. He not only provides for all the wants of his creatures as they occur, but he always adapts their condition and circumstances to the nature with which he has endowed them.
But the preëminent characteristics of man are: Ist. That he is a moral agent, and therefore needs a clearly revealed rule of duty. 2d. That he is essentially religious. Universal history proves the universality and supreme power of this principle in the human heart.
In a state of nature this craving after God uniformly reveals man's moral and religious darkness. Fear and uncertainty characterize every one of the thousand forms assumed by false religions, and the heart of man everywhere longs for light and certainty.-Acts xvii., 23.
The intelligence of God leads us to hope that he has adapted the means to the end, and that he will crown a religious nature with a supernatural religion.
The benevolence of God leads us to hope that he will relieve the grievous bewilderment and avert the danger of his creatures.
The righteousness of God leads us to hope that he will speak in distinct and authorative tones to the conscience.
Having already revealed himself in nature, though only sufficiently to stimulate us to uncertain and painful action, we may surely hope that by a second revelation he will lead us to certainty, if not to peace.
3. What two points are involved in the proposition, that the sacred Scriptures, whether the word of God or not, are yet unquestionably genuine and authentic historical records ?
1st. That the Old and New Testaments were written respectively by the several writers, and in the several ages which they themselves set forth, and that they have come down to us without material change.
2d. That these writers were honest and intelligent, men who proposed to themselves to write authentic history.
4. How can it be proved that these books were written by the authors, by whom, and at the times in which they respectively profess to have been written ?
The evidence establishing this fact in behalf of both Testaments is greater than that establishing the genuineness of all other ancient writings put together. This evidence is set forth at large under Chapter VI., on the Can'ın. They may be summarily indicated thus :
1st. These writings are in the precise language, dialect, and general style which are known to be proper to their professed authors and age.
2d. The Jews and Christians, who were cotemporaries of the authors of these books, received them as inspired, circulated them in all synagogues and churches, transcribed and preserved them with superstitious care.
3d. There remain to this day, among both Jews and Christians, those institutions and monuments the origin of which these records relate as part of their cotemporaneous history; the fact of the institution verifying, of course, both the credibility of the writings and the cotemporaneousness of their origin respectively with that of the institutions they describe.
4th. As to the Old Testament. The Pentateuch has been in the keeping of hostile parties, Jewish and Samaritan, since at least six or seven hundred years before Christ. The whole Old Testament has been in the custody both of Jews and Christians ever since the birth of Christ.
5th. The evidence borne by ancient versions.
6th. The testimony of Josephus and the Christian Fathers of the first three centuries, presented in their lists of the sacred books and numerous quotations from them.
5. How can it be proved that these writings contain authentic history?
1st. Leslie, in his “Short Method with the Deists,” sets down the four following marks as establishing, when they all meet together, beyond all doubt the truth of any matter of fact.
(1.) That the matter of fact be such that men's outward senses may be judges of it.
(2.) That it be done openly in the face of the world.
(3.) That not only public monuments be kept up in memory of it, but some outward action be performed.
(4.) That such monuments and such actions be instituted, and do commence from the time that the matter of fact was done.
All of these marks concur in establishing the truth of the most remarkable facts related in the inspired records, and consequently in confirming their truth as a whole. These monuments and actions are such as follows : The weekly Sabbath, circumcision, the passover, the yearly feasts, the Aaronic priesthood, the temple and its services, baptism, the Lord's supper, and the Christian ministry. These must date from the facts they commemorate, and prove that the cotemporaries of those facts, and every generation of their descendants since, have believed the history to be authentic
2d. Many of the principal facts are corroborated by nearly co-. temporary infidel writers, as Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny, etc.
3d. Many of the facts of the gospel history are corroborated by, it is said, as many as fifty Christian authors of the first four centuries.-Angus' Bible Handbook, page 85.
4th. The sacred historians are perfectly accurate whenever they allude to any facts of cotemporaneous profane history, e. g., Luke ii., 1, etc.--See. Conybeare and Howson's Life of St. Paul.
5th. The character of the writers. (1.) They were honest a because their doctrine was holy—bad men never would have taught such a code, good men would not wilfully deceive ; b, because both prophets and apostles sealed their testimony by their sufferings and death ; and c because of their evident candor in narrating many things to their own disadvantage, personally, and apparently inimical to the interests of their cause.—See Paley's Evidences, Part II. (2.) They were not fanatics, because the modesty and moderation of their words and actions is as manifest as their zeal.
6th. There exists the most accurate agreement between the several historical books, as to matters of fact, and such subtle coincidences as to details between narratives widely differing in form and purpose, that all suspicion of fraud is rendered impossible.See Paley's Horæ Pauline and Blunt's Undesigned Coincidences.
7th. All of their geographical and local allusions and references to the customs of ancient nations are verified by modern research.
6. What is a miracle, and how are such events designated in Scripture ?
A miracle is an act of God, the physical effect of which is visible and evidently incapable of being rationally assigned to any natural cause, designed as a sign authenticating the divine mission of some religious teacher.
These are called, therefore, in the New Testament sometimes, ipya, works, John v., 36 ; vii., 21 ; sometimes, onuecov, a sign, Mark xvi., 20; sometimes, dvvápens, translated in our version, wonderful works, Matthew vii., 22, and mighty works, Matthew