Images de page

reasoning from cause and effect, and reduced the world to general scepticism. Indeed nothing could have been more pleasing to the friends of religion, than to have seen an answer from either Hume or Gibbon to their opponents, and it is hard to conceive how any

book could have done as much good to the cause of Christianity, as such answers from such men would have done. Suppose for a moment that Gibbon had replied to Watson. A ter all the facts were set right, and the misrepresentations cleared away, what would have become of five secondary causes? Or how would Mr. Hume, after Campbell's comments, have maintained his distinction between a contrary experience and a different experience, as in the case of the king of Siam?-a distinction of vital importance to his whole cause. Indeed the true reason why the infidel dislikes to come a second time to the contest, is, that the princ pal strength and plausibility of his book consists in the coloring of his facts. The Christian controversy, embracing a wide field of history, affords ample scope for such coloring, but when that coloring is brought to the proper test, the whole cause is exhausted.

It would illustrate the weakness of the infidel cause, could we give a history of the controversy, and of the arguments produced in opposition to Christianity, from our Saviour's time to the present day. The unbelieving Jews opposed Christianity, because they thought it would overturn the authority of Moses. Modern infidels can see that the Christian dispensation gives the best confirmation to that of Moses, and that the two dispensations must stand or fall together. For three hundred years after the resurrection of Christ, infidels never attempted to deny the miracles of the New Testament, but asserted that they had miracles also in favor of heathenism. No unbeliever would now think of supporting himself on that ground. The silversmith at Ephesus, charged Paul with preaching the doctrine, that those things which were made with hands were no gods. This proved a most popular argument, and threw the whole city into commotion. Such an argument would have little weight in a large city in the present day.

Such are the varying grounds on which our religion has been opposed; and such the arguments on which infidels of former days ventured the salvation of their souls. The souls ventured on this ground are now lost forever, and the time will come, when the infidel arguments of the present day, will not be considered as a whit safer than those which have heretofore occasioned so much ruin. There is one circumstance which throws more than suspicion on the whole infidel cause;-it is built on principles directly the reverse of those which govern human na. ture. The infidel tells us that a revelation is so wonderful, that human testimony cannot make it credible. History informs us that the whole heathen world lived under the belief, that God was making communications of his will every day, and that wise men were discovering those communications. It was this belief, and nothing else, which gave the soothsayer and the oracle, the power of stopping the march of armies, and controling the affairs of the world. The infidel may say, this was a superstitious belief. I answer, it was the belief of human nature, and of that very human nature which they are now attempting to fortify against the threatenings of the word of God. This proneness to believe in communications from heaven, is a principle which the infidel cannot eradicate, even from his own bosom, and which, in spite of his pride, makes him tremble on the verge of the grave.

There is another class of men, to whom the declaration of the text may be applied,-men who do not call themselves infidels, but whom we cannot consider as Christians, and who appear to be as remote from peace, as any errorists in the world. These are the Unitarians. The Unitarian appears to me to place himself on a more precarious ground, and in a situation more liable to disturbance, than even the infidel himself; for, after the bible is admitted to be the word of God, I think it more difficult to main. tain the Unitarian hypothesis, with any thing like a common sense consistency, than to maintain any other error.

The Unitarian admits the bible to be a divine revelation. This at once excites expeciation. A revelation supposes mira. cles;--miracles are a violation of the laws of nature, and God would not disturb the order of the universe, to make a revelation to man, unless something very important was to be communicated. Curiosity, or even anxiety, is here worked up to the highest pitch-man is about to receive an important communi. cation from his Maker. But all this expectation is raised to be disappointed; for as soon as the Unitarian applies his rules of interpretation to the bible, it becomes a revelation which reveals nothing. I hesitate not to say, that those rules of interpretation which can expunge the divinity of our Saviour from the bible, can expunge from it any other truth. Let such rules of inter pretation be once admitted, and we can give any meaning, or no meaning at all, to that book, or 10 any other book, just as it suits our pleasure. The orthodox have shown, with the fullest etrie

dence, that the Scriptures have given to our Saviour the name of God in its fullest and most awful sense, even in that sense in which it implies self-existence, and in which therefore it cannot be coinmunicated to any creature. The Scriptures also give him all the attributes of God;--all the works of God, even the creation of the world, and the management of the last judgment; and also the worship of God. Now if we have any understand. ing of any thing, that being who has all the names all the ato tributes--all the works, and all the worship of God, must be God. We are supposed to have the knowledge of God, before we receive a revelation from him. But how do we get that knowledge! Paul tells us, it is from the works of creation; he that built all things is God. But our Saviour made all things, therefore he is God. Now after what the bible has said in set ting forth the divinity of Jesus Christ, if that divinity can be expunged from the bible, then any other truth can be expunged from the bible. Dr. Priestly says, that the New Testament, and the mission of our Saviour, were intended to reveal the resur. rection of the body. I have no doubt the resurrection is plainly taught in the New Testament, and yet I have as little doubt, that Hymeneus and Philetus, when they denied the resurrection, could support themselves by as good arguments as the Unitarians can, in denying the divinity of our Saviour. Indeed, it would seem that the arguments and mode of reasoning in both cases were the same:---they consisted in resolving into a figure, every thing which they did not choose to understand in



But here is another difficult matter for the Unitarian to account for. They suppose that the notion of our Saviour's divinity, first arose from a blunder of the orthodox party, in understanding literally what they ought to have taken figura. tively. But then the matter did not stop here; for by taking other things literally, which the Unitarians consider as figures, they have formed a whole system of doctrines, all the parts of which must stand or fall together. For the doctrines of the atonement, human depravity, regeneration, and in fact, the whole orthodox system, according to Unitarians, has come out in the "same way, by understanding literally what ought to be considered as figures. And, what is certainly more wonderful than all the rest, is, that Dr. Priestly, and other Unitarians of high standing, have confessed, that this system, which arose from a continual tissue of blunders, has been found more efficient in promoting sound morals and genuine piety, than what they call the true doctrines of the Scriptyres. Now this is certainly, too wonderful for belief. To promote good morals and piety, was certainly the design of God, in giving a revelation. And can these men suppose, that the Divine Being would have failed of his design in some degree, had not the blundering of the orthodox made the system more effectual for the divine purpose than was originally intended? All this is deduced by fair inference from the Unitarian scheme; but to believe a scheme which authorizes such consequences is evidently a matter of some difficulty.

But perhaps it may be said that the infidel or Unitarian, in rejecting the entire Bible, or its leading doctrines, as not supported by sufficient evidence, is acting on the same principle on which we reject Mohammedanism. But the cases are materially different. We receive the bible as an authenticated revelation, which, as such, will set aside the pretensions of every religion supported by inferior evidence. And this, it appears to me, is the only mode of deciding the question of a divine revelation, consistently with the tranquillity of the human mind. That readiness with which mankind naturally receive supposed communications from the Deity, as manifested by the experience of the whole heathen world, must prove that God formed man for religious direction, and intended to give him a revelation.

If infinite wisdom was concerned in the formation of man at first, that proneness on the part of man to receive a revelation, makes it more than probable that a true revelation is somewhere to be found. And as the evidence of the bible is incontestibly superior to that of any other system, we can then rely on the bible to silence the claims of every imposture, as well as to direct us to future happiness. And this I conceive to be the safest mode of deciding the question of a divine revelation. The Christian believes that if mankind would act on the plan of examining all the religions in the world, and choosing the best: the whole world would soon settle down upon the Christian faith. The infidel must believe, that if mankind should honestly examine all the religions in the world, they would as honestly reject them all. On this point, the suffrage of human nature is against the infidel; for all nations have chosen some religion, and all enlightened nations have chosen religions supposed to be founded on some form of divine revelation. And for my part, when I behold the avidity with which the most enlightened nations of the heathen world, received the pretended communications of oracles and diviners, I feel convinced that if man was not made to receive a revelation from his Maker, he was made to be the sport of superstition, and to live and die without peace.

But there is another difference between our rejection of Moham. medanism, and the infidel's rejection of the bible. Mohammed makes no important addition to what the light of nature teaches. On the other hand, the bible not only confirms all that is taught by the light of nature, but supplies those things in which the light of nature, as a religion for fallen inan, is evidently deficient. The light of nature was the religion of man in a state of innocence: in a fallen state, man must have a revelation to teach him the certainty, and the manner of obtaining the pardon of sin. By rejecting the bible, therefore, ihe infidel rejects the only rational hope for a sinner, and throws himself into a state of darkness and fearful anticipation. The common notions of mankind respecting religion will still remain. The inevitable distinction between right and wrong, and that instinctive something which naturally arises in the human mind-takes hold of a moral government, and points man to a judgment to come, will give dreadful annoyance to a mind not supported by the hopes of the gospel.

How unavailing, then, for the infidel to prove, even if he could prove it, that we have not sufficient evidence to believe the bible. If we had not sufficient evidence for the bible, yet all would be dark without the Bible. If we had not sufficient evidence for the bible, still the worst things threatened in the bible, are also threatened by the light of nature, and the bible presents the only hope of escape. But the mere circumstance of insufficient evidence, is a bad cure for the stings of conscience, as many an infidel has found on a death-bed. Thousands of things are true of which man has no sufficient evidence. The most dreadful things are coming on the world every day, of which the world had no evidence until they did come. And suppose, for the sake of argument, that we had no sufficient evidence for the truth of the bible, yet the judgment, the heaven, the hell, the lake of fire, and the never-dying worm of the bible, might all be solemn truths. If an inhabitant of one of our large cities, at a distance from home, should hear a report that the pestilence which now alarms our country, had invaded the place of his residence, he might trace the report and find it destitute of evidence; but that would not remove his apprehensions; for notwithstanding that want of evidence, the pestilence might be in the neighborhood, and in the dwelling of his family.

[ocr errors]

But this pestilence itself refutes the infidel. It is a novel de stroyer of the human race. It pays no respect to seasons or

« PrécédentContinuer »