Page images
[ocr errors]

among other nations, and was not of the family of Abraham. Thus, also, what he relates of Abimelech, that he had feared God; and of Balaam, that he had received the gift of prophecy, though he had daily conversed with idolatrous nations, was equally repugnant to his prejudices. So again, Moses was a firm believer, and an unequivocal assertor, of the unity of God. How is this reconcileable with Gen. iii. 22; xviii. 17–20; Gen. xiv. xvii. xviii. xxviii. xxxi. xlv. xlix? with Exod. iii. 1, 2, 14; v.3; vi. 2, 3, &c. ? Jehovah is confounded with an angel; a man is called Jehovah; creatures are invested with the attributes of the Creator of the uni. verse; and this, in the writings of Moses, a man of great natural talents, enriched with all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and whose great design was to excite the Israelites to glorify God, nor ever give his glory to another.” Much that was said by Joshua and others is equally repugnant to all their opinions and prejudices: would they, could they, have thus run counter to themselves, but in consequence of an irresistible superior influence?

Then, 3dly. Not to dwell upon the repugnancies between the belief of the Jewish prophets, as to the Israelites being God's peculiar people, and their reiterated predictions of the kingdom of the Messiah, and the universal diffusion of divine truth and knowledge; let the attention be simply directed to a few predictions comprised in the Pentateuch. How, but in virtue of inspiration, properly so called, could it be announced in the time of Moses, nay, by Moses (for to ascribe his books to any other author is the refinement of absurdity), that God would raise a strange nation against the Jews, that they should be dispersed among other people, who should seduce them to idolatry during their captivity, that their cities should be razed to the ground, that in the extremity of famine some of them should feed upon their own children: but that they should be converted to God, and that God would then bring back the captives of Israel, and gather them from among other people? All these particulars, with others which I do not now enumerate, are announced, as you will recollect, in one book, that of Deuteronomy. I should quite despair of bringing any arguments to bear upon the mind, which is proof against the considerations to which I have thus adverted.

Here, then, may safely terminate our inquiry into the inspiration of Scripture. We have ascertained that it is the Word of God : and, if we read it attentively, we shall soon find it profitable " for doctrine, for in

. struction, for reproof." Let us, therefore, my friend, believe and rejoice “ that the grace of God which bringeth salvation hath thus appeared to all men; to the end that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godlily, in the present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ 23.”


LETTER XI. On some of the most plausible Objections urged against the

Truth and Divine Authority of the Scriptures. It has been my object, in the preceding letters, to convince you that the collection of writings received by Christians as sacred and authoritative, are indeed genuine, authentic, and inspired. I shall be happy if this great object be obtained. At all events, I trust I have shown that the Christian religion has the strongest probability in its favour; and, if ihat be the case, you will at once see that the rejection of it is the height of folly. In the economy of human life we act almost entirely upon probabilities; and in most instances, I believe it will be found that the more important the tendency or the result of a particular action or series of actions may be, the slighter need be the preponderance of probability to determine our adopting it. It is probable, for example, that we may be heirs at law to a

23 Tit. ii, 11-13.


valuable estate: therefore we examine into the legal instruments which ascertain our title to such estate. It is probable a particular line of conduct will be successful: therefore we pursue it. It is probable a certain commercial speculation will be productive: therefore we put it in practice. It is probable a certain regimen will be highly injurious to our health : therefore we abandon it. It is probable a particular medicine will be beneficial to the constitution: therefore we have recourse to it. It is probable the house we inhabit will fall: therefore we quit it. And thus it might be shown in a variety of other instances, that where there appears a presumption however low on one side of an inquiry, and none on the other,—where there appears a preponderancy however slight in favour of one side,-ibis de termines the point, even in matters of speculation, and usually impels to action in matters of practice. But alas! this wise and prudential rule of conduct is only applied generally in regard to the things of the present world: for although it is probable, nay, infinitely probable, that the Christian religion is true, that the evils against which we are warned in the Bible will be our portion unless we “flee from the wrath to come,” that ihe ineffable and interminable happiness it promises believers may be ours, unless we thoughtlessly or contemptuously spurn it from us; yet, in direct opposition to the conduct discreet persons adopt in every other concern, men disbelieve the evidence, despise the warnings, laugh at the threatenings, reject the blessings, held out to them in the Scriptures, go through life wrapped in an impenetrable insensibility to eternal things; and at death "rush upon the thick bosses of God's buckler,” and plunge naked into“ fierceness and darkness," instead of bathing in those perennial" rivers of pleasure” which flow from the throne of God, and to which the condescending Deity had invited them!

We do not deny that the scheme of revelation has its difficulties : for if the things of nature are often difficult to comprehend, it would be strange indeed if

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


supernatural matters were so simple, and obvious, and suited to finite capacities, as never to startle or puzzle us at all. Origen remarked, with his usual sagacity, that “ he who believes the Scripture to have proceeded from him who is the Author of Nature, may well expect to find the same sort of difficulties in it as are found in the constitution of nature:” and this obviously suggests the reflection, that he, who denies the Bible to have come from God on account of these difficulties, may, for exactly the same reason, deny that the world was formed by him. Indeed the Bible could not have been, as many declarations included in it show it to be, -a touchstone by which to try men's honest dispositions', were it so free from difficulties that every man's faith would be inevitably excited on the perusal.

To reject Christianity, therefore, on account of its difficulties, is unreasonable: because it is to reject it for possessing what its own writings declare to be essential to its nature and purpose: and to proceed by way of objections drawn from these difficulties is unfair; because it is walking in a path in which a man can never be stopped unless he please, and in which, though he travel for ever, it is impossible he can arrive at truth and certainty. Let him propose a thousand objections in succession, and suppose nine hundred and ninetynine of them to be answered satisfactorily; still the one which he retains, and which he supposes to be unanswerable, because he has not received an answer to it, will be deemed a sufficient plea to justify his continuing incredulous. He will boast of this single objection, though probably the point to which it relates may be one which it is impossible for us to place in a proper light, unless we could see and know as God does.

Many and painful are the researches usually neces sary to be made for settling points of this kind. Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines,

"Ut ita sermo evangelii tanquam lapis esset Lydius ad quem ingenia sanabilia explorarentur. Grotius De Ver. Rel. Christ. lib. ii.

sect. 19.

[ocr errors]


which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer. When this is done, the same question shall be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written upon the subject. And as people in general, for one reason or another, like short objections better than long answers, in this mode of. disputation (if it can be styled such) the odds must ever be against us; and we must be content with those for our friends, who have honesty and erudition, candour and patience, to study both sides of the question?."

You must not, however, infer from these observations, that I wish to avoid all discussion of the objections urged against Scripture. They are, it is true, too multifarious in their nature to render it possible we should meet them all; and many of them would lead us into too wide a field of inquiry, to admit of their being considered in the compass of a letter. Still it may

to select a few which

you have probably heard advanced, and to present you with such answers as have been given, or may be given to them; that you may judge how trifling some of them are, and how satisfactory solutions may

be furnished to others, the most specious and plausible, that have been brought forward.

OBJ. I. It has been thought strange that God should select, as the principal recipients of his favours, so obscure a people as the ancient Jews were; a nation described by Voltaire as "wretched, ever ignorant, and vulgar, and strangers to the arts."

The following reply was made to Voltaire: and it is unnecessary we should seek for any other, until the disciples of Voltaire and Hume shall have shown us that this is weak and unsatisfactory. “Does it become you, a writer of the eighteenth century, to charge the ancient Hebrews with ignorance? A people, who, while your barbarous ancestors, whilst even the Greeks and Latins, wandering in the woods, could scarcely procure for themselves clothing and a settled subsistence, already possessed all arts of necessity, and some of

2 Horne's Letters on Infidelity, p. 82.


« PreviousContinue »