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0, what a world were this if all men were infidels! Then, Chalmers' works on “The Christian Revelation," and a work indeed, would they soon destroy themselves. Their vices entitled “ A Treatise on the Nature and Causes of Doubt in would be such as to annihilate all the social sympathies, and Religious Questions." to cause the various elements of society to rush together in But let me deal honestly with you, as your friend. Have wild confusion and ruin.
you all this supposed difficulty about the evidence and the What cause of congratulation is it, that infidelity, in its truth of Christianity? Or is your hesitancy of a very differ. more direct forms, has so little power in this country to mould ent order? Do you feel a repugnance to the holy requireour national institutions ! No one who marks the zeal and ments of Christianity, and a consequent dread of the judgments malignity of our infidel press, can doubt, for a moment, what which it threatens ? And does this prompt in you the banewould be the fate of every honest and virtuous family, if in- ful wish, “O that it might not be true ?" Remember what fidels could, by any means, acquire ascendancy. There is a Rochester said—“A bad life is the only grand objection to great deal of secret and avowed infidelity in the land ; but, this book;” laying his hand emphatically on the Bible. Has Blessed be God, our property, our domestic peace, our national not this been very much the case with you? You have fallen security are not as yet menaced by the impugners of Revela- into sinful courses you have yielded to the ways of the tion.
world-you have gone with a multitude to do evil-you have It is at the same time a mournful consideration, that so forsaken your better fellowships—you have learnt to spend many of the labouring classes of the community are vitiated your Sabbaths in pleasure, and you have gradually become by the wretched dogmas of this school. It is a distinct cha- more and more careless. In this state you have been very racteristic of modern infidelity, that it aims to subvert the unhappy at times; you have thought, well, “ what if, after hopes of the poor. The writings of Mr. Paine, combined all, the Bible be true! What if, after all, the wicked shall with other circumstances, have led to this feature in its ma- be turned into hell!” At this juncture, some one further lignant history. The libertinism of sceptics, till of late years, advanced in scepticism than yourself has aided you in shakwas regarded as the exclusive privilege of the educated, the ing off the galling yoke of conscience. He has put some intellectual, and the distinguished portion of mankind. Now inħdel publication into your hand; you have read it; it has it is far otherwise ; the pestilence has spread itself, and ope- fallen in with your previous wishes and habits; you have ratives, in every department of trade, are plied by the apos- said, “ This is the very thing I wanted;" and you have, at tles of infidelity, who, not content with destroying the poor last
, learned to revile the Bible, to set light by its hopes, and man's hopes of immortality, set themselves to lower all his to talk slanderously of its professors. notions of moral obligation, to vitiate all his social habits, to Come now, my friend, and let us reason together. Look foster in him the spirit of rebellion against all constituted back on the process. Why did you so readily drink in the authority, and thus, as it were, to deck their victim for the poison contained in the infidel volume? Why? because you day of sacrifice. I firmly believe that in London alone, to were in a state of mind very much the opposite of that which say nothing of other large populations, there are thousands the Bible demands. But what have you found, my friend, and tens of thousands lost to industry, to health, to reputa- in the regions of scepticism? You have relinquished the tion, and to peace, outcasts from society, and terrors to the hopes of Christianity, by Christ Jesus. What have you obcommunity, who might trace the utter wreck of their charac- tained in their place?. Amidst all your acquirements, have ters to their association with companions of infidel senti- you found peace of mind? Will your present character and ments, and to their familiarity with the infidel press. It has your present religion sustain you in a dying hour? Multibeen my lot as a Christian minister, more than once, to con- tudes of infidels have found their creed, at death, insufficient firm these affecting statements by the unequivocal avowals of to meet the awful catastrophe. Not a single instance can infidels themselves, in the last periods of human existence, be produced, in which a believer in Revelation was terrified and also by witnessing in some, once promising characters, or dismayed becausc he had been a Christian. Many have the baneful effects arising from the adoption of infidel opin- been distressed on account of the defective evidence of their ions.
Christianity, but none on account of their being Christians. Does it never occur to you, that if Christianity be true, you are undone ?—that if it be false, he who believes it can suffer no injury?* Who, let me ask you, are your companions ? What are your pursuits ? and what your hopes? I deeply
feel for you, while I greatly blame you. You may have been CHAPTER VI.
inadequately instructed; you may have seen bad examples;
you may have witnessed great inconsistencies in some of An affectionate appeal to those who have been entangled in the the professors of religion. Granting, however, that all this snares of In fidelity.
may have been the case, still the interests of the soul are a
personal concern. No man can stand in your place when When I reflect how many there are whose faith in Christi- you die. I beseech you, then, to arouse you from that anity has been shaken, and whose minds have fallen a prey lethargy into which sin and unbelief, acting and reacting, to the wiles of scepticism; and, moreover, when I call to re-have conjointly sunk you. membrance that so many of the young and promising rank Ask yourself this question, “ What makes me a sceptic? among the victims of this moral contagion, I cannot but feel Is it because I have examined for myself, and know the Gospel an earnest desire to become an instrument of good to a por- to be a fable? or is it because that I desire it may be one ?" tion of my fellow-creatures, at once so interesting and so And why should you desire this? If Christianity does not much exposed. O that God would strengthen me to speak meet your case, no other system can. Infidelity has not met a word to unhappy and deluded sceptics! With all the zeal your case; it has not awakened hope; it has not allayed for their salvation that I can possibly give utterance to, would despair; it has not ministered peace. No: it has only stuI make my appeal to their judgments and consciences. Let pified a conscience which must yet awake; it has only taught me bespeak their candour. I am conscious of no motive but you to put the evil day far away; it has only blinded you a desire to hono God, and to save their souls. Regarding for a time to the dread prospects of a future and impending them as the victims of fatal error, I am devoutly anxious to eternity. see them extricated from it. Their creed I hold to be alike Why, I ask again, should you wish that Christianity may gloomy and pernicious, and I would show them a more ex- not be true? Is it because you feel yourself guilty, and shrink cellent way, and would introduce them, with a bounding from the condemnation which it threatens ? Well might you heart, into the light and liberty of Christianity.
thus shrink if it did not reveal a remedy, as well as disclose What, then, let me ask, has led you to reject Christianity ? a disease and point out its consequences. You are guiltyHave you carefully examined it, and found its evidence de-yea, ten thousand times more guilty than you ever imagined fective? If so, where does the difficulty press? If you are yourself to be; but what I maintain is, that if you turn away really perplexed, ask counsel of some enlightened Christian, the eye of faith from that great sacrifice which Christianity and he will readily aid you in disposing of the doubts and misgivings of a mind really sincere. I believe a doubting * “Indisputably,” said Lord Byron, in a letter sent by him to man may be sincere. There are many volumes suited to the late Mrs. Sheppard, “the firm believers in the Gospel hare a your state, and which you might read with the greatest pos- great advantage over all others, for this simple reason that if true, sible advantage. Let me particularly recommend to your at- they will have their reward hereafter ; and if there be no hereafter tentive perusal “ The Gospel its own Witness,” by the late they can be but with the infidel in his eternal sleep, having had the Rev. Andrew Fuller; “ The Evidences of Christianity,” by appointment, since (at the worst, for them) 'out of nothing, nothing
assistance of an exalted hope through life, without subsequent disDr. Paley ; “ A Short Method with Deists," by Leslie; Dr. can arise, :—not even sorrow.”
reveals, you must sink for ever beneath the pressure of your Sir Matthew Hale, the Hon. Robert Boyle, Bishop Butler, guilt, and with this superadded horror, that you perished at Dr. Watts, Mr. Wilberforce, Dr. Paley, Dr. Beattie, Dr. the threshold of mercy.
Chalmers, and Robert Hall ? Such a pretence, on the part of Is it because you do not love the pure and holy demands any infidel, would be equally fatal to his sense and candour. of Christianity, that you turn away from it? Well, but is In grasp of mind, in depth of erudition, in diversity and exnot this, its pure character, the proof of its celestial origin? tent of science, the pledged advocates of the gospel have had and if so, will it avail you to reject it? Will the holy life no rivals in the republic of letters, or in the ranks of sceptiit requires be less obligatory because you determine not to cism.* All who know any thing of the state of facts, must pursue it? Will the great Judge excuse you at last because concede this point, that the sublimest exercise of reason is not you loved your sins more than his revealed will ?
the most profound deference to the truth Besides, what is to root out unholy inclinations, to correct and excellence of Revelation. It is easy for some infidel dedepraved habits, to superinduce devotion, and to raise the magogue to vaunt himself of his great wisdom and learning soul to God? Is it not divine meditation on the blessed word? before an ignorant and vicious assembly; but let the entire Here is that consecrated fountain which, by the grace of God, shall quench your thirst of sin. Here you may read of " the The following eloquent passage, from a speech of the late Lord new heart” till you know by experience what it is. Here is Erskine, delivered by him in the Court of King's Bench, on occaa divine Deliverer, whose name is called Jesus, because he sion of a prosecution for the publication of Paine's “ Age of Reasaves his people from their sins.” Here is a divine Sanctifier, that superiority of intellect has been enlisted on the side of Chris
son,” may not be unacceptable, as tending to illustrate the position, who can create within you a clean heart, and renew within tianity : you a right spirit.” One word more, and I have done. Ask
“« Ît seems, gentlemen,' said his lordship, this is an age of God to teach you. Ask him, if the Bible be from him, to reason ; and the time and the person are at last arrived, that are to enable you to come to the belief of it. Ask him to remove dissipate the errors which have overspread the past generation of your blindness, to allay your prejudices, and, above all, to ignorance. The believers in Christianity are many, but it belongs prevent any sinful habit from giving a bias to your decision. Ito the few that are wise to correct their credulity: 'Belief is an act Make no delay in this work. If you die a stranger to the
of reason, and superior reason may, therefore, dictate to the weak.
“In running the mind along the list of sincere and devout Chrishopes of Christianity, it had been better for you that you had tians, I cannot help lamenting that Newton had not lived to this never been born!
day, to have had his shallowness filled up with the new flood of light.
“But the subject is too awful for irony ; I will speak plainly and directly. Newton was a Christian!-Newton, whose mind burst forth from the fetters cast by Nature upon our finite conceptions. Newton! whose science was truth, and the foundation of whose know
ledge of it was philosophy ; not those visionary and arrogant prePART SECOND.
sumptions which too often usurp its name, but philosophy, resting upon the basis of mathematics, which, like figures, cannot lie.
Newton, who carried the line and rule to the utmost barriers of the THE TRUTH AND EXCELLENCE OF CHRIS
creation, and explored the principles by which, no doubt, all created
matter is held together and exists. TIANITY.
“ But this extraordinary man, in the mighty reach of his mind, overlooked, perhaps, the errors which a minuter investigation of the
created things on this earth might have taught him of the essence of CHAPTER I.
“ What, then, shall be said of the great Mr. Boyle, who looked The comparative credit due to the conclusions of Sceptics and substances which the foot treads on? Such a man may be supposed
into the organic structure of all matter, even to the brute inanimate Christians.
to have been equally qualified with Mr. Paine to look through
Nature, up to Nature's God.' Yet, the result of all his contempla“For we have not believed cunningly devised fables.” tion was, the most confirmed and devout belief of all which the other
held in contempt, as despicable and drivelling superstition. Sach, at least, is the Christian's estimate of the stability tion to the foundations of human judgment, and the structure of
“But this error might, perhaps, arise from a want of due attenof his own hopes; and such is the settled conviction of every that understanding which God has given us for the investigation of sincere friend of revealed truth. When the moral character truth. and habits of those who profess their belief in Christianity is “ Let that question be answered by Mr. Locke, who was, to the taken into account, there can be no hesitation in admitting highest pitch of devotion and adoration, a Christian. Mr. Locke, that they are strictly honest in the avowal of their faith, and whose office was to detect the errors of thinking, by going up to the that they do not affect to repose on the truth of a system fountains of thought, and to direct into the proper track of reasoning which, after all, they secretly disbelieve. That there are the first perceptions of sense to the last conclusions of ratiocination;
the devious mind of man, by showing him its whole process, from many false pretenders to the faith of Christ is readily con- putting a rein, besides, upon false opinion, by practical rules for the ceded; but after the names of all such have been struck off conduct of human judgment. from the list of its genuine friends, there will yet remain a “ But these men were only deep thinkers, and lived in their multitude of honest men, far above all suspicion, who, in closets, unaccustomed to the traffic of the world, and to the laws life, and at death, have professed their sincere and heart-felt which practically regulate mankind !
“Gentlemen!' in the place where we now sit to administer the belief in the religion of Jesus of Nazareth. To impugn their
justice of this great country, above a century ago, the never-to-beintegrity, as men of veracity, would be alike absurd and un- forgotten Sir Matthew Hale presided,---whose faith in Christianity jast. They are, beyond doubt, entitled to all credit for sin- is an exalted commentary upon its truth and reason, and whose life cerity, when, with the Bible in their hands, they exclaim, was a glorious example of its fruits in man,-administering human ** We have not followed cunningly devised fables.” justice, with a wisdom and purity drawn from the pure fountain of
The great question then is, are they mistaken in the esti-Ithe Christian dispensation, which has been, and will be in all ages, Inate which they have formed of the Bible? Are they under a subject of the highest reverence and admiration. the influence of a delusion, though they fondly believe that they tale of the more ancient superstitions of the world, and may easily
“ But it is said by the author, that the Christian fable is but the have embraced the truth of God? In deciding such inquiries be detected by a proper understanding of the mythologies of the as these, several considerations naturally occur to the mind, heathen. irrespective even of the direct evidences of the Christian “ Did Milton understand those mythologies? was he less versed revelation.
than Mr. Paine in the superstitions of the world? No! they were What, then, has been the amount of intellectual qualifica- the subject of his immortal song; and though shut out from all
recurrence to them, he poured them forth from the stores of memotion possessed by Christians for investigating the truth or falsehood of their hopes ? It may be true, indeed, that the mass ry, rich with all that man ever knew, and laid them in their order,
as the illustration of that exalted faith, the unquestionable source of of those who have embraced the gospel have been little ele- that fervid genius, which cast a shade upon all the other works of vated, in point of mind, above any other equal portion of the man. The mysterious incarnation of our blessed Saviour (which human race; although it cannot be denied, that in Christian this work blasphemes in words so wholly unfit for the mouth of a countries the common people are much superior to their fel- Christian, or for the ear of a court of justice, that I dare not, and lows in heathen lands. But be this as it may, can any one will not, give them utterance), Milton made the grand conclusion of
the “ Paradise Lost,”-the rest from his finished labours,—and the affirm that among the list of Christian advocates there are not ultimate hope, expectation, and glory of the world. to be found multitudes of men in the highest degree qualified to decide upon any question of evidence submitted to their “A virgin is His mother, but His sire
The Power of the Most High; he shall ascend potice! Will it be pretended that imbecility of intellect pro
The throne hereditary, and bound his reign daced the faith of such men as Sir Isaac Newton, John Locke, With earth's wide bounds, His glory with the heavens."
history of the Christian era be appealed to as the proof, that|lation from God, then is it treason against Heaven to reject the choicest spirits in each age, since the days of the apostles, its evidence, or to set light by the remedy which it prescribes have been the professed adherents of the gospel. Christianity, for our fallen and guilty nature. Under these circumstances, then, has not been subjected to the humiliation of being only how necessary is it to ask of God that he would lead us, his embraced by the weak and ignorant of mankind; it has called erring children, into all truth, and that he would so far banish forth the plaudits of the greatest men that ever lived, and has every unholy prejudice that our minds may be open to receive done more by its own simple energy to augment the genius whatever bears upon it the stamp of a celestial origin. It is and to multiply the acquirements of the race, than all other a mournful fact that this spirit of devotion seems an utter systems of religion and other causes combined.*
stranger to almost all writers of the sceptical class. But I ask again, what have been the moral qualifications They boast of their deism, and neglect one of its first and possessed by Christians to enable them to decide upon the simplest lessons, viz., the duty of an intelligent, but feeble validity of their own hopes ? Have they been men, in general, and dependant creature seeking counsel of the great and merwhose perceptions have been blunted and vitiated by an irre-ciful Being who formed him. gular and profligate life ? or has not the very reverse of this been the case ? If two persons of equal intellect, but of extremely different moral habits, the one devout, consistent, benevolent; and the other proud, self-important, devoted to pleasure, should set themselves to ascertain the truth or falsehood of any system assuming to be a revelation from God; which
CHAPTER II. of the two parties might be expected to be the more successful in the investigation, provided that the assumed revelation Showing that the evidence of Christianity is of such a nature were genuine ? It cannot surely be denied that the advantages that it admits of being brought home individually, with conin favour of the man of correct moral feeling and habit would vincing power, to every man's bosom. be immense. Nor can it be maintained by any one in possession of sound reason, that a wrong state of mind and cha- It is never to be forgotten that those who are called to exracter will not materially influence the decisions of the amine the divine pretensions of Christianity are the very perunderstanding, in reference to moral truth. Upon this prin- sons interested in its communications. To man it distinctly ciple it is that we enter our earnest protest against the flimsy makes its appeal, and in him it proposes to effect that mighty dogma of modern infidelity, that belief is, in all cases, a thing renovation of which it speaks. Should it be true, then, to its strictly involuntary. On the contrary, we submit, that in no own assumed character, it will undoubtedly verify its several case where belief is claimed on behalf of moral truth, can it claims in the personal consciousness of all its recipients. I be yielded in a state of mind fairly entitled to the appellation choose to begin here, because I am satisfied that no man can involuntary. That can never be involuntary which may either sit down to investigate the truth of this Bible, who does not be prompted or retarded by the state of disposition. Nothing stand in need of light on the subjects of which it treats. is more obvious than that men may blind themselves to the Every man's conscience may suggest to him that he has oflight of truth, and stumble, as in the dark, at noon-day. But fended against God, that he has violated, in innumerable inwho would say that that blindness is involuntary which is stances, his own sense of right and wrong, and that there may the result of a man's loving darkness rather than light, because be some fearful retribution awaiting transgressors in another his deeds are evil ?
and unknown state of existence. But whatever Reason may Upon a full and impartial review of the moral character and surmise on these subjects, she has no balm with which to habits of those who have truly embraced Christianity, we are soothe an anguished conscience, no system of propitiation by disposed to abide by the conclusion, that their advantages for which to relieve a guilty and foreboding mind, no mediator bereaching truth have been astonishingly great. Compared with tween the offended Majesty of Heaven and his erring creatures. the leading advocates of Deism, they stand on a lofty emi- It is Christianity alone which opens up a door of hope to an nence, from which, with a vision unclouded by the mists of apostate race; every thing besides is utter conjecture. Infiprejudice and crime, they can discern the moral beauty and dels may boast of the composure and satisfaction they feel in loveliness of that fair land which opens to their view in the contemplating the issues of the present life; but their exempterritory of revealed truth.t
lion from anxious dread is but one instance out of many in If, then, the intellectual advantages of the Christian are which the voice of conscience is silenced by that spirit of utfully equal to those of the infidel, and if his moral advantages ter and reckless scepticism, which on the one hand rejects a are far superior, to what conclusion must such a fact conduct mass of well-authenticated evidence, and on the other profesus ?. Why, to this, that the Christian is much more likely to ses firm belief and unshaken confidence in its own dogmas, be right in embracing the gospel, than the sceptic is in reject- without so much as a title of proof to support them. ing it. His judgment is not less to be respected, and his dis- The man, then, who examines Christianity in a right spipositions and habits are more in accordance with the dictates rit, may expect to perceive, in its intimate bearing on his own of what even natural conscience and pure deism would pro- case, that it is of God. If he is in that state of mind which nounce to be right. And do we on this account urge men to is suitable to a rational creature anxious to know the will of receive Christianity? By no means. All we demand is, that God, he will find in Christianity what he can discover no they will give it a fair hearing, and that they will look on it where else. Is he conscious of sin? it reveals to him its true with that respect which will dispose them to weigh well its character, traces it to its source, and points to its consequendivine evidence, and not rashly to dash from their parched lips ces. Is he the subject of legitimate dread and apprehension the cup of salvation. We ask not that men should believe in prospect of standing before an offended God? it tells him because others have believed ; but that they would honestly how his guilt may be effectually removed, and how the peace inquire whether believers or sceptics are most worthy of imi- of an accusing conscience may be restored. Is he oppressed tation ? The careful investigation of this question will gene-whenever he thinks of the divine purity, and contrasts it with rate a state of mind favourable to the claims of revelation, and a nature ever prone to evil? it proposes to subject him to a will prompt the reasonable desire that the gospel may be true. healing and remedial process, by which moral health is to be
I may here premise, that no man was ever in earnest to restored to his diseased soul, and by which he is to be taught to find out the truth of Christianity who did not make conscience delight in God, and to aspire after his likeness. Is he mournof imploring God's direction and assistance in an inquiry fully sensible of the fact, that "all is vanity and vexation of upon which so much depends. If Christianity be not a reve-spirit,” and that nothing under the sun can satisfy the desires lation from God, then las none ever been vouchsafed to the of a mind panting after immortality? it opens up to his view children of men; and if none has ever been vouchsafed, then sources of never-ending delight, it brings him to the very are the whole race sunk in darkness as to the character of fountain of all happiness, it shows him how his fondest exGod, and the destinies of futurity. If Christianity be a reve-pectations may be realized, it tells him how to delight in
God, and how to draw near in acceptable worship to Him If a map," observes the present Bishop of Chester, “could whom angels adore, and before whom the spirits of darkness trace the real influence of the Gospel, it would also delineate the flee in terror and dismay. proportion of intelligence and active virtue. The measure of spiritual knowledge is also the measure of barbarism and of civiliza- amining Christianity, to fix his attention on the following mo
It becomes every man who sets himself to the task of extion, of mental stupidity, or mental illumination.”—Evidences, mentous inquiry:- Is this professed revelation adapted to Fourth Edition, 12mo, pp. 427, 428.
Religion cannot exist,” said Sir Walter Scott, « where im- my actual necessities? to my fears and hopes to the circummorality prevails, any more than a light can burn where the air is stances by which I am surrounded? and to the prospects corrupted.”—Life of Napoleon, vol. i. p. 54.
which stretch before me?" If, upon minute inquiry, it is
found to be thus adapted to our fallen state, it will surely carry which is full of immortality," and in the heavenward bearing along with it a striking demonstration of its divine origin; of his once earthly character, he is enabled to feel that Chrisand if, upon actual experiment, we find that the reception of tianity is no "cunningly devised fable.” Christianity allays our guilty fears, gives peace to our trou- Having briefly looked at what may be regarded as the exbled consciences, quenches the thirst of sin, inspires the hope perimental evidence which Christianity is capable of planting of immortality, supplies motives for patient endurance, and in every man's bosom, we may now advance to other parts of sheds the lustre of moral loveliness and purity over the cha- this momentous subject. racter in whom it dwells, then may we assure ourselves of the source whence it sprung, and then may we enter, with a full heart, into the meaning of the beloved disciple when he says, “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.”* "I think,” said the good and great Richard Baxter, “that
CHAPTER III. in the hearing and reading of the Bible, God's spirit often so concurreth, as that the will itself should be touched with an Containing a brief survey of those branches of evidence which it internal gust and savour of the goodness contained in the doc- is proper to urge upon the attention of those who have not as trine, and at the same time the understanding with an internal yet yielded up their minds to the divine authority and transirradiation, which breeds such a certain apprehension of the forming power of the Gospel. verity of it, as nature gives men of natural principles. And I am persuaded that this, increased by more experience and Some of those evidences may be traced in the internal chalove, doth hold most Christians faster to Christ than naked racter of Christianity itself, and others in those outward atreasonings could do. And were it not for this, unlearned, ig- testations by which "Divine Providence has demonstrated the norant persons were still in danger of apostacy by every sub- fact of its celestial origin. As I am fully convinced of the tle caviller that assaults them. And I believe that all true self-verifying power of the religion of Jesus Christ, I think it Christians have this kind of internal knowledge from a suit. well to begin with the first of these branches of evidence, ableness of the truth and goodness of the gospel to their now that no one may, with truth, imagine that we shrink from a quickened, illuminated, and sanctified souls.”+.
thorough investigation of the internal structure and actual tenLet no one venture to reject Christianity, then, who has dencies of our Holy Faith.* never made it the subject of his intense regard, in connexion with the exigencies which press upon his own conditiou and prospects. It can be but ill understood by the man who has never looked at it in its adaptation to his own case. It is an individual, as well as a general remedy; and the true study
The internal evidence of Christianity. of Christianity is the examination of its coincidence with the wants and wishes, the hopes and fears, which press upon When the subject of internal evidence has at any time every son and daughter of Adam. For the want of this close deeply engaged my thoughts, I have proposed to myself the inspection of the individual aim of Christianity, it is to be following question: "What is the most wonderful, and at the feared that thousands either reject it, or are utterly indifferent same time the most unaccountable, object which presents itto it. But how contrary is all this to the spirit of true sci- self to our notice in a careful perusal of the New Testament ence, which rejects nothing, and admits nothing but upon ac- Scriptures ?” This question has always drawn forth one tual experiment.
simple answer: the character of Jesus of Nazareth. In examLet Christianity be fairly put to the test; let it be taken ining the internal evidence of Christianity, lookhome with unhesitating confidence to the heart; let its divine 1. At the moral character of its Great Founder. Let that remedies be applied to the distempered mind; let its proffered character be fairly investigated, and I am greatly mistaken if influence be implored; let its true character as a restorative it will not breed a conviction that Christianity must be from system be fully and impartially tried, and then, should it af- heaven. That such a person lived, and suffered, and died in ter all fail to impart peace, to heal the malady of the soul, to the land of Judea, is admitted equally by heathen and Jewish answer its own professed designs, let it be held up to that ob- writers, and requires no formal proof, therefore, to establish loquy which it deserves.
the fact. Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus, and Pliny the Bat where is the man who ever betook himself to Christi- Younger, place beyond all reasonable doubt the fact of his anity without finding it to be the refuge of his weary mind? existence, and the period of his life, misery, and death. Who could ever, upon actual trial, charge it with a lack of But what an object of astonishment and wonder do we befaithfulness to its own pretensions? Who ever embraced its hold in the man Christ Jesus!” Trace the son of Mary animating hopes without finding them productive of peace, and Joseph from the manger at Bethlehem to the cross on and purity, and joy? Who ever became a true Christian Cavalry, and what a combination do you witness of all that without feeling the self-evidencing power of the gospel? is innocent and pure and benevolent! Here is wisdom the Who ever believed on the Son of God without having proof, most profound in the absence of all the ordinary means of acin his own mind, that the Bible is true? Who ever made ac- quiring it. Here is a Being in whom all the social and relatual trial of Christianity without finding it to be the “wisdom tive affections are not only seen to advantage, but in absolute of God, and the power of God," to the salvation of his soul? perfection. Here are humility and dignity perfectly comWho ever knew the truth as it is in Jesus without being made bined; the loftiness of moral excellence, without a single free by it from the thraldom of sin and the bondage of corrup- approximation to the feeling of contempt for others. Here is tion! The man who is a genuine believer is as fully con- a sanctity of character which never yielded to a single temptscious as he is of existence, that Christianity is no cunningly ation, and never deviated from the path of rectitude in a sindevised fable. It has established its throne in the deep- gle instance, combined at the same time with a condescension Beated convictions of his heart. He has felt the transforma- and mercy which never spurned the miserable, and never tion it has wrought: “old things are passed away; behold, frowned on the trembling penitent conscious of his guilt and all things are become new.” His entire character has been pleading for forgiveness. Here is one who never resented an favourably affected by it. Upon his once gloomy path it has injury, and never forgot a kindness; who never thought of an shed the light of immortality; it has taught him to “ rejoice enemy, but to bless him, or of a faithless friend, but to pity even in tribulation;" it has changed all the aspects of life, by throwing over them the hues of eternity; it has conferred on
I do not think, judging from the manner in which infidels themhim a reality of happiness which the whole creation had no selves have written, that the most successful method of assailing them power of imparting. In his own person he beholds a monu- is to begin with a discussion of the external evidences of the gospel ment of the truth and excellency of Christianity, which for- From their general ignorance of the character of Revelation itself, and bids him for ever to doubt. By other evidences, indeed, his from its marked adaptation, when examined, to produce conviction of faith is confirmed; but in his peace of mind, in that “hope its divine origin, I rather hesitate as to the propriety of demanding the
belief of a sceptic upon the mere presentation of its external cre
dentials. Besides, there is scarcely any object to be achieved, by John v. 10. See also a discourse, by the Author, on “ the Ex- this mode of procedure, which is not equally well answered by the perimental Evidence of Christianity,” included in a volume lately method of arguing the truth of scripture from an examination of its published by ministers connected with the Monthly Meeting, “On own contents. Assuredly the divine authority of the heavenly mesthe Evidences of Christianity.”
sengers may be verified as much by what they say, as by any other † See Baxter's reply to Lord Herbert, entitled “More Reasons circumstance whatsoever ; and if the real power of conviction lies for the Christian Religion,” 12mo, 1672, pp. 135, 136.
in their message, it seems but right to try its efficacy.
and forgive him. Here is one whose days were devoted to ter of Christ, as a proof of the credibility of the Christian the exercises of active benevolence, and whose nights were Revelation, arrested her peculiar attention. A minute seratispent in communion with his God, who sought no reward of ny of his spotless life was most satisfactory in its result. all his generosity, who wept tears of anguish over the ap- " The more,” said she, “I studied this divine character, the proaching fate of those who persecuted him at every step of more I grew up, as it were, into its simplicity and holiness, his existence with unabating cruelty, and who spent his last the more my understanding was enabled to shake off those breath in praying for his guilty and relentless murderers. slavish and sinful prejudices which had hindered me from apWhence such a character as this? Was it from earth or hea-preciating its excellence. Truly, his words were dearer to ven? If from earth, then where can we look for its great me than my necessary food. He was my · All in All.' I did archetype ? Not, surely, in the Gentile world; for it infinitely not want to have any knowledge, goodness, or strength, indesurpassed even the ideal models which were laid down by the pendently of him. I had rather be accepted in the Beloved, purest and most enlightened of its philosophers. Not in the ihan received (had that been possible) upon the score of my Jewish world, for even its most cherished patriarchs were own merits. I had rather walk leaning upon his arm than chargeable with innumerable imperfections; and in the days have a stock of strength given me to perform the journey of Jesus of Nazareth, the great body of the nation were pe-alone. To learn, as a fool, of Christ, this was better to me culiarly degraded, both as it respected the acquirements of than to have the knowledge of an angel to find out things the understanding, and the habits of the life and conduct. myself. Whence, then, this mysterious and wonderful personage; “From that moment,” she adds, “I ceased to stumble at this Being so unlike all the generations of men who had pre- the doctrines of the cross. The doctrines of Scriptare, which ceded him or who have followed after him, yet clothed in a had before appeared to me an inexplicable mass of confusion human form, possessed of human sympathies, and subject to and contradictions, were now wriiten on my understanding human woes? No wonder that Rousseau, in his exquisite and with the clearness of a sun-beam. Above all, that once abwell-known contrast between Socrates and Christ, should feel horred doctrine of the Divinity of Christ was become exceedhimself constrained to remark, that“ the inventor of such a per-ing precious to me. The external evidences of Christianity, sonage would be a more astonishing character than the hero."* though I now perceived all their force, were no longer neces. "Is it possible,” said he, speaking of the Bible and of the sary to my conviction. From that time,” she concludes, “I character of Christ, “ is it possible that a book, at once so have continued to "sit at the feet of Jesus, and to hear his simple and sublime, should be merely the work of man? Is word,' taking him for my teacher and guide in things temit possible that the sacred personage, whose history it con- poral as well as spiritual. He has found in me a disciple so tains, should himself be a mere man? Do we find that he slow of comprehension, so prone to forget his lessons, and to assumed the tone of an enthusiast or ambitious sectary ? act in opposition to his commands, that were he not infinitely What sweetness, what purity in his manner! What an “meek and lowly of heart, he would long ago have cast me affecting gracefulness in his delivery! What sublimity in off in anger ; but he still continues to bear with me, and to his maxims! What profound wisdom in his discourses! give me line upon line, and precept upon precept;' and I am What presence of mind, what sublimity, what truth in his certain that he will never leave me, nor forsake me, for replies! How great the command over his passions! Where though I am variable and inconsistent, with Him there is no is the man, where is the philosopher, who could so live and variableness, neither shadow of turning.'" so die without weakness and without ostentation? When Such was the effect produced upon this intelligent lady's Plato described his imaginary good man, loaded with all the mind by an examination of the moral character of the Lord shame of guilt, yet meriting the highest rewards of virtue, he Jesus, and I am satisfied that a similar result will follow in described exactly the character of Jesus Christ: the resem- every instance the adoption of the same course. At least we blance was so striking that all the fathers perceived it.” Yet do claim from infidels, if they will still continne to reject the this was the strange and unhappy man who, through the truth, that they furnish us, upon their own principles, with wickedness and pride of his heart, declared, “ I cannot believe some reasonable account of the source whence sprung the inthe gospel.”
effable purity and benevolence of the Son of God. Till they Upon no correct or reasonable supposition whatever but have accounted for his unequalled character they are chargethat the Lord Jesus was the very person he assumed to be, able with the utmost levity and irrationality in persisting in the person whom the Christian Scriptures describes him to their unbelief.* be, viz., the Messiah of the Church, and “God manifest in 2. Contemplate, as another internal evidence of the divine the flesh,” can we account for the solitary and awful gran-origin of Christianity, the unrivalled sublimity of its diction. deurt of a character “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate Compared with the rich treasures of the old and New Tesfrom sinners, and made higher than the heavens," " who did|tament Scriptures, all other compositions must retire into the no sin," and " who knew no sin.'
shade. Rousseau must have felt this conviction most powThe Rev. Charles Bridges, in his excellent Memoirs of erfully when he made the following reluctant but important Miss M. I. Graham, (and which I take the liberty of strong-concession: “I will confess," said he, “ that the majesty of ly recommending to the notice of the young,) who had been the Scriptures strikes me with admiration, as the purity of considerably tinctured with infidelity, states ihat the charac- the gospel hath its influence upon my heart. Peruse the
works of our philosophers with all their pomp of diction ; how Works, vol. v. pp. 215–218.
mean, how contemptible are they, compared with the Scrip.. Bishop Sherlock, in contrasting the character of Jesus Christ tures!" with that of Mahomet, has, in one of the most beautiful personifica- The opinion of Rousseau is confirmed by that of men vastly tions in our language, finely touched the argument for the truth of his superiors in learning and virtue. Sir William Jones, than Christianity here contended for. “Go,” says he, " to your Natural whom few of the human race have been distinguished by a Religion ; lay before her Mahomet and his disciples arrayed in armour and in blood, riding in triumph over the spoils of thousands more laudable thirst after knowledge, has penned the followand tens of thousands who fell by his victorious sword ; show her ing striking, but just eulogium, on the style and manner of the cities which he set in flames, the countries which he ravaged the sacred writers: “The collection of tracts which we call, and destroyed, and the miserable distress of all the inhabitants of from their excellence, The Scriptures, contain, independently the earth. When she has viewed him in this scene, carry him into of a divine origin, more true sublimity, more exquisite beauty, and wives ; let her see his adultery, and hcar him lege revelation purer morality, more important history, and finer strains of and his divine commission to justily his lust and his oppression.
poetry, and eloquence, than could be collected within the same “When she is tired with this prospect, then show her the blessed compass from all other books that were ever composed in any Jesus, humble and meek, doing good to all the sons of men, patiently age or in any idiom. The two parts of which the Scriptures instructing both the ignorant and perverse ; let her see him in his consist are connected by a chain of compositions which bear most retired privacy ; let her follow him to the mountain, and hear no resemblance in form or style to any that can be produced his devotions and supplications to God. Carry her to his table to from the stores of Grecian, Indian, Persian, or even Arabian see his poor fare, and hear his heavenly discourse. Let her see learning. The antiquity of those compositions no man doubts, and consider the patience with which he endured the scofis and and the unstrained application of them to events long subsereproaches of his enemies. Lead her to his cross, and let her view quent to their publication, is a solid ground of belief that they him in the agony of death, and hear his last prayer for his perse-are genuine predictions, and consequently inspired." cutors Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'
" When Natural Religion has viewed both, ask—which is the * See a very able Discourse on the Character of Christ, as an prophet of God? But her answer we have already had when she evidence of the Christian Religion, by the Rev. W. Walford, in a saw part of this scene through the eyes of the centurion who attend volume lately published by the Independent ministers of London on ed at the cross; by him she spake and said, “Truly this man was the Evidences of Christianity. See also the present Bishop of Calthe Son of God.' "-See Sherlock's Sermons.
cutta's Seventeenth Lecture on the Evidences, &c.