Page images
PDF
EPUB

to the world? Did they exhibit any special form the low opinion we have adverted to, when mark of their office as the messengers of God- their nature is fully examined. such a mark as none but God could give, and The divine Author of Christianity foretold none but his approved messengers could obtain his own death, resurrection, and ascension into possession of? Was this mark the power of heaven; together with the opposition his cause, working miracles, and were these miracles so should experience, its triumph over that oppoobviously addressed to the senses, as to leave sition, and the destruction of his deadly eneno suspicion of deceit behind them? These mies the Jews. Ari impostor never would have are questions which we find ourselves compe- rested his claims on such proofs; or, if he had, tent to take up and to decide upon,''* and which discomfiture must have followed. The Aposwe can most satisfactorily decide in the affirm- tles foretold the rise, progress, and completion ative.

of a most horrid corruption of the system which When satisfied with the credibility of the they propagated. They predicted also the original and divinely appointed witnesses of overthrow, at the distance of many ages, of Christianity, we naturally proceed to consider that apostacy, and the restoration of the relithe kind of evidence by which the authenticity gion of Jesus to its pristine purity, and more and correctness of the document in which their than its primitive glory. Of the accomplishtestimony is recorded, may be ascertained. ment of many, indeed or the greater number of This becomes a question both of criticism and these predictions, we are capable of judging. of history. We call in the aid of both, and find Their fulfilment has been recorded, not by the that they powerfully confirm and illustrate each interested followers and partial friends of Christ, other. We are furnished with a continued and but by the impartial, unintentional, and often unbroken chain of testimonies by the friends of hostile pen of history. The supernatural and Christianity, from the earliest period of its ex- miraculously accredited testimony of the priistence to the present day. "And from the mitive æra, has been supported and reiterated mouths and pens of its adversaries, we extract in every age, by the voice of a continued prodecisive proofs, that the books of the New Tes. vidence. The rise and fall of empires; the retament, are in all important respects--indeed volutions of states; the declension and revival we might almost say, verbatim et literatim- of science, literature, and religion; the prothe same now that they were in the first cen- gress of art, of public opinion, of discovery and tury.

of liberty, have all a relation, not only to the The researches of criticism and philology interests of the kingdom of Christ; but to the come in aid of the same conclusion. Manu- evidence that it was set up, and has been conscripts of the whole or greater part of the New tinually preserved, by the God of heaven. Testament, of great antiquity, still exist; trans- The other great division of evidence has been lations of it into various languages, which be- usually denominated the internal, which opens gan to be made even in apostolic times, still re- a wide and most interesting field of argument main; its phraseology and structure, its idioms and illustration. Two distinct views may be and allusions, all sustain its claims, and esta- taken of this department. It may be viewed blish its birth-place and ite age. It is not more as enibracing, chiefly, the marks or proofs furcertain that Cæsar wrote his Commentaries, or nished by the Bible itself, of its genuineness Virgil his Æneid, than it is that Matthew and and authenticity; that is, that it was written at John and Luke and Paul were the writers of the time and by the persons to which it is usuthe New Testament. We have not more satis-ally ascribed; and that the occurrences and factory evidence that the former were Romans, events which it describes actually took place. and wrote in Latin,-the one what he saw and Those who wish to ascertain how much can be did, the other the creations of his fancy;-than done in this way, are referred to the admirable we have that the latter were Hebrews, and work of Paley, the Horæ Paulinæ, in which, wrote in Greek, what they saw, and felt, and without travelling out of the record itself-the handled of the word of life. To be consistent, Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of Paul the person who rejects the authenticity of the-he establishes, by a series of indirect argubooks of the New Testament, ought to reject all ments and incidental notices, the truth of a ancient history, and all human testimony, and great part of the New Testament. believe only what comes under his own observa. But another view is usually taken of the intion.

ternal evidence, of far more importance, and When these points have been determined, more generally intelligible. It is alleged, that there is still another kind of external evidence the Bible contains in itself the most decisive by which the religion of Jesus may be tried. evidence of its heavenly origin, in the views The record of it contains predictions of many which it furnishes of the infinitely glorious chamost important events; some of which were to racter of God as the moral governor of the be accomplished shortly after they had been universe ; in its representations of the present committed to writing, and others of them in a state and circumstances of human nature; in far distant futurity. If the predictions of the the powerful remedy it reveals for the deliverevents which were soon to happen should be ance of guilty creatures; in the universal adapregarded as only shrewd and happy conjectation of that remedy to all to whom it is adtures, it will be impossible to apply this de- dressed, and who are led to receive it; in the scription to those which are taking place now, high moral tendency of its doctrines and preand which are destined to occur in successioncepts; and in the fitness of the whole system to the end of time. But even of the first series to lead to holiness, happiness, and God. In of scripture prophecies it will be impossible to these respects it bears the image and super

scription of divinity. It reveals what God alono * Chalmers

could disclose, with a perfection of which God alone could be the author. It unveils the glory | globe, a ground for its grand appeal; and that of the invisible Creator, and presents him be appeal can never be made altogether in vain. fore his creatures robed in all the beauty of ho. Wherever it finds a human creature possessed liness, and invested with all the charms of love. of rationality, it addresses him in language It brings him near without lowering him; it which he may understand, on a subject too imclothes him with condescension without de portant to be altogether despised. Wherever grading him; and it enthrones him in majesty it finds a sinner, it finds a man who needs the without surrounding him with terror.

blessing which it brings, and to whom that Its representations of our state, as the crea. blessing is free and suitable. And wherever it tures of the divine government, are not more finds a subject of misery, let that misery arise awful than we feel them to be just. It enters from what it may, and exist in whatever deinto the heart, and exposes its most secret evils gree, it announces tidings which, if believed, and springs of iniquity. It thus affords unde- must infallibly relieve it. The testimony to niable proof that its darkest recesses are naked which these things are applicable must be from and open to the Author of the exposition. We God, and not of men. find it impossible to dispute its statements respecting our guilt and its desert; and equally evidence together, we are furnished with a

Thus by combining the external and internal impossible to doubt that all our misery is the

mass of proof of the most solid and appropriate result of our apostacy and rebellion. One thing constitutes our bane, and one antidote it relates, and of the source whence it springs;

nature; worthy of the great subject to which alone is suited to destroy it. Sin is the cause of sorrow and of death; in God the help must

affording supreme satisfaction and delight to be found. Without a return to him, in a way

the believer, and justifying the unlimited con

fidence he reposes in it: but involving consehonourable to his government and suited to our

quences of the most solemn and tremendous circumstances, the curse can never be removed. description to the man who wantonly despises, This way of return, the gospel reveals. The

or deliberately rejects it. divine provision of mercy, through the atonement of the Son of God, is the grand discovery

The best apology I can offer for dwelling so of Christianity. This discovery at once brings long on the evidences themselves, is, that it into view, and perfectly harmonizes all the at

will both facilitate and abridge my statement tribules of God. Here justice asserts all its

of the advantages arising from an extensive acclaims and receives all its due-holiness ap

quaintance with them. Even the slightest atpears in its purest lustre-faithfulness in its tention to what has been brought forward, must most encouraging aspects—while love beams convince every intelligent individual of the with all its tenderness, and mercy shines forth

vast importance of studying the extensive and with most engaging attractions. Here God

diversified proofs, that the Scriptures are a reand man are once more reconciled; the former velation from God. No inquiry can have more by the removal of the cause of displeasure, the powerful claims upon us, and in no inquiry can latter by the destruction of his enmity. " God we engage with so great a prospect of advanis by Christ reconciling the world to himself, tage. He who neglects to institute it, or who not imputing to men their trespasses"

goes about it in a careless manner, or in a spe. The adaptation of this heaven-devised cure

culative humour, does injustice to himself, afis felt by all who receive it. In the God of fronts the truth and authority of God, and acts lore, the sinner finds his best and his only ef

a part as foolish, and unreasonable, as it is fectual friend. In his revealed character, he criminal and dangerous. Whatever presents a feels the attraction which draws, and the pat

claim to be a revelation from God, is entitled tern of excellence which excites him. Here

to be heard; and a book which possesses such he obtains relief from the sense of guilt, and

claims as the Bible, the rejection or reception from the fear of punishment; while he expe

of which brings such consequences along with riences, in the object of his contemplation, an

it, ought to be examined with the utmost seabsorbing and transforming power, which with riousness and candour. draws him from evil, and unites him to what is Considered as the means of intellectual imgood. He discovers at once the secret of his provement, I know not a more important exermisery and his restlessness, and the source of cise in which any person can engage, than the all that is pure in enjoyment, sublime in ex- examination of the arguments in support of the pectation, and powerful in efficiency. In the truth of Christianity. Were the conductors of gospel he finds all that he needs as a sinner, schools and academies to direct the attention all ihat he wants as a creature, and all that he of their pupils to this subject, instead of some can enjoy on this side eternity. He" rejoices, of the trivial or less important matters which therefore, with joy unspeakable and full of glo- frequently occupy much of their time, I have ry."-"Beholding as in a glass the glory of the no doubt that great benefit would accrue from Lord, he is changed into the same image, from it. Not that I would recommend their putting glory to glory, as by the Lord the Spirit.” into the hands of young persons books contain

It is thus that Christianity makes its appeal ing the strength of the infidel cause, that they to the understanding and the conscience, to may tind answers to them. This would be inthe feelings and the wants, to the hopes and judicious. But with great safety might they the fears of man. It is thus it carries its own put into their hands some of the best works in witness along with it. It bears on its bosom a support and illustration of the Christian scheme; message of mercy to every creature, it fur- and direct them to a course of reading, by which nishes a cure for every evil, and provides an they would be gradually fitted for understandantidote for every sorrow. It finds, in the na- ing the whole subject, and enabled to perceive ture and circumstances of man all over the thô breadth and the depth of the foundations

rests.

on which the entire edifice of Christianity only to be ranked among the subordinate ad

vantages of an extensive acquaintance with This investigation would sharpen their acute-Christian evidence. Its moral advantages are ness and stimulate their improvement. It of a far higher order, and prefer still greater would lead them to examine the different kinds claims to our consideration. Were Christianof testimony and evidence ;-to discriminate ity addressed to our speculative faculties only, the pretensions of imposture from the claims we should be justified in treating it as we do of truth ;-to appreciate the value of solid ar- other speculations. But it is addressed to man gument, and to scorn the wickedness of misre-chiefly as a lapsed and ruined creature. Its presentation and the impiety of levity and jest object is not so much gratify his curiosity, ing on sacred subjects. It would induce a love as to restore and renovate his nature. It comes of truth, a reverence for its claims, a hallowed as a remedy, and not merely as a fact or proregard to its authority, with a hatred of every position: so that if it does not prove the sathing opposed to integrity and honour, which vour of life, it will doubtless prove the savour might form the basis of moral habits of the of death to those who hear it. If it be true as most important description.

a religious dispensation, it is exclusively true. It would be impossible to promote this ac- If there is salvation in the name which it requaintance with the evidences of revelation | veals, there is no other name by which men without extending the range of their general can be saved. If eternal life be the result of knowledge. An uninformed or ignorant per believing it, eternal damnation must be the son is not capable of estimating the full strength consequence of rejecting it. The mere exaof the Christian cause. It supposes an ac.

mination of the evidence of such a subject quaintance with many subjects, it its full ought not therefore to be a matter of indifferamount is to be ascertained. History, criti- ence or of mere speculation: it must bring cism, science, and experience in argument, all good or evil along with it. furnish their aid in this important inquiry, and From the outline of the evidences sketched contribute their respective quotas to confirm in this discourse, it appears that those evidences or elucidate the claims of the word of God. cannot be fully entered into without a considerEven an acquaintance with the opposition it able acquaintance with the matter and subhas encountered, and over which it has tri- stance of revelation itself; and this I conceive umphed, tends powerfully to confirm the mind to be one source of the moral advantage of stuin its truth and divinity.

dying those evidences. We cannot do justico Revelation has been assailed by adversaries to them without studying the Bible; and it of no ordinary character. All that learning is impossible to study the Bible in a serious could discover, all that eloquence could allege, temper of mind without being the better for it. and all that wit, sophistry, and cunning could God, in his perfect wisdom, has so constructed contrive and assert, have been employed to in- his word, that we cannot examine it closely, jure the Christian cause. But these things with a view to ascertain any one point, without have only called forth the most splendid talents having its leading subjects constantly pressed on the side of that cause, The most powerful on our attention. The moral glory of the diproductions of human genius and industry vine character; the holiness, justice, and goodhave been furnished by the advocates of Chris- ness of the law; the intinite benevolence and tianity; and in this interesting field of labour appropriateness of the gospel; the deplorable some of the most exquisite intellectual repasts condition of the sinner; the safety and blessare to be found. In profound and masterly ar- edness of the Christian; the emptiness of the gument, we have nothing to compare with world, and the eternal weight of glory which the Analogy" of Butler, and the Defence of is to be revealed; continually present thenMiracles by Campbell. In laborious, patient, selves when examining the Bible, either from and candid research, the world has furnished mere curiosity, or from the desire of ascertainnothing superior to the works of Lardner. In ing its claims, acknowledging its authority, or luminous and unanswerable reasonings, where discovering its meaning. Such a range of is the volume that will admit of comparison subjects, embracing every topic bearing directwith Paley? These are the mighty masters ly on the salvation of man, must produce some in the school of argument and philosophy: but considerable influence and impression on the the time would fail to enumerate the names mind of the inquirer. Their importance, their and do justice to the labours of Cudworth, and grandeur, and their adaptation to his wants and Baxter, and Newton, and Locke, and Leland, circumstances must be, in some degree, felt. and Addison, and Chandler, and Littleton, and Other subjects, also, belonging to the eviWest, and Watson, and Hailes, and Porteous,dence, though less closely connected with saland Jenyns, and Chalmers, and Haldane, and vation, necessarily lead the soul to God. It is Erskine, and Mearns, and Bogue, and Beattie, impossible, for instance, to examine the proand Gregory. In the writings of these, and phecies of the Old Testament, with their remany others that might be mentioned, the corded fulfilment in the New, without having ablest defences of the truth are to be found. the mind affected by the various parts of the The man who is unacquainted with them has divine character which are thus illustrated. yet much to learn, and much enjoyment of ap | The predictions relative to a Saviour, show intellectual nature to acquire: while he who | what was the grand object in the divine mind knows them, and can yet treat with levity the from eternity-the redemption of a lost world. cause which they advocate, has much to an- They demonstrate that, notwithstanding its swer for at the bar of God.

rebellion and profligacy, God's thoughts toBut intellectual gratification and improve- wards it, were invariably thoughts of peace, ment, however important in themselves, are and not of wrath. The predicted character of the Saviour shows the magnitude and difficulty , of their evidences tends to produce a moral im of the undertaking, and must lead the mind to pression on the mind, a certain state of moral reflect on the nature and extent of the evil | disposition is necessary to the clear and full which rendered such an expedient of deliver- perception of their heavenly nature and origin. ance necessary. His foretold sufferings show A serious inquirer will not proceed many stages the inethod through wbich redemption was in the progress of discovery, without finding contemplated from the beginning, and harmo. that his advancement very inuch corresponds nize with the symbolical rites of the Patriarchal with the condition of his moral and spiritual and Levitical institutes. In the minuteness of feelings. On every page of the sacred record the prophetic detail, respecting the time and it is inscribed, “If any man incline to do the place of his birth ; his parentage and family; will of God, he shall know of the doctrine, his circumstances and treatment in the world; whether it be of God,"—“then shall ye know, his sufferings, and death, and glorification; we if ye follow on to know the Lord.” If the disrecognise the infinite wisdom of God in pro- position be wanting to receive and approve the viding against the possibility of an impostor truth, to obey its dictates and choose its prosustaining the character of the Messiah. When mises,-if the object be to find occasion against all these things are examined along with the it, material to justify ungodliness, or food for a New Testament history, and the perfect cor- prurient or misguided fancy,-let such a one respondence which obtains between the pro- beware how he proceeds. There are tests and phecies, and the character and work of Jesus stumbling-blocks, which will expose him to of Nazareth, is ascertained, we arrive, not only imminent hazard. As the righteous punishat a full conviction that he is indeed the Christ, ment of his unhallowed dispositions,“ seeing but have a most powerful and salutary impres- he may be left to see, yet not perceive; hearsion produced upon the mind by this display of ing he may hear, and yet not understand ; lest the wisdom, the faithfulness, and the goodness be should see with his eyes, and hear with his of God.

ears, and understand with his heart, and be In examining the miracles of Scripture, too, converted and healed.” If there is not in him especially those wrought by our Lord Jesus " the love of the truth, that he may be saved," Christ, wo cannot overlook the moral princi- he may be given over to strong delusion to beples which they were designed to illustrate. lieve a lie, “that he may be damned for not His miracles were never unnecessary or osten- believing the truth, but having pleasure in untatious displays of power; they were never righteousness." wrought to gratify an idle curiosity, or in com- On the other hand, the greatest encourage. pliance with importunate demands for satis- ment is held out to the humble, patient, and faction. Nor were they ever performed with sincere learner. To him “the Father of lights" the mere design of establishing his claims, and has promised the spirit of wisdom and revelarefuting the calumnies of his enemies. They tion, to guide him into all truth; to assist the were always wrought in connexion with the weakness of his understanding, and to correct highest and most important end-the good of the waywardness of his heart. As he advances those who were the subjects or witnesses of in the inquiry, he will find his difficulties one them. They were all miracles of benevolence; after another giving way; his convictions of and thus they perfectly harmonized with the the truth growing in strength and precision ; nature and genius of Christianity, as a dispen- his perceptions of its moral glory and suitablesation of love, and not of judgment. They il- ness becoming more and more powerful and lustrate the character, as well as the claims, distinct; till at length" in the light of God he of the Redeemer; and prove him in every sense sees light clearly," and in the joy of God is to have been the friend of sinners. While we enabled greatly to rejoice. dwell on the greatness of Him whom the winds There is an evident fitness in thus connect. and the seas obeyed, and at whose voice the ing the knowledge of the evidence and the dead came forth; we cannot overlook the infi- meaning of the word of God with a certain nite condescension and tenderness, which re- condition of our moral faculties and disposi. garded the fears of the disciples, pitied the tions. Sin is that disease of our nature, of sorrows of the widow, and wept at the grave of which the word of God reveals the cure. It is Lazarus. While we admire the hand which highly proper, therefore, that the man who performed the wonders, we adore the heart cherishes and fosters the disease, and who en. which dictated its mighty operations. One courages prejudices against the grand remedy, view of the miracles of Jesus produces the ex- and its infinitely benevolent author, should be clamation of Peter, “ Depart from me, for I left to experience the consequence of his con. am a sinful man, O Lord.” Another view of duct, by eating of the fruit of his own devices. them extorts the exclamation, “ Thou art the It would be as reasonable to expect that a man, Son of God, thou art the King of Israel.” with morbid taste and jaundiced eye, should

Thus every part of this subject leads to the relish what is exquisite in food, and beautiful works and the ways of God. These will in colour, as that the lover of sin should see ever be found most worthy of himself, and ne- the glory of the truth as it is in Jesus. There ver fail to effect on the serious mind the most must be some affinity between the object and valuable impressions. The subjects of revela- | the mind which is directed to it. The beauty tion, and the proofs that it is from God, are so of that Word which is the transcript of the diinterwoven that they cannot be separated. vine nature, which exhibits all that is perfect The individual most conversant with the Bible in moral excellence, all that is compassionate will invariably be found the most deeply and in sovereign kindness, and all that is transportthoroughly convinced of its truth.

ing in the prospects of eternity, can be seen While the examination of the Scriptures and only by the man whose heart God has touched,

and who is taught not by flesh and blood, but the inquiry is not carried far enough. The by our Father who is in heaven.

faith of many serious persons rests too much This holy influence is one of the most impor on the testimony of man, and too little on the tant promises of that revelation of which we perception of the power and wisdom of God. are speaking, and one of the greatest encou- It is too much taken for granted that so many ragements to the conscientious inquirer.- wise and good people must be right,--that what Would you then be grounded and settled in the we have received by tradition froin our fathers, truth, the teaching of the heavenly Spirit you is generally received in the country, and taught must implore. On his teaching you must de from the pulpit, cannot be wrong. All these pend, rather than upon mere human labour and things must be allowed to operate in the first research. You must be faithful to your con- stages of religious belief and inquiry. They victions, and follow up your discoveries to their are attended with injury, only when they are practical conclusions. You must seek to grow substituted in the place of personal examinain grace as you grow in knowledge. If you tion, and suspend the farther and more comdesire an extensive acquaintance with the evi- plete investigation of the subject. In numedences of religion, you must be careful to live rous instances they are the chief reasons of beand act as religious persons, and to do justice lief, and thus destroy those feelings of a perto the measure of religious light which you sonal nature, which are so essential to our have received. You must beware of sacrificing comfort and efficiency as Christians. duty to convenience and inclination. You may The consequences resulting from this ignoas well abandon the examination at once, as rance and indifference to the evidence of the think of persevering in it and hoping for success, truth, are inost melancholy and disastrous. if in heart and conduct you continue to resist The faith of such persons cannot bear even tho the admonitions of the sacred Word. What- slightest shock. It is only necessary to bring ever tends thus to establish the connexion be- them into contact with some would-be philotween truth and character, evidence and inoral sopher, or witling infidel, to have the foundadisposition, must be of vast importance to rea- tions, if such they may be called, of their relisonable and accountable creatures.

gious system completely torn up. The latent But passing all other advantages arising unbelief of the human heart is ignited by the from an extensive acquaintance with the evi- first spark of infidelity, and the outward prodences of the truth, let me direct your atten- fession founded upon it is exploded immediatetion to the vast importance of it, in order to ly. Had it not been for this lamentable ignoour safety, usefulness, and comfort as Chris- rance and indifference on the subject of reli. tians. These are the great objects for which gion and its truth, which pervaded both the God has furnished us with such abundance upper and lower classes of society during the and variety of testimony to the truth of his latter part of the last century, would the wriown word. These are the grand design and tings of Hume and Paine have produced such end of the whole. Without a perception of the ravages as they did ? Certainly not. These evidence in some of its forms, what is faith bold and impudent infidels had not to contend Credulity:-What is confidence ? Temerity. - with the faith of the gospel, but with a base What is hope? Presumption.- What is zeal? substitute and pretender which had usurped its Fanaticism.-What is comfort? Delusion.- place. If they succeeded in overthrowing the What, in short, is religion? Not the reasonable faith of some, it was that faith which consisted service which it ought to be, and which it must in pretence and semblance, or which never had be, in order to its being acceptable to God, its foundation on the testimony of God. Who, and profitable to ourselves. It is no better that knows that testimony, and has felt its dethan an unmeaning form-a worthless profes- lightful and transforming influence, would have sion, the thing of custom, tradition, or fancy, been cheated out of his religion by the sophisinstead of a faith and service, the result of pain- try of Hume, or laughed out of it by the wit ful examination, personal conviction, and en- of Voltaire, or bullied out of it by the boisterous lightened attachment.

rudeness of Paine? The attacks of these aposIt is exceedingly distressing to reflect on the tles of falsehood, these panders to vice, these extent to which many are disposed to take enemies of human happiness, only attach the their religion on trust. They are Christians genuine Christian more strongly to the great for little better reason than they would have foundation of his hope, and lead him to exbeen Mahommedans had they been born in claim with greater emphasis, “ Lord, to whom Turkey, or worshippers of the Grand Lama can we go? thou hast the words of eternal life; had their lot been cast in Thibet. “ They so and we believe, and are sure, that thou art the believe, because they so were bred.” Such Christ, the Son of the living God." persons would never think of acting in this It is very disgraceful to any man, professing manner in regard to any worldly affair of im. Christianity, to be unable to meet the objecportance. They would not trust the most tions to his faith among persons in his own trifling interests of time on so slender and class and circumstances in society. Such a flimsy a foundation. Yet without inquiry, man injures very deeply the cause to which he without evidence, (for evidence unperceived or professes to be a friend. He is unable to give not understood is the same to the individual as a reason of the hope which is in him, or to asthough it did not exist,) they yield their faith sign the grounds of his religious faith and and trust their immortal hopes. Of what practice. His inability is construed into the greater folly is it possible for rational creatures weakness of the cause which he has espoused. to be guilty?

Because he cannot defend his religion, it is inEven in many cases in which there is great- ferred that it cannot be defended. He is reer concern and seriousness, it is to be feared, I garded as a specimen of the people called

Rel. Mag.–No. 5.

3 N

« PreviousContinue »