« FöregåendeFortsätt »
of the Babylonian Empire, is established by such strong moral evidence, that, if we reject it, we must reject all history and sink into universal scepticism. But, in regard to this fact, a serious difficulty occurs : for Herodotus and Xenophon give us two accounts of Cyrus so essentially different, that by no human ingenuity can they be reconciled together. Therefore no such person as Cyrus ever existed.
What should we think of the credulity, which could implicitly adopt this mode of reasoning as valid and conclusive? Yet such is the precise mode of reasoning, which of all others is the most commonly employed by infidel writers against Christianity. The clear evidence in favour of it they pretermit without an answer: they content themselves with starting difficulties : and then, on the score of these difficulties alone, they take upon themselves to reject it, though in the face of the very strongest conceivable evidence.
A process of this description would, I apprehend, be wholly unsatisfactory on any intelligible principles of ratiocination, even if the objections could not be answered and the difficulties removed : for, if objections and difficulties are to be admitted against positive unanswered evidence; there is an end of all moral certainty, and the reign of universal scepticism is forthwith introduced. What then shall we say, when the various objections and difficulties, started by in
fidels in the case of divine revelation, have again and again been met and answered and solved ? There is nothing new under the sun. probably be asserted with truth, that not a single cavil is to be found in the writings of modern deists, which has not been both adduced and answered long before they themselves were born.
The sum therefore of the present matter is, that, in direct opposition to positive unanswered evidence, the infidel calls upon us to reject Christianity on the strength of certain insulated objections; which objections have repeatedly been most fully answered.
5. A fifth ground of Infidelity is the position, that, as various theological systems have alike claimed to be revelations from heaven, and as the advocates of each system have been equally forward in maintaining their own to the exclusion of every other, the shrewd presumption with a philosophical inquirer will be, that all these systems are, without exception, mere interested impositions upon the credulity of mankind.
This is the position, which has been taken by Mr. Volney. With a considerable degree of picturesque stage-effect, all nations upon the face of the earth, accompanied by the priests of their several religions, appear before the French philosopher and his attendant hierophantic genius. Each sacerdotal college claims, for its own theological system, the character of a divine revelation. Now it is perfectly clear, that every claim of this
description cannot be deemed valid. Hence Mr. Volney and his genius sagaciously conclude, that no such claim can be rationally admitted.
Such, when stripped of its gaudy plumage, is the formidable argument, by which this gentleman proposes to destroy Christianity root and branch. Less adventurous inquirers would probably have acted somewhat differently. Various theological systems are presented to them, all equally claiming the authority of a divine revelation. In this emergency what is to be done? The most natural answer to such a question might, I presume, be given in the words of Holy Writ: Prove all things; hold fast that which is good *. Let us carefully examine the evidences, by which these various theological systems are supported. If there be no sufficient evidence for
any one of them, then let them all be equally rejected. But, if in any single case the evidence be sufficient, while in every other case it is insufficient; then let the well-attested system be received, while the ill-attested systems are rejected.
This mode of proceeding appears to be obvious and rational, notwithstanding it happens to be recommended by an apostle of the Christian faith : at least, we are very apt, in the common affairs of life, to resort to what is strictly analogical. Numerous persons put in their respective
1 Thessal. v. 21.
claims to a vacant estate. Every one of them, it is quite plain, cannot be the legitimate heir. What then is to be done? Is a calm and regular investigation to be entered upon, for the purpose of determining the validity or the invalidity of each claim; so that the lawful heir may be admitted to his just right, while every unwarranted pretender is set aside ? Or is the whole body of claimants to be forthwith dismissed, without ceremony and without inquiry, on the principle adopted by Mr.Volney and luminously set forth by his attendant genius; that, because every one cannot be the lawful heir, THEREFORE no one can ? Truly, if the principle of our philosophic Frenchman were to be acted upon in our courts of justice, it would occasion no small amazement and speculation : and I cannot help suspecting, that, if Mr. Volney himself were with many others the claimant of a valuable estate, and if his pretensions were to be as rapidly disposed of as he is pleased to dispose of the pretensions of Christianity; he would not be quite satisfied with the equity of the adjudication, but would be apt to move for a new decision in a higher court.
Let us, however, throw Mr. Volney's argument into a regular syllogism; which operation I have always found specially useful in dispelling the dense artificial fogs, raised at will by infidel controversialists.
Various theological systems equally and respectively claim to be a revelation from heaven.
But it is impossible, that every one of these systems can be a divine revelation. Therefore no one of them is a revelation from heaven.
In this single syllogism we have the sum total of the argument, which pervades the entire celebrated work of Mr. Volney. Its validity will be readily estimated by a familiar application of its principle.
Various bank-notes equally and respectively claim to be genuine. But it is positively ascertained, that many of them are forgeries. Therefore, by every rule of sound logic, all of them must inevitably be forgeries likewise.
6. A sixth ground of Infidelity is the position, that, as our unassisted reason is the sole instrument by which our duty is to be determined, so : our reason when properly and honestly used is in itself quite sufficient
for this purpose ; consequently, a revelation from God is no less unnecessary in the abstract, than the claim of any particular theological system to be received as a revelation from God is unfounded in the concrete.
When Mr. Volney has happily rid himself of all religions by the compendious process already noticed, he then confidently takes the position now before us.
Investigate, says the assembled multitude to his college of imaginary legislators: Investigate the laws, which nature, for our direction, has implanted in our breasts; and form from thence an