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cluded, by the nature of the subject, from | transmitted to us from a distant country. the benefit of observation. There is no an- And in a science, the processes of which tecedent experience to guide or to enlighten are so lengthened in point of time, our prinus. It is not right, for man to assume what ciples should also in part be founded on the is right, or proper, or natural for the Al- observations of others, transmitted to us mighty to do. It is not in the mere spirit from a remote antiquity. Any observations of piety that we say so; it is in the spirit of our own are so limited, both in point of of the soundest experimental philosophy. space and of time, that we never think of The argument of the Christian is precisely opposing their authority to the evidence what the maxims of Lord Bacon would dis- which is laid before us. Our whole attention pose us to acquiesce in. The argument of is directed to the validity of the record; and the infidel is precisely that argument which the moment that this validity is established, the same maxims would dispose us to re- we hold it incumbent upon us to submit ject; and when put by the side of the Chris- our minds to the entire and unmodified tian argument, it appears as crude and as impression of the testimony contained in it. unphilosophical as do the ingenious specu- Now, all that we ask is, that the same prolations of the schoolmen, when set in oppo- cess of investigation be observed in theolosition to the rigour, and evidence, and pre-gy, which is held to be so sound and so lecision, which reign in every department of gitimate in other sciences. In a science of modern science. such extent, as to embrace the wide domain of The application of Lord Bacon's philoso-moral and intelligent nature, we feel the litphy to the study of external nature was a tleness of that range to which our own perhappy epoch in the history of physical sci-sonal observations are confined. We shall ence. It is not long since this application be glad, not merely of the information has been extended to the study of moral transmitted to us from a distant country, and intellectual phenomena. All that we but of the authentic information transmitcontend for is, that our subject should have ted to us by any other order of beings, in the benefit of the same application; and we some distant and unknown part of the creacount it hard while, in every other depart- tion. In a science, too, which has for its ment of inquiry, a respect for truth is found object the lengthened processes of the disufficient to repress the appetite for sys- vine administration, we should like, if any tem-building, that theology, the loftiest and record of past times could enable us to exmost inaccessible of all the sciences, should tend our observations beyond the limits of still remain infected with a spirit so ex- our own ephemeral experience; and if there ploded, and so unphilosophical; and that are any events of a former age possessed the fancy, and theory, and unsupported of such a peculiar and decisive character, speculation, so current among the Deists as would help us to some satisfactory conand demi-infidels of the day, should be held clusion in this greatest and most interesting paramount to the authority of facts, which of the sciences. have come down to us with a weight of evidence and testimony, that is quite unex-yond us, we would never think of opposing ampled in the history of ancient times. any preconceptions to the evidence of history. We would maintain the humility of the inductive spirit. We would cast about for facts, and events and appearances. We would offer our minds as a blank surface to every thing that came to them, suppor ted by unexceptionable evidence. It is not upon the nature of the facts themselves, that we would pronounce upon their credibility, but upon the nature of that testimony by which they were supported. Our whole attention would be directed to the authority of the record. After this was established, we would surrender our whole understanding to its contents. We would school down every antipathy within us, and disown it as a childish affection, unworthy of a philosopher who professes to follow truth through all the disgusts and discouragements which surround it. There are men of splendid reputation in our enlightened circles, who never attended to this speculation, and who annex to the Gospel of Christ nothing else than ideas of superstition and vulgarity. In braving
On a subject so much above us and be
What is science, but a record of observed phenomena, grouped together according to certain points of resemblance, which have been suggested by an actual attention to the phenomena themselves? We never think of questioning the existence of the phenomena, after we have demonstrated the genuineness and authenticity of the record. After this is demonstrated, the singular or unexpected nature of the phenomena is not suffered to weaken their credibility,-a credibility which can only be destroyed by the authority of our own personal observation, or some other record possessed of equal or superior pretensions. But in none of the inductive sciences is it in the power of a student to verify every thing by his own personal observation. He must put up with the observations of others, brought home to the convictions of his own mind by creditable testimony. In the science of geology, this is eminently the case. In a science of such extent, our principles must be in part founded upon the observations of others,
ment is often expended in bringing about this accommodation. It is, of course, a work of greater difficulty, to convince this description of people, though in point of fact, this difficulty has been overcome, in a way the most masterly and decisive, by one of the soundest and most philosophical of our theologians.
To another description of Christians, this attempt to reconcile the doctrines of Christianity with the light of natural religion is superfluous. Give them historical evidence for the truth of Christianity, and all that
their contempt, we would feel ourselves in the best element for the display and exercise of the philosophical temper. We would rejoice in the omnipotence of truth, and anticipate, in triumph, the victory which it must accomplish over the pride of science, and the fastidiousness of literature. It would not be the enthusiasm of a visionary which would support us, but the inward working of the very same principle which sustained Galileo, when he adhered to the result of his experiments, and Newton, when he opposed his measurements and observations to the tide of prejudice he had to encoun-natural religion may have taught them will ter from the prevailing taste and philoso- fly like so many visionary phantoms before phy of the times. the light of its overbearing authority. With them the argument is reduced to a narrower compass. Is the testimony of the apostles and first Christians sufficient to establish the credibility of the facts which are recorded in the New Testament? The question is made to rest exclusively on the character of this testimony, and the circumstances attending it; and no antecedent theology of their own is suffered to mingle with the investigation. If the historical evidence of Christianity is found to be conclusive, they conceive the investigation to be at an end; and that nothing re
We conceive that inattention to the above principles has led many of the most popular and respected writers in the Deistical controversy to introduce a great deal of discussion that is foreign to the merits of the question altogether; and in this way the attention is often turned away from the point in which the main strength of the argument lies. An infidel, for example, objects against one of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity. To repel the objection, the Christian conceives it necessary to vindicate the reasonableness of that doc-mains on their part, but an act of unconditrine, and to show how consistent it is with tional submission to all its doctrines. all those antecedent conceptions which we derived from the light of natural religion. All this we count superfluous. It is imposing an unnecessary task upon ourselves. Enough for us to have established the authority of the Christian revelation upon the ground of its historical evidence. All that remains is to submit our minds to the fair interpretation of Scripture. Yes; but how do you dispose of the objection drawn from the light of natural religion? In precisely the same way that we would dispose of an objection drawn from some speculative system, against the truth of any physical fact that has been well established by observation or testimony. We would disown the system, and oppose the obstinacy of the fact to all the elegance and ingenuity of the speculation.
Though it might be proper, in the present state of opinion, to accommodate to both these cases, yet we profess ourselves to belong to the latter description of Christians. We hold by the total insufficiency of natural religion to pronounce upon the intrinsic merits of any revelation, and think that the authority of every revelation rests exclusively upon its external evidences, and upon such marks of honesty in the composition itself as would apply to any human performance. We rest this opinion, not upon any fanatical impression of the ignorance of man, or how sinful it is for a weak and guilty mortal to pronounce upon the counsels of heaven, and the laws of the divine administration. We disown this presumption, not merely because it is sinful, but because we conceive it to be unphilosophical, and precisely analogous to that theorising a priori spirit, which the wisdom of Bacon has banished from all the schools of philosophy.
We are sensible that this is not enough to satisfy a numerous class of very sincere and well disposed Christians. There are many of this description, who, antecedent to the study of the Christian revelation alto- For the satisfaction of the first class, we gether, repose a very strong confidence in refer them to that argument which has been the light of natural religion, and think that prosecuted with so much ability and sucupon the mere strength of its evidence, they cess by Bishop Butler, in his Analogy of can often pronounce with a considerable Natural and Revealed Religion. It is not degree of assurance on the character of the so much the object of this author to found divine administration. To such as these, any positive argument on the accordancy something more is necessary than the ex- which subsists between the process of the ternal evidences on which Christianity divine administration in nature, and, the rests. You must reconcile the doctrines processes ascribed to God by revelation, as to of Christianity with those previous concep- repel the argument founded upon their suptions which the light of nature has given posed discordancy. To one of the second them; and a great deal of elaborate argu-class, the argument of Bishop Butler is not
no right to retain his theism, if he rejects Christianity upon difficulties to which natural religion is equally liable. If Christianity tells us, that the guilt of a father has brought sufferings and vice upon his posterity, it is what we see exemplified in a thousand instances among the families around us. If it tells us, that the innocent have suffered for the guilty, it is nothing more than what all history and all observation have made perfectly familiar to us. If it tells us of one portion of the human race being distinguished by the sovereign will of the Almighty for superior knowledge, or superior privileges, it only adds one inequality more to the many inequalities which we perceive every day in the gifts of nature, of fortune, and of providence. In short, without entering into all the details of that argument, which Butler has brought forward in a way so masterly and decisive, there is not a single impeachment which can be offered against the God of Christianity, that may not, if consistently proceeded upon, be offered against the God of Nature itself; if the one be unworthy of God, the other is equally so; and if in spite of these difficulties, you still retain the conviction, that there is a God of Nature, it is not fair or rational to suffer them to outweigh all that positive evidence and testimony, which have been adduced for proving that the same God is the God of Christianity also.
called for; but as to one of the first class, we can conceive nothing more calculated to quiet his difficulties. He believes a God, and he must therefore believe the character and existence of God to be reconcileable with all that he observes in the events and phenomena around him. He questions the claims of the New Testament to be a revelation from heaven, because he conceives, that it ascribes a plan and an economy to the Supreme Being, which are unworthy of his character. We offer no positive solution of this difficulty. We profess ourselves to be too little acquainted with the character of God; and that in this little corner of his works, we see not far enough to offer any decision on the merits of a government, which embraces worlds, and reaches eternity. We think we do enough, if we give a sufficiency of external proof for the New Testament being a true and authentic message from heaven; and that therefore nothing remains for us, but to attend and to submit to it. But the argument of Bishop Butler enables us to do still more than this. It enables us to say, that the very thing objected against in Christianity exists in nature; and that therefore the same God who is the author of nature, may be the author of Christianity. We do not say that any positive evidence can be founded upon this analogy. But in as far as it goes to repel the objection, it is triumphant. A man has
On the Way of Proposing the Argument to Atheistical Infidels.
IF Christianity be still resisted, it appears to us that the only consistent refuge is Atheism. The very same peculiarities in the dispensation of the Gospel, which lead the infidel to reject it as unworthy of God, go to prove, that nature is unworthy of him, and land us in the melancholy confusion, that whatever theory can be afforded as to the mysterious origin and existence of the things which be, they are not under the dominion of a supreme and intelligent mind. Nor do we look upon Atheism as a more hopeless species of infidelity than Deism, unless in so far as it proves a more stubborn disposition of the heart to resist every religious conviction. Viewed purely as an intellectual subject, we look upon the mind of an Atheist, as in a better state of preparation for the proofs of Christianity than the mind of the Deist. The one is a blank surface, on which evidence may make
with pre-conceptions. It will not take what history offers to it. It puts itself into the same unphilosophical posture, in which the mind of a prejudiced Cartesian opposed its theory of the heavens to the demonstration and measurment of Newton. The theory of the Deist upon a subject where truth is still more inaccessible, and speculation still more presumptuous, sets him to resist the only safe and competent evidence that can be appealed to. What was originally the evidence of observation, and is now transformed into the evidence of testimony, comes down to us in a series of historical documents, the closest and most consistent that all antiquity can furnish. It is the unfortunate theory which forms the grand obstacle to the admission of the Christian miracles, and which leads the Deist to an exhibition of himself so unphilosophical, as that of trampling on the soundest laws of
a fair impression, and where the finger of evidence, by bringing an historical fact history may inscribe its credible and well- under the tribunal of a theoretical princiattested information. The other is occupied ple. The Deistical speculation of Rousseau,
by which he neutralized the testimony of | Christianity. We do not ask him to prethe first Christians, is as complete a trans-sume the existence of God. We ask him gression against the temper and principlès to examine the miracles of the New Testaof true science, as a category of Aristotle ment merely as recorded events, and to adwhen employed to overrule an experiment mit no other principle into the investigain chemistry. But however this be, it is tion, than those which are held to be satisevident that Rousseau would have given a fying and decisive, on any other subject readier reception to the Gospel history, had of written testimony. The sweeping prinhis mind not been pre-occupied with the ciple upon which Rosseau, filled with his speculation; and the negative state of Athe- own assumptions, condemned the historical ism would have been more favourable to the evidence for the truth of the Gospel narraadmission of those facts which are connect- tive, can have no influence on the blank ed with the origin and establishment of our and unoccupied mind of an Atheist. He religion in the world. has no presumptions upon the subject; for to his eyes the phenomena of nature sit so loose and unconnected with that intelligent Being, to whom they have been referred as their origin, that he does not feel himself entitled, from the phenomena, to ascribe any existence, any character, any attributes, or any method of administration to such a Being. He therefore in the best possible condition for submitting his understanding to the entire impression of the historical evidence. Those difficulties which perplex the Deist, who cannot recognize in the God of the New Testament the same features and the same principles in which they have invested the God of Nature, are no difficulties to him. He has no God of nature to confront with that real though invisible power which lay at the bottom of those astonishing miracles, on which history has stamped her most authentic characters. Though the power which presided there should be an arbitrary, an unjust, or a malignant being, all this may startle a Deist, but it will not prevent a consistent Atheist from acquiescing in any legitimate inference, to which the miracles of the Gospel, viewed in the simple light of historical facts, may chance to carry him. He cannot bring his antecedent information into play upon this question. He professes to have no antecedent information on the subject; and this sense of his entire ignorance, which lies at the bottom of his Atheism, would expunge from his mind all that is theoretical, and make it the passive recipient of every thing which observation offers to its notice, or which credible testimony has brought down to it of the history of past ages.
What then, we ask, does the Atheist make of the miracles of the New Testament? If he questions their truth, he must do it upon grounds that are purely historical; he is precluded from every other ground by the very principle on which he has rested his Atheism; and we therefore, upon the strength of that testimony which has been already exhibited, press the admission of these miracles as facts. If there be nothing then, in the ordinary phenomena of nature, to infer a God, do these extraordinary phenomena supply him with no argument? Does a voice from heaven make no impression
This suggests the way in which the evidence for Christianity should be carried home to the mind of an Atheist. He sees nothing in the phenomena around him, that can warrant him to believe in the existence of a living and intelligent principle, which gave birth and movement to all things. He does not say that he would refuse credit to the existence of God upon sufficient evidence, but he says that there are not such appearances of design in nature, as to supply him with that evidence. He does not deny the existence of God to be a possible truth; but he affirms, that while there is nothing before him but the consciousness of what passes within, and the observation of what passes without, it remains an assertion destitute of proof, and can have no more effect upon his conviction than any other nonentity of the imagination. There is a mighty difference between not proven and disproven. We see nothing in the argument of the Athiest which goes farther than to establish the former sentence upon the question of God's existence. It is altogether an argument ab ignorantia; and the same ignorance which restrains them from asserting in positive terms that God exists, equally restrains them from asserting in positive terms that God does not exist. The assertion may be offered, that, in some distant regions of the creation, there are tracts of space which, instead of being occupied like the tracts around us with suns and planetary systems, teem only with animated beings, who, without being supported like us on the firm surface of a world, have the power of spontaneous movements in free spaces. We cannot say that the assertion is not true, but we can say that it is not proven. It carries in it no positive character either of truth or falsehood, and may therefore be admitted on appropriate and satisfying evidence. But till that evidence comes, the mind is in a state entirely neutral; and such we conceive to be the neutral state of the Atheist, as to what he holds to be the unproved assertion of the existence of God.
To the neutral mind of the Atheist, then, unfurnished as it is with any previous conception, we offer the historical evidence of
upon him? And we have the best evidence | demands our attention,-the testimony of a which history can furnish, that such a voice man who in addition to evidences of honesty was uttered; "This is my beloved Son in more varied and more satisfying than were whom I am well pleased." "We have the evi-ever offered by a brother of the species, had dence of a fact for the existence of that very a voice from the clouds, and the power of Being from whom the voice proceeded, and working miracles, to vouch for him. We the evidence of a thousand facts, for a power do not think the account which this man superior to nature; because, on the impulse gives of himself can be viewed either with of a volition, it counteracted her laws and indifference or distrust, and the account is processes, it allayed the wind, it gave sight most satisfying. "I proceeded forth, and to the blind, health to the diseased, and, at came from God."-"He whom God hath the utterance of a voice, it gave life to the sent speaketh the words of God."-" Even dead. The ostensible agent in all these won- as the Father said unto me, so I speak." derful proceedings gave not only credentials He hath elsewhere said that God was his of his power, but he gave such credentials Father. The existence of God is here laid of his honesty, as dispose our understanding before us, by an evidence altogether distinct to receive his explanation of them. We do from the natural argument of the schools; not avail ourselves of any other principle and it may therefore be admitted in spite of than what an Atheist will acknowledge. He the deficiency of that argument. From understands as well as we do, the natural the same pure and unquestionable source signs of veracity which lie in the tone, the we gather our information of his attrimanner, the countenance, the high moral butes. "God is true."-" God is a spirit." expression of worth and benevolence, and, He is omnipotent, " for with God all things above all, in that firm and undaunted con- are possible." He is intelligent, "for he stancy, which neither contempt, nor poverty, knoweth what things we have need of." nor death, could shift from any of its positions. He sees all things, and he directs all things, All these claims upon our belief, were ac- "for the very hairs of our head are numcumulated to an unexampled degree in the bered," and "a sparrow falleth not to the person of Jesus of Nazareth; and when we ground without his permission." couple with them his undoubted miracles, and the manner in which his own personal appearance was followed up by a host of witnesses, who, after a catastrophe which would have proved a death-blow to any cause of imposture, offered themselves to the eye of the public, with the same powers, the same evidence, and the same testimony, it seems impossible to resist his account of the invisible principle, which gave birth and movement to the whole of this wonderful transaction. Whatever Atheism we may have founded on the common phenomena ed from those whose minds are tainted and around us, here is a new phenomena which pre-occupied with their former speculations.
The evidences of the Christian religion are suited to every species of infidelity. We do not ask the Atheist to furnish himself with any previous conception. We ask him to come as he is; and upon the strength of his own favourite principle, viewing it as a pure intellectual question, and abstracting from the more unmanageable tendencies of the heart and temper, we conceive his understanding to be in a high state of preparation, for taking in Christianity in a far purer and more scriptural form, than can be expect
On the Supreme Authority of Revelation.
rity of the New Testament, because the plan and the dispensation of the Almighty which is recorded there, is different from that plan and that dispensation which they have chosen to ascribe to him. We speak There is, perhaps, nothing more tho- of Christians, who profess to admit the roughly beyond the cognizance of the hu- authority of this record, but who have man faculties, than the truths of religion, tainted the purity of their profession by and the ways of that mighty and invisible not acting upon its exclusive authority; Being who is the object of it; and yet who have mingled their own thoughts and nothing, we will venture to say, has been their own fancy with its information; who, made the subject of more hardy and adven- instead of repairing in every question, turous speculation. We make no allusion and in every difficulty, to the principle of at present to Deists, who reject the autho-"What readest thou," have abridged the
Ir the New Testament be a message from God, it behoves us to make an entire and unconditional surrender of our minds, to all the duty and to all the information which it sets before us.