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more friendly to infidelity in the nature of one political system than another; nothing that can justify professing Christians in accusing one another, merely on account of a difference of this kind, of favouring the interests of Atheism and irreligion : nevertheless it becomes those who think favourably of the political principles of Infidels to take heed lest they be insensibly drawn away to think lightly of religion. All the nations of the earth and all disputes on the best or worst mode of government, compared with this are less than nothing and vanity.
To this it may be added, that the eagerness with which men engage in political disputes, take which side we may, is unfavoura-, ble to a zealous adherence to the gospel. Any mere worldly object, if it become the principal thing which occupies our thoughts and affections, will weaken our attachment to religion : and if once we become cool and indifferent to this, we are in the high-road to Infidelity. There are cases, no doubt, relating to civil government, in which it is our duty to act, and that with firmness : but to make such things the chief object of our attention, or the principal topic of our conversation, is both sinful and injurious. Many a promising character in the religious world has, by these things, been utterely ruined.
The writer of the following pages is not induced to offer them to the public eye from an apprehension that the Church of Christ is in danger. Neither the downfall of Popery, nor the triumph of infidels, as though they had hereby overturned Christianity, have ever been to him the cause of a moment's uneasiness. If Christianity be of God, as he verily believes it to to be, they cannot overthrow it. He must be possessed of but little faith who can tremble, though in a storm, for the safety of the vessel which contains his Lord and Master. There would be one argument less for the divinity of the scriptures, if the same powers which gave existence to the Anti-christian dominion had not been employed in taking it away.* But though truth has nothing to fear, it does not follow that its friends should be inactive ; if we should have no apprehensions for the safety of Christianity, we may, nevertheless, feel for the rising generation. The Lord confers an honour upon his servants in condescending to make use of their bumble efforts in preserving and promoting his interest in the world. If the present attempt may be thus accepted and honoured by Him to whose name it is sincerely dedicated, the writer will receive a rich reward.
KETTERING, Oct. 10, 1799.
* The powers of Europe, signified by the ten horns, or kings, into which the Roman empire should be divided, were to give their kingdoms to the beast. They did so: and France particularly took the lead. The same powers, it is predicted, shall hate the whore, and burn her flesh with fire. l'hey have begun to do so : and in this business also France has taken the lead. Rev. xvii. 12. 13. 16-18.
THE controversies between believers and unbelievers are confined to a narrower ground than those of professed believers with one another. Scripture testimony, any farther than as it bears the character of truth, and approves itself to the conscience, or is produced for the purpose of explaining the nature of genuine Christianity, is here out of the question. Reason is the common ground on which they must meet to decide their contests. On this ground Christian writers have successfully closed with their antagonists : so much so, that of late ages, notwithstanding all their boast of reason, not one in ten of them can be kept to the fair and honourable use of this weapon. On the contrary, they are driven to substitute dark insinuation, low wit, profane ridicule, and gross abuse. Such were the weapons of Shaftesbury, Tindal, Morgan, Bolingbroke, Voltaire, Hume, and Gibbon: and such are the weapons of the author of the Age of Reason. Among various well-written performances, in answer to their several productions, the reader may see a concise and able refutation of the greater part of them in Leland's Review of the Deistical Writers.
It is not my design to go over the various topics usually discussed in this controversy, but to select a single one, which, I conceive, has not been so fully attended to, but that it may yet be considered with advantage. The internal evidence which Christianity possesses, particularly in respect of its holy nature and divine harmony, will be the subject of the present inquiry.
Mr. Paine, after the example of many others, endeavours to discredit the scriptures by representing the number of hands through which they have passed, and the uncertainty of the historical evidence by which they are supported. " It is a matter altogether of uncertainty to us," he says, “whether such of the writings as now appear under the names of the Old and New Testament, are in the same state in which those collectors say they found them; or whether they added, altered, abridged, or dressed them up.
It is a good work which many writers have undertaken, to prove the validity of the Christian history; and to show that we have as good evidence for the truth of the great facts which it relates as we have for the truth of any ancient events whatever. But if, in addition to this, it can be proved that the scriptures contain internal characteristics of divinity, or that they carry in them the evidence of their authenticity, this will at once answer all objections from the supposed uncertainty of historical evidence.
Historians inform us of a certain valuable medicine, called Mithridate, an antidote to poison. It is said to have been “invented by Mithridates, king of Pontus; that the receipt of it was found in a cabinet, written with his own had, and was carried to Rome by Pompey; that it was translated into verse by Democrates, a famous physician ; and that it was afterwaads translated by Galen, from whom we have it." Now supposing this medicine to be efficacious for the professed purpose, of what account would it be to object to the authenticity of its history? If a modern caviller should take it into his head to allege that the preparation has passed through so many hands, and that there is so much hearsay and uncertainty attending it, that no dependence can be placed upon it, and that it had better be rejected from our Materia Medica ; he would be asked, Has it not been tried, and been found to be effectual ; and that in a great variety of instances? Such are Mr. Paine's objections to the Bible ; and such is the answer that may be given him.
* Age of Reason, Part I. pp. 10, 11.
i Lardner, Simpson, and others.
Chambers's Dictionary, Art. Mithridate:
This language is not confined to infidel writers. Mr. Locke speaks of what he calls “ traditional revelation," or revelation as we have it, in such a manner as to convey the idea, that we have no evidence of the scriptures being the word of God, but from a succession of witnesses having told us so.* But I conceive these sacred writings may contain such internal evidence of their being what they profess to be, as that it might, with equal reason, be doubted whether the world was created by the power of God, as whether they were written by the inspiration of his Spirit: and if so, our dependence is not upon mere tradition.
It is true, the scriptures having been conveyed to us through the medium of man, the work must necessarily, in some respects, have been humanized; yet there may be sufficient marks of divinity upon it, to render it evident to every candid mind that it is of God. We may
call the Mosaic account of the creation a tradition, and may be said to know through this medium that the heavens and the earth are the productions of divine power. But it is not through this medium only that we know it: the heavens and the earth carry in them evident marks of their divine original. These works of the Almighty speak for themselves ; and in language which none but those who are willfully deaf can misunderstand: Their sound is gone forth throughout all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. Were any man to pretend that its being a matter of revelation, and to us merely traditional revelation, that God made the heavens and the earth, and therefore that a degree of uncertainty must necessarily attend it; he would be reminded that the thing itself carried in it its own evidence. Let it be candidly considered whether the same may not be said of the holy scriptures. They will admit of historical defence; but they do not require it. Their contents, come through whose hands they may, prove them to be of God. It was on this principle that the gospel was proclaimed in the form of a testimony. The primitive preachers were not required by him who sent them to prove their doctrine in the manner that philosophers were wont to establish a
* Hunan Understanding, Book IV. Chap. XVIII.
proposition ; but to declare the counsel of God, and leave it. In delivering their message, they commended themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
It is no objection to this statement of things that the scriptures are not embraced by every man, whatever be the disposition of his mind This is a property that no divine production whatever possesses; and to require it is equally unreasonable, as to insist that for a book to be perfectly legible it must be capable of being read by those who shut their eyes upon it. Mr. Paine holds up the advantages of the book of nature in order to disparage that of scripture, and says,
No Deist can
doubt whether the works of nature be God's works.” An admirable proof this that we have arrived at the age of reason ! Can no Atheist doubt it? I might as well say, No Christian doubts the truth of the scriptures : the one proves just as much as the oth
A prejudiced mind discerns nothing of divine beauty, either in nature or scripture ; yet each may include the most indubitable evidence of being wrought by the finger of God.
If Christianity can be proved to be a religion that inspires the love of God and man; yea, and the only religion in the world that does so ; if it endues the mind of him that embraces it with a principle of justice, meekness, chastity, and goodness ; and even gives a tone to the morals of the society at large ; it will then apto carry
its evidence along with it. The effects which it produces will be its letters of recommendation ; written not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. Moreover, if Christianity can be proved to be in harmony with itself, correspondent with observation and experience, and consistent with the clearest dictates of sober reason, it will further appear to carry in it its own evidence : come through whose hands it may, it will evince itself to be what it professes to be-a religion from God.
I will only add, in this place, that the Christianity bere defended is not Christianity as it is corrupted by popish superstition, or as interwoven with national establishments, for the accomplishment of secular purposes; but, as it is taught in the New Testament, and practised by sincere Christians. There is no doubt,