Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]

2 13

[graphic]

force of which in all other cases is felt, and acknow-| cially this, that it might exhibit the evil of a sanguinary ledged, and acted upon even by unbelievers themselves. and obscene idolatry. If this has been done satisfactorily, the objections which That law in Deuteronomy, which authorizes parents, remain are of little weight, were they even less capable the father and the mother, to bring “a stubborn and of being repelled; and if no answer can be found to rebellious son," who was also “a glutton and a drunksome of the difficulties which may be urged, this cir- ard," before the elders of the city, that, if guilty, he cumstance is much more in accordance with the truth might be stoned, has been called inhuman and brutal. of a revelation, than it would be with its falsehood. In point of fact, it was, however, a merciful regulation. “We do not deny," says an excellent writer on the In almost all ancient nations, parents had the power of Evidences of Christianity,(6)“ that the scheme of reve- taking away the lives of their children. This was a lation has its difficulties; for if the things of nature are branch of the old patriarchal authority which did not often difficult to comprehend, it would be strange in- all at once merge into the kingly governments which deed if supernatural matters were so simple, and ob- were afterward established. There is reason, therevious, and suited to finite capacities, as never to startle fore, to believe that it was possessed by the heads of and puzzle us at all.-He who denies the Bible to have families among the Israelites, and that this was the come from God because of these difficulties, may for first attempt to control it, by obliging the crimes exactly the same reason deny that the world was alleged against their children to be proved before reformed by Him."

gular magistrates, and thus preventing the effects of The mere cavils of infidel writers may be hastily dis- unbridled passions. missed; the most plausible objections shall be con- The intentional offering of Isaac by Abraham has sidered more at large. As to the former, few of them also had its share of censure. The answer is, l. That could have been urged if those who have adduced them Abraham, who was in the habit of sensible communihad consulted the works of commentators and biblical cation with God, could have no doubt of the Divine critics, writings with which it is evident they have little command, and of the right of God to take away the life acquaintance; and thus they have shown how ill. he had given. 2. That he proceeded to execute the disposed they have been to become fully acquainted command of God, in faith, as the Apostle Paul has with the subjects which they have subject to their stated, that God would raise his son from the dead. criticism. To this may be added their ignorance of the The whole transaction was extraordinary, and cannot idiom of the Hebrew, the language of the Old Testa- therefore be judged by common rules; and it could ment; their inattention to the ancient manners and only be fairly objected to, if it had been so stated as to customs of the countries where the sacred writers lived, encourage human sacrifices. Here, however, are sufiito occasional errors in the transcription of numerous cient guards; an indubiable Divine command was given, copies which may be rectifed by collation, and to the the sacrifice was prevented by the same authority; and different readings, which, to a candid criticism, would the history stands in a book which represents human generally furnish the solution of the difficulty.

sacrifices as an abomination to God. The Bible has been vehemently assaulted, because it Indelicacy and immodesty have been charged upon represents God as giving command to the Israelites to some parts of the Scriptures. This objection has some. exterminate the nations of Canaan; but a few remarks thing in it which indicates malignity rather than an will be sufficient to prove how little weight there is in honest and principled exception ; for in no instance are the charges which, on this account, have been made any statements made in order to incite impurity; and against the author of the Pentateuch. The objection nothing, throughout the whole Scripture, is represented cannot be argued upon the mere ground, that it is con- as more offensive to God, or as more certainly excludtrary to the Divine Justice or Mercy to cut off a people ing persons from the kingdom of heaven, than the indiscriminately, from the eldest to the youngest, since unlawful gratification of the senses. It is al:;o to be this is done in earthquakes, pestilences, &c. The cho- noted, that many of the passages objected to are in the lera morbus, which has been for four years past wast-laws and prohibitions of both Testaments, and as well ing various parts of Asia, has probably destroyed half might the statute and common law of this country be a million of persons of all ages. The character of the the subject of reprehension, and be held up as tending God of nature is not therefore contradicted by that as- to encourage vices of various kinds, because they must, cribed to the God of the Bible. The whole objection with more or less of circumstantiality, describe them. resolves itself into this question: Was it consistent We are farther to take into account the simplicity of with the character of God, to employ human agents in manners and language in early times. We observe, this work of destruction ? Who can prove that it was even among the peasantry of modern states, a language not? No one; and yet here lies the whole stress of the on the subjects referred to, which is more direct, and objection. The Jews were not rendered more cruel by what refined society would call gross; but greater real their being so commissioned ; for we find them much indelicacy does not necessarily follow. Countries and more merciful in their institutions than other ancient classes of people might be pointed out, where the lannations ;-nor can this instance be pleaded in favour of guage which expresses sensual indulgence has more exterminating wars, for there was in the case a special of caution and of periphrasis, while the known facts commission for a special purpose, and by that it was

show that their morals are exceedingly polluted. limited. Other considerations are also to be included. Several objections which have been raised against The sins of the Canaanites were of so gross a nature, characters and transactions in the books of Judges, that it was necessary to mark them with signal punish- Samuel, and Kings, are dissipated by the single cousiments for the benefit of surrounding nations; the em- deration that where they are obviously immoral or unploying of the Israelites, as instruments under a special justifiable, they are never approved, and are merely and publicly proclaimed commission, connected the stated as facts of history. The conduct of Ehud, punishment more visibly with the offence, than if it of Samson, and of Jephthah may be given as in. had been inflicted by the array of warring elements,

stances, while the Israelites themselves would be more deeply

The advice of David, when on his death-bed, respect. impressed with the guilt of idolatry, and its ever ac- ing Joab and Shimei, has been attributed to his private companying polluted and sanguinary rites; and, finally, resentment. This is not the fact. He spoke in his the Canaanites had been long spared, and in the mean character of king and magistrate, and gave his advice time both warned by partial judgments, and reproved on public grounds, as committing the kingdom to his by the remaining adherents of the patriarchal religion son. who resided among them.

The conduct of David also towards the Ammonites, Thus the objection rests upon no foundation. The in putting themunder saws and harrows of iron," destruction of infants, so often dwelt upon, takes place has been the subject of severe animadversion. But the in nature and providence; the objection to the employ- expression means no more than that he employed them ment of human agents, arising from habits of inhu- in laborious works, as saving, making iron harrous, manity being thereby induced, assumes what is false hewing wood, and making bricks, the Hebrew prefix in fact; for this effect upon the Jews was prevented by signifying to as well as under. He put them to saws the circumstance of their knowing that they acted as and harrows of iron (some render it iron-mines) and ministers of the Divine displeasure, and under his to axes of iron, and made them to pass through the commission ; and some important reasons may be dis- brick-kiln.” covered for executing the judgment by men, and espe

With respect to the imprecations found in many parts

of Scripture, and which have been represented as ex(6) Dr. OLINTHUS GREGORY.

pressions of revenge and malice, it has been often and satisfactorily observed, that they are predictions and which are incomprehensible occur in our physical and not anathemas, the imperative mood being put for the mixed inquiries, they have no place in pure mathefuture tense, according to the Hebrew idiom.

matics, where all is not only demonstrable, but intelliThese have been adduced as specimens of the objec- gible.' This, again, is an assertion which I cannot adtions urged by infidel writers against the Scriptures, mit; and for the denial of which I shall beg leave to and of the ease with which they may be met. For produce my reasons, as this will, I apprehend, make others of a similar kind, and for answers to objections still more in favour of my general argument.' Now, founded upon supposed contradictions between different here it is known, geometricians can demonstrate that passages of Scripture, reference must be made to com- there are curves which approach continually to some mentators.(7) With respect to all of them, it has been fixed right line, without the possibility of ever meeting well observed, “that a little skill in the original lan- it. Such, for example, are hyperbolas, which continue guages of the Scriptures, their idioms and properties, ally approach towards their asymptotes, but cannot and in the times, occasions, and scope of the several possibly meet them, unless an assignable finite space books, as well as in the antiquities and customs of can become equal to nothing. Such, again, are conthose countries which were the scenes of the transac-choids, which continually approach to their directrices, tions recorded, will always clear the main difficulties.” yet can never meet them, unless a certain point can be

To some other objections of a philosophical kind, as both beyond and in contact with a given line at the being of a more imposing aspect, the answers may be same moment. Mathematicians can also demonstrate more extended.

that a space infinite in one sense, may by its rotation Between natural philosophy and revelation-the generate a solid of finite capacity; as is the case with book of nature and the book of God-it has been a fa- the solid formed by the rotation of a logarithmic curve vourite practice with unbelievers to institute a contrast, of infinite length upon its axis, or that formed by the and to set the plainness and uncontradictory character rotation of an Apollonian hyperbola upon its asympof the one against the mysteries and difficulties of the tote. They can also show in numerous instances that other. The common ground on which all such objec- a variable space shall be continually augmenting, and tions rest is an unwillingness to admit as truth, and to yet never become equal to a certain finite quantity; receive as established and authorized doctrine, what and they frequently make transformations with great is incomprehensible. They contend, that if a revela- facility and neatness, by means of expressions to which tion has been made, there can be no mystery in it, for no definite ideas can be attached. Can we, for examthat is a contradiction; and that if mysteries, that is, ple, obtain any clear comprehension, or indeed any things incomprehensible, are held to be a part of it, this notion at all, of the value of a power whose exponent is fatal to its claims as á revelation. The sophism is is an acknowledged imaginary quantity, as x V-1? easily answered. Many doctrines, many duties, are Can we, in like manner, obtain any distinct idea of comprehensible enough; no mystery at all is involved a series constituted of an infinite number of terms? in them; and as to incomprehensible subjects, nothing In each case the answer, I am convinced, must be in is more undoubted, as we have already shown, than the negative. Yet the science, in which these and nuthat a fact may be the subject of revelation, as that God merous other incomprehensibles occur, is called Mais eternal and omnipresent, and still remain myste- thesis, THE DISCIPLINE, because of its incomparable rious and incomprehensible. The fact itself is not superiority to other studies in evidence and certainty, hidden, or expressed in language or symbol so equi- and, therefore, its singular adaptation to discipline the vocal as to throw the meaning into difficulty, the only mind. How does it happen, now, that when the invessense in which the argument could be valid. As a fact, tigation is bent towards objects which cannot be com it is clearly revealed that these are attributes of the prehended, the mind arrives at that in which it acquiDivine Nature; but both, notwithstanding that clear esces as certainty, and rests satisfied? It is not, mani. and indubitable revelation, are still incomprehensible. festly, because we have a distinct perception of the --It is not revealed how God is eternal and omnipre- nature of the objects of the inquiry (for that is preBent, nor is such a revelation pretended; but it is re- cluded by the supposition, and, indeed, by the preceding vealed THAT HE is so-not how a Trinity of persons statement); but because we have such a distinct perexists in Unity of essence; but THAT SUCH is the mode ception of the relation which those objects bear one toof the Divine existence. If, however, men hesitate to wards another, and can assign positively, without danadmit incomprehensible subjects as matters of faith; ger of error, the exact relation, as to identity or diversity, they cannot be permitted to fly for relief from revela- of the quantities before us, at every step of the process." tion to philosophy, and much less to set up its superior Modern astronomy has displayed the immense extent claims, as to clearness of manifestation, to the Holy of the universe, and by analogical reasoning has made Scriptures. There, too, it will be seen, that mystery it probable, at least, that the planets of our and of other and revelation go inseparably together; that he who systems may be inhabited by rational and moral beings will not admit the mystery cannot have the benefit of like ourselves; and from these premises infidel philothe revelation; and that he who takes the revelation of sophy has argued with apparent humility for the insig. facts, embraces at the same time the mystery of their nificance of the human race, and the improbability of causes. The faets, for instance, of the attraction of supposing that a Divine person should have been sent gravitation, of cohesion, of electricity, of magnetism, into this world for its instruction and salvation, when, of congelation, of thawing, of evaporation, are all ad- in comparison with the solar system, it is but a point, mitted. The experimental and inductive philosophy of and that system itself, in comparison of the universe, modern times has made many revelations of the rela- may be nothing more. tions and in some instances of the proximate causes Plausible as this may appear, nothing can have less of these phenomena; but the real causes are all confess- weight, even if only the philosophy and not the theology edly hidden. With respect to mechanics, says a writer of the case be taken into consideration. The intention who has devoted his life to philosophical studies,(8) “this with which man is thus compared with the universe is, science is conversant about force, matter, time, motion, to prove his insignificance; and the comparison must space; each of these has occasioned the most elaborate be made either between man and the vastness of pladisquisitions, and the most violent disputes. Let it be netary and stellar matter, or between the number of asked, what is force? If the answerer be candid, his mankind and the number of supposed planetary inhareply will be, 'I cannot tell so as to satisfy every in-bitants. If the former, we may reply with Dr. Beattie, quirer, or so as to enter into the essence of the thing.' | “Great extent is a thing so striking to our imaginaAgain, what is matter? I cannot tell. What is mo- tion, that sometimes, in the moment of forgetfulness, tion? I cannot tell ;'” and so of the rest. “The fact we are apt to think nothing can be important but what of the communication of motion from one body to an- is of vast corporeal magnitude. And yet, even to our other, is as inexplicable as the communication of Divine apprehension, when we are willing to be rational, how influences. How, then, can the former be admitted much more sublime and more interesting an object is a with any face, while the latter is denied solely on the mind like that of Newton, than the unwieldy force and ground of its incomprehensibility ?

brutal stupidity of such a monster as the poets de“But perhaps I may be told that although things scribe Polyphemus? Who, that had it in his power,

would scruple to destroy a whale, in order to save a (7) See also a copious collection of these supposed child ? Nay, when compared with the happiness of one contradictions, with judicions explanations, in the Ap- immortal mind, the greatest imaginable accumulation pendix to vol. i. of Horne's Introduction, &c.

of inanimate substance must appear an insignificant (8) Dr. Gregory's Letters on the Christian Religion. thing. If we consider,” says Bentley, “the dignity of

an intelligent being, and put that in the scale against between things which have no relations in common, brute and inanimate matter, we may affirm, without and is therefore absurd; as little will it serve this unovervaluing human nature, that the soul of one vir- natural attempt to prostrate man to an insect rank, and tuous man is of greater worth and excellence than the to inspire himn with reptile feelings, to conclude his sun and his planets, and all the stars in the world.' insignificance from the number of other beings. For it Let us not then make bulk the standard of value; or is plain that their number alters not his real character; judge of the iinportance of man from the weight of his he is still immortal though myriads besides him are imbody, or from the size or situation of the planet that is mortal, and still he has his deep capacity of pleasure now his place of abode.”

and of pain. Unless, therefore, it could be proved, that To the same effect an ingenious and acute writer re- the care of God for each must be diminished as the marks upon a passage in Saussure (Voyages dans les number of his creatures is increased; there is, as Mr. Alpes), who speaks of men in the phrase of the modern Penn has stated it, neither “sense nor virtue" in such philosophy, as “the little beings which crawl upon the reflections upon the littleness of man; and they imply, surface of the earth,” and as shrinking into nothing both indeed, a base and an unworthy reflection upon the Suas to “ space and time,” in comparison with the vast preme Creator himself, as though He could not bestow mountains, and “the great epochas of nature.” “If,” upon all the beings he has made a care and a love adesays Mr. Granville Penn,(9) “there is any sense or quate to their circumstances. What man is with respect virtue in this reflection, it must consist in duly esti- to God, can only be collected from the Divine procedures mating the relative importance of the two magnitudes towards him; and these are suflicient to excite the and durations, and in concluding logically, the compa- devout exclamations of the Psalmist, “What is man rative insignificance of the smaller. And it will then that thou art MINDFUL of him? or the son of man that necessarily follow, that the insignificance of the smaller THOU VISITEST him?” That he has not only been made would lessen, in the same proportion in which it might by God, but that he is governed by his providence, none increase in bulk. If the little beings therefore were to but Atheists will deny; but any argument drawn from be magnified in the proportions of 2, 3, 4, &c., their in- such premises as the above would conclude as forcibly significance, relatively to the great features of the against providence as it can be made to conclude globe, would necessarily diminish in the same ratio. against redemption. “Our Saviour," says Dr. Beattie, The smaller the disproportion between the man and “as if to obviate objections of this nature, expresses the mountain, the less would be the relative insignifi- most emphatically the superintending care of providence, cance of the former; and although the increase of when he teaches, that it is God who adorns the grass magnitude in the smaller object be ever so inconsider- of the field, that without him a sparrow falls not on the able, yet if it is positive and real, its dignity must be ground, and that even the hairs of our head are numproportionately increased in the true nature of things : bered. Yet this is no exaggeration; but must, if God is ihe bigger the being that crawls upon the surface of omniscient and alınighty, be literally true. By a stuthis globe, the less absurd would be the supposition pendous exuberance of animal, vegetable, and mineral that he is the final object of this terrestrial creation. production, and by an apparatus still more stupendous The Irish giant, therefore, whose altitude exceeded the (if that were possible) for the distribution of light and measure of eight feet, would exceed in relative dig- heat, he supplies the means of life and comfort to the nity, by the same proportion, BACON and Newton, short-lived inhabitants of this globe. Can it then whose height did not attain to six feet. If this is non- appear incredible, nay, does not this consideration sense, then must that also be nonsense from which it render it in the highest degree probable, that he has also is the genuine conclusion : viz. that the material mag- prepared the means of eternal happiness for beings, nitudes of the little beings, or their duration upon the whom he has formed for eternal duration, whom he has earth on which they crawl,' determines, in any man- endowed with faculties so noble as those of the human ner, their importance, in the creation, relatively to the soul, and for whose accommodation chiefly, during primordial mountains which arise above it, or to the their present state of trial, he has provided all the mag. extent of the regions which may be surveyed from nificence of this sublunary world ?" their summits. For, if the same physically small be- There is, however, another consideration, which gives ings possess another magnitude, which can be brought a sublime and overwhelming grandeur to the Scripture to another and a different scale of computation from view of the redemption of the race of man, and of that of physical or material magnitude; a scale infi- which, for the want of acquaintance with our sacred nitely surpassing in importance the greatest ineasures writings, insidel philosophers appear never to have en. of that magnitude; then there will be nothing asto- tertained the least conception. It is the moral connishing or irrational in the supposition, that the highest nexion of this world with the whole universe of intel. mountains, and the widest regions, and the entire sys- ligent creatures; and the "intention" there was in the tem to which they pertain, may be subservient to the Divine Mind to convey to other beings, by the history ends of those beings, and to that other system to which and great results of his moral government over one they pertain; which latter will thus be found superior branch of his universal family, a view of his own perin importance to the former. Such a scale is that by sections; of the duties and dangers of created and finite which the intelligent, moral, and immortal nature of beings; of transgression and holiness, in their princi. MAN is to be measured, and which the sacred historian ples and in their effects; by a course of action so much calls a formation after the image and likeness of more influential than abstract truth. Intimations of this God;' a scale so little taken into the contemplation of great and impressive view are found in various passages the science of mere physics. As soon, however, as of the New Testament, and it opens a scene of inconthat moral scale of magnitude once supersedes the phy- | ceivable moral magnificence-To the intent, that to sical scale in the apprehension of the mind; as soon the principalities and powers in heavenly places might as the mind perceives that the duration of that intelli- be known by the church the manifold wisdom of gent moral nature infinitely exceeds the vastest epo- God."(1) cha of Nature which the imagination of the mineral geology can represent to itself, and that, though the phy- (1) “In this our first period of existence, our eye sical nature of man is limited to a very small measure cannot penetrate beyond the present scene, and the huof time, yet his moral nature is unlimited in time, and man race appears one great and separate community; will outlast all the mountains of the globe; it then per- but with other worlds, and other communities, we proceives, at the same moment, the counterfeit quality of bably may, and every argument for the truth of our the reflection, which at first appeared so sublime and religion gives us reason to think that we shall be con60 humble, so profound and so devout. The sublimity nected hereafter. And if by our behaviour we may, and humility betray themselves to be the disparage even while here, as our Lord positively affirms, heighten ment and degradation of our nature; the profundity is in some degree the felicity of angels, our salvation may found to be mere surface, and the devotion to be a re- hereafter be a matter of importance, not to us only, but trocession from the light of revelation."

to many other orders of immortal beings. They, it is If the comparison of man with mere material magni- true, will not suffer for our guilt, nor be rewarded for tude will not then support this effort to effect his degra- our obedience. But it is not absurd to imagine, that our dation and to shame him out of his trust in the loving- fall and recovery may be useful to them as an example; kindness of his God; if the comparison be made and that the Divine grace manifested in our redemption

may raise their adoration and gratitude into higher rap(9) “ Comparative Estimate of the Mineral and Mosaic tures, and quicken their ardour to inquire, with ever Geologies."

new delight, into the dispensations of Intinite Wiedom.

« PreviousContinue »