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EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY.
I APPEAR before those who have come this evening to favor me with their attention, as sustaining, under appointment from the University of the city of New York, the office of Lecturer on the Evidences of Christianity. It is but justice to my own feelings, to assure you that I had not thought of entering on so much responsibility until earnestly requested to do so by respected individuals belonging to the council of that institution. I am not without much apprehension of having ventured far beyond my qualifications in acceding to their desires. When I think of the
many in this city of much superior furniture of mind and spirit, to whom the office might have been intrusted, and of my own daily and engrossing occupations in the duties of the ministry, leaving so little time or strength for any other occupation however important, it is a matter almost of alarm that I find
These lectures were delivered when the author was rector of St. Ann's church, Brooklyn, and connected with the University of the city of New York, then recently established.
myself committed to a series of lectures for which the very best intellect, the soundest judgment, and the most deliberate study, are so much needed. But having undertaken the work, I trust the Lord has ordered the step in wisdom, and, if I seek his guidance, will enable me to go forward in a strength above my own; so that I may be the instrument, under his hand, of contributing something to promote the improvement and everlasting happiness of those to whom I may have the pleasure of speaking.
The present lecture will be exclusively of an introductory kind. I pause at the threshold in remembrance of the word and promise of God, “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct thy paths.” I would devoutly acknowledge God as the omniscient witness in this undertaking; the only source of wisdom, strength, and blessing, “from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed.” May his Holy Spirit, through the mediation of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is "the way, the truth, and the life," “ God, blessed for ever,” condescend to guide our way and help our infirmities, that all may see and embrace the TRUTH.
The subject to which we are to direct our attention, has engaged the powers of wise, learned, and good men, in almost all ages since the promulgation of Christianity. Minds of every class, and in all departments of intellectual occupation, have directly or indirectly, by design or unwittingly, contributed materials for its elucidation. Thus it has come to pass that the difficulty of an appropriate exhibition of the evidences of Christianity is rather on the side of selection and arrangement and the just proportioning of arguments, than of their sufficient multiplication. To give the various branches of the subject their just measure of relief and prominence; to determine what should be displayed strongly and completely, and what should be sketched with a lighter pencil, and placed in the background of the picture; to adjust the numerous parts in such symmetry as will present the whole with the most undivided and overcoming effect, is a difficulty of no little magnitude, where attention to space and time is of so much consequence as in the present undertaking. The nicest discrimination, the most logical mind, and a talent for extensive combination, may here find room for the exercise of all their powers. The danger is that one will lose himself amidst the wide spread and accumulated treasures of illustration and evidence; that he will fail so entirely in their classification as to see and exhibit them confusedly and unjustly, and for want of a good discipline among his own thoughts will lead out his forces in feeble detail, instead of forming them. into compact masses, and meeting the enemy on every side with a self-sustained combination of strength.
Before we proceed to the main question on which our subsequent lectures are to be employed, it will be well to call your attention to,
I. THE HIGH IMPORTANCE OF THE INVESTIGATION on which we are about to enter. You are to unite with me in examining the grounds on which the religion of the gospel claims to be received, to the exclusion
of every other religion in the world, as containing the
your belief, this great question: Is the religion of Jesus Christ as exhib. ited in the New Testament, a revelation from God, and consequently possessed of a sovereign right to universal faith and obedience?
There are considerations intrinsically belonging to this question, which place it in an aspect of unrivalled importance.
We must have the religion of Christ, or none. A very little reflection will make it apparent, that the question as to the truth of Christianity is not one of preference between two rival systems of doctrine, having conflicting claims and nearly balanced arguments and benefits. It is not whether the gospel is more true and salutary than some other mode of religion, which, though inferior, would still secure many of the most essential and substantial benefits for which religion is desirable. But it is no other than the plain and solemn question, Shall we believe in the faith of Christ, or in none? Shall we receive and be comforted by the light which the gospel has thrown over all our present interests and future prospects; or shall our condition in this life-our relation to the future—what we are to be, and what we are to receive hereafter and for ever, be left in appalling, impenetrable darkness? Such is the real question when we inquire whether Christianity is a revelation
from God. Do any ask the reason? Because, if such be the divine origin and authority of the religion of Christ, there can be no other religion. It claims not only to stand, but to stand alone. It demands not only that we believe it, but that in doing so we consider ourselves as denying the truth of every other system of faith. Like the one living and true God, whose seal and character it bears, it is jealous, and will not share its honor with another; but requires us to believe, that as there is but one Lord, so there is but one faith-the truth as it is in Jesus. On the other hand, if Christianity be not of divine origin, it is no religion; its essential doctrines must be false; its whole structure baseless. Suppose then for a moment that such were the case, what could we substitute for the gospel? We must either plunge into the abyss of Atheism, or find something in the regions of Paganism that would answer; or be content with the religion of Mohammed; or else find what our nature wants in that which is unjustly distinguished as the Religion of Nature. In other words, we must become Deists. But is there a creed
the countless absurdities of Pagan belief and worship which any of us could be persuaded to adopt? Could we be convinced of the prophetic character of the Arabian impostor, and receive as of divine authority the professed revelations and unrighteous features of the Koran, after having rejected such a book as the New Testament, and such evidences as those of Jesus? Where else could we flee? To Atheism? But that is the gulf in which all religions are lost. Darkness is