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who in the secret of his heart proposes any other object than his own distinction? The great thing for him is to think differently from other people. Under pretence of being themselves the only people enlightened, they imperiously subject us to their magisterial decisions, and would fain palm upon us, for the true causes of things, the unintelligible systems they have erected in their own heads; while they overturn, destroy, and trample under foot all that mankind reveres; snatch from the afflicted the only comfort left them in their misery, from the rich and great the only curb that can restrain their passions; tear from the heart all remorse of vice, all hopes of virtue; and still boast themselves the benefactors of mankind. * Truth,' they say, 'is never hurtful to man.' I believe that, as well as they; and the same, in my opinion, is a proof that what they teach is not the truth."*
Such are the singular expressions of a noted infidel, into whose mind the truth sometimes forced an entrance, in spite of all his levity of mind and profligacy of life. They are the confessions of one of the chief actors in the farce of natural religion, and by leading us behind the scenes, display in a most impressive light, that if deism be the only substitute for Christianity, we must have no religion or that of Jesus.
So that, in examining the evidences of Christianity, we should solemnly feel that the question before us is of no less magnitude than whether life and
Gandolphy's Defence of the Ancient Faith : quoted in Gregory's Letters, vol. 1, pp. 6, 7.
immortality have been brought to light by the gospel, or they are still involved in deep and confounding darkness; whether religion is revealed in the Bible, or every thing on earth under the name of religion is false and impotent. Now, when it is considered what desolation would sweep at once over all the interests of society, were the restraint of religion withdrawn from the floodgates of human corruption; what immense benefits have ensued, and must ensue, even by the confession of some of its most violent opposers, from the diffusion of the gospel; what happy effects upon the character and present happiness of its genuine disciples it has always produced, reforming their lives, purifying their hearts, elevating their affections, healing the wounds of the guilty, taking away the sting of death, and lighting even the sepulchre with a hope full of glory; when it is considered what high claims the gospel asserts to an unlimited sovereignty over all our affections and faculties, requiring our entire submission, promising to every devout believer eternal life, and to all that refuse its claims everlasting woe, it must at once be evident that the subject before us is no matter of mere intellectual interest, but one in which every expectant of eternity has an immeasurable stake. No mind has any right to indifference here. Without the most wonderful folly no mind can be indifferent here. Whether the claims of the gospel are the claims of God, is a question to which in point of importance no other can pretend a comparison, except this one: Believing in those claims, have I, in my heart, embraced the gospel, for peace with God?
But I speak to a great many who have no difficulty on this head, being fully satisfied that the gospel of Christ is a divine revelation. What concern have they with the investigation before us? “Much every way.” The question for them to ask is, On what grounds are we satisfied? Are we believers' in Christianity because we were born of believing parents, and have always lived in a Christian country; or because we have considered the excellence and weighed the proofs of this religion, and are intelligently persuaded that it deserves our reliance ? I am well aware that there are many truly devoted followers of Christ who have never made the evi. dences of Christianity their study, and in argument with an infidel would be easily confounded by superior skill and information ; but whose belief nevertheless is, in the highest degree, that of rational conviction, since they possess in themselves the best of all evidence that the gospel of Christ is “the power and wisdom of God,” having experienced its transforming, purifying, elevating, and enlightening efficacy upon their own hearts and characters. Did such believers abound, Christianity would be much less in need of other evidence. Were all that call themselves Christians thus experimentally convinced of the preciousness of the gospel, I would still urge upon them the duty and advantage of studying as far as possible the various arguments which illustrate the divinity of its origin. I would urge it on considerations of personal pleasure and spiritual improvement. There is a rich feast of knowledge and of devout contemplation to be found in this study. The serious believer, who has not pursued it, has yet to learn with what wonderful and impressive light the God of the gospel has manifested its truth. Its evidences are not only convincing, but delightfully plain; astonishingly accumulated, and of immense variety as well as strength. He who will take the pains not only to pursue the single line of argument which may seem enough to satisfy his own mind, but devoutly to follow up in succession all those great avenues which lead to the gospel as the central fountain of truth, will be presented at every step with such evident marks of the finger of God-he will hear from every quarter such reiterated assurances of, “this is the way, walk thou in it,” he will find himself so enclosed by insurmountable evidences shutting him up unto the faith of Christ, that new views will open upon him of the real cause and guilt and danger of all unbelief; new emotions of gratitude and admiration will arise in his heart for a revelation so divinely attested; he will receive a new impulse to follow and promote such heavenly light.
But I would urge this study on all serious believers, who have the means of pursuing it, as a matter of duty. It is not enough that they are well satisfied. They have a cause to defend and promote, as well as a faith to love and enjoy. It is enjoined on them, by the authority of their divine Master, that they be ready to give to every man that asketh them, a reason of the hope that is in them. They must be able to answer intelligently the question, Why do you believe in Christianity? For this purpose, it is not enough to be able to speak of a sense of the truth, arising from an inward experience of its power and blessedness. This is excellent evidence for one's own mind, but it cannot be felt or understood by an unbeliever. The Christian advocate must have a knowledge of the arguments by which infidelity may be confounded, as well as an experience of the benefits for which the gospel should be loved. To obtain this in proportion to his abilities, he is bound by the all-important consideration that the religion of Jesus cannot be content while one soul remains in the rejection of her light and life. She seeks not only to be maintained, but to bring all mankind to her blessings. The benevolence of a Christian should stimulate him to be well armed for the controversy with unbelievers. Benevolence, while it should constrain the infidel most carefully to conceal his opinions, lest others be so unhappy as to feel their ague and catch their blight, should invigorate the believer with the liveliest zeal to bring over his fellow-creatures to the adoption of a faith so glorious in its hopes and so ennobling in its influence. Even on the supposition that Christianity were false, unspeakably better should we think it, to be deluded by consolations, which though groundless would be still so precious, than enlightened by an infidelity which shrouds its disciples in such darkness, and drowns them in such confusion.