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present subject, in all its departments, from the most fundamental principles of evidence to the highest point of inductive argument, should be thoroughly studied by all whose interest it is to know, and whose duty it is to vindicate the truth.
But there is one more consideration, in connection with the present age, illustrating the peculiar importance of the study you are now commencing. The evidences of Christianity, while specially assailed, in these times, with a licentiousness and effrontery which the dignity of no truth can countenance, and the chastity of religious truth should never meet, are favored at the same time with advantages for convincing illustration such as no preceding age ever furnished. Time, while it has impaired the strength of none of our ancient arguments, has greatly increased the weight of some, and has added, and is daily adding new auxiliaries to a body of proof which its enemies have never ventured to attack in front. Every new year, in the age and trials of our holy faith, is an additional evidence, that like the pyramids of Memphis, it was made to endure. It wears well. Christianity has been journeying, for the last eighteen hundred years, through unceasing trials. While as yet an infant in a land of almost Egyptian darkness, a Jewish Pharaoh attempted to strangle her in the cradle. She grew up in contempt and poverty, and began her course, like Israel of old, through a Red sea of relentless persecution. Bitter waters awaited her subsequent progress. Amalek. with all the principalities and powers of earth, during more than three cen
turies, opposed her march. Fiery serpents in the wilderness of sin have ever been stinging at her feet. The world has opened no fountain, nor vouchsafed any bread to sustain her. What alliances the nations have ever made with her cause have only given them the greater power to encumber and divide her strength. Her drink has been drawn from the rock; her bread has been gathered in the desert. Nothing that malice, or learning, or power, or perseverance could do to arrest her goings, has been wanting. Even treachery in her own household has often endeavored to betray her into the hands of the enemy. No age has encountered her advance with such a dangerous variety of force, or with a more boastful confidence of success, than the present. And yet, in none since that of the primitive Christians, has her triumph been so glorious or her conquest so extensive. At a time of life when, considering her fiery trials, one ignorant of her nature would expect to see her wrinkled with age and crippled with manifold infirmities, it may be said of her with perfect truth, that though for more than eighteen hundred years she has been journeying through conflicts and trials innumerable, her eye is not dim, nor her natural force abated. She remains unchanged by time, the same precisely as when first proclaimed in the streets of Jerusalem. The shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, are neither broken nor decayed, but as ready as in the beginning to go forth “conquering and to conquer.” This long and hard experiment proves that Christianity is formed for all trials, and will survive all enemies. It is the privilege of our age to appreciate the evidence of this with a degree of satisfaction peculiar to itself.
But how different this sublime immutability of Christianity, so much like the eternity of God, from the childish fickleness of infidelity. What is the history of infidelity but a history of changes? Where is the resemblance between the writings of its modern and those of its ancient disciples? What Celsus and Porphyry attempted to maintain against primitive Christianity, none at present would think of advocating; while the positions and reasonings of recent infidels would have been subjects of ridicule among their earliest brethren. 66 The doctrines which Herbert and Tindal declared to be so evident that God could not make them more evident, were wholly given up as untenable by Hume; and the scepticism of Hume sustained no higher character in the mind of D'Alembert. Mere infidelity gave up natural religion, and Atheism mere infidelity. Atheism is the system at present in vogue. What will succeed it, cannot be foreseen. One consolation however attends the subject, and that is, No other system can be so groundless, so despicable, or so completely ruinous to the morals and happiness of mankind.'
But there is another aspect in which the study of the evidences of Christianity is presented as especially interesting, in connection with the present age. This
* See the two sermons on the Nature and Danger of Infidel Philosophy, by the late Rev. Theodore Dwight, D. D
is an age peculiarly distinguished for scientific research and discovery. Never did science travel so widely, explore so deeply, analyze so minutely, compare so critically the present with the past, principles with facts, histories of ancient times with monuments of ancient things, truths of revealed religion with results of experimental philosophy. And what is the consequence? Has the Pentateuch suffered by him who found the key, and applied it to the hieroglyphical memorials on the marbles and porphyries of Egypt? Did the geological researches of the lamented Cuvier enfeeble his belief in the Mosaic history ?*
I venture to say there never was an age in which it could be asserted, with so much practical witness, that science and every extension of human knowledge are strengthening and multiplying the evidences of Christianity. Add to this the ever accumulating force of the argument from prophecy, a source of evidence in which we exceed by far the primitive times of the gospel, and which must be increasing as long as one prediction of the Bible remains to be fulfilled. Then consider what new exhibitions the present age of signal enterprise in all things has furnished and is daily presenting, of the power attendant upon the gospel to overcome every obstacle, and make the moral desert a garden, and savages meek and lowly of heart. Look at the missionary stations of the Pacific and of Hindoostan, and among our own frontier tribes. There it will be seen that Christianity has still her apostles, her martyrs, her conquests. The idol cast to the ground; the idol-temple purged of its pollutions, and consecrated to Jehovah; the multitude, once naked devotees of demons, now clothed and in their right mind, and sitting at the feet of Jesus—these are some of our additional testimonies to the gospel, that her arm is not shortened that it cannot save. But they are not all. Every new traveller into regions hitherto but little known, as he developes the condition of nations destitute of the gospel, increases our evidence of the utter helplessness of human reason, and the total prostration of human nature, without the light which we enjoy; and consequently, our evidence of the universal need of a revelation like ours, as well as of the benefits which have followed in the train of Christianity wherever she has been received. And last, but not least, our experience of the tender mercies of infidelity is more impressive than that of preceding ages. Its nature, spirit, personal and public consequences have now had time to speak out, and make a full display of their
* It is an interesting fact, well worthy of being recorded, that Cuvier, whose death has been recently announced, was to have presided at the next annual meeting of the Bible Society of Paris—1832; and had proposed as the topic of his address, “The agreement between the Mosaic history and the modern discoveries in geology."
Since the above lecture was delivered, what a deep and rich mine of antiquarian research has been opened on the sites of the ancient cities of Assyria, with which so much of the historical books, as well as the prophecies of the Old Testament, are concerned. It is not enough to say, that nothing in the least at variance with these writings has been discovered. Much has been brought to light in strong and striking confirmation of these writings.