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benefits to all classes of mankind. Our times have seen enough, any of us have heard enough to form some adequate idea of what society would be favored with, in personal consolations, in domestic peace and purity, in public security and order, should the principles of infidelity be generally adopted as the basis of individual, family, and national government.
I have now endeavored to illustrate the importance of a diligent attention to the great subject we have undertaken to treat, by considerations arising out of its own intrinsic nature, and from its special aspect as associated with the distinctive character of the present age. I will occupy but a little while longer in speaking of,
II. The importance of strict attention to the Spirit in which we should examine the evidences of Christianity.
“Blessed," said the Saviour, "is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.” There is a great deal in the religion of Jesus at which the natural dispositions of man are offended. He is proud-the gospel demands humility; revengeful—the gospel demands forgiveness. Man is prone to set his affections on things on the earth; the gospel requires him to set them on those which are above. He is wedded to self-indulgence, glories in being his own master, idolizes himself, encourages self-dependence, boasts his own goodness, lives without God in the world. All this the gospel peremptorily condemns; requires him to repent of it, to deny himself, renounce all right over himself, give up his will to that of God, live for the Lord Jesus, and lean upon and glory in him alone as all his strength, hope, and righteousness. Hence it is evident that the natural heart and the precepts of Christianity are directly at variance. “The mystery of an incarnate and crucified Saviour must necessarily confound the reason and shock the prejudices of a mind which will admit nothing that it cannot perfectly reduce to the principles of philosophy. The whole tenor of the life of Christ, the objects he pursued, and the profound humiliation he exhibited, must convict of madness and folly the favorite pursuits of mankind. The virtues usually practised in society, and the models of excellence most admired there, are so remote from that holiness which is enjoined in the New Testament, that it is impossible for a taste which is formed on the one to perceive the charms of the other. The happiness which it proposes
in a union with God and a participation of the image of Christ, is so far from being congenial to the inclinations of worldly men, that it can scarcely be mentioned without exciting their ridicule and scorn. General speculations on the Deity have much to amuse the mind, and to gratify that appetite for the wonderful whịch thoughtful and speculative men are delighted to indulge. Religion viewed in this light appears more in the form of an exercise to the understanding, than a law to the heart. Here the soul expatiates at large, without feeling itself controlled or alarmed. But when evangelical truths are presented, they bring God so near, if we may be allowed the expression, and speak with so commanding a voice to the conscience, that they leave no alternative but that of submissive acquiescence or proud revolt."*
Hence, the question as to the truth of Christianity is peculiar. You can investigate the truth of a narrative in common history, or of a phenomenon in physical science, or of a principle of political economy, with the coolness of a mere intellectual exercise. One sets out in such pursuits with no feelings already enlisted. Had this been the case with regard to the divine origin of Christianity, “a tenth part of the testimony which has actually been given, would · have been enough to satisfy us; the testimony, both in weight and quantity, would have been looked upon as quite unexampled in the whole compass of ancient literature." But here the question is one of feeling, as well as evidence-enlisting the heart, as well as the head. Powerful dispositions crowd around the investigation. Hence one is in danger, unless his natural inclinations be subdued, of looking at the argument through a medium which, while it diminishes the importance of the evidence, will magnify the objections. This explains sufficiently how it has happened that there have been men of learning and talents and much practical wisdom, in many departments, who have become and continued unbelievers. Their dispositions were stronger than their talents, and moulded the latter to their own service, instead of yielding to their guidance. The examination was conducted rather by the test of inclination, than of evidence. Now it is no part of the profession of * Robert Hall.
Christianity to furnish eyes to those who will not see. Evidence that will force its way irresistibly through prejudice and unwillingness, compelling submission, she does not promise. Enough to satisfy abundantly every candid, serious, diligent, humble inquirer, she does profess to give. If she ever exhibit more, it is beyond her stipulation, and more than any have reason to demand.
The pride of human reason is often deeply offended at the claims of Christianity. The gospel demands to be received as a revelation of truth, communicated by authority, so that a wise man shall have no room to ascribe his knowledge of God and of his will to his own powers of discovery; but has to sit, just where the ignorant and lowly must sit, at the feet of Jesus. This pleases not the speculative and ambitious turn of the human intellect. Men like to find out truth by reasonings of their own, rather than by the authoritative declarations of another, even though that other be infallible wisdom. They love to theorize and conjecture, and try the ingenuity of their own faculties, so as to praise themselves for whatever is ascertained. Hence, in matters of science, there was a long and hard struggle before they could be brought down from the proud flights of speculation, and consent to the self-denial of the inductive method, submitting to be instructed only by the revelations of experiment and in the unpretending school of fact. To adopt the same method in matters of religious investigation, many are not yet willing. To give up all speculation-philosophy,
"falsely so called”—and consent to receive, instead of being ambitious to discover, religious truth; to receive it at a source where the humblest and the loftiest mind must drink together out of the same cup; to receive it on the simple testimony of a well-attested revelation, which lies as open to the peasant as the philosopher, this the wise men of the world are slow of heart to consent to. Their pride of reason is offended. Did an account come to them from the other continent of certain novel and interesting phenomena recently observed in the heavens, they would see at once how unphilosophical it would be to commence theorizing upon the question of their truth, and then reject them because inconsistent with certain previous speculations of their own. They would institute but the one inquiry, Is there reason to depend upon the accuracy of the observations, and the honesty of the reports of those from whom these statements proceed ? Satisfied on this head, they would at once receive the phenomena, and every truth resulting therefrom, on the great principle of modern science, that whatever is thus collected by induction must be received, notwithstanding any conjectural hypothesis to the contrary, until contradicted or limited by other phenomena equally authenticated. Now we only ask them not to disown the philosophy of Newton in examining the evidence of the religion of Christ; to try the celestial wonders, the “mecanique celeste” as given by Christ and his apostles, not by theory or speculation, but precisely as they would try any other, in the open field of fact and