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such a person is a good man, but he is a Christian. The only defect in his character was his religion.

The last secondary cause is the " union and discipline of the Christian republic." But a union which should have the effect of changing the established order of things, presupposes numbers; for the combined efforts of a few would be as inefficient as the human breath is to ruffle the surface of a lake. Before, then, the union of the Christians could be conceived to advance their cause, a society must have been formed of considerable extent; and how is its existence to be accounted for? How came it to exist and to make progress prior to the time when its union was brought into operation? Here again we have the effect put before the cause; the success of a religion attributed to the union of its friends, while every person sees that it must have gained friends before they could unite. But this union, to which such mighty effects are ascribed, is merely assumed by the historian for the present purpose. No man has described, in more glowing colours the disputes and divisions of the followers of Christ. Differences of opinion began at an early period, even in the days of the apostles; they increased as time advanced; and, while Christianity was in a state of persecution, its professed advocates exhibited the unedifying spectacle of doctrine against doctrine, sect against sect, and anathemas hurled against each other by those who called themselves the disciples of the same Master.

I do not think that these secondary causes, which, however, Gibbon meant to be understood as the only ones, would give any satisfaction to a candid inquirer. It would still remain to be explained by what means a few Jews, who were the first followers of Jesus of Nazareth, without all human qualifications for the enterprise, succeeded in propagating a new and strange system, opposed to all the prejudices and worldly interests of mankind; by what means they gained numerous converts in the various provinces and cities of the Roman empire, and those converts, pursuing the same course, advanced in the face of persecution till their cause triumphed, and Christianity became the religion of the state. This is no ordinary phenomenon; there is nothing similar to it in the history of human affairs. I do not believe that Gibbon was satisfied with his own account. But the infidel must say something against Christianity; and if it raise a laugh, or impress the giddy and inconsiderate, he has gained his end.

I have considered the external evidences of revealed religion, miracles, and prophecy, and to these have added the argument derived from the success of the gospel. I proceed to give a short view of the internal evidences which arise from a survey of its contents. Is there any thing in the nature of our religion which would lead us to ascribe it to a supernatural origin? Are its articles such that we could not conceive them to have been invented by the publishers? Are its doctrines and precepts, as far as reason can judge, agreeable to its best and clearest dictates? Does the whole system appear to be worthy of God, and suitable to the condition of man? Does it give us information upon subjects of manifest importance, and throw light upon topics into which men had anxiously inquired, but without success?

Let us attend, in the first place, to its doctrine concerning the existence and unity of God. This doctrine is so clearly taught in the New Testament, that it is unnecessary to refer to particular passages. I shall only observe, that there are three descriptions of the Supreme Being, which, in a few simple words, convey more just and elevated ideas of him than the most elaborate and splendid compositions of human genius and eloquence. "God is a spirit.” -"God is light."-" God is love." The sublimity of the conception and the comprehensiveness of the expression are unrivalled; and, coming from


+ 1 John iv. 8.

John iv. 24. VOL. I.-12

† 1 John i. 5.

persons confessedly unlearned, may well excite our astonishment, and make us ask, whence had they this wisdom? wisdom in the presence of which philosophy is abashed. Did Socrates or Plato, or any other celebrated man, ever thus announce the spirituality, the purity, and the benevolence of the first Cause? But our Saviour and his apostles lived in an age of learning and science, and may have been indebted to others for these discoveries. I am not aware that any person has been so foolhardy as to say so; but if he had, we could have confounded him at once, by calling upon him to point out the source from which they were borrowed. But let us go back to an earlier period. Let us look into the Old Testament, and we shall find the same doctrine from the beginning to the end of it. We shall find, that while polytheism prevailed in every region of the earth, and the wise men of the heathen world were "feeling after God, if haply they might find him," he was known to a nation which infidels call barbarous, and known at the commencement of their history, while they were surrounded by the grossest idolaters. Let us transfer ourselves in idea to the age when Moses lived; let us reflect that, in that age, reason had not been cultivated as it now is, nor had science lent its aid to confirm its conclusions concerning the Author of the universe; that the nation to which he belonged was a race of peasants and mechanics, who had been long in a state of oppression; and the question naturally occurs, how came Moses to possess such noble conceptions of the Deity? Among the teachers of theology in the ancient world, he stands on a proud eminence. In the most polished nations we find them inquiring, doubting, occasionally stumbling upon the truth as by accident, and then starting away from it, bewildered in a maze of mystery, involving themselves and their disciples in midnight darkness, and terminating their laborious researches by acquiescing in the errors and superstitions of the vulgar. We are told indeed, that Moses was instructed in all the learning of Egypt; and, as the inhabitants of that country were celebrated for their wisdom, it may be supposed that he derived purer ideas of theology from them. We do not exactly know what was the theological system of the Egyptians in his days; but it appears from his writings, that the true God was unknown to them, for their haughty monarch exclaimed, "Who is Jehovah, that I should obey him? I know not Jehovah, neither will I let Israel go." It would be strange to imagine that Moses was indebted for his sublime doctrine to a people, distinguished from all heathen nations by the number and the baseness of their gods, and whose priests, the depositories of all learning, which they carefully concealed as a thing too sacred to be exposed to the eyes of the public, seem, from some notices of their tenets which have come down to us, to have been not a whit wiser than the philosophers of other countries. When we see Moses excelling all his contemporaries, and all who succeeded him for many centuries; when we observe that, at an early period of the world, he possessed, without human instruction, a degree of knowledge which has never been surpassed, and the accuracy of which subsequent discoveries have confirmed, what can we conclude but that he was instructed by the God whose existence he proclaimed? Who else could have told him that there was only one God, eternal, independent, and almighty, the Creator and Governor of the universe? It is impossible to account in any other way for the discovery which he made, and all others missed, and for the unhesitating manner in which he announced it, while the sages of antiquity groped and disputed in the dark. If it should be said that this knowledge was transmitted to him from his ancestors, our reasoning is not affected, but carried back to a period still more remote; and we again ask, how came they to be acquainted with a doctrine of which others were ignorant? How were they reclaimed from idolatry,


• Exod. v. 2.

which, according to the narrative, was practised before the call of Abraham, by himself and his progenitors?

Let us observe, in the second place, the account which revelation gives of the relation in which this great Being stands to men. It represents him as the Creator of our race, and likewise of the earth which we inhabit, and the heavens which shed their light and influences upon us. There is a sublimity in the idea of creation, or the production of all things out of nothing; and it is an idea peculiar to revelation: so far was it from occurring to speculative men, that not one of them ever dreamed of it, and it was pronounced by them all to be absurd and impossible. According to them, the universe had always existed as we now see it; or it was reduced to its present form by divine power, out of pre-existing materials. It is an idea consonant to the purest dictates of reason; for, the more we reflect, the more shall we be convinced that inert unconscious matter could not be self-existent, and that every being, the duration of which is measured by time, must have had a beginning. Yet we owe this idea, so grand, so worthy of the Deity, not to any of the mighty geniuses whose memory is venerated by an admiring world, but to the leader, as infidels call him, of a barbarous people. This idea pervades the volume of inspiration. Associated with it, is the view which the Scriptures give of the government of the world. It is known that some speculatists among the heathen excluded God from all concern in human affairs; and that, although others admitted a providence, and said many specious things upon the subject, they confounded it with fate or inexplicable necessity, a chain of causes and effects, by which men and gods were bound. Nature did every thing; and the series of events was the order of nature; but the rational deduction from the creation of the universe, is its constant subjection to the will and power of its Author. The machine having been constructed and put in motion, is preserved from waste and disorder by its Maker. The mind is relieved and satisfied by this idea. There is a confidence in what are called the laws of nature, when we view them as enacted and executed by the Deity himself; there is additional sublimity and beauty in its scenes, when we consider him as present, and revealing himself to us by his works. There is a fitness in events which reconciles us to them, when they are regarded as his appointments. A providence ever vigilant and active, which extends to small as well as to great events, cares for individuals, and directs all the incidents in their lot, administers many moral lessons to us, calls forth the best emotions of the heart, corrects, consoles, and animates us, elevates our thoughts on all occasions to God, and exhibits him as the object of our reverence and our gratitude. It is a doctrine at once philosophical and pious; and it is so worthy of Him who is the Parent of the human race, that it recommends itself to our approbation, and attests the truth of the only religion by which it is fully and clearly taught.

In the third place, revealed religion gives the only satisfactory account of the present state of things. In the surrounding world and the circumstances of men, we see numerous proofs of intelligence and goodness; but we cannot say of the whole system, that it displays perfect order, and unmixed benevolence. There are many instances of apparent discrepance, and real severity. This globe has evidently suffered a dreadful convulsion, by which its external structure has been deranged, and has once been covered with water, which must have destroyed the whole or the greater part of its inhabitants. On its surface, while there are plains and mountains clothed with herbs and trees, there are immense tracts which yield nothing for the support of animal life, and are doomed to perpetual sterility. We find also, that in many places there are volcanoes, or burning mountains, which discharge stones, ashes, lava, and boiling water, by which the labours of men are laid desolate, and great havoc is made of human life; and that by earthquakes,

whole cities are overthrown, and the unsuspecting inhabitants are buried in the ruins. These are occasional evils; but there are inconveniences of a more permanent nature, which indicate, that he who governs the world did not intend that it should be a place of rest and pure enjoyment to man. In one region, he is scorched by the heat of the vertical sun; and in another, he shivers amidst frost and snow; and although it has been remarked, that, unlike other animals, he can accommodate himself to every climate, yet, wherever there is excess in the temperature, he suffers in a greater or a less degree. He is at all times compelled to labour, that he may earn a subsistence; at all times, liable to have his hopes disappointed, particularly by the inclemency of the seasons; at all times, subject to infirmities of body and mind, to diseases of various kinds, and to death. From these things it appears, that although man and the system with which he is connected, were evidently intended for each other, there is not a complete adaptation. And why is it not perfect? Has this proceeded from a want of wisdom or a want of goodness? Reason will not permit us to impute either to the Deity; and we must therefore suppose, that some cause has arisen, which has deranged his original plan, and, to a certain extent, interrupted his benevolence. The ancients said, that nature acts like a stepmother, meaning, that it does not treat us with all the kindness and tenderness of a parent. Nature is a word without meaning; and in a rational system of theology, can signify only the Author of nature. This then is the question. Why does he treat us with severity? And unenlightened reason cannot return a firm and satisfactory answer to it. The existence of moral evil was acknowledged in every age; it was too palpable to be overlooked; but whence it came, or how it originated, was a problem, which men, without revelation, were incompetent to solve. To suppose them to have been created with a propensity to evil, was to impeach the purity and the benevolence of the Creator. To ascribe it to the malignity of matter, was to talk nonsense; for matter has no moral qualities, and could not corrupt the mind, although placed in the closest connexion with it. The Scripture history throws light upon the mysterious subject. I do not say that it removes every difficulty, and furnishes an answer to every objection; but it states a fact which helps us to explain present appearances. It informs us, that in the primeval state of man, none of those physical evils which he now suffers, existed; that while he was innocent, all nature smiled upon him and ministered to him: that he lost his innocence by his own fault, and not by an act of his Maker, and being himself corrupted, has communicated the taint to his posterity; that a change immediately took place in the surrounding scene, which did not efface all vestiges of the divine goodness, but adapted it to the circumstances of a guilty race; and that barrenness, toil, inclement seasons, and, in a word, all natural evils, were the appointed penalties of transgression. It recommends this narrative, that it accounts for moral and physical evil, without impeaching the wisdom, and goodness, and holiness of the Creator. It shows that the exercise of another principle was called for, namely, justice, which suits its acts to the merit or demerit of its subjects, leaves to the innocent the enjoyment of their privileges, but allots to the guilty, stripes, and chains, and death. Thus we understand why man, the offspring of God, is treated as an alien; why the place of his habitation is so incommodious; why his days are few and full of trouble, and his last abode is in the dust. Unassisted reason is astonished at these things, and has been tempted to deny a providence, and even the exist ence of an intelligent Governor of the universe. Revelation furnishes a solution of the difficulties; it explains the phenomena; and its discoveries, so seasonable and satisfactory, afford a presumption at least of its truth.

In the next place, it being admitted that men are sinners, and there being in their circumstances evident tokens of the displeasure of their Maker, let

us observe what revelation teaches concerning the means of regaining his favour, and consider whether it does on this account recommend itself to our approbation. Amidst the depravity of human nature, conscience remains, and performs its office so far as to convince men that they are guilty, and occasionally to excite uneasy apprehensions and forebodings. The following words occur in the Scriptures, but as they were spoken by a person who did not belong to the Jewish nation, they may be quoted as expressive of the natural sentiments and feelings of the human mind: "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” * We see the strong workings of fear, an anxiety to appease the Deity, and a willingness to make the most costly sacrifices. Into the origin of sacrifices we need not at present inquire. If they were devised by men themselves, as some have supposed, contrary to all probability, it will follow, that reason itself dictates that an atonement is necessary, and that it can be made only by the substitution of a victim in the room of the offender. If they were divinely appointed, as there is every ground to believe, the continuance of the practice among nations who had lost the memory of the original institution, is a proof that reason approved of it as a fit expedient for averting the anger of the Deity. But although the idea of propitiation was familiar to Jews and Gentiles, such a sacrifice as the Christian religion exhibits was altogether new. Men had already resorted to human sacrifices, as more valuable and efficacious than those of brute animals; but it had never occurred to any of them that the sufferer must be more than man. It had never occurred to them that a divine person must by incarnation become the victim; that the blood of a divine person, united to man, must flow for the expiation of sin. There is something in this idea so foreign to all our modes of thinking, so utterly improbable, so apparently impossible, that we cannot conceive it to have spontaneously arisen in the mind of any man, however wild is the imagination, and however extravagant are its combinations. A God becoming a man; a God dying on a cross for his creatures! who could ever have entertained such a thought? It seems to bear upon it the signature of a supernatural origin; it seems that nothing could have suggested it but revelation. From its singularity, its insulated nature, its total want of connexion with all other ideas, it seems to possess the character of truth. If it should be said, that its strangeness cannot be justly accounted a proof of its conformity to truth, and that we might for the same reason give reality to the most monstrous figments, let it be observed, that this idea is recommended by its manifest fitness to serve the purpose for which it is introduced. By such a sacrifice as is supposed, the end of sacrifices is accomplished, and the mind has sure ground to rest upon in its expectation of forgiveness. It required little wisdom to perceive that animal sacrifices could not be an adequate atonement; and this was the reason that, in despair, human sacrifices were resorted to. Yet even after these, the guilty could not avoid doubts and suspicions, which led them on new occasions to repeat the bloody rite. But if the sacrifice of Christ be admitted, there can be no doubt that its intrinsic value has fully satisfied the demands of justice, that this one offering was sufficient. We cannot but see its consonance to our best conceptions of the character of God. There are two perfections which enlightened reason will ascribe to him, goodness and justice; and of both there are clear indications in the proceedings of Providence. This sacrifice affords scope for the exercise of both. It allows

Micah vi. 6, 7.

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