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flowing immediately from the conduct of men. There arise, indeed, from the present situation of human affairs, many obstructions to the full operation of these rewards and punishments. Yet the degree in which they actually take place is sufficient to ascertain the character of the government of God. In those cases where we are able to trace the causes which prevent the exact distribution of good and evil, we perceive that the very hindrances are wisely adapted to a present state. Even where we do not discern the reasons of their existence, we clearly perceive that these hindrances are accidental; that virtue, benign and salutary in its influences, tends to produce happiness, pure and unmixed; that vice, in its nature mischievous, tends to confusion and misery; and we cannot avoid considering these tendencies as the voice of Him who hath established the order of nature, declaring to those who observe and understand them, the future condition of the righteous and the wicked.
And thus in the world we behold, upon every hand of us, openings of a kingdom of righteousness corresponding to what we formerly traced in the constitution of human nature. By that constitution, while reward is provided for virtue, and punishment for vice, there arise in our breasts the forebodings of a higher reward and a higher punishment. So in the world, while there are manifold instances of a righteous distribution of good and evil, there is a tendency towards the completion of a scheme which is here but begun.
This view of the government of God, which we have collected from the constitution of human nature and the state of the world, is brought to light by the religion of Jesus Christ. The language of God in his works leads us to his word in the gospel. All our disquisitions concerning the nature of his government only prepare us for receiving those gracious discoveries, which, confirming every conclusion of right reason, resolving every doubt, and enlarging the imperfect views which belong to this the beginning of our existence, bring us perfect assurance that, in the course of divine government, unlimited in extent, in duration, and in power, every hindrance shall be removed, the natural consequences of action shall be allowed to
operate, virtue shall be happy, and vice shall be miserable.
Abernethy on the Attributes.
Cudworth's Intellectual System; a magazine of learning, where all the different schemes of Atheism are combated with profound erudition and close argument.
Boyle's Lectures; a collection of the ablest defences of the great truths of religion that are to be found in any language. Having been composed in a long succession of years, by men of different talents and pursuits, they furnish an abundant specimen of all the variety of argument that has ever been adduced upon the subjects of which they treat.
Butler's Analogy, the first chapters of which should be particularly studied in relation to the subjects of this discourse.
Essays on Morality and Natural Religion, by Henry Home, Lord Kaimes.
Paley's Natural Theology, the last, and perhaps the most elaborate work of this author. He had here his pioneers as well as his foreBut his inimitable skill in arranging and condensing his matter, his peculiar turn for what may be called "animal mechanics," the aptness and the wit of his illustrations, and occasionally the warmth and the solemnity of his devotion, which, by a happy and becoming process, was rendered more animated as he drew nearer to the close of life, stamp on this work a character more valuable than originality.
COLLATERAL EVIDENCE OF CHRISTIANITY FROM
THE ground-work, which I suppose to be laid in an inquiry into the truth of the Christian religion, is a belief of the two great doctrines of natural religion, that God is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek him. You consider man as led by the principles of his nature, to believe that the universe is the work of an intelligent Being, although wandering very much in his apprehensions of that Being; you consider him as feeling that the government of the Creator of the world is a righteous government, although conscious that he often transgresses the law of his Maker, and very uncertain as to the method in which the sanctions of that law are to operate with regard to him; and you propose to examine whether to man, in these circumstances, there was given an extraordinary revelation by the preaching of the Son of God, or whether Jesus Christ and his apostles were men who spoke and wrote according to their own measure of knowledge, and who, when they called themselves the messengers of God, assumed a character which did not belong to them. It is manifest at first sight, that such a revelation is extremely desirable to man; and a closer investigation of the subject may show it to be desirable in such a degree, so necessary to the comfort and improvement of man, as to create a presumption in favour of the proofs that the Father of the human race has been pleased to grant it. But the necessity of the revelation is a subject upon which, in my opinion, it is better not to enter at the outset ; because, if the proofs of the truth of Christianity be defective, the presumption arising from this necessity will not be sufficient to help them out; and if they be clear and conclu
sive, the necessity of revelation will be more manifest after you proceed to examine its nature and effects.
The truth of Christianity turns upon a question of fact, which, like every other question of the same kind, ought to be judged of calmly and impartially-not by the wishes which it may be natural to form on the subject, but by the evidence which is adduced in support of the fact. We allow the great body of the people to retain all the early prejudices which they happily acquire on the side of Christianity. We allow its full weight to every consideration which is level to their capacity, and which corresponds to their habits; because, what we wish to impress upon them is a practical belief of the truth of religion; and this practical belief may be sufficient to direct their conduct and to establish their hope, although it be not grounded upon critical inquiries and logical deductions. But it is expected that the teachers of religion should be able to defend the citadel in which they are placed, against the attack of every enemy, and that they should be acquainted with the quarters which are most likely to be attacked, with the nature of the blow that is to be aimed, and the most successful method of warding it off. With them, therefore, belief ought to be not merely the result of early habit, but a conviction founded upon a close examination of evidence; and in this, as in every other inquiry, they ought to take the fair and safe method of arriving at the truth, by bringing to the search after it a mind unembarrassed with any prepossession.
A person who, in this state of mind, begins to examine the question of fact upon which the deistical controversy turns, will be struck with that support which the truth of Christianity receives from the whole truth of history for more than 1700 years. The impartial historians of those times, Suetonius, Tacitus, and Pliny, in passages* which have been often quoted and commented upon, and the exact amount of which every student of divinity ought to know, concur with Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian, the learned, inveterate, and inquisitive adversaries of the Christian faith, in establishing beyond the possibility of
*Sueton. Claud. cap. 25. Sueton. Nero. cap. 16. Tacit. Ann. 1. xv. 44. Plin. 1. x. ep. 97.
doubt the following leading facts;-that Jesus Christ, in the reign of Tiberius, was put to death; that this man, during his life, founded, and his followers, after his death, supported a sect, upon the reputation of performing miracles; and that this sect spread quickly, and became very numerous in different parts of the Roman empire. A succession of Christian writers is extant, some of whom lived near enough the event to be witnesses of it, and all of whom published books, which must have appeared absurd to their contemporaries, if the facts upon which these books proceeded had then been known to be false. A chain of tradition can be shown, by which the principal facts were transmitted into the Christian church. The existence of our religion can be traced back to the time and place to which the beginning of it is referred; and since that time, by the institution of a Gospel ministry, by the celebration of the Lord's Supper, and by the observance of the Lord's day, there have continued, in many parts of the world, standing memorials of the preaching, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.
I begin with mentioning these things, because every literary man will perceive the advantage of taking possession of this strong ground. By placing his foot here he is furnished with a kind of extrinsical evidence, the force of which none will deny, which cannot be said to create any unreasonable prepossession, and yet which prepares the mind for the less remote proofs of a Divine revelation.
Grotius de Veritate Rel. Chris.
Macknight on the Truth of the Gospel History.
Lardner's Credibility of the Gospel History.