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born with sinful dispositions, and, above all, how he can be released from this malady, she knows not.
d) Whether there is an hereafter, that all important question, which must have so great an influence on our conduct and expectations through life, reason cannot satisfactorily answer. And admitting that there should be a future existence, she is totally unable to decide whether it will be probationary or retributive.
Such are the scanty, unsatisfactory lessons derived from reason alone. Every sincere inquirer after truth cheerfully receives them, but they should only tend to make him long for clearer light ;- they should only prepare him to receive with greater gratitude the ample and satisfactory instructions of the holy volume. Many of the ancient heathen expressed an ardent desire, that God would grant them farther communications of knowledge. Both Socrates and Plato confessed their need of a revelation from heaven : and so generally did the mass of the people feel the uncertainty of their knowledge, that discerning legislators, such as Solon, Lycurgus, Numa and others, knew no better method of giving sanction to their laws, than by pretending that they had received such revelation. The man therefore who knows the extreme scantiness of reason's instructions, and feels no desire for a farther revelation, is worse than a heathen. He must either be so depraved as to dread every communication from heaven, or as indifferent about his destiny as the brutes that perish !
e) But in what manner ought God to give us farther information on these subjects, if he saw fit to grant it to us ?
Much has been said by infidels against the manner, in which God is believed by Christians to have made a revelation : but so far as we know, not one of them has been able to propose a different method, which would be half as reasonable. Ought
perversitate versamur: ut pene cum lacte nutricis errorem suxisse videamur.”
God to make an oral revelation to every individual of the human family in every successive generation ? Would not the great mass of mankind in a few years forget many of the ideas communicated to them? And if, in order to prevent this, each one would immediately record for his own use what God had taught him, granting that all men were even able to make such a record, would we not soon have millions of bibles instead of one? And as the views which God would reveal would be substantially the same, we should have millions of repetitions of the same revelation ! How absurd is this, and how much more rational the one recorded revelation which God has given, and which may be circulated over the whole world : Others have maintained that God ought in every successive age, work new miracles to confirm his revelation. But they forget that miracles, thus often repeated, would be miracles no more, and attract no more attention than the regular succession of summer and winter, or at most than the irregular occurrence of thunder and lightning, or descent of rain and hail. In short, if God sees fit to grant to mankind any additional information beyond what the heavens and the earth and the structure of the human soul afford, the most suitable method of its accomplishment so far as we can see, would be this: To communicate these truths which will of course be reasonable in themselves, to one or more suitable individuals ; appoint them to teach these doctrines ; attest the divinity of their mission by satisfactory evidence, and provide for the accurate transmission of these truths and evidences to all future generations for whom they were intended. It is obvious that oral teachers would present important advantages in addition to those of the mere written record. Yet who does not see, that although the first oral teachers alone would have sufficed to publish the gospel to their generation, because they were inspired, and therefore infallible; the oral instructions of their uninspired successors would be liable to constant error, and consequently totally unsafe in directing the momen
tous interests of immortal souls, unless there were some infallible written record, by which they could be corrected ? Such a record was happily made by the first inspired teachers of Christianity, whose instructions when orally given were confessedly infallible and of divine authority, and when written could not be less so. From these books we derive our principal information of the doctrines and some of the facts of Christianity, although at the present stage of our argument, we use them only as ordinary authentic narratives whose genuineness and integrity have often been clearly and satisfactorily established. Now, precisely in this way does Christianity profess to be a revelation from God, and throughout the long series of eighteen hundred years has she triumphantly maintained her claims in the world, whilst the tide of her evidences has been rolling on with uninterrupted and constantly increasing force and volume.
EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY.
In looking at these evidences, they naturally fall into two classes, original and progressive ; those in which the gospel came arrayed to its first hearers, and those additional items of evidence which collected around it, in its progress through the world.
I. The original evidences.
a) The first thing which struck the primitive hearer of the gospel, was doubtless THE CHARACTER OF THE MEN who published it to them. And who were they? Who ought they to be? Not kings of the earth, or other great men in power ; lest
their new religion might be suspected of being an engine of state, and its extension be attributed to the arm of civil power : —not the rich, lest pecuniary influence should cast suspicion on it:not the learned, lest its sacred truths might be regarded as the offspring of their own intellect by men incapable of accurate discrimination. But the persons to whom God would in all probability first make a revelation, and whom he would select to publish it, would be men previously void of much influence, yet possessed of good reputation and sound native intellect. Now precisely of this character were the first preachers of the gospel. They were not indeed “ignorant” men, as the English version of Acts 4: 131 erroneously asserts, but common people, not professional men— persons engaged in private life. In short they were men engaged in mechanical pursuits, among whom we find as much native vigor of mind, as in any other walks of life. These men their hearers knew to be as little capable of fabricating such a religion as they themselves were. Nor could they suspect their motives; for they had renounced all prospect of temporal gain to publish this gospel: nor could they doubt the miraculous facts' to which they appealed; for these were attested by hundreds of other witnesses, and repeated in their own presence. How absurd then is the supposition of the prejudiced infidel Volney, that these men were a " combination of artful impostors,” who built upon the credulity of mankind, the stupendous fabric of the Christian Church! When, therefore, the apostles declared, that they had not invented their doctrines themselves, their fellow citizens readily did and necessarily must believe them. When they declared, that they were taught by the Lord Jesus, what would be the impression ? The populace knew, that the apostles had intercourse with Jesus; but what proof had they that he was not himself an impostor ? That they could not regard him in this light, is evident from the ma
nifest sincerity apparent in his whole life, but especially from the fact, that he neither sought nor accepted any advantage or honour from his fellowmen, which he could so easily have obtained by accommodating himself to the Jewish ideas of the Messiah as a temporal prince. On the contrary he knew and himself predicted, that privation, persecution and death would be his reward. Such never had prior to that time, and never since has been the conduct of designing deceivers. Impostors had arisen before and have been known since; but their conduct invariably betrayed them. Mohammed pretended to be a messenger from God, but the licentiousness of the religion which he taught, the sword by which he promulgated it, and the naked views of self-aggrandizement which his conduct betrayed, proved his imposture. But in Jesus is seen nothing that could reflect suspicion on his character. He came indeed to publish a religion, but they knew it was a religion of self-denial; it commanded men to bridle their passions, to cultivate the nobler powers of the soul, to love and practice virtue. He came also to establish a kingdom, but he told them it was a “ kingdom not of this world.” He paved for himself the way to a throne, but it was a throne in heaven. To establish his kingdom he drew the sword—but it was “the sword of the Spirit.” His loins were girt, but with truth; he wore a breastplate, but of righteousness, and a shield, but it was a shield of faith; for his was a religion of peace and good will to men, and forbade
To wade through slaughter to a throne,
Nor had the Jews any ground for considering Jesus as an enthusiast. The moderation uniformly evinced by him in the execution of all his designs, and especially the vast comprehensiveness of his plan for a spiritual kingdom, which according to his own declarations was to be executed almost entirely after his death, forbids the idea.