« AnteriorContinuar »
us, he is no stranger to the good effects of a mode similar to that of Jewin Street, and he acknowledges it to be the most preferable. Why then does he not practise it? and why continue to support that which is not the best?
He doubts if Timotheus's reasoning on the action of the mind, and the insufficiency of pulpit preaching to excite it into action, be correct; for he “has frequently heard one and another say, what such a person (meaning the pulpit preacher) said at such a time, led me to examine the subject more closely; and I am persuaded I was in an error!" So then, because Juvenis says, that one and another have said that what the preacher said led them to examine the subject more closely, and persuaded them of their error, therefore the reasoning of Timotheus on the action of the mind is incorrect. pose it should turn out, that what these one and another folke have said was not quite correct (for people do not always tell truth), then I imagine it would be in ferred that Timotheus's reasoning was just. O! what pitiful reasoning is this altogether ;-if arguments and conclusions are to be dispensed with in this way, what will become of our moral and philosophical truths, when they are at the mercy of every old woman in the kingdoni, who being provided with an ample stock of hearsay evidence, may clip, abridge, or annihilate them, to suit her own fancy.
Juvenis may say he only doubts; but what have 1 to do with his doubts. His communication teems with doubts. · It is true, I stated that I should be happy to meet them; but I did not expect mere doubts; I anticipated some rational arguments to support them, and I still hope that should you be favoured, Mr. Editor, with further communications from Juvenis, they will be more argumentative and less doubtful.
He closes his remarks, by thanking me for having written free from moroseness and censoriousness : I hope on these points I shall still retain the good opinion of Juvenis; for I would not wantonly offend any man, and if there be any thing herein contained calculated to hurt his feelings, I would remind him, that feelings ought never to be the criterion of right and wrong, but justice: if I have offended against any of her laws, then Juvenis has a fair opportunity of exposing the weakness of the censure by refuting it. Nor need he fear of giving offence in return ; for it is a maxim with the Freethinking Christians, that he who is censured justly ought not to be offended, and he who is censured unjustly cannot be offended'; all therefore that is necessary to be attended to is to write clearly and reason distinctly.
Having remarked on most of what Juvenis has said, permit me, Mr. Editor, to notice what he has not said; but what I
think he ought to have done. In my last I endeavoured to shew that the intention would not justify the means ; but Juveois, regardless of the propriety or impropriety of the arguments adduced, still keeps to his text, that "the stability of the thing sufficiently justifies the means. I called upon him to shew the moral excellence of pulpit preaching ; but all he says in return is, that he thinks there are thousands wbo could bear testimony to its value. I endeavoured to shew by reasoning founded on the nature of the human mind, that pulpit preaching, as practised in the present day, is not calculated to excite it into action; and his reply is, that he doubts the correctness of the reasoning. I argued to shew that if the plan contained in the New Testament was consonant to the will of God, then we ought not to deviate from it, or seek for any other; and to this he makes no sort of reply. Now I leave it to you and your readers, Mr. Editor, to determine whether he has dealt with these as a man ought to have dealt with them who was really desirous of coming at the truth.
I shall close my observations by proposing a few questions, to which I beg the future attention of Juvenis, and of any others who may be disposed to defend pulpit preaching.
1. Does the New Testament contain any rules or regula. tions by which the primitive Christian church was organized ?
2. If'it does, is there any one among them that relates to the mode of teaching in that church?
3. If there is, what authority have Christians of the present day, who are members of the same church (for the church of God is but one church)-what authority have they for adopting any mode that is contrary to, or that differs from, the mode there laid down?
Hoping that these queries will meet with plain, fair, and manly replies, 1 remain, Sir, your’s, &c. Kingsland Road, June 12, 1812.
EVIDENCES OF REVEALED RELIGION.
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine. IT has been frequently, objected to Christianity, that the
, thenticity of which remains to be proved. In obviating this, it has been my endeavour to adduce such arguments in its favour as does not depend upon, although they are sanctioned and supported by, the book called the Scriptures. 1 have advanced facts and effects which cannot be disputed ; to these facts and
effects I have assigned adequate, and in my opinion, the only adequate causes that can rationally account for them. I havé called upon the opposers of Christianity to find, if they can, more adequate, or at least as adequate causes--but in vain; for all that I have seen even attempted has consisted of loose and vague conjecture, such as it is possible they might arise from such and such causes, without shewing that they were really adequate or more rational and conclusive than those I had proposed.
Proceeding upon my old plan, I shall in this letter state a fact which was foretold by Jesus, as a proof of his resurrection, and which the New Testament says did actually take place. I do not claim any thing in its favour from being written in the acts of the apostles; because proof would be asked of their authenticity: I will examine it as a philosopher-I see an effect, and desire an adequate cause and no more. The effect I refer to shall not be taken from scripture, but from the writ. ings of a man, the most insidious enemy that Christianity ever had.
Mr. Gibbon, who has stated, in a variety of instances, which I shall quote, the amazing spread of Christianity, has assigned causes for it, though, in my opinion, no ways adequate; and has omitted the only cause which could be adequate to the effect, viz. the cause which the New Testament assigns, and which, I believe, he omitted for that very reason; the consequence of which is, that all his reasoning on the subject is a heterogeneous mass of contradiction and confusion. Speaking of the progress of Christianity, vol. ii. p. 265, he says, " a pure and humble religion gently insinuated itself into the minds of men, grew up in silence and obscurity, derived new vigour from opposition; and finally erected the triumphant banner of the cross on the ruins of the capitol.” Thus was confirmed what Jesus told his disciples, Matt. xxiv. 14. and “ this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world (the Roman em. pire), for a testimony. to all nations.". Surely if Jesus was not a prop het this must be a lucky hit indeed, that history should so completely fulfil the prophecy, if Jesus had not a knowledge superior to other inen. Again, p. 277, “the Jewish converts, or as they were afterwards called the Nazarenes, who had laid the foundation of the church, soon found them. selves overwhelmed by the increasing multitudes, that from all the various religions of polytheism, enlisted under the banner of Christianity;" and, p. 286, speaking only of a sect of Christians (or heretics as they werë called), who arose in the second cep. tury, he says they covered Asia and Egypt, established themselves in Rome, and sometimes penetrated into the pro:
deserted, and their sacred victims to be despised. The business of this essay shall be to call for an adequate cause for such a mighty effect, so contrary to all our experience.
But so averse was Gibbon to this testimony, which as an historian he was constrained to give, that in opposition to authentic records, which he has himself quoted, he endeavours by circumstantial evidence, to shew that the spread of Christianity was not so rapid as these testimonies would prove; but, with all his endeavours, he has failed; for one circumstance, which he himself afterwards records, and which nobody can dispute, shall compleatly destroy all he has gathered from other circumstances, viz. the conversion of Constantine to the Christian religion, whose sincerity he justly suspects, and imputes it to policy-a man who, having two rivals whom he wished to subdue, Maxintius and Sicinius, would naturally wish to make himself popular in the empire, and of course incline bim to the most numerous party. Vol. iii. p. 254, he says, " while Constantine, in his own dominions, increased the number and zeal of his dependants, he could depend on the support of a powerful faction (the, Christians), in those provinces which were still possessed or usurped by his rivals.” Again, p. 255, “ the enthusiasm which inspired the troops, and perhaps the emperor himself, had sharpened their swords while it satisfied their consciences, they marched to battle with the full assurance, that the same God who had formerly opened a passage to the Israelites through the waters of Jordan, &c. would display his visible majesty and power in the victory of Constantine;" and, p. 260, " the authority of the church might alone have had sufficient weight to justify the devotion of Constantine, who in the same prudent and gradual progress acknowledged the truth, and assumed the symbol of Christianity;" and, p. 262, speaking of the pretended dream of Constantine,
“ as readily might a consummate statesman indulge himself in one of those military stratagems, one of those pious frauds, which Philip and Sentorius. had employed with such art and effect."
Here then we have the confession of Gibbon, that to him it appeared the conversion of Constantine was a matter of policy, possibly " a military stratagem, or pious fraud;" and all for what end, unless what he and other writers have recorded be true, that Christianity had overspread the empire. Of what use would it have been if the majority of his army had not professed Christianity-or how could Pagans, fighting under a Christian standard, have their consciences satisfied, and their zeal increased, by recurring to facts, as encouragement, recorded in a book which they neither believed in or knew? It is clear