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government interference in France, that we have thought the subject not quite so unimportant as it at first sight appears—but we have also been induced to lay it before our readers by another consideration--we hope soon to have an opportunity of taking a view of the literary part of the French theatre; and it occurred to us that this preliminary sketch of the personal and mechanical part of its organization might tend to render our future task more easy to ourselves, and more agreeable to our readers.
Art. VII.-The Evidence and Authority of the Christian Revela
tion. By T. Chalmers, D.D. one of the Ministers of Glasgow,
a subject of the utmost importance to the interests of revealed religion in that part of the island where the author resides. That there already exist several most conclusive and satisfactory treatises on the same subject, and of recent date, was no reason for precluding a writer, of inferior talents to Dr. Chalmers, from travelling over the same ground. New works, even when consisting of old arguments, are sure to attract a temporary attention at least; and where the style and course of reading are so different as they are well known to be on the north and south of the Tweed, it is to be feared that the works of Paley, Powell, Hurd, and Jenyns, perhaps even of Addison, on the evidences of Christianity, are little studied in Scotland. It is a well known fact that in one, at least, of the Scottish Universities, and in that, perhaps, which presumes to consider itself as most enlightened, a spirit of unbelief in revealed religion is become unhappily common. Such a disposition, even were Christianity an imposture, is a disgrace to a philosophical age: for it is not even pretended that this conclusion is the result of modest and patient inquiry—of the same process of the understanding, which the same individuals are able and willing to apply to physical and political subjects. It follows therefore, either that Christianity is a superstition so absurd and pernicious as to deserve to be rejected by enlightened minds without investigation, or that the conduct of these persons, even should the whole system turn out at length to be a falsehood, is at once unphilosophical and presumptuous. It consists in what a great master of the subject denominated contempt previous to investigation.'
Why then do not these patient and exact inquirers on every other subject take Christianity as an existing phenomenon, the origin and progress of which deserve, at least, to be accounted for? Why confound it by one sweeping sentence with the different and successive modes of superstition, which, from whatever causes, have, from
the beginning of the human race, spread themselves over different portions of the earth ? Has it in its character and constitution any thing in common with any of them? Do not they, one and all, stand condemned before a moral reasoning theist, not only as wholly unsupported by external evidence, but as unworthy and opposite to the very nature of a moral governor of the world? On these grounds, had the Christian revelation never made a claim on the belief of mankind, they and we should have been warranted in rejecting them all, froin the elegant mythology of Greece and Rome to the black and horrible superstitions of the Hindoos. Allowing them, in short, to have had any origin but in the fears, or in the lusts of men, they could only have been ascribed to the agency of demons conspiring in one region and at one period to allure, and at another to terrify their votaries from the primæval worship of the one true God.
Contradistinguished from all these, and victorious over many, stands the revelation purporting to have been made to mankind by Jesus Christ, and at this moment prevailing almost over all the civilized portions of the globe. Now this is the phenomenon to be accounted for. That it was not spread by conquest they must admit;—and that, instead of falling in with aud Hattering the corrupt passions of human nature, it set itself in array against them all, and, without compromise or concession, totally refuses to admit any intercommunity with moral evil. Again---this system, whatever may be its origin, is wholly theistic; its modes of worship are pure and simple: bloodless, though teaching a propitiation through blood, and chaste, while they inculcate the warınest love of God
Let us not be mistaken as overstating the merits of Christianity. We mean not to confound it with the additions which have been heaped upon it, or, as some inquirers are too apt to do, with the abuses and corruptions which in some instances have sunk it almost to the level of paganism, but as it exists, pure and unadulterated, in the single volume which is competent to bear witness to its general character. We say
then that a phenomenon so extraordinary is, at least, entitled to investigation. That the divine origin of such a system is not, like every other, ancient or modern, in the world, negatived, as a revelation, by its own character and constitution, is manifest. We are reasoning with men, who, as we hope and trust, believe in the existence of a Moral Governor of the universe, and to their own principles we contidently appeal in affirming that, independently of all external testimony, such a religion may have proceeded from Gud. If it should, their rejection of it, previously to all reasonable inquiry, must be highly offensive to the Deity;--if it should
not, they will, at least, have lost the triumph of having demonstrated the existence of another phenomenon, more singular even than the former; namely, an alliance of eighteen centuries between the purest morality and the most artful imposture.
Unhappily Dr. Chalmers has taken a very different course, and either from prejudices of his education in a Calvinistic church, or from some other cause, with which we are not acquainted, has commenced and continued his work in persevering efforts to depreciate the internal evidence for the truth of the Christian revelation. It is the peculiarity of that system, for a very obvious reason, to exalt the physical, at the expense of the moral, attributes of the Divinity; and while it professes to own and to reverence the latter, to represent those qualities, while existing in the Almighty, to be of so transcendent a nature, that little can be antecedently inferred from them with respect to his probable conduct towards his creatures upon earth. In this spirit, and as an apology for resting the entire weight of his cause on external evidence, we are told by Dr. Chalmers of the internal evidence* that, as appears to many, no effectual argument can be founded upon this consideration, because they do not count themselves enough acquainted with the designs or character of the Being from whom the Messenger professes to have come.
• Were the author of the message some distant and unknown individual of our own species we would [should) scarcely be entitled to found an argument upon any comparison of ours between the import of the message and the character of the individual, even though we had our general experience of human nature to help us in the speculation. Now of the invisible God we have no experience whatever. We are still further removed from all direct and personal observation of him, or of his counsels. Whether we think of the eternity of his government, or the mighty range of its influence over the wide departments of nature and of providence, be stands at such a distance from us as to make the management of his empire a subject inaccessible to all our faculties.'
. It is evident, however, that this does not apply to the second topic of examination.
• The bearers of the message were beings like ourselves, and we can apply our safe and certain experience of man to their conduct and their testimony. We may know too little of God to found any argument upon the coincidence which we may conceive to exist between the subject of the message and our previous conceptions of its author. But we may know enough of man to pronounce upon the credibility of the messengers. Had they the manner and physiognomy of honest men? Was their testimony resisted, or did they persevere in it? Had they any interest in fabricating the message—or did they suffer in con. sequence of this perseverance?-did they suffer to such a degree as to constitute a satisfying pledge of their integrity? Was there more than one messenger, and did they agree as to the substance of that commu
nication which they made to the world? Did they exbibit any special mark of their office as messengers of God; such a mark as none but God could give, and none but his approved messengers could obtain possession of? Was this mark the power of working miracles, and were these miracles so obviously addressed to the senses as to leave no suspicion of deceit behind them? These are questions which we feel our competency to take up and to decide upon. They lie within the legitimate boundaries of human observation, and upon the solution of these do we rest the question of the truth of the Christian religion.' p. 15, 16.
Thus precipitately and indiscretely does our author surrender to its assailants, even before a summons received, one of the strongest out works of revelation. Let us inquire, therefore, what he loses by the concession, and whether that concession were necessary.
With respect then to the weight of internal evidence as grounded on a previous knowledge of the moral attributes of God, we are compelled to enter our protest most seriously and solemnly against bis assertion—that of the invisible God we have no experience whatever, and that we are still further removed from all direct and persopal observation of him and his counsels.
On this point we are very sure that our author and St. Paul are at issue. The great apostle built bis argument for the inexcuseableness of vice and immorality in the heathen world on this solid foundation, that they had, under all their disadvantages, an opportunity of acquiring the knowledge of the one true God from contemplating his external works.
* For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; who hold the truth (the truth of nalural religion) in unrighteousness: because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God bath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the Creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made ; even his eternal power and godhead; so ihat they are without excuse."*
What then, if we are to believe an inspired apostle, is to become of this rash assertion, which, indeed, amounts to nothing less than the avnibilation of all natural religion at a stroke? But the fact is, that, although in a revelation, claiming to come from God, many things beyond what the limited faculties of man could ever contemplate as antecedently probable might reasonably be expected, yet to say that we have no intimation from the light of nature, no eta perience whatever, of God and of his counsels, is equivalent to asserting that a pure and an impure, a moral and immoral revelation are equally proveable by the same external evidence which appears for the truth of Christianity. Is it then of no account, or is it not rather of the utmost importance to the argument, that in the ge
Rom. c. i. v. 18–90
nuine Christianity of the New Testament there is nothing which leaves it to be inferred that its author was a cruel, capricious being? That in his conduct, as there represented, no characters appear but those of mercy, truth, and sanctity? But, in fact, it is next to impossible to separate the two species of evidence from each other; so that in a desperate attempt to effect that very purpose, our author has actually and very unskilfully interwoven them. Had they, he asks, the manner and physiognomy of honest men ? &c. &c.— Now this is internal evidence; for the characters of the witnesses are those of the religion. We have another and a powerful objection to our author's manner of enforcing the external testimony for the Gospel, singly and exclusively. He appears to us to think it capable of proving any thing short of a contradiction; and to the miracles alone would he confidently appeal for the truth of the Christian revelation-in other words, that it came from God. We will, therefore, try this question upon its own merits. Remove then, in the first place, all idea of a Moral Governor of the world; let it be taken as antecedently indifferent what the character of an alleged revelation should be--that in confirmation of it, the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the deaf recover their hearing, (all without natural means) and the dead are raised. According to Dr. Chalmers, this evidence alone lands us in his own elegant phrase) in the conclusion, that a religion, so proved, be its moral character what it may, is necessarily from God. Supposing, again, that on looking further into the thing conceived to be thus proved, it should turn out to be a system cruel, libidinous, and idolatrous, it follows, of course, that the author of this revelation must delight in such enormities. Those moral attributes, therefore, of which we were previously ignorant in a state of nature, are now disproved by revelation. Neither does our author, in his disposition to arrogate every thing in favour of external testimony, seem to be aware that the fact of the Gospel miracles may be allowed, and his con„clusion eluded or denied. Perhaps there may be some among
his philosophical readers on the banks of Forth or Clyde, who may impute them to the agency of demons. This objection, which was that of Celsus and other philosophical infidels of old, has, however, been repeatedly and satisfactorily answered: by Dr. Chalmers, in the precipitance of his zeal, it has been wholly overlooked.
In this attempt to vindicate the neglected rights of that species of proof on behalf of Revelation which the author has very unreasonably depreciated, we desire not to be misunderstood. Pure morality affords of itself little evidence of the divine origin of a system in which it is inculcated. Tbere is much good morality in the Koran. A cool and clear-headed impostor will always discern the advantage of adapting his doctrives to the moral