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other feelings of a strong and serious nature; let him remember how he treats other great interests and claims, and then, let him go and do likewise in religion. He cannot fail to be mainly right. He may not be a learned man, he may ot read many books, but he cannot fail to be, in religious matters, a sober, judicious, wise man; and if he will fully comply with the conditions now laid down for his direction, he cannot fail to be a good man. If he will but honestly and rationally treat religion, as he treats other claims and interests, he will be a good, and a zealously good man, of such a character as we seldom meet with.
It is to a comparison of this nature, that I am about to invite attention. The subjects, to come under our review, will be mostly practical, and will call not so much for elaborate discussion, as for the exercise of a sober judgment. It is that which I would use; and to that would address myself, in what I am now about to offer. That, in fact, is the only resort and final umpire in all the differences of religious opinion; for that alone, is to pronounce upon the meaning of Scrip
On many religious subjects, there is a diversity of opinion among men. Some doubt about Christianity itself. Many differ with regard to the interpretation of it. Conflicting views are also entertained about the best methods of promoting religion. And concerning the proper way of exhibiting it, concerning the evidences of personal piety, concerning the religious treat
ment of one another, there is a still greater discordance in the judgments of men. And there are not wanting those who find in these varieties of opinion, in the numerous controversies that prevail, an excuse for indifference to all religion.
Now, upon all these matters let us use our sober judgment. Let us, for the purpose of our present reflections, take religion out of the hands of Theologians and theorists; let us forget our creeds and commentaries; let us place this subject in a new point of light, or one, at least, where amidst contending sects it is too seldom seen,-let us take it up as plain men, and men deeply interested, and forsaking the fenced and straitened paths of theological discussion, let us more broadly and generously judge of religion, as we judge of other things. For plain men-however the learned may have leisure and ingenuity for curious theories-for plain men this is the only way to judge.
Nay, since I would not seem to trifle on so serious a subject as this, it is the only way for anybody to judge.
If we consider religion in its parts, and properly discriminate those parts, we shall find no difficulty in our general principle. Its parts are not all the same, and the principle is not always the same. Proof in religion is to be judged of as proof, and as the sort of proof, that it purports to be. Feeling is to be judged of as feeling. And the result of certain principles of action, is to be considered with reference to the nature of the principles. Selfishness and benevolence,
for instance, will not have the same results; but they will have and here comes the application of our maxim-they will have results, and results accordant with the impulses from which they proceed.
Still, we say then, let us judge of religion as we judge of other things. True religion will bear the test; that which cannot bear it, is false. I am certain, that true religion would rise from this examination, if it were properly conducted, it would rise clothed with new light and beauty; that its arguments would appear doubly strong, and that its principles and precepts would be commended with two-fold force, to the minds of men. If indeed, we could persuade men to be as rational in religion as they are in other things, if we could make the children of light as wise as the children of this world are in their generation, we should gain a great advance beyond all former attainments.
How quickly, for instance, does that too common excuse for indifference, founded on the disputes of christians, fall to the ground, when we compare religion in this respect, with other objects! There are disputes about agriculture, about the best methods of tillage. Do men, therefore, neglect to cultivate the soil? There is much difference of opinion about the principles of trade, and the most promising courses of business. Does it slacken the zeal of the merchant? Does he determine to let his ships decay at the forsaken wharf, till all these questions are settled? The physicians differ among themselves, quite as much as theologians. Do we therefore, take no med
icine? The Law is a science of conflicting claims, and its processes are founded on precedents of litigation. But do not men believe that there is a right and a wrong; and strive to obtain the one and to avoid the the other?
But let us proceed to consider some of the distinct and important departinents of religious inquiry. In the present number I shall consider,
THE EVIDENCES AND RECORDS OF OUR RELIGION.
And in the first place, the evidences of our religion. These are to be weighed, as other evidences are weighed. And they are in fact just such proofs as may be rendered familiar to us, by what passes in every Court of justice. In the first place, there are the christian witnesses; and such witnesses, indeed, as were never produced in any other cause; men not only of unimpeachable character, of great and acknowledged virtue, but who have given in their writings the most extraordinary example of the absence of all enthusiasm, that the world can show-men, I say, and such men, who spent laborious and painful lives, and suffered bloody deaths in attestation, not of some fancy or imagination in their own minds, not of their belief that they were inspired merely, but in attestation of certain manifest and miraculous facts. And then in the comparison of their testimonies, we have the strongest corroboration of their honesty and truth. On the one hand, there are a few slight discrepancies between them, just sufficient to show that there could
have been no collusion; and on the other hand, numerous and evidently undesigned coincidences, both with themselves and with contemporary profane writers, which put the strongest stamp of verisimilitude upon their narrations. And, then, again the moral character of these productions is such as to set their authors above all suspicion of disingenuity-such as to show that dishonest and bad men could not have given birth to them, and such, in fact, as to constitute a strong, independent argument for their divine origin. But I confine myself now to this one branch of the evidence, the testimony; and I say that if such a weight of testimony were produced in a court of justice, all the records of judicial proceedings could show nothing stronger, or more satisfactory. I say that men are every day deciding and acting upon a tythe of the evidence that is offered to support the christian religion. What if there is not any thing amounting to the force of mathematical demonstration? The case does not admit it. And in the ordinary affairs of life men do not demand it. Why shall they not, in religion as in other things, act upon the evidence they have? Suppose that it is less clear to some than to others. Suppose, that it amounts with them only to a strong probability. Suppose that they have doubts. Do doubts paralize them in other cases? Does not a man make all sorts of sacrifices, become an exile, tread dangerous coasts, breathe tainted climes, for a distant and uncertain fortune? But has any body told him, that the wealth he seeks, waits for him? Has