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this course, which common prudence would dictate *, is the best and wisest which we can pursue. Should your wanderings, therefore, chance to lead you into Errour's den, and bring you within the reach of that monster,
« Most lothsome, filthie, foule, and full of vile disdain ;"
call to mind the advice of the victorious knight, and fly, until you have taken “the shield of faith," and have clothed yourself in “ the whole armour of God.”
Many compendious statements of the evidences by which Christianity is supported have been formed, to supply the want which has often been felt by those, who anxiously seek the truth: but you must be aware how difficult it is to meet the necessities of each individual case; because, in consequence of the various constitution of our minds, arguments which force conviction upon one person, will appear inconclusive to another. : I have, indeed, known three steps lead to a firm belief in the evidences of Christianity, and have afterwards seen the creed thus formed, filled up, until the entire mind was brought into subjection to the truth of God.
The first step was, that the Jewish religion must have had its origin through the instru
* 1 Tim. i. 4. and Tit.iii. 9.
mentality of Moses and Aaron; as it was utterly impossible for its rites and ceremonies to have been palmed upon the nation at any subsequent period.
The next step was, to fix the prophecy of Isaiah antecedently to the advent of Christ.
And the last step, to obtain some profane historical evidence of the time of our blessed Lord's appearance upon the earth.
But from the habit of pursuing mathematical investigations, you may, perhaps, have become, in some measure, disqualified to receive the less palpable impressions of moral evidence; and it would, therefore, be a very arduous undertaking to supply you with a synopsis, which would at once be brief and satisfactory. But even if I could bring you through a few certain and acknowledged steps, to the conclusion which you seek, I know not that it would be beneficial to you; for that conviction will be more firm and durable, which is the result of a less rapid process; and the very nature of the subject requires, that the heart, no less than the understanding, should be engaged in the enquiry. Besides which, it is a necessary part of religious discipline to subdue the pride of human intellect, and to eradicate that undue sense of its own powers, which is one of the most formidable obstacles that can be opposed to the reception of Divine truth. This is a remark to which
I feel assured
you will accede, because it is the principle upon which that commendation was founded, which I well remember you once expressed, of the prostration of mind which led our friend
- to say, that the names of Newton, Locke, and Paley, kept him from infidelity; for if they, whose intellectual power was to his as Jupiter to a glow-worm, believed in the truth of the sacred books, he dared not to disbelieve, before he had examined the grounds of their faith.
I can well conceive the feelings with which you observed the striking contrast between the harmony which pervades the reasoning of those “ master spirits,” whether their minds were engaged in the investigation of physical or religious truth, and the inconsistencies which distinguish the logic of those sceptical reasoners, with whom you sometimes have had occasion to associate. You have found many of the last-named persons well educated; some well meaning; and others of liberal professions ; entertaining the most confined notions, and expressing very conflicting sentiments and views respecting the origin and utility of religion : some looking upon it as an admirable state-expedient; others supposing it to be altogether a juggle of priestcraft; and many regarding it as nothing more than a most beautiful system of morals: and all these uniting to deem its open profession irrational and en
thusiastic. Whereas, the same common sense, which they apply to other subjects, would suggest, that Christianity is, or is not, what it pretends to be; and ought therefore either to challenge our entire devotion, or be proscribed altogether, as the most enormous imposition that was ever foisted upon the credulity of mankind. You justly suppose that this inconsistency must arise from other causes than intellectual inability; and, indeed, the Scriptures inform us that there is a darkness of the understanding * inseparable from disobedience to the will of God. It is also called a blindness of the heartt; the truth, as it is in Christ, being the only source whence the mind and heart can be enlightened. #
If, from the general sentiments of these people on religious subjects, we pass to the particular arguments, if arguments they may be called, by which they attempt to uphold their crude and ill-formed systems, we are struck with the intellectual phenomenon, of men who will reason clearly and correctly enough on physical causes and their effects, examine their data, and deduce their consequences with scrupulous accuracy, whilst on the subject of religion they are satisfied to erect most unphilosophical systems, upon loose, shallow, and indeterminate premises. Were a speculator to disbelieve the laws of motion, the very nien would pity his intellectual weakness, who, when he dares dissent from scriptural truth, receive his audacity with that kind of applause which they bestow upon the hardihood of Satan, when he rises from his fathomless fall, to renew the attack against his God. In this remarkable contest of man with his Creator, the understanding is obscured through its own pride, so true it is that the wisdom of this world is folly with God*, and that Christ is to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ (is) the power of God, and the wisdom of God. And so true it is, also, that upon them with whom the “ deceivableness of unrighteousness” is suffered to work, God shall send strong delusion.t They are told, like Naaman, the leper, to go and wash in Jordan, and they cry, “ Are not Abana and Phapar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel ?” The Syrian was persuaded to try the efficacy of the sacred river, and he found its healing virtues !
* Matt. xiii. 15. John, xii. 40. Zech. vii. 11, 12. † Ephes. iv. 18. | 1 Pet. ii. 9. 2 Cor. iv. 6.