Page images

To be tried by facts, &c.

LECT. 1. with its statements, and it will be pronounced


Now, if there does exist such a thing as a real revelation, it will doubtless bear a similar examination. The application of the test may be delicate, but it must, in the main, be clear and decisive; and it is quite certain that, in no case, can the document and the real fact contradict each other. A true revelation cannot stand opposed to nature, history, or the facts of human consciousness. The words of Scripture may be misinterpreted—its facts may be mistaken—it may leave many things involved in mystery, and quite unapproachable by our present powers of discrimination ; but if it professes to give information upon events that have transpired, or things that exist, there must be, and be discoverable, a harmony in the main, and without any positive discord. This correspondence, if it can be traced to any considerable extent, will very materially subserve the cause of revelation. The one will be to the other as the key that passes the wards of the lock, or as the clue by which we thread a labyrinth.

We can conceive it possible for God to have made a revelation upon matters concerning which neither our experience, nor science, nor the course of history might have supplied any corroborative evidence. Such a revelation might have rested solely on the direct proof of divine authority in the

method of communication. Its subject matter LECT. I. might have been placed far beyond the reach of any test we could employ; but if we possess a revelation which, besides the direct and primary proofs of divine intervention, affords us the opportunity of verifying its statements, by matters coming within the sphere of our own experience and observation, it must then, I think, be admitted, that such a revelation possesses all the evidence we could reasonably desire, perhaps all of which any revelation is susceptible.

It is not, however, pretended that this view of the christian evidence possesses any novelty; or that this mode of testing it has not often been adopted, both by friends and enemies. Yet, I think, it must be admitted that the subject has generally been treated in a partial and desultory manner; very rarely in a distinct and separate form; usually it has constituted only a section or an item of a general argument; or has been merged in questions of prophecy and history. It has certainly been made, by the enemies of revelation, a most prolific source of objection. It has presented a field where they have gallingly paraded their forces, and harassingly hung upon the rear of the christian argument.

Now we have imagined, whether wisely or This arguotherwise, you must judge, that this argument, pansion in from the verification of Scripture, is susceptible of state of considerable expansion and confirmation, in the

ment suscep

ihe present


Science tri, butary to natural le)jogy.

LECT. I. present advanced state of human knowledge, and

that something should be attempted by way of making the contributions, both of science, history, and human experience, serviceable to the cause of revelation.

Much has been effected of late to elucidate and confirm the doctrines of natural theology, by bringing to their aid the valuable and important discoveries of modern physical science through its various departments. So that the argument for the being, perfections, and providence of God, may be said to be wrought up to the improved state of natural knowledge. It has been, if not strengthened in the nature and construction of the argument, yet carried out by new illustrations, and reinforced by being pursued up to the ultimate discoveries of philosophy.

Moreover, several able writers, as well philosophical as theological, have shown that the discoveries which have of late years been going forward in one particular and popular branch of science, hitherto suspected of a hostile aspect towards revelation, has brought to light no facts subversive of the Mosaic cosmogony. So far scientific discoveries are found, on the one hand, to subserve the defence and elucidation of natural theology, while, on the other, they are shown to be at least inoffensive, or neutral towards revelation. Every thing beyond this, such as the effort to make science, history, and human experience corroborate the testimony, and contribute to the evidence LECT. 1. of revelation, falls properly within the province of the theologian.

I can, of course, have no reason to depreciate Danger of the important inquiries of natural theology, but I natural Theomay be permitted to say there is considerable danger of reposing in them, complacent in the fundamental truths they establish, and satisfied with the important and interesting results to which they lead. The theism which is so often attempted to be grounded upon them, apart from the discoveries of revelation, proves in the issue a system of delusion and mischief. It is built up of crude and incongruous materials, which do but deceive and baulk the hope of their admirers, and which at last crumble into dust in the rough hand of time, and before the test of experience.*


* I trust, however, when I speak thus of the danger lest natural theology should be consulted as an oracle, in the formation of religious belief, or itself be mistaken for a complete system of religion, I shall not be understood as reflecting, or intending to reflect, in the slightest degree, upon the eminent and accomplished individnals who have lately made such valuable additions to our stock of arguments for the being and government of God. It is abundantly evident, from most of the Bridgewater Treatises, that their authors had found no satisfaction in a scheme of mere theism; and many admirable passages might be adduced, to show that they are devout believers in the inspiration of the Scriptures; and further, though this was not their object, it is evident, that they would be rejoiced to find their writings tributary, in any degree, to a similar faith in their readers. They have openly professed their


Natural the0logy only relatively useful.

It is not improbable that a sentimental kind of religion, scarcely a shade brighter than the gloomy deism of the last century, may be fostered in the minds of some men of science, by the eloquent and elaborate writings on natural theology which have recently been given to the world. If young inquirers should unhappily repose in these arguments, they may be preserved from embracing the absurdities of atheism, but it is equally certain they cannot be accounted Christians. I derogate nothing from the importance and value of the arguments such works present, when I say, that their utility is chiefly relative. They constitute but a link in a chain. Apart they are of little worth. They form but one of the steps to the Temple of Truth; a step far enough from being the last, and if it should unhappily be made our resting place, instead of one of the stages of our ascent, we shall

adherence to the sacred records, and rendered becoming homage to revelation, as the only adequate and final authority in religion. Hereby they have done honour to their own enlightened understandings, to their own great genius and learning. This is highly satisfactory as to the individual authors of those works. We are, moreover, quite sure they would deprecate any use of their writings that might either seem directly to militate against the dictates of revelation, or to supersede it by the substitution of natural religion. But we cannot suppress the fear, that such a misuse, as we have alluded to, may be made, and has, probably, already been made, by those who have paid little attention to the whole subject of religion, and possibly none whatever to the evidences of revelation.

« PreviousContinue »