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benent. Yet this plan of the greatest good originated with the Jews; the nation most deficient in general good will to others; the people regarded as hating the rest of the human race.
Mr. B. Again, supposing this difficulty got over by the sceptic, he is met by another not less formidable. Perhaps there is no nation, the writers of which, in general, have been so deficient in those qualities which are the best calculated to render any production likely to be useful for all times and all places, than the Jews, with the exception of the writers of the sacred books. Among all their later authors, we find hardly any thing that is valuable for its own sake. We consult their books, not to gain information for ourselves, but to learn what they believed and taught. Of their excessive fanaticism, and of their bigoted attachment to their idea of a temporal prince who should restore the kingdom to Israel, it is hardly necessary to remind you. What, then, must we think at seeing this people send out a system of religion actually capable of universal reception and perpetual duration ?
Maria. Is it not, then, only astonishing that they should have wished to promulgate this religion, but that they should have had the power to devise it at all ?
Mr. B. From the very nature of the religion, as contrasted with the general spirit and acquirements of the people, we see strong corroborative evidence in behalf of its pretensions. But further: the alleged revelation thus sent out, professing to have this character of universality, was not produced at long intervals, and altered, corrected and varied, as experience showed it to be necessary, in order to preserve this character: it sprung out at once, finished and perfect, though nothing of the kind had before existed to furnish any guide to its formation. It was altogether original, and yet in all respects complete.
8 If this difficulty be removed, what other one no less formidable will be found to exist?_9 How is the character of the later works of the Jews described?-10 In what do we see strong corroborative evidence in behalf of the pretensions of the gospel?–11 What other extraordinary circumstance attended the establishment of Christianity?
Maria, But might not a Jew. allege, that the writers of the New Testament only added to the Old such things as would render the last mentioned capable of universal reception ?
Mr. B. In that case, the additions must have been of such a nature as would be calculated to secure the support of those to whom they addressed themselves. Now in what does Christianity differ from the preceding dispensations, and in what respects are these additions likely to secure converts ? One of the most striking features in it is, the making the kingdom of Christ a spiritual and not a temporal kingdom. This, indeed, would obviate some difficulties attendant on the idea of a universal religion; but what impostor would adopt it, when by so doing he disappointed the expectations of all, and made many his most implacable enemies ?
Edward. The novelty of this idea must have been a great objection in all cases. To the Jews we know it was absolutely hateful.
Mr. B. Connected with this was the abolition of sacrifice and the ritual law.
Maria. This must have been a daring stroke in those times. It did not seem claimed by the
necessity of the case, and exposed the new religion to great hazards.
Mr. B. And if either Jew or Pagan asked the reason of this, the Christian would only increase his astonishment and indignation by informing him that “Christ, our passover, was sacrificed for ús;” that " by this one offering of himself, he had perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
Edward. However conformable this may be, in fact, with the scriptures of the Old Testament, many will not, to this day, allow it. “ To the Jews the cross of Christ was a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness."
12 What question does Maria suggest to obviate the difficulty, as to the shortness of time in the formation of the system?–13 In such a case, of what nature must have been the additions made?-14 What is said of the most obvious traits jit Christ's kingdom, distinguishing it from preceding dispensations ?- 15 What objectionable feature would the Jews have beheld in Christianity, in addition to its novelty?—16 If the Jew, or a pa. gan, asked the reason for abolishing the sacrifices of the law, how would the Christian have answered him?-17 How was the cross of Christ to the Jews?
Mr. B. And it was especially so because the victim and the prince were the same person. Another striking characteristic of Christianity was its actual declaration of permanence. It offered a religion strangely at variance with received opinions; it claimed to be the fulfilment of all preceding dispensations, but promised nothing beyond itself. Had the disciples, like the later Jews, taken up the idea of two messias—one a suffering, and the other a victorious prince—they might possibly have tolerated the account given of the one, for the sake of the hope which yet remained of the other. In excluding all hope of this kind, the disciples acted as no impostor would have done.
Edward. But persons capable of conceiving the idea of a universal religion, of founding it upon previous revelations, of developing it at once so as to be really adapted to all nations, if not all times, could not have been so careless as to matters of this kind. They could not be so destitute of prudence and discretion as to expose their alleged revelation to a test like this, and at the same time make all opposed to its claims. If we were to suppose that, after all, Christianity was an imposture, we must admit the union of the most astonishing prudence with the greatest neglect of it affecting the same things. We must admit their having introduced nothing that could be disproved, and yet in all this they made no use of the reigning passions and prejudices.
Mr. B. And now add to this the greatest wonder of all—the fact that the religion thus produced at once, by a few individuals of the most partial and unphilosophical people that ever existed, at a time when every thing prompted to a contrary course, not only was then found capable of universal reception, but has also ever since been found equally adapted for all ages and all nations, when every thing else has changed. One system of
18 Why was this especially so?–19 What method has been adopted by the later Jews to obviate this difficulty?—20 If Christianity is an imposture, of what must we admit an union in accomplishing the same things?
-21 What is the greatest wonder of all, to be added by Mr. B. in this hypothesis?–22 How is Christianity, by him in this respect, contrasted with philosophy?
philosophy has overthrown another; new discoveries have proved to demonstration long-received opinions fallacious; and continual advances have been made in all sciences; but the Christian religion has remained unshaken and unchanged. No proof has been afforded, after the lapse of nearly eighteen hundred years, of error in any of its precepts or statements; no new discoveries have been made in either; no change has been found necessary, to enable it to subsist amidst the continual change that has taken place in all things else.
Edward. And yet it has had many powerful adversaries; men whose natural acuteness was sharpened by strong desire to overthrow its authority.
Mr. B. But which is the more incredible of the twothat this religion should be produced in a nation and at a time singularly ill calculated for the discovery of a religion capable of universal application and perpetual duration, where all the probabilities are in favour of its truth, and yet after all be false—or that it proceeded from God? We can account naturally and fully for the fact by the latter supposition, which is confirmed by all the evidence, external and internal, which can be brought forward on the subject, and cannot account for it on the former.
Edward. To me it seems a greater miracle is supposed to exist by those who argue against Christianity, than what they declare themselves unable to receive; for it would be, indeed, a deviation from the usual government of God, to put it wholly out of our power to disprove the truth of this religion, and to render it in appearance so probable. If Christianity be not true, what can be true? If we may not confide in it, in what may we trust?
Mr. B. This evidence in favour of Christianity, though only of a negative kind, becomes amazingly strong from the extent of the subject, and the length of time which
23 of what has no proof been afforded for the space of eighteen hundred years, affecting the character of Christianity?-24 What is the question asked by Mr. B. as to the alternatives between which we must choose in settling this matter?-25 How does he answer it himself?-26 How does Edward say it appears to him?-27 What is said of the importance of this negative kind of evideuce in favour of Christianity?
has elapsed. If Christianity had only involved a few topics of consideration, we might have regarded it only as a lucky chance that it had proved correct in all; or if only a few years had elapsed since its promulgation, we might have doubted whether time would not prove its pretensions absurd; or if no changes had taken place in other things, we might have merely imputed its continuance to a general aversion to change; but when we see a religion involving so great an extent of subject, standing alone, unaffected by time, unmoved by changes of opinion, we cannot ascribe it to any other cause than abstract and unalloyed truth. See what destruction experimental philosophy has made among the theories of former times. Voltaire brings forward physical truth as the great test of religion. How then is it that a few ignorant men of that nation which was most likely to run into error on the subject of philosophy, should have sent out a religion which no subsequent advances in science could overthrow? How is it that they, amongst all the precepts which they give, should have escaped in every instance? that in all the miracles they relate, they should never have involved themselves in such a contradiction as would overthrow the whole? The progress of science has not yet enabled any one to recall the dead, on whom corruption had seized, to life; no discovery of modern times has brought us any nearer to the healing diseases by a word.
Edward. It appears that the old antagonists of Christianity had only one way of accounting for the miracles, and that, the progress of science has shown to be absurd. Mr. B. But the argument may be rendered still strong
Some, if not all the writers of the New Testament, lay claim to inspiration, and thereby expose themselves to the severest test imaginable. A few errors might have been expected had they merely professed to give an ac
28 What circumstances are named, under which we might have doubted the genuineness of Christianity, and placed in contrast with known facts respecting it?–29 What is said in connexion with Voltaire's great test of religion?-30 What was wonderful in the founders of this religion, when placed under the application of his test?—31 How does Mr. Ď. say that the argument may be made still stronger?