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ought to cease, and assent-should be no longer with held. Yet infidels, though the divinity of our religion, and of the books. containing it, have been often proved by arguments, to which no solid answer was ever returned, continue to argue against revelation, as if nothing had been said in its defence, and are surprised when their cavils do not prevail upon others to renounce it. But as it discovers soundness of judgment not to admit a proposition, till sufficient evidence in support of it be laid before us ; so to reject a proposition, which hath been fully proved, indicates no uncommon prudence and penetration, but a disease or defect in the understanding, rendering it incapable of perceiving proof and feeling its force ; or the influence of some corrupt affection, prompting men to reason against their convictions. In the mean time, neither the impertinent cavils of unbelieyers, nor those real difficulties, which they are too quick sighted not to observe and to object to us, should overthrow our faith, or cre. ate any hesitation and perplexity in our minds. We should convert them into excitements to greater diligence in the investigation of the truth, and more earnest prayer for the illumination of the Spirit. Thus, we shall acquire clearer views, and a firmer persuasion of the divine authority of the scriptures; and the very means, which are industriously employed to draw us away from the faith, shall ultimately contribute to our establishment.
IF the scriptures be a revelation from God, and satisfactory evidence of their inspiration have been produced, it is incumbent upon all those, to whom they are presented, to receive them as divine, and to submit to their authority. The case is not the same, as when we are called upon to embrace a system of philosophical or political opinions. We may be under no obligation either from duty or from interest, to decide for such a system or against it ; it may be a matter of no consequence whether we assent to it, or deny it. But not to receive the scriptures, which are the words of eternal life, and have been announced by God himself to the world, as a revelation of his will, is at once to treat his authority with contempt, and to do the highest possible injury to ourselves.
Infidels may plead, that the evidence of their divinity is not so clear and convincing, as to be the foundation of a rational assent. Its sufficiency or insufficiency cannot be determined by their asseverations, or by ours, but must be ascertained by an attentive consideration of its nature. It is certain that far less evidence is accounted sufficient in many very important affairs, and that an unbeliever will risk his fortune, and even his life, in an undertaking, for the success of which there is not half the evidence, which we have for the inspiration of the scriptures. Why is he so easily satisfied in the one case, but so delicate and scrupulous in the other ? If he say, that when a greater interest is at stake, greater caution should be exercised, we grant the observation to be just ; but we'maintain, that the strength of the evidence in favour of revelation, béars an exact proportion to the superior importance of the case ; and we refuse to accept of the apology as sincere, because no other part of his conduct accords with this affected concern for the welfare of his soul.Did he discover a desire to know the truth, a solicitude to please God, a trembling anxiety with respect to futurity, a fear of every mistake, and every action which might prove fatal to his happiness, we might attribute his objections to the evidences of the gospel, to a dread lest he should rashly take a step, which he would afterwards have cause to repent. But he who laughs at all religion, minds nothing but the present world, spends his days in the case of pleasures or of honours, and bestows his whole attention and care on his body, insults our understandings when he tells us, that it is from an apprehension of the consequences in another state of existence, that he does not embrace christianity.
It is in vain that the adversaries of the scriptures allege in their defence, that even on the supposition of their divine authority, they are excusable in not receiving them, because they cannot perceive the force of the evidence in their favour. We are told, that our understandings are not in our own power, and that if our minds happen to be so constituted, as to be incapable of discerning truths which are manifest to others, their dulness or incapacity may be called our misfortune, but ought not to be imputed to us as a crime. But the declamations of infidels, and of some others, on this favourite topic, are
loose and inaccurate. We shall not dispute that the mind is passive in the reception of many of its ideas. There are certain propositions which shine with their own light, and convince all, whether willing or unwilling, of their truth. But there are truths, on the other hand, the perception of which requires attention, freedom from prejudice, a disposition to learn, humility, and the absence of vicious propensities. If these qualities be wanting, the truth may not be perceived, but in such a case the person is undoubtedly culpable. The evidences of the divinity of the scriptures are very strong ; but it is possible for one to take a hasty or partial view of them, to listen only to the arguments on the opposite side, to come to the consideration of them, with a mind prepossessed by unfair and insidious representations of the subject, and to wish that one may find them not satisfactory. That a person, thus predisposed, was not satisfied, could excite no surprise. It would be manifestly his own fault, that he was not convinced ; and his unbelief would most certainly be criminal. We hear much of the candour of infidels, not only from themselves, but also from some who bear the name of christians, but in the excess of their charity, injure the cause, which they profess to defend. But setting aside the proofs, which might be brought from the writings and conversation of infidels, that candour is a virtue to which they have no claim, at least in opposing revelation, I beg the reader to consider, that the scriptures, to which we are now at liberty to appeal as an authority, assure us, that no man can be candid in rejecting the truth. They trace unbelief, not only to the darkness of the understanding, but to
the corrupt passions of the heart. It is the off spring of pride, of vanity, of covetousness, of sensuality. At the same time, they declare, that every honest and upright man, every man whose mind is purified from prejudice and lust, if he be not already satisfied, shall finally be convinced, that the doctrines of the christian religion are divine. “ If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”* Infidelity is the effect not of physical, but of moral causes; it is not a misfortune, but a crime; and a crime too, of an aggravated nature.
How much happiness do infidels lose by rejecting the gospel ? I know, indeed, that they are of the contrary opinion, and that the scriptures are represented by them, as imposing a variety of severe and unreasonable restraints. But the ideas, which they have formed of the unpleasant and gloomy nature of a religious life, have no foundation but in the arbi. trary associations of fancy. Modes of life, which appear very insipid, and even disagreeable, have sometimes hidden sources of satisfaction, which cause them to be highly relished by those, who are actually engaged in them. It is analogous, therefore, to our experience relative to other things, that a virtuous life should have charms, which more than compensate for all the sacrifices which it demands. It is worthy of remark, that none complain of the restraints imposed by revelation, but those who have not submitted to them ; we hear not a single murmur from those who have. Is not this a proof, that the severity of religious discipline is wholly imaginary ; and that such a notion originates in a licen
* John vii. 17.