Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

by which he neutralized the testimony of Christianity. We do not ask him to prethe first Christians, is as complete a trans- sume the existence of God. We ask him gression against the temper and principles to examine the miracles of the New Testaof true science, as a category of Aristotle -ment merely as recorded events, and to adwhen employed to overrule an experiment mit no other principle into the investigain chemistry. But however this be, it is tion, than those which are held to be satisevident that Rousseau would have given a fying and decisive, on any other subject readier reception to the Gospel history, had of written testimony. The sweeping prinhis mind not been pre-occupied with the ciple upon which Rosseau, filled with his speculation ; and the negative state of Athe-I own assumptions, condemned the historical ism would have been more favourable to the evidence for the truth of the Gospel narraadmission of those facts which are connect- tive, can have no influence on the blank ed with the origin and establishment of our and unoccupied mind of an Atheist. He religion in the world.

has no presumptions upon the subject ; for This suggests the way in which the evi- to his eyes the phenomena of nature sit so dence for Christianity should be carried loose and unconnected with that intelligent home to the mind of an Atheist. He sees Being, to whom they have been referred as nothing in the phenomena around him, that their origin, that he does not feel himself can warrant him to believe in the existence entitled, from the phenomena, to ascribe any of a living and intelligent principle, which existence, any character, any attributes, or gave birth and movement to all things. He any method of administration to such a does not say that he would refuse credit to Being. He is therefore in the best possible the existence of God upon sufficient evi- condition for submitting his understanding dence, but he says that there are not such to the entire impression of the historical appearances of design in nature, as to sup- evidence. Those difficulties which perplex ply him with that evidence. He does not the Deist, who cannot recognize in the God deny the existence of God to be a possible of the New Testament the same features truth; but he affirms, that while there is and the same principles in which they have nothing before him but the consciousness invested the God of Nature, are no difficulof what passes within, and the observation ties to him. He has no God of nature to of what passes withont, it remains an asser- confront with that real though invisible tion destitute of proof, and can have no power which lay at the bottom of those more effect upon his conviction than any astonishing miracles, on which history has other nonentity of the imagination. There stamped her most authentic characters. B a mighty difference between not proven Though the power which presided there and disproven. We see nothing in the should be an arbitrary, an unjust, or a maargument of the Athiest which goes farther lignant being, all this may startle a Deist, than to establish the former sentence upon but it will not prevent a consistent Atheist the question of God's existence. It is alto- | from acquiescing in any legitimate infergether an argument ab ignorantia; and ence, to which the miracles of the Gospel, the same ignorance which restrains them viewed in the simple light of historical facts, from asserting in positive terms that God may chance to carry him. He cannot bring exists, equally restrains them from assert- his antecedent information into play upon ing in positive terms that God does not this question. He professes to have no anexist. The assertion may be offered, that, tecedent information on the subject; and in some distant regions of the creation, this sense of his entire ignorance, which lies there are tracts of space which, instead of at the bottom of his Atheism, would exbeing occupied like the tracts' around us punge from his mind all that is theoretical, with suns and planetary systems, teem only and make it the passive recipient of every with animated beings, who, without being thing which observation offers to its notice, supported like us on the firm surface of a or which credible testimony has brought world, have the power of spontaneous down to it of the history of past ages. movements in free spaces. We cannot say! What then, we ask, does the Atheist make that the assertion is not true, but we can say of the miracles of the New Testament? If that it is not proven. It carries in it no he questions their truth, he must do it upon positive character either of truth or false- grounds that are purely historical; he is nood, and may therefore be admitted on ap- precluded from every other ground by the propriate and satisfying evidence. But till very principle on which he has rested his that evidence comes the mind is in a state | Atheism ; and we therefore, upon the entirely neutral; and such we conceive to strength of that testimony which has been be the neutral state of the Atheist, as to already exhibited, press the admission of what he holds to be the unproved assertion these miracles as facts. If there be nothing of the existence of God.

then, in the ordinary phenomena of nature, To the neutral mind of the Atheist, then, to infer a God, do these extraordinary pheunfurnished as it is with any previous con- nomena supply him with no argument? Does ception, we offer the historical evidence of l a voice from heaven make no impression

al Infidels.

It will not take its It puts itself into the posture, in which the Cartesian opports : to the demonsta Newton. The then subject where truth 4 and speculation S. sets him to test ent evidence thal 128 at was original on, and is not true ceof testinons, ou as of historical dat I most consistent lebar ish. It is the unit forms the grand man 1 of the Christian Is the Deist w2101

) typhilosophea 2
the soundest land

an historical bar
a theoretica' pril
Culation of Bousse

upon him? And we have the best evidence demands our attention, the testimony of a
which history can furnish, that such a voice man who in addition to evidences of honesty
was uttered; “ This is my beloved Son in more varied and more satisfying than were
whom I am well pleased.” We have the evi- ever offered by a brother of the species, had
dence of a fact for the existence of that very a voice from the clouds, and the power of
Being from whom the voice proceeded, and working miracles, to vouch for him. We
the evidence of a thousand facts, for a power do not think the account which this man
superior to nature; because, on the impulse gives of himself can be viewed either with
of a volition, it counteracted her laws and indifference or distrust, and the account is
processes, it allayed the wind, it gave sight most satisfying. “I proceeded forth, and
to the blind, health to the diseased, and, at came from God.”—“He whom God hath
the utterance of a voice, it gave life to the sent speaketh the words of God.”—“Even
dead. The ostensible agent in all these won- as the Father said unto me, so I speak."
derful proceedings gave not only credentials He hath elsewhere said that God was his
of his power, but he gave such credentials Father. The existence of God is here laid
of his honesty, as dispose our understanding before us, by an evidence altogether distinct
to receive his explanation of them. We do from the natural argument of the schools;
not avail ourselves of any other principle and it may therefore be admitted in spite of
than what an Atheist will acknowledge. He the deficiency of that argument. From
understands as well as we do, the natural the same pure and unquestionable source
signs of veracity which lie in the tone, the we gather our information of his attri-
manner, the countenance, the high moral butes. “God is true.”—“God is a spirit."
expression of worth and benevolence, and, He is omnipotent," for with God all things
above all, in that firm and undaunted con- are possible.” He is intelligent, “ for he
stancy, which neither contempt, nor poverty, knoweth what things we have need of."
nor death, could shift from any of its positions. He sees all things, and he directs all things,
All these claims upon our belief, were ac- “ for the very hairs of our head are nuin-
cumulated to an unexampled degree in the bered," and "a sparrow falleth not to the
person of Jesus of Nazareth ; and when we ground without his permission."
couple with them his undoubted miracles, The evidences of the Christian religion
and the manner in which his own personal are suited to every species of infidelity.
appearance was followed up by a host of We do not ask the Atheist to furnish him-
witnesses, who, after a catastrophe which self with any previous conception. We ask
would have proved a death-blow to any him to come as he is; and upon the strength
cause of imposture, offered themselves to of his own favourite principle, viewing it as
the eye of the public, with the same powers, a pure intellectual question, and abstracting
the same evidence, and the same testimony, from the more unmanageable tendencies of
it seems impossible to resist his account of the heart and temper, we conceive his un-
the invisible principle, which gave birth and derstanding to be in a high state of prepara-
movement to the whole of this wonderful tion, for taking in Christianity in a far purer
transaction. Whatever Atheism we may and more scriptural form, than can be expect-
have founded on the common phenomena ed from those whose minds are tainted and
around us, here is a new phenomena which pre-occupied with their former speculations.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

CHAPTER X.

On the Supreme Authority of Revelation.

If the New Testament be a message, rity of the New Testament, because the from God, it behoves us to make an entire plan and the dispensation of the Almighty and unconditional surrender of our minds, which is recorded there, is different from to all the duty and to all the information that plan and that dispensation which they which it sets before us.

have chosen to ascribe to him. We speak There is, perhaps, nothing more tho- of Christians, who profess to admit the roughly beyond the cognizance of the hu- authority of this record, but who have man faculties, than the truths of religion, tainted the purity of their profession by and the ways of that mighty and invisible not acting upon its exclusive authority; Being who is the object of it; and yet who have mingled their own thoughts and nothing, we will venture to say, has been their own fancy with its information; who, made the subject of more hardy and adven- instead of repairing in every question, turous speculation. We make no allusion and in every difficulty, to the principle of at present to Deists, who reject the autho-16 What readest thou,” have abridged the

on--the testimony of a

to evidences of honesty
ore satisfying than were
other of the species, had
Ouds, and the power of
to vouch for him. We
account which this man
an be viewed either with

rust, and the account is
"I proceeded forth, and
-"He whom God hath
words of God."-"Even
d unto me, so I speak."
re said that God was hus
-tence of God is here land
-idence altogether disuda

argument of the schoos;
ore be admitted in spite of

that argument. From

nd unquestionable source
information of his altri
true,"__"God is a spirica

"for with God all things
Je is intelligent, "for he
hings we have need of."
S and he directs all things
Lirs of our head are alla-
sparrow falleth not to the
nis permission."
s of the Christian religion
very species of infidelits.
che Atheist to furnish him
Vious conception. We ask
e is; and upon the strength
rite principle, viewing is as

sovereignty of this principle, by appealing to the capricious variations of this man's to others, of which we undertake to make taste, or of that man's fancy? Our maxim, out the incompetency; who, in addition to and our sentiment! God has put an authothe word of God, talk also of the reason of rative stop to all this. He has spoken, and the thing, or the standard of orthodoxy; the right or the liberty of speculation no and have in fact brought down the Bible longer remains to us. The question now from the high place which belongs to it, as is, not “What thinkest thou ?" In the days the only tribunal to which the appeal should of Pagan antiquity, no other question could be made, or from which the decision should be put; and to the wretched delusions and be looked for.

idolatries of that period let us see what But it is not merely among partizans or kind of answer the human mind is capable the advocates of a system, that we meet of making, when left to its own guidance, with this indifference to the authority of and its own authority. But we call ourwhat is written. It lies at the bottom of a selves Christians, and profess to receive the great deal of that loosenéss, both in prac- Bible as the directory of our faith ; and the tice and speculation, which we meet with only question in which we are concerned, every day in society, and which we often | is, “What is written in the law ? how readhear expressed in familiar conversation. est thou ?" Whence that list of maxims which are so But there is a way of escaping from indolently conceived, but which, at the this conclusion. No man calling himself same time, are so faithfully proceeded upon? a Christian, will ever disown in words "We have all our passions and infirmities; the authority of the Bible. Whatever be but we have honest hearts, and that will counted the genuine interpretation, it must make up for them. Men are not all cast in be submitted to. But in the act of coming the same mould. God will not call us to to this interpretation, it will be observed, task too rigidly for our foibles; at least there is room for the unwarrantable printhis is our opinion, and God can never be ciples which we are attempting to exso unmerciful, or so unjust, as to bring us to pose. The business of a scripture critic a severe and unforgiving tribunal for the is to give a fair representation of the sense mistakes of the understanding." Now it is of all its passages as they exist in the originot licentiousness in general, which we are nal. Now, this is a process which requires speaking against. It is against that sanc- some investigation, and it is during the time tion which it appears to derive from the that this process is carrying on, that the sell-formed maxims of him who is guilty tendencies and antecedent opinions of the of it. It is against the principle, that either mind are suffered to mislead the inquirer an error of doctrine, or an indulgence of from the true principles of the business in passion, is to be exempted from condemna- which he is employed. The mind and tion, because it has an opinion of the mind meaning of the author, who is translated, is to give it countenance and authority. What | purely a question of language, and should We complain of is, that a man no sooner be decided upon no other principles than sets himself forward and says, "this is my those of grammar or philology. Now, what sentiment," than he conceives that all cul- we complain of is, that while this principle pability is taken away from the error, is recognized and acted upon in every other either of practice or speculation, into which composition which has come down to us he has fallen. The carelessness with which from antiquity, it has been most glaringly the opinion has been formed, is of no ac-departed from in the case of the Bible ; that count in the estimate. It is the mere ex- the meaning of its author, instead of being istence of the opinion, which is pleaded in made singly and entirely a question of vindication; and under the authority of our grammar, has been made a question of memaxim, and our mode of thinking, every taphysics, or a question of sentiment; that man conceives himself to have a right to instead of the argument resorted to being. his own way and his own peculiarity. “such must be the rendering from the struc

Now this might be all very fair, were ture of the language, and the import and there no Bible and no revelation in exist- significancy of its phrases," it has been, ence. But it is not fair, that all this loose-1" such must be the rendering from the ananess, and all this variety, should be still logy of the faith, the reason of the thing, the floating in the world, in the face of an character of the Divine mind, and the wisauthoritative communication from God him- dom of all his dispensations." And whether 9. Had no messsage come to us from this argument be formally insisted upon or the Fountain-head of truth, it were natural not, we have still to complain, that in reality enough for every individual mind to betake it has a most decided influence on the unitself to its own speculation. But a mes- derstanding of many a Christian; and in sage has come to us, bearing on its fore- this way, the creed which exists in his mind, head every character of authenticity; and instead of being a fair transcript of the New 18 it right now, that the question of our | Testament, is the result of a compromise Tash, or of our duty, should be committed which has been made between its authori

al question, and abstracting nmanageable tendencies of miper, we conceive his ine in a high state of prepar. n Christianity in a far purer ral form, than can be especthose minds are tainted and h their former speculations

[ocr errors]

Testament, because the pensation of the Almight ed there, is different from at dispensation which LHET Iscribe to him. We staat who profess to admit i is record, but who han ity of their prosession by 2 its exclusive authority, ed their own thoughts and with its information ; eta

ring in every questina ficulty, to the principle de thou," have abridged the

IN

tative decisions and the speculations of his to know the mind of the Spirit, the commuown fancy.

nications of the Spirit, and the expression What is the reason why there is so much of these communications in writien lanmore unanimity among critics and gram-guage, should be consulted. These are the marians about the sense of any ancient only data upon which the inquiry should author, than about the sense of the New be instituted. But, no. Instead of learning Testament? Because the one is made purely the designs and character of the Almighty a question of criticism: the other has been from his own mouth, we sit in judgment complicated with the uncertain fancies of a upon them, and make our conjecture of daring and presumptuous theology. Could what they should be, take the precedency we only dismiss these fancies, sit down like of his revelation of what they are. We do a school-boy to his task, and look upon the him the same injustice that we do to an acstudy of divinity as a mere work of transla- quaintance, whose proceedings and whose tion, then we would expect the same una- | intentions we venture to pronounce upon, nimity among Christians that we meet with while we refusé him a hearing, or turn among scholars and literati, about the sys- away from the letter in which he explains tem of Epicurus or the philosophy of Aris-himself. No wonder, then, at the want of totle. But here lies the distinction between unanimity among Christians, so long as the the two cases. When we make out, by a question of "What thinkest thou ?" is made critical examination of the Greek of Aris- the principle of their creed, and, for the safe totle, that such was his meaning, and such guidance of criticism, they have committed his philosophy, the result carries no autho- themselves to the endless caprices of the hurity with it, and our mind retains the con- man intellect. Let the principle of "what genial liberty of its own speculations. But thinkest thou" be exploded, and that of if we make out by a critical examination of "what readest thou" be substituted in its the Greek of St. Paul, that such is the theo-place. Let us take our lesson as the Allogy of the New Testament, we are bound mighty places it before us, and, instead of to submit to this theology; and our minds being the judge of his conduct, be satisfied must surrender every opinion, however dear with the safer and humbler office of being to it. It is quite in vain to talk of the mys- the interpreter of his language. teriousness of the subject, as being the cause Now this principle is not exclusively apof the want of unanimity among Christians. plicable to the learned. The great bulk of It may be mysterious, in reference to our Christians have no access to the Bible in its former conceptions. It may be mysterious original languages; but they have access to in the utter impossibility of reconciling it the common translation, and they may be with our own assumed fancies and self satisfied by the concurrent testimony of the formed principles. It may be mysterious learned among the different sectaries of this in the difficulty which we feel in compre-country, that the translation is a good one. hending the manner of the doctrine, when We do not confine the principle to critics we ought to be satisfied with the authorita- and translators; we press it upon all. We tive revelation which has been made to us call upon them not to form their divinity by of its existence and its truth. But if we independent thinking, but to receive it by could only abandon all our former concep- obedient reading ; to take the words as they tions, if we felt that our business was to stand, and submit to the plain English of submit to the oracles of God, and that we the Scriptures which lie before them. It is are not called upon to effect a reconciliation the office of a translator to give a faithful between a revealed doctrine of the Bible, representation of the original. Now that and an assumed or excogitated principle of this faithful representation has been given, our own ;-then we are satisfied, that we it is our part to peruse it with care, and to would find the language of the Testament take a fair and a faithful impression of it. to have as much clear, and precise, and di- It is our part to purify our understanding dactic simplicity, as the language of any of all its previous conceptions. We must sage or philosopher that has come down bring a free and unoccupied mind to the to us.

exercise. It must not be the pride or the Could we only get it reduced to a mere obstinacy of self-formed opinions, or the question of language, we should look, at no haughty independence of him who thinks distant period, for the establishment of a she has reached the manhood of his underpure and unanimous Christianity in the standing. We must bring with us the doworld. But, no. While the mind and the cility of a child, if we want to gain the meaning of any philosopher is collected kingdom of heaven. It must not be a parfrom his words, and these words tried, astial, but an entire and unexcepted obedience. to their import and significancy, upon the There must be no garbling of that which is appropriate principles of criticism, the mind entire, no darkening of that which is lumiand the meaning of the Spirit of God is not nous, no softening down of that which is collected upon the same pure and compe-| authoritative or severe. The Bible will allow tent principles of investigation. In order of no compromise. It professes to be the

BE

[blocks in formation]

fore us.

s caprices of the ha

principle of "what
Joded, and that of
Je substituted in its
r lesson as the Alb
e us, and, instead of

conduct, be satisfied
obler office of being
riguage.
s not exclusively as

The great bulk of
ess to the Bible in its
t they have access to
on, and they may be
rent testimony of the

rent sectaries of this
slation is a good one

directory of our faith, and claims a total the human mind deserted its guidance, and ascendency over the souls and the under- rambled as much as ever in quest of new standings of men. It will enter into no speculations. It is true, that they took a composition with us, or our natural princi- juster and loftier flight since the days of ples. It challenges the whole mind as its Heathenism. But it was only because they due, and it appeals to the truth of heaven walked in the light of revelation. They for the high authority of its sanctions. borrowed of the New Testament without "Whosoever addeth to, or taketh from, the acknowledgment, and took its beauties and words of this book, is accursed," is the abso- its truths to deck their own wretched fanlute language in which it delivers itself. cies and self-constituted systems. In the This brings us to its terms. There is no process of time, the delusion multiplied and way of escaping after this. We must bring extended. Schools were formed, and the every thought into the captivity of its obe- ways of the Divinity were as confidently dience, and as closely as ever lawyer stuck theorized upon, as the processes of chemisto his document or his extract, must we try, or the economy of the heavens. Univerabide by the rule and the doctrine which sities were endowed, and natural theology this authentic memorial of God sets be- took its place in the circle of the sciences.

Folios were written, and the respected luNow we hazard the assertion, that with minaries of a former age poured their a a number of professing Christians, there is priori and their a posteriori demonstranot this unexcepted submission of the un- tions on the world. Taste, and sentiment, derstanding to the authority of the Bible; and imagination, grew apace; and every and that the authority of the Bible is often raw untutored principle which poetry could modified, and in some cases superseded by clothe in prettiness, or over which the hand the authority of other principles. One of of genius could throw the graces of sensithese principles is the reason of the thing. bility and elegance, was erected into a prinWe do not know if this principle would be ciple of the divine government, and made at all felt or appealed to by the earliest to preside over the counsels of the Deity. Christians. It may perhaps by the dispu- In the mean time, the Bible which ought to tations or the philosophising among con- supersede all, was itself superseded. It was Ferted Jews and Greeks, but not certainly quite in vain to say that it was the only by those of whom Paul said, that “not authentic record of an actual embassy which many wise men after the flesh, not many | God had sent into the world. It was quite mighty, not many noble, were called." | in vain to plead its testimonies, its miracles, They turned from dumb idols to serve the and the unquestionable fulfilment of its proliving and the true God. There was nothing |phecies. These mighty claims must lie in their antecedent theology which they lover, and be suspended, till we have settled could have any respect for: nothing which —what ? the reasonableness of its doctrines. they could confront, or bring into compe-| We must bring the theology of God's amlition with the doctrines of the New Testa- bassador to the bar of our self-formed thement. In those days, the truth as it is in lology. The Bible, instead of being admitted Jesus came to the mind of its disciples, re-l as the directory of our faith upon its extercommended by its novelty, by its grandeur, nal evidences, must be tried upon the merits by the power and recency of its evidences, of the work itself; and if our verdict be and above all by its vast and evident supe- favorable, it must be brought in, not as a nority over the fooleries of a degrading Pa- help to our ignorance, but as a corollary to kanism. It does not occur to us, that men our demonstrations. But is this ever done? in these circumstances would ever think of Yes! by Dr. Samuel Clarke, and a whole sitting in judgment over the mysteries of host of followers and admirers. Their first that sublime faith which had charmed them step in the process of theological study, is into an abandonment of their earlier reli- to furnish their minds with the principles gion. It rather strikes us, that they would | of natural theology. Christianity, before receive them passively; that, like scholars | its external proofs are looked at or listened who had all to learn, they would take their to, must be brought under the tribunal of lesson as they found it ; that the information these principles. All the difficulties which of their teachers would be enough for them; attach to the reason of the thing, or the fitand that the restless tendency of the human I ness of the doctrines, must be formally dio mind to speculation, would for atime find am-cussed, and satisfactorily got over. A voice pie mjoyment in the rich and splendid dis- was heard from heaven, saying of Jesus coveries, which broke like a flood of light Christ, “This is my beloved Son, hear ye upon the world. But we are in different cir-him." The men of Galilee saw him ascend cumstances. To us, these discoveries, rich | from the dead to the heaven which he now and splendid as they are, have lost the fresh-occupies. The men of Galilee gave their ness of novelty. The sun of righteousness, testimony; and it is a testimony which like the sun of the firmament, has become fa- stood the fiery trial of persecution in a miliarized to us by possession. In a few ages, former age, and of sophistry in this. And

e principle to crities iss it upon all. We orm their divinite br but to receire it be ke the words as they the plain English of e before them. It is tor to give a faithful original. Now that tion has been giren

it with care, and ful impression of it

our understanding

ceptions. We mis cupied mind to the

be the pride or the od opinions, or the

of him who thinks nhood of his under ing with us the da

want to gain the I must not be a fuit lexcepted obedient. ing of that which is that which is jums in of that which is

The Bible will allow prosesses to be the

« AnteriorContinuar »