Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

many countries, we see the most satisfying day, and point to the accomplishment of pledge, both for the integrity of the sacred clear prophecies in the actual history of writings, and for the date which all par- the world. The present state of Egypt, ties agree in ascribing to them. We hear and the present state of the Jews, are the of the many securities which have been examples which we fix upon. The one is provided in the various forms of registra- an actual fulfilment of a clear prophecy; tions, and duplicates, and depositories; but the other is also an actual fulfilment, and neither the wisdom, nor the interest of forms in itself the likeliest preparation for men ever provided more effectual checks another accomplishment that is yet to against forgery and corruption, than we come. Nor do we conceive, that these have in the instance before us. And the clear and literal fulfilments exhaust the argument, in particular, for the antecedence whole of the argument from prophecy. of the prophecies to the events in the New They only form one part of the argument, Testament, is so well established by the but a part so obvious and irresistible, as concurrence of the two rival parties, that should invite every lover of truth to the we do not see, how it is in the power of examination of the remainder. They additional testimony to strengthen it should secure such a degree of respect for

But neither is it true, that the prophe- the subject, as to engage the attention, and cies are delivered in terms so obscure, as awaken even in the mind of the most rapid to require a painful examination, before and superficial observer, a suspicion that we can obtain a full perception of the ar- there may be something in it. They gument. Those prophecies which relate should soften that contempt which repels to the fate of particular cities, such as Ni- so many from investigating the argument neveh, and Tyre, and Babylon; those at all; or at all events, they render that which relate to the issue of particular contempt inexcusable. wars, in which the kings of Israel and Ju- The whole history of the Jews is caleudah were engaged ; and some of those lated to allure the curiosity, and had it not which relate to the future history of the been leagued with the defence and illusadjoining countries, are not so much veiled tration of our faith, would have drawn the by symbolical language, as to elude the attention of many a philospher, as the understanding, even of the most negligent most singular exhibition of human nature observers. It is true, that in these instan- that ever was recorded in the annals of the ces, both the prophecy and the fulfilment world. The most satisfying cause of this appear to us in the light of a distant an- phenomenon is to be looked for in the tiquity. They have accomplished their history which describes its origin and proend. They kept alive the faith and worship gress; and by denying the truth of that of successive generations. They multi- history, you abandon the only explanation plied the evidences of the true religion, which can be given of this wonderful peoand account for a phenomenon in ancient ple. It is quite in vain to talk of the imhistory that is otherwise inexplicable, the mutability of Eastern habits, as exemplified existence and preservation of one solitary in the nations of Asia. What other people monument of pure theism in the midst of ever survived the same annihilating proa corrupt and idolatrous world.

cesses? We do not talk of conquest, But to descend a little farther. We where the whole amount of the effect is in gather from the state of opinions at the general a change of dynasty or of governtime of our Saviour so many testimonies ment; but where the language, the habits, to the clearness of the old prophecies. The the denomination, and above all, the geotime and the place of our Saviour's appear-graphical position, still remain to keep up ance in the world, and the triumphant pro- the identity of the people. But in the gress, if not the nature of his kingdom, history of the Jews, we see a strong inwere perfectly understood by the priests destructible principle, which maintained and chief men of Judea. We have it them in a separate form of existence amid from the testimony of profane authors, changes that no other nation ever survived. that there was, at that time, a general ex- We confine ourselves to the overthrow of pectation of a prince and a prophet all their nation in the first century of our over the East. The destruction of Jerusa-epoch, and appeal to the disinterested teslem was another example of the fulfilment timonies of Tacitus and Josephus, if ever of a clear prophecy; and this, added to the cruelty of war devised a process of other predictions uitered by our Saviour, more terrible energy for the utter extirpaand which received their accomplishment tion of a name, and a remembrance from in the first generation of the Christian the world. They have been dispersed church, would have its use in sustaining among all countries. They have no comthe faith of the disciples amidst the per- mon tie of locality or government to keep plexities of that anxious and distressing them together. All the ordinary principeriod.

ples of assimilation, which make law, and We can even come down to the present religion, and manners, so much a matter of geography, are in their instance sus- it is not to be wondered at, that in the multipended. Even the smallest particles of this tude of observations, the defence of Chrisbroken mass have resisted an affinity of al- tianity may often be made to rest upon most universal operation, and remain un- ground, which, to say the least of it, is prediluted by the strong and overwhelming carious or vulnerable. Now the injustice admixture of foreign ingredients. And in which we complain of is, that when the exception to every thing which history has friends of our religion are dislodged from recorded of the revolutions of the species, some feeble outwork, raised by an unskilful we see in this wonderful race a vigorous officer in the cause, its enemies raise the principle of identity, which has remain-cry of a decisive victory. But, for our own ed in undiminished force for nearly two part, we could see her driven from all her thousand years, and still pervades every defences, and surrender them without a shred and fragment of their widely scat- sigh, so long as the phalanx of her historical tered population. Now if the infidel insists evidence remains impenetrable. Behind upon it, we shall not rest on this as an ar- this unscaled barrier, we could entrench gument. We can afford to give it up: for ourselves, and eye the light skirmishing bein the abundance of our resources, we feel fore us with no other sentiment than of independent of it. We shall say that it is regret, that our friends should, by the eagerenough, if it can reclaim him from his ness of their misplaced zeal, have given our levity, and compel his attention to the other enemy the appearance of a triumph. We evidences which we have to offer him. ; Joffer no opinion as to the two-fold interpre

All we ask of him is to allow, that the tation of prophecy; but though it were reundeniable singularity which is before his futed by argument, and disgraced by ridieyes, gives him a sanction at least, to ex-cule, all that portion of evidence which lies amine the other singularities to which we in the numerous examples of literal and make pretensions. If he goes back to the unambiguous fulfilment remains unaffected past history of the Jews, he will see in their by it. Many there are who deny the inwars the same unexampled preservation of spiration of the Song of Solomon. But in their name and their nation. He will see what possible way does this affect the rethem surviving the process of an actual cords of the evangelical history? Just as transportation into another country. In much as it affects the lives of Plutarch, or short, he will see them to be unlike all other the Annals of Tacitus. There are a thoupeople in what observation offers, and au- sand subjects on which infidels may idly thentic history records of them; and the push the triumph, and Christians be as idly only concession that we demand of him galled by the severity, or even the truth of from all this, is, that their pretensions to be their observations. We point to the historiunlike other people in their extraordinary cal evidence of the New Testament, and ask revelations from heaven, is at least possible, them to dispose of it. It is there, that we and deserves to be inquired into.

call them to the onset; for there lies the It may not be out of place to expose a main strength of the Christian argument. species of injustice, which has often been It is true, that in the evidence of prophecy, done to the Christian argument. The de- we see a rising barrier, which, in the profence of Christianity consists of several dis-gress of centuries, may receive from time tinct arguments, which have sometimes been to time a new accumulation to the materials multiplied beyond what is necessary, and which form it. In this way, the evidence even sometimes beyond what is tenable. In of prophecy may come, in time, to surpass addition to the main evidence which lies in the evidence of miracles. The restoration the testimony given to the miracles of the of the Jews will be the fulfilment of a clear Gospel, there is the evidence of prophecy; prophecy, and form a proud and animating there is the evidence of collateral testimony; I period in the history of our religion. “Now there is the internal evidence. The argu- if the fall of them be the riches of the world, ment under each of these heads, is often and the diminishing of them the riches of made to undergo a farther subdivision; and the Gentiles, how much more their fulness."

CHAPTER VII.
Remarks on the Scepticism of Geologists.

VII. The late speculations in geology of the argument. They give a higher an form another example of a distant and un- tiquity to the world than most of those who connected circumstance, being suffered to read the Bible had any conception of. Admit cast an unmerited disgrace over the whole this antiquity, and in what possible way does it touch upon the historical evidence, we knew him to be forty, would not this of the New Testament? The credibility of have made us stumble at all his pretensions, the Gospel miracles stands upon its own and, in spite of every other argument and appropriate foundation, the recorded testi-l appearance, would we not have withdrawn mony of numerous and unexceptionable our confidence from him as a teacher from witnesses. The only way in which we can God? This we allow would have been a overthrow that credibility is by attacking most serious dilemma. It would have been the testimony, or disproving the authenticity that state of neutrality which admits of of the record. Every other science is tried nothing positive or satisfying on either side upon its own peculiar evidence; and all we of the question; or rather, what is still more contend for is, that the same justice be done distressing, which gives me the most posito theology. When a mathematician offers tive and satisfactory appearances on both to apply his reasoning to the phenomena of sides. We could not abandon the truth of mind, the votaries of moral science resent the miracles, because we saw them. Could it as an invasion, and make their appeal to we give them up, we should determine on the evidence of consciousness. When an a positive rejection, and our minds would amateur of botany, upon some vague analo- find repose in absolute infidelity. But as gies, offers his confident affirmations as to the case stands it is scepticism. There is the structure and parts of the human body, nothing like it in any other department of there would be an instantaneous appeal to inquiry. We can appeal to no actual exthe knife and demonstrations of the anato- ample; but a student of natural science may mist. Should a mineralogist, upon the ex- be made to understand the puzzle, when hibition of an ingenious or well-supported we ask him, how he would act, if the extheory, pronounce upon the history of our periment, which he conducts under the most Saviour and his miracles; we would call it perfect sameness of circumstances, were to another example of an arbitrary and un- land him in opposite results? He would philosophical extension of principles be- vary and repeat his experiments. He would yond the field of their legitimate applica- try to detect the inconsistency, and would tion. We would appeal to the kind and the rejoice, if he at last found that the difficulty quantity of testimony upon which that his lay in the errors of his own observation, tory is supported. We would suffer our and not in the inexplicable nature of the selves to be delighted by the brilliancy, or subject. All this he would do in anxious even convinced by the evidence of his specu- and repeated endeavours, before he inferred lations; but we would feel that the history that nature persevered in no law, and that of those facts, which form the ground-work that constancy, which is the foundation of of our faith, is as little affected by them, as all science, was perpetually broke in upon the history of any storm, or battle, or war- by the most capricious and unlooked for rior, which has come down to us in the most appearances, before he would abandon himgenuine and approved records of past ages. self to scepticism, and pronounce philoso

But whatever be the external evidence of phy to be an impossible attainment. testimony, or however strong may be its It is our part to imitate this example. If visible characters of truth and honesty, is Jesus Christ has, on the one hand, performed not the falsehood or the contradiction which miracles, and sustained in the whole tenor we may detect in the subject of that testi- of his history the character of a prophet, mony sufficient to discredit it? Had we and, on the other hand, asserted to be true been original spectators of our Saviour's what we undeniably know to be a false miracles, we must have had as strong a con- hood, this is a dilemma which we are called viction of their reality, as it is in the power of, upon to resolve by every principle, that can testimony to give us. Had we been the eye- urge the human mind in the pursuit of witnesses of his character and history, and liberal inquiry. It is not enough to say, caught from actual observation the impres- that the phenomena in question do not fall sion of his worth, the internal proofs that within the dominion of philosophy; and we no jugglery or falsehood could have been therefore leave them as a fair exercise an intended, would have been certainly as amusement to commentators. The mathestrong as the internal proofs which are now matician may say, and has said the same exhibited to us, and which consist in the thing of the moralist, yet there are moralists simplicity of the narrative, and that tone of in the world who will prosecute their specuperfect honesty which pervades, in a man-lations in spite of him; and what is more, ner so distinct and intelligible, every com- there are men who take a wider survey position of the apostles. Yet, with all these than either, who rise above these profes advantages, if Jesus Christ had asserted as sional prejudices, and will allow that, in a truth, what we confidently knew to be a each department of inquiry, the subjects falsehood; had he for example, upon the which offer are entitled to a candid and restrength of his prophetical endowments, spectful consideration. The naturalist may pronounced upon the secret of a person's pronounce the same rapid judgment upon age, and told us that he was thirty, when I the difficulties of the theologian; yet there ever will be theologians who feel a peculiar of our religion no farther than to the length interest in their subject; and we trust that of an ambiguous and midway scepticism. there ever will be men, with a higher grasp By adopting a decisive infidelity, we reof mind than either the mere theologian, orject a testimony, which, of all others, has the mere naturalist, who are ready to ac- come down to us in the most perfect and knowledge the claims of truth in every unsuspicious form. We'lock up a source quarter,—who are superior to that narrow of evidence, which is often repaired to in contempt, which has made such an unhappy other questions of science and history. and malignant separation among the differ- We cut off the authority of principles, ent orders of scientific men,-who will ex- which, if once exploded, will not terminate amine the evidences of the Gospel history, in the solitary mischief of darkening and and, if they are found to be sufficient, will destroying our theology, but will shed a view the miracles of our Saviour with the baleful uncertainty over many of the most same liberal and philosophic curiosity with interesting speculations on which the huwhich they would contemplate any grand man mind can expatiate. phenomenon in the moral history of the . Even admitting, then, this single objecspecies. If there really appears, on the face tion in the subject of our Saviour's testiof this investigation, to be such a difficulty mony, the whole length to which we can leas the one in question, a philosopher of the gitimately carry the objection is scepticism, order we are now describing will make or that dilemma of the mind into which it many an anxious effort to extricate him- is thrown by two contradictory appearself; he will not soon acquiesce in a scep-ances. This is the unavoidable result of ticism, of which there is no other example admitting both terms in the alleged conin the wide field of human speculation; he tradiction. Upon the strength of all the will either make out the insufficiency of reasoning which has hitherto occupied us, the historical evidence, or prove that the we challenge the infidel to dispose of the falsehood ascribed to Jesus Christ has no one term, which lies in the strength of the existence. He will try to dispose of one of historical evidence. But in different ways, the terms of the alleged contradiction, be- we may dispose of the other which lies in fore he can prevail upon himself to admit the alleged falsehood of our Saviour's testiboth, and deliver his mind to a state of un-mony. We may deny the truth of the certainty most painful to those who respect geological speculation; nor is it necessary truth in all her departments..

to be an accomplished geologist, that we We offer the above observations, not so may be warranted to deny it. We appeal much for the purpose of doing away a dif- to the speculations of the geologists themficulty which we conscientiously believe to selves. They neutralize one another, and have no existence, as for the purpose of leave us in possession of free ground for exposing the rapid, careless, and unphiloso- the informations of the Old Testament. phical procedure of some enemies to the Our imaginations have been much regaled Christian argument. They, in the first in- by the brilliancy of their speculations, but stance, take up the rapid assumption, that they are so opposite to each other, that we Jesus Christ has, either through himself, now cease to be impressed by their evior his immediate disciples, made an asser-dence. But there are other ways of distion as to the antiquity of the globe, which, posing of the supposed falsehood of our upon the faith of their geological specula- Saviour's testimony. Does he really astions, they know to be a falsehood. After / sert what has been called the Mosaical anhaving fastened this strain upon the sub- tiquity of the world ? It is true that he ject of the testimony, they by one sum-gives his distinct testimony to the divine mary act of the understanding, lay aside all legation of Moses; but does Moses ever say, the external evidence for the miracles and that when God created the heavens and general character of our Saviour. They the earth, he did more at the time alluded will not wait to be told, that this evidence to than transform them out of previously is a distinct subject of examination; and existing materials ? Or does he ever say, that, if actually attended to, it will be found that there was not an interval of many much stronger than the evidence of any ages between the first act of creation, deother fact or history which has come down scribed in the first verse of the book of to us in the written memorials of past ages. Genesis, and said to have been performed If this evidence is to be rejected it must be at the beginning; and those more detailed rejected on its own proper grounds; but if operations, the account of which commenall positive testimony, and all sound reason- ces at the second verse, and which are deing upon human affairs, go to establish it, scribed to us as having been performed in then the existence of such proof is a phe- so many days ? Or, finally, does he ever nomenon which remains to be accounted make us to understand, that the genealogies for, and must ever stand in the way of of man went any farther than to fix the positive infidelity. Until we dispose of it, antiquity of the species, and, of consewe can carry our opposition to the claims quence, that they left the antiquity of the

globe a free subject for the speculations of evidence. This historical evidence rephilosophers ?-We do not pledge our mains in all the obstinacy of experimental selves for the truth of one or all of these and well-attested facts; and as there are so suppositions. Nor is it necessary that we many ways of expunging the other term should. It is enough that any of them is in the alleged contradiction, we appeal to infinitely more rational than the rejection every enlightened reader, if it is at all canof Christianity in the face of its historical I did or philosophical to suffer it to stand.

[ocr errors][merged small]

On the Internal Evidence, and the Objections of Deistical Infidels.

There is another species of evidence for, feel and understand the powerful evidence Christianity, which we have not yet noticed, which lies in the tone, the manner, the cir-what is commonly called the internal cumstantiality, the number, the agreement evidence, consisting of those proofs that of the witnesses, and the consistency of all Christianity is a dispensation from heaven, the particulars with what we already know which are founded upon the nature of its from other sources of information. Now doctrines, and the character of the dispen- it is undeniable, that all those marks which sation itself. The term "internal evi- give evidence and credibility to spoken dence” may be made, indeed, to take up testimony, may also exist to a very impresmore than this. We may take up the New sive degree in written testimony; and the Testament as a human composition, and argument founded upon them, so far from without any reference to its subsequent being fanciful or illegitimate, has the sanchistory, or to the direct and external testi- tion of a principle which no philosopher monies by which it is supported. We will refuse; the experience of the human may collect from the performance itself mind on a subject on which it is much exsuch marks of truth and honesty, as entitle ercised, and which lies completely within us to conclude, that the human agents em- the range of its observation. ployed in the construction of this book! We cannot say so much, however, for were men of veracity and principle. This the other species of internal evidence, that argument has already been resorted to, and which is founded upon the reasonableness a very substantial argument it is. It is of of the doctrines, or the agreement which is frequent application in questions of gene-conceived to subsist between the nature of ral criticism; and upon its authority alone the Christian religion and the character of many of the writers of past times have the Supreme Being. We have experience been admitted into credit, and many have of man, but we have no experience of God. been condemned as unworthy of it. The We can reason upon the procedure of numerous and correct allusions to the cus- man in given circumstances, because this is toms and institutions, and other statistics of an accessible subject, and comes under the the age in which the pieces of the New cognizance of observation; but we cannot Testament profess to have been written, reason on the procedure of the Almighty in give evidence of their antiquity. The art- given circumstances. This is an inaccessible less and undesigned way in which these subject and comes not within the limits of allusions are interwoven with the whole direct and personal observation. The one, history, impresses upon us the perfect sim- like the scale, and compass, and measureplicity of the authors, and the total absence ments of Sir Isaac Newton, will lead you on of every wish or intention to palm an im- safe and firm footing to the true economy of posture upon the world. And there is such the heavens; the other, like the ether and à thing too as a general air of authenticity, whirlpools, and unfounded imaginations of which, however difficult to resolve into Des Cartes, will not only lead you to misconparticulars, gives a very close and power-ceive that economy, but to maintain a stub ful impression of truth to the narrative. born opposition to the only competent eviThere is nothing fanciful in this species of dence that can be offered upon the subject. internal evidence. It carries in it all the We feel that in thus disclaiming all supcertainty of experience, and experience port from what is commonly understood too upon a familiar and well-known sub- by the internal evidence, we do not follow ject, -the characters of honesty in the the general example of those who have written testimony of our fellow men. We written on the Deistical controversy. Take are often called upon in private and every- up Leland's performance, and it will be day life to exercise our judgment upon the found that one half of his discussion is exspoken testimony of others, and we both pended upon the reasonableness of the doc

« AnteriorContinuar »