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For the same reason, I account the life and labours of the virtuous and venerable Priestley to have been of the most important service. And let no one, who is cnamoured of his notions, think, that, because he was mistaken in calculating upon the rapid rise of Unitarian Churches, his efforts have been in vain. "He has enlarged tủe dominion of thought in both hemispheres, compared with which, what is the questionable praise of having established a thousand Churches?
If man shall ever rise above the infancy of reason, religion will assume a new character, and its peaceful and cheering influence pervade society, leaving Churches and Chapels to be received as the marks of former barbarism, as the cultivated native of the islands in the South Seas must view, the idols of his former gross idolatry.
Religion is a principle which breathes through the whole frame of humanity, and its frightful extravagances, with which it has filled the groaning earth, rise as so many proofs of its power, and the weakness of the being which it animates. Its influence is irresistible, nothing can arrest its progress; but improved reason alone, can makc its influence beneficient and genial. It has been seriously argued by more than one respectable author, that the Christian Religion has hitherto had little, if any, practical influence on the moral conduct of men ; that it has communicated no real improvement to the world. I think that the fact is unquestionable, and the cause obvious. It has uniformly been taught as consisting of every thing besides pure morals ; its energies, almighty as they are, have thus been thrown into wrong channels, they bave raised the world in arms, established burthensome rites, prescribed unmeaning ceremonies, imposed useless abstinences, penances, pilgrimages, voluntary deaths, but they have never taught men to live soberly, righteously, and peaceably in the world ! Give them a right direction and the world is redeemed. The wind raging in confusion, covers the sea with wrecks, but its steady and settled impulse, received by the spreading sails, swiftly sweeps along the vessel, to its destined haven. I
The happy time will arrive, and the genius will be found, whose holy office it shall be, to record the ravages of this great principle, misguided and abused, as things then only to be found in the rusty monuments of forgotten ages, and to trace, in all its errors and obliquities, the hand, ever planting, ever watering the Churches, established to declare and assert the mystic dog, mas of interested priests, and corrupt politicians.
Finsbury-Square, Dec. 30, 1806.. A. KIRKLAND.I.
SUMMARY OF THE EVIDENCES OF REVEALED RELIGION..
[The following Essay has been delayed very reluctantly on our part, till we could find an opportunity of printing the : whole together. A number of papers of a more temporary nature has hitherto prevented this. We trust that the author, whose correspondence we justly value, will accept : our apology.
The works of creation most powerfully direct the mind to the ? Omnipotent Creator. From all the displays of an overruling providence which continually meet our eyes, we might be able to conclude that this life is not the whole of man. From the benignant impressions of the divine goodness, which are visibly stamped upon all his works, we might also be rationally led to conclude, that God is merciful. But, how, and to what degree, this merey shall be extended, an express revelation only can satisfactorily establish. If we were left to our own reasonings upon this subject, we must be perpetually harrassed with doubts and fears, and could never absolutely say what are the terms of our acceptance with our gracious Father.
As beings, then, who are possessed of inextinguishable longings after immortality, it must be of infinite importance to us, to be persuaded of the anthenticity of the holy Scriptures. For, these being once established, the wild reveries of a fanciful imaa gination are done away, and the path of wisdom is clear and smooth before as. · Now, if we consider these books as a human composition only," we are struck at first view, with the admirable traces of wisdom and knowledge which run throughout the whole. No other wri tings give us so rational and intelligible an account of the origin of all things. We are not referred to any accidental causes, nor left to rest upon the inconclusive fictions of poets and philo. sophers, but receive this plain information, that this world and all this universal frame, were brought into existence, by one all.' perfect Being, the only Creator and the constant preserver of the heavens and the earth, and of every living thing. We are taught that this Being, as he is the author of all other beings. must be independent of every creature, that he is from everlasta ing a pure spirit, without parts or passions, and so mindful of all the works of his hands that a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his leave. Again, we have every where the most shining marks of truth and genuineness. In the catalogue of moral duties, we have no absurdities to shock us, nor contradictions to embarrass es. In the principal historical relations, the facts recorded speak manifestly for themselves that they must have happened. The whole sacred volume discovers such an ardent zeal for virtue and re.
igion, and so fully ascertains the true foundatiop of right and wrong, of dignity and dishonour, of happiness and misery, as strongly to point out its divine original, *. But, the sublime moral truths which are handed down to us in the Scriptures, and the illuminating ideas which they furnish of. ait the adorable perfuctions of the Deity, and the wise and ami. able directions which they contain for the conduct of human life, are not the only proofs with which we are favoured of their anthenticity. Mimcles and prophecies, and the gradual and full accomplishment of these prophecies in succeeding ages, claim our supreme attention; and to these no other books in the world can form any jusi pretensions.
The wonders, for instance, which, through the instrumentality of Moses, were wrought in Egypt, made the most obdurate at. Jast confess, that the singer of God was with him in all that he did. But, if the facts themselves should be denied, and it should be asserted that all the mighty works recorded of him were the mere offspring of the author's own imagination, or the invention of some others who wore bound together in a confederacy with him, let us see what credit would be given to a similar stors if framed by any other people upon the face of the earth. Let any one man, or any number of men be pres:med to assert, that, the Aborigines of this country came from Italy—that a leader was raised up amongst them to conduct them to England as their promised land—that a cloud was to go before them to direct them on their way—that they passed 50 years in coming to Calais through forests and over mountains—that cvery morn. ing they found in the fields an ample store of provision which grew up in the night and melted with the heat of the sun---that God made a covenant with them commanding erery child at a certain age to lose the first joint of the little finger of the left hand-that whilst the earth trembled under them he delivered to them a great variety of laws, which were to bind them and their descendauts for ever--that the first-born of all their enemies were slain in one night-that the sea standing up in heaps on every side they passed over to Dover as on the dry land--that the divine protection ever accompanied their obedience that all their peculiar customs have descended from generation to generation from the beginning, and that though they have been the scorn of other nations for being deprived of the joint of a finger, they still observe the ceremony, and could not be diverted from it by all the terrors of death, &c. &c. Could any people ever admit such a story and act upon it, unless it were founded on the most palpable facts, and confirmed by testimony which is next to de:nonstration. Suppose Moses, then, to be an impostor, a mada in, and what you will, we shall only involve ourselves in the more inextricable di Ticulties. Should it even be allowed, that
he only fancied the Egyptian nation to suffer all those calamia fies which he enumerates, shall we also soppose that he made Pharaoh and all his subjects fancy the same thing ? Did he make them believe that boils, and pestilence, and famine, overspread the land, if no such event had ever haj; penel? Did lic inthe them believe that their servants and their cattle were skin in the fields, by judgments from heaven, that all the first-born were cut off in one night, and that the king himself with all his 'boisting multitude fell victims to their wickedness in the mighty deop? Shall we suppose farther, if no such thing happened, that he persuaded the children of Israel also, that the Red Sea opened before them, that he led them through the wilderness forty years, that during all that time they were fed with bread from heaven, and that from the flinty rocks flowedl rivers of water to give them drink? Or, shall we suppose, that all the pro. ple of Egpyt were madmen and enthusiasts, and that there was not one man of the 600,000 Israelites in his rigut 'mind? Shall we, on the other hand, sppost, that the whole was 'an imposture, and that there was no individual of so rast a number, who was honest enough to discover the fraud --110t one of thosc, who were so ready upon all otros Occasions, to ri:.: pamainst their leader who did not unite with him in this uschuss pisce of unprofitable fiction ? Such absurdilies are too grocs to be admitted ; and yet must be admitted, or all the leading points in Moses's history must stand confirmed by the voice of mail. kind.
Another thing, which demands our notice, is what we are so distinctly told concerning the general deluge. That such an event once happened, and that there were some persons preserved from this dreadful devastation in an ark, is evident from the manifest vestiges of it in different parts of the globe, and the concurring testimony of all nations. What human foresight, then, in Noall, what less than a message from God himself, could make him so clearly and positively foretel this, 130 years before it hap. pened? Or, should it bu denied that he had any knowledge of the fact, but only accidentally provided against it, what motive. could induce him alone to make such preparations? It must seem most strange and very unaccountable, to suppose, that a man should imagine such a calamity to happen without any parallel, . that he should pablish it to the world without any fvar, or hesita. tion, and that it should take place exactly at the time appointmi, according to his prediction, if he had not had his knowledge fron above! This would appear as much a miracle as the former. But, the prediction after the flood, that there should never be another so fatal to mankind, is so less remarkable. Is this to be also considered as a random gress of the author! Ilavă ne not much more probable reasons to conclude, that nothing short
of a certainty of the fact could induce him so positively to declarc it to the world? From what had happened, had he not been endued with supernatural knowledge, he might undoubtedly havo more naturally expected, that the like would come to pass again. People do not generally conclude from seeing an earthquake, an inundation, or any other extraordinary phenomenon, that they will never be spectators of the like again, but are always appre. hensive upon the least commotion, lest the same should be return. ing upon them. As little reason had Moses, without an infal. lible certainty, without a divine testimony, to assert so confidently that there would never be another deluge. lie had rather cause to suppose the probability, or at least the possibility of it.
Once more, how very remarkable, in like manner, are somo particulars relating to the call of Abraham? What made him imagine, whien he was an old man, that he should have a numer. vus offspring !- that in 250 years after they should pass into Egypt--that they should be there a considerable time miserably oppressed and aflicted--that in 430 years they should be de. livered from this state of bondage, possess a rich and fertile country, and become a mighty nation-and that from him shonld spring a branch, in whom all the families of the earth might be blessed? There is no other way of solving the difficulty, than by acknowledging that the same power, who so regularly con. ducted that numerous train of events, in their exact order, time, and place, at first proclaimed them to the father of the faith. ful. The same Being, who revived the languishing hopes of men, by directing them to look forward to the seed of the woman, the offspring of Jesse as their Redeemer, in the fulness of time sent this glorious personage into our world. The sun of righteous. ness arose with healing in his wings, according to the divina council, published the great salvation, and brought forth judg. ment to the gentiles. All things predicted of him in the Old Testa. ment were exacıly accomplished. lle himself, in proof of liis divine commission predicted future events, and wrought the most amazing miracles. He healed the most inveterate disorders by a word or touch! Ile made the blind to sec, the dumb to speak, restored the withered limbs, cast out all unclean spirits, and raised the dead to life! lle forefuld the destruction of the Jewish nation, and their dispersion over the face of the whole earth. After his ascension into heaven, also, he bore testimony to his disciples and followers, whom he appointed to preach his nan e in all nasions, by sending them the comforter, the spirit of truth, according to his promise, to assist them in their ministry, to sup: port them under afilicions, to direct them in their doctrines, and to enable them to prove the truth and importance of what they taught by many signs and wonders. The prison doors flew open before them. They cured all manner of diseases, and raised the