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i ... CHAPTER IV. Remarks on the Characteristic Evidences of Chris
. tianity. . .
Thus have we endeavoured, to the utmost of our abilities, to point out the peculiarities which adorn the Christian dispensation, and which render it so interesting to the whole human race. We have enquired into the great blessings it has revealed to us; in what manner, or through what medium these blessings are communicated; and we have stated the reasons on which the hopes may be indulged, that they will ultimately be extended to all the rational offspring of God.
In a former disquisition, we attempted to prove the truth of the Jewish dispensation, from the internal evidences which presented themselves in our researches; and we trust, that the scriptural view which we have taken of the christian religion, will satisfactorily evince not only its divine origin, but its superlative excellencies. It possesses all the requisites which, upon a former occasion, have been stated as essential to the permanent happiness of man. It is perfectly consonant with the state, exigencies, powers, and capacities of man, and with the reason of all rational beings.--It cherishes the pleasant affections of love, gratitude, admiration, reverence, and hope :--it is calculated to administer consolation to every sincere worshipper, in every situation of life :--it places before us the most powerful motives to the practice of all those moral and social duties, upon which social happiness depends :--it teaches us to adore one universal sovereign, who loves virtue, hath a perfect knowledge of human conduct, is wise and just to punish and reward, and who has condescended to reveal himself to us in the character of a Parent, who seeks reconeiliation with his offending offspring.
That such characteristics belong to those essential doctrines of Christianity, which we have attempted to develope, in the first part of the present disquisition, no one can reasonably deny. Few have been the objections to Christianity, deduced from those points. The grand and the most formidable objections have been levelled against particular tenets, which have been mistaken for the essential doctrine of our holy religion. We have endeavoured to show that these are not primary truths; that they are inferences and deductions from incidental expressions, which have a reference to the primary truths, preached by our Saviour and his Apostles; and that they must be received or rejecteil, according to the weight of evidence, upon a deliberate and impartial enquiry. For litigated sentiments being of a more speculative nature, are not essentially necessary to the moral discipline of the mind, or the cultivation of pious affections towards God; but these are the characters inscribed upon the doctrines originally promulgated to the world as essential to salvation.
We submit our sentiments, upon two of the most important subjects of disputation, to the examination of the candid Christian. The mediatorial office of Christ, and the future state of the Wicked, constitute a part of the plan of God in the redemption of the world, whether our conceptions concerning the peculiarities of this plan be accurate or not. Concerning the person of Christ, which constitutes the favourite topic of the day, we have said nothing ; because, all that is interesting to us, consists in what he has done and suffered. He has pointed out to us the manner in which we can most honour him; when he says, if “ Ye love me, keep
my commandments.” “ This is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you; greater love hath no man than this, that a manlay down his life for his friend; ye are my friend, if ye do whatsoever I command you." “If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my father will love him, and we will coine unto him, and make our abode with him.” Character, dispositions, and conduct, are the sole objects of love ; nor is it possible that any mistakes concerning natures and essences, will aliepate from the humble Christian, the affections either of the Father, or of the Son, if he loves them and keeps their commandments. The sentiments we have advanced, upon the other subjects, appear to be accurately Scriptural, and to be most honourable to God, most honourable to the Saviour, most interesting to mankind.
As some of these sentiments may be novel, we have been very ample in the statements of our evidences. We cannot conceive by what arguments, either from reason or Scripture, such evidences can be enfeebled; and we sincerely hope, from our love to mankind, that the attempt will be unsuccessful.'
When we were treating of the filial confidence of a Christian, we observed, that one characteristic of a rational faith, consists in its being founded upon a solid basis ; that it is not an arbitrary unauthorized expectation, or a conjectural hope. We may now ask, whether the faith of a Christian be not built upon such a foundation? Whether the internal evidences of Christianity be not irresistibly strong? Whether the doctrines revealed, be not true sayings, and worthy of all acceptation ?
We have farther to observe, that from the survey which has been taken of both dispensations, they manifestly form a combined evidence of the truth of each. They mutually support and corroborate each other. A unity of design is conspicuous in each. Together, they forin a whole. The Jewish religion was a necessary introduction to Christianity; and Christianity is the consummation of the Jewish. The one was the foundation, the ground work; the other is the magnificent superstructure. They are both perfect in their kind, ; accomplishing the objects proposed. They are each respectively adapted to the different ages of the world, and to the peculiar states and character of its inhabitants. In the Jewish history, we learn the