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* Had then Christianity been “of man," we may naturally coiaclude, from what has passed in the world since its first introduction, that it would before this have failed, either through some inherent defect, or from some outward opposition. I say from what has passed in the world since its first introduction, because ol a this will depend the whole question, as suggested by the advice of Gamaliel. Had Christianity been no object of notice, or sub ,ject of enquiry, to any but its own disciples, it might have endu red just as long as it has done, whether founded in error or in tr uth. It would have depended on the temper and disposition of t' sose only who embraced it: but records of indisputable veracity tell us that it was from the first, and has been even to our days, as much an object of attention to its opponents, as to its friends arıd admirers. It has been in a state of very critical trial and probation from its very first appearance ; it has been assailed by every voeapon sužted to such an attack; it has been persecuted by the vi'plent, deriided by the infidel, spurned at by the wicked, misrepresented by the iglioram.
* It would be endless and altogether useless to. enumerate the different struggles it has had to make, (if we may so speak with due reverence,) since its first appearance. Any body at all acquainted with the history of the Church will easily call to niind what persecutions it has undergone, and what variety of opposition it has met with. It would be beyond my pu.pose to record r nere facts; it would rather be my wish to exan jine into the spirit of these different attack3 ; to shew how earnestly every opposing principle among mankind has been set on work to overthrow it; and much surely its triumph over sucks multiplied assaults should serve to strengthen our confidence in its divine authority.
“Had it been “ of man," it must be admitted man might: have overthrown it: if man therefore has always been in some way or other in opposition to it, what power but that of God could have upheld it?""
The following is a fair and masteriy, challenge, which puts the cause of Revelation in opposition to Infidelity on the most equitable ground.
6 The supporters of revelation desire , bothing more, than fair enquiry and diffusive argument. They w ish revelation to be ex. amined in all its points and bearings; and let it be considered that there are some points, in which if revelati on should be found deficient, it must be given up. If any histor y, or historical relics, of unquestionable authenticity, should be fo: rod to contradict its re. cords; if nature, or natural effects and phænomena, should be found in positive opposition to the word of Scripture; if a false interpretation of the original writings sho uld have been imposed upon the world as truth? if the moral precepts could be proved
to be inconsistent with the undoubted attributes of God; or the notions of the Deity we find therein, absurd and irrational ; then I know not how revelation could be supported. It would be impossible not to acknowledge it to be " of man."
66 But if, on the contrary, it should be found, that revelation, taking its origin from the most remote periods, including in it much of historical fact, shall not, in regard to those facts, have been contradicted by any after discovery, of more or equally authentic records : if the wide circle of the whole globe, not so much as the half of which was known, or had been traversed, when the Sacred Books were written, has supplied no one undoubted historical testimony against theni : if revelation, transmitted to us in a series of compositions of such a date as to be entirely prior to all those observations and experiments, which have laid open to us so many wonders in the natural world, shall be found to have conformed itself to the true system of nature, as far as common language would allow, and in no instance to have spoken in direct contradiction to the operations of nature : if the door has been studiously set open by the advocates of revelation, for a close and critical examination of Holy Writ in its original languages, and no false interpretation is insisted upon : if all its moral prccepts shall be found not only conformable to the purest dictates of reason and conscience, but to be so select in their nature, so clear in their enunciation, so practicable in their directions, so forcible in regard to their sanctions, that no human wisdom ever attained to such a system in any other instance : if its notions and representations of the Deity, and the world of spirits, the operations and nature of the human soul, shall be found either consonant, or far superior to all that has been discovered under the system of natu. ral religion ; then surely the issue of the enquiry must be, that such a scheme of religion, such a connected chain of facts, such a system of precepts, must be “ of God," and of God only !"
On the high claim to reason, which modern scepticism has set up against the Christian lyftem, the lecturer ably, ob. serves,
“ We have recently passed a period of no small importancer though of a very questionable character. It has been ostentatiously indeed denominated the Age of Reason. I do not mean to allude only to the work of a simple individual, distinguished by this title; but allowing him the credit of having adopted a term admirably expressive not only of his own designs, but of that of many others who have made themselves conspicuous in the period I am alluding to, I propose to adopt it as a general title for that æra, in which Reason has been peculiarly opposed to Revelation, and, I think I may say, actual experiment made of its strength and its effects. " A question naturally arises, How has Christianity passed through
this period ? Has Reason in this conflict got the better? Has she recommended herself so as to be henceforth solely relied on, to the exclusion of all pretended Revelations ? Has she, in delivering man from the rubbish of ancient prejudices and superstitions, set him upon a sure footing, fortified his soul against every terror; cleared it of every doubt and perplexity, and given it either the enjoyment or certain hope of ease and happiness? Has she established a clear and indisputable rule of right, whereby a man may not only regulate his actions with prudence and decorum, but bé. come a kind and good neighbour to all around him? Has Reason, in this her first appearance upon earth, (for so the assumed title would insinuate,) shewn herself superior to those false apparitions of her that deceived the world in ancient times? Has she done so much for us in this her own peculiar age, as to enable us not only to discard Revelation with contempt, but to see the emptiness of those vain pretenders of former days, who, assuming her name, sought to enlighten the world in the same bold manner, and to release it from the bondage of error and darkness?
“ If she shall be found to have done this for the world, let it be her age! If she has appeared superior to Christianity, more divine, more encouraging, more salutary in her doctrines and precepts, let us not live any longer in error, let us hail her as she deserves : let us fall prostrate at her feet, as a messenger of better tidings than the Gospel of Christ has proclaimed must needs demand every testimony of regard and gratitude."
The limits of human reason are thus accurately bounded: " What human Reason may approve, and assent to, it must al. ways be of importance to us to know; but it cannot be, that no truths can exist independent of human reason. Unless we bem lieve in the wild notion of the eternity of the world, and all things in it, we must suppose, that before there was any such faculty as human reason, many things must have been brought into exista ence; many things even peculiarly adapted to the use of man, and which, therefore, we might well suppose, if any necessity could exist for the consent of hùman reason, would at least have been rendered plain and intelligible to the understanding of man. But is this so? Does the sun shine by our consent, or spread abroad his rays in a way familiar and evident to our apprehension ? Is man's own body exactly what he would wish and desire ? Would he not have contrived so as to have had it last longer than it usually does, and free from all those ills and infirmities, to which it is now liable? Would he not have reserved to himself a right to inspect those nice and delicate organs of life and motion, on which his very existence seems so much to depend, instead of shutting them entirely out from his own observation and management; as is now evidently the case with regard to the human frams?
“ This * This is not said with a view to depreciate Reason: it is a high and most distinguishing faculty ; but yet it would certainly appear, that how much soever we may be to depend on it as a directing faculty, it was not bestowed upon us in any unlimited degree. Man was meant to be left in ignorance, as to many points; of which there cannot, I think, be a stronger proof, than in the very instance I have ajduced, the peculiar contrivance of the human frame; the internal parts especially ; which, till anatomical observations had multiplied greatly, must have been wholly unknown to us, though all our vital functions depended on those concealed organs : and after all, we can only reason from analogy ; the internal constitution of a living being none can examine into.
66 Many other instances might certainly be brought forward, to shew that, in certain cases, man's Reason, however it might be left free to speculate upon such matters, was 'not originally meant to be made the judge, or even permitted to interfere. Man is fairly shut out from his own observations in regard to the most essential functions of his bodily frame : if he has a greater natural insight into his spiritual condition, it is repugnant to analogy; and the history of the world affords no proof of such a thing.
“ So far from man being better acquainted with the modes, cir cumstances, and condition of his future life, he cannot know na turally whether his soul is to survive the decay and dissolution of his present bodily organs. Can it admit of a question, whether Reason was superadded to the other faculties man has in common with brutes, in order to inform him of his superior and peculiar destination ? Certainly man cannot know more of what is to be. come of him hereafter, by any application of his Reason, than the brute that we suppose will perish, as to the actual certainty of the matter : Reason may support conjecture so far as to raise in man the utmost expectation of a future life, and therefore, one would think, should induce him to expect also, that he should be supernaturally informed of it, and supernaturally instructed in the terms and conditions leading thereto. And this is enough for man. The moment Reason has carried him far enough to induce him to conjecture that he has an interest in a future state, in a world disa tinct from this, he may naturally expect some mode of intercourse will be kept open.”
From the plan laid down, and the extracts we have given, it will appear that many important points of inquiry are discussed in these lectures; the consideration of which we fhall enter upon with pleasure in our next number,
Hints to the Public and the Legislature on the Nature and · Effect of Evangelical Preaching. By a BARRISTER. Part
the first. 8vo. pp. 35. 6d. Johnson.
THE motto prefixed to this pamphlet is a very striking -1 one. It is a quotation from the speech of the principal ornament of the Irish bar, Mr. Curran, in the cause of the king against judge Johnson. “I am astonished" said that eloquent counsel, " at the tranquil courage of any man who can quietly see that a loaded cannon is brought to bear upon him, and that a Fool is sitting at its touch-hole with a lighted match in his hand. And yet, my lords, upon a little reflection, what is it, after what we have seen, ihac fhould surprise us, however it may shock us?-What have the last ten years of the world been employed in, but in destroying the landmarks of rights, duties, and obligations; in substituting sound in the place of sense; in fubftituting a vile and canting methodism, in the place of social duty and practical honour; in suffering virtue to evaporate into phrase, and morality into hypocrify and affectation?”
The production of the English barrister before us is throughout written in the vigorous spirit of this remarkable passage. We do not remember to have seen the subject of it placed in so strong a light before; and the public and the legislature must be indeed funk in apathy, if this powerful address fails in making a deep impression, and of producing some regulations to restrain within due limits the torrent of religious disorder which is now spreading all over the British empire, menacing authority and fapping the principles of the people.
The difference between the old gospel and that preached by the tribe who arrogate to themselves the title of evangelical preachers is thus stated.
6 Many and various, in the present generation, are the new systems to which the old have given place. We have a new systein of agriculture-a new system of gardening a new system of phy. sic-a new system of politics-and, to crown the catalogue, we have a new system of religion, a system which bids fair to explode the old, and to answer fully all the expectations of those who have framed it.
“Thanks to the indefatigable zeal of these new Reformers, we are fast emerging from a state of moral darkness to a blaze of marvellous light: and this light is fast spreading itself into every mind which its rays can be made to penetrate. VOL. XIV.
“Novelty Chm. Mag. Jan. 1808..