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HOW SHALL WE SATISFY OURSELVES WITH RESPECT TO THE
DIVINE AUTHORITY OF THE GOSPEL?
(Continued from puze 68.) The external evidence of the Divine Authority of the gospel, may be illustrated by enlarging upon the similie which was used in the former Essay. We may suppose, then, that the interesting instructions which the parent has left for the benefit of his children, not only bear every internal evidence of authenticity, but that the wisdom and prudence, of the parent led him to select twelve men of indisputable qualifications as witnesses to it, who accordingly gave their testimony, that they saw the father sign and seal it with his own hand. This must silence every objection, dissipate every doubt, and excite in the breasts of such highly favoured children, the warmest emotions of gratitude to the wisdom and goodness of that parent who had thus consulted their interest, and provided for their comfort and happiness. Precisely such has been the conduct of our Heavenly Parent, to remove every reasonable doubt from the minds of his human offspring, and to give them complete satisfaction with respect to the truth of his gospel. Instead of trusting the evidence, in a matter of such infinite importance, promiscuously to the mixed multitude, at an early stage of his ministry, he selected twelve men from that class in society which can be least suspected of any sinister views, or of gaining credit by personal influence, or of carrying on any design for furthering their own honour or interest ; men of plain, simple and honest characters. These were admitted to the most familiar intimacy with their Divine Master during his ministry on earth.—They witnessed the purity of his life, his ardent affection for mankind, the perfection of his morals, the sublimity of his doctrines, the number and benevolence of his miracles, and above all, his death and resurrection, the grand article on which himself and his apostles have rested the authenticity of his gospel. To all these they testify directly, in the face of all their former prejudices as Jews, and of those which they had contracted during their attendance on their Divine Master; and while they considered him as about to restore the kingdom of Israel, in a literal sense, and expected to be admitted to the highest offices in itwithout any possible worldly interests to allure them, in view of the most painful sufferings, and even of death in its most distressing forms. Such evidence should silence incredulity itself, and I am confident that the ingenuous and well-disposed mind will find it abundantly sufficient to dissipate every reasonable doubt.–For I may challenge the opposers of Christianity to mention any event of equal antiquity so well authenticated as the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and of consequence the Divine Authority of his gospel. Let me only engage you, with an honest love of truth, and a virtuous desire of conforming to it, to read the gospel as a sacred and invaluable legacy, left you by the greatest and best of all friends, who hath sealed it with his blood. Study its contents, cultivate its spirit, practise the duties which it enjoins. You will find it the most pleasing companion. It will increase your joys, alleviate your sorrows, and render you as happy as the pres ent imperfect state will admit.
66 Fear not,
The religion of Christ not only arms us with fortitude against the approach of evils : but, supposing evils to fall upon us with their heaviest pressure, it lightens the load by many consolations to wbich others are strangers. While bad men trace the calamities with which they are visited, the hand of an offended sovereign, christians are taught to view them as the well intended chastisements of a merciful Father. They hear amidst them, that still voice which a good conscience brings to their ear; for I am with thee, be not dismayed, for I am thy God.” They apply to themselves the comfortable promises with which the gospel abounds--they discover in these the happy issue decreed to their troubles ; and wait with patience till Providence shall have accomplished its great and good designs. In the mean time devotion opens to them its blessed, and holy sanctuary, that sanctuary in which the wounded heart is healed, and the weary mind is at rest; where the cares of the world are forgotten; where its tumults are hushed, and its miseries disappear-where greater objects open to their view, than any which the world presents : where a more serener sky shines, and a sweeter and calmer light beams on the afflicted heart; in those moments of devotion, a pious man pouring out his wants and sorrows to an Almighty Sup. porter, feels that he is not left solitary and forsaken in a vale of wo. God is with him ; Christ and the Holy Spirit are with him ; and though he should be bereaved of every friend on earth, he can look up in heart even to a friend, that will never desert him."
FROM THE LONDON GENTLEMEN'S MAGAZINE, FOR JUNE 1791. MR. URBAN, I have beer favoured by Mrs. Knowles, with the perusal of the following Dialogue, or conversation. Very striking is the mild fortitude of modest
and it is finely contrasted with the boisterous violence of bigoted sophistry, so long accustomed to victory, over feigned or slight resistance, and in a certain circle to timid and implicit submission. I have obtained perm ssion to publish the Dialogue, and I wish it to appear in your excellent Magazine.
A CHILD OF CANDOUR,
AN INTERESTING DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE LATE DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON,
AND MRS. MARY KNOWLES.
Mrs. K. Thy friend* Jenny H– does her kind respects to thee Doctor
Dr. J. To me tell me not of her! I hate the odious wench for her apostacy : and it is you, Madam, who has seduced her, from the Christian Religion.
Mrs. K. This is a heavy charge, indeed. I must beg leave to be heard in my own defence : and I entreat the attention of the present learned and candid company, desiring they will judge how far I am able to clear myself of so cruel an accusation.
Dr. J. (much disturbed at this unexpected challenge) said, You are a woman, and I give you quarter.
Mrs. K. I will not take quarter. There is no sex in souls ; and in the present cause I fear not even Dr. Johnson himself.“
(“ Bravo !" was repeated by the company, and silence ensued.)
Dr. J. Well then, Madam; 1 persist in my charge, that you have seduced Miss H- from the Christian Religion.
Jenny Ha was a young woman sent from the W. Indies to England for education, under the care of Mrs K. Dr. J claimed some controul and advice in the affair as a friend and acquaintance of her family.
Mrs. K. If thou really knewest what were the principles of the Friends, thou would’st not say she had departed from Christianity. But, waving that discussion for the present, I will take the liberty to observe, that she had an undoubted right to examine and to change her educational tenets whenever she supposed she had sound them erroneous : as an accountable creature, it was her duty so to do.
Dr. J. Pshaw! pshaw !-an accountable creature girls accountable creatures ;-It was her duty to remain with the Church wherein she was educated; she had no business to leave it.
Mrs. K. What! not for that which she apprehended to be better? According to this rule, Doctor, badst thou been born in Turkey, it hảd been thy duty to have remained a Mahometan, notwithstanding Christian evidence might have wrought in thy mind the clearest tonviction ; and, if so, then let me ask, how would thy conscience have answered for such obstinacy at the great and last tribunal ?
Dr. J. My conscience would not have been answerable.
Dr. J. Why the State, to be sure. In adhering to the Religon of the State as by law established, our implicit' obedience therein becomes our duty.
Mrs. K. A Nation, or State, having a conscience, is a doctrine entirely new to me, and, indeed, a very curious piece of intelligence ; for I have always understood that a government, or State, is a creature of time only ; beyond which it dissolves, and becomes a nonentity. Now, Gentlemen, can your imaginations body forth this monstrous individual, or being, called a State, composed of millions of people ? Can you behold it stalking forth into the next world, loaded with its mighty conscience, there to be rewarded, or punished, for the faith, opinions, and conduct, of its constituent machines called men ? Surely the teeming brain of poetry never held up to the fancy so wonderous a personage !
(When the laugh occasioned by this personification was subsided, the Doctor very angrily replied,) I regard not what you say as to that matter. I hate the arrogance of the wench, in supposing herself a more competent judge of religion than those who educated her. She imitated you, no doubt; but she ought not to have presumed to determine for herself in so important an affair.
Mrs. K. True, Doctor, I grant it, if, as thou seemest to imply, a wench of 20 years be not a moral agent.
Dr. J. I doubt it would be difficult to prove those deserve that character who turn Quakers.
Mrs. K. This severe retort, Doctor, induces me charitably to hope thou must be totally unacquainted with the principles of the people against whom thou art so exceedingly prejudiced, and that thou supposest us a set of infidels or deists.
Dr. J. Certainly, I do think you little better than deists.
Mrs. K. This is indeed strange ; it is passing strange, that a man of such universal reading and research has not thought it at least expedient to look into the cause of dissent of a society so long established, and so conspicuously singular !
Dr. J. Not I, indeed ! I have not read your Barclay's Apology ; and for this plain reason-. I never thought it worth my while. You are upstart Sectaries, perhaps the best subdued by a silent contempt.
Mrs. K. This reminds me of the language of the Rabbies of old, when their Hierarchy was alarmed by the increasing influence, force, and simplicity, of dawning truth, in their high day of worldly dominion. We meekly trust, our principles stand on the same solid foundation of simple truth, and we invite the acutest investigation. The reason thou givest for not having read Barclay's Apology, is surely a very improper one for a man whom the world looks up to as a moral philosopher of the first rank; a teacher from whom they think they have a right to expect much information. To this expecting, enquiring world, how can Dr. Johnson acquit himself for remaining unacquainted with a book translated into five or six different languages, and which has been admitted into the libraries of almost every Court and University in Christendom !
(Here the Doctor grew very angry, still more so at the space of time the gentlemen insisted on allowing his antagonist wherein to make her defence, and his impatience excited one of the company, in a whisper to say, “ I never saw this mighty lion so chafed before !")
The Doctor again repeated, that he did not think the Quakers deserved the name of Christians.
Mrs. K. Give me leave then to endeavour to convince thee of thy error, which I will do by making before thee, and this respectable company, a confession of our faith. Creeds, or confessions of faith are admitted by all to be the standard whereby we judge of every denomination of professors.
(To this every one present agreed ; and even the Doctor grumbled out his assent.)