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Evidences of Christianity.
THERE is one class of Christian evidences, to which I have but slightly referred, but which has struck with peculiar force men of reflecting minds. I refer to the marks of truth and reality which are found in the Christian records; to the internal proofs which the books of the New Testament carry with them, of having been written by men who lived in the first age of Christianity, who believed and felt its truth, who bore à part in the labors and conflicts which attended its establishment, and who wrote from personal knowledge and deep conviction. A few remarks to illustrate the nature and power of these internal proofs, which are furnished by the books of the New Testament, I will now subjoin.
The New Testament consists of histories and epistles. The historical books- namely, the Gospels and the Acts are a continued narrative, embracing many years, and professing to give the history of the rise and progress of the religion. Now, it is worthy of observation, that these writings completely answer their end-that they completely solve the problem how this peculiar religion grew up and established itself in the world; that they furnish precise. and adequate causes for this stupendous revolution in human affairs. It is also worthy of remark, that they relate a series of facts, which are not only connected with one another, but are intimately linked with the long series which has followed them, and agree accurately with subsequent history, so as to account for and sustain it. Now, that a collection of fictitious narratives, coming from different hands, comprehending many years, and spreading over many countries, should not only form a consistent whole, when taken by themselves, but should also connect and interweave themselves with real history so naturally and intimately, as
to furnish no clew for detection, as to exclude the appearance of incongruity and discordance, and as to give an adequate explanation, and the only explanation, of acknowledged events, of the most important revolution in society, — this is a supposition from which an intelligent man at once revolts, and which, if admitted, would shake a principal foundation of history.
I have before spoken of the unity and consistency of Christ's character, as developed in the Gospels, and of the agreement of the different writers in giving us the singular features of his mind. Now, there are the same marks of ruth running through the whole of these narratives. For example, the effects produced by Jesus on the various classes of society; the different feelings of admiration, attachment, and envy, which he called forth; the various expressions of these feelings; the prejudices, mistakes, and gradual illumination, of his disciples; these are all given to us with such marks of truth and reality as could not easily be counterfeited. The whole history is precisely such as might be expected from the actual appearance of such a person as Jesus Christ, in such a state of society as then existed.
The Epistles, if possible, abound in marks of truth and reality even more than the Gospels. They are imbued thoroughly with the spirit of the first age of Christianity. They bear all the marks of having come from men plunged in the conflicts which the new religion excited, alive to its interests, identified with its fortunes. They betray the very state of mind which must have been generated by the peculiar condition of the first propagators of the religion. They are letters written on real business, intended for immediate effects, designed to meet prejudices and passions which such a religion must at first have awakened. They contain not a trace of the circumstances of a later age, or of the feelings, impressions, and modes of thinking, by which later times were characterized, and from which later writers could not easily have escaped.
The letters of Paul have a remarkable agreement with his history. They are precisely such as might be expected from a man of a vehement mind, who had been brought up in the schools of Jewish literature, who had been converted by a sudden, overwhelming miracle, who had been intrusted with the preaching of the new religion to the Gentiles, and who was every where met by the prejudices and persecuting spirit of his own nation. They are full of obscurities growing out of these points of Paul's history and character, and out of the circumstances of the infant church, and which nothing but an intimate acquaintance with that early period can illustrate. This remarkable infusion of the spirit of the first age into the Christian records cannot easily be explained but by the fact that they were written, in that age, by the real and zealous propagators of Christianity, and that they are records of real convictions and of actual events.
There is another evidence of Christianity, still more internal than any on which I have yet dwelt, an evidence to be felt rather than described, but not less real because founded on feeling. I refer to that conviction of the divine original of our religion, which springs up and continually gains strength in those who apply it habitually to their tempers and lives, and who imbibe its spirit and hopes. In such men, there is a consciousness of the adaptation of Christianity to their noblest faculties; a consciousness of its exalting and consoling influences, of its power to confer the true happiness of human nature, to give that peace which the world cannot give; which assures them that it is not of earthly origin, but a ray from the Everlasting Light, a stream from the fountain of Heavenly Wisdom and Love. This is the evidence which sustains the faith of thousands, who never read, and cannot understand, the learned books of Christian apologists; who want, perhaps, words to explain the ground of their belief, but whose faith is of adamantine firmness; who hold the gospel with a conviction more intimate and unwavering than mere argument ever produced.
Extract from the Life of Jeremiah Smith.
J. H. MORISON.
THE professional income of Judge Smith more than equalled his expectations, and his faculties must have been tasked to the utmost; for in the same county with himself were Jeremiah Mason, Daniel Webster, and George Sullivan. These men were then in the full vigor of manhood, and in the contests at the bar must have furnished an extraordinary exhibition, of forensic power. Mr. Sullivan, the son of General John Sullivan, and for many years attorney-general of New Hampshire, was a man of fine address, quick parts, and flowing eloquence. It was a pleasure to listen to the rich tones of his voice, as the sentences came rolling out with their full, regular, and sonorous cadences. But he was as much inferior to Smith and Mason in legal strength and knowledge, as he was their superior in the power to move the feelings of a jury.
The names of Mr. Smith and Mr. Mason are, by those who remember those times, most frequently mentioned together. They were powerful combatants, less unequal than unlike. Both were profoundly learned, but Smith the more accomplished scholar; both were profound thinkers, but Mason's the more original mind. With perhaps equal industry in the preparation of causes, the one fortified his position with accumulated authorities, the other trusted more to his native strength and the force of reason. The one was copious in illustrations, opening his views as in the broad sunlight, and explaining them till none could fail to understand; the other laid himself out in a few bold strokes, and with a condensed energy of expression that seldom employed a superfluous word. The one was a more lucid expositor ;
the other a stronger reasoner, and possessing more masterly powers of analysis.
In cross-examining witnesses, Mr. Mason, whose skill in this respect was perhaps unequalled in this country, laid his plans far back, getting all that he wished before his design was suspected; while Mr. Smith, with piercing eye, watched his opportunity, and darted with sudden surprise on the unhappy man who was laboring to conceal the truth. Yet either could apply the other's method. Severity with the one smote down its victim by a single blow; with the other, it was oftener a cutting irony, from its exceeding sharpness hardly felt till the mischief was done. Wit, in the one, had the pungency that only awakes a smile; in the other, it was the ludicrous association, or the joyous humor, that convulses men with laughter. But here, too, either could use the other's weapons.
In pathos, they were perhaps equally deficient; and equally remarkable for the contemptuous indignation which they could excite against whatever was mean or dishonest. As an advocate, each was ready to take all the advantage of his adversary that professional adroitness and the rules of the bar would allow; but they were both men of personal honor, and of a proud, unbending integrity; and as either spoke of those high virtues, he seemed a fitting champion and representative of his cause. Neither of them laid claim to the charm or graces of oratory. When they met at the bar, it was the stern encounter of massive intellectual strength, in which they dealt their heaviest and sharpest blows. In legal acquirements and logical skill, they were the not unworthy associates and antagonists of Daniel Webster; while in that combination of gifts which makes the commanding orator, he stood with them, as he has done. every where else, like Mount Washington among the mountains of New England.