Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

Apostle, in that early stage of Christianity; when its history was so recent, and its miraculous attestation had not yet been withdrawn. If such an injunction could have been then called for, can we wonder if in every subsequent period of our religion, it has been still more imperiously required; and that at the present moment it demands our attention as powerfully as ever ? If its evidence from the first was not of that kind, which was absolutely irresistible ; for even of those who witnessed the miracles, some we know were not convinced by them, but ascribed them to demoniacal agency—must not the great length of time which has elapsed since its establishment, add some strength to real difficulties, and lend some plausibility even to captious objections ? It is difficult indeed to conceive what evidence would have satisfied those whom the miracles could not convince : but it is quite clear that the proofs must have been very powerful, which enabled it to succeed to the extent which it did ; namely, of superseding in a great degree the Mosaic economy, and of supplanting entirelyGentile superstition. However, the fact undoubtedly is, that from the days of the Apostles to our own, notwithstanding the unrivalled excellence of our religion, the weight of its evidence, its extensive influence upon our happiness here, and its sole foundation of our hopes hereafter; there always have been and still are those who reject it altogether, and probably still more whose faith is of that wavering description, against which the Apostle cautions his Hebrew converts.

It can never therefore be unimportant to examine temperately any of the objections which are urged against our faith, that we may be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in us. А very

able modern defender of Christianity, Dr. Paley, infers the probability of Revelation from God from its necessity; and contends that as miracles are the only means by which such a communication can be authenticated to mankind, they are to be considered as credible, exactly in proportion as a Revelation is probable'. But the professed Infidel denies both these positions. He asserts that the light of nature is sufficient in all respects for our guidance, and consequently

· Evidences, vol. i. p. 3, &c.

that a Revelation is quite unnecessary. And he affirms that no human testimony can render a miracle credible. Now certainly if these propositions could be supported by any copious induction of facts, or by any very powerful arguments, Christianity must be shaken to its foundation; and our only enquiry would be, what sort of religion these its determined antagonists had to substitute in its place ? But so far as I have seen, they are totally unprepared upon these points: their assertions are indeed confident enough, but their proofs miserably deficient. When they tell us that the light of nature is sufficient for all the purposes of religion, we should expect at least that they should refer us to some period, or to some people, who have found it

That they should shew us some fundamental principles, which have been very generally, if not universally admitted, and that these cannot be traced to any Divine Revelation. But unfortunately facts are directly opposed to them. Every religion of which history informs us, is built

upon some real or supposed Revelation, and not upon mere principles of reason, drawn from the light of nature only. And they probably have all a common

so,

origin in that primary Revelation, of which the Bible is the only existing record ; though varied and corrupted by imperfect tradition, and the great revolutions to which all human affairs have been constantly liable.

But not to lose ourselves in too wide a field, let us consider what was the religion (if it can be so termed) of the two greatest and wisest nations, with whose history we are acquainted, the Greeks and Romans. I mean of course before the Christian era. If it be true, as is pretended, that God has at all times given mankind sufficient means of knowing whatever he requires of them, surely we shall find some traces of that knowledge, in the religious institutions of those highly cultivated nations. And if it be clear, that natural and revealed religion, having the same end, their precepts must be the same, we should certainly expect to find an agreement, between the

precepts of what we believe to be revealed religion, and the moral principles of these celebrated people, amongst whom natural reason exerted its utmost force. But if they were diametrically opposed to each other, so far from being the same, they could not by possibility both be

Now whether we take the account of

true.

their opinions and manners from themselves, or from the Apostles and other Christian writers, nothing can be more evident, than the direct contrast which they afford to the doctrines of the Gospel. The disgusting pictures which St. Paul has left us of the state of the heathen world, are too well known to need repetition. And it has been justly remarked by an able modern commentator, that “the description which the Apostle hath given of the national manners of the Greeks, however disgraceful to human nature, being perfectly true, merits attention: because it is a complete confutation of those who contend, that natural reason hath always been sufficient, to lead mankind to just notions in religion, and to a proper moral conduct. For after the weakness of human reason, in matters of religion and morality, hath been so clearly demonstrated by experience, in the case of the Greeks, who, of all mankind, were the most distinguished for their intellectual endowments, the futile pretence of the sufficiency of the light of nature, set up by modern infidels, for the purpose of rendering Revelation needless, should be rejected with the contempt due

« PoprzedniaDalej »