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to so gross a falsehood ?.” If it should be said that similar vices have at all times also been practised by many who call themselves Christians; the answer is clear and obvious that they have been practised in opposition to their religion, whilst in the case of the heathen, the so much boasted light of nature does not appear to have been sufficient to point out their deformity, even to the wisest amongst them ?. What Cicero has said with reference to certain of their opinions, may be applied very generally to their whole system of morals and divinity,—that there is no absurdity, which has not been maintained by some philosopher :. And if such was the case with the philosophers, what must it have been with the people at large ? If so feeble and uncertain was the light of nature, in the brightest period of the history of the world, and amongst those most distinguished for their excellence in all the arts and sciences : how much more deficient would it be found, were we to turn our attention to less civilized nations, and to that state of barbarism

1

2

Macknight's View and Illustrations of Romans, c. 1.

Ibid. on Romans i. 27. 3 De Divinatione, lib. ii. 68.

in which they were all originally found, and in which, nevertheless, if the notion of natural religion be well founded, we have a right to expect at least to discover its elementary principles.

Some persons have endeavoured to evade the difficulty, arising from the absurdities of heathen superstitions, by saying that though they were practised, they were not believed, except by the people. “I am willing (says the able writer whom I have already quoted) to accept the account of the matter which is given by Mr. Gibbon: that the various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people as equally true, by the philosophers as equally false, and by the magistrate as equally useful'." And yet if natural religion be what it is represented to be, so far from this description of it being just, its principles should be so evidently true, so founded (as they say) in the relations of things, that all classes of persons, the wisest and the most uninformed, should have a perfect agreement and understanding about them. I should not think it necessary to say so much

Paley's Evidences, vol. i. p.

36.

upon this point, were the argument of the sufficiency of natural religion only employed by Infidel writers, for the purpose of discrediting Revelation : but the truth is that it is a weapon, unadvisedly, as I think, put into their hands, by many very sincere and able believers and defenders of Christianity: and as might be expected they have not failed to make good use of it. We must not defer too implicitly to the authority of any names, however ancient, eminent, or respectable. Time, which so evidently brings improvement into many other things, is not wholly unfruitful upon the subject of religion. Amongst our older writers', who are deservedly of great weight, this notion of the agreement between the principles of natural and revealed religion, is very prevalent. And probably it is from observing the advantage which their adversaries have taken of this concession, and indeed the great difficulty of satisfactorily refuting the arguments which they have drawn from it, that modern writers have reflected more deeply upon the matter, and have found good reason to question the existence of any thing,

1 Wollaston and others.

that can properly be called natural religion, and to trace all our just ideas of God and his Providence, and of our duties both to him and to each other, to those two great Revelations, which are contained in the Bible. Not that reason, when at all enlightened, does not afford us many clear intimations of what is right and wrong; nor that conscience is not in general a very faithful monitor, and a safe guide for our conduct: but that reason alone is quite unable to establish the great fundamental principles of religion: and that conscience frequently requires to be controlled, by positive precepts which rest upon Divine authority. Were this otherwise, had God enabled us by the light of nature and reason only to frame a true system of religion, though it would not invalidate any positive proofs which we might have of an actual Revelation having been vouchsafed to us, it would certainly destroy the strong argument for such Revelation, founded upon its utility or necessity. It would afford much support to the reasonings of those who dispute the

1

See the Review of Bishop Gleig's Letters on Theology in the British Critic for October, 1827.

truth of Revelation. It would be extremely difficult to comprehend, why the Almighty should so frequently have disturbed the general laws of nature; and have performed such mighty prodigies for the establishment of true religion in the world, if he had already accomplished the same end, by more simple and equally efficacious means.

And this will lead me to notice (but very shortly) that other objection of professed unbelievers, that no testimony is sufficient to prove a miracle. It is not

It is not my intention now to repeat the general arguments in proof of the Christian miracles, but simply to reply to this specific objection, which, if it be well founded, overthrows at once both the miracles and the religion. For they rest precisely upon the same grounds, and are inseparably connected. And it would not be a little extraordinary, if the religion which could only have been founded upon the belief of their performance, established by the testimony of numerous eye-witnesses, could after the lapse of eighteen centuries be destroyed, not by the production of evidence or arguments to disprove their performance, but simply by the assertion that they were originally unworthy

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