Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

Father.” * “ Not the hearers of the Law are just before God; but the doers of the Law shall be justified.” + If you read the Scriptures carelessly, or merely from custom, or rather from a spirit of curiosity than from anxiety to profit by them and to grow in grace; you do not read them as you ought to read the Word of your

Maker. You do not read them like a person solicitous above all things to obtain through Christ the kingdom of heaven, and conscious that it will be bestowed by Christ on those only who strive according to their power to learn from the Scriptures the way

of his commandments, and faithfully to walk in it by his help unto death.

* Matt. vii. 21.

ţ Rom. ü. 13.

.

205

CHAP. VI.

SUMMARY OF THE EVIDENCES OF THE CHRISTIAN

RELIGION.

I. If the authenticity and the inspiration of the Scriptures have been established in the two preceding chapters, then the truth of the Christian religion has also been demonstrated. This proposition is self-evident. Nay, if there had remained any doubt concerning the inspiration of the writers of the Old and New Testament; if it had not pleased God that the Bible should be able to claim a higher character than that of an authentic narrative written by uninspired men; Christianity still would have been proved. If the predictions there recorded were actually delivered; if the facts there related actually took place; in other words, if the Bible had merely spoken truth through the aid of human information and veracity: the certainty of the Christian religion would still have been indisputable. If the miraculous circumstances which, according to antecedent prophecies, were to characterise the birth, the life, the death, and the resurrection of the Messiah, all united in Jesus Christ, he was the Messiah. If the predictions which Jesus Christ delivered were literally fulfilled; if the supernatural powers which he engaged to bestow on his disciples were punctually conferred: he was what he affirmed himself to be, the Son of God, the promised and long expected Redeemer. But when the real and manifest state of the case is taken into the account; when we consider, that to render knowledge perfect, and to ensure fidelity from suspicion, the superintending aid of the Holy Spirit of God ever accompanied the sacred penmen : we might presume that every possibility of doubt, as to the certainty of the religion thus introduced and confirmed to mankind, must vanish from the breasts of unprejudiced enquirers. The question, therefore, of the truth of Christianity might safely be rested on these grounds. It may

be of use, however, on account of the supreme importance of the subject, and from regard to the difference in the degrees of force with which experience shews that different arguments strike different minds, to subjoin to the foregoing remarks some collateral arguments, which evince that the Christian religion came from God.

II. The general state of the world, at the time when Christianity was promulgated, was confessedly such as to render a farther revelation of the will of God highly desirable to mankind. The Heathen nations, Greeks, Romans, Barbarians, were immersed in the grossest idolatry. It was not merely that they worshipped stocks and stones. The supposed deities were usually represented of characters so detestably flagitious, that we should rather have expected them to have been singled out as objects of abhorrence than of adoration. We know with how much greater proneness and facility men imitate a pattern of vice than of virtue. We know how extremely imperfect are the piety and morality of the collective body of Christians, who nominally at least profess to take their holy and sinless Redeemer for their model, and to look for eternal happiness or misery as the certain consequence of their conduct in the present scene of probation. We might therefore form, by speculative reasoning, a just opinion of the

open vice.

state of morals likely to be prevalent among nations who worshipped Jupiter, and Bacchus, and Mercury, and their associates in the Heathen Pantheon. Turn to history, and you find the display of depravity, which your imagination had pictured, delineated in still more glaring colours. The scattered examples of eminent virtue recorded in the annals of Greece and Rome, examples the brighter on account of their scarcity and of the gloomy contrast with which they are surrounded, militate not against the truth of this general representation. The occasional efforts of some philosophers to introduce better principles and better practice, had no effect on the great mass of the community. The philosophers themselves were frequently stained with

Many of their tenets were absurd and even impious ; and the rest were too obscure and too refined for popular apprehension, or too little interesting for popular attachment: and being founded on conjecture and theoretical arguments, carried with them no sanction which could ensure stedfast belief or habitual obedience. Socrates, the wisest of the philosophers, avowed in the strongest terms the necessity for the interposition of a Divine instructor for the reformation of the world. From the Heathens cast your eyes on the Jews. What had been the fruit of a dispensation delivered to their forefathers by the voice of God himself, confirmed by unnumbered miracles, upheld by national rewards and national judgements, and enforced by a long succession of prophets ? Little more among the bulk of the people, for I speak not of the more virtuous exceptions, than that they were at length purified from idolatry. In other respects, they were proverbially proud, selfish, and intolerant; placing their confidence on their groundless traditions, rather than on the Scriptures; on their descent from Abraham, rather than on personal righteousness ; on the observance of ceremonial ordinances, rather than on the practice of piety and good works: and blindly forgetting to look forward to the atoning office of the Redeemer, to which the promises made to the Patriarchs, the typical sacrifices and institutions of the law, and the evangelical predictions of Isaiah and Daniel, directed their view; and in great humility to hope for the mercy of God to contrite sinners through him alone. Such being the general condition of mankind, in consequence of their having rendered thus inefficacious, by their own perverseness and depravity, the invitations and motives to righteousness which their merciful Creator had for so many ages set before them, partly by the light of natural conscience and partly by special revelation; it perhaps was not wholly unreasonable humbly to hope, that He who had already done so much of his own free will for his undeserving and sinful creatures, might yet in his infinite mercy do more. At least it was evident, that if He should vouchsafe to them a farther discovery of his good pleasure, and encourage them with additional aids and incitements to virtue; such a dispensation would be a blessing, for which the warmest gratitude would be a most inadequate return. Now, if a considerate man, antecedently to all knowledge of the Christian plan of redemption, had been asked what particulars, consistent with the attributes of God and the situation of mankind, he should be principally solicitous to find in a future revelation; what, after full reflection, would have been his reply? He would have replied, that the utmost stretch of his hopes and of his wishes extended to the following points : Full assurance that, on his humble and grateful acceptance of such conditions as the God of mercy should appoint,

« AnteriorContinua »