« הקודםהמשך »
then, what will you do with reason and conscience, those troublesome inmates of the human bosom? Can you bring yourselves calmly to believe, that this beautiful frame of nature, which displays so much intelligence, wisdom, power, goodness, justice, art, design, is the work of chance ? That admirable piece of mechanism, your own body, the meanest insect that crawls upon the ground, nay, the very watch in your pocket, will confute the supposition. You must, therefore, you see, come back to and embrace the Religion of Jesus with us Believers. You cannot find rest, upon the principles of sound reason, in any other system. For though the Gospel is attended with various and great difficulties, as every view of both the natural and moral world unquestionably is; yet it is attended with the fewest difficulties, and none but such as are honestly superable; and is, at the same time, the most comfortable and happy institution that ever was proposed to the consideration and acceptance of reasonable creatures. Nothing was ever so pure, so benevolent, so divine, so perfective of human nature, so adapted to the wants and circumstances of mankind. To live under the full power of it, is to have the proper en. joyment of life*.
To believe and obey it, is to be entitled to a crown that fadeth not away.
Upon the supposition, that the person, whom we call the SAVIOUR of the world, had no commission from heaven to make the will of God known to mankind, would it not be one of the greatest of miracles, that he and his twelve followers, poor, unlettered, and obscure men, should have brought to light a system of doctrines the most sublime, and of morals the most perfect? that Jesus and the Fishermen of Galilce should have farsurpassed SOCRATES, PLATO, Cicero, and all the greatest men of the most enlightened
* “ There is not a single precept in the Gospel, without excepting that which ordains the forgiveness of injuries, or that which commands every one to possess his vessels in sanctification and honour, which is not calculated to promote our happiness.'
Sir ISAAC Newton has given us a demonstration of the existence and intelligence of the Divine BEING, in the close of his Principia, which the atheistical reader would do well to consider at his leisure. And to the above books against Atheism should be added, a very excelEent and satisfactory Discourse by Archbishop TILLOTSON on the Wise dom of being Religious,
period of the world ? that every thing they advanced should perfectly agree both with the natural, civil, and religious history of mankind ? that their discourses should still be capable of improving and delighting the most learned and profound geniuses of these latter ages*? that all modern discoveries should bear witness to the truth of the facts recorded in the most venerable of all Volumes ? and that every book in the world, sacred or profane, Christian, Jewish, Pagan, or Mahometan, instead of lessening, should establish the credit and authority of the Bible as a revelation from heavena?
* NEWTON accounted the Scriptures the most sublime philosophy, and never mentioned the word God-but with a pause. See Bishop Watson's Two Sermons and Charge, p. 9, where this is asserted.
The same thing is recorded of the Honourable Robert Boyle, by Bishop BURNET. How different the conduct of our Minute Philosophers?
+ Mr. Whiston, in his Astronomical Principles of Religion, gives us a short view of the reasons which induced him to believe the Jewish and Christian revelations to be true, These reasons are the following:
1. “The revealed religion of the Jews and Christians lays the law of nature for its foundation, and all along supports and assists natural reli. gion ; as every true revelation ought to do.
Astronomy, and the rest of our certain mathematic sciences, do confirm the accounts of Scripture, so far as they are concerned. 3.
** The ancientest and best historical accounts now known do, ge. nerally speaking, confirm the accounts of Scripture, so far as they are concerned.
4. " The more learning has increased, the more certain, in general, do the Scripture accounts appear, and its difficult places are more clear. ed thereby.
5. “There are, or have been generally, standing memorials preserved of the certain truths of the principal historical facts, which were constant evidences for the certainty of them.
6. “ Neither the Mosaical law, nor the Christian religion, could possibly have been received and established without such miracles as the sacred history contains.
7. Although the Jews all along hated and persecuted the prophets of God; yet were they forced to beiieve they were true prophets, and their writings of divine inspiration.
8. “ The ancient and present state of the Jewish nation are strong arguments for the truth of their law, and of the Scripture prophecies relating to them.
9. " The ancient and present state of the Christian church are also strong arguments for the truth of the Gospel, and of the Scripture pro. phecies relating thereto.
10. " The
This is more extraordinary still, when it is considered, that the object of our Saviour's religion is new, the doctrines new, his personal character new*, and the religion
10. « The miracles, whereon the Jewish and Christian religion are founded, were of old owned to be true by their very enemies.
11. “ The sacred writers, who lived in times and places so remote from one another, do yet all carry on one and the same grand design; namely, that of the salvation of mankind, by the worship of, and obe. dience to the one true God, in and through the king Messiah ; which, without a divine conduct, could never have been done.
12. “ The principal doctrines of the Jewish and Christian religion, are agreeable to the ancientest traditions of all other nations.
13. " The difficulties relating to this religion, are not such as affect the truth of the facts, but the conduct of Providence: the reasons of which the sacred writers never pretend fully to know, or to reveal to mankind.
14. “ Natural religion, which is yet so certain in itself, is not with. out such difficulties as to the conduct of Providence, as are objected to Revelation.
15. “ The Sacred History has the greatest marks of truth, honesty, and impartiality, of all other histories whatsoever ; and withal, bas tone of the known marks of knavery and imposture.
16. “ The predictions of Scripture have been still fulfilled in the several ages of the world whereto they belong.
17: “ No opposite systems of the universe, or schemes of divine revelation, have any tolerable pretences to be true, but those of the Jews and Christians.
“ These are the plain and obvious arguments, which persuade me of the truth of the Fewwish and Christian revelations, which I earnestly re. commend to the farther consideration of the inquisitive reader.”
* “ The four Evangelists,” of whom such contemptuous things have been spoken by Mr. PAINE and others, “have done, without apearing to have intended it, what was never performed by any authors before or since. They have drawn a perfect human character, without a single faw! They have given the history of one, whose spirit, words, and actions, were in every particular what they ought to have been ; who always did the very thing which was proper, and in the best manner imaginable ; who never once deviated from the most consummate wis. dom, purity, benevolence, compassion, meckness, humility, fortitude, patience, piety, zeal, and every other excellency; and who in no instance let one virtue or holy disposition entrench on another; but exer. cised them all in entire harmony and exact proportion! The more the histories of the Evangelists are examined, the clearer will this appear ; and the more evidently will it be perceived, that they all coincide in the view they give of their LORD's character. This subject challenges investigation, and sets Infidelity at defiance! Either these four men exceeded in genius and capacity all the writers that ever lived, or they wrote under the special guidance of divine inspiration ; for without labour or itself superior to all that was known among men.
These are considerations that ought to have much weight with
affectation they have effected, what hath baffled all others, who have set themselves purposely to accomplish it.
“ Industry, ingenuity, and malice, have for ages been employed, in endeavouring to prove the Evangelists inconsistent with each other; but not a single contradi&tion has been proved upon them."
This quotation is taken from the Rev. T. Scott's Answer to Paine's Age of Reason. The whole forms a satisfactory antidote against the poison of that virulent Deist's publications, and may be had at the very moderate price of One Shilling.
With this may be compared the fine account that Rousseau has given us of the Gospels, which is the more remarkable, as it is from the pen of an enemy.
“ I will confess to you,” says he, that the majesty of the Scriptures strikes me with admiration, as the purity of the Gospel hath its influence on my heart. Peruse the works of our philosophers with all their pomp of diction : how mean, how contemptible are they, compared with the Scripture! Is it possible that a book, at once so simple and sublime, should be merely the work of man? Is it possible that the sacred personage, whose history it contains, should be himself a mere man? Do we find that he assumed the tone of an enthusiast or ambitious sectary? What sweetness, what purity in his manner? What an affecting gracefulness in his delivery? What sublimity in his maxims ? What profound wisdom in his discourses! What presence of mind, what subtlety, what truth in his replies? How great the command over his passions! Where is the man, where the pkilosopher, who could so live, and so die, without weakness, and without ostentation? When Plato described his imaginary good man, loaded with all the shame of guilt, yet meriting the highest rewards of virrue, he describes exactly the character of Jesus Christ: the resemblance was so striking, that all the Fathers perceived it.
What prepossession, what blindness must it be, to compare the son of SOPHRONISCUS to the son of MARY? What an infinite disproportion there is between them ! Socrates dying without pain or ignominy easily supported his character to the last; and if his death, however easy, bad not crowned his life, it might have been doubted whether SOCRATES, with all his wisdom, was any thing more than a vain sophist. He inrented, it is said, the theory of morals. Others, however, had before put them in practice; he had only to say, therefore, what they had done, and to reduce their examples to precepts. , ARISTIDEs had been just be. fore Socrates defined justice ; LEONIDAS had given up his life for his country before SOCRATES declared patriotism to be a duty; the Spartans were a sober people before SocRATEs recommended sobriety ; before he had even defined virtue, Greece abounded in virtuous men. But where could Jesus learn, among his competitors, that pure and sublime mo. rality, of which he only hath given us both precept and example! The greatest wisdom which made knowu among the most bigotted fanaticism,
every man who calls himself a Philosopher, and wishes to be determined in his judgment only by the reason and nature of things*.
“ But, is it possible, any reasonable man should be so “ weak as to suppose the book, called the Bible, can be “ the Word of God?"
No intelligent Christian will distinguish it by that name, without a large restriction of its contents. All we assert respecting it, is, that it is a collection of writings, containing a history of the divine dispensations to our world, and that the proper W’ord of of God, with numberless other particulars, is interwoven all the way through these most ancient and invaluable writings.
and the simplicity of the most heroic virtues, did honour to the vilest peeple upon earth. The death of SOCRATES, peaceably philosophizing with his friends, appears the most agreeable that could be wished for; that of Jesus expiring in the midst of agonizing pains, abused, insulted, and accused by a whole nation, is the most horrible that could be feared. Socrates in receiving the cup of poison, blessed indeed the weepingexccutioner who administered it; but Jesus, in the midst of excruciating tortures, prayed for his merciless tormentors. Yes, if the life and death of Socrates were those of a sage, the life and death of Jesus are those of a God. Shall we suppose the evangelic history a mere fiction? Indeed, my friend, it bears not the marks of fiction; on the contrary, the history of Socrates, which nobody presumes to doubt, is not so well attested as that of Jesus Christ. Such a supposition, in fact, only shifts the difficulty without obviating it: it is more inconceivable that a number of persons should agree to write such a history, than that one cnly should furnish the subject of it. The Jewish authors were incapable of the diction, and strangers to the morality contained in the Gospel, the marks of whose truth are so striking and inimitable, that the inventor would be a more astonishing character than a hero.” Emiliuo.
* It is truly remarkable, and highly satisfactory to the serious Christian, that all modern discoveries are so far from proving unfavourable to the truth of the Sacred Writings, that they strongly tend to the illustratica and confirmation of them. All voyages and travels, into the East especially, are particularly useful in this point of view. BRUCE's Travels throw light upon many biblical circumstances. MAURICE's Indian Ara tiquities, and History of Hindostan, are singularly valuable. Harmer's Oi. servations on divers passages of Scripture is a work superior to every thing of the kind, as it contains a selection, from a variety of voyages and travels, of such circumstances as have a tendency to illustrate the meaning of a large number of obscure passages in the Sacred Writings.
+ See this matter set in a very proper light in the fourth Lettcr of Bishop Watson's Apology for the Bible.