« הקודםהמשך »
sation be examined with the most scrupulous accuracy; and nothing can be detected, which may excite the most distant suspicion that either Christ or his apostles sought their own temporal advantage or aggrandizement. If, at a subsequent period, evil men, their successors, have dishonestly taught, that to give largely to the Church is the most certain mode of expiating sins and of acquiring favour with God; if a towering edifice of gainful superstition and worldly domination has been erected upon the personal declaration to Peter, that he should be the rock upon which Christ would build his Church whether composed of Jews or of Gentiles (a declaration accomplished in the remarkable circumstance, that by this honoured apostle the first-fruits of each denomination were introduced into the communion of the faith *): if such deeds have at any time disgraced the followers of the lowly Jesus, they cannot impeach the unsullied integrity of his religion itself. Paul foretold, that, after his departure, grievous wolves should enter in among his spiritual children, not sparing the flock t: and it were a strange mode of reasoning to argue backward, to the worldly and self-aggrandizing character of Christianity, from the predicted and strongly reprobated secularity of a future generation. Would we judge of the spirit of the Gos
* Matt. xvi. 18, 19. Acts ii. 14—41. Acts x. See Bp. Horsley's Sermon on Matt. xvi. 18, 19. in Sermons, vol. i. p. 305.
† Acts xx. 29.
pel, we must turn to the written word. Christianity must be allowed to speak for herself, not in the actions of a degenerate priesthood, but from her own authenticated documents. The Gospel must be studied in the Gospel.
3. What then is the result of the preceding comparison, which has been instituted, between Christianity on the one hand, and certain acknowledged impostures on the other hand? The result is this.
If the characteristics of those impostures form the internal evidence, that they are indeed nothing better than base and interested fabrications ; then the characteristics of Christianity, being of a directly opposite description, must needs form a strong internal evidence, that it is in truth a religion sent down from God: and, by parity of reasoning, the more forcibly one set of characteristies evince imposture; the more forcibly also must the other set of characteristics evince genuineness. For direct opposites cannot bring out the same conclusion. Whence, if the characteristics of Paganism and Mohammedism bring out the conclusion of fraud, the opposite characteristics of Christianity cannot but bring out the opposite conclusion of truth. The infidel, however, has persuaded himself, that direet opposites may bring out the same conclusion ; for he deems Paganism, Mohammedism, and Christianity, to be alike impostures. Can he be acquitted of illogical reasoning and blind credulity?
RECAPITULATION AND CONCLUSION.
BEFORE the present discussion is finally closed, it may be useful briefly to recapitulate the several difficulties with which deistical Infidelity has been found to be encumbered.
I. The difficulties in question are as follows.
1. The grounds and reasons of Infidelity, when fairly examined in six several points, involve such an extraordinary mass of contradictions, that in truth it is more easy to admit than to deny the existence of a divine revelation. For a revelation from heaven is neither, in the nature of things, abstractedly impossible; nor is it so improbable an occurrence as to beggar all credibility; nor are the evidences for such a revelation so weak and unsatisfactory, that they are insufficient to command our reasonable assent; nor are the objections and difficulties such, that they cannot be removed ; nor is there any solid foundation for the crude fancy, that, because some theological systems are acknowledged impostures, therefore every theological system is a mere human fabrication; nor yet is our unassisted reason so potent, as to exclude the very necessity of a divine revelation. On none of these points are the arguments of Infidelity conclusive and satisfactory : on the contrary, they are vague, illogical, and insufficient *.
2. Infidelity, when not degraded into absolute brutish atheism, specially claims to itself the appellation of Deism. Yet, without the aid of revelation, we cannot clearly demonstrate or certainly know, even so much as that there is no more than one God: and, if, for the sake of
argument, the unity of the Godhead be conceded to the infidel, he will still be unable positively to develop and firmly to establish the moral attributes of the Deity. But, to suppose that an infinitely wise Being (for the wisdom and power of God may be proved by unassisted reason, though his moral attributes cannot be similarly demonstrated) would create a race of intelligent agents, and then turn them loose into the wide world without giving them the slightest hint as to his will or their duties, is a notion so flatly contradictory to every idea which we can form of the Supreme Reason, that it may justly be said to beggar all credibility t.
3. Insurmountable difficulties moreover repeatedly attend upon Infidelity in regard to historical matters of fact. An important specimen of this mode of reasoning is afforded by the fact of the universal deluge. This fact, of necessity, involves such consequences, that the infidel must either in the face of all testimony deny the fact itself, or he must admit that a divine revelation has actually taken place *.
See above Sect. i.
f See above Sect. ii.
4. Nor do less difficulties attend upon Infidelity in regard to accomplished prophecy. As a specimen of the argument from prophecy, the present state of the Jews may be aptly selected. The high antiquity of the prediction respecting them, delivered by Moses, cannot be controverted : and its exact accomplishment in the condition of the house of Judah is a naked matter of fact, which can neither be denied nor evaded. Now the denial, that a prophecy thus minutely fulfilled and still fulfilling must have proceeded from the inspiration of God, involves a gross absurdity: and the acknowledgment, that such a prophecy did indeed proceed from the inspiration of God, inevitably draws after it the additional acknowledgment that the Law of Moses was a divine revelation t.
5. Difficulties increase upon Infidelity, as the facts and circumstances and character of the Christian Dispensation are considered. These are such and so strongly marked, that to deem Christ and his early disciples enthusiasts or impóstors requires a more vehement effort of belief than to deem them the inspired messengers of heaven I.
* See above Sect. ïïi.
+ See above Sect. iv, See above Sect. v.