« הקודםהמשך »
From the Ascension of Christ to the termination of the Period in
which the Gospel was preached to the Proselytes of righteousness,
Vulgar Æra, 1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that 2 Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which
PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS. Having thus far proceeded through the magnificent temple of the Christian religion, till we have arrived at that holy altar on which the great Sacrifice was offered, we are about to contemplate the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit, which the now glorified Victim sent down from the Holy of Holies. We will pause, however, at the threshold of the rising Church, and appeal to all who have hitherto refused to enter in and worship, if they have been able to discover any God so worthy of their homage, as the God of Christianity; or any temple so firmly established, as this beautiful fabric of eternal truth. The Christian challenges the world to produce another system which is at all comparable to Christianity, in the evidences of its truth, the purity of its precepts, the philosophy of its discoveries, both concerning God and man; or in all the other essential qualities which the speculations, the fancy, or the sober reason of the reflecting or the learned in all ages have considered essential to any proposed scheme of religion. The Christian world have hitherto been, for the most part, too patient under the repeated attacks of their antagonists. They have been contented with defence, and with maintaining the walls of their fortress; in replying to, rather than assailing, the enemies of their sublime and holy faith. It is true that one considerable advantage has accrued to the cause of truth from this plan of action. Every argument which sophistry has been able to invent, and ignorance or vice to advance, has been fully and fairly met, discussed, and refuted. The external and internal evidence of Christianity has been so amply displayed--the facts on which the whole system rests have been so ably and repeatedly established, that no possible danger can be apprehended, if the Church of God continues its vigilance, from any future efforts of the great adversary of mankind. The danger to which alone it is exposed, is the offence which arises from the negligent lives of its professed followers, or their too indolent security of the goodness of their cause.
Let us then leave for a short time the impregnable walls of the Christian truth, and make our incursions into the entrenched camp of the enemy. Let us at once inquire who are these proud boasters who have so long encouraged themselves in their empty blasphemies against the light of revelation ? What are their claims to our veneration? Where are their discoveries ? What will they substitute in the place of Christianity? Where is to be found a complete and perfect system of truth and morals among these pretended illuminators of the human race ? I appeal to the records of all ages for an answer, and implore the impartial inquirer to search into the history of all nations, in ail periods from the day of the Creation to the present moment, and see whether human reason has been able to frame a consistent religion for itself. If the same one only true religion which is revealed in Scripture, under the three several forms of the Patriarchal, Levitical, and Christian dispensations, had been withheld from the world, have we any reason whatever to suppose that its advantages could have been supplied to the world by any buman discovery? VOL. II.
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J.P. 4742. he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost 2
One thing only is necessary to be premised—the Christian in this great controversy appeals to facts, experience, and history. While he shrinks from no abstract reasoning, from no metaphysical inquiry, from no supposed philosophical deductions, he asserts that his religion is established throughout upon divinely attested and undeniable facts. He demands only of the opponents of Christianity, that the religion they would establish in its place be founded upon facts equally well attested, and upon evidences equally satisfactory and undeniable.
It is certain that evil is every where around us. It is concealed in our hearts within-it is visible in our bodies without, in a countless train of infirmities, diseases, and afflictions. It is seen above us in the storms of heaven, around us in the evils of life, and beneath us in the graves of the dead.
The question whence, and why is evil permitted in this world ? baffles all but the Christian. If God could prevent evil and did not, where is his benevolence ? if he wished to prevent evil, and could not, where is his power? Here the infidel is baffled, and his proud reason staid. Reason without revelation has not solved, and cannot solve, the dark and mysterious difficulty. Christianity alone unfolds to man the origin of evil in this world, and while it explains the cause, appoints the remedy.
"An enemy hath done this,”—and “the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." We are assured that an evil and malignant spirit, superior to man, influenced the mind of man to an act of disobedience. This is the recorded fact, and daily experience confirms its reasonableness and probability. Evil is still continued by the same means, by which it originated. Thousands are hourly misled by one powerful or depraved mind. The sophistries of infidelity, the splendour of ambition, the gold of avarice, are demons all pointing to the forbidden fruit, to a transgression of the sacred law: and the authority of custom, the fear of ridicule, the false shame or the cowardice that dares not differ from the multitude, are all the enemies of our virtue, and poison. ers of our happiness. Man tempts man to sin: if wicked men, ambitious conquerors, &c. &c. can continue the dominion of evil solely from their superiority of talent (and such has been in every age the history of crime); if their own habits of evil were induced by the prior example of others, acting upon minds liable to sin ; is it irrational to believe that the influence and mental superiority of an evil being originated the first crime that contaminated the human race? The causes which continue evil may naturally be supposed to bear some analogy to the cause which primarily produced it; and no cause is more probable than the influence of mental superiority over a mind capable of error, and endowed with the liberty of choice. Hence we find, that they who remain in the state, in which the fall left them, are called “the children of the devil;" and it is their pleasure to propagate that sin and death which their father introduced. As he was a liar from the beginning, so they are liars against God, as well as man; he was a murderer, and they are murderers; he was a tempter, a deceiver, a subtle serpent, a devouring lion; and their works, like his, abound with deceit, enmity, subtilty, avarice, and rapacity. There have been two parties from the beginning, the sons of God, and the seed of the serpent. Their opinions are contrary, and their works contrary. Christianity is at the head of one party, and infidelity at the head of the other. As time is divided into light and darkness, so is the world between these two. The dispute between them has subsisted throughout all ages past, it is now in agitation, and it will never cease till the consummation, when the Judge of men and angels shall interpose to decide it. (a)
We are called upon to believe rather than to fathom these depths of Omnipotence; and we know, and are assured, that the two great works of the destroyer, sin and death, shall be finally annihilated by the Saviour of mankind, who was revealed from the beginning as the conqueror of evil.
But what are the discoveries of infidelity which could supersede this religion? What philosopher in ancient days, or what speculator in modern times, who has dared to reject that account of the origin of evil in the world which is given us in revelation, has been able for one moment to propose any satisfactory explanation of this great mystery; or offer any thing either to allay its bitterness, or to remove its sting? All is wild and vain conjecture; they know only that evil exists, and they have no remedy whatever for the melancholy conviction, but a gloomy patience without hope of future good, or deliverance from present sorrow.
Shall we go on to the next great event after the birth of the world? The testimony of revelation has sometimes been rejected in this question also. If, however, the discoveries of our present eminent geologists, and the conclusions of scientific or curious observers, both at home and abroad, may be received as arguments, there is sufficient evidence to assure us that, at no very remote period, an universal deluge overspread the whole surface of the globe, the traces of which are every where distinguishable. The traditions of all nations confirm the same truth. Their records in no one instance proceed higher than this event; the chronology of the Egyptians, and of the Hindoos,
(a) Jones' (of Nayland's) Works, vol. vii. p. 294.
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3 chosen : to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion J. P. 4742.
by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days,
V. Æ. 29.
which boasted a more ancient descent, have been long since consigned to oblivion. Let me then ask, whether any invention of natural religion, that vain idol of the imagination, can discover an adequate cause of this universal deluge; or does tradition relate any thing concerning it, which does not confirm the only rational and consistent account which is revealed to us in Scripture (b)? There is abundant evidence to prove that the most absurd and superstitious ceremonies, and the most inconsistent and irrational theories of the Pagan world, were at first useful emblems or remembrances instituted in commemoration of this great event, though they were subsequently perverted; and every species of idolatry, from the Hindoo to the savage, originated in the corruption of some primeval truth, revealed to their patriarchal ancestors (c).
On this view of the subject, every difficulty respecting the Polytheism of antiquity is solved. All the mystery of its early origin, and the causes of the institution of barbarous rites and absurd notions respecting the Deity, are easily and satisfactorily explained. Let him, who rejects Revelation, and yet believes in the power of the unassisted reason of man to frame for itself a consistent system of rational religion, contemplate the history of his species, and account for the incomprehensible series of mysterious absurdities he there surveys. Was it not the real, genuine, undoubted majesty of human reason which fully displayed itself when the scientific Chaldean paid his homage to fire, as to a God—when the dignified Persian bowed down to the host of heaven--and the deeply learned Egyptian acknowledged the divinity of the reptile or the vegetable? If the advocate of the supremacy of human reason would be further gratified, I would refer him to the contemplation of the more northern nations, and bid him there behold its triumphs in the massacre of human victims, when the blood-bedewed priest, as in the plains of Mexico, in a subsequent period, tore the palpitating heart from the still living breast of the sacrifice, and spoke in his mystic augury the will of a ferocious deity. Human reason proposed the worship of the sword of God, Attila, and revelled in the banquet of those warriors, who drank mead from the skulls of their enemies in the halls of Valhalla. Human reason, unincumbered by revelation, gradually instructed the passive population of Hindostan to burn their widows, to murder their infants, and to torture their own bodies. Cruelty, lust, and ignorance assumed the place of repentance, faith, and knowledge ; and the conquest of unassisted reason over the mind of man, was consummated in the golden clime of India, till the white horse of Brunswick pastured on its fair meadows, and the sons of Japhet forsook the shores of England to overthrow this proud temple of the idol god.
We will now consider human reason in its most admired form, in the schools of philosophy in Greece, of which the Pythagorean or Italic was the most distinguished, for the reasonableness of its doctrines, the purity of its precepts, and the excellence of its discipline. Among the Pythagoreans was taught the existence of a Supreme Being, the Creator, and providential Preserver of the Universe-ihe iromortality of the soul, and future rewards and punishments. Though these opinions were blended with many sentiments which are not warranted by Revelation, there is certainly much to be admired and wondered at in the system of Pythagoras. Yet even here, if the advocates of the sufficiency of human intellect should feel inclined to triumph, they must do so upon Christian principles only; for it is demonstrable that this great philosopher kindled his faint taper at the ever-burning fire on the holy altar of truth. He conversed, we have reason to believe, with those favoured people who held in their hands the sacred records of Moses and the prophets. For Pythagoras, it is asserted by all the remaining evidence, travelled among the Jews in their dispersionboth in Egypt and in Babylon, and also with the remnant of them who were left in their own country at Mount Carmel. Before he proceeded on these travels he visited Thales at Miletus, who happened to be in Egypt at the time when Jehoaz was brought there a prisoner of war by Pharaoh, Necho (d), with many of his captive countrymen: and these were the two men who founded the lonic and Italic schools, from which descended all the schools of philosophy in Greece. Their
(6) That which the modern speculators call natural religion, is the offspring of cultivated minds, thoroughly imbued with an early and extensive knowledge of religion, and endeavouring, by subtle distinctions, to separate the doctrines and duties which could only have been known by revelation, from those which they suppose to be dis. coverable by the power of human reason only. After all the reasonings of Wollaston, Clarke, and others, on this subject, the only point of real importance has been disregarded. The question is, whether there has ever been found a nation who have been governed by natural religion ; or, whether this natural religion has made any discoveries concerning God, or the soul of man, or the nature of the future world, or on any of these sublimer subjects, which are at all comparable to those which are given to us in revelation. Natural religion, (says Faber,) denotes that religion which man might frame to himself by the unassisted exercise of his intellectual powers, if he were placed in the world by his Creator, without any communication being made to him relative to that Creator's will and attributes.-Faber on the Three Dispensations, vol. i. p. 74. (c) See Stillingfleet's Origines Sacræ-Paber's Origin of Pagan Idolatry-Gale's Court of the Gentiles-Young on Idolatry. (d) See Gale's Court of the Gentiles, Enfield's Origin of Philosophy, and the note in the second volume of the Arrangement of the Old Testament, on this subject, page 723. Second Edition.
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J. P. 4742. and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of
V. AE. 29.
predecessors had by no means such clear ideas of a Supreme God and a superintending Providence ; and the reason seems to be, that they had no communication with the depositaries of truth, but were embarrassed with the mixed traditions of ancient times, and the stupid idolatry of their own days. Socrates and Plato were the two principal philosophers who next distinguished themselves by their superiority to their countrymen. These seem to have been permitted to show to the world to what height of excellence the intellect of man could attain without the possession of the inspired volume. Both taught the existence of one God, though both practised the worship of the numerous gods of their country. And such is the superiority of Revelation, that a little child, of our own day, who bas been made acquainted with the common truths of Christianity, is a wiser philosopher than either of them.
If, then, the learned, deeply-reasoning and talented Greek was not alle, hy his own powers of reasoning, to frame any consistent code of religion by which to govern himself, or to benefit mankind, much less shall we find that the more modern philosophers, who have ventured to reject Christianity, are more perfect guides, or are favoured with greater discernment. Shall we, for instance, follow Lord Herbert of Cherbury, who assures us that the indulgence of the passions is no greater crime than the quenching of thirst, or yielding to sleep ?-Or shall we believe, with Mr. Hobbes, that inspiration is madness, and religion ridiculous, and that the civil law of a country is the only criterion of right and wrong?--Shall we agree with Blount, the disappointed, sell-possessed suicide, that the soul is material-or with Lord Shaftesbury, that the Scriptures are an artful invention, that the idea of salvation is absurd, and join in his untranscribable blasphemies against the meek and blameless Jesus ? Shall the Jew Spinoza direct us, when he teaches us that God is the soul of the world, and not the ruler; and that all things proceed, not from the will or government of an all-wise Creator, but from a necessary emanation from the physical energy of the material universe, the passive fountain of existence ? Shall we agree with him that there is no Creator, no providence, no necessity for worship, nor any well grounded expectation of a future state ?-Or shall we rather become the votaries of Collins, and believe that man is a mere machine, and that the soul is material and mortal ?-Or praise, with Tindal and Morgan, and Chubb and Bolingbroke, the dignity of reason, the excellence of natural religion, professing to admire Christianity, while we deny its doctrines and ridicule its truths ?– If these Hierophants are not received as our guides into the temple of their natural religion, shall we turn to Gibbon, to pander to our frailties, and lead us to the shrine of vice, "a worthy priest, where satyrs are the gods!" Or shall we rather submit our intellects to the wisdom of Hume, to learn from him that we cannot reason from cause and effect, and therefore, oh sublime discovery! the beauty of the visible creation does not prove the existence of God? or, that experience is our only guide, and therefore miracles are impossible, and not to be credited on any evidence whatever! If these lights of the world are not to have the honour of conducting us, shall we rather barter our veneration for the Christian Scriptures, for the reveries of Drummond, who would change the Bible into an almanac; or the still worthier votaries of infidelity, who are alike distinguished from their countrymen by the double infamy of their politics and their religion? The good principles of England have rejected the teaching of such men with scorn and contempt. “ The etherial light has purged off its baser fire victorious.” Not even their names shall pollute my pages. In other lands, the follies of the rejectors of Revelation have been known in the misery of millions. These were the men, who, professing themselves wise, became indeed fools. God, with them, was the Sensorium of the Universe, or the intelligent principle of nature. They rejected, therefore, all idea of a Providence, and a moral governor of the world. They ascribed every effect to fate or fortune, to necessity or chance ; they denied the existence of a soul distinct from the body; they conceived man to be nothing more than an organized lump of matter, a mere machine, an ingenious piece of clock-work, which, when the wheels refuse to act, stands still, and loses all power and motion for ever. They acknowledged nothing beyond the grave; no resurrection, no future existence, no future retribution ; they considered death as an eternal sleep, as the total extinction of our being; and they stigmatized all opinions different from these with the name of superstition, bigotry, priestcraft, fanaticism, and idolatry (e).
Let us now advert, for a moment, to the effects produced by these principles on an entire people, and also on individuals (s). The only instance in which the avowed rejectors of Revelation have po.sessed the supreme power and government of a country, and have attempted to dispose of human happiness according to their own doctrines and wishes, is that of France during the greater part of the revolution, which it is now well known was effected by the abettors of infidelity. The great
(e) Bishop Porteus's Charge, Tracts 266, 267.