« AnteriorContinuar »
Φησιν ο Κέλσος,-“ Ει μεν δη θελησεσιν αποκρίνεσθαι μοι ως ο διαπει-
PUBLISHED BY W. SIMPKIN AND R. MARSHALL,
STATIONERS' HALL COURT, LUDGATE STREET.
So numerous are the works which have been produced in vindication of the divine authority of the Scriptures and of the truth of the Christian Religion, so high the reputation of many of them, and so unquestionably great their merit, that it might almost appear like presumption in any one again to handle this argument. Certainly, however, while fresh attacks upon the foundations of the Christian Religion are continually being made, it is necessary that fresh works should be composed in its defence; even though they added no more that is new to the vindication of Revelation, than the renewed ranks of its assailants produce against it.
But laudable and useful as the production of works of this class is, he who now solicits the attention of the Public would never have appeared as an Author, merely to add to their number. He has long been impressed with a serious conviction, that fully to meet the difficulties which infidel writers have raised, it were necessary to put the controversy on a different ground from that which has been taken by the most popular of the Christian advocates. He is of opinion, that the ablest of their works are more adapted to silence, than to satisfy, even an ingenuous inquirer. The former effect is or ought to be pro-. duced, when such circumstances and considerations are al
leged as cannot be accounted for upon any other hypothesis than that which supposes the truth of the religion: but to accomplish the latter object, the circumstances in the documents of the religion, which, as the Sceptic thinks, are incompatible with the belief of their divine origin, must, also, be satisfactorily explained. This is what few of the modern advocates of Revelation attempt; and they who have attempted it have seldom satisfied even their own friends: indeed it is now usual to admit, that some of the difficulties are such, as, in the present state of knowledge upon the subject, or by any principles which have yet been applied to it, are inexplicable. With this drawback, the success with which they have handled the other part of the argument too often fails to produce any deep conviction; notwithstanding they have proved, with a completeness which leaves little room for fair denial, that Christianity, in general, may,-nay, must be true, whether all the seeming difficulties in its records can be explained or not.
The perpetual theme of modern defenders of Christianity, is, Miracles; which, they shew, were certainly performed by Jesus Christ and the apostles, and which they extol as the proper evidences of a Divine Revelation. So far as relates to the latter assertion, the Deist is ready enough to take them at their word: he admits that miracles are proper evidences, and desires, therefore, to see some performed. With the express terms of this request, the Christian advocate declines to comply; but he undertakes to prove, instead of it, that the sceptics of former ages might, if they pleased, have had that satisfaction.
But do not both parties here somewhat mistake the matter? If the evidence of miracles were so convincing as the Deistical writers usually suppose, how come some
of their acutest reasoners to object to Christianity on that very ground, because it records them among its documents? If, on the other hand, that evidence were so essential as the Christian advocates admit, how can we account for their having ceased; and ceased, not only in countries were the profession of Christianity is established, but even where attempts are made to sow in new soils the seed of the gospel? Ought not this palpable fact to make the Christian hesitate about affirming so confidently, that miracles are so highly important as evidences of the truth of Revelation? Ought it not to lead us to conclude, that, either separate from, or in addition to, this use of miracles, some other cause was required to their exhibition; and that, this ceasing to operate, they ceased also? Thus may we not infer, that they were performed under the Jewish dispensation, because they were suited to the nature of that dispensation, and to the Jewish character; that they were performed also at the commencement of Christianity, on account of its original connexion with Judaism; because, likewise, the Jewish dispensation was not finally terminated till the destruction of Jerusalem, which put a total end to the types and shadows of the ceremonial law; and because, in general, they were suited to the state of the human mind at that time? but that the cause of their entirely ceasing soon afterwards*, was,
* What was the exact period of their cessation,-whether, with some, we suppose the power of performing them to have died with the Apostles; or, with others, to have continued for one, two, or three centuries afterwards; or even, with the Roman Catholics, to exist still; is of little consequence; since few will contend that, after the Apostles, it was constantly enjoyed by the teachers of Christianity, or was so exercised as to add much effect to their preaching. The phænomena which may have sometimes attended private acts of faith, or, as most will prefer to say, (in regard, at least, to modern cases,) of imagination, belong to a different order.