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sary that it should be committed to writing. With this design his disciples composed various treatises, containing the life of Christ, the history of the planting of Christianity, letters to the societies or churches which they had formed, and a prophetical book in the form of an anticipated history of the Christian religion, from the death of Christ to the end of the world.
These treatises were carefully collected into one volume by the disciples of a succeeding age: and that volume is called The New Testament. The witnesses profess that it comprises a full account of the Christian religion in all its parts; that nothing can be added to it without a crime, by any man, or body of men; and nothing taken away. They further insist, that the book was written by divine inspiration. God, they say, so influenced their minds, and directed their thoughts, that it has neither error nor mistake. Every historical fact is recorded as it really was; every doctrine it contains is the real doctrine of Jesus Christ; every precept is his command; and every prediction is from the Spirit of Jehovah, who suggested it to their minds. With respect to language, while every one followed that way of expressing himself which was natural to him, and which constituted his proper style, God so directed their pens, that the words they made use of were properly fitted to convey the meaning of the Holy Spirit in his revelation of the will of God.
Along with these high pretensions, the New Testament claims to itself the exclusive prerogative of conducting the children of men to eternal blessedness. Such as refuse its divine authority, it charges with the heinous crime of shutting the door of mercy against themselves, and drawing down destruction upon their own heads. But those who submit to its guidance, it promises to introduce to the friendship of God, to the purity and pleasures of the Christian life, and to eternal felicity in a future state. “ He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”—John iii. 36.
Whether these claims can be substantiated or not, is the point at issue. The writer believes they can be substantiated; he, therefore, entreats the serious attention of every reader. All he asks is, that every argument may have that degree of weight given to it which it deserves. He will be permitted to add, that it is the language of a friend who is not contending for victory, nor seeking to prop up a system of falsehood,
because by this craft he has his living; but who writes from a disinterested love to the truth, and from an ardent desire to promote the happiness of his fellow-ereatures.
Before entering on the subject, it may not be improper to consider a question which has often been asked, namely, “ When God gives men a revelation of his will, what evidence may it be supposed he will give them of its truth?” That God could give such a measure of evidence to each individual, that it would be impossible for him to have a shadow of doubt upon his mind respecting it, we are absolutely certain; and many may wish that it had been given. But whether God will give it or not, is a matter in which we cannot decide by reasonings à priori; it must be determined by facts. Were we to argue from analogy, we should say, it is most probable that God will give evidence sufficient to convince every humble, impartial, and honest inquirer after truth; yet not such a measure, but that proud, worldly-minded, captious men, may find matter of cavilling, and reject it as an imposture. This is the case with respect to the works of creation and providence, and various matters of the greatest importance; and it is likely to be so here. One advantage resulting hence is, that the New Testament, as the learned Grotius remarks, be
a touchstone to try the hearts of men.' By an overpowering evidence this advantage would be lost.
It becomes us to decide, in like manner, as to the kind of evidence which we may expect to find. Some prefer mathematical demonstration; others call for the sight of miracles; but if any one say, “ I will not believe, unless this species of evidence be given,” surely nothing can be more unreasonable. All that we have a right to ask is, that the evidence be of such a kind as the subject admits, and as we are able to judge of, and in such a measure as to produce conviction; but here we are to rest. We must not presume to dictate to God; he will do what seemeth him best; not what pleaseth us. The whole of his moral government displays this principle of conduct, and instructs us, that while he consults the good of his creatures, he will not gratify their capricious and unreasonable wishes.
It is likewise highly probable that the evidence will be different, both as to measure and kind, to persons living in different countries and in different ages. Here is a system of religion which endures for ever, offering itself from age to age to the acceptance of mankind. From the very nature of things, the
Tanquam lapis lydius ad quem hominum ingenia tententur.
evidence cannot be the same to the man who lived when Jesus dwelt on earth, and to him who is now invited to embrace the gospel. If, as is asserted, Christianity was ushered in by miracles, the former saw them performed, the latter receives them as a matter of testimony. There were predictions uttered at that time: the former gave credit to them on the strength of the miracles which he saw the prophet work; they are believed by the latter on the satisfactory proof arising from their full accomplishment. There will be a difference, too, as to the degree of the evidence from the capacities and dispositions of men; for it will be fullest to the most enlarged minds, and to the most holy hearts. This difference cannot possibly be prevented, but by a constant miracle, extending in its operation to every individual. Not to mention that this would go far to annihilate the very existence of miracles, if we look at the ordinary course of God's moral government, we shall see that we have no reason to expect any such thing, and that it is directly contrary to his dispensations towards the children of men. All that we have any right to expect or ask is, a sufficient degree of evidence to produce conviction in an upright heart: and here we shall not be disappointed; for there is enough for all, except those who continue under the influence of prejudice and unhallowed passions.
Let it not be conceived, for it cannot be said with any pretence to truth, that there is but scanty evidence of the divine authority of the New Testament. Men give credit to things on which their greatest worldly interests depend, on far less evidence than this book can produce in its support. Indeed, if the evidence be maturely weighed, it will be found to be ample, and of various kinds, which strengthen and support each other, suited to the nature of the subject, and sufficient to give the fullest satisfaction to every candid and serious inquirer.
ON THE EVIDENCE FOR THE DIVINE AUTHORITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT,
ARISING FROM THE PRINCIPLES WHICH IT CONTAINS.
10 speak of the evidences of Christianity, to those who are ignorant of the nature of Christianity, is almost hopeless labour; for they can but very imperfectly discern their force. Let us suppose a man to have been born in one of the houses of Herculaneum, and to have dwelt in his subterraneous mansion to the years of maturity. You wish to convince him that there is a God; and you put into his hand “ Ray's Wisdom of God in the Creation.” I will not say that the book is, in such a situation, entirely destitute of weight; but I will propose another plan. First, bring him forth, and place him near the summit of Vesuvius, when all is still; let him behold the sun shining in majesty, and take a view of the surrounding country, and of the neighbouring ocean. Detain him till the day closes, and the stars bespangle the firmament; and till the moon afterwards arises in her brightness, and makes them disappear. With the morning light carry him down to the vineyards, and let him walk through the fields of corn, and feast his eyes
with the varied scenes of nature. Put the book into his hands now. Will not the arguments appear with more than tenfold force? Proceed in like manner respecting Christianity; for many weighty arguments in its favour rise out of the New Testament, as those for the being of a God rise out of the works of creation.
To the New Testament, every one who would know what the Christian religion is, and who would inquire after truth with any hope of success, is earnestly entreated to resort. The particulars here detailed will enable you to form some idea of the leading principles of the gospel; and, at the same time, will be sufficient to convince you that the New Testament is no common book. Some, especially of late, have endeavoured
to represent it, and too many, without reading, have been induced to believe it, to be a weak, ridiculous compilation. But peruse the following sections, and I have no doubt but every impartial mind will be obliged to confess that the New Testament is the most extraordinary performance which the world has ever seen.
The Character of God as delineated in the
CONSISTENCY is a quality which it is not easy for a writer to support in the persons introduced into his book. The higher the character, the more difficult is it to keep up the dignity which belongs to it. When God is introduced, the difficulty rises to its highest pitch. Man may speak of man, as to the general principles of his nature, with tolerable accuracy; but for man to speak of God, and to represent him in his nature and government, in such a manner that nothing shall fall beneath the dignity of a being infinitely perfect, is an arduous task indeed. But the writers of the New Testament undertake it. Their volume may be called the book of God. He is introduced at the very beginning; and he continues in our sight to the end. He appears in every page; nay, almost in every sentence. There is a description of his various attributes: and we see him always clothed with power, wisdom, sanctity, rectitude, and goodness. He is held up to view as the Creator and Governor of the universe; and as the Saviour of sinful men. He speaks, he acts: we are told what he has said, and what he has done. His extraordinary interposition for the redemption of the human race is delineated at full length; and we are instructed what he will do, to the end of the world, and through all eternity.
I sit down and inquire how the men of Galilee succeed in their hazardous attempt. To my astonishment I find nothing which it is beneath God to say or do. Some things are above my comprehension; and I do not wonder, for he is God, and not man. But there is nothing level to my capacity, concerning which I can say, “ It is unbecoming God to have spoken or acted thus.” On the contrary, every thing appears worthy of God. His plans, so far as I can understand them, are