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but all received the same sacred books; and they became a check upon each other, and rendered corruptions and interpo lations impossible. Every succeeding age increased the difficulty; and the comparison of the different ancient manuscripts and copies at the present time, does not affect a single doctrine of Christianity or a single duty.*
In fixing the canon of the New Testament, that is, in distinguishing the writings of the evangelists and apostles from those of other men, the ancient Christians proceeded with the utmost caution; and who would not approve of caution in a matter of so much importance? If a person was receiving a sum of money for you, would you not commend the attention which carefully examined every piece? Such cautious scrutiny was here employed; and no book was admitted into the volume till it was ascertained that it was of divine authority, or, in other words, was written by the evangelists and apostles of Christ. Such as were not written by them (and it could be known by investigation), were rejected; such as were doubtful they hesitated about, and waited till their doubts were removed;
* The corruption of the books of the New Testament has been conceived by some to be an easy and a probable thing. But if the subject be duly considered, the immense difficulty of it will be clearly seen. Take, for example, the epistle to the Romans. It was read to the church and received as divine. Every zealous Christian who could, would have a copy of it, and read it to his family. One would send a copy to his son at Corinth, another to his brother at Antioch, and a third to his father at Alexandria, who would all circulate them among the Christians in these cities, and send them to their friends in other countries. It would thus in a short time be in the possession of thousands.
While the epistle was multiplying in the Christian churches, it would also be translated into different languages. A Latin copy would almost immediately appear; and it would soon be rendered into some of the Eastern tongues.
These things would all be done by persons who held both the book and the writer in the highest veneration, as a teacher inspired by the Spirit of God. This veneration would make them consider it a crime to alter his sentiments or language; and produce the most anxious care to retain every iota of the apostle's writing, and to preserve the epistle in its original purity.
In addition to this evidence of authenticity, let it be considered that the epistle was received in the public worship of the churches, and was treasured up in the memory of the faithful
. It was quoted by Christian writers in their treatises of devotion; it was used by the orthodox as evidence in their controversies with heretics, and heretics used it in their own defence; it was also made the text for commentaries by learned men both in the Greek and Roman churches. These all professed to venerate the book. How difficult then must it have been, nay impossible, without immediate detection, to corrupt or interpolate the sacred writings.
and such as were known to be written by the apostles they immediately received. If these very brief hints be duly weighed, and especially if the objectors will take the trouble to consider the subject more fully, they will find a mass of evidence in support of the authenticity, purity, and divine authority of the New Testament, of the existence of which they before had no idea.
Objection. “ Many of the advocates for the religion of Jesus inveigh bit
terly against Philosophy, because they know that Christianity cannot bear the strict scrutiny of her penetrating eye."
That a great outcry has of late been raised by some persons against philosophy, and that men have been taught to regard it as the most hideous monster ever seen on earth, and entreated or commanded to bring swords and spears, and unite for its destruction, is but too true. Let it cover them, for it ought, with merited disgrace; for there is either a lack of wisdom, or else, instead of the advancement of religion, they have some worldly interest in view: but let it not be charged to the account of the gospel, and interpreted to its dishonour. Christianity blushes while she hears such advocates pleading her cause; and turns away from them with disgust, lamenting that those who call themselves her children have not imbibed a larger measure of wisdom and goodness.
Philosophy, true philosophy (for there is false philosophy as well as false religion, and the New Testament condemns both), is highly valuable; it is in all its branches exceedingly useful; and it has contributed in an eminent degree to the improvement and happiness of the human race. Every enlightened Christian acknowledges this, and is desirous that philosophy may rapidly proceed in improving every part of her extensive system, and that all her discoveries may be more extensively known. Moses of old wished that all the people of Israel were prophets; the disciple of Jesus wishes that all the inhabitants of the earth were philosophers. If we except bloated pride, nothing is more opposite or more hostile to Christianity than brutish ignorance; sound knowledge, especially of philosophy, as it improves the mental powers, is favourable to the study and reception of the gospel.
Some, or shall I say, many, of late who call themselves
philosophers, have rejected the gospel, and have said that philosophy taught them to reject it; but true philosophy was no more the cause of rejection, than the sun is the cause of dark
As it is not every one who lays claim to wisdom that is wise, nor every one who boasts of his integrity that is upright; so it is not every man who calls himself a philosopher, that has attained to true philosophy. Should a person have even acquired a considerable knowledge of its speculative truths, yet if he has not the heart of a philosopher, he wants the principal part. If Christianity be rejected by him, it is not to its dishonour.
Did the limits of this essay permit, it could be shown, that philosophy contains no principles which are hostile to Christianity. "When viewed in its full extent, and embracing every object of pursuit, the study of mind, of morals, and of nature, Christianity does not perceive an enemy, but an humble ally, whose exertions are not injurious, but favourable to her cause. Those who have leisure, are earnestly entreated to study philosophy with wisdom, and to read the New Testament with a pure unbiassed mind; the gospel is not afraid of the result. But how few can find time for so laborious research! There is, however, a more compendious method which they may pursue, so as to obtain a considerable degree of satisfaction on the subject. Let example have its due weight. No one will deny Bacon, Newton, Locke, Boyle, Leibnitz, Pascal, and St Pierre, to have been philosophers. They were Christians too; and may not their belief of its truth, and reception of its principles, be considered as no mean argument, that philosophy is not at variance with the gospel; but, as its handmaid, conducts the philosopher to Jesus, to sit at his feet and learn heavenly wisdom?
These are some of the most common and most weighty objections against the gospel. That there is not the force in them which deists fondly suppose, the answers given will show. Many others might have been mentioned; for the apostles are not like artful men conscious of fraud, who, when they see that an objection may be started, are at pains to obviate it; but they go straight forward, and deliver the most revolting principles, and record the most extraordinary actions and events, without comment or apology, and leave their books to the free examination of mankind.
The writings of the New Testament are like the works of creation and providence; they carry their evidence along with
them; but they furnish matter for abundance of objections. What is the use of the vast sandy deserts of Arabia, and Libya? What good end can be answered by the pestilential winds which blow certain death over them to the unwary traveller? What benefit did devouring earthquakes ever convey to the human race? What wisdom or goodness can you point out in any of these? Though I should be utterly at a loss for an answer, you are yourselves convinced there is sufficient evidence that the universe was created by a Being infinitely wise and infinitely good. In the government of the world, how many events occur concerning which Diagoras would say, “ If there were a righteous governor who superintends all the affairs of
would he ever allow such acts of horrid wickedness, as shameless falsehood, and robbery, and perjury, at the very altar of Deity, to take place, or to pass unnoticed and unrevenged? But you justly conceive, notwithstanding these ohjections and difficulties, that " verily there is a God who judgeth in the earth.”
Let the same rule be observed respecting the gospel, and the Christian asks no more.
There are difficulties, you say, in some parts of the system, which you cannot solve; and they seem to be contrary to the wisdom, rectitude, and goodness of the Deity. Were this really the case, you perceive that, in arguing from analogy, it is no proof that the Christian religion is not from God. Notwithstanding the difficulties in creation and providence, evidence compels us to acknowledge God as the Creator and Governor of the world. In like manner, if the gospel have evidence for its support equal to the former acknowledged works of God, the difficulties which occur by no means shake its credit. But the objections against it are far from being so strong, and so difficult to be solved; and much more satisfactory answers may be given, than to these against creation and providence; while the evidence, which must from the nature of the subject be of a widely different kind, is so diversified, comprehensive, and full, that no humble inquirer will have reason to say, “ God has required me to believe, without giving sufficient proof that the gospel is a revelation from heaven."
THE SENTIMENTS AND CONDUCT OF THE DEISTS BRIEFLY CONSIDERED.
Hitherto the deist has been the assailant; and has taken up his station within the limits of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. He has demanded a sight of the Redeemer's title to the extensive dominions which he calls his own, and to the subjection of the millions over whom he reigns, and it has been shown him without hesitation. He has brought forward his objections, and answers have been given. The Christian will now advance into the territories of deism, and make the attack in his turn, not, however, with carnal weapons, but with those spiritual arms which have been in every age “mighty through God, to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”—2 Cor. x. He wishes the deist to gird on his armour and defend himself like a man. Truth is the object for which the Christian contends; truth which will direct men how to serve God, and to walk in the path to eternal felicity. If the deist be acting with consistency, he prefers his own system, because it possesses greater advantages in both these respects; and teaches more clearly and fully the way to please God, and to be happy. But if, while he rejects and opposes Christianity, he is contented with a religion which leaves him entirely in the dark respecting the most important concerns of man, his conduct will not endure the scrutiny of penetrating and impartial reason. But let the matter be subjected to a fair trial.
Deists do not examine Christianity with the Spirit of Men
who are searching after Truth. When men are disputing about trifles, levity may be pardonable; but when the subject of discussion is of infinite import