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This rapid glance of your sentiments has been taken with frankness, but has not been carried beyond the bounds of truth and decency. The bitterness, the ridicule, the buffoonery, the levity, the harsh names, which your writers have so frequently used, would ill become a disciple of Jesus, whose aim is, in the spirit of love, to conduct you to truth and eternal happiness. On a review of the chapter, can you really think, O deists, that the Christian would be warranted to give up his religion for yours? What improvement would he receive as to knowledge, virtue, and felicity ? Can you really urge him with earnestness to quit the camp of Jesus, and come over to you? Would it not be, as if an Egyptian of old had pressed an Israelite to forsake the light of the land of Goshen, and to go and take up his abode amidst the gloom of that palpable darkness which enveloped his countrymen ? Besides, from the life and conversation of the mass of your brethren, the most eminent for talents and learning not excepted, is there no ground for the Christian to fear, that instead of wishing to bring persons over from a worse religion to a better, your aim is rather to teach them to throw off the restraints of religion altogether, and to leave those who become your converts to the indulgence of every appetite and passion without control ? From an examination of your system and your manners, the Christian must be better pleased with his own, and clearly perceive that the engines you employ for its ruin do not shake the sacred structure; and he must be more fully convinced that they are miserable indeed, who have only the principles of your religion for their support.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS CONSIDERATIONS, AND CONCLUSION.
The various parts of the evidence for Christianity, on which it was intended to insist, have now been brought forth to view. The principles which the gospel contains; the considerations which its contents suggest; the testimony of the apostles; the stupendous miracles; the numerous predictions; and the wonderful success of the Christian religion, have opened their treasures and placed their golden chain of arguments before our eyes. The objections of deists have been weighed in the balance of the sanctuary; and the numerous and essential defects of their system pointed out. The reader who has attentively considered these things, and balanced them impartially in his mind, must at least allow that there never was a false religion which could adduce so many things in its behalf as the gospel of Christ. But can he say that there ever was a true religion, which could boast of more abundant proofs of its divine authority? Let him try what he can bring forward in defence of deism; and see if it will admit of as ample proof. Besides the regular chain of evidence, there are detached considerations which, in addition to the former, have no small degree of force. Were there room, many of these might be presented to view: a specimen only shall be given, by which a judgment may formed of the rest.
The Harmony of the different Parts of the Evidence for
Christianity. A BRIEF sketch has been given of the principal arguments in favour of the Christian religion; and we have travelled together over an extensive and widely diversified field. One thing must have been apparent to all, that the arguments are many in number; the sources from which they are derived various, and of very different kinds, and from different quarters. But what is truly remarkable, while all bear upon
the same point, all harmoniously tend to throw light on each other, and to give each other additional weight; there is not a single exception. The doctrines of Christianity are very numerous, and many of them of a very remarkable kind; such indeed as were never heard of, nor known before. But among all these doctrines, there is the most perfect harmony. The gospel contains likewise the most extensive system of moral precepts that was ever given. Some of these, too, were new, and had no place in the pages of heathen moralists: but they perfectly accord one with another; there is not the slightest jarring among them. The doctrines and precepts likewise entirely harmonise. The latter rise out of the former in the most natural manner, as the branches from the stock; and altogether form one beautiful and fruitful tree, under the shadow of which we repose in safety and with pleasure. In the external evidence we discover the same properties. There is a pleasing harmony among the miracles; one does not oppose another. The same harmony we perceive in the prophecies: there is no contradiction; but one concordant whole, forming a well-shaped body with all its members. Besides this, all the external evidences are in perfect harmony with each other; when we examine them one by one, in their relation to each other, we see that they all agree and all strengthen each other. In addition to these, there is also a harmony between the external and internal arguments which mutually strengthen one another: each would be incomplete of itself; but together, they form one harmonious whole; they are like the links of a chain which, enclosed in each other, communicate their strength to the whole, and act as one power
If Christianity were not from God, could this possibly be the case? Should we not find one argument opposing another, one source of evidence counteracting another, and some utterly unconnected with the rest, or destroying their force? But here is an harmonious whole composed of very various parts; and the different colours render the piece more beautiful and interesting. Or shall we compare it to a complicated machine, the numerous parts of which have a dependence on each other, but where all the parts agree and answer the end designed, and perform the service which the maker intended and promised. This merits the closest attention of those who reject the gospel.
Every man of a good disposition must wish the Gospel
to be true.
Tell me, deist, do you wish Christianity to be the true religion? Let your answer be sincere. Its principles so noble and divine, its precepts so pure; the happiness it proposes so exalted, so full, and so lasting; its powerful and universal tendency to purify human nature from every thing mean and vile, and to render it dignified, holy, and blessed; its affectionate care to console amidst the sorrows of life, and to administer support in death; and the delightful prospects it affords of a future and never-ending state of felicity—these are all so perfectly excellent and so desirable, that every man of a good heart must wish the gospel to be true. Nothing but want of evidence can withhold him from embracing it. In such a case, the sincere and humble inquirer would quit it with the most poignant sorrow, and account it an irreparable loss that so admirable a system was destitute of evidence. It would be the bitterest day of his life.
But the man who, after examining its nature and evidence, rejects it with indifference or contempt, discovers a dreadful want of moral sentiment and feeling; his wishes are not in favour of the gospel. The heart must be shockingly depraved which can be indifferent, where duty and happiness come so close to the soul. But he who pronounces the
book an imposture, and throws it away with exultation and joy, gives too much reason to fear, that he is conscious of sentiments and practices which the gospel condemns; and he discovers dispositions to which a name adequate to their nature shall not, and perhaps cannot be given. He is like a person who, with rapture, bids a final adieu to the cheering beams of the sun, that he may shut himself up in eternal darkness.
The Temper required by the New Testament in those who
examine the Evidences of Christianity.
While the pagan religion will not bear examination for a moment, while the Koran is afraid of it and discourages it, Chris
tianity demands and urges examination as the only path which leads to genuine faith. The fairness it displays, and the counsels it delivers on this point, are no inconsiderable presumptive arguments in its favour.
Do you wish to examine the claims of the gospel? Jesus forbids you to live in the practice of vice, and assigns the love of sin as one cause of man's rejecting his religion. He tells you that the indulgence of sensual pleasure is hostile to the soul, and renders it averse to the reception of the truth. He condemns avarice as degrading to the mind, and producing a temper opposite and inimical to the gospel. He warns you against pride and ambition, as destructive to the love of pure religion. He cautions against prejudice, as an inveterate enemy to the discovery of truth; and against precipitation of judgment, as leaving the mind unfurnished with evidence, and unqualified for determination.
How much these corrupt the heart, and blind the understanding, is well known to every observer of human nature; they must consequently unfit the mind for a fair investigation of truth. If the gospel condemns them, and desires, nay, and enjoins, the person who comes to examine its claims to throw them aside, does it not show that it wishes to take no one by surprise, and to have no convert from wrong motives, or a defective investigation ; and that it is neither ashamed nor afraid of being put to the severest test, by such as are best qualified to judge of its claims?
The soul being freed from these impediments, you are required to come to the interesting task with such dispositions as have the most powerful tendency to enable you to judge aright. The gospel of Jesus says to you, “ Examine the New Testament with a serious frame of mind. The subject is infinitely important, and your happiness through all eternity depends on the result. Let levity be banished from the soul; it renders
you unmeet for the arduous office. Bring with you an ardent desire to know the truth ; let your mind be open to conviction. Embrace the truth wherever it is found, and whatever the consequences may be; and wherever it may lead you, follow it on from step to step, till you attain the whole, and reach the boundary. Let impartiality guide you in all your researches. Come clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.' Let diffidence in your own judgment lead to repeated examination. Bring a pure heart ; seek to have it cleansed from every sinful passion; for passion blinds the eyes, and stops the ears of the soul, so that truth