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GENERAL INTRODUCTION. .
In contemplating the evidence by which the truth of religion is confirmed, it is scarcely possible for an attentive observer not to be impressed with its extensive variety. This consideration obviously applies to the existence of a deity, and the importance of moral obligation, as taught by the light of nature; but it is at least equally striking, with reference to the whole system of doctrine unfolded to mankind in the sacred oracles. Many good men have strongly expressed the satisfaction and comfort they have found in considering the variety, as well as force, of the proofs that establish the divine origin of the Christian religion. The following candid declaration on this subject, furnished by a man justly celebrated, at once for his successful exertions in the cause of liberty, and for his zealous efforts in behalf of evangelical piety, seems peculiarly worthy of attention:
“ Anxious in my little measure,” says the late Mr WILBERFORCE, "to contribute to the support of this great cause, may it be permitted me to state one argument, which impresses my mind with particular force. This is, the great variety of the kinds of evidence which have been adduced in proof of Christianity, and the confirmation thereby afforded of its truth--the proof from prophecy–from miracles from the character of Christ—from that of his apostles—from the nature of the doctrines of Christianity-from the nature and excellence of her practical precepts—from the accordance we have lately pointed out between the doctrinal and practical system of Christianity, whether considered each in itself or in their mutual relation to each other--from other species of internal evidence, afforded in the more abundance in proportion as the sacred records have been scrutinized with greater care—from accounts of cotemporary, or nearly cotemporary, writers—from the impossibility of accounting, on any other supposition than that of the truth of Christianity, for its promulgation and early prevalence: these and other lines of argument have all been brought forward, and ably urged by different writers, in proportion as they have struck the minds of different observers more or less forcibly. Now, granting that some obscure and illiterate men, residing in a distant province of the Roman empire, had plotted to impose a forgery upon the world; though some foundation for the imposture might, and indeed must, have been attempted to be laid; it seems, at least to my understanding, morally impossible that so many different species of proofs, and all so strong, should have lent their concurrent aid, and have united their joint force in the establishment of the falsehood. It may assist the reader in estimating the value of this argument, to consider upon how different a footing, in this respect, has rested every other religious system, without exception, which was ever proposed to the world; and, indeed, every other historical faet of which the truth has been at all contested."*
Since the evidence of the divine origin and authority of the Christian system is thus copious and varied, its friends ought ho doubt to improve it, in all its extent, both for the confirmation of their own faith and hope, and for the defence of this great cause" against the assaults of its adversaries. · In forwarding any secular enterprise, men are accustomed to employ, without hesitation, all those expedients; how diversified soever, which they know to be conducive to the proposed design. The active husbandman is careful to omit no species of application that appears subservient to the amelioration of the soil, and the increase of its productions. The skilful physician, in prescribing a compound medicine for re-invigorating the enfeebled constitution of his patient, will not
• Wilberforce's Practical View of the Prevailing Religious Systems of Professed Christians, &c., ch. v. pp. 230, 231.– Fisth edition.
fastidiously reject any one simple, whose efficiency in its own proportion, when associated with other ingredients, he has no reason to doubt. The statesman, who devotes his time and talents to the welfare and glory of his country, gladly adopts for that object a diversity of concurrent measures which, with beneficial effect, and without material inconvenience, may be simultaneously pursued. The commander to whose valour the defence of a great city is intrusted, will overlook no engine or weapon of war, and slight no precaution, caleulated to repel the aggressions of the foe, and to insure the preservation of the city. To add no more examples in so clear a point; neither the historian who is solicitous to establish an important fact, nor the philosopher who feels deeply attached to a particular dogma, discovers any reluctance to avail himself, in its entire length and breadth, of the varied evidence that goes to authenticate the fact, or to demonstrate the dogma in question. Whatever confidence may be reposed in any one argument or class of arguments, as peculiarly cogent, no legitimate element will be wantonly neglected, and no valid proof unjustly disparaged.
The application of these allusions to the all-absorbing topic before us, is perfectly obvious. While the arguments on which the truth of Christianity rests are wonderfully varied, and while it is impossible to assign limits to the new illustrations of which these various arguments, in the hands of intelligent and active advocates of the cause, are susceptible, amid the progressive evolutions of providence and the accelerated advances of science, it becomes Christians duly to appreciate this variety, and to behold with pleasure the numberless converging rays that delightfully combine to place the heavenly origin of their religion in the clearest and most satisfactory light. These diversified evidences are all supplied, in adorable wisdom and liberality, by the same gracious God from whom every good and every perfect gift descends. Though differing from each other in their nature and force, they are not discordant. Each merits our devout attention, and all of them harmoniously co-operate in their respective places, for the confirmation of the same facts and doctrines, for the advancement of the glory of the same Redeemer, and for the further