« AnteriorContinuar »
Browne, Boerhaave, Pringle, Hartley, Haller, Mead, Fothergill, Good, and a host of others. Such lawyers and judges as Hale, Melmoth, Hailes, Forbes, Pratt, Blackstone, Jones, Marshall, &c. All the above received the Bible as the word of God. Many of them had “investi. gated the principles of the gospel to the bottom; and they were not only satisfied with the justice of its claims, but gloried in it as the most benevolent and godlike scheme; it was their study in life, their solace in death.” To the above we may add the names of thousands of others among the good and pious of every age; men of distinguished abilities, and profound erudition; men who have erected monuments of their zeal and benevolence, immortal as the soul, and lasting as eternity itself. But the above will suffice until philosophy and infi. delity can bring forward their advocates and champions as more worthy our regard, for their judgment, sense, abilities, piety, learning, and benevolence. Until this can be done, we hope to hear no more about the advocates of the Bible being “ silly, weak-minded,” &c. It is true, we are not to argue the divinity of the Bible exclusively from the fact, that so many distinguished individuals--individuals who shone the brightest in literature, morals, and religion—have been be. lievers in Christianity ; but still this fact clearly shows the happy and benign influence the Bible has had upon the hearts and lives of men. And we are justly led to the conclusion, that if the Bible has had such a powerful and beneficial influence on men who have exa. mined its claims, and weighed the evidence of its truth, that it must be divine. No other production has produced, or could produce, un. less it be divine, such an effect.
But, some are ready to inquire, “ If such great and distinguished men have been believers in Christianity, why have not all men embraced the Bible as a divine revelation ?” We answer, first, it "prophesies evil against them.” Men do not like to be told of their sins and crimes with the singular plainness of the Bible. Secondly, The Bible has not been thoroughly and properly examined by all. not to be expected that it would be embraced as divine until it is examined. How few make the Bible a book of study—or, indeed, read it with that attention which they bestow on other productions ! Many infidels themselves have been exceedingly ignorant of the Scriptures. Sir Isaac Newton once said to Dr. Halley, when uttering some hard things against Christianity,“ Dr. Halley, I am always glad to hear you when you speak about astronomy, or other parts of the mathematics, because that is a subject you have studied and well understand; but you should not talk of Christianity, for you have not studied it ;-I have, and I am certain you know nothing of the mat. ter.” David Hume confessed, that he “ had never read the New Testament with attention.” What men to put down Christianity! Laboring to destroy that they do not understand! Indeed, nearly all infidel writers have evinced their downright ignorance of the Bible while writing against it. Who that has read Paine's Age of Reason can believe that the writer was thoroughly acquainted with the Bible ? It has so happened, that the warmest opponents to Christianity have been the least acquainted with it—and that its warmest advocates have been the most acquainted with it. Only let the Bible be univer. sally read, candidly, seriously, prayerfully, and thoroughly examined,
and infidelity dies. It cannot bear the scorching light of sacred truth.
But, we may here inquire, what have philosophy and infidelity done for the salvation of the world? What philosophy has done, we may see from the testimony of its warmest adherents. Cicero, who was himself one of the greatest and most learned of the heathen philosophers, declares, in an unqualified manner, that they, so far as he knew, had never, even in a single instance, reformed either themselves or their disciples. Socrates, who labored hard to reform the youth of Athens, and succeeded to some extent, said, that she despaired of a thorough reformation till God should reveal a better system, and that system come clothed with the highest authority.” Porphyry, a bitter enemy to the Bible, declared that “some universal system was want. ing of delivering men's souls, which philosophy had never found out." Many other philosophers have confessed the same truth. Those who are extensively acquainted with modern infidels, perfectly know that their principles have been equally unproductive of any proofs of reformation of character.
If then the Bible has produced that effect on the hearts and lives of men, which no other production has done-if it has thoroughly reformed men, and made them holy, happy, and useful, while all the systems of men have ceased to produce this effect, but the contrarywe must admit its divine origin.
4. The wonderful establishment and propagation of the religion of the Bible evinces its divine origin. We will commence with the establishment and propagation of Christianity by Jesus Christ. All the glory of former dispensations was eclipsed in the advent, life, labors, sufferings, and resurrection of the Son of God. Christianity was now presented to mankind in quite a new form, disconnected from those types and symbols by which it was shadowed forth to the world in past ages. It was presented, too, at a time when, if there had been any thing spurious in it, it might easily, and unquestionably would, have been detected. It was an age of philosophy, of inquiry, of research, of criticism, and of erudition. Rhetoric, eloquence, poetry, and some of the other branches of science, were studied with a success which has hardly been surpassed at any subsequent age. Surely this was a time unfavorable for the introduction of a false religion. But Christianity had nothing to fear. It did not elude the light of erudition. It was submitted to the investigation of philosophers, sages, lawyers, judges, priests, princes, poets, &c. But, with all their scrutiny and discrimination, they were not able to point out a single defect. The more it was examined the more clearly its divinity appeared. And notwithstanding every scheme and machination that could be devised, and all the influence, malice, envy, malevolence, power, and ambition of the great, the wise, and distinguished, that could possibly be exercised, were put forth against it, yet it unprecedently gained adherents, and its Author, it is said, was “believed on in the world.” Indeed, is not the establishment of the Christian reli. gion under such circumstances truly wonderful? Would it not have been immediately put down, and its abettors exterminated, had it not been divine? Wicked men and infidels have done all they could to destroy it; but it still lives—lives to spread its hallowing and saving influence over the entire habitable globe. True:
“ When he first the work begun,
Small and feeble was his day;
Now it wins its widening way.
Ever mighty to prevail,
Shakes the trembling gates of hell." Its promulgators were “in peril by sea and land," and among the heathen, as well as among “false brethren;" but thousands embraced it, and held it dearer than life itself. Only ten days had elapsed after Christ's ascension before about three thousand souls” embraced Christianity. Soon after that we are informed in the fourth chapter of the Acts that the number professing faith in Christ was “about five thousand." The Christian religion continued to spread through. out “all Asia ;” and besides, converts were soon multiplied at Rome, Alexandria, Athens, Cyprus, Cyrene, Macedonia, Philippi, &c., and their number is intimated by the expressions, “a great number,” “ great multitude," "much people,” &c. About two hundred years after Christ, Christianity became the religion of the Roman empire. This was effected by the conversion of Constantine, a Roman emperor. From Constantine to the present time the religion of the Bible has been gaining ground. In every age it has had its converts and advocates, who, amid calumny, reproach, and persecution of every possible description, have " fearlessly advocated its unpopular cause, and, in defiance of earth and hell, have proclaimed it abroad from city to city, and from one country to another, and established it among the differ. ent nations of the world. Hume, that arch infidel, predicted the downfall of Christianity in the nineteenth century. Voltaire as triumphantly asserted, that, although it took twelve men to plant Christianity, his single arm should root it out. And Paine boasted, (but it was before he put off the harness,) that he had cut down every tree in paradise."
But have the predictions and sayings of infidels proved true? The very press that scattered Voltaire's pernicious publications has recently been employed by the Paris Bible Society; and also in the very chamber in which Hume uttered his evil prophecy, the first committee assem. bled to form the Edinburgh Bible Society. By means of missionary and Bible societies the word of the Lord goes forth from conquering to conquer. Pagan idolatry, and the rites and superstitions of heathenism are disappearing before its conquering and resuscitating influence. What is Christianity doing for Europe? The man of sin ere this has begun to tremble. Romanism, with all its infallibility, is “ podding to its fall.” Asia feels its benign influence. The pagan idols of India are about to be left destitute of worshippers. The way is opening for the salvation of benighted Africa. If the predictions of the Bible be true, Ethiopia must soon “stretch out her hands unto God." America feels its hallowed and redeeming power. Already a fire has been kindled which will melt the chains of her enslaved mil. lions. The degraded tribes beyond the Rocky Mountains rejoice at its approach, while Buenos Ayres, and other portions of the extreme south, are sending out the Macedonian cry, “Come to our help!” The “ islands of the sea are waiting for his law.” The “ stone cut out of the mountain without hands,” is rolling and enlarging, and is destined to fill the whole earth.
Now, we are led to inquire, Is not Christianity from above? Is not its author God, blessed for ever? Who can doubt it? Let infidelity blush and retire into perpetual silence, while it beholds its progress and triumph! All reason exclaims, it must be from Heaven! The Bible, then, must be divine.
In conclusion. That the Bible should receive our increasing attachment, we argue from the fact, that it furnishes the only method of salvation to a lost and ruined world. How discordant and irrecon. cilable have been the notions and opinions of sages, philosophers. poets, and statesmen, of all ages, respecting man's highest interests! Human reason, with all its boasted infallibility, was insufficient to lead them right respecting one fundamental truth. In proof of this, we need but refer to the endless differences and inconsistencies which prevailed among the most renowned ancient philosophers, some of whom taught the most pernicious doctrines; while the influence of all was very inconsiderable both in rectifying the sentiments and reforming the lives of mankind. Also the speculations of modern deists concerning religion are so glaringly contradictory, and their ethical precepts so utterly subversive of every principle of morality, as to demonstrate the necessity of a revelation from Heaven, in order to lead mankind to the knowledge of God and of their duty to each other. Indeed, the bewildering speculations of unassisted reason of all ages only evinces the absolute necessity of a divine revelation in guiding man through the dark labyrinth of this unfriendly world to the rest prepared for him in heaven. What man would be in his present con. dition, with nothing but human reason, unassisted by revelation, for his guide, will strikingly appear, when we consider,
1. That it could neither trace the existence nor perfections of God. It could not ascertain whether there were one God or many. Socrates taught the worship of a plurality of gods. Plutarch says, “ that the knowledge of the gods can be had only from them.” The most vague and confused notions of God and his attributes were entertained by all the ancient heathen philosophers. This has also been the case with all in modern times who have discarded the idea of a divine revelation. Well may we exclaim, in view of the fruitless efforts of reason in ascertaining the being and perfections of God, “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection ?" “ The world by wisdom knew not God.” Of the heathen world who have never seen the dawn of revelation, it may be said, " they are without God and without hope,” that “there is none that understandeth, that seeketh after God.” Reason afforded them but an uncertain light. But the Bible furnishes all necessary information respecting the existence and perfections of the “ only living and true God.”
2. As unassisted reason could not find out the being and perfections of God, so it could not tell us what the will of God is. “ Plato wished for a prophet to reveal the will of God to us, without which we cannot know it." Where the Bible has not been received as a divine revelation, men have invariably been destitute of a knowledge of the will of God. How dreadful must be the want of such knowledge !
3. It could not ascertain how guilty man might be saved. This of all things is the most important. Says Richard Watson : :-“ Without this book, where should we go to find a single word to support the hope that God would forgive the sins of his creatures ? Certain it is, that nature, so called, indicates nothing of this in any of her works. Nor is it indicated by that course of human events which passes before us. If God be favorable to the guilty, he must either wave his just rights altogether, or find some means to satisfy them, without the actual punishment of the offender. In either case it is a matter to be determined by himself, and only to be known by us when he is pleased to reveal it. We should, therefore, untaught by this sacred volume, be so unacquainted with the things of God, as to be ignorant of what he would do with the guilty.” How valuable, then, must be the Bible in directing us in a matter of such paramount importance! Think, for a moment, what would be the condition of men could they find no satisfactory answer to the question,“ What must I do to be saved ?" Reason furnishes no such answer.
4. Unassisted reason would leave man in doubt respecting his future destiny. Of this truth antiquity furnishes ample proof. Though most of the heathen philosophers professed to believe in the immor. tality of the soul, yet their ideas on the subject were very indefinite and vague, and many of them very discordant. Bishop Warburton has proved, that the four renowned schools among the Greeks, the Pythagoric, the Platonic, the Peripatetic, and the Stoic, believed and taught that the soul was a part of God, and would ultimately be united to him by refusion, as a drop of water to the ocean. It is said, that they taught the doctrine of future reward and punishment as a means of securing the obedience of the populace to the laws. Many of the ancient philosophers held to the transmigration of souls. Cicero informs us, that some " said that the soul was the heart, others the blood, others the brain, others the breath, others fire, others said it was nothing but an empty name,” &c. What ignorance and uncer. tainty must have enveloped the entire heathen world respecting man's future being! It is true, they seemed to have some ideas of great Scriptural truths; but for these they were indebted to revelation, not to reason. What must have been our views of the future, with nothing but erring reason for our guide? But, thank God,“ life and immor. tality are brought to light in the gospel." Were it necessary, other points might be noticed on which reason is insufficient to guide us. Indeed, nothing that is essential to salvation can be clearly taught by its unassisted and uncertain light.
How invaluable, then, must be the Bible. Respecting the being and attributes of God-his will concerning us--how the guilty might be saved—and a correct knowledge of our future destiny, it is clear and perspicuous. In all matters essential to our present and eternal salvation it is a “light to our feet, a lamp to our path.” But for this blessed book we should now entertain the same views which are spread over the heathen world, and might this day be prostrating ourselves before stocks and stones, and looking up to some being of but yesterday as an object of worship! Look, for a moment, at the nature of