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But in relation to the advocate, whatever be the end which he desires to effect, if our judgments have not been committed, we invariably aseribe his failure not to the deficiencies of his intellect, but to the defects of his cause; and the reason is obvious. Though our own imagination transcend that of the author whose work has disappointed our expectations, yet when one undertakes to establish a certain position, we reasonably presume that he has preparatorily devoted to its investigation all the talents and aids which he can summon; that he is master of all the arguments by which it can be supported, and guarded against all the objections which may be adduced. Were this not the case, it is natural for the common mind to associate the merits of a cause with the intellectual address of its advocate ; and intidelity, in its rancor against Christians, and in its eagerness to avail itself of any advantage which may be unwittingly afforded, is the last from whom either candor or discrimination can be expected. With them an individual defeat is the defeat of a cause ; and one victim to the adroitness of infidelity tends more to our disgrace and infamy than many able desences would retrieve in years.
Besides, it is to be expected that recent works on the evidences of Christianity will surpass those of the past, or at least, that a comparison will not be altogether derogratory to the former. Certainly, it may reasonably be presumed that if former arguments be reproduced, they will be clothed in stronger terms and arranged in more effective order ; that if old objections be reconsidered they will be more strikingly and conclusively rebutted. But if recent works do not equal the power of thought, and profundity of erudition, and severity of logic which characterise the works of the past, what must be the unavoidable inference, but that Christianity loses in strength, as it advances in age; that its advocates, now, cannot compare with those of a former period ; that the evidences on which our fathers relied, impress our minds with diminished force; that either the present is marked by less ability and zeal in behalf of Christianity; or that the intellect which was once consecrated on its altar, is now, in consequence of the increasing light of science, devoted to objects foreign to its interests.
That gigantic minds and vast attainments have been enlisted in the conflict with infidelity, we need not stop to
prove; and that the latter enrolls no names to compare with the champions of the cross, is set at rest by a mere allusion to such men as Cudworth, Warburton, and Lardner.
Now, if a man be not mentally qualified to compete in any respect with preceding writers on the evidences of Christianity, it becomes him, in our judgment, to confine his labors to his own retired sphere. He may lecture to the credit of his name ; but he will publish to the disadvantage of the cause. His works may gratify his friends, or edify his parish ; but they cannot meet the wants of the benefit the world.
We are aware, that it is thought necessary at the present day, to popularize the old authors; but this, in general, is to divest them of their merits and paralyze their force.It is injustice to the dead, and no advantage to the living. A work on the Christian evidences which shall be adapted to the common mind, must be reduced to the extremest superficiality; and a work of this character, we need not remark, so far from being calculated to convince the sceptic, can serve only to provoke his successful attack. We have even heard the regret gravely uttered, that Butler's "Analogy' was not simplified for the “Sunday School Union !" Now, we do not doubt but that modernized editions of works of this high intellectual order would meet a readier sale than the original copies, which demand no tribute except from the laborious and thinking few ;--the interests of booksellers would thus be promoted, while there would be an atmosphere as erudite pervading the Sunday school as the theological seminary ; but we should anticipate as much solid benefit from the plan as is imparted to infants by simplifying for their comprehension the principles of the Newtonian philosophy.
Men, in general, neither possess the talents nor commund the requisite time and facilities for investigating the documentary proofs of Christianity. Doomed to daily toil and precluded at once the advantages of education and all habits of dispassionate reflection, how few amid the throng could ever attain to the belief of the truth, if in order to this, an ability to master its external evidences and to answer plausible objections were indispensably necessary.
The general mind, therefore, if ever impressed by the truth, must, in accordance with God's appointment, believe on the authority of their divinely constituted teachers. From the nature of the case, the most cogent reasons which the many may be able to adduce for their faith, must be subsequent to their belief; and the argument which they can best understand and appreciate, and which, blessed be God ! is sufficient to exclude all doubt, and repel every malign attack on their faith, is that derived from an experimental knowledge of the adaptedness of Christianity to the wants and woes of their fallen nature. Few comparatively can establish the truth of revelation by a learned process of reasoning ; but there is no man, be he never so unlettered, who may not be brought to feel that God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.
We have been led to this brief train of remark, by examining the recent volume from the pen of Dr. Keith. His plan has emanated, we doubt not, from the purest motives, and his pages bear testimony to his zeal for the cause of revealed truth; but whether his “Demonstration" can be viewed as any addition to the body of existing evidences, is not so clear.
Amid the facts and quotations which crowd his pages, we recognise but little that has not been employed before. Most of the arguments, too, which he has introduced, if they be of any weight, are such as in different relations have been advanced by preceding writers; yet is not the volume to be undervalued on this account. These, for aught the sequel of our Review may intimate to the contrary, may be seen to constitute its chief merit; insomuch, as the reproduction of former arguments, at this late day, serves at least to convince us that time has tested their consistency and strength. For ourselves, whatever is ancient has peculiar charms, and in relation to the evidences of Christianity, the oldest are, in our view, decidedly the best. In this department, we seela not novelty, but knowledge ; and are content to forego the meed of admiration, where it is sufficient praise to be cogent. To us, in one respect, the evidences of the Bible, are, as its doctrines—not the less to be valued because they bear the impress of hoary age. We love to go back, even to the remotest times, to discover the evidences which support the fabric of our faith-the “glorious Gospel of the Grace of God." Though they may be presented in original combinations, we see at the present day no essential arguments for the faith which were not known and advanced ages since; which have not been repeated, in different forms,
through every succeeding generation, and we can divine no reason, except personal vanity, which can induce an author of our day to bring them forth as if they had never before been known to the world. From the occasional manner even of Dr. Keith, one might suppose that the arguments which we have been accustomed to regard as of ancient date, had just rewarded his patient and protracted research. Thus the argument, in favor of the authenticity of the Old Testament, drawn from the institutions and rites which were ordained to be observed in every generation as memorials of the wonders which the Lord wrought in Israel—from the significant names of Jewish persons and places, &c., is one of so much “novelty," to our author, that he actually pauses on this very account to apologize for the tediousness with which it has been treated,”—p. 118.
In his “introduction,” however, Dr. Keith disclaims all pretensions to originality, excepting as regards “the arrangement, combination, and connection of the evidence, the application of many of the facts on which it rests, the introduction of others, and the adoption and use of the arguments of our adversaries.". Admitting, that in these respects, we may find “something new," for, perhaps, we have no right to expect any thing beyond this, at this late period of the world,
the disposition of the evidences does not appear to be so remarkably striking, nor the forms of his reasoning so powerfully conclusive.
We have neither the leisure nor the disposition to enter into an extended analysis of his plan; nor would it be particularly interesting to our readers; but in brief it is this:
1. A "demonstration” of the inspiration of the prophets by arranging in parallel columns, some of the prominent predictions of the Old Testament with the recent testimony of infidel and Christian travellers; something similar to which may be found in the place books of not a few theological students, though we presume their Professors would deem it hardly necessary for them to spend much time in proving that Volney was not an interested witness of the fulfilment of prophecy.
2. An appropriation of Hume's argument, which amounts to this, 1, That the Apostle Peter foretold, that “there should come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying ;—(as Hume and La Place have virtually said by their argument against miracles from the continuance of the
laws of nature,) " where is the promise of his coming ? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation;" which is a striking, though not an original application of the prediction. 2. That it has been proved by geologists that the present state of the organic world has not gone on from all eternity, as some philosophers have maintained," and which the reader might have previously seen in Buckland's Bridgwater Treatise. And in the last place, that as prophecies, according to Hume's own definition, are real miracles, therefore we have had experience of the one as well as of the other ; which argument, must be without force to the infidel, however plausible to our own minds, unless he be furnished with conclusive evidences, not merely, that these prophecies have been fulfilled, but that they were uttered hundreds or thousands of years before their fulfilment. Hume, of course, would not have given the definition, if he had thought ancient prophecies were susceptible of incontrovertible evidence. It is not enough to point to certain ruins in evidence of accomplished predictions, the great point to be established, is, the prior date and determinate application of the prophecy
We are not satisfied, but that the geological argument against Hume's position is utterly inapplicable ; for admitting the correctness of geological deductions respecting the comparatively recent origin of man, does it follow, that all things, have not continued as they were from the beginning of the creation ? No sceptic will deny that in the first ages of the world, events might have been conducted by operative causes of a different nature from those which are now in action ;—there is no unreasonableness in the supposition that this sort of agency continued in operation as long as it was required. The only question is, whether it continued to operate after the formation of a human creature ? If it did not, then it was employed and continued only to effect the present physical and moral constitution of things.
The completiou of this constitution of things, is that which sceptics, understand by the beginning in other words, the establishment of that system of nature which from the remotest antiquity, has been uniformly governed by the inherent operation of general laws. And if so, then Hume's argument stands, notwithstanding Dr. Keith's boasted refutation. p. 69. The question, be it considered, is not