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the individual and social character of man—Then will they learn his state by nature, and will be led properly to appreciate the revealed means, by which his moral and political condition can alone be improved, and the sublimity of that glorious plan of redemption, by which he can be transferred to a state of grace and reconciliation with his offended Sovereign.
Allusion has been made to the gross abuse of words, which has arisen from a neglect to study the sources or fountains of language. Those who have been most guilty of this sin, and have done the most to muddy and contound the streams of thought, are generally the loudest in declaring, that the discussions of the most important truths turn upon mere verbal differences. The correction of this evil would be found in the close study of the ancient tongues ; and unless corrected it threatens to undermine both mental philosophy and theology. The primitive men, both Greek, and Hebrew, did not use words without meaning. Their languages were a pure and honest expression of substantial thought, and unaffected by that degeneracy, which are the result of the attrition of ages. It may
be a matter of doubt whether the power and clearness of the ancient writers is to be attributed so much to the superiority of genius, as to the advantage they possessed in those noble instruments by which their ideas were expressed. Happy for us that they died early. It is by this their immortality is secured. Having ceased to be spoken they have become incapable of change. Though dead to the voice, they are emphatically, and in spirit the living languages. Their words have life, and adored be the wisdom of God, in having embalmed them as the sacred depositories of his everlasting truth.
Some have built upon this phrase, the dead languages, their most plausible argument. Shall the dead languagessays one who would derive the most important of all knowledge in relation to the human soul and its moral and religious relations, from the examination of dead men's skulls shall the dead languages be studied in preference to the living? Shall so much time be wasted in the acquisition of words spoken two thousand years ago, in preference to the cultivation of our own tongue? We would not waste an argument on so foolish an objection, but there are topics connected with it of the highest interest, and which would require that extended examination, which the length of this article forbids. The investigation of what constitutes the life of language-the causes of its perpetual tendency to degenerate--the beneficial effects of the general study of the Latin and Greek in imparting vitality to the English-the great evils which in this respect must result from their universal neglect—and the importance of having some fixed standard by which these evils might be measured and prevented—are topics which must be deterred to some other occasion, in which we may hope for better opportunities, to do them that justice which their importance requires.
ART. VI.-Keith's DEMONSTRATION.
Demonstration of the truth of the Christian Religion. By Aler.
ander Keith, V.D. Author of “ The Evidence of Prophecy,” foc. From the second Edinburgh edition. New-York : Harper of Brothers. 1839.
It has been frequently questioned, whether it is advisable at the present day to discuss the evidences of Christianity, But though the divine origin of our Holy Religion is not a point that remains to be proved ; though it is beuer for Christians to reap the benefits of their Heavenly inheritance than to invite the children of disobedience to contest the validity of their title ; yet as infidelity abounds, it is the imperious duty of those to whom God has intrusted the interests of his cause on earth, either to convince it of its delusion or to counteract its tendency. It is not enough that infidelity has been at one time routed. It yields to the vigorof attack, but, as it were, to gather strength for another and more formidable onset. Like some distant province which has been repeatedly subdued, it is ever rising in rebellion against its rightful Sovereign.
In the view of infidels, Christianity is a time worn system, and the arguments by which its claims to a Divine Revelation have been attested are deemed inapplicable to the illumined present; or beneath the respectful considera
tion of minds disenthralled by the spirit of ecclesiastical and civil freedom. The intelligent and honest convictions which moulded the character and swayed the pens of the primitive fathers of the Church, or of the defenders of the faith at the Reformation, are in their judgments not to be philosophically distinguished from the mental prejudices and selfish interests by which superstition and error have in all ages been most strenuously supported; while old works on the evidences of Christianity must with the system itself be legitimately referred to a common origin ;--the delusions of the dark ages.
Besides, the prominent objections of infidelity, as they successively issue from the same source,--the depravity of the human heart, are ever regarded as new. Striking the mind with all the force of novelty and mistaken for original conceptions, they are advanced by each in succession with all the pride of discovery, and all the assurance of unanswerable argument. Or, if their objections have been drawn from the infidel writers of the last century, as may be readily detected by the ignorance and malignity which they betray, they are appropriated as their own, and palmed on the community as the result of their own unaided investigations. It is important therefore, that each generation of freethinkers, should be informed that to every sceptical production, from Celsus to Paine, an appropriate refutation may be found ; and that the very arguments which they regard as peculiar to themselves, and such decisive proofs of their philosophic genius, are but the tame repetition of objections, which since the days of the Apostles, have been common to the ignorant or the vile.
Science, too, is constantly making, or pretending to have made new discoveries. And in the confidence of its powers, it is but too prone either to assail the credibility of Revelation, or to regard its authoritative intimations with contemptuous indifference. From the deductions of the truly scientific mind, Christianity has nothing to dread; but as a little philosophy, according to Bacon, inclineth men to atheism, so does science falsely so called tend to embarrass the views and shake the faith of the simple. On this account also, there may continue to be an occasional necessity for works which shall either confound the effrontery of pretenders to science, or show that the actual discoveries of science are not at variance with revealed announcements.
It may readily be perceived that Chalmers in his astronomical discourses answered an end which could not have been anticipated by any preceding writer.
Considering, moreover, the multifarious proofs of revelation, it is not to be admitted that any one writer has done full justice to the Christian evidences. A single topic such as that which Warburton pursued in his Divine Legation of Moses ; Butler in his Analogy; or Paley in his Horæ Paulinæ, has often presented an argument of indefinite extension—at once new, and in itself conclusive ; and other enquiries may yet be suggested which will lead to the same conclusion by an independent train of reasoning. Though a well grounded belief in Christianity results less from any separate consideration, than from an almost infinite variety of circumstances which like the ramification of the veins in the human system, conspire towards one point, and terminate in one conclusion ; yet the force of this conclusion may be enhanced by the elaborate prosecution of some one of the particular branches of evidence; and for ourselves, one point thoroughly discussed, and logically determined seems more calculated to work in the mind a true and firm conviction, than a multiplicity of proofs, however happily grouped, if superficially investigated. In the prosecution of separate topics, we are inclined to think that an important field is yet reserved for those who will effectually contribute to the fund of the Christian Evidences. Here also, other powers may be enlisted, besides those of arrangement and combination.
It is worthy of consideration, whether we have not been guilty of a criminal negligence, or mistaken policy, in having so long confined ourselves to the attitude of defence.-May not this be one reason, why Christianity has been so obnoxious to the attack of every insolent sophist.
Newton, we are informed, was never satisfied with having refuted the arguments of the Dutch philosophers. He must trace their arguments to their source, and ascertain the cause of their blunders. And it appeas to us, that he who will refer the objections of infidelity to their sources, and disclose both the varied causes of their errors, and the difficulties which embarass their positions, will confer a greater benefit on the Church and the world, than can now be effected by any volume confined to the usual course of evidence. Hence, we have been wont to regard, Faber's "Dif
ficulties of Infidelity” which was published a few years since, as more effective for the mass of minds, than any work of modern date, designed to subserve the cause of Christianity.
To essay a work, however in behalf of the Christian evi, dences, is perhaps a hazardous undertaking ; though it must be admitted that the temptations to write on this subject are by no means inconsiderable. The arguments are so numerous and palpable--available on every hand, that a wayfaring man though a fool cannot fail to gather materials for a book of any saleable size. It requires as little exertion of mind, and as little amount of learning to fabricate a work of evidences which shall be acceptable to the mass of believers, as to preach a doctrinal sermon to an audience already convinced before any proof is adduced. In either case, ev. ery thing is prepared to hand, and in reference to each reproduction, a favorable prejudgment is secured, or may be confidently anticipated.
It is possible, moreover, to mistake the impulses of piety for the strength of logical conviction; and to confound our love of truth with an ability for its defence. He who essays an encounter with the foes of Christianity cannot be too well assured of the consistence of his armor, and the temper of his weapous; otherwise, nothing may await his rashness, but detriment to the cause which he has presumed to desend. “Every man,” said old Sir Thomas Browne, " is not a proper champion for truth, nor fit to take up the gauntlet in the cause of verity. Many from the ig.
. norance of these maxims, and an inconsiderate zeal for truth, have too rashly charged the troops of error, and remain as trophies in the hands of the enemy.” Tis in vain to say with Dr. Keith, in his preface, that "the inadequate advocate of the truth may happily serve so much the more to show that the strength tests solely in the cause." The antithesis between works of imagination and of reason, cannot be more striking than the difference, in our judgments as to the causes of success or failure in these respective departments of mind. To ascribe the failure of a novelist or poet to the barrenness of his subject, were to overlook the fact, that the power of genius is evinced just in proportion to the paucity of its materials for weaving a thread of absorbing interest
, or to the facility with which it can give to "airy nothings" a splendid “habitation," and an enduring “name."