Page images

will tell the affair to his neighbours as a good story; and they all agree that he fairly shut the philosopher's mouth.

You may reply, that the peasant was introduced into the middle of a matured science, and that not having learned its elements, he was unsupplied with the principles of correct judgment.' True ; but your solution has overthrown yourself. A freethinker, when he hears some great doctrine of Christianity, lets off a small objection, and runs away laughing at the folly, or railing at the imposture of all who venture to defend a Divine revelation; he gathers his brother unbelievers, and they unite with him in wondering at the weakness or the impudence of Christians. He is in the very situation of the peasant.

He bolts into the heart of a grand religious system ; he has never adverted to its first principles, and then he complains that the evidence is bad.' But the fault in neither case lies in the evidence: it lies in the ignorance or obstinacy of the objector. The peasant's ground is as firm as the infidel's. The proof of the Newtonian system is to the former as distant, subtle, and cloudy, as the proof of revelation can be to the latter ; and the objection of the one, as good as the objection of the other. If the depravity of men had as much interest in persuading them that the earth is not globular, and does not move round the sun, as it has in persuading them that the Bible is not true, a mathematical demonstration would fail of converting them, although the demonstrator were an angel of God !

“ But with respect to the other point, viz., that there are objections to mathematical evidence more puzzling and unanswerable than can be alleged against moral reasoning, take the two following instances :

* It is mathematically demonstrated that space is infinitely divisible : that is, has an infinite number of parts: a line, then, of half an inch long, has an infinite number of parts. Who does not see the absurdity of this ? Try the difficulty another way. It requires some portion of time to pass any portion of space. Then as your half inch has an infinite number of parts, it requires an infinite number of portions of time for a moving point to pass by the infinite number of parts : consequently it requires an eternity, or something like it, to move half an inch !

"But, sir," interposed the officer, “ you do not deny the accuracy of the demonstration, that space is infinitely divisible!” “ Not in the least, sir; I perceive no flaw in the chain of demonstration, and yet I perceive the result to be infinitely absurd."

“Sir," said the officer, “I own I am beat, completely beat. I have nothing more to say.”

A silence of some minutes succeeded ; when the young military traveller said to his theological friend, “ I have studied all religions, and have not been able to satisfy myself." “ No, sir,” answered he, “ there is one religion which you have not yet studied.” Pray, sir,” cried the officer, roused and eager, “what is that?

“ The religion,” replied the other, “ of Salvation through the Redemption of the Son of God: the religion which will sweeten your pleasures, and soften your sorrows; which will give peace to your conscience, and joy to your heart; which will bear you up under the pressure of evils here, and shed the light of immortality on the gloom of the grave.

This religion, I believe, sir, you have yet to study.”

The officer put his hands upon his face ; then languidly clasping them, let them fall down ; forced a smile, and said, with a sigh,

“ We must all follow what we think best.” His behaviour afterward was perfectly decorous. Nothing further is known of him.

Reader, have you“ studied the religion of salvation through the redemption of the Son of God ? If so, you must have been deeply convinced of the necessity of salvation-of the utter impossibility of obtaining it by your own exertions, or by those of any other creature-of its being only to be found through faith in Him whom God has exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour—and of its being not only fully adequate to the wants of the most needy of the human family, but also perfectly free to the most vile and worthless. Have

you obtained an interest in this precious salvation ? debtor to sovereign grace.

Flesh and blood have not imparted it to you, but the life-giving Spirit of God. Hold fast-grow in grace-endure to the end; for in due time

you if you

faint not. But are you ignorant of this great salvation ? do you neglect it? do you despise it? It is made known with great plainness in the scriptures-be assured that its importance shall one day be felt, and that those who despise it shall be lightly esteemed--if uninterested therein, you perish eternally.

You are a

shall reap



J.&W.Rider, Printers, Bartholomew Close, London.

[ocr errors][merged small]

In objects of taste, especially in sculpture, though we are disposed to value the beautiful and the sublime whenever it may have been formed, our estimation becomes enhanced when genius has been mellowed by age, and the work of art is an undoubted antique. How the curious collector would place the work of a Phidias, could it be obtained, above that of a Roubilliac! Nor is this preference altogether an affectation for ancient times, and a superstitious veneration for the rare and the mysterious; since in works of mere genius, the highest flights seem to have been taken before the philosophy of art had been studied, and its principles digested into codes of rules and of criticism.

Religion, indeed, possesses intrinsic value, and were it only of yesterday, has claims the most imperative on the present generation of men ; yet even religion is enhanced as it gathers illustrations of its benefits, and a cumulative argument of its truth by antiquity. It is worthy of our notice, as Sir William Jones expresses it, that “ The Scriptures contain, independently of a Divine origin, more true sublimity, more exquisite beauty, purer morality, more important history, and finer strains both of poetry and eloquence, than could be collected within the same compass from all other books that were ever composed in any age or in any idiom. The two parts of which the Scriptures consist, are connected by a chain of compositions which bear no resemblance in form or style to any that can be produced from the stores of Grecian, Indian, Persian, or even Arabian learning. The antiquity of those compositions no man doubts; and the unstrained application of them to events long subsequent to their publication, is a solid ground of belief that they were genuine productions, and consequently inspired."

When, too, this religion is properly brought into use, however old, like Aaron's rod, it will bud afresh, and be found green and strong,—the power of God unto the salvation of all who believe. The staff on which Enoch leaned while walking with God, and which apostles enjoyed in their jour


neys of mercy, sustains at the present moment the thousands of pilgrims who are travelling towards eternity.

How appropriate, therefore, in all ages is the exhortation, “ Tuu3 SAITH THE LORD, STAND YE IN THE WAYS, SEE, AND ASK FOR THE OLD PATHS, WHERE IS THE GOOD WAY, AND WALK THEREIN, AND YE SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.”—Jer. vi. 16.

Our first proposition is, that the true is the old religion. The powers of the human mind are all but creative, are ever inventing some new art, or some improvement of an old one, some new combination of instruments in mechanics, of elements in chemistry, or of words in literature; but science, founded on truth, must be eternal in principle, and can only assume the character of novelty as it admits of discoveries. The principle of attraction existed long before Newton: that philosopher did not invent, he only discovered gravity.

Now, we have to discover religion, and to act upon our attainment; and all human attempts to invent, to devise a creed for our belief, and a code for our practice, have betrayed man's ignorance and presumption, and shown, that when professing to be wise, he becomes a fool. All theories, from the rudest mythology to the most refined neological systems, establish the correctness of this assertion.

True religion, originating in the Divine mind, and made known to man by revelation, is the object of discovery, and with more diligence than that with which the student of the physical sciences investigates the phenomena of nature, ought we to examine the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, to obtain a knowledge of its principles, and directions, and hopes,—all of which must be gained, not by à priori' reasoning, but by induction, and from Divine revelation.

Hence, a knowledge of true religion must be coeval with revelation, and must increase with the augmented light poured upon mankind. Its first germ is in the promise made to our offending parents ; “ It,” that is the seed of the woman, shall bruise thy," namely, the serpent's

- head.” This revelation was confirmed and enlarged to Abraham; then to Moses and the prophets ; till, in the fulness of time, Jesus Christ himself taught with authority, and sent out his disciples to preach the gospel to every creature. Thus “God,” who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son." There have, indeed, been various dispensations, and these have each improved on the one it superseded, resembling the course of the morning from dawn to noon ; yet all of them are substantially the same, and the essence of the truth they taught, amidst all the changes of their accidents, is one and the same. And what has it been? A religion characterised by sacrifice ; for, from the offering which Abel presented, to the death of our Lord, we recognize this important feature of true religion --all things under each dispensation are sprinkled with blood; and the first pleasurable feeling after human guilı had been contracted, harmonises with the final song,

66 Unto him that hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” This characteristic is full of instruction as it is of hope: it teaches us that true religion humbles man as a guilty and helpless creature ; that it secures pardon and Divine acceptance to those who partake of its benefits; and that it purifies the heart and life, “cleansing from all sin.” The law, then, is not against the promise of God; amidst great variety in worship, the principle of man's approach to God is the sarne,—that of a Mediator ; and antediluvian, and patriarchal, and Jewish, and Christian devotions, all ascend to heaven through Jesus Christ our Lord. We do not, therefore, derive our religion, as it respects its source, from the holy and devoted nien who animated the last century with zeal for the gospel, nor from the writers of a former age, who have enriched our libraries with volumes of evangelical treasure ; nor from those who were foremost in the reformation, and who proved their sincerity and the supporting influence of the truths they promulgated at the stake of martyrdom, nor from the Christian fathers, either Greek or Latin; but from the oracles of God, which first spoke in Paradise and last in Patmos. We build upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.

With all its pretensions, therefore, to antiquity, popery is too young to secure our confidence, and the Anglo-Saxon and Nicene churches are too recent to be infallible guides : they have all erred in the proportion in which they have attempted to improve the work of inspired artisans, and to dress in meretricious ornament that which God himself has clothed with light as with a garment. We test a religion hy its antiquity, and reject every profession that does not run parallel with Divine revelation,-and prove itself contemporary with that recorded in the Bible, persuaded, as we are, that the most ancient must be the true religion —the truth as it

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »