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As no unsuitable Introduction to this Second Volume of the New Family Library, the treatises contained in which, relate to the Canonical Authority, the undoubted Genuineness, and the Plenary Inspiration of the Sacred Writings, we gladly avail ourselves of the following cogent and impressive remarks of a very able though anonymous author, whose work, admirable as it is, we believe is scarcely known on this side the Tweed.
“ So far from feeling wonder at the degree of scepticism, which is complained of as prevailing among scientific and thoughtful men, in the present day, many of those who are loudest in the accusation should be reminded that, humanly speaking, the error lies more with themselves, than with those whom they so harshly censure. Can it be sufficient, in days like these, to send men, as they are sent daily, abroad into the world, amidst the sophistry and the trials that will surround them, with no other proof in their possession, that the Bible contains a revelation from heaven, than the simple affirmation of one's parents and schoolmaster? How inconsistent to suppose that a man, now immersed in the engrossing studies of an University, the toil of a profession or a trade—forced to act for himself and vindicate the opinions he professes-shall become, by a species of intuition, able to give to every one that asketh him a reason of the hope that is in him! Much as we may have loved our parents and reverenced our instructors, it is too much to assume that their simple assertion, as to the value and importance of a revelation, will of itself convince others, or support us, under the disparagements, or direct negations of what we evidently know next to nothing.
“ I conceive it to be a radical error in the general system of
education in this country, that while the truths of the established religion are sedulously propounded, the reasons why those truths should be believed are so rarely taught. All inquiries of this nature, during our childhood, are too frequently silenced by the general assurance, that we ought to believe whatever we find in the Bible; and that it is highly wrong to make question on points of which there can be no doubt; which so many of the best and wisest have been content to act on and believe before us; and which, received into the heart, are evidently productive of such invaluable effects. This species of argument is undoubtedly valid as far as it goes; and it is undeniable that millions have passed through time into a happy eternity, with none other but such general grounds for their convictions: it would indeed contradict all our notions of the goodness of the Deity, if we supposed no child or poor man could be a Christian, without being a historian and philosopher. But still, every day's experience evinces it to be a most fatal error, and as irrational as it is unscriptural, for a man to be turned adrift into the wide ocean of those bold and universal inquiries which particularly characterise our days, unacquainted with any further grounds for their religious tenets than, that their predecessors believed them before them, and that, therefore, they do so too.
“ With little more than such reason for the hope that is in them, are multitudes launched forth daily to our universities, to the hospitals, to the army and navy, to the counting-house, and to the world at large. The inevitable consequence is, that almost immediately, if, as is generally the case, they mix freely in various society, the implicit conviction of their childhood receives a blow; which is quickly repeated: and, aided by a variety of certain and concomitant events, they soon find themselves gliding into the shoreless sea of an universal scepticism. The victims of this parental negligence (for, whether in ignorance or no, negligence, with so many concise and powerful antidotes at hand, it must be called) are thus left to plunge from one system to another—the more vigorous the mind, the wider the aberration; too uninformed in the history and proofs
of their religion to be properly called unbelievers, yet now too much immured in other engrossing plans and speculations, to sit down quietly to the examination of matters of this selfdenying and humble kind: if they are not exclusively engaged in manual toil, and are at all disposed to find some restingplace for the baffled mind, almost inevitably plunging into what is the most unadvisable of all studies, in such a frame and at such a time, the endless labyrinths of metaphysics ; with minds so irregularly trained, mistaking confusion for depth of thought; doubting every thing; and especially, if impaired health be the consequence, becoming more and more lost and indifferent to things around them; the mere creatures of impulse; blazing up occasionally into, perhaps, startling corruscations of animal and intellectual energy, only to sink into a deeper apathy, and more profound oblivion of their position as members of the social body, and their share in its ordinary calls and obligations.
Who, indeed, that has mixed largely in the more enlightened circles of society, has not been witness to a multitude of such cases—modified by the degrees of health, and situation, and peculiar tendencies of the individual, but, in the general outline of character, the same? And whence, humanly speaking, in numerous cases, this distortion of what is noble, and right, and useful, but from the deficiencies just noted in their early education;—taught, probably, with anxious solicitude, the doctrines of revelation, but with an obliviousness of the opposition, both from within and from without, with which these holy things would one day assuredly be assailed ;-carefully, perhaps, trained in the obligations of Christianity, but utterly uninstructed in the grounds of those obligations; with scarce any other reason for being a Christian, than for being a Mahometan, an Infidel, or a Jew.
“The neglect of such inquiries”-into the Facts of the Christian Evidence, as he farther justly adds--"among thousands of otherwise well-informed, and scientific, and amiable men of the presentday, is the undoubted cause of a large portion of their prevailing scepticism. Accurate as is their information on other points
-on the history of many countries, and many people, and many sciences; on the circumstances of the origin and subsequent progress, and the nature of vital Christianity, they are often confessedly and singularly deficient. They were probably never taught them in their childhood; and since they have become men, they have heard so many ingenious suppositions and arguments against them, that they have allowed themselves, almost unwittingly, perhaps, to rest in these objections; not, perhaps, believing them; as sceptical of them as of what they oppose; but still utterly ignorant of the various and simple statements of facts which are, nevertheless, easily within their reach—statements chiefly and calmly made for such purposes by some of the most sagacious and independent thinkers, as well as the best men that ever lived, and admitted as satisfactory and proper grounds for human assent and action, by multitudes of their compeers, once as sceptical on these subjects as they can be.
“ If it be objected that there are many able and distinguished men who have, and do doubt the truth of the Christian religion, we would reply, that probably their temper and habits of life
may be such as to engender prejudices against it; or, that probably, notwithstanding their diligence in investigating the kinds of proof and degree of evidence for other things, they have never bestowed any thought seriously upon Christianity. A man may be a good anatomist, or astronomer, or geologist, for instance, without being able to pronounce a good opinion on a well-established fact in the history even of his own country; he may be utterly ignorant of it, and yet be a very well informed man in other histories, and some other things. Sir Isaac Newton's remark to the celebrated Dr Halley, is, I think, a full solution of all the scepticism of able men, not originating in any private habits which may make religious restraints displeasing— Dr Halley, I am always glad to hear you, when you speak about astronomy, or other parts of mathematics, because that is a subject you have studied and well understand;