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be produced a great mass of writing, which, when it has accomplished its purpose, a man may read and not receive any accession of clearness to his views, any stability to his convictions, or any energy to his sentiments.
It is, however, impossible to conceive of any limits to the accu. mulation of this sort of writing; but in the present state of haman nature, the production of it is of immense utility. As no good is unmixed, light, in men of the first order of intellect, is blended with darkness, correct views with misapprehensions. The powers of illustration and persuasion, which qualify them to inform, raise, and delight our minds, enable them successfully to insinuate their mistakes, and procure a kind of homage to the most unreasonable opinions. There is a magic in the taste, genius, and eloquence, with which they embellish the least tenable positions, that confounds and overpowers common understandings. While, therefore, the sum of human errors, is lessened, on the one hand, by inquiry and reflection, it receives, on the other, continual additions from the unfounded assumptions and fancies of great men. Exploded doctrines are revived in a rather different form, or new modes of erroneous speculation are brought into vogue. To purify truth from the contaminations which it thus suffers from the best gifted of men, to detect and expose unfounded imaginations which the authority and influence of rare talents may have diffused, is a task, which, though it may require much merely temporary writing, can never be safely neglected.
A service of this nature has, if we mistake not, been performed by Dr. Mearns, in the present little work. The treatise on the Evidence and Authority of the Christian Revelation, attracted, on its first appearance, a considerable degree of attention ; and, in consequence of the extraordinary celebrity which the author has subsequently acquired, chiefly by his brilliant Discourses on the Modern Astronomy, it has been very generally read. Throughout this volume there breathes an earnest piety, and a profound reverence for holy writ; while, froso the tone of confidence which the Author maintains, in all his affirmations and reasonings, together with his very dazzling eloquence, it is more adapted than any other defence of Christianity, written in English, to produce, il not a stable conviction, at least a strong impression on the popular mind. Dr. Chalmers chose to deviate from the line of argument usually pursued by the advocates of Christianity. He rejected the principles of natural theology, as beyond the cogoizance of human faculties, and the internal evidence of Christianity, as presumption. By this means, he conceived the argument (from . miracles) might be made to assume a more powerful and inspressive aspect, while it would preclude all objections to the principles contained in the Christian record. Although this work was generally received for what it professed to be, an application of the inductive logic to the Christian evidence, to those who were versed in the bistory of human opinions, and had studied the elements which enter into all our convictions, it appeared very singular that an intelligent Christian sbould profess to adopt, in the spirit of the soundest philosophy, the utmost extravagance of the scepticism of Bayle and Hume, and that he should endeavour to produce, by reasoning, a persuasion of the truth of Christianity, after having attirmed the utter inability of reason to deduce, from the appearances of nature and providence, the existence of God, or the character of his administration. The dangerous assumptions which pervade the Evidence and Authority of the Christian Revelation, occasioned the present publication, which is designed to expose the fallacy of the reasonings by which Dr. C. has attempted to set aside the conclusions of natural theology, and to establish the philosophical, as well as scriptural character, of those principles that forın the substratum of the Christian Evidence. The learned Professor bas, in our apprehension, been quite successful. He has shewn very clearly that the objections to natural religion which Dr. C. professed to draw from the Baconian method of philosophizing, owe their whole plausibility to imperfect and erroneous views of the inductive philosophy; and that, wbile the evidences of natural and revealed religion are so thoroughly interwoven with one another, that he who subverts one part, destroys the whole, they constitute a case of the most just and rigid application of those principles which regulate our belief, in the ordinary transactions of life, as well as in the most refined and remote deductions of science. We shall endeavour to trace the course of his argument, though it lies through a tract obscure and little frequented.
The radical assumption of Dr. C.'s reasoning, is, that, indepevdent of revelation, it is impossible to ascertain the existence of God, or any thing respecting the character of his administration. . The only safe and competent evidence that can be ap' pealed to,' he represents to be, the Christian miracles.' "There ' is perhaps nothing,' he says, ' more thoroughly beyond the cog
vizance of the human faculties, than the truths of religion. To assign the character of the Divine administration from what occurs to our observation, is absurd.'* From this principle it follows, that Christianity is destitute of internal evidence. For if it be impossible, from sources, independent of Scripture, to evince the existence of a supreme intellect, wise, good, and just, the character and tendency of Revelation serves not in the least
* Evidence and Authority of the Christian Revelation. pp. 226, 235, 206.
to establish its truth. All religious systems, considered in them. selves, are equally entitled to credit. In rigid conformity, therefore, to his primary doctrine, Dr. C. holds by the total • insufficiency of natural religion to pronounce upon the intrinsie ! merits of any revelation. Reason is not entitled to sit in judge6 ment over those internal evidences, which many a presumptuous theologian has attempted to derive from the reason of
the thing, or from the agreement of the doctrine with the • fancied character and attributes of the Deity*.'
The degree to which the evidence of Christianity is impaired by this extraordinary mode of defending it, may easily be estimated, if it is considered, that it renders it impossible for us to corroborate our confidence in Revelation, either by the accordance of its doctrine with the results of experience and observation, the adaptation of the economy which it unfolds to the wants, hopes, and fears of humanity, or its experienced efficacy in purifying the mind from its corruptions, adorning it with the noblest virtues, and inspiring it with immortal hopes.
The evidence which the world furnishes for the existence of an Eternal Mind, has usually been considered stronger than that which evinces the truth of Revelation. As the cogency of both depends on the same principles, he who rejects the former, indirectly at least subverts the latter. Formidable attempts have been made, it is well known, to invalidate the testimony which establishes the miraculous facts of the Christian record. Hume contended, (and Gibbon considered the argument as the securest retreat of infidelity,) that experience of the uniform course of nature afforded so strong a presumption against miraculous events, that no testimony could justify a belief in their occurrence. This objection, which stands in the very threshold
of the Christian argumentt,' and which appeared to be neutralized by the presumption that the Deity might, on an occasion of sufficient dignity, deviate from the usual course of his agency, Dr. C. leaves in all its force. But if it be granted that even on his principles the Christian testimony is satisfactory, an additional process will be found essential to produce a conviction that Christianity is true. This process, usually overlooked, most certainly is worthy of examination.
The utmost effect of the historical evidence of Christianity, is to place us in the situation of the original witnesses of the miraculous events. That the events are miraculous, is not indicated by our senses, but deduced by our reason. From particular facts we infer a course of nature proceeding by general laws; and when facts of a miraculous nature occur to our ob
* Evidence and Authority of the Christian Revelation, pp. 221, 251.
servation, we infer, in like manner, that the operation of those laws has been interrupted. In virtue of the primordial law of belief, that every effect must have a cause, we infer, from an event strictly miraculous, the interposition of God, by the same steps as those by which we deduce his existence and intelligence from the usual appearances of nature.
• Reason reaches the conclusion, that a cause sufficient to the pro. duction of phenomena implying a suspension of the laws of nature, can be nothing inferior. to the power of Him by whom these laws were established. By the further investigation of principles, combined with observation of the order of nature, reason concludes, that the cause which operates the production of these supernatural phenomena, is, and must be, the power, either mediately or immediately exerted, of the one Supreme Lord of Nature.' p. 43.
Although there is no necessary connexion between miraculous events and the truth of propositions, yet as the ostensible agent appeals to them in proof of his doctrines, we may reason that because God is veracious and omniscient, he cannot affix his seal to imposture. The principles concerned in this process, which seems perfectly legitimate, are rejected by Dr. C. as being of no ‘more value than the fooleries of an infant;' and accordingly he has precluded himself, if he reasons consistently, from evincing the truth of Christianity, granting that the miracles to which appeal is made, were actually wrought.
To shew how powerful and impressive an aspect he had made the Christian evidence to assume, Dr. C. imagines, as the subject of experiment, an ideal personage, who, after carefully observing the phenomena of the universe, sees nothing in them which can warrant him to believe in the existence of the living and intelligent Author, of Nature, and who hears the innumerable testimonies which all things, great and small, emit in favour of their Maker, without the least leaning to the conviction that there is a God. Without remarking on the shocking improbability of this fiction, or the dubious tendency of representing the understanding of this imaginary person, as in a bigh state of preparation for the reception of Christianity in a pure form, it is sufticient to remark that, if he acknowledges the occurrence of the Christian miracles, he is not bound, by any principles which he is supposed to entertain, to admit the inference which our Christian advocate deduces from them. If he has rejected the evidence wbich the universe supplies for the existence of God, on the pretext that appearances of design afford no proof of an intelligent cause, as the preternatural phenomena render not the Deity an object of experience, he will not perceive in them any manifestation of the Eternal Mind. Ordinary and extraordinary events furnish the same kind of evidence. To draw a conclusion from either of them, we must reason from the effect to the cause, a
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