Page images
PDF
EPUB

influences of the holy spirit, can convert the soul from fin to God; though even to such converfion, arguments are by the agency of the spirit rendered subservient. Again, if we were to understand by this aphorism, that the principles of our religion could never have been discovered by the natural and unaffifted faculties of man; this position, I presume, would be as little disputed as the former. But if, on the contrary, under the cover of an ambiguous expression, it is intended to insinuate that those principles from their very nature, can admit no rational evidence of their truth (and this, by the way, is the only meaning which can avail our antagonists) the gospel, as well as common sense, loudly reclaims against it. i.

The Lord Jesus CHRIST, the author of our religion, often argued, both with his difciples and with his adversaries, as with reasonable men, on the principles of reason. Without this fa-. culty, he well knew they could not be susceptible either of religion or of law. He argued from prophecy, and the conformity of the event to the prediction. He argued from the testimony of John the Baptist, who was generally acknowledged to be a prophet. He argued from the miracles which he himself performed, as uncontroverted evidences that God Almighty operated by him, and had sent him. He expoftulated with his enemies, that they did not use their rea

fon on this subject--Why, says he, even of your selves judge ye not what is right ? In like manner we are called upon by the apostles of our Lord, to act the part of wise men, and judge impartially of what they fay. Those who do so are highly coinmended for the candour and prudence they discover in an affair of so great consequence. We are even commanded to be always ready to give an answer to every man that asketh us a reason of our hope ; in meekness to inftruit them that oppofe themselves; and earnestly to contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. God has neither in natural or revealed religion, left himself without a witness ; but has in both, given moral and external evidence sufficient to convince the impartial, to silence the gainsayer, and to render inexcusable the atheist and the unbeliever. This evidence it is our duty to attend to and candidly to examine. We must prove all things, as we are expressly enjoined in holy writ, if we would ever hope to hold fast that which is good.

So far, therefore, am I from being afraid of exposing Christianity by submitting it to the test of reason; so far am I from judging this a trial which it is by no means fitted to endure, that I think, on the contrary, the most violent attacks that have been made upon the faith of Jesus have been of service to it. Yes: I do not hesitate to affirın, that our religion hath been indebted to the attempts, though not to the inten. tions of its bittereft enemies. They have tried its strength indeed, and by trying they have difplayed its strength, and that in so clear a light as we could never have hoped, without such a trial, to have viewed it in. Let them therefor write, let them argue, and when arguments fail, let them even cavil against religion as much as they please. I should be heartily forry that ever in this island, the asylum of liberty, where the Spirit of Christianity is better understood (however defective the inhabitants of it are in the observance of its precepts) than in any other part of the Christian world; I should, I say, be forry, that in this island so great a disservice were done to religion, as to check its adversaries in any other way than by returning a candid answer to their ' objections. I must at the same time acknowledge, that I am both ashamed and grieved when I observe any friends of religion betray so great a diffidence in the goodness of their cause (for to this diffidence it can only be imputed) as to show an inclination for recurring to more forcible methods. The affaults' of infidels, I may venture to prophefy, will never overturn our religion. They will prove not more hurtful to the Chriftian fystem, if it is allowed to compare small things with greatest, than the boisterous winds are said to prove to the sturdy oak. They take it impetuously for a time, and loudly threaten its subversion, whilst, in effect-they only serve to make it strike its roots the deeper and stand the firmer for ever.

Dissertation on Miracles.

HENRY SCOUGAL, A. M.

AUTHOR OF THE LIFE OF GOD IN THE SOUL OF

MAN

MA

ANY Christians are ready to apply all the

prophecies and imprecations of the Old Testament, in their very prayers, against those that differ from them; and ordinarily the animofities are greatest where the differences are least; and one party of a reformed church shall be more incensed against another, than eii her against the superstition and tyranny of Rome, or the

* Mr. 'Scougal 'Nourished towards the end of the last cen: tury. The other Scotch authors, whose testimonies are here introduced, died within these last twenty years. With Dr. Gerard, my old theological tutor, and with Dr. Shaw, whose ministry I attended, I had the pleasure of being acquainted, and am happy in paying this tribute of respect to their me: mory. Just as the above testimony of Scougal was going to the press, an idea arose in my mind that he belonged to the Scotch episcopal church. The testimony, however, reinains precisely the same, and the serious good sense of the author renders it deserving of very particular attention.

carnality of the Mahometan faith ; yea, perhaps you may find some who agree in opinion and only differ in several ways of expressing the same thing, and yet can scarce look upon one another without displeasure and aversion. But, alas! how much do these men disparage that religion for which they appear so zealous ! How much do they mistake the Spirit of Christianity ? Are the persons whom they hate, greater enemies to religion than those who perfecuted the apostles and martyrs for professing it? And yet these were the persons whom our Saviour commanded his disciples to love, and himself did pray for those that crucified him, and severely checked the difciples, when, by a precedent brought from the Old Testament, they would have called for fire from heaven on those who would not receive them; telling them, they knew not what fpirit they were of ; i. e. they did not consider by what spirit they were prompted to such cruel inclinations; or, as others explain it, they did not yet sufficiently understand the temper and genius of Christianity, which is pure and peaceable, gentle and meek-full of sweetness and

full of love. If men would impartially examine their hatred and animofities against the enemies of their religion, I fear they would find them proceed from. a principle which themselves would not willingly

Pride and self-conceit will make a man disdain those of a different persuasion, and think

own.

« PreviousContinue »