« ElőzőTovább »
believed, or rather in some instances perhaps only affected to disbelieve, the fundamental truths of Christianity. The Christian professes not to deny the force of such an argument, because he ia aware, that the weight of authority is very powerful, whether avowed or concealed. It undoubtedly gives a bias to the mind, which is more commonly felt than acknowledged; and it has considerable influence in determining the judgment in most of the affairs of life. If however this argument be urged in opposition to Christianity, fair reasoning requires that it should be allowed due force in its favour. Ask an insidel, who are the leaders, under M'hofe banners he has enlisted himself, and perhaps he will refer you to Bolingbroke, and to Hume: but surely, if even we allow the elegance and acuteness of the one, and the florid declamation of the other, all the praise they deserve, they can never bear a competition with those luminaries of science, and those teachers of genuine wisdom, who have not only embraced the Christian faith, but maintained its truth and divine origin, and directed their conduct by its rules. They can never be weighed in the balance of merit, against advocates of Christianity, so dispassionate, sincere, ingenuous, and acute, so divested of all objections, that can be drawn from interested attachments, as Milton, Clarendon, Hale, Boyle, Bacon, Locke, Newton, Addison, Lyttleton, Weft, and Johnson',
c The list of those on whom no motive but a love os truth, and a regard for their own salvation, operated to induce them
• Ought not the testimony, which such men as these have given, to be held in the highest estimation? A testimony founded not upon any surrender of their judgments to the prevailing opinions of the day, but upon close and patient examination of the evidences of Christianity, of which their writings give the most satisfactory proofs. Or are such men to be undervalued, when brought into comparison with the insidels of modern times? Where do we sind persons of such profound understandings, and inquisitive minds, as Bacon, Locke, and Newton; where of such a sublime genius as Milton; where of such various and extensive learning; embracingall the treasures of eastern,as well as western literature, as Sir William Jones, who at the close of life recorded his conviction of the truth of divine Revelation, and celebrate the excellence of the holy Scriptures? To compare the race of modern insidels in point of genius, learning, science, judgment, or love of truth ;—to compare Voltaire, Hume, Gibbon, Godwin and Paine, with such men ( as these, were surely as idle, and as absurd, as to 'compare the weakness of infancy with the maturity of manhood; the flutter of a butterfly with the
to embrace Christianity, may be greatly enlarged; more particularly by adverting to many characters of the sirst eminence, distinguished in other countries. To the illustrious names of Savile, Selden, Hatton,' Mead, Steele, Dugdale, Nelson, Littleton, as well as those included in my list, may be added those of Salmasius, Grotius, Pascal, Pufendorf, Erasmus, Montesquieu, and Haller. I am sensible of the great imperfections of this detail.
soaring foaring of an eagle; or the twinkling of a fta? with the glory of the fun, illuminating the univerfo with his meridian brightness.
It is well remarked, by an elegant and sensible writer, who could have no professional bias to influence his opinions, that, " The clergy are both ready and able to maintain the cause of Christianity, as their many excellent writings in defence of it sufficiently demonstrate: but as the generality of mankind is more governed by prejudice than reason, their writings are not so universally read, er so candidly received, as they deserve; because they are supposed to proceed, not from conscience and conviction, but from interested views, and the common cause of their profession—A supposition evidently as partial and injurious as that would be, which should impute the gallant behaviour of our officers to the mean consideration of their pay, and their hopes of preferment; exclusive of all the nobler motives of gentlemen; viz. the fense of honour, and the love of their country V
Against the authority of such insidious writer*, as Voltaire and Gibbon, we enter our serious, and we think our equitable protest; we exhort every one to beware of their sophistry, and to guard against their delusive arts. They have violated the laws of fair controversy, and fought with the weapons that cannot be allowed on such occasions.
* West en the Resurrection.
They employ ridicule instead of argument, artful insinuation instead of serious discussion, and bold assertion instead of proof. They write to the passions and imagination, and not to the judgment of mankind. They artfully involve the questions relative to the evidences of Christianity in perplexity, and endeavour to throw the blame arising from the dissentions and usurpations, the vices and ignorance of some of the clergy, and the injury, which in dark and superstitious times was done to the liberties of mankind, upon Christianity itself. They felect thofe topics, which can best be turned to their purpofe, by the arts of misrepresentation; they embellish them with the flowery ornaments of stile, and skilfully adapt them to the passions and prejudices of their readers. As however their conduct is thus artful, so ought their labours to be vain; for they do not try the cause upon its own merits: they do not, like candid and dispassionate reasoners, separate the subject in dispute from all foreign and extraneous circumstances: they do not agitate questions, and start objections, from a desire of being well informed: they do not, in the spirit of true philosophy, examine the evidences of Christianity with the seriousness, which is due to an affair of such insinite importance to the present welfare, and future happiness of mankind: they do not consider, that the fame unbelief, if applied to the common records of history, or the ordinary affairs of life, would expose them to the imputation of extreme rashness and folly. As their conduct is evidently not dictated by a love of truth,
their their scoffs, their sarcasms, and their sophistry, deserve no attention ; and as they not only wantonly reject, but industriously depreciate the best gist of heaven, they ought to be shunned and reprobated, as enemies to the dearest interests of mankind e.
And they certainly ought to be so considered, whether we observe the baleful influence of their opinions upon our present, or our future state. By a strange perversion of reason and argument, some of the Philosophists in France, and Godwin in England, have laboured to subvert the regular order of nature'. Instead of representing the exercise of the private affections, as preparatory to that of public virtue, they set the. one in direct opposition to the other. They propose to build universal philanthropy upon the ruins of individual benevolence, and tell us we must love our whole
e "I am no advocate for the abject prostration of the devotee, or the frantic ecstasies of the fanatic. But there is a superstition, fays the immortal Bacon, in shunning superstition ; and he that disdains to follow religion in the open and the trodden path, may chance to lose his way in the trackless wilds of experiment, or in the obscure labyrinths of speculation." Parr on Education, p. 24.
f For this train of observation, ns far as p. 68, I am indebted to "Modern Insidelity considered," in a Sermon preached at the Baptist Meeting at Cambridge, by R. Hall, A.M. Considering the sound arguments of this writer, recommended by great eloquence and zeal in the cause of Christianity, I am inclined to exclaim, " talis cum sit, utinam nqster elfet." Sec p. 57, &c.