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This we think is Dr. Chalmers' great merit, in this portion of his work. He has removed some false, or, at least, questionable arguments, which had previously been employed ; and has fully investigated the origin of the whole controversy. Yet we can by no means allow what he appears to affirm (while complimenting the practical sagacity of English theologians at the expense of their speculative powers) that Paley and others have contented themselves with giving a correct judgment on the case, without giving the principle of their judgment. They have, with Campbell, in numberless cases, clearly anatomized the argument, and demonstrated its fallacy. Those fallacies consist in the shuffling substitution of the experience of the individual for universal experience, and the confounding together of all species of testimony, without the slightest reference to their relative value:- fallacies so enormous as to justify the contempt with which this argument (so shallow, if Hume were sincere, or so dishonest, if he were not,) has sometimes been treated. It is true that the generality of our English anthors have not gone so far back as Dr. Chalmers has done, and we thank him for having gone further; but we must distinctly deny that this is at all essential. Not only may that practical reply, which is all that our author has quoted from Paley, be given without any such discussions, but a full logical refutation of it.-We must observe, that the chapter “ on man's instinctive belief in the constancy of nature" might have been for the most part spared, as the author had so fully explained himself on that topic in the first volume on “ Natural Theology.” We have remarked that many of the same illustrations are employed, and some of the sentences repeated almost word for word.
By the additional chapters on the “ Moral Evidence for the truth of the New Testament, on the “ Experimental Evidence of the truth of Christianity,” and “ on the Portable Character of the Evidence for the truth of Christianity," Dr. Chalmers appears to us to have completely remedied what was always, in our view, the grand defect of his original work. These topics, it is well known, were left entirely untouched in the work as it originally stood, and even up to the seventh edition. One may therefore reasonably suppose that a considerable change has taken place in our author's views : and that, as such is the case, a distinct acknowledgment of this may be found in the present volumes. Certainly such an exhibition of candour can do nothing to depreciate our author in the opinion of any reflective man; but, on the contrary, greatly to raise him. And we rejoice that he has not hesitated candidly to acore this change of opinion ; though we regret that it is not inserted in the body of the old nork, but in a preliminary chapter on the “ Connexion between the Doctrine and the Miracle.” We have been particular in mentioning this, that the reader may not be betrayed into the unworthy suspicion that the excellent author has been ashamed to retract or qualify a rash opinion. The following passage will be read with interest.
«The historical evidence for these miraculous facts were enough of themselves to constitute a simple but solid foundation on which to rest the whole superstructure of our creed. We confess our partiality, in other days, to what we held as a beautiful and consistent exemplification of the question between us and infidels. There is nothing, however, which has contributed more to modify our views upon this subject than the very question whereof we now treat. Instead of holding all religions as suspended on the miraculous evidence, we see this evidence itself standing at the bar of an anterior principle, and there waiting for its authentication. There is a previous natural religion on whose aid we call for the determination of this matter. It is an authority that we at one time should have utterly disregarded and contemned, but now hold it in higher reverence, since, reflecting on the supremacy of conscience within us, we deem this to be the token of an ascendant principle of morality and truth in the universe around us.”— Vol. iii. p. 385.
We consider these admissions equally honourable to the author and valuable to the cause of truth; honourable to the author, because they show that he is far more attached to truth than to his own opinions, and valuable to the cause of truth, inasmuch as they contain a striking homage to the power of the internal evidence, offered as it is by one who certainly cannot be supposed to have embraced it from a blind partiality, or upon slight consideration.
The Doctor, however, still declares his unmitigated hostility to a certain species of internal evidence, which he says he regards as “ most precarious.” It is evident that he refers to the attempts to show that the more specific and mysterious doctrines of Christianity are in harmony with those of reason. But is it true that the writers who have indulged in such speculations, have ever, properly speaking, intended that such defences should be considered, in any strict sense, as a part of the internal evidences at all. Certainly we do not ask for any more internal evidence than that which our author admits to be valid. And we apprehend, after we have deducted all that he has argued for, there will remain very little, if any thing, which authors have ever considered a part of the moral internal evidence in any intelligible sense. For example; he tells us, that there is “ an evidence arising from the ethical system of the gospel;" an evidence " arising not from the witnesses themselves, but from the subject matter of their testimony ;" he tells us that “ the morality of the gospel might be held as a demonstration, at least as a likelihood of having proceeded from God, with whose character it is in such full and marvellous accordance. For that system of virtue which recommends itself to the consciences of men, must also recommend itself to their notions of the Godhead.” He tells us that there is “an evidence grounded on the accordance which obtains between the representations of the Bible, and our own previous notions of the Deity." He tells us that there is an evidence grounded on the accordancy, which obtains between what the Bible says we are, and what we find ourselves to be ;" an evidence grounded “ on the accordancy between what the Bible overtures to us for our acceptance, and what we feel ourselves to need;" he also speaks of the “ doctrinal as a branch of the internal evidence of Christianity, as consisting in certain symphonies or adaptations of part to part, which might serve to recommend it, as founded in wisdom, or as having a real foundation in the nature of things.” Now if these and such like topics be deducted from what we have always considered the moral internal evidence, many
persons would naturally ask what is that species of internal evidence to which our author still affirms other writers have given such an injudicious prominence? We cannot help suspecting our worthy author has hastily confounded what have been merely intended as replies to the specific objections of infidels, (still leaving Chris. tianity to rest on its immoveable basis of external and internal evidence,) with the design of furnishing a distinct species of internal evidence.
The attempt, for example, which he blames in Leland and others, to set up a rational defence of those mysteries of Christianity, “ those apparent incongruities in the system,” which the infidel alleges to be inconsistent with the character and government of God, is not surely an attempt to establish a peculiar kind of internal evidence of Christianity. Such defences, we quite agree with him, have often been exceedingly injudicious and presumptuous; we also admit with him, that since Christianity is established on its appropriate evidences, its truth is in no case to be suspended on the success of any such attempts. Still they are not put forth as any part of the evidences of Christianity, strictly so called, (or if they ever are, we willingly give them up ;) they are merely intended to show that such and such doctrines, not being irrational or absurd, ought not to operate as a bar to the reception of the proper evidences; they are defences superadded to the proper evidences. Though it is quite true that they have often been eminently injudicious defences ; though we should deprecate, as much as Dr. Chalmers, making the truth of Christianity to depend upon such defences; and though the Christian can in no case, by the laws of fair argument, be called upon to solve the difficulties to which they refer, we can by no means concur in the indiscriminate censure which Dr. Chalmers casts upon such attempts. We think that, wherever it is possible, it is well to show, over and above demonstrating the truth of Christianity by its proper evidences, that the doctrines to which the infidel objects are not fairly open to his objections. We are bound to do this when we can, not because we are argumentatively obliged to do it, or because the true grounds of Christianity would be a whit less strong if it were not done, but in charity; that, so far as possible, every semblance of objection, every ground of prejudice, every stumblingblock may be removed out of the objector's way. That the attempt has often been injudiciously made, we have admitted ; that it can never be more than partially successful we also admit; but to proscribe such attempts altogether, on the ground that when we have demonstrated Christianity to be true, on its proper and legitimate evidence, we cannot, by the strict laws of logic, be called upon to do more, appears, to say the least, very rash ; while the representing of any such charitable and well-meant attempts, as originating in a desire to set up a species of positive internal evidence, we cannot but look upon as a gross confusion of language.
But whether our author has expressed himself quite clearly upon this point or not, we must once more declare our delight, that he has reconsidered and revised his opinions on the subject of the internal evidence generally, and has done such ample justice to the topics he had dismissed so summarily in the preceding editions. We cannot but think that the three last chapters of the fourth book, on these topics, by far the most important and impressive portion of the two volumes; and though the subjects have been often treated before, our author has managed to introduce into the discussion of them very considerable originality. We think the author especially happy in those parts in which he speaks of the resistless evidence which gradually dawns on the mind of the diligent and conscientious student of the scripture, from the page of scripture itself, as well as in the treatment of the experimental evidence, strictly so called. While these particular portions of the internal evidence cannot be exhibited in controversy with the infidel, (with whom the historical argument is, undoubtedly, the principal thing ;) there cannot be a question that they will form to the Christian a far stronger and more irresistible demonstration that the gospel is divine, than all that Lardner and Paley have ever written. We are convinced that our readers will thank us for laying before them the following forcible and eloquent passages : :
“ This reasoning might be prosecuted further. Other examples might be given in detail, of high wisdom and principle, not humanly to be expected in the state and circumstances of the apostles; and which, therefore, as bordering on the miraculous, or perhaps as fully realizing this character, might well be proposed as distinct credentials for the divinity of the New Testament. But the morality of the gospel might be viewed in another light, than merely as an exhibition on the part of its messengers-approving themselves to be singularly, and, perhaps, supernaturally gifted men. It might be viewed in immediate connexion with God, or held as a demonstration, at least as a likelihood of having proceeded from him, with whose character it is in such full and marvellous accordance. For that system of virtue which recommends itself to the consciences of men, must also recommend itself to their notions of the Godhead. The chief argument of nature, as we have already attempted to prove, for the character of the Divinity, is the character of that law which has been graven by his own hands on the tablet of our moral nature. That to which we do homage in the system of virtue, is also that to which we do homage in God as the living exemplar of it, and on the principle that himself must be adorned by the virtues which he has taught us to admire. It is thus that we personify the ethical system into a being, or pass from the character of the law to the character of the lawgiver. We fully esteem and accredit God as author of the law of conscience; and should it correspond with the law of a professed revelation, more especially if it be a revelation by which the conscience itself has been greatly enlightened and enlarged, do we recognise the probability at least, if not the certainty of its having come from God.
“ But we can imagine more than this. We can imagine a reader of the Bible to be visited with the resistless yet legitimate conviction, amounting to a strongly felt and immediate sense that God has spoken to him there--insomuch that he feels himself to be in as direct correspondence with God, uttering his own words to him, as with an earthly friend, when engaged in the perusal of a letter, which he knows to be the authentic production of him from whom it professes to have come. It may be difficult to convince those who have never thus been visited by any such direct or satisfying revelation, that there is no fancy or fanatical illusion in the confidence of those who profess to have been made the subjects of it. And yet they may be helped to conceive aright of it by certain illustrations. Those Jews who heard our Saviour, and testified that he spake as one having authority, had at first hand an argument for his divine mission, which they could not adequately survey or explain the grounds of to
another. The officers of the Sanhedrim, who were sent to apprehend Jesus, yet refrained from touching him, because,' as they reported, never man spake like this man,' had also an evidence, which, however powerfully and warrantably felt in their own minds, they could not by any statement pass entire into the minds of other men. The centurion who was present at the crucifixion of the Saviour, and who, from what he heard and saw of the tone, and aspect, and manner of the divine sufferer, testified that this surely was the Son of God, may have received, through the vehicle of his senses, a deep and à just persuasion, which yet, by no testimony of his, could be borne with full effect, and so as to give the same persuasion to those who were distant from the scene. And, in like manner, the men who were not able to resist the spirit and the wisdom wherewith Stephen spake, may have felt a great deal more than they could tell ; yet not a groundless or imaginative feeling, but a rightful impression, which it would have been well if they had acted on, that be spake with the truth and authority of an inspired man. In all these cases, we admit the possibility of such tokens having been exhibited, as might give to the parties who were present a strong and intimate persuasion, not the less solid, that it was only felt by themselves and incommunicable to others. The solitary visitant of some desert and before unexplored island, has good reason for believing in the reality of the scenes and spectacles before him, though no other eyes ever witnessed them but his own. And so, too, in the person of a celestial messenger, there might, for aught we know, be such real though indescribable symptoms of the character wherewith he is invested. Such undoubted signatures of wisdom, and authority, and truth; such a thorough aspect of sacredness; such traits of a divinity in every look and every utterance; that, though not capable of being made the subject of a public argument, or of being reported to the satisfaction of others, might, nevertheless, awaken a most honest, and homefelt, and withal sound conviction in the hearts of those who were the witnesses of such a present and personal manifestation, and who themselves saw with their eyes, and heard with their ears, what they could not make other understandings than their own to conceive.
“ Now the question is, whether those characters of truth and of power, which we now imagine to have been in the oral testimony, might not have been transplanted into the written testimony-or whether that palpable evidence embodied in the personal history, and in the words of our Saviour as he spake them upon earth, and of which the hearers took immediate cognizance, might not be fixed and substantialed in the Bible that he left behind him, and be there taken immediate cognizance of by the readers of the Bible. Certain it is, that the prima facie evidence, the first aspect of that verisimilitude which lies in the obvious sacredness and honesty of Scripture, is greatly heightened by our intent and our prolonged regards to it. The man who devotes bimself in the spirit of a thorough moral earnestness to the perusal of Scripture, feels a growing homage in his heart to the sanctity, the majesty, and the authority which beam upon him from its pages—and in more conspicuous light, and with more commanding effect, the longer that this holy exercise is persevered in. And the question recurs-might not this growing probability grow into a complete and irresistible certainty at the last? Might not the verisimilitude ripen and be confirmed into the full assurance of a verity ?. If in the course of actual experience it be found that we do meet with daily accession to this evidencehow are we to know that there is not as much of the evidence in reserve, as shall at length overpower the mind into a settled yet sound conviction, that verily God is in the Bible of a truth? It is no condemnation of this evidence, that, only seen by those who have thus reached their way to it, it has not yet come within the observation of others who are behind them, who have not given the same serious and sustained attention to the Bible, or not so much made it the book of their anxious and repeated perusals—nor their right understanding of the book, the subject of their devoutest prayers. It is true, the resulting evidence is of that personal and peculiar quality, which cannot be translated in all its
x.s. VOL. I.