« ElőzőTovább »
can work was generally received for what it professed to be, an apt * Price plication of the inductive logic to the Christian evidence, to hy those who were versed in the history of human opinions, and
had studied the elements which enter into all our convictions, it mooi appeared very singular that an intelligent Christian sbould Estons profess to adopt, 'in the spirit of the soundest philosophy,' the gelige utmost extravagance of the scepticism of Bayle and lume; ders and that be should endeavour to produce, by reasoning, a per
suasion of the truth of Christianity, after having atfirmed 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 at. tempted to set aside the conclusions of natural theology, and to establish the philosophical, as well as scriptural character, of those principles that forin the substratum of the Christian Evidence. The learned Professor bas, in our apprehension, been quite successful. He bas shewn very clearly that the objections to natural religion which Dr. C. professed to draw from the Baconian method of pbilosophizing, 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, tbat, independent of revelation, it is impossible to ascertain the existence of God, or any thing respecting the character of bis administra
tion. • The only safe and competent evidence that can be aplegge pealed to,' he represents to be, 'the Christian iniracles.' “There ved 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 intrinsic • merits of any revelation. Reason is not entitled to sit in judge6 ment over those internal evidences, which many a presumpI tuous theologian has attempted to derive from the reason of o 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 justily a belief in their occurrence. This objection, which stands in the very threshold 6 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 overtooked, 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 indi cated 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,
nature prudelligent cause, as the preternatural phenomena reuder not the Mearns's Christian Evidence.
509 ited 0, we infer, in like manner, that the operation of those
docta; been interrupted. In virtue of the primordial law of religan bat every effect must have a cause, we infer, from
Ressuiit strictly' miraculous, the interposition of God, by the al evideps as those by which we deduce his existence and in"empted sce from the usual appearances of nature.
agress' son reaches the conclusion, that a cause sufficient to the pro. tributes of phenomena implying a suspension of the laws of nature, can le enom ng inferior.to the power of 'Him by whom these laws were e of demeted. By the further investigation of principles, combined with that is ion of the order of nature, reason concludes, that the cause in Retete perates the production of these supernatural phenomena, is, suks of ost be, the power, either mediately or immediately exerted, of
Supreme Lord of Nature.' p. 43. ough there is no necessary connexion between miraculous
and the truth of propositions, yet as the ostensible agent s to them in proof of his doctrines, we may reason that
e God is veracious and omniscient, be cannot affix his seal world has
osture. The principles concerned in this process, which all be
perfectly legitimate, are rejected by Dr. C. as being of no of Raw value than the fooleries of an infant;' and accordingly he has anciples ide himself, if he reasons consistently, from evincing the
of Christianity, granting that the miracles to which appeal pos, de, were actually wrought. us faes " shew how powerful and impressive an aspect he had made DA COLE bristian evidence to assume, Dr. C. imagines, as the subject that empat periment, an ideal personage, who, after carefully observing strong Shenomena of the universe, sees nothing in them wbich can tony co ant bim to believe in the existence of the living and intelwhich suit Author of Nature, and who hears the innumerable testi
and they wbich all things, great and small, einit in favour of their at the beker, without the least leaving to the conviction that there is te from wod. Without remarking on the shocking improbability of its face fiction, or the dubious tendency of representing the underChrister fading of this imaginary person, as in a high state of preparabe fear for the reception of Christianity in a pure form, it is sufficient me. Thymremark that, if he acknowledges the occurrence of the of exristian miracles, he is not bound, by any principles which he Fical pride supposed to entertain, to admit the inference which our
amristian advocate deduces from them. If he bas rejected the ts ar sidence which the universe supplies for the existence of God,
bp vers the pretext that appearances of design afford no proof of an - bus bereity an object of experience, he will not perceive in them any
anifestation of the Eternal Mind. Ordinary and extraordinary vents turpisu the same kind of evidence. To draw a conclusion com either of them, we must reason from the effect to the cause, a
ieems the ideal atbeist
insuffici ų merits sment
tuous o the ti 6 fancie
The by this mated, corrob of its the a hopes purif pobl
that bot ind ha
raise force of that principle on which the
chicon is rested, that it rejects as ' a non
te ver such ground of belief. So wide is . by which we are impelled, from the ideer the existence and nature of efficient u vyzdected is the natural argument from
rest of Christian evidence ; that the prinwho justify resistance to that law, and reespero e natural theology, are found every where
leat. Thus, how vain is it to urge upon la suthority of this law of belief, the 'cre
.. ile Bigh moral character of those by whom
weit word absolutely without meaning,—how .."? benevolence,” « constancy," be any thing Fotosea's of the imagination ?” “ We do not avail
or any other principle than what an atheist white id he instantly proceeds to avail himself of ve willen does not acknowledge; nay, principles
'ge, if his own reasoning against
od for any thing. It is
grounds which have existence of those e witnesses, can be
proved upon no other principle than that which has been rejected.' pp. 56, 57.
If we are not allowed to reason from the effect to the existence and character of the cause, and consequently to infer the being and attributes of the great Agent, from his operations, we can never establish even the existence of those who performed the Christian miracles, as moral and intelligent beings, much less can we be entitleil, from their peculiar intellectual and moral character, to entertain any proposition, on the strength of their testimony.
If the ideal atheist should allow the legitimacy of reasoning from the effect to the cause, but reject the great argument for the existence of God, because he finds not appearances of design in nature, miracles will not work his conversion. The ordinary and the extraordinary appearances afford evidence of the same nature,
- Phenomena are submitted to his observation, and he is desired to infer the existence of a cause in which intelligence and power are combined. That the phenomena of the first class display numerous and striking appearances of intelligence and power, has almost ceased to be a subject of dispute; yet the atheist perceives no such appearances; his understanding, nevertheless, is in a high state of preparation, it seems, for perceiving such appearances in the other class of phenomena. His negative mind can discover in the processes of nature, no appearances which give even probability to the conclusion, that they were instituted by any thing different from the inert instruments employed in conducting them; nor from investigation of nature's laws, can his understanding perceive any traces of a power higher than that of the subjects of these laws; yet from the counteraction of these laws and processes, he is expected immediately to perceive the ex. istence of God. On the “ blank surface" of his mind, observation of the celestial mechanism has inscribed no trace of a powerful and skilful Architect; he has viewed the admirable construction of the planetary system, has investigated the composition of the forces employed, and the mode of dispensing light and heat ; and he can find no more reason for concluding that a Cause in which power and skill are combined exists, than for the random “ assertion, that in samo distant region, there are tracts of space, which teem only with ani. mated beings, who without being supported on a firm surface have the power of spontaneous movement in free spaces.” Yet this is the person whose intellect is in the best possible condition for being con. vinced of the existence of such a cause by “ a voice from heaven!” He has contemplated the skilful mechanism of the human body,- the various combinations of parts united for the production of a common end, and that end the welfare of the whole. He has sought a solution of the great question of a First Cause; he has applied to the solution of that question, the declination of atoms, the appetencies of molecules, the energies of nervous fibrillæ, with all the other famous hypotheses of a similar nature, on the one hand; and on the other, the almighty