« AnteriorContinuar »
IF the Scriptures be a revelation from God, and
fatisfactory evidence have been given of their infpiration, it is incumbent upon all thofe, to whom they are prefented, to receive them as divine, and to fubmit to their authority. The cafe is not the fame, as when we are called upon to embrace a fyftem of philofophical or political opinions. We may be under no obligation either from duty or from interest, to decide for such a system or against it; it may be a matter of no confequence whether we affent to it, or deny it. But not to receive the Scriptures, which are the words of eternal life, and have been announced by God himfelf to the world, as a revelation of his will, is at once to treat his authority with contempt, and to do the highest poffible injury to ourselves.
Infidels may plead, that the evidence of their divinity is not fo clear and convincing, as to be the foundation of a rational affent. Its fufficiency or infufficiency cannot be determined by their affeverations or by ours, but must be ascertained by an attentive confideration of its nature. It is certain that far lefs evidence is accounted fuffi cient in many very important affairs, and that an unbeliever will rifk his fortune, and even his life, in an undertaking for the fuccefs of which there is not half the evidence, which we have for the infpiration of the Scriptures. Why is he fo eafily satisfied in the one cafe, but fo delicate and fcrupulous in the other? If he say, that when a greater intereft is at stake, greater caution should be exercifed, we grant the obfervation to be just ; but we maintain, that the ftrength of the evidence in favour of revelation, bears an exact proportion to the fuperior importance of the cafe ; and we refufe to accept of the apology as fincere, because no other part of his conduct accords with this affected concern for the welfare of his foul. Did he difcover a defire to know the truth, a folicitude to please God, a trembling anxiety with zefpect to futurity, a fear of every mistake, and
every action which might prove fatal to his happiness, we might attribute his objections to the evidences of the gospel, to a dread left he should rafhly take a step, which he would afterwards have cause to repent. But he who laughs at all religion, minds nothing but the prefent world, fpends his days in the chace of pleasures or of honours, and beftows his whole attention and care on his body, infults our understandings when he tells us, that it is from an apprehenfion of the: confequences in another state of existence, that he does not embrace Christianity..
It is in vain that the adverfaries of the Scrip-tures allege in their defence, that even on the fuppofition of their divine authority, they are excuse-able in not receiving them, because they cannot perceive the force of the evidence in their favour. We are told, that our understandings are not in our own power, and that if our minds happen to be fo conftituted, as to be incapable of difcerning truths which are manifeft to others, their dulness or incapacity may be called our misfortune, but: ought not to be imputed to us as a crime. But the declamations of infidels, and fome others, on this favourite topic, are loofe and inaccurate.
We shall not difpute that the mind is paffive in the reception of many of its ideas. There are certain propofitions which fhine with their own light, and convince all, whether willing or unwil ling, of their truth. But there are truths, on the other hand, the perception of which requires attention, freedom from prejudice, a difpofition to learn, humility, and the absence of vicious propenfities. If thefe qualities be wanting, the truth may not be perceived, but in fuch a cafe the perfon is manifeftly guilty. The evidences of the divinity of the Scriptures are very ftrong; but it is poffible for one to take a hafty or partial view of them, to liften only to the arguments on the oppofite fide, to come to the confideration of them, with a mind prepoffeffed by unfair and infidious reprefentations of the fubject, and to with that one may find them not fatis factory. That a perfon, thus predifpofed, was not fatisfied, could excite no furprife. It would be manifeftly his own fault, that he was not convinced; and his unbelief would moft certainly be criminal. We hear much of the candour of infidels, not only from themselves, but alfo from fome who bear the name of Chriftians, but betray the caufe
which they profefs to defend. But fetting afide the proofs, which might be brought from the writings and conversation of infidels, that candour is a virtue to which they have no claim, at least in oppofing revelation, 1 beg the reader to confi der, that the Scriptures, to which we are now at liberty to appeal as an authority, affure us, that no man can be candid in rejecting the truth. They trace unbelief, not only to the darkness of the understanding, but to the corrupt paffions of the heart. It is the offspring of pride, of vanity, of covetoufnefs, of fenfuality. At the fame time, they declare, that every honeft and upright man, every man whofe mind is purified from prejudice and luft, if he be not already satisfied, shall finally be convinced, that the doctrines of the Chriftian religion are divine. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself*." Infidelity is the effect not of physical, but of moral caufes; it is not a misfortune, but a crime, and a crime, too, of an aggravated nature.
How much happiness do infidels lofe by rejecting the gospel? I know, indeed, that they are of
* John vii. 17.