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church; the worthy successor of Scott and Venn, whose spirit he so early imbibed, and whose principles he has so steadfastly maintained.
The immediate occasion, (says the author,) of preparing this course of Lectures, was the confirmation by the Lord Bishop of London of a large number of young persons (more than seven hundred) in the author's parish last spring. These it became his most pleasing duty to instruct and further establish in their christian profession. To assist him in this, he could find no work exactly of the kind he desired. He wanted a full and popular review of the whole argument. The excellent summary of Bishop Proteus was too brief and too much in the form of an essay for his purpose. He was induced therefore to venture on the hazardous measure of preparing the course, of which the present volume forms the first division. Pref. p. v.
With immediate reference, therefore to the benefit of the
young, and the “fluctuating and uninformed christian,” he aims to present, in a popular and practical manner, the entire evidences of revealed religion, without breaking the chain of argument by stopping to answer cavils and objections :—“to exhibit a view of the subject, which after laying the foundation of the historical evidences sufficiently to bring the religion before us as of divine origin, dwells chiefly on the holy effects which it produces in the life of the believer; displays the internal evidences of the religion itself, and thus appeals to the conscience and heart of every sincere inquirer.”
On the importance of thus introducing into the argument a view of the intrinsic excellence and power of christianity, which shall address itself to the convictions and feelings of every one who is acquainted with its character, the author very justly lays peculiar stress. The following remarks on this subject deserve particular notice.
It seems to me one of the most unhappy effects of a declining piety in these later ages, that the evidences of christianity should so often have been separated from its characteristic excellency, thc revelation of a hope for lost man in the death of Jesus Christ our Lord. This is to rob the great argument of its practical and most persuasive topics—it is to leave the question of christianity as a dry theory and barren speculation-it is to forget all the topics connected with the ruin of the fall, and with the blessedness of that stupendous scheme of recovery which is most calculated to affect the heart of man. It is to construct a portal and take away the edifice into which it should conduct us.
In his attempt to give the subject a practical bearing, the author has been eminently successful. Having discussed the nature and importance of the subject in his first Lecture, he devotes the second to the consideration of the Temper of mind in which such a subject should be studied. On the clearest principles of natural
religion, as Mr. W. remarks, a subject of this kind ought to be examined with candor and docility; with a seriousness corresponding to the momentous interests involved in the inquiry; with prayer to God for his guidance and illumination, in the reverent use of our faculties, and with a steady and practical obedience to his will, in every branch of known duty. He then compares with this standard the actual temper and conduct of unbelievers, as exhibited by three classes, the Literary and Scientific, the Young and Uninformed, and the grossly Profane and Profligate. By a reference to their lives and writings, Mr. W. shows that unbelievers as a body, are totally and avowedly deficient in the qualities enumerated above ; that instead of manifesting the temper described above, it is the object of their scorn. Instead of docility of mind, they have generally exhibited a spirit of unfairness, inconsistency, and dishonesty, in the concealment or perversion of the plainest facts. Instead of seriousness in their inquiries, they have treated the most solemn of all subjects, with profane levity, or studied sarcasm, or supercilious contempt. Instead of a spirit of prayer, they have directed their arguments not only against the religion of Christ, but against the possibility of proving any revelation from God-virtually denying his existence and essential attributes, and acting in conformity to such a denial, in the use of blasphemies, impieties, and profaneness, condemned not by christianity alone, but by natural religion itself. Instead of obedience to the will of God, their system of morality has been an artful or an open abandonment of every thing that is “pure or lovely, or of good report :” and their character and conduct, when uncontrolled by public sentiment, have been a fearful comment on the influence of such systems. No one, we are confident, who shall read this eloquent Lecture with candor and attention, can believe it possible, that the opposers of christianity, with the spirit which they have brought to the discussion, should ever arrive at truth. On
On any other question, whether of morals, literature, or politics, the spirit by which they are actuated, would disqualify them, in the view of all mankind, for reaching any just or rational conclusions.
If there were generally amongst the ranks of unbelievers (says Mr. W.) a manifest spirit of piety and subjection to God, something like what natural religion professes to enjoin-if there were a prevailing earnestoess to know the will of God-if there were a pain and grief of heart under the unwilling pressure of molesting fears if we saw these men, as the inimitable Pascal remarks, “ groaning sincerely under their doubts, regarding them as their greatest misfortune, sparing no pains in order to be freed from them, and making it their principal and most serious occupation to search for truth," then, indeed, we should feel a sincere respect and concern for them. pp. 55, 56.
Christianinity (he adds) does not profess to convince the perverse and headstrong, to bring irresistible evidences to the daring and profane, to van
quish the proud scorner, and afford evidences from which the careless and perverse cannot possibly escape. This might go to destroy man's responsibility. All that christianity professes, is to propose such evidences as may satisfy the meek, the tractable, the candid, the serious inquirer. Her grace, indeed overcomes at times others; but it is to bring them to this docile and humble temper, in which alone is there a recipiency, a capacity for admitting truth. As to her evidences, perhaps they are left so, says a profound observer, as that those who are desirous of evading moral obligation should not see them, whilst fair and candid persons should.
The third Lecture enters directly upon the great question, whether or not, christianity is a revelation from God. The plan of the argument is at once simple, comprehensive, and systematic. Taking for granted what are claimed to be the doctrines of natural religion—the being of a God and the reality of a future state—the writer commences with a consideration of the state of mankind in all ages and countries where christianity has been unknown ; deriving a presumptive argument in favor of revealed religion, from the obvious insufficiency of human reason, as a guide of faith and practice. In considering the condition of the heathen world before the coming of Christ, Mr. W. reminds us how difficult it is at the present day, to form an adequate conception of its real state. Among us, the existence of one living and true God, the immortality of the soul, and a future state of rewards and punishments, are equally well known to the child and the philosopher; and are the foundation at once of individual virtue, and of social order. But what must have been the condition of society, when the being and providence of God, the accountability of man, and the retributions of eternity, existed only in the doubtful conjectures of philosophers and poets, while the body of the people were plunged in a wide-spread and hopeless idolatry? The standard of morals was equally undecided. There was no agreement as to the true nature of virtue, no clear conception of the supreme good, no established principles of right and wrong. Under these appalling circumstances there was no stated instruction in religion and morals ; no body of men set apart to withstand by their reasonings and example, the downward tendency of human nature. On the contrary, the whole influence of their religion, was on the side of vice. Christians may be wicked, and often are so; but, as Warburton justly remarks, it is notwithstanding their religion, and in spite of its restraining influences. But the heathen, were deceitful, impure, unjust, revengeful, and in every other way abominable, in consequence of their religion, and in compliance with its dictates. Hence, while instances of gross iniquity are exceptions to the ordinary state of things in christian nations, they constituted among the heathen, the natural condition, the established order of society, in which examples of purity and virtue were rare and uncommon.
If we turn to unbelievers now scattered over christian countries, whence, we may ask, except from the bible, have they derived those truths of natural religion, which lay hid from the wisest philosophers of antiquity, during the lapse of so many centuries? It is easy to demonstrate the correctness of a proposition, when the truth which it promulgates is already known. A smatterer in philosophy may discover a new method of verifying the súpnxa of Archimedes. But even at the present day, what are the moral tems of unbelievers? Contradictory with themselves; at war with each other; unsettled as to the fundamental principles of belief and practice; without any sanction or authority to secure obedience, amidst the seductions of interest and the whirlwind of passion. Such are the results of an experiment which has been going on for ages, to lay a solid foundation for morals and social order without a revelation from God.
In his fourth and fifth Lectures, Mr. W. considers the evidence of the genuineness and authenticity of the scriptures; and applies with great acuteness and discrimination, the ordinary tests which are used to detect spurious writings.
He shows conclusively, that the circumstances of the case, make it not only improbable, but morally impossible, that our sacred books should be forgeries. If there is the slightest reason for doubt on this subject, we must yield up at once all our confidence in any of the writings of antiquity; for the evidence of the genuineness of the scriptures, is a hundred fold greater than of any other ancient memorials.
In passing to consider, in the sixth Lecture, the credibility of the gospel history, Mr. W. argues this fact from the perfect coincidence of the narrative with the most authentic histories of the same age; from the character and circumstances of the sacred historians, their writing remote from each other, and obviously without the least concert; from their transparent integrity as disclosed in all their writings and actions; from the impossibility of their being deceived as to the facts which they related, and the equal impossibility of their being induced, against every motive, to attempt any deception upon others.
The seventh Lecture is devoted to the consideration of miracles, and the eighth and ninth to that of prophecy and its fulfilment, as evidences of the divine origin of the scriptures.
In the tenth Lecture, the rapid propagation of christianity, the peculiar obstacles which it had to surmount, the moral and spiritual changes which it wrought in its subjects, and the preservation of this religion in the world, notwithstanding its contrariety to the strongest feelings of our depraved nature, are presented with great force, as evidences that it must be from God.
In the eleventh Lecture, Mr. W. dwells on the beneficial effects. Vol. II,
of christianity, in implanting those principles on which the welfare of states depends; in banishing an immense mass of the most afflicting evils, such as human sacrifices, gladiatorial shows, infanticide, the degradation of the female sex, etc; and in conferring the most substantial benefits, by elevating the female character, raising the condition of the lower class, promoting charitable designs, appointing a day for religious instruction, and providing, in a multitude of other ways, for the well-being of mankind.
Having thus, by the most conclusive and irresistible reasoning, established the divine origin of the christian scriptures, Mr. W. discusses their inspiration in the two concluding Lectures. Our readers are undoubtedly aware, that the question whether or not the apostles, in the records which they have left us, “ spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” is one which at the present time is exciting no ordinary interest. Men who without success have had recourse to every other means of supporting opinions to which they find some very serious objections in the bible, are, as a last resort, sacrilegiously attempting to strip that sacred book of its brightest glory, and openly imputing to apostolic ignorance and error, whatever comes in contact with their conceptions of propriety. Between this ground and infidelity, there is but a single step. And we believe that here the enemy will make a stand—that here a battle must be fought, by those who mean to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.” This is the concluding subject of the volume before us, and its vast importance claims for it particular attention.
The internal evidences come next in the author's plan; the completion of which he gives us reason to expect in a future volume. The following are the topics which he proposes to consider : The suitableness of christianity to the wants of man—the eccellency of its doctrines—the purity of its precepts—the perfect character of its Founder, and its tendency to promote the temporal and spiritual happiness of man, with two or three lectures devoted to a practical application of the whole subject.
We have given this hasty sketch of the plan of Mr. Wilson's truly excellent work, for the purpose of bringing it before the christian public. The subject is one of immense importance. The style of the performance is perspicuous, spirited, and forcible ;the arguinent, thorough and conclusive: and possessing as it does a character eminently“ popular and practical,” we think it admirably adapted to general use.
Leaving now the work itself, we proceed to offer a few remarks which have been suggested by its peculiar character. The author has given great prominence to the sentiment, that the evidence in favor of christianity, which is derived from its intrinsic excellence and power, forins after all the most efficient part of the argument