« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
in favor of its truth; and he has proceeded throughout the discussion, in accordance with this opinion. To illustrate the correctness of the principle thus assumed; in other words, to consider the satisfactory and convincing character of the internal evidences of the divine original of the christian system, will be the object of our concluding remarks.
We believe it to be a principle whose correctness is demonstrable either from observation or experience, that that kind of evidence which addresses itself to the conscience and the heart, is much less easily evaded than that which speaks to the understanding merely. No chain of moral reasoning can be made so perfect, that sophistry and ingenuity will not discover some method of setting aside its deductions, and avoiding its conclusions, if it is of such a nature as to leave the feelings unaffected. But if its character is such that its force cannot but be felt ; however a biased understanding may at first reluctate, we may calculate almost with certainty upon ultimate conviction. This principle, we apprehend, has been too much overlooked in the controversies which have been carried on with infidelity; and hence she has been so fertile in expedients, which, however futile, have served in some measure to shield her against the weapons, with which she has been assailed. Has she been told that the world was in expectation when Jesus Christ appeared, and that this expectation was most evidently the harbinger of his coming ? She has replied, that the children of superstition have had a thousand dreams equally chimerical. Has she been reminded of the need of heavenly light to illuminate the darkened minds of the human race? She has boasted of the light of reason and of nature. Has she been shown that the truth of the christian scriptures is established by the concurrent testimony of multitudes,—of enemies as well as friends,-collateral circumstances also giving their confirmation? She has maintained that the highest human authority is not infallible--that prejudice often gives to circumstances a borrowed aspect, and that on such evidence, therefore, it were not safe to place reliance. But when the infidel has been pointed to christianity itself, he has looked, and turned away in silence. The purity--the divine perfection of its character, has carried home to his heart with a power, which he could not but feel, though his obduracy might enable him to resist it, the conviction, that its origin must also be divine. And doubtless, amid the mazes of his false philosophy, when he has seen in the system a moral beauty which he had not sufficient effrontery to disavow; and when the language of his own conscience has been, “ If there's a Power above 119
he must delight in virtue ; Bis bosom has been agitated by many a painful struggle. It was
this view of the subject which extorted from Rousseau—the proud -the dark-souled unbeliever, his striking testimony to the glorious character and doctrines of the Son of God.* It was this view of the subject, which drew from Byron, impious as he was, a reluctant tribute to the excellence of revealed religion.t And it was this view of the subject which induced another distinguished infidel, notwithstanding the inconsistency, to have his children well instructed in the precepts of the bible.
If we turn now from the infidel to the believer, we shall find that he too, has felt the superiority of internal evidence. The youth who has been taught from the cradle to regard christianity as a light from heaven, if the insinuations of scepticism have sometimes for a moment caused his faith to waver, when he has looked at the moral deformity of every other system, and then, turning to his own, has seen it,“ in its shape how lovely;" has felt his doubts all vanish in a moment, and has reposed on its truth with a still stronger confidence. The christian, to whose understanding the historical evidence which supports his faith, appears most unimpeachable, when, in view of the tremendous consequences of mistake on a subject so momentous as that which respects his prospects for eternity, he has felt the need of something to satisfy his heart ; has found it in what he has experienced of the purifying influence of the gospel on his soul, and its exact adaptedness to all his wants. The conviction that a system of doctrines so holy in its character-so ennobling and blessed in its tendency, can have come only from the Perfect One, has been irresistible; and he has laid hold on its promises with new assurance, and drank with new delight at its living fountains.
We would not be understood by any of these remarks, to undervalue that kind of testimony to the truth of our religion, which comes to us in the form of historical fact. Such testimony must ever lie at the foundation of all our reasonings on the subject. But we do wish to see greater prominence given to that evidence which is of an opposite character. We wish to see those who are called to encounter infidelity, for secret infidelity in various forms still exists extensively, wielding against her these arms of heavenly temper, which the shield of human sophistry cannot turn aside. We wish to hear her challenged to point us to precepts like the precepts of the bible ;-to show us a spirit like the spirit of christianity ;-to declare to us an immortality like that which the gospel of Jesus Christ reveals. We wish to hear those who guide the inquiries of the young, remind them of that plainest principle of common sense, “ the tree is known by its fruit,” and bid them consider
* Rousseau's (mile. See Christian Spectator, Vol. 7, p. 451.
whether a corrupt tree could ever have produced fruit so fair : to see those who would confirm and establish the wavering christian, refer him to that joy unspeakable which he himself has felt, and ask him if any thing but truth, can have inspired him with such a joy. Appeals like these may always be made with confidence, and we believe few cases will occur in which their power will not be felt. It is the highest glory of christianity, that were there no other evidence of her heavenly origin, TRUTH is written in broad characters upon her forehead, and that the blessings which her hand dispenses, tell unequivocally from whence she came.
There is a very serious evil arising from too exclusive a reliance on historical evidence in maintaining the truth of the christian scriptures, with the notice of which we shall conclude our remarks. It has, we think, an undeniable tendency to cause the question to be regarded as merely speculative. And when we have allowed ourselves to come to the discussion of the truth of our religion in the same manner as we would come to the discussion of the authenticity of the works of Cicero or of Homer, we have thrown wide open a door, at which the tide of error may flow in unobstructed. It is believed, that very many of the errors with which the church is now contending, are the result of the question having been so often placed on a footing too nearly resembling this. We find among us men possessing the highest reverence for christianity, who yet deny some of its most fundamental doctrines, and of course reject those parts of the bible in which they are clearly taught. Now on what principle shall we account for such a fact? Plainly on that to which we have before alluded, viz : that human ingenuity will find means of evading the most conclusive circumstantial argument, and that by such arguments mainly, the authenticity of the sacred books has been supported. Take, for an illustration, the Epistle to the Hebrews. When Unitarians found themselves reduced to the necessity of acknowledging the divinity of Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the atonement, or of denying the book to be of canonical authority, they soon discovered a way of setting aside all the evidence growing out of the fact that it was received and quoted as such by the fathers in the early ages of the church. But when in addition to this, an appeal is made to the character of the book itself—when it is shown to harmonize with the system in its doctrines—its spirit—its language—in all those grand peculiarities which distinguish the word of God, and this has recently been done with great ability,) the impress of inspiration which it bears is too manifest to be overlooked—too obvious to be denied. Let then the same course be taken in relation to those essential doctrines which are so often evaded under the plea of mistranslation, interpolations, and metaphorical language, or by some similar device of an inventive sophistry ;-let them be exhib
ited as coinciding perfectly with the other parts of the general system-as possessing the same spiritual and holy character ;- let the fact be shown, that where they are neglected in the ministrations of the pulpit, the bible ceases to be “the power of God unto salvation,” and that where they are enforced, the same transforming inAuence is apparent which attended the preaching of apostles; and we shall very soon witness a diminution of the number of believing infidels. Men would find themselves reduced to the necessity of receiving truth as the word of God reveals it, instead of making their own views and feelings the standard of appeal; or of throwing off the garb under which they now seek disguise, and renouncing christianity altogether. While, therefore, in maintaining the divine origin of our religion, the authenticity and inspiration of its scriptures, and the entire system of its peculiar doctrines, we avail ourselves of the external evidence, so perfect in its kind, with which we are supplied, let it never be forgotten, that truth, by her own features, may always be distinguished ;--that the beauty of heaven is impressed upon her brow, and simplicity and purity engraven on her hands.
ART. V.-REVIEW ON THE VARIOLOID AND SMALL Pox; AND
PREVALENT MALIGNANT Dis
ON THE MORAL EFFECTS
Report of the Committee of the Philadelphia Medical Society, appointed to
collect facts in relation to the recent occurrence of Small Pox in this city. American Medical Recorder: Philadelphia, April, 1828. See also, most of the medical journals of the same year.
ABOUT twenty years ago, a very malignant disease prevailed extensively in one of the most populous inland towns in this State. A large proportion of the families were visited with sickness, and few of them escaped without one or more deaths. Their minister, who is one of our most valued friends, has frequently remarked, that notwithstanding the solemn and affecting nature of this dispensation of Providence, he was able to mention but a single instance, in which it appeared to have any directly beneficial effect upon the survivors. One man only, of the hundreds who were in mourning, considered the death of his wife as the means of exciting him to reflection, and to a hopeful preparation for his own great change. A particular instance of sudden mortality has often been known to awaken the careless and secure; but it very rarely if ever happens, that any peculiar attention to religion, is either the attendant or the immediate consequence, of extensive and fatal sickness, or of any other general calamity. Neither great public prosperity, nor great
public adversity, appears to produce directly beneficial effects, in morals or religion, among the people who are its subjects. More generally, on the contrary, is their influence of such a kind, as to require years to remedy their pernicious consequences.
Nor is mere indifference to the concerns of religion the only evil, which is superinduced upon the community, by the prevalence of general sickness or distress; too frequently it is a period of irritation, discord, and contention. Instead of submitting with meekness, humility, and resignation, to the chastisements of Providence, and uniting in the attempt to stay the plague by all proper means, the public mind, at such seasons, is too often distracted by controversies, and embittered by party feeling. It is an interesting inquiry, therefore, what can be done by the patriotic, the pious, and the benevolent, in such circumstances, to lessen this accumulation of moral and physical evils.
As the first measure, it is necessary that the subject should be well understood; for in this, as in many other very important concerns, a great proportion of the errors originate in prejudice, ignorance, or inisapprehension. Those who are the least informed are generally the most officious, in disturbing the public, and adding to the general confusion, by diffusing their own crude and incorrect opinions. In a period of ordinary health, the body of mankind feel too little interest, to investigate the laws of epidemic disease; and during the prevalence of mortal sickness, the public mind is too much distracted by rumors, alarms, and suspicions, to judge accurately of the subject.
As it is now a time of very general health, and of exemption from any peculiar public calamity, it is thought, if we can succeed in so treating the subject as to excite the attention of the reader, that we may profitably devote a few pages to the consideration of dangerous epidemic diseases, with their moral effects upon the community; and more particularly to the means of their prevention, mitigation, or extinction. The field is too extensive to be accurately surveyed, in one essay, or in one volume. By directing our remarks in the present article, principally to the Small Pox, with a notice of two or three topics intimately connected with it, and to the measures proper to arrest its depredations, we shall embrace a prominent portion of the subject, which will be universally acknowledged to be a matter of high importance, for the consideration of every friend of humanity.
The doctrines of Mahomet, and the ravages of his arms and of those of his successors, were not the only calamities which he brought upon christendom. It seems, that wherever the Saracens went, they carried with them and diffused a disease, which has probably destroyed more lives than the sword. The small pox was as new to the christian world, as the doctrines of its invaders. Af