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REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.
understood; and we must confess The Evidence of Christianity de that he has executed his design with
rived from its Nature and Recep- great ability. "To all readers of tion. By J. B. Sumner, M.A. education this book may be safely Prebendary of Durham, Vicar of recommended: but it is particularly Mapledurham, O.con; and late adapted to those who have had the Fellow of Eton College. 8vo. misfortune to acquire their notions pp. 430. 108. 6d. Hatchard of Christianity in the school of and Son. 1824.
Huune and Gibbon. These popular
and ingenious writers have done The design of this book is to shew
more injury to Religion by sarcasm " that a Religion like the Christian
and insinuation, by false assumpcould never have existed, unless it
tions, and by a semblance of philo-. had been introduced by divine au
sophical candour, than was ever thority. It could not have been in
effected by open violence; and as vented; it would not have been re.
their works are still familiar to the ceived."
whole nation, any judicious effort “ I am by no means confident, (adds to counteract their influence must the author) that the field into which I be received with gratitude and aphave been led in pursuit of the idea above plause. mentioned, is sufficiently anoccupied to . Lo the first chapter Mr Sunner justify this addition of another volume to
fairly argues, that we have some
fairly the numberless treatises already existing on the evidences of Christianity. But I
ground for believing Christianity to am disposed to imagine, that an attack be true, because it is the established upon anbelief, or a confirmation of faith, religion of the country in which we can never be superfluous. Many books are live; but as the same fact may be in constant circulation, and almost uui. alleged in behalf of other religions, versally read, in which the Scriptures are we must discover some surer founpassed by as if they had no existence, or dation for our
dation for our faith. We must trace tacitly assumed to be an invention of
the Gospel to its origin. We must priest-craft, supported by state policy. The most popular historian of our own inquire at what time it superseded country is not likely to produce a differ- Judaism and Paganism, in those ent impression; and a very important countries where it was first promulportion of ancient history is still chiefly ged: and whether it was noticed knowo through the medium of a writer by Heathen writers soon after its who professedly treats the origin and pro
introduction. gress of Christianity as an event which need excite no more wonder than the rise
Now it appears, upon the clearest of Mohammedanism. Not to inention, that evidence, that Christianity did acthe rude and direct assaults upon Revela- tually supersede religions which had tion, which, for some years past, have been long established, and by means been constantly issuing from the press, can the most improbable to human aphardly fail to have some effect in keeping
prehension. It was preached by the minds upsettled, even of a class above
ignorant men in a learned age, and that for which they are avowedly written and designed." Preface, p. iii.
in the most polished cities of the
world. The character of its founder From this passage the intention was the most unpopular that can be of the author may be sufficiently inagined, and was directly opposed
REMEMBRANCER, No. 65.
to the expected character of the agreement with the previous belief Messiah. The Jews
of many of his disciples. The case
of Christianity is widely different. “Looked for a conqneror, a temporal
We cannot account for its fundaking; and had been accustomed to interpret in this sense all the prophecies which mental doctrines. They are agreeforetold his coming. And whether we able, indeed, to reason, and suit the suppose Jesus to have been an impostor character of man : but they are so or enthusiast, this is the character which far from being “ as old as the cre. he would naturally assume. If he were ation,” that a moment's reflection an enthusiast, his mind would have been filled with the popular belief, and his ima
will prove them to be original in gination fired with the national ideas of the strictest sense. See page 04, victory and glory. If he were an impos. The proof of this proposition is tor, the general expectation would coin clearly and skilfully drawn out in cide with the only motive to which his the remainder of cap. ii. p. 64 conduct can be attributed, ambition, and 102. It is shewn that neither Jew the desire of personal aggrandizement,
nor Gentile was in a state, from “ How, then, can we explain bis reject.
their previous habits of thinking, to ing from the first, and throughout his whole career, all the advantage which he
invent or receive a religion like the might have derived from the previous Christian. The bigh doctrine of expectation of the people, and even redemption by the blood of Christ his turning it against himself and his was far beyond their reach. It is cause? Why should he, as a Jew, have still a inystery,“ into which the aninterpreted the prophetic Scriptures dif.
; gels may desire to look," and al. ferently from all other Jews? Why should
though clearly preached by our he, as an impostor, have deprived himself of all personal benefit from his de- Lord, and recorded in Scripture for sign?" P. 26.
the perpetual instruction of man
kind, it is still rejected by that In other respects, also, our Lord's class of persons who call themselves · character and pretensions were pe. rational Christians. So " little
culiarly offensive to the Jews. He likely are the doctrines of the Gosplainly intimated that the reign of pel to have been fabricated in order the ceremonial law was at an end. to deceive ; and if invented, either He assumed an authority over the by fraud or enthusiasm, very little * law itself, and its interpreters. All likely to have obtained attention and his doctrines were opposed to the credit, without overpowering evitemper of the Jews, and to their dence." most rooted prejudices. He fore. The object of the 4th cap. is to told the destruction of their city, shew, that although Christianity is and the degradation of their whole indeed connected with the Jewish race. His Apostle's followed their history and Scriptures, yet this Master's example, and faithfully connexion was not available to the maintained his doctrines. All this, purposes of imposture. The auargues Mr. Sumner, is utterly in- thors of Christianity, had they been credible, on the supposition that impostors, could not have inserted the authors of Christianity were im- the types and prophecies of Christ postors; but it becomes highly pro. into the Jewish Scriptures; nor, bable, if we admit them to be the supposing such types and propheinstruments of God.
cies to exist, could they bave conWe next come to the originality trived their accomplishment. of the Christian doctrines. The
“ To ascribe coincidences like these to success of Mahommed's imposture che
re chance; to allege that all these passages may be mainly ascribed to the sim- were thrown out at random in the Jewish plicity of what he taught, and its Scriptures, and that the circumstances of
the birth, and life, and character, and to convey it, for words follow ideas. If death of Jesus turned ont so as to agree the ideas were new, they could not be exwith them ; is to attribute to chance what pressed without some innovation in lannever did or could take place by chance : guiage. But can we be contented with and in itself far more improbable than the believing, that such an innovation was atevent which such a solution is intended to tempted and effected by such persons as disprove. For, allow to Jesus the autho- the first Christian teachers were, if they rity wbich he claims, and every difficulty were not wbat they professed to be; i. e. vanishes. We should then expect to find if they had no authority to warrant them, prophetic intimations of his great purpose, and procure them attention ? Did such and of the way in which it was to be ef- men give a new turn to language, and fected. We should expect to find them, strike out notions which they could not too, just what they are; not united and even express in terms bitherto employed ?" brought together in a way of formal de. P. 144. scription, which could only be a provision for imposture, but such scattered hints Mr. Sumner next considers the and allusions as after the event has occur agreement of the Christian Scripred serve to shew that it was predicted, tures with subsequent experience, by a comparison of the event and the pro- as a proof of their divine origin. phecy.
Many valuable remarks and con. « It ought to be observed, in addition, that if the disciples of Jesus had framed
vincing arguments occur in this ditheir story and their representation of
vision of his work. We select, as a facts, with a view of obtaioing this colla. specimen, bis observations on the teral support, they would have been more parable of the sower. diligent and ostentatious in pointing out the circumstances of resemblance. They
“ It describes, with a sort of graphical would have anticipated the labours of illustration, the different reception which those writers who have made it their busi
was to be expected for the Word of ness to show the completion of prophecy
God.' The Gospel claimed this title; and in the events related in the Gospels. But,
there are four distinct ways, and no more, on the contrary, they bring these things in which a doctrine professing this claim forward in an historical, rather than ay may be treated, argumentative way; and commonly leave
" It may be at once rejected. It may the deductions which may be drawn from
be admitted for a while into the heart, and them to the discernment of after times.
be afterwards excluded by rival interests. « On these grounds I think myself jus.
It may be admitted and retained there, tified in concluding, that the divine mis. but exercise no active influence over the sion of Jesus receives a strong confirma conduct; or it may be made the ruling tion from the historical facts, the ceremo. principle of a man's sentiments, desires, nial rites, and the ancient prophecies pursuits, and actions. which corresponded with the circumstances “ Every modification of faith and of of his life, and the alleged object of his
unbelief falls naturally into one of these ministry and safferings.” P. 127.
four classes ; and all these classes have
existed wherever the Gospel has been geThe next grand argument is de- nerally made known. None of them, rived from the phraseology of the however, had existed at the time when the New Testament. The peculiar parable was uttered. The Jewish law was
so different in its nature, and so differently terms of Christianity (such as Gos
taught, that it produced none of those pel, grace, righteousness, flesh,
marked effects which bave always attended faith,) are familiar to our ears, but the promulgation of the Gospel. Therethey derive their meaning entirely fore the parable was at the time unintellifrom the religion which they were gible to those who heard it. The charac; employed to communicate and ex. ters which should hereafter appear, existed
only in the mind of the Author of the replain.
ligion under which they were to spring : " This is exactly what we should ex- as the forms and lineaments of the future pect if the religion were divine. It was world are supposed by the philosopher to an original revelation of the purpose of have been present in the mind of its divine God; therefore it required fresh phrases Architect, though the lapse of time was
required to unfold and exbibit thein. The ed to the end for which it was designed; parable, when first pronounced, was as then fresh probability will be added to the much à prophecy as the declaration which arguments in favour of the religion." P. foretold the destruction of Jerusalem.” 219. P. 174.
In order to shew the reasonableThe author then proceeds to ness of the Christian doctrines, Mr. compare the parable more minutely Sumner selects two leading princiwith the characters of professed ples of Christianity, the doctrine of Cbristians, and concludes his re- a future judgment, and of redemp. marks in these impressive terms. tion by the blood of Christ : and + " Such is the actual state of the Chris- maintains, with great ability, that tian world, and such is the description they do not contradict our natural which was drawn of it before Christianity sentiments. was in existence. The description agrees with the experience of every minister who
" The Scriptures declare, that God is has observed the workings of human na
offended. Reason and conscience conture under the operation of the Gospel. firm the fact; and point out the difference He can distinguish characters like these
between the character of man and the among every hundred persons that may be
commands of God. He, then, against under his charge; he can perceive none
whom we have transgressed, is our Creawho do not fall naturally and easily within tor, who by the same power which gave us some one of these classes. And this I being, has power also to destroy ; to 'de must consider strong evidence of divine stroy both body and soul.' The first thing authority in him who delivered such a pa. we might desire to our comfort and confirable: a parable which comprehensively
dence is, that one who should undertake describes the whole of mankind, in a
to deliver us from this danger, and avert country where the Gospel is preached ;
the wrath of Almighty God, should also be so as to mark out by a masterly touch the
himself God: also be Almighty, that with different shades and variations of charac
out hesitation we might trust our cause in ter, which should be hereafter produced
his hands. And this is declared to us in by a cause not then in operation. That the Gospel. We are there assured that this foreknowledge of character should he who undertook the redemption of man, have been found in men who were no more is indeed God; was' with God from the tban Jesus and his followers appeared to beginning;' and claimed to himself no. be, is as difficult to believe, as that one
& thing to which he was not entitled, and uneducated in anatomy should be able to
to took away from God nothing of his dignity delineate the internal conformation of the
and majesty, when he affirmed bimself to human body.” P. 180.
he' equal with God.' This gives to the
Christian a sure ground of reliance, to be As the doctrines of the Gospel lieve that he who made propitiation for are, strictly speaking, original, so us, is equal to him whom we have offendalso is the character inculcated by
ed: that he and the Father are one.'" our Lord and his Apostles.
The three next chapters exhibit « Now this character is evidently an the evidence which is derived from important test of the truth of the religion. Does it agree with the natural bias of the
*. the promulgation, the reception, human mind? If so, we need seek no
and the effects of Christianity in the farther for its origin. Was it copied from world. any pattern already in existence? If so, " He must have unusual confidence in it carries no proof of divinity. Is it un. the inventive powers of the early Chris suitable to the object which it was pro- tians, who can look upon these narratives, fessedly intended to promote ? If so, we and the many others which are contained have a strong argument against its antbo- in the Acts of the Apostles,' as a mere rity. On the other hand, if it is such a fabrication : remembering, at the same character as bad no existing original, when time, the age to which the book indisit was first proposed in the Gospel ; such putablt belongs, and the persons by whom a character as men are naturally inclined it must have been composed. When we to hold in low esteem, yet admirably suit. consider the immense quantity of matter,
and the great variety of facts contained in strong, that it has never been overcome it: the minute circumstances detailed: without some commensurate power, civil when we compare the speeches of Peter or military. And I have taken more pains with those of Paul; and those of Paul to than might appear necessary, to show the the Ephesians with those which he ad difficulties enconntered by the apostles; dressed to an unconverted andience: when because if these difficulties were more we examine the conduct attributed to the justly appreciated, the consequence proved Jews: their open persecution at Jerasa- by their success would be more generally lem, and their indirect accusation at These admitted. I have supposed nothing greater salonica; the ingenuity with which the than they attempted; pothing greater adversaries of the apostles address them- than they achieved; and not in a single selves to the passions and interests of men city, but over half the world; the same in the different cities: the characters of scheme which we at once declare to be im. Gallio, of Felix, of Lysias, of Agrippa : it practicable as to our own'age or country, seems impossible to suppose this an in- was tried within the first century throughvented narrative of things which never out the most civilized parts of the world took place, or of persons who never bad a then known, and succeeded; succeeded real existence. This argument, indeed, too by means which we are aware must can bave no weight with a person who is now be ineffectual, unless they were supnot sensible of the air of truth and reality ported as the apostles profess to have been which pervades the whole history. But supported; succeeded too in spite of oppowhoever is alive to this, whoever does sition, not for want of it ; for there is no perceive in almost every page the marks proof that either Jews or heathens were of a writer detailing the account of actual less attached to the religion, the traditions, transactions and circumstances, should ob- or the worship of their ancestors, than serve that the proof which arises from ourselves *." P. 319. evidence of this kind, is not to be deemed far-fetched or imaginary, because it is In that chapter which treats of incapable of being drawn out in words, or the effects of Christianity, as provof being presented to the mind of the ing its divine anthority, the followsceptic in any other way than by sending :
ing, perhaps, is the most striking him to the books themselves *." P. 312.
passage: And again,
“ Christianity, on the other hand, by “ We can easily conceive fanatic per. means of its accredited agents, is consons claiming credit for a power of work. stantly making an aggressive movement ing miracles, to whom no such power against that indolence and indifference belonged; but we cannot conceive such respecting all things not immediately prepersons being generally attended to and sent and visible, in which the minds of the credited, unless their claim were supported generality are sure to repose when left to by facts too plain to be denied. If no themselves. And the effect of this excitesopernatural power accompanied them, ment is wonderfully powerful, potwiththe pretence to it would only sink them standing the imperfect degree in which it lower in public estimation; instead of necessarily acts from the nature of those deluded enthusiasts, they would be treated who are the objects of its operation, and as designing impostors; and the idea of of those who are concerned in carrying it their establishing a new religion on the ruins of the old, would become more vi
* “ The cases of successful imposture or sionary than ever. Io a very few days the attempt itself, and the party which had
enthusiasm which sometimes astonish os, undertaken it, would be numbered among
are no exception to this argument. Such things forgotten. Give them rank ; give
persons as Swedenborg and Southcote do them authority; give them education ; ad
not introduce a new religion, but stand vantages which were entirely wanting to
forwarıl as interpreters of a religion before the teachers of Christianity; still the bar.
established on very different grounds; and rier opposed by national belief, prescrip
because that is believed, they are listened
to. If the religion were not already betive customs, and personal habits, is so
lieved, these persons would gain no atten
tion. The apostles raised Christianity * " See Paley's Horæ Paulinæ, conclu out of nothing, and against every thing." sion, p. 359."