« PreviousContinue »
To aee a man white in bis leprosy leaving the world, and not his avarice, and with St. Luke's fool, die thinking of his barns, is horrible! I had rather have no portion on earth, than buy it with that 1 shall have in heaven ; I will not (with the cur in the fable) part with my flesh, for its shadow.
The way to sweeten death, is to think of it; every day I live, I will remember I might die ; and I will not desire to live a day longer, than I grow some drams better: what will it benefit me that I have lived some hours which I cannot answer for?
Every man would be thought to be in love with heaven, and yet most men are loth te shake hands with earth; here is the difference between the heavenly language and ours-; they cry, how long, Lord, how long? and we cry, how soon? they think he stays too long, and we think he comes too fast. I will labour to be a follower of those, with whom I would be partner; be hath not yet enough conned heaven, that is loth to go to it; that voice only is worthy an Apostle, I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ.
The just man shall live by his faith, and others live by his charity: true faith is seen in its works; he that says he believes and doth not shew it, believe him not. To make shew of believing, and not in thy works, is to shew thy hypocrisy, but not thy faith.
Those that honour me, will I honour, is a bargain of God's o.wn making: God's honour is the way to our's, we cannot bnt be blest, if we will but be observant. I will care only to serve him, and I am sure I shall serve myself. Never any man lost in God's service.
Of idleness comes no goodness; doing nothing will in time come to doing ill, and from being idle, to be ill occupied; tbe labour that is imposed upon the soul is not to sit still, bnt to run. Good men must not be like David's images that have feet, and walk not; then only have we hope to come to our journey's end, when we keep going.
God, as He loves young holiness, so He loves it old; ye are those that have continued with me, Sec. was the praise of the Apostles ; perseverance is the pillar of our salvation, if that fail, all goes to tbe ground. What commendation is it to have done well, if thou hast forsaken thy first love, if thou hast lost thy first hopes i He must carry his goodness to his grave, that will have it carry him to heaven.
It is a great way, and requires a long time to come to heaven; I admire their strength, or rather weakness, that talk of getting it at the last gasp, as if it could be had with a wet finger: I know those that have lived some years, and taken some pains too, to set themselves forward, and if they come thither at last, will think they have done well too; for my own part, I neither desire, nor hope to enjoy it without a great deal of difficulty, anguish, and agony; and shall think it labour well bestowed, that I have it upon any terms.
Blessed are they which die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours: In this world, there is nothing but dangers and discontents, vanity and vexation; then only shall we be at rest, when we cease to be: If we thought more of this, we would not think much of our affliction. If I am never so beleaguered with sickness, or want, or famine, or all at once; I will remember I came not into this world to take my rest, but to prepare for it.
Oar Saviour knew what He did,when he taught us to pray, Our Father, which art in heaven, tfc. To give, and to forgive, for He only can do both; none can forgive sins, or give grace, but God alone: yet doth He not always give with His own hand, but reachelh grace and salvation in His word and sacraments, by the hands of his ministers; and because no man can hear His voice and live, He speaks in them; it is the wonder of His goodness, that he respects not only our wants, but our infirmities, and would so appear to us, as He might teach us, bnt not fright us; thus we see Him speaking to Moses himself, to Israel by Moses: He proportions tbe means answerable to onr strength; we are not like our Maker, if we think scorn to stoop to the weakness of our brethren. I will be all things to all, that by any means I may win some.
REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.
The Evidence of Christianity derived from its Nature and Reception. By J. B. Sumner, M.A. Prebendary of Durham, Vicar of Mapledurham, Vxon; and late Fellow of Eton College. 8vo. pp. 430. 10*. 6d. Hatchard and Sou. 1824.
The design of this book is to shew "that a Religion like the Christian could never have existed, unless it had been introduced by divine authority. It could not have been invented; it would not have been re. ceived."
*' I am by no means confident, (adtla the anthor) that the field into which I lave been led in pursuit of the idea above mentioned, is sufficiently unoccupied to justify this addition of another volume to the numberless treatises already existing on the evidences of Christianity. But I am disposed to imagine, that an attack upon unbelief, or a confirmation of faith, ran never be superfluous. Many books are in constant circulation, and almost universally read, in which the Scriptures are passed by as if they had no existence, or tacitly assumed to be an invention of priest-craft, supported by state policy. The most popular historian of our own country is not -likely to produce a different impression; and a very important portion of ancient history is still chiefly known through the medium of a writer who professedly treats the origin and progress of Christianity as an event which need excite no more wonder than the I He of Mohammedanism. Not to mention, that the rude and direct assaults upon Revelation, which, for some years past, have been constantly issuing from the press, can hardly fail to have some effect in keeping the minds unsettled, even of a class above that for which they are avowedly written and designed." Preface, p. iii.
From this passage the intention of the author may be sufficiently Remembrancer, No. 65.
understood; and we must confess that he has executed his desigu with great ability. To all readers of education this book may be safely recommended: but it is particularly adapted to those who have had the misfortune to acquire their notions of Christianity in the school of Hmne and Gibbon. These popular and ingenious writers have done more injury to Religion by sarcasm and insinuation, by false assumptions, aud by a semblance of philosophical candour, than was ever effected by open violence; and as their works are still familiar to the whole natiou, any judicious effort to counteract their influence must be received with gratitude and applause.
In the first chapter Mr. Sumner fairly argues, that we have some ground for believing Christianity to be true, because it is the established religion of the country in which we live; but as the same fact may be alleged in behalf of other religions, we must discover some surer foundation for our faith. We must trace the Gospel to its origin. We must inquire at what time it superseded Judaism aud Paganism, in those countries where it was first promulged: and whether it was noticed by Heathen writers soon after its introduction.
Now it appears, upon the clearest evidence, that Christianity did actually supersede religions which had been long established, and by means the most improbable to human apprehension. It was preached by ignorant men in a learned age, and in the most polished cities of the world. The character of its founder was the most unpopular that can be imagined, and was directly opposed
to the expected character of the Messiah. The Jews
"Looked for a conqueror, a temporal king; and bad been accustomed to interpret in this sense all the prophecies which foretold his coming. And whether we suppose Jesus to have been an impostor or enthusiast, this is the character which be would naturally assume. If he were an enthusiast, his mind would have been filled with the popular belief, and his imagination fired with the national ideas of victory and glory. If he were an impostor, the general expectation would coincide with the only motive to which his conduct can be attributed, ambition, and the desire of personal aggrandizement.
"How, then, can we explain bis rejecting from the first, and throughout his whole career, all the advantage which be might have derived from the previous expectation of the people, and even his turning it against himself and his cause i Why should he, as a Jew, have interpreted the prophetic Scriptures differently from all other Jews? Why should be, as an impostor, have deprived himself of all personal benefit from his design r" P. 26.
Id other respects, also, our Lord's character and pretensions were peculiarly offensive to the Jews. He plainly intimated that the reign of the ceremonial law was at an end. He assumed an authority over the law itself, and its interpreters. All his doctrines were opposed to the temper of the Jews, and to their most rooted prejudices. He foretold the destruction of their city, and the degradation of their whole race. His Apostle's followed their Master's example, and faithfully maintained his doctrines. All this, argues Mr. Sumner, is utterly incredible, on the supposition that the authors of Christianity were impostors; but it becomes highly probable, if we admit them to be the instruments of God.
We next come to the originality of the Christian doctrines. The success of Mahommed's imposture may be mainly ascribed to the simplicity of what he taught, and its
agreement with the previous belief of many of his disciples. The case of Christianity is widely different. We cannot account for its fundamental doctrines. They are agreeable, indeed, to reason, and suit the character of man: but they are so far from being "as old as the ere. ation," that a moment's reflection will prove them to be original in the strictest sense.—See page 04.
The proof of this proposition is clearly aud skilfully drawn out in the remainder of cap. iii. p. 64— 102. It is shewn that neither Jew nor Gentile was in a state, from their previous habits of thinking, to invent or receive a religion like the Christian. The high doctrine of redemption by the blood of Christ was far beyond their reach. It is still a mystery, " into which the angels may desire to look," and although clearly preached by our Lord, and recorded in Scripture for the perpelual instruction of mankind, it is still rejected by that class of persons who call themselves rational Christians. So " little likely are the doctrines of the Gospel to have been fabricated in order to deceive ; and if invented, either by fraud or enthusiasm, very little' likely to have obtained attention and credit, without overpowering evidence."
The object of the 4th cap. is to shew, that although Christianity is indeed connected with the Jewish history and Scriptures, yet this connexion was not available to the purposes of imposture. The authors of Christianity, had they been impostors, could not have iuserted the types and prophecies of Christ into the Jewish Scriptures; nor, supposing such types and prophecies to exist, could they have contrived their accomplishment.
"To ascribe coincidences like these to chance ; to allege that all these passages were thrown out at random in the Jewish Scriptures, and that the circumstances of die birth, and life, and character, and death of Jeans turned ont 90 as to agree with them; is to attribute to chance what never did or could take place by chance: and in itself far more improbable than the event which such a solution is intended to disprove. For, allow to Jesus the authority which he claims, and every difficulty vanishes. We should then expect to find prophetic intimations of his great purpose, and of the way in which it was to be effected. We should expect to find them, too, just what they are; not united and brought together in a way of formal description, which could only be a provision for imposture, but such scattered bints and allusions as after the event has occurred serve to shew that it was predicted, by a comparison of the event and the prophecy.
"It ought to be observed, in addition, that if the disciples of Jesns had framed their story and their representation of Acts, with a view of obtaining this collateral support, they wonld have been more diligent and ostentatious in pointing out the circumstances of resemblance. They would have anticipated the labours of those writers who have made it their business to show the completion of prophecy in the events related in the Gospels. But, on the contrary, they bring these things forward in an historical, rather than au argumentative way; and commonly leave the deductions which may be drawn from them to the discernment of after times.
"On these grounds I think myself justified in concluding, that the divine mission of Jesus receives a strong confirmation from the historical facts, the ceremonial rites, and the ancient prophecies which corresponded with the circumstances of his life, and the alleged object of his ministry and sufferings." P. 127.
The next grand argument is derived from the phraseology of the New Testament. The peculiar terms of Christianity (such as Gospel, grace, righteousness, flesh, faith,) are familiar to our ears, but they derive their meaning entirely from the religion which they were employed to communicate and explain.
"This is exactly what we should expect if the religion were divine. It was an original revelation of the purpose of God; therefore it required fresh phrases
to convey it, for words follow ideas. If the ideas were new, they could not be expressed without some innovation in language. But can we be contented with believing, that such an innovation was attempted and effected by such persons as the first Christian teachers were, if they were not what they professed to be; i. e. if they had no authority to warrant them, and procure them attention? Did such men give a new turn to language, and strike out notions which they could not even express in terms hitherto employed'" P. 144.
Mr. Sumner next considers the agreement of the Christian Scriptures with subsequent experience, as a proof of their divine origin. Many valuable remarks and convincing arguments occur in this division of his work. We select, as a specimen, his observations on the parable of the sower.
"It describes, with a sort of graphical illustration, the different reception which was to be expected for the ' Word of God.' The Gospel claimed this title; and there are four distinct ways, and no more, in which a doctrine professing this claim may be treated.
"It may be at once rejected. It may be admitted for a while into the heart, and be afterwards excluded by rival interests. It may be admitted and retained there, but exercise no active influence over the conduct; or it may be made the ruling principle of a man's sentiments, desires, pursuits, and actions.
"Every modification of faith and of unbelief falls naturally into one of these four classes ; and all these classes have existed wherever the Gospel has been generally made known. None of them, however, had existed at the time when the parable was uttered. The Jewish law was so different iu its nature, and so differently taught, that it produced none of those marked effects which have always attended the promulgation of the Gospel. Therefore the parable was at the time unintelligible to those who.heard it. The charac; ters which should hereafter appear, existed only in the mind of the Author of the religion under which they were to spring: as the forms and lineaments of the future world are supposed by the philosopher to have been present in the mind of its divine Architect, though the lapse of time was
required to onfold anil exhibit tliein. The parable, when first pronounced, wan as much a prophecy as the declaration which foretold the destruction of Jerusalem." P. 174.
The author then proceeds to compare the parable more minutely with the characters of professed Christians, and concludes his remarks in these impressive terms.
"Such is the actual state of the Christian world, and such is the description which was drawn of it before Christianity was in existence. The description agrees with the expel ience of every minister who has observed the workings of human nature under the operation of the Gospel. He can distinguish characters like, these among every hundred persons that may be under his charge; he can perceive nnne who do not fall naturally and easily within some one of these classes. And this I must consider strong evidence of divine authority in him who delivered such a parable: a parable which comprehensively describes the whole of mankind, in a country where the Gospel is preached; so as to mark out by a masterly touch the different shades and variations of character, which should be hereafter produced by a cause not then in operation. That this foreknowledge of character should have been found in men who were no more than Jesus and his followers appeared to be,' is as difficult to believe, as that one uneducated in anatomy should he ahle to delineate the internal conformation of the human body." P. 180.
As the doctrines of the Gospel are, strictly speaking, original, so also is the character inculcated by our Lord and his Apostles.
"Now this character is evidently an important test of the truth of the religion. Does it agree with the natural bias of the human mind? If so, we need seek no farther for its origin. Was it copied from any pattern already in existence f If so, it carries no proof of divinity. Is it unsuitable to the object which it was professedly intended to promote? If so, we have a strong argument against its authority. On the other hand, if it is such a character as had no existing original, when it was first proposed in the Gospel; such a character as men are naturally inclined to hold in low esteem, yet admirably suit
ed to the end for which it was designed; then fresh probability will be added to the arguments in favour of the religion." P. SI9.
Iu order to shew the reasonableness of the Christian doctrines, Mr. Sumner selects two leading principles of Christianity, the doctrine of a future judgment, and of redemption by the blood of Christ; and maintains, with great ability, that they do not contradict our natural sentiments.
"The Scriptures declare, that God is offended. Reason and conscience confirm the fact; and point out the difference between the character of man and the commands of God. He, then, against whom we have transgressed, is our Creator, who by the same power which gave us being, has power also to destroy; to 'destroy hoih body and soul.' The first thing we might desire to our comfort and confidence is, that one who should undertake to deliver us from this danger, and avert the wrath of Almighty. God, should also be himself God: also be Almighty, that without hesitation we might trust our cause in his hands. And this is declared to us iu the Gospel. We are there assured, that he who undertook the redemption of man, is indeed God; was ' with God from the 'beginning;' and claimed to himself nothing to which he was not entitled, and took away from God nothing of his dignity and majesty, when he affirmed himself to he ' equal with God.' This gives to toe Christian a sure ground of reliance, to believe that he who made propitiation for us, is equal to him whom we have offended: that 'he and the Father are one." P. 286.
The three next chapters exhibit the evidence which is derived from the promulgation, the reception, and the effects of Christianity in the world.
"He must have unusual confidence in the inventive powers of the early Chris, tians, who can look upon these narratives, and the many others which are contained in the ' Acts of the Apostles,' as a mere fabrication: remembering, at the same time, the age to which the book indisputably belongs, and the persons by whom itmus; have been composed. When «« consider the immense quantity of matter,