Page images
PDF
EPUB

From the above, Dr. Paley deduces two conclusions :

i. Happiness appears to be pretty equally distributed.
ii. Vice has no advantage over virtue with respect to

this world's happiness. Nothing, in our estimation, cạn tend more to the production of genuine happiness than the cultivation of the dispositions of mind and heart recommended by our Lord in Matthew chap. v. verses 3—12.

Select Books on Ethics. Paley's Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, 2 vols. 8vo. should be read with Gisborne's Principles of Moral and Political Philo. sophy Investigated; svo. Gisborne's Enquiry into the Duties of Men in the higher and middle Classes of Society, 2 vols. svo, and his Enquiry into the Duties of the Female Sex, svo. and 12 mo. Hutchinson's Moral Philosophy, 8vo. and 12 mo. Ferguson's Moral and Political Science, 8vo. Mason on Self-Knowledge, 12mo. The stereotype edition of this excellent book is to be preferred to all others.

617

Part IX.-Theology.

1.

'THE former part of the present work having been appropriated to the gradual development of the general principles of useful knowledge, we now arrive at the last and most important subject, which comes home to the bosom of every one: for, “ besides his particular calling for the support of life, every individual has a concern in a future life, which he is bound to look after."

2. That great master in the art of reasoning, Mr. Locke, *

says: “ There is one science incomparably above all the rest, where it is not by corruption narrowed into a trade or faction, for mean or ill ends, and secular interests ; I mean THEOLOGY, which, containing the knowledge of God and his creatures, our duty to him and our fellowcreatures, and a view of our present and future state, is the comprehension of all other knowledge directed to its true end, i. e. the honour and veneration of the Creator, and the happiness of mankind. This is that noble study which is every man's duty, and every one that can be called a rational creature is capable of." The history of mankind in every period, will furnish us with a certain fact, which is this, that without Divine revelation, not only the heathen world, but the most polite, the most civilized, and the most learned nations, have been sunk into the most deplorable ignorance of every thing relating to God. If we look back into the early ages, we shall find the great bulk of mankind founding their religious rites in the most abominable corruption and depravity of manners. Their philosophers, who pretended to have juster notions of niorality and religion than the rest of the world, understood not the true nature of God, his attributes nor perfections, nor had they any clear notions of immortality.

* On the Conduct of the Understanding, sect. 22.

They have confessed and left it upon record, that they were enveloped in darkness, and stood in peed of instruction from the Deity. They felt the imbecility of human reason, that it was incapable of conducting them into the path of happiness and virtue, and they have acknowledged that they stood in need of superior aid. Hence the absolute necessity of a Divine revelation, to rescue mau from that gulph of ignorance, superstition, idolatry, wickedness, and misery, in which they were almost universally sunk ; to teach them the worship of God, and how as sinners they stood in need of an expiation, and to point out to them a state of immortality and happiness, to be enjoyed beyond

the grave.

CHAP, I. -- THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION. THAT

HAT book which we call the Bible, that is THE BOOK, , by way of eminence, comprehends a great number of ditferent narratives and compositions, written at different times by different persons, in different languages, and on different subjects. That these books were all composed by those whose names they bear, there is not the least reasonable ground to doubt; they have been always considered as the writings of those persons by the whole Jewish nation, who were most interested in their authenticity, and most likely to know the truth, from the earliest times down to the present: and no proof to the contrary has ever yet been produced.

The Jews were always remarkable for being the faithful guardians of that divine deposit, which they transcribed repeatedly, and compared most carefully with the originals, and of which it is well known, they even numbered the words and letters. Indeed the very Messiahship of Jesus is proved from those very books, which they have preserved.

Taking the whole of the Scriptures together, it is an unquestionable truth, that there is no one book extant, in any language, or in any country, which can in any degree be compared with it for antiquity, for authority, for the importance, the dignity, the variety, and the curiosity of the matter it contains. The evidences for the truth of the

Chistian Revelation are very numerous, and have been discussed in various forms, with singular ability, by men of piety and learning: from the nature of this work, however, we can only state a few of the leading proofs, and shall subjoin a list of select books on this subject, in order that the juvenile reader may be enabled to give a satisfactory reason of the hope that is in him.

The evidences of revelation are, I. EXTERNAL, comprising, Historical Testimony,Miracles,--Prophecy, and the Successful Propagation of Christianity ;-und 11. INTERNAL, viz. the Sublimity and Mujesty of the Style of Scripture,--the Grandeur und Importunce of its Doctrines, the Purity of its Moral Precepts,-and the Effects produced by the Gospel.

SECT. I.-EXTERNAL EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY.

1. Historical Testimony. The antiquity of the Scriptures is supported by various collateral evidences and cors horative facts; for, not to mention that Moses and the prophets are referred to by numerous heathen writers, all the best and most ancient historical accounts now extant do, generally speaking, confirm the accounts recorded in the Scriptures. Thus, the history of the creation, the deluge, -the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain,--the captivity of the Jews,-the destruction of their polity and their dispersion over the globe (which continues to the present day,)--the institution of the sabbath--circumcision-and the passover :--all tbese facts are corroborated by Herodotus, Diodorus Sicu-. lus, Philo, and other ancient historians, too numerous here to be specified. In like manner, the 'real existence and character of the founder of the. Christian Religion, and of his precursor John the Baptist,--the institution of the Christian sabbath and sacraments,--and the principles and conduct of the followers of Jesus Christ, - are not only conformable with the state of things in those times; but are also confirmed by the Jewish and heathen testimonies of Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny junior, the rescripts of the Roinan Emperors, &c. To these various and strong facts it may be added, that all modern discoveries are so far froin proving unfavourable to the sacred writings, that

they strongly tend to illustrate and to confirm them: and, in proportion as learning has spread, the more certain in general do the scripture accounts appear, and its difficult passages are cleared thereby. Further, in every age of the church, the books transmitted to us as divine, have been publicly read, and appealed to as authoritative in matters of controversy between Christians ; whence it is obvious that they are substantially the same now as they were formerly; and they are also quoted, or alluded to, by a tegular succession of writers, Jewish, heathen, and Christian. The character of the writers is an additional argument for the authority of their writings : for the sacred penmen, the prophets and apostles, were holy, excellent men, and would not-artless, illiterate men, and therefore could not,--lay the horrible scheme of deluding mankind. The hope of gain did not influence them, for they were self-denying men, that left all to follow a Master, who had not where to lay his head ; and whose grand initiating maxim was, Except a man forsake all that he hath; he cannot be my disciple.They were so disinterested, that they secured nothing on earth but bunger and nakedness, stocks and prisons, racks and tortures; which, indeed, was all that they could or did expect, in consequence of Christ's express declarations. Neither was a desire of honour the motive of their actions, for their Lord himself was treated with the utmost contempt, and had more than once assured them that they should certainly share the same fate; besides, they were humble men, not above working as mechanics, for a coarse maintenance; and so little desirous of human regard, that they exposed to the world the meanness of their birth and occupations, their great ignorance and scandalous falls. Add to this, that they were $0 many, and lived at such distance of time and place from each other, that, had they been impostors, it would have been impracticable for them to contive and carry on a forgery without being detected. And, as they neither would, nor could deceive the world, so they neither could por would be deceived themselves ; for they were days, months, and years, eye and ear-witnesses of the things which they relate; and, when they had not the fullest evidence of important facis, they insisted upon new proofs, and even upon sensible demonstrations ; as, for instance,

« PreviousContinue »