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is an age peculiarly distinguished for scientific research and discovery. Never did science travel so widely, explore so deeply, analyze so minutely, compare so critically the present with the past, principles with facts, histories of ancient times with monuments of ancient things, truths of revealed religion with results of experimental philosophy. And what is the consequence? Has the Pentateuch suffered by him. who found the key, and applied it to the hieroglyphical memorials on the marbles and porphyries of Egypt? Did the geological researches of the lamented Cuvier enfeeble his belief in the Mosaic history?*
I venture to say there never was an age in which it could be asserted, with so much practical witness, that science and every extension of human knowledge are strengthening and multiplying the evidences of Christianity. Add to this the ever accumulating force of the argument from prophecy, a source of evidence in which we exceed by far the primitive
* It is an interesting fact, well worthy of being recorded, that Cuvier, whose death has been recently announced, was to have presided at the next annual meeting of the Bible Society of Paris-1832; and had proposed as the topic of his address, "The agreement between the Mosaic history and the modern discoveries in geology."
Since the above lecture was delivered, what a deep and rich mine of antiquarian research has been opened on the sites of the ancient cities of Assyria, with which so much of the historical books, as well as the prophecies of the Old Testament, are concerned. It is not enough to say, that nothing in the least at variance with these writings has been discovered. Much has been brought to light in strong and striking confirmation of these writings.
times of the gospel, and which must be increasing as long as one prediction of the Bible remains to be fulfilled. Then consider what new exhibitions the present age of signal enterprise in all things has furnished and is daily presenting, of the power attendant upon the gospel to overcome every obstacle, and make the moral desert a garden, and savages meek and lowly of heart. Look at the missionary stations of the Pacific and of Hindoostan, and among our own frontier tribes. There it will be seen that Christianity has still her apostles, her martyrs, her conquests. The idol cast to the ground; the idol-temple purged of its pollutions, and consecrated to Jehovah; the multitude, once naked devotees of demons, now clothed and in their right mind, and sitting at the feet of Jesus-these are some of our additional testimonies to the gospel, that her arm is not shortened that it cannot save. But they are not all. Every new traveller into regions hitherto but little known, as he developes the condition of nations destitute of the gospel, increases our evidence of the utter helplessness of human reason, and the total prostration of human nature, without the light which we enjoy; and consequently, our evidence of the universal need of a revelation like ours, as well as of the benefits which have followed in the train of Christianity wherever she has been received. And last, but not least, our experience of the tender mercies of infidelity is more impressive than that of preceding ages. Its nature, spirit, personal and public consequences have now had time to speak out, and make a full display of their
benefits to all classes of mankind. Our times have seen enough, any of us have heard enough to form some adequate idea of what society would be favored with, in personal consolations, in domestic peace and purity, in public security and order, should the principles of infidelity be generally adopted as the basis of individual, family, and national government.
I have now endeavored to illustrate the importance of a diligent attention to the great subject we have undertaken to treat, by considerations arising out of its own intrinsic nature, and from its special aspect as associated with the distinctive character of the present age. I will occupy but a little while. longer in speaking of,
II. The importance of strict attention to THE SPIRIT in which we should examine the evidences of Christianity.
"Blessed," said the Saviour, "is he whosoever shall not be offended in me." There is a great deal in the religion of Jesus at which the natural dispositions of man are offended. He is proud-the gospel demands humility; revengeful-the gospel demands forgiveness. Man is prone to set his affections on things on the earth; the gospel requires him to set them on those which are above. He is wedded to self-indulgence, glories in being his own master, idolizes himself, encourages self-dependence, boasts his own goodness, lives without God in the world. All this the gospel peremptorily condemns; requires him to repent of it, to deny himself, renounce all right over himself, give up his will to that of God, live for
the Lord Jesus, and lean upon and glory in him alone as all his strength, hope, and righteousness. Hence it is evident that the natural heart and the precepts of Christianity are directly at variance. "The mystery of an incarnate and crucified Saviour must necessarily confound the reason and shock the prejudices of a mind which will admit nothing that it cannot perfectly reduce to the principles of philosophy. The whole tenor of the life of Christ, the objects he pursued, and the profound humiliation he exhibited, must convict of madness and folly the favorite pursuits of mankind. The virtues usually practised in society, and the models of excellence most admired there, are so remote from that holiness which is enjoined in the New Testament, that it is impossible for a taste which is formed on the one to perceive the charms of the other. The happiness which it proposes in a union with God and a participation of the image of Christ, is so far from being congenial to the inclinations of worldly men, that it can scarcely be mentioned without exciting their ridicule and scorn. General speculations on the Deity have much to amuse the mind, and to gratify that appetite for the wonderful which thoughtful and speculative men are delighted to indulge. Religion viewed in this light appears more in the form of an exercise to the understanding, than a law to the heart. Here the soul expatiates at large, without feeling itself controlled or alarmed. But when evangelical truths are presented, they bring God so near, if we may be allowed the expression, and speak with so commanding a voice to
the conscience, that they leave no alternative but that of submissive acquiescence or proud revolt.”*
Hence, the question as to the truth of Christianity is peculiar. You can investigate the truth of a narrative in common history, or of a phenomenon in physical science, or of a principle of political economy, with the coolness of a mere intellectual exercise. One sets out in such pursuits with no feelings already enlisted. Had this been the case with regard to the divine origin of Christianity, "a tenth part of the testimony which has actually been given, would have been enough to satisfy us; the testimony, both in weight and quantity, would have been looked upon as quite unexampled in the whole compass of ancient literature." But here the question is one of feeling, as well as evidence-enlisting the heart, as well as the head. Powerful dispositions crowd around the investigation. Hence one is in danger, unless his natural inclinations be subdued, of looking at the argument through a medium which, while it diminishes the importance of the evidence, will magnify the objections. This explains sufficiently how it has happened that there have been men of learning and talents and much practical wisdom, in many departments, who have become and continued unbelievers. Their dispositions were stronger than their talents, and moulded the latter to their own service, instead of yielding to their guidance. The examination was conducted rather by the test of inclination, than of evidence. Now it is no part of the profession of * Robert Hall. † Chalmers