« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
to satisfy himself by an actual examination of their demonstrations, that they had been guilty of no paralogism, either of accident or design, in the course of their reasonings ?"* And yet a result, however important, arising from such an investigation, none would suspect. A philosopher would rest his life upon its certainty. But have we assurance of the accuracy and honesty of such men, to whose testimony we thus implicitly yield, whether they be mathematicians or chemists, or astronomers, comparable in any degree to our assurance of the competent knowledge and immovable honesty of those original witnesses of the works of Jesus, who have borne such devoted testimony to his miracles? Did Apollonius, or Archimedes, or any philosophers of later times, seal their honesty with their blood? Did they suffer the loss of all things in maintenance of their doctrines? Were they willing to be accounted as fools for the sake of their testimony? Did Galileo brave the torture of the inquisition, sooner than deny his astronomical discoveries? We do not require such extreme evidence of integrity even in the greatest questions of scientific testimony. It were folly to expect it. We are satisfied with a far inferior degree of assurance. And yet such, in ten thousands of instances, is the evidence by which we know the honesty of those from whom comes our testimony to the great facts of the gospel history. They did suffer the loss of all things; they did endure to be treated as the offscouring of all things; they Stewart's Philosophy, b. 2, p. 178.
did give themselves to the rack and flame and wild beasts for the testimony of Jesus.
I mentioned, in the announcement of this lecture, that besides a summary of the whole previous course, it would contain an application of the argument to the principal OBJECTIONS brought forward by infidels. This, in substance has been exhibited. We know of no objection of any importance, which is not put to silence and buried by an appeal from what men think to what men have done-from speculation to testimony-from the ideas of objectors to the facts of witnesses. The simple application of the great principle of inductive philosophy, that whatever is collected by observation ought to be received, any hypothesis to the contrary notwithstanding, is the smooth white stone in the sling of David, before which no champion of the Philistines, however gigantic in intellect or learning, or in the boast of either, can stand. I am now speaking of the chief objections. I have nothing to do with the ignorant ribaldry of such an antagonist as Paine. To this man the purity of the gospel was its chief deformity; and its stern contradiction of his disgusting vices, its most irreconcilable inconsistency. He studied the Bible to defame it, and scraped the common sewers of infidelity for its very lowest and filthiest objections; and then, without honesty even to advert to the thousand answers each had received in its day, served them up with his own dressing of strong assertion and acrid ridicule, and advertised them to the world as his own and as unanswerable. Such mat
ters we must leave to the writings of those who have had stomach to handle them. In the answer of Bishop Watson, you may see how entirely boasting is their strength. They need but the light to make all their show of argument fade away. Their best answer is found in the profligate life and despairing death of the poor miserable man himself.
The mysteriousness of certain things in Christianity is urged as a strong reason for the rejection of its divine authority. Many will not believe the doctrine of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, his incarnation, his atoning sacrifice, his resurrection from the dead, his intercession in heaven, the influences of the Holy Spirit upon the hearts of men, and our new creation unto holiness by his converting power, not to speak of many other of the deep things of God, because they are mysteries. Mysteries they are unquestionably, and were intended to be so regarded. So far as we have need to understand them, they are as intelligible as the plain truth that man is the union of body and spirit. So far as we are not concerned to understand them, they are as mysterious as the nature of the union between body and spirit in man, but not more so. Religion must have mysteries. Religion without its mysteries is a temple without its God."
Whither shall we flee to get beyond the region of things incomprehensible? They beset us behind and before. If from revealed religion we go to natural, they are there. The most essential doctrine of all religion, the existence of God, is mystery to the
uttermost. What explanation can be given of his self-existence? His presence in all parts of the universe at once? How he inhabits eternity, having no relation to time—and immensity, having no relation to space? If from natural religion we go to atheism, they are there also. He who denies the existence of God, plunges at once into the most confounding of all mysteries. What in Scripture is more incomprehensible, than that this world had no Maker; that all its examples of wise and deep design had no Designer? Will you go from thence to the experimental certainties of natural philosophy? Mysteries are there also. Explain the attraction of gravitation, the nature of electricity, the elastic power of steam, the secrets of evaporation. What is vegetable, or animal, or spiritual life? In mechanics, we arrive at the utmost certainty respecting the relations of force, matter, time, motion, space; while with the things themselves we have not the least acquaintance. They are mysteries as unsearchable to us as the deepest things of revealed religion. How force is communicated from one body to another, is no more intelligible than how the influences of the Holy Spirit are communicated to man. Matter, in its changes, is as incomprehensible as grace in its operations. "There are questions, doubts, perplexities, disputes, diversities of opinions, about the one as well as about the other. Ought we not, therefore, by a parity of reasoning, to conclude that there may be several true and highly useful propositions about the latter as well as about the former? Nay, I will venture to go
further, and affirm," says a devoted teacher of science, "that the preponderance of the argument is in favor of the propositions of the theologian. For while force, time, motion, etc., are avowedly constituent parts of a demonstrable science, and ought therefore to be presented in a full blaze of light, the obscure parts proposed in the Scriptures for our assent are avowedly mysterious. They are not exhibited to be perfectly understood, but to be believed. They cannot be understood without ceasing to be what they Obscurities, however, are felt as incumbrances to any system of philosophy; while mysteries are ornaments of the Christian system, and tests of the humility and faith of its votaries. So that if the rejecters of incomprehensibilities acted consistently with their own principles, they would rather throw aside all philosophical theories in which obscurities are found and exist as defects, than the system of revealed religion, in which they enter as essential parts of that 'mystery of godliness' in which the apostles gloried."*
If from natural philosophy we ascend to the higher branches of pure mathematics, the regions of unmixed light and certainty, where naught is tolerated but strict demonstration, even there will mystery find us and its right hand will hold us.
Explain the demonstrated fact that "there are curves which approach continually to some fixed -right line without the possibility of ever meeting it ;" that "a space infinite in one sense, may, by its rota* Gregory's Letters.