« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
they would be portions of time, and an infinite number of any portions of time must make an infinite duration. Who will pretend that in this there is no room for perplexity and doubt? In the mean time, the operations of science, in which the infinite divisibility of matter is assumed, proceed with as much confidence as if there were no difficulty connected with it.*
Much is said of the certainty of mathematical demonstrations, but if difficulties that cannot be solved are sufficient objections, even here also must sentence of condemnation be pronounced. It might be shown how trifling are even the definitions of geometry, the most exact of all the mathematical sciences. definitions might be alleged, upon no inconsiderable grounds, to be nonsensical and ridiculous; its demands or postulates, plainly impracticable; its axioms or self-evident propositions, controvertible, and controverted indeed even by themselves. But why are not these things objected to the truth of matheinatics? What is there in the religion of Jesus more encumbered with difficulties?
Were the dispositions of the human heart and the idols of a sinner's devotion as much opposed by the demonstrations of mathematics as by the doctrines of
* "The divisibility, in infinitum, of any finite extension, involves us, whether we grant or deny it, in consequences impossible to be explicated, or made in our apprehensions consistent; consequences that carry greater difficulty, and more apparent absurdity, than any thing that can follow from the notion of an immaterial substance." Locke on Human Understanding.
Christianity, it would be just as difficult to convince men of the truth of the former as of the latter. folly of speaking of a something that has length without breadth; of a point that has no parts; of lines for ever approaching and never meeting; the futility of basing a certain demonstration upon elements so unintelligible and impossible, would be trumpeted to the ends of the world. The wicked might no more believe a proposition of geometry, than they will now a doctrine of redemption. The scoffer might find as much to ridicule in Newton's Principia as in Paul's epistles.*
But we do injustice to the good cause in which we are engaged by standing exclusively on the defensive. Infidelity has too long been indulged with the privilege of attack. It is the stratagem of weakness, to put on a bold front and make a desperate assault. Any arm can strike, but not every breast can repel a blow. It is high time infidelity were accused and brought to the bar. What proof of a single feature of doctrine or of moral principle can it produce, after having rejected such evidence as that of Christianity? What satisfactory argument for the obligation of any thing connected with natural religion, what reason for believing in a future state, what proof even of the existence of God, can be offered as worthy of reliance, without a shameful inconsistency, by men who, in the immense power of evidence sus
* See an interesting piece of reasoning, apropos to the above, in one of the tracts of the American Tract Society, entitled "Conversation with a Young Traveller," No. 203.
taining the divine authority of the gospel, can find nothing to convince them?
We have shown that the argument for Christianity is strictly philosophical, because entirely experimental. It might easily be shown that every system of infidelity, so far as it pretends to any religious doctrine or precept, is wholly destitute of all claim to such a character. What a catalogue of theoretical assertions, and unsustained conjectures, and positive contradictions, and gross absurdities, and inexplicable difficulties, might be drawn up against the most rational of the infidel systems! The Deist professes to believe that the light of nature is sufficient for human guidance in all matters of moral obligation; and yet he believes, that notwithstanding such allsufficiency, some among those who have attempted to follow it have contended for the immortality of the soul, and others have denied it; some have maintained that God created all things, others that matter is as much from eternity as himself; some, that he governs and will judge the world, others that he does not concern himself about it; some, that God should be worshipped, others that all worship is weak superstition; some, that virtue is virtuous and vice vicious, others that there is no distinction in principle between them, that sin is but a matter of custom and opinion, and that the indulgence of the lowest passions is no more to be blamed than the thirst of a fever or the drowsiness of a lethargy.
Some infidels deny that Jesus ever lived; and yet they believe that the whole nation of the Jews, bitter
enemies of Christianity as they have always been, acknowledge that they put him to death on the cross. Some confess that there was such a person, but accuse him of a most barefaced system of fraud and imposture; and yet they cannot but concede that his character was eminently pure and excellent. Others, to escape such a contradiction, maintain that he was a pure, but weak and visionary enthusiast; and yet they acknowledge that he composed and inculcated a system of morals very far superior to that of the wisest of the ancient philosophers. Infidels profess to believe that the apostles of Christ were instigated by mercenary considerations, and yet that they willingly suffered the loss of all things-by ambitious considerations, and yet they submitted cheerfully to all ignominy and shame. According to infidels, they were devoted to a selfish scheme of personal benefit; and yet were always going about doing good, without the least regard to their own convenience or pleasure. They were gross deceivers, it is said; and yet they endured all sufferings, and sacrificed their lives, in confirmation of their sincerity. They were weak fanatics; and yet the strongest and most learned minds could not resist the power and wisdom with which they spoke. Infidels deny that Jesus ever wrought miracles; but cannot deny that his bitterest enemies, who had infinitely better opportunities of judging than they can boast, confessed the contrary. Infidels pretend that the prophecies of the Bible were. nothing more than guesses, and that all correspondence between them and subsequent history was a mere mat
ter of chance; and yet they cannot find, among all the guesses in the Bible, a single failure; nor can they deny that many of its guesses have succeeded in the minutest particulars, in spite of a proportion of chances against them too great for numbers to express. Infidels contend that the gospel is against all reason and common-sense, as well as truth; they laugh at the efforts of modern apostles to convert the nations of heathenism to the faith of Christ, as visionary and fruitless; nothing seems to them more impossible than that such an enterprise should succeed. And yet, according to their wisdom, when only twelve missionaries, with none of the education or experience, or human support and countenance, with none of the facilities for multiplying books and disseminating knowledge, which modern laborers possess-when twelve despised, persecuted Jews undertook a similar work, not among ignorant barbarians, but polished Greeks and when, in less than forty years, their cause was coëxtensive with the known world-then the success which is so impossible now, was nothing wonderful or unaccountable: it was a mere matter of human contrivance and enthusiastic perseverance; the work of men alone, and of weak, superstitious, credulous, simple, and deceitful men, though the only work of the kind since the creation of the world.
It were easy to proceed much further with this array of the contradiction and difficulties into which men are necessarily brought by rejecting the evidences of Christianity. But we have said enough to show