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And is this all? Was it for this immortal faculties were bestowed upon us? Miserable round of secular pursuits, and empty dissipation! If faith in the Bible be a deception, it hath at least the merit of being a comfortable and beneficial one. It rescues us from this pitiful way of spending our time and money; it enables us to abound in works of faith and labours of love, in some degree, worthy of our high-raised expectations, and prepares us to die with a hope full of immortality. We quit the stage of life without a sigh or tear, and we go wind and tide into the haven of everlasting rest.(2)
Has no opinion of his own,
And lives an ape, and dies a fool.” (2) Few men ever trifled more agreeably, and at the same time more perniciously than Sterne. Among the various beautiful and pathetic passages which occur in his volumes, he administers poi. son in a manner the most imperceptible and bewitching. Few writers have more corrupted the public taste. He was a man of considerable, but peculiar talents, making great pretensions to sympathy, wit, and benevolence, but with an heart in no small degree depraved. And as he had lived with the reputation of a wit, he was determined to die such, even though he should sacri. fice every appearance of Christian piety and decorum. Accord. ingly, when this clerical buffoon, was in dying circumstances, perceiving death to make his advances upwards, he raised himself in his bed upon his posteriors, and either in a real or pretended rage, swore at the sly assassin, that he should not kill him yet.
This remarkable circumstance, though not mentioned in his life, is strictly true It is only observed in the account pref to his works, that“ Sterne died as he lived, the same indifferentr
“ With'us no melancholy void,
Or unimprov'd below;
And only him to know." No man, however, can prove the falsehood of that inestimable book. Difficulties, many and considerable, it contains. We are not disposed to conceal them. It would be very surprizing, if a book so circumstanced did not.(3) But its foundation is built upon the pillars of everlasting truth. Conscientious unbelievers should examine those difficulties with calmness and patience. The whole collective evidence of the gospel is very considerable, and requires time and application.(4) It is expected that they attend to the consistency, harmony, and connection of all its various parts; the long chain of prophecies undeniably completed in it; the astonishing and well attested miracles that attend it; the perfect sanctity of its author; the purity of its precepts; the sublimity of its doctrines; the amazing rapidity of its progress; the. illustrious company of professors, saints, and martyrs, who died to confirm its truth ; the testimony of its enemies; together with an infinite number of collateral proofs, and subordinate circumstances, all concurring to form such a body of evidence, as no other truth in the world can shew ; such as must necessarily bear down, by its own weight and magnitude, all trivial objections to particular parts. They should consult the best books upon the subject, and call in the assistance of learned and disinterested men, who have made theological subjects their study. They should apply to them as they would to a lawyer about an estate, or a physician about their health. And they should make the investigation a matter of the most diligent in
careless creature; as, a day or two before, he seemed not in the least affected with his approaching dissolution.".
Barnaby, a physician in London,' was intimately acquainted with an atheist. After some time, he was seized with a violent fever, and sent for the doctor. He came and prescribed several medicines, but none of them took effect. At length he told him plainly,“ Sir, I know nothing more that can be done ; you must die." Upon this, he clenched his fists, gnashed his teeth, and said with the utmost fury, “ God! God! I won't die!" and im. mediately expired.
(3) “ It would be a miracle greater than any we are instructed to believe, if there were no difficulties in the Sacred Writings; if a being with but five scanty inlets of knowledge, separated but yesterday from his mother earth, and to-day sinking again into her bosom, could fathom the depths of the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord God Almighty."
All arts and sciences abound with difficulties, and a perfect knowledge of them is not to be attained without considerable labour and application; why then should we expect that theology, the first of sciences, and that to which all others ought to be subservient, should be without its abstrusities, and capable of being understood without labour and application of the mind ? Nay,even that practical religion which is required of the humblest followers of the Redeemer, demands a high degree of attention. Agonize to enter in at the strait gate, is the command of the Son of God. And did ever any labour more in the cause of virtue than Christ and his apostles?
(4) There are four grand arguments for the truth of the Bible, the first is the miracles which it records. 2. The prophecies. 3. The goodness of the doctrines. 4. The moral character of the penmen. -The miracles flow from Divine power; the pro. phecies from Divine understanding; the excellence of the doctrine from Divine goodness; and the moral character of the penmen from Divine purity.–Thus, christianity is built upon these four immovable pillars, the power, the understanding, the goodness, and the purity of God. I add further :--The Bible must be the invention either of good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of God.----It could not be the invention of good men or angels, for they neither would nor could make a book, and tell lies all the time they were writing it, saying, Thus saith the Lord, when it was their own invention. It could not be the invention of bad men or devils, for they would not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell to all eternity.---I therefore draw this conclusion---the Bible must be given by Divine inspiration.
quiry.(5) Religion is a serious thing. It is either all or nothing. A few pert objections, started in mixed company, or in a circle of friends over the glass, are indecent and despicable.--Shameful herein is the conduct of many vain babblers. They should be excluded society.' When the ancient philosopher An
(5) Watson's Apology for Christianity, and his Apology for the Bible, are admirably calculated to remove a considerable num. ber of difficulties attending the records of our salvation. Horne's Letters on Infidelity are wisely suited to the same purpose. But he who is able and willing to examine thoroughly the grounds of his religion, should have recourse to Butler's Analogy of Religion, a work well adapted to give satisfaction to inquiring minds, upon the most important of all subjects, religion. Grotius on the Truth of Christianity, is an excellent little work. Doddridge's Three Sermons, on the Evidences of Christianity, seem better suited to the understandings of common readers than almost any other. Lardner's Credibility; Michaelis's Introduction to the New Testament; Jones's new and full Method for settling the canonical authority of the New Testament; and Paley's View of the Evi. dences of Cliristianity; are all works of high reputation. Beattie's Evidences of the Christian Religion, is a valuable small work. Baxter on the Truth of Christianity, is not to be answered. Edwards on the Authority, Style, and Perfection of Scripture, is very valuable. Gildon's Deist's Manual-Kidder's Demonstration of the Messias.-Stillingfleet's Origines Sacræ-Hartley on the Truth of the Christian Religion -Bryant on the Authenticity of the Scriptures—Jortin on the Truth of the Christian Religion -Delany's Revelation Examined with Candour-Paschal's Thoughts on Religion-Young's Night Thoughts, and Centaur not Fabulous-Ditton on the Resurrection-Cure of Deism-Foster's Usefulness, Truth, and Excellency of the Christian Revelation-Clark's Truth and Certainty of the Christian RevelationLally's Principles of the Christian Religion--Paley's Horæ Paulinæ- Squire's Indifference for Religion inexcusable-Locke's Reasonableness of Christianity-Murray's Evidences of the Jewish and Christian Revelations Chandler's Plain Reasons for be. ing a Christian-Addison on the Truth of Christianity-Watson's Two Sermons and Charge-Syke's Essay upon the Truth of the Christian Religion-Warburton's Divine Legation of MosesGregory Sharpe's T'wo Arguments in Defence of Christianity Leslie's Short Method with Jews and Deists-Berkley's Minute Philosopher-Randolph's View of our Saviour's Ministry-Clayton's Vindication of the Histories of the Old and New Testament
axagoras had expressed in one of his books a doubt concerning the existence of God, the book was burnt by a public decree of his fellow-citizens, and he hi nself banished his country. These were heathens. What would they have said to the philosophers of the
-Bell's Inquiry into the Divine Mis ns of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ-Lively Oracles, by the Author of the Whole Duty of Man-Boyle on the Style of Holy Scripture-Macknight on the Gospel-actions as probable-West on the Resurrection-Lit. tleton on the Conversion of Paul-La Pluche on the Truth of the Gospel-Socinus's Argument for the Authority of the Holy Scripture--Chandler's Defence of Christianity--Priestley's Let. ters to a Philosophical Unbeliever-Priestley's Evidence of Re. vealed Religion—These are all works of reputation. Several of them are unanswerable, and all contain more or less matter upon the truth of the Scriptures, that is useful and important. There is another work which I would recommend to the common read. er, because it is so plain, satisfactory, and concise : Jenning's Appeal to Reason and Common Sense for the Truth of the Holy Scriptures. To these may be added, Leland's Deistical Writers -Leslie's Truth of Christianity Demonstrated-and Taylor's Moral Demonstration that the Religion of Jesus Christ is from God-Writings on these subjects of universal importance are very numerous, and it is impossible they can be too much so. be questioned whether any objection whatsoever has been made to the great truths of religion and the Sacred Writings, which has not been fairly and honestly answered in one or another of the above authors. But no writer has taken so much pains to state and answer objections to the Scriptures as Stackhouse in his His. tory of the Bible. If the serious reader find himself oppressed with difficulties, he should apply to that work, where he will find them exhibited at length, with such answers as are satisfactory.
It may be recommended to the serious reader to add Knox's Christian Philosophy, where he will find the internal evidence of christianity insisted on at length. That work, however, does not appear to me to be altogether unexceptionable, though highly valuable. He sets the external and internal evidence of the gos. pel too much in opposition one to the other. And there is an asperity and superciliousness in his expressions, which ill become the subject on which he writes. It will however do much good by calling the public attention to inward religion.
The purity of the gospel is discussed at length in Newcome's Observation's on our Lord's Conduct; Hunter's Observations on the History of Jesus Christ; and Harwood's Life of Christ.