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And are there not also many strange and unaccountable things in the book of Nature, and in the administration of Divine PROVIDENCE, the design and use of which we cannot seg? Nay, are there not even some things which to us seem wrong and ill-contrived? Yet we own the world was created by God, and that he is the GOVERNOUR thereof. And why then shall we not allow that the Scriptures may be from God, notwithstanding these difficulties, and seeming incongruities? Indeed, a revelation, which we could fully comprehend, would not appear the production of an infinite mind; it would bear no resemblance to its heavenly author; and therefore we should have reason to suspect it spurious. It is extremely probable, that the three grand volumes of nature, providence, and grace, should all, in some respect or other, bear the stamp of their being derived from one source. Many things in the volumes of Nature and
ficing any one of its mysterious doctrines. There is no need that we should carry our candour and complaisance so far, to gain the approba. tion of any man, or set of men whatever.
The mysterious doctrines of religion have caused some sceptical men to reject those scriptures in which they are contained; others have explained and refined them away. So, because the doctrines of religion have been abused to superstition and folly, abundance of our fellow crea. tures, without due consideration, are disposed to cast off all religion whatever. Ill judging men ! What is human nature without religion? How horrible the state of the world, without religion ? Let CICERO speak its importance to human happiness : Religione sublata, perturbatio vitz sequitur, et magna
confusio. Atque haud scio, an pietate adversus Deus sublatâ, fides etiam et societas humani generis, et una excellentissima virtus, jusitia, tollatur. De Nat. Des. 1. 2.
How strongly is this exemplified in the state of France at this moment!
* What if there should be some incomprehensible doctrines in the Christian religion; some circuinstances, which in their causes, or their consequences, pass the reach of human reason; are they to be rejected upon that account?-«Weigh the matter fairly; and consider whether Revealed Religion be not, in this respect, just upon the same footing with every other object of your contemplation. Even in mathematics
, the science of demonstration itself, though you get over its first princi. ples, and learn to digest the idea of a point without parts, a line without breadth, and a surface without thickness, yet you will find yourselves at a loss to comprehend the perpetual approximation of lines, which can never meet; the doctrine of incommensurables, and of an infinity of infinities, each infinitely greater, or infinitely less, not only than any finite quantity, but than each other. In physics, you cannot comprehend the
Providence far exceed our highest powers to comprehend *; it is not improbable, therefore, that the volume of Divine Grace should be under a similar predicament. What doth the wisest man upon earth know of the nature of God, but what the Scripture hath told him? Extremely little. It primary cause of any thing ; not of the light, by which you see ; nor of the elasticity of the air, by which you hear; nor of the fire, by which you are warmed. In physiology, you cannot tell what first gave motion to the heart; nor what continues it ; nor why its motion is less volun. tary than that of the lungs ; nor why you are able to move your arm, to the right or left, by a simple volition : you cannot explain the cause of animal heat; nor comprehend the principle by which your body was at first formed, nor by which it is sustained, nor by which it will be reduced to earth. In natural religion, you cannot comprehend the eternity or omnipresence of the Deity; nor easily understand how his prescience can be consistent with your freedom, or his immutability with his government of moral agents; nor why he did not make all his creatures equally perfect ; nor why he did not create them sooner ; in short, you cannot look into any branch of knowledge, but you will meet with subjects above your comprehension. The fall and the redemption of human kind, are not more incomprehensible than the creation and the conser-vation of the universe ; the infinite AUTHOR of the works of providence, and of nature, is equally inscrutable, equally past our finding out in them both. And it is somewhat remarkable, that the deepest inquirers into nature have ever thought with most reverence, and spoken with most diffidence concerning those things which, in revealed religion, may seem hard to be understood; they have ever avoided that self-sufficiency of knowledge, which springs from ignorance, produces indifference, and ends in Infidelity.
“ Plato mentions a set of men, who were very ignorant, and thought themselves extremely wise : and who rejected the argument for the being of a GoD, derived from the harmony and order of the universe, as old and trite. There have been men, it seems, in all ages, who in affecting singularity, have overlooked truth: an argument, however, is not the worse for being old; and surely it would have been a more just mode of reasoning, if you had examined the external evidence for the truth of Christianity, weighed the old arguments from miracles, and from prophecies, before you had rejected the whole account, from the difficulties you met with in it. You would laugh at an Indian, who in peeping into an history of England, and meeting with the mention of the Thames being frozen, or of a shower of hail, or of snow, should throw the book aside, as unworthy of his further notice, from his want of ability to compre. hend these phænomena.” Bishop Watson's Apology for Christianity.
The, dispensations of Divine Providence are ably vindicated from the objections of Sceptics and Infidels by Dr. SHERLOCK, in his valuable Treatise on that subject. The reader will also find a very pleasing paper in the Spectator to the same purpose, which he would do well to consult. It is No. 237, in the third volume,
may be questioned whether weshould have known any thing of him, had it not been for some original revelation.
“ if Christ was so necessary to the salvation of the “ world, why was he sent no sooner? Why, even accord“ing to your own account, were four thousand years suffer“ed to elapse before the Sun of righteousness arose ?”
Very sufficient reasons may be given, and have a hundred times been given, for this wise delay. It may, however, be retorted, if Philosophy be medicinal to a foolish world, why were THALES, SOLON, PYTHAGORAS, ARISTOTLE, ZENO, ANTONINUS, SENECA, and other ancient Heathens, born no suoner, but men suffered to continue so many ages in profound ignorance, little superior to the beasts that perish? Answer this with respect to them, and you are answered with respect to the MESSIAH. I add, moreover, Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The efficacy of his death extends from the beginning to the end of time. He is an universal SAVIOUR. When we any of us bestow a favour upon a fellow-creature, we alone are to determine the time and circumstances of doing that favour.
If the Gospel, and our natural passions*, both come from “one source, why doth the former oppose the latter?”
It is well known, that while the interior powers of human nature assume dominion over the superior, no man can be happy. The intention of the Gospel is, therefore, not to destroy the affections of men, but to regulate, and restore them to due order and harmony, and so to promote the felicity of human life. And, wherever it hath its proper, fuli, and natural effect, there it always forms a virtuous, respectable, and happy character. The grand intention of it, however, is to train mankind for glory and immortality in a future state of existence.
" If the human race are all sprung from one original pair, 6 and if the several species of animals, insects, and birds,
*'See a most remarkable deliverance from the dominion of indulged and long continued lust, in the case of Colonel GARDINER, sect. 37, 38. of his Life by Dr. DODDRIDGE. Every man, who is living under the tyrannical dominion of his lusis, and wishes to obtain deliverance, should not fail to consuit this extraordinary emancipation. Nothing is too hard for divine grace to accomplish.
“ were produced in the garden of Eden, as the Bible seems “ to insinuate, how is it possible they should be found dis
persed into the several countries of the world at an im“ mense distance, and, in many cases, separated by exten. " sive oceans * ?"
If we refuse to believe in God, till we understand all the difficulties attending his existence, and in JESUS CHRIST, till we are acquainted with all the mysteries of Providence, and Grace, we must continue, not only Unbelievers, but Atheists to eternity. How often must it be repeated, that our comprehension is not the standard of truth? The evidence for the genuineness and authenticity of the Sacred Records inust be the measure of our faith.
“ Is it at all probable, that we, and the several kinds of “ black men, should be sprung from the same parents, as " the Bible affirnis all human creatures were ?”
At first view, this is a considerable difficulty, but has been accounted for upon principles perfectly satisfactory, which we cannot stop here at length to detail f.
“ Why is the Gospel attended with so many difficulties? " and why did not infinite wisdom, if infinite wisdom had
any concern in the business, take care to make every thing plain and easy to the meanest capacity : ?”
It is answered, with triumphant gratitude, every thing necessary to salvation is plain and easy to the most cominon apprehension, if we are humbly disposed to submit our wills and understandings to the will and understanding of God. And if there are some things in the Sacred Writings,
* See STACKHOUSE on this difficulty.
+ Consult Mr. Bryant's Treatise on the Christian Religion, p. 267277. See the same work too for answers to several other objections. But for a solution of the greatest number of difficulties, I repeat again, turn to STACKHOUSE's large Work on the Bible.
# The religion of JESUS CHRIST, any more than the dispensation of Moses, was never intended to be free from difficulties. It was rather designed to be a touchstone for ingenuous and curable dispositions. If we are honest inquirers after saving truth, and persevere in our pursuit, we shall not be disappointed. What we know not to-day, we shall know to.morrow. That is a fine anecdote which is given us by Jacob BryANT, Esq. in the above Treatise on the Christian Religion, concerning the Queen and the l'rincess Mary. See that Work, and SIMPSON'S Essay on the Novo Testament, p. 123.
and in the scheme of redemption, difficult to comprehend, it is not less so in the course of nature, and in the principles of unrevealed religion. But if the Gospel of Christ were attended with abundantly more difficulties than it is, still there could be no solid objection against substantial proof. A poor illiterate man, in a dark corner of the earth, has preached a scheme of doctrines and morals superior to all human wisdom, and calculated to make all mankind happy, if all mankind would submit to its authority. This he hath spread abroad to the ends of the world, in opposition to all the powers of earth and hell. Let any man account for this phænomenon, on principles merely human, if he
“ Has not the Gospel been the cause of the greatest “ misery and destruction to the human race, upon various
occasions, almost ever since it was introduced ?"
It has. And this is among the proofs that it came from above. The Author of it predicted that so it should be. But the Gospel itself was no otherwise the cause of misery and destruction to the human race, than as Philosophy has been the cause of misery and destruction to the inhabitants of France. As in the latter case, it was not Philosophy, but the abuse of it, that has done so much mischief; so in the former, it was not the Gospel, but a most wicked perversion of its pure and benevolent doctrines, that has produced so much havock among mankind*. And though it has not
* See this difficulty answered in Bonnet's Interesting views of Christianity, p. 230--237, and still more fully in the first vol. of Bishop Porteus's Sermons, Discourse the twelfth.
The Roman emperors of the three first centuries after the birth of CHRIST are somewhere said by St. JEROME, if I remember right, to have martyred 5000 Christians a day every day in the year, except one; that is, they put to death at different times, during those centuries, 1,820,000 souls! --These Heathens, however, according to this calculation, were not half so bloody as the Roman Catholic Christians have been.-The infidel Philosophers of France, who are evermore charging the Gospel with cruelty and murder, though it prohibits every thing of the kind under the most awful sanctions, by a most tremendous retaliation, have turned their arms one against another, and have murdered upwards of two millions of their own countrymen in the course of seven years ! Hence it appears, that your vain-glorious Philosophers have been, and are now, at least as bloody, illiberal, and intolerant, as the most