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sacred books, such as the common sense of mankind has judged to be necessary,—those nations to whom the art of writing was known, pretending to possess them,—others supplying their place by oral tradition,--and philosophers, who believed neither the one nor the other, deploring the want, but, at the same time, declaring that as some communication from the Deity was not only possible but probable, it might therefore be expected.
To introduce with propriety those books to which, in particular, we are allowed to appeal, and which alone can afford us effectual aid, we may endeavour to show previously what place their existence and contents may hold in the very argument for the Being of a God. This is the object of the present section ; and not to protract the discussion beyond all reasonable bounds, nothing more is intended than a mere outline of the method which may be successfully prosecuted by any candid inquirer.
Lest there should seem to be a petitio principii in conducting the inquiry, or something like reasoning in a circle, a different plan must be taken from that which belongs to the deistical controversy, in which the Being of a God is presupposed.
Let the atheist or sceptic, then, be conceived to urge the following considerations, and to put the following queries, which cannot be denied to be sufficiently appropriate in his mouth :“ If there be a Deity on whom all nature depends, it is not unreasonable to think that at one time or another he may
have indicated his control over the laws of nature, or at least over the physical properties of their subjects ; and that he constantly regulates, and therefore interferes with, the moral constitution of things, which is not subject to these laws, but arises from the relation of free agents to himself. If, moreover, he hath formed rational beings for the express purpose of recognising his own existence, doing homage to him, and being blessed in his fulness, it may justly be expected, that he will admit them to special intercourse with himself, not restricting the manifestation of his glory merely to material objects,—and that since his all-sufficiency must enable him to communicate directly with the soul or intellectual powers, and to bless the rational creature with higher than merely temporal enjoyments, some such intercourse has actually existed. The being of a man may be known by his voice, or by his letters, as truly as by his works of art. Has, then, the Deity ever indicated his existence by any communications of this sort with mankind ? Has he ever proved his permanent active power, and his supremacy over the laws of nature or their subjects, by any supernatural facts ? Has he at any time evinced the existence of a real and absolute control over the moral world, by fortelling the actions of free agents, or the events dependent on these? Hath he spoken to the creatures who have ears to hear and minds to understand his words ? Doth he continue to do so ? or if this would not have been expedient, hath he appointed any channel by which his will may be notified to them, and blessedness also imparted in forms and degrees beyond all that can be afforded by the confessedly imperfect rudiments of nature ?"
Upon these interrogatories we must beg leave to remark, that the proof of the being and perfections of God would be valid and sufficient, though no such interference with the laws of nature or their subjects had ever taken place, and though there were no channel of intercourse with the Deity but the works which ascertain his existence. It will be granted, however, that facts or authentic testimony, (for the facts are not expected to be permanent), attesting the intercourse referred to, must be strongly CONFIRMATORY of all the evidence afforded by
system of Nature.
In reply, therefore, we have to state,—1st, That it is possible to ascertain by the proper species of proof, that such suspension or temporary alteration of the ordinary constitution of nature as comes under the idea of miraculous interference, has really and in many instances taken place :-2dly, That pro
hecies exist to be either compared with history posterior to their date, or verified by present and future events :-3dly, That the books which record the miraculous interpositions, and contain the prophecies, profess to have proceeded from the immediate intercourse of a Deity with the human mind, and to exhibit to the whole human race a permanent revelation of his will
. It becomes the sceptic therefore to inquire into the truth of the facts, the authenticity of the books, and the credibility of those by whom they were written.
The following propositions are so easily investigated, and have indeed been so fully demonstrated (though with a different object), that they deserve his most serious attention.
1st, Miracles in the sense proposed by the sceptic, and as usually defined, are possible. They imply no contradiction.
2dly, They can only be occasional. This is almost selfevident,
3dly, They can be expected only on worthy occasions,—for accomplishing what cannot be effected by the ordinary course of things, either attesting some system more important than the system of nature, or holding a conspicuous place in it.
4thly, The occasions on which they are said to have been wrought are sufficient to justify the interference of a Deity.
5thly, A dispensation or state of things affecting the moral constitution of the world, may be introduced and confirmed by miracles, which shall supersede their necessity for the future; -and it is reasonable to think that a Deity would have this object in view, to whatever length the preparatory scheme of extraordinary interferences might be protracted.
6thly, The very existence of such a dispensation will be confirmatory of the fact that miracles have been wrought, while it also accounts for their having ceased.
7thly, Miracles are capable of proof from testimony, by which alone, under such a dispensation, their past performance can be ascertained.
8thly, We have sufficient proof both in the actual existence of such a dispensation, and by testimony, that miracles have been wrought, and those miracles, in particular, which are recorded in the Sacred Books, usually denominated the Bible.
9thly, Any single completely ascertained miracle, and much more a vast multitude and long series of miracles, must decișively prove the existence of a Supernatural Power or Deity.*
. It might have been pleasant to illustrate tbese propositions, but the materials, which any judicious reader will know how to arrange and apply, may be found in Paley's and Beattie's Evidences, and other similar works. Dr. CAMPBELL'S Dissertation against Hume ought particularly to be read on the seventh. And the writer would recommend, on both the sixth and the eighth, WERENFELSI Dissertationes iv. et v., (in his Opuscula) entitled De Veritate miraculorum S. Scripturæ, and Miracula signa veritatis,—which he deems completely satisfactory, and a translation of which would be a valuable addition to our stores of vernacular theology.--" Some of the inquiring and philosopbical part of mankind have been inclined to conclude, from the regularity and stability of the order of the material world, that it cannot be changed by any power whatsoever, nay that this whole of things is the eternal and self-existent being. Miracles are the shortest and most unanswerable confutation of this atheistical opinion. They are irresistible proofs that the visible world has a superior, who can alter and change its order or laws at his pleasure." —Dr. LEECHMAN's Sermon on the Wisdom of God in the Gospel Revelation.
1st, Predictions exist relative to events of which some are now past, and others still future.
2dly, These, as contained in the foresaid Sacred Books, are discriminated from all other oracles as a Grand Unfolding Scheme, closely connected in all its parts, ever relating to objects of general utility, and pourtraying the progress of those revolutions of empire or of sentiment, which ultimately affect the whole world, tend to ameliorate its state for a season, and then to usher in the consummation of its destinies.
3dly, These Prophecies have been accurately fulfilled in the course of ages, and the fulfilment is still visibly going on.
4thly, It matters little whether the writers be known or not, or what manner of persons they were ; the existence and the fulfilment of prophecy, and especially of such a scheme of prophecy, form, when taken in connexion, the best and the most irrefragable proof of the existence of an Omniscient Being, who exercises an Almighty control over all the actions of free agents, and the events dependant on these. *
No miracles were ever wrought in attestation of any systems of religion but the Jewish and the Christian, which are recorded and their consistency manifested in the foresaid books.
They are the only books which contain prophecies worthy of a Deity, and verified by facts.
As the Miracles, which can be proved without previously supposing the sacred character of the Books, are sufficient to accredit the agents employed in introducing and conducting the above-mentioned systems of religion,—and as the Prophecies were confessedly prior to the date of the events,—the
Hurd on Prophecy may be read with great advantage on the first part of proposition second,—that prophecy in Scripture is a grand unfolding scheme.
To complete the idea, however, the remaining parts of the statement in that proposition must be taken into view. Much light is thrown upon them by the writings of Faber, and other late investigators of Prophecy. The idea expands and becomes more and more luminous in its own glory, as the investigation goes on.-See also Dr. Horsley's admirable sermon on Prophecy, from 2 Pet. i. 20, 21. On proposition third, consult BENTLEY's sermon on the Messias, Kidder's Demonstration, Bishop Newton on the Prophecies, and Mason's Dissertations.
claim of the writers to immediate intercourse with an Almighty and Omniscient Being is justified,-and, by consequence, such a Being, who is God,
Or thus : 1st, The Books must have had an author or authors. 2d, The authorship is disclaimed by the writers.
3d, Their disclaiming it is well-supported ;-by their character, unlearned, of ordinary talents, previously imbued with strong prejudices against the subjects of their doctrine or predictions ;-and by their circumstances, members of a segregated nation, and thereby deprived of the advantages of human science, excluded from that knowledge of the world which might have been the basis of political conjecture with regard to the fate of nations, and was evidently necessary to fit them for devising a religion calculated for universality, &c.
4th, The Books cannot have originated from human policy or priestcraft, the only other probable sources to which they might be traced; for their object evidently stretches far beyond every thing proposed by mere civil policy ; this object they profess to accomplish by means very different from those of the world; they everywhere testify against making religion an engine of state ; and they develope the process by which the Almighty, whom they claim for their author, will at length overwhelm all tyranny and priestcraft in ameliorating the state of the world.
-5th, They cannot have proceeded from man. Of this they afford internal evidence in their very style and manner ; but especially in the extent of intelligence they display,—their uniform relation to the same great objects, though written at divers times and after sundry forms,-their absolute harmony, not only of tendency but of sentiment,—and their opposition to the known propensities of mankind.—On other grounds the Bible cannot reasonably be supposed an invention of man. The wisdom with which it is framed is not yet completely discovered by Christians themselves; and it is a fact, that they are much assisted in their discoveries, by the very objections of their infidel opponents. Now to suppose that the Jews,-a people sequestered from the world, whose national character the scriptures themselves declare was obstinacy and rebellion, and whom the sceptic regards as on various accounts the most stupid of men ;-to suppose that they, or the primitive Christians, those simple adherents of the crucified Jesus, harassed with fightings without and fears within ;—to suppose, that these men, who were in certain respects opposed the one class to the