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Proofs of the truth of Christianity.
But at the predicted time there was an exact and circumstantial fulfilment. This could not have been the result of accident, nor the achievement of human sagacity. It must have been a supernatural illumination from God, and therefore the communications that stand in connexion with with such divine attestations of truth must be regarded as the revelation of God.
The prophecies relating to the birth, life, and death of our Saviour are so full and complete, that when put together, they form a connected history, exactly coinciding with that written after these events had taken place.
The manner in which these prophecies have been preserved is worthy of observation. The Jews themselves were the depositories to whom they were committed : and they surely would have been the last persons to have connived at a forgery, which, if admitted as true, would have implicated their character as murderers, and overturned their whole system; a forgery that went contrary to all their preconceived opinions, and proclaimed him Messiah whom they hated and had crucified.
It may also be further remarked in relation to the prophecies, that there is an intimate and close connexion between them throughout, though written by different men, at different periods of the world, and by individuals having no knowledge of, or intercourse with each other. The subjects of these several prophecies are connected, being evidently parts of one great and glorious plan. They who would wish to investigate this branch of evidence still further would do well to consult Bishop Newton's Dissertations on the Prophecies, a most able, judicious, and satisfactory work.
2. Miracles is another source of proof upon which we rely, to show the inspiration of the Bible and the truth of Christianity. A miracle is an act beyond the limits of human power, evidencing the immediate agency of God in suspending or counteracting the laws of nature. God would not exert a supernatural agency to accredit the statement of a company of impostors, who had banded themselves together for the very purpose of deceiving the world. It is absolutely certain that a holy God would not countenance an imposture, or what was opposite both to his
Evidence of the Divine origin of the Scriptures.
nature and worship, by appending to it the confirmation of miracles.
If, then, one claims to be a teacher sent from God, and in proof of this claim, works undoubted miracles, cures disease by a touch, raises the dead by a word, and hushes to repose the wind and the storm by a single command, he gives undoubted evidence that he is divinely inspired. This is the evidence which Christ and his apostles exhibited in proof of their divine commission. The miracles which they wrought were done in public, in the face of their enemies, exposed to the notice and observation of all, and addressed to the external senses. These miracles, therefore, which are God's own seal, afford irrefragable proof of the inspiration of the Bible and the truth of Christianity. They who desire to look into this subject more at large would do well to consult Paley on the Evidences of Christianity.
3. I remark, that the character of the sacred record itself evinces its divine origin.
Bad men would not go to work to make the world better, or to persuade men to become holy. But the whole design of the Bible, most obviously, from beginning to end, is to make men virtuous and holy. Those who wrote this book, therefore, must have been good men. But they could not have been good men unless
they were divinely inspired, because they every where claim this inspiration. They distinctly say, that “ liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with brimstone and fire." And yet if they were not sent of God, and did not reveal what he showed to them, they were the greatest of liars; for they profess to have been commissioned and sent by the Most High, that they came as his messengers, and communicated only what they had received in solemn charge from Him.
Thus have I briefly glanced at some of the prominent arguments that may be brought forward to substantiate the truth of the gospel. The subject is one of wide extent and vast importance ; and I wish that all my hearers who have leisure and opportunity, among other authors, would read Bishop McIlvaine's Lectures on the Evidences of Christianity. I am sure that no man who examines this Self-deceiving illusions. subject with candour and an honest desire to arrive at the truth, will have a single doubt resting upon his mind. To me the truth of Christianity is just as demonstrable as that the globe on which I dwell revolves on its axis.
I never knew a man sit down to the investigation of this subject, with an honest desire to ascertain the truth, that did not find all his doubts dissipated. And I will say
further, I never knew a man that had any acquaintance with the Bible, who was a confirmed skeptic or infidel. The great mass of unbelievers are totally ignorant of the truths which the Bible contains. They have never taken the pains to read it: and there are hundreds of instances where men have sat down to read the Bible, with the desire and expectation of finding something very absurd and contradictory in it, who have found the truth emanating upon them with so many rays of brightness from that sacred volume, that they have been forced to admit that it was the word of God and the “sword of the Spirit.” There are very few who have ever given the subject any examination that continue unbelievers. The corrupt heart is the great source of unbelief. There are thousands who court skepticism because it offers a shelter to them while indulging in their darling pleasures and vices.
The Bible being true, every man that is not changed by divine grace, brought into a living union with Christ, and renewed by the Holy Spirit, will, dying in this state, infallibly sink into the pit of never-ending ruin.
Now, do the sons and daughters of gayety believe this? They admit the Bible is true ; but they act precisely in the same way they would if they believed it false. There is a secret hope cherished, that God will not be as good as his word ; that he will not inflict the punishment which he has threatened; that there is no reason to be alarmed; that in the end all will be well. These conclusions are set up in the very face of God's most positive declaration, “ that the wicked and all who forget God shall be turned into hell." While their bark is gayly floating down the stream of prosperity, their skepticism may give them no uneasiness ; but when death shall come and lay his icy hand upon them, then the Bible will be believed, and its hopes sought for. Then that lip which was curled in scorn when the name of Jesus was mentioned, will strive to breathe a
prayer on high; that sneer and look of contempt which was cast upon the penitent, that bowed at the foot of the cross, will be exchanged for one of confusion and dismay.
Men of vicious and dissolute habits often become unbelievers merely to quiet the fears of conscience. They see, if the Bible is true, their case is hopeless ; if the Bible is true, they must either abandon their evil courses, or at last take up their abode in hell. Their vicious courses they will not abandon ; and in order to quiet their fears, they resolve to disbelieve the Bible. But this infidelity will not avail in a dying hour. Then the certainty of their condemnation will press upon their thoughts with overwhelming conviction.
A little narrative which came into my hands some two years since, will illustrate the truth of the foregoing ob servations, and most conclusively show that infidelity, in a great majority of cases, results from a love of sin, and will in the trying hour of death desert the miserable wretch who cherishes it, and leave him to struggle with all the horrors of unalleviated despair.
SOME few years since, says the writer of this narrative, in passing through one of the mountainous districts of New England, I entered a secluded and solitary glen, which, being hemmed in by lofty and precipitous ranges of hills, and overhung by continuous shade, awakened feelings of a solemn and somewhat melancholy cast. I had been previously apprized that this glen, through which my road lay, after winding in serpentine course round the base of several wild and cloud-capt mountains, opened into a bold champaign country; and that just at this point, there stood a little hamlet or village.
It was near the decline of day: and as I designed to make that village my resting place for the night, I rode on leisurely through this wild and solitary glen, indulging in those sober trains of thought which the scene was peculiarly calculated to inspire. Just before reaching the hamlet which I have mentioned, my attention was arrested by the appearance of an aged and venerable man, who seemed engaged in putting up a stone at the head of a
The foregoing proposition.
'The field in which this grave was situated, was an enclosure of considerable extent, interspersed with trees, and skirted on two sides by a forest. I soon perceived, however, there were other graves in the neighbourhood, and readily came to the conclusion that this was the common burial ground where the villagers interred the remains of their departed friends.
These resting places of the dead have always appeared, in my view, invested with a sacred character. I never could pass these spots, hallowed by the crumbled dust of those who once moved amid the circles of the living, without having peculiar trains of thought awakened in my mind. The scene through which I had just passed, and the reflections which I had been indulging, were such as were exactly suited to the enjoyment of an half hour's stroll amid the gray and moss-covered stones that stood over the mouldered ashes of the dead.
There was something, too, in the appearance of the old man, of whom I have just spoke, that deeply interested
In height he was below the middle stature, though in the general structure of his frame he appeared exceedingly muscular and athletic, and all his movements indicated one of an ardent and sanguine temperament. It was abundantly obvious, the moment I approached him, that he was under the influence of deep and absorbing feeling. And why should not all the tender sensibilities of his nature have been awake? He was setting up a stone to mark the grave of the last of his family!
“I had thought,” said he, in the course of an interesting conversation and as the remark dropped from his lips, it occurred to me that, with locks as white as the driven snow, and a countenance worked up into an expression of the highest emotions, his was a form, and attitude, and aspect, that should have been immortalized by the hand of a Raphael - I had thought that this son would have performed this mournful office for me. But an infinitely wise Providence has seen fit to ordain that I shall stand, in the winter of age, over the grave of my last remaining child."
Seeing, in the same cluster, the names of another family, I inquired if they were his relatives?
“ You see there," he replied, “the names of Mr, and