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them as a task or as an amusement; but he considers them as works of erudition and exercises of ingenuity, claiming great praise as the product of literary leisure, but little adapted to impress the heart, or convert the infidel and the profligate. The people are erring and straying like lost sheep, but in these calls they cannot recognize the voice of the shepherd. Such works indeed seldom reach the people; and while they are celebrated in academic cloisters, their very existence is unknown among the haunts of men, in the busy hum of cities; where it is most desirable that they should be known, because there the great majority of human creatures is assembled, and there also the poison of temptation chiefly requires the antidote of religion. What avails it that defences of Christianity are very learned and very subtle, if they are so dry and unaffecting as to be confined in their effects to sequestered scholars, far removed from the active world, and probably so firmly settled in the faith, as to require no new persuasives, no additional proofs to render them faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
Apologies and attacks of this kind have very little effect in silencing infidel writers, or changing their opinions. They frequently furnish fresh matter for dispute, and indeed put arms into the hands of the enemy. By provoking discussion on points which were at rest, they raise sophistry from its slumbers, and blow the trumpet of controversial wars, which do great mischief before the re-establishment of peace. In the issue, the contending parties are silenced rather from weariness in the contest, than from conviction; and Te Deum, as is usual in other wars, is sung by those who are said to be vanquished, as well as those who claim the honour of undisputed victory.
Thus it has happened that the writings of men, no less benevolent in their intentions than able in their exertions, have sometimes not only done no good to their cause, but great injury. They have revived old cavils and objections, or invented new, in order to display ingenuity in refuting them; cavils and objections which have frequently been answered, or which might never have occurred; but which, when once they have occurred, produce suspicion and unsettled notions on topics never doubted, and among honest men whose faith was firmly established. Such conduct is like that of a physician, who should administer doses of arsenic to his patients, in order to prove to them, at their risk, the sovereign power of his nostrum. The venom, finding a constitution favourable to its operation, triumphantly prevails, and the preventive remedy cannot rescue the sufferer from his hapless fate.
I am persuaded, that even a sensible, thinking, and learned man might live his whole life in piety and peace, without ever dreaming of those objections to Christianity, which some of its most celebrated defenders have collected together from all ages, and a great variety of neglected books, and then combined in a single portable volume, so as to render it a convenient synopsis of infidelity. What must be the consequence ? It must at least disturb the repose of the sensible, thinking, and learned man; and if it should be read and understood by the simple, the unlearned, the unthinking, and the ill-disposed, I am of opinion that its objections would be studied, its solutions neglected; and thus a very large number of recruits enlisted volunteers in the army of unbelievers.
As an exemplification of what I have here advanced, I mention in this place, Bishop Warburton's View of Lord Bolingbroke's Philosophy. There the unbeliever sees the scattered arguments of scepticism and unbelief, all picked and culled for him, without any trouble of his own, and marked with inverted commas, so as to direct the eye, without loss of time, to their immediate perusal. The book becomes an anthologia of infidelity. The flowers are gathered from the stalks, and conveniently tied up in a nosegay. The essence is extracted and put into a phial commodious for the pocket, and fitted for hourly use. The late bishop Horne, in his facetious Letters on Infidelity, has also collected passages from obscure books and pamphlets, and sent them abroad in such a manner as must of necessity cause them to be read and received, where they never would have found their way by their native force. These ingenious and well-meaning divines resuscitate the dead, and give life to the still-born or abortive offspring of dullness and malignity. I might mention many more instances of similar imprudence, in men of the deepest erudition and the sincerest piety; but I am unwilling to follow their example, in pointing out to unbelievers compendiums, abridgments, and manuals of sceptical cavil. To say in their excuse that they refute those arguments which they insert so liberally from the writings of the unbeliever, may prove our candour, but not our judgment or knowledge of human nature. Evil is learned sooner and remembered longer than good; and it would be better to let many pamphlets of the deists sink into oblivion, than to preserve and extend them, by extracting their most noxious parts, and mixing them with the productions of men of learning and piety. The refutations are often long, laboured, and tedious, while the objections are short and lively. They are therefore either not read or soon forgotten, while a flippant sarcasm attracts attention and fixes itself in the memory. It must also be allowed, that the refutations are too often unsatis'factory : and that the weakness of a defence invites new attacks, and gives fresh courage to the enemy.
I think the style and manner of some among the celebrated defenders of Christianity extremely improper. It is not respectful. It treats Jesus Christ as if he were an inferior to the person who takes upon him to examine, as he phrases it, the pretensions of Jesus Christ. To speak in an authoritative, inquisitorial language of the author of that religion by which the writer himself professes to hope for salvation, can never serve the cause of Christianity. Think of a poor, frai), sinful mortal, sitting a self-appointed judge, and like a lawyer in a human court of judicature, arraigning Jesus Christ, the Lord of life, just as a venal solicitor might have questioned the two thieves that were crucified with him, had they been accused at a modern police-office. The cold yet authoritative style of the tribunal has been much used in examining, as it is called, that religion which brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. You would think the learned theologist, who assumes the office of an examiner, another Pontius Pilate. He sits in the seat of judgment, and with
judicial importance coldly pronounces on the words and actions of that Saviour, whom he owns to be the great Captain of Salvation.
In such defences or examinations, Jesus Christ is spoken of in terms that must divest him of his glory, and therefore villify him in the eyes of the gainsayers, and all unthinking people. But how, on the contrary, do the prophets represent him ? Language has no terms of magnificence adequate to his dignity.
The prophets describe Jesus Christ as the most august personage which it is possible to conceive. They speak of him indeed as the seed of 'the woman' and the Son of man ;' but at the same time describe him of celestial race. They announce him as a being exalted above men and angels; above all principality and power; as the Word and the Wisdom of God; as the eternal Son of the Father; as the Heir of all things, by whom God made the worlds; as the brightness of God's glory, the express image of his person.'
Thus speak the prophets of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Now let us hear an ingenious apologist and defender of him and his religion. A reverend author, highly estimable for his learning and ingenuity, and whom I sincerely esteem, speaking of Jesus Christ, in a book professedly written to vindicate his truth and honour, repeatedly calls him “ a Jewish peasant,” and a “ peasant of Galilee.” For what are we comparing ? says he, (in a comparison of Jesus Christ with Mahomet,) “a Galilean peasant, accompanied with a few fishermen, with a conqueror at the head of his army;" and again, in the next page, “a Jewish peasant overthrew the religion of the world."