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Nevertheless, this is a mode of trial to which the unbeliever invariably subjects the bible. No other book in the world ever was, and no book ever will be, exposed to such a severity of ordeal. It is a mode of proceeding which would infallibly injure the credit of any writings whatsoever, and which would cut off from literature and science all the works of antiquity.
I would observe, moreover, that a pertinacious habit of selecting and holding up to profane comment, certain objectionable passages of scripture, with which, neither the inspired word contained in its pages, nor the Jewish, nor the Christian religion, is in any way connected, is, in every point of view, as injurious to the individual pursuing it, as it is unfair and reprehensible. I cannot but conceive, that the indulging, as too many persons do, in holding forth these objectionable passages, as if they were specimens of the morality and general tenor of the bible, and thus endeavouring to bring the hope of generations into contempt, evinces a recklessness of consequences-a disingenuousness and an obliquity of mind and disposition, highly discreditable to the person persisting in the practice. Let the scriptures be examined as a whole; let their beauties be pointed out, as well as their seeming defects, and the unbeliever's triumph will be short: yea, if he possess a candid mind, he must, one would suppose, acknowledge their great overbalancing excellence, and thenceforth pay them the respect which they merit.
III.-OF THE ANTECEDENT PROBABILITY OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION.
Man an insignificant creature, if the present life be the whole of his being. Ennobled by the prospect of a better existence beyond the grave.-State of the Jews at the time of Christ's appearance.Judaism not calculated for an universal religion.-State of the heathen world. Theology.-Morals.-General view of opinions respecting a' future state before the coming of Christ.-No sufficient motives to practice virtue, nor to abstain from crime.The goodness of God, and his relation to man as their Father, an argument for the antecedent probability of the Christian Revelation.-Suitability of the character and doctrines of Christ to the circumstances in which the human race was placed.
THE arrangement of our series of lectures has now brought us to the discussion of the evidences of Christianity.
It were needless to say much as to the importance of the subject. For, methinks, that which embraces the inquiry, and reviews the evidence, respecting the hope and the promise of a future life in a better world, is, surely, the subject of subjects.
It is the prospect of life and immortality beyond the grave, which gives importance to every feature and circumstance of human existence. If the present life be the whole of his career, man is indeed an insignificant creature. If, to open his eyes on the glories of God's creation, and to pass the morning of life's day in the frivolities of childhood, and to feel his youth agitated with contending passions, and mocked by delusive hopes; if to find the season of manhood thickly beset with the toils and anxieties of an ever-varying condition and the period of his age entailing upon him the weaknesses and the evils to which flesh is heir:'-if these do constitute the sum of his existence, man is but the mere child of the the sports and accidents of nature. From dust he sprang and to dust he returns. He struts his little hour upon the busy stage, priding himself upon his brief enjoyments and his borrowed honours. He longs for immortality, and he seems to act as if he were immortal, until the grave yawns beneath his feet. Then it is that he perceives he has walked in a vain show,-and has disquieted himself in vain, and, in vain, has he heaped up riches; for he knoweth not who shall gather them. Like the sere leaf of autumn, his freshness and his beauty are gone; and he falls into the bosom of the earth, and perishes from the place of his glory. Yes, without the hope which revelation gives him of the future, man is, indeed, an insignificant creature. But, on the other hand, if there be a life beyond the grave; if the present be the infancy of an existence which shall stretch
into the eras of infinity; if it be a state of discip❤ line for faculties, which shall awaken, renovated and refined, after the death-sleep of the tomb; and if man shall be found worthy of admission hereafter into a happier world, and into a communion with beings of a more exalted nature; then, indeed, glory attends his course, and greatness rests upon his destiny.
4. Before adducing any direct proof of the divine origin of Christianity, we shall endeavour to show, that it was antecedently probable that such a reve lation would be given to mankind, And, in pursu ance of this object, we will take a hasty glance at the state of the world previous to the coming of Christ; first, in theology and morals; and, secondly, with respect to the knowledge of a future state.
At the time of Christ's appearance, the Jews seem to have been the only nation free from idolatry, Whatsoever had been the backslidings and ingratitude of this people in the earlier part of their history; or whatsoever were their errors in faith and practice at the time when the Sun of Righteousness arose with healing in his wings,' it is nevertheless certain, that, from the period of their return from the Babylonish captivity, they had continued steady worshipers of the One living and true God. Idolatry had brought upon their nation so many, and such piercing, sorrows, that they no longer yielded to its temptations. From Judea, as from a centre, the light of revelation sent forth its rays. Even the national misfortunes of the Jews conduced to the spreading of more
correct notions, than the heathens had previously entertained, of the true object of worship. In those regions whereunto the Jews were carried captive, they doubtless were instrumental in calling the attention of the reflecting and virtuous part of mankind to the vanity, and to the degrading influence, of idolatry: from the precept and example of the captive, some few, at least, would attain to better notions of the attributes and character of the Eternal, and of the kind of worship most acceptable unto him. Nevertheless, owing to its peculiar rites and ceremonies, the Jewish religion was an exclusive system. Notwithstanding that the sublime representations of the perfections and character of God, the pious sentiments, and the pure morality, therein contained, might have secured the attention and respect of the wise and good, yet Judaism was not calculated to become an universal religion.
But besides that Judaism was not calculated to make much progress amongst mankind, there was another obstacle to the spread of reformation from this source. There was, amongst the Jews, a very great falling off in practical piety: form and ceremony were too generally substituted for the religion of the heart, and for the proper discharge of the indispensable duties and charities of life; and it seemed as if the licentious example of the Gentile nations was gradually deteriorating their moral character; which, indeed, was rendered much less difficult of accomplishment, seeing that a great and lamentable uncertainty prevailed respecting a future state, and that infidelity on