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racter widely different from it, the circumstances from which it arises, will enhance in our estimation the benefits which we enjoy, and which it may be our endeavour to appreciate. Our civil liberties are to a great extent of this kind. Scarcely any of the blessings of national freedom can be viewed apart from the exactions and oppressions of abused power, and the sufferings of its injured victims. The liberty of Christian worship is secured to us as a right of conscience; but the iniquity of withholding it was not conceded, nor the exercise of it obtained, before intolerance had perpetrated its innumerable outrages and cruelties upon the unoffending advocates of the most righteous claims which, either for themselves or others, men can assert : and those outrages were means of giving effect to the claims. These are among the more remarkable examples which illustrate the principle, that agents of evil become eventually instruments of good. And among other instances which might be selected, we may not improperly refer to many facts which the perusal of such a work as the one now before us necessarily recals to our remembrance. We owe the apologies of the early Christian writers to the calumnies of their adversaries, and the persecutions of their enemies; and to infidelity, we are indebted for no inconsiderable part of the numerous and invaluable defences of the Christian faith, which constitute so very important a branch of theological knowledge.
In what form, and to what extent, the evidences of Revelation might now have been in our hands, if, from the beginning, no opposition had been raised against it, it would be difficult to say. If the Christian faith had been transmitted to us, by those who have professed it, accompanied only with such testimonies as their acquaintance with it, and their appreciation of its principles and influence might have induced them to place on record, we should have been furnished with but little more, if indeed with any thing more, than what would consist in the possession of the books of the New Testament, and the impressions or effects of which we ourselves might be the subjects. If the progress of the Gospel had been free and undisturbed, the memorials which support its claims, would be sufficient to vouch for its credibility. The descent of the Evangelical writings would be traced to the age in which they originated. We should have possessed the copious stores of argument which are derived from the facts of the Gospel history, and their coincidences with the state of the world at the period to which they are referred. The testimonies of a long succession of Christian authors, connecting the faith of believers in our own times with the credence of the first disciples, would have been available for the same important purposes as those to which they are now applied. But, though, in these circumstances, the evidences of the Christian religion would have been
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clear and satisfactory, the augmentation which they have received, both in respect to the substance and the details which they comprise, from the inquiries which have been instituted, in consequence of the hostilities commenced and continued against it, is such as to confirm, to elevate, and to enlarge our convictions of its truth. Every one who is familiar with the evidences of Christianity, must, in his enumeration of them, be prepared to assign a place of great distinction to that class of proofs which its adversaries have been the means of furnishing, by the examination, and by the answers to their objections, which their opposition has compelled and elicited. “We can do nothing against the truth, but ? for the truth. Its pretensions and its excellence are seldom known from its more common appearances; they are most evident to those who labour most in the discovery of them; and the investigations to which we owe our acquaintance with the minute and most beautiful forms of truth, have been undertaken by writers obeying the signal for its defence, when the partizans of error were observed to be joyous in the anticipation of success. It would be an endless task, to describe the occasions which have summoned Christian advocates to the defence of the truth of Revelation, as it would be to enumerate the productions which are to be found in the volumes of Christian literature in its vindication. Besides the direct utility of such works, in repelling the attacks and refuting the objections of the adversaries who called them forth, besides the advantages which we derive from them in respect to collateral topics, historical notices, the state of learning, and the progress of society, we are essentially aided by the materials which they have provided for our use, in the criticism and exposition of the sacred writings. While, therefore, we may deplore the hostility which unbelievers have directed against Revelation, we have more than a compensation for all the injuries inflicted by them, in the existing productions which defend it.
These very excellent discourses were delivered by the Author in the discharge of the duties of his ministry. Without adverting to the particular occasion which induced the preparation of them, and to which we are unable to perceive any parallel or resemblance in the evangelical history, we deem the reasons which he assigns for their publication both from the pulpit and the press, amply satisfactory. No one who is disposed to weigh them, will doubt of their sufficiency; and the validity of them must be conceded by every reader, as the importance of them must have been felt by the hearers to whom in the first instance they were addressed. It is unquestionably the primary duty of a Christian Instructor, to exert the strength of his influence in inducing the reception of the doctrines by which mankind are to be saved, and it is not difficult to conceive of the reception of them by persons who appreciate the importance of those doctrines from perceiving their adaptation to their moral condition, to whom the historical evidence which accompanies them is but little known. Implicit belief, however, even of doctrines which are Divine, is not the disposition which a Christian pastor would prescribe to his flock, or encourage in those whom he addresses. Error has its deepest roots in prejudice, and may be venerated by the ignorant. But truth will release itself from the grasp of prejudice, and the light which it sends forth will dissipate the darkness which obscures the paths to knowledge. Why he believes, will be of interest to a Christian, as well as what he believes. To what extent he may be able to satisfy others in this respect, may depend on the qualifications of the inquirers as well as on his own; but for himself, he will be anxious to understand the reasons which give to his principles the superiority they possess over the systems that he rejects. To a certain extent, therefore, every Christian may be justly regarded as under obligation to study the evidences of Revelation ; and to set them out with clearness and in order, is assuredly within the scope of the Christian minister's duty. As those evidences are of great compass and diversity, a portion only of them may supply to some minds the whole of the proofs which they are capable of comprehending, and these may constitute to them the ground of an enlightened confidence; but to others, the entire range will not be too ample a field for their investigation. The whole of the evidences are therefore very properly adduced by the Author. Volume first comprises the external, and the second Volume includes the internal evidences.
The entire course includes twenty-six Lectures on the following subjects. The first is Introductory', illustrating 1 Peter iii. 15; and assigns the reasons which induced the Author to commence and continue the series of Discourses. Lecture II. is on "The temper of mind in which the subject should be studied.' III. The indispensable Necessity of a Divine Revelation shewn from the state of man in all ages. IV. The Authenticity of the New Testament. V. The direct proof of the authenticity of the New Testament. VI. Credibility of the Gospel History. VII. Miracles. VIII. Prophecy. IX. Fulfilment of prophecy. X. Propagation of Christianity. XI. Beneficial effects of Christianity. XII. Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. XIII. Review of the whole argument derived from the external evidences. XIV. Suitableness of Christianity to the state and wants of man. XV. The excellencies of the Doctrines of Christianity. XVI. Purity of the Christian Morals. XVII. Character and conduct of Christ. XVIII. Tendency of Christianity. XIX. Importance of a personal trial of Christianity. XX. Practical directions for its application. XXI. Objections considered. XXII. The Lives and Deaths of Infidels, compared with those of sincere Christians. XXIII. The Faith with which the Christian Revelation is to be received. XXIV. The sound interpretation of the Records of Revelation. XXV. Obligations of men universally to obey this Revelation. XXVI. Concluding Lecture.
Many of the defences which have been offered to the world on behalf of Revelation, must be considered as imperfect vindications of its claims; and the evidences of Christianity in particular have been treated by too many writers in a very inadequate manner. So far as they have gone, we are not insensible to the services which they have rendered to the cause which has received their support; but we cannot take our leave of them without regretting that their discussions discover so great a want of the impress which a correct and full apprehension of the objects and design of the religion which they were upholding would have imparted to their statements and reasonings. It is not a little vexatious to accompany some writers through the long array of statements and arguments which their works in vindication of Christianity comprise, and to find that the high and solemn relations of its truth have been overlooked, or but faintly recognized. We accredit them for the acuteness and conclusiveness of their reasonings, and are left in admiration of the compass and accuracy of their learning; but they seem to have little thought of entitling themselves to our gratitude for higher services than a grammarian or a geometrician might claim. Mr. Wilson is altogether a different writer. He constantly feels the importance of the cause which he is advocating, is ever alive to the spiritual relations of the facts which he establishes, and never permits either himself or his readers to forget the interest which belongs to a volume which sets before mankind the “hope of eternal life”. For every essential quality requisite to justify our ample and cheerful commendation, the Work before us is distinguished above many that we could name with no small praise. It is so comprehensive as to include every necessary topic. The mode of conducting the arguments and illustrations, is such as suited the occasion of their original delivery, and hence they appear in a popular form. The solicitude of the Author to render his instructions available to the promotion of the best interests of his hearers and readers, is very apparent; and the sincere and affectionate earnestness which pervades the work, much increases the value of it. For all persons who wish to possess a comprehensive view of the evidences of Christianity, ably displayed and soundly expounded, in a popular and practical form, we know not of any Discourses superior, or, we believe we may say, equal to the Volumes before us.
With many of the advocates of revealed religion, it has been usual to prepare the way for the exhibition of the evidences of Christianity, by adducing arguments to shew the necessity of Revelation, and by giving the marks which it would be proper to
expect in such revelation as might be communicated to mankind. Revelation, they say, is possible ; it is probable; it is expedient and desirable. A Revelation, they add, should be accompanied with an apparatus of predictions and miracles; should confirm the truths of natural religion, supply its defects, clear up certain difficulties which attend our moral speculations ; and may be gradually introduced, committed to writing, &c. All these and many other of the supposed characters and properties of Revelation may be seen in the old writers; nor have they been neglected by more recent ones. The propriety of this mode of proceeding, as well as the utility of it, seems to us to be very questionable. We immediately perceive that the imagined and assigned properties of the possible or probable revelation, are the properties of the revelation which has been given, and that they are borrowed from the history of the actual revelation and the volume which contains it. All such à priori modes of treating the subject are objectionable, because they never can assist us in our controversies with unbelievers, and because they assume that we are competent to prescribe the accompaniments and characters of such communication as God may be pleased to make to mankind ; which we are not. Let us suppose that it was intimated to the world, being without a revelation, that the Creator intended to impart to his creatures, discoveries essential to their happiness ; can it be thought that any of them would be prepared to assign the course which would be taken, and the manner in which the attestation should be given to the communication addressed to them ? Miracles are a very proper mode of Divine attestation ; but who could have prescribed them as a necessary one? Nor could it be, à priori, competent to any one to say, what particulars the revelation would contain, or by what evidence it should be confirmed. The Author of these Lectures has very wisely passed by these unsatisfactory discussions, and only conforms to the method generally adopted in the distribution of the topics comprehended in the argument of his book, by enlarging on “The in• dispensable necessity of a Divine Revelation', arising from the ignorance and degeneracy of mankind. It is from the disclosures and remedies furnished by the revelation which has proceeded from the Divine Being, that we learn the state of men in regard to the wants and miseries which it relieves. Without the light which it supplies, we should be but very imperfectly acquainted with the depravity and wretchedness of human creatures. In establishing the claims and authority of Revelation, it is of importance to shew, that it is not a superfluous benefit, an unnecessary gift to men, or a dispensation not adapted to their real circumstances. In the provisions of the Gospel, we find nothing foreign or unrelated to the true interests of mankind; nothing to which