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gathered together much evidence, the verdict will have to be pronounced by the sober English judgment. But, in fact, the influence of this foreign literature extends to comparatively few among us, and is altogether insufficient to account for the wide spread of that which has been called the negative theology. This is rather owing to a spontaneous recoil, on the part of large numbers of the more acute of our population, from some of the doctrines which are to be heard at church and chapel ; to a distrust of the old arguments for, or proofs of, a miraculous revelation; and to a misgiving as to the authority, or extent of the authority of the Scriptures. In the presence of real difficulties of this kind, probably of genuine English growth, it is vain to seek to check that open discussion out of which alone any satisfactory settlement of them can issue.
be a certain amount of literature circulating among us in a cheap form, of which the purpose, with reference to Christianity, is simply negative and destructive, and which is characterized by an absence of all reverence, not only for beliefs, but for the best human feelings which have gathered round them, even when they have been false or superstitious. But if those who are old enough to do so would compare the tone generally of the sceptical publications of the present day with that of the papers of Hone and others about forty years ago, they would be reminded that assaults were made then
the Christian religion in far grosser form than now, and long before opinion could have been inoculated by. German philosophy, - long before the more celebrated criticisms upon the details of the evangelical histories had appeared. But it was attacked then as an insti
tution, or by reason of the unpopularity of institutions and methods of government connected, or supposed to be connected, with it. The anti-Christian agitation of that day in England was a phase of radicalism, and of a radicalism which was a terrific and uprooting force, of which the counterpart can scarcely be said to exist among us now.
The sceptical movements in this generation are the result of observation and thought, not of passion. Things come to the knowledge of almost all persons, which were unknown a generation ago, even to the well-informed. Thus the popular knowledge, at that time, of the surface of the earth, and of the populations which cover it was extremely incomplete. In our own boyhood, the world, as known to the ancients, was nearly all which was known to ourselves. We have recently become acquainted, intimate, with the teeming regions of the Far East; and with empires, Pagan or even Atheistic, of which the origin runs far back beyond the historic records of Judæa or of the West, and which were more populous than all Christendom now is for many ages before the Christian era. Not any book-learning, not any proud exaltation of reason, not any dreamy German metaphysics, not any minute and captious biblical criticism, suggest questions to those who on Sundays hear the reading and exposition of the Scriptures as they were expounded to our forefathers, and on Monday peruse the news of a world of which our forefathers little dreamed, descriptions of great nations, in some senses barbarous compared with ourselves, but composed of men of flesh and blood like our own ; of like passions ; marrying and domestic ; congregating in great cities; buying and selling, and getting gain ; agriculturists,
merchants, manufacturers ; making wars, establishing dynasties; falling down before objects of worship, constituting priesthoods, binding themselves by oaths, honoring the dead. In what relation does the gospel stand to these millions? Is there any trace on the face of its records, that it even contemplated their existence? We are told, that to know and believe in Jesus Christ, is, in some sense necessary to salvation. It has not been given to these. Are they, will they be hereafter, the worse off for their ignorance? As to abstruse points of doctrine concerning the Divine Nature itself, those subjects may be thought to lie beyond the range of our faculties. If one says “Ay," no other is entitled to say “No” to his “ Ay:" if one says “No,” no one is entitled to say “ Ay” to his “ No.” Besides, the best approximative illustrations of those doctrines must be sought in metaphysical conceptions of which few are capable ; and in the history of old controversies with which fewer still are acquainted. But, with respect to the moral treatment of his creatures by Almighty God, all men, in different degrees, are able to be judges of the representations made of it, by reason of the moral sense which he has given them. As to the necessity of faith in a Saviour to these peoples, when they could never have had it, no one, upon reflection, can believe in any such thing: doubtless they will be equitably dealt with. And, when we hear fine distinctions drawn between covenanted and uncovenanted mercies, it seems either to be a distinction without a difference, or to amount to a denial of the broad and equal justice of the Supreme Being. We cannot be content to wrap this question up, and leave it for a mystery, as to what shall become of those myriads upon myriads of non-Christian races. First. if our traditions tell us that they are involved in the curse and perdition of Adam, and may justly be punished hereafter, individually, for his transgression, not having been extricated from it by saving faith,
we are disposed to think that our traditions cannot herein fairly declare to us the words and inferences from Scripture: but if, on examination, it should turn out that they have, we must say that the authors of the Scriptural books have in those matters represented to us their own inadequate conceptions, and not the mind of the Spirit of God; for we must conclude with the apostle, “Yea, let God be true, and every man a liar."
If, indeed, we are at liberty to believe that all shall be equitably dealt with according to their opportunities, whether they have heard or not of the name of Jesus, then we can acknowledge the case of the Christian and non-Christian populations to be one of difference of advantages; and, of course, no account can be given of the principle which determines the unequal distribution of the divine benefits. The exhibition of the divine attributes is not to be brought to measure of numbers or proportions ; but human statements concerning the dealings of God with mankind, hypotheses and arguments about them, may very usefully be so tested. Truly, the abstract or philosophical difficulty may be as great concerning a small number of persons un provided for, or, as might be inferred from some doctrinal statements, not equitably dealt with, in the divine dispensations, as concerning a large one; but it does not so force itself on the imagination and heart of the generality of observ
The difficulty, though not new in itself, is new as to the great increase in the numbers of those who
feel it, and in the practical urgency for discovering an answer, solution, or neutralization for it, if we would set many unquiet souls at rest.
From the same source of the advance of general knowledge respecting the inhabitancy of the world issues another inquiry concerning a promise, prophecy, or assertion of Scripture. For the commission of Jesus to his apostles was to preach the gospel to "all nations," “ to every creature;” and St. Paul says of the Gentile world, “But I say, have they not heard ? Yes, verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world” (Rom. x. 18); and speaks of the gospel “which was preached to every nation under heaven” (Col. i. 23), when it has never yet been preached even to the half. Then, again, it has often been appealed to as an evidence of the supernatural origin of Christianity, and as an instance of supernatural assistance vouchsafed to it in the first centuries, that it so soon overspread the world. It has seemed but a small leap of about three hundred years to the age of Constantine, if in that time, not to insist upon the letter of the texts already quoted, the conversion of the civilized world could be accomplished. It may be known only to the more learned, that it was not accomplished with respect to the Roman Empire even then ; that the Christians of the East cannot be fairly computed at more than half the population, nor the Christians of the West at so much as a third, at the commencement of that emperor's reign. But it requires no learning to be aware that neither then nor subsequently have the Christians amounted to more than a fourth part of the people of the earth ; and it is seen to be impossible to appeal any longer to the wonderful spread of Christianity in