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of such excursions, the absence of which will not, we are persuaded, be felt or regretted.
Before he proceeds to state the direct proofs of the divinity of the Christian religion, he shows, in a very striking manner, the absurdities which must of necessity be embraced by those who deny all pretences to revelation; enumerating in the form of a creed, the various strange and untenable positions, which form the subject of skeptical belief. In this part of the work, that disease in the intellectual temperament of infidels is placed in a stronger and juster light than we remember to have seen it, which may not improperly be denominated the credulity of unbelievers. This representation forms the contents of the first letter.
The necessity of revelation is still more indisputably evinced, by an appeal to facts, and a survey of the opinions which prevailed among the most enlightened heathens, respecting God, moral duty, and a future state. Under each of these heads, our author has selected, with great judgement, numerous instances of the flagrant and pernicious errors entertained by the most celebrated Pagan legislators, poets, and philosophers; sufficient to demonstrate, beyond all contradiction, the inability of unassisted reason, in its most improved and perfect state, to conduct man to virtue and happiness, and the necessity, thence resulting, of superior aid. Much diligence of research, and much felicity of arrangement, are displayed in the management of this complicated topic, where the reader will find exhibited, in a condensed form, the most material facts adduced in Leland's voluminous work on this subject. All along, he holds the balance with a firm and steady hand, without betraying a disposition, either to depreciate the value of those discoveries and improvements to which reason really attained, or charging the picture of its aberrations and defects, with deeper shades than justly belong to it. The most eminent among the Pagans themselves, it ought to be remembered, who, having no other resource, were best acquainted with its weakness and its power, never dreamed of denying the necessity of revelation; this they asserted in the most explicit terms, and on some occasions seem to have expected and anticipated the communication of such a benefit. We make no apology for citing, from the present work, the following remarkable passage out of Plato, tending both to confirm the fact of a revelation being anticipated, and to evince, supposing nothing supernatural in the case, the divine sagacity of that great author. He says, that this just person, (the inspired teacher of whom he had been speaking,) must be poor and void of all qualifications, but those of virtue alone; that a wicked world would not bear his instructions and reproofs; and therefore, within three or four years after he began
to preach, he should be persecuted, imprisoned, scourged, and at last, be put to death."* In whatever light we consider it, this must be allowed to be a most remarkable passage,—whether we regard it as merely the conjecture of a highly enlightened mind, or as the fruit of prophetic suggestion; nor are we aware of any absurdity in supposing that the prolific Spirit scattered, on certain occasions, some seeds of truth amidst that mass of corruption and darkness which oppressed the Pagan world. The opinion we have ventured to advance, is asserted in the most positive terms in several parts of Justin Martyr's second Apology. Without pursuing this inquiry further, we shall content ourselves with remarking, that as the sufficiency of mere reason as the guide to truth never entered into the conception of Pagans, so it could never have risen at all, but in consequence of confounding its results with the dictates of Revelation, which, since its publication, has never ceased to modify the speculations, and aid the inquiries of those, who are at least disposed to bow to its authority. On all questions of morality and religion, the streams of thought have flowed through channels enriched with a celestial ore, whence they have derived the tincture to which they are indebted for their rarest and most salutary qualities.
Before we dismiss this subject, we would just observe that the inefficacy of unassisted reason in religious concerns appears undeniably in two points; the doubtful manner in which the wisest Pagans were accustomed to express themselves respecting a future state, the existence of which, Warburton is confident none of the philosophers believed; and their proud reliance on their own virtue, which was such as left no room for repentance. Of a future state, Socrates, in the near prospect of death, is represented by Plato as expressing a hope, accompanied with the greatest uncertainty; and with respect to the second point, the lofty confidence in their own virtue, which we have imputed to them, the language of Cicero, in one of his familiar letters, is awfully decisive. Nec enim dum ero, angor ulla re, cum omni caream culpa; et si non ero, sensu omni carebo.' 'While I exist, I shall be troubled at nothing, since I have no fault whatever; and if I shall not exist, I shall be devoid of feeling.'t So true is it, that life and immortality are brought to light by the Saviour, and that until he appeared, the greatest of men were equally unacquainted with their present condition, and their future prospects.
The next letter, which is the fourth in the series, is on mysteries in religion. Aware that while the prejudice against whatever is mysterious subsists, the saving truths of the gospel can find no
entrance, the author has taken great, and, as far as the force of argument can operate, successful pains, to point out the weakness of the foundations on which that prejudice rests. He has shown, by a large induction of particulars, in natural religion, natural philosophy, and in pure and mixed mathematics, that with respect to each of these sciences, we arrive by infallible steps to conclusions, of which we can form no clear, determinate conceptions; and that the higher parts of mathematics especially, the science which glories in its superior light and demonstration, teem with mysteries as incomprehensible to the full, as those which demand our assent in Revelation. His skill as a mathematician, for which he has long been distinguished, serves him on this occasion to excellent purpose, by enabling him to illustrate his subject by well selected examples from his favorite science, and by that means to prove in the most satisfactory manner that the mysterious parts of Christianity are exactly analogous to the difficulties inseparable from other branches of knowledge, not excepting those which make the justest pretensions to demonstration. We run no hazard in affirming, that rarely, if ever, have superior philosophical attainments been turned to a better account, or a richer offering brought from the fields of science into the temple of God. Some of his illustrations being drawn from the sublimer speculations of mathematics, must necessarily be unintelligible to ordinary readers; but many of them are plain and popular; and he has succeeded in making the principle on which he reasons throughout, perfectly plain and perspicuous, which is this-that we are able, in a multitude of instances, to ascertain the relations of things, while we know little or nothing of the nature of the things themselves. If the distinction itself is not entirely new, the force of argument with which it is supported, and the extent to which its illustration is carried, are such as evince much original thinking. We should seriously recommend this part of the work to the perusal of the Barrister, if he were capable of understanding it; and to all, without exception, who have been perverted by the shallow and ambiguous sophism first broached, we believe, by Dr. Foster, that where mystery begins, religion ends;—when the fact is, that religion and mystery both begin and end together; a portion of what is inscrutable to our faculties, being intimately and inseparably blended with its most vital and operative truths. A religion without its mysteries is a temple without its God.
Having thus marked out the ground, removed the rubbish, and made room for the foundation, our author proceeds with the skill of a master, to erect a firm and noble structure, conducting the argument for the truth of Christianity through all its stages, and commencing his labors in this part of the subject, with establishing
the genuineness and authenticity of the sacred volume. As he manifestly aims at utility, not at display, we are glad to find he has availed himself of the profound and original reasoning of Hartley, which he has fortified all along with the ingenious reflections of his own, and crowned by an appeal to the principal testimonies of Christian and Pagan antiquity. The letter devoted to this subject is long, but not more so than the occasion demanded, and is replete with varied and extensive information. To the whole he has annexed a very accurate and particular account of the researches and discoveries of Dr. Buchanan, made during his visit to the Syrian Churches in India; nor are we aware that there is a single consideration of moment, tending to confirm the genuineness and integrity of the Scriptures in their present state, which in the course of our author's extended investigation has escaped his notice. By some he will be blamed for placing the proofs of the authenticity of the sacred records before the argument from prophecy and miracles; but we think he is right in adopting such an arrangement; since the reasoning on this part not only stands independent of the sequel, but greatly abridges his subsequent labor, by enabling him to appeal, on every occasion, to the testimony of Scripture, not indeed as inspired, but as an authentic document, that point having been previously established; while it is in perfect unison with that solicitude he every where evinces, to imbue the mind of his readers with a serious and devotional spirit. Here is a book of a singular character, and of a high antiquity, from which Christians profess to derive the whole of their information on religion, and it comes down to us under such circumstances, that every thing relating to it is capable of being investigated, apart from the consideration of prophecies and miracles, except its claim to inspiration. Why then should not the pretensions of this book be examined at the very outset, as far as they are susceptible of an independent examination; since the proof of its being genuine and authentic, will extend its consequences so far into the subsequent matter of discussion, as well as exert a great and salutary influence on the mind of the inquirer.
The next letter is devoted to the subject of prophecy; in which, after noticing a few of the more remarkable predictions relating to the revolutions of power and empire, he descends to a more particular investigation of the prophecies relating to the Messiah, which he arranges under three heads; such as respect the time and place of his appearance-his character, doctrine, rejection, and final triumph-and the exact correspondence betwixt his contemptuous treatment and sufferings, and the representations of the ancient oracles. Under the last, he embraces the opportunity of rescuing the proof from the 53d chapter of Isaiah, from the
cavils of the Jews, as well as from the insinuation of certain infidels, that the prophecy was written after the event; which he triumphantly refutes by an appeal to a remarkable passage in the books of Origen against Celsus. In confirming the inference from prophecy, we again meet with a judicious application of the author's mathematical skill, by which he demonstrates, from the doctrine of chances, the almost infinite improbability of the occurrence of even a small number of contingent events predicted of any one individual; and the absolute impossibility, consequently, of accounting for the accomplishment of such numerous predictions as were accomplished in the person of the Messiah, without ascribing it to the power and wisdom of the Deity.
From the consideration of prophecy, he proceeds to the evidence from miracles, and the credibility of human testimony. He begins with stating, in few and simple terms, but with much precision, the just idea of a miracle, which, he remarks, has oftener been obscured than elucidated by definition, while the sentiments entertained by good men upon the subject have been almost uniformly correct, when they have not been entangled or heated by controversy. This branch of the evidences of revelation is certainly very little indebted to the introduction of subtle refinements. In resting the evidence of the Jewish and Christian revelations on the ground of miracles, the author restricts his proposition to uncontrolled miracles; on the propriety of which different judgements will probably be formed by his readers. We believe him to be right; since, admitting the limitation to be unnecessary, it is but an extreme of caution, a leaning to the safe side; for who will deny, that it is much easier to prove it to be inconsistent with the wisdom and goodness of the Deity, to permit an uncontrolled miracle to be performed in support of error, than to demonstrate from a metaphysical consideration of the powers and capacities of spiritual agents of a higher order, their incapacity of accomplishing what to our apprehensions must appear supernatural. The writer of this, at least, must confess for himself, he could never find any satisfaction in such speculations, not even in those of Farmer, ingenious as they are, which always appeared to him to be like advancing to an object by a circuitous and intricate path, rather than take the nearest road. But to return to the present performance. After exhibiting the most approved answers to the flimsy sophistry of Hume, intended to evince the incredibility of miracles; and corroborating them by a copious illustration of the four criteria of miraculous facts, suggested by Leslie in his admirable work, entitled, "A short Method with the Deists," he reduces the only suppositions which can be formed, respecting the miracles recorded in the New Testament, to the four following, which we shall give in the words of the author: