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Save me from folly, vanity, and vice,
From every low pursuit ; and feed my soul
Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of
But, in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind;
This is the first and great commandment: and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
And as ye would that men should do to you, do also to them likewise.
Judge not, and
ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
ye merciful, as your Father also is merciful." If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
And what doth the Lord require of thee, O man, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."
3 St. Matthew, xxii. 36. et seq. 5 St. Matt. vi. 15.
2 Acts, x. 34, 35.
4 St. Luke, vi. 31. et seq.
6 Micah, vi. 8.
THE NATURE AND EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY.
I KNOW not a higher and more important obligation which we are under, than that of examining most seriously into the evidence of Christianity, supposing its credibility—and of embracing it, upon supposition of its truth.'
The following simple propositions seem undeniable, and therefore to demonstrate the truth of the Christian Revelation:
That there was such a person as Jesus of Nazareth, crucified at Jerusalem, about eighteen hundred years ago.
That vast numbers of persons embraced his doctrines, and chose to endure the greatest extremities in this world, rather than to abandon the religion which he had inculcated.
That the first preachers of his religion wrote books, named like those which now make up the New Testament.
That those books are preserved, in the original, to the present times.
That our authorised translation of them may be depended upon as, substantially, faithful.
That the authors of the books called the New
1 Butler, Anal. 21.
Testament were certainly capable themselves of judging concerning the truth of the facts which they relate.
That there is nothing in their characters, as deducible from their writings, or from the notice of them by contemporaries, to suppose that they could or would, if they had been able, invent such a story as that which they profess to authenticate.
That they were so far from being under any worldly temptation to do so, that they, and their immediate followers, chose to make the greatest worldly sacrifices in favour of their religion, and that all temptation to advantage was the other way,
That, from the very nature of the proofs to which they appealed, had they tried to trump up such a story, they must infallibly have been detected.
That they by no means appear to have been qualified, either by natural ability or acquired advantages, to have been able, of themselves, to have conceived such a new and admirable system of morals as that of Christianity, especially in the then general state of morality upon earth—nor, above all, to have drawn merely from their own minds such a beautiful, but, at the same time, so perfectly original, a character as that of Christ.
That, in spite of great opposition from the powerful and the learned, their doctrines gained extensive credit, and, under the circumstances, most astonishing support and success.
That they appealed to fucts which they and their
followers must themselves have, in many instances, witnessed, in others, personally experienced.
That these facts, therefore, must be admitted to be true.
That nothing but the Divine interposition could have brought to pass these events, and authorised these facts.
That, THEREFORE, the Christian Religion, MUST be from God.'
That Jesus was crucified, that miracles were done by him and his disciples, both Hebrews and Heathens relate. Most clear testimonies of Josephus, published a little more than forty years after Christ's death, are now extant, concerning Herod, Pilate, Festus, Felix, John the Baptist, Gamaliel, and the destruction of Jerusalem.2
When a supposed revelation is more consistent with itself, and has a more general and uniform tendency to promote virtue, than, all circumstances considered, could have been expected from enthusiasm and political views, this is a presumption of its not proceeding from them, and so of its truth; because we are competent judges what might have been expected from enthusiasm and political views.3
To the question, whether a Christian, to continue such, "must deny or lay aside his reason," the sum
1 Condensed from Doddridge's three admirable sermons on the Evidences of Christianity. See Boyle on this subject also, v. 533, 534. 536. Christian Virtuoso.
2 Grotius, Truth of the Christian Religion (Dr. Clarke's trans.), 160.
3 Butler, Anal. 255.
of the answer is this: that the doctrines really proposed by the Christian Religion seeming to me to be, by proper arguments, sufficiently proved in their kind, so as that the proofs of it, whether they be demonstrative or no, are sufficient (the nature of the things to be proved considered) to justify a rational and prudent man's embracing it; — this religion, I say, seeming to me to have such positive proofs for it, I do not think that the objections that are said to be drawn from reason against it do really prove the belief of it to be inconsistent with right reason.
By such things in theology as may be said to be above reason, I conceive such notions and propositions as mere reason, that is, reason unassisted by supernatural revelation, would never have discovered to us, whether those things be, to our finite capacities, comprehensible or not. And, by things contrary to reason, I understand such conceptions and propositions as are not only undiscoverable by mere reason, but also, when we understand them, do evidently and truly appear to be repugnant to some principle, or to some conclusion of right reason.2
The intellect of man being such a bounded faculty, it would be great unhappiness to mankind if we were obliged to reject, as repugnant to reason, whatever we cannot discover by our own natural light, and, consequently, to deny ourselves the great benefits we may receive from the communications of any higher and more discerning intellect.3
1 Boyle, iv. 189.
2 Ibid. v. 542
3 Ibid. v. 545.