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There is an inimitable simplicity in all their writings, and a feeling sense of what they write. They come to the point without ceremony or preamble, and having told the truth, leave it without mingling their own reflections. This remark is particularly exemplified by the four Evangelists, in narrating the treatment of their Lord. Writers who had felt less would have said more.
There is something in all they say which leaves behind it a sensation produced by no other writings; something peculiarly suited to the mind when in its most serious frames, oppressed by affliction, or thoughtful about a future life; something which gives melancholy itself a charm, and produces tears more delicious to the mind than the most high-flavoured earthly enjoyments. By what name shall I express it? It is a savour of life, a savour of God, an unction from the Holy One.
variety of the kinds of evidence which have been adduced in proof of Christianity, and the confirmation thereby afforded of its truth:-the proof. from prophecy-from miracles-from the character of Christ-from that of his apostles-from the nature of the doctrines of Christianity-from the nature and excellence of her practical precepts-from the accordance we have lately pointed out between the doctrinal and practical system of Christianity, whether considered each in itself, or in their mutual relation to each otherfrom other species of internal evidence, afforded in the more abundance as the sacred records have been scrutinized with great care-from the accounts of cotemporary, or nearly cotemporary writers-from the impossibility of accounting on any other supposition than that of the truth of Christianity, for its promulgation, and early prevalence: these and other lines of argument have all been brought forward, and urged by different writers, in proportion as they have struck the minds of different observers more or less forcibly. Now, granting that some obscure and obliterate men, residing in a distant province of the Roman empire, had plotted to impose a forgery upon the world; though some foundation for the imposture might, and indeed must, have been attempted to be laid; it seems, at least to my understanding, morally impossible that so many species of proofs, and all so strong, should have lent their concurrent aid, and have united their joint force, in the establishment of the falsehood. It may assist the reader in estimating the value of this argument, to consider upon how different a footing, in this respect, has rested every other religious system, without exception, which was ever proposed to the world; and indeed every other historical fact, of which the truth has been at all contested.”*
* Practical View, &c. pp. 361-368. Third Edition
Mr. Paine can see no beauty in the New-testament narratives: to him there appears nothing but imposture, folly, contradiction, falsehood, and every thing that marks an evil cause. And I suppose he could say the same of the things narrated; of the labours, tears, temptations, and sufferings of the Lord Jesus, and of every thing else in the New Testament. Mr. Paine, however, is not the only instance wherein men have lacked understanding. The Jews saw no beauty in the Saviour that they should desire him: and there are persons who can see no beauty in any of the works of God. Creation is to them a blank. But though the eyes of a fool are at the ends of the earth, for want of objects to attract them, yet wisdom is before him that understandeth. If Mr. Paine can see no beauty in the sacred pages, it does not follow that there is no beauty to be seen. Let any person of candour and discernment read over the four Evangelists and judge whether they bear the marks of imposture. If he have any difficulty, it will be in preserving the character of a critic. Unless he be perpetually on his guard, he will insensibly lose sight of the writers, and be all enamoured of the great object concerning which they write. In reading the last nine chapters of John, he will perceive the writer to be deeply affected. Though a long time had elapsed since the events had taken place, and he was far advanced in years; yet his heart was manifestly overwhelmed with his subject. There is reason to think that the things which Mr. Paine attempts to ridicule, drew tears from his eyes while he narrated them; as an ingenious mind will find it difficult to review the narrative without similar sensations.
Mr. Paine is pleased to say, "Any person that could read and write might have written such a book as the Bible :" but nothing can be farther from the truth. It were saying but little, to affirm that he could not produce a single page or sentence that would have a similar effect. Stranger as he has proved himself to be to the love of God and righteousness, he could not communicate what he does not feel. The croaking raven might as well endeavour to imitate the voice of the dove, or the song of the nightingale, as he attempt to emulate the holy scriptures. Mr. Paine's spirit is sufficiently apparent in his page, and that of the sacred writers in
theirs. So far from writing as they wrote, he cannot understand their writings. That which the scriptures teach on this subject is sufficiently verified in him, and all others of his spirit: The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned. As easily might the loveliness of chastity be perceived, or the pleasures of a good conscience appreciated, by a debauchee, as the things of God be received by a mind like that of Mr. Paine.
Finally: If the Bible be the word of God, it may be expected that such an authority and divine sanction should accompany it, that, while a candid mind shall presently perceive its evidence, those who read it either with negligence or prejudice, shall only be confirmed in their unbelief. It is fit that God's word should not be trifled with. When the Pharisees captiously demanded a sign, or miracle, they were sent away without one. They might go if they pleased, and report the inability of Jesus to work a miracle. The evidence attending the resurrection of Christ is of this description. He had exhibited proofs of his divine mission publicly, and before the eyes of all men; but, seeing they were obstinately rejected, he told his enemies that they should see him no more till he should come on a different occasion:* and they saw him no more. They might insist, if they pleased, that the testimony of his disciples, who witnessed his resurrection, was insufficient. It is thus that heresies, offences, and scandals are permitted in the Christian church; that they who are approved may be made manifest; and that occasion may be furnished for them who seek occasion, to reproach religion and persist in their unbelief. If men choose delusion, God also will choose to give them up to it. The scorner shall seek wisdom and shall not find it; and the word of life shall be a savour of death unto death to them that perish. Mr. Paine, when he wrote the First Part of his Age of Reason, was without a Bible. Afterwards, he tells us, us he procured one; or to use his own schoolboy language, "a Bible and a Testament; and I have found them," he adds, "to be much worse books than I had conceived." In all this there is nothing sur*Matt. xxiii. 39. + Age of Reason, Pari II. Preface, p. xii.
prising. On the contrary, if such a scorner had found wisdom, the scriptures themselves had not been fulfilled.*
If an insolent coxcomb had been of opinion that Sir Isaac Newton was a mere ignoramus in philosophy, and had gone into his company that he might catechise, and afterwards, as occasion should offer, expose him; it is not unlikely that this great writer, perceiving his arrogance, would have suffered him to depart without answering his questions, even though he might know at the time that his unfavorable opinion of him would thereby be the more confirmed. Let us but come to the scriptures in a proper spirit, and we shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God: but if we approach them in a cavilling humour, we may expect not only to remain in ignorance, but to be hardened more and more in unbelief.
* Prov. xiv. 6