« AnteriorContinuar »
widow's son had lived, and was dead. All this was not contrary to their experience. But when by the voice of Christ they saw death dethroned-the heart resume its accustomed toil-the stiffened form of the dead thrill with life and animation, and the "wheels of life" moye on-well might they then say, "God hath visited his people.' Here it will be seen that the witnesses ascribe the work to God himself; and therein unequivocally acknowledge the fact, that the work was inconsistent with the natural operations of the laws of nature, and was therefore a miracle. The question now arises, whether this He testimony is valid or not. Mr. Hume has declared it is not. reasons as follows: "Experience is the ground of credit we give to human testimony: but this experience is by no means constant; for we often find men prevaricate and deceive. On the other hand, it is experience, in like manner, which assures us of those laws of nature in violation of which the notion of a miracle consists; but this experience is constant and uniform. A miracle," he says, "is an event which, from its nature, is inconsistent with experience, but the falsehood of testimony is not inconsistent with experience; it is contrary to experience that miracles should be true, but not contrary to experience that testimony should be false; and, therefore, no human testimony can in any case render them credible." This is the cornerstone of infidelity, and it is important that it should be examined. The whole argument of Mr. Hume seems to be comprised in this : That it is contrary to experience that miracles should be true, but not contrary to experience that human testimony should be false, because we often find men prevaricate and deceive: therefore no human testimony can in any case render miracles credible. But what shall we understand Mr. Hume to mean by experience? Is there not much ambiguity, to say the least, in his language? Does he mean his own experience? If so, does he mean that he has experienced the experience of all preceding generations of men? If he does, his own experience is a miracle, and his testimony is not to be received, according to his own argument. If he does not, his testimony is not to be received, because, forsooth, it comes from man, who, he says, "often prevaricates and deceives." If he speaks of his own experience merely, and, because he never saw a miracle wrought, conclude there never was one wrought, it is evident he assumes a prerogative to which no being has a right but God himself. For how could he know what those generations of men had seen that preceded him? And he will not believe in miracles, because he never saw one wrought. As well might I say there is no such city as London on the round world, because I never saw it. But if he referred to the experience of other men, he must find it recorded in the history of the past nations of the earth. And is it not singular that he should refer to history, (which is the only resort now remaining,) and confute his own arguments? For in referring to history, he refers to human testimony, in believing which, according to his reasoning, we are liable to be deceived. Again, if he refers to history, and is willing to abide by its decisions, this is to give up the argument altogether: for history relates the occurrence of miracles. If it be said these were spurious, I answer, many it relates spurious as spurious, and genuine as genuine. Therefore, according to history, miracles are not contrary to experience. Nay, it establishes the fact contended for, that they have occurred. In view
of this subject, one of two things is evident. Either Mr. Hume designedly misrepresented the experience of past ages, or he was ignorant of it. It does appear, however, that Mr. Hume has the most unlimited confidence in human testimony: for his very positions must lead him, in the most unqualified manner, to assume, as an indubitable fact, that no man, from the days of Adam to his day, ever saw a miracle wrought, and that the laws of nature were never deviated from, or suspended for any length of time, however limited. How could he pretend to any such thing without giving to human testimony the most implicit confidence? Had he not, how could he assume that miracles were contrary to experience? And how dare he say this, if he were not ignorant of history? He must have done it purposely to deceive. If he were acquainted with history, he would read in it the occurrence of miracles; and if the testimony of history were discredited by him, there would be no difference in his mind if a thousand of his own generation should declare they had witnessed a miraculous work. Neither does he leave us ground to credit his own veracity, had he been permitted to see a miracle wrought. He probably believed firmly in the history of Alexander the Great, though men often prevaricate, &c.; but could not believe in the competency of man to decide whether the laws of nature were suspended or deviated from, though friends and foes to Christ and miracles should declare it. Truly fatality was his God-a fatality that circumscribes and enslaves Omnipotence itself. If human testimony is not to be received on this subject, why on any other? This would compel the noble mind of man to remain within the limits of the senses, and dwindle into dwarfish insignificance. And how false soever infidels have found human testimony to be on other subjects, they have not been able to produce a solitary instance in which it is so in respect to the miracles of the Scriptures. All their efforts to do this have been futile; and all their arrows in this warfare have fallen before they came in contact with the bulwarks of fire that encompass and defend the temple of truth. What greater and more applicable auxiliaries to the truth of evidence could be given than have been given? It would seem that Infinite Wisdom, in view of the infidelity of man, had so authenticated the superstructure of truth, and settled it upon the pillars of indubitable testimony, that time, talent, learning, wit, ridicule, and sophistry would be utterly and for ever unable to demolish it. I cannot conceive how any one could reasonably desire more palpable evidence of miracles than is given. The end of miracles has already been stated to be purely moral, and this renders them worthy of their holy Author. Neither were they wrought "in a corner," or privately; but before the eyes and within the hearing of the ears of multitudes; they were witnessed by friends and foes. Public monuments were instantly set up, commemorative of those miracles thus publicly performed, rendering imposition impossible. All this proves to demonstration, that there was nothing lacking that could be requi site to authenticate the divinity of the doctrine announced, or to establish beyond rational doubt the divine mission of the persons `chosen for the work. How deplorable, then, is the fact, that one great cause of infidelity is ignorance; ignorance that will not be instructed -that disdains candid investigation! Hume acknowledged on his deathbed that he had "never read the New Testament with attention."
While the Scriptures challenge investigation, and their entire spirit is, "Come, let us reason together," infidels disdain the challenge, and "love darkness rather than light." Having now shown that it is not inconsistent or impossible for God to reveal himself to man in those ways which are claimed by the sacred writers, and that the Bible could not originate with man, and proved the possibility of miracles, and that they should accompany the messages of God to man—that they could not result from any unknown laws of nature that the facts in relation to them may be as easily, attested as other historical facts-that human testimony is valid-that the occurrence of miracles is not contrary to experience,--therefore the position is maintained that the sacred writers spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, by whose influence they were enabled to perform those miracles which fully attested their divine mission and established the divine authenticity of their doctrines.
Another external evidence of the inspiration of the Scriptures is prophecy. Prophecy is the prediction of future events. In this light only will it be considered. Those who could predict future contingent events must be aided by divine inspiration. And there is, perhaps, no greater evidence of the fact than is to be deduced from this source. But against this evidence have been offered the following objections:-It has been said, that either prophecy must respect events necessary as depending upon necessary causes, which might be certainly foreknown and predicted; or that, if human actions are free and effects contingent, the possibility of prophecy must be given up, as it implies foreknowledge, which, if granted, would render them necessary. The first branch of this dilemma might be granted, if there were no prophecies in the Bible but of the effects of known causes-effects resulting from some known laws of nature. But it would not be allowed that a man possessed the spirit of prophecy, if he should say, that in a week or two from this time let a stone be suspended in the air, and it will fall to the ground, for every one knows what the effect of this would be. If it were allowed that all effects are necessitated by their respective causes, it would not prove the impossibility of prophecy. For instance, let us take up the prophecy of Moses respecting the Jewish nation, and allow that necessitating causes produced all the effects predicted the besieging and taking their cities-famine the eating their sons and daughters -their paucity of numbers-their general dispersion among all the nations of the earth. Were all these dreadful calamities that befell the Jewish people the result of invincible fatality, does this destroy the argument drawn from prophecy? No! for how could Moses survey that chain of causes which extended through future centuries, without the inspiration of Him to whom all futurity is present? If all events, therefore, were subjected to sheer fatality, prophecy would be possible. The second part of the dilemma assumes that, if man is morally free, prophecy is impossible; because, foreknowledge is contrary to freedom, and renders the predicted event necessary. But the objection evidently assumes the argument without proof: for how can knowledge of an event cause the event? Can it produce any kind of influence on the event whatever? Certain knowledge is certain knowledge, let it be possessed by whom it may. If man can possess certain knowledge of any thing, there can be no knowledge more certain than his will be of that thing. Now, if I know certainly that at a given
time there will occur an eclipse of the sun, will that eclipse occur because I foreknew it? Or will it occur because the moon will be between the earth and the sun? And would not the eclipse occur whether it were foreknown or not? Can knowledge in this case cause the occurrence, or affect it in any respect? If not, how then can certain knowledge affect the actions of moral agents? To know how a moral agent will act cannot necessitate his actions, certainly no more in the one case than in the other. As there was a real cause of the eclipse independent of all knowledge, so is there a real cause of moral action independent of all knowledge. This cause is man's agency. His own volition gives character to his actions. Therefore, whatever be the cause of the action, foreknowledge cannot be that cause; and if not, then prophecy does not necessitate the events predicted. In regard to the objections that have been made against the obscurity and double meaning of the prophecies, they are not sufficiently plausible to merit investigation. There does not appear to have been any objection raised against prophecy that can obtain among any but the ignorant, and it is for their sake alone that they have ever been noticed. That the antiquity of the prophecies has been established by credible evidence is known to all acquainted with the history of the world, and to them the certain fulfilment of most of the prophecies is equally known. The fact, also, that no men could trace the events that have been predicted, (a record of which has been kept,) both in the Old and New Testaments, without the aid of plenary inspiration, commends itself to every man with "meridian evidence."
I shall now briefly notice the internal evidence of the inspiration of the Scriptures. The doctrines and precepts contained in the Scriptures are too holy to have been the unaided productions of men, and, therefore, must have been derived from, and inspired by a higher power. The harmony and connection which are apparent between all parts of the Bible, notwithstanding it was written at dif ferent times, and by different persons, prove it to be an inspired book. The preservation of the Scriptures proves the interference of divine Providence to save them from threatened destruction, and teaches their importance in the view of their Author. But their great importance is connected with the fact that they were divinely inspired. The tendency of the Scriptures is to promote the happiness of man in both worlds. But it is above the capacity of man to originate the means of his own happiness: therefore the Scriptures must have originated with God. If so, they must have been given to us by inspiration. The superior advantages of the religion of the Bible over all other religions of the earth, proves it to be of unearthly origin: therefore it was given by the inspiration of God. I shall now repeat a few pas sages of Scripture to prove the inspiration of the language of the sacred writers, and I have done. It is said, that "the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, spake." "Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet." "The prophecy came not of old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." These texts, it will be seen, refer particularly to the Old Testament; or, as it is called by Christ and his apostles, "The Scriptures." A few texts now in relation to the New Testament. "And when they bring you into the synagogues and unto magistrates and powers, take ye no thought how or what ye shall answer, or what ye shall say, for
the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say; for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you." "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth; but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." Thus it appears that both the Old and New Testaments claim the inspiration of their language. We learn, also, from the history of the apostles and first Christians, that the divine authority of the New Testament was acknowledged, and the Epistles of St. Paul were regarded by the Apostle Peter even as "the other scriptures." He says, "Even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking of these things, in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction." Here it will be seen, that Peter placed the epistles of Paul on a level with the "law and the prophets." Justin Martyr says, that "the memoirs of the apostles and the composition of the prophets were read together in the Christian assemblies." Irenæus says, the doctrines of the apostles are agreeable to the sacred Scriptures. The following quotations relate to the four gospels. Ignatius speaks of " fleeing to the gospel as the flesh of Jesus." "The gospels," says Justin Martyr, "were read publicly, as well as the Old Testament." Augustine says, "In the New Testament the four gospels have the highest authority." Thus it seems that the history of the early ages of Christianity unites its testimony with that which has been already adduced, to establish the fact that the foundation of the word of God standeth sure-that it shall outlive the malice of its enemies, and the scoffs of ignorance-that its truths shall renew the face of the moral world, and usher in the tri. umphs of the millennium-that it shall remain to the church universal, the palladium of faith-the unyielding basis of hope, the light of the world that its everlasting truths shall survive the conflagration of worlds, and at the final tribunal render to the transgressor his merited doom, and clothe the rescued with the robe of innocence and love.
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
ART. V. THE JUDGMENT REGISTER.
AN EXCURSUS, FROM REV. XX, 12.
BY THE REV. JAMES FLOY, OF THE NEW-YORK CONFERENCE.
"I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God: and the books were opened:-and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works."
WHETHER the Revelation of St. John were written by the disciple whom Jesus loved, or by another of the same name, is a point which has not been settled in the Christian church. There are arguments on both sides of the question. The style of the apocalypse is very different from that of John's gospel and epistles. Simplicity and tenderness are the characteristics of the latter; while the former is unequalled for the sublimity of its conceptions and its majestic gran. deur. This difference would, of itself, set aside the title of the unlet.