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of Christianity, derived from miracles and prophecy, our inquirer is nevertheless led to reflect that, bad the professed revelation which they attest been destitute of any moral and practical importance—had it appeared to compass no other end than the gratification of human curiosity-his confidence in these evidences would have been inevitably shaken, because his mind, in that case, could never have been dispossessed of an impression, that (contrary to the analogy all of the works of Providence) there was nothing in the end to justify the means, or to account for the apparatus. Still more would that confidence have been shaken still more would he have found himself placed in the centre of inextricable difficulty-had these signs, so obviously indicative of omnipotence and omniscience, accompanied the introduction of a system subversive of true piety, morality, and happiness. With these reflections in his view, there is no point to which he more closely directs his attention, than to the actual moral effects of Christianity ; and, in tracing its operation on mankind, he has the candour to distinguish, first, between the mere profession, and the hearty reception of it; and, secondly, between pure Christianity, as it is described in the New Testament, and Christianity curtailed or augmented, perverted or abused. The result of his observation on this subject is as follows:-that mankind are naturally prone to irreligion and immorality, and are, therefore, naturally liable to distraction and misery; and, that the religion of Christ has an uniform tendency to counteract these natural evils—to make men pious, virtuous, and happy. On further reflection, he moreover observes, that our religion, considered as a moral science, was revealed to us by Jesus Christ and his apostles in a condition of perfectionthat many of its parts are such as man in his own wisdom was unlikely to con
525 ceive, and incapable of inventing—that, nevertheless, (and although obstructions to its course may arise from extraneous causes) it is of universal applicability to our species-and, further, that as this is true of Christianity, so, on a deliberate comparison with other systems of religion now received in the world, it is found to be true of Christianity alone.
Since, then, the religion of Jesus-attested as it was by the display of the miraculous power, and actual foreknowledge, of the Supreme Being—is ascertained to be a system of the greatest practical efficacy; since the investigator finds it to be so far from producing vice and misery, that its constant result is the glory of God, and the virtue and welfare of man; since close observation has convinced him, that it is pe ctly adapted to the condition of the creature, and as perfectly worthy of the character of the Creator: his mind is brought to a state of repose-- his doubts are all discarded--and, although there are parts of revealed truth which are above his comprehension, nothing can henceforth materially weaken his conviction, that Christianity, and Christianity only, is indeed the
RELIGION OF GOD.
One question however remains, respecting which he is necessarily desirous of obtaining satisfaction. Christianity is recorded in the Holy Scriptures. Are those Scriptures to be regarded as the work of man, or do they possess the same divine authority as the religion which they record ? On this point he examines, first, how the matter stands as it relates to the Old Testament; and, in the indirect, yet multiplied nd conclusive, testimony of Jesus Christ himself, as well as in the still more positive assertions of the apostles, he finds (as a believer in Christianity) ample evidence, that the sacred books of the Hebrews were given by inspiration of God. That the same charac
ter attaches to the New Testament, he concludes, first, from analogy; and secondly, from the history of Christ and his apostles, (a history already proved to be authentic) from which he learns, that most of the writers of that volume, and probably all of them, were men actually inspired; and that, by working miracles in attestation of their doctrine, they evinced the plenary nature of their inspiration. These external evidences are confirmed by others of an internal nature. In the fulfilment of the written prophecy; in the wisdom of the written doctrine ; in the purity of the written law --in the harmony of the contents of the Bible amidst almost endless variety-and in its efficacy, as the principal means employed by Divine Providence for the illumination, conversion, and spiritual edification, of men--the inquirer cannot fail to perceive unquestionable indications of the divine origin of Holy Writ. And, although he is aware that inspiration must vary, in manner and in degree, according as it is applied to the enunciation respectively of different subjects-that it may probably be one thing in history, and another thing in doctrine and prophecy; yet, the general result of his deliberations on the subject is plainly this - that, of the Scriptures, considered as a whole, God is the primary author-that the account which they contain of religious truth rests on the authority of the Supreme Being-and, therefore, that the person who searches for that which is revealed may safely direct his unhesitating attention to that which is written.
Struck with the importance of eternal things--convinced of the truth of Christianity-and satisfied of the divine authority of that astonishing book in which all its particulars are recorded, our inquirer, who is already possessed of some little knowledge of the Sa- . cred Volume, now turns over its pages with a new feel
527 ing of confidence and delight. To him it appears plain beyond contradiction, that it is the bounden duty of every man, who has the Bible in his hands, and who has received an adequate education—to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest, its contents: in other words, to make a diligent and profitable use of one of the most remarkable and precious of the gifts of God to man. And in pursuing this object, he endeavours to arrange his inquiries in such a manner as to obtain, if possible, a connected and comprehensive view of the whole scheme or system of revealed truth.
Now, of all the knowledge of which man is capable, the most important and truly honourable is the knowledge of God. The very first point, therefore, of scriptural inquiry, is this-What information do we receive from the Volume of Inspiration respecting the Supreme Being himself? In answer to this inquiry, we have found occasion to observe, that the declarations of Scripture respecting Jehovah are such as confirm, enlarge, and complete, the light derived, on the subject, from merely natural religion. The investigator of divine truth, who commits himself to the guidance of the sacred writers, is presently taught, that there is no other God but Jehovah- that he is onethat he has existed from eternity-that he is the first cause of all other beings, the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things which they contain,--that he is the Supreme Governor of the universe-a Spiritomnipotent, all-wise, omnipresent—that he unites in himself the perfection of all moral attributes--that in the government of his creatures, and especially in that of his creature man, he shows himself to be holy, just faithful, and true, and displays an ever-abounding goodness and mercy--that he is himself love.
Now, although there is no doctrine on which the patriarchs and prophets of ancient Israel have laid a
Conclusion. stronger stress than the unity of their Deity, it is a singular fact, that they often speak of him, or introduce him as speaking, in such a manner, as indicates that in this one God there subsists a real plurality. Our inquirer is fully sensible that this subject (relating, as it does, to the nature of an infinite, incomprehensible, Being) is extremely mysterious to the finite understanding of men; but he bows with a simple and sincere heart under the authority of confessed revelation; and no sooner has he properly examined the New Testament, than he is prepared to acknowledge that, in the vast plan of wisdom and mercy ordained for our salvation, Jehovah, the only true God, has revealed himself to mankind as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. From the testimony of Jesus Christ and his apostles he learns, that a personal character attaches to these three respectively—that the Father is God- that the Son is God and that the Holy Spirit is God—that they are the united sources of our redemption and salvation, the common and equal objects of our allegiance and devotion—that they are, nevertheless, first, second, and third, in order; and, in the economy of grace, are described as fulfilling distinct offices—the Father as originatingthe Son as mediating—and the Holy Spirit as completing. While, however, the friend of truth embraces these distinctions with the mind of faith, and endeavours to meet them with the exercise of corresponding dispositions, and the performance of consequent duties; yet, the more diligently he reflects on them, the more fully is he persuaded of their absolute consistency with the essential and never-to-be-forgotten truth, that GOD IS ONE.
The next subject to which the inquirer is led to direct his attention, is the personal character and history of certain angelic powers who are declared, in Scrip