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THE OLD TESTAMENT.
“You who have escaped from these religions into the high-and-dry light of the intellect may deride them ; but in so doing, you deride accidents of form merely, and fail to touch the immovable basis of true religious sentiment in the nature of man. To yield this sentiment reasonable satisfaction is the problem of problems at the present hour.”
JOHN TYNDALL, LL.D. : Belfast Address, 1874.
CREEDS OF THE DAY.
Is there any God? or, what evidence have we of His existence ?
The views of our ablest thinkers-recent and presentgive us, at all events, the conclusions of the age we live in. I purpose therefore to set before you the theological outcome of Biblical literature, of modern science, and of current philosophy.
The matter will be treated of under two heads :I. Revelation; II. Rational Theology. Rational Theology will be subdivided into Natural Theology or the Argument from Design; and Metaphysical Theology or the Theory of Being. These divisions will be dealt with respectively in the ist, 2d, and 3d series of these letters.
Revelation, in the sense here employed, means miraculous communication from God to man. The subject of the communication must itself be a mystery-something, that is, which could not be discovered by human intelligence in the ordinary course of nature. Has God ever revealed Himself to man in this way? or, what is there to show that He has done so ? .
By far the largest number of human beings would at once refer you to their Sacred Books. But there are many Sacred Books. In Europe and America the Bible is believed by most people to be the only true account of divine revelation; yet all the believers in the Bible throughout the world, including the Jews, are less numerous than the Buddhists alone. They scarcely exceed the Mahommedans and Brahmanists taken together; and are little more than 30 per cent. of our entire race. Is the Buddhist, or the Mahommedan, or the Brahmanist, less certain than we, respecting our Bible, that all sacred books are false except his own ? If so, mere strength of conviction, being shared by all, fails to guarantee the truth for any; and since adverse doctrines are mutually destructive, one at most can be true. Which this may be, can only be decided by impartially comparing one with another. In the last resort, judgment concerning probabilities must always depend on what is known. This is a fundamental canon of criticism. In the task before us it must not for a moment be laid aside.
Many estimable persons shrink from the analysis of their religious belief. The fatuous credulity of some is not shaken by the obvious fact that, difference of religion is primarily a geographical distinction. Some regard it as profane, others as dangerous, to tamper with a subject beyond the scope of their intelligence. And, in these days, it must sorely try the consciences of many, not thus restrained, to settle how much of their own doubts they shall impart to others; and especially to what extent they shall deprive their children of beliefs which afford such substantial support to morality, and such unspeakable consolation to grief.
To say that truth ought always to be spoken at whatever cost, is a specious maxim which covers a double fallacy. First it has to assume infallibility of judgment; next, if truth, this may be neither beneficial nor intelligible to those who receive it. Here, then, we discover a principle to guide us. All theological inquiry necessarily