صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

tian character; and the force of truth, not weakened by false politics, made it even a fashion.

I have laboured to revive the principles of those times; not without a hope, that they may have similar success in our day, if duly encouraged by high example. Men are doubtless, now as well as ever, susceptible of religious impressions, if properly enforced on EVANGELICAL authority. The times, it is said, are altered; but let it be remembered, that men make the times, and that men are very much modelled by books and all public instruction. · It is certainly unwise, in the present adverse circumstances of Christendom, to neglect or discountenance any mode of effectually disseminating and confirming the Christian faith, more especially any mode which has in past times been found successful, and is author ized by scripture.

For myself, I must beg leave to say, what is indeed sufficiently evident, that I have been in search truth, not of favour or advantage. I have deemed religion lovely enough to be wedded without a dowry, I have had no sinister view, but have employed my hours of leisure in a way which I thought might be most beneficial to my fellow-creatures and my country. If I am wrong in my doctrine; if my GREAT MASTERS have instructed me erroneously, I am open to conviction, and shall rejoice to be better informed. I will say with the poet, addressing the Father of Lights,

“ If I am right, thy GRACE impart,

“ Still in the right to stay;
« If I am wrong, o teach my HEART

" To find that better way." In the mean time, I make this offering to my fellow. mortals, labouring, like myself, in pursuit of happiness, though, many of them, in a different mode; and I dedicate it, with sincere devotion, to TRUTH, PIETY, AND PEACE.


No. I.

Cursory Remarks on one or two Objections in Mr. Paine's last Pamphlet, against the authenticity of the Gospel.

It is much against my opinion of propriety to recommend to public notice, the writings of infidels, by animadverting upon them; it is still more so, to quote their cavils, though with an intent to refute them. What is this, indeed, but to contribute to the dissemination of their errors, while it gratifies their vanity? Mr. Gibbon avowed that FAME was his object; and it may be suspected, that the greater part of sceptical or infidel writers, are pleased with those answers and refutations, which, though they are meant to discountenance them, yet do, in fact, contribute, more than any thing else, to their publicity, notoriety, or, as they may conceive, to their GLORY.

But with respect to Mr. Paine, his notoriety is already 50 great, as scarcely to admit of increase; and there is too much reason to fear, that his infidel writings will attract general notice, at least among the lower classes, without any aid from controversial opposition. I think, therefore, I shall do no harm, if, unfortunately, I should do no good, by making one or two remarks on his recent attack on Christianity.

Mr. Paine is supposed, by his partisans, to have laid the axe to the root of revealed religion. His blows, indeed, are violent; but they miss their aim. His wea,

pon is blunted and repelled, by striking against a solid substance. Many such strokes have, at various times, been levelled at Christianity; but the hardy tree, rooted deeply in the hearts of men, and watered by the dews of Heaven, has vegetated with fresh vigour, and, after the operation of lopping, diffused its branches with additional luxuriance.

In Mr. Paine's theological works there is, indeed, little NOVELTY. His objections have been frequently con. sidered, and, for the most part, removed. They, are, however, New to the young and the unlearned, who seldom possess time, books, or inclination, sufficient to qualify them as judges of their solidity. Mr. Paine's political opinions contribute much to recommend, among many, his theological; and thus party zeal is unfortunately excited in favour of religious scepticism or actual infidelity. From a variety of causes, peculiar to the present times and circumstances, there is too much reason to apprehend, that Mr. Paine's theological pamphlet is too favourably received; and that it will contribute to diffuse licentiousness, both of principles and practice. It is not from real novelty, or the peculiar ability of the author, but from temporary circumstances, that it will derive its malignant efficaey. I am not presumptuous enough in my own powers, to suppose my. self able to counteract it. But I have attempted it throughout this book; not doubting that some of those many learned and ingenious divines, who, by their high situation in the church, enjoy ample leisure, possess extensive libraries, and all other opportunities for information, will step forward to oppose an attack, which tends to undermine the whole fabric of the visible CHURCH, and which, if successful, must render their high offices not only superfluous, but ridiculous; their dignities not only badges of folly, but, which is worse, of knavish hypocrisy.

Mr. Paine is an additional instance to prove that men, deeply immersed in the affairs of the world, and considering its politics as matters of the first, if not the only importance, usually bring with them dispositions to the study of Christianity, which render them blind to its EVIDENCE and EXCELLENCE. They come with a pride and confidence in their own reason, a state of mind peculiarly offensive to the SovEREIGN of Heaven, who resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

The kingdom of Christ not being of this world, they! view it as aliens, not only with indifference, but disaffection. Indeed, they seldom give themselves the trouble to study, as they ought, the nature of its transcendent polity.

It is an old observation, and confirmed by daily expe. rience, that men are apt to condemn what they do not understand. Mr. Paine, indeed, is not deficient in understanding. He has given indubitable proofs of great sagacity; but his sagacity, applied to religion, is that of the NATURAL man, as the Apostle describes him. There is a SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING; an understanding irradiated by divine grace, necessary to comprehend the things of the Spirit, without which a man is scarcely better qualified to judge of the gospel, as it is GRACE AND TRUTH, than the blind to decide on the beauty of a picture. He may descant on words and syllables. He may view the letter of the scriptures as a critic, a logician, an historian; but there is a veil on his heart, which prevents him from perceiving that witness or testimony of the Spirit, which carries conviction, in defiance of all difficulties and obscurities in the letter. The Gospel is the ministration of Spirit and life, and the POWER OF GOD unto salvation. This POWER OF God is not to be limited in its action, to the ability of any man or set of men to suggest or answer objections to any particular portions of the scripture. It shines

on, however men may cavil. Like the moon, it continues to illuminate the night, unaffected by the poor ignorant animals who bark at her benign radiance. There is internal evidence in Mr. Paine's pamphlet, that he is unhappily unacquainted with the ministration of the Spirit and the POWER OF GOD, as it is described in the Gospel, and experienced by true believers. He is out of his province, where he treats of theology, and resembles the philosopher of antiquity, who gave lectures to Hannibal, on the art of war.

But Mr. Paine is not only ignorant of Christianity; he is prejudiced against it. His politics appear to him incompatible with the power of the church; and to undermine the church, he levels his blow at the whole of Christianity. He pierces Christ, to stab the priestbood through his sides.

As the policy of monarchial countries has made the church an ally of the state, he endeavours to weaken the state, by demolishing its ally. Religion in France, corrupted by political artifice, and depraved by superstition, was favourable to slavery. He transfers his hatred from religion so abused, to all religion but deism He considers revelation as a mere state contrivance; not aware that the church and kingdom of Christ subsist, independently of all external authority, in the hearts of all true believers, in every clime, united by the Holy Ghost, under their king and priest, JESUS CHRIST. The living temple of the human heart would still stand, if all the temples of stone, in the violent and wicked contentions of politicians, were demolished and swept away with the besom of destruction. The whole legions of France, supposing them united under the banners of Mr. Paine, (and I am far from thinking that the whole of that nation, or even a majority, would enlist in the cause of infidelity,) would be unable to destroy this TEMPLE not made with hands, not cemented with mor.

« السابقةمتابعة »