Page images
PDF
EPUB

we call the attention of the reader to the following extract from Paley's Evidence of Christianity, which has long been a text book on this subject in many of our colleges.

“If twelve men, whose probity and good sense I had long known, should seriously and circumstantially relate to me an account of a miracle wrought before their eyes, and in which it was impossible they should be deceived ; if the governor of the country hearing a rumor of this account, should call these men into his presence, and offer them a short proposal, either to confess the imposture, or submit to be tied to a gibbet; if they should refuse with one voice to acknowledge that there existed any falsehood or imposture in the case; if this threat were communicated to them separately, yet with no different effect ; if it were at last executed ; if I, myself, saw them, one after another, consenting to be racked, burnt, or strangled, rather than give up the truth of their account:

Now I undertake to say that there exists not a skeptic in the world, who would not believe them, or who would defend such incredulity.” p. 14.

Now we put it to the candid judgment of the reader, whether miracles are credible on such evidence as here supposed? Is it not entirely supposable, that twelve men of acknowledgee probity and good sense" should be found, who would still be capable of conspiring together to deceive their fellow-men? Can we have that knowledge of the probity of any twelve men, which would, of itself, be a sure protection to any community against such a conspiracy? Can we ever know, that in such a case it was impossible for a part or all the twelve to be deceived? If there is not that, in the circumstances of the case, to render it probable that in those circumstances God would work a miracle, is it not far more probable that one or the other of these suppositions was true, than that the laws of nature should be arrested ? In the case put by Dr. Paley, no such ground of probability exists. He arrays our belief in human testimony, directly in opposition to our belief in the uniformity of nature's laws, with nothing to strengthen the former, or weaken the latter: and where there is an equal conflict between these two kinds of evidence which must prevail ? For ourselves, we can be at no loss for an answer.

But in the case of the Christian miracles, we have shown that such a probability of very great strength is inherent in the very circumstances. Hence, in this case there is no conflict between mere human testimony and the uniformity of nature's laws. In SECOND SERIES, VOL. IX. NO. I.

12

curs.

such a case as that presented by Christianity, it is probable a priori that the laws of nature will be arrested whenever it oc

The truth of this position is sustained by the judgment of the human race in all ages of the world. On this point, the very credulity of the many, and the knavery of the few on the subject of miracles, are important auxiliaries to our argument. Both combine to show, that it ever has been the judgment of mankind, that God would probably by miracles make known his will to man. Had there been no such acknowledged probability, there could have been no temptation to such knavery on the one hand, and no foundation for such credulity on the other.

Is it not then clear, that Dr. Paley, in the very outset of his work, makes a false issue with the skeptic ? Our limits will by no means suffer us to enter into an analysis of Dr. Paley's work as it stands related to our argument, but we think it easy to show that, in the present state of the public mind on the question, this false issue in the outset, in a great measure deprives the book of its power to convince the skeptical inquirer, while those who do rest their faith on this form of the argument, will be very likely to be perplexed and baffled when called to meet a crafty impostor. Indeed, if such a man be devoid of mental independence, and not bound to Christianity by any strong ties of moral sympathy, he is in a fair way to become a victim of Mormonism, or some other equally groundless delusion. We think it not inappropriate in this place to suggest, that it is perhaps time that this book should give place, in our colleges, to some other work better adapted to the actual state of skeptical objection in this country. It is certainly a matter of no small interest to the cause of religion in our country, that the evidence of Christianity is a part of nearly every course of college instruction, and it is the duty of Christian instructors to spare no pains necessary to give that argument its full power over the forming mind of the nation. Care should at least be taken to employ a text book, which presents the argument in a form truly logical and unanswerable. We would not be understood, however, to intimate that Dr. Paley's work does not furnish materials for a triumphant vindication of our faith. Our objection lies wholly against his mode of stating his argument.

The only remaining point upon which we purpose to notice the views exhibited by Professor T., relates to certain false notions in reference to the mode of divine influence over the

human mind. That such influence is a reality, he does not question: but certain prevalent perversions of this great doctrine of Scripture, he exposes with great freedom and effect. We earnestly commend this portion of the book (the last chapter) to the careful attention of the reader. Its costume is, indeed, in some parts, ludicrous and amusing in a high degree; but there is a vein of thought running through it which is sufficiently grave and solemn to interest the most serious-minded. This chapter, like all the rest of the book indeed, bears internal marks of having been hastily written, and perhaps the author has not, in all cases, guarded his statements with as much care, as a due regard to the extreme sensitiveness of the public mind on this subject requires. But we think a careful consideration of this portion of the work will convince any candid mind, that there is in more than one of the prevailing sects, a great amount of material made ready to the hand of any enthusiast or impostor who may choose to work it up. We are not sure, indeed, that in the application of his principles the author is not a little too sweeping and indiscriminate, but in our opinion the subject is one which requires great plainness of speech. The fact is undeniable, that there are impressions widely prevalent on this subject, which find no support either from Scripture or reason, and which bring into constant jeopardy the religious sanity of him who entertains them.

Let man assume that he can be conscious not only of his own emotions, but of a supernatural influence by which they are excited, and he is upon an open ocean, with neither sun nor stars to guide him. We are firm believers in the doctrine of the influence of the Spirit of God on the heart of man, in the great work of regeneration and progressive sanctification. But how are we to know that we are at any time under the influence of that Spirit? Can we be conscious of it as we are of our own emotions? Or are we merely to infer it from the fact, that the fruits of the Spirit are produced ? And what are the fruits of the Spirit ? Are they not those virtues of the Christian character, which are well defined in God's word? And can we have any evidence that this or that thought or emotion is a fruit of the Spirit, except its perceived agreement with the teachings of Scripture ? To us the answer to all these questions seems very plain. Thus viewed, the doctrine of the influence of the Holy Spirit on the mind is rational, and tends to the happiest results. To this view of the subject we are persuaded Christians gene

rally yield a ready assent, as accordant with both Scripture and reason. If so, then we ask the reader carefully to compare it with the facts and considerations adduced by Professor Turner in his last chapter : and then let him judge whether this doctrine be not extensively and alarmingly perverted. We might extract particular passages. We prefer to urge on the reader the perusal of the work

itself, and especially the last chapter ; and we assure him he will need no urging when he has once commence ed. The author deals in facts-and they are facts from which a child can deduce the inevitable inference.

The simple truth is obvious. There are vast multitudes of nominal Christians among us, whose religion consists largely in a certain glow of excitement, which they consider as evidence of the presence of God's Spirit. It is not definitely any Christian virtue which is brought into exercise; but it is excitement -religious excitement—that is what they want and will have ; and in their minds the man whose voice can produce it, is God's ambassador, and the doctrines which can call it forth, and roll it up mountain high, are God's truth, whether they be Calvinism, Arminianism, or Mormonism. Indeed, in the course of a few years all these, and a great many other conflicting forms of opinion, are likely enough to have their turn. We make these statements with no fear of successful contradiction.

We are assured that they are corroborated by the personal observation of every intelligent reader. Nor is this mere harmless delusion. It is this

very delusion which is hurrying its thousands every year into the vortex of fanaticism, and driving back its tens of thousands into cheerless, heartless, hopeless skepticism. There are in this age not a few minds so strongly imbued with this love of excitement, that they will “compass sea and land” in the search of its gratification; and wherever they go they will carry along with them an undoubting belief, that where it is found there is the truth, there is the felt seal of divine favor and approbation. Such minds must not be expected to be shocked at any absurdity taught by a “Joe Smith,” or any other enthusiast or impostor, provided that they find under his teachings their favorite religious luxury.

There is another class of minds, probably more numerous by far than these, who are utterly devoid of religious emotions and affections. They are as much too cold as those just described are too warm. It is a grave question, seldom raised with the seriousness it should be, How are such men affected by

less agree

such religious views and practices as those we allude to, and so powerfully portrayed by Professor Turner? The question needs but to be stated; the answer is obvious. Nor let it be imagined that the evil is confined to the two extremes we have been considering. There are multitudes who are restrained by the love of sect and by the influence of friends from the outbreakings of fanaticism, but who are, nevertheless, by this same cause deeply infected with the disease. Nearly every intelligent pastor knows some of them in his own parish. They are the unquiet, the feverish, the fitful—those who can only be influenced by working on their imaginations and their passions : to them arguments are cobwebs. Who has calculated the injury done to the cause of religion by the influence of such spirits, or pointed out the extent to which they are made what they are by the very delusion of which we are speaking ?

We must here take our leave of Prof. T. We have read his book on the whole with much pleasure. The reader will doubt

with

us, that it is not every man who could write such a book on such a subject. It doubtless has its faults both of style and matter. Its style makes no pretensions to classic elegance. It appears to have been chosen for an occasion and a purpose, and to be well adapted to both. We are mistaken if it does not conduct many a man quite through the history and causes of Mormonism, who but for the fascination of the style would never have been persuaded to read a single page. We think, however, that the author owes it to his own reputation to appear before the public on a subject more dignified and attractive, and in a style more chaste and classic. The author of Mormonism" is certainly capable of so writing as to amuse and instruct.

There is yet one thought to which, in bringing our remarks to a conclusion, we wish to invite the serious attention of every reader, who waits for the consolation of Israel. We have all indulged the pleasing hope that the church and the world are in the present age rapidly advancing towards a brighter and a better day. For ourselves we still cling to this hope, and believe it to be founded on the most substantial evidence. But while we cling to it, and find it full of encouragement and consolation, we cannot deny that the age we live in is also marked, not only by widely prevalent confusion and religious disorganization, but by a readiness of the popular mind to entertain in its bosom, and to warm into life and vigor, almost every species

« PreviousContinue »