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THE LORD BROUGHAM AND VAUX,
LORD HIGH CHANCELLOR OF ENGLAND,
IS, WITH GREAT RESPECT, INSCRIBED
BY HIS VERY FAITHFUL
AND OBEDIENT SERVANT,
The most important question that can be submitted to the human understanding, is,
" Whether Christianity is true ?” On this point all reasoners are agreed. Whatever belongs to the infinite future must be immeasureably more important than
any interest bound up with so brief a date as the existence of man on earth ; and Christianity, professing not only to give assurance of an immortal duration, but to supply us with the means of making that duration a state of the highest dignity, security, and happiness, necessarily establishes a claim to be considered, in preference to any question arising merely from this world. A great number of works on the “ Evidences of Christianity” have been published, especially in the Church of England, and their learning and honesty have done honour to that venerable protectress of all that is good and true in human principle. In offering a new tribute to that Church,
and to the Religion of which it has long been the most eminent champion, the writer of these pages is desirous only of treading in the same path of duty and of feeling.
Those works have adopted two distinct general forms of argument: evidence from the facts of history; and evidence from human nature; the former palpably the more forcible, for to facts there can be no answer; the latter allowing the utmost extent of human ingenuity, and, on some minds, capable of exerting a very high degree of conviction. But the spirit of scepticism, however unable to refute, finds too easy a refuge from both. To the argument, from the progress of Christianity, from its early obscurity to its rapid influence, and from the singular simplicity of its means to its triumph over the arms and artifice of heathenism, he affects to reply by the extraordinary changes produced on the scale of nations by instruments of obvious simplicity, and points to the religious revolutions of the East, and the political phenomena of the West. His reply is thin and imperfect, but it covers the nakedness of his cause; it protects him from the forced acknowledgment of discomfiture; and Scepticism has never asked much more.
The argument from human nature, as less direct, is still more liable to evasion. Paley, who has done the greatest justice to this argument, and whose able work is now the popular autho
rity, founds it on the two propositions—“ Ist. That there is satisfactory evidence that many, professing to be original witnesses of the Christian miracles, passed their lives in labours, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of those accounts, and that they submitted, from the same motives, to new rules of conduct ; 2dly, that there is not satisfactory evidence that persons professing to be original witnesses of other miracles, in their nature as certain as those are, have ever acted in the same manner, in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and properly, in consequence of their belief of those accounts.”
The consolation, the beauty, and the truth, of this argument to the Christian, are undeniable. But he must first be a Christian. There is nothing here to shut the mouth of the Sceptic, who is determined to subtilize himself out of all religion. He appeals to the common instances of imposture, of religious fanaticism, of that mixture of intellectual feebleness with religious ardor, which has filled the world with the follies or the furies of enthusiasm. His argument is utterly unsound, but it is specious. For, what solidity of argument can be built upon human motives? The two antagonists are contending in an element which forbids a solid footing. Truth and falsehood are struggling on the same surge, which lifts or sinks either