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EVIDENCES OF THE TRUTH OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION. 7
extends, to prevent the circulation of such publications under the sanction of her name.
That all persons into whose hands this work shall come may receive instruction, edification and comfort through its instrumentality, is the sincere desire, and earnest prayer of the Editors.
J. Soule & T. Masox.
EVIDENCES OF THE TRUTH OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION.
Extracted from the new Edinburgh Encyclopædia.
1. It is not proposed by us in this article, to enter either into the history of the Christian religion, or into its morality and doctrines. We propose to confine ourselves to what have been called the Evidences of Christianity; or to exhibit a general view of those arguments, which go to prove that the New Tes- .' tament is the authentic record of an actual communication from God to man.
2. Were a verbal communication to come to us from a person at a distance, there are two ways in which we might try to satisfy ourselves, that this was a true communication, and that there was no imposition in the affair. We might either sit in examination upon the substance of the message ; and then from what we knew of the person from whom it professed to come, judge whether it was probable that such a message would be sent by him ; or we may sit in examination upon the credibility of the messengers.
3. It is evident, that, in carrying on the first examination, we might be subject to very great uncertainty. The professed author of the communication in question may live at such a distance from us, that we may never have it in our power to verify his message by any personal conversation with him. We may be so far ignorant of his character and designs, as to be unqualified to judge of the kind of communication that should proceed from him. To estimate aright the probable authenticity of the message from what we know of its author, would require an acquaintance with his plans, and views, and circumstances, of which we may not be in possession. We may bring the
greatest degree of sagacity to this investigation ; but then ihe highest sagacity is of no avail, when there is an insufficiency of data. Our ingenuity may be unbounded ; but then we may want the materials. The principle which we may assume may be untrue in itself, and therefore might be fallacious in its application.
4. Thus, we may derive very little light from our first argument. But there is still a second in reserve the credibility of the messengers. We may be no judges of the kind of communication which is natural, or likely to proceed from a person with whom we are but imperfectly acquainted; but we may be very competent judges of the degree of faith that is to be reposed in the bearers of that communication. We may know and appreciate the natural signs of veracity. There is a tone and a manner characteristic of honesty, which may be both intelligible and convincing There may be a concurrence of several messen-. gers. There may be their substantial agreement. There may be the total want of any thing like concert or collusion among them. There may be their determined and unanimous perseverance, in spite of all the incredulity and all the opposition which they meet with. The subject of the communication may be most unpalatable to us; and we be so unreasonable, as to wreak our unpleasant feelings upon the bearers of it. In this way, they may not only have no earthly interest to deceive us, but have the strongest inducement possible to abstain from insisting upon that message which they were charged to deliver. Last of all, as the conclusive seal of their authenticity, they may all agree in giving as a watchword, which we previously knew could be given by none but their master; and which none but his messengers could ever obtain the possession of. In this way unfruitful as all our efforts may have been upon the first subject of examination, we may derive from the second the most decisive evidence, that the message in question is a real message, and was actually transmitted to us by its professed author.
5. Now, this consideration applies in all its parts to a message from God. The argument for the truth of this message resolves itself into the same two topics of examination. We may sit in judgment upon the subject of the message ; or we may sit in judgment upon the credibility of its bearers.
6. The first forms a great part of that argument for the truth of the Christian religion, which comes under the head of its in
ternal evidences, The substance of the message is neither more nor less than that particular scheme of the divine economy which is revealed to us in the New Testament; and the point of inquiry is, whether this scheme be consistent with that knowledge of God and his attributes which we are previously in possession of.
7. It appears to us, that no effectual argument can be founded upon this consideration. We are not enough acquainted with the designs or character of the being from whom the message professes to have come. Were the author of the message some distant and unknown individual of our own species, we would scarcely be entitled to found an argument upon any comparison of ours, betwixt the import of the message and the character of the individual, even though we had our general experience of human nature to help us in the speculation. Now, of the invisible God, we have no experience whatever. We are still further removed from all direct and personal observation of him or of his counsels. Whether we think of the eternity of his government, or the mighty range of its influence over the wide departments of nature and of providence, he stands at such a distance from us, as to make the management of his empire a subject inaccessible to all our faculties.
8. It is evident, however, that this does not apply to the second topic of examination. The bearers of the message were beings like ourselves; and we can apply our safe and certain experience of man to their conduct and their testimony. We know too little of God, to found any argument upon the coincidence which we conceive to exist betwixt the subject of the message and our previous conceptions of its author. But we may know enough of man to pronounce upon the credibility of the messengers. Had they the manner and physiognomy of honest men? Was their testimony resisted, and did they persevere in it? Had they any interest in fabricating the message; or did they suffer in consequence of this perseverance ? Did they suffer to such a degree as to constitute a satisfying pledge of their integrity ? Was there more than one messenger, and did they agree'as to the substance of that communication which they made to the world ? Did they exhibit any special mark of their office as the messengers of God; such a mark as none but God could give, and none but his approved messengers could obtain the possession of? Was his mark the power of working miracles; and were these miracles so obviously addressed to the senses, as to leave no suspi
10 EVIDENCES OF THE TRUTH OF THE CARISTIAN REVELATION.
cion of deceit behind them ? These are questions which we feel our competency to take up, and to decide upon. They lie within the legitimate boundaries of human observation; and upon the solution of these do we rest the question of the truth of the Christian religion.
9. This, then, is the state of the question with those to whom the message was originally addressed. They had personal access to the messengers; and the evidences of their veracity lay before them. They were the eye and ear-witnesses of those facts, which occurred at the commencement of the Christian religion, and upon which its credibility rests. What met their observation must have been enough to satisfy them ; but we live at the distance of nearly two thousand years, and is there enough to satisfy us? Those facts, which constitute the evidence for Christianity, might have been credible and convincing to them, if they really saw them; but is there any way by which they can be rendered credible and convinciug to us, who only read of them ? What is the expedient by which the knowledge and belief of the men of other times can be transmitted to posterity ? Can we distinguish between a corrupt and a faithful transmission ? Have we evidence before us, by which we can ascertain what was the belief of those to whom the message was first communicated? And can the belief which existed in their minds be derived to ours, by our sitting in judgment upon the reasons which produced it?
10. The surest way in which the belief and knowledge of the men of former ages can be transmitted to their descendants, is through the medium of written testimony; and it is fortunate for us, that the records of the Christian religion are not the only historical documents which have come down to us. A great variety of information has come down to us in this way; and a great part of that information is as firmly believed, and as confidently procceded upon, as if the thing narrated had happened within the limits of our eye-sight. No man doubts the invasion of Britain by Julius Cæsar; and no man doubts, therefore, that a conviction of the truth of past events may be fairly produced in the mind by the instrumentality of a written memorial. This is the kind of evidence which is chiefly appealed to for the truth of ancient history; and it is counted satisfying evidence for all that part of it which is received and depended upon.
(To be continued.)
MEMOIR OF MR. GEORGE SHADFORD.
MR. GEORGE SHADFORD, the subject of this Memoir, was born at a place called Scotter, near Kirton, in Lindsey, Lincolnshire, January 19, 1739. When no more than about eight or nine years of age, the fear of death, and the consideration of the future misery of those who die in their sins, distressed him exceedingly. But as he grew up, to use his own words, he was very prone to speak bad words, and often to perform wicked actions." Being of an active and restless disposition, he sought for happiness in the use of a variety of sports and diversions, some of which were of a cruel nature. On every Lord's-day, in the fore. noon, his father took him to church, and after their return home obliged him and his sister to read a chapter or two of the Scriptures, and then charged him not to play in the afternoon; but, notwithstanding the positive injunction of his father, he took the first opportunity that presented itself to steal away to his sports, nor was it unusual for him, on such occasions, to stay from home till evening, when, he says, his father called him to an account.
From the occasional hints, relative to his parents, which are found in Mr. Shadford's account of himself, it may be concluded that they feared God, and wrought righteousness. They insisted on his praying every morning and evening at least; sent him every Sunday to be catechized by the minister; and when he was fourteen, sent him to the bishop to be confirmed. When he was sixteen years of age, they gave him a charge to prepare for receiving the sacrament of the Lord's supper. For about a month before he partook of this sacred ordinance, he retired from all vain and trifling company, and prayed and read much alone; whilst the Spirit of God applied to his heart the Divine truths which he read. He wept much in secret, was ashamed of his past life, and hoped that he would never again profane the day of the Lord. When he approached the table of the Lord, it appeared so awful to him, that he could scarcely stand; and affected him in some measure, as if he had been going to the judgment-seat of Christ. His heart, upon this solemn occasion, was softened; and the impressions then made upon his mind continued to operate for about three months. He broke off from all his companions, and retired to read on the Lord's day; some