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1. That the world is, in its present state, a dark place to a real Christian, is a melancholy fact, which needs no laboured proof. I have heard, indeed, of a speech of a man of the world :-Do not tell me of another world, I like this very well, and should be perfectly contented to stay here always?' But the Christian cries, Lord deliver me from men of ihe world, who have their portion in this life; as for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake wp after thy likeness.? Many, however, are so far from regarding the present dominion of sin as a state of gloomy darkness, that they deprecate the change which would transfer the sceptre from Satan to Christ, from iniquity to religion. But the Christian mourns that 'darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people;' and exclaims, • How long, Lord, shall the world be lying in wickedness ? When shall thy kingdom come, and thy will be done on earth as it is in beaven? For though, when compared with others, the lines inay have fallen to us in pleasant places, yet in the inost favoured spot, a Christian will often feel like Lot; for that just man dwelling among sinners, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul froin day to day, with their unlawful deeds. Alas! so general is the ignorance of true religion, that almost all around us seem to act and speak like blind men groping in the dark! But what shall we say of three quarters of the globe, abandoned to Pagan or Anti-Christian ignorance and idolatry! Such scenes as are described by Dr. Buchanan*, an eye-witness, might compel common decency is well as Christian benevolence, to exclaiin, 'Arise, O God! and plead thy own cause! - have respect to the covenant; for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty' and lewdness, such lewdness and cruelty as require more than Egyptian darkness to cover their filthiness and bloud.
2. That the word of prophecy is a lamp to break this horrid glooın, is inanifest to all who have given any heed to its light. No mere reasoning upon probabilities can light up the torch of Hope in this dark vault of sin and death. From the length of time during which sin has reigned, we might conclude that it would for ever reign ; that the world would always be in as wretched a condition as it has ever been. The exertions of Christians to shed the light of the gospel upon the earth, are ridiculed by the idolaters of reason as a Quixote scheme. • Vice (say they) like the fabled poison-tree of Java, has stricken its roots so deep, and spread so widely its deadly shade, that the man who shall attempt to tear it up, will only fall a sacrifice to his romantic folly. One of this class of reasoneis has published, among letters to his son, an attempt to confute the maxim, Great is trutlı, and it will
Christian Researches in Asia
prevail. But the word of prophecy is sure, and it shines as a Iamp in this dark world, assuring us that sin shall not always have dominion over the earth; but that, after four mighty' empires shall have domineered, and the last shall have been divided into ten kingdoms, the little Stone which the builder refused, shall dash tå» pieces all opposition, and become a mountain that shall fill the earth'; that the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and that the saints of the Most High shall possess the greatness' of the kingelom under the whole heaven.'' O blessed hope! how welcomie thy ray amidst the sirounding gloom! What a motive is this for turning towards the lanp, and giving heed to the cheering light of prophecy ! 'for when the sun shines all around us, we walk in light, whether we look towards the luminary or give no heed io it. It is otherwise with a lamp in a dark gallery, upon which if we turn our backs, we may feel as if there were none; and it is only when we look towards the light that we feel it dispel the gloom of the place.
ON THE INTERNAL EVIDENCE OF
TITE SACRED SCRIPTURES.
To the Editor, The more strictly truth is examined, the more highly it will be prized. Ifone who cordially believes the gospel, ever shrinks from a minute examination of its claim to the character of a divine revelation, it indicates a fear of his own depraved dispositions, debility of judgment, or defect of information, rather than a suspicion that the Scriptures are deficient of evidence to support their claim. Such a fear may, notwithstanding, produce lamentable effects, by leaving Christians unable to
give a reason for the hope that is in them' when assailed by scepticismn, allured by temptation, or alarmed by impending calamity. Our native and habitual corruptions, our unavoidable or incidental intercourse with the world, and our liability to the inroads of invisible, subtle, malignant and powerful enemies, are sure to furnish numerous occasions for us to
put on the whole armour of God. In order, therefore, that we may be stedfast, unmoveable, and abounding in the work of the Lord,' it is of vast importance that we should be well established in a rational conviction that the Scriptures cannot but be true. "If ministers of the gospel are not well acquainted with the erternal (or historical) evidence of the truth of Christianity, it must, in most cases, be their own fault; and it is a fault of no small magnitude and mischief. Butamong private Christians,
there are perhaps comparatively few who can have that access to original testimonies, or that leisure to investigate them; both which are requisite to full and satisfactory information on this subject. The comfort and support of the private Christian are not, however, on this account, exposed to instability. He has the Bible before him, translated into his native language with exemplary fidelity and ability; and a proper use of this invaluable deposit will afford him irrefragable proof of the authenticity and the divine authority of the various wril. ings of which it is composed. I do not here refer to these powerful impressions, or lively emotions of affection, whether natural or spiritual, which he may occasionally enjoy in a devotional perusal of some passages of Scripture ; and which, for the time, render him incapable of doubting whether it be the word of God. I refer to the general internal evidence of the Scriptures, which is accessible to all serious and impartial readers; and which requires only common advantages for its attainment; although it is exclusively the reward of a degree of diligence and perseverance which, it may be feared, is but too rarely exemplified.
This invaluable acquisition, if attainable by private Christians in general, is obviously still more within the reach of ministers of the gospel, if they are 'workmen who need not be ashamed.? On them it is incumbent, not only to avail themselves of every advantage which they enjoy, for the establishment of their own minds in an intimate knowledge of the internal evidences of the sacred Scriptures, but likewise to employ all suitable means to facilitate the same attainment, to those who, from their different circumstances, must find it more difficult. Should not every stated minister of the gospel, for this as well as for other incalculably useful purposes, study, in his public labours, to lead his people to a knowledge of the whole Scriptures, in the mutual relation of their various parts; and in that close connection which in most cases) the subordinate parts of every different portion of the sacred volume have with each other? Would not this tend more directly and effectually to their growtli in grace and in the knowledge of our, Lord Jesus Christ,' than a much longer course of the same ministry employed merely in discoursing on detached and incidental texts? Where nearly the same people hear a minister preach three times on a Lord's Day, would not the employ ment of one such season in a connected and continued exposition of the Scriptures, be an agreeable and useful variety, as well as a mode of instruction, for which no adequate substitute can be found? What experienced, or thoughtful Chris. tian, that can attend twice on public worship, would not wish that one of the opportunities should be thus employed Leaving your readers, Sir, to answer these interrogatories, according to the dictates of their consciences, and act accordingly, I beg permission to assert, with the fullest conscience: that any minister who makes the experiment, will be likely to derive inestimable benefit from it, to his own miru. Often, when reflecting on many years spent in the ininistry of the gospel, amidst the numerous and great mercies which prompt my gratitude in the recollection, I am constrained peculiariy to praise God, that, from the commencement of my stated labours, I was enabled to persevere in a conuected exposition of the sacred Scriptures. * I should, therefore, have been inex cusable in not suggesting the same practice to such of my younger brethren as were likely to profit by my advice: and I have received the concurrent testimonies of all, both within or without the pale of the Established Church, who have carried the suggestion into effect, to their experience of its utility.
As the internal evidence of the sacred Scriptures can only be ascertained by a comprehensive view of their contents; that mode of public instruction which I have recommended, is evidently desirable, for the assistance of private Christians in so valuable an aquisition. The press, however, may very usefully co-operate with the pulpit in promoting it: and what channel, Sir, can be so effeclual for this purpose as that of the Evangelical Magazine'; which is dispersed among so many thousands of persons professing religion, and under so great a variety of denominations! I propose, therefore, with your approbation and the Lord's gracious assistance, 'to address to you a series of papers, tending to illustrate the internal evis dence of the Scriptures, in the clearest and simplest manner that I can adopt. To avoid inconvenient length, I intend to sestrict my present object to a particular view of the evidences of the New Testament, which (to the best of my knowledge) may derive.some advantage from its publicity.
All who have attentively read the four gospels, must be aware that they differ, one from an other, in various respects, Some of the evangelists relate events of the life of Christ, which are not only unnoticed by others, but seem difficult to be reconciled with their narratives. In several of those events, which are recorded by two or more of the evangelists, the circumstances connected with them, are so differently stated, as to appear (at the first view) contradictory. In some instances, it has ever been tenaciously disputed, whether actions, or discourses, of our Lord, recorded by different evangelists, were the same, or distinct from each other. Yet, amidst this striking diversity of narration, there often occurs in two, sometimes in three, of the gospels, so much sameness of expression, that they are suspected to bave copied one another's words.
Of these yarious difficulties, infidels have eagerly availed themselves, to discredit the truth of Christianity, and sceptical Christians have employed them to subvert the inspiration of the Scriptures. Is there not room, also, to apprehend, that
sincere believers have been perplexed and distressed, by their inability to explain and reconcile these diversities? If it can be demonstrated that there really is not, throughout the four gospels, any contradiction or inconsistency, it may, therefore, be of no slight benefit. But if all the diversities that appear in them can be rationally accounted for, and shewn to be, if not indispensable, at least very likely to have occurred in such narratives, a step farther will be gained. And if, moreover, it can be proved, that many, if not all, these diversities, instead of furnishing objections, really afford strong confirmation to the authenticity, and even to the divine anthority of the gospels,this, I apprehend, will be a kind of internal evidence of the Scriptures, which has either been dormant hitherto, or (at least) has never excited general attention.
If your limits, Sir, can admit of such a demonstration, I shall not despair of establishing it to the satisfaction of your readers. · At all events, I shall hope that you will be able to afford me room to elucidate the nature of the argument, by some introductory remarks on the authors, the sources, the oca casions, and the dates of the four gospels; and by a few specimens of the kind of internal evidence which I wish to recome mend to the further attention of your readers.
LETTER TO A BISHOP.
To the Editor. The following very spirited Letter, wbich was written more than 30 years ago, by the Rector of L
in Ireland, to his Diocesan, appears to mne to deserve publicity and preservation; and may afford a specimea to persons in similar circuinstances. If you think with me, perhaps you may deem it worthy of being deposited in your Magazine ; and its insertion will oblige, Dear Sir, yours very respectfully, SF
B. The Bishop of C. writing to the Hon, and Rev. W S--, in June 1778, among other things, which being of a private nature, we omit, says,' In case of your return to L-, I fairly warn you to lay aside your exceptionable doctrines for, without entering into paper controversy, I must and will surely proceed, in the most effectual manner to suppress all such." -To which this Champion for the truth, replies as follows :
• My Lord, -- After having wrote to your Lordship in the most respectful terms I could conceive, I was astonished at the unprovoked offensiveness of your Lordship's answer. Menaces, my Lord, between gentleinen are illiberal; but when they cannot be put in execution they are contemptible. In