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THERE is nothing more truly remarkable in the character of man, than his conduct in regard to eternity. The shortness of human life, the transitory nature of all earthly enjoyments, and the utter vanity of every object of human ambition, are truths which have been, in all ages, universally acknowledged and deplored. It might therefore have been imagined, that the prospect of never-ending life and happiness beyond the grave, would have been grasped at with an eagerness in some degree proportioned to the evanescent character of the present, and the vastness of the future state of existence. In the pursuit of wealth, the world at large has toiled with a zeal and a perseverance which has been abated by no disappointment, and overcome by no obstacle. There is nothing, however recondite, in the walks of science, or the speculations of philosophy, which has not stimulated the curiosity, and exercised the industry of multitudes. But strange as it might seem to one unacquainted with mankind,
the evidences of Divine Revelation bave been treated with an indifference and neglect altogether astonishing. This remark cannot be confined to those only who reject the Bible, or indeed to any one class of characters exclusively. It is applicable to persons of every description. It applies not only to those who openly renounce Revelation, and intrench themselves behind the ramparts of infidelity, but also to multitudes who profess to be believers in the Scriptures, and in the doctrines they contain.
From the age of Celsus and Porphyry, down to that of Voltaire and Thomas Paine, it may be safely affirmed there never has appeared one solitary unbeliever who has discovered by his writings, that he was thoroughly conversant with the nature or the evidences of that Revelation which he undertook to overthrow. In most of the opponents of the Christian religion, the greatest ignorance is manifest. Their rejection of the Bible, far from being the result of a patient and full examination of its evidence, only displays a deep-rooted disaffection to its contents. They have evidently been urged to the acquirement of their slender acquaintance with the subject, not by the importance of the question, not by that love of truth of which they are ever boasting, but by the desire of discovering something weak at the foundation of Christianity. In this deplorable state of mind, it cannot be imagined that they would be assiduous in endeavouring fully to acquaint
themselves even with those evidences which are most obvious. Far less can it be expected that they should diligently search for such proof as requires more laborious investigation, or that they should retain a deep impression of the distinguishing features of those testimonies to which they have been actually introduced. They dislike the subject, and impatiently attend to it only so long as they hope to collect materials for cavil. When their unhallowed task is done, they usually take an abrupt departure, and for the most part bid a final farewell to that path, which, if pursued in a different spirit, might have conducted them to peace and happiness.
If this be the case with the philosophic unbelieverif this be the procedure of the boasted friends of free enquiry, shall we be astonished to find the bulk of unbelievers totally ignorant of the evidences of Christianity? They reject the Bible, because they dislike it, and justify their dislike by objections, which the slightest acquaintance with the subject would have altogether precluded. These objections, a thousand times refuted, they advance, as unanswerable, with a confidence, which shows that they have never deemed it of any moment to consider or receive those satisfactory solutions which have been afforded by research.
In every other concern of human life, the folly and danger of such conduct would at once be manifest. Eager enquiry, in proportion to the magnitude and importance of the object, would be made without delay, and no pains would be spared to obtain information. The most hidden sources of evidence would be carefully explored, and the most recondite treasures unlocked. No avenue would remain untried that gave the faintest promise of leading to knowledge. But in regard to the things of God, man's conduct is a mystery which Revelation only can explain.
A book that presents itself as a messenger from heaven, furnished with ample credentials, cannot be safely overlooked or rejected without enquiry. True wisdom cannot refuse to hear it, and examine it with candour. If its claims be well founded, they are paramount to all other interests, and all earthly glory in the comparison loses its lustre. If the Bible be the Word of God, its contents demand the utmost attention. This, however, is the only subject on which human curiosity does not relish information. The wise men of this world, as well as the ignorant, neglect the book of God, and while they boast the most intimate acquaintance with all the sages of Greece and Rome, they know little of Jesus Christ and the Apostles.
How affecting is it to behold, upon the only question of infinite and eternal moment, so many
their minds without any suitable enquiry, and madly stake their all against a body of evidence which they have never examined ! Blinded by prejudice, and influenced by aversion to the truth, they impose on themselves,
by the most silly sophisms, the unsoundness of which, on all other subjects, they would instantly perceive. Men of the strongest intellectual powers are frequently duped by objections that would not stumble a child ; some difficulty in the system of Christianity or the records of Revelation, strikes their mind, which, without a thorough examination, appears of sufficient weight to excuse them from farther enquiry on a subject which they find disagreeable. Such conduct verifies the Scriptures, and affords additional evidence of their authenticity. It shows human nature to be what the Bible represents it, and stamps the character which it gives of man as a revelation from God.
But it is not only to avowed unbelievers that the charge of inadequate acquaintance with the evidences of Revelation attaches, it is in a great measure applicable to the majority of the professors of Christianity. Of these not a few appear to take this matter altogether on trust. It seems quite enough for them that there are elaborate books of evidence, bearing on their titlepage the names of those who have been distinguished for their learning and talents. Such conduct would be less irrational if the mere abstract truth of Revelation were all that is to be considered, but it is perfect foolishness when viewed in the light of Scripture, which declares that its discoveries can be of no avail without personal faith. He that believes not the Gospel on its proper evidence, has no ground to look forward to the