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venly authority of that book; that I wished to prevail on him to investigate fully the evidences of Christianity; that having once been of his sentiments, I was acquainted with them in all their length and breadth. I told him, that without conversing with him minutely on the subject, I had no doubt he was ignorant of Bible facts and Bible language; but that, if he disputed his want of information, he might easily discover it, by conversing about the ancient literature connected with any part of the holy volume. He looked somewhat sur. prised when I spoke of his being destitute of knowledge, but after a time confessed that there was much history after which he had never inquired, and other facts he had forgotten which were connected with this subject. He inquired if I would permit him to read on both sides of this controversy, and looked surprised when I answered him in the affirmative. I told him that I would furnish him with as many infidel authors as he chose to read; that he should have an ample assortment, provided he would give an honest perusal to books written in answer. I offered to lend him any number of the books written against the Bible, provided he would attend faithfully to the other side of the controversy. He seemed to wonder at my proposal, but at length said he was inclined to read on my side of the question: inasmuch as he had examined his own, he was willing to begin with the advo. cates of Christianity.* He asked what I would consider
* The reason why I have always been willing to lend to an un. believer
number of infidel books, provided he will engage to hear honestly a full reply, will be more fully explained in another part of this work. It is not amiss, however, to give a brief state. ment of the case in passing. It is as follows: If an unbeliever discovers that his favourite or champion author, penned false
a full investigation of the subject. I told him that I had no doubt he would be altered in his belief before he had read half as far as a full investigation; that I never had known one man who was not convinced of the truth of the Bible, by the time he had given the subject only a moderate research. I told him, that out of the one hundred authors who had written for and against the holy book, I would send him six or eight only of the first I could procure: that after he had read these, I wished him to read the Bible with the notes of some commentator, (that he might not be ignorant of the Bible itself any longer,) and that if he would pursue this course of reading I would be satisfied. I went on to tell him what I must here pause in my narrative long enough to tell the reader. An infidel, when he begins to read on the evidences of Christianity, becomes more doubting and sceptical than ever, or more confirmed in his unbelief. This continues to increase during the former part of the research ; but let him persevere in a thorough investigation, and he begins to have a view of the truth, and is at last delivered altogether from the
hood after falsehood, page after page, it will begin to awaken his fears and his suspicions, so as to incline him toward more faith. ful research. True, if he reads one side only, all will be received as smooth and plausible, unless he is an historian. But if he reads the faithful answer, he cannot avoid seeing, now and then, bistory to which he may refer; and if he refers to it, must also discover the want of verity belonging to his leader. That those who have hated Christianity should have written against it, is not strange; but that they have made untrue statements con. tinually is readily discovered by all who are not afraid to hear both sides. When this unmingled, and uninterrupted falsehood is detected, it weakens the confidence the reader had in the fabricators.
thraldom of delusion. The facts are accurately pictured by the words of the much worn expression concerning the Pierian spring; the same waters that at first intox. icate, will sober again if drank plentifully. Many who begin to read, after glancing through one or two volumes hastily, lay them aside, more entangled in error than they were, and thinking within themselves that they have read the strongest arguments that can be brought for. ward in favour of Divine inspiration. Their condition is of course more deplorable than it was. Others do hastily examine a few volumes, and are not well enough informed to be able to understand clearly, and fairly weigh the arguments of the author; these may desist before they have mastered the subject. need a second or third perusal of the same pages before they can clearly view and appropriate the contents. Such may fancy that they have examined the subject when they really have not. But of those who have read six or eight authors on that subject, calmly, attentively, impartially, industriously, and renewedly if necessary,
I have never known one who did not cast away his infidelity. If any one should ask why we request the unbeliever to read many authors on the same subject, the evidences of Christianity, we answer that no two minds take the same course in writing on this subject. The arguments and evidences could not be condensed or abridged into a score of large volumes. Of course each writer is expected merely to select such ideas as strike him most forcefully. True, I have never read the author on the evidences of Christianity who did not seem to me in some one way or another to establish the position This is God's book ; but the farther we push our researches, meditations, and inquiries, the more
readily can we proceed, and the more capable are we of comprehending additional research. The case is by no means an uncommon one, where a reader lays down an author on this subject with disappointment and dissatisfaction, finding in it, as seems to him, very little excellence of any kind. Twelve months after, upon taking up casually the same volume, he is astonished at a thought there which he had not noticed before. He proceeds, and many of the arguments there appear as clear and distinct as a stream of electricity over a dark cloud. The reason of this is, that his mind is in a condition better to perceive, weigh, and prize the argument. His mind becomes thus better capable whilst reading other things on the same subject in other writers. Men love darkness rather than light; hence it is that many unbelievers are not capable of understanding and appreciating one half they read on this subject; indeed none are, until they pursue the investi. gation to some extent.
The young man of whom I have been writing inquir. ed what authors on the evidences of Christianity I chiefly recommended ? I told him that I had a choice, but it was not so marked as to fix on given volumes indispensably; that I did not fear the result, provided he did not stop short of the given number, although he might peruse those productions the most readily obtained, or the first procured. He told me that he would read six or eight of the first books I should send him, and the Bible afterwards with Scott's notes. The following are, as nearly as I can remember, the books which I obtained and sent or carried to him, one as soon as he had finished the other. Alexander's Evidences, Paley's Evidences, Watson's Answer to Paine, Jews' Letters to Voltaire,
Horne's Introduction, vol. i., and Faber's Difficulties of Infidelity. Before he was entirely through with these books, he told me, with a serious face and voice, that he had something to tell me of himself that was indeed sin. gular : "I am,” said he, “in a strange condition. I will confess to you, frankly and honestly, that these authors have met, answered, and fairly overturned, every difficulty and every objection which I had mustered and opposed to the Bible as being from God. Furthermore, I do acknowledge that I have found arguments in favour of its Divine authority, so plain and so momentous, that I am unable to meet or to answer them, and yet I do not believe. I cannot, and I do not believe the Bible!” I had then a secret hope that he would still continue his course of reading. Old and long habits of infidelity have a tendency to hang upon us like settled diseases of periodical recurrence. But I did not speak to him sooth. ingly; and I dare not say any thing beyond naked truth, even should it sound harshly. I told him that the defenders of Christianity had proved its truth, and that was all they had expected or attempted. I told him that God had left on record facts enough to evince that the Scrip. tures were Divinely inspired; to prove this, and to advise obedience, was, the mode of his dealing with men. “ Compulsory measures," I added, “ we never read of his using ; and man himself, even wicked man, would rather that his free agency should not be taken away, and would complain at the thought or expectation of its being des. troyed. These writers have proved their position, and you do not believe. Now you may and can walk the entire road to ruin, as a round rock can roll down hill; because it is one of the truths of the Bible, and one of the first truths taught in it, that man is a fallen creature,