« PreviousContinue »
his posterity have been able to see, that repentance and submission are any proper ground of pardon and acceptance in the sight of God. If there be any religion, therefore, in this fallen world, which is completely adapted to save fallen creatures, it must have originated in the divine mind, and come to us by a divine rev. elation. And since Christianity is adapted to this purpose, and comes to us in this way, it is so far perfectly agreeable to reason. This naturally leads us to cbserve,
2. That Christianity brings with it such evidence of this divine origin, as might be reasonably expected It belongs to the province of reason to judge, whether the credentials of a pretended revelation are sufficient to support it. Christianity would not be a reasonable religion, if it did not exhibit proper testimonials of its divine original. But in this respect, it is certainly agreeable to reason. It brings with it two kinds of evidence, which are the most infallible and irresistible. These are miracles and prophecies. Moses and the prophets, Christ and his apostles, wrought many mira cles, to confirm their divine mission, and the truth of all their doctrines and declarations. Those miracles cxtorted the belief of both friends and enemies. The magicians acknowledged the finger of God in the mir. acles of Moses; and the Scribes and Pharisees acknowledged that Christ did many miracles. This is the highest kind of evidence, that reason can discover or demand in favor of Christianity, and a higher testimony than has ever been given in favor of any false religion. When Mahomet was called upon to work miracles in testimony of his pretended revelations, he refused to make the attempt, lest he should discover his impotence and falsehood. But those who wrote the sacred Book, which contains the Christian religion,
elearly exhibited this supernatural testimony in their favor. Besides, they confirmed their divine authority by prophecies as well as miracles. Their predictions of many great and interesting events, have been fulfilled, and are still fulfilling before the eyes of the world. Have not the Babylonian, Persian, Grecian and Ro. man monarchies, risen and fallen, as they foretold? Has not Christ come, and suffered, and died, and risen again according to the scriptures: Has not Jerusalem been destroyed, and the Jews dispersed, agreeably to the predictions of Christ? Has not the man of sin appeared and acted in the manner, which Daniel and Paul foresaw and foretold? And are not the seed of Jacob and the posterity of Ishmael, by their situation and conduct, visibly fulfilling what was predicted of them, seve eral thousand years ago? This fulfilment of prophecy, like a miracle, is a divine testimony in favor of Christianity, which is superior to any other testimony that could be given. The Christian religion is perfectly agreeable to reason in point of evidence; for it brings with it the highest testimony that can be conceived, expected or desired.
3. Christianity exhibits such things, as it might be reasonably expected, a revealed religion should exhibit. It exhibits the character and state of man both before and after he became a sinner. It exhibits the gracious design of the ever blessed Trinity, to save our fallen race from sin and misery. It exhibits the character and conduct of the church and of their enemies. It exhibits some of the most extraordinary and important changes and revolutions, which have taken place among the nations of the earth. It exhibits the great preparations which were made for the coming, the death, and sufferings of the divine Redeemer. In a word, it exhibits those things, which none but God
could exhibit, and which were the most useful and necessary for mankind to know, in their present guilty and perishing situation. It is just such a revelation as it might be reasonably expected God would give to mankind, if he intended to shiew them mercy. Christianity bears upon the very face of it, the image and superscription of the Deity, and has every internal mark of its coming from God, which the soundest reason can suggest or demand.
4. The religion of Christ is agreeable to reason, in regard to the doctrines, which it contains and inculcates. The doctrine of a Trinity in Unity is agreeable to reason, improved and assisted by divine revelation. It is reasonable to think, that the eternal God should exist in a mysterious, incomprehensible manner; and when he tells us so, it is reasonable to believe his declaration concerning his own existence. The doctrine of Christ's incarnation is agreeable to reason, in the same sense, that the doctrine of the Trinity is. Why should it be thought incredible, that he who was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, should take upon him the fashion of man, and become personally united with human nature, to save our sinful world? It was worthy of God to send bis Son for this purpose, and worthy of his Son to come into our nature, and into our world, to answer such a wise and benevolent design. It is therefore, agreeable to the plainest dictates of reason to believe, what he who perfectly knows has told us, that “God was manifest in the flesh.” It is reasonable to suppose, that a revealed religion should contain some things, which mankind could not discover, nor comprehend, by reason; and therefore the doctrines of the Trinity, and of the incarnation of Christ, render Christianity not less, but more agreeable to improved and assisted reason.
As to the other Christian doctrines, which are not considered mysterious, they are agreeable to reason, in the same sense, in which all other truths are so, that depend upon a train of clear and fair reasoning. The doctrine of atonement, for instance, which is the most essential, and peculiar principle of Christianity, approves itself to every man's reason, properly exercised and assisted. Though reason could not discover how an atonement for sin could be made; yet now it is made and revealed, reason can discern the propriety of God's pardoning penitent sinners on account of it. The doctrines concerning the divine purposes, and the divine agency in the natural and moral world; concerning the total depravity and renovation of the human heart; concerning the final perseverance of saints; and concerning the future rewards and punishments of the righteous and wicked, are all agreeable to reason, when viewed in their proper dependance upon and connexion with each other, in the great system of Christianity. It is true, indeed, that very few men are capable of tracing all the doctrines of the gospel in their intimate relation to and connexion with each other, and so many may remain ignorant of the reasonableness of some particular articles. But this is no more an evidence, that those particular articles of Christianity are not agreeable to reason, than a man's ignorance of certain mathematical demonstrations, is an evidence, that those demonstrations are not agreeable to reason. A man must study mathematics, in order to see how the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles. A man must study astronomy, in
. order to see how the sun or the moon will be eclipsed, at a certain time, and in a certain place. So a man must search the Scriptures, in order to see the reason. ableness of Christianity, which contains a connected
system of divine truths. Let these be impartially examined, and fairly traced through their various relations and connexions, and the deepest as well as plainest things contained in the gospel will appear perfectly agreeable to reason. This leads me to observe, once more,
5. That the reasonableness of Christianity appears from the conviction that it has actually carried to the reason and conscience of mankind, in all ages. It has made its way in the world, not by foreign and exterior aid, but by its own intrinsic truth and excellence, Other religions have been propagated, by the force of arms and the power of the civil magistrate. But Christianity has made its way, not only without, but against human power and authority, and approved itself to every man's conscience in the sight of God. It has been called before the bar of kings, judges, and philosophers, and prevailed. It made Felix tremble, and Agrippa say, “I am almost persuaded to be a Christian." It convinced a Judge of the court of Athens, and several other respectable characters in that city. It convinced Constantine the great, and multi. tudes of his most eminent subjects.
It convinced a Bacon, a Boyle, a Locke, a Newton and a Johnson, in Britain; and it has produced the same effect in the minds of the most eminent men, of all professions, in America. Some of the most ingenius and learned among the Laity as well as Clergy, have appeared as advocates for Christianity, and refuted every objection of its enemies beyond the possibility of reply. Hume never presumed to reply to Bishop Berkley, nor Gibbon to Bishop Watson, nor Bolingbrook and Shaftsbury to those, who exposed their sophistry and malignity. This triumph of Christianity over learning, philosophy, bigotry and superstition, is a strong and con