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a poet and a man of birth-that caprice and vanity, that selfconceit and misanthropy, that delight in the alliance of vice with gilded virtues, which mark an abandonment of all moral feeling. I want no one to explain to me the sources of the unbelief of such writers. *
I turn to our modern historians, and I mark their blunders in what relates to religion, their inconsistencies, their misrepresentations, the impurities which defile their pages, their vanity and self-confidence, and the malice and spleen with which they pursue the followers of Christ.t-I ask no further questions.
I open the works of the German infidels, and find the index of their real temper in the follies and absurdities with which they are content to forsake all common sense in their comments on the sacred text, and to exhibit themselves as the gazing-stocks of Christendom.
I cast my eye on the flippancy of the French school of irreligion, and see such entire ignorance of the simplest points of religious knowledge, such gross impurities, connected with blasphemies which I dare not repeat; I see such an obvious attempt to confound truth and falsehood on the most important of all subjects, and such a bitterness of scorn, a sort of satanic rancor, against the Christian religion and its divine Founder, as to betray most clearly the cause in which they are engaged. I take the confession of one of their number, and ask whether, in such a temper of mind, any religious question could be soundly determined ? “I have consulted our philosophers, I have perused their books, I have examined their several opinions, I have found them all proud, positive and dogmatical, even in their pretended scepticism; knowing every thing, proving nothing, and ridiculing one another."
“If our philosophers were able to discover truth, which of them would interest himself about it? There is not one of them who, if he could distinguish truth from falsehood, would not prefer his own error to the truth that is discovered by another. Where is the philosopher who, for his own glory, would not willingly deceive the whole human race?''
If, from the literary and scientific unbelievers, we turn to THE UNINFORMED AND NEGLIGENT CLASS OF YOUNG PERSONS, who have imbibed, or profess to have imbibed, the tenets of
* Lord Byron.
Hume and Gibbon.
scepticism, what is their state of mind? I do not ask, What are their arguments ?-those we may hereafter notice—but I ask, What is their obvious temper of mind? In what sort of disposition have they approached the sacred subject? Have they ever shown any real marks of docility and candor ? Have they ever taken pains, serious pains, about the question ? Have they ever acquired any sound information on the subject of religion? Have they ever made themselves thoroughly acquainted with the New Testament? Do they know what the Christianity is which they oppose? Is there any thing of devotion, and a spirit of prayer to the great and glorious God, to illumine and guide their minds? What is their spirit and temper? This, this is the key. Ask their parents, their families, their neighborhoods.
The case speaks for itself. Their unbelief is not the result of honest and laborious inquiry, but the careless vanity and indifference of a mind inflated and corrupted by immoral pleasure, and which has never seriously examined the subject. They have glided into infidelity by the lapse of time and the current of the passions. They are not, properly speaking, unbelievers. They do not know enough of the Bible. Their vices and pride have occasioned doubts, indeed, but they dare not trust to them; their ignorance has adopted these doubts, but they do not understand them. Their vanity boasts of these doubts, but they are not able to make them a resource.*
If from this vapid class we turn to the LOW AND PROFANE, and what I may call, without a breach of charity, the RUFFIAN unbelief which is propagated among the dregs of society in the present day, shall I stop to insult the ears of a devout audience, by asking, whether the obvious temper of mind which animates them, and which, if it were to spread, would break out into open violence against the peace of society, can consist with a dispassionate and candid search after religious truth? What, when I see all the first principles of our moral nature outraged, the foundations of virtue overturned, civil order and subjection openly invaded, and adultery and assassination vindicated—what, when I see the most daring blasphemies vomited forth in the face of day, not against the God of the Bible only, but against the God of nature-did I say against the God of nature ?-alas! some of them deny
* See a noble Sermon of Massillon, Carême, Mardi de la quatrième semaine, Des doutes sur la Religion.
the very being of a God, and have proceeded to the frightful and unparalleled in piety of exhibiting to public view a wretched, disgusting caricature-I use the only appropriate words to describe the fact-nothing else than a wretched, disgusting caricature--with the design of ridiculing the ineffable glory and attributes of that omniscient God," before whose face the earth and the heavens flee away, and no place is found for them.” *
III. The force of this preliminary argument against infidelity, drawn from the temper of mind which it manifests, will be increased, if we proceed to state SOME REASONS WHICH EVINCE THE INDISPENSABLE IMPORTANce of a childlike spirit to a sound inquiry into such a subject. The facts, indeed, which I have stated, speak for themselves; but there are not wanting obvious arguments to deepen their impression upon the heart.
The first may be drawn from the influence of the passions over the determinations of the understanding. We are not merely intellectual creatures; we are led by our affections. Our judgment is swayed perpetually by what we love and desire. Pride, self-conceit, custom, ambition, vanity, envy, malice, party spirit, vices of every kind, darken the understanding, give a bias to the judgment, and cause all the operations of the mind to decline insensibly from the path of rectitude and truth. Like the jaundiced eye, or the palate infected by a fever, the understanding is incapable of discerning truth, when the affections are irritated and inflamed. We all know that even questions in the arts, in literature, in
* It will not be believed by posterity, that in the year 1827, in a public street of the metropolis of a Protestant Christian empire, a print, such as I have described, was actually exhibited. I have spoken of the writings of this class of infidels from actual knowledge. I have sent for a specimen of their books. I have looked into Sem. I cannot trust myself to speak of that monstrous compound of folly, absurdity and profligacy, that disgusting mass of open irreligion-I should rather say, atheism-united with unblushing effrontery in contradicting the best established facts, and a direct pandering to the lowest passions of the common people, which is there exhibited, and which leaves the French school of infidelity far behind it,-for it wants the talent, the wit and elegance of style, the occasional readiness to support oppressed innocence, and the illustrations and defence of discoveries in natural philosophy, which must be conceded to have belonged to some of the French infidel writers. IT IS A GLORY TO CHRISTIANITY TO BE OPPOSED
BY SUCH ADVERSARIES.
the sciences, in politics, in morals, are every day agitated with unfairness and exaggeration, when the passions of men are excited; and that afterwards they sink, by the tacit consent of all parties, into comparative neglect, when reason and truth have resumed their sway.
2. Accordingly, something of this docile temper is acknowledged by all to be essential to every important investigation; in fact, to every business of human life. Men object to our requiring this candid and tractable temper in religion; but what is there that can be studied without a similar temper? Will a father, a master, an instructer of any class, allow of levity, indifference, self-will, scorn, in his child or pupil ? Can any thing be done with a perverse, unwilling student? Can any thing be taught without some correspondent attention, docility, application of mind, openness to receive conviction ? Is not this the law of our nature, the condition of humanity itself? Did not even the heathen philosophers admit this? Does not Quintilian require virtue in the orator, and Aristotle demand experience, morals, and even age in the student of ethics ? And does not our great modern philosopher, Bacon, require the same in those who would pursue the study of nature ? His words, in fact, are borrowed from the injunction of my text: “ There is no other entrance,” says lord. Bacon,“ to the kingdom of man, which is founded in the sciences, than to the kingdom of heaven, in which no one can enter but in the character of a little
3. Now, if this is acknowledged in all cases, how much more must it be applicable to the investigation of the Chris. tian evidences; where the whole question is deeply moral and religious, where a revelation of the will of the Most High God is professed to be conveyed, where the sonl of man, the rule of duty, the means of pardon and reconciliation, the sources of spiritual purity, are concerned—where reverence, and solemnity, and fear of mistake, and promptitude to rejoice in the will of God when known, should regulate every thought, and calm every interfering affection?
This is the more important, because the inquirer perfectly well knows that if Christianity be once allowed to be true, a restraint must be put on all the passions, a submission of understanding and heart be unreservedly made, a rule of morals admitted to which every sin is contradictory, a silence imposed upon human pride and human reasonings before the revelation of the one eternal God, and a totally new course of life be entered upon and pursued.
* Ut non alius fere sit aditus ad regnum hominis, quod fundatur in scientiis, quam ad regnum cælorum in quod nisi sub persona infantio, intrare non datur -Nov. Org. 1. 68.
Now, what is the temper of mind in which the evidences of such a religion should be studied ? Must there not at least be something of docility, of seriousness, of a spirit of prayer, of a practical obedience to the rule of duty so far as it is known; that is, something of the very temper which we are enforcing? Can we wonder that men utterly devoid of every ingredient of this temper, should be incapable of understanding the subject, should frustrate the effect of all testimony whatever ?
4. But, further, Christianity expressly requires this childlike simplicity of mind in those who would examine her claims. I am not arguing now from the truth of our religion. I am merely stating that, as every art and science has some previous truths in common, which she first lays downMorals her data–History her maxims-Geometry her axioms
- Physics her rules of philosophizing,—so Christianity has her first principles from which she sets out, and without the admission of which no real progress can be made. Christianity inscribes on the portal of her dominions, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein." Christianity does not profess to convince the perverse and headstrong, to bring irresistible evidences to the daring and profane, to vanquish the proud scorner, and afford evidences from which the careless and perverse cannot possibly escape. This might go to destroy man's responsibility. All that Christianity professes, is to propose such evidences as may satisfy the meek, the tractable, the candid, the serious inquirer. The grace of God, at times, indeed, overcomes others; but it is in order to bring them to this docile and humble temper, in which alone is there a recipiency, a capacity for admitting truth. As to the evidences of our religion, perhaps they are left so, says a profound observer, as that those who are desirous of evading moral obligation should not see them, whilst fair and candid
persons should. *