1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

Evidences of Christianity, in their external, or historical, division ... online

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XI. None of those who were Eyewitnesses of what Jesus or His Apostles
virrought, were ever induced to confess themselves deceived, or that they had
ever seen anything but Truth in those miraculous Gifts by which they had been
persuaded to embrace the Gospel, p. 169.

XII. The Character of the Miracles themselves, p. 171.

XIII. Evidence from the primitive Adversaries of Christianity, p. 172.

XIV. Testimony of all wno were converted to Christianity. Such Testunony
shown to be stronger than that of Adversaries, p. 176.

The Absurdities which must be believed by those who maintain that the Mira-
cles were Fictions, and, consequently, that their Authors were Deceivers, p. 179.

PBOPHBcr, p. 184.

In having proved the Genuineness of the Miracles attesting the Divine Mission
of Christ and His Apostles, we have made out a complete Proof of the Divine Au-
thority of Christianity. But our Object being, not only to prove this, but to show
by how many Ways it may be proveo, we take up a new Line of Argument derived
from Prophecy, p. 184.

What a Prophecy is. The Application of fulfilled Prophecy to the Proof of a
Divine Revelation, p. 185.

Prophecy furnishes an Argument which, in point of Force, is continually grou-
ing, p. 186.

In much of the Argument from Prophecy, the Evidence is before our Eyes, ad
dressed to our Senses, p. 188.

The 'Religion of the Bible is the only one which, on its first Introduction, ap
pealed to Prophecy for the Credentials of its Founder, p. 190.

The Weight of the Evidence from Prophecy, and the moral Grandeur with
winch it appears in Evidence of Christianity, can be appreciated only by a full
View of the immense Scheme and Extent of the Prophecies in the Bible, p. 193.

The Fulfilment of a Selection of miscellaneous Prophecies exhibited, p. 198.
Prophecies concerning Zedekiah, p. 198 ; the Destruction of Babylon, p. 198 ; and
x>f Tyre, p. 199 ; concerning Egypt, p. 200; concerning the Country and Cities of
Judea, p. 201 ; concerning the Jews, p. 202 ; concerning the Empires of Chaldea,
Persia, Macedon, and Rome, in Daniel, p. 206.

The Fulfilment of Prophecies concernmg Christ, p. 208.

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Ist. Those which relate to the Time and Circumstances of His Advent, p. 208.
2d. Those which speak of His Life, Sufferings, Death, Resurrection, and In-
siease bf His Kingdom, p. 209.
The Idea of Chance, as explaining the Coincidences mentioned, p. 213.
Tliree Conclusions from tne prophetic Argument, as exhibited, p. 215.


FROFHBCT, p. 216.

Christ was the Author, as well as the Subject, of Prophecies.

By Prophecy, as well as Miracles, He proved His Divine Mission. Nooe of
His Prophecies more Impressive than those concerning the Destruction of Jerusa-
lem. These select^ for present Consideration, p. 216.

Is it well ascertained that these were pubUshea before the Event T p. 217.

Ist. The Prediction of the appearing of False Christs, deceiving Many, by
Signs and Wonders, prior to the main Event, p. 219.

2d. Of Wars and rumours of Wars preceding the Siege of Jerusalem, p. 220.

3d. Of Famines, Pestilences, and Earthquakes, in divers Places, p. 221.

4th. Of fearful Signs from Heaven, p. 222.

5th. Of the Persecution of Christians as one of the Signs of approaching Des-
olations, p. 22i.

6th. A consequent declension of Religion among the professed Disciplet of
Christ, p. 225.

7th. The preaching of the Gospel in all the World for a Witness before the
Event should come, p. 225.

8th. Jerusalem compassed with Armies, and the Escape of the Christians, p: 227

9th. The Method ot the Siege, p. 230.

lOth. The unparalleled Tribulation, p. 231.

Ilth. The complete Destruction of the City and Temple, p. 23i.

12th. The Captivity of the Jews in all Nations, p. 238.

Jerusalem trodden down of the Gentiles, p. 239.

Attempt of Julian to rebuild the Temple, p. 240;

Brief View of the Condition of Jerusalem tp the present Time, p. 242.

Reflections on the preceding Particulars, p. 245.

Postscript, containmg an Apphcationof the Theory of ProbabiKtiea to the Proph-
ecies considered above, showing the Argument negatively^ p. 247.



The Proof of Christianity as a Divine Revelation has already been twice finish-
ed: first f by the Argument from Miracles ; secondly, by that from Prophecy, p. 25L

A third independent Proof is now to be undertaken.

In estimating the propagation of the Gospel as an Evidence of Divine Attesta-
tion, consider,

I. The Difficulties which its first promulgators encountered, p. 252.

1st. The Novelty of the Idea of propagating a new Religion, to the Exclusion
of all others, p. 252.

2d. The Peculiarity of the Gospel, as a System of Doctrine, and a Rule of Heart
and Life, p. 254.

3d. From the above, it results that the Propagation of Christianity must have
been opposed by all the Influence of every Priesthood, Heathen aftd Jewish, p. 256.

4th. The Opposition of the Magistrate was added to that of the Priest, p. 256.

5th. To these associated Powers were added the opposing Prejudices and Pat-
sioHS of all People, p. 259.

0th. The Wisdom and Pride of the Heathen Philosophers were not the least for-
midable Opponents, p. 260.

7th. All these Opponents derived the greater Influence from the peculiar Charac-
ter of the Age, p. 261.

8ih. They appear the more formidable in contrast with the peculiar Character of
the Men to whom the Propagation of the Gospel was committed, p. 262.

9th. And by a Consideration of the Circumstances of Depression and DucouragO'
went under which those Men began their Work, p. 263.

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10th. And of the Mode they adopted, p. 264.

11th. They were met everywhere by the fiercest Persecutum, p. 265.

It is certain that they understood the Difficulties and anticipated the Dangert
of their Undertaking, p. 267.

II. The Success of the Apostles in propagating the Gospel, p. 268.

A brief View of the Progress of Christianity during about seventy Years from
the Commencement of its Promulgation, p. 266-274.

This rapid Extension compared with that of the Doctrines of Heathen Philoso-
phers, p. 274.

And with the Propagation of Mohammedanism, p. 275.

And with the Success attending Efiforts at the present Day for the Establish-
ment of Christianity among the Heathen, p. 278.

The Propagation of the Gospel by the Apostles was a Miracle, p. 280.

The Absurdities necessarily attaching to any Effort to account for it on other
Grounds than that of the Power and Favour ot God, p. 280.

The Argument from Propagation is not yet Complete, it is yet to receive im-
mense additional Force from the Success which is yet promised to the Gospel,
p. 283.



A fourth Line of Argument, and a fourth independent Proof conmienced in this

The true Results of any System of Doctrine are always a correct Exponent of
its Character, as True or False.

This is a Test to which the Saviour Himself directed us, p. 284.

It were well if Infidelity were more fre<)uently tried by this Test, p. 285.

The Consideration*of the Fruits of Chnstianity divided into,

I. The Effects of Christianity on Society in general.

II. Its Effects on the Character arul Hapoiness of its genuine Disciples, p. 285.
The Former made tbd Subject of this Lecture.

A brief Survey of the moral Condition of the World at the first Publication of
the Gospel, p. 285.

1st. The Keligim of the Heathen in the Age of the Apostles, p. 286.

2d. The Spirit of Cruelty that reigned among them, p. 288.

3d. Their degrading Vices, p. 291.

The striking Contrast wherever genuine Christianity has reigned, p. 294-299.

There is no possible Way of accounting for this Contrast but by ascribing it to
the direct Influence of Chnstianity, p. 299-302.

Confessions of Infidels, p. 302.

Illustrations of the Fruit of Christianity in modem Missions among the Hea-
then, p. 302.

Defence of Christianity against the Charge of being the Cause of the Wars,
Persecutions, &€.; which are connected with its History, p. 306. .

Application of the Argument. The Absurdities necessarily involved in the
Creed of the Infidel, p. 312.



The Trial of Christianity by its Fruits is as Philosophical as it is Scriptural.
Eighteen Centuries have afforded all conceivable Opportunities of ascertaining
what are its genuine Fruits, p. 317.

The present Lecture connned to the Fruits of Christianity m the Character and
Happiness of its genuine Disciples, p. 318.

Reason for placing such Fruits among the external Evidences, p. 318.

I. The moral Transformations which the Gospel in all Ages has notoriously
wrought cannot be accounted for but on the Supposition of a Divine Power ac-
companying its Operations, p. 318.

II. The Fruits of Christianity in the Lives of its genuine Disciples contrasted
with those which notoriously characterize the Lives of its Opposers, p. 326,


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III. The Fruits, &c., as displayed in the Deaths of its genuine Disciples, con-
trasted with those exhibited in the Deaths of its Opposers, p. 341.
Practical Conclusion, p. 356.



The Recapitulation of the Argument in the pr^eding Lectures, p. 357-369.

This Review leads to the Consideration of,

1st. The Plainness and Simplicity of the Evidences of Christianity, p. 369.

2d. Their great Variety and Accumulation^ p. 370.

3d. Their Jmpressiveness, p. 372.

4th. The whole Array is strictJy Philosophical, p. 375.

The Objection founded on the Mysteriousness of certain Things in Christianity
answered, p. 382.

The Objection that we cannot understand the Reason of certain Things for
which Christianity is responsible answered, p. 385.

The Injustice done to Christianity by placing her so exclusively on the Defen
sive. Lei infidelity be placed in the same Position, p. 389.



Christianity and the Scriptures are essentially Associated. But the Proof of
Divine Revelation in the Former is no Proof of Divine Inspiration in the Latter.
Need of Inspiration in the Book which tells us what Christianity is, p. 392

The Proposition to be sustained in this Lecture is, that

All Scripture is given by Inspiration of Gody p. 393.

Inspiration detined, p. 393.

Having Established the Credibility of the Saviour and His Apostles as Messen
gers sent of God, our direct Reference in the present inquiry is to what they have
asserted, so that our simple Question is, Does the New Testament bear Witness thai
the several Books of the hiide were treated by the Saviotir or His Apostles as Divinely

Tired ? ip. 394.
The Inquiry begun with regard to the Books of the Old Testament, p. 394.

1st. The Saviour and his Apostles regarded the Old Testament with at least as
much Reverence as did the Jews in their day, p. 394.

2d. We have the direct Assertion of the Inspiration of the Books of the Old
Testament by St. Paul, p. 396.

II. The Inquiry continued with regard to the Books of the New Testament.

1st. The Inspiration of the New Testament may be naturally and reasonably
inferred from that of the Old, p. 397.

2d. The same Conclusion necessarily follows from the evident Inspiration ot
the Apostles in their Preaching and other official Acts, p. 399.

3d. If the Apostles did not intend to produce this Conviction, and it be not
well founded, they adopted the most hkeiy Means of leading us into a most im-
portant Heresy, p. 401.

Practical Address to Readers in Conclusion, p. 405.

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I APPEAR before those who have come this evening to
fiivour me with their attention, as sustaining, under appoint-
ment from the University of the city of New York, the office
of Lecturer on the Evidences of Christianity. It is but jus-
tice to my own fedings, to assure you that I had not thought
of entering on so much responsibility until earnestly requested
to do so by respected indi^dduals belongnig to the Council of
that institution. I am not without much apprehension of
having ventured far beyond my qualifications in acceding to
their desires. When I think of the many in this city of
much superior furniture of mind and spirit, to whom the
office might have been intrusted, and of my own daily and
engrossing occupations in the duties of the ministry, leaving
so little time or strength for any other occupation, however
important, it is a matter almost of alarm that I find myself
conmutted to a series of lectures for which the very best in-
tellect, the soundest judgment, and the most deUberate study,
are so much needed. But having undertaken the work, I
trust the Lord has ordered the step in wisdom, and, if I seek
his guidance, will enable me to go forward in a strength
above my own; so that I may be the instrument, under his
hand, of contributing something to promote the improve-
ment and everlasting happiness of those to whom I may have
the pleasure .of speaking.

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The present lecture will be exclusively of an introductory
kind. I pause at the threshold, in remembrance of the word
and promise of God : " In all thy ways acknowledge Him^
and He shall direct thy steps?^ I would devoutly acknow-
ledge God as the omniscient witness in this undertaking ;
the only source of wisdom, strength, and blessing, " from
whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works
do proceed." May his Holy Spirit, through the mediation of
his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is " the way, the truth,
and the life," " God, blessed for ever," condescend to guide our
way and help our infirmities, that all may see and embrace

the TRUTH.

The subject to which we are to direct our attenticm, has
engaged the powers of wise, learned, and good men, in almost
all ages since the promulgation erf Christianity, Minds of
every class, and in alldqpartmaits of intellectual occupation,
have directly or indirectly, by design or imwittingly, contri-
buted materials for its elucidation. Thus it has come to pass
that the difficulty of an appropriate exhibition of the evi-
dences of .Christianity is rather on the side of selection and
arrangement and the just proportioning of argum^its, than
of theirsufficient multiplication. To give the various branches
of the subject their just measure of relief and prinninence ;
to determine what should be displayed strongly and com-
pletely, and what should be sketched with a lighter pencil,
and placed in the background of the picture ; to adjust the
numerous parts in such symmetry as will present the whole
with the most undivided and overcoming effect, is a difficulty
of no little magnitude, where attention to space and time is
of so mudi consequence as in the present undertaking. The
nicest discrimination, the most logical taste, and a tal^it for
extensive combination^ may here find room for the exercise
of all their powers. The danger is that one will lose him-
self amidst the wide spread and accumulated treasures of
illustration and evidence ; that he will fail so entirely in their


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classification as to see and exhibit them confusedly and un-
justly, and for want of a good discipline among his own
thoughts will lead out his forces in feeble detail, instead of
forming them into compact masses, and meeting the enemy
on every side with a self-sustained combination of strengtli.

Before we proceed to the main question on wliich our sub-
sequent lectures are to be employed, it will be well to call
your attention to,

I. The high importance of the investigation on which we
are about to enter. You are to unite with me in examining
the grounds on which the religion of the gospel claims to be
received, to the exclusion of every other reUgion in the
world, as containing the only way of duty and the only
foundation of a sinner's hope of salvation ; so that you may
be enabled to answer satisfactorily to your own consci^icea
and to all who may ask a reason of your belief, this great
question : Is the religion of Jesus Christ as exhibited in the
New Testament J a revelation from God, and consequently
possessed of a sovereign right to universal faith and obe-

There are considerations intrinsically belonging to this
question, which place it in an aspect of unrivalled importance.

We must have the religion of Christ or none. A very
little reflection will make it apparent, that the question as to
the truth of Christianity is not one of preference between two
rival systems of doctrine, having conflicting claims and
nearly balanced arguments and benefits ; it is not whether
the gospel is more true and salutary than some other mode
of religion, which though inferior would still secure many
of the most essential and substantial benefits iox which reU*
gion is desirable. But it is no other than the plain and
solemn question, shall we believe in the faith of Christ, or in
none? Shall we receive and be comforted by the light which
the ^[ospel has thrown over all our present interests and fii-
ture prospects ; or ahall our condition in this life — our rela-

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tion to the future — ^what we are to be, and what we are to
receive hereafter and for ever, be left in appalling, impenetra-
ble darkness ? Such is the real question when we inquire
whether Christianity is a revelation from God. Do any ask
the reason ? Because if such be the divine origin and autho-
rity of the religion of Christ, there can be no other religion.
It claims not only to stand— but to stand alone. It demands
not only that we believe it — ^but that, in doing so, we consider
ourselves as denying the truth of every other system of Mth.
Like the one living and true God, whose seal and character
it bears, it is jealous, and will not share its honour with ano-
ther ; but requires us to beUeve that, as there is but one Lord,
so there is but one faith — the truth as it is in Jesus. On the
other hand, if Christianity be not of divine origin, it is no
religion; its essential doctrines must be false; its whole
structure baseless. Suppose then, for a moment, that such
were the case, what could we substitute for the gospel ? We
must either plunge into the abyss of atheism, or find some-
thing in the regions of paganism that would answer ; or be
content with the religion of Mohammed ; or else find what
our nature wants in that which is unjustly distinguished as
the Religion of Nature, in other words, we must became
Deists. But is there a creed among the countless absurdi-
ties of pagan belief and worship which any of us could be
persuaded to adopt? Could we be convinced of the pro-
phetic character of the Arabian impostor, and receive as of
divine .authority the professed revelations and unrighteous
features of the Koran, after having rejected such a book as
the New Testament, and such evidences as those of Jesus ?
Where else could we flee ? To atheism ? But that is the
gulf in which all religions are lost. — Darkness is on the face
of the deep. Nothing remains that does not acknowledge
the divine revelation of Christianity, but the self-styled reli-
gion of nature — deism. And what shall be said of this ? I
am unable to irive an account of it more definite than that it


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is the denial of Christianity, on the one hand, and of atheism,
on the other, and is to be found somewhere between these
two infinitely distant extremes: but is never stationary,
changing place with the times ; accommodating its charac-
ter to the disposition of every disciple, and permitting any
one to assume the name of Deist who will only believe these
two articles of fidth — that there is a God, and that chris'
tianity is untrue. Such is the religion which, according to
Paine, " teaches us without the possibility of being mistaken
all that is necessary or proper to be known." And yet
notwithstanding this boasted fulness and infallibiUty of in-
struction, there is no agreement among Deists as to whal
their natural religion consists in, or as to the truth of whatsome
of them consider its most fundamental doctrines. Their chief
writers are altogether at variance as to whether there is any
distinction between right and wrong, other than in the law of
the land, or the customs of society ; whether there is a Provi-
dence ; xdiether God is to be worshipped in prayer and praise,
or the practice of virtue is not the only worship required i
whether the practice of virtue forbids or encourages deceit,
suicide, revenge, adultery, and all uncleanness ; whether the
soul is mortal or immortal ; whether God has any concern
with human conduct. Now without spending a moment
upon the question as to what evidence or what adaptation to
the wants of men and of sinners, deism could pretend to, after
the rejection of evidence and excellence such as those of the
gospel ; let me ask whether deism can with any propriety be
cfdled religion 1 Does that deserve the name of a system of
religious faith which has no settled doctrine upon the most
essential points of beUef and practice? which may acknow-
ledge as many contradictory forms, at the same moment, as it
has discijdes, and never could remain long enough in one
position or under one countenance for the most skilful pencil
to take its portrait? But aside from all this, it is too noiori-
cms to be argued, that whatever pretensions may have been

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advanced by Deists to something like a theory of religious
oelief, it is at best a mere theory ; utterly powerless in prac-
tice, except to liberate its disciples from all conscientious
restraint upon their passions, and promote in the public mind
the wildest licentiousness as to all moral obligation. Substi-
tute deism for Christianity, and none acquainted with the
nature or Iiistory of man can help acknowledging that as to
all the beneficial influence of religicm upon heart and Ufe, in
promoting either the moral purity of individuals, or the hap-
piness, of society, we shall have no reUgion at all. When
have Deists ever maintained a habit of private, femfly, or
pubUc worship? Attempts have been made among them to
keep up some mode of congregational service, but total failure,
in every instance, has proved how forced was the effort, and
how Uttle it would have been thought of, had it not been for
the surrounding influence of Christianity. The first attempt
was by a man in England, who styled himself the Priest of
Nature. He relapsed from being a dissenting preacher in
England, of an orthodox creed, to socinianism, thence to
deism ; after which he set up in London a house of worship,
formed a Uturgy, was patronised by some persons of influ •
ence, preached and collected scmie disciples. But most of
his people became Atheists ; and after an experiment of four
years, the cwigr^ation was reduced to nothing, fiinds failed,
and the effort was abandoned. The most formidable enter-
prise in this way took place in France during the revo-
lution. Ha^dng found by some experience that to acknow-
ledge no God was to have no law ; and to be wifliout religious
institutions was to want civilization and peace ; certain pet-
sons distinguished for learning, and cedling themselves 7%eb-
phUanihrapist&, set up a society for the \^orship of QoA on
the principles of deism. The desolated churches of Paris
were given for their object. A directory of deistical worship
was pubUshed, containing prayers and hymns. I^ectures
were substituted for sermons. The ceremonies were simple,

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tasteful, and classical. Music added its charms. The form
of worship was sent into all parts of the country, and great
exertions were made by the powers of the state to get up this
religion in every town. Circumstances were exceedingly
projritious to the enterprise. Christianity had been banished.
Her witnesses were in sackcloth. She had none to oppose
themselves to the scheme of her enemies. The country was
sick of the horrors of atheism. Some religion was demanded
by pubUc feeling. This contrivance had nothing in it offen-
sive to the sirmer, while it seemed to be skilfully ad^ted to
the people and the times. Moreover, it was patronised by
government, and conformed to by the learned. The cero

Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriEvidences of Christianity, in their external, or historical, division ... → online text (page 2 of 36)