I. D. (Isaac Dowd) Williamson.

An argument for the truth of Christianity online

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embraced in the promises of the Bible, I would nor



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DIVINE PB0MI8G9, 141

Stand here pleading for its truth. In my humhle esti-
mation such a sentiment would, if it were found in the
sacred book be sufGlcient to warrant the conclusion that
it came not from God. It contradicts the character of
Crod as therein presented, and as proclaimed by the
voice of nature. Such a sentiment can no more har-
monize with the idea of a God, possessed of infinite
power, wisdom, goodness and justice, than light can
harmonize with darkness; and it can no more flow
from such a God, than streams of death can issue from
the fountain of life. Hear the argument of the sceptic
for one moment. Christian, says he, you profess to
believe in a Grod of infinite goodness, and yet you say
he will call up from the grave millions of his creatures
for the sole and only purpose of tormenting them with
inconceivable pain without mitigation, without mercy,
and without end. You profess to believe in a God of
justice, and yet you. tell us, that he will inflict an infi-
nite punishment for a crime to which it can bear not
the least imaginable proportion. You profess to believe
in a God of wisdom and power, and yet the plan of
his government was so unwisely contrived, that it
involves an infinite evil, which Qod has no power to
prevent. He is wise and powerful indeed; but the
adversary by his superior tact or power carries away in
triumph the greater part of his children, /adore the
God of nature. I see his power in the stars that glitter
in the firmament above ! I read his wisdom in the
movements of the mighty machine of the universe ! I
behold his goodness in the beams of the sun, and in
the gently falling shower, and I trace the footsteps of
his justice in the history of man. But your Bible, that
changes power into tyranny, wisdom into folly, good-
Desi into partiality, and that stains the altar of justice



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148 DIVINE PROMISES*

with the acts of cruelty 5 was never written by that
hand which wrote great nature's volume, nor came it
down from him. Thus reasons the sceptic, and I have
no fault to find with this reasoning, for I seriously believe
that neither ingenuity nor sophistry can evade the force
of the conclusion if the premises are granted. The
reasoning is good, its premises only are in fault. It is
not true, as the argument supposes, that these doctrines
are taught in the Bible; and hence the argument
touches not Christianity. I am perfectly satisfied that
these doctrines can never be defended as coming from
God. They have long borne with a mountain's weight
upon the cause of Christ. In my judgment they have
done more to advance the cause of infidelity, than
the imited efforts of every infidel, that ever lived.
The eloquence of Hume, and the caustic lightnings
of Voltaire, are harmless in the comparison ; and de-
pend i^pon it, unless they are purged out of the church,
Christianity, with all that is joyful in its hopes or glo-
rious in its promises, must struggle on with difficulties
that have long retarded its progress. They are forge-
ries in the name of Christ, and all the eloquence of
Cicero or Demosthenes could not establish their claim
to a common origin, with those " lectures of heavenly
wisdoni" re^d by the stars and repeated by the earth.
When therefore I stand before you and after my feeble
manner plead for the truth of Christianity^^ wish to be
understood. I am not pleading £or a system of spiritual
murder and cruelty. I plead not for the endless suffer-
ing of my fellow-creatures, for I could not plead in such
a cause. Do not expect me to defend these sentiments,
nor think that Christianity cannot be defended because
these are disproved. Let the infidel understand, that
in cp»(en4ing with thesg for the ggspel of Christ, heia



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otvmfi pRofinsfi& 143

as 5ne that beateth the air. He may raze them every
one to the foundation, and yet he has not touched one
stone iiy the temple'of Christ, nor offered an argument
against his teachings. I speak with much confidence
here, for I feel that I stand upon a rock, and I should be
recreant to duty if I did not labour to wipe this darkest,
foulest stain from the fair face of the Lord's anointed.
I say then emphatically, that those who have been la-
bouring to Unite these sentiments with Christianity,
have been striving (and I wot that it was through igno-
rance that they have done it) to bring about an unholy
union between Christ and Belial, with whom he has no
concord. I say then go on, and destroy this monster
of error. Let him die the death, and when his un-
seemly carcase is lowered into the earth, I will stand
over the grave and will pray that no fiend from the in-
fernal pit may sound his resurrection trumpet* But
think not that Christianity would die with it, or even
clothe itself in sackcloth on this account. Nay, but
purified from its deepest corruptions, and relieved from
a body of sin and death, that has borne it down and
wasted its strength, and crippled its power, it would
arise in its beauty and go forth to renewed and more
glorious conquests*

It will now be distinctly understood that in defend-
ing the Bible I have nothing to do with its corruptions.
The doctrine of the resurrection therein taught is plain
and simple. " As in Adam all die, even so in Christ
shall all be made alive," is a precious promise which
guaranties the resurrection of all men from the dead,
ifrtegard to the state or condition of men in the resur-
rection, the Scriptures do not like the systems of men
descend to particulars. The Saviour says, that they
''shall be as the angels of God which are in heaven."



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144 DIVINE PROMISES^

Paul 8ayS| they shall "all be changed, in a moment, m
the twinkling of an eye ; this mortal shall put on im-
mortality, and this corruptible shsdl put on incorrup-
tion." These are the " exceeding great and precious
promises,'' for the reasonableness, truth, and propriety
of which I contend. This is Christianity as it came
from its author ; and these are the principles at wMch
infidelity should direct its weapons, if it would assail
the gospel of Christ. I maintain, that there is nothing
in these promises inconsistent with the character of a
Qod of infinite power, all-knowmg wisdom, unbounded
goodness, and impartial justice. On the contrary, they
are such promises as such a Gk>d would be likely to
make. The very idea that such a God would exert bis
attrihutes in the creation of man, and in enduing him
with all his astonishing powers, capable of infinite im-
provement, merely to live a few days on earth and then
fall into the gulf of oblivion, before he has arrived at
half the perfection of which he is capable ; looks to me
rather of a doubtful character. Here is man, created a
rational intelligent being, with desires reaching after
immortality, and with powers capable of rising to higher
and yet higher degrees of perfection. He feeds upon
the bounty of Gk>d for a few years and the fell de-
stroyer comes to demand his vital breath. He clings
to life with an undying grasp, and calls upon God for
a blessing ; but the heavens are brass, the treasures of
divine goodness are exhausted, and God hhnself has
not another good to grant. The stem mandate goes
forth, and man who bears the image of his Maker, with
all his exalted powers, falls beneath the dark waves of
oblivion's sluggish stream, and lives no more for ever.
Do not talk to me of infinite goodness in Grod with such
a prospect before me. Unless the goodness of God is



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DIVINB PROMISES. 145

bounded by life's contracted span, we may hope for
blessings beyond the Jordan of death. I do not say
that the attributes of God are able to gire positive proof
of the doctrine of the resurrection, but I do say, that
they afford a presumptiye argument in its favour. If
there is a God of power, wisdom and goodness, we may
reasonably trust in a resurrection. Take the doctrine
of the resurrection of all men from the dead to immor-
tal felicity, and the doctrine of death an endless sleep ;
lay them along side of the character of God as revealed
in Scripture, and taught in nature, and you need not be
long in deciding which is most consistent with that
character. The promise of life and immortality looks
like the promise of God, and once admit his existence
and no man can disprove it This subject will be con-
tinued in my next lecture, and for the present I dismiss
k, praying, that wisdom from above may be our guide
to the temple of truth.

13



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nnSCRRECTtON CP THE DEAD. 147

«ikdea(VOur to show you that there is nothing in the
doctrine which renders it a thing incredible. I am the
more inclined to take this view of th« subject, because
I am persuaded that this idea of the incredibility of the
doctrine is the cause of more scepticism in relation to
it, than any lack of eyidence in its favour. Most of
those who have rejected the doctrine of the resurrec-
tion^ have done it, not so much from a conviction that
the evidence in its favour is insufficient to establish the
troth of an ordinary event, as iVom a supposition that
it is in its very nature incredible. Now while this con-
viction remains, arguments are of but little use, for no
amount of evidence can convince a man that an impos-
sibility is true. You will therefore perceive, that the
woric before us at this time, is not positively to prove
the doctrine, but the settlement of a previous question,
in regard to the amount of evidence necessary for its
proof. I shall attempt to show that it involves nothing
impossible, or incredible, and hence it is to be believed
upon the same amount of evidence that would be re-
quired to establish ai\y other important doctrine. I
remark

I. The doctrine involves no impossibility.

Looking at the subject, not particularly as a Chris-
tian, but in the light of reason, I contend th^t the resur-
rection of the dead is not impossible. The argument
by which I sustain the position is simply this : Man
does now exist, and as he is not necessarily self-exist-
ent, he is the production of some power, and I main-
tain that the same cause which was adequate to the
creation of man at first, is also adequate to his resur-
iection from the dead. I care not, so far as the validity
of the argument is concerned, to what cause you ascribe
Ike present existence of man. Whether he originated



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148 MEaOBMECnCHK OF TBE MAS.

in mere chance, or is the effect of the kws of matter,
or came from the hand of a wise and powerful Creator ;
in either case, the cause which first broiight him into
existence, is adequate to his resurrection. If he came
into existence by chance, then there is nothing incred-
ible in the supposition that some lucky chance .may
raise him from the dead. If the operation of the laws
of matter made man what he is, then I contend that
there is nothing impossible, or even incredible in the
supposition that these laws will make him what the
Bible says he shall be in, the resurrection. If I can
believe that matter operated upon by nothing save its
own inherent powers could move and arrange itself in
such a manner as to make man at first, then am I also
prepared to believe that the same cause can gather to-
gether the fragments that death and corruption leave,
and reorganize man in a resunection from the dead. If
the latter is a miracle the former is a still greater mir-
acle. I ask any reasonable man to look at matter, on
the one hand, slumbering in chaos or floating at random,
obedient only to its elementary l|kws, without form and
void ; and on the other, to look at a sleeping corpse^
and tell me which he would select as the easiest sub-
ject from which to make a living man ? Judging from
the soundest principles of reasoning, we should come
to the conclusion that it would require a less effort of
power and wisdom to reanimate that corpse than it
would to mould and animate a ipan from the dust of the
earth. The latter of these has been done by some
power, and as what has been done may be again, so l
maintain that the former involves no impossibility. We
all know that we do exist, as the effect of some cause f
and with the same certainty we know, that a stream
cannot rise higher than the fountain^ or an effect be



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RSSDBRECnON OF THB DEAD. U9

Mperior to its cause ; we may also know, that man,
whether he walk the earth or sleep in the graye,
whether living or dead, in time or in eternity, cannot
rise superior to the control of that cause in which he
originated. So then, even the atheist himself cannot
affirqi that it is impossible for man to rise from the
dead, for he knows, and you know, that greater won-
ders than that have occurred in the universe. Even the
common subterfuge of a progression in the scale of be-
ing which refers the origin of man not immediately to
any one cause, but to an infinite series of causes and
effects, will not evade the point of the argument. I
have before alluded to this theory, and attempted to
show that it is a bare hypothesis, destitute alike of
foandation in philosophy or fact ; and I now remark,
that even if it were true, it would not answer the pur-
pose to which it is here applied. If you contend that
man has progressed through the different grades of be-
ing, from those that are but one remove from inanimate
matter, up to his present state ; how dare you affirm
that he has now come to a full stand, or that the pro-
gressive work will cease when his head is laid in the
grave 7 How dare you affirm that a purer and more
exalted existence may not rise from the ashes of the
dead, as the butterfly does from the worm, and thus the
progressive work go on, bearing man onward and up-
ward, till he shall ripen in glory and shine in the gar
ments of immortality ? Upon your own ground, the
thing is not impossible, and in view of the mighty prog-
ress already made, it cannot be considered even in-
credible. But I will not dwell longer upon this argu-
ment. I point you to the fact that man does now exist,
and I say that his present existence is as great a miracle
as would be his resurrection from the dead, and as the
13*



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150 RfigtmBEcnoic of ms dcao*

one has been done, lliere is nothing impossible in dM
doctrine that the other will be donie also.*

I have said that even the atheist could not deny the
possibility of the resurrection of the dead. But admit
the existence of a Qod and the question is placed be>
yond all controrersy. That the same Gk>d who created
heaven and earth and all that dwell therein^ could, if he
were so disposed, raise man from the dead, there can
be no doubt. You have only to look at what God has
done in order to see this sul^ect in its proper light.
Time was, if time it may be called, when the earth was
without form and void. The moon and the stars hung
not in heaven, and the fires of the sun were not yet
kindled. Darkness lay upon the face of broad and deep
chaos, and the embryo of man's existence had not be^
gun. It was the spint of the Liord Almighty that
moved frarth upon the dark waters and roused this uni -
verse into life, and infused order and harmony through
all its partg. He moulded the earth in the hollow of
hb hand, and launched it from his throne to pursue its
way for ever. He kindled the fires of the sun and bur-
nished the face of the moon, and garnished the heavens
with stars. His voice called man into existence, and
his spirit breathed life and activity through the earth,
peopling the solitary [daces with every living thing.
These things God has done, and who shall limit the
workings of his power? Say, is the arm of the Lord
Omnipotent shortened, that it cannot save? Is his
power crippled, that it cannot work ? Shall the narrow
grave rear a barrier full and impassable before him, or
shall death wrest his creatures from the compass of his
power? Will you plant yourself upon the line of the
tomb, and say to the waves of the river of life flowing

* See note K.



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ttCSOltfiECTlOll OP TBI! OSAO^ 101

tttxa God above, " Thus fdr shalt thou go and no far-
ther ?" Presumptuous man 1 It was possible for God
to create 'thee at £rst, and it is possible for him to raise
thee from the dead ) and these trophies of his divinity
should teach thee to be modest in saying that any worl^
however great, is too much for him to perform. Thus
far we may proceed with safety, and pronounce with a
good degree of certainty, that there is nothing in the
Scripture doctrine of the resurrection which renders it
absolutely impossible. It may therefore be believed
upon proper testimony.

II. I proceed to show that the promise of a resurrec-
tion held forth in the Bible is not only possible, but it so
perfectly accords with the character of God, and the
known and established principles of his government,
that its fulfilment is a credible and even probable event

In this department of my subject I have nothing to
do with those who deny the existence of a God. I
speak to those who acknowledge the existence of a wise
and intelligent Creditor ) and yet deem the doctrine of
the resurrection incredible. One of the most fruitful
causes of scepticism upon this subject is, the supposi*
tion that it would involve too great a stretch of conde-
scension on the part of God. The sceptic is sometimes
heard to say, that he can believe without difficulty in
a God who is employed in regulating worlds, and sys-
tems of worlds, because this is a work which from its
magnitude, would seem befitting the character of a be-
ing possessed of infinite power and wisdom. But that
a being so great, should stoop from his high and ex-
alted throne, to raise up from the dead s^ch humble
and puny worms as we are, is to him incredible in a
high degree.

To this it is sufficient to reply, that God did create



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im Rt»0RR&CTION OF TllE DfiAD.

man at first ; but who ever thought it beneath his dig'
mtj to be engaged in making such worthless worms as
we are ? It would take but a moment's reflection to
satisfy any man that God has made apparently much
less important creatures than man. It was not incon-
sistent with the glory and dignity of the Holy One to
create even the creeping things of the earth. It was
not inconsistent with the nature and character of God,
to put forth his power in the beginning, and make man
from the dust of the earth ; and I can see no good rea-
son why he might not raise him from the dead without
any degradation of his character. If the existence of
man on earth in this low and corrupted estate was an
object sufficiently valuable to call into exercise the
power of Qod, how is it that his re-creation in a hi^er
and holier sphere must be deemed too small a work
for him. The object in raising men from the dead is
as much higher than the object in his formation from
the dust, as an immortal existence is more exalted and
durable than the present life. If God has done the one,
then why should it be thought a thing incredible that
he should do the other also 1

A consideration of the character of God and the es-
ablished principles of his government will present the
credibility of this doctrine in a still stronger light. I
have already noticed its harmony with the divine char-
acter, and sboWn that his power, and wisdom, and
goodness, all favour the idea, that he will raise man up
from the dead, and it ought to induce us to listen with
an attentive and favourable ear, to any evidence that
he will fulfil his promise to that effect. There is noth-
ing incredible in the supposition that a wise, powerful
and good father will take care of his children. There
is no good too great for a God of infinite goodness to



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RESURftECTION OF THR DEAD. 158

bestow, and all that we have seen of the abundant
manifestations of his love, warns us to beware of in-
credulity, in regard to -the future manifestations of
that same boundless love. There is, to my mind,
nothing incredible in the supposition, that such a God
as is presented in nature, and revealed in the Bible,
should raise man up from the dead, and make him the
immortal recipient of his benefac^ons. To such a
doctrine the experience of the past, and the exhibition
of his benevolence, all strongly tend. I need not how-
ever repeat the argument upon this subject. I pass on,
to compare the doctrine of the resurrection with one of
the most strongly-marked and clearly-defined principles
of the divine government. I allude to the circumstance
that God has provided for all the wants of his creatures,
in that sphere in which he has placed them. Through-
out all the immensity of creation, there is an invariable
fitness of things, an adaptation of one thing to another,
which pervades the whole. This principle is clearly
developed in the animal economy. Each grade and
tribe i» fitted to its sphere, and finds in that sphere the
necessary means for the satisfaction of all its wants.
As an instance in point : the wants of the lion and the
tiger are supplied in the solitudes of the desert, and there
is not the least evidence, that either of them has any
desire to quit his native haunts, and mingle with the
crowds of the populous city. The wants of the fish
are supplied in the water, and there is no evidence, that
he desires to leave his native element and live upon
the dry land, nor can we imagine any appetite or desire
of the fish, which may not be satisfied with the means
that the waters furnish. The same may be said of
every animal. You cannot point to one and say, here
is a desire or an appetite, for the gratification of which



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154 RESURRECTION OF THE DEAol

Ood has not provided abundant means. Here then
you see the principle. In all cases God has adapted
means to ends ; and wherever you find in any animal
, a desire or appetite, you will find the means for its
gratification, and in no instance can you find an appetite
or desire for any thing that does not exist. To this I
aver, you cannot find an exception in the universe of
Ood. The wants of the beast and bird, fish and insect,
are supplied in their appropriate spheres of life, and
bounded by their native elements, and in no case do
they overstep these bounds. But how is it with man ?
Are his wants and desires bounded by earth's narrow
limits ? Has he no desires reaching beyond this fleet-
ing life ? You know the answer that truth must give
to these questions,

" The aoiil une^y and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a world to come."

In the midst of all the earth can give, the mind of
man pants for purer and more undisturbed rills of bliss.
€rod has given to every human being, a deep-rooted,
ardent and everlasting desire of life and immortality.
Cro where you will, and wherever you find a human
being with countenance erect, bearing the impress of
his Maker's hand, there you will find this deep and
ardent desire, impelling man onward, and bearing him
upward to endless life. Why then should it be thought
a thing incredible, that God should raise the dead ? He
has left no desires of the beast without the means of
gratification, nor given in any case an appetite for
aught that does not exist. In all creation around us
this principle is discovered. Why should man be an
exception? Why should it be thought, that man the
last and noblest work of God, has been cursed with



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ReBDaaECTion or the dead. 156

desires which his Creator ne^er intended to gratify ?
desires which keep him all his life long, in the eager
chase of an '^ ignis-fatutu^ that leads to hewilder and
dazzles to blind ?" In the. name of reason, why should
a God of goodness be supposed thus to tantalize his
creatures ? In the name of all that is consistent, I ask,
why shall it be said, that God has first chained man
down to earth, and then cursed him with desires rush-
ing into the skies ? Without the doctrine of future life,
no man can account for those desires for life and im-
mortality which God has planted deep in every human
soul, unless he at the same time charges God with a
departure from a rule of his government, which holds
good in all other beings. Neither can any one tell why
man alone of all Grod's creatures, should look beyond
the grave, and pant with anxious solicitude for a dwel-
ling there. But give me this doctrine, and I can ex-
plain the whole mystery, and clearly see that God
works by rules, that know no abatement. When he
gave man a desire of life and immortality, it was not


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Online LibraryI. D. (Isaac Dowd) WilliamsonAn argument for the truth of Christianity → online text (page 11 of 19)