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AN

INTRODUCTORY ESSAY,

BY F. WAYLAND,

PRESIDENT OF BROWN UNIVERSITY.

The excellent John Newton, in his preface to a volume of the miscellaneous poems of Cowper, alludes to the embarrassment which a writer feels, in volunteering to introduce to the public an author much better known than himself. It is precisely this embarrassment which I feel on the present occasion. My only apology is found in the following fact : The publisher was of the opinion, that this little work would probably be more readily circulated, if a brief outline of the subject were laid before the reader, explaining the design of the author, and exhibiting the mode in which he had accomplished it. I could not deny, that this service seemed naturally to devolve upon me, as I had been particularly anxious that the book should be reprinted in this country.

I shall, therefore, attempt, in the following remarks, familiarly to illustrate the plan of the author, and shall then add a few suggestions respecting the manner in which such a work ought to be read.

The EVIDENCES of the Christian religion are of two kinds, EXTERNAL aud INTERNAL.

The EXTERNAL EVIDENCES comprehend all that mass of proof by which, in accordance with the laws of testimony, we establish the facts, that the books of the Old and New Testament were written by the men who claim to be their authors, and also that the statements which these books contain are indubitable truth. We thus prove, that miracles have been wrought in confirmation of the doctrines promulgated in the scriptures. Now, a miracle is a manifest departure from the laws of cause and effect which are ordained by the Creator. As, however, no being, but he who ordained these laws, can suspend or alter them, if, in any case, they are suspended or altered, such a case must occur through the intervention of the Deity. The Author of the alteration of the law must be the Author of the law

itself. And, if the alteration be indissolubly connected with any doctrine or precept, we conclude that such doctrine or precept must have emanated from the Author of the universe, because we believe that he would not have thus affixed his own special seal to a deliberate falsehood.

Thus, it is not contrary to the ordinary laws of what we call nature, for blindness to be removed by the application of medicine, or by a surgical operation. It is not however according to these laws, for blindness to be healed by the utterance of a word. If then, it be healed by a simple command, such an event is a manifest departure from the ordinary laws of cause and effect, a departure which could only have been caused by the same power which established the original order of antecedence and consequence. Whatever, therefore, he shall teach us respecting God, whom God hath thus empowered, we consider ourselves warranted in receiving as a message from the Author of our being.

In this species of evidence, it is obvious that we must confine ourselves simply to the consideration of the facts which attest the truth of revelation, without referring at all to the matter of the revelation itself. We attempt to satisfy ourselves upon the principles of evidence, whether or not a communication from God has been made to men ; and having become satisfied on this point, so far as external evidence is concerned, here our investigation closes. A man might thus have convinced himself that the Bible contains a revelation from Heaven, without ever having informed himself of a single truth which it reveals.

The INTERNAL EVIDENCES of revelation are established in a manner in many respects the reverse of the above. We here commence with spreading before the mind of the inquirer the matter of the revelation itself; and then proceed to exhibit its relations both to the world within us, and to the world without us. And as the relations of revealed truth to each of these may be exhibited, separately and distinctly, the internal evidence of revelation is properly of two kinds. A few considerations will be sufficient to illustrate the nature of each.

1. Of the relation which the Bible sustains to the world within us.

Man is constituted with a definite and limited intellectual nature. I say definite and limited, for the modes in which he can employ his powers are prescribed, and cannot be increased ; and, yet more, although the extent of possible and future human attainment cannot be decided, yet the actual limit of average human power, for any particular period, is a matter of history. Now if the moral views of the authors of the Bible were not only incomparably superior to those of the men of their own times, but if, besides being superior in degree, they were infinitely dissimilar in kind, nay more, if, notwithstanding the vast progress of our race in acquired knowledge and in intellectual power, they still maintain the same relative distance, unapproached and unapproachable, there is surely ground for the supposition that they who thus wrote, were specially taught by the Spirit of infinite wisdom.

This relation between revealed and discovered truth is in striking analogy with the relation which is every where to be observed, when the things of this world and those of the other world are made the subjects of comparison.

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