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Father, nor a saviour or redeemer to man : and that his death is of no more use to us than the death of many of the martyrs.”
In order to reconcile these strange definitions of Christianity, the Scriptures are considered in no point of view better than any other book whereby we may be religiously instructed. And even the writings of the apostles, in reference to the sacrifice of Christ, are said to be only intended on their part “ to draw away the Jews from the outward sacrifices.” Some of those who are active in promoting these principles conceive it a religious duty to endeavour to draw the minds of mankind from the Scriptures, as apprehending they tend to fix the attention to the letter, rather than to a rational power that they believe man possesses in himself of governing his own corrupt nature; the tendency of which opinion needs hardly to be pointed out.
It is, however, singular, that those who thus contemn the Scriptures, and make use of such parts only as suit their purposes, should not be aware that, if they attempt to make converts to their opinions concerning the mission of Jesus Christ," as the niost dignified messenger and seryant of God,” it requires great credulity to believe even so much from them; because the evidence which they adduce in support of their doctrine is taken from those very records of which, in numerous instances, they do not acknowledge the truth, but which parts are most undoubtedly worthy of equal credit with those of which they choose to leave us in the possession.
That sceptics have not fully considered the scope of their objections to the Christian dispensation is obvious; and on this account especially, that it is usual with them to speak with great respect of the moral character of Jesus Christ : and even modern professed deists have in fact laid the foundation of their religion on his moral precepts *. To be consistent with themselves,—seeing that he speaks with so much confidence of his own divine character, a pretension which is also confirmed by his apostles and followers,—they ought to reject every authority that comes from him, as at least doubtful. To. say he was mistaken, is saying nothing; he either was, or was not, what he pretended to be. And yet the nature and extent of his precepts, united to his strict mural example, are such evident proofs of the validity of his own assertions with respect to his superior character, that one would hardly conceive an impartial mind would attempt to disprove or call them in question. His extra
• The Theophilanthropists.
ordinary miracles certainly prove him to have been supernaturally assisted ; a fact which even his greatest enemies (the heathens of that day) did not deny, but corroborated, with this addition only, “ that they were wrought by means of sorcery or magic." Yet their acknowledging so much is a decided proof that the miracles really existed ; and that they did not cease with him, but that he communicated the same power to his disciples. - That there are difficulties in the Seriptures, which human reason is not capable of penetrating, there is no doubt; yet the cutting and mangling them, as has been too much the case, because they stand opposed to a particular and favourite system, ought never to be allowed ; since those who may be tempted to differ in some other points have an equal right to take the same liberties, and lop off what they may have conceived to interfere with the principle of true belief, until the whole be gone. So that, in process of time, these invaluable outward testimonies and foundations of the Christian's hope,
these lively oracles by which we obtain knowledge of the Deity, but above all of the truth as it is in Jesus, and which has been in some degree communicated throughout the whole earth,
these might become disbelieved and rejected " as a cunningly-devised fable:” and it would confirm the assertion of some modern infidels and freethinkers, “ that it changes in nothing but increasing absurdity, and visible traces of priest. craft and ignorant credulity, almost at every repeated investigation.” Yet how do these sentiments accord with what such have pretended to believe, “ that the Christian dispensation is the most perfect in its kind ever ministered to man?” These are such self-evident contradictions, that the merest child cannot but see them to be such.
The deist or infidel, who endeavours to make all nature bend to his contracted ideas of uniformity, and what he deems consistency in the government of the world, by attempting to limit the means that Omnipotence has chosen, in order to effect his own purposes, has not taken into view, that upon it, neither the beauty nor excellence of nature depends; the divine harmony apparently consisting not in exact uniformity, but in a beautiful variety, by far exeelling the conception of man. No stream can rise higher than its source: so man, by the capacity of his fallen nature only, cannot comprehend the extent of the causes or effects of his own creation, or of any created being or thing. Shall man, then, who can only see as “ through
a glass darkly," presume to judge the wisdom, and power of Him who is omnipotent? Shall poor weak man pretend that he is capable of investigating his designs, by whom the whole world was created ? Shall what are termed moral evils, which he (only wise) permits, be subject to our finite comprehension and contracted notions? And because we have not been permitted to understand his all-wise purposes therein, shall we suffer doubts to exist in our own minds, and endeavour to raise them in others ? Alas! how vain is man, when he attempts to intrude himself beyond the sphere allotted him!
Thou who art thus pleading for uniformity in the government of this lower world, by viewing nature mayst observe that it is altogether various, there being a variety in all animal and vegetable creation. So is there a dissimilitude in each individual animal, tree, or plant. Nay more ; there are no two flowers, leaves, or roots exactly similar. Is man also perfectly uniform in his proportions or resemblances ? Are the dispositions of the best and wisest of men exactly si. milar? No. It is not then in uniformity that we are to look for the harmony of nature, but in this variety: which, being in constant harmony