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But I believe it is not only true, that many infidels take their creed on trust, I also believe that such infidels are generally less liable to the alarms of conscience than any others. It is difficult, indeed to form an estimate of the hearts of those who are living under the power of sin. They pass through many scenes of anguish and bitterness under the mask of levity* They have a laughter in which the heart is sorrowful. If Col. Gardiner, was hailed by the whole circle of his acquaintance as a happy man, when he would willingly have exchanged conditions with a dog, we can easily believe, that there are at this time many deceitful appearances among the wicked;-—many minds appa» rently tranquil, who are nevertheless like the troubled sea when its waters cannot rest. We only know the state of the wicked, when the intensity of misery becomes such as to take off all disguise, and force the sufferer, to disclose the anguish of his soul. Such disclosures seem to be most frequently made, by those infidels who are most employed in the investigation of the subjects, and who stand forth as the champions of the cause. Volney, Voltaire, Paine, and Gibbon are melancholy examples of the state of mind to which infidelity brings its votaries in the hour of danger or of death. •
Hume is the boast of modern unbelievers. They tell us that he spent his last moments in diverting himself and his friends with jests and witticisms, about the river of death and his passage into the invisible world. But in this there is something so forced —-so hypocritical, and so unnaturally profane, that the represenfation strikes me with as much horror, as perhaps any thing I have ever heard of a dying infidel. There is no creed which can transform death into an object of merriment or sport. If death were an eternal sleep, it would forever separate us from all the friends and things which we have known;—and this consideration alone would fill the mind with sobriety and tenderness. The man who, in any view, can make a jest of death, must be made of different stuff from the rest of men. Such a man, as an eloquent writer has expressed it, would be prepared to smile on Nineveh in ruins; to hail with delight the view of Lisbon destroyed by an earthquake; and to congratulate Pharaoh on his overthrow in the Red Sea. But there is something in this statement, so unnatural and improbable, as to force the conviction that it does not contain the whole truth, and the account of Hume's nurse is necessary to explain that of his biogranher. The nurse tells us that when company was present he forced an appearance of levity and merriment, but that when alone, he sunk into gloom and trembled till the bed shook under him.
The cause why reflecting infidels are most liable to the alarms of conscience, is, that infidelity is not founded in reason. It is founded in feeling or prejudice, and places its principal security in the banishment of all thought. We have much infidelity in the present day, and it is altogether supported by a kind of irreligious thoughtlessness. It lives in the corrupted and licentious passions of the heart, and is proof against all the arguments of the pulpit and the press; for as it was not reasoned up, it is not to be reasoned down. More than thirty years have passed since any infidel has dared to write a book, but yet infidelity dares to live. The last contest drove the deist so completely out of the field, that we fondly hoped, as the argument was at an end, so the cause of infidelity would sink into oblivion. In this hope we have been lamentably disappointed. Infidels still hold their creeds and cherish their vices by them, although they prove at every step, the truth of the prophet's declaration, that there is no peace to the wicked.
The principal cause why the infidel finds no peace, is, that his arguments are not calculated to lead the mind to any satisfactory conclusion. They are arguments calculated to disturb the peace of others, but not to confirm his own: they pull every thing down and build nothing up. If the infidel could prove all that he aims at proving, he should still be as far from heaven as when he set out. The infidel argument does not aim at proving, that the principal things contained in the bible are not true, but only, that we have not sufficient evidence to believe them.
There is, indeed, one set of unbelievers, who would place the controversy on grounds somewhat different, if we were obliged to attend to them. These are the men who assume to themselves wisdom sufficient to govern the universe, and to " rejudge the justice" of their Maker. They tell us what sin is, and how far God ought to punish it, and what severity of penalty is necessary to support the honor of a law, and of a government which maintains the order and happiness of more worlds than we have numbers to calculate. It is generally supposed, that if any thing we are acquainted with requires the full exereise of infinite wisdom, it is the adjustment of the moral government of the universe, as this is the great and delicate object which lies nearest the happiness of the whole moral creation. But when men tell us that they are wise enough to do all this, whilst their acquaintance think them not wise enough to govern a Slate, or even a family, their pretensions are entitled to but little regard.
And as to the infidels of every other description, I repeat the assertion, that could they prove conclusively, all they attempt to prove, it would only show that we have not sufficient evidence to believe the bible, not that the substance of what is contained in the bible is untrue. Some of the substantial things contained in the bible are comprised in the following facts;—that God governs the world in righteousness;—that man has violated the divine law;—that there will be a judgment, and that there is a heaven and a hell,—and that the death and resurrection of our Saviour, furnishes the only hope of escaping the punkhnient of sin. Some of these facts are of such a nature, that, when once announced to the world, they take so firm a hold of the conscience that the impression can never be eradicated. Thes-e are also the principal facts of revelation which disturb the peace of a guilty world and induce men to become infidels. Now the question is, whether there is sufficient power in the infidel argument to secure the mind against the annoyance of these facts. Suppose for example, that Mr. Hume could prove that human testimony could not make a miracle credible,— would this prove that God was not righteous?—that sin was not dangerous?—or would it in fact prove that a miracle had not been performed? To say that we have not sufficient evidence to warrant the belief of a thing, is not saying that the thing itself is untrue. The circumstance that human testimony is too faithless to support the belief of a miracle, corroborates the fact that man is a sinner, but certainly does not prove that God will not punish sin.
If Mr. Hume could prove that human testimony could not establish the truth of our Saviour's resurrection, still the resurrection might be true notwithstanding this deficiency of human testimony. The truth is, there is but one way of getting clear of that array of facts which the bible presents, and that is by what is called proving the negative. If we would disprove the resurrection, we must bring our witnesses from the time and place of its supposed occurrence, and if we would disprove the existence of a heaven or a hell we must bring our witnesses from the other world.
The Jewish rulers at the time of the resurrection, seem to have attempted a more direct course than our modern infidels. They tried to prove by witnesses, who, however, were asleep at the time, that the diseiples stole the body. This was not going far enough; it only accounted for some appearances at the sepulchre, but did not contradict the report of his appearance afterwards alive. To have produced the crucified body would have proved the negative, and at once have overthrown the Christian system. And the fact that they did not, and could not do this, considering how much they had at stake, and how fully that circumstance would have refuted every thing the apostles could say, affords the strongest indirect evidence, that the resurrection was indeed true. Mr. Hume's argument from first to last, goes on the supposition that it is impossible for God to make a revelation to man. If this impossibility could be proved, the proof would be altogether impertinent, as it relates to the sinner's peace. That impossibility of a revelation would not prove that God did not hold the sinner accountable for all his conduct, and that he was not in danger of everlasting ruin. Such is the ground on which the infidel must be left after all his efforts to subvert the scriptures. Awful possibilities, and even probabilities stand around him, which he has no means of getting out of his way. He must obtain ease of mind, if he does obtain it, by not thinking on the subject of religion at all. And if a day must come which will force the subject upon him, he must bear the solemnities of that day as he can. Perhaps on his death bed, he may say with Gibbon, that the future is all impenetrable darkness,—or he may tremble and shake his bed like Hume,—or he may blaspheme and curse his associates and his day, like Voltaire. "In the morning he may say, would to God it were even, and in the evening, would to God it were morning,"—or he may wish, as an infidel once did, that he were already in hell that he might know the worst.
We have hitherto attended principally to the system of Mr, Hume, but the result is the same on the examination of every infidel system. Gibbon's argument consisted in the supposition of five secondary causes, which assisted the propagation of Christianity by natural means. These secondary causes were only calculated to disprove or weaken the force of that miracle which enabled twelve fishermen to spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. There can be no doubt that the manner of propagating Christianity, when fairly stated, contains an overwhelming argument for its truth. Yet if this one argument were weakened, or even entirely set aside, ten thousand other arguments remain, wholly independent of this, and abundantly sufficient of themselves to prove the truth of the religion. One is here disposed to wonder, that infidels should ever have thought of congratulation, or of taking comfort to themselves from any thing that Gibbon has written. The infidel cause never appears weaker than in the contemplation of this case. What would it avail to set aside one argument for the bible, if ten thousand others were left? If a prisoner were bound by ten thousand independent chains, his breaking one, when he saw no possible way of breaking the rest, would be no great matter of triumph. But the case shows one mortifying truth, that is, that men do not reason in religion as they do about their temporal concerns. If our great enemy found it as difficult to cheat men out of their souls, as a villain would find it to cheat them out of a little property, the kingdom of darkness would not multiply subjects as it does.
The supposed contradictions of the bible, constitute the only remaining source of infidel argument. But could these contradictions be fairly made out, yet there might be so many suppositions to account for them, that they would afford no satisfactory conclusion to the unbeliever; as they might have arisen from innumerable circumstances connected with the transmission of the revelation to us. We have now before us the whole groundwork of the infidel cause, and if we except the allegations of those who presume to direct their Maker in forming his own government, it is evident that, if the infidel could maintain all hi» positions, could prove all he attempts to prove, his cause would still be desperate: he might still find the same state of things in eternity which the bible describes.
But justice to this subject requires us to say, that infidels have failed in proving what they attempted to prove, and they appear to be conscious of that failure. Infidels generally who have written on the subject, have given up the contest after the first blow* Some, indeed, have carried on a kind of skirmishing warfare, during the whole of their lives, but when any infidel has made a set attack, and has been fairly opposed, he has very seldom returned a second time to the field of combat. Gibbon and Paine never answered Watson. Hume said he at one time intended to answer Campbell, but afterwards laid aside thai intention. Mr. Hume did not tell us why he declined answering^ but I presume, every one acquainted with the controversy will easily discover his reason. Had Hume given a fair and logicaf answer, such as he knew the world expected from his talents, he would have shown that his principles unsettled all the grounds of human belief. Long before he could have invalidated the' evidence of the New Testament, he must have destroyed the authority of all other history. He must also have destroyed alf