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disenthralled from disease and death, and sometimes like the immaterial spirit which religion emancipates from every link to corruption, and fits for a residence beyond the skies.
One surely need but be a man, to feel the importance of this investigation, and to desire to examine the brief of him, who sets forth the authenticity of an oracle from heaven. Of all books, the bible is most to be studied, if it deserves any notice; of all intellectual phenomena, prophecy is the most curious ; of all diclosures, the prophetic portraiture of what is after death, and in the judgment, is the most momentous. While our courts of law attract a host of idlers, “ the trial of the witnesses" to the christian revelation has invited many of the philosophers and the polite of every age. To walk around this monument of christianity, to examine the substructions of an edifice which towers untouched over the desolations of eighteen centuries, to observe the hand of the Great Architect in this temple which he has provided for his worshippers, is to occupy ourselves in what philosophy earnestly advises, and in what religion solemnly enjoins.
Instead, therefore, of the reprehension which his motto modestly deprecates,* Mr. Verplanck is highly to be praised, that forsaking, for a time, the pursuits of general literature and the toil of a statesman's duty, he has followed in a track where Addison, and Littleton, and West, and Beattie, and Erskine (of Edinburgh) have led the way. The last named “advocate” has anticipated our author in the publication of his work, but we much mistake, if the productions in manuscript were not cotemporaneous. We think it just ground of congratulation to our readers and our nation, that we can bring forward to their notice a volume like these Essays. For although we would be the last to admit, that not the innate reasonableness of the arguments in favor of religion, but the cloak of him who preaches them gives them comeliness and force in the audience of the world; although we think that the mere professional weight of the clergy has, in this country, fallen below its just standard, having once been much above it; yet there are those who would rather hear laymen speak on these topics; and we know that all the profession will be delighted to see that a layman is convinced that they are not for their exclusive guardianship and use.
Mr. Verplanck's address before the New York Historical So
* Quis tandem me reprehendat, si quantum alii tempestivis conviviis, quantum aleæ, quantum pilæ ; tantum mihi egomet ad hæc studia recolenda sumpsero.-Cic.
ciety, ranks among the very best works of the kind, and we are, therefore, glad to see the attention of so admired a writer turned towards a sacred subject. All who labor in this field may use the words of the early eloquent defender of the faith, the christian Cicero, as Lactantius is deservedly called :-“Si quidam prudentes, et arbitri æquitatis, institutiones civilis juris compositas ediderunt, quibus civium dissidentium lites contentionesque sopirent: quanto melius nos et rectius divinas institutiones litteris persequemur; in quibus non de stillicidiis aut aquis arcendis, ant de manu conserendâ, sed de spe, de vitâ, de salute, de immortalitate, de Deo loquemur, ut superstitiones mortiferas, erroresque turpissimos sopiamus."*
Among the various authors upon the evidences of revealed religion who have preceded our countryman, the affinity is the nearest between himself and Erskine. They both insist less upon the external, or, as we might say, physical evidences, than upon the internal proofs and moral demonstrations which evince an inwrought divinity in the scriptures. Without attempting to describe the features of similarity, or to note the points of difference, it will satisfy our present purpose; to pass hastily over the contents of this volume, and induce our readers to study it afterwards for themselves. It is well deserving of it for many reasons, as we shall show; and while it possesses graver sources of interest, there is this minor one, that such a degree of coincidence in plan and execution should exist in works written simultaneously in Edinburgh and New-York.
In his preface, the author states, that it is not his design to present a regular and formal exposition of the evidences of christianity; but leaving this ample field to its present occupants, he limits himself to the consideration of the manner in which revelation meets the intellectual and moral wants of human beings. The first essay passes generally over the several heads of the evidences of revealed religion; their various characters; and the argument resulting from their concurrent testimony. He says
" The evidence of revelation is, throughout, not only in its general heads, but in every branch of it, (to use the happy and expressive phrase of Dr. Paley,) strictly cumulative;'t each part serving not merely to confirm the other evidence of the same nature, but also, by the aggrega
* Lactantius de falsâ Religione, lib. I. cap. prim.
† “This useful and expressive word is, I believe, original with Paley; at least, in the general and popular sense in which he applies it. It is borrowed from the civil law, where it has an analogous technical signification."
tion of innumerable probabilities, to strengthen the whole an hundred fold, until every chance of error or fraud is gradually, and at length completely, excluded ; and thus,' says Jeremy Taylor, “the heaping together heads
of probabilities is or may be the cause of an infinite persuasion.' • Probable arguments, continues that eloquent divine, with his accustomed lavish exuberance of beautiful illustration and brilliant imagery; 'pro'bable arguments are like little stars, every one of which may be useless to our conduct and enlightening, but when they are tied together by order and vicinity, by the finger of God and the hand of an angel, they make a constellation, and are not only powerful in their influence, but like a bright angel to guide and enlighten our way. And although the
light is not so great as the light of the sun or moon, yet mariners sail by their conduct, and though with trepidation and some danger, yet very regularly they enter into the haven. This heap of probable inducements is not of power as a mathematical demonstration, which is in discourse 'as a sun is in the heaven, but it makes a milky and a white path, visible enough to walk securely.'
In preparing to discuss the moral internal evidence, as our author styles it, he has occasion to allude to the state of mind in which the truth should be examined. We surely ought to purge ourselves of malice or prejudice, if we will be jurors in the great trial which every work on the evidences supposes to be in progress. It is a maxim equally beautiful and just of St. Jerome, “ nudam crucem nudus sequens, expeditior et levior scandis scalam Jacob.” Revelation has its type in the ladder of Jacob; they most resemble the ascending angels, who bear the least of earth with them.
After an induction of particular arguments, which the brevity of this notice forbids our stating, Mr. Verplanck concludes the essay as follows:
“ The more all or any of these truths are examined and studied, so much the more numerous and cogent will they appear; but a very general and superficial view of them, if it be but an unprejudiced one, will show the existence of many such points of evidence, which, if not irresistible, all possess at least some degree of probability,
“If this be so, no prudent and no honest man should turn contemptuously from this evidence; because, to his understanding, or his imperfect knowledge, no single part of it seems conclusive, without first attending to the concurrent power of the whole.
“It is for this purpose, that when we have thoroughly digested, and familiarized to our minds the historical and prophetic arguments in proof of Christianity, and have in the same manner satisfied ourselves in the study of the innumerable points which compose and fortify its other heads of moral demonstration, it is highly useful to retire back, as it were, from this minute inspection, to such a general and comprehensive survey as allows us to take in at once the distinct outlines of all, and observe how they severally harmonize, both in their various component parts, and
* Taylor's Ductor Dubitantium.
with each other. Then, to use the language of Pope, though with a more elevated, as well as a more practical meaning, than ever entered into the poet's philosophy, we shall perceive that, in revelation, as in the other works of God,
Nothing is foreign-parts relate to whole;
The chain holds on, and where it ends, unknown. “Prophecy announces the advent of the religion of Jesus ; History records its progress ; Literature and Criticism combine to attest to the muniments of its doctrines: but its surest witnesses are to be found in man's own breast—in the grandeur of his thoughts—in the lowness of his desires—in the aspirations which list him towards the heavens—in the vices which weigh him to the earth—in his sublime, his inexplicable conceptions of Infinity and Eternity-in his humiliating experience of folly, misery, and guilt.”—pp. 32, 33.
In the second essay, the author takes up a subject which, more than almost any other, has, in our opinion, afforded ground for misapprehension among the advocates of truth, and the just view of which is exceedingly important; we mean, “ the power of human reason to judge of the internal evidence of truth in the doctrines and precepts of religion."
Dr. Chalmers has certainly expressed himself in language too unmeasured, when combating the presumption which would seat itself in the throne of the universe, and scan the laws and destinies of creation. Probably without differing many hairs breadth from the temperate views of our author, he has given more scope for censure than our admiration of his powers makes us willing to allow. We think Mr. Verplanck much to be commended for his observations upon this disputed topic. Some have asserted that heavenly doctrine must pass through the alembic of a chosen few, before it is fit for the reception of the vulgar many; some assert that human reason may sit umpire rather than pupil, and mould the plain sense of the scriptures at its pleasure. Some set forth such a system of natural theology (derived, as we believe, from revelation) as to make revelation itself apparently unnecessary. Some, on the other hand, reduce human powers to so low a standard, as to leave it little exalted above the clay which is the soul's covering, the plastic recipient of external impressions. Veritas in medio.
“ Literary men, conversant with the difficulties, the refined logic, and the clashing theories of moral science, as well as speculative theologians, versed in the metaphysical subtleties of controversial divinity, looking back with complacent pride upon their own laborious studies, the long and patient attention which it has cost them to attain to any definite conclusions, and the perplexing doubts which still embarrass every part of
their science, after employing and exhausting the genius of the most acute and profound inquiries from Aristotle to Jonathan Edwards ; whilst they will most readily allow the moral sensibility of uneducated men to the powers of religious impression, are slow to admit that vulgar minds and undisciplined intellects can gain any really rational perception of the truths, connected with and involving such grand and high contemplations. They overlook the marked distinction between the nice analysis of principles, the accurate statement of definitions, the logical inferences from them, the daring solution of difficulties in the government of the world, and the structure of our own thoughts ; in short, between all that constitutes the theory of metaphysical science, and these mysterious but certain first truths and rational instincts which are implanted in the breasts of all men, and which prepare them to confess the power of a Creator, to apprehend his perfections, and to know the obligations of his laws. The one is indeed an elevating employment of the intellect, but in its results how often vain and false-always how cold and inoperative ! The others are in fact the germs and seeds of all intellectual and moral knowledge, and they are not the less efficient because they are not embodied in words, nor sorted and fashioned into systems. If philosophers will not confess them to be of reason, they must then be considered as something nobler and more divine than reason itself. They inay lie dormant, in the darkness of ignorance, or the corruption of gross vice; but, when the occasion which is to call them into energy arrives, they develop themselves, we know not how: heaven's beams shine upon them, and they burst into life and power."- pp. 68-70.
The third essay on the probable characteristics of truth in the doctrines, precepts, and moral influence of any religion, is, perhaps, the most interesting and valuable in the volume. We earnestly commend it to general notice. The fourth is on the intention and uses of the different kinds of evidences for the truth of christianity. The fifth, on the critical, internal evidence; and the sixth, on “the internal evidence arising from congruity of narrative and character—from style and manner; with remarks upon the connexion of the partial obscurities of scripture, with its probable uses and intentions."
We shall close our extracts with the following passage. We know, from the best proof, the sale of the edition, that many of our readers have already read the volume; but such as have not, it will enable, in some measure, to judge for themselves, of the merits of the work.
“Paul is portrayed as a man of learning and talent, of a profound theological education, and of an active mind, and his Epistles are consessedly remarkable for containing inany things hard to understand. Why are they so ? Is it from the enthusiasm, the mysticism, or the affected and oracular obscurity of the writer ? Or are not the subjects themselves hard to be understood ? Many of them are things which the human understanding can never completely grasp—of which we can have but partial and wholly inadequate conceptions, glimpses ; not distinct