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With great clearness, Mr. B. states the arguments which are adduced to prove the genuineness of the books of the N. T., and the credibility of the history which they contain.
In the third discourse, the prophetic and internal evidence is discussed. At the head of the articles which constitute the internal testimony in favour of the truth of the Gospel, this able Apologist places the character of Jesus; and his remarks are so very pertinent and forcible, that we are induced to transcribe the whole passage:
• The character of Jesus is perfectly original. It is unlike every thing which had ever appeared in the world. There had indeed been eminent persons who had assumed the office of instructors of mankind in religion and virtue. But Jesus, differed widely from them all, in the nature of his doctrine, in his mode of instruction, in his habits of life, and manner of conversation, in the character which he assumed, in the dignity of his conduct, in the authority of his language, in the proofs which he exhibited of a divine commission, and in the manner in which he left those proofs to make their proper impression upon the mind, without himself drawing the genuine conclusions.
1 He claimed to be the Messiah, the distinguished personage foretold by the prophets, and expected by the Jews. But the form which he assumed was totally different from that in which he was expected to appear; from that which an impostor would have worn, which all impostors did actually put on, and which the writer of a fictitious narrative would naturally have represented. He was expected to appear in all the splendour of a prince and a conqueror. He actually appeared under the form of a pauper and a servant.
• The character which he thus assumed, so entirely new, so utterly unexpected, and in many respects so very offensive to his countrymen, he sustained with the most consummate propriety. The circumstances in which he was placed were numerous, various, and dissimilar to each other: some of them were very critical, and difficult; nevertheless, upon all occasions he maintains the character of a prophet of God, of a teacher of truth and righteousness, with the most perfect consistency and dignity: in no instance does he forget his situation: upon no occasion, in no emergency, however sudden or unexpected, under no provocation, however irritating, is he surprised or betrayed to say or to do any thing unworthy of himself, or unbecoming the sublime and sacred mission with which he was charged.
'To support the consistency of a fictitious character through a considerable work, even though the character is drawn from common life, is a mark of no ordinary capacity and judgment. But to adhere from beginning to end to truth of delineation in a character perfectly original, in circumstances various and new, and especially where supernatural agency is introduced, is characteristic of genius , of the highest order. Attempts to represent a pei'eet character have failed in the hands of the greatest masters. DcfecU are visible in the portraits of the philosopher and of the hero, notwithstanding the masterly pencilling, and the exquisite colouring, of Plato and
Xcnophon. Xenophon. But the obscure and illiterate evangelists have sucoeeded to perfection. Not one writer only, but four. Not in describingdifferent characters, in which they would not have been liable to have interfered with each other, but in the representation of the same unblemished and extraordinary character; to which each has contributed something which the rest have omitted, and yet all are perfect, ly consistent and harmonious,—the unity of character is invariably preserved.
* Admit that this character actually existed, allow that there wat such a ^person as Jesus of Nazareth, and that the historians describe nothing but what they saw and heard, and to which they were daily -witnesses, and the wonder ceases; all is natural and.easy; the narrators were honest and competent witnesses; and Jesu6 was a true pro* phet of the Most High.
* Deny these facts, and the history of the evangelists instantly swells into a prodigy of genius. A sublime fiction of the imagination, whiclt^surpasses all the most celebrated productions of human, wit. The illiterate Galileans eclipse all the renowned historians, philoso- . phers, and poets of Greece and Rome. But, who will affirm, or who could believe this, of these simple, artless, unaffected writers? It is incredible, it is impossible, that these plain and unlettered men should have invented so extraordinary, so highly finished a romance. Their narrative therefore must be true. The prophet of Nazareth is a real person, and his divine legation is undeniable. 1 know not how this argument may appear to others; but to me it carries the force, almost, of mathematical demonstrat'on. 1 cannot conceive of
a proof which can be more satisfactory to a candid, an intelligent, and a well-informed mind.'
The remainder of this sermon is equally commendable: but we must pass to the fourth, on the Evidence of the Christian Revelation from the Testimony of the Jewish Scriptures, respecting which the preacher is very ingenuous:
* With regard to myself, I must confess that it does not convey to my own mind that clear, and I can almost say, unhesitating assurance which I derive from an attention to the philosophic, the historic, or
"the internal evidence. Not, that f think the prophetic evidence essentially defective. But, I find it difficult to satisfy myself that I fully comprehend the true meaning and intent of the prophetic language. Upon the whole, however, I regard the evidence from the Old Testament as very considerable, and as calculated to make a itrong and favourable impression upon a candid, serious, and intelligent mind; and, in connection with the evidence already produced, it decisively establishes the truth and divine authority of the christian religion.'
Mr. B, farther adds, 'I scruple not to allow that a man may be a sincere christian, a rational and firm believer in the divine mission- of Christ, and a humble, virtuous expectant of immortality by him, who may at the same time hesitate to admit the divine legation of the Hebrew lawgiver.' We confess, however, that this admission does not appear to square with the testimony respecting Moses by our Saviour himself, who represents him as a prophet, and who tells the Jews that if they had believed Moses they would have believed in him, for Moses spake of him. Indeed, it is afterward remarked that the sincere christian, who hesitates to admit the divine mission of Moses, cannot be a well-informed believer: but, putting his learning out of the question, it is fair to ask, can he sincerely admit the declarations of Christ himself?—Though Mr. B. does not subscribe to the plenary inspiration of the O. T., and is not satisfied that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch, yet he contends that 'the Jewish scriptures are now, with little or no variation, the same as they were at the close of the Babylonish captivity, i e- 500 years before the birth of Christ, and that the main facts ef the Jewish history are true.' The prominent feature of the Mosaic institute is the Sublime representation which it furnishes of the Eternity, Holiness, and Absolute Unity of God ; a doctrine which affords the strongest internal evidence of the divine commission of the author, especially when we consider the gross idolatry by which all other tribes and nations of the earth were then enveloped. This circumstance, so honourable to the religion of Moses, is indisputable, and manifests an origin decidedly superior to that of any of the Ethnic systems. It is pertinently observed by Mr. BeUham, that «there is little argument on the subject of the divine attributes, and still less on the divine Unity, in the Hebrew scriptures: from beginning to end, all is the language of authority and command. "1 am God and there is none besides me." M Thou shall have no other God but me."—Mr. B. concludes also, from the striking prophecies of the O. T., that the Jewish people were favoured with a revelation from God; and, having shewn the value of their sacred book, he proceeds in the remainder of the dis« course to state the testimony which they bear to the divine mission of Jesus, and thus concludes his Evidence. pleased, seems to us to involve him in all the difficulties which belong to what he is pleased to denominate the two extremes, while it adds to them such as are peculiar to itself. Were we to abandon the system of Copernicus! we should certainly take up that of the vulgar, and not that of Tycho. Or, did we regard as dangerous and pernicious any instruction which the' course of things and the necessities of society will admit of being generally communicated, we should join the advocates and panegyrists of ignorance, rather than follow the untenable middle course of Mr. Weyland.
The fifth discourse may be regarded as an improvement of. the preceding view, in which the preacher displays the practical value of the Christian religion; and in the last he inculcates the subserviency of knowlege to virtue, preparatory to a course of lectures on the Christian scriptures.
On the whole, this Summary contains ample proofs of Mr. B.'s clear and philosophic mind. Even those who cannot approve his principles must admit that the evidences in favour of the Christian Revelation were never more clearly arranged, nor more forcibly stated; and that, if he be not an architect whom we may tollow in erecting the superstructure of faith, be hag been very successful in laying the foundation.
Aut. XIII. A Letter to a Country Gentleman, on the Education of the lower Orders, and on the best Means of attaining all that if practicable or desirable of that important Object. By John Weyland, Junior, Esq. Author of " a Short Enquiry into the Policy, Humanity, and past Effects of the Poor Laws*," &c. &c. 8vo. pp. 176. 4s. 6d. sewed. Hatchard. 1808.
A LTHOUGH we respect the good intentions of this worthy magistrate, and feel obliged to him for keeping attention alive to the important subject of which he treats, we still must f.iirly own that scarcely a single section occurs among the ninety-one that the present work comptizes, in which we entirely coincide with him.
It was at one time a maxim in the Romish Church, that "ignorance is the parent of devotion and a party in modern days have not merely adopted this tenet, but have considerably extended it. According to them, ignorance is not only the parent of devotion, but also of civil subordination and good morals. It matters little that this doctrine militates against the express dictates of Revelation, and against the sentiments of all the sages of all times, who have not only extolled instruction but have employed their talents and energies in its dissemination, and have derived immortality from their labours. It is enough that it is patronized by fashion; whose shield is sufficient to protect its disciples, in a venal and frivolousage.—Though Mr.Weyland is not altogether of this school, since he thinks that the lower classes may be taught reading, without any risque, nay even with singular benefit, yet he warns us to beware of teaching them writing and arithmetic. Let the poor generally reach this latter attainment, and, according to him, impiety, rebellion, and all crimes will inevitably follow, and the fabric of society be laid in the dust.
In practice, we certainly do not much quarrel with Mr. Weyland ; and if he would realize his plan of having all the poor taught to read, we should regard it as a great step gained. We wish well to all measures that are calculated to forward so happy a revolution; and zealously would we concur in accelerating it. Teach all the poor to read, and we should be willing to leave in a great measure to the course of things this mischievous magic of writing and arithmetic, which the author dreads nearly as much as our simple ancestors feared the arts of conjuration and witch-craft As a theorist, however, we certainly cannot congratulate Mr. W. His middle course, with the discovery of which he seems so mightily
Having established that reading is innocent, and even highly beneficial, how preposterous is the conceit that writing and figures should be productive of as many ills, as those which flew out to curse mankind from the famed casket which mythology celebrates! At no period had words and names a mightier force than they possess in that in which we live. Let the phantom of Jacobinism be conjured up, and connect with it any object that is to be obstructed and cried down, and no trouble need3 be taken to adduce reasons, or to obviate objections, but the end is effectually gained. Under the pressure of burdens which bear on the middle classes to a degree never equalled in any age or country, if any arrangement preparatory to a retrenchment of public expenditure be suggested, call it Jacobinism, and the measure is scouted. If it be proposed to heal the distractions of a disunited people by the extension of toleration, cry out Jacobinism, and the authors of the beneficent scheme are calumniated and traduced. If an individual, commiserating the st,ite of the lower classes of his countrymen, who are more profligate and less civilized than any of the same description in Europe, seeks to diminish and even to remove the evil, state that the attempt is Jacobinical, and he is stopped in his beneficial career. Thus Mr.Weyland talks of men reading Voltaire and Tom Paine, and of consequent Jacobinism:—but this, we must remind him, raises an objection against his favourite reading;—writing and accounts do not in any way assist in the perusal of those authors. Thi9 objection applies1 with as much force against his middle scheme, as against that which is maintained by us, who would interpose no other" limit to general instruction than that which the nature of society and the circumstances of human affairs create. With great deference to Mr. Weyland, however, we conceive that Jacobinism had its rise not in the instruction but in the igno~ ranee of the lower class. It is ignorance that favours imposture of every kind, whether political or religious; and, had the populace been better informed, they never would have fallen into the delusions by which they were misled. Let not