Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

so that on the whole, I sunk down into a kind of careless apathy, half resolved to touch it no more.

The existence of the work which had thus grown to a state of unwieldy maturity, became known about this time to many of my friends, who had been taught to expect its appearance. These attributed to negligence, the delay which they per ceived, without once suspecting that it originated in another cause. Awakened, however, by their importunities from that torpor into which I had sunk, I once more summoned up resolution to recommence a revisal, and proceeded with a full determination to quit it no more, till, to the utmost of my power, I had extracted order from confusion,-lopped off redundancies, supplied defects,--and placed my reasonings in a clear and unbroken light. This was not done, till sometime in August, 1806, soon after which, I submitted the manuscript to the examination of several of my most enlightened and judicious friends, and from their sanction and approbation of the work, I now commit it to the world. Such was the origin, and such have been the vicissitudes and progress of the present volume.

On the work itself as it now appears, but little can be said that will be of any avail. The author has not vanity enough to imagine that what he has written is free from defect. But whatever is submitted to the public eye, appeals to a tribunal, by the decision of which it must abide. however, has a right to demand on any given occasion, a stronger degree of proof than the nature of

No man,

the subject allows, or than the evidence which is employed to support it is calculated to impart.

On a doctrine so important, so astonishing, and so abstruse as the Resurrection of the human Body, no one can doubt that difficulties of a most formidable nature have occurred. He, therefore, who expects to find in the work before him, all obstacles totally removed, and the fact substantiated by demonstrative evidence, may rest himself assured that he will be disappointed. Demonstration may perhaps he demonstrated to be unattainable in the present case. It is therefore the height of folly to look for indubitable certainty, when the nature of the subject points out to us the reason why it cannot be attained. The Author of our being, in his arrangements of the natural and intellectual world, has adapted the various kinds of proof to the different subjects which we are called to contemplate. He has at once erected the barriers which bound their confines, and given us to understand why their limits cannot be enlarged.

Sensitive proof can apply only to objects of sense; and demonstration is confined to such points as are brought into immediate contact with our principles of intuition. But, neither oral nor historical testimony can afford any higher evidence than moral certainty. This species of proof has nevertheless an undoubted claim upon our assent; though partially destitute of those essential ingredients which are necessary to create positive know

ledge. Facts which are lodged in futurity, and which have never yet occurred, are incapable of being demonstrated. The data and the events are too remote from one another in their natures to be connected by this species of evidence. Historical incidents which have already taken place, are in exactly the same predicament. No man can demonstrate that Tarquin lived, or that Cæsar was slain by Brutus ;—that Columbus discovered America, or that Cortez conquered Mexico; yet we no more doubt the certainty of these facts, than we believe it possible for the same thing to be and not to be at the same time.

Indeed even probability, where no better evidence is attainable, has a demand on our belief. And this holds good on all occasions where the contrary probabilities are either fewer in number, or less considerable in weight. And be who in this case would withhold his assent from a given fact, because the evidence adduced rose no higher, must violate the principles of his intellectual nature, and disbelieve through unreasonable incredulity. Such a person must reject what he admits to be less improbable than that which he embraces, and remain a sceptic through doubts which nothing but folly can keep alive!

Ridiculous as such a mode of conduct may appear, it is perhaps more frequently adopted than considered. And thousands, from what they blindly conceive to be an attachment to reason, cherish their scruples, and argue in their defence, from grounds which have a less permanent foundation than those probabilities have which they discard. Such characters seem hardly to be aware of the absurdities into which they plunge themselves.

That the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and that we shall be changed,—and that all who are in their graves

shall come forth,--are declarations so plainly recorded in scripture, that no one who admits its authority can doubt the fact. And I should readily allow every argument to be superfluous which might be drawn from other sources,

if all those persons to whom we appeal were to admit the authenticity of the sacred volume Unhappily this is not the case. Men of sceptical minds smile at those arguments which are founded on authority. To that which is human they refuse to submit, and they doubt the existence of that which is divine. To substitute, therefore, the letter of scripture in the room of philosophical disquisition, would be to erect a tribunal which they refuse to acknowledge, and to appeal to an authority which they spurn with contempt. But while with them we resort to one common ground which is admitted by all, every objection against the sources of our arguments must necessarily disappear, and the reasonings which we advance must stand or fall by their own intrinsic excellence or defect.

With men of this persuasion, the resurrection of the body is viewed in no better light than that of a questionable dogma, which precludes all rational appeals : with some it is presumed to be big with absurdity : and with others to involve some palpable contradictions. As Christians, we admit in common with these men, that whatsoever includes a contradiction could never have been revealed by God. And hence, in proportion to that regard which we have for the sacred volume as a revelation which is divine, it is incumbent on us to rescue this momentous article of the Christian faith from so foul an imputation. This can only be done by a rational investigation of the subject, -by a removal of those objections which are usually brought to make it appear incredible that God should raise the dead; and by placing the fact itself in such a light as will free it from those charges which are made to excite disgust. It is our duty to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in us. How far I have succeeded in this attempt, the public must determine. But however this may issue, I flatter myself, that all will admit the apology which this view of the subject presents, for the methods of inquiry which I have pursued.

With these views before me, I have presumed but little on scripture authority. Such passages as I have quoted, I have surveyed in a philosophical light, and collected on the whole a mass of evidence which, when taken in the aggregate, I flatter myself, will silence contempt where it cannot produce

« ForrigeFortsett »