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derives from human institutions and laws. In short, infidelity is like the region of the shadow of death, described by Job, “Even a land of darkness and the shadow of death, a land of darkness as darkness itself, and of the shadow of death, and where the light is as darkness.” Infidelity is only constant to one principle, the enjoyment of the present time, undisturbed by the future; for, as the Arabian Caliph expressed it,
“How happy we live if a shadow would last;"
or, as Diderot has expressed it, less poetically, but not less naturally:—“On seroit assez bien dans ce monde, si l’on n’avoit rien à craindre dans l'autre.” Christianity never changes, but has adduced the same evidence from Origen to Paley. The evidence never varies, though it continually increases, and it presents the same facts and evidences to all succeeding inquirers, though, with a conviction that is ever deepening, and with a variety that is receiving continual additions. XV. If the evidences of Christianity are so varied and excellent, they are not without their obligations to the ingenuity of infidel writers. In fact, sceptics have done much more to support Christianity than infidelity. Their arguments in favour of their own side of the question are soon cast away and forgotten; but the works they call forth in answer to their attacks upon religion remain long after the temporary controversy which gave them birth, and continue to minister to the edification of Christians, who may never have heard of the opponents to whom they were indebted for so clear a display of divine truth. Thus, in the scheme of divine government, evil is fleeting, but good is permanent; errors are ever arising and falling in endless succession, but the truths which are opposed to these errors shine with endless and undecaying lustre, like the lights of heaven, when the clouds that for a moment obscure them are broken and altogether dissolved. All the best works of Christianity are owing to the attacks of infidels: we are indebted to Celsus for the defence of Origen, and to the prevalent infidelity of the day for the immortal work of Paley. XVI. The general tone of thinking of the present day is favourable to infidelity: We have abundance of superficial and sensible reasoners, men who have faith enough to believe all that they see; philosophers who are indeed of the earth, earthy. The metaphysics of Germany, as we have before observed, tend to pantheism, but the metaphysics of most in France, and of many in England, lead directly to materialism and atheism. No long and learned train of reasoning in either of these countries is permitted, every argument that would make any impression on the public mind must be brief and popular; and nothing is attended to but that com instead of having genius for its patron and advocate, no longer confers distinctions or feeds vanity. Its most ardent and conspicuous defenders and zealots are now amongst the lowest and most illiterate of the rabble. Still it has the great body of modern literature on the Continent in its favour; and it has few opponents save those who are blinded by Popery, or disabled by rational theology. And while superstition is favourable to existing abuses, innovation, as a natural consequence, must be the friend and ally of infidelity. Every ardent, and many benevolent minds, are enlisted on the side of a false philosophy; and when a new struggle for freedom commences upon the Continent, it is to be feared that most of the patriots will look upon every form of Christianity that deserves the name as opposed to the cause in which they are engaged, and as inimical to the welfare of the human race. XVII. If infidelity increases, we need not doubt that genuine religion will increase also. There is a very needless alarm about infidelity; it is merely the wind which separates and blows away the chaff. Infidelity has ever been a pioneer to true religion. The growing scepticism of the ancient Pagans was one of the great causes, as far as natural means are concerned, of the rapid progress of primitive Christianity. The scepticism that widely prevailed throughout the countries under the thraldom of Popery, immediately previous to the Reformation, B.
pendious philosophy which proves that nothing
was the precursor of the glorious change, when men, at the preaching of Luther, were turned from darkness into light, and received the everlasting Gospel, instead of the lying legends of a slavish superstition. The prevalence of infidel opinions preceded the revival of true religion, both in England, during the course of the eighteenth century, and also the more partial revival upon the Continent in our own times. And in all cases scepticism will be found doing the same good offices in religious creeds as in philosophical systems, detecting every flaw, sweeping down whatever has no foundation, and preparing a large and vacant space for erecting the solid and ever-durable edifice of truth.