Where did he get that Law?
IN a neat and beautiful city, in one of the Northern States, lived a lawyer of eminence and talents.
I do not know many particulars of his moral character, but he was notoriously profane. He had a negro boy, at whom his neighbors used to hear him swear with awful violence. One day this gentleman met an elder of the Presbyterian church, who was also a lawyer, and said to him: "I wish, sir, to examine into the truth of the Christian religion. What books would you advise me to read on the evidence of Christianity? The elder, surprised at the inquiry, replied: "That is a question, sir, which you ought to have settled long ago. You ought not to have put off a subject so important to this late period of life."
"Is it too late?" said the inquirer. "I never knew much about it; but I always supposed that Christianity was rejected by the great majority of learned men. I intend, however, to examine
the subject thoroughly, myself. I have upon me, as my physician says, a mortal disease, under which I may live a year and a half or two years, but not probably longer. "What books, sir, would you advise me to
read?" "The Bible," said the elder. "I believe you do not understand me," resumed the unbeliever, surprised in his turn; "I wish to investigate the truth of the Bible."
"I would advise you, sir," repeated the elder, "to read the Bible. And," he continued, "I will give you my reasons: Most infidels are very ignorant of the Scriptures. Now to reason on any subject with correctness we must understand what it is about which we reason. In the next place, I consider the internal evidence of the truth of the Scriptures stronger than the external." "And where shall I begin?" inquired the unbeliever. "At the New Testament?" "No," said the elder; "at the beginning - at Genesis." The infidel purchased a commentary, went home, and sat down to the serious study of the Scriptures. He applied all his strong and well-disciplined powers of mind to the Bible, to try rigidly, but impartially its truth. As he went on in the perusal, he received occasional calls from the elder. The infidel freely remarked upon what he had read, and stated his objections. He liked this passage, he thought that touching and beautiful, but he could not credit a third.
One evening, the elder called and found the unbeliever at his house or office, walking the room, with a dejected look, his mind apparently absorbed in thought.
He continued, not noticing that any one had come in, busily to trace and retrace his steps. The elder at length spoke: "You seem, sir," said he, "to be in a brown study. Of what are you thinking?" "I have been reading," replied the infidel, "the moral law." "Well, what do you think of it?" asked the elder. "I will tell you what I used to think," answered the infidel. "I supposed that Moses was the leader of a horde of banditti; that having a strong mind, he acquired great influence over a superstitious people; and that on Mount Sinai, he played off some sort of fire-works, to the amazement of his ignorant followers, who imagined, in their mingled fear and superstition, that the exhibition was supernatural," "But what do you think now?" interposed the elder. "I have been looking," said the infidel, "into the nature of that law. I have been trying to see whether I can add any thing to it or take any thing from it, so as to make it better. Sir, I cannot. It is perfect."
"The first commandment," continued he, "directs us to make the Creator the object of our supreme love and reverence. That is right. If he be our Creator, Preserver and supreme Benefactor, we
ought to treat him, and none other, as such.
The second forbids idolatry. That certainly is right. The third forbids profaneness. The fourth fixes a time for religious worship. If there is a God, he ought surely to be worshiped. It is suitable that there should be an outward homage, significant of our inward regard. If God be worshiped, it is proper that some time be set apart for that purpose, when all may worship him harmoniously and without interruption. One day in seven is certainly not too much; and I do not know that it is too little. The fifth defines the peculiar duties arising from the family relations. Injuries to our neighbor are then classified by the moral law. They are divided into offences against life, chastity, property and character. And," said he, applying a legal idea with legal acuteness, "I notice that the greatest offense in each class is expressly forbidden. Thus the greatest injury to life is murder; to chastity, adultery; to property, theft; to character, perjury. Now the greater offense must include the less of the same kind. Murder must include every injury to life; adultery every injury to purity, and so of the rest. And the moral code is closed and perfected, by a command forbidding every improper desire in regard to our neighbor.
"I have been thinking," he proceeded, "where did Moses get that law?
I have read history: the Egyptians and the adjacent nations were idolaters; so were the Greeks and Romans; and the wisest and best Greeks or Romans never gave a code of morals like this. Where did Moses get this law, which surpasses the wisdom and philosophy of the most enlightened ages? He lived at a period comparatively barbarous, but he has given a law, in which the learning and sagacity of all subsequent time can detect no flaw. Where did he get it? He could not have soared so far above his age, as to have devised it himself. I am satisfied where he obtained it. It came down from heaven. I am convinced of the truth of the religion of the Bible."