Abbildungen der Seite

to himself it is satisfactory; and could we by any means be made to know what passes in the minds of others, as intimately as we know and feel what passes in our own minds—we might from the history of every manifestation, gather a strong argument, of a peculiar but very conclusive kind for the truth of Christianity. Such a general observation as this, however, were not very practicable; and therefore it is the more fortunate, that this evidence, which it were so difficult to collect from the history of others, gathers in brightness every day along the line of the individual history of each real Christian.

And this experimental evidence is perpetually growing. There is not merely an agreement between the declarations of the book and his own experience, in the great event that marks and that constitutes in fact the outset of that new moral career upon which he has entered; but there is a sustained agreement between its declarations, and the evolutions of his mental or spiritual history in all time coming. There is a busy interchange of correspondence and of mutual confirmation going on, between what he finds and what it says. There is thus a growing confidence that he attaches to this book- just as he would attach a growing confidence to the prophet who had adventured himself on the futurities of his own personal story; and, in favour of whom, every new day of his life had brought round some accomplishment or other. And so it is, that even the unlettered peasant may receive an impression of the truth of this book, from the truth of its manifold agreements with his own intimate experience.

He may recognize throughout its pages, not merely the shrewd discernment of what he is, but the prophetic discernment of what he will be along the successive stages of his preparation for heaven. And, with every new experience of the way in which its descriptions tally with the details of his own history-as in the account, for example, that it gives of the exercises of the spirit, whether under the afflictions of life or the assaults of temptation-or in the fulfilments of prayer-or in the facilities that open up, for a still more prosperous cultivation of the heart, along the path of an advancing excellence-or in the light which it casts over the ways and the arrangements of providence in the world—there redounds from all these, and from many more which cannot be specified, the glory of an increasing evidence for the truth of that volume, whose insight, not only reaches to the penetralia of the human character, but lays open the secrets and the dark places that lie in the womb of futurity. This is truly an accumulating evidence. It brightens with every new fulfilment, and every new step in the journey of a Christian's life ; and, amid the incredulity and derision of those who have no sympathy either with his convictions or his hopes—still we hold that the faith, thus originated and thus sustained, is the faith not of fanaticism but of sound philosophy ; that his experimental Christianity rests, in fact, on a basis as firm as experimental science; that there is neither delusion in the growing lustre of his convictions through life, nor delusion in the concluding triumphs and ecstasy of his death-bed.

51. In these various ways then might Christianity manifest its own truth to the conscience of every man. When making demonstration of human guilt, there might be such an accordancy with all that nature felt of its own guiltiness—when making demonstration of the offered atonement, there might be such an accordance with all that nature felt of its own necessities, as first to draw the attention, and then to compel the belief of all who were thus arrested. The felt force of the disease on the one hand, and the felt suitableness of the remedy on the other, might land them, and rightfully land them in such a consummation. It is not that viewed as two naked propositions, they can evince or establish the general truth of the system which contains them. But they are variously and repeatedly set forth in the sacred record; and this gives rise to innumerable touches of descriptive accuracy, to a multiple and sustained harmony between the inward tablet of the heart and the outward tablet of a professed revelation. There is an evidence afforded by the agreement between a complex tally and its alike complex but accurately resembling counterpart; and there may be a like evidence in the countless adaptations which obtain between a supernal application from heaven, and the human nature beneath, upon which it has descended. And beside these, there are so many other symptoms or signatures of Truth which the conscience can lay hold of. It can discern the apparent honesty of any communication. It can take cognizance of all that marks the worth or the simplicity of its bearers. It can feel and be

impressed by its aspect of undoubted sacredness. It can distinguish the voice of a God, or of an ambassador from God, in its promulgation of a righteous law, and in the sustained dignity and effect wherewith it challenges a rightful authority. It can perceive all which is in and about the message to be in keeping with the high original which it claims; and, whether it looks to the profoundness of its wisdom or to the august and unviolable purity of its moral character, it can perceive when these evidences are so enhanced and multiplied on a professed embassy from heaven, as to announce its descent from a God of knowledge and a God of holiness.

52. We may now understand what is meant by the self-evidencing power of the Bible. It is that in virtue of which it announces its own authority to the understanding of the reader. It is not only the bearer of its own contents, but is the bearer also of its own credentials. It is by the external and historical evidences of Christianity, that we are enabled to maintain its cause against the infidelity of lettered and academic men. But it is another evidence that recommends it to the acceptance of the general population. Their belief in scripture, and we think all saving belief whatever, is grounded on the instant manifestation of its truth unto the conscience. And thus, without the aid of sensible miracles in the present age, and without even the scholarship which ascertains and verifies the miracles of a past age, do we hold that the divinity of the Bible may be read and recognized in its own pages, and that in virtue of an evidence

which might be addressed with effect to the moral nature of man in any quarter of the world.

53. But what gives complete and conclusive effect to this evidence is the revelation of the Spirit. For the understanding of this, there is one thing of prime importance to be attended to. The Spirit when He acts as an enlightener, presents us with no new revelation of His own. He only shines on that revelation which is already given in the Bible. He brings no new truths from afar, He but discloses the truths of that word which is nigh unto us.

It is true that He opens our eyes; but it is to behold the wondrous things contained in this book. It is true that He lifts up a veil; but it is not the veil which hides from our view the secrets of any distant or mysterious region. He taketh away the veil from our hearts; and we,

made to behold that which is within, and also to behold that which is without-become alive to the force and fulness of that evidence which lies in the manifold adjustments between them-convinced at once of the magnitude of our own sin, and of the suitableness and reality of the offered salvation. In this process there is no direct announcement made to us by the Spirit of God. There is neither a voice nor a vision; no whisper to the ear of the inner man—no gleam either of a sensible or spiritual representation. There is light it is true shining out of darkness; but it is the light of the Bible, now made luminous, reflected from the tablet of conscience, now made visible. It is not a light shining direct upon us from the heavenly objects themselves; but it is a light shining on a

« ZurückWeiter »