Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

medium of proof by which we are made sensible of their reality. He who has been visited by this manifestation can say, I was blind but now I see. He may remember the day when a darkness inscrutable seemed to hang over those mysticthose then unmeaning passages of the Bible, which he now perceives to be full of weight and full of significancy. He may remember the day when, safe and satisfied with himself, he neither saw the extent and the purity of God's lofty commandment, nor his own distance and deficiency therefromthough now burdened with the conscious magnitude of his guilt, he both sees the need of a Saviour, and feels His preciousness. He is now brought within full view of the argument that we have laboured to unfold; and the transition, the personal or the historical transition, which himself has undergone is to his own mind a most impressive argument. It forms to him an experimental evidence of the truth of Christianity—and may be regarded as another appeal to his conscience or to his consciousness in its favour. He has become a Christian in the true sense and significancy of the term. The Gospel hath entered his mind in the demonstration of the Spirit and with power.

He rejoices in the hope of its bright fulfilments; and, untutored though he be in the scholarship of its literary or argumentative evidences, he, though of humble education and humble circumstances, can give a reason of his hope.

54. It should not be difficult to understand, how, under this process of spiritual illumination, men, in all ages or parts of the world, the most

widely distant from each other, are nevertheless introduced to one and the same Christianity. The Spirit does not make known a different religion to each; but He manifests the same great truths to every understanding—the stable characteristics of human nature, and the no less stable doctrines of revelation, fixed and handed down to us in an imperishable written record. This will explain the mutual recognitions, the felt affinities, the perfect community of soul and sentiment that obtain between the truly regenerated of all countries and all periods. A christian peasant of Scotland, were the barrier of their diverse language removed, could enter with fullest sympathy, into the feelings and the views and the mental exercises of a christianized Hottentot in South Africa. On the same principle, he would feel the consent of a common intelligence and common sensibility with his author-when reading the pages of Augustine, or any other writer on practical Christianity, who, like him, underwent a transition from the darkness of nature to the marvellous light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Were the materials for the observation within our reach, it were most interesting to compare the converse between two devoted Christians brought together from the remotest places of the earth, and that, for example, of a Mahometan Moor with a Mahometan Persian–the first two having the Bible as a common subject of reference; the second two the Alcoran. Each would sympathize with the other of his own kind; but a mighty lesson might be educed from the extent and the character of their respective sympathies. In the

а

one, we should behold a community of the same ablutions, the same abstinences, the same external observations. In the other we should behold community, of a far higher kind, of soul with soul; a coalescence between the thoughts and affections and principles of the inner man. The votaries of other religions may have one baptism. They are the votaries of the Christian religion alone who have one Lord, that dwells in them and makes them one both with Himself and with each other; one faith, that, working by love, has the entire mastery over both their intellectual and their moral nature -and, subordinating the whole heart and history to the same great principle, begets that likeness or identity between all the members however scattered of Christ's spiritual family, which is expressed in our theological systems by the communion of the saints. They are bound together by the tie of their common sympathies, and their common hopes; and, in the topics of converse suggested by these, they have an interest which never fails.

CHAPTER IV.

On the portable Character of the Evidence for the

Truth of Christianity.

1. The epithet of portable, though alike applicable to the moral the experimental and the doctrinal evidence for the truth of Christianity, we should VOL. IV.

îl

not have ventured to adopt in this place—had it not been previously sanctioned by our admirable friend Joseph John Gurney,* whose writings have contributed so much to the defence and illustratio: of our common faith.

2. The meaning of it is, that, unlike to the historical or literary evidence, which, as requiring a higher amount of scholarship and education than is found to obtain throughout the general mass of society, can only be addressed to a limited class of readers——the portable evidence, on the contrary, may be borne to every door, and find an opening for itself to the heart and the conscience even of the most unlettered of our species. Yet it is not by a reflex or philosophical exposition of this evidence--it is not by such an exposition of it as we have attempted to give in the two previous chapters, that it is made to obtain an entrance into the minds of the common people. It works a way for itself there, and there achieves its main triumphs through the direct preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is while the minister unfolds the contents of the Christian message, though without one word from him on the credentials of the message, that the best and weightiest of these credentials do of themselves find access to the popular understanding. It is thus that the subject matter of Christianity, instinct in itself with evidence, may, when simply told and explained, be left to vindicate its own authority; and does in fact carry its own proper weight, amounting to absolute

. See his interesting little work on the “Portable Evidence of Christianity."

and entire ascendancy, over the convictions of the most ignorant and unlearned hearers. And this mental consent of theirs is not fancy but faith -the real substance of belief and not the semblance of it only—the result of a process as legitimate and as logical, as any of those by which philosophy has been led to her soundest conclusions—a belief resting upon evidence presented in the message, though not pointed to or once named to them by the bearer of the message—an evidence recognized by the people though perhaps never reasoned on by the minister,

3. And this self-evidence which lies in the matter of revelation, and makes it so applicable to the unlearned within, makes it equally applicable to the rudest and most unlettered tribes without the limits of Christendom. In the power and effect of the internal evidence we behold the rationale of a missionary enterprise—the agents of which, with but the Bible in their hands and the spirit of prayer in their hearts, are in a state of full equipment for operating on the moral nature of man in every quarter of the globe. They are in possession of a key to all consciences; and, without the power either of working present miracles or of demonstrating to the apprehension of savages the certainty of past miracles, they, nevertheless, are in possession of vouchers to authenticate their mission, and by which to make full proof of their apostleship.

4. Before expatiating further either on the one or the other application, the evidence itself may again be shortly stated, even that evidence by

« ZurückWeiter »