« ZurückWeiter »
He takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us, He but shows us the things of Scripture, or the things which the Scripture tells of Christ. Each man on whom He operates is made the subject of a distinct manifestation; yet He does not tell a different Christianity to each, but the same Christianity to all—for the Christianity which He has graven on the hearts of those to whom He has imparted the gift of spiritual discernment, is a precise transcript of the Christianity previously graven on the pages of the New Testament. At this rate there might be no fancy, no fluctuation, in the Christianity of these men—for they are all made to behold the same things; and both the doctrine which they believe, and the morality which they are taught to practise, may be tried by a reference to the same standard-even the standard of the law and of the testimony. And scripture is still the abiding test-book of their Christianity -for, whatever the pretensions of these men, if they speak not according to the things that are written in this book, there is no truth in them. And as there is nothing precarious in their doctrine, neither is there aught precarious in the evidence upon which they have received it. One can imagine a hundred-fold strength given to the faculty of distant vision—on which the features of a remote landscape, now beyond the perception of the natural eye, might start into sure and satisfying revelation; and what we should thus behold would not be an illusion, but a solid reality, and on the best of all evidence, even that of ocular demonstration. And one can also imagine a hundred-loid
strength given to the faculty of minute or microscopic vision_on which, the arcana of a hidden region, now beneath the perception of the natural eye would come into view, and still on the same evidence of ocular demonstration. And thus too we might imagine of the Spirit of God, whom it is not for us to limit as if we indeed comprehended the whole of His way—that He gives to the mind of the inquirer, to the eye of his intellect, a powerful and penetrating discernment into the matters of Scripture; and that he is made in consequence to behold a character of majesty and sacredness, and to hear a voice of authority which tells him irresistibly of God. Whether such signatures of the Godhead as these be actually in Scripture, or what the things to be discerned are which lie in reserve for our discernment there, can only be told by him who has the faculty of discernment, not by him who wants itin like manner as the objects of a telescopic region can only be told by him who has the enlarged vision of the telescope, not by him who possesses but the limited vision of the natural eye.
Certain it is, that if such tokens of the divinity exist in the Bible, and it is by an augmentation in the visual faculties of the mind that we are enabled to behold them—there might be as much reason and philosophy in the convictions of those by whom the truth as it is in Jesus is spiritually discerned, as there is in the confidence of the astronomer, when he tells of the satellites of Jupiter; or of the naturalist, when he tells of the atoms and animalcules that are beneath the ken of our unaided eyesight. The reader of the
Bible, when thus gifted, might have as legitimate an assurance of the new meaning he is now made to behold—as, with only his old faculties, he had of the mind or meaning of any ordinary author.* The very process whereof he is conscious in his own mind, and by which he has been ushered into this new and impressive manifestation of the Deity, adds a peculiar evidence of its own to that of the outward manifestation itself; and rivets still more the conviction, that the same God, who thus supernaturally teaches him to understand this Bible, is verily in the Bible of a truth.
15. It is thus that the veriest babe in natural knowledge inight be made to perceive God in the scriptures, and there be revealed to him things hidden from the wise and the prudent.t When, in virtue of this spiritual revelation, the scales are made to fall from his eyes—he might recognize, in the sentences which the Bible gives forth, the divinity of Him who utters them, directly announcing itself to be the voice of God clothed in majesty. Yet he is informed of nothing but what the word tells him; but to his mind, now opened and clarified, it tells what it never told before; and he can now say with him in the Gospel whom a miracle had cured, “I was once blind but now I see.” In the whole of this wondrous record, from first to last, from the Patriarchs and Prophets of the Old to the
* “ We cannot conceive how reason should be prejudiced by the advancement of the rational faculties of our souls with respect unto their exercise toward their proper objects ; which is all we assign unto the work of the Holy Spirit in this matter."-Dr. Owen on the Spirit,
† Matt. xi 25.
Apostles of the New Testament; he descries throughout, the purity and the wisdom and the sustained loftiness of the Godhead. As in personal converse we might recognize at once both the dignity and wisdom of him to whose spoken language we are at the time giving ear-so, in the perusal of written language, the same attributes might be discernible; and be so enhanced as to impress on the awakened reader, the sense and the rightful conviction that God Himself had broken silence. He feels it to be the language not of earth, but of Heaven's august sanctuary.
The evidence of this in the Bible beams direct upon him from its own pages; and, however difficult or perhaps incapable of analysis it may be, this hinders not its being his rational and well-grounded faith—when to him the reading of Scripture is an act of felt and immediate fellowship with God.
16. This evidence, however distinctly felt by him who is the subject of it or who has had the experience of its manifestation, it is extremely difficult to speak of discursively or to the satisfaction of others. Dr. Owen, in his treatise on “ the divine original authority self-evidencing light and power of the scriptures, with an answer to that inquiry how we know the scriptures to be the word of God,” has with all his efforts failed, we think, in describing to others, what we have no doubt he genuinely experienced himself—and so leaves the subject in great obscurity. Our own Halyburton, whose book on Deism in reply to Lord Herbert,
* « Natural Religion insufficient, and Revealed necessary to Man's happiness in his present state ; or a rational inquiry into
and whose little tract, or “ Essay concerning the Nature of Faith, or the grounds upon which it assents to the Scriptures,” place him in a high rank among our philosophical theologians—is the most successful expounder of it whom we have yet met with. In this latter performance, the running title of which is an “ Essay concerning the Reason of Faith,” he controverts the opinion of the rationalists on this subject, and especially of Mr. Locke in his book on the Human Understanding. The following are a few extracts :—" This impress, those characters, prints and vestiges of the infinite perfections of the Deity, that unavoidably must be allowed to be stamp'd on, and shine, not merely or only or principally in the matter, but in that as spoken or written, and in the writings or words, in their style, the spirit running through them, the scope, tendency, &c. This Θεοπρεπεια Or Godbecoming impress of majesty, sovereignty, omniscience, independence, holiness, justice, goodness, wisdom, and power, is not only a sufficient and real, but in very deed, the greatest objective light and evidence imaginable. And where one has an understanding given to know him that is true, and is made thereby to entertain any suitable notion of the Deity, upon intuition of this objective evidence, without waiting to reason on the matter, his assent will be carried, and unavoidably determined to rest on it as the highest ground of assurance. the principles of the Modern Deists, &c. ;" by the Rev. Thomas Halyburton, Professor of Divinity in the University of St. Andrew's. He flourished at the beginning of the last century; and is author of a most valuable practical work-" The Great Conceru,”