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nature finding no solution of its mysteries, no satisfaction of its
And now, where would one suppose he stopped, where found rest, after rejecting the system of the Son of God, or discovering in it nothing to meet the yearnings of his soul? With what or whom could a mind take up its rest that had found in Christ and His religion nothing suited to its capacities? In the Ethics of Spinosa! "After locking through the whole world," Goethe says, "in vain, to find a means of development for my strange nature, I at last fell upon the Ethics of this man. Here I found a sedative for my passions. But what especially bound me to him was the great disinterestedness which shone from every sentence. That wonderful expression, who loves God truly must not desire God to love him in return, with all the preliminary propositions on which it rests, and all the consequences that follow from it, filled my whole soul."
Now it is doubtful, if in the whole range of human literature a more humiliating instance can be found than this, of the deplor able blindness to which religious unbelief and insensibility reduces the human intellect. It is a spectacle as curious as it is melancholy, to behold a man of great powers of mind, who has passed by, unmoved, all the calls of God, all the divine array of thought that attracts heavenly intelligences, all the mysteries of godliness into which angels desire to look, falling down at length to worship at the feet of a creature like himself, and to find that that which especially attracts his wonder and admiration in this system of Ethics, which he is ready to take for his gospel, although he rejects the gospel of Christ, is one of the very simplest, plainest truths of Christianity possible; that, indeed, which is the very essence of Christianity, and lies revealed in every page; disinterested love, self-denying, self-forgetting love. He adores, as if it were a supernatural revelation, in Spinosa, what he has rejected without notice, or with contempt, ten thousand times in Christ. Spinosa himself could not but take it from Christ, though rejecting the whole Christian system; and here is one of the leading minds in all Germany accepting with a rapture of admiration, at second-hand, from Spinosa, what in the Son of God he is perfectly blinded to, or else deliberately rejects. The indescribable, incomparable perversion, degradation, we had almost said idiocy, which can receive from man, and adore in man, what it never heeds from God, what it understands not in Christianity, what, indeed, it denies as from God, can, one would think, be nothing but the effect of diabolical agency. It reminds us of John Foster's expression in regard to Hume, of the faculty of spiritual perception putrifying and dissolving before its time. The product of human sagacity is in such a case a rotten light, or dead, sunken glow, like that of
punk-wood in the darkness, verifying the declaration of God in regard to those whose religion is the worship of man and the despising of God's Word, that the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust.
The same thing may account for the rapture of some minds over common truths in pages like Swedenborg's, over which they wonder in a trance of admiration at the supernatural wisdom of such a man, but think nothing of the same truths in the pages of inspiration, from which they have been taken, and perhaps coolly reject the writings of Paul, though coming directly from the Spirit of God. Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. Men would rather kidnap and instal a prophet of their own, whose claims they feel and know rest entirely and solely on their own choice and admission, and therefore may be thrown off, or otherwise dealt with at pleasure, than acknowledge the supreme authority of the prophet sent of God. There are many, who, in their infatuation, are ready to receive anything that releases men from their sense of obligation and accountability to God's Word.
The scripture definition of faith, as the resting of the soul on that affirmation, Thus saith the Lord, and the exclusive mooring of it to the Word of God, separates it from that mere general belief in Christianity, of which some men and sects make so great a parade under the profession of a pure and lofty regard to truth. They say they receive the Word of God because it is true. But that is not faith in God; that is not believing God; that may be but insulting God. God will have men receive His Word, because it is His Word, because He speaks it. The next step of these pseudo-believers, but doubters of God, is to receive the Word of God only so far as it is true; just as if they stood in the place of God, and could say what in it is true, and what is not. They will cull from it what their reason declares to be true, and will receive even that only in the way and sense with which their judgment is pleased to be satisfied. Their search for truth seems to them much more grand and lofty than any mere searching for truth as it is in Jesus. But the search for truth, and the love of it, under the forms laid down in the Scriptures, are very different from the philosophical search, like the Greeks, for wisdom; a passion in which there is quite as much pride as disinterestedness. This is not God's view; this is not Christian philosophy. It was never the direction of our blessed Lord, in matters of religion, to search the truth, but to search the Scriptures. There is much pretended philosophical seeking for the truth, combined with a denial of the Scriptures; just as there is much pretended seeking for life, combined with unbelief in, and a denial of, Him who is the way, the truth, and the life. God has
given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son, and in His Word as it reveals His Son. God has given to us eternal truth, and this truth is in His Son, and in His Word as it reveals His Son. The pretended believer, but real unbeliever, receives the first, but rejects the last, of these propositions, professes to receive eternal truth, but not the truth as it is in Jesus, the truth determined by the written Word. He professes the spirit of truth, but rejects the record. But in the words of Archbishop Leighton, “If any pretend that they have the spirit, and so turn away from the strait rule of the Holy Scriptures, they have a spirit indeed, but it is a fanatical spirit, a spirit of delusion and giddiness; but the Spirit of God, that leads his children in the way of truth, and is for that purpose sent them from heaven to guide them thither, squares their thoughts and ways to that rule whereof it is the author, and that Word, which was inspired by it, and sanctifies them to obedience."
All this, in every case of faith, is matter not of theory, but experience, not of assertion, but of life. Every Christian knows that just in propoition as the heart has been drawn out after God, God's Word has come with power, with an unassailable conviction, while in proportion to the decay or dullness of the affections there has settled down over it a cloud of obscurity and doubt. Difficulties rise up, and truths disappear. But when the tide of holy feeling is full, then every inlet is a practicable harbor of deep water; then those reefs are covered, and may be sailed over, which, when the tide is out, present impracticable barriers, and then a fleet may sail where, at low water, there are nothing but mud flats.
It may possibly be objected that herein we make the substance and proof of the Word of God to consist in a strong undoubting persuasion of the soul. But the Word of God is always the same; it liveth and abideth forever; it does not depend on faith, though faith depends on it. Faith simply sees it as it is. We discard not, nor disesteem, the external evidences connected with, and growing out of the Word of God. We say growing out of, for it is they that are dependent upon God's Word, and not God's Word dependent upon them. There is a mode of presenting and enforcing the external evidence, which makes the Word of God ineffectual without it. The evidences of Christianity are dependent on the Word of God, but the Word of God is not dependent on the evidences of Christianity. The Word of God is itself the evidence, as it is the living substance of Christianity. The external evidence is increasing perpetually; and if age after age men had to run through the whole series of defences constructed by the ingenuity of man, as if all sight and conviction of God in His Word depended upon them, at that rate, the more of evidence, the less of God. The day will come, when even a whole life
time would scarce be enough to run over, even superficially, the vast fields of demonstration in regard to God's Word ; and who then would have time to become a believer, if belief depended on the knowledge of external proof? The believing heart exclaims, clear away all this rubbish, and let me see God. Evidence is good, but God is better. Let me see and hear God; then there will be evidence.
External evidence, as good Mr. Berridge used to say of learning, in comparison with piety," is a good stone to throw at a dog to stop his barking.” It is good to meet the objections of infidels, good to show that no counter proof can be brought against your argument; good also for the mind to fall back upon in times when the spiritual vision is dark, the soul clouded, and only the earthly understanding wakeful ; good, possibly, some
; times to disarm prejudice in a mind beclouded with error, and to throw down the breastworks of the great adversary of souls. But it is worthy of notice that the apostles, as preachers of the Word, never appealed to external evidence, but only to the Word. They argued not on testimony, man-ward, but on authority, Godward. In the language of Mr. Halyburton, " The way they took to persuade the unbelieving world to receive the gospel was not by proposing the arguments commonly insisted on now for proving the truth of their doctrine, nor working, nor insisting upon miracles wrought by them, for confirmation of the truth, but by a bare proposal of the truth, and a sincere manifestation of it to consciences, in the name of God they proceeded and demanded acceptance of it, as the Word of God, and not of man; and by this means they converted the world. And truly, the Word of God being, as himself, living, abiding, immutable, whenever, and however it comes, it comes with DIVINE AUTHORITY, and needs no attendant to usher it in, no herald to demonstrate its dignity.
The intuition of this Divine authority is the persuasion and possession of a right heart. An evil heart never has this faith. An evil heart may believe a lie, may have a very strong persuasion of the truth of an evil book, but it will never have that conviction of the Word of God as His Word, which only a good heart can have. For in Divine things God's light, God's logic, is that of love ; and it is only the believing mind, surrounded with the atmosphere of love, that receives and understands it. It is only an unbelieving, resisting, unloving mind, that is bound, chained, and cast into prison by mere argument. The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. Lord Bacon speaks of the lumen siccum, the dry light of the understanding, unbeclouded by the humors of the passions, as the true light; and in human things, or with reference to evil prejudice, it may be so ; but in Divine things, with reference to the affections, it is not so. We must have the lumen madidum, the light softened by the affec
THIRD SERIES, VOL. IV. NO. 4. 7
tions, or we may be changed, and yet not made believing. There is a light of the understanding merely, which utterly fails to cona vince, a lumen siccum, a dry light, in which the 'mind dies for want or moisture. There are truths in the Word of God of such a nature, that the fervor of the affections constitutes the only medium of salutary communication with them, and of believing communion. If this fervor of the affections be absent, and yet the soul be carried into the atmosphere of such truths, it is quite intolerable; rather than endure them, it will reject them, and the Word of God along with them.
Our blessed Lord says,-MY SHEEP hear my VOICE, but a stranger's voice will they not hear. He that doeth my will shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God. It is my sheep who hear; not the goats nor the wolves, who are not expected to hear, but with terror. It is my sheep who hear, and my voice
, which alone they will hear, which alone is divine. When the Word of God speaks, and men do not recognize the Divine voice, it is simply because of moral evil in themselves; it is because they are goats or wolves, and not sheep. I know my sheep, and am known of mine. They know the voice of the Shepherd, the voice of God. That voice speaks to all the sheep, is spoken for all, in every generation. It speaks just as audibly now, and as directly to each one of us, as to the prophets and apostles. The Word of God liveth and abideth forever. To the soul that hears it in faith, it carries in itself conviction as the voice of God; in itself, not in human testimony. And the soul that lives rightly upon God's Word, comes to Him daily for it, and listens daily to His voice. Give us day by day our daily bread. The power of this bread depends upon God giving it. If the soul come not to God for it, the volume called the Word will not provide it, as the food of the soul. The soul must come, not merely to the volume, but to God. In coming to the volume it must come to God. The true evidence and power of the gospel is in thus coming and listening to God himself. Receive the living bread, the heavenly manna from Him alone.
The meanest, most illiterate child of God, thus coming, has a power of sight, and of spiritual communion, an enlargement of soul, and an unmistakalle certainty of judgment, such as the proudest philosopher never arrived at.
Yon cottager, who weaves at her own door.