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ample and indefinite diffusion even unto the uttermost limits of the habitable world. We reckon that in the very constitution and economy of the gospel there is provision made for its propagation, and that without any delegated virtue from on high to its messengers by which they may lay an arrest on the known laws and processes of visible nature. It short it is our opinion that, for the conversion of men to Christianity, whether at home or abroad, there is another power at work than that of achieving pretended miracles, and even another evidence than that which lies in the history of past miracles. We think there is an evidence, which is distinct from this, adverted to in the text; and a sermon on the text may contribute something, perhaps, towards its elucidation.
But, here again we are brought to the experience how inadequate the opportunity of a single and occasional sermon is for the full and thorough and radical exposition of any one topic in theology. At the best we can but undertake to offer a few slight touches, or on the whole a faint and incomplete outline in a sermon, of an argument, the inherent worth of which is not to be measured by the effect of any brief or hurried demonstration of ours.- A reason, however valid and invincible in itself, may suffer from the dense rapid statement we are compelled to make of it: in which case you may have presented at one view a good reason and yet a feeble and impaired reasoning.
FIRST, Nevertheless, let us endeavour as we may to give SOME GENERAL ACCOUNT OF THE EVIDENCE PRESENTED IN THE PASSAGE BEFORE US --that is, the manifestation of the truth to the conscience.
SECONDLY, WE SHALL AT LEAST AS SERT, AND, AS far as we caN, ESTABLISH
THE ASSERTION, that it is the great, if not the only, instrument of Christian missions, both in and out of Christendom.
And LASTLY, we shall consider THE
LIKELY PROSPECT IT HOLDS OUT OF SUC
CESS IN OUR MISSIONARY ENTERPRISE -a prospect confirmed, as we hope to show, by the actual and historical success which has already attended it.
I. If by CONSCIENCE be understood the moral faculty, or that which takes cognizance of, or that makes distinction between the morally good and evil
this may safely be regarded as a universal and inward feeling in man to be met with throughout all the members of the human family, under all the varieties of life and observation: and, with allowance for every modification of sentiment, still there is a general sense of right and wrong, which is characteristic of our species -a feeling of approval and complacency associated with the former -a feeling of shame, dissatisfaction, and remorse, associated with the latter. This peculiarity of our nature obtains in all countries and among all conditions of humanity. Whatever the practice may be, there is a certain truth of perception as to the difference between good and evil every where; there is a law of rectitude, to which, in every nation how degraded soever a universal homage is yielded by the sensibilities of the heart, however little it may be yielded to by the practical habit of their lives. In a word, there is a morality recognised by all men, imprinting the deepest traces of itself on the vocabulary of every language, and marking the residence of a conscience in every bosom; insomuch that go to any outcast tribe of wanderers, and, however sunk in barbarism, if you tell them of right and wrong, they will meet your demonstration with responding
and intelligent sympathy. You do, In short, wherever man is to be found,
not speak to them in a language unknown; there is a common feeling, a common understanding betwixt you, one ground of fellowship, at least, on which the most enlightened missionary of Europe might converse with the rudest savages of the desert.
there is the impression at least of a reigning and righteous GOD. When utterance is made of such a being by a missionary, even in the darkest places of the earth, they are not startled as if by the sound of a thing unknown; there is a ready acquiescence with him; and as he speaks of GOD, and sin, and vengeance, there is a felt harmony, between the conscience of the savage, and the sermon of the missionary.
But again this conscience, this sense of morality does not exist alone in the breast; it is, more or less, followed up by a certain conception of some rightful sovereign who planted it there. The feeling of a judge within the heart is in no case altogether apart from the faith of a judge above, who sits as overseer upon the doings and as arbitrator of the destinies of men. The moral sense does not terminate or rest in the mere abstract relation of right and wrong, but is embodied in the belief of a substantive being who dispenses the rewards that are due to the one, and who inflicts the penalties which are felt to be due unto the other. It is this which gives rise to the theology of natural conscience, more quick and powerful far than the theology of academic demonstration; not so much an inference from the marks of design and harmony in external nature, as an instance suggested from what is personal and what is felt within the recesses of one's own bosom, because leading from one effectual step-from the felt supremacy of conscience within to the feared supremacy of a GOD, the author of conscience, and who knoweth all things.
But further still, conscience, in the sense that we have hitherto used the term, is that faculty by which cognizance is taken of the good or evil desert of conduct in general; and conscience, by the use of language, has obtained a meaning more extended than this. It is implicated with the faculty of consciousness, and so is made to take a special cognizance of one's own character, of one's own conduct. One man is said to speak of the conscience of another when he speaks to the independent sense or knowledge which the other has of the state of his own heart, and his own history; and certain it is, that, never do we feel profounder veneration for any wisdom, than for that which searches and scrutinizes amidst the arcana of one's own nature, and comes to a right discernment thereupon. The man who can pronounce aright upon my character, and accurately read to you its inner tablet, the lineaments which I know to be graven there-the man who shows to me the picture of what I am, and I believe it to be at all points the faithful reflection of what I feel myself to be the man whose voice from without is thus responded to by the echo of conscience or consciousness within the man who can awaken this inhabitant of my bosom from his slumbers, and make him all alive to
It is a mistake to imagine that this theology is not universal, or that any decree, whether of ignorance or of corruption, can fully obliterate it. It was not stifled by the fables of Greece or Rome; neither was it extinct, as may be seen by their invocation to the great spirit, among the tribes of the American wilderness.
the truth of such a representation as he now perceives, but never before adverted to-to such a man we render the homage due to an insight and a sagacity so marvellous, and at length, to border on our argument, this sagacity we may conceive enhanced into a discernment supernatural, which may amount to such a divination of the thoughts of the heart as nought but the interposal of a divinity can explain; it might announce itself to be a higher wisdom than any upon earth-to be a wisdom from above; and so draw the very acknowledgment which the first teachers of Christianity drew, to whom, when an unlearned hearer listened, "he was judged of all, he was convinced of all, and thus were the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he worshipped GOD, and reported that GoD was in them of a truth."
After these preliminary observations we now feel ourselves somewhat prepared for stating the argument of the text. The substance of the Apostle's testimony, whether as orally delivered by himself to the people of his own age, or as transmitted, in a written record, to the people of all ages, is such as makes 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 accordancy with all that nature felt of its own necessitiesas first to draw the attention, and then to compel the belief of all who were thus aroused. The felt force of the difficulties on the one hand, the felt suitableness of the remedies on the other, might send them, and rightfully send them, on such a con
summation. It is not the view of those naked propositions that 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 in the multiplied and sustained harmony between the inner tablet of the heart and the outward tablet of the presented revelation. There is an evidence offered by the agreement between a complex tally and its alike complex, but accurately resembling counterpart: and there may be a like resemblance in the countless adaptations which obtain between a supernatural application from heaven and the human nature beneath on which it has descended. And besides these, there are 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 simplicity of its bearings; it can feel, and be impressed by, its aspect of undoubted sacredness; it can distinguish the voice of GOD, or when ambassadors are from GoD, in its promulgation of a righteous law, and in sustained dignity and the effect wherewith it challenges a rightful authority; it can perceive all which appears, 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 inviolable purity of its universal character, it will be so plainly perceived, when these evidences are so enhanced and multiplied on the professed communication from heaven, as to announce its descent from a GoD of knowledge and of holiness.
You will now understand what is
that he lifts up a veil, but it is but 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 are made to behold that which is within, and also to behold that which is without, and become alive to the force and fulness of that evidence which lies in the manifested adjustment between them, convinced at once of the magnitude of every man's 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 sensible or spiritual representations. There is light, it is true, shining out of darkness, a light which the Bible makes luminous, reflected from the tablet of the conscience, now made visible. It is not a light shining directly upon us from the heavenly objects themselves, but it is a light shining on a medium, the proof of which we are made sensible of its realities. He who has been visited by this manifestation can say, “I was blind, but now I see.” He may reremember the days when a darkness inscrutable seemed to hang over those mystic, those then uumeaning passages of the Bible that he now perceives to be full of weight and significance. He may remember the day when safe in himself he neither saw the extent nor the purity of God's lofty commandments, nor his own deficiency and distance there from. Though now burdened with the conscious magnitude of his guilt he now sees the need of a Saviour and feels his preciousness. He is now brought within full view of the argument of my text, and the transition, the personal or historical transition which himself has undergone, is to his mind
meant by the self-evidencing power of the Bible. The evidences of Christianity might be variously distributed-into external, internal, and historical evidences. Well, you will understand from these what is meant by the self-evidencing power of the Bible -strictly an internal evidence. 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 the historical evidences of Christianity that we are enabled to maintain its cause against the infidel, and the lettered academic man; 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 to the conscience, and this without the aid of sensible miracles in the present age, and without even the scholarship which ascertains and verifies the miracles of the 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 the evidence which might be addressed with effect to the moral nature of man in any quarter of the world. 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 primary 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 truth 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
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 his consciousness, in its favor. He has become a Christian in the true sense and significancy of the term; the gospel has entered his mind in the demonstration of the spirit and with power. He rejoices in the hope of its bright fulfilment, and untutored though he be, in the scholarship of its literary or argumentative evidence, he with an humble education and humble circumstances, can give a reason of his hope. I am quite sensible that this cannot be fully accorded to by the sympathy of those who have not required the transition. I have great hope on the part of those who have equally felt the transition, who remember the time when a veil of hieroglyphical obscurity seemed to hang over the pages of the New Testament, who did not feel the force of its adjustment to the felt moral and spiritual wants of their own nature, and who now feel a weight and see a significancy on every page, which they did not come at by any logical process, but which has been the result, in all probability, of great moral earnestness giving rise to a devout perusal of the Scriptures accompanied with prayer, in answer to which the Spirit has opened their understandings to see the Scriptures. And they appeal to this as a tangible method of proof, that whereas they were blind, now they see. Even those who have not undergone this transition may be made to conceive the evidence, by imagining the possibility of that which they now nauseate, perhaps, as mysticism, or regarded as a non-intelligible something which cannot enter into our sympathies. Let us suppose that they have been roused to the obligation of devoting
themselves daily to the perusal of the Scriptures, and have poured forth their hearts in earnest prayer to GoD that he would reveal these Scriptures to their understandings-if in point of fact they are made to feel their weight and significancy, and their manifold and various applications to all the peculiarities of their own hearts and history, they may at least conceive this would be very effective evidence. It would require the illustration of a volume, instead of the synoptical view which can be given in the limits of a single sermon, to follow out the question, through all its bearings. In one sentence we shall now state what the evidence is on which we would vindicate the rationality and the hopefulness of missionary enterprises.
We have the Bible which can be multiplied indefinitely and sent to all countries. We have the conscience universal in human nature, and in virtue of which every possessor of this nature, whether Greek or barbarian, might respond to the word which is there addressed to them. We have the Spirit of GOD given in answer to prayer, and promised to accompany and to abide with us even until the end of the world. And what we affirm is, that having these, we have means for the Christianization of the whole earth-a mighty yet marvellous achievement, wrought with the simple apparatus of a Bible and a conscience, and the evidence that is struck out between them by a light from the Spirit of God, irradiating them both. You have the whole philosophy of this evidence condensed within a very narrow compass in those beautiful lines of Cowper, when he compares the Christian intelligence of a poor and aged female, with the accomplishments of the philosopher Voltaire :