« ZurückWeiter »
and intelligent sympathy. You do, In short, wherever man is to be found, not speak to them in a language there is the impression at least of a unknown; there is a common feeling, reigning and righteous God. When a common understanding betwixt you, utterance is made of such a being by one ground of fellowship, at least, on a missionary, even in the darkest which the most enlightened missionary places of the earth, they are not of Europe might converse with the startled as if by the sound of a thing rudest savages of the desert.
unknown; there is a ready acquiesBut again : this conscience, this cence with him; and as he speaks of sense of morality does not exist alone God, and sin, and vengeance, there in the breast; it is, more or less, is a felt harmony, between the confollowed up by a certain conception science of the savage, and the sermon of some rightful sovereign who planted of the missionary, it there. The feeling of a judge within But further still, conscience, in the the heart is in no case altogether sense that we have hitherto used apart from the faith of a judge above, the term, is that faculty by which who sits as overseer upon the doings cognizance is taken of the good or and as arbitrator of the destinies of evil desert of conduct in general; men. The moral sense does not and conscience, by the use of lanterminate or rest in the mere abstract guage, has obtained a meaning more relation of right and wrong, but is extended than this. It is implicated embodied in the belief of a substantive with the faculty of consciousness, and being who dispenses the rewards that so is made to take a special cogniare due to the one, and who inflicts zance of one's own character, of one's the penalties which are felt to be due own conduct. One man is said to unto the other. It is this which gives speak of the conscience of another rise to the theology of natural con- when he speaks to the independent science, more quick and powerful far sense or knowledge which the other than the theology of academic de- has of the state of his own heart, and monstration; not so much an in- his own history; and certain it is, ference from the marks of design and that, never do we feel profounder harmony in external nature, as an veneration for any wisdom, than for instance suggested from what is that which searches and scrutinizes personal and what is felt within the amidst the arcana of one's own narecesses of one's own bosom, because ture, and comes to a right discernleading from one effectual step-from ment thereupon. The man who can the felt supremacy of conscience pronounce aright upon my character, within to the feared supremacy of a and accurately read to you its inner God, the author of conscience, and tablet, the lineaments which I know who knoweth all things.
to be graven there--the man who It is a mistake to imagine that this shows to me the picture of what I am, theology is not universal, or that any and I believe it to be at all points decree, whether of ignorance or of the faithful reflection of what I feel corruption, can fully obliterate it. myself to be—the man whose voice It was not stifled by the fables of from without is thus responded to by Greece or Rome ; neither was it ex- the echo of conscience or conscioustinct, as may be seen by their invo- ness within the man who can awaken cation to the great spirit, among the this inhabitant of my bosom from his tribes of the American wilderness. slumbers, and make him all alive to the truth of such a representation as summation. It is not the view of he now perceives, but never before those naked propositions that can adverted toto such a man we ren- evince or establish the general truth der the homage due to an insight and of the system which contains them; a sagacity so marvellous, and at but they are variously and repeatedly length, to border on our argument, set forth in the sacred record. And this sagacity we may conceive en- this gives rise to innumerable touches hanced into a discernment superna- of descriptive accuracy in the multural, which may amount to such a tiplied and sustained harmony bedivination of the thoughts of the heart tween the inner tablet of the heart as nought but the interposal of a and the outward tablet of the predivinity can explain; it might an- sented revelation. There is an evinounce itself to be a higher wisdom dence offered by the agreement bethan any upon earth--to be a wisdom tween a complex tally and its alike from above; and so draw the very ac- complex, but accurately resembling knowledgment which the first teachers counterpart: and there may be a like of Christianity drew, to whom, when resemblance in the countless adaptaan unlearned hearer listened, “ he tions wbich obtain between a superwas judged of all, he was convinced natural application from heaven and of all, and thus were the secrets of the human nature beneath on which his heart made manifest; and so it has descended. And besides these, falling down on his face he worshipped there are many other symptoms or God, and reported that God was in signatures of truth which the conthem of a truth."
science can lay hold of. It can disAfter these preliminary observa- cern the apparent honesty of any tions we now feel ourselves some- communication, it can take cognizance what prepared for stating the argu- of all that marks the worth or simment of the text. The substance of plicity of its bearings; it can feel, and the Apostle's testimony, whether as be impressed by, its aspect of unorally delivered by himself to the doubted sacredness; it can distiapeople of his own age, or as trans- guish the voice of God, or when mitted, in a written record, to the ambassadors are from God, in its people of all ages, is such as makes promulgation of a righteous law, and manifest its own truth to the con- in sustained dignity and the effect science of every man. When mak- wherewith it challenges a rightful auing demonstration of human guilt, thority; it can perceive all which there might be such an accordancy appears, in and about the message, with all that nature felt of its own to be in keeping with the high origuiltiness—when making demonstra- ginal which it claims; and, whether tion of the offered atonement, there it looks to the profoundness of its might be such an accordancy with all wisdom, or to the august and inviothat nature felt of its own necessities– lable purity of its universal character, as first to draw the attention, and it will be so plainly perceived, when then to compel the belief of all who these evidences are so enhanced and were thus aroused. The felt force of multiplied on the professed commuthe difficulties on the one hand, the nication from heaven, as to announce felt suitableness of the remedies on its descent from a God of knowledge the other, might send them, and and of holiness. rightfully send them, on such a con- You will now understand what is
meant by the self-evidencing power that he lifts up a veil, but it is but the of the Bible. The evidences of veil which hides from our view the seChristianity might be variously dis- crets of any distant or mysterious retributed-into external, internal, and gion. He taketh away the veil from historical evidences. Well, you will our hearts, and we are made to behold understand from these whatis meant by that which is within, and also to behold the self-evidencing power of the Bible that which is without, and become -strictly an internal evidence. It is alive to the force and fulness of that that in virtue of which it announces its evidence which lies in the manifested own authority to the understanding of adjustment between them, convinced the reader. It is not only the bearer at once of the magnitude of every of its own contents, but is the bearer man's sin and of the suitableness and also of its own credentials. It is by reality of the offered salvation. In the external and the historical evi- this process there is no direct andences of Christianity that we are nouncement made to us by the spirit enabled to maintain its cause against of God, there is neither a voice nor a the infidel, and the lettered academic vision, no whisper to the ear of the man; but it is another evidence that inner man, no gleam either of senrecommends it to the acceptance of sible or spiritual representations. the general population. Their be- There is light, it is true, shining out lief in scripture, and we think all of darkness, a light which the Bible saving belief whatever, is grounded makes luminous, reflected from the on the instant manifestation of its tablet of the conscience, now made truth to the conscience, and this with visible. It is not a light shining out the aid of sensible miracles in directly upon us from the heavenly the present age, and without even objects themselves, but it is a light the scholarship which ascertains and shining on a medium, the proof of verifies the miracles of the past age, which we are made sensible of its do we hold that the divinity of the realities. He who has been visited Bible may be read and recognized in by this manifestation can say, “I was its own pages, and that in virtue of blind, but now I see.” He may rethe evidence which might be addressed remember the days when a darkness with effect to the moral nature of man inscrutable seemed to hang over those in any quarter of the world. But mystic, those then unmeaning paswhat gives complete and conclusive sages of the Bible that he now pereffect to this evidence is the revelation ceives to be full of weight and signiof the spirit. For the understanding ficance. He may remember the day of this there is one thing of primary when safe in himself he neither saw importance to be attended to. The the extent nor the purity of God's Spirit, when he acts as an enlightener, lofty commandments, nor his own presents us with no new revelation of deficiency and distance therefrom. his own ; he only shines on that reve- Though now burdened with the conlation which is already given in the scious magnitude of his guilt he now Bible. He brings no new truths from sees the need of a Saviour and feels afar, he but discloses the truth of his preciousness. He is now brought that word which is nigh unto us. within full view of the argument of It is true that he opens our eyes, but my text, and the transition, the perit is to behold the wondrous tbings sonal or bistorical transition which contained in this book. It is true himself has undergone, is to his mind a most impressive argument; it forms themselves daily to the perusal of the to him an experimental evidence of Scriptures, and have poured forth the truth of Christianity, and may be their hearts in earnest prayer to God regarded as another appeal to his that he would reveal these Scriptures conscience, or his consciousness, in to their understandings—if in point its favor. He has become a Christian of fact they are made to feel their in the true sense and significancy of weight and significancy, and their the term ; the gospel has entered his manifold and various applications to mind in the demonstration of the all the peculiarities of their own spirit and with power. He rejoices hearts and history, they may at in the hope of its bright fulfilment, least conceive this would be very and untutored though he be, in the effective evidence. It would require scholarship of its literary or argu- the illustration of a volume, instead of mentative evidence, he with an hum- the synoptical view which can be ble education and humble circum- given in the limits of a single sermon, stances, can give a reason of his hope. to follow out the question, through I am quite sensible that this cannot all its bearings. In one sentence we be fully accorded to by the sympathy shall now state what the evidence is on of those who have not required the which we would vindicate the rationtransition. I have great hope on the ality and the hopefulness of missionary part of those who have equally felt enterprises. the transition, who remember the time We have the Bible which can be when a veil of hieroglyphical obscu- multiplied indefinitely and sent to rity seemed to hang over the pages all countries. We have the conof the New Testament, who did not science universal in human nature, feel the force of its adjustment to the and in virtue of which every possessor felt moral and spiritual wants of their of this nature, whether Greek or barown nature, and who now feel a barian, might respond to the word weight and see a significancy on which is there addressed to them. We every page, which they did not come have the Spirit of God given in anat by any logical process, but which swer to prayer, and promised to achas been the result, in all probability, company and to abide with us even of great moral earnestness giving rise until the end of the world. And to a devout perusal of the Scriptures what we affirm is, that having these, accompanied with prayer, in answer we have means for the Christianizato which the Spirit has opened their tion of the whole earth-a mighty understandings to see the Scriptures. yet marvellous achievement, wrought And they appeal to this as a tangible with the simple apparatus of a Bible method of proof, that whereas they and a conscience, and the evidence were blind, now they see. Even that is struck out between them by a those who have not undergone this light from the Spirit of God, irratransition may be made to conceive diating them both. You have the the evidence, by imagining the possi- whole philosophy of this evidence bility of that which they now nauseate, condensed within a very narrow comperhaps, as mysticism, or regarded pass in those beautiful lines of Cowas a non-intelligible something which per, when he compares the Christian cannot enter into our sympathies. intelligence of a poor and aged feLet us suppose that they have been male, with the accomplishments of roused to the obligation of devoting the philosopher Voltaire :
"She, for her humble sphere by nature fit, the historical pathway till they could With little understanding, and no wit, lay their hands on the authenticity of Just knows, and knows no more, her Bible the books of the New Testament, by true;
the certainty of the narrative conA truth the brilliant Frenchman never
tained in it? If these people have knewAnd in that charter reads with sparkling their faith. They do see the truth of
faith at all they have a reason for eyes, Her title to a treasure in the skies.
the gospel, and the question is, whe0, happy peasant! O, unhappy bard!
ther they see it immediately in the His the mere tinsel-hers the sure reward !
light of scripture doctrine, or mediHe praised, perhaps, for ages yet to come;
ately in the light of historical demonShe never heard of half a mile from home! stration. When you enter the house He, lost in errors, his vain heart prefers; of one of your cottage patriarchs and She, safe in the simplicity of hers." examine the library which lies in a
little room upon its shelves, you may II. Having now said all that we can there find what that is which has beafford on the subject of the manifes- gun and which still manifests his tation spoken of in the text, we now Christianity. Let me speak at least pass on to the second head of the dis- | with confidence of the state of matters course, under which we proposed that in our own land. Such books often we should at least assert, and, as far met with even in the lowest hovels as we could, establish the assertion of our peasantry, are not books on
EVIDENCE ADDRESSED TO the external history of the BibleTHE CONSCIENCE WAS THE GREAT, if they are the Bible itself, and books NOT THE ONLY INSTRUMENT OF CHRIS- on the internal substance and conTIANIZATION, BOTH IN AND OUT OF tents of the Bible; they are the CHRISTENDOM. Here we think it must Flavels and the Guthries and the be quite palpable that it is at least to Richard Baxters of the patriarchal some such evidence we owe the great age which are bis favourites-men bulk of our home Christianity. We who say little or nothing on the aron this subject make a confident ap- gumentative evidence of Scripture, peal to the ministers of the gospel but who unfold the subject-matter, and who are now present, and bid them who urge, and urge most impressively, tell what that is which originates on the consciousness of the readers of and which fashions the Christianity the lessons of Scripture. In a word, of their own people. Was it a series it is by a perpetual interchange beof lectures on the Deistical contro- tween their consciences and the Bible versy ? Was it the arguments of that their Christianity is upholden by Paley, or of Leslie, or of Butler, that a light struck out between the sayings germinated their faith? Was it the of the one and the findings of the doctrine in the book, or the history of other. It is not a light which is out the book that was the instrument of of this book, but a light which is their conversion? That they might within the book that commences and see the truth of the gospel had you to sustains the Christianity of our land, plant an historical ladder, ascending the Christianity of our ploughmen, from the present age to that of the our artisans, our men of handicraft apostles, or by the light of criticism and hard labour. Yet not the Chrisand erudition ? Had you to guide tianity either of deceitful imagithem by a series of indices along nation or of implicit deference to