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the means of conviction on this subject, in an abundance correspondent to the importance of the case.
Let me further remind you, that since it is allowed by our opponents that there is a God, (for with the atheist I am not arguing,) the duty of prayer to Him on entering upon this argument, must be of paramount obligation. Let me entreat you, then, to unite with me in supplications to the common Father of all, whom the unbeliever professes to adore and reverence as well as the Christian, and beseech him to illuminate our minds, to dissipate all prejudices and prepossessions, and to dispose us to receive the truth with humility and joy.
And let the pious and sincere Christian cultivate more of “the meekness and fear” which are to attend his apology for his faith. It is the holy, upright, consistent, benevolent life of the Christian which forms the best standing defence of his religion to others, and the best spring of hope in his own mind. The effects of Christianity are then prominent and decisive, Were the faith of all who call themselves Christians a really living principle, we should be able to appeal to them with more confidence, as exemplifying and embodying what we describe in our portraits of the Christian character. The inconsistent tempers and lives of the professors of Christianity are the reproach of the faithful, and the stumblingblock of the profane. For no contradiction can be so fatal in its effects on others and on ourselves, as the claim of a believer's hope and the darkness and misery of an unbeliever's life.
THE TEMPER OF MIND IN WHICH THE SUBJECT
SHOULD BE STUDIED.
LUKE XVIII. 17. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom
of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein. In entering upon a course of instruction with the design of impressing upon the hearts of young persons the truth and importance of the Christian revelation, we first naturally ask, What is the temper of mind in which the subject should be studied ? To this inquiry an answer may be given from the words of the text, in which our Lord declares, with that solemn asseveration which he frequently used, that “whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein.'
Some observations on THIS MEEK AND DOCILE DISPOSITION; -upon THE OBVIOUS WANT OF it in too many of those who reject Christianity ;-and upon THE CHIEF REASONS which prove its indispensable importance, will occupy the present lecture.
I. The temper of mind here inculcated by our Lord is a simplicity and teachableness resembling what we observe in children, who in their first infancy are free from guile, and give implicit credit to what their friends and parents teach them, without suspecting the possibility of any thing being said to the contrary. A child-like temper, as to the subject of religion, is a readiness to examine the evidences of the Christian doctrine with candor, and to submit without reserve or objection to the revelation itself, upon its being found to be of divine origin. By requiring this guileless disposition, we by no means prejudge the question, much less do we demand any renunciation of the just authority and powers of human reason-Christianity is consistent with the highest
We ask only for such a state of mind as the glorious majesty of God and the weakness of man require; such a temper as is obviously necessary to every serious investigation, and without which, conviction upon a moral and religious subject is impossible.
The characteristics of this temper are docility, seriousness, prayer, obedience-points which natural religion professes to enjoin, and which are, therefore, held in common by all with whom I am now concerned, and especially by the young Christian.
By DOCILITY I mean an aptitude to receive instruction, a readiness to inquire after the truth of Christianity, a mind not averse from the subject, a willingness to weigh arguments with impartiality, and follow truth with boldness and singleness of heart. Such a noble temper as this appeared in the Beræans, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, (and I quote this and other passages now, merely to explain my meaning,) that they " received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things
"* were so.
But to docility must be added SERIOUSNESS; the attention and earnestness of a mind aroused to some sense of the importance of the inquiry, recollecting the consequences which depend on the question of the truth of Christianity, filled with reverence for the holiness of the great God whose name and glory are involved, and deeply anxious to arrive at satisfaction of mind concerning it. Christianity must not be examined as an abstract, dry, uninteresting question, a matter of mere historical dispute, a doubtful point in chronology, on the de termination of which little or nothing depends; but as an inquiry which involves the honor of God, and the present and eternal happiness of man. This earnestness we find described in the scripture in such terms as these : “Teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God; thy Spirit is good, lead me into the way of uprightness. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Sirs, what shall I do to be saved ? Men and brethren, what shall we do?”+
Prayer to Almighty God must be an attendant on this docile and serious temper. We must not enter upon the inquiry for the display of intellectual acuteness, but with the deve
* Acts xvii. 11.
Ps, cxliii. 10. Matt. vi. 33. Acts xyi. 30; ii. 37.
tional frame of mind which becomes those who acknowledge the existence and perfections of God, and who profess to believe that it is the duty of a dependent creature like man, to implore his aid and blessing on every undertaking, and more especially upon an inquiry which relates to the solemn revelation of his will. · Fervor, humility, the submission of prayer for divine guidance and illumination, in the lowly use of our best faculties, are essential parts of a right disposition of heart.
A PRACTICAL OBEDIENCE to the will of God, so far as it is known, is the last branch of the temper on which we would insist—that course of general conduct which may prove us to be sincere in seeking to know the will of God, that we may do it; a life and conduct free from those vices which natural conscience condemns ; a behavior not inconsistent with the docility, the earnestness, the prayer for divine instruction, which we profess in our inquiries—a life which shall not obviously make it our interest that Christianity should be untrue—a freedom, in short, from those primary hinderances to an impartial examination of religion, which, as films and mists, distort every object presented to the view, and make it impossible to discern the form and features of truth.
II. Now, if this be manifestly the state of mind in which the subject of the truth of Christianity should be studied, it may be useful to show THE MANIFEST WANT of it in too many of those who reject revelation. Young persons will thus be guarded, in the first instance, against the assaults of impiety, and may judge of the cause in which unbelievers are engaged, by the spirit which actuates them. For I assert boldly, that the very disposition and temper of unbelievers give an assurance to a sincere inquirer that they were never likely to attain to truth. I assert boldly, that instead of docility, their inquiries are conducted with scorn; instead of seriousness, with levity; instead of a spirit of prayer, with irreligion and impiety; instead of any obedience to the acknowledged will of God, with open immorality and vice.
Let us look at the three classes into which, in the present day, they may be divided-the Literary ; the Uninformed ; the grossly Profane--and we shall see the proof of what I state.
Let us look at the LITERARY and scientific unbelievers. I speak not of individyals-I speak of the body, as known by
their writings publicly submitted to the view of mankind. What is the temper of mind in which they have obviously entered upon the inquiry ? Are docility, earnestness, a devotional and humble reliance upon God in prayer, and obedience to his will, at all apparent in the general tenor of their books? Is this the complexion of their reasoning? Do they not, so far from acting in such a temper, generally disavow, ridicule, or condemn it? Mark their whole spirit and conduct. Instead of docility, observe the unfairness, the inconsistency, the dishonesty with which they conceal or pervert the plainest facts. Instead of seriousness, notice their proud, supercilious, flippant levity in treating the most solemn of all subjects. Instead of the spirit of prayer to Almighty God, observe how their arguments are directed, not against the particular proofs of Christianity, but against the production of any proofs in favor of any revelation. See them virtually denying the very being of that God whom in theory they profess to acknowledge. Hear their blasphemies, their impieties, their profaneness, which, whether Christianity be true or not, are condemned by natural religion itself. Lastly, instead of obedience to the will of God so far as it is known, notice the frightful abandonment of morality in their systems, and the overturning of all the foundations of virtue, which they scarcely take any pains to conceal, and which their own conduct too frequently betrays.
With such a temper apparent, I have a key to the secrets of their unbelief.
I see one writer speaking of the life and discourses of our Saviour with the ignorance and buffoonery of a jester, and asserting that ridicule is the test of truth ;-I want no one to inform ine that he is an unbeliever.*
I see another virtually denying all human testimony with one breath, and with another defending suicide and apologizing for lewdness and adultery ;-I do not ask if he is dissatisfied with the Christian evidence.f
I see a third, after composing a work full of hypocrisy and deceit on the subject of religion, publishing it to the world on the persuasion of having heard a voice from heaven. I observe another explaining away the historical narrative of the Old Testament as a mystical representation of the signs of the zodiac. I discover in the writings of another--and him
Lord Shaftesbury. + Hume, Lord Herbert. § Sir W. Drummond.