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are contented with their state, have found ; nor, again, that all who, in their degree, have found, remain contented; else there were no such sin as unthankfulness. Nor do I mean that all who fail to find are justified in wandering, as if waiting were not necessary, or as if youth, or the consciousness of faults on our part, would not account for our having as yet received so little personal benefit from our religion. Nor, after all, do I mean to imply that no conceivable circumstances can arise when this rule is allowably broken : unless a voice from without may, in certain cases, supersede the feeling from within, Nathanael would not have been converted, nor Apollos. But still it holds good, that a man's real reason for attachment to his own religious communion, why he believes it to be true, why he is eager in its defence, why he feels indignant at being invited to abandon it, is not any series of historical or philosophical arguments, not any thing merely beautiful in its system, or supernatural, but what it has done for him and others; his confidence in it as a means by which men may be brought nearer to God, and may become better and happier. Would you know why holy men believe even in an age of miracles? Hear St. Polycarp's words, when the heathen magistrate urged him to blaspheme Christ: “Eighty and six years,” said he, “have I served Him, and He hath never wronged me; and how can I blaspheme my King, who hath saved me?” Or, as St. Paul said, “I know whom I have believed.” It is these inward effects (I speak of the matter of fact), according to the degree in which they are realized, which guarantee to a man the divinity of
his form of religion, which make him willing to risk his salvation upon it; as is expressed, in another form, by the Samaritans in the text, when they say to their countrywoman, “Now we believe, not because of thy saying, for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”
You will observe, that neither the blessed Martyr, who had served Christ so long, nor the ignorant Samaritans, who were beginning to acknowledge Him, stated what their reasons were, though they had reasons. And, in truth, it is very difficult to draw out our reasons for our religious convictions, and that on many accounts. It is very painful to a man of devout mind to do so; for it implies, or even involves a steadfast and almost curious gaze at God's wonder-working presence within and over him, from which he shrinks, as savouring of a high-minded and critical temper. And much more is it painful, not to say impossible, to put these reasons forth in explicit statements, because they are so very personal and private. Yet, as in order to the relief of his own perplexity, a religious man may at times try to ascertain them, so again for the service of others he will try, as best he may, to state them. If then we are asked for "
a reason of the hope that is in us," why we are content, or rather thankful, to be in that Church in which God's Providence has placed us, would not the reasons be some or other of these, or rather all of them, and a number of others besides, which these may suggest, deeper than they?
1. I suppose a religious man is conscious that God
has been with him, and given him whatever he has of good within him.
He knows quite enough of himself to know how fallen he is from original righteousness, and he has a conviction, which nothing can shake, that without the aid of his Lord and Saviour, he can do nothing aright. I do not say he need recollect any definite season when he turned to God and gave up the service of sin and Satan; but in one sense every season, every year is such a time of turning. I mean, he ever has experience, just as if he had hitherto been living to the world, of a continual conversion; he is ever taking advantage of holy seasons and new providences, and beginning again. The elements of sin are still alive within him; they still tempt and influence him, and threaten when they do no more; and it is only by a continual fight against them that he prevails; and what shall persuade him that his power to fight is his own, and not from above? And this conviction of a Divine Presence with him is stronger according to the length of time during which he has served God, and to his advance in holiness. The multitude of men-nay, a great number of those who think themselves religious do not aim at holiness, and do not advance in holiness; but consider what a great evidence it is that God is with us, so far as we have it. Religious men, really such, cannot but recollect in the course of years,
that they have become very different from what they were. I say "in the course of years :” this it is, among other things, which makes young persons less settled in their religion. They have not given it a trial; they have not bad time to do so; but in the course of years a religious
person finds that a mysterious unseen influence has been upon him and has changed him.
He is indeed very different from what he was. His tastes, his views, his judgments are different. You will say that time changes a man as a matter of course; advancing age, outward circumstances, trials, experience of life. It is true; and yet I think a religious man would feel it little less than sacrilege, and almost blasphemy, to impute the improvement in his heart and conduct, in his moral being, with which he has been favoured in a certain sufficient period, to outward or merely natural causes. He will be unable to force himself to do so: that is to say, he has a conviction, which it is a point of religion with him not to doubt, which it is a sin to deny, that God has been with him. And this is of course a ground of hope to him that God will be with him still; and if he, at any time, fall into religious perplexity, it may serve to comfort him to think of it.
2. And I suppose that every religious person is conscious of this, that he never has so profited by God's grace as he might have done; that he has never fathomed God's mercies towards him; that God is present with him to an extent, with a fulness, in a depth, which he knows not; that, whatever other reasons there may be for his parting company with us, at least he need not go elsewhere for more grace, for the power to be better than he is. When he has exhausted what is offered him here, then will be the time for looking about him and providing for his necessity: but as yet he has sufficient for his day.
3. Again, every religious man may be expected to
have experience more or less of wonderful providences, which he cannot speak about to others, but which make it certain to him that, in spite of his own unworthiness, God is with him. We are told in Scripture to “cast all our care upon Him, for He careth for us ;" to " ask and we shall receive;" and surely what Jacob felt and said, will in its degree-nay, rather more abundantly—be fulfilled in our case. “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth which Thou hast showed unto Thy servant.” “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil.” Is it not, I may say, most touching and affecting to read in patriarchal history things which are fulfilled in us at this latter time?—but He is the Lord, He changes not. You may see what He is to us, by what Jacob tells us He was to him. Scripture gives certain specimens or criteria, what it is to have God with us, to be guided by God, as in the history of Jacob or of David. Now consider Jacob's life and confessions, or consider David's overflowings of heart in the Psalms-are they not in our measure ours also ? is there not a sympathy of heart, is there not a concordant testimony as to God's providences in the ancient Saints and in ourselves ? Well, then, are we not therefore in their case? do not we stand with them ? have not we the God of Jacob for our help, and is not David's Lord and David's hope ours also ? We are under just the sort of guidance they
11 Pet. v. 7. Matt. vii. 7, 8.