Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

them, in conversation, from the literary, felt a deep interest in the progress of reand professional man, the agriculturist, ligion in America, and a warm anxiety the man of business, the mechanic, and that the church of God there should reeven the humblest peasant.

tain the solid and scriptural views of What he thus largely acquired, he was their progenitors. He had no morbid ready as largely to impart. Not that he dread of novelty, nor was at all disposed was a set talker who must be attended to say, “that the former days were to; no, but of fair and equal affability; a better than these;" but he watched with ready listener in his turn; alternately a anxious feelings the introduction of a gatherer and a distributor. In this last sort of machinery for conversion which character he delighted, for he was delight- ill-accorded with his reverential views of ful; and great was the advantage, as the simplicity of the Divine method, and well as pleasure, which younger intelli- the solemn and ineffable ways of God's gent men often spoke of having received Holy Spirit. from him.

The thought that what the Church His theology. The characteristics of needed was, not so much new modes of his theology were solidity as to its basis, operation, or a new phraseology in preachconsistency as to its parts, breadth as to ing, as new life from on bigh on the its range. He acknowledged nothing in souls of the preachers, giving unction his creed that was not justly and clearly and power to their preaching--the "Holy deducible from the word of God. To Spirit sent down from heaven," making that word he paid the sincerest and most effectual to the conversion and edification reverential homage; and while he brought of the people, the same simple ordito its study the intelligence of a man, nances of the gospel. and the learning of a scholar, he ap- While he was ready to welcome any proached it, also, in the spirit of a child, accession of light from any quarter, Gerremembering what is written : “The man or American, he still returned with meek will he guide in judgment, the devout attachment to the divines of our meek will he teach his way." Hence, own country—to the profound and sohe was far removed, indeed, from that lemn Owen; and, especially, to Howepresumption which deals with the Divine generally delightful, frequently admirarevelation as mere critics deal with a ble, sometimes sublime ! Greek or Roman classic. On which ac

But, the very word of God, this was count he was fully on his guard in refe- his treasury. Thence he drew his themes rence to certain German commentators, for study, meditation, inquiry, discourse. whose learning and ingenuity he acknow-To know the mind of God in his word he ledged, but whose semi-infidel spirit had justly deemed to be the highest accomno power to inoculate his mind with its plishment of a Christian minister; therepoison. But he too well knew the sure-fore to the understanding and interpretaness and strength of his own principles, tion of it, he bent the chief energies of derived from infallible truth, and the his vigorous mind. And he was, indeed, firmness of the foundation on which he a devout, a wise, and a faithful interstood, to be afraid to look into their pro- preter of God's holy will. Here was the ductions; and he knew, also, how to source of his theology, which he earnestly gather honey from a weed.

aimed to have unmixed with human speThe elder American divines, Edwards, culations, drawn pure and undefiled from Bellamy, &c., he highly appreciated, the Fountain itself. To this end he diliwhile he read their writings with that gently studied the Divine word in its discrimination which was so powerful an originals; and, in religious literature, he element of his mind. Nor did he lightly chiefly valued those works which helped esteem some of later date, though he had him in the right interpretatiou of it

. less sympathy with them. He always Commentators he valued and used, with

out leaning on any one of them ; but he singularly practical commentaries of Calaccounted that student of Scripture rich vin, especially in their original, simple, who possessed the clear, judicious, and and almost elegant Latinity.

THE PERSONAL TEST; OR, THE GOSPEL ITS OWN WITNESS IN THE CONSCIENCE AND THE HEART.

Ir is the glory of Christianity, that it is moral grandeur and beauty, as if they founded on proofs which meet the diversi- were taken by the hand and led step by fied capacities, and which are perfectly step through a rugged wilderness till adapted to the circumstances of all man- they found themselves in a celestial kind. Some naturally incline to Belief, and paradise. It would be endless to enuothers to Scepticism: one class appears in merate the various aspects under which the character of humble inquirers; another the evidences of Christianity offer themassumes the attitude of incredulous ob- selves to the serious consideration of the jectors: but both are presented with suffi- multitudes that really believe in its truth, cient evidence to convince them that the and commit themselves to its guidance. system itself is Divine. Some are power- My present object is to show, that the fully impressed by the nature of the species of evidence which appeals to the Christian doctrine; by its vitality, its conscience and the heart, shedding its beauty, its sanctity, its veracity, its sub- light into the recesses of the soul, and limity, and all those other qualities thus revealing the knowledge of its chawhich announce the instructions of Su-racter, is pre-eminently important, and preme wisdom and the precepts of Su- stands the very first among the proofs preme goodness. Others, again, feel the which establish the truth and diffuse the irresistible power conveyed to their hearts influence of the gospel. It appears to by the character of those whom the me that this particular kind of evidence Almighty has condescended to employ as has not been rendered sufficiently promihis messengers of mercy to a guilty nent; and that it has been too much world : their holiness of life, their truth, overlooked both as a means of defending their probity, their spotless purity of and propagating the faith. manners, their virtues, unsullied by hu- It was the grand weapon wielded by man passions,—these, together with the our Lord himself; by it he impressed qualities of understanding, genius, know- upon his hearers the majesty of his chaledge, and prudence, by which they are racter, silenced the cavils of his enemies, distinguished, are to them so many re- assured the wavering confidence of his spectable indices, the union of which friends, and induced adoring multitudes forms a complete proof in their favour, to render him homage as the Prophet of and tells them they are more than men. the Most High, the Messiah, the Saviour A third class are roused, charmed, and of the world. This argument of matchsubdued by those emanations of Divine less power he brought forward in the inpower which the gospel reveals, capable stance of the woman of Samaria; and of interrupting and changing the ordin-though none but himself could exhibit it ary course of nature at the will of those under the precise form in which it was who had them at their command. A on that occasion displayed, it was its fourth are suddenly stricken by the flashes moral energy which rendered it effective. of light and glory which throw their The conscience and the heart responded radiance upon the spiritual realities of to the appeal addressed to both. It was the unseen world; while another can the view of her past life and character only discover men as trees walking, and so vividly and faithfully brought before are gradually introduced to a scene of her in the declaration, " Thou hast had

five husbands, and he whom thou now assaults of its invading adversaries;—this hast is not thine husband,” which in- may be employed not only to beat them duced the convicted, surprised, and peni- off, but to pursue them into their fortent offender to announce to her coun- tresses-the strongholds of their impious trymen her belief in the Divine mission delusions. While other evidences fail to of him who had “ told her all things operate, except where there is a predisthat ever she did.” But it may be asked, position to examine their reasons and to Did not this species of evidence cease yield to their force, this stands like a with the personal ministry of Christ? or, reproving angel in the sinner's path, was it not peculiar to the age of inspir- commands rather than solicits attention, ation, when the apostles, and even un- and makes itself be heard by the still distinguished believers, were endowed small voice of conscience or the loud with extraordinary powers, and could thunders of offended justice. While other discover, as by intuition, the private evidences silence the objector, this comtransactions and hidden motives of in- pels his involuntary homage. While dividuals with whom they had no pre others vanquish only, this triumphs; and vious acquaintance. In strictness, it is secures not only victory, but allegiance;undoubtedly true, that with the first the rebel becomes a willing subject, and preachers and churches of Christianity bows with reverential delight before the terminated all that was properly miracu- majesty of truth. lous in its propagation. Yet, though it 2ndly, To this evidence also belongs the is not permitted us to address our hearers attribute of universal adaptation with the as the Saviour addressed Nathaniel and power of gaining access to the greatest the woman of Samaria, and as the number of minds. It convinces the judgapostles, with their supernaturally-en- ment by swaying the affections, and sedowed associates, sometimes addressed cures the deductions of the understandand confounded the objects of their awful ing by making its irresistible appeal to scrutiny,—there is yet remaining to the the conscience. Some inquisitive and ministers of Christ a weapon of equal philosophical spirits may feel the stimulus and perhaps superior value, which bears of difficulty urging on their inquiries; some analogy to it; inasmuch as it re- and a love of truth may conduct them in veals the Divinity of the truths they their researches to the conclusion most teach in their exact and remarkable cor- favourable to their happiness; though it respondence with the thoughts and sen- may well be questioned, whether, by timents, hopes and fears, capacities and such a process as this, the mere investiprospects, of all whose illumination, gation of its evidence, unconnected with sanctity and happiness they are anxious the truths which it reveals, Christianity to promote.

ever obtained one sincere and zealous Of the superlative excellence of this disciple. Her holy and devoted converts evidence, as compared with others which are convinced, indeed, and believe, on sustain the truth of Christianity, many evidence ;-but it is the evidence which illustrations might be adduced ; let the awakens their sense of guilt, alarms their following, however, suffice:

fears by shedding its revealing light upon 1stly, It is an aggressive instrument the great constituent principles of their which carries the victories and the triumphs moral nature; while, at the same time, of the gospel not only into the regions of it enlarges their capacity of being and avowed infidelity, but into the territories enjoyment by leading them into a new of the worldly and thoughtless, who, if world of thought and sentiment, where they deny not its truth, are altogether they become familiar with estranged from its authority. Other

“ Solema councils, proofs stand as bulwarks around the

Images of awe. Truths which eternity citadel of our faith, to protect it from the Lets fall on man !"

This evidence does not wait to be sought, rolls over his head the terrors of the nor is it so far retired from the haunts of world to come. But let it not be imamen and the places of concourse that it gined that while we give precedence to may be easily avoided. No!—it is the this species of evidence, we mean to inwisdom that stands up on high; that is sinuate that it is safe, or consistent with at the gates of our cities; that meets us our duty, as Christians, to neglect those at every avenue, saying, “Unto you, O other proofs which the Divine Author of men, I call, and my voice is to the sons Christianity has condescended to afford of men." It is the moral evidence that as vouchers of its truth : for, beams from heavenly truth, the halo of 3rdly, Its pre-eminent importance apglory around the brow of Christianity, pears in nothing more than in the influwhich always announces her approach ence which it exerts in preparing and and makes known her character. It is qualifying the mind for the examination suited to every man's powers of intellec- and belief of every other kind of evidence.

[ocr errors]

tinguished son of science; the most brought to feel that Jesus Christ and him piercing, comprehensive and brilliant crucified is the power of God unto salvagenius presents only his eagle eye to tion, its indirect effect is most favourable drink at the Fountain of light; while the to the expansion and employment of the sordid child of earth, to whom thought is intellectual faculties, which will naturally an effort and a burthen, feels himself be exercised on that one grand and infistartled by the sudden consciousness of a nitely momentous subject which first new existence, as a few of its oblique awakened their energy, and which can and scattered rays wander along his never lose its interest, while we connect path, the precursors of a day of mercy with its right appreciation our present which he is thus prepared to wel- happiness and everlasting destiny. The

Moral depravation, which, as it necessary result is, a growing acquaintincreases in enormity, blunts, and often ance with this theme of our perpetual destroys the perception of right and inquiry and meditation, a more thorough wrong, and which thus seems to present persuasion of its truth and value, and a an insuperable barrier to recovery and greater capacity to vindicate it against improvement,-is the very case we would the passing doubts of our own minds and confidently select on which to test the the sophistries and objections which may power of the principle we have assumed. spring from the suggestions of others. What convinced the unhappy nobleman, | The apostle Paul was not a less able dewho fortified his vices by his infidelity, fender of the gospel on the great prinand converted the greatest profligate of ciples of moral evidence in general, behis age into the most humble penitent cause his conversion was effected by that that ever sought the clemency of hea- | personal kind of evidence which agitated ven ?-It was precisely the evidence for his conscience with the guilt of persecuwhich we are pleading, and which we tion and brought him as a humble supcontend places our religion on a Rock pliant to seek that mercy from his for ever. Laying his hand on the Bible, Saviour which he had so cruelly denied to the dying Rochester exclaimed, “ The his fellow-men. Of this particular speonly objection against this book is a bad cies of proof, it may be likewise oblife.” The exposure of his depravity, served, in further confirmation of its suthrough the medium of its purity, was perlative value, that, the first step towards his embracing the 4thly, It combines within itself all the gospel. This is the evidence which ap- glorious doctrines of immortality, and the peals to a man's sense of accountability stupendous facts through which they are even more than to his reason, and which, made known as they are contained and instead of arguing to prove its reality, I exhibited in the gospel.

Thus they are the most successful woman of Samaria. He intimated to advocates of Christianity who best un- her, that a knowledge of the benevolence derstand it as a system of Divine truth, of the Eternal Father, displayed in the and who present its peculiar and exclu- gift of his Son, and of the character of sive features with the greatest accuracy that Son, as the source and giver of all and vividness. Tell me not who writes spiritual and immortal good, would lay most ably, with the profoundest learn- the foundation of her happiness; for ing, and the most philosophical acuteness, that its immediate effect would be a dein defence of the bulwarks of Chris- vout spirit of grace and supplication on tianity ;-though I reverence him for the her part, and a prompt and munificent important services he renders to the attention to the earnestness of her request Christian cause ; yet I cannot but hail on his : If, said he, thou knewest the as its most efficient friend and mightiest gift of God, and who it is that saith to champion the individual who “deter- thee, 'Give me to drink,' thou wouldest mines to know nothing among men, save have asked of him, and he would have Jesus Christ and him crucified.” The given thee living water;" that is, “if thou brightest evidence of the truth of the knewest the gift of God, or the benevogospel arises out of its faithful exhibition. lence which he has displayed in the gift

He that manifests Christianity as the of his Son; and if thou knewest the chawisdom of God and the power of God, racter of his Son, thou wouldest have setting it forth as a doctrine of grace, made application to him for living water ; displaying the riches of infinite mercy, for the influences of his Holy Spirit

, to adapted to meet and to remove the guilt sanctify and to bless you with a perennial and misery of man as an apostate and stream of holiness and joy.” It was this immortal creature, and who fearlessly knowledge graciously imparted to her, insists upon those truths which are best together with a penetrating glance into calculated to penetrate his conscience, her moral condition as a sinner, that was and to humble his intellectual and moral effectual to her conversion, and induced pride, is in my view the noblest bene- her to rouse the men of her city, exclainfactor of his species : and if all the pul- ing, “Come, see a man which told me all pits of the land resounded with these things that ever I did : is not this the glorious and heart-consoling doctrines Christ ?" delivered with an earnest spirit, and a From hence may we not confidently practical application, infidelity-whether assert that it is the manifestation of openly avowed, or disguised as neology Christ, as the special gift of Infinite love, or rationalism,-would gnash its teeth; as the condescending partaker of our its orators and oracles would be dumb, or nature and our sorrows, as the atoning would speak only to excite commisera- sacrifice for our sins, and the Author of tion and contempt.

our eternal salvation, that is the grand Human nature in its fallen state finds argument for establishing the truth of the gospel in exact accordance with its his religion in the heart, in instances moral and spiritual necessities. Where where all the other arguments and evithis is perceived and felt, the evidence of dences put together might fail to obtain its divinity breaks in upon the astonished for it even the cold assent of the underand adoring spirit. God is revealed; life standing. Nothing could so powerfully and immortality are brought to light; convince us of the existence of an angel, pardon is assured; condemnation is re- as his visible appearance in all the glories versed, and there springs up in the bosom of his celestial nature. And what more a joy unspeakable and full of glory ;-the convincing proof can we require of the pledge and the foretaste of everlasting Divine mission of Jesus of Nazareth, felicity. It was thus that our Lord than his manifestation, in all the granbrought conviction into the heart of the deur of his Divinity, in all the meekness

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »