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the Christians were to flee from Jerusalem, Angels went first, crying one to another, “Let us depart hence." Let us fear to go before, or to fall behind, the pillar of the cloud in the wilderness, the Presence of “God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect Angels."
Grounds for Steadfastness in our Religious
“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.”—JOHN iv. 42.
RELIGIOUS persons are sometimes taunted with
having only what is called an hereditary religion ; with believing what they believe, and practising what they practise, because they have been taught so to do, without any reasons of their own. Now it may very possibly happen that they have no reasons to produce, that they do not know their own reasons, that they have never analyzed what passes through their minds, and causes their impressions and convictions; but that is no proof that they have no reasons; and in truth they have always, whether they recognize them or not, very good reasons. It does not make a man more religious that he knows why and how he became so; many a man, doubtless, was converted by the Apostles' miracles, who could not draw out accurately into words the process through which his thoughts went, and who, had he
tried so to do, would have done himself injustice, and exposed himself to the criticism of the practised disputant. And so, again, in this day, when our discipleship is confessedly, in the first instance, the act of others not our own (for we were baptized and taught in our first years without ourselves having a will in the matter); though in this sense our religion may be called hereditary, yet, for all that, it may be much more than hereditary, when we have lived long enough to have made trial of it, and that, although we have not the skill to bring out into words the details and the result of that trial, or to show in a clear logical form that we have this or that good reason for believing.
I am speaking of religious men; for doubtless it is true of others, that good grounds they have none for their religious profession; they may, indeed, have got together some reasons from books, and
make show with them; but they have none of their own. And if they produce ever so many, still, I repeat, it is because they have been taught them. They have been taught the truths, and taught the reasons; but the
are their own as little as the truths; the reasons are hereditary or traditionary as well as the truths: they have no root in themselves; they have nothing within them connecting the reasons with, and grafting them upon, the divine doctrines. And be they ever so intellectual and acute, ever so able to investigate, and argue, and reflect upon themselves, this will avail them nothing. What avails the form of searching, when there is nothing to find ? What avail scientific forms, when we have no subject matter to work upon ?
But so it is, from the circumstance that these sensual, gross-hearted, indevout, or insincere persons are often men of education and ability, they show to advantage in the world, talk loudly and largely, are powerful controversialists, are considered bulwarks of the truth, and cast into the shade humble and religious men, who have not their gifts. But he who has the truth within him, though he cannot evolve it out of his heart in shape and proportions for another's inspection, is blessed beyond all comparison above him, who has much to say, and says what is true, but says it not from himself, but by rote, and could say quite as well just the reverse, did it so happen that he mistook it for truth. His, indeed, is in the worst sense mere hereditary religion, though he will commonly think himself of all men the least in danger of it; and will be among the foremost to impute it to religious men instead, who feel what they cannot express.
Surely, as the only true religion is that which is seated within us, a matter, not of words, but of things, so the only satisfactory test of religion is something within us.
If religion be a personal matter, its reasons also should be personal. Wherever it is present, in the world or in the heart, it produces an effect, and that effect is its evidence. When we view it as set up in the world, it has its external proofs, when as set up in our hearts, it has its internal; and that, whether we are able to elicit them ourselves, and put them into shape, not. 'Nay, with some little limitation and explanation, it might be said, that the very fact of a religion taking root within us, is a proof, so far, that it is true. If it
were not true, it would not take root. Religious men have, in their own religiousness, an evidence of the truth of their religion. That religion is true which has power, and so far as it has power; nothing but what is divine can renew the heart. And this is the secret reason why religious men believe, whether they are adequately conscious of it or no, whether they can put it into words or no; viz. their past experience that the doctrine which they hold is a reality in their minds, not a mere opinion, and has come to them, “not in word, but in power.” And in this sense the presence of religion in us is its own evidence. I am not at all denying the use of either of those arguments for religion which are external to us, or of the practice of drawing out our reasons into form; but still so it is, we go by external reasons, before we have, or so far as we have not, inward ones; and we rest upon our logical proofs only when we get perplexed with objections, or are in doubt, or otherwise troubled in mind; or, again, we betake ourselves to the external evidence, or to argumentative processes, not as a matter of personal interest, but from a desire to gaze upon God's great work more intently, and to adore God's wisdom more worthily.
This, surely, is what may be called the common-sense view of the subject. We wander from one form of religion to another, when we have not found its power; if we have found it, then we not only remain where we are, but we are shocked at the very notion of a change; and in proportion as we have found, are we contented and zealous adherents of our present position. I do not say that all who wander are seeking, nor that all who