« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
that one may reject it if he choose; not so irresistible, but that persons of indolence and indifference, or of pride and prejudice-persons who examine to refute it, more than to ascertain its truth, or whose habits and dispositions set them in direct opposition to the holiness of the gospel, may receive their reward in being allowed to continue unconvinced. They are thus dealt with in a way peculiarly consistent with their character as moral and accountable agents.
The exercise of an active solicitude for the discovery of truth thus presented, and of a fair, impartial consideration of its evidence before conviction, is as truly an exercise of morality, as much an act of moral discipline and of a correct temper of mind, as a correct religious practice would be in one already convinced. It is also as really an exhibition of immorality and dissoluteness to manifest a spirit of indifference, or of prejudice or aversion, in relation to a matter of such infinite importance, as if one should display the same spirit in regard to the most necessary duties of moral living. "Thus, that religion is not intuitively true, but a matter of deduction and inference that a conviction of its truth is not forced upon every one, but is left to be by some collected with a heedful attention to premises-this as much. constitutes religious probation, as much affords opportunity for right and wrong behavior, as any thing whatever." It tests the heart of the inquirer.
But to illustrate our doctrine, take the case of one who is disposed to put religion away from him— * Butler's Analogy, part 2, ch. 6.
who comes to its evidences with a decided wish that it may appear untrue, and examines them under strong aversions and prejudices. Suppose him suddenly arrested by the sight of a miracle wrought in his presence, so that in spite of all his dislikes and evil dispositions, he cannot escape believing. Take then the case of another bearing a precisely similar character, who, having no evidence but that of testimony, is obliged either to discipline his mind into a frame for candid, honest investigation, or else hazard the consequences of an inquiry conducted under the influence of habits and tempers directly hostile to the clear view and impartial acknowledgment of truth. Suppose him to choose the latter alternative, and that he is permitted, in reward for this voluntary perversion of his judgment, to continue in unbelief. I ask, which of these individuals is treated in a way most consistent with his condition as a moral and accountable agent?*
"If," says Butler, "there are any persons who never set themselves heartily and in earnest to be informed in religion; if there are any who secretly wish it may not prove true, and are less attentive to evidence than to difficulties, and more to objections than to what is said in answer to them-these persons will scarcely be thought in a likely way of seeing the evidence of religion, though it were most certainly true and capable of being ever so fully proved. If any accustom themselves to consider this subject usually in the way of mirth, or sport; if they attend to forms and representations, and inadequate manners of expression, instead of the real things intended by them-for signs often can be no more than inadequately expressive of the things signified or if they substitute human errors in the room of divine truth, why may not all, or any of these things, hinder some men from
But besides the greater adaptation to a probationary state, there is greater spiritual profit in the way by which we of latter days must arrive at the truth of the miracles of the gospel. Take the case of two Christians; let one be a disciple of these days, and the other, Thomas, one of the apostles. They are equally convinced of the Saviour's resurrection, but by different means: Thomas, by the force of sight and touch; the other, by a careful, honest examination of the testimony we now possess. Which, in becoming a disciple, expressed the greater love of the truth? Which, the greater readiness to receive and submit to it? Thomas had only to open his eyes and reach forth his hand; the other pursued a course of candid, patient, serious reflection. Thomas required for his conviction that the Saviour should stand before him, and say, "Be not faithless, but believing." The seeing that evidence which really is seen by others, as a like turn of mind with respect to matters of common speculation and practice does, we find by experience, hinder them from attaining that knowledge and right understanding, in matters of common speculation and practice, which more fair and attentive minds can attain to? And in general, levity, carelessness, passion, and prejudice, do hinder us from being rightly informed with respect to common things; and they may in like manner, and perhaps in some further providential manner with respect to moral and religious subjects, hinder evidence from being laid before us, and from being seen when it is. The Scripture does declare that every one shall not understand. And it makes no difference by what providential conduct this comes to pass; whether the evidence of Christianity was originally and with design, put, and left, so that those who are desirous of evading moral obligations should not see it, and that honest-minded persons should; or whether it comes to pass by any other means. "Butler's Analogy, part 2, ch. 6.
other went forth seeking "the truth as it is in Jesus," through all the reasoning and objections, all the patient consideration and study which circumstances placed in his way, not demanding to be constrained by the arrest of his senses, but prepared to submit as soon as the testimony was sufficient. Now, it is plain that in this case there is a simplicity of heart, a love of truth, a candor in its pursuit, and a willingness to bow to it at all cost, such as are by no means implied in the conviction of Thomas. It is plain, also, that the moral discipline to which the former was subjected, and the state of mind involved in the mode by which he came at the truth, are far more conducive to his happiness, and afford a much higher promise of steadfast and elevated attachment to the service of the truth, than if, like Thomas, it could be said of him, "Because thou hast seen, thou hast believed." So that we may now acknowledge the truth of those words, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed;" and may repeat our proposition, that in having to try the credibility of the gospel miracles by the evidence of testimony, we are more favorably situated, in a very important sense, than had we been present to judge them by the evidence of our
From the whole truth exhibited in this lecture, we are called to adore the wisdom of God. "His ways are not as our ways, neither his thoughts as our thoughts." Why, in such a momentous business as that of religion, demands some weak mortal, was not *See Saurin on Obscure Faith.
truth rendered intuitively certain, so that the most careless could not mistake? Why, asks another, should such tremendous matters be necessarily settled by investigation and argument, by the weight of testimony and the records of distant ages, instead of bringing them at once to the test of every one's experience? "Show us a sign," is still the requisition of multitudes, who, if they must believe, desire to do it without trouble; but would much rather be excused from both. God is infinitely wiser. "He knoweth whereof we are made." He has dignified us with reason, as well as sense; and made us capable of learning by reflection and study, as well as of knowing by instinct and necessity. He deals with us as rational beings. He makes us responsible for the use of our minds, as well as of our limbs. He requires the obedience of the will, the labor of our thoughts, and the painstaking of all our intellectual and moral faculties, in order that we may know and serve him as becometh our natures. To this end, he has so constructed religion, and delivered to us its evidences, that whoever is sufficiently desirous of the knowledge of His will, to bestow his best thoughts and affections and efforts upon the work of its discovery, in order that he may embrace it, earnestly looking up to God for protection against prejudice and for guidance in the way of light, will certainly come to the knowledge of the truth, and will arrive at it by a way most wisely adapted to make him hold fast and obey it. On the other hand, God has so framed the gospel and set before us its credentials, that whether