« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
that it sets in strong and shining relief the truth of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, as a revelation from Him who is the giver of every good and perfect gift. "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God. Where is the wise? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach. Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."*
* 1 Corinthians, 1:18-24.
THE FRUITS OF CHRISTIANITY-CONTINUED.
THE rule by which Christianity was tried in our last lecture, is as philosophical as it is scriptural. It is the rule of experiment, in distinction from all the whims of conjecture and ingenious theory, and has an application as legitimate and conclusive, to the character of Christianity, as to that of any tree, or food, or medicine. None can deny that the experiment of the religion of Christ has been varied sufficiently to put it to the fairest trial, and continued long enough to develope its most hidden qualities. Exposed to all extremes of physical and moral temperature, tried upon all descriptions of human beings, required to preserve its purity amidst all contagions, to display its energies under all conceivable burdens and bonds, to bear its fruit under the most blasting influences, and to stand against all possible combinations of enmity-sometimes subjected to the action of the fire, then of the rack, and then of the knife of unrelenting persecutors-eighteen hundred years have measured out its trial, during which, whatever could be effected by science united with industry, malice united with power, or vigilance united with hypocrisy, has been done unceasingly to torture it into a confession or a display of something at variance with a divine origin.
The trial, therefore, is sufficient. The tree has had time and ample opportunity to be known by its fruits. If it may not be finally tried by this rule, in the nineteenth century of its budding and bearing, the fault must be sought in the rule itself, not in the subject of inquiry.
In our last lecture we confined our attention to the fruits of Christianity in regard to society in general. In the present we are to consider,
II. ITS FRUITS IN REGARD TO THE CHARACTER AND
HAPPINESS OF ITS GENUINE DISCIPLES.
It is not without reflection that I introduce this subject into the department of external evidence. I am aware that it is generally considered as belonging exclusively to the class of arguments denominated internal, but I see not with what propriety. So far as any effects of Christianity on individual disciples are incapable of being brought under the observation of others, because confined to the inward experience of the true believer, they are unquestionably internal in their character, and do not belong to our present department. But if they be such effects as witnesses can take knowledge of, if the proof of them may be seen and appreciated by those that are without, I see not but that they belong as appropriately to the external evidence as any of the effects of Christianity upon society at large. Without further vindication of a matter of mere classification, I proceed.
1. The moral transformations which the gospel in all ages has notoriously wrought, and by unquestionable proofs exhibited to the world, in the char
acter of those who have become its genuine disciples, cannot be accounted for, but on the supposition of a divine power accompanying its operation.
To illustrate my meaning, let me describe what has been witnessed under the ministry of Christianity so repeatedly, that hardly any who have been in the way of such things can have failed to become. acquainted with apposite examples. Persons of all grades of society and of intellect, and of all degrees of enmity to the religion of Jesus, in circumstances the most unpropitious to its influence on their hearts— even while they were filled with the spirit of malice and persecution against its truth and disciples-have had their minds suddenly arrested by some simple expression of the Bible, or some unpretending statement of Christian doctrine or experience: perhaps it dropped from the lips of a minister against whom, at that very time, they were nerved with anger; or was read in a Bible, or a little despised tract, that seemed accidentally to lie in their way, and at which, as if by accident, they condescended to look. It told them nothing new-nothing but what they had often heard or read before without the smallest effect. And yet, without any argument to shake their ungodly principles, or special application, by any human being, of the word thus heard or read to their particular condition, they felt their minds seized upon by an influence from which no effort of infidel argument, nor struggle of pride, nor drowning of thought, nor exertion of courage, nor devices of company and amusement could enable them to escape. A hand seemed
to be upon them which all their efforts to shake it off only fastened with more painful power. They could get no peace of mind till they submitted to its arrest. They were induced to listen to the gospel of Christ, even while deeply conscious of a cordial opposition to its requirements. A conviction of sin and condemnation, such as they had ever derided, soon brought them to a posture of body and a spirit of supplication before God, in which, a short time before, they would not have been seen for the world. Soon they submitted to the claims of the gospel, became believers in Jesus, confessed him before men, and appeared to all that had known them before-in what aspect? As new creatures! Only a few days have elapsed since they were notorious scoffers, bold blasphemers, angry persecutors; of profligate habits, impure conversation, and hardened hearts, armed at all points. against religion; immovable, in their own estimation, by any thing Christians could say, and regarded by almost all that knew them as utterly beyond
Now behold the change. It is a change not merely of belief, but of heart. Their whole moral nature has been recast; affections, desires, pleasures, tempers, conduct, have all become new. What each hated a few days since, he now affectionately loves. What then he was devotedly fond of, he now sincerely detests. Prayer is his delight. Holiness he thirsts for. His old companions he pities and loves for their souls' sake; but their tastes, conversation, and habits are loathsome to his heart. Feelings recently obdurate