« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
the other hand, that a Christian regretted in his death having believed and obeyed the gospel, while innumerable disciples of that blessed faith, in the very act of dissolution, have risen to the most triumphant assurance of eternal life and glory. Such are the legitimate fruits of the gospel of Christ.
On the wise principle, therefore, that "a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit," we must pronounce Christianity good; and since no religion can be good without being true, or as Hume expressed it, error never can produce good," we must conclude that her assertion of divine authority is worthy of all acceptation. Thus terminated the argument of the last lecture.
And now, while the retrospect we have been taking is fresh in your memories, consider,
1. The plainness and simplicity which characterize the evidences of Christianity. To understand the meaning and appreciate the force of any or all of them, so far as is necessary to a clear, intelligent, and impressive conviction of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, and the divine nature and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, is a work to which the mind of any thoughtful individual of ordinary information is competent. Willingness to read, readiness to learn, humility to submit to conviction, and an ordinary knowledge of the meaning of words, are the only requisites for a satisfactory investigation of the whole argument. How different in this respect is the gospel of Christ from all the speculating and metaphysical systems of infidel philosophy. What would plain
common-sense people do, did their understanding of the grounds of faith and duty depend upon such dark questions, as the sufficiency of the light of nature, the origin of evil, the metaphysical relations of cause and effect, the foundation of virtue, the elements of accountability, the freedom of the will, etc.?-questions which must be settled in our own minds, and by our own reason, before we can consistently embrace any other religion than that of revelation, but about which all the philosophy on earth, if it reject the Scriptures, may speculate to the end of time, without arriving at sufficient certainty to satisfy a single conscience. The gospel requires no abstract theories to explain its way of salvation, its principles of obligation, or its rule of duty. It simply presents the evidence that Jesus Christ, the Son and the sent of God, came into the world to teach and to save sinners, and then to every sinner publishes this plain direction: what Jesus in his word has taught, believe; what he has there commanded, follow; in his merits alone put your trust for peace with God, and through his righteousness thou shalt be saved.
2. Consider the great variety and accumulation of the evidences of Christianity. In the lectures to which you have listened, were presented no less than four independent and complete methods of proof, each of which is amply sufficient to bear the whole weight of the gospel. The argument from miracles is conclusive without the argument from prophecy. The latter is in no wise dependent upon the former, or any other evidence. The argument from the propagation
is complete in itself, and so is that from the fruits of Christianity. But under each of these general heads what a boundless variety of auxiliary evidences might have been adduced. Every single miracle, every fulfilled prophecy, a thousand separate facts in the spread of the gospel, and innumerable examples of its holy fruits in the hearts and lives of believers, would have furnished us with so many effulgent centres, from all of which rays of brilliant evidence are continually meeting and harmonizing in a shining testimony to Jesus as the resurrection and the life.
But remember that one whole division, out of the two which embrace the great field of Christian evidence, has been left untouched. We have found an astonishing variety and accumulation of proof; and yet the whole department of INTERNAL evidence, that which arises from the search of the New Testament itself-its spirit, manner, dress, and beauty, the simplicity of its character, the benevolence of its temper, its power over the conscience, the suitableness of its contents to the wants of man, the excellence of its doctrines, the purity and elevation of its morals, the character and conduct of Jesus, and the happy tendency of all his instructions: this immense field of diversified evidence, secondary to none in its influence upon the mind, and superior to all in its direct appeal, to the heart, we have not so much as entered. Could we but see all the separate streams united in one; could we measure at once the force of that majestic tide which collects its innumerable tributaries from all ages and all nations
and all hearts; could we appreciate its strength by an accurate estimate of all the obstructions with which earth and hell, "the prince of the power of the air," and "the rulers of the darkness of this world," have endeavored to resist its course-the mountains of difficulty which in every century it has rent asunder or rolled away to clear its course— we should wonder, indeed, at what divine goodness has done to make us believers, and at what human obduracy has been able to withstand for the purpose of continuing in unbelief.
But this astonishing flood of evidence is perpetually increasing. Every additional benefit which Christianity bestows upon any portion of mankind, every additional conversion of a sinner to God, every holy life that is added to the shining ranks of the followers of Christ, every new triumph of Christian faith over the trials of life and the terrors of death, every increase in the fulfilment of prophecy, every advance in the conquest of the gospel over the darkness of paganism, every new year of victory over all the resistance of pretended friends and unfaithful professors, of internal divisions and infidel enmity, is a new stream to swell the many waters which one day, like the deluge of old, will drown unbelief in its last refuge, and make all nations and kindreds know how precious, as an ark of safety, is He who "came into the world to save sinners."
But who can ask for additional evidence? Did not the question affect the darling idols of the heart; were it one of property, or of science, or of human
life; were it some new medicine to heal the maladies of the body, that laid before us this immense mass of credentials from all generations; or were it a scheme for the acquisition of earthly gain, that came to us accompanied with such voluminous evidence of its unfailing truth and wisdom, no man of common sense could hesitate a moment to give it his unqualified belief. All men are continually committing their dearest interests to evidence unspeakably inferior. We intrust our lives to the care of physicians, of whose skill and wisdom and carefulness and honesty we have no assurance comparable to our proof of Jesus, as the only physician to save our souls, and as that all-sufficient One in whose hands none can perish. We believe, without a question, in all the great events of history; and yet their evidence is so inconsiderable in comparison with the proof of the gospel, that if you take away as unestablished the great pillars of the argument of Christianity, you pronounce the whole foundation of historical knowledge unestablished; yea, you rob mankind of the whole fruit of human testimony, and write terra incognita over almost the whole map of the generations and things of the universe.
3. How impressive to the mind of every human being should the evidence of Christianity appear. If he take up any system of faith which men have ever attempted to substitute for the gospel, and compare its evidences, how immediately is it confounded by the contrast. If he attempt to set aside any one of the great proofs on which the noble fabric of Chris