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siderations of personal pleasure and spiritual improvement. There is a rich feast of knowledge and of devout contemplation to be found in this study. The serious believer, who has not pursued it, has yet to learn with what wonderful and impressive light the God of the gospel has manifested its truth. Its evidences are not only convincing, but delightfully plain; astonishingly accumulated, and of immense variety as well as strength. He who will take the pains not only to pursue the single line of argument which may seem enough to satisfy his own mind, but devoutly to follow up in succession all those great avenues which lead to the gospel as the central fountain of truth, will be presented at every step with such evident marks of the finger of God-he will hear from every quarter such reiterated assurances of, "this is the way, walk thou in it," he will find himself so enclosed by insurmountable evidences shutting him up unto the faith of Christ, that new views will open upon him of the real cause and guilt and danger of all unbelief; new emotions of gratitude and admiration will arise in his heart for a revelation so divinely attested; he will receive a new impulse to follow and promote such heavenly light.
But I would urge this study on all serious believers, who have the means of pursuing it, as a matter of duty. It is not enough that they are well satisfied. They have a cause to defend and promote, as well as a faith to love and enjoy. It is enjoined on them, by the authority of their divine Master, that they be ready to give to every man that asketh
them, a reason of the hope that is in them. They must be able to answer intelligently the question, Why do you believe in Christianity? For this purpose, it is not enough to be able to speak of a sense of the truth, arising from an inward experience of its power and blessedness. This is excellent evidence. for one's own mind, but it cannot be felt or understood by an unbeliever. The Christian advocate must have a knowledge of the arguments by which infidelity may be confounded, as well as an experience of the benefits for which the gospel should be loved. To obtain this in proportion to his abilities, he is bound by the all-important consideration that the religion of Jesus cannot be content while one soul remains in the rejection of her light and life. She seeks not only to be maintained, but to bring all mankind to her blessings. The benevolence of a Christian should stimulate him to be well armed for the controversy with unbelievers. Benevolence, while it should constrain the infidel most carefully to conceal his opinions, lest others be so unhappy as to feel their ague and catch their blight, should invigorate the believer with the liveliest zeal to bring over his fellow-creatures to the adoption of a faith so glorious in its hopes and so ennobling in its influence. Even on the supposition that Christianity were false, unspeakably better should we think it, to be deluded by consolations, which though groundless would be still so precious, than enlightened by an infidelity which shrouds its disciples in such darkness, and drowns them in such confusion.
But if such are the weighty considerations which should induce an experienced Christian to study the evidences of Christianity, while he carries in his own breast the strongest of all assurances of its having the witness of the Spirit of God, how much more should this subject receive the attention of that numerous portion of the population of a Christian land who, while they are called Christians, have never experienced in their hearts the blessedness of the gospel? These are eminently dependent on this study for all rational and steadfast belief. Being destitute of the anchor obtained by an inward sense of the divine excellence of the truth as it is in Jesus, they must spread their sails to the influence of external evidence, or be liable to be tossed about with every wind of doctrine, and wrecked against the cliffs of infidelity. It is a matter of great importance that the attention of this class should be much more extensively obtained to the proofs of the religion in which they profess to believe. Multitudes of men, well informed on other subjects, are believers for hardly any other reason than because their parents were so, and the fashion of society is on this side. The same considerations that make them Christians in this land, would have made them enemies of Christianity in others: Pagans in India, Mohammedans in Turkey. They can give a better reason for every other opinion they profess, than for their acknowledgment of the gospel of Christ. The effort of infidels, combining ingenious sophistry with high pretensions to learning, and coming into alliance
with strong dispositions of human nature, have an open field and must be expected to do a fearful work among minds thus undisciplined and unarmed. It is only in the lowest possible sense of the word that they can receive the name of believers. Instead of adding strength to the cause of Christianity by their numbers, they rather embarrass it by their ignorance of its weapons, and bring it into disrepute by the ease with which they are entrapped in the snares of the enemy. They have no conception what a truth that is which they so carelessly acknowledge; how impressively it is true; with what awful authority it is invested; what a wonder is involved in professing to believe and refusing to obey it. Do I speak to any who are thus situated? I would earnestly exhort them, for their own satisfaction and steadfastness as believers in revelation, for the purpose of realizing how solemnly the living God has called them to submit as well as assent to the gospel of Christ, and for the honor of a religion which so abounds in the best of reasons for our belief, to make a serious study of the evidences of Christianity.
To any whose minds are not settled with regard to this momentous question, or who consider themselves as having arrived at a definite opinion against the divine authority of the gospel, need I say a word to show why they above all others, should give the subject in view their most serious and diligent attention? Suppose they should become fixed in the rejection of Christianity, and to the influence of their example on the side of infidelity should add the effort
of argument, tending to weaken the faith of others, and to increase the number of enemies to Christ; and finally, should be convinced on the verge of the graveas many of this mind have been most painfully convinced—or in eternity should have it discovered to them, that what they have been setting at naught was no less than God's own revelation, the gospel of Him who cometh to judge the quick and dead, and that what they had embraced and led others to embrace in its stead, was only a miserable offspring of human pride and folly, a spirit of delusion and eternal destruction; what then would seem the importance of a serious application of mind and heart to this study the madness of treating it with indifference, or pursuing it without the strictest impartiality? That such a discovery is at least as likely as the contrary, even infidels, in their continual declarations that all beyond the grave is unknown, have given impressive confessions. That it is at least exceedingly probable, independently of positive evidence, the unbeliever cannot but fear when he surveys the history of the world, and sees what minds and what hearts, what men of learning and of holiness have been ready to suffer any earthly loss or pain, rather than be unassociated with the eternal blessedness of the discipleship of Christ.
I have now exhibited something of the incomparable importance of the question before us, as considered by itself. There is an additional importance in its present investigation, arising out of the peculiar character of the present times.