Page images

He may recognize throughout its pages, not merely the shrewd discernment of what he is, but the prophetic discernment of what he will be along the successive stages of his preparation for heaven. And, with every new experience of the way in which its descriptions tally with the details of his own history—as in the account, for example, that it gives of the exercises of the spirit, whether under the afflictions of life or the assaults of temptation—or in the fulfilments of prayer-or in the facilities that open up, for a still more prosperous cultivation of the heart, along the path of an advancing excellence-or in the light which it casts over the ways and the arrangements of providence in the world—there redounds from all these, and from many more which cannot be specified, the glory of an increasing evidence for the truth of that volume, whose insight, not only reaches to the penetralia of the human character, but lays open the secrets and the dark places that lie in the womb of futurity. This is truly an accumulating evidence. It brightens with every new fulfilment, and every new step in the journey of a Christian's life ; and, amid the incredulity and derision of those who have no sympathy either with his convictions or his hopes still we hold that the faith, thus originated and thus sustained, is the faith not of fanaticism but of sound philosophy; that his experimental Christianity rests, in fact, on a basis as firm as experimental science; that there is neither delusion in the growing lustre of his convictions through life, nor delusion in the concluding triumphs and ecstasy of his death-bed.

which might be addressed with effect to the moral nature of man in any quarter of the world.

53. But what gives complete and conclusive effect to this evidence is the revelation of the Spirit. For the understanding of this, there is one thing of prime importance to be attended to.

The Spirit when He acts as an enlightener, presents us with no new revelation of His own. He only shines on that revelation which is already given in the Bible. He brings no new truths from afar, He but discloses the truths of that word which is nigh unto us. It is true that He opens our eyes; but it is to behold the wondrous things contained in this book. It is true that He lifts up a veil; but it is not the veil which hides from our view the secrets of any distant or mysterious region. He taketh away the veil from our hearts; and we, made to behold that which is within, and also to behold that which is without-become alive to the force and fulness of that evidence which lies in the manifold adjustments between them-convinced at once of the magnitude of our own sin, and of the suitableness and reality of the offered salvation. In this process there is no direct announcement made to us by the Spirit of God. There is neither a voice nor a vision; no whisper to the ear of the inner man-no gleam either of a sensible or spiritual representation. There is light it is true shining out of darkness; but it is the light of the Bible, now made luminous, reflected from the tablet of conscience, now made visible. It is not a light shining direct upon us from the heavenly objects themselves; but it is a light shining on a

medium of proof by which we are made sensible of their reality. He who has been visited by this manifestation can say, I was blind but now I see. He may remember the day when a darkness inscrutable seemed to hang over those mysticthose then unmeaning passages of the Bible, which he now perceives to be full of weight and full of significancy. He may remember the day when, safe and satisfied with himself, he neither saw the extent and the purity of God's lofty commandment, nor his own distance and deficiency therefromthough now burdened with the conscious magnitude of his guilt, he both sees the need of a Saviour, and feels His preciousness." He is now brought within full view of the argument that we have laboured to unfold; and the transition, the personal or the historical transition, which himself has undergone is to his own mind a most impressive argument. It forms to him an experimental evidence of the truth of Christianity_and may be regarded as another appeal to his conscience or to his consciousness in its favour. He has become a Christian in the true sense and significancy of the term. The Gospel hath entered his mind in the demonstration of the Spirit and with power. He rejoices in the hope of its bright fulfilments; and, untutored though he be in the scholarship of its literary or argumentative evidences, he, though of humble education and humble circumstances, can give a reason of his hope. . · 54. It should not be difficult to understand, how, under this process of spiritual illumination, men, in all ages or parts of the world, the most widely distant from each other, are nevertheless introduced to one and the same Christianity. The Spirit does not make known a different religion to each ; but He manifests the same great truths to every understanding—the stable characteristics of human nature, and the no less stable doctrines of revelation, fixed and handed down to us in an imperishable written record. This will explain the mutual recognitions, the felt affinities, the perfect community of soul and sentiment that obtain between the truly regenerated of all countries and all periods. A christian peasant of Scotland, were the barrier of their diverse language removed, could enter with fullest sympathy, into the feelings and the views and the mental exercises of a christianized Hottentot in South Africa. On the same principle, he would feel the consent of a common intelligence and common sensibility with his author—when reading the pages of Augustine, or any other writer on practical Christianity, who, like him, underwent a transition from the darkness of nature to the marvellous light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Were the materials for the observation within our reach, it were most interesting to compare the converse between two devoted Christians brought together from the remotest places of the earth, and that, for example, of a Mahometan Moor with a Mahometan Persian–the first two having the Bible as a common subject of reference ; the second two the Alcoran. Each would sympathize with the other of his own kind; but a mighty lesson might be educed from the extent and the character of their respective sympathies. In the one, we should behold a community of the same ablutions, the same abstinences, the same external observations. In the other we should behold a community, of a far higher kind, of soul with soul ; a coalescence between the thoughts and affections and principles of the inner man. The votaries of other religions may have one baptism. They are the votaries of the Christian religion alone who have one Lord, that dwells in them and makes them one both with Himself and with each other; one faith, that, working by love, has the entire mastery over both their intellectual and their moral nature -and, subordinating the whole heart and history to the same great principle, begets that likeness or identity between all the members however scattered of Christ's spiritual family, which is expressed in our theological systems by the communion of the saints. They are bound together by the tie of their common sympathies, and their common hopes; and, in the topics of converse suggested by these, they have an interest which never fails.


On the portable Character of the Evidence for the

Truth of Christianity.

1. The epithet of portable, though alike applicable to the moral the experimental and the doctrinal evidence for the truth of Christianity, we should


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »