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little and mean arts of insinuation, by fair and enticing words; and artificially dress’d-up argumentations, with other the like confessions of human weakness, that are in all humane writings, commends itself to the conscience, dives into the souls of men, into all the secret recesses of their hearts, guides, teaches, directs, determines, and judges in them, and upon them, in the name, majesty and authority of God. And when it enters thus into the soul, it fills it with the light of the glory of the beamings of those perfections upon it; whereby it is made to cry out, “The voice of God, and not of man.”
17. But we can imagine certain minds to be unsettled, if not repelled, by the whole of this contemplation. Many may feel that, instead of bringing the subject nearer, it has in truth distanced them from Christianity. They could apprehend the rational evidence for the truth of the gospel ; and perhaps rejoiced as they were trying the strength of it, in the solidity of that ground upon which they were standing. But they have no taste and no understanding for this spiritual evidencenor can they at all sympathize with those men of another conformation who seem regaled, in the study of it, as if by a splendour and a richness to them incomprehensible. To them it appears like the substitution of an imaginary for a real basisthe quitting of a firm vantage-ground, with no other compensation for the loss of it, than a certain visionary and viewless mysticism in its place. They refuse, therefore, to enter on this impracticable region; or to entertain at all that shadowy argument which, to the eye of their intellect, has exceedingly bedimmed the question, and put it on an elevation, which, be it sound or be it fanciful, they regard as being hopelessly and inaccessibly above them. And so they incline to keep by the position which they at present occupy, and to attempt nothing higher-leaving this adventurous flight to others, but satisfied themselves with the more palpable reasonings of Leslie and Littleton and Butler and Lardner and Paley.
18. Our first reply to this is, that they do not set aside the rational, when they enter on the consideration of the spiritual evidence, or when they attempt in their own persons to realise it. They need not forego a single advantage which they have gained. The spiritual evidence does not darken or cast an uncertainty over the rational evidence—no more unsettles, for example, the historical argument for the truth of the Christian religion, than it unsettles any of the demonstrations of geometry. If by this new opening they do not feel themselves led forward, and so as to make a nearer approximation to the truth than before they most assuredly are not thrown back by it. The argument from prophecy does not obscure the argument from miracles; and as little does the moral or spiritual evidence which we are now attempting to unfold, obscure either the one or the other of these arguments. The validity of one species of reasoning does not depend on the validity of another species which is altogether distinct from it. The more transcendental light of which we have just spoken, leaves all the other and lesser lights precisely
where it found them. They discharge the same function as heretofore. The pleadings of the very authors on the deistical controversy, whom we have quoted remain as good as ever; and, if we are not admitted by them into the glories of the inner temple, they one and all of them have at least strengthened the bulwarks of the faith.
19. But moreover. What ought to abate the formidableness of this evidence (regarded by them as if it were a secret of free-masonry and only for the initiated) and make it less repulsive in their eyes, is, that, however lofty and remote from every present view and vision of theirs, there is a series of patent and practicable steps by which they and all others might be led to the perception of it.
There is one most obvious principle, clear of all mysticism, and which they will not refuse—that if once convinced on rational, or on any evidence, of the Bible being indeed a message from the God of heaven, it is their urgent, their imperative duty to read that Bible; or, after having studied and been satisfied with the credentials of the book, now to explore with all docility and labour the contents of the book. There is another principle of an equally elementary character which they cannot refuse to admit, and should not refuse to act upon--that, however strange and transcendental the light of spiritual Christianity may appear in their eyes, they have at least a light of conscience within them which they are bound to follow, so as to accompany their devout and diligent reading of the Scriptures with the most faithful observation of all which this inward monitor tells them to be right, and as scrupulous an avoidance of all which it tells them to be wrong. Thus far they walk on a plain path; and there is but one suggestion more, which, if theirs be indeed an honest respect for the authority of scripture (as sufficiently vindicated to their apprehension on the ground of its argumentative and literary evidence alone) they will not shrink from and that is, the obligation as well as the efficacy of prayer, and of prayer for other and higher manifestations of the truth than they have yet been permitted to enjoy. They surely do not imagine şuch to be the fulness and perfection of their knowledge, that there is no room in their minds for any further enlargement or further illumination. Let us then suppose them to have actually entered on this process—a most careful perusal of His word—a most careful and conscientious doing of His will as far as is known to them—and withal, most earnest prayer for the visitation of that light which they have not yet reached, but now most honestly aspire after. We think that the truth of scripture may be perilled on the result of such an enterprise ; and that, because its own declarations will either be verified or disproved by it. For here are men willing to do the will of God; let us see whether they will not be made to know of Christ's doctrine that it is of God.* Here are men keeping the sayings of the Saviour; let us see whether He will not manifest himself to them in such a way as He doeth not unto the world. Here are men making a conscientious use of the light they have ; and let us see whether in their history there will not be the fulfilment of the saying, that to him who hath more shall be given.* Here are men giving earnest heed to the word; let us see whether the promise will not be accomplished, that the day shall dawn and the day-star arise in their hearts.f Here are men seeking intently, and with all earnestness seeking; let us see whether or not the declaration of the Saviour will come to pass, he that seeketh findeth. Here are men, while in the busy and anxious pursuit of that truth which is unto salvation, conforming their walk as far as in them lies to all the lessons of piety and righteousness; let us see whether the glorious assurance will not be realized, that to him who ordereth his conversation aright I will show my salvation. Such seems then to be the economy of the Gospel. It has an incipient day of small things, || which, if not despised but prosecuted aright, will terminate in a day of large and lofty manifestations. It takes its outset from the plainest biddings of conscience. It has its consummation in the things of the Spirit of God, which the natural man cannot receive, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned. It begins with that which all may apprehend, and all may act upon. It ends with that which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive; but which God reveals by His Spirit even by the Holy Ghost given to those who obey him. I He is quenched, He is grieved, He is resisted by our despite of