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whom this light is extinct, and in whom we wish it to revive; those men who are without faith and charity, and who find nothing but clouds and darkness throughout nature; for such it seems scarcely the right way to reclaim them, that we should ply them on a subject so great and important, with proofs drawn from the course of the moon and the planets, or with any of those common-place arguments, against which they have invariably revolted. The hardness of their hearts has rendered them deaf to this voice of nature, ringing constantly upon their ear; and experience proves, that far from carrying them by these means, nothing is more likely to disgust them, and to destroy the hope of their discovering the truth, than professing to convince then simply by such reasonings, and telling them that they will find truth altogether unveiled
Certainly this is not the way in which the Scriptures speak of God, which are far better prepared to speak of him than we are. They tell us, we allow, that the beauty of creation declares its author; but, they do not say that it does so to the whole world. On the contrary, they affirm, that the creature does not make God known by its own light, but by that light which God, at the same time, pours into the minds of those whom he thus instructs. That which may be known of God, is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it to them, Rom. i. 19. The Scripture teaches us in general, that God is a God, that hideth himself; and, that since the corruption of human nature, he has left men in a state of blindness, from which they cannot escape, but through Jesus Christ, without whom all communion with God is impracticable. No man knoweth the Father, but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him, Matt. ii. 27.
The Scripture teaches the same truth also, where, in so many different passages, it affirms, that they who seek God shall find him. But we do not speak thus of a clear and self-evident light. It needs no seeking. compels observation by its own brilliancy.
2. Metaphysical arguments, in proof of Deity, a.
so remote from the common habits of reasoning, and so intricate and involved, that they produce little impression; and even though they may influence a few,it is only at the time when they are actually considering the demonstration, and an hour afterwards, they fear the: have deceived themselves. Quod curiositate cognoverant superbia amiserunt.
Besides, this sort of proof can only lead to a speculative knowledge of God; and to know him only in this way, is not to know him at all.
The God whom Christians worship, is not merely the divine author of geometric truths, and of the order of the elements. This is the belief of the heathen. He is not merely a God who watches providentially over the lives and fortunes of men, to bestow a succession of happy years on his worshippers. This is the belief of the Jew. But the God of Abraham and of Jacob, the God of the Christian, is a God of love and of consolation. He is a God who fills the soul and the heart which he possesses. He is a God who makes them feel within, their own misery; whose infinite grace unites itself with their inmost soul; fills it with humility, and joy, and confidence, and love; and makes it impossible for them to seek any other end than himself.
The God of the Christians is a God who causes the soul to feel that he is its only good, that he is its only rest; and that it can have no joy but in his love ; and who teaches it, at the same tim, to abhor every obstacle to the full ardor of that affection. The selflove and sensual affection which impede it, are insufferable to it. God discloses to the soul this abyss of selfishness, and that he himself is the only remedy.
That is to know God as a Christian. But to know God thus, a man must know also his misery and unworthiness, and the need he has of a mediator, by whom he may draw near to God, and be again united to him. These two branches of knowledge must not be separated, for when separated, they are not only useless, but injurious. The knowledge of onr ruin,
without the knowledge of Jesus Christ, is despair.But the knowledge of Jesus Christ delivers us both from pride and despair, because in him we discern, at once, our God, our own guilt, and the only way of recovery.
We may know God without knowing our wretchedness, or our wretchedness without knowing God; or both, without knowing the way of deliverance from those miseries by which we are overwhelmed. But we cannot know Jesus Christ, without knowing, at once our God, our ruin, and our remedy, because Jesus Christ is not merely God; but God our Saviour from misery.
Hence, therefore, they who seek God without the Saviour, will discover no satisfactory or truly beneficial light. For either they never discover that there is a God; or, if they do, it is to little purpose; because they devise to themselves some way of approaching without mediation, that God, whom without the aid of a mediator, they have discovered : and thus they fall either into Atheism or Deism, two evils equally abhorrent to the Christian system.
We should aim then, exclusively, to know Jesus Christ, since by him only, we can expect ever to obtain a beneficial knowledge of God.
He is the true God of mankind: that is, of miserable sinners. He is the centre of all, and to him every thing points: and he who knows him not, knows nothing of the economy of this world, or of himself. For not only can we not know God, but by Jesus Christ, but we cannot know ourselves except by him.
Without Jesus Christ, man must remain in sin and misery. In Jesus Christ, man is delivered from sin and misery. In him is treasured up all our happiness, our virtue, or very life, and light, and hope; and out of him there is nothing for us but sin, misery, darkness, and despair; without him, we see nothing but obscurity and confusion in the nature of both God
THOUGHTS ON MIRACLES.
We must judge of doctrine by miracles, and of miracles by doctrine. The doctrine attests the miracles, and the miracles attest the doctrine. Both sides of the assertion are true, and yet there is no discrepancy between them.
2. There are miracles which are indubitable evidences of truth, and there are some which are not. We should have a mark to distinguish those which are, or they would be useless. But they are not useless; they are of the nature of a foundation. The test then which is given to us, should be such as not to destroy that proof which true miracles give to the truth, and which is the chief end of miracles.
If no miracles had ever been adduced in support of falsehood, they would have been a certain criterion. If there were no rule for discrimination, miracles would have been useless; there would have been no just grounds to credit them.
Moses has given us one test, which is, when the miracle leads to idolatry. If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke to thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams : for the Lord your God proveth you. Deut. xiii. 1,2,3. Jesus Christ also has given us one in Mark ix. 39. There is no man who shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. Whence it follows, that whoever declares himself openly against Jesus Christ, cannot do a miracle in his
So that, if he works miracles, it is not in the name of Jesus Christ, and he should not be listened to. We see then the limits marked out to our faith in mir
acles, to which we must add no others. In the Old Testament, when they turn men away from God. lo the New, when they turn mên from Jesus Christ.
So that if we see a miracle, we must at once receive it, or discover some plain reason to the contrary. We must examine if he who does it, denies God or Jesus Christ.
3. Every religion is false, which does not in its belief worship one God as the author of all things; and in its morals, love one God as the end of all things. Every religion now which does not recognize Jesus Christ, is notoriously false, and miracles can avail it nothing
The Jews had a doctrine from God, as we have from Jesus Christ, and confirmed similarly by miracles. They were forbidden to believe in any worker of miracles, who should teach a contrary doctrine; and, moreover, they were required to have recourse to their priests, and to adhere to them strictly. So that, apparently, all the reasons which we have for rejecting workers of miracles, they had with respect to Jesus Christ and his apostles.
Yet, it is certain, that they were very highly blamable for refusing to believe them on the testimony of their miracles; for Jesus Christ said, That they would not have been blamable, if they had not seen his miracles. John xv. 22-24.
It follows, then, that he regarded bis miracles as an infallible proof of his doctrine, and that the Jews were bound by them to believe him. And, in fact, it was these miracles especially which made their unbelief criminal. For the proofs that they might have adduced from Scripture, during the life of Christ, were not alone conclusive. They might see there that Moses had said, Another prophet should come; but that would not have proved Jesus Christ to be that prophet, which was the whole matter in question. Such passages of Scripture, would have shewn them that Jesus Christ might be that prophet; and this, taken together with his miracles, should have determined their belief that he really was so.