« PoprzedniaDalej »
are persuaded that there are promises in the Bible, but they have no community of feeling with those who speak of the support and comfort derived from them, for they cannot trace any of their joys or comforts to such a source. They are also constrained to admit, that the hopes of the Christian, which are described as so cheering and animating in the journey of life, are unknown to them, and that they have never ventured to think even of death without a feeling of gloom pervading their minds; far less to look to the unseen world with composure and satisfaction.
What is an individual, in such a state of mind, to do in his new and peculiar circumstances ? The path of duty seems plain. He has often heard that He is a sinner; he is now to believe the humbling truth, and be abased before God; he has heard of the glorious news of salvation ; he is now to believe the testimony of God concerning his Son, Jesus Christ, and to flee to him as the hope set before him in the Gospel.
Surely such an one cannot now remain indifferent to those things which he is convinced he has already too much neglected. The preference to the Gospel must not now be confined to respect for it as a system, but be shown in renouncing every false confidence, in giving up the love of sin and of the world, and esteeming spiritual blessings as the best gifts of Jehovah's hands. Religion must not be restricted to a mere attendance on the public wor"ship of God, but it must enter into all the business of life, and regulate every affection of the mind.
When this individual becomes a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, what a revolution takes place in his thoughts, and desires, and knowledge. He now hears the Gospel with a most intense interest, which he never in the smallest degree felt before; he understands it now, and applies it to his own circumstances; he perceives the truth of descriptions respecting human nature, that he never fully admitted before, and he beholds such a value and an importance in the Gospel, that he listens to the message of salvation as tidings in which he is deeply concerned. Having believed, he obtains the remission of his sins. He now hates sin, and loves holiness. The promises of the Bible appear exceedingly great and precious. He goes to the house of prayer with devout and grateful feelings. He mingles in the services of the sanctuary with emotions of joy and sacred pleasure. Were he called on to describe the change in his state, his character, and feelings, he would do so in the language of the Apostle, “ Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."*
THE INFLUENCE OF HUMAN WRITINGS ON THE
MINDS OF RELIGIOUS INQUIRERS.
The belief of the Gospel is not only connected with the acquirement of Divine knowledge, but also with the unlearning of human error. The latter duty is found by many to be severe and tedious. This is especially the case with those who in early life have been exposed to the injurious influence of writings which deny the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, and thus seek to deprive men of a Divine revelation altogether. These individuals have impressed deeply on their memories the sneers and scoffs of the enemies of the Bible, and regret, when too late, the effect on their principles and comfort. For even after they are convinced of the justice and importance of the claims of Revelation, and have found the Sacred Volume to contain the truth of God, they frequently find that their minds are unhinged, by the sophistry of its opponents. They cannot altogether forget the bold assertions and the many objections brought against Christianity, though there may exist in their minds a habitual and firm conviction that they have believed only that which is true.
* A very few sentences in this chapter are taken from a series of Essays " On the Character and Influence of the Literature of the Day," written by the author and inserted in the Congregational Magazine for 1827.
They find, in their painful experience, that the suggestions of unbelief, aided by the suggestions of others, occasion much distress; and that it is not till they are enabled to recal, and present to their minds, the powerful arguments in favour of the truths of revelation, and their personal interest in those truths, that peace is obtained.
We are now referring to the effects produced by the writings of those individuals, who never ventured on fair and equal ground to oppose Christianity. As if aware of the weakness of their cause, they employed bold unqualified assertions, and the shafts of ridicule; and thus tried to destroy the claims of revelation altogether. Instead of openly meeting the evidences which prove the truth of Christianity, they boldly assaulted a corrupt system, alike disowned of God and of every holy being. The religion which those writers opposed, was the religion of men, of forms, and corruptions. If the first preachers of the Gospel had risen from the dead, they could not have discovered in Popery that pure, and simple, and spiritual system, which they were commissioned to make known to all nations. If any thing of essential truth was left in the system referred to, it was employed to give sanction to the most destructive errors ; to blind instead of enlightening the human mind. It was not honest, then, to hold up that thing as the Christianity of the New Testament. The writings of such men, however, produced a baneful effect. If indeed the minds of those exposed to their influence, had been sufficiently enlightened to separate sophistry from sound argu
ment, and to distinguish names from things; to discover fraud, and rancour, and a spirit of malevolence, when solemn and honest means should have been employed, there would have been comparatively little danger. But when, alas ! the vast majority of the readers of such works, are eagerly seeking something to justify themselves in their rejection of the truth, or from indifference and dislike to spiritual things, are willing to receive all that is said against Christianity, we need not wonder at the effects produced. And even in the cases of individuals, who have no desire to read such works, yet when they are placed in their hands, and perused with no fixed principles regarding religion ; never having indeed attended to the subject, and with a predisposition to receive error rather than truth, we could expect no other result than a prejudice against Christianity.
Could it be possible to find a human mind, unbiassed in the great matter of religion ;-with no natural tendency to love evil or good,--and with the mind placed in a sort of equipoise ; yet it is plain that if that individual reads a book, professedly or covertly written against revelation, and does not also read a volume written in favour of the oracles of truth, his mind will receive a bias against the Gospel, the equilibrium will be lost, and there will be a powerful leaning to the side of error. If the enemies of Christianity wished then to act honourably, even on their own principles, they should give along with an infidel or deistical writer, a volume written in defence of divine truth. But when we know from