« PreviousContinue »
reported, “never man spake like this man," had also an evidence, which, however powerfully and warrantably felt in their own minds, they could not by any statement pass entire into the minds of other men. The centurion who was present at the crucifixion of the Saviour, and who from what he heard and saw of the tone and aspect and-manner of the divine sufferer, testified that surely this was the Son of God-may have received, through the vehicle of his senses, a deep and a just persuasion, which yet by no testimony of his could be borne with full effect, and so as to give the same persuasion to those who were distant from the scene. And, in like manner, the men who were not able to resist the spirit and the wisdom wherewith Stephen spake, may have felt a great deal more than they could tell—yet not a groundless or imaginative feeling, but a rightful impression, which it would have been well if they had acted on, that he spake with the truth and authority of an inspired man. In all these cases, we admit the possibility of such tokens having been exhibited, as might give to the parties who were present a strong and intimate persuasion, not the less solid, that it was only felt by themselves and incommunicable to others. The solitary visitant of some desert and before unexplored island, has as good reason for believing in the reality of the scenes and spectacles before him, though no other eyes ever witnessed them but his own. And so too, in the person of a celestial messenger, there might, for aught we know, be such real though indescribable symptoms of the character wherewith he is invested—such undoubted
signatures of wisdom and authority and truthsuch a thorough aspect of sacredness—such traits of a divinity in every look and every utterance—that, though not capable of being made the subject of a public argument, or of being reported to the satisfaction of others, might nevertheless awaken a most honest and homefelt and withal sound conviction in the hearts of those who were the witnesses of such a present and personal manifestation, and who themselves saw with their eyes and heard with their ears, what they could not make other understandings than their own to conceive.
12. Now the question is, whether those characters of truth and of power, which we now imagine to have been in the oral testimony, might not have been transplanted into the written testimony—or whether that palpable evidence embodied in the personal history, and in the words of our Saviour as He spake them upon earth, and of which the hearers took immediate cognizance, might not be fixed and substantiated in the Bible that He left behind him, and be there taken immediate cognizance of by the readers of the bible. Certain it is, that the prima facie evidence, the first aspect of that verisimilitude which lies in the obvious sacredness and honesty of Scripture, is greatly brightened and enhanced by our intent and our prolonged regards to it. The man who devotes himself in the spirit of a thorough moral earnestness to the perusal of Scripture, feels a growing homage in his heart to the sanctity and the majesty and the authority which beam upon him from its pages—and in more conspicuous light, and with more commanding
effect, the longer that this holy exercise is persevered in. And the question recurs—might not this growing probability grow into a complete and irresistible certainty at the last? Might not the verisimilitude ripen and be confirmed into the full assurance of a verity ? If in the course of actual experience it be found, that we do meet with daily accessions to this evidence—how are we to know that there is not as much of the evidence in reserve, as shall at length overpower the mind into a settled yet sound conviction, that verily God is in the Bible of a truth? It is no condemnation of this evidence, that, only seen by those who have thus reached their way to it, it has not yet come within the observation of others who are behind them, who have not given the same serious and sustained attention to the Bible, or not so much made it the book of their anxious and repeated perusals—nor their right understanding of the book, the subject of their devoutest prayers.
It is true, the resulting evidence is of that personal and peculiar quality, which cannot be translated in all its proper force and clearness into the mind of another—yet may it be a good and a solid evidence notwithstandingas much so as the ocular evidence for the reality of some isolated spot which I alone have been admitted to see, and which no human eyes but my own have ever once beheld. The evidence is not at all weakened by this monopoly. To myself it is every way as satisfying and strong as if thousands shared in it. At least, irrespective of them, the conviction on my own separate and independent view of the object of the question, may have been so perfect,
as to require no additions. Yet, if not an addition, there is at least a pleasing harmony in the experience of men, who have been admitted to the view along with me. We might be strengthened and confirmed by our mutual assurance of a reality in things unknown to all but ourselves, and which to the generality of the world abide in deepest secrecy. And such too the sympathy, such the confirmation felt by “the peculiar people,” in their converse with each other. They are chosen generation, and have been translated out of darkness into the marvellous light of the Gospel -each having the witness within himself, yet all prizing the discovery, when, on talking one with another, they find the consistency and the oneness of a common manifestation.
13. No explanation of this evidence will convince the uninitiated. But it may assist them to conceive of it—nay to acquiesce in its possibility, perhaps even in its probability, or still farther in its truth --though a truth which they individually have not been permitted to behold. Yet we see not how they can approximate to the true understanding of it, unless they are told of the revelation made to the mind of man by the Spirit of God--although it be a revelation to which they are yet strangers. Yet they cannot fail to have read the intimations of such a process in the Bible—of “men translated out of darkness into marvellous light”-of “ things hidden from the wise and the prudent yet revealed unto babes"-of the “day dawning, and the day-star arising in the hearts of those who were making diligent search after the doctrine of
their salvation" of "eyes being opened to behold the marvellous light contained in God's law" and finally, of “God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shining in the hearts of men and giving them the light of His own glory in the face of Jesus Christ." There may be to them a felt mysticism in these various passages—yet they are the passages of a book, the argumentative evidence of which
of them have studied and been satisfied therewith. This higher, this transcendental evidence, they may not have shared in. Yet perhaps some general notion could be given of it --and even they might be taught in part to apprehend what they have not yet appropriated.
14. It is of capital importance for those who are strangers to this evidence, and perhaps are suspicious of its fanaticism and folly—it is of capital importance for them to be told, that the Spirit, in revealing truth to the mind, reveals only the things which are contained in scripture. He tells us, not of the things which are out of the Bible ; but he tells us of the things that are in the Bible. He sheds a light on the pages of the Word. He opens the understandings of men ; but it is to understand the Scriptures. He opens their eyes; but it is to behold the things contained in this book. The design of His internal revelation, is to make the things of the external revelation visible. They are the previous objective realities of scripture in which he deals; and, though His be in one respect a new revelation, yet the great purpose of it is to cast a light over the stable and independent truths of the old revelation. When