« PreviousContinue »
And this assent founded on this impress of the Deity in his own word, is indeed an assent of the highest degree. And thus far faith resembles our intuitive knowledge, with this difference, not as to the manner of the mind's acting, but as to the ability whence it acts; that in our intuitive knowledge, as Mr. Locke, and those of his opinion, restricts it, the evidence or objective light is such as not only is immediately without reasoning discern'd, but such as lies open to, and is discernible by our understandings, without any subjective light, any work of the Spirit of God either repairing disabled faculties, or elevating and guiding them to the due observation, or fixing their attention, or freeing their minds of the power and present influence of aversion of will, disorder of affections and prejudices that obstruct the discerning power. Whereas this is really necessary in this case, and though the objective evidence is great, and still the same; yet according to the greater or lesser degree of this assistance, our assent must be stronger or weaker, more fixed or wavering.
“When this objective evidence is actually observant to, and under the view of the mind thus enabled, disposed, and assisted, there doth arise from it, and there is made by it, an Impression on the whole soul corresponding thereto. The beaming of God's sovereign authority aws conscience. The piercing evidence of his omniscience increases that regard, the view of goodness, mercy, love, and grace operates on the will, and leaves a relish on the affections, and this truly resembles sensible evidence, tho' it is of spiritual things, and of a
spiritual nature; nor is it, as it is evidence, inferiour to, but upon many accounts preferable to that which results from the impression made by sensible objects. And this, as was observ'd of the former, is also greater or less, according and in proportion unto the view we have of that objective light above-mentioned. This self-evidencing power is a resultancy from, and in degree keeps pace with that self-evidencing light.”
“ This light whereby the written Word evidences itself unto the minds of those who have spiritual ears to hear and apply them, is nothing else, save the impress of the majesty, truth, omniscience, wisdom, holiness, justice, grace, mercy, and authority of God, stamped upon the scriptures by the Holy Ghost, and beaming or shining into the minds, of such persons upon their hearing or perusal, and affecting them with a sense of these perfections, both in what is spoken, and in the majestick and God-becoming way of speaking : they speak as never man spake; the matter spoken, and the manner of speaking, has a greatness discernible by a spiritual understanding, that satisfies it fully, that God is the speaker. And all the impressions of God's wisdom, faithfulness, omniscience, and majesty that are stamped upon the matter contain’d in the scriptures being convey'd only by the Word, do join the impressions that are upon the Word, and strengthen the evidence they give of their divine original, since these impressions do not otherwise appear to our minds, or affect them, than by the Word. The Word by a God-becoming manifestation of the truth, that scorns all these
little and mean arts of insinuation, by fair and enticing words; and artificially dress’d-up argumentations, with other the like confessions of numan 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, jeaves 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