THERE is one class of proofs for the divine origin of the Scriptures which is of a peculiar sort. Of how much use it may be in convincing an adversary, we shall have something to say before we close the present chapter: to the Christian himself it is the best of all proofs. It is, by way of distinction, called the inward, or spiritual evidence; that is, the evidence applied by the Spirit of God to the heart of the true believer, and which results from his own personal experience of the power of Christian truth. Independently of all the external and historical testimony, and though not independent, yet separate from all other internal and rational evidence, there is a self-evidencing power in the Scriptures, which declares, by its influence on the mind and heart of the believer, that they are the word of God.
The Scriptures profess to accomplish, for all those who believe and obey them, what nothing else accomplishes. One way of
proving to ourselves that this profession may be relied on, consists in making an honest and practical use of what they reveal.
The religion they reveal professes to be a
remedy for the inveterate disease of sin; to bring to the soul pardon, peace, and progressive holiness; and the true way of putting the remedy to the test is to try it. The language of the Bible to men is, "Try the remedy this book proposes for yourselves; see if it be not what it represents itself to be. Prove it; follow its directions. Do what it requires you to do. If in its practical effects, and in the different stages and degrees of its application, it accomplishes what it professes to accomplish, it will be found worthy of your confidence. If, on the other hand, after a fair and honest trial, it does not accomplish what it professes, let it be pronounced a failure, and looked upon as a trick of moral jugglery and imposture." With men of fair and ingenuous minds, I see not how such an appeal as this can be resisted, or even trifled with. It must be confessed, that those who adopt this method of ascertaining the divine origin of the Scriptures, have some advantage over those who never make this honest experiment; while it is with an ill grace that the latter refuse to believe them. It is a very easy way of settling the question; it would seem, upon all the acknowledged principles of sound reasoning, to be a decisive way; and it is open to all who have access to the Scriptures.
Has, then, the Bible proved itself a failure? and are there those who have fairly and honestly brought it to the test of experiment,
who are convinced that it is not of God? Or has it proved itself true to the better; and are not all those who "have obeyed
the heart that form of doctrine" which it delivers, most thoroughly assured that God is its Author, because the revelations it makes fall in with their own experience? This is the question we propose to discuss; and it is simply a question of fact. We have nothing to do just now with the bearing of this fact upon our argument, but simply with the fact itself.
There are those who do not obey the truth revealed in the Bible, and who, for this reason alone, have not this inward evidence that it is the word of God. How should they have it? And there are those who, while they are free to acknowledge their defects, do in some good measure obey it. They are the friends of truth and righteousness. They fear God, and love his Son. They respect his institutions, venerate his law, and make it the great object of their lives so to live as to enjoy his approbation. They are men of prayer, because they are sensible of their dependence on God, and their obligations to him; they are godly men, and men who are habitually influenced more by unseen and eternal realities, than by the things that are seen and temporal. We affirm that this class of men are conscious of an inward and moral sympathy with the disclosures made in the sacred volume, and that their own personal experience falls in with these disclosures.
1. The great truths of the Bible are fitted to exert an influence on the internal emotions; they are weighty and important enough to do so and
they do actually produce a response in the bosom of every right-hearted man.
If you hold up to him a different delineation of the Divine character from that which is presented in the Scriptures, his mind instinctively revolts from it. His hope, his refuge, his portion, the God he loves and rejoices in, is the God of the Bible. The most subtil errorist cannot decoy the friends of God by any artful, or distorted views of the Divine character, Detract from his full-orbed excellence, or obscure its amiableness and glory by any additions of man's devising, and they instantly take the alarm. What the Bible affirms of God, their own hearts affirm: the moral sympathy is complete. Give them his presence and favor, and you cannot make them miserable: deny them these, and you cannot make them happy.
They have the same inward sympathy with the Scriptures in the views they exhibit concerning the sinful character and lost
condition of man. Severe as the imputations are which the Bible records against men as sinners, and though they are imputations
which no man naturally submits to, and which, if untrue, prove this book to be a false accuser; yet do good men uniformly
acquiesce in them, while the best of men have the strongest convictions of their truth. Their own daily confessions are the
echo of these humbling statements; while the longer they live, the more do they discover sources of wickedness in themselves,
which lead them to wonder how their own character could have been described
in the Bible with so much precision. They are surprised to find how intimate an acquaintance it discovers with their own heart; how it turns it inside out, and ferrets out its inmost recesses.
The same inward sympathy is also felt with the representations which the Bible gives of the way of salvation by Christ. There
is no truth which pious men have more honestly put to the test of experience than this. They have tried other remedies, and
found no relief either from the curse of the law, or the dominion of sin. They have been driven from every other refuge, and
have found in the Lamb of God alone the refuge they were looking for. The Bible tells them of One whose "blood cleanseth from
sin," and through whom there is "peace with God;" and they have found it so, in the possession of peace which is as a river,
and joys that are like the waves of the sea. The view which a Christian has of the method of salvation by Christ, is entirely
different from that of the man whose head only is orthodox. He loves it; he confides in it; it is a view which he takes for
himself and for his own soul. It is to him just what the Bible represents it to be; it is "precious;" there is a glory, and
majesty, and beauty in it; a fitness and all-sufficiency in it, that mark it as the salvation he needs. It is his home; he
cannot live without it. Take it from him, and you crush his hopes: you make him miserable. Whatever may be his powers of intellect,
whatever his situation in life, the man who receives this redemption and lives upon it, has
something within him that is the counterpart of this blessed Gospel.
The same sympathy is also experienced with that great truth so much insisted on in the Scriptures, the regeneration of the soul by the Spirit of God. Good men have had a personal experience of the necessity of this change; and they are not un-frequently as conscious of the change itself, as they were of those sinful principles and affections which existed within them before the change took place. They have affections and principles of conduct to which they were once strangers, and which are altogether unlike those which belong to a mere speculative view of this truth. Men who have had the Gospel preached to them for years, and who, as a matter of mere rational inquiry, understood this truth none the better for having heard it so often, have now clear views of it, and views as different from what they once had as light is from darkness.
If from the regenerating, we advert to the sanctifying work of the Spirit of God, and the meliorating, subduing influence
of that spiritual religion of which the Scriptures speak, we find them equally responded to by a still, small voice within
the soul. Every gracious affection renewed and invigorated is an expression of this sympathy; every breath of prayer is a
recognition of it. The bright and brightening constellation of graces that lights up, with its rare lustre, the otherwise
dark pathway from time to eternity, is but the reflection of those great truths of the Bible which shine as a light in a dark
The Christian will tell you just "what the Bible tells you of the nature of true piety, and the power of that grace by which it is produced and sustained; and by which, in defiance of inward obstacles and outward foes, it is perpetuated, and matured for heaven. There is that within him that corresponds to the teachings of the Bible without him. The evidence of this correspondence is his own consciousness, which is the best and the strongest evidence. It is the testimony of the work of the Spirit within the soul, uniting with his recorded testimony in the Scriptures. It is the same law written on the fleshly tables of the heart, that is written with pen and ink on the sacred pages. It is the testimony of that same conviction, conversion, and sanctification; of that same change from darkness to light, and all those gracious affections, desires, hopes and consolations which are spoken of in the Bible, themselves speaking the work of their Author.
2. The Bible is a book of promises, "exceeding great and precious promises." Promises bloom upon this Tree of Life like the blossoms of spring; nor do they
deceive us when autumn comes, and the fruit is gathered. They are promises which respect the life that now is, and that which
is to come. They speak of "blessings upon the head of the just," and of "all that their heavenly Father knoweth that they
need." They are promises of safety "under the shadow of the Almighty," and of deliverance out of their "many afflictions."
They speak of "their mourning turned into joy;" of "light arising to
them in the darkness;" and of their "consolations abounding by Christ," as the "sufferings of Christ abound in them." They are promises to the young, to the middle aged, and to the "hoary head when found in the way of righteousness." They are assurances that God is "the Father of the fatherless," and the widow's guardian and avenger "in his hold habitation." To the tempted they are promises of succor; of wisdom to the unwise; of strength to the weak; and to the fearful, of courage and confidence. They speak of pardon and justification, of adoption and sanctification, of free access to God, of "grace to help in the time of need," of strength according to their day, and of perseverance to the end. They are promises of victory over the world, of the Divine presence and love, of God's indwelling Spirit, and of delight and joy in him. There are promises to faith, to repentance, to obedience, and to the sacred observance of the Lord's day. There are promises to the liberal and the merciful, to the meek and the forgiving, and to those who suffer for righteousness' sake. The Bible is in no small degree made up of such gracious engagements; it is God's covenant with his people, to which he has affixed his seal and annexed his oath. His strong and triumphant demand in relation to these engagements is, "Hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?"
Promises like these throw themselves upon every day's experience and observation. They are easily
brought to the test; and when thus brought, what is the testimony as to their fulfillment? Let the Christian world furnish the answer to this inquiry. Let the infidel world furnish examples of failure, if it can. Steady and uniform as the perpetual and regular return of seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, and bright and sure as God's bow in the clouds, is the experience of God's people to the truth of his promises. God himself more than once appeals to it as the standing token of his covenant with them, and says to them, "Ye know in all your hearts and all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you." With facts like these before him, who can doubt that God is the Author of the Bible? Is not the life of the Christian an "on-going proof that Scripture is truth?"
3. There is another peculiarity in the instructions of the Bible, which is also easily brought to the test of experience.
I allude to its instructions on subject of prayer. It abounds in inculcating the duty of prayer; it speaks largely of the power of prayer; while page after page is devoted
to recounting the achievements of prayer. It teaches that God is the "hearer of prayer;" and that "the effectual, fervent
prayer of the righteous man availeth much." We affirm that the experience of the men of prayer is in remarkable coincidence
with the spirit and import of these instructions, and furnishes perpetually accumulative evidence of the truth of the
Sacred Writings. Every Christian knows that the God of the Bible is the hearer of prayer. His own history records many a want supplied by prayer; many a vile affection held in check and subdued by prayer; many an unforgiving thought suppressed, and many a tempest of passion passed away amid the calm and unobserved retirement of his closet. He can tell of many a languishing grace revived, many a depressed hope encouraged, many a doubtful and arduous enterprise crowned with success by help received at the throne of the heavenly grace. He can tell of darkness dissipated by prayer; of rough places made plain, and the crooked straight, by prayer; of dangers averted, fears vanquished, and enemies overcome; perplexity removed, and duties for which he was incompetent performed, through prayer. In the time of trouble, prayer has been his refuge; and in the hottest furnace of affliction he has been enabled to say, "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation!" How often have public calamities been averted, or deferred, or mitigated by prayer; and where has the Spirit of God descended, and "souls been renewed, and sins forgiven," save through the power of prayer?
Of no fact in the history of the church does the experience of good men furnish more abundant testimony, than of the efficacy
of that spirit of holy wrestling which finds its expression and its conquests at the throne of grace. The convictions of pious
men are very strong in this respect, and marvellously uniform. So strong are they, that it is no exaggeration to say, that they appreciate no blessings so highly as those procured by prayer; nor is there any earthly privilege or comfort of which they would not sooner be denied, than access to the mercy-seat.
Now it strikes us that this is a very remarkable, and indeed an unaccountable fact, unless the instructions of the Bible on
the subject of prayer are truthful. It is far otherwise in false religions. Men who offer their supplications to the Virgin
Mary, or to departed saints, have no such experience as this. The worshippers of pagan gods pray to idols which their own
hands have formed, but receive no answer. The moon is cold and deaf, and turns not from her steady course when oblation after
oblation is poured out on the altar of this "queen of heaven." And the sun is listless, when sacrifice upon sacrifice sends
upward its costly fragrance, to immingle with his rising, or setting beams. Like the prophets of Baal, when from morning to
evening they cried to their absent, or sleeping deity, all such worshippers "find neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any
to regard them." We make our appeal to unbelievers themselves, and ask them to tell us from their own observation, if when,
as Christian men, we "lift up our heart to God who dwelleth in the heavens," we nave no greater evidence that he is the hearer
of prayer than the pagan has when he prays to the "host of heaven," or the Musselman when he pays his devotions at the shrine
of the false prophet?
"Where are thy gods now? let them arise and save thee, if they can save thee!" The best affections of the Christian heart start into being, and thrill with delight at the mercy-seat. The experience of the men of prayer speaks the language of the Bible; there is no truth uttered by the divine oracles on the whole subject of prayer, diversified as these teachings are, but is, with wonderful precision, verified in their own spiritual history.
4. We pursue this induction of facts only a single step farther. The Scriptures profess to strengthen the people of God on
the bed of languishing, and to give them peace and consolation in death. These are strong and high professions. We read in the Bible of the "rod and staff" that comfort the believer when he walks
through the dark valley; of One who, when "flesh and heart fail," is the "strength of his heart and his portion forever;"
and of peace, and hope, and triumph over the "last enemy." Whence come these high professions? Who is it, that professes thus
to cheer the mind weighed down by the ravages of disease, desolated of all hope from creatures, and shrinking with instinctive
dread from the agonies of death and the corruption of the grave? Who is it, in that sad hour when all human vigor and courage
are broken and shivered; when all sublunary joys retire, and the tenderest ties that bind man to man are about to be broken,
and the agitated spirit must go alone to her last account, that thus professes to soothe its fears and give it hope and confidence?
The Bible does this, and Christian experience teaches the same unutterably precious lesson, and is itself the edifying spectacle of grace thus pledged to take away the sting of death, and from the grave its victory.
If this be not the uniform lesson, yet is it the lesson of Christian experience: "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness, but the righteous hath hope in his death. I cannot tell how it is with other ministers of the Gospel, and with other men: for myself I can say, for almost forty years
I have been familiar with scenes of sickness and death—among the rich and the poor—amid the ordinary visitations of disease,
and amid the raging pestilence; and I cannot recall to my mind a single instance in which I
have seen a wicked man die in peace. I have seen wicked men die courageously, and as though every nerve were wrought up to its highest tension in order to meet the conflict; but I have never seen one
go out of the world peacefully. I have seen them submit to their fate, because their hour had come, and they could not help it. I have seen them die in
stupid and brutish ignorance of their own character as sinners, and of a coming hereafter, just as many a pagan dies; but
it was not a peaceful death. I have seen them die under the influence of powerful narcotics, and when they did not know they
were dying and when medical attendants announced that then death was tranquil and without a struggle. I have seen them die
in that state of indifference to life which is produced by the languor of disease, the
sorrow of hopeless disappointment, and the agony of pain. I have seen them die in the insensibility of age, in unbelief of the truth, in hardness of heart, and when "there were no bands in their death." And who has not known of multitudes who were even so willing to die, that they "chose strangling, and death rather than life?" But scenes like these no more resemble the triumphant, or even the peaceful death of a Christian, than the death of Nero resembled the death of Moses, or of Paul.
It is not by inspecting such scenes as these, that this question can be brought to a practical test. Place yourself by the
bedside of a dying man, whose mind is clear, whose conscience is awake, and who has strong perceptions of his own guilt and
an approaching eternity; and it will be found that such a man dies in peace, and only he, who has found peace in that Saviour
"whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood." If it be said that Christians themselves do not
always die triumphantly, or even peacefully, we grant that it is so. A good man may die suddenly, and have no time for thought;
he may die in a state of intellectual debility, or derangement, which incapacitates him even for hope; he may die when his
loins are not girt about him, and his lamp is not trimmed and burning, and therefore he may die under the hidings of God's
countenance, and pass away under the cloud; while in fact; his death never partakes of the agony and remorse of the wicked,
and in the ordinary dispensations of Divine Providence, is full of
peace and joy. And it deserves consideration, that his death is the more full of joy and peace in believing, in proportion to the clearness and strength of his views of those truths and realities, which, the more clearly they are seen and felt, the more certainly do they carry consternation and dismay to the dying sinner. No sense of the dying Christian's ill desert diminishes his confidence in atoning blood and abounding grace; no strong conceptions of a holy God disturb his tranquillity, but rather do they fill him with rejoicing; no receding world, no approaching eternity agitates him, because this world is not his rest, and his home is eternity.
Time would fail me to tell how Christians die; nor can anything save the pen of the recording angel, who has stood by their
bed of death and borne them to Abraham's bosom, narrate the unnumbered instances of their delightful departure from the present
world, which verify the truth of the Bible. "I could never have believed," said a dying saint, "that it was so delightful
a thing to die; or that it was possible to have such views of the heavenly world as I now enjoy." The memorable Melancthon,
just before he died, chanted in his sleep the words, "I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom
of God." He seemed restless, and on being asked by one near him, "Whether there were anything more that he desired?" replied,
"Aliud nihil, nisi coelum—nothing more, unless it be heaven." The most forbidding aspect now and then presented by the Christian's death, is that of
scrutiny into the foundation of his hopes, or pensive and submissive tenderness, that he is denied those bright lights which he fondly hoped to enjoy. As a general fact, "the chamber where the good man meets his fate" unfolds the scenes of heavenly mercy; it presents the theory of Christian truth in the experience of a mind that knows how to value it. And therefore it may be experience that varies from a hesitating, to a vigorous faith; from a mournful remembrance of the past, to an exulting anticipation of the future; from the tranquillity of a peaceful, to the bursting joys of a rapturous mind: yet is it true to God, and true to his word.
Infidels themselves see and feel the weight of such facts as these; and not a few of them have been constrained to adopt the language, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!" A writer in the Scottish Mirror affirms of David Hume, that, having witnessed in the family of the venerable La Roche those consolations which the Gospel alone could impart, he confessed, with a sigh, "that there were moments when, amidst all the pleasures of philosophical discovery, and the pride of literary fame, 'he wished that he had never doubted.'
We will not say, such are the facts on which we rest our statement; for they are but a partial exemplification of the facts
on which we rest the proposition, that there is a self-evidencing power in the Scriptures to every man who cordially receives them, which declares, by its influence
on his own soul, that
they are the word of God. We proceed to suggest several considerations, with the view of showing the importance of the facts we have stated, and the influence they claim in the argument in favor of Divine inspiration. Here we beg the objector to give all the force they deserve to the following remarks.
1. In the first place, the positive conviction arising from the Christian's experience of the truth of the divine oracles, cannot be philosophically
overthrown by the mere negative conviction of the Deist who has no such experience. A million of negatives cannot overturn one positive. It is no proof that you do not see the light of the sun, that men who
are born blind never saw it. It is no proof that the Christian's experience does not verify the truths of revelation, that
the experience of men who are not Christians never verifies it. If the believer "has the witness in himself," it does not
falsify his testimony that the unbeliever has no such witness. The testimony of the unbeliever is not opposing testimony;
it is simply no testimony at all. It would be worse than childish for a jury to pronounce a man innocent of the crime for
which he stands arraigned, because ten men declare under oath that they did not see him commit it, so long as five credible witnesses affirm that they did see him. Nor is this a stronger case than the one under consideration. The testimony of one creditable witness to a fact which
he himself has observed, would overturn the negatives of half the world. Negation, in the law of evidence,
is nothing; it is simply opposing nothing to something. An experienced Christian, weak though he may be in all other sources of proof, is immoveable in this. He is more than a match for the subtil sceptic. The sceptic has doubts, the Christian has knowledge; the sceptic has theory, the Christian has matter of fact.
2. It is of some importance also to remark, in the second place, that this inward testimony to the truth of the Bible is founded on good and solid reasons.
The Deist replies to the Christian, who reasons as we have been reasoning, All this is a matter of mere feeling; it is simply
your own impression; it cannot be argued out, but is a fancy of your own! No, it is not so: it is argument; it is a just and
irrefragable conclusion from premises that are true. Those premises are, that there is no effect without an adequate cause;
the conclusion is, that the effect produced by the Bible on the mind and heart of the Christian, is one whose cause is God.
They are effects which nothing else can produce. Everything else has been tried—tried in every form, in every age, and by
all the combinations of human power and human wisdom—and has proved a failure. If the Bible does not produce them, it is false
to its own engagements; if it does produce them, it is true. This is one of the points on which it has committed itself. Its
language is, "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me." "Taste
and see that the Lord is good." "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." No system of falsehood would ever have ventured to make such appeals as these. It is the easiest thing in the world for infidels to put the claims of the Bible to this test: they have but to do as it requires them to do, and the issue is perfectly decisive. It so happens that every man who does this, all the world over, finds out, that "the anointing which abideth in him is truth, and no lie." "Come see a man," says the woman of Samaria, "that told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" The same strong conviction was produced on the minds of her countrymen, and from the same cause. "Many believed on him because of his own word; and said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying, but because we have heard him ourselves; and we know that this is the Christ, the Saviour of the world." This was the method which the first disciples and apostles of Jesus pursued in order to bring to the test his extraordinary claims. Those whom his personal character seemed to convince, and whom his instructions did not convince, did not long continue to follow him. Those who were convinced, even by his miracles, and were not obedient to his doctrines, but offended by them, "went back, and walked no more with him;" while those who obeyed his voice, forsook all, and followed him; and when others went away, exclaimed, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe,
and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God!"
The Christian's experience of the truth of the Divine promises and the power of prayer, is of the same convincing kind. If the Bible is false in these particulars, it is no difficult matter to detect the falsehood.
Prayer cannot be answered, nor these promises fulfilled, except by God. He who is the hearer of prayer, and who fulfils the
promises, must be concerned in the government of the world, as no other being is concerned save Him who made it. If he thus
hears the prayers of his people, and accomplishes these promises, every answered prayer and accomplished promise furnishes
evidence of the divine origin of the Scriptures. They ask, and receive: what is this but a witness that this Book is divine?
They obey a direction of the Bible, and find the accompanying promise fulfilled; and what is this but proof that the direction
and the promise are from God? If promises and directions like these were false, they would carry with them their own condemnation;
the whole course of Divine Providence would testify against them, and give them the lie. No impostor would thus jeopard his
veracity; nor would such pretensions ever have occurred to the mind of an impostor. If the Bible is the word of God, it may
well thus commit itself, because its Author is both able and willing to redeem the pledge. His honor is concerned in making
it good; while the experience of its fulfilment testifies, that the Book which reveals it is not the work of man. The
argument from Christian experience, therefore, is not a mere impression of imagination, or overweening enthusiasm; it is sober, convincing argument. Christian men are living witnesses for God's truth; they know that the Bible is not of earthly origin; they have no more doubt of it than they have that the sun shines in the heavens. It is impossible for the subtleties, or the clamors of false philosophy, to diminish the strength of this inward conviction. The most unlettered Christian, shut out from the world, and in the remote recesses of the wilderness, has evidence of the truth of the Bible, within his own soul, which all the sophistry in the world cannot invalidate.
3. There is a third remark, which presents this internal and spiritual evidence still more clearly in the light of rational
conviction. It relates to the nature of the evidence which gives rise to all those convictions of the human mind which flow from experience and consciousness. It is the perfection of reasoning when the mind, by due process of argument, cannot help coming to the conclusion to which
the argument would conduct it. By the universal consent of mankind, there are intuitive and instinctive principles of belief
that are not the result of any process of induction, because they are self-evident; they are too plain to be established by
any such process; nor is there anything more evident than they themselves are, by which such process may be conducted. The
most conclusive argument does nothing more than unite propositions which are
of questionable verity with those which are unquestioned, and thus establish the unknown by logically identifying it with the known. But let it not be forgotten, that the nature of evidence is adapted to its subject. There is a difference between reasoning and consciousness; nor is there any need of reasoning, where we have the evidence of consciousness. There is a difference between demonstration and inspection; for inspection supersedes the necessity of demonstration. There is a difference too between coming to a logical conclusion, and making a practical experiment. You may demonstrate the chemical properties of an acid, or an alkali, and thus come to a scientific and just conclusion of their nature; and you may taste them, and with equal certainty ascertain their properties by experience. There is likewise the evidence of sense, as well as the evidence of reason. When you see the light of the sun, you do not need any other proof that it is light; when you hear sound, you do not need any other proof that it is sound. These subjects do not admit of any other evidence than the evidence of the senses. When you touch a pillar of marble, you know that it is cold and hard, because it feels so; and this is all the evidence you ask for. The nature of evidence is adapted to its subject.
This remark, and these illustrations of it, present the thought I wish to convey in relation to those convictions of the mind
which flow from experience and consciousness. The mind of man has its senses as well as his body. It has a sense of beauty
deformity, of right and wrong. Particular classes of men have a quicker and more keen apprehension and sense of some subjects, than other classes. A poet has a keen and intuitive discernment of the beauties of poetry; a musician, of the harmony of sounds; an artist, of the beauties of painting; an architect, of the beautiful proportions of an edifice. No man judges of subjects of this sort by those laws of reasoning by which his conclusions are formed of the agreement of different parts of a mathematical theorem, or logical syllogism; because there are other laws of his nature besides his reasoning faculties, which are necessarily consulted.
Now Christianity addresses itself, not to the intellect and reason of men merely, but to their moral nature—to their heart
and conscience—to what may properly be called their spiritual senses. The man who has experienced its power, possesses this inward sense of its truth and reality. When the light of truth
shines upon his mind, he knows it to be truth because he sees it. When the voice of God, his Maker, falls upon his ear, he
asks for no other evidence that it is God's voice, than that he hears it. It is a well-known voice; there is no other voice
like it, or to whose accents his mind so vibrates, and which produces the same inward emotions. It is the voice of the Good
Shepherd, leading his flock in green pastures, and by the still waters. "My sheep," says he, "know my voice, and follow me;
a stranger they will not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers." Good men love God, and love
his truth. They read the Scriptures with a different state of mind from that with which they are read by others. They possess a "spiritual discernment of spiritual things"—a peculiar tact in judging of their excellence and beauty. They judge by the heart, as well as by the understanding; and though in other respects they may be ignorant men, it is perfectly rational that they should believe them to be the word of God, if for no other evidence, than that the truths they reveal have their counterpart in their own experience. The man who has tasted honey, as certainly knows it is sweet, as the chemist who has tested its properties by scientific analysis. Plain and unsophisticated men believe vastly more truths on the evidence of their own experience, than they believe by the more tedious process of reasoning. It is by the same sure process of experiment that they believe the truths of Christianity. They have tried it; they have found that it accomplishes all that it professes to accomplish. The time was when they saw it in a different light, because they inspected it with a different state of mind. Since the love of God has controlled their inquiries, they have a key, by which this cabinet of truth may be unlocked, and its treasures explored. "He that loveth not," says the apostle, "knoweth not God, for God is love." The conclusion is a most logical one. How should a man have any just conceptions of a Being whose nature is love, when himself knows nothing about love? No more than a purely malignant man knows what kindness is, or a purely
revengeful man knows what a forgiving spirit is, or a blind man knows what color is, can a man who loves not, know what God is. Our perception of the moral character of our fellow men arises from sympathy; it is when heart meets heart, and love responds to love, that we see into one another's bosom. We know what men are, because we ourselves feel, or have felt like them. Not until the heart of man corresponds to the heart of God, is God known. Christianity therefore speaks for itself, and carries its own evidence within it, wherever its power is felt.
Nor is there any mysticism in this: it involves a principle of every day's concernment. The Deist replies, "This may be evidence
that satisfies the man who feels it, but it is no argument with one who does not feel it; I have read the Bible, and find
no such effects from it; to my mind it is a book of absurdities!" Let us test this objection, and see where it will end. Set
the Deist to reason with an Atheist. The Atheist may ask him, "Why do you believe there is a God?" The Deist replies, "I see
such evidences of design; such beauty, grandeur, order, and harmony throughout the creation, that to my mind it is impossible
that it should not have been the product of a designing Cause." The argument is good; but it rests on the Deist's perception
of design, order, and harmony. What if the Atheist replies, "Your impressions of design and harmony are all superstition;
I have never seen any such indications in the created universe: the evidence
may do well enough for the man who feels it, but to my mind it is no evidence at all!" Here, then, the Deist is in a dilemma; he must give up his objection to the reasoning of the believer in Christianity, which is founded on his perceptions of its excellence, or he must yield to the reasoning of the Atheist, against his own perceptions of the order and harmony in the works of creation. He must, upon his own principles, either become an Atheist or a Christian. We are bold, therefore, to affirm, that the spiritual perception by which every good man judges of the divine origin of the Scriptures, is as infallible as the perceptions of the Deist of the excellence of the religion of nature; as infallible as the perceptions of the poet, or the artist, of the excellence of painting or poetry; as infallible as the corporeal senses themselves, though acting in different spheres, and conversant with different objects. There is no stronger evidence; it is the evidence of consciousness. Let men read and obey the Bible, and they will know that it is from God. The more experimentally and practically they become acquainted with it, and the more they are imbued with its spirit, the more competent are they to decide on the question of its divine origin from their own experience, and the more certainly will they decide according to truth.
4. There is a fourth remark, which gives still additional force to this argument. This testimony from experience is fortified by a great number of witnesses, and of great variety of external condition and
ural character. Suppose a man of matured intelligence and unimpeachable veracity were travelling alone on an unfrequented path, and saw some unusual phenomenon in the heavens, which he could not account for, and which he himself could scarcely be persuaded was a reality. The more he inspects it, however, the more is he convinced that it is no delusion, and that his senses have not deceived him. Now it would not be surprising, if, in giving a narrative of what he had seen, even those who had the strongest confidence in his veracity should entertain doubts of his statement; nor would it be unnatural for them to conclude, that he had been deceived by some optical illusion, or his own imagination. But if twenty, or fifty other persons, with whom he had had no communication, should testify that they had witnessed the same phenomenon from other and different points of observation, there would certainly be more reason to conclude that his narrative is worthy of being believed. But suppose that thousands in different parts of the land, and millions in different portions of the earth, should testify that they had simultaneously seen the same phenomenon, and that their descriptions of it should all agree; suppose that among these millions there are persons of both sexes, of all ages, of all natural temperaments, of all classes of society, and of all degrees of intellectual cultivation; it most certainly would be in accordance with all the laws of evidence, and a perfectly rational thing, to conclude that his narrative is true. Yet is this but a faint illustration of the remark, that the
testimony for the divine origin of the Scriptures from experience, is fortified by a great number of witnesses, of great variety of external condition and natural character.
All Christians have this internal and spiritual evidence. All testify to the reality of the change, wrought, through the instrumentality of the Bible, upon their own hearts; the effect produced by it on their own minds and character is different from that produced by any other book in the world; nor is it possible for any other to produce the same moral transformation. It has disclosed to them the inmost recesses of their own bosoms, which nothing else could do. When polluted, it has made them holy; when anxious and troubled, it has given them peace; when miserable, it has made them happy. It has given the most accurate and vivid representation of their sorrows and their joys, their burdens and their relief, their temptations and their succors, their doubts and their confidence, their fears and their hopes, their unfaithfulness and their relentings, their conflicts and their triumphs; which no book could give unless its Author knew what was in man, and is able to write out their own inward history.
It adds too not a little to the force of their testimony, that this experience is felt in all ages of the world, from righteous
Abel down to the present hour. It is found in all climates, and under all forms of government. It is the same in the cottages
of Greenland, and in the valleys of the Vaudois; in polished Europe, and in the savage wilderness; on
the continents, and in the islands. Oceans may separate them; natural causes, of every variety, may exert their appropriate influence upon their character; but everywhere the same experience, resulting from the same cause, and producing the same conviction that that cause is God, pervades them all. No matter what their sex, or condition—whether they be children, or men of gray hairs; whether they be Cromwell and the Lady Jane Grey on their thrones, or Boaz and Ruth in the harvest field; whether they be Zuingle on the battle ground, or Howard in his counting-room, or John Newton praying at the mast-head:—everywhere, and in all, thought corresponds to thought, and emotion to emotion. The same high-born and impelling force sends the same life-blood through every artery and vein of the spiritual body. And to give greater force still to their testimony, it is given with the same uniformity and explicitness by all classes of minds and temperaments. The gifted, as well as those of ordinary endowments; the sanguine and the phlegmatic; the cautious and reserved; the rash and communicative; the poet and the historian; the sensitive artist, and the cool philosopher—all have the same spiritual sympathies, and speak the same spiritual language.
There are but two ways in which this testimony can be repelled: the one is, by supposing the witnesses to be deceivers; the other, by supposing them to be deceived. That they are all deceivers will hardly be urged by the grossest infidel. They are
those in whom infidels themselves have confidence, and who, in all matters of secular trust, are confessedly good men and true. That they are deceived, is scarcely possible. It might be possible with one, with ten, with fifty; but can it be possible with thousands, with millions—unknown to each other, and between whom there is no intercourse, no connivance, no concert; and whose sympathies are common only where they are derived from the Bible as a common source? This is the magnet, which attracts all hearts. with which it comes in contact—the spiritual magnet, which, as from a common centre, sends out its ten thousand electric wires, and by its telegraphic power holds communication with the most distant minds, simultaneously answering to the testimony first announced in heaven.
Let it not therefore be wondered at, that Christian men place strong dependence upon this spiritual and internal evidence.
"A Christian dwells, like Uriel, in the sun;
It is no preponderance of probabilities on which such a man rests his assurance of the divine origin of the Bible. It is not possible to persuade him to renounce it for any false religion, however plausible and captivating it may be, and however artful its seductions.
This is emphatically the poor man's argument
for the divine origin of the Sacred Writings. He may have no other evidence within his reach, but this satisfies him. Of the witness of antiquity, of logic, and history, and the fulfilment of prophecy, he may know nothing; but this one thing he knows, that the Bible is to his own soul the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation. He has found it what it professes to be: this is his argument. He feels that it was written on purpose for him: this is his argument. It speaks to him as no other book speaks: this is his argument. Man could not speak thus: this is his argument. "It were like telling him, that a creature spread out the firmament and inlaid it with worlds, to tell him that this proffered salvation is the device of impostors, or the figment of enthusiasts. He that believeth, hath the testimony written in his own bosom, not by those sensible exhibitions of Divine power by which the laws of nature are arrested, but by power equally great and wondrous, the omnipotent power of the Spirit of God. Others may admire the shield which the industry and the ingenuity of learned men have thrown over Christianity; they may speak of the solid rampart cast up by the labors of ages, and pronounce the faith inaccessible, because history, philosophy and science, have all combined to gird round it the iron and the rock of a ponderous and colossal demonstration." But the fact most to be gloried in is, "that the Scripture commends itself to the conscience, and experience bears out the Bible—that the Gospel can go the round of the world, and
carry with it, in all its travel, its own mighty credentials."
If the infidel does not confide in representations like these, if he does not give the argument any credence, it is matter of grief to us, but we cannot help it. There is no alternative for him between a true faith in Christianity, and living and dying without God, and without hope; between cleaving to God's testimonies, and absolute despair; between glorying in them, and being overwhelmed with shame and everlasting contempt.
"Ah me! the laurell'd wreath that murder wears,
"For judgment am I come into this world," says the great Author of the Bible, "that they which see not, might see; and that they which see, might be made blind." Men who know too much to be taught of God, must be left to their own blinding delusions.
From my heart do I pity the man, who shuts the eyes of his understanding against the intrinsic evidence which this Book possesses
of its heavenly origin. Would he allow it to speak its own facts and its own doctrines, without mutilation and in all their
richness; would he allow it to utter its own promises and its own threatenings, its own love and mercy, its own heaven and
its own hell; he would find that it is no more the work of man than the sun
in the heavens—no more a system of deception than the sun itself is a globe of ice.
We part with the infidel, but we do not willingly part with him; nor do we leave him in the spirit of unkindness. There are truths of the Bible known to himself, and demonstrated by his own experience. We affectionately and earnestly invite him to a field of thought, which his own heart has not yet explored. We bid him rove over it from flower to flower, and from its vernal promise to its rich harvest; pledging him, that if he does so he shall not lose his reward. Let him prove the Bible by giving all its truths the trial of experience. Let him taste the honey, as well as the gall: they are sweet fountains, pure fountains, clear as crystal, from the throne of God and the Lamb.