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unquestionable truth, of the scheme of redemption.
When we reflect on the sublimity of the principal doctrines of the Bible, we might be tempted to suppose that none but the most intellectual of men would be capable of embracing them. But Christianity, in its application to the understanding as well as to the heart, is evenly adapted to all men; embracing in its comprehensive grasp of charity, the most simple and the most cultivated of our species. While, as it regards their mode and nature, her mysteries are far beyond the comprehension of any man—in their practical bearing, in their suitability to our need, in their saving efficacy, they are just as intelligible to the Indian convert, or to the illiterate peasant, as they are to the most profound and enlightened of philosophers.
Now I conceive that nothing can more clearly evince the wisdom as well as goodness of its Author, than this distinguishing provision. Were a vast and complex machine to be formed for some important temporal purpose universally interesting to men, although it might be put together on scientific principles, and display a matchless variety and combination of forces, foul would be the blot on the wisdom of its contriver, should much of art or science be required in applying it to
But when such a machine may be brought to bear upon
purpose, with undeviating success, by means of a simple han
we fully satisfied that its maker understood his calling-then have we a perfect specimen of human ingenuity.
To conclude-one of two alternatives is inevitable. Either the religion of the Bible comes from God, and is therefore unquestionably and perfectly true; or else this glorious system, so diversified in its parts, yet so simple in its operation, susceptible of no improvement even from the wisest of men, distinguished by features far beyond the reach of human conception, and yet fitted to the humblest as well as to the highest capacities, universally and perfectly adapted to the spiritual need of all men-is a forgery.
A forgery invented by whom? Not by persons of profound reasoning powers, belonging to some highly cultivated society, and skilled in all philosophy and learning; but of a few obscure, illiterate, Jewish fishermen!
Now it is surely no exaggeration to assert, that he who believes this latter alternative, has adopted the most preposterous of superstitions. Notwithstanding his pride of intellect and all his boasted show of reason, the infidel must take his place among the most credulous and irrational of mankind.
To convince the cold, deliberate unbeliever, who has made up his mind to prefer a fathomless chaos to the beauty and order of revealed religion, I can scarcely venture to hope. In pity for the soul of such a man, I would pray God to put forth that pre-eminent work of grace, by which alone can be reclaimed the reckless speculator who tramples on the Son of God, despises the blood of his covenant, and contemns and derides the work of the Holy Spirit.
That many persons are to be met with in the present day who have been betrayed by a little knowledge 8 into this depth of error, is a melancholy fact. May they be brought to repentance before that awful period arrives when they shall hear a voice saying -- The day of your salvation is past for ever which is filthy, let him be filthy still!”9
8 “It is an assured truth, and a conclusion of experience, that a little or superficial knowledge of philosophy may incline the mind of man to atheism, but a farther proceeding therein doth bring the mind back again to religion.”—Lord Bacon's Advancement of Learning, p. 10.
6 He up a brazen
But there is a much more numerous class of persons, who are not altogether insensible of the excellence of Christianity, but are, nevertheless, prone to unbelief; and while they resist the invitations of divine mercy, shelter themselves under the pretext that no man is responsible for his creed. To such I would address myself, and beseech them to reflect, that while they are hesitating on the verge of Christianity, and weighing with nice scruples whether they will accept it or not, time is rapidly carrying them onwards to the judgment seat of their Creator. Except they turn to the Lord during their short remaining period of probation, they will there discover, when it shall be all too late, that this unreasonable pretext will fail to afford them a moment's protection from the fatal quences of sin.
Their case is not to be confounded with that of the uninstructed heathen, who have never heard the truth. To these, the gospel has been preached ; it is written in the book of God for their instruction; and if they reject it, they do so at their peril.
On this subject, the Scriptures themselves supply us with a clear illustration. The Israelites, for their murmuring against God, are punished with fiery serpents, under the influence of whose poisonous bite they lie dying in the wilderness. Moses, by the command of his Almighty leader,
lifts serpent on a pole, and proclaims the promise of Jehovah " that every one that is bitten,
when he looketh upon it, shall live.”1 To look
upon the serpent in reliance on the promise of God, and in obedience to his command, is an act of faith ; and as many of the people as perform this act are healed of their wounds.
But we can easily suppose the case of an unbelieving Israelite, who should aver that his wound was by no means mortal; and even supposing it to be so, that it could not, in the nature of things, be affected by his looking on a serpent of brass—that such a mode of healing was unintelligible, and therefore incredible. The result is obvious. He turns his head away from an object which is a mere offence to him; the poison performs its office without interruption, and in a few short moments he is numbered with the dead.
Now we are all wounded by the devil—the serpent who deceived our first parents, and the natural, necessary, consequence of sin-the poison which he has injected-is the death of the soul. God beholds us in our desperate condition, and in his infinite compassion provides us with a remedy. The Son of man is lifted up on the cross, and the proclamation goes forth on divine authority to a world of sinners-Believe and live. The Christian obeys, and is healed; but what says the unbeliever? “ Your gospel to me is foolishness ; for in the first place, I am not, as you uncharitably pretend, a sinner; and secondly, if I were so, what possible connexion can there
1 Numb. xxi, 4-9 Comp. John iii, 14, 15.