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The believing spirit is the normal, rational state, the unbelieving is abnormal, unnatural, and irrational.
In every line of thought and action doubts will occur and perplexities arise. But we solve them or act in spite of them. We see the objections, and in view of the proofs we overrule them. We recognize the difficulties, and under the exigency of life we override them. The most cautious inquiry must point to some settled result. A state of chronic indecision is intolerable, whether in the business man, the scholar, the physician, the lawyer, the general, or the theologian. Your business man sees what and how to do. Your scholar decides, or he is no scholar. Your physician diagnoses and prescribes, or you drop him. Your judge finds out the law and applies it. Your general plans, often in a flash, and by the flash, and fights. McClellan doubted and dawdled; Grant believed and struck. While the Reverend Sydney Smith questioned whether missions in India could succeed or would comport with the safety of the British empire, Carey, Marshman, and Ward, his “consecrated cobblers,” were in India leading the vanguard of the great host of Christian converts, to the saving of souls and perhaps of the Indian empire.
There is no good reason why the same principle that prevails everywhere should halt upon the threshold of the very highest sphere, religion. But there is the best of reasons to the contrary in the inconceivable magnitude of the interests. Unsettlement here, in the main issues and fundamental truths, instead of being the mark of strength, must, on every analogy, be regarded as the token of weakness. It is but mental and moral flabbiness. And though, not seldom, good men attain to bright hope through long distressing doubts, and we rejoice in the issue, — is it at all needful to desire the process, much less to call it the necessary or even natural way? Is it the only or the best way to confirmed temperance through inebriety, or to health through dangerous disease? I believe it to be our privilege to reach the full assurance of faith without the long conflict with darkness. But whether or not we pass by that way, it is our privilege and our duty not to have our home in the dark valley but to come out and dwell in the clear light.
For the main aspects of our spiritual relationships are plain and simple: an intellect looking, a heart yearning, a conscience commanding, towards the One Supreme Excellence; that glorious One shadowing forth his eternal power and Godhead in the visible things of creation, openly declaring himself in the divine and matchless Word, unveiling himself tenderly and intimately in that mighty Saviour whose historic coming revolutionized the world's career, whose living power and presence are as manifest all over the world to-day as in Jerusalem eighteen centuries ago, and whose calm voice calls to every man, "Rise and follow me.” Surely the benign influence of the blessed sun is hardly more unmistakable than that of him who calls himself “the light of the world.” It is inscribed in the volume of the book, on the human soul, in the Christian life, on
all modern history. Open rejectors have often been, in their hour of candor, his strongest witnesses. How such men as Rousseau the profligate skeptic, Carlyle the rugged deist, Napoleon the heartless but lynx-eyed semi-pagan, Mill the hereditary unbeliever, Lecky the free-thinking historian, rise up to rebuke the Matthew Arnolds and their congeners for their shuffling evasions of Christ's character, claims, and religion! When a Christian clergyman writes of “The Ten Great Religions” of which Christ's is but one, he might well listen to the great Scotchman when he says: “We often hear the Christian doctrine likened to the Greek philosophy, and found on all hands in some measurable way superior to it. But the Christian doctrine is not superior or inferior or equal to any doctrine of Socrates or Thales, being of a totally different nature. He who compares it with such standards may well lament that the loftiest feeling hitherto vouchsafed to mankind is as yet hidden from his eyes.” To those who would patronize the Saviour as only the best of men there comes the voice from St. Helena : “Between him and whomsoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by himself. His truth and the history of his life, the profundity of his doctrine, his gospel, his apparition, his empire, his march across the ages and the realms — everything is to me a prodigy, an insoluble mystery, a mystery which is there before my eyes, a mystery which I can neither deny nor explain. Here I see nothing human.” To those who push by his claims as some ideal or mythical creation, there comes, in the posthumous Essays of John Mill, a voice from the grave, speaking thus, "It is of no use to say that Christ as exhibited in the Gospels is not historical and that we know not how much of what is admirable has been superadded by the tradition of his followers. Who among his disciples was capable of inventing the sayings ascribed to Jesus or of imagining the life and character revealed in the Gospels ?” To those who talk of a mere law of human progress comes the bold utterance of Lecky: “It was reserved for Christianity to present to the world an ideal character which through all the changes of eighteen centuries has filled the hearts of men with an impassioned love, and has shown itself capable of acting on all ages, nations, temperaments, and conditions; and has exerted so deep an influence that it may be truly said that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and soften mankind than all the disquisitions of the philosophers and all the exhortations of the moralists." What a thoroughgoing testimony — and how strictly true!
Indeed faith in Christ and his religion is a certitude that
may be said in our day to have risen in certain aspects to the level of knowledge, in the verification that is before and within us. A seemingly defenseless man once promised to conquer an opposing world by being miserably slain. " And the mode of the accomplishment," said the great captain, “is more prodigious than the promise. In this conflict I see all the kings and forces of the earth arrayed on one side. On the other I see no army, but a mysterious energy, no rallying sign, but a cross." Yet by this sign it has gone forth to conquer. He who asks even for a miracle has before him “the perpetual miracle" of the ever-living presence and power of Jesus Christ in the progress of the faith and the government and growth of his Church. Imagine, if you can, dead “ Cæsar from his mausoleum” guiding eternally the destinies of Rome; or dead Alexander from the tombs of the Ptolemies leading his armies on to perpetual victory; or dead Napoleon from beneath the splendid canopy of battle flags that overhang his coffin, and by some weird and “midnight reveille,” gathering up again for an hour the relics of his vast hosts and the fragments of his mighty empire! But the crucified Christ is to-day a living, reigning, conquering power on every continent of the globe. Here is your world-wide, age-long miracle – gathering within its divine sweep not alone slow transformations of great empires, but sudden revolutions of low savage races, and countless individual regenerations, from Paul and Augustine down to Guergis and Africaner. And, to complete the assurance and raise it in part to the very plane of conscious knowledge, the benign influence comes to a man's own heart and life so unmistakably that he can say: “Now I believe, not because of thy saying: for I have heard him myself, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”