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induction. We do not ask them to believe, unless upon the credit of facts. But we do ask, that whatever is thus proved they will receive, notwithstanding any conjectural hypothesis to the contrary. The whole argument for Christianity, so far from being in any degree theoretical or speculative, is eminently one of experimental evidence and inductive simplicity. We take the position that our Lord Jesus Christ professed to make a revelation from God. It is conceded that if he attested his communications by miracles, he sealed that profession as true. We say he did thus attest them. But miracles are facts, phenomena, to be proved by the testimony of eyewitnesses, like any phenomena in physics. To such testimony we appeal. We ask the unbeliever to refute it; and if he cannot, to receive the revelation, and bow to its declarations as the attested word of God. But here, unfortunately, we set the rule of sound philosophy against the dispositions of an unhumbled heart. The latter has the victory often, and the wise man goes to work to oppose our facts with his theories, our testimony with his speculations, till he flatters himself, because he has covered up his eyes in his own mazes, that he has refuted the evidences of Christianity. Hence, therefore, another cause that learned men are not all believers in Christianity. They are not all humble enough, in a question with which heart and life are so much connected, to abide by the results to which the principles of philosophical investigation would naturally lead them. But hence, also, a most important reason that whoever of you may have doubts as to the gospel of Christ, should, in the pursuit on which we have entered, be cautious, candid, ready to learn, and determined to embrace the truth wherever it should be found.
One consideration more. It is true of Chris. tianity, as of many other excellent subjects, that objections are more easily invented than answered. Objections in such matters are usually light affairs, floating on the surface of men's thoughts. Answers, to be solid, must be heavier and lie deeper, requiring, like the pearl, both labor and skill to bring them up and fashion them for use. But Christianity is peculiarly exposed to objections, from the simple fact that as it meets every body and compels every body to say yea or nay to its requirements, every body must needs have something to say, however unreasonable, in its favor or against it. Few indeed would venture to give an opinion, without some study, on a question in science or polite literature; but the most ignorant and unthinking will undertake an opinion upon the merits of the gospel, and raise an objection in a breath which would require much patience and some learning to refute. Hundreds hear the objection; thousands relish, retain, and are poisoned by it; while perhaps not one of them has the disposition to hear, or patience enough to understand, the reply. Evil hearts can do what only good and well-instructed minds can undo. “Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to
When this is done, the same question will be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written on the subject. And as people in general, for one reason or another, like short objections better than long answers, in this mode of disputation, if it can be styled such, the odds must ever be against us; and we must be content with those for our friends who have honesty and erudition, candor and patience, to study both sides of the question.""*
These observations explain the lamentable fact, that in a large portion of society, there is so much more acquaintance with the cant and slang of infidelity, than with the reasonings in support of Christianity ; that our young men are often so familiar with the boasting and floating calumnies which the troubled sea of infidelity is ever casting up, with its mire and dirt, in the face of the gospel; while, with the innumerable efforts by which Christian science has scattered all such poisonous exhalations to the winds, many have not the most trifling acquaintance.
All these considerations are at least sufficient to impress us with the eminent importance of the most serious attention to the spirit and manner in which one proceeds in the study of the evidences of Christianity.
Let me urgently recommend docility, in this pursuit. By this, I mean nothing resembling credulity; but an open-hearted and humble-minded readiness to weigh evidence with simplicity of purpose in the most even scales of truth; and then to submit to, and follow the truth, wherever it may lead, with singleness of heart, in the fear of God.
* Horne's Letters on Infidelity.
Let me also recommend a deep seriousness of purpose, in this pursuit. I mean that calm and settled earnestness of mind, which a just sense of the unspeakable importance of the subject, and of the responsibility under which all, even the most indifferent, must treat it, will necessarily inspire.
Lastly, prayer is by all means to be employed in this pursuit. It is written most wisely, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” But do I forget that I am speaking from the chair of a lecture-room, instead of the pulpit of a church? Prayer! How do I know but that I am addressing many who are already on the side of infidelity? Would I say to them, study the evidences of Christianity with prayer ? Is it not equivalent to begging the question? Is it not asking them to do what, as professors of infidelity, they object to? In one sense, I verily believe it is begging the question. A spirit of serious, earnest prayer for the knowledge of truth, is utterly inconsistent with the spirit of infidelity. Who does not feel the singularity involved in the idea of seeing a thorough infidel engaged in secret, earnest prayer to be preserved from all bias in search of truth, and to be led in the way in which God would have him to go? And yet, if he be not an Atheist, he can have nothing to say against the propriety of such a step. But is it true that infidelity and the spirit of prayer are practically so inconsistent? Is it true that we have already accomplished at least half our work of conviction, when we have persuaded an unbeliever to make religious truth a subject of serious supplication at the throne of grace? What does this say for the gospel ?
The man who is desirous of being allowed to remain in unbelief will not seek a spirit of prayer. He would not like to ask God for what might break up all his present fancied security. But if any one feels that he lacks wisdom, in this great concern of eternity, and desires to know the way of light and life," let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not;, and it shall be given him." James 1:5.