« PreviousContinue »
heaven,” soon made extravagant and “bitter” by opposition, and at length becoming a “thaumaturgist” and an accomplice of imposture, can we recognize this travesty as a genuine estimate by that brilliant scholar ? When Thomas Paine and Lionel Zollemache, a century apart, hunted through the Book that breathes glory to God and good will to man, solely to find grounds for cavil, was it not certain that each should find only what he sought ? When Professor Draper, in a volume claiming to be strictly scientific, avers, for example, that “the sacred science" of the “divine relation "" 'saw in God only a gigantic man,” and that according to the narrative of the deluge “the water was dried up by a wind,” — and leaves it thus, — what is to be said of the honesty of such a scientific man? When a rigid scientist and luminous thinker like John Tyndall proclaims to the world, “I discern in the matter which we have hitherto covered with opprobrium the promise and potency of every form and quality of life," what shall we say of this reckless plunge beyond the actual, if not possible, range of scientific discovery?
These things and the like represent a current trivialness, unfairness, and readiness for foregone conclusions in dealing with themes and records which have busied the greatest intellects, filled the noblest hearts, and prompted the grandest movements in the world's history; they betray a spirit and method unfitted to command intellectual or moral approval. It is melancholy to see a man of world-wide fame spending his splendid strength in assailing the length of a "day" or the order
of actual events in Genesis, making war on the miracle of the swine in the sacred volume, without a word or a thought for the perfect moral code and standard of holiness, the breadth, fullness, and profound significance, the central depth, inner coherences and correlations, the subtle outer influences and mighty workings of that historically stupendous agency of light and life. Why should the scholar who freely admits the authenticity of scores of ancient classics, some of them on the slenderest of testimony, cavil at the evidences of some of the best-authenticated ancient writings in the world ? What shall we think of men who repudiate the early facts of Christianity on principles which would tear up the foundations of history? If the legal gentleman construes the themes of religion and the claims of God's Word with a carelessness which he would never tolerate in a case at law, or the business man stakes his soul on hazards on which he would not risk his property for a day, or rejects in religion a far stronger showing than that which he accepts in the gravest concerns of life, how can he justify himself? When men whom no difficulties, doubts, or perplexities can deter from finding their way to the ends of the earth in the chase of a fortune plead the exceeding difficulty of finding the way to heaven, should God accept this sudden imbecility? When the actors of the first French Revolution, “with their hands all smeared with human sacrifice,” inscribed over the gateway of their cemetery “Death is a sleep,” was this the conviction of their candid judgment ? No! a thou
sand times no! it was the clamoring of a blood-stained heart.
So do men's determinations of their life scheme determine to a great degree also the religious views they advocate. And when I look out on the Universe around and behold the rocky stubbornness of facts in the face of passionate desires and vehement objections, I see no shadow of a reason to suppose that the certainties of the future will be in the slightest degree affected by the uncertainties or positive objections of Harriet Martineau; that the passionate protests of Robert Ingersoll will suspend the retributions of eternity; or that for the accommodation of atheists like La Mettrie and Gustave Flourens, God will retire into non-existence. “ What if some did not believe ? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?"
It is necessary, then, and it is right also, that God should hold men thus responsible. Is it also a fact ?
III. The Word of God has declared the fact that he will hold men responsible for their religious principles.
(1) The Bible uniformly ascribes fundamentally wrong views and practice to wrong affections. Says the Gospel : “ This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." How firm and clear and sweeping is the declaration ! Christ said of the unbelief of his countrymen : “They have no cloak for their sin."
sin.” When “seeing they saw not," it was
because “their heart was waxed gross.” He said : “They have both seen and hated both me and my Father;" "ye therefore hear not (my words] because ye are not of God.” The Gentile world are declared to be given over to a reprobate mind “because they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,” and “held [down] the truth in unrighteousness.” They were “alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” Who indeed can look upon the not infrequent high ethics and the low mythology of heathendom and fail to see that Jupiter and Mars and Venus were enthroned in heaven, not by its reason and its conscience, but by its passions and its lusts ? So also the scoffers of the last time are described as "willingly ignorant of” the agency of God; and they “that perish ” are they who “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” The Word pro
“ without excuse those under the light of nature, who “when they knew God” yet "glorified him not as God, neither were thankful.”
(2) The Word of God utters its condemnation on all its rejecters alike, whatever may be the reasons they render. “Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart . . . shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah.” Men perish “because they received not the love of the truth;” and though under “strong delusion, that they should believe a lie,” it is still added “that they all
might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” God's Word concedes to no man the right to reject it. It has no saving clause for unfortunate doubters, nor even for "honest skeptics.” It boldly assumes that its claims to attention are infinite, its evidence enough, and its vital truths obvious and clear. It makes no apology for its exclusiveness, nor glosses over its tremendous stringency. It speaks in no timid undertones, but its “ voice is to the sons of man." Sublimely indifferent to all cavils and all oppositions, it marches right onward with the watchword, “Go ye into all the world,” while around its progress rings the trumpet-note, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."
From this discussion it follows that earnestly to seek, firmly to hold, and vigorously to maintain the great truths of our holy religion is the only tenable and impregnable position. Thus only does our path lie in the line of Providence and Law, of Reason and God. Nothing in the universe accords with the theory of religious nescience and indifference. To be careless in science is to gain only contempt. To undermine the truth of history is to be held in dishonor. To be regardless of the facts of common life is certain disaster. To defy established law is to incur inevitable penalty. Disregard of the truth is a solecism in the theory of humanity. It has no resting place in the wide world ; why should it find a shelter in the Church