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“ voted to the world, and sense, and all perish« able things, in the midst of a spiritual and “ holy dispensation ; and again by those, whom “our present topic more concerns, and whose s case is even yet more painful,by more subtle " and intellectual unbelievers, or, as we fear, dan“ gerous perverters of Scripture, whom we be“ hold morally good; perhaps, in some cases, al- See Lect. “ most like the young man in the Gospel, See Luke “ (though in another sense,) wanting only one Matth. tis, “ thing to make them perfect partakers of the 21. “ kingdom of heaven.” It will enable us to bear this painful sight, by convincing us inwardly of what we must be prepared to know, for our own security ; namely, the hopelessness of expecting to convert, or convince, by merely human means, those who will persist in strengthening themselves in the might and pride of the unassisted understanding. It is a work not to be done.
The thought must not come in bitterness, (still less, may the word be spoken in hypocrisy;) but there is only one safe confession concerning such persons ; that, somehow or other, a veil cr. 2 Cor. lies yet upon their hearts, and though truth is CE Rom. :
:, 6, 7, 8. and around them, and at hand, they cannot see it. I do not use this expression undesignedly; but Deut. xx. with full consciousness that it is a figure which 12, 13, 14. “ fanaticism” may readily misapply'; which, doubtless, often already it has misapplied ; and will often misapply again. I use it, in part, for
• reference Lund there to
this very reason ; because there is too great a readiness, in many, to abandon scriptural truths in their original and most convincing form of expression, as soon as their language, either from suspected or from too familiar employment, has become offensive to correct taste. Now it is time for us to learn not to be deterred from the use of that which is our safety, by looking fearfully at its abuse only. And the point before us is one, above all others, which calls forth the heart's utmost earnestness; it is of such delicate and perilous importance!
If it be true, (as we believe it to be,) that the best advocates of the Christian faith have manifested superiority of argument, and learning, and sound conclusion, (in short, of all human wisdom,) in their reasonings with the infidel; and the infidel continues yet unsubdued ;-it follows, from that one conviction only, that some power of persuasion not of man, yet using something which is in man, is the thing required to make the unbeliever bow to the truth of revelation.
But, what is more than this, if any of ourselves do now stand in the true faith of Christ, and hope in reality for the blessings of the life to come; so many, I am sure, must feel a living witness in their hearts, that it is not by their own strength only that they stand, but by the grace and blessing of God upon a disposition to receive his will. There is no practical meaning
in such a phrase as the earnest of the Spirit, if 2 Cor. v. 5. the case be not so.
Wherefore, this continual regarding of ourselves as subjects of the “ dispensation of the “ Spirit” will enable us to comprehend, and to endure dutifully, both of these painful sights ; viz. that of practical unholiness in the perverse and ignorant ; and that of speculative unbelief in moral dispositions which we cannot but love.It will teach us also, (wherever occasion is, how to behave towards persons manifesting either of these alienations from the Gospel ; namely, that while we must keep fast to our own convictions, as we value our immortal souls ; it behoves us, at the same time, to prove the sincerity and power of those convictions, by the fruits they bring forth in us; by patience and forbearance, by meekness and gentleness. We feel ourselves to be within the pale of security and comfort;
- it is well: let us give God the glory. But we have neither power to compel gainsayers to come in, nor right to judge them that are with-Cf. 1 Cor. v.
12, 13. out. Our strength lies in internal confidence, not in outward debate and strife. All are not, in this latter respect, warriors and champions in the Israel of God. Many cannot go with Cf. 1 Sam. the armour of disputation ; for they have not 40. proved it. But all, who surely trust in the protection of that God who hath preserved the heritage and flock of their fathers, may wield
successfully the sling and the stone of a simple and charitable conversation. And that which
is prescribed to Christians in the aggregate 1 Pet. iii. in this matter is; to be ready to give a rea15. ii. 15.
son of the hope that is in themselves, with meekness and fear ; and that with well-doing they put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
There is no promise that confirms to believers any universal intellectual superiority. The shrewdness of reasoning in an infidel antagonist may surpass that of many a true Christian. And, therefore, as far as we possess the weaker cause in this respect ; that we may feel ourselves unequal to literal discussions of truths which are to be defended more by the heart than by the tongue, and to be silent by constraint is always
accounted, more or less, a sign of weakness ; Cf. Psalms so far we must be content to bear the shame, if xxxi. 19, 20. xxxviii. shame it be! No keener intellect was ever yet 12, 13, 14, 15. persuaded merely by arguments which it thinks
weaker in degree than its own; nor was any cavil ever silenced by peremptory and uncha
b I mean, in respect of argumentation, or of any matters confessedly within the reach of unassisted human powers. We believe it to be the fact, (as just now observed,) that the best Christian advocates have gained even the human victory over their antagonists. But this is another question. Taking the mass of believers and unbelievers, it is probable that no great difference of general powers is to be found on either side. See hereafter, Lectures IV. and V; towards the end of each.
ritable condemnation, or without some proof that the voice of authority, which ventured to denounce it, proceeded out of a heart at least sincere, and reasonably enlightened. But almost every nature is susceptible of personal candour and kindness. These therefore, which are due to all men, let us render unto all; but if, by divine blessing, we ourselves are stedfast in the hope of a peculiar prize and calling, let us keep our faith, as best we may; and never be ensnared rashly to handle it, otherwise than according to the accompanying gifts which God has given us.
III. A third effect of thus regarding ourselves as the children of a more advanced and perfect stage of one continuous revelation will be found, “ in the disposition which it will produce to“ wards the treatment and apprehension of the “ whole word of God, in both of its great di6 visions."
The very circumstance (if there were no other causes operating to the same effect) of its being a popular and prevailing practice among Christians, to separate the one volume of the Bible from the other, and (what is in a certain sense and measure undoubtedly right) frequently to consider the latter portion, the New Testament, all that is either necessary, or proper, to be regarded by more simple and uneducated brethren; this single circumstance has in itself