« ZurückWeiter »
. It is desirable, with reference to this point, to assume, upon the most admissible grounds we may, something like an average of men's capacity: not by taking a speculative inean between profound ignorance and transcendent ability; bụt from observation and recollection of familiar cases, such as any of ourselves have actually seen and known, among those members of an enlightened Christian community, who have enjoyed the benefit of an ordinary discipline, such as the customs of the day prescribe.
Now what judgment can we, in sincerity, form upon such estimate as this? · I am persuaded it must be, that the average of solid capacity and knowledge is not to be set high; that the true strength of man is not to be sought in any intellectual, but in a moral excellence; that neither in the one, however, nor in the other, can he hope to escape through all the difficulties wherewith he is encompassed, without possession of some sure refuge, in the season of pressing danger; which refuge is only to be found in some one simple and unreserved submission to the commands of an infallible guide. · That picture, then, which was affirmed to present itself to the mind, as of so great interest, upon comparison of the precept in the text with the appearances of real life, is now before us. It is to be seen in “ the condition of an educated “person, and more especially one that has en“joyed the benefit of a religious discipline, un“ der the care of believing parents, now arrived “ at the season of more independent thought, “ in a Christian kingdom.”; ; ; ;
Before he was born, there was extant in that country a book, professing to be an authentic revelation from the true God;a book, the possession of which is regarded as a special inheritance, and the kingdoms possessing it as highly exalted, hy that very single circumstance, above the level of other nations. That book made up the faith of his fathers. In obedience to its appointment, he was himself baptized, in his infancy, unto belief and acceptance of the same. He has been instructed in it ever since. He has been taught of all things to respect and reverence it Out of this he has been bidden to take his principles, his hopes, and his fears: dreading that hell, which it denounces as a final punishment; aspiring to that heaven, which it promises as a final reward. Through this he has been accustomed, from his childhood, to bow at the name of Jesus Christ, as a Saviour who came to redeem him and all mankind; and to pray, daily and habitually, for protection and assistance from on high. In short, reverence for THE BIBLE has “grown with his growth, and • strengthened with his strength.” It has been so long an engrafted part of all his knowledge, that it has become as it were his native stock.
It is mixed up with all his ideas, so that he can no longer separate them from its influence. He has had, as yet, no notion of despising or rejecting the Bible; no conception of any such appalling possibility, as that it may be false, and he himself be but a poor deluded bigot, and his belief, after all, nothing but deception! If he has heard or read of “infidels” and “heretics," it has been but with youthful unconcern: while any thing he may have noticed of offence and actual wickedness, during the progress of a few years comparatively innocent, must have tended to convince him of the truth of all that he has been taught to believe. For even a child may understand that wickedness, in others, wants correction. And this is something he has always learnt; that the Bible is against wickedness; and religion given to man to root it out.
But as years advance, and he goes forth among his fellows with more of the opening faculties of man, his condition is beset with strange perplexities. Inquirers are every where around him; and he finds, that this book, which he has been always taught with such scrupulous care to believe, and reverence, and obey, as being the sure word of God, is the subject of all manner of disputings, and disquiet, and gainsayings. He finds some, for example, doubting its historical evidence, and some offended at its matter; some, again, busied in curtailing its doctrines, and
others in extending them too far. In short, scarcely a conceivable form of scepticism or of heresy can be imagined, which he does not now find actually prevailing, under an avowed general reception of that holy record, of which he himself still finds no reason to think otherwise, than as he has been taught to think before.
Yet all disputants would claim him, as a hearer, to their several pretensions; and every one would gladly gain him, as a proselyte, to his particular cause. All, too, appeal with apparently equal confidence to the ordeal of inquiry! By which I mean, an examination throughout, and in detail, not only of the credentials of every outward kind, with which Christianity, as a revelation, is provided; but also, of all metaphysical and speculative objections, of whatever description, which the spirit of resistance has advanced, or may advance, against it. What, therefore, shall he do?
If he be himself a person of a keen and ardent temperament; inquisitive in other things ; of a mind impatient under partial information, and sensitive to objection ; rendered uneasy by it; and not quite prepared, after all, when the trial comes, to overrule it at once within himself, by the strength of individual conviction ; if he be of this temper, and, at the same time, stored (as it is then probable he will be) with a sufficient share of ability and learning to un
ravel the intricacies of argument, and to balance the weightier against the weaker reason ;--all will be well. In this case, there is no need of much perplexity. This temper will boldly fight its way through all the subtleties of proof, and all the evasions of sophistry. It will accept the challenge, and inquire ; and if it but reserve to itself (which we suppose) a foundation in its
arly impressions, doubtless it will itself be strengthened by inquiry, and truth will be benefited. It is not for this temper that so much anxiety is wanted, and so much sympathy...
But suppose the Christian, now for the first time entangled, by himself, in all these difficulties, to be of another frame; of a disposition, meek and pious ; of attainments, at most only respectable, or, more probably, inferior ;. not blind, nevertheless, to the pretensions and deserts of others, though wishing to remain at ease amidst his own possessions, if without weakness or intolerance he may suppose him to be one, that has so far tasted of the fruits of practical holiness, as to have no quick sense of subordinate objections; not disposed to deny an objector's claim to reasonable satisfaction, if properly demanded, but altogether indisposed himself to argue upon points to which he feels, not fully competent, in the detail, and which have never caused himself any uneasiness suppose the Christian's disposition, I say, to be of this