« PreviousContinue »
or contradictory. If, therefore, a Roman Catholic is pressed to apply to his standard of appeal the inquiries which we suppose a Protestant to apply to the Bible, he will find tenfold greater difficulty in obtaining an answer than any Protestant has found. The proof of the Divine authority of “the church" is more intricate than the proof of the truth of Scripture, not to say less conclusive. The meaning of her teaching is more ambiguous, (her Bible being in truth a hundred folio volumes of childish and often contradictory assertions, and the diversity of judgment on matters of faith within the Roman Catholic church, is as great as beyond it. Nothing, in truth, is gained by adding councils and fathers to the inspired oracles, but multiplied suspicions and aggravated uncertainty. Protestantism has all the unity of the church of Rome in possessing a common standard, and all the advantage which can be derived from the clearness of the evidence of the Bible, the universality of its accessibleness, the fulness and the simplicity of its decisions.
Secondly. If this theme gives us a just idea of Protestantism, so also it gives us a broad and accurate definition of Christianity. The “sufficiency of Scripture," and " salvation by grace" through Christ, were the two main pillars of the Reformation. The latter of these truths Luther was fond of expressing in this form " Christ for us, our pardon : Christ in us, our holiness—is the whole of the gospel." But whatever the form, in the substance of both truths all are agreed. The Reformation, 190 WHAT IS CHRISTIANITY ? therefore, was an assertion of the authority of Scripture against tradition, of God's word against human corruptions ; thus it honoured the Bible. It was no less an assertion of Christ's sufficiency for man's redemption and holiness against Pharisaic pride, human frailty, and priestly assumption ; thus it honoured the Redeemer. Protestantism affirms the first of these truths, Christianity affirms the second, Protestant Christianity affirms them both. There may be true Christianity among some who are not Protestants. And there may be Protestantism among some who, alas ! are not Christians. We may be Protestants; but if we are not believers, if we have no deep habitual sense of our sinfulness, no feeling of reliance on Christ, no earnest desire after holiness, no sympathy, in short, with the truths and lessons embodied in his death, our Protestantism is not the renewing of the Holy Ghost, nor is it therefore spiritual life. It may prove only an aggravation of our guilt, and finally of our ruin. While, then, our conceptions of religion are so framed as to include all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, let us see to it that we love him ourselves.
Lastly. The statement on the value of the Bible made at the outset of these inquiries, has been sustained, it is hoped, by their results. The devout study of the Bible has ever been the great instrument of holiness, and the circulation of the Bible the great instrument of religious revival and progress. The conversion of Europe and the world depends, under God, WHAT FOR THE WORLD ? 191 upon the multiplication and prayerful distributiön of copies of his word. To it England owes, in a large degree, her liberties and religion. What, then, is the duty of the church? We have inherited from our fathers their privileges, and consequent large responsibility. To us “ have been committed” the oracles of God. We have been put in trust with the gospel. Let us see to it that we neither corrupt its simplicity with human philosophy, nor adulterate its purity with human traditions. If others seek to corrupt it, let us withstand them “ to the face.” Above all, let us discharge our commission, and give the gospel to the world in books and tracts, such as formed the precursors of the Reformation ; but especially in the form of the Bible itself. The last sixty years have witnessed in this respect a great change. We have printed and circulated throughout our own country fifteen million copies of the word of God. All the issues of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and of fifty-four other Bible Societies for all Europe, have not exceeded this number. The millions of the continent, therefore, have not had in sixty years more than we deem necessary for ourselves. Yet they need the Bible. They are able to read it, and are less blessed than the English people with the teaching of the living voice-more dependent, therefore, on the still small voice of God. Turning to British India, we find there a population of a hundred and fifty millions, all accessible, many thousands of them attending at schools, looking to us for
192 WHAT FOR THE WORLD? religious truth. The issues of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and of six East Indian Societies, including, in fact, all that has been done in sixty years for India, amount to barely three million copies of Scripture and parts of Scripture; these latter containing often a single book. The vast empire of China has not received in all one hundred and thirty thousand copies of any part of the Bible ; nor have more than fifty thousand copies been distributed among the one hundred and fifty millions of Africa. Most of those countries have peculiar claims upon us. India has been entrusted, by the providence of God, to our care ; China has been cursed and blessed by our traffic ; and Africa was for years robbed of her children through our avarice and cruelty. Sixty persons out of every hundred in Europe are still without the Bible; ninety-eight out of every hundred in India. Societies have been formed to give them Bibles, and need only our help and prayers to extend their labours. The heathen are perishing of thirst; the fountain of the water of life springs up in our dwelling. Shall we leave them to perish? The fittest proof of our Protestantism, and the appropriate expression of our love to Christ and to our fellows, is to give them the Bible. The gift will be thrice blessed. The Divine word will not return void. Men will be saved, ourselves profited, and Goa honoured.