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petently furnished with ability for deep and extensive investigation, are but a small number in the mass of mankind. That systematic or speculative treatise which may delight and instruct such men, in the cool shade of philosophical retirement, will have little effect on the minds of others who constitute the multitude of mortals eagerly engaged in providing for the wants of the passing day, or warmly contending for the glittering prizes of secular ambition. Indeed, I never heard that the laborious proofs of Christianity, in the historical and argumentative mode, ever converted any of those celebrated authors on the side of infidelity, who have, from time to time, spread an alarm through Christendom, and drawn forth the defensive pens of every church and university in Europe. The infidel wits wrote on in the same cause; deriving fresh matter for cavil from the arguments of the defenders ; and re-assailing the citadel with the very balls hurled from its battlements in superfluous profusion.
What then, it may be justly asked, have I to offer? What is the sort of evidence which I attempt to display? It is an internal evidence of the truth of the gospel, consequent on obedience to its precepts. It is a sort of evidence, the mode of obtaining which is pointed out by Jesus Christ himself, in the following declaration : "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God."!
But how shall he know? By the illumination of the Holy Spirit of God, which is promised by Christ to those who do his will.
| John, vii. 17.
Therefore, if any man seriously and earnestly desires to become a Christian, let him begin, whatever doubts he may entertain of the truth of Christianity, by practising those moral virtues, and cultivating those amiable dispositions, which the written gospel plainly requires, and the grace of God will gradually remove the veil from his eyes and from his heart, so as to enable him to see and to love the things which belong to his peace, and which are revealed in the gospel only. Let him make the experiment and persevere. The result will be full of conviction that Christianity is true. The sanctifying Spirit will precede, and the illuminating Spirit follow in consequence.
I take it for granted, that God has given all men the means of knowing that which it imports all men to know; but if, in order to gain the knowledge requisite to become a Christian, it is necessary to read such authors as Grotius, Limborch, Clarke, Lardner, or Warburton, how few, in the great mass of mankind, can possibly acquire that knowledge and consequent faith which are necessary to their salvation !
But every human being is capable of the evidence which arises from the divine illumination. It is offered to all. And they who reject it, and seek only the evidence which human means afford, shut out the sun, and content themselves either with total darkness or the feeble light of a taper.
“ There is,” (says the excellent bishop Sanderson) “ to the outward tender of grace in the ministry of the gospel, annexed an inward offer of the same to the heart, by the Spirit of God going along with his word, which some of the schoolmen call auxilium gratiæ generale, sufficient of itself to
convert the soul of the hearer, if he do not resist the Holy Ghost, and reject the grace offered ; which, as it is grounded on these words, · Behold I stand at the door and knock, and upon very many passages of Scripture beside, so it standeth with reason, that the offer, if accepted, should be sufficient, exparte sua, to do the work, which, if not accepted, is sufficient to leave the person, not accepting the same, inexcusable.
The outward testimony to the truth of the gospel is certainly a very strong one; but yet it is found insufficient without the inward testimony. The best understandings have remained unconvinced by the outward testimony; while the meanest have been fully persuaded by the co-operation of the inward, the divine irradiation of the Holy Ghost shining upon, and giving lustre to the letter of revelation.
But because the doctrine of divine influence on the human mind is obnoxious to obloquy, I think it necessary to support it by the authority of some of the best men and soundest divines of this nation. Such are the prejudices entertained by many against the doctrine of divine influence and the witness of the Spirit, that I cannot proceed a step further, with hope of success, till I have laid before my reader several passages in confirmation of it, from the writings of men who were the ornaments of their times, and who are at this day esteemed no less for their orthodoxy and powers of reason than their eloquence. I make no apology to my reader for the length of the quotations from them, because I am sure he will be a gainer, if I keep silence that they may be heard in the interval. My object is to re-establish a declining opinion, which I think not only true, but of prime importance. I therefore withdraw myself occasionally, that I may introduce those advocates for it, whose very names must command attention. If I can but be instrumental in reviving the true spirit of Christianity, by citing their authority, theirs be the praise, and mine the humble office of recommending and extending their salutary doctrine.
“ And if it shall be asked (to express myself nearly in the words of archbishop Wake) why I so often choose the drudgery of a transcriber, the reason is shortly this: I hoped that quotations from departed writers, of great and deserved fame, would find a more general and unprejudiced acceptance with all sorts of men, than any thing that could be written by any one now living, who, if esteemed by some, is yet in danger of being de
will not suffer them to reap any benefit by any thing, however useful, that can come from him; while such passages as these which I cite, must excite respect and attention, unmixed (as the authors are dead) with any malignant sentiment or prepossession against them, such as might close the eyes of the understanding against the radiance of truth.”
The following text may, I think, confirm the opinion ada vanced in this Section, that the best evidence will arise from obe. dience : “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”—Acts, v. 37.
On the Prejudices entertained against this sort of
Evidence, and against all divine and supernatural Influence on the Mind of Man.
Since the time of archbishop Laud, the most celebrated defenders of Christianity have thought it proper to expatiate, with peculiar zeal, on the excellence of natural religion. They probably had reasons for their conduct; but it must not be dissembled, that in extolling natural religion they have appeared to depreciate or supersede revelation. The doctrine of supernatural assistance, the great privilege of Christianity, has been very little enforced by them, and indeed rather discountenanced, as savouring of enthusiasm, and claiming, if true, a decided superiority over their favourite religion of nature.
Upon this subject, a very sensible writer thus expresses his opinion:
“ Towards making and forming a Christian, if supernatural assistance of the divine Spirit was necessary at the beginning of the gospel, I do not see what should render it less necessary at any time since, nor why it may not be expected now. Human learning and human wisdom have rashly and vainly usurped the place of it.
“ It is observable that these old principles are still to be found among dissenters, in a good measure, which is the reason why their opponents have dropped the use of them. “ As these doctrines were the principles and