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mercy of God visits them, as partakers of the common nature, but also that there is in their hearts, as well as in the hearts of those who know the outward sound, a witness for God, a seed of spiritual life, striving in them against sin, and leading those who follow it into the life of God.
With regard to the second head, namely, the importance of the outward word, I am sensible that I have exposed myself to misapprehension, especially in those parts of the work where I have asserted the unprofitableness of the outward Word, in the case of persons who were not listening to the inward word. But the reader will understand me, if he carries along with him, that by this expression I mean to describe persons contenting themselves, and pacifying their consciences, either with the formal reading of the Bible, or with the mere understanding of its theology, but without seeking or finding spiritual communion with God in it. Whilst they continue thus to read it or study it, no one surely who knows what religion is, would consider it profitable to them. Yet even in their case, I could not wish that they should give up the reading of the Bible. They are at present without faith, but the Bible has an in. trinsic aptitude to produce faith. It contains, in the largeness of its inspiration, a tally corresponding to every thing in the hearts of all men, and a key to every variety of their outward circumstances; and God is continually preparing a way for it into their consciences, by the events with which he is meeting them in His providence, making them, through the discipline of these events, feel the truth of what it testifies of the wickedness and desolateness of the heart which is away from God, as well as the suitableness of its counsels and threatenings and consolations, to their experience and condition. And as the Spirit of God is ever bearing the same witness within them, although it may be generally disregarded, the coincidence of these two solemn voices, from within and from without, will sometimes strike like a knell upon them, and bring home to them the feeling that the Searcher of hearts is dealing with them, and that they are entangled in his net, and that there can be no true deliverance for them, and no true abiding rest for them, but in knowing Him, and in being of one mind with Him. It is in the hope of such a result as this, that I feel thankful to know that even those who are without faith, are reading the Bible ; for those who are in the practice of reading it, are more in the way of this operation, than those who read it not.
And for this same reason, it appears desirable that there should be books, proving the inspiration and authority of the Bible, by all sorts of argument, notwithstanding the danger there is, of men mistaking their assent to a demonstration, for that faith which saves the soul ; because a man who is really convinced that the Bible is a supernatural book, is more likely to seek God in it, than one who regards it as of at least doubtful origin. Far indeed is it from my purpose,
any expressions which I have used, at all to convey the idea that the gospel is not God's message to every man, or that it is not the bounden duty of those who have themselves received the gift, to declare the righteousness and the mercy of God to men in all circumstances, however inattentive they may be to the voice within them, or however ignorant they may even be of its existence. My purpose is to warn against the danger of taking a counterfeit faith for true faith, and all that I mean to say, is, that the Bible, with the gospel contained in it, cannot profit any man until he really believes it; and I am only saying this, and at the same time explaining what I mean by believing the Bible, when I say, that until the outward word receives the sanction of the inward word, so as to come to the heart as from God himself, requiring the laying down of our own will, it cannot give life to the soul. Men often go to the Bible, or a church, as if these could be substitutes for true religion and inward fellowship with God, in the same manner as the Jewish multitude followed Jesus; but the answer which he made to this latter class, applies equally to the former; “no man can come unto me, except the Father draw him :" no man can receive my salvation, except by hearing and learning of the Father, who teaches through the inward word.
The great use which I see in the outward word, read or spoken to unbelievers, is to awaken the attention to the inward word,and to call out an echo, as it were, from within the heart, to the truth spoken without. I believe that it is thus that souls are often brought to God. Men who have been entirely engrossed with outward things, and the voices of their own flesh, and who have never thought of any spiritual relation between God and their souls, are called by the outward word, read by themselves or spoken to them by their fellow-creature, to consider the approach of death and judgment, and the solemn responsibility of having been distinguished from the beasts that perish, by a capacity which they have never used, of knowing God, and walking with Him—and thus they may be induced to pause, and listen to the confirmation of the call, by that inward witness whose voice they have long been accustomed to disregard—and may repent and be saved: but until the inward testimony is heard, no blessing can be received from the outward word, or from any means of grace whatever. The awakening of the attention to the inward dealing of God with us, and to His word sown in our hearts, so as to be led to seek after him, is the beginning of life, and thus a man is sometimes called to God by the commission of a great crime-because his attention is forcibly drawn by it to the inward witness and there the life lies.