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folly, they ask for a “sign,” tnat they may bel.eve that God speaks in the Scriptures !
But the tricks of such pretenders must not be allowed to unsettle our confidence. While we would not encourage people to believe every honest fancy of good men, nor be easily led away by every fresh “ wind of doctrine ” that may arise, we think when men come among us in the name of God, teaching sentiments of good moral tendency, and, in confirmation of their authority, heal our sick by a look or a touch, give sight to our blind without medical or surgical means
turn our rivers backward — hush our tempests to peace – raise our dead, and perform other similar phenomena — and foretell what shall be in the future, with certainty, and we see it occur without the failure of a single circumstance say, when men do this, it is unsafe not to have credulity enough to believe them divinely commissioned, and submit to their teachings as to the command of God. And such men were the teachers developed in the Bible, and such was the tendency of their doctrine and the character of their acts and predictions.
To these grounds of evidence we add another of the highest importance. Physical science is often demonstrable by experiment. The chemist informs us that the combination of given substances in specific proportions, and by a given process, will form a compound of a certain character, which, employed in a particular way, will effect certain results. To deny it outright is folly, however improbable i may appear. Reason suggests that we try the experiment, recognizing this as the proper test of all such theories. If on collecting the materials, and combining them as prescribed, we find the exact results enumerated, we are prompt to say the theory is correct.
Now, though the subject in question is strictly of a moral
nature, and may not, therefore, be demonstrated to the senses in this manner precisely, it is, nevertheless, susceptible of demonstration not less satisfactory. The Bible is committed to the production of certain moral phenomena For example, it is pledged for the weary and heavy lader who come to Christ, that they shall find rest to their souls, to the ungodly, who “ believeth,” that he shall be justified, to him that seeks the Lord while he may be found, and calle upon him while he is near, that he shall obtain mercy and abundant pardon. And it marks the state to which faith, seeking the Lord, - mourning, repenting, &c.,- introduces the sinner, by so many distinguishing characteristics that it need not be mistaken. It describes it as a new creation, in which old things, old affections, prejudices, enjoyments, and pursuits, are done away, and all things are become new, as “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” The mental process by which these results are attained, and the evidences by which they are distinguished, are not less clearly defined. So that if one wishes to test the truth of Scripture in reference to these vital questions, he has only to follow their prescriptions, under the influences of the Holy Spirit, which are given to every man to profit withal.
Many have adopted this course, even with serious doubts and prejudices in the outset, and with strong tendencies to unbelief, and have obtained the most satisfactory results. Indeed, they have realized a salvation from themselves, their passions and propensities, they little anticipated, and experienced a fulness of spiritual delight of which they had no previous conception. We have known some to succeed thus who entered upon a religious life more as an experiment than from a pungent conviction of sin. God, in his mercy, led them along, step by step, according to their several
necessites, till he brought them to the promised state, and enabled them to rejoice in the full assurance of hope, that proved like an anchor to the soul. And we have not the least doubt that all persons, in a rational state of mind, would obtain like “precious faith,” would they only “ bring all the tithes into the storehouse," and prove the Lord agreeably to his command.
Evidence of the divine authority of the Bible, obtained in this way, is of the most substantial and interesting character. That which is obtained by a mere logical process is good, and cannot be overthrown, yet, in the perversity of the carnal heart, it may be accompanied with many doubts and with great indifference. But this evidence, not only appealing to the intellect, but being written on the heart by the Holy Spirit, producing a profound, holy and joyous experience, seems to be incorporated into our being; in other words, to become a part of ourselves, and, therefore, not easily eradi cated. Truths we ascertain by reasoning, we believe ; those we demonstrate by experience, we know.
To these arguments in favor of the divine origin of the Scriptures, we may add their general tendency. This may be seen by a comparison of those communities where they are read by the people, with those where they are little known. In the former, every thing wears an aspect of life, enterprise and comfort; in the latter, an aspect of stagna tion and wretchedness. Where have art, and science, and literature, and commerce, and agriculture, and useful inven tion, and morality, and religion, reached their richest growth during the last half century? In what country do we see railroads, and steam engines, and telegraphic wires, starting
in the greatest numbers, and effecting the best results ? Nay, where do we find any improvement of the kind, save in the domain of the unshackled word of God? Other
countries remain as they were, and plod along as did their great grandfathers, in ignorance, ill-bred vice, and hardship.
For these Scriptures Methodists cherish the highest regard. Their founder declared himself a “ Bible bigot." Not that he despised the writings of the good and the wise, for no man read them more carefully than he; or had no confidence in the traditions of the fathers; but he esteemed the Scriptures as the only reliable source of divine knowledge, and an all-sufficient rule of faith and practice. He would, therefore, have the Bible, and nothing but the Bible, as the ground and support of all he taught or believed.
In relation to the perfections of God, we generally harmonize with Christians of other denominations. The knowledge of God, together with his sovereignty, we hold in a little different light from that which appears in the writings of Calvinists. We consider his knowledge of the future as a natural attribute of the divine mind, rather than an acqui sition resulting from his decree; and we understand the Divine sovereignty in such a way as to make it agree with man's free-agency. We also differ a little with the same class of theologians in relation to the extent of God's love to mankind, and several other collateral points, all of which will be considered in connection with our peculiar doctrines.
On the great question relative to the personal character of Christ, which has divided the Christian world into Trinita rians and Unitarians, we have uniformly maintained what is called Orthodox ground. We are not Sabellians, holding a mere nominal Trinity, nor are we Arians, giving Christ a high character, and talking well of the atonement, but deny. ing his godship. Neither are we Socinians, or Humanita rians, but wo strictly adhere to the ancient doctrine of the
Trinity, attributing to Christ personality and all the attri butes of the godhead, mysteriously blended with those of manhood, and to the Holy Spirit the attributes that belong to the Father. And we do this not because we see the philos. ophy of such a Trinity in the divine unity, but because the Scriptures attribute the proper titles, attributes, and works of God, to the Son and the Spirit, as well as to the Father. We see the philosophy of very few things which we know to exist. Of God we know little, except what is revealed in his word. The philosophy of his existence, and even of our own, is still an impenetrable mystery. Those who insist on holding the Bible subordinate to their own reason, or to philosophy, will find, if they are true to their principles, that their theology is very limited and superficial. If they do not get into a wrangle with their own senses, it will be for the want of courage to carry out their theory to its legitimate consequences.
The fall of man in Adam, and the consequent depravity of the race, we hold as a great fact lying at the foundation of the whole go:ipol scheme, not only revealed in the Bible, but substantiated by the unequivocal evidence of observation and experience. Men are as conscious of aversion to God and religion, and of love to sin, as they are of personal identity. The very first developments of the heart of infancy indicate evil passions, and suggest to the parents the duty of repressing these germs, and creating dispositions of a better character. The whole system of domestic government seems to recognize this evil principle. If the hearts of infants were pure and holy, they would be as averse to sin as they now are to good, and much of our present disci pline would be unnecessary. If they were indifferent, that is, without predisposition to either good or evil, like a shcet of white paper, as susceptible of one impression as another, it