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into a perfect Christian ; I do not say that he could not at once convince the most obstinate mind by such a direct and clear illumination, that not a shadow of doubt should any longer exist. I do not deny that this great favour has often been conferred on those towards whom it was his will to shew such peculiar mercy, as in the case of St. Paul, and doubtless

many

others in the first ages of Christianity ; nor do I presume to determine that he never in these latter times vouchsafes that his especial grace in the miraculous and instantaneous conversion of a sinner, whom he may choose, for some wise purpose, to call by an irresistible impulse to the knowledge and practice of the truth, nor that if it were his pleasure thus forcibly to bring all mankind to salvation, it is not within the compass of his omnipotence to accomplish that purpose.

But this sort of conversion is among his extraordinary and unusual operations; this would be wholly an effect of his almighty power; in this work man would have no share or participation whatever; this would be no trial of his faith or obedience; this would require no preaching of the gospel, no internal warnings, no arguments or exhortations addressed to the reason, no sowing of the seed “ in an honest and good heart.” It would be like the sudden fertilizing of a barren heath, without going through the ordinary process of human labour and cultivation. It would be as remarkable a deviation from the general laws by which he regulates his dealings with man in the great empire of the moral world, as it was from the ordinary methods of his government in the natural world, when, in the days of Joshua, he made the sun stand still, and the moon stay, “ until his people had avenged themselves upon their enemies."

Unquestionably, my brethren, this sort of miracle would at once convince and convert you. The result would in no degree depend upon yourselves. God's sovereign power would be all in all. You could not avoid being true Christians, if he were to render you so by his irresistible power. But this is not the sort of miracle with which the rich man is represented as entreating Abraham that his brethren may be favoured; he asks only for an additional outward testimony to the truth, urging that a miracle presented to their senses would be sufficient to persuade them to repent, and it is that kind of argument, that the patriarch declares would be useless and inefficacious with men who disregarded the abundant means of conviction which they already possessed.

Do you presume to ask why if the gospel be true, God has not provided that all to whom it is preached, shall be certainly convinced of its truth? My brethren, is not this venturing on forbidden ground, and impiously endeavouring to explore “the secret things of the Lord your God?” Is it not profanely prying into the sacred ark? Is it not vainly seeking to be wise above what is written? Is it not arrogantly wishing to comprehend the counsels of the Infinite and All-wise, with

your confined and childish capacities ? How know I, how know you, how knows any man, why any single thing that exists, is what it is? How know I why the world was created ? How know I what determined God to make man of such a form, and such dimensions, and to endue him with such faculties and powers of mind and body, and to limit his duration upon earth to such a period as we see he has done? How know I, why we are so constituted as to be obliged to labour for our subsistence, to defend ourselves against dangers, to use prudence, and caution, and industry, and vigilance, to preserve the lives which God has given us? How know I, why he who made us, does not by his own power imperceptibly sustain and nourish us, without the intervention of our own care? How know I, why we are not made much more perfect beings than we are, or why so perfect as we are? How can I be acquainted with any such matters as these, with any thing of the reasons and motives of the divine mind, farther than God himself is pleased to inform me?

The simple and only answer therefore to be given to any such presumptuous question as that which men are sometimes so bold as to ask,

why if the gospel be true, has not God provided that all to whom it is preached shall be certainly convinced of its truth?” is this--that such necessary and forcible persuasion did not accord with the scheme which he chose to appoint; that it was his pleasure to use no more compulsion upon the faith of men, than upon their wills and actions; that he preferred to leave them free in all these respects, free to accept or refuse his revelation, free to love or hate him, free to obey or rebel against his will; in short, that he determined, in his own wisdom rather to try and prove them as moral and responsible beings, than merely to use them as the involuntary instruments of his superior power.

Being free then (no matter why, it is God's will, but) being thus free to judge for yourselves concerning the truth or falsehood of the gospel, you say that you want some more decisive argument to determine this question; that a plain miracle would persuade you, that if one were to be sent unto you from the dead, you would certainly repent. My brethren, I will presume to answer in a similar manner with Abraham in the parable ;-ye have Christ and the apostles, hear them ;-if ye hear not them, neither would ye be persuaded, though the very sign should be granted which you desire. For what hinders you from repenting and believing now? Is it the deficiency of evidence to the truth of the gospel ? Is it that you have searched diligently, and examined with strict attention all the proofs that already exist, and found them unsatisfactory? Is it that the same arguments, which have appeared so strong and convincing to men of the most enlightened and inquisitive minds, are in your

estimation feeble and insufficient? Is it that you have examined the prophecies of the old testament, and compared them with their professed accomplishment in the history of the gospel, and not been satisfied with their correspondence? Is it that you have reasonable grounds for believing that the first propagators of Christianity, who declared that they were witnesses of the most astonishing and palpable and public miracles, were deceived? Or that they who could gain no worldly recompense for their exertions and sufferings, who sacrificed every thing, who willingly laid down their very lives in testimony of their sincerity, were deceivers ? Is it that, after strict

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