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THE HARMONY OF
SCRIPTURE WITH TRUTH, EVINCED FROM ITS THE DICTATES OF AN ENLIGHTENED CONSCIENCE, AND THE RESULT OF THE CLOSEST OBSERVATION.
If a brazen mirror were found on some remote, uninhabited island, it might be a doubtful matter how it came thither; but if it properly reflected objects, there could be no doubt of its being a real mirror.
The Bible was written with the professed design of being profitable for reproof; nor was there ever a book so adapted to the purpose, or so effectual in its operation in disclosing the inward workings of the human mind. Thousands can bear witness, from experience, that it is quick and powerful, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Its entrance into the mind gives light and light which discovers the works of darkness. Far from flattering the vices of mankind, it charges, without ceremony, every son of Adam with possessing the heart of an apostate. This charge it brings home to the conscience, not only by its pure precepts, and awful threatenings, but oftentimes by the very invitations and promises of mercy; which, while they cheer the heart with lively hope, carry conviction by their import to the very soul. In reading other books you may admire the ingenuity of the writer; but here your attention is turned inward. Read it but seriously, and your heart will answer to its descriptions. It will touch the secret springs of sensibility; and if you have any ingenuousness of mind towards God, the tears of grief,
mingled with those of hope and gratitude, will, ere you are aware, trickle from your eyes.
To whatever particular vices you may have been addicted, here you will discover your likeness; and that, not as by a comic representation on the theatre, which, where it reclaims one person by shaming him out of his follies, corrupts a thousand; but in a way that will bring conviction to your bosom.
Come see a man which told me all things that ever I did: Is not this the Christ? Such was the reasoning of the woman of Samaria; and who could have reasoned better? That which makes manifest must be light. But this reasoning is applicable to other things, as well as to the Messiahship of Jesus. No man can forbear saying of that book, that doctrine, or that preaching which tells him all that ever he did, Is not this the truth? The satisfaction afforded by such evidence approaches near to iutuitive cer ́tainty; it is having the witness in ourselves.
Should it be objected, that though this may satisfy our own minds, yet it can afford no evidence to others; I answer, It is true, that they who shun the light cannot be supposed to possess that evidence of its being what it is, as those who have come to it that their deeds may be made manifest; yet even they, if at all acquainted with the Bible, must be aware that the likenesses which it draws are, in a considerable degree, their own. It is not to serious Christians only, that the gospel is a mirror. Many who never look into that perfect law of liberty from choice and delight, so as to be blessed in their work, but only glance at it in a transient and occasional way, yet perceive so much of their own character in it, as to be convinced that it is right, and that they are wrong. The secret conviction of thousands who heard the word, and do it not, resembles that of Pharaoh, The Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. The impressions of such people, it is true, are frequently short in their duration : like a man who seeth his natural face in a glass, they go away, and straightway forget what manner of persons they are: but the aversion which they discover seriously to resume the subject, places it beyond all reasonable doubt, that, let their hearts be as they may, the scriptures have commended themselves to their consciences. They have felt the
point of this two-edged sword, and are not disposed to renew the encounter. That this is the case not only with nominal Christians, but with a great number of professed Deists, is manifest from the acknowledgments of such men as the Earl of Rochester, and many others who have relented on the near approach of death. This is often a time in which conscience must and will be heard; and, too often for the happiness of surviving acquaintances, it proclaims to the world, that the grand source of their hatred to the Bible has been that for which Ahab hated Micaiah-its prophesying no good concerning them.
The scriptures are a mirror in which we see not only individual characters, our own and others, but the state of things as they move on in the great world. They show us the spring head, whence all the malignant streams of idolatry, atheism, corruption, persecution, war, and of every other evil originate; and, by showing us the origin of these destructive maladies, clearly instruct us wherein must consist their cure.
It has already been observed,* that Christian morality is summed up in the love of God and our neighbour, and that these principles carried to their full extent, would render the world a paradise. But the scriptures teach us that man is a rebel against his Maker; that his carnal mind is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be ; that, instead of loving God, or even man in the order which is required, men are become lovers of their own selves, and neither God nor man are regarded but as they are found necessary to subserve their wishes.
This single principle of human depravity, supposing it to be true, will fully account for all the moral disorders in the world; and the actual existence of those disorders, unless they can be better accounted for, must go to prove the truth of this principle, and by consequence, of the Christian system which rests upon it.
We are affected in considering the idolatry of so great a part of the human race; but we are not surprised at it. If men be destitute of the love of God, it is natural to suppose they will endeavour to banish him from their thoughts, and, provided the state of
* Part. I Chap. III.
society will admit of it, from their worship; substituting gods more congenial with their inclinations, and in the worship of which they can indulge themselves without fear or control.
Neither are we surprised at the practical atheism which abounds among unbelievers, and even among nominal Christians, in European nations. If the state of things be such as to render gross idolatry, inadmissible, still, if aversion to God predominate, it will show itself in a neglect of all worship, and of all serious conversation, or devout exercises; in a wish to think there is no God, and no hereafter; and in endeavours to banish every thing of a religious nature from society. Or, if this cannot be, and any thing relating to such subjects become matter of discussion, they will be so explained away as that nothing shall be left which can approve itself to an upright heart. The holiness of the divine character will be kept out of sight, his precepts disregarded, and morality itself made to consist in something destitue of all true virtue.
We are not surprised at the corruptions which Christianity has undergone. Christianity itself, as we have already seen, foretold it; and the doctrine of human depravity fully accounts for it. When the Christian religion was adopted by the state, it is natural to suppose there were great numbers of unprincipled men who professed it; and where its leading characters in any age are of this description, it will certainly be corrupted. The pure doctrine of Christ is given up in favour of some flesh pleasing system, the holy precepts of Christian morality are lowered to the standard of ordinary practice, and the worship and ordinances of Christ are mingled with superstition and modelled to a worldly temper. It was thus that Judaism was corrupted by the old Pharisees, and Christianity by the Papal hierarchy.
The success with which evil men and seducers meet in propaga ting false doctrine, is no more than, from the present state of things may be expected. So long as a large proportion of the professors of Christianity receive not the love of the truth, error will be certain to meet with a welcome reception. The grossest impostor has only to advance a system suited to corrupt nature, to