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shrink not, indeed, as we have shown in this, and shall show in our next lecture, from the most minute examination of our titles to these glorious hopes; but we contend that we have been too long in the possession of the beneficial enjoyment of our faith, to allow ourselves to be disturbed by unsupported assertions and general surmises, to which men would never for a moment listen in the most trifling human concern.
It is quite obvious, however, for I must draw towards a concLUSION, that the more practically any student is affected with the general importance of religion, the more he will enter into this and every other argument in the great subject of the evidences of Christianity. A right state of heart is the key to all religious enquiries. It enables us easily to estimate the relative importance of different kinds of testimony. And after such general considerations as I have been offering on the authenticity of the New Testament, it leads us to repose with unshaken confidence on that external testimony, which even if it were less complete than it is, would however be amply compensated for by the conviction of the inward excellency and holy effects of the revelation which the Christian records convey. These points, however, will be considered hereafter-a reflection or two only may be here made on the argument so far as we have gone.
I. God is light, and in him is no darkness at all, Traces of his glory are to be discerned every where. Irradiations of wisdom and condescension and goodness shine out, not only in the highest mysteries of his gospel, but in the lowest external testimonies to the authenticity of the books in which they are unfolded. Every step of the evidences of Christianity has its appropriate light to the humble student. All is agreeable to the purest dictates of the reason with which God has endowed us. The star which conducted the eastern sages to the infant Saviour, did not shine with a brighter or more steady ray, than the historical proof of the genuineness of the divine books. It guides with unerring safety. The ordinary providence of God, in making the series of testimonies to his revelation rest on the same grounds as men are governed by in all like cases, is as full of wisdom, as those extraordinary displays of the same providence, or those more sacred and permanent operations of grace, which are other branches of the general proof which we shall hereafter have to consider. The very circumstance of the admission of the authentic origin of our books by the bitterest adversaries of the
early centuries, when a denial of it by them might hare embarrassed the Christian advocate in the present day, marks the finger of God. All the calumnies of the adversaries of Christianity which they advanced, have long been refuted and forgotten—the only one that could have been employed against us by the modern unbeliever, was never thought of. Every thing holds together. The lowest chain of evidence is connected with the highest; the simplest deduction of an historical fact with the most lofty and surprising doctrines of redemption.
II. Enter, then, more deeply and practically into the nature of those blessings which are in so many various ways confirmed to us. This is the end in view. We wish to quicken your sense of the importance of Christianity. Let the authenticity of the record be only the counterpart of the truth of your piety. Let the authentic books be received with an authentic faith, if I may so speak. Let the genuine writings of the apostles be welcomed with a genuine penitence and love. Let there be nothing fictitious in your personal religion, nothing spurious in your life, nothing false or fabricated in your humility or joy. Let the seal and security of the books of revelation correspond with the seal and security of your own interest in its blessings. Let not the authentic word of God
be authentic only to condemn your worldliness of mind, your pride, your selfishness, your negligence, your practical unbelief.
Once acquainted practically with the healing efficacy of the gospel, once taught by the secret but effectual aid of the Holy Ghost, once united to our Saviour by faith, we shall use the external evidence in the manner wbich we ought, not to rely on it as an end, not to be satisfied with it as truth intellectually received, but to rise by it, as by a stepping-stone, to the course on which we are to run the heavenly race; to reach forth by it daily after higher measures of faith and holiness, to employ it devoutly as a cause of constant gratitude to God, to lay it up as a provision against the moments of temptation, as an aid in the instruction of children and servants, as furniture for conversation with the well-disposed enquirer, as means for giving an answer to every one that asketh us a reason of the hope that is in us. We shall thus feel the ground on which we stand. We shall be fortified against the impressions of scorn. We shall know how to instruct a candid, or silence a bitter, adversary. We shall put upon each portion of the Christian evidences the particular burden which it is designed to support.
And thus the simple proposition of the apostle in our text, to which I again advert for an instant in concluding the discourse, will join on with all the links in that mighty chain of proof which binds and sustains the Christian doctrine. The salutation of the apostle with his own hand, as his token in every epistle, will appear only the first of that series of testimonies to the authenticity of the sacred books which we have been considering generally now, and which we shall resume in the next lecture; and on the contemplation of which we may well exclaim, in holy admiration: “Yes, blessed and only Potentate, we praise Thee for handing down to us in thy wonderful providence, the attestations to the divine writings which we trace in every age; we acknowledge the tokens in every epistle and gospel of thy divine word ; and we pray for thy grace so to receive and obey thy will, that we may ourselves have the indications of truth in our own hearts and lives, that we may ourselves be faithful witnesses of thy genuine word, that we may ourselves be, as it were, AUTHENTIC EPISTLES, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of Thee, the living God; not on tables of stone, but on fleshly tables of the heart!”