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we proceed to state SOME REASONS WHICH EVINCE THE INDISPENSABLE IMPORTANCE of a child-like spirit to a sound enquiry into such a subject. The facts, indeed, which I have stated, speak for themselves, but there are not wanting obvious arguments to deepen the impression of them upon the heart.
The first may be drawn from the influence of the passions over the determinations of the understanding. We are not merely intellectual creatures; we are led by our affections. Our judgment is swayed perpetually by what we love and desire. Pride, self-conceit, custom, ambition, vanity, envy, malice, party-spirit, vices of every kind, darken the understanding, give a bias to the judgment, and cause all the operations of the mind to decline insensibly from the path of rectitude and truth. Like the jaundiced eye, or the palate infected by a fever, the understanding is incapable of discerning truth, when the affections are irritated and inflamed. We all know that questions in the arts, in literature, in the sciences, in politics, in morals, are every day agitated with unfairness and exaggeration, when the passions of men are excited; and afterwards they sink, by the tacit consent of all parties, into frigid neglect, as matters of little moment, when reason and truth have resumed their sway.
2. Accordingly, something of this docile tem
per is acknowledged by all to be essential to every important investigation; in fact, to every business of human life. Men object to our requiring this candid and tractable temper in religion; but what is there that can be studied without a similar temper? Will a father, a preceptor, a master, an instructor of any class, allow of levity, indifference, self-will, scorn, in his child or pupil ? Can any thing be done with a perverse, unwilling student? Can any thing be taught without some correspondent attention, docility, application of mind, openness to receive conviction? Is not this the law of our nature, the condition of humanity itself? Did not even the Heathen philosophers admit this? Does not Quintilian require virtue in the orator, and Aristotle experience, morals and even age in the student of ethics? And does not our great modern philosopher, Bacon, require the same in those who would succeed in the study of nature? His words, in fact, are actually borrowed from the injunction of my text : “ There is no other entrance,” says Lord Bacon, “to the kingdom of man, which is founded in the sciences, than to the kingdom of heaven, in which no one can enter but in the character of a little child."13
13 Ut non alius fere sit aditus ad regnum hominis, quod fundatur in scientiis, quam ad regnum cælorum in quod nisi sub persona infantis, intrare non datur.- Nov. Org. I. 68. 3. Now, if this is acknowledged in all cases, how much more must it be applicable to the investigation of the Christian evidences; where the whole question is deeply moral and religious, where a revelation of the will of the Most High God is professed to be conveyed, where the soul of man, the rule of duty, the means of pardon and reconciliation, the sources of spiritual purity are concerned--where reverence, and solemnity, and fear of mistake, and promptitude to rejoice in the will of God when known, should regulate every thought, and calm every interfering affection?
This is the more important, because the enquirer perfectly well knows that if Christianity be once allowed to be true, a restraint must be put on all the passions, a submission of understanding and heart be unreservedly made, a rule of morals admitted to which every sin is contradictory, a silence imposed upon human pride and human reasonings before the revelation of the one eternal God, and a totally new course of life be entered upon and pursued.
Now what is the temper of mind in which the evidences of such a religion should be studied ? Must there not at least be something of docility, of seriousness, of a spirit of prayer, of a practical obedience to the rule of duty so far as it is known; that is, something of the very temper which we are enforcing? Can we wonder that men utterly devoid of every ingredient of this temper, should be incapable of understanding the subject, should frustrate the effect of all testimony whatever ?
4. But, further, Christianity expressly requires this child-like simplicity of mind in those who would examine her claims. I am not arguing now from the truth of our religion. I am merely stating that, as every art and science has some previous truths in common, which she first lays down --Geometry her axioms Physics her rules of philosophising-History her maxims-Morals her data—so Christianity has her first principles from which she sets out,' and without admitting and thoroughly imbibing which, no real progress can be made. Chris tianity inscribes on the road to her dominions, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein. Christianity does not profess to convince the perverse and headstrong, to bring irresistible evidences to the daring and profane, to vanquish the proud scorner, and afford evidences from which the careless and perverse cannot possibly escape. This might go to destroy man's responsibility. All that Christianity professes, is to propose such evidences as may satisfy the meek, the tractable, the candid, the
serious enquirer. Her grace, indeed, overcomes at times others; but it is to bring them to this docile and humble temper, in which alone is there a recipiency, a capacity for admitting truth. As to her evidences, perhaps they are left so, says a profound observer, as that those who are desirous of evading moral obligation should not see them, whilst fair and candid persons should.14
They constitute, in fact, a moral probation, a discipline to try the spirits of men, whether they have such a docility and love of truth, as to receive a religion on satisfactory, though not, in a strict sense, irresistible evidence; and then, having obeyed the gospel, they will be in a situation to receive those higher and purer sources of conviction which spring from the abundant spiritual blessings conveyed to, the heart.
It is thus the Psalmist records the divine statute: The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way.15 It is thus the wise man divides the characters and success of students : The scorner seeketh wisdom and findeth it not, but knowledge is easy to him that understandeth.16 It was on this footing our Saviour proposed the proof of his divine mission: If any man will do his will, he shall know
14 Bp. Butler. 15 Psalm xxv. 9. 16 Prov. xiv. 6. VOL. I.