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knowledge--cautious inquiry, though still liable to err in details, we may be generally sure of certain broad facts of history and biography, by which the after course of events may be made more clear. And are we thus asked to know the truth
as it is in Jesus” by those teachers of Christianity who insist most strenuously on the necessity of our knowing him ? Not so. The watchword of the Church is not "Inquire," but "Believe." Most of her authorized ambassadors seem to say, "Believe—without inquiry, if you can; but if not, inquire of us, and we will produce you evidence of a sort." The "only true Church" claims to be the infallible teacher of the truth about Jesus, and how many churches claim to be inheritors of the fundamental truths respecting him? But the most ancient claimant and the most modern agree in the character of their appeals to the ignorant. They first try to alarm them into belief, and, if unsuccessful, they endeavour to astonish them into it. “Behold the blood" (of St. Januarius). “Bow
* down your soul before this well-attested miracle of healing wrought on a devout Catholic by his touching, in faith, a leg-bone of a martyred saint, or at least make a pilgrimage to La Salette or Lourdes, and you may receive the faith that cometh by hearsay.”
“ To remove your doubts, if you wish to believe, God will cause our 'prophet seer and revelator' to stand in the air without support.”
But the Catholic Churches, especially the Roman, have many other arguments, and appeal in many
other ways to different classes, convincing only those who already believe that an "only true Church" does exist somewhere.
Popular Protestantism, too, claiming no infallibility, professes herself able to direct you to a “short and easy method ” of obtaining a knowledge of Jesus. Appeal is made to the individual consciousness. “You know you have often done wrong—you feel yourself a sinner. You feel that you deserve the torment of hell for ever. Those feelings are convictions of sin, wrought in you by the Spirit of God. You know, too, that you cannot save yourself. You feel that you need a Saviour. Well, this Saviour, Jesus, has been provided for you. We are authorized to present him for your acceptance. Believe on him, and you are saved.”
Some persons, however, perhaps the majority, do not feel thus, and it would seem that people generally are less susceptible of such convictions than they were a few generations ago. And many there are who distinctly reject the inference of eternal damnation, from the consciousness of sin. The “bad conscience” of former days readily accepted this doctrine; the more civilized "moral faculty" of this latter part of the nineteenth century decidedly rejects it, so that, though still believed in, it is generally on other grounds than the affirmation of conscience.
But,” says the advocate of Evangelical Protestantism, "does not the story of the Cross carry with it its own evidence? That God, the Creator and
Lord of the Universe, moved by Infinite Love, should become man, and suffer death at the hands of his creatures to atone for their sins, and save them !! Could fallen man have invented this ? ”
To which we may reply, without calling in questión the scriptural doctrine of atonement, that we are not compelled to choose between accepting the popular doctrine as a Divine Revelation, and rejecting it as a human invention. Nor does the request for evidence of the necessity for such a sacrifice imply any doubt that Infinite Love would willingly have made it, if the necessity had existed.
“Well," replies our Evangelical friend, "the evidence you request is readily producible. Have you not known a foul-living man, a contemner of all things sacred-at length, his hardened soul reached by the Gospel message; a cold horror seizes him, his heart is chilled and heavy with the fear that the hell he deserves will be his doom. Yet see him half an hour after, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. An'unutterable tenderness' has come over him ; he is experiencing all the silent heaven of love.' What though the big tears are, all unheeded, swiftly succeeding each other down his cheek, his face is radiant with a divine joy. He knows that his sins are forgiven, his leprosy cleansed. He is amazed, overwhelmed at the long-suffering love of Jesus—such love to him. And now, see, he is ready 'to testify to all around, that he, even he, has mercy found.' That man's life is henceforth changed.
He is cleanly, sober, loving, and reverent, and the strongest wish that possesses him is that others, too, may be rescued from the mire of sin, and saved from the fire of hell. Now, what has wrought this change but the Holy Spirit witnessing to the blood of the Lamb? Witnessing not only to his own spirit, but to all observers, that by that blood, through faith therein, he is saved. Will not this evidence of Divine · interposition satisfy you ? This is no fiction. In thousands of lives this salvation has been an accomplished fact. And I appeal to your knowledge of such facts.”
We, on our part, willingly and gladly admit the reality of such facts, and that such conversions are often lasting ; nor do we deny that such “works of grace” may well, from their quality, be termed divine. But the whole seems to us quite in accordance with, and such as might have been expected from, the natural workings of human emotion under the circumstances. In all that there is really no proof of the supernatural. We see, indeed, in the above case abundant evidence of the sincerity and intensity of the man's belief, but none whatever of its accuracy. We met, the other day, in Good Words for the Young (November, 1870), with an account, by the late Dr. Macleod, of the fear entertained by the West Highlanders of an imaginary sea-monster, termed a waterhorse, or kelpie. His informant, a certain Donald, considered his own intense fear a reasonable proof of the monster's existence. “Och, och !' said poor
Donald, 'that day and hour I'll never forget-never, never, as long as I live . . . I trembled all ower.' 'Why?!" said the doctor. “You may ask, for I never
. was feared for mortal thing, nor for mortal man, nor for a bull ; and if I was feared that day, tell me hoo was that possible, if the horse was not there?' (in the lake). 'I could not be feared except for that. So, you see, he was there. Yes, he was there.' 'Indeed,'” said Dr. Macleod ;“ but did you see him there?' 'Oo,
. no,' said Donald, slowly and meditatively, 'I did not -see him—that is—altogether—actually ; but
but' But what?' 'But as he was there, and as there's not a doubt about that, I am thankfu' that I did not see him, you may be sure.'”
His belief that the monster was there produced the terror, it mattered not whether the belief was well or ill founded. And in the above case of conversion the man had inherited or acquired in childhood his general Christian belief-that of the popular Protestantism. In his state of sin, and while hearing a “powerful preacher,” such a belief, right or wrong, would, if once allowed to operate, naturally produce such a state of terror. The greater wonder is that so many remain unmoved. And any modern Whitfield or Wesley, nay, even a Moody, finds little difficulty in persuading one in great fear, who is already convinced that Jesus died to atone for all the sins of all mankind, that he therefore died for him. Let the penitent for but a moment realize this, his own belief, and rest on it as desired by his spiritual guides ; reflection super