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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 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
vening, he becomes, on the instant, conscious that he has believed, and therefore he is saved. No wonder the rebound is great from terror to joy, when he exclaims, “My debt is paid, my soul is free, and I am justified.” “I the chief of sinners am, but Jesus died for me." Hence, too, arises grateful love.
Nor is it wonderful that such an emotional convulsion parts him for ever from his past life, that it should prove purifying to a large extent; for it is generally inculcated, except by Calvinists, that wilful sin, after conversion, cancels his pardon, and places him again under the wrath and curse of God. There are, however, many instances of such relapse.
Leaving, then, on our right hand and on our left, these and other “short and easy” substitutes for the true method of cautious inquiry, we shall have, before reverting to it, to encounter another objection. It is urged that if we can only obtain a knowledge of Jesus by the slow, tedious, and uncertain method of historical inquiry, the poor and ignorant may well despair of doing so ; there is then no gospel for them, but only for the learned, or for the wealthy who have leisure to become so. “We," say they, "contend that the poor have a right to have the gospel preached to them, and affirm that they have in their hearts and consciences 'a verifying faculty'; they have, or by faith they may have, the witness within them. You insist on their becoming theologians, of the sort specified by Sir William Hamilton. Hear what he says: Christian, and more especially Protestant, theology
is little else than an applied philology and criticism, of which the basis is a profound knowledge of the languages and history of the ancient world. To be a competent divine is, in fact, to be a scholar.' Set the poor man thus on his way to Jesus, through the languages and history of the ancient world,' and when would he reach him? The task would be impossible. Such a course would be of uncertain result even for the learned, as historians themselves will bear witness. A recent Professor of History (Goldwin Smith) tells us,* *Historical evidence is not a ground upon which religion can possibly rest.' And Mr. Froude, one of our greatest living historians, asks how we can talk of a science in history, in which we can only guess at the probable, instead of knowing the certain. In Short Studies on Great Subjects,' p. 13, he says, “Tacitus and Thucydides were perhaps the ablest men who ever gave themselves to writing history, the ablest and also the most incapable of conscious falsehood. Yet even now, after all these centuries, the truth of what they relate is called in question. Good reasons can be given to show that neither of them can be confidently trusted. If we doubt with these, whom are we to believe?' We cannot suspect historians of a bias against their own profession, therefore when they point out the inutility or untrustworthiness of history in general, we cannot but believe them, and we are therefore sure that God never intended us to attain to the knowledge of Jesus Christ whom he has sent (which knowledge is eternal life) by the laborious and uncertain paths of historical research. Those who advocate this method of coming to Christ, calling such 'cautious inquiry''the key of knowledge,' do in effect 'shut up the kingdom of heaven against men : they enter not in themselves, and those who are entering they hinder.'”
* “Rational Religion and the Rationalistic Objections of the Bampton Lectures for 1858,” p. 108.
There are persons who would hit us thus hard—for did we not begin the chapter by pointing out the uncertainties of history ?—and who would plead after the above fashion against inquiry, but to what end? Can they alter the truth that historical questions must be solved by the cautious methods of modern inquiry, or left unsolved? All past biography belongs more or less to this historical region, and how can that of Jesus be excluded ? No; if we cannot thus know the broad facts of his life, we cannot know them at all. Of the detail we may possibly know little or nothing, and perhaps, in what seems best established, we may have to be content with probability. The question is, What knowledge of Jesus is available for us, and how may we obtain it? There are, presumably, great difficulties in the way of entire certainty respecting some important points, else why such diversities of opinion ? Well, what then? If we cannot get certainty, let us take the greatest probability, and if that is not worth much, let us confess our ignorance and then hold our peace. At any rate, we can do better than to exclaim, ist, that it is absolutely necessary to salvation to