Are you a Christian?
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Here is another fact. When you look upon yourself and your moral position, you find yourself twice dead. You are civilly dead in the sense of being condemned by law, an outcast from governmental favor. You are also morally dead, for you do not love God, do not serve Him, have no tendencies that draw you back into sympathy with God; but, on the other hand, you are dead to all considerations that look in this direction. You are indeed alive to your own low, selfish interests, but dead to God's interests; you care nothing for God only to avoid Him and escape His judgment. All this you know, beyond all question.
In this condition, without a further revelation, where is your hope? You have none, and have no ground for any.
Furthermore, if a future revelation is to be made, revealing some ground of pardon, you can see with the light now before you on what basis it must rest. You can see what more you need from God. The first revelation shuts you up to God -- shows you that if help ever comes, it can not come out of yourself, but must come from God -- can not come of His, justice, but must come from His mercy -- can not come out of law, but must come from some extra provision whereby law may have its demands satisfied otherwise than through the execution of its penalty on the offender. Somebody, you can see, must interpose for you, who can take your part and stand in your stead before the offended law.
Did you never think of this? In the position where you stand, and where your own nature and your own convictions place you, you are compelled to say -- My case is hopeless! I need a double salvation -- from condemnation and from sinning; first from the curse, and secondly from the heart to sin -- from the tendency and disposition to commit sin. Inquiring for a revelation to meet these wants of my lost soul, where can I find it? Is it to be found in all the book of nature Nowhere. Look into the irresistible convictions of your own moral being; they tell you of your wants, but they give you no supply. They show what you need, but they utterly fail to give it. Your own moral nature shows that you need an atoning Savior and a renewing Spirit. Nothing less can meet the case of a sinner condemned, outlawed, and doubly dead by the moral corruption of all his voluntary powers.
The worst mischief of infidelity is that it ignores all this; it takes no notice of one entire side of our nature, and that the most important side; talking largely about philosophy, it yet restricts itself to the philosophy of the outer world and has no eye for the inner and higher nature. It ignores the fact that our moral nature affirms one entire class of great truths, with even more force and certainty than the senses affirm the facts of the external world. Verily, this is a grand and a fatal omission!
1. Without the first revelation the second could not be satisfactorily proved. When the Bible reveals God, it assumes that our minds affirm His existence and that we need no higher proof When it reveals His law, it pre-supposes that we are capable of understanding it, and of appreciating its moral claims. When it prescribes duty, it assumes that we ought to feel the force of obligation to obey it.
Now, the fact that the Bible does make many assumptions of this sort establishes an intimate and dependent connection between it on the one hand, and the laws of the human mind on the other. If these assumptions are well and truly made, then the divine authority of the Bible is abundantly sustained by its correspondence and harmony with the intellectual and moral nature of man. It fits the beings to whom it is given. But, on the other hand, if these assumptions had, on examination, proved false, it would be impossible to sustain the credit of the Scriptures as coming from a wise and honest Being. 2. Having the first revelation, to reject the second is most absurd. The second is, to a great extent, a re-affirmation of the first, with various important additions of a supplementary sort, e.g. the atonement, and hence the possibility of pardon the gift and work of the Spirit, and hence the analogous possibility of being saved from sinning.
Now those things which the first revelation affirms and the second re-affirms are so fundamental in any revelation of moral duty to moral beings, that, having them taught so intuitively, so undeniably, we are left self-convicted of extreme absurdity if we then reject the second. Logically, there seems no ground left on which to base a denial of the written revelation. Its supplementary doctrines are not, to be sure intuitive truths, but they are so related to man's wants as a lost sinner, and so richly supply those wants; they, moreover, are so beautifully related to the exigencies of God's government, and so amply meet them, that no intelligent mind, once apprehending all these things in their actual relations, can fail to recognize their truthfulness.
3. The study of the first secures an intellectual reception of the second. I do not believe it possible for a man to read and understand the first thoroughly and then come to the second and fairly apprehend its relation to his own moral nature and moral convictions, and also his moral wants without being compelled to say -- All is true; this book is all true! They coincide so wondrously, and the former sustains the latter so admirably and so triumphantly, a man can no more deny the Bible after knowing all his own moral relations than he can deny his own existence.
4. You see why so many reject the Bible. They have not well read themselves. They have not looked within, to read carefully the volume God has put on record there. They have contrived to hush and smother down the ever-rising convictions of their own moral nature. They have refused to listen to the cry of want which swells up from their troubled bosom of guilt. Hence, there is yet one whole volume of revelation of which they are strangely ignorant. This ignorance accounts for their rejection of the Bible.
A little attention to the subject will show you that the ground here indicated is beyond question that on which the masses in every Christian land really repose their faith in the Bible. Scarce one in ten thousand of them has studied the historical argument for divine revelation extensively and carefully, so as intelligently to make this a corner-stone for his faith in the Bible. It is not reasonable to demand that they should. There is an argument shorter and infinitely more convincing. It is a simple problem; given, a soul guilty, condemned and undone; required, some adequate relief. The Gospel solves the problem. Who will not accept the solution? It answers every condition perfectly; it must, therefore, come from God; it is at least our highest wisdom to accept it.
If it be replied to this, that such a problem meets the case of those only who give their hearts to God, it may be modified for yet another, class, on this wise:; given, a moral nature which affirms God, law, obligation, guilt, ruin; required, to know whether a written revelation is reliable, which is built upon the broad basis of man's intuitive affirmations; which gives them the sanction of man's Creator; which appends a system of duty and of salvation of such sort that it interlocks itself inseparably with truth, intuitive to man, and manifestly fills out a complement of moral instructions and agencies in perfect adaptation to both man and his Maker. In the Bible, we have the very thing required. A key that threads the countless wards of such a lock must have been made to fit. Each came from the same Author. You can not grant to man an origin from God, but you must grant the same origin to the Bible.
When I came to examine these things in the light of my own convictions, I wondered I had not seen them truly before,
Suppose I should stand here and announce to you the two great precepts of the moral law; would not their obvious nature and bearings enforce on your mind the conviction that these precepts must be true and must be from God? As I should descend to particulars, you would still affirm -- these must be true; these must certainly have come down from heaven. If I were even to go back to the Mosaic law (a law which many object against, because they do not understand the circumstances that called for such a law) -- yet if I should explain their peculiar circumstances, and the reasons for such statutes, every man must affirm the rectitude of even those statutes, The Old Testament, I am aware, reveals truth under a veil, the world not being prepared then for its clearer revelation. The veil was taken away when, in the fullness of time, people were prepared for unclouded revealings of God in the flesh.
The reason, therefore, why the masses receive the Bible, is not that they are credulous, and hence swallow down absurdities with ease; but the reason is that it commends itself so irresistibly to each man's own nature and to his deep and resistless convictions, he is shut up to receive it he must do violence to his inner convictions if he reject it. Man's whole nature cries out -- This is just what I need! That young lady of whom I spake could not help but abandon her infidelity and yield up her heart to God, when she had reached this point. I said -- Do you admit a God? She answered -- Yes. Do you admit a law? Yes. Do you admit your personal guilt? Yes. And your need of salvation? O, yes. Can you help yourself? said I. Ah, no, indeed, she said, I do not believe I can ever be saved.
At this point I began to speak of the Gospel. Said I to her -- See there; God has done such and such things as revealed in the Gospel; He came down and dwelt in human flesh to meet the case of such sinners as you are; He made an ample atonement for sin; there, what do you think of that? "That is what I need exactly," said she,"if it were only true."
If it is not true, said 1, you are lost beyond hope! Then why not believe? I can not believe it, she said, because it is incredible. It is a great deal too good to be true!
And is not God good, said I -- infinitely good? Then why do you object that anything He does is too good to be true?
That is what I need," again she repeated, "but how can it be so?"
Alas, I see it is my unbelief; but I cannot believe. It is what I need, I can plainly see; but how can I believe it? At this point I rose up and said to her solemnly -- The crisis has come! There is now only one question for you -- Will you believe the Gospel? She raised her eyes, which had been depressed and covered for half an hour or more; every feature bespoke the most intense agitation; while I repeated -- Will you believe God? Will you give Him credit for sincerity? She threw herself upon her knees, and burst into loud weeping. What a scene -- to see a skeptic beginning to give her God credit for love and truth! To see the door of light and hope opened, and heaven's blessed light breaking in upon a desolate soul! Have you ever witnessed such a scene?
When she next opened her lips, it was to show forth a Savior's praise!
The Bible assumes that you have light enough to see, and to do your duty, and to find the way to heaven. A great many of you are perhaps bewildered as to your religious opinions, holding loose and skeptical notions. You have not seen that it is the most reasonable thing in the world to admit and embrace this glorious truth. Will you allow yourself to go on, bewildered, without considering that you are yourself a living, walking revelation of truth? Will you refuse to come into such relations to God and Christ as will save your soul?
In my early life, when I was tempted to skepticism, I can well recollect that I said to myself -- It is much more probable that ministers and the multitudes of good men who believe the Bible are right, than that I am. They have examined the subject, but I have not. It is, therefore, entirely unreasonable for me to doubt.
Why should you not say -- I know the Gospel is suited to my warts. I know I am afloat on the vast ocean of life, and if there is no Gospel, there is nothing that can save me. It is, therefore, no way for me to stand here and cavil. I must examine -- must look into this matter. I can at least see that if God offers me mercy, I must not reject it. Does not this Gospel show you how you can be saved from hell and from sin? O, then believe it! Let the blessed truth find a heart open for its admission. When you shall dare to give God credit for all His love and truth, and when you shall bring your heart under the power of this truth, and yield yourself up to its blessed sway, that will be the dawn of morning to your soul! Whosoever will, let him come and take of the waters of life, freely.