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how or why) confederated to propagate a known cheat, against their own honour, interest, and safety; and multitudes of men, without any prospect of advantage here or hereafter, were brought most constantly and tenaciously to profess what they knew to be false, to exchange all the comforts and pleasures of life for shame and contempt, for banishments, scourgings, imprisonments, and death; in a word, voluntarily to expose themselves to be hated both of God and man, and that without any known motive whatsoever.— This must be allowed, or else you must allow, that no man ever was, or ever can be certain of any thing, as is more particularly considered above. There now remains one of these three things a necessary conclusion from what has been said; either, 1. That these consequences may be justified; or, 2. That they are not regularly deduced from the premises; or, 3. That the christian religion is true, and of Divine authority. I am persuaded you will not assume either of the two former of these conclusions: the latter, therefore, forces itself upon you. That the Lord may direct you in the way of truth and path of life, is the prayer of,
When EIN SOME OF THE INTERNAL EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY ARE CONSIDERED.
According to the direction given in your last, I shall use the greatest freedom in my answer, and, laying aside all reserve, shall presume on your candour.
You “cannot see,” you tell me, “how these arguments of mine, for the truth of christianity, can admit of a rational and consistent answer.” How then can you be but “almost persuaded to be a christian P” How can you want “some general and easy directions, how to get rid of those doubts which still hang upon your mind, from the various difficulties which are continually casting themselves in your way?” Do rou deal thus with yourself in other cases of infinitely }. importance P Do you harass your mind with doubts about other things which are clearly evident to you, only because you meet with some difficulties which you cannot readily solve 2 This would be the way to downright scepticism, in every thing which falls under your consideration, whether natural or moral. And at this rate, you may call into question your own being, and all your rational powers, as well as every thing you see, hear, or feel. For I dare say, there are difficulties enough in any or all of these, to puzzle the most sagacious philosopher that ever breathed, and to nonplus the inquiries of all the men in the world.
The question before you is, whether the facts upon which the evidence of christianity depends, are clearly proved and necessarily true? If so, there certainly must be some way to solve all those difficulties, whether you have found out the method to do it or not. You should likewise consider, that it is of no importance to the safety of your soul, whether you are, or are not, capable to obviate all the objections which fall in your way; but it is of eternal importance, that you build on a sure foundation, and that you believe in the only begotten Son of God. This, then, should be your method in the case before you. First, see to your foundation; examine thoroughly, seriously, and impartially, whether the evidence for the truth of christianity be such, that you have reason to believe it, and that it would be unreasonable not to believe it true; and then, whatever difficulties may occur, do not dig up your foundation, and undermine your faith and hope. Do not give your adversary the advantage to keep you in a continued suspense, lest you live and die an unbeliever, and so have your objections removed when it is too late, when your conviction will but prove your confusion. I do not speak this to deter you from examining the most subtile objections which the greatest enemies of christianity are able to throw in your way. The cause will bear the strictest scrutiny, the severest trial; and you can hardly imagine any difficulty, but what has been clearly and judiciously resolved, by one or other of the defenders of this glorious cause. But are you convinced that “the arguments to prove the truth of christianity admit of no rational answer?” Take, then, the apostle's advice, in all the further inquiries you shall make, to hold fast the beginning of your confidence, stedfast unto the end.
This, then, is part of that general advice I would give you, that you may get rid of those doubts which still hang upon your mind. Follow it, and it will at least lessen your difficulties, and may make your way plain before you. But this is not the principal direction necessary to be taken in this case. It is of special consequence to see to it, that you experience the power of christianity in your own heart. Reject this advice, and it is impossible that you should be rooted and built up in Christ, and established in the faith. But comply with it, and it is impossible that hell and earth can finally subvert your faith, and separate between Christ and your soul. By this means this great affair will be no longer with you a matter of mere speculation, or empty opinion, but convincing experience: and nothing but your imperfections and temptations can ever make you hesitate about the truth of those things, which you sensibly and continually feel the influence of, upon all the powers and faculties of your mind. By this you will have the witness in yourself, a transcript of the gospel upon your heart, such a transcript as will answer to the original, like as the impress upon the wax to the signet, or as a well-drawn picture to the lineaments of the face from whence it was taken. By this have multitudes of souls been established in the faith, who have never been able critically to examine the extermal evidence upon which christianity is founded. They have not been able to dispute for Christ; but they have dared to die for him. They have found the image of God imprinted on their souls, by the gospel of God our Saviour; and therefore could not doubt the power of that cause which had produced so glorious an effect upon them. Make the experiment, sir, and you will be forced to acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ to be indeed your Saviour, when you feel that he hath actually saved you. Let me therefore set before you some of the marks given of a real christian in the New Testament. In doing this, I shall not descend into all the minute particulars of the christian's character; but only set before you a few of the most plain and intelligible marks, by which a christian indeed may be distinguished from all others, and by which he may most clearly discern that Christ is a Saviour indeed. And, first, the most general mark, by which this may be known, is, that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new,” 2 Cor. v. 17. That he is renewed in the spirit of his mind; and that he puts “on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,” Eph. iv. 23, 24. Here, you may see, is represented a very remarkable and distinguishing change of state—a change which may be known by those who have had the blessed experience; and a change that has been felt by all those, and none but those, who are christians indeed. Could you then find this blessed effect of your committing your soul and your eternal interests into the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all the powers, passions, and appetites of your soul are renewed, you could not doubt the author of the wonderful change. You must own it to be from him, that you are brought to hate what you before loved, and to love what you before hated. Can you help but acknowledge this, when you find that the thoughts and dispositions of your mind are new, and the chief subject of your care and meditation are the things unseen and eternal : that the desires and affections of your soul are new, and placed upon the things that are above, where Christ Jesus