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Haity in the Bible—Historic Evidence.
WHEN we take the Bible in our hands, the first question that suggests itself is this: What reason have I for believing that this is no “cunningly devised fable,” but that in these pages God has spoken to man; that I may confidently rely on the directions of this book for the safety of the most precious thing I possess, my immortal soul; that I shall here find a good and sure foundation ?
We will then be ready for the further question, What does this book contain, by the knowledge of which my soul may be delivered from all evil, anii conducted to the enjoyment of eternal rest? What is the precise nature of the foundation on which I am here invited to build my hopes of a blessed immortality ?
Let us now confine ourselves to the first of these questions. What reason have we for believing that the Bible is indeed the word of God ?
It is surely not necessary to the independence or reasonableness of our faith in any communication, that we should at first have doubted or disbelieved it. It may be of such a nature, or have come to us in such a way, as to have produced an immediate persuasion of its truth. Yet to call this a blind, unreasoning credulity, would be a great mistake. The mind is not always distinctly conscious of the steps by which it reaches its conclusions. Those which are most rapid, indeed, are generally the most certain and intelligent, because they relate to self-evident truths, which only the most thorough stupidity can for a moment doubt. There may be a chain of reasoning, every link of which is steel, but the mind sees the truth so clearly, and seizes upon it so firmly, that the conviction seems less like a result of satisfactory evidence, than like a special illumination. If indeed it be such, let us not think that there has been no exercise of reason, nor call it a groundless faith, nor expect an easy victory if we venture to assail it.
There are many whose minds have never been disturbed by the question, whether the Bible is the Word of God. Nor is it necessary to the security of their foundation that such doubts should now be started, nor that they should rid themselves of all prepossessions in favor of the Bible, and commence their search after truth with a feeling of entire indifference. Such a state of mind we affirm to be simply impossible. If, however, you have any doubt of the truth of the Bible, whether occasional and only half admitted, or whether it always lies in your heart like a deadly serpent, sometimes sleeping indeed, but lifting itself in frightful rage against every half formed conviction and rising hope, we may, by the blessing of God, show you how it shall be quieted forever.
But there are many, we repeat, whose minds were never thus disturbed. They seemed in the first instance to receive their belief in the Bible by hereditary descent; and thus, in their early days, it might have been dangerous to their peace of mind to have thrown them into the company of the skeptical and scoffing. Doubts might have been infused before they were provided with the unfailing antidote. Yet even then, though too diffident perhaps to express their thoughts, their minds would have been fortified against the tempter, by the recollection of some of those wonderful words of truth and love, which God sometimes hides from the wise and prudent, but reveals them unto babes. Or, perhaps, some echo of the Bible to the conscious wants of their own hearts, to the yearnings of their immortal natures after that which is true, and good, and abiding—or, some delightful exhibitions of the power of divine truth, within the circle of their
own observation-or, if blessed with truly pious and faithful parents, the conclusion of filial reverence, “the Book which father and mother loved and trusted, as their comfort and their strength, must have something in it which this unbelieving man has neither seen nor felt”-some or all of these considerations might have been enough to make them doubt proof, even when exposed to apparent danger of being led astray. Have not such thoughts, indeed, sometimes shaken to the centre the heart of the stoutest infidel, against whom the whole artillery of argument and testimony has been employed in vain ?
Usually, however, the faith of our earlier years is the result of our early instructions, nor could we give a better reason than the young disciples of any other faith, that so our mothers taught us. But by-and-by we began, though perhaps not immediately conscious of the change, to believe for ourselves, to have witness of the truth of the Bible in the perceptions and experience of our own hearts.
The evidence on the ground of which we believe the Bible to be a revelation from God, may be either. HISTORIC and theoretical, or EXPERIMENTAL and practical.
The term HISTORIC is generally applied to the ordinary evidence of Christianity, not to designate the source from which it is derived, but because the conviction which it produces resembles our conviction of the truth of any ordinary history, rather than a
personal experience of the faithfulness of its promises and the power of its prescriptions.
This evidence is various, and so full and sufficient, that no man, whose heart is not rankling with the bitterest and most determined prejudices, can rise from its patient examination, without being compelled to own that it is perfectly overwhelming to his unbelief. Indeed, a determined skeptic dares not read it. He dares not even sit down to a patient, serious, candid, continuous reading of the Bible itself. He must make his heart gross, and his ears dull of hearing, and his eyes he must close ; lest at any time he should see with his eyes, and hear with his ears, and should understand with his heart, and should be converted, and Christ should heal him.
The principal branches of this evidence are, 1. Historic confirmation of the most important facts of the Old and New Testament, derived from independent, and often hostile sources. 2. The rapid diffusion and wonderful success of Christianity in rooting out the ancient superstitions of the world. Not by human might nor wisdom, but by the power of the Spirit, and its own power, the faith of these despised fishermen of Galilee, subdued unbelieving nations before it, “pulling down imaginations and every high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of God.” 3. The exact fulfillment of prophecies the most minute and circumstantial; an evi