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in another. An experienced Christian can indeed often form a tolerably safe opinion of the reality or fictitiousness of a pretended change, by conversation. But the great decisive evidence, after all, is perseverance in a holy life.
If, then, men who have been abandoned to vice become virtuous and trustworthy citizens, and exemplify, for years, the graces of the Christian character, we will put up with a little excitement and even delusion at the time of the change. For it is, after all, of comparatively little consequence whether this excitement shows itself by some open manifestation, as by the black coffin rising to the disturbed imagination of the convict in his cell, or the loud shout, "Glory to God," which resounds in the Methodist camp,-or whether it is subdued and restrained as in the still solemnity of an inquiry meeting on the evening of the Sabbath,-or in the solitary suffering of an awakened sinner mourning at midnight the burden of his sins. Remember that I say it is of little consequence,-not that it is of none. It would be better if men would follow Jesus as readily and as easily as Matthew did. Jesus said unto him, "Arise and follow me, and he arose and followed him." Immediate submission, with cordial confidence in the Saviour, will remove all mental suffering, and all cause for it, at once and for ever. But if men will only give up their sins, and lead lives of actual piety, we will not quarrel with them about the manner in which they enter the new way.
Such, then, are some of the effects of the Bible upon human character considered in detail. I have thought it best, in order to show the moral power of this book as distinctly as possible, to analyze thus minutely the operation of it in some particular cases. But the argument would be very deficient if I should leave it here-for if these cases were uncommon, they would prove but little. But they are not uncommon. Even in prisons, a very large number of such cases have, as I have already stated, occurred, and the subjects of such changes have gone, when they have been liberated, in peace and happiness to their homes. There are now scattered over our vast land, numbers who have been brought from every stage and degree of guilt to seek pardon through the Saviour, and to begin a life of virtue and piety. The influence of the Bible, too, upon the community at large
is so great, that every country where it freely circulates is distinguished for the peace which reigns there. Vice is comparatively unknown, property and life are safe, every man sits under his own vine and fig-tree, with none to molest or make him afraid. But when man is left to himself, he makes his home a den of robbers. If you travel on the Nile, or the Tigris, you must look well to your means of defence. Men must go in caravans in all those regions, for mutual protection. But how would an armed escort for a traveller appear, on the banks of the Connecticut or the Hudson?
And yet, though benefits so great are procured to society by the Bible, they are procured, after all, only by a limited application of its moral power. It is a very small proportion of the whole population, even in the United States, which attends at all to the commands and instructions of the word of God. The numbers, are, however, rapidly increasing. The cause of God is advancing with great rapidity, and as a military despotism or a Christian government must be the ultimate destiny of every nation, we can look only to the spread of the influence of the Bible to save our country from ruin.
I will close this chapter by mentioning one more instance of the moral power of the Bible. It is its effect in destroying the fear of death. The fear of death is instinctive, not founded on reasoning. It is reasonable for us to fear some things connected with death, but the chief apprehension which every man feels in looking forward to that hour, is the result of an instinctive principle which Providence has implanted in every man's mind; and the only way by which it can be counteracted, without the Bible, is by banishing the subject from the thoughts. That is the way that soldiers acquire courage in battle, by accustoming themselves not to think of death at all. It is not in human nature to contemplate its approach, habitually and calmly, without such a preparation as the Bible gives.
Come in imagination to this sick-chamber. That young man tossing restlessly upon his pillow is soon to die. His physicians have given him over. His friends despair, but by a most absurd and preposterous species of kindness, they will not tell him of his danger, for they know he is unprepared to die, and the knowledge of the approach of the
dread hour they think will distress him! But the sad secret they cannot conceal ;-he reads his sentence in their anxious looks and agitated words-his pale cheek turns paler with fear, and to the natural restlessness of disease there is added the overwhelming agitations of mental anguish. Can you soothe him? Can you calm him? Your very effort reveals to him his danger more distinctly, and his heart sinks within him in hopeless terror. Sometimes, it is true, this fear of death does not reign in the heart at the closing hour, for reason may be gone, or the soul may sink into stupor. But when death is really foreseen and known to be near, while the faculties retain their power, the expectation of it weighs down the human spirit with overwhelming fears.
But the Bible tells us that the sting of death is sin, and that Christ will give believers the victory over it. The Bible most faithfully keeps this promise. See that dying Christian mother. She knows that death is near, and has calmly made all her arrangements for the closing scene.She is a Christian, and looks forward to an entrance into the world of spirits with no foreboding and no anxiety. Her husband, and children, and friends, stand in agitation and distress around her bed-side, but she is calm. A Christian death-bed very often exhibits the astonishing spectacle of composure and happiness in the one who is to drink the cup, while those around, who are only witnesses of the scene, are overwhelmed in agitation and sorrow. The very one who is to encounter the suffering is the only one who can look forward to it without fear. It is because the Bible has been shedding its influences upon her heart, and by a moral power, which no other means can exert, has disarmed death, the very king of terrors, and given to a weak and suffering mortal the victory over all his power.
But I must close this chapter, and with it close the short and simple view I have been endeavouring to give of the evidences of Christianity. The book is designed as an illustration of Christian duty, not of Christian truth. I do not, therefore, go far into subjects of this nature. It is so necessary, however, for the peace and happiness of a young Christian that his mind should rest calmly and firmly upon a belief that the Christian religion does really come from heaven, that I have thought it would be useful to give this
subject a place. I cannot but hope that my readers see evidence enough to satisfy them that the Bible is really the word of God. If you do, lay up the conviction in your heart, and let it guide and influence you. But let me, before I dismiss the subject, give you two or three short practical directions.
1. Do not think there is no other side to this question. There are a great many things which may be said against the Bible, and some things which you cannot answer. But they do not touch or affect the great arguments by which the authority of the Bible is sustained. They are all small, detached difficulties. This is a fundamental point. Some of these difficulties can be satisfactorily removed; others cannot. And it is no matter if they cannot. When some difficulty, such as the difference between the genealogy of Christ, as given by Matthew and by Luke, is presented to you, do not be too anxious to explain it. Acknowledge that it is a difficulty, and let your mind, instead of being thrown into a fever by a vain effort to understand what you have not philological or historical knowledge enough to investigate, just say, "I do not understand that point," and then let your mind rest, calmly and with confidence, upon the great but simple arguments on which the strong foundations of your belief stand.
2. Never dispute with any body upon the evidences of the Christian religion. The difficulty with unbelievers is one of the heart, not of the intellect, and you cannot alter the heart by disputing. When they present you with arguments against Christianity, reply in substance, "What you say seems plausible, and I have no particular answer to it. Still it does not reach the broad and deep foundations upon which, in my view, Christianity rests; and consequently, notwithstanding what you say, I still place confidence in the word of God."
3. Notice this, which, if you will watch your own experience, you will find to be true. Your confidence in the word of God, and in the truths of religion, will be almost exactly proportional to the fidelity with which you do your duty. When you lose your interest in your progress in piety-and neglect prayer and wander into sin-then you will begin to be in darkness and doubt. If you are so unhappy as to get into such a state, do not waste your time
in trying to reason yourself back to belief again. Return to duty. Come to God, and confess your wanderings, and make peace with him. If you do this, light for the intellect and peace for the heart will come back together.
STUDY OF THE BIBLE.
"Able to make wise unto salvation."
It is not my intention in this chapter to give any description of the Bible itself, or of its history since it came into the world. Nor shall I endeavour to establish its divine authority, or present the evidences or the nature of its inspiration. My object is to point out practical duty, and I shall confine myself to a description of the best methods of reading and studying the book.
I ought, however, to remark at the outset, that I intend the chapter to be of a highly practical character, and I shall go accordingly into minute detail. Besides, I am writing for the young, and shall, as I have generally done in this book, confine myself exclusively to them; for I have much more hope that they will be influenced to follow the course which I shall endeavour to describe, than that my efforts will produce any good effect upon those who have gone beyond the meridian of life. If a man has passed the age of thirty without the Bible, it is to be feared that he will go on unaided by its light through the remainder of his pilgrimage. It is different, however, with the young. You shrink from passing life in impiety. You know that the Bible can be the only safe lamp to your feet, and if you are not now living by its light, there is hope that you may be persuaded to come and give yourself up to its guidance.