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Apostles were not infallible on every point, and they never professed to be so. They professed to be inspired, and inspired they were, but they did not profess to be wholly infallible, and it is certain they were not so.
And the admission of the truth on this point, will not destroy our confidence in them on others. We may believe that the Apostles were fallible on matters of little moment, and have the fullest assurance possible that they were right on matters of great importance.
The Apostles themselves were sufficiently assured of the truth of those impressions which they had received about Christ through their eyes and ears; yet neither the eyes nor the ears of man are always or absolutely infallible. I have myself mistaken blue for green, and yellow for white; and I recollect two occasions on which coal or jet, seemed, at a distance, in the sunlight, as white as snow. And I have often thought things to be moving, which were at rest; and things to be at rest, which were moving. Yet I have the fullest confidence in my eyes. I have sometimes been mistaken with regard to sounds. I have thought a sound to be near, when it was far off; and I have thought a sound to be far off, when it was near. And I have often mistaken one sound for another. Yet I have all the confidence I need to have in my ears. Both eyes and ears may need the help of the mind at times; but the mind is always at hand with its help. In short, I know that all my senses are fallible; yet on every point of moment I have all the assurance, with regard to things sensible, that is needful to my welfare.
And so with regard to religious matters. There is nothing like omniscience, nothing like infinite or absolutely perfect knowledge or infallibility in any man: yet every one may have all the information and all the assurance on things moral and spiritual needful to his comfort and salvation.
Our assurance of the truth and excellency of Christian doctrine rests on something better, surer, than theological and metaphysical niceties. You who fancy that your strong and heart-cheering faith rests on theological theories, and that if those theories were exploded, it would perish, are, happily, under a great mistake. Your faith, and hope,
INTERNAL EVIDENCE THE BEST.
and joy, rest on the harmony between Christianity and your souls. My faith and trust in the outward world, and my infinite appreciation of its arrangements, rest, not on any philosophical theory; but on the wonderful, the perfect adaptation of every thing to my nature, to my wants, to my comfort and welfare. Nature answers to me, fits into me, at every point. I am just the kind of being nature was made for; and nature is just the kind of world my being requires. They match. They answer to each other exactly, all round, and make one glorious and blessed whole. And this is the secret of my trust in nature.
And so it is with regard to Christianity and my soul. They are made for each other. They fit each other. My soul just wants what Christianity brings; and Christianity just brings what my soul requires. It answers to my soul, as light and beauty answer to the eye, and as sound and music answer to the ear, and the whole of nature to the whole of man. There is neither want, nor superfluity, nor disagreement. Christianity and my soul, like nature and my physical being, are a glorious match. They are one: as I and my life are one. Christ is my life. Christ is my all. And He is all that my soul requires or desires.
And this is the ground of the good Christian's faith. It is not external or historical evidence; it is not metaphysical niceties or theories; it is not the endless mass of jarring evidences of any kind which lie in misty, musty, dusty volumes on the shelves of dreamy, doting divines, that makes you feel at rest in Jesus; but Jesus Himself, whose fulness just answers to your wants, and whose life and love just make your heaven. It is just that, and nothing more.
There is a story of a judge who was celebrated for the wisdom and justice of his judgments, but often censured for the weakness or folly of the reasons which he gave for them. Many Christians resemble this judge. They make a wise and worthy profession of faith; but when they attempt to give reasons for their belief, they betray the most lamentable ignorance. They have good reasons, but they cannot put them into words. They do not always know what their reasons for believing are. The reasons they assign are not their real reasons. They believed, and
believed on good grounds, for sufficient reasons, years before they heard of the reasons they give for their belief to those who question them on the subject. The reasons they assign did not at first convince them, and they are not the kind of reasons likely to convince others. And it would be better if, instead of assigning them, they were to say: 'Well; I do not know that I can tell you the reasons why I believe the Bible; but I have reasons. I am satisfied my belief is right. I am satisfied the Bible is the right thing for me. I meet with things in it that make me feel very happy. I meet with things in it that will not let me do wrong; that will keep impelling me to do right, to do good. I meet with things in it that support me in trouble; that make me thankful in prosperity; that fill me with good thoughts, good feelings, good purposes, good hopes, great peace, sweet rest, strong confidence, and a blessed prospect of a better life. I like the Bible God: He is a great protector, and a blessed comforter. I like the Bible story about Jesus, and all the glorious things it says about His love and salvation. In short, the Bible is a great part of my life, my soul, my joy, my strength, my being, and I don't know what I could do without it. I cannot argue. I don't know the reasons why I believe. But the Bible just suits my soul, and I am inclined to believe that the world would be a dark place, and life a poor affair, without its blessed revelations and precious promises.
Now in speaking thus, most men would really, without knowing it, be giving the reasons or grounds of their faith. The great reason really is, the perfect adaptation of the Bible to their nature and wants. They believe unconsciously and unthinkingly in the divinity of nature, on account of the wonderful adaptation of its provisions to their natural wants. They believe in virtuous love, and honorable marriage, and family life, and natural affections, and friendship, and society, and government, and law, on similar grounds. The reasons of their faith are real, and good, and strong; but like the roots of a tree, they are low down, out of sight, under the ground. They do not reflect on them, dig them up, bring them to the light, and give them a critical examination.
This internal evidence is gaining favor day by day. It
GREAT POWER OF INTERNAL EVIDENCE.
is preferred by the ablest modern writers to all others. was the evidence that vanquished the infidel socialists of five and thirty years ago. It is the evidence that makes our modern infidel advocates wince and waver. They hardly think it necessary to notice the historical evidences. They know that they seldom get hold of men's hearts. But they cannot afford to despise the internal evidences. They are a real power. Thousands are touched by a sight of Jesus as presented in the Gospels, for one that is moved by arguments from miracles or prophecies. Even the miracles of Jesus owe their chief power to their benevolent character.
The ablest American writer on the Evidences of Christianity, Rev. Mark Hopkins, makes the moral and internal evidence almost everything, and the external ones next to nothing.
The Rev. F. C. Cooke, Canon of Exeter, in his lecture before the Christian Evidence Society of London, says, 'The one great evidence, the master evidence, the evidence with which all other evidences will stand or fall, is Christ Himself speaking by His own word. It is the character of Jesus that makes men feel that He and His religion are divine. It is this that warms men's hearts, and wins their love, and produces a faith full of life and power. Other evidences apart from this leave men cold, and indifferent, or opposed to Christ.' But more on this point hereafter.
GOES INTO POLITICS. ARRESTED. LODGED IN PRISON. ELECTED TOWN COUNCILLOR, MEMBER OF
In 1846, I began to dabble in politics. And my views of political subjects were as much out of the ordinary way as my views on matters pertaining to religion. I was a republican. I would have no King, no Queen, no House of Lords, and no State Church. I would abolish the laws
of entail and primogeniture, and reduce land to a level with other kinds of property. The sale of land should be as untrammelled as that of common merchandise, and it should be as liable to be taken for debt. I broached startling views with regard to the right of property in land, and urged that as it was naturally common property, it should be considered as belonging, in part, to the nation, or Government, and made to bear the principal burden of taxation. I recommended that the property of the church should be used for the promotion of education. I proposed to divide the country into equal electoral districts, and give to every man who was not a criminal, a vote for members of Parliament. As a rule, I held up America as an example in matters of government, but objected to a Senate and a four years' President, preferring to place all power in the hands of one Body, the direct representatives of the people. A committee of that Body should be the ministry, and the chairman of that committee the President.
I really believed that this would be the perfection of Government. And if all men were naturally good, as Unitarianism taught, what could be wiser or better calculated to secure the happiness of a nation, than to give every one an equal share of the power? I believed with Paine, that a pure and unqualified democracy would secure the strictest economy, the greatest purity, the best laws, and the most perfect administration of the laws. I also believed that a pure unmixed democracy would prevent insurrections, rebellions, and civil war, and that it would promote peace with all the world. True, I believed the people would require education, but I also believed that an ultra democracy would see to it that the people were educated, and educated in the best possible way. Were not the people educated in America? And were we not taught that the educational system of America was the result of its democratic form of Government? And were not Price and Priestley democrats? And were not Channing and Parker, the two great lights of Unitarianism in America, democrats? Democracy then was the remedy for the evils of the world; the one thing needful to the salvation of our race.
More extravagant or groundless notions have seldom entered the mind of man. Yet I accepted them as the true