« PreviousContinue »
Nor is any thing more obvious, from the current language of sacred writers, particularly in the New Testament, than that, in their estimation, the influence of Satan over the minds of men, is the grand moral obstruction to the reception of Christianity, as well as to its gress after it is received.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” “ Be sober, be vigilant ; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” “ Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” “ If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost : in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
Such is the verdict of Scripture on this momentous question. There is nothing irrational in its announcements; there are things connected with human nature, which give them verisimilitude; the most intellectual of the human race have firmly believed them; and we would say to the man who believes them not, What if they point out the real cause of your continued unbelief? You are a guilty and perishing sinner; descending to an eternity of woe, under the weight of your accumulating trespasses; and, for your deliverance, in the system of nature there is absolutely no pro
vision. You will bear with us in telling you this; since you know that, so far as nature is concerned, our creed includes ourselves in the same fearful affirmation. But what if it be true, that the deliverance detailed in the Bible, so rich, and pure, and glorious, would irresistibly carry your assent, and surprise you with the evidence of its divinity, and fill you with joy and peace in believing, but for the blinding influence of that arch-deceiver, whom the foul revolt of man has made “ the god of this world ?” What if it be the case, that, from the first moment you thought of the Bible, or began to examine its claims to belief, “ the ruler of the darkness of this world,” with whom your spirit is in moral fellowship, has presided over your investigations, and turned them, by an artifice which is too subtle for your detection, to results which are perverse and ruinous? You may, perhaps, remember the time when your conscience was unusually impressed, and suspicions of delusion awakened, and a light which was new and marvellous had actually begun to break in upon your mind, presenting the Bible in a point of view in which before you never beheld it; but just at the crisis of a revolution, to which your heart was tremblingly alive, a suggestion, violent and unnatural, but powerful and engrossing, was suddenly darted into your mind, which arrested the incipient process ere ever you were aware, and lured you
back into the habit of mind which had previously characterized you. Perhaps, too, you may remember, that ever since the crisis referred to, and the hapless issue to which it çame, you have felt a secret dread of the Bible, or a dark foreboding of something in it which you wanted courage to explore; and, in self-defence
against its searching import, you have shunned it, or impugned its mysteries, or forced yourself to deride its imagery, or, at least, have never opened it, except with the cowardly determination to prevent the Spirit who gives it life from taking effect on your moral feelings. Is it this hypothesis, or something else than this, but of the same moral complexion, which explains the present state of your heart, in relation to the book of God? Then have you reason for deep suspicion, that your aversion is generated by that spirit, whose operations are characterized by “ all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish.”
By the Bible's account of this spirit, he is able to deceive you; for his powers are far superior to ours. He is every way likely to deceive you; for his nature is malignant, his enmity at man is both old and inveterate; while the progress of the Christian economy, from the benefits of which he is excluded, and the triumph of which is certain defeat to the chief of his machinations, is the object of his deadliest hostility. The nature of the case is such, withal, as to facilitate his designs; for, although evidence may be such as to defy deception, in matters merely intellectual, yet, in all moral questions, especially such as involve the relation of the creature to the great Creator, the state of the heart is every thing; and an alienation of the affections of the heart may be deepened and exasperated, till the greatest amount of moral evidence is rendered utterly powerless. Separate this principle from the point in hand, and your knowledge of common ethics, or of living human character, will show you what is due to it. You may doubt the whole of this doctrine, or disbelieve it, or deride it as
utterly fabulous; but, for our part, we cannot doubt it, even as a matter of moral speculation, without involving the whole subject in mystery the most inextricable. Believing as we do in the entire depravity of fallen human nature, we believe, at the same time, that, even in its state of depravity, there is a moral sense remaining in it, a capability of discerning the Godhead in a revelation of his will, which depravity has disordered, but not eradicated. And with this capability before our eyes, crippled and crazed although we grant it to be, but undestroyed, because indestructible, we cannot look at the Bible, the celestial spirit with which it is animated, the unquestioned wonders of moral purity which it has wrought, and is still working, or the splendid halo of heavenly light which issues from it, and hovers around it, without being driven to the supposition, that there must be, something more than human in that depravity which sees and disowns it. In plain language, we consider it certain, that a settled infidelity can only proceed from causes which are preterhuman; and we cannot conceive it possible for any man who knows the Bible, or has it fairly unfolded to his understanding and his heart, to abide by a firm or unflinching denial of it, without support from that spirit whom the Bible itself has designated “ the father of lies.”
Such being our decided belief, you cannot wonder that we feel constrained to urge the subject, with all earnestness, on your instant and wakeful consideration, not restrained by the false delicacies which have deterred others from drawing your attention to it. Our motives are not selfish, but humane and disinterested. We can enjoy our Christianity without you, for
great consolation is made less by your refusing to
although your unbelief may injure yourselves, it can never disprove the truth of it to us.
We wish our cause to triumph, and we know it will triumph,.by the energy of its own eternal principles : but we wish you to become its trophies, and, in this way, to share in its triumphs. The revelation of the grace of God is made to you, in common with us.
You are bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. The same humanities which glow in your
bosoms are felt glowing in ours also. The same aversion to pain, the same dread of destruction, the same thirst for immortality, which actuates you, is found also to actuate us. You may despise us, or avoid us, or hold us up to popular contempt, but our hearts are towards you—they are a part of your hearts. Our
share it with us. We cannot be indifferent to your destiny without forgetting that we are human. No, verily, we cannot, and we will not.
Our nature forbids the cruelty, and our religion forbids it; yet again we must tell you the marvellous tidings which God has verified to us, and tell you why we believe them too—and if you will not hear the pleadings of our sympathy, our souls shall weep in secret places, because of your pride. Tell us not that our doctrine about Satanic influence is not proven—for you know very well, that, however true in itself, yet to you, in your present state of mind, it cannot be proven, since you deny the record which contains the proof. But although not proven to you, it is made probable without the record which you discard ; and if it be barely possible, the bare possibility is tremendous ! For then it is also possible, that at this