« PreviousContinue »
Spirit, with a personal activity on my part as the result of the Spirit's influence. I can understand how it is God who worketh in me; but I should like such a view of it as may consist with my own diligent working. We may be sure that the effect of His working in us is that we work ourselves. (Phil. ii. 12, 13.) Now the teaching of the Holy Ghost, which I stand much in need of, is to combine the simplicity of faith and dependence upon the promises of strength, with an actual putting forth of that strength, so as at one and the same time to rest and run-rest upon God, and run in the way of His commandments. God will reveal this unto me if I pray for it, and will not refuse this wisdom if I ask it in faith. Have you met with any of Owen's works?-they are all good. I have read him on Indwelling Sin' and 'Temptation' lately, and I am now reading him on Mortification.' He is a most skilful discerner into the human heart; and I am now beginning, since I read him, to be released from that dark and mysterious conception, which I wont to annex to the phrase, Experimental religion.""
"May 24th, 1815.-My thoughts have often been directed of late to the office of God's Spirit as an enlightener. There is a natural darkness which cannot be done away but by God shining on our hearts; and it is right that we should feel our dependence on Him, not merely for the truths of Scripture, but also for our spiritual discernment of these truths. But it deserves to be well kept in mind, that though the Spirit is a revealer, it reveals nothing to us additional to what we learn in the written record. It does not make us wise above that which is written, but it makes us wise up to that which is written. The word of God is called the sword of the Spirit: it is the instrument by which the Spirit worketh. He does not meet with us on any other ground than on that of the
written Revelation; and hence our security, on the one hand, against the visionary pretences of those who talk of their revelations additional to that which is written; and our duty on the other, to go diligently and sober-mindedly to our Bibles, but to go with the attitude of dependence on Him who can alone open our understandings to understand them, and show us wondrous things out of His law; and, without carrying us beyond the field of the written record, can throw a clearness and a spiritual light over every object within that field."
PUBLICATION OF "THE EVIDENCES AND AUTHORITY OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION"-PROGRESS OF OPINION AS TO THE INTERNAL EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY-HUME'S ESSAY ON MIRACLES-ORIGIN OF HIS VIEWS ON PAUPERISM-PAMPHLET ON "THE INFLUENCE OF BIBLE SOCIETIES ON THE TEMPORAL NECESSITIES OF THE POOR"-REVIEW OF CUVIER'S "THEORY OF THE EARTH”— THE INDEFINITE ANTIQUITY OF THE GLOBE RECONCILABLE WITH THE MOSAIC NARRATIVE-CONTRIBUTION TO THE "ECLECTIC REVIEW" ON THE MORAVIANS AS MISSIONARIES.
THE volume of the "Edinburgh Encyclopædia" which contained the article "Christianity" was published early in 1813. Although its title was so general, this article was restricted to the illustration and enforcement of the evidence and authority of the Christian Revelation; and its author narrowed still more the ground which it occupied by confining the evidence of the divine origin of Christianity to the external or historical proofs, resting his argument chiefly, though not exclusively, upon the testimony transmitted to us as to the reality of the gospel miracles. The originality of many of its investigations, and more particularly the new light which it threw upon the relative value of scriptural and ex-scriptural, of Christian and heathen testimonies, enhancing the force of the Christian argument beyond all former appreciation, attracted immediate attention, and won just and very general applause. Its author, however, was not permitted to believe that he had altogether rightly or fully acquitted himself of the great task which he had undertaken. A few weeks after its publication, and before any public no
tice of it had appeared, his friend Dr. Charles Stuart, in an interview at Edinburgh, had very earnestly remonstrated with him on his rejection and condemnation of that very branch of the Evidences of Christianity on which the faith of the vast majority of its followers was founded. "I feel greatly interested in the subject of our last conversation," Mr. Chalmers wrote thus to Dr. Stuart on his return to Kilmany; " and as you may have perceived from what I said, or rather from what I did not say, I have not yet arrived at a right settlement of opinion about it. That many reach saving faith without any knowledge of the external evidence of religion, is undeniable; and that external evidence does not necessarily draw along with it saving faith, is equally so. Still, however, I cannot think that any antecedent knowledge of ours as to the ways of God entitles us to sit in judgment upon the subject of any message accredited by those external proofs, which are a sign to those who do not believe. There may be something in the subject which may allure me to it, which may lead me to prize it, and to abide by it; and I do not see that the Spirit of God may not by an immediate work of illumination give me a belief of the truth, without the intervention of any of those links of argument which may be drawn out into a lengthened demonstration."*
Influenced by the reception which it had experienced from the readers of the Encyclopædia, the proprietors of that work, among whom were some of the leading publishers in Edinburgh, not only permitted, but were themselves the first to advise that the article should be reprinted in a separate form. In adopting their suggestion, Mr. Chalmers prefixed a short advertisement to the volume, evidently intended to break in some degree the force of those objections which such friends as Dr. Stuart had urged." This volume," he said, "is confined to the expo* Extracted from a letter dated May 24, 1813.
sition of the historical argument for the truth of Christianity, and the aim of the author is fulfilled if he has succeeded in proving the external testimony to be so sufficient as to leave infidelity without excuse, even though the remaining important branches of the Christian defence had been less strong and satisfactory than they are. The author is far from asserting the study of the historical evidence to be the only channel to a faith in the truth of Christianity. How could he, in the face of the obvious fact that there are thousands and thousands of Christians who bear the most undeniable marks of the truth having come home to their understanding, in demonstration. of the Spirit and of power?' They have an evidence within themselves which the world knoweth not, even the promised manifestations of the Saviour. This evidence is a sign to them that believe,' but the Bible speaks also of a 'sign to them that believe not;' and should it be effectual in reclaiming any of these from their infidelity, a mighty object is gained by the exhibition of it." Although this explanatory statement was prefixed, the same sweeping condemnations of the internal evidence were, with some slight modifications, retained; and, as the work gained rapidly in popularity, the solicitude of such friendly critics as Dr. Stuart was stimulated, instead of being allayed. Besides many private communications, the works of some of the ablest writers on the internal evidence were forwarded to Kilmany; in acknowledging which, Mr. Chalmers wrote thus to Dr. Stuart:-" Of the other books which I returned, I read Edwards on the Religious Affections,' &c. &c. He is to me the most exciting and interesting of all theological writers: combining a humility, and a plainness, and a piety which the philosophers of the day would nauseate as low and drivelling, with a degree of sagacity and talent which, even on their own field, places him at the head of them all. Poor Fuller's death affected me much.