ECESSITY A D EVIDE CES OF REVELATIO . BY REV. ALEXA DER ELSO .
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God," 2 Timothy m, 16. Our object will be to show, first, the necessity of a revelation ; and, second, some of the evidences of that revelation. I. Every thing in nature gives evidence both of design and goodness. The sun is placed in the center to dispense light and heat, life and power to all around. The earth, by obeying some hidden laws, revolves around this central fire, causing the seasons, and, by its counter revolutions, day and night. We discover that this earth is productive, yielding a- sufficiency, in every clime, for the wants of man, the only rational being upon the globe. Hence, we see that all this goodness is directed to him. We discover, also, by the aid of philosophy, that the laws of nature are admirably adapted for this purpose ; and it would seem, in some instances, that ature stepped aside and formed exceptions to her general rule, for the very purpose of bearing comfort to man. This proves that man is the great object of God's regard. We are thence led to examine man, the favored object of God's love. And, at first, we are struck with the beauty of the structure, and the intelligence that beams from his countenance, unlike any thing that the mortal eye ever beheld. But no less beautiful is the whole physical organization; combining symmetry and strength, beauty and harmony, to a degree unsurpassed by any other object upon the earth. Well might the Psalmist say, ' 'We are fearfully and wonderfully made."
284 ECESSITY A D EVIDE CES OF REVELATIO . From this we ascend a step higher, and examine what distinguishes him from the creation over which he has dominion. We discover what we term mind, with powers that are almost infinite ; capable of separating the constituent parts of air and water, and holding up the very atoms that the God of nature put together to form these elements, and can "send the lightnings, and they go, and say, Here we are and then darting into space, and measuring the distance and weighing those bodies, with accuracy, that are millions of miles distant. This shows us that man was created for some great and important end. From this we are led to examine, not only what man is now, with the light of science beaming upon him, but what he is by nature. We behold the infant in the arms of its nurse, in a degree of entire helplessness, incapable of uttering an articulate sound, and yet we find it subject to affliction. Pain racks its system, and cries are extorted from its lips. And as it progresses, we learn it is not only subject to pain, and disease, and death, but its nature is defiled. Anger lurks within, jealousy tortures its soul, and passion rankles in its bosom. Such is man by nature. ow view him in prime, when all these passions are fully developed, and you will see him eagerly and obstinately pushing his way through life, in pursuit of something the world has been pleased to call happiness ; and although he never finds it, yet he is always in pursuit of it. o less eager is the man of science. He analyzes nature ; examines earth from center to circumference ; ransacks sea and land ; but is equally unsuccessful. There is another characteristic peculiar to man — a consciousness of a supreme Being, and a future state. But what that Being is, or what he requires of him, he can not find out by nature — as the African chief retorted upon the missionary, "I know," said he, "there is a God, but what that God is, whether he desires our worship, or
ECESSITY A D EVIDE CES OF REVELATIO . 285 what kind of worship will please him, I know not." Such is man without revelation. ow, what do we learn from all this ? First, that God manifests goodness in his works ; second, that goodness has man for its object, and that blessings have been lavished upon him. In addition to these already hinted at, he is made susceptible of pleasure and enjoyment in a high degree, and there is given him wisdom and power above all terrestrial objects, and yet he is blind and ignorant — unable to solve those difficulties that agitate the breast of mortals, namely: Shall I live hereafter? What • is the state of that hereafter? Is it conditional? These and other questions are constantly forcing themselves upon the mind of man, which he is unable to answer. In view of man's situation, who would not say a revelation was necessary ? ow, we come to the conclusion, if man stood in need of a revelation, that the goodness of God would cause him to bestow a revelation ; and these two facts, clearly inferable, we take it as evidence that a revelation has been given. II. What are the tests by which we may know we are in possession of this revelation? There ought to be tests that all could apply. If it required a metaphysical investigation, or a mathematical demonstration to determine its truth, the poor unlettered pilgrim, however sincere, would never know he was worshiping God through the channel of his word. Hence, we say, there ought to be such tests as all could apply ; and there are such evidences. 1 . The first requirement is, that it should answer all the important inquiries of the soul; should give us a true knowledge of God and his attributes ; of our origin ; and if fallen, how fallen, and how to regain our standing. And in this blessed book, and in no other, do we find all
that information which is suited to our wants. And if this be not the revelation from heaven, we ask where and
286 ECESSITY A D EVIDE CES OF REVELATIO . what it is? Where shall we look for it? Among the legends of Pagan mythology? Or shall we say it is buried beneath the rubbish of fallen nations ? This would be as preposterous as the fables themselves; for if God has given a revelation for the benefit of mankind, he would certainly protect and preserve it from destruction. In looking over the history of Pagan mythology, we may find many things bearing analogy to the historical parts of the Bible, but in every particular accompanied with such embellishment of romance as to give evidence that they were the production of man. But when we look into the Bible we find it stripped of all this embellishment * and bombast ; its diction pure, chaste, and elevated ; coming down to the comprehension of the humblest capacity, and then soaring in strains too grand for mortal conception — just such as might be expected coming from the Almighty ; at one time stooping to instruct mortals — worms of the dust — the alphabet of salvation, and then riding upon the storm, giving orders to the universe of worlds ; as in creation, at one time stooping to make a pebble by the ocean's side, then a world, now an insect, then an angel, now a few dew-drops to sparkle in the sun's beam, then a myriad of worlds to deck the canopy of heaven. Such we find in his works and his word — a perfect resemblance, that stamps the impress of the same Author upon creation and revelation. 2. A second test is, that it must not only answer all the important inquiries of the soul, but it must produce contentment. In a word, the enjoyment must make the soul happy. In proof of this I need only appeal to the be-
liever's heart. What inward joy, what peace, what unearthly rapture has he often experienced while worshiping God through the channel of his word ! This sensation is felt to be the same in all ages and by every generation
ECESSITY A D EVIDE CES OF REVELATIO . 287 who have enjoyed vital godliness. The Psalmist says, "O come and see what the Lord has done for my soul!" ow, he must have experienced a great change on his *heart, or he could not, as an honest man, have called upon the world to come and witness what did not exist. Again, he says byway of exhortation: " Taste and see that the Lord is good." He not only felt the benign influence on his own heart, but he could recommend, yea, urge it upon others. A similar expression is found in Job. When in deep affliction, and his friends could not prevail on him to acknowledge that he had sinned, he broke forth in language highly sublime, "0 that my words were now written ! that they were written in a book ! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever!" It would be difficult for words to express a sentiment any stronger. ow, what was it of so much importance, in the estimation of this great and good man, that he wanted indelibly written and eternally preserved? "I know that my Redeemer liveth/" The words may differ, but the sentiment is the same with all. Call up from the shades of the grave a Paul, a Peter, a Stephen, and ask them what they enjoyed. Ask the dying martyr at the stake. And while the flames, preying upon his vitals, are carrying his spirit to the skies, he will exclaim, "I am happy; Jesus is with me !" Paul, after having passed through the deep valley of affliction, when about to be offered, throws his mind back over the scene and says, **l have fought the good fight ; I have finished my course ; I have kept the faith." And then looking upward, with that confidence with which the reality of his religion inspired him, he says, " Henceforth there is laid up for me
a crown of righteousness." Approach a Calvinist, an Arminian, a Baptist, and you will find many things in their creeds in which they will differ; yet upon one theme they will agree, provided they
288 ECESSITY A D EVIDE CES OF REVELATIO . enjoy what they profess ; that is, the religion of the Bible affords them peace and contentment under every vicissitude of life. Ask the young convert, who has just been brought from darkness to light, and from the power of sin and Satan unto God, and he will exclaim, "I am happy!" The sensation is the same in all ranks and conditions of men, from the king on his throne to the beggar that bows at his footstool. And this is not only felt in the commencement of the believer's journey, but through life and in the hour of death. 3. Another test is, if this be a revelation from heaven, there must be evident marks of its authenticity throughout the whole book. In looking into the Bible, we find a strain of fine morality running through the entire volume. And although the several books composing the volume were written at different times, by different persons, and in different languages, embracing a space of fifteen hundred years, yet so well do they agree, that they can be embodied in one volume, and they make one entire history of events, all presenting the same great truths and aiming at one great end — to make man better and happier here, and prepare him for an eternity of happiness beyond the grave. 4. A fourth test is its effect upon community. If this is revelation from heaven, wherever it is received it must make society better. A community of individuals, embracing it and having their lives regulated by its precepts, will become better members, better citizens, better parents,
and better companions. A nation that is characterized as Christian, will exhibit a marked difference from that nation that is not. Look at infidel France, under the reign of Robespierre, when the best blood of that nation was caused to flow down the streets, and the guillotine daily groaned under its human sacrifice, occasioned by deepstained infidelity.
ECESSITY A D EVIDE CES OF REVELATIO . 289 Christianity and civilization go hand in hand, and without the former the latter, in its proper sense, is unknown. Experience has taught the world that the happiest way of civilizing a savage people, is by first endeavoring to Christianize them. The Moravian missionaries labored for years, in Greenland, to prepare the minds of that savage people to receive Gospel truth, by first introducing natural religion. But as well might they have expected to melt the icebergs with a moonbeam, as to warm their hearts with so cold a doctrine. But no sooner did they introduce the religion of the Bible, and tell them the story of Jesus, than their icy hearts began to melt. 5. The style of the Bible is an evidence of its divinity, as no other writings equal it in sublimity. The holy character ascribed to its Author, and the grand descriptions of him, all appear real. The description of the gods in Pagan mythology fall infinitely short of the high character of the God of the Bible. The very first description we have of him is characteristic of his matchless power and glory throughout. "He said, Let there be light, and there was light/ ' He only spoke and the earth appeared. He spoke, and the mountains rose and the rivers flowed. He spoke, and darkness disappeared, and the sunshine of worlds burst upon the new-born earth. He spoke, and life, from the chaos of confusion, appeared under a myriad of forms. He spoke, reason dawned, and man walked forth in the likeness of his Creator. And when he saw
fit to reveal himself to man, he appears in like majesty. And it may be doubted if there is a spot upon the globe so calculated, of itself, to inspire sentiments of the awful, as in the deep solitude, the unbroken stillness, in the midst of those craggy mountains, upon whose summit God wrote the law. Contemplate the scene : the Israelites standing in solemn awe, while a deathlike silence pervades the whole host, with the firm belief they had of his 25
290 ECESSITY A D EVIDE CES OF REVELATIO . real presence, beholding the manifestations of his power, while the lightning flashed and the mountain groaned under his awful presence. In the midst of this grandeur, God Almighty descended, and cried audibly, "1 am the Lord thy God," etc. Throughout this entire volume is the same dignity maintained. Isaiah says that he saw, in vision, the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple ; and above and around him were seraphim crying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts : the whole earth is full of his glory." Job represents him as speaking out of the whirlwind. Another, as "silting upon the circle of the earth." Another, " as riding upon the storm." And one of the lesser prophets says, 4 'God came from Teman, and the holy One from Mount Paran : his glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise." 6. The last thing we mention as evidence of the authenticity of the Bible, is the great work of redemption through the Son of God. Man, though pure and holy by creation, had become unholy and rebellious by the fall, and the penalty, with all its weight, was about to descend upon him. The heavens frowned, the earth groaned, and the sword of eternal justice was unsheathed and ready to cut down the offender of God's law. Just at this time,
when despair was about to settle down upon the unhappy pair, the heavens glowed with a pure, a glorious light. A ray dawned upon man. Hope sprang up in his heart, for the Son of God had thrown himself between the offending and offended parties, and warded off the impending blow, This feature, which is the leading feature throughout the Scriptures, proves, beyond doubt, that it is of God. " Greater love hath no man than that he lay down his life for his friend." Some few isolated cases, ill authenticated, have come down to us, where individuals have laid down their lives for their friends. But when man has
done this, he has done all he can do. He can not lay .down his life voluntarily for his enemy; but Christ, while we were yet sinners — enemies — died for the ungodly. Man, therefore, never could have forged the Scriptures ; for this great feature of them is infinitely above his highest conception, and beyond his most extended imagination. " All Scripture is given by inspiration of God."
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