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THE question once put to the Founder of Christianity, "What is truth?" is one which it deeply concerns every rational and accountable being to have clearly and authoritatively answered. From the confused and contradictory character of the various systems of Philosophy with which the world had been beguiled, up to the advent of Messiah, it can excite no surprise that the Roman governor of Judea should propound this all-important inquiry to one who declared, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth."
From the marked differences of opinion which have not ceased to obtain among the professors of Christianity, some may rashly conclude that the search after religious certainty is a hopeless pursuit that even an examination of "the record which God has given of his Son" may not necessarily issue in the discovery of what confessedly it is so important for man to know.
This solicitude, however, is groundless. For,
in the first place, the actual differences between Christian professors are less numerous and less material than at first sight may be imagined. Many of the divisions which exist among real Christians relate rather to opinions than to principles-to modes of Church government than to the religion itself. For example: As it regards our own Country; it will be found that the Church of England, the Evangelical Dissenters, the Wesleyan Methodists, and the Kirk of Scotland, hold in common those great fundamental doctrines upon the reception of which the Scriptures make the salvation of the soul to hinge. The points on which these classes differ are purely speculative—they affect neither the foundations of faith nor the details of practice. In the second place; the supposition, that God had given to man a Revelation without at the same time enabling him savingly to apprehend it, were highly derogatory to the Divine character; and indeed is not true. No one will deny that it is the prerogative of the Author of the Bible to prescribe the method by which its truths may be perceived and felt. Now from the Scriptures it is clear that the profitable hearing, or even study of their contents is not a mere intellectual process, but that to mental application must be
added a humble, teachable, prayerful spirit. How often has this been illustrated! The page of Inspiration declares that unassisted man cannot "spiritually discern" the things of God; and, to enlighten this moral darkness, the Almighty promises the Holy Spirit to such as diligently seek its bestowment through Jesus Christ, the only medium of access and communication by which it can be obtained. Accordingly, it is ever found that all, who thus come to God for illumination upon points which can be learned only from Revelation, and prayerfully and perseseveringly wait upon Him in the study of his word and the use of his ordinances, are graciously led into all necessary truth, as they are able to receive it. And, ultimately, such persons can humbly affirm, "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen," with a conviction as satisfactory to themselves as is that of the mathematician who feels that he has attained the truth which he sought when he has demonstrated his problem. This, by many, will be stigmatized as enthusiasm. But objectors should recollect, that religious truth, unlike mathematical, is, from its very nature, incapable of demonstration, in the scientific sense of the term. Religious truth must be based upon testimony, and upon
testimony alone. And the only legitimate question here is, whether the testimony be competent -whether it be Divine; and whether it be borne out by fact and experience. Real Christians contend that both these points admit of proof; and, moreover, that they are daily being exemplified. They cheerfully allow, with Archdeacon Paley, that, "in religion, nothing more is known than is proved." But they can, soberly, yet confidently, ask; Are there no living witnesses to the statement of an Apostle-"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God"? Is the sentiment of the sweet singer of Israel never realized by believers under the present Dispensation, in passing through the valley of the shadow of death-"I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me"? Has it ceased to be true, that "he that believeth in the Son of God hath the witness in himself"? Is there not, still, such a thing as "tasting that the Lord is gracious"? "The grace of the Son, the love of the Father, and the communion of the Spirit,"-is this only an abstract speculation?
But although there exists a general agreement as to essential doctrines among large bodies of professing Christians, who nevertheless form