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been by this time sufficiently discussed, for intelligent men to have no doubt of their authenticity; and we should even more readily suppose that the Christian, who professes to believe these truths, would accept without a moment's hesitation whatever was the word of God; but the fact is, that sceptics and infidels continue to vaunt their disbelief in a God, or in a Bible, though in so doing, they are only hurling their weapons in vain against the solid rock; and Christians are still found doubting and questioning, because they can not understand all that they find in the Bible, or, it may be, can not reconcile it with short-sighted human reason.
Now, although, in reference to God and his word, the direct command is "believe," and not "doubt,” yet our general statement, in reference to the use of doubt as a means of establishing truth, holds good; for all the doubts of Christians or sceptics, through all the centuries, have only the more confirmed God's truth. The Christian's doubts are a trial, a discipline, to which God subjects him; and from which, if he use them aright, he will come forth happier and stronger. It may be dark for a time, the gloom of doubt and fear may seem great, that faith can hardly pierce the depressing clouds ; but the eye of faith shall never wholly grow dim ; however great the darkness, there shall always be some light, and in God's good time, the " perfect day,” and with the light shall come hope and strength.
What then are some of the forms of doubt which God permits to his children ; and what the discipline connected with these, by which their faith may be strengthened ?
The first general form of doubt which we will notice, is in reference to the dealings of God's providence. How common is this among professed Christians! God, for his own purposes, removes some dear friend by death ; or he lets riches take to themselves wings and fly away; or be sends war, or pestilence, or some other great national calamity; and in each and all these cases, how commonly are Christians found questioning, complaining, doubting; even, sometimes, almost doubting whether God still reigns, and refusing to be reconciled to his holy will. But God knows that men will thus doubt_" Thou understandest my thought afar off ”- and it is his purpose that these
doubts, as well as the previous trials which caused them, should test and strengthen the faith of his children. From doubting whether he be still a God of goodness, he leads them on to know that he is a friend better than any human friend, and that treasure in heaven is better than all earthly riches. From doubting whether he still reigns, he brings them to know that he has not forsaken the earth, but that he is the righteous ruler of the nations.
We may remark, under this first general head, that men ought always to remember, in their own individual concerns, that, while God's providence extends with a sure care to the most minute matters of life, he enjoins upon them to make all reasonable use of the means put in their power for furthering the kind designs of this providence. Isaac Taylor well says, that
“ He who in conducting the daily affairs of life, has acquired the settled habit of calculating rather upon what is possible, than upon what is probable, naturally slides into the mischievous error of paying court to fortune rather than to virtue ; nor will his integrity or his principles of honor be at all strengthened by the mere metonomy of calling fortune--providence."
What man has the right to ask God to keep him from danger or from sin, and then recklessly expose himself to either, and blame God's providence because it does not preserve him? Let such foolish ones doubt God's providing care : justly would he give them over to doubt, to their own destruction ; for their conduct is not a trust, but a contempt of God's providence.
The remaining forms of religious doubt to be considered may be arranged under the one head of doubts in connection with the truths of the Bible.
Under this head we notice general doubts in regard to the Bible, as a whole, being the word of God. If we believe that God has not given us a revelation in the Bible, this is Deism. The Deist believes in one God, and that he created and governs the world, but that his only revelation to man is through nature. Thus what is called natural religion is with him the only guide. But that a Christian should be tempted to become a Deist, that he to whom God has revealed himself in mercy through Jesus Christ by means of the Scriptures, could ever so far err, as to question the divine origin of these Scriptures, would hardly be expected. Yet such is sometimes the fact, as could be shown from the recorded experience of many Christians. We are far from asserting that such doubts could ever so take possession of a Christian, as to become an habitual state of mind. This we believe impossible. But we believe it is possible for various causes, such as physical weakness, wrong education, etc., to keep one who is really a Christian, perpetually oscillating between hope and fear. Dr. Arnold's words confirm this :
* Natural History of Enthusiasm, p. 121.
“ He may be perplexed with doubts all his days; nay, his fears lest the Gospel should not be true, may be stronger than his hopes that it will. This is a state of great pain, and of most severe trial, to be pitied heartily, but not to be condemned. I am satisfied that a good man can never get further than this ; for his goodness will save him from unbelief, though not from the misery of scanty faith.”l
How many doubting Christians can respond, with sad earnestness, "the misery of scanty faith !” Let them not however despond, but rather heartily resolve, once more, to be rid, if possible, of this burden of doubt. Let them see to it that the body presents no obstacle to spiritual light and comfort. Each part of our being has its relations to every other part; let them remember this, and, as a condition of the highest spiritual growth, preserve, as far as possible, vigorous physical health. Neither let any known sin stand in the way of spiritual attainment. What but doubt and confusion can those expect, who are striving to form a compromise between darkness and light, sin and holiness ? "Ye can not serve two masters.” Moreover, let such doubting ones study the evidences of Christianity. God has not left his truth without means of confirmation to the minds of reasonable beings. And we can not be too thankful for this; that in hours of darkness, we may again consider those many proofs which wise and good men have set in order, to show the divine origin of Christianity.
Doubt in regard to particular doctrines of the Bible is not unfrequently found in the case of men of much intellectual power,
1 Life and Correspondence, Vol. I, p. 279.
who are loth to believe any doctrine or opinion which does not convince the understanding, though it be the word of God. They are ever assuming that God does not require of men to believe anything which they can not comprehend. But while God has explained to us every truth which we need to understand, he has also revealed many truths which are just as necessary for us to believe, though there be not a word of enlargement or explanation, but only the accompanying assertion,"thus saith the Lord.” Such, for example, is the doctrine of the Trinity. How three persons can co-exist in one, it is certainly beyond human power to understand, though some have attempted to explain it; yet that such is the Divine Nature, we are plainly taught in the Bible. And shall we not believe it, because we can not understand it? But it is a mystery. Well; and shall we not believe a mystery, simply because it is a mystery? Let us carefully question our own experience, and see if we are not every day believing, and acting upon the belief of what we do not understand. Can you explain the existence or the subtle phenomena of light, that element or agent (which is it?) that so mysteriously surrounds all objects, or is as mysteriously removed? Do you perfectly understand how and why it is, that this same clear, colorless medium is made up of seven distinct, positive colors ? But you do not hesitate to believe. Think again of all the countless forms of animal and vegetable life. Can you tell me, in one single instance, what this life is ; what this vital principle, whose removal we call death? Is there no mystery here? But you do not hesitate to believe. Is any more emphatic illustration needed? If so, we may say, that man is to himself, the greatest mystery of all. He can no more explain his own life than he can that of the lower animal or the plant. But, more than in the case of these, he has a mind, a soul; yet all his speculations ever since the world began have not brought him a sure answer to these two plain questions; what is the nature of the soul? and, where, in the body, is it located ?
Let us not, then, doubt any truth of God's word, merely because it is a mystery. Let us not be puffed up with pride of intellect; but rather, keeping in mind how great must be the distance between the finite and infinite, cherish the spirit enjoined in Christ's words, when he says, Whosoever shall not re
ceive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.” Christianity does indeed present difficulties to our finite comprehension, it would be strange if it did not, but it is just these difficulties which test and strengthen faith. Moreover, every inquiry only more assures the Christian that the difficulties of scepticism and infidelity are far greater than those of Christianity; and in this way his reason and his faith may become reconciled.
But in these days of liberal Christianity, there are not a few, who call themselves Christians, who do not scruple not only to doubt but to emphatically reject certain whole books of Scripture, and retain others. One questions the authority of the Pentateuch; another affirms that the entire Old Testament has not the same divine sanction as the New, and is to be received, if at all, only with many limitations; while others, again, explain away the whole force of the New Testament, making Jesus Christ to have been nothing more than a good man, and the miracles and parables to have been only myths and stories handed down by tradition. Now, whether such persons can be true Christians, is for God alone to say; we do not, in judging systems, necessarily judge men who may be temporarily left in error ; you are not responsible to me for your belief, any more than I to you for mine ; but we are both alike responsible to God. While some may be confident that they have forever disproved parts of the Bible, we are just as sure, that God must be the God of the whole Bible or of none at all; and we suggest a careful reading of this warning: "If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
Perhaps the most common form of doubt at the present day arises from the supposed want of harmony between Natural Science and revealed Religion. Progress in physical science has become the distinguishing characteristic of the nineteenth century. Nor has this been only an advancement in the knowledge of nature's laws, but practical improvements have followed closely upon any newly established theories. Thus has the world been brought to hold larger and more liberal, as well as truer views of man and nature; and at the same time, the various applications