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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
of science to the arts have added almost more than we can conceive to the material comfort of all classes. Inasmuch as the truths of science obey the general law which we have already stated, in being established only after long investigation and great variance of opinion, it is not surprising that the path of scientific investigation has all along been marked by some supposed want of harmony between science and revelation. For a long time this was seen in connection with astronomy. Doubtless with great hesitation did he hold his opinion, who first dared think the earth moved ; and as late as the time of Galileo, contempt and bitter persecution were the old philosopher's only reward when he proposed this as his belief. "How can this be? For it is opposed to the Bible”: thus they reasoned; and "only after ages of observation and conjecture, during which the phenomena seemeil in hopeless confusion ; after exhausting the efforts of some of the best minds in every age, the central truth of astronomy at length dawned, and the chaos of conjecture became the order of science." Then nature and revelation were found to harmonize; and the Bible was no longer supposed to have been given us as an accurate text-book in physical science. Subscquently the doubt has been in connection with other branches of science. Since the Mosaic account of the Creation, alter calling forth much speculation, may be considered established, through the labors of Christian men of science, such as Hugh Viller and others; now that the unity of the race has been successfully argued against Darwin and his school by St. Hilaire, Prichard, and
many more; just now the question of the antiquity of man is claiming attention. But while Lyell may bring forward many real and supposed facts, which seem to assign a far greater age to the race than is consistent with the biblical account, other considerations are strongly urging us to adopt the statement of the Bible, great as the discrepancies may appear. In connection with this as well as all other such questions, what at first seems to be the solid ground of truth may afterwards be found to have been only airy conjecture; and of one thing we may be assured, that whatever are established as the facts of physical science will be seen to clearly harmonize with the statements of the Bible. It is the sceptic's wish and purpose to make it otherwise; but
1 Hopkins' Lectures on Moral Science, p. 18.
we are not speaking so much of the doubts of sceptics as of the doubts of Christians; and certainly to every Christian the assumption cannot fail to have force, that the God of Nature and of Revelation must be the same. Where then is the difficulty, when there come these repeated cries of "Lo, here,” and "Lo, there," and that the Bible can not be true, for science must be? Is God not in harmony with his works? Or is the trouble to be found in man's wrong interpretation of science, or revelation, or both? When then you are perplexed with doubts of this nature, do not give up the search for truth; but persevere with earnestness, ever keeping your faith in God; and know, that in the end, all that is now obscure shall be made plain. "Prove all things,” but also e hold fast that which is good.”
If all Christians would study the Bible more, and with a simple, child-like temper, asking for the illumination of the Holy Spirit, there would be far less doubt creeping in and fixing itself unawares in their systems of belief. God does indeed permit his children to doubt; but it is his design that this doubt should strengthen their faith ; and this is accomplished, not by fostering and indulging in doubt, but by conquering it. It is an obstacle, which must be overcome; it is the parasite, whose roots take hold of the life of the plant, and which must be removed or it, will surely bring death. We may all find truth in Pascal's words: There is light enough for those whose sincere wish is to see, and darkness enough to confound those of an opposite disposition.”
"Take heed, therefore, how ye hear.”—Luke viii. 18. In securing a harvest, abundant and of good quality, three things are obviously necessary ; suitable seed; suitable ground; suitable culture. If either fail, the harvest fails. Under this figure of husbandry our Lord illustrates the preaching and the effects of the Gospel. So he couples sowing and preaching, the state of the ground, and the state of heart in the hearer, the harvest of the field and Christian fruits. The text calls attention to the state of heart in the hearer.
1. There should be some previous Preparation for Hearing.
1. Some season of quiet and meditation at home. Many religious services are lost while one is getting into a mood to profit by them.
2. All secular, unreligious business and cares should be left at home. Worldly plans concerning farms and merchandize, contracts and visits, as well as errands and matters of news, hinder the proper hearing of the word. If these are allowed to follow the hearer to the place of worship, then his mind will be as a "way side," and the good seed sowed there will be "trodden down."
3. The entire service of worship must be regarded as a service to God. It must not be prepared, enjoyed or criticised as a literary, oratorical or musical entertainment. It is religious and spiritual. The church is not a lyceum, or the pulpit a platform, or the orchestra
4. There should be much prayer for and in the hearing of the word. This prayer should be, (a) for one's self, (b) for others, and special hearers, (©) and for the preacher; and this through the service.
5. The hearer should carry to the service a warm, Christian heart. Preaching to cold hearts is like sowing seed in a cold, sleety, December day. A cold audience is likely to insure a cold preacher, and then the seed will rattle on frozen ground.
II. The Way to Hear.
1. With Reverence. (a) For the day; "Remember the Sabbath day,” etc. (6) For the Place ; “Keep thy foot when thou goest into the house of God," etc. (c) For the Service; “Praise waiteth for thee, O God,” etc. (d) For the Word ; “How love I thy law," etc.
Some study the dress and manner of the audience; some are rest
less and uneasy; some listless and dreamy, and some sleep like Eutychus.
2. Regard should be had to the Truth, rather than to its dress or delivery. As some worldly people go to church to study the fashions, so some to study the dress, and style and manner of the truth preached. Leighton in commenting on this text quaintly and forcibly says, while speaking of the different results from the same sermon: "Whence the difference? Not from the seed. That is the same to all. Not from the sower neither. For though there be divers and of different abilities, yet it hangs little or nothing on that. ... The seed he sows being this word of life, depends not on his qualification in any kind, either of common gifts or special grace. People mistake this much. And it is a carnal conceit to hang on the advantages of the minister, or to eye that much. The sure way is to look up to God, and into thine own heart.
If received into a clean and honest heart, it will fructify much.”
3. If not always personally gratified with the service, remember. that other hearers have other tastes and necessities, and like different topics. There were early hearers who preferred Apollos and Cephas to Paul.
4. Hear with self-application. The profited hearer is willing to be reproved, instructed, advised and led. Too many hear for others, and they give away more sermons than dollars.
5. While hearing, a deep sense of accountability for the Gospel should be felt. “The earth, which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God; but that which beareth thorns and briars is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing, whose end is, to be burned.”
And so we see why the Gospel is a savor of death unto so many who hear it. They do not take heed how they hear.
“For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?”—Mark viii. 36, 37.
The asking of a question is often the strongest possible affirmation; as in the proverb, “What can the man do that cometh after the king?"
These questions of our Saviour teach, 1. That a man may lose his soul.
2. That he may lose it in such a sense that the possession of the whole world would be of no value to him.