By James H. Brookes
ITS PRACTICAL, EFFECTS.
Infidelity has made much of the fact that the Church has engaged in bitter persecutions, that it has excited wars and massacres, that it is broken up into discordant and disputing factions, that it despises the poor, and that it contains vast numbers of hypocrites and rascals. It is strange that infidelity does not see the tribute of praise it offers to the Bible in these accusations, because the Bible condemns the very things of which they complain. It is true that under the Law God used His people, as He might have used famine or flood, to punish vile nations; but under Grace He forbids His children to resist violence. It is a little difficult to see why infidels find fault with the Bible for denouncing the evils they themselves denounce.
“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another,” Jno. xiii. 34; “Resist not evil,” Matt. v. 89; “Recompense to no man evil for evil,” Rom. xii. 17; “Love suffereth long, and is kind,” 1 Cor. xiii. 4; “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a complaint against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye,” Col. iii. 13. “Let brotherly love continue, “Heb. xiii. 1; “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me,” Jno. xvii. 21; “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all,” Eph. iv. 3-6.
As to the personal character and conduct of believers the Bible is equally plain. “Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men,” 2 Cor. viii. 21. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things,” Phil. iv. 8. “Let him that stole, steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may give to him that needeth,” Eph. iv. 28. “That we should remember the poor,” Gal. ii. 10. “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds,” Col. iii. 9.
Those who are despicable according to the Bible are fully described: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. “But fornication and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not once be named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient; but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God,” Eph. v. 3-5.
“God spake all these words,” saying, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”; “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image”; “Thou shalt not take the name of. the Lord thy God in vain”; “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”; “Honor thy father and thy mother”; “Thou, shalt not kill”; “Thou shalt not commit adultery”; “Thou shalt not steal”; “Thou shalt not bear false witness”; “Thou shalt not covet.” The same God said, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging,” Prov. xx. 1; “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink, that addest thy venom thereto, and rankest him drunken also,” Hab. ii. 15; “Swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath,” Jas. v. 12;. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father, is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world,” Jas. i. 27.
It is certain that none can object to these precepts, except those of vicious habits and vile tastes, Who object simply upon the ground that the Bible makes no allowance for the sins they are determined to indulge. But this only shows how supernatural are the requirements of the Book, and how unnatural it is to yield them a prompt obedience. Every one admits that if its injunctions were faithfully carried out, all houses of prostitution, all gambling hells, all drinking saloons, all prisons would close their doors, all criminal courts would be abolished, peace would prevail hi every family, good order hi every community, and the whole country would rejoice in the truth of the Word, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people,” Prov. xiv. 34.
The Bible does more for man than to enable him through grace to lead an upright life, and to secure the salvation of his soul. It assures him of protection under the watchful providence of God, Matt. x. 29, 30; it pledges the unfailing companionship of the Lord Jesus Christ, Heb. xiii. 5, 6; it promises the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit to help his infirmities, Rom. viii. 26. It does more for him still, for sincere believers can say, ‘‘Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” 2 Cor. iv. 17. Already they can raise the song of triumph: “O death, where is thy sting? 0 grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” 1 Cor. xv. 55-57.
“Try it,” says Coleridge. “It has been in existence eighteen hundred years; and has one individual left a record like the following? Both outwardly and in the discipline of my inward acts and affections, I have performed the duties which it enjoins, and I have used the means which it prescribes. Yet my assurance of its truth has received no increase. Its promises have not been fulfilled; and I repent me of my delusions.”
Dr. Adolph Saphir in the book previously quoted, tells of Gen. Schmidt, a battle-scarred veteran, one of the bravest officers in the Prussian army. Dining in the palace -with Frederick the Great, lie was asked by the king why be believed the Bible? “Because,” he replied, “it reveals to me a Father who numbers the very hairs of my head; because it reveals to me a Saviour who expiates every one of my sins; because it reveals to me a heaven where I am to spend an everlasting and. blessed eternity.”
Contrast this with the confession of a peripatetic peddler of stale blasphemy. Standing over the coffin of a brother, touched no doubt to the heart once at least, he exclaimed, “Life is the narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry.” Poor Ingersoll!
Strauss, the famous German infidel, says in one of his latest books: “The misery caused by the consciousness of onr faults and the reproaches of conscience, is relieved by Christianity. Through its doctrine of an expiatory atonement, the desolate feeling, that we are the blind victims of chance, vanishes before the sheltering arms of Providence, and the darkness of the gloomy night qf our earthly life is illuminated by the prospect of an immortal and heavenly blessedness.”
Prof. Hegard of the University of Copenhagen, once a, leader of Atheism, says in the Preface to the last edition of his Works: “The experiences of life, its sufferings and griefs, have shaken my soul and broken the foundation upon which I formerly thought I could build. Full of faith in the sufficiency of science, I thought to have found in it a sure refuge from all the contingencies of life. The illusion is vanished; when the tempest came, which plunged me in sorrow, the moorings, the cable of science, broke like thread. Then I seized upon that help which many before me have laid hold of. I sought and found peace in God. Since then I have certainly not abandoned science, but I have assigned to it another place in my life.”
When we reflect upon the purity of heart, the integrity of character, the uprightness of conduct, the holy abstinence from even an improper desire or thought, required by the Bible, and its power to comfort, to cheer in a dying hour, as seen in the heroic martyrdom of millions of Christians, and in the triumphant departure of millions more, it is difficult for a just man to resist the conclusion, that “God spake all the words.’*