Images de page
PDF
ePub

for there was one instance at least (and if one, there might be many) of the understanding being influenced by the heart,—of the opinions and belief being modified by the inclinations.

Who, indeed, is there, who has not had the experience, how comparatively easy a task it is to convince a man by argument, when inclination has been first gained over;—and how hard and hopeless the attempt to satisfy him, when the will is in opposition?-how light the assault required to storm the citadel of the understanding, when the affections and desires have once capitulated; and how desperate the resistance, how determined and pertinacious the holding-out, when the heart is hostile to the offered proposals, or to the grounds, however just and unexceptionable, on which they are presented?" Why do ye not understand my speech ?" said Jesus to the Jews-" even because ye connot hear" (that is, ye cannot bear) "my words."-No where, indeed, are illustrations to be found of the truth of the remarks I

am now making, more striking and more humbling, than in our Saviour's intercourse with his unbelieving countrymen, during his public ministry. That he was the Christ, was attested by proofs without number, of which every one was by itself conclusive. But all their deeply rooted prejudices, all their fondly cherished expectations, all their eager wishes and desires, (the wishes and desires of an unrenewed and worldly spirit) were against the admission of this truth. The consequence was, that to the force of evidence, though clear as the light of the meridian sun, they continued obstinately blind. Every additional proof served only to rouse up their enmity, and inflame their rage; producing and maintaining that state of mind, a more intolerable than which it is not easy to imagine, where there is war between the heart and the judgment;—where there is hatred of the truth in the former, and a powerful witness to it in the latter, and a consequent agonizing conflict between aversion on the one part, and secret, unac

knowledged, resisted conviction on the other; -where, in a word, the man is "divided against himself."-Evidence, in these circumstances, cannot be endured. Every attempt is made to refute and to discredit it; and when such attempts fail, violence, both of words and conduct, is brought to the aid of deficient and baffled argument.-The ac count of the blind man, in the ninth chapter of the gospel by John, presents a highly interesting and instructive exemplification of this unhappy state of mind. The Pharisees first of all do what they can to disparage the character of Jesus, and to fix upon it, in the public mind, the stigma of impiety :—their next endeavours are, to discredit and disprove the miracle,—an increasing irritability evincing itself as the examination of the case proceeds, and as it gradually opens in a manner so contrary to their wishes:-till at length, being fully confronted by the poor beggar himself, with all the simplicity and force of truth, opposed to the inconsistency and chicanery of error; they feel their ground

untenable; they can stand it no longer; they cease to argue, though they do not yield to conviction; defeated in argument, they have recourse to power; they assume the portly attitude of incensed superiority; they revile, and scold, and thunder the anathemas of excommunication against their innocent and helpless victim.

Now, we must lay it down as a position which will not admit of controversy, that in as far as opinions are thus influenced by disposition,-belief, by inclination,-the decisions of the understanding by the state of the heart, -they are fair and legitimate subjects of moral responsibility.-There may, in this view of the matter, be no absurdity in affirming, that moral evil may attach to an opinion, -virtue or vice, to belief or unbelief,-and a just imputation of sin to an intellectual decision. I hesitate not to say, that even in the ordinary every-day concerns of life, this influence of the heart upon the understanding, of inclination upon opinion and belief, has place, though in greater and less degrees,

in an immense preponderance of instances; in not a few of them, I readily grant, in consequence of our natural unwillingness to be lieve it, (another modification of the very same tendency) with hardly any perception or consciousness of it on the part of him by whom it is exemplified. And on the subject of religion, to which alone our present inquiry relates, the authority of scripture unites with observation and experience in convincing me, that there is no exception; that the moral influence of which I speak is universal; none being exempt from it, although the degrees may be various of its natural and acquired force. I dare not qualify this statement. Believing the divine testimony, the testimony of unerring omniscience, which, to every unprejudiced observer, must appear in full accordance with facts, respecting the natural ungodliness of the human heart,-its tendencies to forget the Most High, to " depart from the fountain of living water, and to hew out for itself broken cisterns that can hold no water,"

« PrécédentContinuer »