For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.
1. The popular impression is that argument produces belief, and that no justly founded belief can be entertained unless the man has had clear intellectual reasons for that belief.
2. Life contradicts this view by the wholesale. Men believe thousands of things of which they have had no demonstration, and there are multitudes of things which men can demonstrate that they do not believe. What is evidence? It is that which satisfies intellect, conscience, taste, and the emotions. Some men want evidence that touches the intellect; some evidence that touches the imagination; some evidence that touches the taste; some evidence that strikes the moral sense. The evidence that convinces one man has no effect upon another.
3. Now, in regard to evidence, belief has a wide range. In things material, a man believes upon sense-evidence. But in regard to scientific things, there are no evidences that are less reliable than the obvious operations of what are called the five senses. That Huxley and Tyndall will tell you. Here a trained intellect is the master of evidence. An impassioned investigator is carried away. Men insist upon it that you must discharge all feeling, lay aside all pre-conceived notions, and come with your mind as transparent as crystal to the investigation.
4. But the range of truth that is thus brought within the scope of our investigation is relatively small. The truths that work to manhood, to character, and conduct, are innumerable and immensely more important. The great bulk of the questions about which men are to believe or not have reference to a kind of truth that you can never judge by pure cold intellect. All social and moral truths depend upon the affections. A man who carries a purely mathematical mind to the reading of Milton is a fool. A man who should read Tennyson as a microscopist would examine an insect, how preposterous his conduct would be! In the largest department, then, belief depends upon the feelings. I do not mean that it excludes the intellect, but that the investigating intellect is obliged to be in harmony with the feelings that dominate the department where the truth lies. Truths of beauty — and that takes in the whole realm of art — cannot be conceived of by a purely speculative intellect. The intellect must be struck through and through with the elements of the beautiful in order to appreciate it. There is a great deal of mathematics in the science of music; yet music itself cannot be appreciated by the mere man of science without the sense or faculty of music in him.
5. The great religious truths which determine conduct and character cannot be understood except through the state of the heart. The baser animal passions indulged in so cloud the moral feeling and the intellect as to preclude the truth and investigation of it. The natural man cannot discern the things of the Spirit. A man in a rage cannot understand the emotions of peace. A man that is grasping and unfair is not in a state to consider justice and equity. How can a man who is puffed up with self-conceit have any adequate comparison within himself of his moral states? Selfishness so distorts and disturbs the light of the reason that it cannot form a just judgment of truths nor understand them even when they are expounded by others. Recently, at Cornell University, a professor said, "I hope they will never establish an observatory here." "Why?" "Because the locality is utterly unfit for celestial observations. Cayuga Lake every night fills the atmosphere with so much vapour that it is not until late in the day that you can get a clear view of the sky, and hardly three nights in the whole year have been fit for a critical observation of the heavens." The clouds that go up around the human observatory prevent men from seeing clearly. They cannot make observations of celestial things.
6. Notice how careful men are in forming their beliefs on scientific subjects. Although the truths of science are material, largely, yet men feel the necessity of good health, of a clear eye, and of all conditions which render them secure from various adverse interruptions. So far is this carried that men do not trust themselves; there is what is called a "personal equation" among them. When a star in transit passes a given line, and a man records the time exactly of its striking the line, it will happen that a dull brain did not see it for a measurable period of time after a sensitive and quick brain; and the astronomer has a personal equation of his own peculiarities of quickness or slowness, according to rules that have been established, so that in making the additions or subtractions, he always takes it into account as a part of his calculations. This is for the sake of physical observations. Whoever thought of making a personal equation in the judgment of men on great moral questions? Look at the way in which a judge feels himself bound to come to the consideration of facts, law, and reasoning. If he is a naturally obstinate man, and has the shadow of a previous idea in the case, it will take twice as much evidence and coercive logic to dislodge him from his prejudices. An honourable man would refuse to sit on any case in which he was conscious that he had a foregoing disqualification. Now, see how in regard to justice, science, and every department, men are conscious of the disturbing forces felt in one way or another; and see how they prepare themselves to arrive at right judgments and to correct them as much as possible by review and restatement. But compare the way in which men approach these tremendous themes of religion and sit in judgment upon Divine equity, and upon questions of right and questions of duty. See how young men, being somewhat unsettled from their old foundations, plunge into unbelief. They read their evidence in the newspaper, going from their house to their business. "Oh, I have read on that subject; I know all about it." How little have men read, how little have they pondered, how little have they ever had the slightest idea that their judgments have been influenced by their dispositions, by their conduct, by their wishes and longings, by their self-indulgence — how little have they come to form a judgment against the pulling-down influences that act upon them!
7. Now, it is often the case that a true-hearted, simple-minded man, believing the gospels without a particle of intellectual evidence, but with a hungry heart and with a real love of things that are spiritual, is led to believe, I had almost said, without the operation of his reason at all. He is not able to give a reason for the faith that is in him any more than an artist is able to give the reason why he puts in a bit of red there, except that his eye was hungry for it. It is possible for a man pure in heart to come to a just conclusion in regard to mighty truths, that involve time and eternity, in such a way that he will be the laughing stock and the derision of eminent philosophers, or even eminent theologians. But such simple men believe with their heart. The temperature of the heart was such that it inclined them to accept these things, and, accepting them, they believed in God and felt good.
8. See how this is the doctrine of the Bible. Take, e.g., John 1:1-5, "The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." Turn to John 1:20-25. Our Saviour bears testimony again and again in St. John's Gospel, which records His controversies with the conceited, scholarly men of the temple, when He declared to them that He made known to them the invisible truths of God, which ought to be appreciated by moral sensibility, but that they could not see them, and even denied them, on account of the condition of their hearts. This is the Scripture testimony, and it corroborates the experience of men. In secular life men have come to understand that they must prepare themselves before they come to a judgment or appreciate a thing accurately. But in religion men are still asking for intellectual proof that shall come like a mathematical demonstration. They are believing this and disbelieving that, on evidence which does not belong to the subject at all. "Blessed are the pure in heart; they shall see God." Men of distempered heart, unclean and impure, shall never see Him. Beware, then, of the disturbance of your own hearts. Beware of all those judgments that are merely abstract, or factual, as in science. Accept those judgments that come to you from the heart, and report themselves to you irresistibly as true, springing from the highest moral conditions, from conscience, reason, hope, faith, love.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.