Imatges de pÓgina
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ormer has not prejudged the cause he is examining He is not often led by his passions, still more rarely by his interest, to resist his convictions. While the

secret of the Lord is (obviously) with them that “fear him," the mind of them who fear him not, is generally prejudiced by a retaining fee froin the world, from their passions or their pride, before they enter on the enquiry.

With what consistency can the covetous man embrace a religion which so pointedly forbids him to

“ treasures upon earth?” How will the man of spirit, as the world is pleased to call the duellist relish a religion which allows not " the sun to go “ down upon his wrath ?” How can the ambitious struggle for " a kingdom which is not of this world, ” and embrace a faith which commands him to lay down his crown at the feet of another? How should the professed wit or the mere philosopher adopt a system which demands in a lofty tone of derision,

Where is the scribe? Where is the wise ? Where " is the disputer of this world ?” How will the selfsatisfied Pharisee endure a religion which, while it peremptorily demands from him every useful action, and every right exertion, will not permit him to rest his hope of salvation on their performance? He whose affections are voluntarily rivetted to the present world, will not much delight in a scheme whose avowed principle is to set him above it. The obvious consequence of these “ hard sayings” is illustrated by daily instances. Have any

of the rulers believed on " him?” is a question not confined to the first age of his appearance. Had the most enlightened philosophers of the most polished nations, collected all the scattered wit and learning of the world into one point in order to invent a religion for the salvation of mankind, the doctrine of the cross is perhaps precisely the thing they would never have bit upon; precisely

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the thing which, being offered to them, they would reject. The intellectual pride of the philosopher relished it as little as the carnal pride of the Jew; for it flattered human wit no more than it gratified human grandeur. The pride of great acquirements, and of great wealth, equally obstructs the reception of divine truth into the heart; and whether the natural man be called upon to part either from " great “ possessions,” or “high imaginations,” he equally goes away sorrowing.

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The negligent Conduct of Christians no real Objection

against Christianity--The reason why its Effects are not more manifest to Worldly Men, is, because Believers do not lead Christian Lives.----Professors differ but little in their Practice from Unbelievers.

-Even real Christians are too diffident and timid, and afraid of acting up to their Principles.--The Absurdity of the Charge commonly brought against religious People, that they are too strict.

It is an objection frequently brought against Christianity, that if it exhibited so perfect a scheme, if its influences were as strong, if its effects were as powerful, as its friends pretend, it must have produced more visible consequences in the reformation of mankind. This is not the place fully to answer this objection, which (like all the other cavils against our religion) continues to be urged just as if it never had been answered.

That vice and immorality prevail in no small dea gree in countries professing Christianity, we need not go out of our own to be convinced. But that this is the case only because this benign principle is not suffered to operate in its full power, will be no less, obvious to all who are sincere in their enquiries : For if we allow (and who that examines impartially can help allowing ?) that it is the natural tendency of Christianity to make men better, then it must be the aversion from receiving it, and not the fault of the principle, which prevents them from becoming so.

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Those who are acquainted with the effects which Christianity actually produced in the first ages of the church, when it was received in its genuine purity, and when it did operate without obstruction, from its professors at least, will want no other proof of its inherent power and efficacy. At that period, its most decided and industrious enemy, the emperor Julian, could recommend the manners of the Galile. ans to the imitation of his pagan high priest ; though he himself, at the same time, was doing every thing which the most inveterate malice, sharpened by the acutest wit, and backed by the most absolute power, could devise, to discredit their doctrines.

Nor would the efficacy of Christianity be less visible now in influencing the conduct of its professors, if its principles were heartily and sincerely received. They would, were they of the true genuine cast, operate on the conduct so effectually, that we should see morals and manners growing out of principles, as

other consequences grow out of their proper and natural causes. Let but this great spring have its unobstructed play, and there would be little occasion to declaim against this excess, or that enormity. If the same skill and care which are employed in curing symptomsy were vigorously levelled at the internal principle of the disease, the moral health would feel the benefit. If that attention which is bestowed in lopping the redundant and unsightly. branches, were devoted to the cultivation of a sound and uncorrupt root, the effect of this labour would soon be discovered by the excellence of the fruits.

For though, even in the highest possible exertion of religious principle, and the most diligent practice of all its consequential train of virtues, man would still find evil propensities enough, in his fallen nature, to

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make it necessary that he should counteract them, by keeping alive bis diligence after higher attainments, and to quicken his aspirations after a better state; yet the prevailing temper would be in general right, the will would be in a great measure rectified; and the heart, feeling and acknowledging its disease, would apply itself diligently to the only remedy. Thus though even the best men have infirmities enough to deplore, commit sins enough to keep them deeply humble, and feel more sensibly than others the imperfections of that vessel in which their heavenly treasure is hid, they however have the internal consolati. on of knowing that they shall have to do with a merciful Father, who “ despiseth not the sighing of the “ contrite heart, nor the desire of such as be sorrow" ful;" who has been witness to all their struggles against sin, and to whom they can appeal with Peter for the sincerity of their desires" Lord! Thou “knowest all things. Thou knowest that I love 66 Thee.

All the heavy charges which have been brought against religion, have been taken from the abuses of it. In every other instance, the injustice of this proceeding would be notorious: but there is a general want of candour in the judgment of men on this subject, which we do not find them exercise on other occasions'; that of throwing the fault of the erring or ignorant professor on the profession itself.

It does not derogate from the honourable profession of arms, that there are cowards and braggarts in the army. If any man lose his estate by the chicanery of an attorney, or his health by the blunder of a physician, it is commonly said that the one was a disgrace to his business, and the other was ignorant of it ; but no one therefore concludes that law and physic are contemptible professions.

Christianity alone is obliged to bear all the obloquy incurred by the misconduct of its followers; to sus

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