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would allow. But the altercations between the husband and the wife, in the lowest grade of society, and where there is no affection, and no decorum, hardly equal the quarrels of Jupiter and Juno, as they are given to us by Homer himself. Indeed crimes which would bring lasting infamy upon any man, were ascribed without hesitation to the heathen gods by their own worshippers. Instead of this ignorance of God, christianity furnishes correct ideas holding out a God, eternal, spiritual, immutable, a perfect pattern, and sustaining a character infinitely lovely, and infinitely awful.
Christianity equally excels heathenism in its influence on society. What we mean by virtue had no name among the most polished nations of the heathen world. But where things are, there are always names for them. The virtue of Greece, and Rome, was the courage of the gladiator; the virtue of the christian is the courage of him who fights the good fight and subdues himself. Here virtue shines the ornament of the human character, and works the good of mankind. There it glares the ferocity of savage nature, and exerts itself but to destroy. Revenge is heathenism; forgiveness is christianity. The religion of Christ has wrought great, and happy changes among nations. It must therefore be allowed to be a very powerful antidote.
But this religion, in this general view of it, must no more be estimated by the effects which a partial application has produced than the tendency of fire to warm and limber, the cold and benumbed body, should be estimated by the heat received from a single coal over which a man sits shivering. If christianity had its full operation; if its precepts were obeyed, what rulers would it make; what subjects; what ministers; what people; what husbands; what wives; what parents; what children;
what neighbors; what friends of all? For every station in life Christ has given us rules of conduct; and they are perfect. All that is proper and desirable in life being inculcated by christianity, its value in society, if we would see the whole amount of it, should be rated by what an entire obedience to it would exhibit.
If christianity produces many beneficial effects in society; and might produce many more; and all in the highest degree; it follows necessarily, that man, in his individual capacity, is benefitted by it. When we indulge passion we are in danger of injuring others and we are sure of injuring ourselves. When we subdue it we prevent injury, to ourselves, and to others. The heathen, and the christian, as the present comforts, stand on very unequal ground; and the prospect of futurity is so different to the two, that the pen declines the task which the mind cannot imagine, Fruition of what is, and anticipation of what is to be, are the two supports upon which he who is enlightened from above, may lean and find himself at rest. Here the sorrows of life meet with their alleviation.
In defending the gospel we should sacrifice too much, if we neglected to add to the foregoing things the inherent quality which it contains to convince the mind of its truth, to show God in Christ.
The soul that sees him or receives sublimed
More worthily, the powers she owned before. How shall we know, that the doctrines of scripture are communications made from heaven, and deserving of our acceptance! Our Lord refers us, not so much to external testimony, as to the simple matter of obedience, or experi
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. Arguments, however numerous, and strong, and from whatever quarter drawn, may leave us in unbelief unless we adopt the method here prescribed. Speculative belief, connected with the unbelief of the heart, is as much worse than thorough infidelity, as sins against light are worse than sins of ignorance. They deserve to be beaten with many stripes who know their Lord's will, and refuse to comply with it.
Religion, and consequently, revelation, is spoken of by its author not as a mathematical problem to be examined, and solved; but as a table to be approached; as an entertainment to be eaten. O taste and see, that the Lord is good! Eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. He that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
In this view of religion let us see what must be the readiest way to be satisfied about it.
We will suppose a man now brought into the world, and set before us, with powers of body, and faculties of mind, as complete as we possess; feeling uneasiness from hunger, but knowing nothing of food, and having no instructive inclinations to it. Pitying his situation, as we naturally should, how should we proceed with him. Should we re&son with him, descanting upon the properties of bread, and telling him of the structure of his own body? Should we inform him, that his teeth would grind the food; that his stomach would digest it; that the requisite nutriment would be carried in proper vessels, to every member, and through every part of him, and that whatever might be useless, would not remain as a load, but be removed by perspiration, and otherwise as the case might require? Anatomical lectures, and lectures on grain, would be foreign from our thoughts, and of no service to the suffering man. We should rather say; Here, eat; and if we could not make him understand this, we should by signs invite him, or by force constrain him, to eat; knowing, that he would understand far more of the value of bread from eating it, than from any reasoning about it.
God, if I mistake not deals with us in this manner, and we shall never know how gracious he is, unless we sit down at his table and partake of the feast which he has prepared for the soul.
Arguing in defence of the gospel, we shall, by no means, pass by miracles, and prophecies; the confessions of wicked men; and the testimony of devils. But, to descant upon these things now, the time forbids me. We are it was observed to defend the gospel by argument. But, like the merchant, we may show samples of our goods; and bring out, as occasion requires,
Secondly. Those who defend the gospel have much occasion for the aid of prayer, or to vary the expression, without altering the meaning, have much occasion for the help of heaven. Who is sufficient for these things! Strengthened by Christ, we may maintain the cause; but combatting in our own strength we shall certainly be put to flight. Paul was so sensible of the benefits resulting from prayer, that he was not satisfied with praying himself, but enjoined it upon
his brethren to pray for him. If the inspired apostle could not officiate in his ministerial character to advantage, without prayer, the necessities of our own case must be obvious.
The difficulties of every profession are best known to the persons who are engaged in it; and this observation applies, with special force, to the ministry. People in general think it an easy matter to preach; and account the whole life of a minister rather pastime, than labor. But I think myself happy brethren, and fathers, because I shall answer for myself this day, before you, touching all the things whereof we are accused of the world. My appeal will be to your own experience, concerning the use and necessity of prayer, in defending the gospel.
The Bible offers almost innumerable, and quite inexhaustible, themes, for meditation. But what minister has not read for days, and that repeatedly, in the course of his life, without being able to find a text, being thus like a person starving at a table plentifully spread. The prayer of every private christian, and more especially of every minister, for himself, should be Lord open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law! A passage may be read a thousand times, and appear to be no foundation for a discourse, which is like the horn of plenty, and will so be viewed by us, when in a favorable mood.
It is no uncommon thing for us to ask each other for a text. How much beiter should we do to apply to God? Indeed, on all occasions, direction in this affair, should be sought. Is this superstition? Does not he who oversees a company of laborers, and gives them instruction about their work, first consult the higher authority under which he himself acts? If this is proper, and the practice among men in ordinary matters, it surely should be our practice in things of so much higher concern.
The whole volume of scripture is good but some particular scriptures are better adapted to the audience, or to individuals, at some times, than at others. God knows how our people feel, and what will strike them most forcibly,
and most profitably; and who can think, that he will not grant his guidance to us, if we ask the blessing of him? He who bestows all good things liberally, and without upbraiding, will have no inclination to withhold help in a case of this kind.
Another thing to be prayed for is composure of mind. We shall make a poor defence without this. It is needful, that we wait on the Lord without distraction. We live in the midst of so much confusion, and have such jarring elements in our own sinful nature, that the voice, peace; be still; is as necessary to our progress, as it was to the safety of the disciples, when the storm came down upon the lake, and opened every where, a watery grave. Our services will be animated, or dull; easy, and pleasurable, or fatiguing, and disagreeable; according to the state of our hearts. This is the thermometer, marking the degrees of heat and cold within us.
To be carnally minded is death; to be spiritually minded, is life, and peace. Carry the world's pleasure or troubles into the desk, and preaching will be like an attempt to kindle a fire by throwing on water. The earth was made to tread upon. When we keep it under our feet, we breathe in the atmosphere of heaven, and act the part of good soldiers of Jesus Christ. James, and John, never would have been styled Boanerges, had they persisted in wishing to sit, one on the right hand, and the other on the left, of their master, in an earthly kingdom. When they requested these dignities, the tide of religion was at low ebb in their souls, and they would have preached but poorly, if they had undertaken. The temper of Paul seen in the following words, is truly enviable, and we should ever pray for it. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. Such elevation of soul makes the duties of the ministry easy, and it cannot be except where there is great composure of mind.
In defending the gospel, prayer is to be resorted to farther, with a view of collecting people to hear. The greater the assembly, the more numerous are the witnesses to the