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The superior excellence of Christianity has been acknowledged by every one, who has compared it with the precepts inculcated by philosophers and legislators most renowned for learning and wisdom. But, how did our Saviour acquire those principles which he has taught ? He was an obscure and illiterate plebeian, who had no means of information in his power: he did not attend the schools of the prophets nor the lectures of the sages, and thereby form a scheme of ethics which he improved by his own reflections. No: he continued for many years engaged in manual occupations, and at once promulgated a system of doctrines and precepts unequalled for sublimity, benevolence and purity, entirely agreeable to the dictates of reason, and conducive to the welfare of mankind. Whence had this man such wisdom, but from his own divine nature, by which he was enabled to teach the way of God in truth.
of God in truth. Shall we not therefore say with St. Peter,“ to whom shall we go but unto Christ, for he hath the words of everlasting life; and we believe and are sure, that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God?"
But, while the general utility of the Christian dispensation is allowed, and the divine authority of its author is recognized, objections have been made against the credibility of many of its doctrines, and the consistency of many of its precepts. Thus it is said, that the existence of the Trinity contradicts all the principles of human reason, and the death of Christ as an atonement for sin is repugnant to our ideas of distributive justice. In answer to these, it may be sufficient to say, that the former subject is a mystery which cannot be comprehended by our limited capacities; but this is nothing wonderful, since we cannot explain several other facts which come within the sphere of our researches; that we know not how the soul and body are united, nor the mode of their subsistence and mutual relation; nor are we acquainted with the power of nutrition and growth which takes place in every animal and vegetable by which we are surrounded. If then we are ignorant of the simple secrets of nature, may it not be expected that we should be incapable of exploring the nature of God, or finding out the Almighty unto perfection ?-With respect to the mediation of Christ, and the benefits thereby procured to us, is it not similar to the plan adopted in the course of providence, by which we are relieved from embarrassments and delivered from calamities by the interposition of our fellow-creatures? If our parents and friends bestow upon us temporal advantages, is it not as likely that Christ should be the medium of conferring upon us spiritual blessings, by the appointment of that God who has provided for us all things pertaining to life and to godliness? Thus, the doctrine of redemption is agreeable to the analogy of nature, and worthy of all acceptation.—But it is objected, that Christianity reveals a scheme which is inconsistent with the general interests of mankind, and therefore is not worthy of that beneficent Being from whom it proceeds. Thus, it is alleged that the principal passions and inclinations of human nature are contradicted by its precepts; that the love of power and riches, of honour and fame, are the great incentives to active pursuits, which must be all denied if we would live as becometh the gospel. But it should be understood, that our nature is perverted in these respects, and it is the design of the gospel to moderate and subdue the unruly affections which prevail in our hearts; that it teaches us not so much how we may be great and rich and respectable here, as how we may by patient continuance in well-doing, secure our everlasting happiness hereafter. For this purpose, it calls us to be poor in spirit, to contemn the world, to resist its temptations, to bear its trials, to fear none of its evils, to live as strangers and pilgrims on earth, to devote ourselves to the service of God and the keeping of his commandments, and so to pass through things temporal as not to forget our interest in things eternal. It cannot therefore be a reasonable objection against Christianity, that it tends not to advance a purfoolish propensities, and moderating our attachments to worldly objects, if we would pass through life with peace and satisfaction. And if we consider, that our present existence is only a state of probation, in which we may be prepared for a happier scene of things, then Christianity will recommend itself as peculiarly adapted to aid us in the prosecution of this important design. For it is a dispensation entirely calculated to enlighten the minds, to purify the hearts, and amend the morals of mankind in general, and to render those who live according to its laws, qualified through the merits of their Saviour for admission into the more perfect society of saints and angels, where they shall gradually advance to greater degrees of holiness and happiness through the interminable ages of immortality. Such is the gracious plan proposed by the Christian religion, and such the purpose for which Christ came into the world; well therefore may we say, that he hath the words of eternal life.
It now only remains, to apply the subject to our edifi. cation and instruction in righteousness.
1. Let us be thankful for the knowledge communicated by the gospel, respecting every subject of natural and revealed religion. While the nations of the earth are ignosant of the living and the true God, and of Jesus Christ whom he has sent; while they know not how they should conduct themselves as rational beings in this world, nor what shall be their fate in the world to come ;-we are instructed by revelation concerning the whole economy which is carrying on by the divine Being for the government of his intelligent creatures. We are taught to worship our Maker in spirit and in truth; to rely on our Redeemer as mighty to save; and to trust that divine providence will guide us through the vicissitudes of this mortal state, till we arrive at happiness in the paradise above. Blessed are they who know the joyful sound which has reached our ears : let us walk worthy of so many mercies, and manifest our gratitude by lives and conversations becoming the gospel.
2. Let us study to prepare ourselves for that future
are requisite to render ourselves partakers of it. Let us cultivate a habit of piety and devotion; let us believe all the discoveries which the scripture unfolds; let us obey all the precepts which it inculcates; let us abstain from all the sins which it prohibits; let us repent of the transgressions of which we have been guilty, and endeavour to maintain a conscience void of offence; and from a consciousness of our unworthiness in the sight of God, let us hope for acceptance at his tribunal through the merits of that Saviour, who is preparing mansions for the righteous, that where he is, there we may be also, even to behold his glory.
3. Let us rejoice that the author and finisher of our faith has afforded evidence of his mission from on high, by the works which he did in his Father's name, and by the gracious words which proceeded from his mouth; let us believe in him as the son of God manifested in the flesh, who was sent to declare to us the whole counsel of God; and that we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we credit the message which he hath delivered, which is able to make those who receive it wise unto salvation. Let us therefore be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding : giving thanks to God, through Jesus Christ, who by him hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
ON CHRISTIAN FAITH.
HEB. XI. 1. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the
evidence of things not seen.
IN the present limited state of our mental faculties, we cannot have such demonstrative evidence of every species of knowledge in which we are concerned, as we shall hereafter attain, when that which is perfect is come, and that which is in part shall be done away. We now see, as through a glass darkly, many truths which, in a more advanced stage of intellectual improvement, shall be perceived with intuitive certainty. In that celestial world, to which the faithful are admitted after death, the most mysterious subjects, which now perplex the human understanding, will be fully unfolded to our view, and appear in the clearest light. The whole scheme of providence, by which mankind have been ruled from the beginning to the end of time, will exhibit the most exact distribution of good and evil, wisely adapted to their respective condi. tions, and necessary for promoting their general welfare. Now, indeed, many discoveries respecting the administration of the Deity are obscure to our conceptions, and many apparent disorders prevail in the natural and moral condition of the human species. These we cannot often reconcile with the goodness and mercy of our beneficent Creator, and in these he displays his sovereign authority exerting itself in dispensations which are inscrutable and past finding out. Yet, as we are taught by experience and scripture, that his tender mercies are over all his works, therefore we believe that while clouds and dark