« السابقةمتابعة »
in the sinner of more decorous habits, as when the unrestrained profligate renounces, with abhorrence, his accustomed enormities.
We hence perceive, that the evidence, which supports the christian religion, is abundant and various.
In addition to the miracles, which the Saviour wrought; the prophecies, which were fulfilled in him, or delivered by him, and since accomplished;—in addition to all the evidence resulting from the rapid progress, which this religion made, when first promulgated, the reforming influence, which it has had on those, who have embraced it, and, through their means, on the habits and morals of nations, is, of itself, a distinct proof. In the dawn of the christian era, to what distant and various nations were the tidings of salvation conveyed! To what multitudes was the arm of the Lord revealed! How great was the change, which christianity effected in those, who, in consequence of receiving it "turned from dumb idols, to serve the living God, and to wait for his Son from heaven!" Every instance of real conversion, is fresh proof of the divine commission of Christ; -the divine origin of that blessed religion, which thus transforms the heart! Christianity is immutable; its influence is uniform. They who embrace it now, have the same temand general traits of character, as those, to whom the apostolic ministry was made "the power of God unto salvation." The same remark may be applied to all pious christians, who have lived during the intermediate ages. To use the language of the New Testament, "They have all drunk of the same spirit." Now, could we bring into one view all the vices, which christianity has either suppressed or exterminated, and all the private, social, and public virtues, to which it has given rise, in the various nations, to which its light has extended, and during the eighteen centuries of its existence on earth, how great would be the mass of evidence hence arising to support its claims to a divine origin! This evidence is perpetually increasing. It is a broad river which widens and deepens in its progress.
We conclude by a few remarks by way of inference and improvement.
1. We perceive the impropriety, not to use severer lan guage, of representing reason and religion, as standing in a hostile attitude in reference to each other. No man lives rationally, we have shown, who does not live piously. Reason and a well instructed conscience, will acquit no person, whom religion condemns. The sentence, pronounced at one of these tribunals, is never reversed at the other. At both the sinner meets precisely the same reception. For the truth of this, I might appeal to every person in this assembly, whether saint or sinner. When the christian finds, that the language of scripture is that of remonstrance, reprehension, and terror, in relation to his spiritual sloth, his unchristian feelings, or his undeniable apostasies, does he obtain relief by appealing from her decision, to that of reason and conscience? Does reason approve ingratitude in one, who has been redeemed by the Son of God? Does she approve inaction, insensibility, and a careless deportment, in one, who is urged to "fight the good fight of faith," and thus to "lay hold on eternal life;"-in one, of whom it is said, "To him, that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father, on his throne?"-When, from the loud remonstrances both of the law and the gospel, the sinner retires in solitude, there to examine his character and life by the standard of reason, are his fears allayed; are confidence and self approbation restored? Does his understanding ever take part with him against the "oracles of God?" The more accurately and profoundly he examines the nature and tendency of a sinful life, in view of the divine law and character,-in view of his own dependence,in view of that immeasurable field, which immortality lays open both to his fears and his hopes,-in view, both of what he knows as to the frailty of this life, and of what he is taught in religion, as to the duration of another,does the sinner ever feel himself acquitted for his neglect of Christ
and salvation? Does he feel himself justified, as a man,— as a rational being? Does he ever come to this conclusion, from a dispassionate view of his powers, relations, and prospects, that, whatever be the language of his Creator, in regard to him, it ought to be that of approbation? Recollect the day, or the month, or the year, when, after having been somewhat disquieted by this passage of scripture; "What is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul; or, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul;" upon deliberate examination, you found your mind tranquillized by perceiving, that habitual neglect of God and obedience to your passions, are, in no measure, inconsistent with the reason, dignity, and interest of man! No; a day, when reason condemned religion, or assented to the claims of sensuality, impiety, and unbelief, has not been found in the long era of six thousand years: it will not be found in all the unceasing revolutions of eternity!
2. From the preceding discourse it appears, that they, who are employed in diffusing the light of christianity, are prosecuting the most noble object. If christian worship and christian obedience constitute a reasonable service,-if, in proportion as men become christians, they return thereby to a state of intellectual and moral soundness, how honorable, how rational,-how benevolent is that desire, which is now so extensively felt and warmly cherished by the church of God, that the darkness, which broods over the pagan nations, may be dispelled, and that light may become resplendent, where it now shines but with tremulous and glimmering ray? Whether we always prosecute this object with right motives, or by the best means, may fairly enough be made a question; but let no man doubt, whether the object itself is entitled to human attention:—let no man doubt, that it would justify, nay, that it imperiously demands, far greater exertions, than those, which the christian world is now making to accomplish it. It is the same object, for which the Son of God became incarnate, and for which
his apostles encountered all the labors and perils of their arduous ministration!
3. If the truth of christianity is shown by its legitimate moral effects, we perceive how much the interests of religion are affected by the character of those, who profess themselves its votaries. In no unimportant sense, my. brethren, every christian is placed on missionary ground. Within the sphere of his influence are many, who live "without hope, and without God in the world." If, in his disposition and habits the temper of Christ is rendered conspicuous, it will be likely to produce alarm and conviction in those, who are conscious of irreligion. Here is a kind of missionary service, to which we are bound, permit me to say, even more strongly than to any other. To send preachers among the destitute, whether at home or abroad, becomes a duty only in reference to the end to be accomplished; whereas the general virtues of a christian life, be. sides being conducive to a similar end, possess inherent excellence, and are of eternal and immutable obligation. It was, therefore, with good reason, that our Saviour said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in
ROMANS ii. 15.
-Their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts, the mean while, accusing, or else excusing, one another.
THESE words are part of a sentence, in which St. Paul describes the character and condition of pagans. He shows, that, though destitute of supernatural revelation, they have, in common with all men, certain degrees of light communicated to them, relating to God and moral obligation. "The invisible things of God, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things, that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead."——Again, "When the Gentiles, who have not the law, do, by nature, the things, contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves. Which show the works of the law written on their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile, accusing or else excusing one another." By the light, communicated to the Gentiles, are meant their rational powers, taken in connexion with all those objects of nature, in contemplating which they may be employed.
The apostle may, therefore, be considered, as affirming,