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knows nothing distinctly of the rules of the last judgment. Nature can give no account of heaven and hell. Revelation alone pronounces with its awful voice the immortality of the soul. Revelation unveils the eternal world. Revelation makes all its doctrines and all its precepts bear upon the last dread assize, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed—when " the books shall be opened, when the sea shall give up the dead that are in it, and every man shall be judged out of the things written in the books, according to his works."
sanctions of morals. The purity of the code answers to the obligation of the enactments; the means or machinery it employs, corresponds with the importance of the consequences. The doctrines by which it is sustained are the suitable aids and encouragements for duties of such momentous import. An infinite God, an infinite rewarder, an infinite avenger--a judge of omniscient and omnipotent authority, a sentence of unmixed justice, a reward of unparalleled grace, a final and impartial settlement of the disordered state of the world by the Creator and Preserver of all—these are considerations which give a sublimity to the Christian morals, and attach an importance and weight to them which render them the only influential rule of human practice. To talk of morality without religion, is to talk of a legislation without a legislator. To talk of a religion without a distinct and solemn sanction derived from the proper evidences of a divine Revelation, is to talk the language of general, unmeaning declamation, which can neither animate nor control the heart. But to point out the Christian morals expounded in their purity and extent, furnished with ample means of becoming practicable, interwoven with the most powerful motives, and confirmed ultimately by the most solemn and precise sanctions, is to pro
20 Rev. xx. 11–13.
pose the true guide of life, the authoritative arbiter of human duty, the solemn and efficacious motive for the conduct of a reasonable and accountable being.
It adds incomparably to the force of these sanctions, that they are propounded continually by our Lord and his apostles, in the course of those very
discoveries of grace, which at first sight might appear to interfere with them. In the midst of the discourses of Christ, and his exposition of the gospel to the Jews, there are interposed those direct assertions of the universal judgment and its invariable decisions, which prevent any abuse of the grace and privileges offered-whilst the apostles are perpetually reminding their converts, that * God is not mocked,” that we must “all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, and that every man shall receive the things done in the body.'
Nor is it a slight matter, that in the description given by our Saviour of the proceedings of that last day, happiness and misery are adjudged, not on the footing of faith or love, which are hidden principles known only to Almighty God, but on the footing of works, good or evil, manifested before men, and shown to flow from faith in the merits of the Redeemer in the one case, and contempt of him in the other.22
On the whole, then, must confess, when I review this great subject, that the morals taught in the gospel seem to me to place Revelation as far above the reach of merely human invention, and to carry along with them as clear an impress of a divine hand, as the general adaptation of Christianity to the state of man, or the grand and sublime plan of human salvation developed in its doctrines.23 In fact, the argument from the Christian morals, is, if possible, stronger than that from the preceding topics, because, as I have said, it is more intelligible to every human being. 21 Gal. vi. 7; 2 Cor. v. 10.
22 Matt. xxv. 23* Lect. XIV. and XV.
I. The morality of the gospel makes it IMPOSSIBLE, IN THE NATURE OF THINGS, THAT CHRISTIANITY SHOULD BE AN IMPOSTURE. This is my first remark, in concluding this lecture. I do not merely affirm, that the Christian morals strengthen the impression of truth derived from the external evidences, (which is all my argument demands,) but I assert that no wicked men could have invented, or could have wished to propose, or could have succeeded in establishing, such a religion, with such a code of precepts so inseparably united with it and springing from it. From the creation of the world to the present hour, the schemes of impostors have partaken, and from the very constitution of the human mind must partake, of the pride, the ambition, the restlessness, the cunning, the sensuality, the personal interests, the contempt of authority, from which they spring. All the superstitions of Paganism, as well as the imposture of the false prophet, explain themselves on this ground. We see, in the laxity and turpitude of their moral systems, a sufficient agreement with their pretended revelations.
I ask, then, with regard to Christianity, what could be the object--the cui BONO-of an imposture, ac
companied with a code of precepts so consistent, pure, į elevated, complete, and in harmony with every part
of the religion? The case speaks for itself. Such precepts could only have come down from the Father of lights, and have formed part of a Revelation sustained, as Christianity was, by every other species of external and internal testimony.
In fact, the fishermen of Galilee, even if they had been ever so pure in heart, (which the supposition of
imposture makes impossible,) could never have com5 posed a system of duty so new, so peculiar, so holy,
so perfect. See how slowly and laboriously the science of morals, as a philosophical effort, is wrought out, even at the present day, by professed Christians,
and with all the aid of long experience, acute talents, and assiduous study—the defects, the gross defects of these systems are notorious. 24 And yet the morals of the gospel, without any pretensions to scientific arrangement, and composed by men of ordinary talents, amidst persecutions, and exile, and imprisonments, are found to contain the most pure and harmonious system of moral truth. That is, the only perfect code bursts suddenly upon the world complete at once; and the improvement which two thousand years have produced, in those who judge of this subject, and bring the gospel to the trial concerning it, only serves to illustrate the wisdom of divine Revelation by the contrast with human weakness and folly.25
But this consideration is incomparably strengthened, if we turn to the wretchED SYSTEMS WHICH MODERN INFIDELS PROPOSE FOR THE DIRECTION OF MANKIND. I should rather say their want of system—nay, their want of any honest intention to promote morality. They talk sometimes of moral duty, they commend the gospel precepts, they vaunt the light of nature and the sufficiency of human reason but when watch them in detail, you discover that there is neither foundation nor superstructure; neicher principles nor duties ; neither rules nor exhortations in their code of morality. As to authority and sanction, the ablest of them 26 doubt of the immortality of the soul, doubt of a last judgment, doubt of eternal happiness and misery. Were their systems, therefore, ever so perfect, they would have far less force to bind the conscience than the very morals of heathenism. But what, after all, are their systems ? They agree in excluding the divine Being from their theories; but upon no other point. One resolves all
24 See Reid, Stewart, Brown, &c.
& morality into self-love-another into the law of the
state-another into motives of interest-another into what is useful in society—whilst another has recourse to feeling, and asserts that whatever he feels to be right, is right. 7 On these quicksands what durable edifice can arise ? None. There is no bond of society so sacred which they do not burst asunder-there is no personal duty só universally admitted, which they do not impugn--female modesty itself cannot maintain its ground before their coarse depravity. I do not scruple to say that the tendency, and I believe in most cases the design, of our infidel writings, is to dig up the foundation of morals, to efface the distinctions of good and evil, and resign men to the wretched contest of base interests and civil restraints, without a God, without a providence, without a day of retribution, without a futurity.
From such darkness we turn to the soft and healing light of the Christian morality, as the traveller hails the dawn of day after a howling, tempestuous night.
I appeal to every heart before me. ingenuous youth whether he is not horror-struck with the frightful projects of unbelief; whether his whole moral nature is not shocked by their principles; and whether their rejection of Christianity is not an unavoidable consequence of their holding such opinions ? Yes. You can no more reject Christianity, if you are candid and sincere in your inquiries after morality, than you can cast off your accountableness or your personal identity. Such pure morals, working by such means, sustained by such motives, and sanctioned by an eternal judgment, cairy their own divine original with them, and need no detail of arguments.
I ask every
III. HOLD FAST, then, BY THE CHRISTIAN
Remember the argument of this discourse
27 See Leland and Fuller.