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for a reward, which none but the pure in heart can receive, or could relish.
The duties of piety, as far as the heart is concerned, were not much attended to by the heathen lawgiver. Cicero coldly ranks them with the social virtues, and says very little about them. The sacrifices were mere ceremony. And what the Stoics taught of resignation to the will of heaven, or to the decrees of fate, was so repugnant to some of their other tenets, that little good could be expected from it. But of every Christian virtue piety is an essential part. The love and the fear of God must every moment prevail in the heart of a follower of Jesus; and whether he eat or drink, or whatever he do, it must all be to the glory of the Creator. How different this from the philosophy of Greece and Rome!
In a word, the heathen morality, even in its best form, that is, as two or three of their best philosophers taught it, amounts to little more than this: Be useful to yourselves, your friends, and your country; so shall ye be respectable while ye live, and honoured when ye die; and it is to be hoped ye may receive reward in another life. The language of the Christian lawgiver is diffe
The world is not worthy of the ambition of an immortal being. Its honours and pleasures have a tendency to debase the mind, and disqualify it for future happiness. Set therefore your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth. Let it be your supreme desire to obtain God's favour: and, by a course of discipline, begun here, and to be completed hereafter,
prepare yourselves for a re-admission into that rank which was forfeited by the fall, and for again being but a little lower than the angels, and crowned with glory and honour everlasting.
What an idea is here! Is there any thing like this in Xenophon or Plato, in Cicero, Seneca, or Epictetus? Whence had this man these things? What wisdom is this that was given him? Surely man gave it not; for man had it not to give. This is an idea which never occurred to human imagination, till it was taught by a poor carpenter of Galilee, and by a few fishermen, who followed him. Yet to the native dignity, and undeniable degeneracy, of human nature, no other moral theory was ever so well adapted; and no other has so direct a tendency to promote the glory of God, and the real good of mankind. Is it possible to explain this upon the principles that usually regulate human affairs? Is it possible for us to believe, that teachers so holy, so benevolent, and so pious, so superior to the world, and so thoroughly disengaged from its allurements, were taught of God? As easy almost it is to believe, that this world was not made by him. Is it possible for us to imagine, that persons of such a character could have employed their lives in the promulgation of a lie, and willingly encountered persecution and death in support of it? As well may we imagine, that an evil tree brings forth good fruit, and that men gather grapes from thorns, and figs from thistles.' Beattie.
THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION FURNISHES THE MOST ELEVATED CONCEPTIONS OF THE DEITY.
WHAT an elevation must it give to our pious affections, to contemplate the supreme Being and his Providence, as revealed to us in scripture! We are there taught, that man was created in the image of God, innocent and happy; and that he had no sooner fallen into sin, than his Creator, instead of abandoning him and his offspring to the natural consequences of his disobedience, and of their hereditary depravity, was pleased to begin a wonderful dispensation of grace, in order to rescue from perdition, and raise again to happiness, as many as should acquiesce in the terms of the offered salvation, and regulate their lives accordingly.
By the sacred books that contain the history of this dispensation we are further taught, that God is a spirit, unchangeable, and eternal, universally present, and absolutely perfect; that it is our duty to fear him, as a being of consummate purity and inflexible justice, and to love him as the father of mercies, and the God of all consolation; to trust in him as the friend, the comforter, and the almighty guardian, of all who believe and obey him; to rejoice in him as the best of beings, and adore him as the greatest:-we are taught, that he will make allowance for the frailties of our nature, and pardon the sins of those who repent:—and, that we may see, in the strongest light, his peculiar benignity to the human race, we are taught, that he gave his only Son as our ransom and deliverer; and we are not.
only permitted, but commanded, to pray to him, and address him as OUR FATHER:-we are taught, moreover, that the evils incident to this state of trial are permitted by him, in order to exercise our virtue, and so prepare us for a future state of never-ending felicity; and that these momentary afflictions are pledges of his paternal love, and shall, if we receive them as such, and venerate them accordingly, work out for us an exceeding great and eternal weight of glory.' If these hopes and these sentiments contribute more to our happiness, and to the purification of our nature, than any thing else in the world can do, surely that religion, to which alone we owe these sentiments and hopes, must be the greatest blessing that ever was conferred on the posterity of Adam.
And is it, after all, but a mere human contrivance; the invention of mean and illiterate men, who lived, and who died, in the voluntary promulgation of falsehood? To what other human artifice does this bear any resemblance? Does not this religion as plainly prove itself to be the work of a wise and gracious God, as the absurdity of the pagan superstitions proves them to have been the work of weak and wretched men?
THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST A DOCTRINE OF TRUTH AND SIMPLICITY.
THE gospel of Christ, as taught by himself and his apostles, in its original plainness and purity, is a doctrine of truth and simplicity, a doctrine so easy to be understood, so reasonable to be
practised, so agreeable to the natural notions and reason of mankind, so beneficial in its effects, if men were really governed by it; teaching them nothing but the worship of the true God, through the mediation of Christ; and towards each other, justice, righteousness, meekness, charity, and universal good will; in expectation of a future judgment, and of a lasting state of happiness in a better world, for them who love God and keep his commandments; this doctrine of Christ, I say, in its native simplicity and purity, is so reasonable, so excellent, and of such irresistible evidence, that had it never been corrupted by superstitions from within, it never could have been opposed by power from without; but it must of necessity have captivated mankind to the obedience of faith; until the knowledge of the Lord had filled the earth, as the waters cover the
Whatever difficulties there may be in some of the historical, or prophetical, or controversial parts of the books of Scripture, yet as to the practical part, the duties required of a Christian in order to salvation, there is no man that ever read the sermons of Christ and his apostles, or ever heard them read, but understood perfectly well what our Saviour meant by commanding us to worship the one true God of nature, the Author and Lord of the universe, and to do to all men as we would they should do to us; and that, 'denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world;' in expectation of being righteously and impartially adjudged, according to our works, to