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are essential to true religion, the very life and end of it, and the marks by which we shall be known to be Christians; that they are the most acceptable services that we can possibly offer to Almighty God, and far more pleasing to him than any of the instituted parts of his own worship; and that they must be performed by us, as ever we would answer the obligations which the infinite love of God, and of our blessed Saviour, hath laid upon us, and as ever we would be entitled to the favour of God and the happiness of another world. This is what every one, who looks into the New Testament, must know to be a just account of the nature and design of the Christian religion; and consequently that is entirely contrived for the benefit of the world; that it has the plainest tendency to promote the happiness, both of every man, considered particularly in himself, and of all men in general, as united together in society. In deed, the Gospel is so apparently calculated for raising and cherishing a spirit of universal love and goodness in mankind; it abounds so much in precepts, exhortations, and motives to the exercise of patience, temperance, meekness, forbearance, forgiveness, charity, and such virtues as contribute most immediately and effectually to the peace and prosperity of the world, that some have accused it upon this very score, as if, by insisting so much upon these virtues, it dispirited and enfeebled the minds of men, and rendered them incapable of great and heroic actions. This objection might certainly be shown to stand upon a very false foundation, were it necessary to enter into a confutation of it; but all that I intend by
mentioning it, is only to observe, that even in the judgment of those who bear no good-will to Christianity, it appears to be a most good-natured and benevolent institution, which intends to calm and soften the passions and tempers of men, to remove every fierce and cruel quality out of their nature, and to make them all mild and gentle, peaceable and kind, and to take pleasure in nothing so much as in promoting one another's happiness. Orr.
INSIGNIFICANCE OF MAN, NO OBJECTION TO
By some well-meaning but weak minds, and by some of a different character, who were vain of their philosophy, the apparent insignificance of the human race may have been thought to lessen the credibility of the Christian religion. Compared to the extent of our solar system, this earth is but a point; and the solar system itself, compared to the universe, may be little more. How then, say they, is it possible, to imagine that such creatures as we are, can be of so great importance, as that the Deity should send his Son, accompanied with so many displays of divine power, into this little world, to instruct us by his doctrine and example, and die on a cross to accomplish our salvation?
This is indeed an astonishing proof of the goodness of the Creator, and of the condescension of that glorious Person, who, for our sake, willingly submitted to such debasement. But the infinite goodness and power of God, though surpassing all comprehension, cannot exceed the belief of those
who know, that he, in order to communicate felicity, created this boundless universe, with all the varieties of beings it contains; whom he continually supports and governs, and with every individual of whom he is continually present. The object may be too vast for any intelligence that is short of infinite: but to Him who sees all things, and can do all things, who had no beginning, and can have no end, all this must be easy; incomparably easier, indeed, than it is for a father to take care of his child, or for a generous friend to relieve his indigent neighbour. God's dispensations with respect to man may reasonably enough overwhelm us with gratitude and adoration, and with a most humiliating sense of our own unworthiness; but let us take care that they do not raise within us an evil spirit of unbelief, which they will not do, unless we have the inexcusable temerity to judge of him by ourselves; and to infer, because our goodness is nothing, that his cannot be perfect; and, because we are ignorant and weak, that he cannot be omniscient and almighty. Far less absurd would it be, for the unlettered peasant to deny the possibility of calculating eclipses; for the blind to believe, that because they cannot see, there is none else who can; and for the poor to conclude, because they cannot relieve themselves, that it is not in the power of generosity to relieve them.
Great extent is a thing so striking to our imagi nation, that sometimes, in the moment of forgetfulness, we are apt to think nothing can be important but what is of vast corporeal magnitude: and yet, even to our apprehension, when we are
willing to be rational, how much more sublime and more interesting an object is a mind like that of Newton, than the unwieldy force and brutal stupidity of such a monster as the poets describe Polyphemus? Who, that had it in his power, would scruple to destroy a whale, in order to preserve a child? Nay, when compared with the happiness of one immortal mind, the greatest imaginable accumulation of inanimate substance must appear an insignificant thing. If we consider,' says Bentley, 'the dignity of an intelligent being, and put that in the scale against brute and inanimate matter, we may affirm, without overvaluing human nature, that the soul of one vira tuous man is of greater worth and excellency, than the sun and his planets, and all the stars in the world.' Let us not then make bulk the standard of value; or judge of the importance of man from the weight of his body, or from the size or situation of the planet that is now his place of abode.
Our Saviour, as if to obviate objections of this nature, expresses most emphatically the superintending care of Providence, when he teaches, that it is God who adorns the grass of the field, that without him a sparrow falls, not to the ground, and that even the hairs of our head are numbered. Yet this is no exaggeration; but must, if God is omniscient and almighty, be literally true. By a stupendous exuberance of animal, vegetable, and mineral production, and by an apparatus still more stupendous (if that were possible) for the distribution of light and heat, he supplies the means of life and comfort to the
short-lived inhabitants of this globe. Can it then appear incredible, nay, does not this consideration render it in the highest degree probable, that he has also prepared the means of eternal happiness for beings whom he has formed for eternal duration, whom he has endowed with faculties so noble as those of the human soul, and for whose accommodation chiefly, during their present state of trial, he has provided all the magnificence of this sublunary world? Beattie.
SOME INCOMPREHENSIBLE DOCTRINES IN THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION NO ARGUMENT AGAINST ITS TRUTH.
BUT what if there should be some incomprehensible doctrines in the Christian religion; some circumstances which, in their causes, or their consequences, surpass the reach of human reason: are they to be rejected on that account? You are, or would be thought, men of reading, and knowledge, and enlarged understandings: weigh the matter fairly; and consider, whether revealed religion be not, in this respect, just upon the same footing with every other object of your contemplation. Even in mathematics, the science of demonstration itself, though you get over its first principles, and learn to digest the idea of a point without parts, a line without breadth, and a surface without thickness; yet you will find yourself at a loss to comprehend the perpetual approximation of lines which can never meet;