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his full and hearty assent to the excellence of the scriptures and their divine inspiration; his full assurance that they contain all that man need know and learn to make him for ever happy; and his hearty
means to human wisdom very unlikely, and very disproportionate. And if the predictions relating to the Messiah have, in this wonderful manner, and by the particular direction and appointment of Providence, thus met in the blessed Jesus, like lines in one common centre, the natural result of this contemplation is, “ That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
For can it be imagined, with any worthy conception of God, that a work of love and wonder, su great as the sending his son to redeem the world, should be in agitation for full four thousand years; that each succeeding age, in this long space, should have some notices of it; that the several characters he was to sustain should be described by different prophets, living at times and places so remote that no confederacy could be suspected ; that each of these prophets should draw, some one line of him, and some another; and point him out, some in one capacity, and some in another; and, above all, that every one of these strokes or lincaments should be directed by the unerring hand of God to make at least one finished picture, on purpose that the original, when it appeared, might be found out, and distinguished by it; can it be imagined, I say, that a God of infinite truth, wisdom, and goodness, would have ever permitted, much less appointed, that our blessed Lord should in every part and line be so exactly like that piece, unless he intended that we should receive bim as the true original ? Unless we can entertain a thought so unworthy of God, I say as that he designed to impose upon us in this whole dispensation, we cannot but conclude, that he would never have permitted all the marks belonging to the Messiah to have concurred in the life of our blessed Saviour; and by these marks have suffered so many millions of souls to have been mistaken in the object of their faith and worship, and thereupou, without any fault of theirs, deluded into the heinous sin of idolatry, had he not appointed the man Christ Jesus to be the great Saviour of the world, and the Lord of life and glory. Stackhouse, vol. v.
concurrence in the beauty and utility of every moral precept with which they abound.
But faith, to be perfect, should not be conviction alone, a conviction to be kept passive in the mind, like
any great uncontrovertible truth : as, that the heavens did not make themselves; that the ocean is never at rest ; or, that we live whilst we breathe. Faith should be conviction kindled from childhood into genial warmth, and from adolescence glowing with an intenseness, which should seek in vain to spend itself in action, or, as the scripture term is, in works. Our belief laid coldly by in our bosom,
is represented by a figurative allusion as dead, and consequently vain. Let it grow by thought and meditation restless, ardent, and lively, and we shall be put upon some exertion which shall be grateful to the feelings within ; and this exertion corresponding to noble impulse, and a strong overbearing sense and certainty of good, resulting from consistency of good thought with deed, will give back so fine a satisfaction, and confer so great a happiness, that the motives to exertion shall be strengthened, and the exertion itself grow firmer and more steady in every succeeding experiment.
These exertions or works, which are faith in practice, take the theological name of Charity. And this sacred virtue consists in doing good to all, and refraining from injury to any, because such a practice is pleasing to God. It is in this view, that the virtue of the heathen and the virtue of the christian is fotally unlike. That the generous man binds up the bleeding temples of his dying enemy, because he
wishes the good-will of men, that whereas the charitable man does the same office, on a like occasion, because his Saviour enjoins him, and that he ardently desires to please his God. Kind, beneficent Creator ! who makest charity the first test of christian faith, and the most grateful offering to thee! Charity, which is but the love of God; active good-will to men; content, and peace.
And hence springs Hope. If God is true, his word is truth. Faith adopts it; charity acts upon it; and the content and universal peace which arise, form a basis for hope. Not earthly hope of riches, honours, pleasures : for good men are not always, nor expect to be, rich, noble, or prosperous; but hope of reward from Him who alone can worthily recompence good deeds; and whose word we shall in another life see established, when the universe shall have rolled back to chaos.
Such is the outline of our religion. We are now to consider how we may share our faith with the rising generation, and so give to posterity the invaluable inheritance which our parents have bequeathed to us.
In order to do this, we are to reflect, that the beautiful and perfect whole, which all the parts of christianity united make, parts composed of morality, faith, and works, must not as a whole be presented to any child's view ; because such is the weakness of an infant's organs and faculties, that what would raise in maturity the highest delight, is utterly incomprehensible to, and totally unheeded by childhood ; or if it be noticed in any of its points, is heeded only for an
instant, to be thrown away the next in weariness and disgust. Thus if we shew a child a dissected map joined into a perfect whole, a map which we have put together with some small trouble, and contemplate with satisfaction as a perfect work, he will for a moment look on ; fatigue will soon arise, unless he may be allowed to withdraw from so large a view, to a small point or part of it : but if we give him one or two of the many pieces, he handles them, and is pleased. Take a child to a beautiful meadow, in which we ourselves may stand and gaze with transport, from side to side. The green hue is delightful to a child's eye, but the prospect is too vast for his particular enjoyment. Let him run and gather so insignificant a part of the meadow's production as will fill his little hand; he is transported with joy, and has received, in his way, as full and exquisite enjoyment from a spot of a foot in dimension, as we have from the space between heaven and earth, and from a rich scenery of miles. We may go further. Let the child be told that the fine prospect we lift him up to admire along with us, is made of a valley in one direction, wooded upwards; a fine meandering stream at its base ; a forest on one side of us: high mountains on another, and plains in the distance. Let us give him all this unintelligible history, and he will understand not one syllable we utter, much less have a conception of the beauty which so forcibly commands our admiration. But let us, on the other hand, pluck one daisy, or one small tuft of moss, and to the gift add the name of either, or both; and the information will be welcome, as it will be understood, and of
course conveyed to memory. Daisy and moss, it will be rembered, are of such a shape and colour, and grow in the open fields; thus much learned to day, will give spirit, confidence, inclination, and readiness to learn as much again on the morrow; and thus will be formed the first link in the great chain of knowledge, taste and judgment, which will at length give to the youth that capacity for surveying and admiring a whole, which we ourselves may happen to possess.
Just so is it with all human acquirement; but more especially in the acquisition of religion, because, compared with this, all knowledge is vain, and all acquirement useless. If we are careful not to shock or disgust infancy in its first steps to human knowledge, what should be our care when we introduce it to that which is divine, on which, beyond a doubt, our future bliss or misery depends ?
Religion, then, as a perfect and valuable edifice, must be taken carefully down; and every part being nicely separated, we must put forward the simplest to be offered to the child's view and apprehension, in the form of truths, one by one, and give or enforce them as he can understand, or will imitate : either by word, or through example.
Morality or virtue, as has been shewn in another place, is the prop or foundation pile of this edifice. This foundation is laid in the infant's heart and mind, almost from its birth; and is formed and secured long ere the first rafters, beams, and corner stones of religion are attempted to be set. But at length, the bands which fastened the infant organs and faculties,