« AnteriorContinuar »
Page 74, note, for Fanatias read Fanaticus.
161, last line of the text, for move read prove.
WHOEVER has acquired any adequate notion of Christianity, as delivered in the New Testament, will, without hesitation, acknowledge that it furnishes a complete rule of faith and manners. Its doctrines are simple, perspicuous, and sublime. Its precepts are comprehensive, and adapted to every situation and circumstance of life. Its examples are supremely venerable, amiable, and attractive. Its promises are adapted to move the nobler principles of human nature. Its denunciations are calculated to arrest folly, to intimidate vice, and to superinduce sobriety of reflection. It hath confirmed and sanctioned, by divine authority, every precept of Natural Religion. It hath corrected a multiplicity of errors, relative to religious subjects, which had uniformly and extensively prevailed in the world, before its introduction. It hath
clearly revealed several momentous points with respect to which the most penetrating understandings, among the heathen sages, had been able only to attain to a few obscure conjectures, and which even Jewish prophets had but dimly perceived. Many subjects of the first importance to man's present tranquillity, and to his future happiness, have been unfolded by the glorious light of the gospel, with all the clearness of truth, and with all the authority of infallible wisdom. The author of our religion hath divested the worship of God of every thing absurd, superfluous, and nugatory, and left nothing connected with it, but what is conducive to the glory of its infinitely adorable object, and to the most substantial benefit of mankind. He hath placed the whole fabric of Christian morality on the solid and comprehensive foundation of love to the Supreme Being, and of enlarged benevolence towards all his rational and moral creatures, nay, towards the whole sensitive world.
Hence, although many have denied or controverted the divine origin of our religion, few have pretended to question the excellence of its motality. Even these few have evidently betrayed, to all impartial minds, either their ignorance or their prejudiced rancour.
With much greater truth, then, may it be asserted of the Christian faith, what Cicero so pompously boasts of his philosophy,-" That it affords certain direction to life; investigates virtue; banishes vice; prescribes right conduct; and that without it human life can partake of no substantial good :" " that it adds ornament to prosperity, and yields solace and refuge to adverse circumstances."
It does much more. It inspires comfort and joy, even when death displays his terrors. For, it has accomplished what no philosophy, and no antecedent revelation had eyer achieved. It “hath brought life and immortality to light," not barely assuring a future state of existence, but also removing, to all who sincerely believe, embrace, and practise it, the grand obstacles both to present comfort and to future felicity,--the guilt and the dominion of sin.
When all this is duly considered, it was natural to expect, that wherever Christianity was received and embracel, it would have produced the most salutary effects on' manners and conduct ; that it would have arrested the progress and poison of vice, haye restored the power and the health of virtue, and have no longer allowed the golden age to exist solely in poetical picture, but have exhibited its beautiful reality in the habitations of men.
Nor can it be justly asserted, that this expectation has never been realized. For, turning
a Tusc. Quæst. v. 2.
b. Pro Arch. Poet.
-C 2 Tim. i. 10.
our eyes to the first disciples and followers of Christ, we shall, with admiration, discover the complete effect of Christian religion, in the reformation of morals, in the practice of all that dignifies and ennobles human nature.
We there behold the most regenerating conversions from idolatry to the one true God; from superstition to genuine unaffected piety; from profligacy to sanctity of life.
What reverence towards the Supreme Being; what patience, constancy, and fortitude in the most excruciating sufferings ; what meekness, gentleness, and charity; what self-command and moderation; what magnanimity and contempt of worldly pleasure, splendour, and power ; what ardent desire, and unwearied pursuit of spiritual and celestial objects ; what resignation to the divine will ; what unshaken faith in the doctrines, promises, and aids of the gospel ; what firm and undoubting expectation of a blessed immortality, influenced, illumined, and exalted to heaven, those holy and heroic characters !
A piety so sublime, yet so tempered and rational; a fortitude so undaunted, yet so free from temerity; an indifference to the world so immoved, yet so distant from austerity ; a zeal so ardent, yet so unmixed with fanaticism, these illustrious, amiable, and exalted qualities would have preached the gospel though the tongues of their possessors had been silent, and converted the