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Jews, but not granted to them, nor vouchsased to any one, but very sparingly, and on great and solemn occasions.
But besides this awsul testimony to the divine origin of our religion in general, a particular attestation was (as we have seen) given on the mount to two of its principal doctrines, A GENERAL RESURRECTION, and A DAY OT RETRIBUTION. The visible and illustrious representation of these in the glorisied appearance of Christ, and Moses and Elias, has been already explained, and is appealed to by St. Peter, who saw it, as one convincing proof, among others, that " he had not followed cunningly devised tables," when he made known " the power and coming df our Lord Jesus Christ." And, indeed, since these two doctrines, a Resurrection, and a Day of Judgment, are two of the most essential and sundamental articles of our saith ; and since it was one of the chief purposes of the Christian revelation, "to bring lise and immortality to light," no wonder that God should graciously condescenel to consirm these great truths to us in so many various ways; by words and by actions, by prophecies, by miracles, and by celestial visions.
J HE subject of this Lecture is a part of the .eighteenth chapter of St. Matthew. It is evident that the disciples of our Lord were, for a considerable time, possessed with the imagination which prevailed universally among the Jews respecting their Messiah, that their Master's kingdom was to be a temporal one; that he was at fome time or other to become a prince of great power and splendor, and that they of course should enjoy the largest; share of his savor, and be placed in situations of great distinction and great emolument. And this delusion had ^taken such strong hold- upon their minds, that although our Lord took frequent opportunities of combating their error, and made use of every means in his power to undeceive them, yet they still persisted in maintaining their savorite opinion; and in the beginning of this chapter they came to Jesus, saying, who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? It appears, from the parallel passage in St. Mark, that they had been disputing by the way who should be the greatest. Our Lord knowing this, and sinding that all he had said on this subject had produced no effect upon them, determined to try whether a different mode of conveying his sentiments to them might not strike their minds more forcibly. He therefore had recourse (as in the case of the transsiguration) to what may be called a visible kind of language. He took a little child, and placing him before them, bid them contemplate the innocence and simplicity, the meekness and humility which marked its countenance; and then assured them, that unless they were converted, and became as little children; that is, unless a total change took place in the temper and disposition of their minds, unless they became as unambitious and unaspiring, as meek, as humble and contented, as little concerned about worldly honors and distinctions, as the child
before them, they could not enter into the kingdom of heaven; they could never be considered as true objects of Christ's kingdom here, or be capable of inheriting the rewards of heaven hereafter. In the eye of God, true humility is a most sublime virtue; and whoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Our Lord then goes on to say, "Whofoever receiveth one such little child in my name, receiveth me." That is, it is men of humble minds and meek dispositions, whom I most highly prize, and whom I most strongly recommend to the notice, the kindness, the protection of all those who are friends to me and my religion.; and so dear are men of this description to me, that I make their interests my own, and I shall consider every man who receives, and assists, and encourages them on * my account, and for my sake, as receiving me. But ?, instead of receiving and protecting these my humble disciples, any one should dare to injure them, he must expect the severest marks of my displeasure. "Whoso fhaJi ofsend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world, because of offences; for it must needs be that offences come, but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh."
In order to comprehend the sull meaning of this denunciation, it will be necessary to explain the peculiar meaning of the word offend. Now this expression in the present passage, as well as in many other parts of the New Testament, signisies to cause any one to fall from his foith, to renounce his belief in Christ by any means whatever; and against every one that makes use either of violence or artisice to terrisy or seduce the sincere and humble, and unsuspicious believer in Christ from his saith and obedience to his divine Master, the severest woes, and the heaviest puniihments are here denounced.
This text of scripture therefore I would most earnestly recommend to the serious consideration of those who either are or have been guilty of this most dangerous crime; and 1 would also no less . earnestly caution • all thofe
i»ave not yet been guilty. of it, to avoid, with the utmost care, every degree of it, and every approach to it. It is a crime often touched upon in holy writ, but less noticed, or at least less enlarged upon by divines and moralists than perhaps any other sin of the same magnitude
For this reason, I shall enter. more sully into the consideration of it than has hitherto, I believe, been usually done, and shall advert briefly to the several modes of making our brother to offend, that is, to renounce his saith in Christ, which are most common and most successsul; and these are persecution, sophistry, ridicule, immoral examples, and immoral publications.
With respect to the sirst of these, persecution; it was, during the sirst ages of the gofpel, and for many years after the reformation, the great rock of offence, the chief instrument made use of (and a dreadful. one it was) to deter men from embracing the saith of Christ, or to compel them to renounce it. But since that time we have heard little of its terrors, till they were some years ago revived, to. a certain degree, in a neighboring nation, where the various cruelties inssicted on their clergy are too well known, and cannot surely be ascribed altogether and exclusively to political causes.
In our own country, it must be acknowledged, we cannot justly be charged with this-species of guilt. Intolerance and persecution are certainly not in the number of our national sins. But in the next mode of making our brother to offend; that is, by grave argument and reason, by open and systematic attacks on the truth and divine authority of the Christian revelation, in this we have, I sear, a large load of responsibility upon our heads.
It has even been assirmed by some, that we are entitled to the destinction of having led the way to this kind of impiety and prosaneness. . We have this honor given to us (for an honor they esteem it) by foreign writers, and what is worst of all, we are applauded for it by such men as D' Alembert and Voltaire.
To be stigmatized with their praise, and for such a reason, is a disgrace indeed; and it would be a still greater, if xrt could not justly disclaim and throw back from ourselves the humiliating and ignominious applause which they would inssict upon us. But this I apprehend we may effectually do. There appears to me sussicient ground tor asserting, that the earliest insid.-ls of modern times were to be found, not in this island, but on the continentIs we may credit the account given of Peter Aretin (who lived and wrote in the fourteenth century) by Moreri, and particularly the epitaph upon him, which he recites, there is reason to believe that he was an insidel of the worst species; and Viret a divine of great eminence among the first reformers, who wrote about the year 1563, speaks of « number of persons, both in France and Italy, who had assumed the name of Deists, and seem to have formed themselves into a sect. But it was not until the beginning of the following century that any men of that descriptio», or any publications hostile to revelation, appeared in this kingdom. From that time indeed down to the present, there has been a regular succession of anti-christian writers of various descriptions and various talents, whofe uniform object has been to subvert the foundations of revealed religion, and to make their countrymen offend, and renounce their saith. The last of these was a man, who, from the lowest origin, raised himself to some distinction in the political and literary world, by his bold and impious libels against government, against religion, and the holy Scriptures themselves. In these writings were concentrated all the malignity, all the shrewdness, all the sophistry of his numerous predecessors; and from their brevity, their plainness, their samiliarity, their vulgar ribaldry, their bold assertions, and artsul misrepresentations, they were better calculated to impofe on the ignorant and uninsormed, and more dangerous to the principles of the great mass of mankind, than any publications that this country ever before produced. And certain it is, that having been distributed with insinite industry through every district of the kingdom, they did for a time diffuse their poison sar and wide, and made a strong and satal impression on the multitude. But, thanks be to God !• they at length providentially met with talents insinitely superior to thofe of their illiterate author, which, with the blessing of Heaven upon them, gave a sudden and effectual check to