« AnteriorContinuar »
do little more than pile error upon error: there, thou shalt 'build truth upon truth. Wait, therefore, for the glorious vision; and in the mean time emulate the eagle. Much is in thy power; and, therefore, much is expected of thee. Though the Almighty only can give virtue, yet, as a prince, thou mayst stimulate those to beneficence, who act from no higher motive than immediate interest: thou canst not produce the principle, but mayst enforce the practice. Let thy. virtue be thus diffused; and if thou believest with reverence, thou shalt be accepted above. Farewell! May the smile of Him who resides in the heaven of heavens be upon thee; and against thy name, in the volume of His will, may happiness be written !"
The king, whose doubts, like those of Mirza, were now removed, looked up with a smile that communicated the joy of his mind. He dismissed the prince to his government; and commanded these events to be recorded, to the end that posterity may know, "that no life is pleasing to God, but that which is useful to mankind."
Character of the Great Founder of Christianity.
NEVER was there on earth any person of so extraordinary a character as the Founder of our religion. In him we uniformly see a mildness, dignity, and composure, and a perfection of wisdom and of goodness, that plainly point him out as a superior being. But his superiority was all in his own divine miad. He had none of those outward advantages that have distinguished all other lawgivers. He had no influence in the state; he had no wealth; he aimed at no worldly power. He was the son of a carpenter's wife, and he was himself a carpenter. So poor were his reputed parents, that at the time of his birth his mother could obtain no better lodging than a stable; and so poor was he himself, that he often had no lodging at all. That he had no advantages of education, we may infer from the surprise expressed by his neighbours on hearing him speak in the synagogue: "Whence hath this man these things? What wisdom is this which is given him? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary? Are not his brethren and sisters with us?" This point, however, we need not insist on; as from no educa
tion, that his own or any other country could have afforded, was it possible for him to derive that supernatural wisdom and power, that sanctity of life, and that purity of doctrine, which so eminently distinguish him. His first adherents were a few fishermen ; for whom he was so far from making any provision, that, when he sent them out to preach repentance and heal diseases, they were, by his desire, furnished with nothing, but one coat, a pair of sandals, and a staff, He went about in great humility and meekness, doing good, teaching wisdom, and glorifying God, for the space of about three years after the commencement of his ministry; and then, as he himself had foreseen and foretold, he was publicly crucified. This is the great personage, who at this day gives law to the world. This is he, who has been the author of virtue and happiness to millions and millions of the human race. And this is, he whom the wisest and best men that ever lived have reverenced as a Divine Person, and gloried in as the deliverer and saviour of mankind.
The spirit and laws of Christianity superior to those of every other religion.
THE morality of the gospel gives it an infinite superiority over all systems of doctrine that ever were devised by man. Were our lives and opinions to be regulated as it prescribes, nothing would be wanting to make us happy: there would be no injustice, no impiety, no disorderly passions. Harmony and love would universally prevail. Every man, content with his lot, resigned to the Divine will, and fully persuaded that a happy eternity is before him, would pass days in tranquillity and joy, to which neither anxiety, nor pain, nor even the fear of death, could ever give any interruption. The best systems of Pagan ethics are very imperfect, and not free from absurdity; and in them are recommended modes of thinking unsuitable to human nature, and modes of conduct which, though they might have been useful in a political view, did not tend to virtue and happiness universal. But of all our Lord's institutions the object is, to promote the happiness, by promoting the virtue, of all mankind.
In the next place; his peculiar doctrines are not like any thing of human contrivance. "Never man spake like this man.' One of the first names given to that dispensation of things which he came to introduce, was the kingdom, or the reign, of heaven. It was justly so called; being thus distinguished, not only from the religion of Moses, the sanctions whereof related to the present life, but also from every human scheme of moral, political, or ecclesiastical legislation.
The views of the heathen moralist extended not beyond this world; those of the Christian are fixed on that which is to come. The former was concerned for his own country only or chiefly; the latter takes concern in the happiness of all men of all nations, conditions, and capacities. A few, and but a few, of the ancient philosophers, spoke of a future state of retribution as a thing desirable, and not improbable : revelation speaks of it as certain; and of the present life as a state of trial, wherein virtue or holiness is necessary, not only to entitle us to that salvation which, through the mercy of God, and the merits of his Son, Christians are taught to look for, but also to prepare us, by habits of piety and benevolence, 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 lawgivers. 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 you be respectable while you live, and honoured when you die; and it is to be hoped you may receive a reward in another life." The "The language of the Christian lawgiver is different. 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 the favour of God; and, by a course of discipline, prepare yourselves for a re-admission into that rank which was forfeited by the fall; and for being again but a little lower than the angels, and crowned with glory and honour everlasting."
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 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 the state of trial are permitted by him, in order to exercise our virtue, and 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 Him 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.
Christianity proposes to our imitation the highest examples of benevolence, purity and piety. It shows, that all our actions, purposes, and thoughts, are to us of infinite importance; their consequence being nothing less than happiness, or misery, in the life to come: and thus it operates most powerfully on our self-love. By teaching, that all mankind are brethren; by commanding us to love our neighbour as ourselves; and by declaring every man our neighbour, to whom we have it in our power to do good, it improves benevolence to the highest pitch. By prohibiting revenge, malice, pride, vanity, envy, sensuality, and covetousness; and by requiring us to forgive, to pray for, and to bless our enemies, and to do to others as we would that they should do to us, it lays a restraint on every malevolent and turbulent passion; and reduces the whole of social virtue to two or three precepts; so brief, that they cannot be forgotten; so plain, that they cannot be misunderstood; so reasonable, that no man of sense controverts them; and so well suited to human nature and human affairs, that every candid mind may easily, and on all occasions, apply them to prac tice.
Christianity recommends the strictest self-attention, by this awful consideration, that God is continually present with us, knows what we think, as well as what we do, and will judge the world in righteousness, and render unto every man according to his works. It makes us consider conscience, as his voice and law within us; purity of heart, as that which alone can qualify us for the enjoyment of future reward; and mutual love, or charity, as that without which all other virtues and accomplishments are of no value: and, by a view of things peculiarly striking, it causes vice to appear a most pernicious and abominable thing, which cannot escape punishment. In a word, "Christianity," as Bishop Taylor well observes, "is a doctrine in which nothing is superfluous or burdensome; and in which there is nothing wanting, which can procure happiness to mankind, or by which God can be glorified."