Obrazy na stronie

false ; and every religion which does not teach the reason of this, is wanting in the most important point of instruction. Our religion does both.

That religion, which consists in the belief of man's fall from a state of glory and communication with God, into a state of sorrow, humiliation, and alienation from God, and of his subsequent restoration by a Messiah, has always been in the world. All things else have passed away, but this, for which all other things exist, remains. For God, in his wisdom, desigoing to form to himself a holy people, whom he would separate from all other nations, deliver from their enemies, and lead to a place of rest, did promise that he would do this, and that he would come himself into the world to do it; and did foretel by his prophets, the very time and manner of his coming. In the mean while, to confirm the hope of his elect through all ages, he continually exhibited this aid to them in types and figures, and never left them without some evident assurances of his power and willingness to save. For immediately after the creation, Adam was made the witness to his truth, and the depository of the promise of a Savior to be born of the seed of the woman. And though men at a period so near to their creation could not have altogether forgotten their origin, their fall, and the divine promise of a Redeemer; yet since the world in its very infancy was overrun with every kind of corruption and violence, God was pleased to raise up holy men, as Enoch, Lamech, and others, who, with faith and patience, waited for that Saviour who had been promised from the beginning of the world. At the last, God sent Noah, who was permitted to experience the malignant wickedness of man in its highest degree; and then God saved him, when he drowned the whole world, by a miracle, which testified, at once,


power of God to save the world, and his willingness to do it, and to raise up to the woman the seed which He had promised. This miracle, then, sufficed to confirm the hope of mankind : and when the memory of it was still fresh in their minds, God re

newed his promises to Abraham, who dwelt in the midst of idolaters, and opened to him the mystery of the Messiah that was to come. In the days of Isaac and Jacob, the idolatrous abomination was spread over the whole earth; yet these holy men lived in faith, and when Jacob on his death-bed, blest his children, he exclaimed with an extatic joy, that interrupted his prophetic discourse, "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.”

The Egyptians were a people infected with idolatry and magic; and even the people of God were drawn aside by their example. Yet Moses and others were permitted to see him who was to them invisible, and they adored him, and had respect unto the eternal blessings, which he was preparing for them.

The Greeks and Romans have bowed down to fictitious deities. The poets have invented different systems of theology. Philosophers have split into a thousand different sects; yet were there always in one small spot, and that the land of Judea, some chosen men who foretold the coming of that Messiah, whom no one else regarded.

At length, in the fulness of time, that Messiah came; and ever since, in the midst of heresies and schisms, the revolution of empires, and the perpetual change to which all other things are subject, the same church which adores him, who has never been without his chosen worshippers, still subsists without interruption or decay. And, what must be owned to be unparalleled, wonderful and altogether Divine, this religion, which has ever continued, has subsisted in the face of perpetual opposition. A thousand times has it been on the very verge of total ruin; and as often as it has been so reduced, God has relieved it, by some extraordinary interposition of his power. This is a most wonderful feature of its history, that it should have been so maintained, and that too, even without any unconscious submission or compromise to the will of tyrannical men.

6. Civil states would infallibly perish, if their laws


did not yield sometimes to the control of necessity. But religion has never submitted to this: yet one step or the other is necessary, either compliances or miracles. It is no wonder that the kingdoms of this world should try to save themselves by yielding to circumstances; but, in point of fact, this is not preservation. It is change. And yet with all these variations, still they utterly perish. There is not one state that has lasted for 1500 years. If, then, this religion has always continued somewhere in existence, and continued firm and inflexible, is it not divine ?

7. There would be too much obscurity over this question, if the truth had not some unequivocal marks. This is a valuable one, that it has always been preserved in a visible church. The proof would be too bright, if there were but one opinion in the Christian church. This, then, has not been the case; but in order to discover that which is truth, we have only to ascertain that which has always existed, for that which really is the truth, must have been there always, but that which is false, cannot.*

Now, the belief in the Messiah has been ever maintained in the world. The tradition from Adam was yet recent in the days of Noah, and even of Moses. Subsequently, the prophets bore testimony to Him ; at the same time predicting other things, which, being from day to day fulfilled, in the eyes of the world, established the truth of their mission, and consequently, of their unfulfilled promises concerning the Messiah. They unanimously declared that the law which had been given, was but preparatory to that of the Messiah ; that, till then, it must continue ; but that the law of Messiah should endure for ever: so that, either the law of Moses, or that of the Messiah, which it prophetically prefigured, should always continue upon earth. And, in fact, there has been that perpetuity.

[ocr errors]

* How completely this simple rule condemns all the Romish superstitions.

Jesus Christ came agreeably to all the circumstances of their predictions. He wrought miracles; so did his apostles, by whom he converted the Gentile world. And the prophecies being thus fulfilled, the proof of the Messiah's mission is for ever established.

8. I see many opposing religions. Necessarily, these are all false but one. Each seeks to be received on its own authority, and threatens the incredulous. I do not believe them on that account, for any one can say this. Any one may call himself a prophet. But in the Christian religion, I see many accomplished prophecies, and many miracles attested beyond all reasonable doubt; I find this in no other religion in the world.

9. That religion only which is contrary to our nature, in its present estate, which resists our pleasurable inclinations, and which seems, at first, contrary to the general opinion of mankind, that only has perpetually subsisted.

10. The whole course of things should bear upon the establishment and the exaltation of religion ; the opinions and feelings of men should be found conformable to what religion enjoins; and, in a word, religion should be so manifestly the great object and centre to-wards which all things tend, that whoever understands its principles, should be enabled to account by it for the nature of man in particular, and for the government of the world at large.

Now, it is upon this very ground that wicked and profane men blasphemously révile the Christian religion, because they misunderstand it. They imagine that it consists simply in the adoration of God as great, powerful, and eternal; which is, in fact, merely Deism, and is almost as far removed from Christianity as Atheism, which is directly opposed to it. And then from hence they would infer the falsehood of our religion ; because, say they, were it true, God would have manifested himself by proofs so palpable, that no man could remain ignorant of him. But let them conclude what they will in this way,

against Deism ; this is no conclusive objection against Christianity ; for our religion distinctly states, that, since the fall, God does not manifest himself to us with all the evidence that is possible. It consists properly in the mystery of a Redeemer, who, by uniting in himself the Divine and human natures, has delivered men out of the corruption of sin, and reconciled them to God in his own Divine person.

It inculcates on men these two truths : that there is a God whom they are capable of knowing and enjoying; and that there is a corruption in their nature, which renders them unworthy of the blessing. These truths are equally important; and it is equally dangerous for man, to seek God without the knowledge of his own misery, and to know his own misery without the knowledge of a Redeemer as his remedy. To apprehend the one without the other, begets either that philosophic pride which some men have had, who knew God, but not their own misery; or that despair which we find in Atheists, who know their own misery, but not their Saviour.

And as the knowledge of these two truths is equally necessary to man, so it is of the mercy of God to afford the means of knowing both. Now, the Christian religion does this, and that is its avowed and specific object.

Look into the order of things in this world, and see if all things do not directly tend to the establishment of these two fundamental principles of our religion.

11. If a man does not know himself to be full of pride, ambition, lust, weakness, misery, and unrighteousness,' he is sadly blind. But, if with the knowledge of the evil, he has no wish to be delivered from it, what shall we say of such folly ? Ought we not then to esteem highly a religion which so thoroughly understands our defects; and ardently to hope for the truth of a religion which promises so desireable a remedy?

12. It is impossible to meet all the proofs of the Christian religion, combined in one synoptical review,

« PoprzedniaDalej »