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The great Advantage of Christian Philosophy being
taught by a commanding Authority.
W leffons to the judgment of their hearers
, who usually assume the office of critics, while they appear in the character of disciples. They will learn only what pleases their taste, or is approved by their judgment. But Jesus Christ, being filled with the Spirit of God, taught with commanding authority. “I and the Father are one,” says he. “ I speak not of myself, but of him that fent me. « WHOSO KEEPETH MY SAYINGS, SHALL NOT " TASTE OF DEATH.”
What heathen philosopher ever dared to come forward, as a teacher of mankind, with such weighty words as these? But it will be found, that however a few among mankind may be disposed to listen to calm reasonings, the great mass is most effectually taught what is fair and what is base, what is useful and what pernicious *, by the voice of well-founded authority.
The scriptures, especially those of the New Testament, have long obtained this authority. We read them, not as we read any other book, of the wisest of mortals; not as judges, empowered to condemn or approve ; but as pupils or dependents listen to the commands of an acknowledged mafter, whom they, at the same time, love and fear;
" Quid fit pulcbrum, quid turpe, quid utile, quid non.”.
and whose commands, they are sensible, are for their good, however disagreeable the duty required. We consult the Gospel as an oracle. But we do not so consult the dialogues of Plato, or the Manual of Epictetus.
« There are,” says the author of the Light of Nature pursued, “ 'many excellent fentiments of “ God and morality interspersed in the writings " of the antients: but those writings are studied « by few, and read chiefly for curiosity and amuse“ ment, regarded as ingenious compositions, shew“ ing a fagacity and justness of thought in the « authors. They make some impression in the « reading, which quickly dies away again, upon “ laying the book aside; as. Tully tells us was his “ case, with respect to Plato upon the immorta“ lity of the foul. Whereas the Testament is the « first book we are taught to read, to receive as “ the oracle of God, containing the way to falva“ tion, which, at our almost PERIL, we must not
disregard, and the truth whereof it is a sin to “ doubt: therefore, whatever is drawn thence,
comes accompanied with a reverence, and idea “ of high importance, which give a force to the “ impression. Let a man take for his thesis the “ ftoical maxim, Things out of our power are nothing “ to us, and descant upon the imprudence of soli« citude and anxiety for future events, which we
can no ways prevent or provide against, it will “ not work the effects which the very fame dis« course might do, pronounced from the PULPIT, “ upon the text, Sufficient unto the day is the evil « thereof."
Where is the uninspired philofopher, who can address mankind with the authority of St. Paul ? “ My speech and my preaching," says he to the Corinthians, " is not with enticing words of
« man's wisdom, but with demonstration of the « SPIRIT AND POWER, that your faith might not be " in the WISDOM OF MEN, but in the power of God “ (accompanying and enforcing my words). We « speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even « the bidden wisdom, which none of the princes of o this world knew, but which God hath revealed “ unto us by his Spirit, the ta Bæfn Tou sou, the “ depths of God. We have received, not the spi6 rit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; " that we might know the things that are freely
given to us of God; which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom
teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth, “ explaining the * things of the Spirit, (the in“ fructions of the Spirit,) in the language of the « Spirit +. Again, to the Ephesians he says, " The mystery of Christ, which in other ages was « not made known to the sons of men, is now re« vealed unto his holy apostles and prophets, by o the Spirit ļ.” “ For this cause,” (he adds in another place,) “ thank we God without ceasing, “ because, when ye received the word of God, “ which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the 66 word of men, but, as it is in truth, the WORD “ OF GOD." He gives also a menacing admonition to those who should despise his directions, as despising not man, but God.
« HE THAT " DESPISETH, DESPISETH NOT MAN, BUT God,
US HIS Holy Spi« RIT ||."
" WHO HATH GIVEN UNTO
* See Wolf. Cur. Critic, in Loc. and Chapman's Eusebius.
Such is the commanding authority with which Christianity addresses itself to men, including, in its peculiar doctrines and sublime mysteries, the fineft ETHICS, though not fyftematically delivered, which the world ever saw. Let it be considered what an advantage it is to have even the best heathen morality inculcated with the sanction of comMANDMENTS from the all-wise and all-powerful Creator. Such is now the case where Christianity prevails. And would it be wise, even in a political sense, though policy is a very inferior confideration, to suffer a mode of teaching men to be juft and good, thus efficacious, thus firmly and extensively established, to fall into neglect ? When will the politicians of the world again obtain fo powerful an engine ? What have they to fubftitute, if they break or take away the main spring of this most efficacious, long-tried machine ? I beg leave to apologize for using fo degrading a term. I am speaking, in their own language, to the worldly-wise, who despise the gospel.
Some universal, authoritative code of moral law is wanted to instruct the MILLION, high and low, rich and poor, with great and certain effect. What teacher, from the schools of philosophy, ancient or modern, if he deprive us of Christianity, can supply the defect? Will he not strive to supply it, but suffer mankind to lapse into ignorance, barbarism, and brutality? He may give us a laboured system. But nothing which the most ingenious and learned can invent, however excellent its rules and precepts, can gain the advantage which Christianity already pofleffes by its AUTHORITY alone. Time, and the concurrence of whole nations, have combined with its own excellence to render it im. pressive beyond any human system. It is adapted
to the poor and unlearned *, of which the majority of mankind, in all ages and countries, confiit. It speaks to them as a voice from Heaven, and it will be heard.
But its AUTHORITY must be infinitely increased, when men shall be convinced that the written gospel is accompanied at the present hour, and will be to the end of time, with the MINISTRATION OF THE SPIRIT, the actual operation of the Holy Ghost, vivifying and illuminating the divine principle within us. Christian philosophy is a sun; while all other, to use the poet's language, is, comparatively, but “ darkness visible.”
Christ taught as one having AUTHORITY. Christ Spake as never MAN Spake; and they who hear him with faith, will, through the operation of the HOLY GHOST, possess a wisdom and a happiness which Man never knew how to bestow, and can never take away.
* But under the management of fome persons, as Erasmus observes, EST INGENIOSA RES ESSE CHRISTIANUM; it requires & great deal of INGENUITY to be a Christian ; as the TREE OF KNOWLEDGE was once preferred to the TREE OF LIFE, so learning is preferred to piety; and as Grotius expresses it ex RELIGIONE ARS FACTA EST. RELIGION IS MADE AN ART by many, as it has by fome, a trade.